Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America's Greatest President

Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America's Greatest President

by Roger Billings, Frank J. Williams
     
 

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There are thousands of books currently in print about Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his presidency, but only a handful of them focus on Lincoln's pre-presidential career: law. Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Other than part-time service in the Illinois legislature and the United States Congress, law was his full-time…  See more details below

Overview

There are thousands of books currently in print about Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his presidency, but only a handful of them focus on Lincoln's pre-presidential career: law. Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Other than part-time service in the Illinois legislature and the United States Congress, law was his full-time occupation. He handled cases in almost all court levels: justice of the peace, county, circuit, appellate, and federal. Like many of his colleagues at the bar, Lincoln was a general practice attorney and represented clients in a variety of civil and criminal actions including debt, slander, divorce, mortgage foreclosure, and murder. Lincoln was involved in more than 5,100 cases in Illinois alone during his 23-year legal career. Though many of these cases involved little more than filing a writ, others were more substantial and quite involved; Lincoln and his partners appeared before the Illinois State Supreme Court more than 400 times.

In Abraham Lincoln, Esq., editors Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams have assembled a contributor list that includes notables Harold Holzer, William D. Pederson, and Mark Steiner, to examine not only Lincoln's Illinois law practice but also the effect his practice had on Lincoln's presidential actions. The book is separated into three parts: Evaluating Lincoln's Career, The Illinois Years, and The Washington Years, offering an expansive look at Lincoln's legal mind. Essays deal with many topics, including the rule of law, Lincoln's legal writing, ethics, the Constitution, and international law. Abraham Lincoln, Esq. provides a picture of Lincoln as a lawyer while emphasizing overlooked aspects of his career. This volume will be an excellent addition to our growing Lincoln list.

Roger Billings is a professor at Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase College of Law. His articles have appeared in such publications as the ABA Journal, Journal of Illinois History, and International Law. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Frank J. Williams is a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, a member of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and a justice on the Military Commission Review Panel. He is the author of Judging Lincoln and the coeditor of Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America's Greatest Leader. He lives in Hope Valley, Rhode Island.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

""This collection cuts across nearly every aspect of law as experienced by Lincoln. No stone is left unturned whether dealing with the most mundane aspects of metes and bounds or the highly specialized laws of war. It contributes to an area of Lincoln studies that has been underserved by Lincoln scholars."" -- Edward Steers Jr., author of Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

""Roger Billings and Frank Williams, and their contributors eloquently and thoroughly explored the nuances of Lincoln's journey to national prominence, delving into history to present a multifaceted account of the experiences and lessons that define his stance on ethics, policy, and democracy."" -- Lone Star Review

""This collection of essays evaluates Lincoln's career as a lawyer and how good he was in his practice."" -- Oklahoman

""Useful and important for a wide audience--including Lincoln scholars, legal and constitutional historians, Civil War specialists, and general readers fascinated by Lincoln"" -- Law and Politics Book Review

""Abraham Lincoln, Esq. is extremely well-researched and informative. If you are looking for insights into Lincoln's legal career, this short book provides a wealth of information"" -- Wisconsin Lawyer

""Abraham Lincoln, Esq. is a fine addition to the literature on Lincoln as a lawyer, and its bibliographical references will be valuable for future study."" -- Federal Lawyer

""President Lincoln displayed a moral and intellectual integrity by his courageous opposition to the extension of slavery and to the Dred Scott ruling by the US Supreme Court."" -- Christian News

""This well-researched book promises to add more perspective to the life of perhaps the most famous person ever born in Kentucky."" -- Kentucky Monthly

""a testament to the enduring relevance of Lincoln to modern America and the world. This particular edited volume is the result of an incredible amount of archival digging."" -- Ohio Valley History

""Present[s] important studies of Lincoln and... worthy of close attention."" -- H-Net Review

"" Abraham Lincoln, Esq. is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone seeking to learn more about the law career of our sixteenth president."" -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

""Presents to us a different side of Lincoln than we normally see and how this side helped him grow into the man he was when he became president"" -- Book Bargains and Previews

""Plumbs the latest research on the least-understood aspect of the career of Abraham Linocln."" -- Historian

""[Will] satisfy historians' unquenchable thirst for new knowledge about Lincoln."" -- Journal of East Tennessee History

Library Journal
Lincoln legal scholars Billings (Salmon P. Chase Coll. of Law, Northern Kentucky Univ.) and Williams (former chief justice, Supreme Court of Rhode Island) have assembled an instructive collection of 12 essays, five previously published, assessing Lincoln's legal career, writing and arguing skills, law practice, and relationship with local, state, and national politics, as informed by his experience in and with the law (he practiced law for almost a quarter century before becoming President). The contributors draw heavily on the newly available Lincoln Legal Papers to discover a Lincoln who was careful in preparing briefs, did much business in debt collection and other mundane but necessary work that helped develop the state and the economy, and used the practice and camaraderie of the law to build friendships and knowledge essential to his political interests. They agree that law prepared Lincoln for presidential leadership, especially as it attuned him to the importance of argument, audience, and constitutional strictures. VERDICT The book offers no surprises in an already rich literature on Lincoln, but it does bring together useful demonstrations of what the law meant to Lincoln and what Lincoln meant to the law. A valuable addition for serious students of Lincoln or of American antebellum legal practice.—Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813136530
Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
Publication date:
01/25/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Roger Billings is a professor at Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase College of Law. His articles have appeared in such publications as the ABA Journal, and Journal of Illinois History. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Frank J. Williams is a retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum and Chair of the Rhode Island Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration Commission. He also served as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Military Commission review to hear appeals from those detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.He is the author of Judging Lincoln and the coeditor of Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America's Greatest Leader. He lives in Hope Valley, Rhode Island.

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