Lincoln Legal Briefs

January - March 2000, Number 53

Electronic Edition Now Available

The Lincoln Legal Papers is proud to announce the publication of The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition. The culmination of more than fifteen years of research, this three disk DVD-ROM edition contains 5,669 cases and legal matters, 96,386 documents totaling 206,294 pages, and a comprehensive reference section.

The publication makes available for the first time the full documentation of the cases and legal actions in which Lincoln participated. Users can search for cases by case name, participant, date, court, legal action, or subject; or documents by document type, date, author, or signer. This edition allows researchers to study Lincoln's development as a lawyer, trace the formation of the court system in the Midwest, research legal history and the development of law, and discover antebellum social history through court records.

The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition is available from the University of Illinois Press for $2,000. To order call 800-545-4703, or visit the press website at


Davis wins Logan Hay Medal

The Abraham Lincoln Association awarded its prestigious Logan Hay Medal to Cullom Davis, former Director and current Consulting Editor of The Lincoln Legal Papers. The award was presented during the Association’s annual banquet on February 12 in Springfield.

Davis is only the ninth person to receive the medal, the highest honor that The Abraham Lincoln Association gives, and the first in eleven years. The award recognizes individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to the study of Abraham Lincoln. The Association and descendents of Logan Hay established the award in honor of Logan Hay, who was the third president of the Association.

Other Logan Hay Medal winners include: Otto Kerner, Governor of Illinois, for his efforts in the restoration of the Old State Capitol in Springfield; Paul Findley, former Congressman from the Twentieth Illinois District; Don E. Fehrenbacher, author of Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics, and other works; and, most recently, Richard N. Current, author of The Lincoln Nobody Knows and other works.


Recent Donors

We acknowledge with deep appreciation the generosity of the following contributors

An Anonymous Donor Virginia Fehrenbacher Charles W. Keaton Theodore Schuster
Glen K. Allen Mr. and Mrs. David B.
Finney Jr.
Lucent Technologies Wallace C. Sieh
Paul Bargren Elbert F. Floyd Mrs. Peter McEnteggart Robert M. Stephenson
Evans Benton Tom Forgue David B. Miller in Memory of Robert E. Miller Daniel W. Stowell
Calhoun County Historical Society French Fraker National Park Service,
Jefferson Expansion
Dennis Suttles
Mr. and Mrs. Charles A. Chapin Robert S. French Robert K. O’Connor, Q.C. William Upham
Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon S. Cohen Mr. and Mrs. Joseph

Gregory M. Perry, Esq.

Robert S. Willard
Mr. & Mrs. Walter Dallow Mr. & Mrs. William
John Power Daniel L. Willenborg
Mr. and Mrs. Cullom Davis Ginger Harmon Professor James A. Rawley Michael Zecher
Dr. Burnet V. Davis William Harrison Mrs. Geraldine Reiss  
Dr. Lenor Farmer James Kappel, Esq. Dorothy Richardson  


Welfare in Lincoln’s Illinois

John Fitzgerald emigrated from Ireland and arrived in Springfield, Illinois, in 1854. He lived and worked in the city for three weeks until he fell ill. Unable to work and with no family to support him, the eighteen-year-old immigrant became a public charge.

An Illinois statute provided for the support of indigent persons by charging the pauper’s county of residence with responsibility. In March 1854, the city of Springfield passed a new city charter that exempted Sangamon County from responsibility for paupers living within the city.

In December 1854, the question of Fitzgerald’s support was at issue, and Sangamon County and the city of Springfield, whose mayor at the time was William H. Herndon, Lincoln’s third law partner, turned to Lincoln to determine responsibility. Lincoln cited the new city charter and decided that the costs for caring for the young man should “be borne by the city and not by the county.”

Fitzgerald remained in Springfield and eventually became a productive citizen. In May 1860, he married Catherine Flynn, another Irish immigrant. By the fall of that year, Fitzgerald was earning a living as a carpenter, and the couple had $800 in real and personal property.

Document courtesy of Kim Bauer, Henry Horner Lincoln Collection, Illinois State Historical Library.


NHPRC Reviewers’ Comments

Because the Lincoln Legal Papers is shifting from an electronic publication to a print publication and because the project has a new director, the annual application for support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) was subject to peer review. Here is a sample of some of our professional peers’ comments:


“I find the proposal very well laid out, well argued and justified, and very convincing as a blueprint for getting their work done. Their track record thus far shows convincingly what they are capable of, and they are deserving of continued NHPRC support, if any project is.”


“Their work has to be the most important contribution to Lincoln scholarship since the publication of the Collected Works in 1953.”


“Equally valuable [in addition to its contribution to the study of Lincoln], however, is the vital contribution that the Project will make to our understanding of antebellum legal history.”


“The Lincoln Legal Papers will be of the utmost importance not only to Lincoln biographers but also to scholars in the fields of American legal history and social history.”


“This project is a premier undertaking among documentary editions.”


“These papers give us important evidence of what life was like, with all its complexity, struggle, and tension, the stuff of drama.”


“This project has many merits, and I strongly [and, because I expect to learn a great deal from it and to use it in my teaching, quite selfishly] urge full support for it.”


“It is easy for me to predict wide use for these volumes. There will be many who will read it through.”


“This project is one of the most important ever undertaken that deals with the history of American law and law practice.”


“I give the editors high marks for a creative and stimulating approach not just to the subject of Lincoln the lawyer but to the task of making the law of nineteenth-century Illinois broadly accessible.”


Of seven blind peer reviews, six were overwhelmingly positive, as the above quotations indicate. The seventh, while more critical, concluded that “I do believe there is potentially much merit in this project.”

Staff News

Director Daniel Stowell presented a paper on “Abraham Lincoln and the Law of Slavery” on Saturday, March 4, at the Old Federal Courthouse in St. Louis. The paper was part of the National Park Service’s commemoration of the anniversary of the Dred Scott case and of African American history month.

Assistant Editors John Lupton, Chris Schnell, and Stacy McDermott presented papers at the Midwest Outdoor Museums Coordinating Council meeting in Springfield on March 25. The papers explored Lincoln’s informal partnerships on the Eighth Judicial Circuit, the life of a businesswoman in antebellum Illinois, and the utility of public records for museums. They also provided a demonstration of the Complete Documentary Edition.

Daniel Stowell and Consulting Editor Cullom Davis provided a demonstration of the Complete Documentary Edition to the Abraham Lincoln Institute of the Mid-Atlantic in Washington, DC, on March 25. The overview highlighted the features and capabilities of the electronic edition and included sample, substantive queries.

Stacy McDermott has been accepted into the doctoral program in History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She will begin study in August, but will remain an active member of the Editorial Staff as an Assistant Editor.

© Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois