Lincoln Legal Briefs

October - December, 1993, Number 28

The Lincoln Calendar

Lincoln conferences and celebrations have proliferated to the point of occurring frequently throughout the year. Nevertheless, February remains the season of most intense activity, and 1994 is no exception.

Returning to Jacksonville, Illinois by popular demand will be six performances of an original play, "In the Shadow of Giants," based on the famous Selby v. Dunlap trial of 1854. The production will appear once daily, February 4-6 and 11-13. Persons wishing to reserve tickets may telephone the curator of Jacksonville's Heritage Cultural Center, (217) 243-1114.

Again this year the Lincoln Home National Historic Site will sponsor several activities, beginning with performances at 2:00 p.m. on February 5 and 6 of "Abraham Lincoln: A Biography in Words and Music." On February 12 the annual "Lincoln Heritage Lectures" will occur, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the Lincoln Home NHS Visitor's Center. Three respected specialists will speak: Harold Holzer on the subject of his recent book about letters written to President Lincoln; John Y. Simon on Mary Todd Lincoln and her biographers; and Roger Fischer on Lincoln as an icon in American political cartoons. The public is invited.

Also on February 12 will be the 21st annual "Abraham Lincoln Symposium," which begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Old State Capitol in Springfield. Three distinguished scholars will offer papers on the general subject, "New Directions in Lincoln Studies." Edward M. Bruner, University of Illinois, will offer an anthropological perspective on New Salem; Glen W. Davidson of Doane College will discuss the controversy over possible DNA testing of Lincoln's remains; and James Gilreath from the Library of Congress will explore the use of forensics and other techniques in detecting Lincoln forgeries. Richard S. Taylor of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will comment on the papers. The public is invited.

Culminating the day's events will be the annual banquet of the Abraham Lincoln Association, at 7:00 p.m. in the Springfield Renaissance Hotel. The highlight of this festive affair will be an address by Frank E. Vandiver, noted Civil War historian and educator. For reservations contact Linda Potts, First of America Bank in Springfield, telephone (217) 753-7123.

The Civil War Round Table of Long Beach, California is sponsoring a symposium at The Huntington Library in San Marino on February 19. Entitled "A Day with Mr. Lincoln," it will feature addresses by four Lincoln specialists and a guided tour of the current exhibit, "The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America," by curator John Rhodehammel. Speakers are Larry Burgess (Lincoln Shrine Museum), Cullom Davis (Lincoln Legal Papers), William Hanchett (San Diego State University), and Ronald Rietveld (California State University-Fullerton). For information, contact Bill Haley, 1510 Backbay Circle, Huntington Beach, CA 92648.


On the Circuit

The yield of new documents dropped somewhat from our record harvest of the third quarter, due principally to the need to assign several staff researchers to reduce a large backlog of unprocessed documents. Accessioning the photocopies we have collected requires labeling a file folder for each item, extracting pertinent data about each case and document for the data base, entering that information in a coded form, and then filing all records in a rapidly expanding row of file cabinets. Concentrating on this tedious but vital task led to one notable achievement in December: we reached the 10,000-name milestone in our data base roster of individuals who are mentioned as parties or court officers in Lincoln cases. That pool of names will continue to grow rapidly in the coming year.

Despite the reassignment of some staff members, it was possible to complete our search in one major Eighth Circuit county (Woodford) and eight other counties in southern and northern Illinois. In addition, there was substantial progress in two of the most difficult searches, Sangamon and Vermilion counties. An exhaustive inspection of Sangamon County dockets revealed hundreds of previously unreported Lincoln cases. The painstaking year-long sifting through brittle and fragmentary Vermilion County records is nearly completed.

There were some notable items among the thousands of newly recovered records. Researchers identified 22 documents in Lincoln's handwriting in Woodford County, and six in Vermilion. In addition, discoveries of major interpretive significance occurred in St. Louis, Missouri and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and are described later in this bulletin.

For their generous cooperation we gratefully acknowledge assistance by the following public officials and friends: Susan Hileman (Alexander County); Jennie Crawshaw and historical society members (Jackson County); Ellen Kipping (Monroe County); Randy George (Pulaski County); Richard Witbart and William Rabe (Randolph County); Cathy Oliveri (Putnam County); Barney Metz (St. Clair County); Angelis Vlahou, Laura Wheaton, and James Smith (Southern Illinois University IRAD); Mattilene Page (Union County); Hon. Richard Banner, Arthur Garber, and Peggy Rapp (Woodford County).


Staff News

Christopher Schnell, Research Assistant, completed all requirements and received the Master of Arts degree in History from Sangamon State University. He recently was named a "Lincoln Legal Eagle" for discovering several rare autographs. Two temporary research assistants, Sean Brown and Stacy McDermott, accelerated our progress in Sangamon and Vermilion counties, and have been invited to remain on the staff through mid-1994.

Audience reaction at the annual Illinois History Symposium was enthusiastic over papers delivered by Assistant Director Martha Benner and research associates Susan Krause, John Lupton, and Dennis Suttles. Dennis also wrote an article, "Lincoln Speaks Out on the Kansas-Nebraska Act: Winchester, Illinois, 1854," for the winter issue of The Lincoln Newsletter. Research Assistant Michael Duncan, indefatigable and ingenious in his ability to discover Lincoln manuscripts, has been the subject of a lengthy newspaper profile and several radio and television appearances.


150 Years Ago . . .

During the period December, 1843 through January, 1844, Lincoln and his partner Stephen T. Logan were kept busy with 33 appearance or document filings for no less than 22 legal actions in three different courts: the United States Circuit Court, the Illinois Supreme Court and the Sangamon County Circuit Court.

Of note were Lincoln's efforts on behalf of his father-in-law, Robert S. Todd, who was pursuing a chancery action in Sangamon County Circuit Court against Nathaniel Ware. Ware held Todd's promissory notes amounting to $815 and a mortgage securing their payment, but refused to accept Todd's payment of the notes in "bankable paper receivable on deposit at the State Bank of Illinois at Springfield." In an amended bill of complaint, Lincoln attempted to exclude a deposition for the defendant, asking "that the maxim, 'falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus' shall be applied..." False in one thing, false in everything; testimony willfully intended to deceive should be "excluded from credit & consideration." Unfortunately for Lincoln, bondsman for Todd, the court ordered dismissal of Todd's bill on April 1, 1844 and ordered that the defendant's court costs also be paid. [Lincoln Day by Day, volume I, pp. 217-221]


Two Important Discoveries

Acting on hints contained in a private manuscript collection, Assistant Editor Bill Beard found records for a Lincoln case that was tried in the St. Louis, Missouri Court of Common Pleas, in 1852. Archives in the St. Louis Civil Courts Building include 55 documents pertaining to Thomas Aspinall v. John W. Dutcher and Charles K. Bacon. Aspinall sued the defendants over a debt dispute, and his lawyer, Thomas T. Gantt evidently sought Abraham Lincoln's help in obtaining witness depositions in Springfield, in 1851.

It is not clear from the St. Louis case records whether Lincoln was present for the trial, and there is no certainty that further information will surface. What is noteworthy, nevertheless, is the proof that Lincoln participated in a case that originated and was tried in the neighboring state of Missouri. While scholars have known that Lincoln represented numerous Missouri clients in cases heard in federal court in Illinois, this is the first and only known instance that he was engaged in Missouri litigation.

Equally interesting is a recent discovery by Kellee Blake, archivist with the National Archives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While inspecting old court records of federal treason cases against citizens who had attacked Union soldiers in Baltimore, Maryland in the spring of 1861, she spotted Lincoln's handwriting and signature. The case of U.S. v. Josiah Grindall was initially brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in June 1861, but later was transferred to the circuit court. It was still pending in the spring of 1864, when Grindall took the oath of loyalty stipulated in President Lincoln's Proclamation of Amnesty, issued several months earlier. Grindall's lawyer and the U.S. Attorney thereupon forwarded court records to Lincoln, recommending executive clemency. Lincoln's response, a characteristic annotation on one of the court papers, is as follows: "In this case, not as a precedent for any other case, the District Attorney will be justified by me, if in his discretion, he will enter a Nolle Prosequi. April 2, 1864. A. Lincoln."

