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lawyers of his day, we must not forget how different were the circumstances of the administration of justice from anything our generation has experienced. Lincoln had seen even rougher courts of justice than those he practised in. We know that as a lad he used to haunt the Boonville Court-house whenever a trial was forward, and years afterwards, at the White House, reminded Breckenridge the advocate that he had heard him defend a murderer there. “I concluded,” said Lincoln, “ that if I could ever make as good a speech as that, my soul would be satisfied, for it was the best I had ever heard.” In these earliest days the Court-house was merely a log hut, and the hunters and trappers who formed the jury retired into the woods to consider their verdict.
Mr. Hill, in his admirable essay on "Lincoln the Lawyer”—a book too little known in this countryreports the address of a learned judge to the prisoner in “ The People v. Green” to illustrate the manners of pioneer justice. “Mr. Green,” began the learned judge very politely," the jury in their verdict say you are guilty of murder, and the law says you are to be hung. Now, I want you and all your friends down on Indian Creek to know that it is not I who condemn you, but the jury and the law. Mr. Green, the law allows you time for preparation, so the Court wants to know what time you would like to be hung."
The prisoner" allowed” it made no difference to him, but His Honour did not appreciate this freedom of action.
“Mr. Green, you must know it is a very serious matter to be hung," he protested uneasily. “You'd better take
all the time you can get. The Court will give you until this day four weeks.”
The prosecutor thought this but a tame ending, and reminded the judge that the correct thing was to pronounce a formal sentence and exhort the prisoner to repentance.
“Not at all,” interrupted the judge. “Mr. Green understands the whole matter as if I had preached to him for a month. He knows he's got to be hung this day four weeks. You understand it that
you Mr. Green nodded, and the Court adjourned.
Rough and ready as the formalities of justice might be, it was very necessary in the judge's own interest to make it clear that what he was administering was really law. Too much learning was apt to puzzle a backwoodsman jury, and Mr. Hill has another contemporary story of a foreman who returned to a learned judge to say his jury could not agree their verdict, and on being asked what the trouble was, replied : “ Judge, this ’ere is the difficulty. The jury want to know if that thar what
told us was r’aly the law or on’y jist your notion."
Even when Lincoln joined the Illinois Bar the courts were very primitive. The judge sat on a raised platform with a pine or whitewood board on which to write his notes. There was a small table on one side for the clerk, and a larger one, sometimes covered with green baize, for the lawyers who sat around and rested their feet on it. There were few law books. The Revised Statutes, the Illinois Form Book, and a few text-books might be found in most towns, but there were no extensive law libraries anywhere. From one Court-house to another
the judge drove in a gig or buggy, the Bar following for the most part on horseback with a clean shirt and one or two elementary law books in their saddle-bags. Some too poor to ride tramped the circuit on foot, but as there were many horse thieves to defend, and a horse was a well-recognised fee, it was not long before a young man of ability was mounted.
Such was the circuit when Lincoln first joined it. He was then twenty-seven years of age, “six feet four inches in height, awkward, ungainly and apparently shy. He was dressed in ill-fitting homespun clothes, the trousers a little too short and the coat a trifle too large. He had the appearance of a rustic on his first visit to the circus.” He kept his bank-book and the bulk of his letters in his hat, a silk plug, and a memo. would be jotted down on paper and stuck in the lining of his hat. No wonder Stanton, the courtly advocate of Chicago, sneered contemptuously at the “ long-armed creature from Illinois,” though he learned in the end to admire and respect him.
But the public recognised his capacity at once. In spite of physical and social drawbacks, Lincoln as an advocate was an immediate success. He was soon on one side or the other in every important case, and was pointed out to strangers by proud citizens of Springfield as “ Abe Lincoln, the first lawyer of Illinois !” He was a great favourite not only with the public, but with his fellowlawyers on circuit. Although he never drank intoxicating liquor, and did not smoke or chew tobacco, he was fond of a horse-race or a cock-fight, and when addressing his fellow-countrymen drew his illustrations from these pursuits. There is an oft-told circuit memory of how he crushed a swaggering opponent who evaded his argument by saying that he reminded him of “Bap McNabb’s rooster, who was splendidly groomed and trained for the fight, but when he was thrown in the ring, turned tail and fled, and Bap yelled after him, 'Yes, you little cuss, you're great on dress parade, but not worth a damn in a fight!'”
A further reason for his popularity was his gift as a teller of stories and jests full of the wit and character of the free, outspoken, primitive people from whom he sprang. Foolish people have tried to record some of these things, still more foolish folk have endeavoured to prove that their hero was too pure and unspotted from the world to trifle with such nonsense. Wiser minds will recognise that since the world began the teller of a merry tale has never wanted for a jolly audience, and at the root of Lincoln's success with all sorts and conditions of men lay his gift of story-telling.
But the great qualities that brought him success as an advocate were his industry, honesty, and independence. Writing to a law student who had asked him the best method of studying law, he says : “ The mode is
very simple, though laborious and tedious. It is only to get books and read and study them carefully. Work, work, work, is the main thing." He himself used to read aloud when studying, for then, he said, “ Two senses catch the idea; first I see what I read ; second, I hear it, and therefore I can remember it better.” “Billy” Herndon,
I his law partner—who plays the part of Boswell to his Johnson-draws a quaint picture of him at a circuit inn.
“We usually at the little country inns occupied the same bed. In most cases the beds were too short for him, and his feet would hang over the foot-board, thus exposing a limited expanse of shin bone. Placing a candle on a a chair at the head of the bed, he would read and study for hours." His studies were by no means confined to law, and he never allowed his mind to become ridden"; indeed, one of his greatest qualities was his power to stand on his own and reason out for himself the true aspects of a case apart from what lawyers love to call “ authorities.”
But the foundation of his fame and success as an advocate was his honesty. As a friendly critic said, he was “ perversely honest.” The faithful “Billy" tells a story of his first appearance in the Supreme Court of Illinois, and quotes his words as follows :: “ This is the first case I have ever had in this Court, and I have there fore examined it with great care. As the Court will perceive by looking at the abstract of the record, the only question in the case is one of authority. I have not been able to find any authority to sustain my side of the case,
, but I have found several cases directly in point on the other side. I will now give these authorities to the Court and submit the case.” Some biographers reject this story as improbable, and lawyers have criticised his conduct adversely. The question whether, if an advocate knows of a decided case in point against him, he ought or ought not to reveal it, has often been discussed. Joshua Williams, the Gamaliel of Real Property Law, boldly states : “It seems to me that in principle this is no part of his duty as an advocate”; but he admits that if the