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Abraham Lincoln’s Law Career

AbrahamLincolnAbraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, and grew up in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois when that part of the country was being settled and developed. After working at an assortment of jobs, including being elected to the Illinois legislature, he decided at age 25 to study law on his own. He was encouraged to do so by John Todd Stuart, a legislator and attorney who welcomed Lincoln into his practice in Springfield when he was admitted to the bar three years later. Lincoln was known as a formidable litigator.

He was elected to several terms in the Illinois General Assembly and one term in the U.S. Congress before returning to Springfield in 1849 to practice law. He dealt with almost every type of legal transaction, specializing in cases involving transportation. He is the only U. S. president to hold a patent, granted in 1849 for a “device to buoy vessels over shoals.” Lincoln traveled the circuit of county courts for many weeks each year and appeared before the Illinois Supreme Court 175 times. He entered into politics again in 1854 and established a national reputation, leading to his election as president in 1860.

Written by Mary Jane Mallonee

The following books on Lincoln’s law career are all avaialable in the Widener Law Library.

Dirck, Brian. Lincoln the Lawyer. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2007. E457.2 .D575 2007

Richards, John T. Abraham Lincoln, the Lawyer-Statesman. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1916. E457.2 .R5 1916r

Rizer, Arthur L. Lincoln’s Counsel: Lessons From America’s Most Persuasive Speaker. Chicago, Ill., American Bar Association, 2010. KF368.L52 R59 2010

Steiner, Mark E. An Honest Calling: The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln. DeKalb, Northern Illinois University Press, 2006. E457.2 .S83 2006

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