Born: 1825-08-11 Turner, Maine
Died: 1889-06-08 Chicago, Illinois
Leonard Swett attended common schools, North Yarmouth Academy, and Waterville (Colby) College. At age twenty, Swett left college and began studying law in a Portland, Maine firm. Swett enlisted in the Fifth Indiana Volunteers, which served during the waning months of the Mexican War. After near-fatal bouts with fever, Swett received a discharge at St. Louis, Missouri. On his return trip to Maine in July 1848, Swett suffered a relapse of fever at Peoria, Illinois. Swett traveled a few miles east to Bloomington, where he spent the next year recuperating and finishing his law studies. In June 1849, the Illinois Supreme Court admitted Swett to practice law, and he began his practice in Clinton, where he was living in 1850. In 1854, Swett returned to Bloomington, where he continued to practice law. In July 1854, he married Laura R. Quigg, with whom he had one son. Swett supported the Whig Party and then the Republican Party. He campaigned for Abraham Lincoln's election to the U.S. Senate in 1854 and 1858. He helped to organize the Illinois Republican Party in 1856. In 1858, voters elected him to the Illinois House of Representatives as a Republican, representing McLean County. In 1860, Swett was living in Bloomington's Second Ward with his family and owned $3,000 in real property, with a personal estate valued at $1,000. Also, in 1860, he was instrumental in Lincoln's nomination for the presidency by the Republican Party. During the Civil War, Swett spent most of his time in Washington where Lincoln employed Swett in the trial of government cases. He later moved to Chicago.
Robert S. Eckley, "Lincoln's Intimate Friend: Leonard Swett," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 92 (Autumn 1999), 274-88; The Chicago Sunday Tribune (IL), 9 June 1889, 9:3-4; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 299-300; John Palmer, ed., Bench and Bar of The Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:562; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), DeWitt County, IL, 427; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 222; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Bloomington, McLean County, IL, 193. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.