Today I visited the law library at Willamette University to check on something I’ve been meaning to do for some time: research Abe Lincoln‘s work as a lawyer. Lincoln’s father, Thomas, lived for many years in Coles County, Illinois, where some of my maternal ancestors, particularly the Parkers, lived also.
I first wrote about this in May 2008, when I was writing a research paper on the Civil War for the last of my college requirements. At first I thought two branches of my ancestors — the Parkers and the Goodells — likely knew the Lincolns, but it was probably just the Parker clan. But who knows what some scattered scraps of paper will reveal?
Thomas moved to Coles County in 1831 and, although their relationship was often strained, Abe helped him move. The future president did visit on occasion, though infrequently. He did have a good relationship with his stepmother, Sarah.
While at the library, I didn’t find any evidence for much if anything on Lincoln’s legal career to be found physically there. However, I did find some potentially great books on the subject. Unfortunately, Willamette does not appear to have many of these books or other resources. The general search for this subject is ‘su:Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 Career in law.‘.
Among the materials what I find to be most promising are: Lincoln the Lawyer by Brian R. Dirck, The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases by Lincoln himself and edited by Daniel W. Stowell, An Honest Calling: The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln by Mark E. Steiner, Lincoln as a Lawyer: An Annotated Bibliography by Elizabeth W. Matthews, and ‘The Lincoln Legal Papers and The New Age of Documentary Editing’ in the journal Computers and the Humanities.
Some older books on the subject are: Lawyer Lincoln by Albert A. Woldman, Lincoln the Litigant by William H. Townsend, and Lincoln, the Lawyer by Frederick Trevor Hill. A documentary film called ‘A. Lincoln: Attorney at Law‘ is available on DVD.
Willamette’s law library does have the ‘complete documentary edition’ of The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, although I am not sure about checkout policies. It is supposed to be comprehensive, covering the years 1836 to 1861.
The Parkers also have another distinct connection to American history: a rebel-rousing indentured servant who came on the Mayflower named Edward Doty. I’ll have to write about that more on another day.