Lincoln Legal Briefs

September - December, 1988, Number 8

Recent Discovery

One of the rewards of any documentary editing effort is the occasional surprise receipt of new information. Such was the case recently, when Mr. Raymond Kephart of Huntsville, Alabama notified us that an acquaintance of his owned a nearly 100 page trial transcript of People v. Harrison, an interesting 1859 murder case in which Lincoln successfully defended Peachy Quinn Harrison in Sangamon Circuit Court. Until now our only documentation for this case consisted of sketchy trial notes and contemporary newspaper accounts.

Mr. Kephart and Mr. Albert LaRose, Head of Public Services at the University of Alabama Library, jointly produced a photocopy of the trial transcript for our use. It provides an official version of the proceedings and indicates how Lincoln and his associates conducted their defense. Among the tens of thousands of documents which we hope to collect this is but a solitary item, but it reveals much about Lincoln's courtroom style.

Young Harrison was the son of a political acquaintance of Lincoln. He was charged with the stabbing murder of Greek Crafton during an argument in Pleasant Plains, a village 15 miles northwest of Springfield. Following preliminary examination in early August, Judge E. Y. Rice conducted a four-day trial beginning August 31, 1859. Joining Lincoln for the defense were his former partner Stephen T. Logan and the younger Shelby M. Cullom, while the prosecution was represented by James B. White, John M. Palmer, and Norman M. Broadwell. Lincoln's examination and cross-examination of witnesses, as revealed in the trial transcript, was detailed and probing, as he worked to establish with precision the circumstances and events leading up to Crafton's death.

The trial's dramatic high point came with the defense testimony of Reverend Peter Cartwright, grandfather of the defendant and former political adversary of Lincoln. Guided by his former rival for Congress, Cartwright recounted a deathbed statement by Crafton that took personal responsibility for instigating the fight and forgave Harrison for stabbing him in self-defense. The trial ended the next day, with jurors returning a verdict of not guilty.


Supreme Court Records

The project is pleased to report that the recently recovered Illinois Supreme Court records have already benefited Lincoln scholarship. Don E. Fehrenbacher is working on a Lincoln volume for the distinguished Library of America series. The records were helpful in answering Professor Fehrenbacher's questions concerning the famous McLean County tax case. For example, the Fee Book provided a complete chronology of the documents and motions filed in the case, and the Journal Record showed that Lincoln did present an argument after the court ordered the case to be re-argued in January 1856. That was a crucial point in Lincoln's suit to receive his $5,000 fee.


Familiar and Welcome Faces

It is a pleasure to welcome back two good friends of the project. Returning as office manager is Marty Benner, who ably served on a contractual basis in 1987-88. In December she rejoined us as a regular full-time employee, with funds provided by the Abraham Lincoln Association and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Arrangements for her employment were completed with the cooperation of the Center for Legal Studies at Sangamon State University. Special thanks for their assistance go to Center Director Nancy Ford and Assistant Director Rebecca Wilkin.

Another returning friend is Laura Clower, who has offered to provide voluntary help on various legal and research matters. Laura first became involved in the project while a law student at the University of Illinois. Recently she moved to Springfield to serve as a clerk in the office of Judge Harlington Wood, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Our thanks go to Laura and to Harlington Wood, who had the good judgment to recruit her.


ISBA Cooperation

We are indebted to Mark S. Mathewson, Managing Editor of the Illinois Bar Journal, for his generous assistance as we begin the large task of canvassing lawyers for information about Lincoln legal documents they know of or may own. Mark has consented to provide us with the mailing list of Illinois State Bar Association members. He also is advising us on how best to announce the project through advertisements in Illinois Bar Journal and the ISBA Bar News. Similar cooperation from other state bar associations will both simplify and enhance our effort to enlist the active help of lawyers who are interested in Lincoln's legal papers.


Continued Support

Vital financial support from members and friends of the Abraham Lincoln Association has entered its second year. Succeeding Donald Funk as fundraising chair is Springfield attorney Richard Hart. His appeal for contributions already has yielded numerous gifts toward the Association goal in 1988-89 of $10,000. Recent contributors include: Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Inc., George Alexander, Floyd S. Barringer, Donald G. Benham, Mr. & Mrs. J. Alex Bohacheff, Jr., Mr. & Mrs. Benjamin A Brand, Jr., Mr. & Mrs. Robert Lee Builta, Willard Bunn, III, Willard Bunn, Jr., B. G. Colburn, Mr. & Mrs. Phillip Connelly, Cullom Davis, Dr. & Mrs. Irving Dilliard, Maureen A. Dowd, Richard W. Dyke, Luann Elvey, Robert s. French, Henry C. Friend (In Honor of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Sonneborn), Donald R. Funk, Garry D. Greenberg, Harold Gross, John B. Hannum, Thomas Harbinson, William C. Harris, Hart & Southworth, James Hickey, Frederick Hoffman, George Hoffman, Kurt M. Kausler, John R. Keith, O. J. Keller, Gwendolyn Klinger, Mr. & Mrs. Gerald Kluetz, Harvey E. Lemmen, Victor B. Levit, Albert P. Maitner, Jr., Paul H. McFarland, Jr., Mr. & Mrs. Larry L. Morris, Douglas G. Parker, Robert J. Patton, Lauran Perrill, W. Emerson Reck, Mark O. Roberts, Sr., Sally Schanbacher, Alice H. Schlipf, Mark E. Steiner, Don Tracy William Kent Tucker, Mr. & Mrs. Gregory N. VanWinkle, Frank J. Williams, Virginia D. Williams, Judge & Mrs. Harlington Wood, Jr., (In Memory of Jane Chapin), Judge John B. & Alice L. Wright.


Donors Receive Souvenir

Beginning in the fall of 1988, all donors to The Lincoln Legals receive a handsome facsimile and transcription of Abraham Lincoln's famous letter advising a young man on how to gain a knowledge of the law. Printed on heavy parchment paper, the facsimile letter concludes with a simple message, "Work, work, work, is the main thing."

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois