Early life and career of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, on a farm near Hodgenville. Lincoln was named after his grandfather, who died in 1786 when he was ambushed and shot by a Native American while clearing a field.
Lincoln lived in Kentucky, until a land dispute forced his father to move to Indiana, when Lincoln was a boy. There Lincoln lost his mother at age 9, and gained a new step-mother. As was common on the frontier, Lincoln received little formal education. In his young adulthood, he moved with his family to Illinois, where he worked as a boatman, store clerk, surveyor, militia soldier, and ultimately a lawyer. He was elected to the Illinois Legislature, and to the United States Congress from Illinois. In 1842, he married Mary Todd; they had four sons.
- 1 Lincoln's early years (1809–1831)
- 2 New Salem (1831–1837)
- 3 Illinois Legislature (1834–1842)
- 4 Prairie Lawyer
- 5 Lincoln the Inventor
- 6 Courtships, marriage, and family
- 7 State and National politics
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Additional Reading
- 12 External links
Lincoln's early years (1809–1831)
In 1858 Lincoln wrote that his first known ancestor was Samuel Lincoln who migrated from Norwich, England in 1638 to Hingham, Massachusetts. Lincoln's grandfather, the original Captain Abraham Lincoln, was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his father to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia around 1766. They settled around Linville Creek in Augusta (now Rockingham) County and the Captain (a rank earned in the Virginia militia) bought the property from his father in 1773. Captain Abraham moved west to Kentucky with his family where, at the age of 42 in 1786, he was killed in an ambush by an Indian while working his field. His son, Thomas, witnessed the killing and would have also ended up a victim if his brother Mordecai had not shot the attacker.
History is less clear on who his maternal grandfather was. At one time Lincoln described him as "a Virginia planter or large farmer" who had taken advantage of a young woman, Lucy Hanks. This encounter led to the birth of Nancy Hanks, Lincoln's mother. Lincoln felt that it was from this aristocratic grandfather that he had inherited "his power of analysis, his logic, his mental activity, his ambition, and all the qualities that distinguished him from the other members and descendants of the Hanks family."
When Lincoln became famous, reporters and storytellers often exaggerated the poverty and obscurity of his birth. However, Lincoln's father, Thomas, was a respected and relatively affluent citizen of the Kentucky back country. He had purchased the Sinking Spring Farm in December 1808 for $200 and assumption of a debt.
Biographers have rejected numerous false rumors that circulated about Lincoln. According to historian William E. Barton, there was a rumor "current in various forms in several sections of the South" that his biological father was Abraham Enloe. Barton dismisses the rumors (which began in 1861, the same year Enloe died) as "false from beginning to end." Enloe publicly denied this connection to Lincoln but is reported to have privately confirmed it. A particularly strong case has been made by the town of Bostic, North Carolina, which has set up an entire museum to support the claims that Lincoln was born an illegitimate child from that town.
Some people said he was "part Negro", but that rumor was unproven. Mail received by Lincoln called him "a negro" and a "mulatto". According to Lincoln's law partner William H. Herndon, Lincoln had "very dark skin" although "his cheeks were leathery and saffron-colored" and "his face was ... sallow," and "his hair was dark, almost black". Abraham Lincoln described himself ca. 1838–1839 as "black" and his "complexion" in 1859 as "dark" but whether he meant either in an ancestral sense is unknown. During the Civil War the Charleston Mercury described him as being "of ... the dirtiest complexion" and asked "Faugh! After him what white man would be President?"
His parents belonged to a Baptist church that had pulled away from a larger church because they refused to support slavery. From a very young age, Lincoln was exposed to anti-slavery sentiment. However, he never joined his parents' church, or any other church, and as a youth ridiculed religion.
Land troubles in Kentucky
Three years after purchasing the property, a prior land claim filed in Hardin Circuit Court forced the Lincolns to move. Thomas continued legal action until he lost the case in 1815. Legal expenses contributed to family difficulties. In 1811, they were able to lease 30 acres (0.1 km²) of a 230 acre (0.9 km²) farm on Knob Creek a few miles away, where they then moved. In a valley of the Rolling Fork River, this was some of the best farmland in the area. At this time, Lincoln's father was a respected community member and a successful farmer and carpenter. Lincoln's earliest recollections are from this farm.
Move to Indiana
In 1815, another claimant sought to eject the family from the Knob Creek farm. Frustrated with litigation and lack of security provided by Kentucky courts, Thomas decided to move to Indiana, which had been surveyed by the federal government, making land titles more secure. In 1816, when Lincoln was seven years old, he, his older sister, Sarah, and his parents moved to Spencer County, Indiana, he would state "partly on account of slavery; but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land titles in Kentucky." In 1818 Lincoln's mother died of "milk sickness" at age thirty four, when Abe was nine. Soon afterwards, Lincoln's father married Sarah Bush Johnston. Sarah Lincoln raised young Lincoln like one of her own children. Years later she compared Lincoln to her own son, saying "Both were good boys, but I must say — both now being dead that Abe was the best boy I ever saw or ever expect to see."
Lincoln's older sister, Sarah, died in childbirth on January 20, 1828, when she was 21 years old.
In the spring of 1828, Lincoln made a flatboat trip to New Orleans. He left from Rockport, to sell goods for James Gentry, who owned a local store near the Thomas Lincoln homestead.
While in New Orleans, he may have witnessed a slave auction that left an indelible impression on him for the rest of his life. Whether he actually witnessed a slave auction at that time or not, living in a country with a considerable slave presence, he probably saw similar atrocities from time to time. The larger slave markets on his first visit to New Orleans, however, was a new experience for the young Lincoln. Although the importation of slaves had been outlawed in 1808 by the U.S. Congress, signed by President Thomas Jefferson, the slave trade flourished within the United States.
Before Abraham Lincoln entered school, his cousin, Dennis Hanks, claimed credit for giving Lincoln "his first lesson in spelling, reading and writing." "I taught Abe to write with a buzzards quill which I killed with a rifle and having made a pen-put Abes hand in mind and moving his fingers by my hand to give him the idea of how to write." Abraham learned these basic skills slowly.
His formal education consisted of perhaps 18 months of schooling from itinerant teachers at blab schools. In effect he was self-educated, studying every book he could borrow. He mastered Aesop's Fables, the Bible, Shakespeare, poetry, English history and American history, and developed a plain style that puzzled audiences more used to orotund oratory. He avoided hunting and fishing because he did not like killing animals; even for food and though unusually tall (6 feet 3.75 inches (1.9241 m)) and strong, spent so much time reading that some neighbors thought he must be doing it to avoid strenuous manual labor. He was skilled with an axe—they called him the "rail splitter"—and a good wrestler.
"He (Lincoln) read so much – was so studious – too[k] so little physical exercise- was so laborious in his studies," Henry McHenry remembered, "that he became emaciated and his best friends were afraid that he would craze himself."
Move to Illinois
In 1830, after more economic and land-title difficulties in Indiana, the family settled on government land on a site selected by Lincoln's father in Macon County, Illinois ten miles (16 km) west of Decatur, IL. Lincoln, then 21, helped his father build a log cabin, clear 10 acres (40,000 m2) of land, build fences, and put in a crop of corn. That autumn the entire family fell ill with the ague but all survived. The early winter of 1831 was especially brutal with many locals calling it the worst they had ever experienced (it is legendary in Illinois where it is known as the "Winter of Deep Snow"). In the spring as the family prepared to move to another home site in Coles County, Lincoln was ready to strike out on his own.
Trip to New Orleans
Lincoln, along with John Johnson and John Hanks, accepted an offer by Denton Offutt to meet him in Springfield and take a load of cargo to New York. Leaving from Springfield in late April or early May 1831 on the Sangamon River, their boat had difficulty getting past a mill dam twenty miles (32 km) northwest of Springfield at the village of New Salem. Offutt was impressed by the location of New Salem and, believing that steamboats could navigate the Sangamon up to that point, made arrangements to rent the mill and open a general store. Lincoln was hired as his clerk and they both returned to New Salem after they discharged their cargo in New Orleans. Having arrived in Louisiana, Lincoln and his party were attacked by slaves attempting to take the cargo supply.
In later years, Lincoln was very reluctant to discuss his origins—he viewed himself as a self-made man and may have also found it difficult to confront the deaths of his mother and his sister. In response to a request for a campaign biography in 1859, he quoted "the short and simple annals of the poor" from Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Very little is known about Nancy Hanks Lincoln or Abraham's sister Sarah; neighbors interviewed by William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner and biographer, agreed that they were both intelligent but gave contradictory descriptions of their physical appearances. Lincoln spoke very little about either woman (Herndon had to rely on testimony from Dennis Hanks to get an adequate description of Sarah Lincoln Grigsby), although those who knew Lincoln as a teenager recalled him being deeply distraught by his sister's death and an active participant in a feud that erupted with the Grigsbys afterwards. Lincoln's relationship with his father was strained; Thomas Lincoln did not fully appreciate his son's ambition, while Abraham Lincoln never knew of Thomas' early struggles.
New Salem (1831–1837)
Lincoln settles in
The New Salem that Lincoln returned to in late July 1831 had promise, but probably never had a population that went much above a hundred residents. The town was a commercial settlement serving several local communities rather than simply a frontier farm settlement and had the sawmill, a grist mill, a blacksmith, a cooper’s shop, a shop for carding wool, a hat maker, a general store, and a tavern spread out over more than a dozen buildings. Offutt did not open his store until September so in the interim Lincoln did whatever work he could find and quickly was accepted by the townspeople as a hardworking and cooperative young man.
Once Lincoln took his place in the store, he began to meet a rougher crowd representing the settlers and workers from the surrounding communities who came to purchase supplies or have their corn ground. Lincoln’s often scatological humor and story telling and his physical strength fit in nicely with the young and raucous element that included the so-called Clary’s Grove boys. His place with them was cemented when he engaged in a wrestling match with a local champion, Jack Armstrong. While Lincoln lost the match, he earned their respect.
In his first winter in New Salem, Lincoln attended a meeting of the New Salem debating club. His performance here, his efficiency in managing the store, the sawmill, and the gristmill, along with his other efforts at self-improvement soon won him the respect of town leaders such as Dr. John Allen, Mentor Graham, and James Rutledge. They encouraged Lincoln to enter politics, feeling that he was a man capable of supporting the interests of what they all felt was a growing community and in March 1832 he announced his candidacy in a written article that Lincoln carried to the publisher of the Sangamo Journal in Springfield. While Lincoln was an admirer of Henry Clay and his American System, the national political situation was undergoing a change and local Illinois issues were the primary political concerns of the election. Lincoln opposed the development of a local railroad project while supporting improvements in the Sangamon River that would increase its navigability. The Second Party System pitting Democrats against Whigs had not yet formed although Lincoln would in the next few years become one of the leading Whigs in the state legislature.
By the spring of 1832 Offutt’s business had failed, and Lincoln was out of work. Around the same time, the Black Hawk War erupted; Black Hawk was leading a group of 450 warriors along with 1,500 women and children to reclaim traditional tribal lands in Illinois. Lincoln joined a group of volunteers from New Salem and, upon nomination by the Clary’s Grove boys, was voted as captain of his unit. The unit never saw combat but in the late 1850s Lincoln commented that this selection by his peers was “a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since.” Lincoln returned from the militia after a few months and was able to campaign throughout the Sangamon County before the August 6 legislative election. When the votes were counted, Lincoln finished eighth out of thirteen candidates (only the top four were elected), but he did manage to secure 277 out of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.
Without a job, Lincoln and William F. Berry, who was the militia in Lincoln's company during the Black Hawk War, purchased one of the three general stores in New Salem. Both the business purchase and a later acquisition of the inventory of another store were made by signing personal notes for the balances due. By 1833 New Salem was no longer a growing community; the Sangamon River was proving to be inadequate for commercial transportation, and no roads or railroads allowed easy access to other markets. In January 1833 Berry applied for a liquor license, but this added revenue was not enough to save the business.
Lincoln was again unemployed and would soon have to leave New Salem, but in May 1833, with the assistance of friends interested in keeping Lincoln in New Salem, he was appointed by President Andrew Jackson as the postmaster of New Salem. Lincoln would keep this position for three years, and during this time he earned, from commissions, between $150 and $175, hardly enough to be considered a full-time source of income. With the assistance of another friend, Lincoln was appointed as an assistant to county surveyor John Calhoun, a Democratic political appointee. Lincoln had no experience at surveying, but relying on borrowed copies of two works was able to teach himself the practical application of surveying techniques as well as the trigonometric basis of the process. While this income was sufficient to meet his day to day expenses, the notes from his partnership with William Berry were coming due.
Politics and the law
Lincoln’s decision to run for the state legislature for a second time in 1834 was strongly influenced by his need to satisfy what he referred to as his “national debt” and the additional income that would come from the legislative salary. By this time Lincoln was a member of the Whig party, but his campaign strategy excluded a discussion of the national issues and concentrated on traveling throughout the district and greeting voters one by one. The leading Whig in the district was Springfield attorney John Todd Stuart whom Lincoln knew from the Black Hawk War in 1832. Local Democrats, fearing Stuart much more than Lincoln, offered to withdraw two of their candidates from the field of thirteen (as in 1832 the top four vote-getters would be elected) and support Lincoln, freeing them to concentrate on defeating Stuart. Stuart was confident of his own victory and told Lincoln to go ahead and accept the Democrats' endorsement. The strategy worked when on August 4 Lincoln polled 1,376 votes, the second highest candidate, while Stuart was also elected. Lincoln would be reelected in 1836, 1838, 1840, and 1844.
