Lincoln Legal Briefs

October - December 2000, Number 56

 

Cromwell Foundation Gives Project $100,000 Grant

A generous grant of $100,000 from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation has made possible the purchase of The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition for over 150 law school libraries across the nation. At least one law school library in every state (except Alaska, where there are no law schools) and in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will receive a copy of the electronic edition. The grant, which is in cooperation with the University of Illinois Press, will give law students access to the documentary record of the 25-year legal career of Abraham Lincoln, the most famous lawyer-president in American history.

William Nelson Cromwell, a founding partner of the international law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, established the Foundation in 1930 in New York to support legal education and research in American legal history. Daniel W. Stowell made an inquiry with the Foundation about a possible grant in April, and the Foundation made the award in November. The University of Illinois Press will ship copies of the edition to the law school libraries in January.

“This award provides a wonderful opportunity to expand access to the work of the Lincoln Legal Papers among law schools and their associated universities nationwide,” Stowell said. “We are very grateful.”

Foundation chairman Judge Harold R. Tyler Jr. said, “We were delighted to be able to assist this project. The Foundation supports original research and writing in the field of American legal history. No one can doubt the importance to America's legal history of Abraham Lincoln's legal papers.”

 

Illinois Bar Foundation Provides Curriculum Development Grant

The Board of Directors of the Illinois Bar Foundation voted at its October meeting to approve a grant of $15,000 to the Lincoln Legal Papers. The award will fund Phase Two of the Educational Outreach Initiative, the project’s plan to develop curriculum materials using primary documents from Lincoln’s legal career. Building on the success of Phase One, which is making lesson plans available on the project’s website, Phase Two will result in the publication of these lesson plans, paired with new contextual essays written by scholars, in a magazine format similar to the Magazine of History or Illinois History Teacher. When completed, the project will send the publication free of charge to several thousand Illinois high school and junior high school history teachers.

  Nicholas J. Bertschy, left, on behalf of the Illinois Bar Foundation, presents the check to Director Daniel W. Stowell, center, and Assistant Editor Christopher Schnell, right.

 

Abraham Lincoln Asked to Give Opinion in Disputed Election

As the population of Illinois grew during the nineteenth century, the need for access to courts grew as well. In February 1859, the state legislature passed an act creating a new judicial circuit, the twenty-sixth, out of the existing Third Judicial Circuit in extreme southern Illinois. The new circuit would have four counties, and four other counties—Perry, Jackson, Union, and Alexander—would remain in the Third Judicial Circuit. Because of this reformulation of judicial circuits, the legislature provided for new elections for an additional judge and state’s attorney. The state’s attorney would be elected from the counties of the newly reduced Third Judicial Circuit. Several lawyers from these counties announced their candidacy for the election on the first Monday in April. Among them were Cyrus Thomas of Murphysboro in Jackson County, William Elstun of DuQuoin in Perry County, S. G. Parks of Jonesboro in Union County, and Anderson P. Corder of De Soto in Jackson County.

A native of Kentucky, Anderson P. Corder was forty-nine years old in 1859. He and his wife Levina had three children. In 1840, Corder settled in Williamson County and began to practice law, but by 1859, he had moved a few miles west to De Soto in Jackson County. Corder was a veteran of both the Black Hawk and Mexican Wars and held political office both as county clerk and as state senator.

On election day on April 4, 1859, 2,024 white men above the age of twenty-one went to the polls to vote for a new state’s attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit. The four leading candidates took most of the votes, but 211 voters cast ballots for a “scattering” of other individuals. In mid-nineteenth-century Illinois, voters cast their ballots orally before a judge and clerk, who recorded each man’s choice. This form of voting led to some confusion in this election. The two front-runners, Anderson P. Corder and William Elstun, drew the support of just over six hundred voters each. Corder won overwhelmingly in his home county of Jackson and in smaller Alexander County, but Elstun won even more decisively in his home county of Perry.

The use of initials rather than first names and the potential confusion of oral voting led to a critical error in this closely contested election. In response to this predicament, Anderson P. Corder wrote to one of the most prominent lawyers at the state capital in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln:

De Soto, Ills
April 15 1859

Abraham Lincorn Esq
Springfield Illinois

Dear sir,

There was an Election come off in this circuit on the 4" Inst for states attorney at Two precincts in Union County Twenty votes were cast for J P Corder instead of A P Corder as intended by the voters, which votes were not counted for me. I can prove by the men that they intended to vote for me the Twenty votes thus cast for if counted for me Elects me by fifteen votes if not counted for me I am beaten 4 votes, Now I want your opinion in the matter does the decision in 17 Ills apply in my favor and if so how shall I proceed, please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience I will be at your city in June and settle your bill

Yours as ever

A P Corder

 

(Note: This transcription incorporates literal spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.)

