Dr. Brian Dirck, assistant professor of History at Anderson University, has released Lincoln the Lawyer, a new book focusing on the law career of the 16th President of the United States. Published by the University of Illinois Press, the book examines what the law did to and for Abraham Lincoln, and its important impact on his future presidency.
"A lot of people forget that Lincoln was a lawyer, and a very good one," Dirck points out, "in fact, he is the most experienced trial attorney we ever put in the White House."
Despite historians' focus on the man as president and politician, Abraham Lincoln lived most of his adult life as a practicing lawyer. It was as a lawyer that he fed his family, made his reputation, bonded with Illinois, and began his political career. Lawyering was also how Lincoln learned to become an expert mediator between angry antagonists, as he applied his knowledge of the law and of human nature to settle one dispute after another.
Frontier lawyers worked hard to establish respect for the law and encourage people to resolve their differences without intimidation or violence. These were the very skills Lincoln used so deftly to hold a crumbling nation together during his presidency.
The growth of Lincoln's practice attests to the trust he was able to inspire, and his travels from court to court taught him much about the people and land of Illinois. Lincoln the Lawyer explores the origins of Lincoln's desire to practice law, his legal education, his partnerships with John Stuart, Stephen Logan, and William Herndon, and the maturation of his far-flung practice in the 1840s and 1850s.
“There is nothing in or out of print that comes close to the originality, breadth, and documentation of this welcome study of Lincoln's legal career,” said Cullom Davis, former director, Lincoln Legal Papers [See the Lincoln the Lawyer listed on Amazon.com].
Dr. Dirck provides a context for law as it was practiced in mid-century Illinois and evaluates Lincoln's merits as an attorney by comparison with his peers. He examines Lincoln's clientele, his circuit practice, his views on legal ethics, and the supposition that he never defended a client he knew to be guilty. This approach allows readers not only to consider Lincoln as he lived his life--it also shows them how the law was used and developed in Lincoln's lifetime, how Lincoln charged his clients, how he was paid, and how he addressed judge and jury.
Dr. Brian Dirck is the author of Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America, 1809-1865.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.