Stuart (who was the cousin of Lincoln’s future wife Mary Todd) was impressed with Lincoln and encouraged him to study law. Lincoln was probably familiar with courtrooms from an early age. While the family was still in Kentucky his father was frequently involved with filing deeds, serving on juries, and attending sheriff’s sales, and Lincoln was likely aware of his father’s legal issues. When the family moved to Indiana, Lincoln lived within 15 miles (24 km) of three different county courthouses and, attracted by the opportunity of hearing a good oral presentation, Lincoln, like many other people on the frontier, attended court sessions as a spectator. This practice continued when Lincoln moved to New Salem in Illinois. Noticing how often lawyers referred to them, Lincoln made a point of reading and studying the Revised Statutes of Indiana, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution. In the first half of 1835, frequently using law books borrowed from the firm of Stuart and Judge Thomas Drummond and using a copy of Blackstone's Commentaries, Lincoln began the study of law in earnest. Soon he branched out to study the Chitty's Pleadings, Greenleaf's Evidence, and Joseph Story's Equity Jurisprudence. Lincoln could not afford law school, he stated: "I studied with nobody."
In February 1836 Lincoln finished surveying. In March 1836 Lincoln took the first step to becoming a practicing attorney when he applied to the clerk of the Sangamon County Court to have himself registered as a man of good and moral character. After passing an oral examination by a panel of practicing attorneys Lincoln received his law license on September 9, 1836 and in April 1837 he was enrolled to practice before the Supreme Court of Illinois. In April 1837 he moved to Springfield where he went into partnership with Stuart.
Illinois Legislature (1834–1842)
Lincoln’s first session in the Illinois legislature ran from December 1, 1834 to February 13, 1835. In preparation for attending this session, Lincoln borrowed $200 from Coleman Smoot, one of the richest men in the county, $60 of which were spent on his first suit of clothes. Lincoln was the second youngest legislator in this term and one of 36 out of 55 who were first time attendees. While he was at first primarily an observer, even in this session his colleagues recognized his skill at drafting legislation and his mastery of “the technical language of the law” and asked Lincoln to draft bills for them.
When Lincoln announced his bid for reelection in June 1836, he needed to address the controversial issue of expanded suffrage. Democrats were running on a program advocating universal suffrage for white males residing in the state for at least six months. They hoped to bring Irish immigrants, attracted to the state because of the various canal projects, onto the voting rolls as Democrats. Lincoln stood by the traditional Whig position that voting should be limited to property owners.
Lincoln was reelected on August 1, 1836 as the top vote getter in the Sangamon delegation. This delegation of two senators and seven representatives was nicknamed the “Long Nine” because all of them were above average height. Despite being the second youngest of the group, Lincoln was seen as their leader as well as the floor leader of the Whig minority. The Long Nine’s primary agenda was the relocation of the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield and a vigorous program of internal improvements by Illinois.
Lincoln’s influence within the legislature and within his party would continue to grow as he was reelected for two subsequent terms in 1838 and 1840. By the 1838–1839 session Lincoln served on at least fourteen legislative committees while working behind the scenes to manage the program of the Whig minority.
While serving as a legislator, Lincoln was challenged to a duel by Illinois Auditor James Shields. Lincoln had published an inflammatory letter in a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper, the Sangamon Journal that poked fun at Shields. Lincoln's future wife and her close friend, continued writing letters about Shields without his knowledge. Taking offense to the articles, Shields demanded "satisfaction" and the incident escalated to the two parties meeting on a Missouri island called Sunflower Island, near Alton, Illinois to participate in a duel (as dueling was illegal in Illinois). Lincoln took responsibility for the articles and accepted the duel. Lincoln had the opportunity to choose the weapon for the duel and he selected the cavalry broadsword, as Shields was an excellent marksman. Just prior to engaging in combat, Lincoln made it a point to demonstrate his advantage (because of his long arm reach) by easily cutting a branch just above Shields' head. The two participants' seconds intervened and were able to convince the two men to cease hostilities, on the grounds that Lincoln had not written the letters.
The Illinois governor called for a special session of the legislature in the winter of 1835–1836 in order to finance what became the Illinois and Michigan Canal connecting the Illinois and Chicago Rivers, so that Lake Michigan would ultimately connect to the Mississippi River. The proposal was that the state would back a $500,000 loan to finance the construction. Lincoln voted for the commitment which passed 28–27
Lincoln had always supported the American System vision of Henry Clay that saw a prosperous America supported by a well developed network of roads, canals, and, later, railroads. However he favored raising the money to do this from the sale of public lands by the Federal government, eliminating interest expenses. Otherwise, private capital should bear the cost alone. Fearing that Illinois would fall behind other states in economic development, Lincoln shifted his position to allow the state to provide the necessary support for private developers.
In the next session, newly elected Stephen A. Douglas went even further and proposed a comprehensive $10,000,000 state loan program which Lincoln supported. However, the Panic of 1837 effectively destroyed any possibility of a significant internal improvements plan in Illinois. The State was “littered with unfinished roads and partially dug canals”, the value of state bonds fell, and interest alone was eight times the total state revenue. It took Illinois forty years to pay off the debt.
Lincoln had a couple of ideas to salvage the program. First he proposed that the state buy public lands at a discount from the federal government and then sell it to new settlers at a profit. The federal government rejected this. Next he proposed a graduated land tax that would have passed more of the tax burden to the owners of the most valuable land, but the majority of the legislators were unwilling to commit any further state funds to the internal improvement projects as the depression in the state continued through 1839.
Selection of Springfield as the State Capital
In the 1830s Illinois welcomed more and more migrants, many from New York and New England. These settlers tended to move into the northern and central parts of the state. Vandalia, located in the more stagnant southern section, seemed more and more unsuited to serve as the state capital. Springfield, in Sangamon County, was “strategically located in central Illinois” and was already growing “in population and refinement”.
Those opposed to the relocation to Springfield first attempted to weaken the influence of the Sagamon delegation by dividing the rather large county into two separate counties, but Lincoln was instrumental in first amending, and then killing in his own committee, this proposal. Throughout the lengthy debate “Lincoln’s political skills were repeatedly tested”. Lincoln was finally successful when the legislature accepted his proposal that the chosen city would be required to contribute $50,000 and 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land for the construction of a new capital building—only Springfield could comfortably meet this financial demand. The final action was tabled twice, but Lincoln resurrected it by finding acceptable amendments to draw additional support, including one that would have allowed reconsideration in the next session. As other locations were voted down, Springfield was selected by a 46–37 vote on February 28, 1837 and reconsideration efforts were defeated, under Lincoln’s leadership, in the 1838–1839 sessions. Orville Browning, who would later become a close Lincoln friend and confidant, guided the legislation through the Senate with the move to become effective in 1839.
Illinois State Bank
Lincoln, like Henry Clay, favored federal control over the nation’s banking system, but by 1835 President Jackson had effectively killed the Bank of the United States. In 1835 Lincoln crossed party lines to vote with pro-bank Democrats in the chartering of the Illinois State Bank. As in the internal improvements debates, Lincoln searched for the best available alternative to his first choice. Lincoln felt, according to historian and Lincoln biographer Richard Carwardine,:
A well-regulated bank would provide a sound, elastic currency, protecting the public against the extreme prescriptions of the hard-money men on one side and the paper inflationists on the other; it would be a safe depository for public funds and provide the credit mechanisms needed to sustain state improvements; it would bring an end to extortionate money-lending.
Opponents of the bank initiated an investigation designed to close the bank in the 1836–1837 session of the legislature. On January 11, 1837 Lincoln made his first major legislative speech supporting the bank and attacking its opponents. In the speech Lincoln condemned "that lawless and mobocratic spirit ... which is already abroad in the land, and is spreading with rapid and fearful impetuosity, to the ultimate overthrow of every institution, or even moral principle, in which persons and property have hitherto found security.”
Blaming the opposition entirely on the political class, calling politicians “at least one long step removed from honest men,”, Lincoln argued:
I make the assertion boldly, and without fear of contradiction, that no man, who does not hold an office, or does not aspire to one, has ever found any fault of the Bank. It has doubled the prices of the products of their farms, and filled their pockets with a sound circulating medium, and they are all well pleased with its operations.
Westerners in the Jacksonian Era were generally skeptical of all banks, and this was aggravated after the Panic of 1837 when the Illinois Bank suspended specie payments. Lincoln still defended the bank but the bank was too strongly linked with the failing credit system, leading to devalued currency and loan foreclosures, to generate much political support.
In 1839 Democrats led another investigation of the Bank, with Lincoln being a Whig representative on the investigating committee. Lincoln was instrumental in the committee’s conclusion that the suspension of specie payment was related to uncontrollable economic conditions rather than “any organic defects of the institutions themselves.” However the legislation allowing the suspension of specie payments was set to expire at the end of December 1840, and Democrats wanted to adjourn without further extending it. In an attempt to avoid a quorum on adjournment, Lincoln and several others jumped out of a first story window, but the Speaker counted them as present and “the bank was killed.”
By 1841 Lincoln was less supportive of the bank, although he would continue to make speeches around the state supporting it. Lincoln had concluded, “If there was to be this continual warfare against the Institutions of the State ... the sooner it was brought to an end the better.”
In the 1830s, the slaveholding states began to take notice of the growth of antislavery rhetoric in the northern states. Their anger focused on abolitionists whom they accused of fomenting slave revolts by the distribution of "incendiary pamphlets" to their slaves. When southern legislatures passed resolutions calling for the suppression of abolitionist societies, they often received a favorable response from their northern counterparts. In January 1837, the Illinois legislature passed a resolution which declared that they "highly disapprove of the formation of abolition societies", that "the right of property in slaves is sacred to the slave-holding States by the Federal Government, and that they cannot be deprived of that right without their consent", and that "the General Government cannot abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, against the will of the citizens of said District." The vote in the Senate was 18 to nothing, and in the House was 77 to 6 with Lincoln and Dan Stone, also from Sangamon County, voting in opposition. Since the relocation of the state capital was still the number one issue on both their agendas, they made no comment on their votes until the relocation was approved.
On March 3, with his other legislative priorities behind him, Lincoln did file a formal written protest with the legislature. The protest stated that "the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy." Lincoln also criticized abolitionists on practical grounds, saying that "the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate its [slavery's] evils." Lincoln also addressed the issue of slavery in the nation's capital in a different manner from the resolutions, writing that "the Congress of the United States has the power, under the constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said District." Lincoln biographer Benjamin P. Thomas wrote concerning the significance of Lincoln's action:
Thus, at the age of twenty-eight, Lincoln made public avowal of his dislike of slavery, basing his position on moral grounds when he characterized the institution as an injustice with evils, while conceding the sanctity of Southern rights. In 1860, in his autobiography, he stated that the protest "briefly defined his position on the slavery question; and so far as it goes, it was then the same that it is now.
Lincoln's Lyceum Address
Lincoln's Lyceum Address was delivered to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838, titled "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions". In this speech, Lincoln spoke about the dangers of slavery in the United States, as the institution could corrupt the federal government.
Partnerships with Stuart and Logan
In 1837, from the start of the law partnership with Stuart, Lincoln handled most of the firms clients as Stuart was primarily concerned with politics and election to the United States House of Representatives. The business always had as many clients as it could handle. Most fees were five dollars with the common range being between two and a half dollars and ten dollars. Lincoln quickly realized that he was equal in ability and effectiveness to most other attorneys, whether they were self-taught like Lincoln or had studied with a more experienced lawyer. When Stuart was elected and went to Congress in November 1839 Lincoln ran the practice entirely on his own. Lincoln, like Stuart, considered his legal career as simply a catalyst to his political ambitions.
By 1840 Lincoln was drawing $1,000 annually from the law practice along with his salary as a legislator. However when Stuart was reelected to Congress, Lincoln was no longer content to carry the entire load, and in April 1841 he entered into a new partnership with Stephen T. Logan. Logan was nine years older than Lincoln, the leading attorney in Sangamon County, and a former commonwealth’s attorney in Kentucky before moving to Illinois. Logan saw Lincoln as a needed complement to his practice, recognizing that Lincoln’s effectiveness with juries stood in contrast to his own weakness in that area. Once again clients were plentiful for the firm, although Lincoln received one-third of the firm’s proceeds rather than the even split he had enjoyed with Stuart.
Lincoln’s association with Logan was a learning experience. Lincoln absorbed from Logan some of the finer points of law and the importance of proper and detailed case research and case preparation. Logan’s written pleadings were precise and on point, and Lincoln used them as his model. However much of Lincoln’s development was still self-taught. Historian David Herbert Donald wrote that Logan taught him that “there was more to law than common sense and simple equity” and Lincoln’s study began to focus on “procedures and precedents.” Lincoln did not during this time study law books, but he did spend “night after night in the Supreme Court Library, searching out precedents that applied to the cases he was working on.” Lincoln stated, “I love to dig up the question by the roots and hold it up and dry it before the fires of the mind.” His written briefs, especially important in Illinois Supreme Court cases, were prepared in great detail with precedents noted that often went back to the origins of English common law. Lincoln’s growing skills became evident as his appearances before the Supreme Court increased and would serve him well in his political career. By the time he went to Washington in 1861 he had appeared over three hundred times before this court. Lincoln biographer Stephen B. Oates wrote, “It was here that he earned his reputation as a lawyer’s lawyer, adept at meticulous preparation and cogent argument.”
Lincoln and Herndon
Lincoln’s partnership with Logan was dissolved in the fall of 1844 when Logan decided to enter into a partnership with his son. Lincoln, who probably could have had his choice of more established attorneys, was tired of being the junior partner and elected to enter into partnership with William Herndon who had been reading law in the offices of Logan and Lincoln. Herndon, like Lincoln, was an active Whig but the party in Illinois at that time was split into two factions. Lincoln already was connected to the older, “silk stocking” element of the party through his marriage to Mary Todd (see below), and Herndon was one of the leaders of the younger, more populist portion of the party. The active Lincoln- Herndon partnership would continue through Lincoln’s election, and Lincoln was still a partner of record until his death.
Prior to his partnership with Herndon, Lincoln had not regularly attended court in neighboring communities. This changed as Lincoln became one of the most active regulars on the circuit through 1854, interrupted only by his two-year stint in the United States Congress. The Eighth Circuit covered 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2). Each spring and fall Lincoln would transverse the district for nine to ten weeks at a time. Lincoln would net around $150 for each ten-week circuit. On the road the lawyers and judges would live in cheap hotels, with two lawyers to each bed and six or eight to each room.
On the circuit Lincoln’s reputation for integrity and fairness led to him being in high demand both from clients and local attorneys who needed assistance. It was while riding the circuit that he picked up one of his lasting nicknames, “Honest Abe.” The clients he represented, the men he rode the circuit with, and the lawyers he met in the towns he traveled to became some of Lincoln’s most loyal supporters. One of these supporters was David Davis, a fellow Whig who, like Lincoln, promoted nationalist economic programs and opposed slavery without actually becoming an abolitionist. Davis joined the circuit in 1848 as a judge and would occasionally appoint Lincoln to fill in for him. They traveled the circuit for 11 years, and Lincoln would eventually appoint him to the United States Supreme Court. Another close associate was Ward Hill Lamon, a local attorney in Danville, Illinois. Lamon was the only local attorney that Lincoln actually had a formal working agreement with, and he would accompany Lincoln to Washington in 1861.
Case load and income
Unlike many other attorneys on the circuit, Lincoln did not supplement his income by engaging in real estate speculation or operating a business or a farm. His income was generally what he earned practicing law. In the 1840s this amounted to $1,500 to $2,500 a year, increasing to $3,000 in the early 1850s and $5,000 by the mid-1850s.
Criminal law always made up the smallest portion of Lincoln and Herndon’s case work. In 1850 the firm was involved in 18% of the cases on the Sangamon County Circuit and by 1853 this had grown to 33%. On his return from his single term in the United States House of Representatives Lincoln turned down the offer of a partnership in a Chicago law firm. Based strictly on the volume of cases, Lincoln was "undoubtedly one of the outstanding lawyers of central Illinois." In the Federal courts Lincoln was also in demand and he received important retainers from cases in the United States Northern District Court in Chicago.
During his law career Lincoln was involved in at least two cases involving slavery. In an 1841 state Supreme Court case (Bailey v. Cromwell), Lincoln successfully prevented the sale of a woman who was alleged to be a slave, making the argument that in the State of Illinois “the presumption of law was ... that every person was free, without regard to color.” In 1847, Abraham Lincoln defended Robert Matson, a slave owner who was trying to retrieve his runaway slaves. Matson had brought the slaves from his Kentucky plantation to work on land he owned in Illinois. The slaves were represented by Orlando Ficklin, Usher Linder, and Charles H. Constable. The slaves ran away during the move because they believed that they were free because the Northwest Ordinance forbade slavery in Illinois. In this case Lincoln invoked the right of transit, which allowed slave holders to take their slaves temporarily into free territory. Lincoln also stressed that Matson did not intend to have the slaves remain permanently in Illinois. Even with these arguments, judges in Coles County ruled against Lincoln and the slaves were set free. Donald notes, “Neither the Matson case nor the Cromwell case should be taken as an indication of Lincoln’s views on slavery; his business was law, not morality.” The right of transit was a legal theory recognized by some of the free states that a slave-owner could take slaves into a free state and retain ownership as long as the intent was not to permanently settle in the free state.
Railroads became an important economic force in Illinois in the 1850s. As they expanded they created myriad legal issues regarding “charters and franchises; problems relating to right-of- way; problems concerning evaluation and taxation; problems relating to the duties of common carriers and the rights of passengers; problems concerning merger, consolidation, and receivership.” Lincoln and other attorneys would soon find that railroad litigation was a major source of income. Like the slave cases, sometimes Lincoln would represent the railroads and sometimes he would represent their adversaries. He had no legal or political agenda that was reflected in his choice of clients. Herndon referred to Lincoln as “purely and entirely a case lawyer.”
In one prominent 1851 case, he represented the Alton & Sangamon Railroad in a dispute with a shareholder, James A. Barret. Barret had refused to pay the balance on his pledge to the railroad on the grounds that it had changed its originally planned route. Lincoln argued that as a matter of law a corporation is not bound by its original charter when that charter can be amended in the public interest, that the newer route proposed by Alton & Sangamon was superior and less expensive, and that accordingly, the corporation had a right to sue Barret for his delinquent payment. He won this case, and the decision by the Illinois Supreme Court was eventually cited by several other courts throughout the United States.
The most important civil case for Lincoln was the landmark Hurd v. Rock Island Bridge Company, also known as the Effie Afton case. America's expansion west, which Lincoln strongly supported, was seen as an economic threat to the river trade, which ran north-to-south, primarily on the Mississippi River. In 1856 a steamboat collided with a bridge, built by the Rock Island Railroad, between Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, the first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi. The steamboat owner sued for damages, claiming the bridge was a hazard to navigation. Lincoln argued in court for the railroad and won, removing a costly impediment to western expansion by establishing the right of land routes to bridge waterways.
Possibly the most notable criminal trial of Lincoln's career as a lawyer came in 1858, when he defended William "Duff" Armstrong, the son of Lincoln's friend Jack Armstrong, who had been charged with murder. The case became famous for Lincoln's use of judicial notice — a rare tactic at that time — to show that an eyewitness had lied on the stand. After the witness testified to having seen the crime by moonlight, Lincoln produced a Farmers' Almanac to show that the moon on that date was at such a low angle that it could not have provided enough illumination to see anything clearly. Based almost entirely on this evidence, Armstrong was acquitted.
Lincoln was involved in more than 5,100 cases in Illinois alone during his 23-year legal career. Though many of these cases involved little more than filing a writ, others were more substantial and quite involved. Lincoln and his partners appeared before the Illinois State Supreme Court more than 400 times.
Lincoln the Inventor
Abraham Lincoln is the only US president to have been awarded a patent for an invention. As a young man, Lincoln took a boatload of merchandise down the Mississippi River from New Salem to New Orleans. At one point the boat slid onto a dam and was set free only after heroic efforts. In later years, while traveling on the Great Lakes, Lincoln's ship ran afoul of a sandbar. The resulting invention consists of a set of bellows attached to the hull of a ship just below the water line. On reaching a shallow place, the bellows are filled with air and the vessel, thus buoyed, is expected to float clear. The invention was never marketed, probably because the extra weight would have increased the probability of running onto sandbars more frequently. Lincoln whittled the model for his patent application with his own hands. It is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. Patent #6469 for "A Device for Buoying Vessels Over Shoals" was issued May 22, 1849.
In 1858, Lincoln called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments "in the world's history." His words, "The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius," are inscribed over the US Commerce Department's north entrance.
Courtships, marriage, and family
Soon after he moved to New Salem, Lincoln met Ann Rutledge. Historians do not agree on the significance or nature of their relationship, but according to many she was his first and perhaps most passionate love. At first they were probably just close friends, but soon they had reached an understanding that they would be married as soon as Ann had completed her studies at the Female Academy in Jacksonville. Their plans were cut short in the summer of 1835 when what was probably typhoid fever hit New Salem. Ann died on August 25, 1835, and Lincoln went through a period of extreme melancholy that lasted for months. It has been suggested that the intention to settle down with Ann Rutledge was an additional factor in Lincoln’s turn to the legal profession.
In either 1833 or 1834, Lincoln had met Mary Owens, the sister of his friend Elizabeth Abell, when she was visiting from her home in Kentucky. In 1836, in a conversation with Elizabeth, Lincoln agreed to court Mary if she ever returned to New Salem. Mary did return in November 1836, and Lincoln courted her for a time. However they both had second thoughts about their relationship. On August 16, 1837 Lincoln wrote her a letter from Springfield suggesting the relationship should end. She never replied and the courtship was over.
In 1839 Mary Todd moved from the family home in Lexington, Kentucky to Springfield and the home of her eldest sister, Elizabeth Porter (née Todd) Edwards and husband Ninian W. Edwards, son of Ninian Edwards. Mary was popular in the Springfield social scene but soon was attracted to Lincoln. Sometime in 1840 the two became engaged. They aimed for a January 1, 1841 wedding but they mutually called it off. During this break in his courtship with Mary, Lincoln briefly courted Sarah Rickard, whom he had known since 1837. Lincoln proposed marriage in 1841 but was rejected. Sarah later said that "his peculiar manner and his General deportment would not be likely to fascinate a young girl just entering the society world.
Lincoln still had conflicted feelings concerning Mary Todd. In August 1841 he visited his close friend and former roommate Joshua Speed who had moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Lincoln met Speed's fiancee while there, and after his return to Springfield Speed and Lincoln corresponded over Speed's own doubts about marriage. Lincoln counselled Speed and helped convince him to proceed with the marriage. In turn, Speed helped Lincoln with his own doubts, and he resumed his courtship of Mary. On November 4, 1842 Lincoln and Mary Todd were married at the Edwards' home. In a letter written a few days after the wedding, Lincoln wrote, "Nothing new here except my marrying, which to me, is matter of profound wonder."
The couple had four sons. Robert Todd Lincoln was born in Springfield, Illinois on August 1, 1843. Their only child to survive into adulthood, young Robert attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College. Robert died on July 26, 1926, in Manchester, Vermont. The other Lincoln children were born in Springfield, Illinois, and died either during childhood or their teen years. Edward Baker Lincoln was born on March 10, 1846, and died on February 1, 1850, also in Springfield. William Wallace Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850, and died on February 20, 1862 in Washington, D.C., during President Lincoln's first term. Thomas "Tad" Lincoln was born on April 4, 1853, and died on July 16, 1871 in Chicago, Illinois.
Four of his wife's brothers fought for the Confederacy, with one wounded and another killed in action. Lieutenant David H. Todd, a half-brother of Mary Todd Lincoln, served as commandant of the Libby Prison camp during the war.
State and National politics
Campaigning for Congress (1843)
In the winter of 1842–1843, with the strong encouragement of Mary, Lincoln decided to pursue election to the United States House of Representatives from the newly created Seventh Congressional District. His main rivals were his friends Edward D. Baker and John J. Hardin. On February 14 he told a local Whig political leader that "if you should hear any one say that Lincoln don't want to go to Congress, I wish you as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you have reason to believe he is mistaken. The truth is, I would like to go very much."
At the end of February the Whigs met in Springfield and Lincoln wrote the party platform "opposing direct federal taxes and endorsing a protective tariff, a national bank, distribution to the states of proceeeds from federal land sales, and the convention system of choosing candidates." Baker and Lincoln campaigned vigorously throughout March, but Lincoln, believing that Baker had an insurmountable lead, withdrew when the Sangamon County convention was held on March 20. Lincoln was then selected as a delegate to the district convention which met on May 1 in Pekin. Although Lincoln worked hard for Baker, Hardin was selected as the Whig candidate by one vote. Lincoln then initiated a resolution endorsing Baker for the nomination in two years. The resolution passed and seemed to set the precedent for a single term with rotation among the party leaders, suggesting that Lincoln would be next in line after Baker.
Campaigning for Henry Clay (1844)
In 1844 Lincoln campaigned enthusiastically for Henry Clay, the Whig nominee for president and a personal hero of Lincoln. On the campaign trail Lincoln and the other Illinois Whigs emphasized tariff issues while touting the economic success of the Tariff of 1842 that had been passed in Congress under Whig leadership. Part of the campaign pitted Lincoln in a series of debates against Democrat John Calhoun, a candidate for Congress. As he campaigned in Illinois for most of 1844, Lincoln spoke out against the annexation of Texas (a potential slave territory), promoted national and state banks, and opposed a wave of nativism that would become a major political issue a decade later. On the last issue Lincoln declared that "the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition.
Clay's opponent, James K. Polk, carried Illinois while winning the presidency. In Illinois and elsewhere Polk's support for the acquisition of both Texas and Oregon seemed to carry the day. Lincoln and many other Whigs blamed the free soil Liberty Party for dividing the vote in New York, which allowed Polk to carry that state and achieve the necessary majority in the electoral college. In responding to an antislavery Whig who equated voting for Clay, a slaveholder, as "do[ing] evil", Lincoln asked, "If the fruit of electing Mr. Clay would have been to prevent the extension of slavery, could the act of electing him have been evil?"
Campaigning for Congress (1846)
Hardin did not run for reelection in 1844; the Whig nomination, as previously agreed, went to Baker, who won election to the seat. Baker agreed not to run for reelection in 1846 but Hardin was considering a run for his old seat. Much of the Seventh District was included in the judicial circuit that Lincoln rode, so beginning in September 1845 he started to solicit the support of Whig leaders and editors as he moved through the circuit. Lincoln emphasized that Hardin should be bound by the understanding reached at Pekin in 1843. The debate over what had actually been agreed on in 1843 became public and bitter, but in the end Hardin withdrew. Lincoln secured the Whig nomination and the Democrats nominated Peter Cartwright, a circuit-riding Methodist preacher.
Lincoln campaigned throughout the district where he was already well known. While he was presented with a campaign war chest of $200, Lincoln returned most of the money after the election. Speaking of his actual expense, Lincoln noted, "I made the canvass on my own horse; my entertainment, being at the houses of friends, cost me nothing; and my only outlay was seventy-five cents for a barrel of cider which some farm-hands insisted I should treat them to." There were very few newspaper accounts concerning the election, but the major political issues were the annexation of Texas which Lincoln opposed as an expansion of slavery, the Mexican War on which Lincoln was noncommittal, and the Oregon border dispute with Great Britain which Lincoln avoided.
Cartwright avoided joint appearances with Lincoln and initiated a "whispering campaign" that accused Lincoln of being an infidel and a religious skeptic. Lincoln first responding by pointing out that the Illinois constitution had no religious qualifications for office. On July 31 he published a handbill that admitted he belonged to no Christian church but denied that he was an "open scoffer at Christianity" or had ever "denied the truth of the Scriptures." Cartwright's campaign was only effective in counties where Lincoln was not personally known. Lincoln won the election with 56% of the vote, topping the numbers of Hardin (53%) and Baker (52%) in their winning elections. Due to the timing of elections, the Thirtieth Congress would not convene until December 1847.
House of Representatives (1847–1849)
A Whig and an admirer of party leader Henry Clay, Lincoln was elected to a term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. As a freshman House member, he was not a particularly powerful or influential figure. He spoke out against the Mexican-American War, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory — that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood." He also challenged the President's claims regarding the Texas boundary and offered Spot Resolutions demanding to know on what "spot" on US soil that blood was first spilt. In January 1848, he was among the 82 Whigs who defeated 81 Democrats in a procedural vote on an amendment to send a routine resolution back to committee with instructions to add the words "a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States." The amendment passed, but the bill never reemerged from committee and was never finally voted upon.
Lincoln later damaged his political reputation with a speech in which he declared, "God of Heaven has forgotten to defend the weak and innocent, and permitted the strong band of murderers and demons from hell to kill men, women, and children, and lay waste and pillage the land of the just." Two weeks later, President Polk sent a peace treaty to Congress. While no one in Washington paid any attention to Lincoln, the Democrats orchestrated angry outbursts from across his district, where the war was popular and many had volunteered. In Morgan County, resolutions were adopted in fervent support of the war and in wrathful denunciation of the "treasonable assaults of guerrillas at home; party demagogues; slanderers of the President; defenders of the butchery at the Alamo; traducers of the heroism at San Jacinto".
Warned by his law partner, William Herndon, that the damage was mounting and irreparable, Lincoln decided not to run for reelection.
Campaigning for Zachary Taylor (1848)
In the 1848 presidential election, Lincoln supported war hero Zachary Taylor for both the Whig nomination and for president in the general election. In abandoning Clay, Lincoln argued that Taylor was the only Whig that was electable. Lincoln attended the Whig National Convention in Philadelphia as a Taylor delegate. With Taylor's successful nomination, Lincoln urged Taylor to run a campaign emphasizing his personal traits while leaving the controversial issues to be resolved by Congress. While Congress was in session Lincoln spoke in favor of Taylor on the House floor and when it adjourned in August he remained in Washington assisting the Whig Executive Committee of Congress in the campaign. In September, Lincoln made campaign speeches in Boston and other New England locations. Remembering the election of 1844, Lincoln addressed potential Free Soil voters by saying that the Whigs were equally opposed to slavery and the only issue was how they could most effectively vote against the expansion of slavery. Lincoln argued that a vote for their candidate, former President Martin Van Buren, would divide the antislavery vote and throw the election to the Democratic candidate Lewis Cass.
With Taylor's victory, the incoming administration, perhaps remembering Lincoln's criticism of Taylor during the Mexican-American War, offered Lincoln only the governorship of remote Oregon Territory. Acceptance would end his career in the fast-growing state of Illinois, so he declined. Instead he returned to Springfield, Illinois and turned most of his energies to making a living at the bar, which involved extensive travel on horseback from county to county.
- Burlingame pp. 1–2
- Burlingame p.2-3
- Barton, William E. (1920). The Paternity of Abraham Lincoln: Was He the Son of Thomas Lincoln? An Essay on the Chastity of Nancy Hanks. George H. Doran Company. pp. 19,203,319.
- Wead, Doug (2005). The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of Our Nation's Leaders. Simon and Schuster. p. 101. ISBN 0-7434-9726-0.
- Jacobson, David J., The Affairs of Dame Rumor (N.Y.: Rinehart & Co., 1948), p. 191, citing Burr, Chauncey, Catechism, the latter referencing a "pamphlet by a western author adducing evidence" for the claim.
- Sandburg, Carl, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, 1926), vol. 2, p. 381 (in chap. 154).
- Hertz, Emanuel, The Hidden Lincoln: from the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon (N.Y.: Viking Press, February 1938), p. 413.
- Hertz, Emanuel, The Hidden Lincoln, op. cit., p. 414.
- Hertz, Emanuel, The Hidden Lincoln, op. cit., p. 414 and see p. 413 ("dark hair").
- Shaw, Archer H., compiler & ed., The Lincoln Encyclopedia: The Spoken and Written Words of A. Lincoln Arranged For Ready Reference (N.Y.: Macmillan, 1950), p. 190, entry Lincoln, Abraham, personal description of (To Josephus Hewett, Feb. 13, 1848, I, 355) ("nearly ten years ago" thus ca. 1838–1839).
- Both quotations: Shaw, Archer H., compiler & ed., The Lincoln Encyclopedia, op. cit. (To F. W. Fell, Dec. 20, 1859, V, 288).
- Taylor, Coley, & Samuel Middlebrook, The Eagle Screams (N.Y.: Macaulay, 1936), p. 106 and see p. 109.
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 23.
- Prokopowicz (2008), pp. 25–28.
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 29.
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 55.
- Oates pg 15–16
- Oates pg. 15–17
- Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln. New York; Touchstone, 1995, pp. 1, 116–118
- Donald, 22–23
- Donald, 34–35; Herndon, William, The History of Abraham Lincoln. Springfield, The Lincoln Printing Co., 1888, p. 12
- Donald, 22
- Oates pg. 17–18. Donald pg.39
- Oates pg. 18–20. Donald pg. 40
- Oates pg. 18–20. Donald pg. 41
- Oates pg. 18–20. Donald pg. 41–43
- Donald pg. 44–46
- Donald pg.47–50
- Donald pg. 50–54. While Lincoln was attending his first legislative session in January 1835 the sheriff sold Lincoln's horse, saddle, bridle, and surveying equipment in partial satisfaction of the debt. Berry died soon after this, leavig Lincoln entirely responsible for the debt.
- Donald pg. 52–53
- Oates pg. 26. Donald pg. 53. Harris pg. 16
- Dirck pg.14–15
- Oates pg. 15. Oates writes of Lincoln’s interest in the court proceedings, “A sort of legal buff, he watched transfixed as young country lawyers wooed juries, cross-examined witnesses, delivered impassioned summations. He listened, too, as old-timers sat on the steps of the courthouses, spitting tobacco juice and discussing the latest trials and the capricious workings of the law – the verdict a jury might reach, the sentence a judge might hand down.”
