Lincoln Legal Briefs

January - March 1999, Number 49

Sally B. Schanbacher Resigns from Board

With deep regret we announce the resignation of Sally Schanbacher from the Advisory Board of The Lincoln Legal Papers. For many years prior to the projectís founding, Sally championed the "Lincoln Legals" as both vital and long overdue. Once the work got underway she intensified her support through service as a director of the Abraham Lincoln Association and trustee of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. A charter member of our Advisory Board, she faithfully attended meetings and followed our progress. Moreover, she has been and continues to be one of the projectís most generous financial supporters. Sally instinctively resists public recognition, but we want readers to know of her extraordinary service and of our profound appreciation.



In February the National Historical Publications and Records Commission announced a grant of $75,524 to The Lincoln Legal Papers, covering the year beginning July 1, 1999. These funds will support final editorial effort and production costs for the forthcoming CD-ROM edition, plus related expenses. This generous grant marks the 10th successive year of support from NHPRC, an office of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Readers continue responding to our annual appeal for support. We acknowledge with deep appreciation the generosity of the following recent donors: Shirley Adams, Gene Arnold, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Becker, Chuck Bednar, N. Lee Beneze, Glen Bower, Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon S. Cohen, George Craig, Mr. and Mrs. John Daly, Friends of the Cullom-Davis Library at Bradley University, Robert S. Eckley, Virginia Fehrenbacher, Tom Forgue, William R. Geiser, Harold Gross, Hart, Southworth & Witsman Law Firm, Ira C. Houck Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Stanley N. Katz, Murlene Kramer, Mr. and Mrs. Claude B. Lilly, J. M. Lloyd, Mr. and Mrs. David McCalmont, James McCarthy, Larry Morris, Rotary Club of Oak Park, Robert OíConnor, Sally Schanbacher, George Shutes, Mr. and Mrs. F. John Taylor, Don Tracy, and William Kent Tucker. The Honorable and Mrs. Harlington Wood Jr. made a donation in memory of Madelon Sneed and Grover Smith.  



In this and subsequent issues, we will preview the first publication of The Lincoln Legal Papers, entitled The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, Complete Documentary Edition. The University of Illinois Press will release this electronic edition around November of this year.

We are highlighting the Reference Section in this issue. While it is not the heart of the edition, it contains invaluable information to help the user understand the law and its practice at the time, the locale, and the people who were Abraham Lincolnís peers and clients. Written in traditional Windows "help" format, it is available at the click of the mouse button as the user studies case information and document content.

Newsletter space and color constraints make our sample "screen shots" a bit difficult to read, but on a computer screen and through the use of color these sections are very legible.

Fig. 1 shows the main sections in the Table of Contents. Users can view topics contained under the main sections by double clicking on any of the main topics. A subject index or word search can also be used to locate specific information.

The Glossary defines legal terms. Our staff utilizing dictionaries and reference works contemporary to the period compiled definitions. More than 350 entries are contained in the glossary.

The Illinois Statutes as they were published in 1839 and 1856 are available in electronic form. Users can search each volume through its table of contents or index, or can browse through the more than 2,800 pages of these volumes.

The Biographies section contains background information on 200 of Lincolnís contemporaries: judges, lawyers, and major litigants. This material was gathered from many different sources including Illinois county histories, census records, period newspapers, and other reference works contained in the Illinois State Historical Library (ISHL). Many photographs contained in the biographies are from the libraryís extensive photograph collection. Mary Michals, iconographer at ISHL, has been extremely helpful to our staff in locating photographs of these subjects and other illustrations used in the edition.

The relationships between the people with whom and for whom Lincoln practiced can be followed through hyperlinks that let the user jump from one topic to the next. In several names within Benjamin S. Edwardsí biography are underlined (on screen they appear in green). A user can click on an underlined name to "jump" to that personĎs biography.

Illinois county Maps provide the changing geographical boundaries of the circuits in which Lincoln practiced. Other maps display the Grand Divisions of the Illinois Supreme Court, federal court jurisdictions, and major railroads and waterways in antebellum Illinois.

These maps will be invaluable to users unfamiliar with the State of Illinois and its counties. They will also serve as a helpful visual measure of the geographical breadth of Lincolnís practice.

In addition to maps, other Illustrations will also be included, such as photographs of Lincoln during his lawyer years, 1836-1861, and contemporary sketches or photographs of courthouses in which Lincoln practiced.

Essays on 19th century legal pleading and practice, the court structure, and a general overview of Lincolnís law career will give essential background information to a researcher. Cases could be won or lost on how well the lawyer fit the facts of the case into the rules that governed the practice of law in the various divisions of court. The Pleading and Practice essay gives essential facts on how cases had to be tried in common law, chancery, criminal, probate, and bankruptcy divisions, and on appeal. It outlines the order in which the parties presented their case (and specific documents) to the court. Schematics explain the required flow of documents. Glossary terms appear in pop-up boxes for easy reference.

The structure of the courts changed many times during Lincolnís law career. The essay on the Court Structure traces the development of the courts in Illinois and on the federal level. It explains each courtís jurisdiction, how the court was administered, and how often it met. Schematics show the system for appeals.

A Chronology provides a temporal context for Lincolnís legal career. It includes key events from his political career, his legal career, and his personal life. It also includes major historical events from the period and inclusive dates for relevant court sessions. On screen each type of event is color-coded.

A short essay on Abraham Lincoln as a Lawyer will provide groundwork for further study. Based on the documents in this edition, it will offer a reinterpretation of the breadth and depth of his legal career.

The section on Land Measurement contains conversions for antiquated measurements such as rods, links, and chains. It also describes how other units of measure, typically of land, were used at the time. The section on Monetary Conversion helps researchers understand the financial impact of debts, judgments, damage awards, and court costs to the 19th century litigant. A commodity-price index table contained in this section permits a comparison of real money values over time. (Did you know that $500 in the 1860s is equivalent to $7,815 in 1990s?)

A Perpetual Calendar lets the researcher identify the day of the week of a particular date, or identifies the specific date of the third Tuesday in March 1843, for example.

Guides for citing information from this edition are given in the Citation Style section, and more than one hundred references about Abraham Lincoln, Illinois history, legal history, and methodological and technical issues are offered in the Bibliography. (See the Reference Section of the Preview to the Complete Documentary Edition for more illustrations.)

In the next issue of The Lincoln Legal Briefs we will preview the comprehensive search capabilities of this edition.

© Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois