Lincoln the Lawyer

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Overview

What the law did to and for Abraham Lincoln, and its important impact on his future presidency

Despite historians' focus on the man as president and politician, Abraham Lincoln lived most of his adult life as a practicing lawyer. It was as a lawyer that he fed his family, made his reputation, bonded with Illinois, and began his political career. Lawyering was also how Lincoln learned to become an expert mediator between angry antagonists, as he applied his knowledge of the law and of human nature to settle one dispute after another. Frontier lawyers worked hard to establish respect for the law and encourage people to resolve their differences without intimidation or violence. These were the very skills Lincoln used so deftly to hold a crumbling nation together during his presidency.

The growth of Lincoln's practice attests to the trust he was able to inspire, and his travels from court to court taught him much about the people and land of Illinois. Lincoln the Lawyer explores the origins of Lincoln's desire to practice law, his legal education, his partnerships with John Stuart, Stephen Logan, and William Herndon, and the maturation of his far-flung practice in the 1840s and 1850s. Brian Dirck provides a context for law as it was practiced in mid-century Illinois and evaluates Lincoln's merits as an attorney by comparison with his peers. He examines Lincoln's clientele, his circuit practice, his views on legal ethics, and the supposition that he never defended a client he knew to be guilty. This approach allows readers not only to consider Lincoln as he lived his life—it also shows them how the law was used and developed in Lincoln's lifetime, how Lincoln charged his clients, how he was paid, and how he addressed judge and jury.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Dirck (history & political science, Anderson Univ., Indiana; Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America, 1809–1865) takes full advantage of the published Lincoln Legal Papers Project to produce this necessary and proper addition to Lincoln collections. Focusing on Lincoln's preparation for a career in law and his subsequent law practice, Dirck argues persuasively that Lincoln possessed an attorney's heart (which he intends as a compliment) and that to grapple effectively with Lincoln and his meaning to the American experiment, one must examine what the practice of law did for and to Lincoln. Scrutinizing Lincoln's legal studies, his various legal partnerships, his career in Springfield, and especially the "riding circuit" with other attorneys, Dirck concludes that Lincoln's legal career equipped him with skills and insights appropriate for a successful political career: an ability to assess human nature, seek alliances, forge compromises, and, essentially, create communities that enable democracy to function. A mixture of legal history, legal studies, and political theory, this book abounds with insightful analysis in spite of its relative brevity, especially notable for such an extraordinarily complex individual as Lincoln. Highly recommended for all libraries.
—Stephen K. Shaw

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252031816
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 4/4/2007
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents


Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xiii
Introduction     1
"Great God Almighty"     9
The Brethren     33
Promissory Notes     54
The Energy Men     76
The Show     99
Death and the Maidens     120
Storytelling     138
Grease     154
Conclusion     173
Notes     177
Bibliography and Sources     211
Index     221
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  • Posted January 3, 2012

    Speculative

    This book is based on an enormous amount of collaborative research and the concept behind it is very commendable. Although, I found it somewhat disappointing. The book gives a peek into the time period of the early 1800's in the legal community of America, but many of Mr. Dirck's comments are very speculative. Rather than making the original documents available for the reader to see and form their own opinion about the 16th President as a lawyer, he makes comments about the cases in which Mr. Lincoln was involved in and flavors them with his own perspective.

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