- Oates pg. 28 Donald pg. 54
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 53.
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 55.
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 58.
- Oates pg. 32–39
- Donald pg. 53–54
- Donald pg. 59
- Harris pg. 17. Donald pg. 59–60. Anastaplo pg. 127
- Donald pg. 75
- "Abraham Lincoln Prepares to Fight a Saber Duel", originally published by Civil War Times magazine
- Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009). A. Lincoln: A Biography. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 115–.
- "Lincoln's Forgotten Duel". Lib.niu.edu. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- Tarbell, Ida Minerva (1920). The Life of Abraham Lincoln I. pp. 186–190.
- Donald pg. 58–59
- Carwardine pg. 15. Donald pg. 61–62. Carwardine and Donald both emphasize that Douglas, not Lincoln, was the “prime mover” for this program.
- Carwardine pg. 16
- Oates pg. 34–35
- Donald pg. 62–64, 75
- Oates pg. 35
- Carwardine pg. 16. Donald pg. 76
- Donald pg. 62–63
- Carwardine pg. 16–17. Lincoln further states, “I say this with the greater freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal.”
- Anastaplo pg. 127
- Carwardine pg. 17
- Donald pg. 77. Carwardine (pg. 17), referring to Nicolay and Hay’s “Abraham Lincoln: A History” (vol. 1, pg. 158–162), notes, “Adjournment, credit resumption, and Democratic ridicule followed. Lincoln, the respecter of law and constitutional order, who ‘deprecated everything that savored of the revolutionary,’ always regretted the action.”
- Donald pg. 78. Carwardine pg. 17
- Donald (1995) p. 63. Burlingame vol. 1 (2008) p. 122
- Burlingame vol. 1 (2008) p. 122
- Burlingame vol. 1 (2008) p. 124
- Burlingame vol. 1 (2008) p. 126
- Thomas (1952) p. 64
- Foner, Eric (2010). The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 26.
- Kristol, William (June 7, 2007). "Learning from Lincoln's Wisdom". Time. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
- Donald pg. 70–74
- Donald pg. 86–98
- Donald pg. 99–100. Harris pg. 21. Oates pg. 104
- Donald pg. 100–103. Harris pg. 31. Oates pg. 71–72
- Donald pg. 104–106. Thomas pg. 142–153
- Donald pg. 105–106, 149. Harris pg. 65
- Donald pg. 146
- Donald pg. 148. Thomas pg. 156
- Harris pg. 35. Donald pg. 151. Oates pg. 98
- Donald pg. 142–145
- Thomas pg. 178–179
- McKirdy (2011), p. 20-31.
- McKirdy (2011), pps. 44–56.
- McKirdy (2011), p. 74-86.
- Donald pg, 103–104
- Donald pg. 154–157
- Donald 1995, §6
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 337–338
- Donald 1995, pp. 150–51
- "Points to Ponder 1 – Presidential Patent — Kids Pages". Uspto.gov. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- "Buoying Vessels Over Shoals". Freepatentsonline.com. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
- Will, George F. (January 2, 2011). "Rev the scientific engine". The Washington Post.
- Goodwin pg.55–56. The major basis for the Lincoln-Rutledge relationship comes from oral and written surveys directed by Lincoln’s last law partner, William Herndon, after Lincoln’s death. For documentation on the historiography of this debate see the two journal articles by Barry Schwartz "Ann Rutledge in American Memory: Social Change and the Erosion of a Romantic Drama" at  and John Y. Simon "Abraham Lincoln and Ann Rutledge" at .
- Donald pg. 55
- "Mrs. Elizabeth Abell". Retrieved August 19, 2009.
- Donald (1995) pp. 67–69. Thomas (1952) pp. 56–57, 69–70. Donald quotes a key phrase from the letter, “I now say, that you can now drop the subject [of marriage], dismiss your thoughts (if you ever had any) from me forever, and leave this letter unanswered, without calling forth one accusing murmur from me.”
- Donald (1995) p. 84
- Thomas (1952) pp. 85–87
- Burlingame (2008) p. 187
- Thomas (1952) pp. 88–89
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 213–215. Since this was a new district, the term was not for the usual two years.
- Burlingame (2008) p. 215
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 215–218
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 224–227
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 228–229
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 231–235
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 235–237
- Burlingame (2008) pp. 237–241
- Congressional Globe, 30th Session (1848) pp.93–95
- House Journal, 30th Session (1848) pp.183–184
- Abe Lincoln resource page
- Donald (1995) pp. 126–131
- Beveridge, (1928) 1: 428–33; Donald (1995) p. 140-43.
- Anastaplo, George. Abraham Lincoln: A Constitutional Biography. (1999) ISBN 0-8476-9431-3
- Burlingame, Michael. Abraham Lincoln: A Life. vol. 1 (2008) ISBN 978-0-8018-8993-6
- Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. (2003) ISBN 1-4000-4456-1
- Dirck, Brian. Lincoln the Lawyer.” (2007) ISBN 978-0-252-03181-6
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster.ISBN 0-684-80846-3
- Harris, William C. Lincoln's Rise to the Presidency. (2007) ISBN 978-0-7006-1520-9
- Herndon, William Henry. Herndon’s Life of Lincoln. (1942 Da Capo edition) ISBN 0-306-80195-7
- Prokopowicz, Gerald J. (2008). Did Lincoln Own Slaves?. Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-307-27929-3.
- Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (1994)
- Thomas, Benjamin P. (1952). "Abraham Lincoln: A Biography".
- Bartelt, William E. (2008). There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln's Indiana Youth. Indiana Historical Society Press.
- Warren, Louis A. (1959/2002). Lincoln's Youth: Indiana Years, Seven to Twenty-One, 1816–1830. Indiana Historical Society. Check date values in:
Lincoln and the Law
- Spiegel, Allen D. (2002). A. Lincoln Esquire, a Shrewd, Sophisticated Lawyer in his Time. Mercer University Press.
- Steiner, Mark E. (2006). An Honest Calling: The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln. Northern Illinois University.
- McKirdy, Charles Robert (2011). Lincoln Apostate: The Matson Slave Case. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-60-473987-9.
- Stowell, Daniel W., et al., eds. (2008). The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 4 vols. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
- Stowell, Daniel W., ed. (2002). In Tender Consideration: Women, Families, and Law in Abraham Lincoln's America. University of Illinois Press.
Lincoln in Congress
- Riddle, Donald W. (1957). Congressman Abraham Lincoln. University of Illinois.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abraham Lincoln.|
- The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, from the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a freely accessible database that offers over 97,000 documents related to Lincoln's legal career
- The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: A Statistical Portrait
- Lincoln the Inventor