Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lincoln, Law and My Two Cents

When I opened the law practice, one of my favorite volumes found its way into the office: Carl Sandburg's "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years." Several weeks later, I found myself compelled to read them again. This time, looking for any references to Lincoln the Lawyer.

I was following young Lincoln through Kentucky, into Illinois and through the Black Hawk War when a trip to the library derailed me. A search of Lincoln on the computerized index revealed that there are a lot of books about Lincoln. I mean a lot.

"Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln," seemed to hold the most promise for a peek at his lawyering days. 251 pages into it, not much yet about his skills in the law. Nonetheless, this is a great book. It's not really a biography. It's more of a history of the biographies of Lincoln.

The author, Douglas Wilson, explains how different stories that we all love about Lincoln came to be part of history. For example, we all learned that Lincoln industriously split rails when young. It turns out he did swing a good ax. However, he spent most of his days reading instead of working to the point that most people in Sangamon County considered Abe lazy. Also, Abe fell in love with Ann Rutledge. Ann was engaged to a wealthy fellow who had to return back east for a short time. While gone, Abe and Ann got engaged. Ann couldn't bring herself to tell boy #1, who in the meantime had written Ann to inform her that on the way back to Illinois, he had stopped off in Cleveland to purchase new furniture for their newlywed home. Before she had to face the music, Ann died. Lincoln never quite recovered.

The ABA (American Bar Association) is putting out a lot of Lincoln stuff this month. Law Day is this month AND it's the 200th Anniversary of Lincoln's birthday. Every President, noble cause, non-profit organization, and rail splitter has at some point claimed Abraham Lincoln as their own. I guess it's time that attorneys get their fair share. Let me just say that I read Sandburg a long time ago, before Lincoln was so popular. And I started "Honor's Voice" long before I even knew there was a Law Day.

I've already found plenty about Lincoln to emulate. I'll keep searching for the lawyerly stuff. However, there are unsavory aspects of Lincoln's life - the kind that probable wouldn't even make it into the revisionist history books in most public schools. I can't mention several of them because this blog is PG-13.

My conclusion: God uses whomever he wants to accomplish his purposes and bring himself glory; including a wicked Pharoah to rescue a nation (Exodus 14:4, 17), an orphaned slave-girl to rescue a nation (Esther 4:14), and a sixteenth President concerned that he had syphilis to rescue a nation.


SteveQ said...

My favorite bio of Lincoln is Gore Vidal's. I think most people steer clear of his railroad lawyer days because the unsavory details don't mesh well with the rest of his life.

So much odd stuff out there about him from suggestions of homosexuality to having Marfan's syndrome.

David Ray said...

Amen to the conclusion. Double amen.