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Abraham Lincoln, Esq.

The Legal Career of America's Greatest President

Roger Billings

Publication Year: 2010

As our nation’s most beloved and recognizable president, Abraham Lincoln is best known for the Emancipation Proclamation and for guiding our country through the Civil War. But before he took the oath of office, Lincoln practiced law for nearly twenty-five years in the Illinois courts. Abraham Lincoln, Esq.: The Legal Career of America’s Greatest President examines Lincoln’s law practice and the effect it had on his presidency and the country. Editors Roger Billings and Frank J. Williams, along with a notable list of contributors, examine Lincoln’s career as a general-practice attorney, looking both at his work in Illinois and at the time he spent in Washington. Each chapter offers an expansive look at Lincoln’s legal mind and covers diverse topics such as Lincoln’s legal writing, ethics, the Constitution, and international law. Abraham Lincoln, Esq. emphasizes this often overlooked period in Lincoln’s career and sheds light on Lincoln’s life before he became our sixteenth president.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

TItle Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction

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pp. 1-2

Abraham Lincoln, Esq. features chapters by leading scholars on the professional career of Abraham Lincoln. Four chapters were first published in the "Abraham Lincoln" issue of the Northern Kentucky Law Review in 2009, which was supported by a grant from the Kentucky Historical Society. ...

Part One: Evaluating Lincoln's Career

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Reassessing Lincoln's Legal Career

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pp. 5-18

At the beginning of the historic 2008 presidential campaign, an aspirant for the Democratic nomination appealingly described himself as another "tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer." 1 Barack Obama's declaration hardly represented the first or only example of a politician striving to identify himself with ...

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Lincoln's Lessons for Lawyers

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pp. 19-44

Abraham Lincoln is remembered as one of America's greatest leaders. In poll after poll, Lincoln is ranked as the greatest of American presidents.1 Lincoln's life story is a large part of why he is so popular today. His rise from poor, uneducated farm boy to president of the United States represents the quintessential ...

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Does Lawyer Lincoln Matter?

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pp. 45-64

An opinion poll a few years back revealed that Abraham Lincoln was one of the five most admired lawyers in America.1 Lincoln's status probably has more to do with how Americans view Lincoln the president than what they actually know about Lincoln the lawyer. The lawyer in popular biographies, movies, and children's ...

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A. Lincoln, Respectable "Prairie Lawyer"

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pp. 65-78

In 1860, Americans did not have bumpers or stickers, but they had that same mentality. Candidate Lincoln had a lot of "bumper sticker" moments -- more so than most, perhaps, because voters knew so little about him. People looked hard for a catchphrase or an easy concept that would neatly summarize ...

Part Two: The Illinois Years

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A. Lincoln, Debtor-Creditor Lawyer

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pp. 81-104

Biographers of Abraham Lincoln's legal career tend to focus on his most famous cases. The Rock Island Bridge, Illinois Central Railroad, McCormick Reaper, Duff Armstrong, and Matson slave cases are well known. Little attention is paid, however, to the routine debtor-creditor cases that were the bread ...

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Lincoln and Illinois Real Estate: The Making of a Mortgage Lawyer

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pp. 105-118

When Kentucky was part of Virginia the holders of land warrants had to provide a survey and description of their claims at their own expense. The surveys were unprofessional, using marks on trees, movable stones, and dry creeks to show division lines. By the time Lincoln's father began to buy land in Kentucky ...

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The Power of Lincoln's Legal Words

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pp. 119-132

Samuel Moulton was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln's on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. He was notorious for his poor penmanship. One day, his colleagues decided to play a trick on him. They found a bug, dipped its legs in ink, and let the bug run across a piece of paper. They took this paper to Moulton, ...

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Competence, Diligence,and Getting Paid: Lincoln's Lessons for Today's Ethical Lawyer

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pp. 133-170

Lincoln practiced law for twenty-four years. During this time, there was virtually no formal system in place to regulate the conduct of lawyers. Without the help of a code, creed, or manual, Lincoln navigated through an astonishingly eclectic, broad-reaching practice guided only by his own judgment, ...

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Lincoln's Legal Ethics: The Client Correspondence

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pp. 171-184

The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln project has opened a new window into Abraham Lincoln's life. The project contains around 100,000 documents about Lincoln's legal career, all available online. There are 5,600 of his cases, representing his practice of law from A to Z, or more accurately, from adoption to usury.1 ...

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Lincoln and the Kentuckians: Placing Lincoln in Context with Lawyers and Clients from His Native State

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pp. 185-202

Abraham Lincoln was born in and spent the first seven years of his life in Kentucky.1 In 1816, his father, Thomas Lincoln, moved his family north across the Ohio River from what was then Hardin County, Kentucky, and settled on a wooded, 160-acre claim in what was then Perry County, in southern Indiana.2 ...

Part Three: The Washington Years

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Abraham Lincoln as Practical Constitutional Lawyer

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pp. 205-228

There is an old saying that goes, "Everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." The same could be said about scholars of constitutional law. They may argue about nuances of the Constitution, but for the most part these debates are of interest only to other constitutional lawyers. ...

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President Lincoln: The International Lawyer

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pp. 229-242

Abraham Lincoln's innate ability and tenacity were consistently underestimated prior to his election as president and even while he served. Similarly, most historians have signficantly underestimated Lincoln's contributions to foreign affairs and international law during the Civil War.1 The flawed assumption ...

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Contributors

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pp. 243-246

Roger Billings came to the Salmon P. Chase College of Law of Northern Kentucky University in 1972 after working seven years for a New York City publishing company, Charles Scribner's Sons. He received his A.B. from Wabash College and his J.D. from the University of Akron. ...

Index

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pp. 247-263


E-ISBN-13: 9780813126098
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813126081

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 -- Career in law.
  • Lawyers -- Illinois -- Biography.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Biography.
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