Stuart, John T.

Born: 1807-11-10 Fayette County, Kentucky

Died: 1885-11-28 Springfield, Illinois

John T. Stuart was Abraham Lincoln’s first law partner and the first cousin of Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd. Stuart graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, at the age of nineteen. He studied law in Richmond, Kentucky, and was admitted to the bar in 1827. In the fall of 1828, Stuart settled in Springfield, Illinois, where he began a law practice - becoming the town’s sixth lawyer. During the Black Hawk War, Stuart was a major of the local regiment in 1831, and in 1832, served as a private alongside Lincoln in Captain Elijah Iles’ company of the 4th Regiment of Illinois Mounted Volunteers. When he returned to his practice, Stuart formed a law partnership with Henry E. Dummer. Stuart also became active in Whig politics and served in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1832 and again in 1834. His partnership with Dummer ended in 1837, after which he partnered with Lincoln. On October 25, 1837, Stuart married Mary V. Nash in Jacksonville.

In 1838, he defeated Stephen A. Douglas in a bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was reelected in 1840. In 1841 Stuart and Lincoln dissolved their legal partnership—in which they had handled at least seven hundred cases. Stuart declined to run for reelection in 1842 and formed a legal partnership with Benjamin S. Edwards that would last until his death. In 1848, he was elected to the Illinois Senate and held that position until 1852. He also served as chairman of the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee for four years, and, in 1854, became a member of the Springfield Gas Light Company’s board of directors.

After the Whig Party dissolved in Illinois, Stuart supported the American Party in 1856 and unsuccessfully ran for governor on the Constitutional Union ticket in 1860. He did not support Lincoln’s bid for the presidency. In 1862, he ran unaffiliated (although he was endorsed by the Democrats) for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives against Leonard Swett. He defeated Swett but lost his seat in 1864 to Shelby M. Cullom. He then returned to his practice until his retirement.

Christopher C. Brown, "Major John T. Stuart," Publication No. 7 Illinois State Historical Library Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society (1902): 109-14; Paul M. Angle and Robert P. Howard, One Hundred and Fifty Years of Law (Springfield, Illinois: Brown, Hay, and Stephens, 1978), 7-43; David Davis, "The Life and Services of John Todd Stuart," Proceedings of the Illinois State Bar Association, 1886 (Springfield: H. W. Rokker, 1886), 47-55; Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield), 29 November 1885, part 2, 1:3; John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Rinehart, 1960), 9-10, 35-38, 73, 76-77; Sylvia B. Larson, "Stuart, John Todd," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 21:78-79; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1879), 347-49; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 292; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:187-90; Albert A. Woldman, Lawyer Lincoln (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1936), 13, 19-20, 25, 36, 80; Isaac H. Elliott, Record of the Services of Illinois Soldiers in the Black Hawk War, 1831-32, and in the Mexican War, 1846-8 (Springfield, IL: H. W. Rokker, 1882), xiv, 175; “An Act to Incorporate the Springfield Gas Light Company,” 27 February 1854, Laws of Illinois (1854), 189. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.