Lincoln Legal Briefs

January-March, 1993, Number 25

New Publications

Of interest to students of Lincoln's law practice will be a new book, The Law of Illinois, by John Long, an attorney who practices in Troy, Illinois. This 300-page book, which includes several indices, offers historical accounts of 83 cases that Lincoln brought before the Illinois Supreme Court, 1837 to 1846. The author plans a second volume for the remainder of his Supreme Court cases. The book sells for $20.00, plus $1.75 handling (and $1.30 sales tax for Illinois residents), and may be ordered from The Illinois Company, 341 South Main Street (Shiloh), O'Fallon, IL 62269.

Assistant Editor Bill Beard is author of three recent and noteworthy articles. "The Ever-changing Law: A Lincoln Railroad Case" appeared in The Lincoln Newsletter. The December 1992 issue of Documentary Editing carried "American Justinian or Prairie Pettifogger? Lincoln's Legal Legacy," and the winter issue of Illinois Historical Journal featured "I have labored hard to find the law: Abraham Lincoln for the Alton and Sangamon Railroad."


On the Circuit

The virtual exhaustion of travel funds forced curtailment of the document search in key counties of eastern Illinois, but several staff members were able to investigate records in selected locations. Four Indiana counties that border the old Eighth Judicial Circuit in eastern Illinois were objects of limited (and barren) search: Vigo, Fountain, Warren and Montgomery. In southern Illinois we completed work in Jasper County (Sheryl Frederick, Circuit Clerk), Effingham County (Jane Schuette), Clay County (Delores Miller), Marion County (Gary Boles), Fayette County (Marsha Wodtka), Bond County (Dennis Potthast and County Treasurer William E. Johnson), Clinton County (Jeff Luebbers and local historian Mary Meyer), and Washington County (Harry Reinhardt). To the circuit clerks and other officials of those counties we extend grateful appreciation for their assistance.

Vermilion County remains problematic, as the case files there were too dry and brittle to even inspect, let alone copy. Docket entries indicate over 200 Lincoln cases there, due in part to Lincoln's active collaboration with Danville attorney Ward Hill Lamon. Late this winter county officials approved a unique arrangement for temporary transfer of the case files to the Illinois State Archives in Springfield. There conservation technicians will humidify the contents of over 90 large boxes of records in an effort to restore their strength enough to permit handling. For this notable act of intergovernmental cooperation we salute Director John Daly and his staff at the Illinois State Archives, and Vermilion County officials Rita B. Garman (Circuit Judge), Sally Armes (Circuit Clerk), and Mary Lou Davis (Deputy Clerk).

With these most recent achievements, the totals to date include 42 Illinois counties, ten manuscript repositories, 4,523 Lincoln-related cases, and 53,680 documents.


Good and Bad News

Record-setting support from individual and corporate donors partially offset reduced state funding during the winter quarter. Our 1992 Annual Report summarizes last year's finances in detail. So far in 1993, thirty-eight donors have contributed $3,634. In addition, numerous fundraising requests to corporations and foundations are pending.

Long awaited news from major federal sources came late in February, and was largely disappointing. In a year of unusually stiff competition, The Lincoln Legal Papers was denied a three-year request for $234,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Funds of this magnitude are needed to inaugurate the editorial stage of work, so we now must reschedule completion by one full year in hope that a renewed request will win approval next winter.

More welcome was announcement that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has renewed its annual support for 1993-94. This grant will be $43,000, which is considerably less than the amount requested ($77,000), but substantially more (by 30 per cent) than our current award. Total NHPRC grant funds were actually less this year, so our increase is especially heartening.

We acknowledge with deep gratitude the generosity of the following recent donors: Dr. William R. Baldwin, Dr. Carl R. Bemiller, Norman F. Boas, Ruth Burnham, Sheldon S. Cohen, George M. Craig, Sandra L. Cutuli, H. William Davenport, Cullom Davis, Philip Hamner, Martha M. Heulings, Stanley N. Katz, Kurt M. Kausler, Dr. & Mrs. Victor Lary, Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Albert R. Link, Alfred J. Lipsey, M.D., Honorable Abraham Marovitz, Milton McClure, Mrs. Virginia McConnell, James Nowlan, Andrea Parker, The Union League of Philadelphia, Mr. & Mrs. Don Raymer, John Rompon, Nancy Schmidt, R. E. Stackler, Jackie Stites, Dennis Suttles, Louise & Barry Taper, Mrs. Florence S. White, Edward M. Wise, Hon. John B. & Alice L. Wright, John L. Wright, Robert J. Wyllie.


The Lincoln Curiosity Shop

Occasionally staff researchers run across an interesting or unusual item that is worth sharing for its curiosity value. Following are several such oddities.

Evidently Lincoln accidentally substituted his own name for that of Ward Hill Lamon in some of their joint cases in Vermilion County. In an assumpsit case there early in 1853, Lincoln wrote the document and then signed it, "Lincoln & Lincoln," rather than Lincoln and Lamon. In this particular case there is no proof that they collaborated, but that was the common pattern of Lincoln's active practice there. Furthermore, there is no record of another lawyer by the name of Lincoln practicing in Vermilion County.

Five months later Lincoln repeated this mistake in another assumpsit case, writing "Davis, Lincoln & Lincoln." Later on the same page, however, he wrote "Davis, Lincoln & Lamon." Possibly the habit of writing his own name was so ingrained that when he began the word "Lamon" with a capital "L" he inadvertently succumbed to routine.

Another curiosity is from Mason county, where the Judge's Docket for 1841 faintly reveals Lincoln's name as attorney for a case, with two other names, Baker and Hardin, boldly written over it. Readers are invited to inspect this example closely, noting how painstaking the search for Lincoln legal records can be.

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois