Lincoln Legal Briefs

October - December, 1995, Number 36

The Lincoln Calendar

Two Illinois cities--Springfield and Chicago--will offer Lincoln students and admirers an unusually rich feast of February programs. Intrepid participants will have to schedule their activities carefully if they want to enjoy it all.

As in past years, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site plans to offer "Abraham Lincoln: A Biography in Words and Music" on February 11. The next morning it will again sponsor speakers in its Lincoln Heritage Lecture series. Further details are not available at this time, because federal offices are closed.

The 23rd annual Symposium of the Abraham Lincoln Association will be even bigger and better this year. A special two-day program on "Lincoln's Biographers" will gather twelve recognized scholars for papers, commentary, and a roundtable discussion. Presentations will take place in the Old State Capitol beginning at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, February 11, and resume at the same time the next day. The public is invited.

The ALA's annual Lincoln birthday banquet will begin with a reception at 6:00 p.m., Monday, February 12 at the Springfield Renaissance Hotel. Following dinner the audience will enjoy Lincoln's favorite songs, performed by "Some Folks, An American Musical Group." These gifted musicians have been recognized for the quality of their repertoire and performance. Banquet tickets ($40.00) must be purchased by February 6. Contact Linda Potts (217) 753-7123 for further information.

Lincoln's birthday is also the day that the Chicago Historical Society opens its year-long exhibit, "The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America." This extraordinary collection of more than 200 rare documents, illustrations, and artifacts is the product of an unprecedented collaboration between the Illinois State Historical Library, Louise and Barry Taper, and the Huntington Library. The exhibition originally appeared at the Huntington Library during 1993-94, and drew large and appreciative audiences. Its reprise at the Chicago Historical Society offers a second opportunity, in the "Land of Lincoln," for people to enjoy a remarkable presentation on all aspects and stages of Lincoln's life.

During the spring there will also be a lecture series at the Chicago Historical Society, featuring five noted Lincoln and Civil War scholars. For more information or to schedule a group tour, call (312) 642-5035, ext. 318.

 

Slander Article Available

The stereotypical lawyer of today's comedy monologues is a shyster who shamelessly encourages litigation for personal gain. A healthy antidote to this categorical accusation is a recent article by Mark Steiner, "The Lawyer as Peacemaker: Law and the Community in Abraham Lincoln's Slander Cases," which appeared in the summer 1995 issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.

Until recently Steiner was Associate Editor with The Lincoln Legal Papers, and he still serves as Consulting Editor. His inspection of the project's enormous corpus of 6,000 cases and over 100,000 records identified at least 68 slander cases, with Lincoln equally dividing his service between plaintiffs and defendants. Antebellum slander records offer a fascinating glimpse of frontier disputes between neighbors, within families, and among citizens. The raw language in some court documents will surprise readers who may nostalgically assume that the vulgarity in our popular culture originated only recently.

Readers may obtain a free reprint of Steiner's article by mailing or faxing a request, with your name and address clearly printed. We offer this complimentary publication both to illustrate the wealth of information we have gathered, and also to reveal one important benefit of membership in the Abraham Lincoln Association, a project cosponsor.

 

Staff News

Joining us this past fall as a temporary clerical assistant was Jeremy Zumwalt, who has helped process the large backlog of case information destined for the project's database. He is scheduled to return to university classes in January.

Three project colleagues offered scholarly papers at the Illinois History Symposium early in December. Assistant Editor Bill Beard discussed "Through the Eyes of Lincoln: The Development of Railroad Law in Illinois," and Research Associate Christopher Schnell spoke on "Women's Property Rights in Central Illinois during the Nineteenth Century." Commenting on the papers was Robert Lawless, Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, and member of the project's Advisory Board. Former member and U.S. Circuit Judge Harlington Wood, Jr. chaired the panel.

At another session Research Associate John Lupton read a paper, "Basement Barrister: Abraham Lincoln's Practice before the U.S. Supreme Court." Serving as chair and commentator were the project's consulting editors, Ben Brown and Mark Steiner.

Assistant Director and Editor of The Complete Lincoln Legal Papers Marty Benner demonstrated the features of our CD-ROM version at the annual meeting of the Association for Documentary Editing, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her presentation elicited considerable interest and support.

 

Finances

Late in 1995 the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation announced its fifth consecutive annual grant. The 1996 award is for $25,000, and makes the Davis Foundation a significant and steadfast project supporter. The foundation's gifts chairman is Diana Davis Spencer.

Occasionally we receive valuable non-monetary gifts. Such was the case last fall, when more than twenty important Lincoln books from the personal library of the late Henry C. Friend were donated to the project's reference library. Mr. Friend, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had a lifelong interest in Lincoln, and took special interest in his legal practice. We thank Paul F. Meissner and Peter J. Dundon, representing the Friend estate, for this welcome gift.

With our annual fundraising campaign underway, we can only report those gifts received as of the end of 1995. The next issue will announce results and recognize additional contributors. We acknowledge with deep appreciation the generosity of the following fourth quarter 1995 donors: Charles W. Adams, Dennis Antonie, Mr. and Mrs. Dan Bannister, James T. Barry, III, Ben Becker, Martha L. Benner, Albert J. Beveridge, Shawn L. Briese, John C. Bruha, Willard Bunn, III, Willard Bunn, Jr., Glenn F. Burton, Tom Butler, Norman D. Callan, John R. Chapin, Mr. & Mrs. Charles A. Chapin, Mike Combs, Leslie Lee Cowell, George M. Curtis, III, Mr. & Mrs. John E. Daly, Cullom Davis, Cully Davis, Robert W. Dickerman, Mr. & Mrs. C. Daniel Eaton, Robert S. Eckley, Lawrence Elliott, Luann Elvey, Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery, Tom Forgue, Olive S. Foster, Mr. & Mrs. Donald Funk, Mr. & Mrs. David A. Gorak, Polly W. Griffin, Harold Gross, Gayle T. Harris, William C. Harris, Hart, Southworth & Witsman, Mr. Jack Heiberger, David R. Herndon, James T. Hickey, Bond County Historical Society, Clifford R. Hope, Jr., Wesley W. Horton, Hon. Lynn N. Hughes, Robert Johannsen, Gerald D. Kluetz, Dr. & Mrs. Victor Lary, Robert M. Lawless, Alfred J. Lipsey, Marc C. Loro, Steve McKenrick, Janet W. Meyer, David B. Miller, Mr. & Mrs. Larry K. Millstead, Larry Morris, Georgia Northrup, Marilyn H. Paul, Gregory M. Perry, Aurelia Marie Pucinski, Kankakee Valley Civil War Round Table, Sally Schanbacher, John H. Schirding, Mr. & Mrs. Theodore G. Schuster, Paul Serup, David W. Simon, Jerry M. Slechta, Brandt N. Steele, Ellen J. Thomas, John T. Trutter, Andrew Van Meter, Bernie VanDenBerg, Gregory N. Vanwinkle, Leo Vogel, Dr. & Mrs. H. A. Wellons, Louise F. Wollan, Robert J. Wyllie, and Barth R. Zurkammer.

 

Lincoln Litigated Here

The accompanying halftone ambrotype of the Edgar County Courthouse (Paris, Illinois) is reprinted with the permission of manuscript dealer Gary Hendershott, of Little Rock, Arkansas. [Not available here.] The 1862 picture reveals locally organized soldiers preparing to leave for the war. It interests us as a fine representation of one of the courthouses Lincoln regularly visited as a circuit riding attorney. We anticipate that both the electronic and the book editions of The Lincoln Legal Papers will include illustrations like this.

It also is worth noting that Mr. Hendershott's generosity is characteristic of the cordial assistance we regularly receive from manuscript dealers throughout the United States. We are deeply indebted to Gary and others such as Chris Coover (Sotheby's), Ralph Newman, and Dan Weinberg (Abraham Lincoln Book Shop).

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois
1995