Lincoln Legal Briefs

January-March, 1989, Number 9

Thanks for Your Support

Since the last newsletter, the following persons have made donations to the Abraham Lincoln Association in support of the project: Robert G. Alexander, Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Allen, Stephen P. Bartholf, Molly M. Becker, Joseph L. Block, Norman F. Boas, Edwards Brown, Jr., Stuart Brown, Jr., Mr. & Mrs. John Bruha, Mrs. George Bunn, Robert H. Bunn, K. Tate and Cathy L. Chambers, B.G. Colburn, Walter R. Dallow, G.A. Dauphinais, John A. Davidson, Michael J. Devine, Bernard O. Dow, Lawrence Elliott, Olive Foster, Arthur J. Greenbaum, William Hanchett, Walter E. Hanson, Julian and Elinor Hartt, Hyatt Legal Services, Robert W. Johannsen, Alfred J. Lipsey, Dr. and Mrs. Clifford James Lynch, Michael J. Mazzone, Dr. and Mrs. Paul H. McFarland, Jr., Honorable Richard Mills, Georgia Northrup, Robert B. Oxtoby, Donald Reever, Dean Robb, Josephine B. Saner, Mr. & Mrs. John H. Schirding, Fred Schwengel, Peter W. Sluys, Springfield Clearing House Association, Mr. & Mrs. John T. Trutter, Clyde and Patricia Walton, Margaret R. Wann, Michael D. Warden, Roland A. White, Glen Wiche, Frank J. Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Laurin A. Wollan, Mr. Robert J. Wyllie, and Mary C. Zimmer. Many thanks for the kind and supportive notes that you have sent along with your donations, and special thanks for the generous contributions.

 

Postscript, People v. Harrison

Our announcement in the previous issue of an important new discovery started a chain reaction of publicity and correspondence that still continues three months later. Mention of the People v. Harrison murder trial transcript caught the attention of Herbert Mitgang, who inspected the document during an early February visit to Springfield. His February 10 article in the New York Times also appeared in many other newspapers throughout the country and in Europe. Immediately there were further press reports in newspapers, on National Public Radio, and various radio stations. Since then we have been pleased to receive scores of telephone and letter inquiries from scholars, attorneys, filmmakers, collectors, and Lincoln enthusiasts generally. Some graciously sent copies of their own Lincoln legal documents, others asked reference questions, a few offered financial assistance, and most requested a copy of the transcript. The terms under which we had received our own copy prohibit us from duplicating it, but we did acknowledge their interest. Throughout this interesting episode we have kept in close contact with the original document's owner, Janice (Mrs. William) Harrison. The widow of Peachy Quinn Harrison's grandson, Mrs. Harrison has cooperated generously with us, and shares our desire to fully and accurately document the notable 1859 murder trial. Persons wishing to read Mr. Mitgang's article may request a copy from The Lincoln Legals office.

 

Collection Phase Underway

With the collection phase of our work underway, we are reminded of the enormity of the task before us. We are sending personalized letters to over 30,000 libraries, historical societies, Lincoln groups, manuscript societies, document repositories, known Lincoln collectors, bar groups, and lawyers, asking for copies of any Lincoln legal documents that they may have. This mass mailing is greatly facilitated by our computer resources (which now include a laser printer), but still requires many hours of work entering names and addresses into the computer, stuffing envelopes, and then filing our copies and the responses. We are fortunate in light of this substantial task that two volunteers have come forward to donate their time. Rose Anne Davis, of Wood River, IL, a retired business education teacher, is lending her expertise in computer operations and helping to enter names and addresses into the computer. Leslie Wright, who received her M.A. in Public History from Sangamon State University, has offered to assist the project, doing "whatever needs to be done". The donation of their time and effort during this massive undertaking is invaluable, and greatly appreciated.

 

Volunteer Assistance

Laura Clower, our volunteer in the legal community, has presented the project with a biographical directory of lawyers practicing in the 1850's. This work was the culmination of a task begun by U. of I. law students under Laura's direction. She also has just finished "Shepardizing" Lincoln's Illinois Supreme Court cases. Shepardizing, a term taken from the name of the source manual, is a research technique to identify other judicial rulings related to the case in question. This information will help project staff assess the importance of each Illinois Supreme Court case (249 at least) that Lincoln handled. It also may lead us to previously unknown Lincoln cases. Our thanks to Laura for laying this valuable groundwork for further research.

 

Advertising Campaign

During January letters went to over 230 historical and legal journals and newsletters throughout the country requesting placement of a notice of our search for "Lincoln legals". The response to date has been good, and we are grateful to those publications that are running our notice free of charge. We expect to continue publicizing and advertising throughout the duration of the project, utilizing a variety of media to reach holders of the documents we seek.

 

Menard Serendipity

Occasionally our collection work has unforeseen additional benefits. Through the cooperation of Menard Circuit Judge Lyle E. Lipe and Circuit Clerk David Hitchcock, we recently photocopied 48 important records from Lincoln's Menard County practice. This activity led us to suggest further steps to preserve the original documents. Consequently, these 48 "Lincoln legals" are being given a "chemical bath" by specialists at the Illinois State Archives conservation laboratory. This treatment will stabilize their condition and considerably extend their useful life. Interested persons may examine the records on display at the Menard County Court House. We offer thanks and congratulations for this accomplishment to Menard Circuit Judge Lipe and Clerk Hitchcock, and to John Daly and Chuck Cali of the State Archives.

 

Lincoln in the Federal Courts

The discovery of new material is always exciting. Our latest good news comes from the Chicago Branch of the National Archives, where Lincoln's federal case records are housed. Through the efforts of project staff and National Archives official Shirley Burton, 122 case files have been identified as Lincoln related. This is a significant increase from previous estimates. These files include civil actions brought under both statute and common law, the 1841 bankruptcy law, admiralty litigation, and a few criminal cases. Together with approximately 35 volumes of related records, such as judgment dockets, clerk's dockets and ledgers, chancery records, and execution dockets, these case files will be a vital component of the full documentary record. We are grateful to Shirley Burton for her continuing interest and assistance.

 

Honorable Abraham Lincoln Marovitz

Bill Beard recently met with Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, Senior U.S. District Judge, in his Chicago office. Owner of one of the finest private collections of Lincolniana in the United States, Judge Marovitz has graciously agreed to provide copies of his "Lincoln legals" to the project. Visitors to his office discover a veritable museum of manuscripts, illustrations and other Lincoln mementos.

 

Lincoln's $5,000 Fee

The March, 1989 issue of Documentary Editing carries a full page transcription and notes of Lincoln's brief in his suit to collect $5,000 from the Illinois Central Railroad. Many readers will know that this trespass upon promises case followed Lincoln's success in representing the railroad in its own effort to prevent McLean County from levying a tax on the railroad's property. Lincoln's brief in the 1857 case is a characteristically succinct description of his services, and a defense of his unusually high fee. This document is also in the Collected Works (II, 397-98), but project staff added fuller annotation for the version in Documentary Editing. Interested readers may request a copy from The Lincoln Legals office.

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois
1989