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A SUCCESSFUL LAWYER.
W H EN Lincoln commenced the practice of law
VV he was too poor to own a horse and saddlebags. He was obliged to borrow this outfit of a friend, until he scraped together enough money to purchase one.
“But why did he need a horse and saddle-bags ?” the reader will ask.
At that time the Court went to the clients instead of the clients going to the Court. That is, Court business was laid out in Circuits ; and the Court travelled from place to place, holding sessions, and transacting such business as the locality brought to it. Lincoln was in the “ Eighth Judicial Circuit” of Illinois; and for several years travelled over it on horseback, with no other outfit than the contents of his saddle-bags and a cotton umbrella. A longer or shorter period was occupied in completing the “Circuit,” according to the amount of business brought to the Court. Lincoln was sometimes absent three months from home on the Circuit. During one of these long absences his wife had a second storey and a new roof put upon their house, as a surprise to him. It was nicely finished when he returned. Coming in front of his old home, he sat upon his horse surveying the changed habitation, and pretending not to recognize it, he called to a man across ihe street,
“Stranger, can you tell me where Lincoln lives? He used to live here.”
When he got a little more of this world's goods, he set up a one-horse buggy,-a very sorry and shabbylooking affair, which he generally used when the weather promised to be bad. But the lawyers were always glad to see him, and the landlords hailed his coming with pleasure.
Honesty, kindness, generosity, fairness, justice, and kindred qualities distinguished him in the practice of law. A whole volume of incidents might be related, illustrating these qualities of the man, but a few only can be given.
A stranger called to secure his services.
“State your case,” said Mr. Lincoln. The man stated it at considerable length, when Lincoln surprised him by saying,—
“I cannot serve you, for you are wrong and the other party is right.”
“That is none of your business, if I hire and pay you for taking the case," retorted the man.
“Not my business !” exclaimed Lincoln. “My business is never to defend wrong if I am a lawyer. I never take a case that is manifestly wrong.”
“Well, you can make trouble for the fellow," added the applicant.
“Yes," responded Lincoln, “there is no reasonable doubt but that I can gain the case for you. I can set a whole neighbourhood at loggerheads; I can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children, and thereby get for you six hundred dollars, which rightfully belongs as much to the woman and her children as it does to you. But I won't do it.”
“Not for any amount of pay?" inquired the man. “Not for all you are worth,” replied Lincoln. “You
must remember that some things which are legally right are not morally right. I shall not take your case."
"I don't care a snap whether you do or not,” angrily replied the man, starting to go; “there are other lawyers in the State.”
" I'll give you a piece of advice without charge,” added Lincoln. “You seem to be a sprightly, energetic man. I would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars some other way."
One afternoon an old coloured woman came into the office of Lincoln and Herndon * to tell her sad story. She was once the slave of one Hinkle in Kentucky, who brought herself and children into Illinois, and made them free. Her son had gone down to New Orleans on a steamer, and very imprudently went ashore, when the police arrested him, under State law that authorized the seizure and sale of free negroes from other States; and he would be sold back into slavery unless immediately redeemed. Lincoln's sympathetic nature was deeply stirred, and his indignation was also aroused.
“Run over to the State House and ask Governor Bissell if something cannot be done to obtain possession of the negro,” he said to Mr. Herndon.
The inquiry was soon made, and Herndon returned to say, “The governor says that he has no legal or constitutional right to do anything in the premises."
Lincoln was thoroughly aroused by this feature of inhumanity which the legal status disclosed, and starting to his feet, and raising his long right arm heavenward, he exclaimed,
"By the Almighty's help I'll have the negro back * Lincoln terminated partnership with Judge Logan in 1845, and then associated himself with William H. Herndon, Esq.
soon, or I'll have a twenty years' agitation in Illinois, until the governor does have a legal and constitutional right to do something in the premises.”
He and his partner immediately sent money of their own to a New Orleans correspondent, who procured the negro and returned him to his mother.
A person applied to Colonel E. D. Baker, who afterwards became United States Senator from Oregon, for aid in behalf of a fugitive slave.
" I'm sorry that I cannot serve you,” Colonel Baker replied; “I should be glad to help the fugitive, but, as a political man, I cannot afford it.”
The applicant then sought the advice of an ardent anti-slavery friend, who said :
"Go to Lincoln ; he's not afraid of an unpopular case. When I go for a lawyer to defend an arrested fugitive slave other lawyers will refuse me, but if Mr. Lincoln is at home, he will always take my case."
Judge Treat furnishes the following :
"A case being called for hearing in the court, Mr. Lincoln stated that he appeared for the appellant, and was ready to proceed with the argument. He then said : 'This is the first case I ever had in this court” [it was just after he was admitted to practice in the Circuit Court of the United States, December 3rd, 1839], “and I have therefore 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 cases, and then submit the case.”
One lawyer, who could not understand that the true purpose of a court is to “establish justice,” remarked, “ The fellow is crazy."
Once, is a closely-contested civil suit, he found himself upon the wrong side of the case. His client had misrepresented the case, being “a slippery fellow.” Lincoln succeeded in proving an account for his client, when the opposing attorney then “proved a receipt covering the entire cause of action.” By the time he was through Lincoln had disappeared from the courtroom. The court sent to the hotel for him. “Tell the Judge,” said Lincoln, “ that I can't come: my hands are dirty, and I came over to clean them.”
In the celebrated Patterson trial, a case of murder, Lincoln and Swett were counsel for the accused. After hearing the testimony, Lincoln was satisfied that the accused was guilty, and calling his colleague into another room, he said,
“Swett, the man is guilty.”
Swett promised to do it, and he did it so well that he saved the guilty man from justice. They received a thousand dollars for services; but Lincoln declined to take a cent of it.
At another time he was defending a man indicted for larceny; and, being satisfied by the evidence that the accused was guilty, he called aside his colleagues, Parks and Young, and said : “He is guilty. If you can say anything for him, do it; I can't. If I attempt, the jury will see that I think he is guilty, and convict him, of course.”
He conducted a suit against a railroad company, and damages were awarded to him. The railroad company proved, and the court allowed, a certain offset; and when the court was footing the amount, Lincoln arose and stated that his opponents had not proved all that was justly due them in offset, and proceeded to prove