Lincoln the Lawyer

Lincoln the Lawyer (HM138O)

Location: Beardstown, IL 62618 Cass County
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Country: United States of America
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N 40° 0.985', W 90° 26.039'

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It is the celebrated "Almanac Trial" of May 7, 1858 that has forever linked Abraham Lincoln with Beardstown. On that day, Lincoln defended William Duff Armstrong, the son of Lincoln's closest New Salem friends Jack and Hannah Armstrong. Duff Armstrong, with James Norris, was charged in the murder of James Preston Metzker. During the trial, Lincoln carefully cross-examined witnesses, including Charles Allen, who said he saw Norris and Armstrong attack Metzker by the light of the moon. Allen insisted the moon was high and nearly full. Then Lincoln produced an almanac showing at the time of the attack the moon was low and within an hour of setting. Thus Lincoln had discredited the witness. Lincoln did not rely entirely on the almanac, however. one defense witness, Charles Parker, M.D., provided crucial medical testimony, and Lincoln delivered a powerful closing argument. After reviewing the case, he recalled how Armstrong's parents had taken him into their home when he was poor and friendless. At least one prosecuting attorney credited Lincoln's emotional summation with Armstrong's acquittal.

Historians and scholars have long argued about what proved to be the decisive factor—-the almanac, the summation, expert testimony—-in Duff Armstrong's acquittal. However, there is nearly unanimous agreement that the trial allowed Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate his considerable skills, ranging from his masterful use of the legal system for his client's advantage to his brilliant oratorical prowess. Lincoln's brilliance as a lawyer that was so well demonstrated in Beardstown was but a prologue to his skill as the nation's leader.

Matters more prosaic than the "Almanac" trial brought Abraham Lincoln to Beardstown's Cass County Courthouse many times. For instance, Lincoln defended Charles Reynolds in a rent dispute, represented Jonathan Gill in a divorce case, and sued the Illinois River and Peoria and Hannibal railroads on behalf of local railroad promoter Charles Sprague. This type of work provided Lincoln with an income, while helping bolster his reputation. Lincoln's attorney friend, Henry Dummer lived in Beardstown. Lincoln met Dummer when the young Lincoln borrowed law books for study from Demmer's Springfield firm. Lincoln succeeded Dummer as John T. Stuart's partner when Dummer moved to Beardstown. The two developed a close personal and professional relationship and corresponded after Lincoln was elected president. In 1864, Dummer attended the Republican Convention in Baltimore that nominated Lincoln for a second term.

HM NumberHM138O
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 at 10:16pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15T E 718994 N 4432733
Decimal Degrees40.01641667, -90.43398333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 0.985', W 90° 26.039'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 0' 59.10" N, 90° 26' 2.34" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 101-199 W 3rd St, Beardstown IL 62618, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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