 

The decision about which Corder asked Lincoln (17 Illinois 167) was the Illinois Supreme Court case of People ex rel. Akin et al. v. Matteson & Starne (1855). In that case of a disputed election of police magistrates in Chicago, the supreme court established a principle that “in contested elections, the intention of the voters in casting their ballots should control.”

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for his reputation, Lincoln’s response to Corder, if he made one at all, has not survived. Whether Corder took this election dispute to court is unclear, but election officials apparently counted as his the votes mistakenly cast for “J. P. Corder.” Anderson P. Corder did ultimately win the election over Elstun, 625 to 610, by the fifteen-vote margin he mentioned in his letter to Lincoln, and thus became the new state’s attorney for the Third Judicial Circuit.

Daniel W. Stowell
Director/Editor

 

Project and Staff News

In November, the project received the welcome news that the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation was continuing its steadfast support of the Lincoln Legal Papers with a grant of $30,000 to support the preparation of a second “Tour of the Circuit with Lincoln” chapter in the selective book edition. This gift marks the Davis Foundation’s tenth consecutive year of support of the Lincoln Legal Papers, with cumulative support totaling over $250,000.

This year’s premium for donors who contribute $100 or more to the Lincoln Legal Papers is an 80-page booklet entitled From Log Cabins to Temples of Justice: Courthouses in Lincoln's Illinois. This interesting publication will feature images of courthouses and other structures in which Lincoln practiced law. Author Susan Krause provides brief descriptions of the architectural features and history of each building and a brief summary of one of Lincoln’s cases from that location. Looking for Lincoln, a heritage tourism project for central Illinois, has agreed to support the printing of the booklet.

John Lupton spoke to teachers from across Illinois at the History Fair Teacher Workshop in October.

At the Conference on Illinois History in October, Stacy McDermott provided comments on the papers in the “Women in Illinois” session, and Daniel W. Stowell provided comments on the papers in the “Antebellum Illinois” session.

At History at the Grassroots: Local History and Its Audiences, a history conference and teachers’ institute held at Eastern Illinois University in October, members of the editorial staff presented the following papers and workshop.

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Susan Krause: “’Let this man be pardoned as within requested…’ Abraham Lincoln and Antebellum Pardons.”
 

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John Lupton: “Sangamon County Honor Roll: Deceased Civil War Soldiers and Their Estates.”
 

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Stacy Pratt McDermott: “’We the Jury’: A Composite Portrait of Antebellum Illinois Jurors.”
 

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Christopher Schnell: “Community Action versus Federal Control: Fugitive Slave Claims in Illinois.”
 

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Daniel W. Stowell: “The Business at Hand: Abraham Lincoln’s Law Practice in Macon County, Illinois.”
 

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Dennis Suttles: “Antebellum Illinois History from the Courtroom to the Classroom: Using Documents from Abraham Lincoln’s Legal Career to Teach Illinois History” workshop.

In December, John Lupton presented a paper entitled “Documentary Editing and Computers: The Lincoln Legal Papers as a Model” the Illinois History Symposium in Springfield.

 

Donors

The project acknowledges with deep appreciation the generosity of the following contributors:

Edward M. Berdin, QC Betty Hickey The Honorable Richard Mills
Susan Brown Robert W. Hoffman John B. Nolan
Donald Carmichael Clifford R. Hope Jr. Robert Nussbaumer
Cullom Davis Dr. Todd J. Janus Mr. and Mrs. Donald Raymer
Robert Eckley Professor and Mrs. Robert Johannsen Molly Schlich
Virginia Fehrenbacher James L. Kappel, Esq. Don Tracy
Mr. and Mrs. David B. Finney Jr. O. J. Keller John T. Trutter
Elbert F. Floyd Patricia Logan Mark Turek
Malcolm Garber, M.D. Marc Christopher Loro, Esq. Robert Wernle
Harold S. Gross Stephen McKenrick Louise F. Wollan
David R. Herndon James McMenamin Michael Zecher
  David B. Miller
in memory of Robert E. Miller
 

 

© Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois
2001