Nolle prosequi, meaning "no further prosecution," effectively dismisses charges in a criminal case. Lincoln was demonstrating charity for Grindall less than one year before promising "charity for all" in his Second Inaugural Address. Aside from its intrinsic interest, this document reveals a Lincoln late in his tenure as President who still thought and wrote in legal terms, and who still annotated legal documents in the same manner as his earlier days of practice.

Our thanks and congratulations, plus a "Lincoln Legal Eagle" certificate, to Kellee Blake for her acuity and help.



For the third consecutive year, the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation has awarded funds in support of accessioning and editorial work of The Lincoln Legal Papers. This year's grant is $15,000, a higher level than past years and a measure of the foundation's continued encouragement. Diana Davis Spencer directs its giving program.

Our annual campaign for individual contributions is underway, and already many subscribers have responded. Of special note to date were substantial contributions by Frank and Virginia Williams in support of the ongoing search for documents, and by Richard Hart and Sally Schanbacher to underwrite initial costs of the forthcoming complete edition on CD-ROM.

We acknowledge with deep gratitude the generosity of the following recent donors: Abraham Lincoln Book Shop , Shirley A. Adams, Dennis Antonie, Mr. and Mrs. Dan Bannister, William D. Beard, Ann C. Becker, Shawn L. Briese, Willard Bunn, Jr., Willard Bunn, III, John C. Burnett, Sr., Glen F. Burton, Central Illinois Public Service Co., Richard Carlson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Chapin, Charles M. Cook, Richard A. Chrisman, Richard N. Current, DeWitt County Board, Robert W. Dickerman, Michael L. Duncan, Robert S. Eckley, Luann Elvey, Olive S. Foster, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Funk, Joseph George, Jr., Richard E. Hart, Jan Hefti, James T. Hickey, Fred B. Hoffmann, Clifford R. Hope, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. G. William Horsley, Robert W. Johannsen, Jerald Jones, Robin Kaller, Gerald D. Kluetz, Rosemary King in memory of Edna Todd, Harvey E. Lemmen, J. Michael Lennon, Arthur F. Loux, Janet Meyer, Ben Miller, David B. Miller in memory of Robert E. Miller, Larry L. Morris, William D. Mulliken, James E. Myers, John B. Nolan, Margit Strand Olsen, Paul L. Pascal, Mrs. A.M. Pate, Jr., Robert J. Patton, Merrill D. Peterson, John R. Power, Robert A. Price, James A. Rawley, Sally Schanbacher, Benjamin Shapell, Wallace C. Sieh, Mark Sorensen, Alex A. Summers, Dennis Suttles, Margaret R. Taylor, Andrew Van Meter, C. David Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Williams, Arthur R. Williams, Louise F. Wollan, Rand S. Wonio, Rose K. Wood, Harlington Wood, Jr. in memory of Clara Alley, Mrs. Harold B. Wright, and Robert J. Wyllie.


Still Available

The Lincoln Legal Papers tote bag, decorated with three illustrations by Lloyd Ostendorff and our own logo, is available by mail order. This durable white canvas bag with straps is both handsome and handy. The price per bag is $14.37, tax and shipping included. Send a check in the proper amount made out to "Tinsley Dry Goods" and addressed to The Lincoln Legal Papers, Old State Capitol, Springfield, IL 62701.

A limited supply of Lincoln Legal Papers sweatshirts (large size only) is also available. Illustrated in black with the famous photograph of Lincoln during the "Duff" Armstrong trial, the shirts are salmon in color and sell for $15.00, tax and shipping included. Make payment to the Abraham Lincoln Association, and mail to the above address.

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois