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Abraham Lincoln the Lawyer

Usually when we think of Abraham Lincoln, it relates to his years as President. Before being elected as President, he did have a successful law practice. He attended law school for less than a year but became a lawyer because of a law that went into effect in Illinois in 1833. A person could be sworn in as a lawyer if they obtained “a certificate procured from the court of an Illinois county certifying to the applicant’s good moral character”.

According to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, he was involved in 5173 cases with his partners. Records show that Lincoln did represent a variety of clients including collections and even arguing over disputes between landowners over their cows. His primary client was doing defense work for the Illinois Central Railroad.

There is some indication that he received some complaints because his law office had a sign hanging out in front with the law firm’s name.  Some lawyers felt that such “advertising” was undignified for the profession.   (something about that warms my heart!)

The following is part of a closing argument from a transcript of one of Lincoln’s trials, where he was defending a man against a claim for killing a dog:

My client is like the man who was going along the road with a pitchfork on his shoulder when he was attacked by a fierce dog that ran out from a farmers yard. He uses pitchfork to defend himself and in the process killed the dog. The outrage farmer demanded: “what made you kill my dog?” To which the man replied “what made your dog try to bite me?” The farmer retorted “why did you not try to go after him with the other end of the pitchfork?” To which the man responded “why did not the dog come after me with his other end?”

It sounds a bit different from the Gettysburg Address!

And for pic o’ day, a dog meeting over evidence:

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Relatives in History

I keep seeing sponsored link stories at the bottom of some of the Internet news articles that I read. I think it’s a marketers method to grab my attention while I click to some “informational item” that is usually more gossip than newsworthy.  Do you see the same stories?

These usually appear under some kind of entertainment subject matter.  Sometimes it’s an article that tempts me to click and learn about “celebrities with the highest IQs” or “Movies that will make you want to travel”. Usually, I’m not tempted too much by those titles. I even get irritated with titles that include “jaw dropping” in the headline.

I did see one that caused me to click. The title was something like “Did you know that these celebrities are related”. I think I clicked on that one and also the one that discussed who was related to Abraham Lincoln… but that’s just me!

That brings me to the relatives of Francis Scott Key, the author of The Star Spangled Banner. Because of him, we remember the rockets red glare! He also made some history as a lawyer, both as U.S. Attorney and as a private lawyer.  It’s worth clicking on his story here. But,  I am trying to keep this blog short and to the point, instead of where I seem to be taking it… toward Key’s law practice.

So, let me get back to the point of this blog, to write about those of significant historical significance who are related to Francis Scott Key. It would be like seeing a story at the bottom of this blog as a sponsored link that might ask something like “Your jaw will drop when you see Key’s relative“. Or something like that. Then you would click on it and your jaw would not drop.

However, I wrote all of the above to say… here are the relatives for the blog:

First, he was distantly related to F. Scott Fitzgerald (famous novelist including author of The Great Gatsby)

As a horrible historical side note, Key’s son was shot and killed by U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickles.

Another historical relative was  Roger B. Taney, who Scott’s sister had married. Taney would later become Chief Justice of the United States U.S. Supreme Court. The significance in that was that Justice Taney wrote the historical opinion in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857). (Story) An important case about slavery.

On one hand, Scott had previously argued cases on behalf of freeing slaves, and had written our National Anthem. Now his Supreme Court Justice relative was writing an opinion that would certainly have provided some curious family dinner conversation.

Among legal scholars, the Dred Scott opinion has been called the worst decision ever rendered by the Supreme Court. A ruling that determined that a slave (Dred Scott) who resided in a free state where there was no slavery,  could not be a free man. According to the Court, Africans/blacks were not and never could be citizens of the United States. They were merely property.

The Supreme Court, with that language, helped to ultimately fuel the Civil War.

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And finally, my mom in on a roll. She sent me this pic o’ day last night that got me!

retriever

Some Lincoln Storytelling

For the Friday blog , I recite a story within a story, with an ending that you might consider a bit sideways. Still, under the excuse of reciting history, I include the following story for thought.

Abraham Lincoln ‘s patience was greatly tried during his Presidency, when favor seekers would consume his time. This was especially true during the trying times of the Civil War. On one occasion, he gathered a number of  would-be-office holders and “time-consumers” to tell them the following story:

“There was once a King who wished to go out hunting, so he asked his minister if it was going to rain. The minister assured him that it would not. On the way to the woods, the King passed a farmer who was working the land with his donkey. The farmer warned the King that it would rain soon, but the King just laughed and continued on. A few minutes later it was pouring, and the King and his companions were soaked to their skin. Upon return to the castle, the King dismissed his minister and sent for the farmer. He asked the man how he knew it was going to rain.

“”It was not me, your Majesty. It was my donkey. He always droops one ear when it is going to rain.”

“So the King bought the donkey from the farmer and gave him the position of minister at court. This was where the King made his mistake.”

“How was that,” asked several people in the audience.

“Because ever since then,” Lincoln continued, “every jackass wants an office. Gentlemen, leave your credentials and when the war is over you’ll hear from me.”

DID YOU KNOW that tennis was originally played with bare hands. And yes, without rackets, I also wonder what people threw when they got angry.

And for pic o’ day, here’s one from Stacey that has a message in a message:

seas the day

Lincoln’s Dog: Fido

While living in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was known as an animal lover who abhored hunting and fishing. (Abraham Lincoln Blog) That was considered a bit unusual, since he was also known as an outdoorsman.

He named his favorite dog Fido.

fido

Today, we consider that as a catch-all name for dogs. In those days, it was considered unusual. Lincoln had named his dog Fido, because Lincoln knew Latin;  it means faithful.

When Lincoln was elected President, he was faced with the decision of taking his beloved dog to Washington. Some say that Lincoln’s wife was very much against taking this undisciplined dog to the White House to ruin the furniture there. In Fido’s very picture, he is shown sitting “on his couch” in the Lincoln house.

Others say that Lincoln did not take Fido with him because he was concerned that the dog would not survive the trip to Washington, and  he was also concerned about the quallity of life that Fido would have there.

So, for whatever reason, Lincoln left Fido with a good family friend in Illinois; with the intention of moving back to Illinois and Fido, when his Presidency had ended. Lincoln stipulated that Fido would continue to be an indoor dog; receive special treats, since Lincoln was also known to feed him treats from the table; and that Fido would also be allowed to sleep on his favorite horsehair sofa brought over from his Lincoln home.

Those conditions were met. In fact, Fido became a nationally known dog, which is part of the reason that people began to name their own dogs by the name of Fido. Lincoln also had photographs of Fido taken, considered very rare at that time. Here’s another from Pawnation.com:

Fido again

As we know, Lincoln never made it back to Illinois. After Lincoln was assassinated, Fido was brought to the Lincoln home in Illinois, to also greet mourners there.  About a year later, Fido was also “assassinated” in the street when a drunk man stabbed the dog without any real reason.

Today, photographs of Fido are rare and have become highly collectible. A photograph of Fido has even “fetched” upwards of thousands of dollars. Plus, the name of Fido has become as common as the human name of “John Doe”.

DID YOU KNOW that there was once a state named Franklin. Ultimately, it became the state of Tennessee. For some real history reading, here is how it became the state of Tennessee, with additional names along the way that included the Free Republic of Franklin, and the State of Frankland. (Wikipedia history)

And from Amy M. for pic o’ day on a Monday, here’s to looking cool:

cool

This and That on Friday

Sometimes it’s nice to reach for the notebook, give it a good shake… and see what comes out for a Friday blog.

a puppy laugh

Life is about choices. During a time of career slump, John Travolta turned down the part of playing the lovable Forrest Gump, a role that won Tom Hanks his second Best Actor Oscar.

From the history books is one of those rumored stories about President Lincoln’s well-known difficulties in finding a competent general to lead the Union armies during the Civil War.  One General was roundly criticized by many and was ultimately hired, fired, and then rehired when his successors proved just as bad (General McClellan).

When Lincloln was asked why he didn’t just fire McClellan once and for all, Honest Abe replied with a question  “And replace him with whom?”  “Anybody.” came the reply. “That’s just it,” said Mr. Lincoln, “I can’t have ANYBODY. I have to have SOMEBODY”

And for pic o’ day, I really can’t tell if I am more distracted by the computer, a boxer at a desk, or the fact that someone is distracting hm from his work.

old computer

The Reputations of Edwin and John

Edwin was a master of the 19th century stage. Some theatrical historians have considered him to be the greatest stage actor of all time, and have also dubbed him the greatest Hamlet of the 19th century.

In early performances, he played alongside his father, making his stage debut in “Richard III”. He also had the opportunity to be on stage with his brothers John and Junius. In 1863, they united their talents to perform Julius Ceasar. History records that his brother played Brutus.

One April night in 1865, his brother John, was not on stage but played a major role in Ford’s Theatre. History tells us that John quietly slipped into the rear of a box and fired a bullet at the head of one of the occupants watching the play on stage. Thereafter, John Wilkes Boothe was known as the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Edwin Thomas Booth, the older brother of John, was then known as the brother of the man who had assassinated the President. The choice of John Wilkes Booth, became a stain on the reputation of his brother.

A unusual footnote to this story involves a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey. Edwin Booth was waiting for his train on the station platform. A group of passengers had been late in purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor; who normally stood at the entrance of the car. As a result, several of the passengers were waiting, even as the train began to move.

A well-dressed young man, pressed by the waiting crowd, lost his footing and began to fall between the narrow space of the platform and the moving train. He later reported that, as he felt his feet moving helplessly into the open space to certain death, his coat collar was “vigorously seized” and he was pulled back on to the platform, to safety.

Edwin Booth had locked his leg around the railing and grabbed the man, who recognized him as the famous actor. Booth only later learned the identify of the young man, when he received a letter, that came a few weeks later. It was a letter from Colonel Adams Budeau, who was chief secretary to General Ulysses S. Grant.

The letter thanked Booth for saving the life of Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln. It was a letter that Edwin Booth carried in his pocket for the rest of his life.

One brother made a choice that killed a President; The other brother made a choice that saved a President’s son. The story is a reminder about the effects of choices.

A recent defendant testified that it wasn’t his fault that he had crashed into the rear of my client. He was a diabetic and sometimes, he has “low blood sugar events”. As he put it, “What am I supposed to do? I can either not drive and not go to work; or drive, and sometimes this just happens”.

His choice has had a lasting impact on my client. I guess we will see what kind of impact that this defendant’s choice will have on him, when the jury returns its verdict.

Some things cannot be changed. I can’t just choose to have better eye sight or faster metabolism. I can’t just increase my IQ or make more hair grow on my head. (If you have any suggestions? No, not the spray on hair).

A person may make a mistake, but they can choose to accept responsibility. Unfortunately, I keep seeing defendant’s and their lawyers ignore the injuries that their choices have caused.

In the Booth household, they were both probably raised with the same advantages and disadvantages. One brother was known for his horrendous choice and the impact on the rest of the family. The other carried that letter as a response to anyone that would try to pin his brother’s conduct on him.

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