Lincoln Legal Briefs

July - September 2000, Number 55


Abraham Lincoln Association Gives Project Curriculum Development Grant

The Abraham Lincoln Association voted at its semi-annual meeting on September 23 to provide the Lincoln Legal Papers with a grant of $5,000. This most welcome award will fund Phase One of the project’s Educational Outreach Initiative, which seeks to make some of the riches of the Complete Documentary Edition accessible to junior high and high school students and their teachers.

The Educational Outreach Initiative has three phases. Phase One involves the creation of six lesson plans, designed around History’s Vital Themes and Narratives, as identified by the National Council for History Education, as well as the Illinois Learning Standards for the Social Sciences. Drs. Lawrence McBride and Frederick Drake, history professors and curriculum specialists at Illinois State University, will prepare the lesson plans, which the Lincoln Legal Papers will publish on this website later this year. Each lesson plan will be organized around three or four documents from Lincoln’s law practice that relate to a central theme. An overview of the curriculum materials, relevant maps, and a guide for students on how to analyze a legal document will supplement the six lesson plans.

If the project receives additional grant funds from other sources, Phase Two of the Educational Outreach Initiative will create a magazine-format collection of curriculum materials (from Phase One), substantially enhanced by a series of parallel scholarly essays on Lincoln’s legal career and the law and society of antebellum Illinois. These essays will address more fully the themes explored in the documents and lesson plans.

Phase Three of the Educational Outreach Initiative is the creation, testing, and distribution of a CD-ROM-based or web-based application for junior high and high school teachers and students. This application will provide several hundred documents suitable for classroom use together with teaching strategies and questions for use in the classroom. Phase Three will incorporate and build upon the documents chosen and the lesson plans developed in Phase One and the additional contextual essays created for publication in Phase Two. However, it will go far beyond these materials by providing a greater number and a wider variety of documents and cases, thus allowing students to pursue their own research interests.


The Case of the Missing Evidence

On July 29, 1854, Tazewell County Circuit Court Clerk John A. Jones entered his courthouse office to find that he was the victim of a burglary. Legal papers from cases scheduled for the next term of the court lay scattered across the floor. Desks were open and a tin change box sat emptied of its contents. The thief had entered through an unlocked window and taken between $25 and $30 and an indictment in a forgery case against Benjamin Kellogg, a local entrepreneur and former Pekin, Illinois, city clerk.

The grand jury had indicted Kellogg nearly three months earlier for forging or altering a “genuine instrument” (written business agreement), a crime which carried a one-year to fourteen-year sentence. Kellogg’s trial was set to begin in October 1854. The key evidence, the allegedly altered business agreement, was attached to the indictment. If the thief had replaced all the court papers, putting them back in the proper pigeonholes, Jones may not have discovered that the indictment was missing until Kellogg appeared in court that fall. However, when Jones discovered that the document was missing, he wrote a lengthy letter to David Davis, the circuit judge, who was spending the summer between court terms at his home in Bloomington, Illinois.

Judge David Davis

b. March 9, 1815, in Cecil County, Maryland; d. June 26, 1886, in Bloomington, Illinois. Davis studied law in Massachusetts and then later at Yale Law School. In 1835, he was admitted to the bar and moved to Pekin, Illinois, to begin the practice of law, but within a year he relocated to Bloomington. Active in Whig politics, Davis was elected to the state legislature in 1844 and served as a member of the 1848 state constitutional convention. In 1848, Davis was elected judge over the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which at that time was composed of fourteen counties including Sangamon, and this position brought him into close association with Abraham Lincoln. Davis worked to secure Lincoln's nomination at the Republican National Convention of 1860 in Chicago and actively campaigned for Lincoln's bid for the Presidency. He accompanied Lincoln on his inaugural journey from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, DC. In 1861, President Lincoln appointed Davis to investigate claims in Fremont's Missouri department. In 1862, President Lincoln appointed Davis as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. As a justice of the Supreme Court, Davis presided over the federal circuit composed of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. After Lincoln's assassination, Lincoln's family appointed Davis as administrator of Lincoln's estate. Davis retired from the bench in 1877 after being elected to the United States Senate and resigned from that position in 1883. He had invested in real estate with Clifton H. Moore and had become a man of considerable wealth. 

A recently uncovered letter from the Davis Family manuscript collection at the Illinois State Historical Library fills in a previously unknown part of the People’s case against Kellogg. In his August 2, 1854, letter, Jones detailed the burglary and his suspicions that Kellogg was responsible for the theft of the indictment and evidence. Jones remembered seeing several suspicious characters hanging around the courthouse in the weeks leading up to the burglary. First, there was a “large full faced rosy middle aged man” who accompanied Kellogg to the circuit clerk’s office to view the indictment. Jones found it odd that the stranger did not introduce himself as an attorney, as attorneys visiting a clerk’s office normally did. The afternoon before the break-in Jones noticed “a very suspicious looking fellow” standing in the courthouse portico. Jones also had heard that “a notoriously bad man without integrity or any principal” from Peoria had checked in at the Tazewell House, a hotel in Pekin, on the night of the burglary. Jones believed that Kellogg had hired the suspicious man to make the evidence disappear, and Jones suspected that the mysterious man had employed “two scoundrels,” who, under his directions, broke into the office, went directly to the pending cases, and “abstracted” the papers. “It is my firm conviction he effected it through these agents,” concluded Jones, although he conceded he had no solid evidence upon which to prove his allegations.

