Back on this day in 1908, the 16th President of the United States of America was born in Hardin County, Kentucky. Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents of all time. He is also well known for the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. But did you know that he was a lawyer in Illinois prior to becoming President?
At 29, he was admitted to the Illinois Bar (Richards 16). At the time of his admittance, he was in his second term in the Illinois legislature (Richard 19). Lincoln would go on to try a variety of cases, many in front of the Supreme Court of Illinois (Richards 19, 22). He also tried many cases in federal trial courts latter in his practice (Frank 7). Lincoln would eventually argue a case before the Supreme Court of the United States (Frank 79). The case was Lewis v. Lewis, 48 U.S. 776 (1849), which was cited in footnotes of a case as recently as 1999, Rogers v. U.S., 180 F.3d 349 (1999). You can locate the transcript of Lewis v. Lewis using Making of Modern Law: US Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978, located on the Law Library’s Database List.
One of Lincoln’s most well known cases was People v. Williams “Duff” Armstrong (1958), also known as the “Almanac Trial” (Steiner 46). A witness in the Almanac Trial testified that he was able to see Armstrong strike the fatal blow “because the moon was high overhead” (Stiener 46). Mark Steiner states that Lincoln “helped secure an acquittal for his client by producing an almanac for the year that showed the moon was near the horizon at that time of night” (Steiner 46).
For further information about the life of Lincoln and his background as a lawyer, consult the following sources:
- Abraham Lincoln, the lawyer-statesman by John Richards
- Lincoln as a laywer, by John Frank
- Lawyer Lincoln, by Albert Woldman
- Abraham Lincoln, Esq., edited by Roger Billings and Frank Williams
- “Does Lawyer Lincoln Matter?,” chapter by Mark Steiner
- People v. William “Duff” Armstrong, Illinois State Bar
- Abraham Lincoln, History.com
- Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress
- Lincoln (2013), Law Leisure Collection (DVD)