Abraham Lincoln to Isham Reavis, Jr., 5 November 18551
Isham Reavis, Esq. [Esquire]My dear Sir:
I have just reached home, and found your letter of the 23rd ult2 I am from home too much of my time, for a young man to read law with me advantageously–3 If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already– It is but a small matter whether you read with any body or not– I did not read with any one– Get the books, and read and study them till, till you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing– It is of no consequence to be in a large town while you are reading– I read at New-Salem, which never had three hundred people living in it– The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places– Mr Dummer is a very clever man and an an excellent lawyer (much better than I, in law-learning); and I have no doubt he will cheerfully tell you what books to read, and also loan you the books–4
Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing–
Very truly your friendA. Lincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Isham Reavis’ letter to Lincoln of October 23, 1855, which apparently solicited assistance with Reavis’ legal education, has not been located. Lincoln had been acquainted with Reavis’ late father, Isham Reavis, Sr., having reputedly stayed at the elder Reavis’ farm on occasion when surveying in the 1830s, and having given a deposition in 1836 regarding a survey he did in a land sale dispute involving Isham Reavis, Sr. The younger Reavis may have been prompted to commence legal studies following the death of his mother, which had also caused him to cut short his studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville.
Lincoln declined Reavis as legal apprentice, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=141403; “An Incident in the Life of Lincoln: His Letter of November 5, 1855 to Isham Reavis,” The Record of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York 20 (February 1965), 95; Davidson v. Reavis, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=135924; Lincoln Daily News (NE), 8 May 1914, 1:3-5.
4No evidence has been found as to whether or to what extent Henry E. Dummer played a role in Reavis’ legal education, although an obituary for Reavis states that he commenced his studies in August of 1855 in a law office in Beardstown, where Dummer practiced at the time. At the end of his life, Reavis reminisced in a letter to his son that he was acquainted with Lincoln for the duration of his legal studies, but no further correspondence between the two has been located.
John S. Goff, “Isham Reavis, Pioneer Lawyer and Judge,” Nebraska History 54 (1973), 2; Lincoln Daily News (NE), 8 May 1914, 1:3-5; Lawrence Daily Journal-World (KS), 12 February 1952, 8:2-3.

Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).