Jones was a respected Pekin resident, and attorneys and judges in central Illinois regarded him highly. Abraham Lincoln was among Jones’s many friends and admirers. Lincoln, who would later, as president, appoint Jones as Superintendent of Commercial Securities, once noted of Jones that “If God ever made an honest man and put him on earth John Albert Jones is one.” On the day following the burglary, Jones went to see Kellogg about another matter, and when Kellogg saw Jones approaching, he quickly dodged into a shop. Later, during a casual conversation, Kellogg “asked looking down whether any thing else was taken.” Jones did not mention the indictment, but Kellogg’s guilty behavior confirmed his suspicions that he was involved with the theft.

An excerpt from Kellogg’s affidavit, written by Abraham Lincoln, detailing the fact of the missing evidence.

Davis received Jones’s letter, but his reply is unknown. During the fall term of the circuit court, the case came up for hearing. Abraham Lincoln appeared as Kellogg’s attorney. The state’s attorney presented a new indictment on October 6. The following day, Lincoln filed Kellogg’s affidavit asking for a continuance to subpoena witnesses. In his affidavit, Kellogg noted the “indictment, with the original instrument, had been abstracted from the clerks office, and would not be produced at the present term.” Because of the missing evidence and the lack of an indictment until the first day of court, Kellogg claimed that he did not know “what shape the charge would be followed up against him.” The court released Kellogg on a $500 bond and continued the case until the following term. On May 4, 1855, at the next session of Tazewell County Circuit Court, Lincoln urged the court to quash the indictment. After hearing Lincoln’s arguments, Judge Davis dismissed the charges against Kellogg. It is likely that Lincoln’s arguments centered around the fact that the critical evidence — the forged document — was missing.

Christopher A. Schnell
Assistant Editor



The project acknowledges with deep appreciation the generosity of the following contributors:

bulletMr. and Mrs. Dan W. Bannister
bulletMr. and Mrs. Cullom Davis
bulletMrs. Dan Heird
bulletRoxann F. Rhea in memory of Christian Wrightsman
bulletJohn Rieken


Staff News

Our new graduate assistant, Sam Wheeler, began work with the project in August. Sam received his B.A. in history from Illinois State University last spring. He had previously worked for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a summer interpreter at the Old State Capitol and Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices. He will work twenty hours a week for us while he is pursuing his master's degree in history from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Amber Boehm spent the month of August working for the project as a temporary secretary. She stepped in for Carmen Morgan, who was on a leave of absence.

Daniel Stowell's article "'We will fight for our flag': The Civil War Letters of Thomas Barnett, Ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry" appeared in the latest issue (Autumn 2000) of the Journal of Illinois History. Daniel was also featured in a newspaper article by Doug Pokorski of the State Journal Register reporting that the Complete Documentary Edition is now available for researchers at the Illinois State Historical Library. On September 9, Daniel gave a demonstration of the electronic edition to the Midwestern Regional Conference of Legislative Service Agency Directors in Springfield.

John Lupton taught a session on the Antebellum Illinois Court System at the Seventh Annual Genealogical Institute of Mid-America in Springfield on July 10. The institute is a four-day comprehensive genealogical studies program attended by nearly eighty genealogists from all over the country. On July 12, John spoke to the staff of Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site to update them on the Complete Documentary Edition and demonstrate how they might find it useful. Lupton focused on Lincoln's cases during the time Lincoln was a New Salem resident. On September 30, John also spoke at the Illinois History Fair Teacher Workshop in Springfield.

Consulting Editor Cullom Davis delivered the opening remarks for "Abraham" at the Theater in the Park at Lincoln’s New Salem in August.

Daniel Stowell discovered a new Lincoln document from a Sangamon County case. While looking at a manuscript dealer’s website, Stowell found a Lincoln legal document and checked it against our database. We had a manuscript catalog description of the document — a praecipe from the case of Goodman v. Allguire — but not a facsimile of the document itself. This find illustrates the importance of manuscript and auction house catalogs and the Internet to our work. While we were comprehensive in our research of repositories and courthouses, Lincoln legal documents in private hands were difficult to uncover and will continue to surface.

In August, Susan Krause, John Lupton, Stacy McDermott, Chris Schnell, Daniel Stowell, and Dennis Suttles demonstrated the Complete Documentary Edition at the Illinois State Fair. They were participants at Tech Town, an exhibit at which various state agencies demonstrated their technological accomplishments.

Chris Schnell traveled to the counties on the Eighth Judicial Circuit in August and September to conduct research for the circuit tour section of the book edition. He copied all of the judge's docket entries and circuit court record entries for the Spring 1842 term and the Spring 1852 term.

© Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois