“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Beardstown in Cass County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Lincoln the Lawyer

Looking for Lincoln

Lincoln the Lawyer Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
1. Lincoln the Lawyer Marker
It is the celebrated "Almanac Trial" of May 7, 1858 that has forever linked Abraham Lincoln with Beardstown. On that day, Lincoln defended William Duff Armstrong, the son of Lincoln's closest New Salem friends Jack and Hannah Armstrong. Duff Armstrong, with James Norris, was charged in the murder of James Preston Metzker. During the trial, Lincoln carefully cross-examined witnesses, including Charles Allen, who said he saw Norris and Armstrong attack Metzker by the light of the moon. Allen insisted the moon was high and nearly full. Then Lincoln produced an almanac showing at the time of the attack the moon was low and within an hour of setting. Thus Lincoln had discredited the witness. Lincoln did not rely entirely on the almanac, however. one defense witness, Charles Parker, M.D., provided crucial medical testimony, and Lincoln delivered a powerful closing argument. After reviewing the case, he recalled how Armstrong's parents had taken him into their home when he was poor and friendless. At least one prosecuting attorney credited Lincoln's emotional summation with Armstrong's acquittal.

Historians and scholars

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have long argued about what proved to be the decisive factor---the almanac, the summation, expert testimony---in Duff Armstrong's acquittal. However, there is nearly unanimous agreement that the trial allowed Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate his considerable skills, ranging from his masterful use of the legal system for his client's advantage to his brilliant oratorical prowess. Lincoln's brilliance as a lawyer that was so well demonstrated in Beardstown was but a prologue to his skill as the nation's leader.

Matters more prosaic than the "Almanac" trial brought Abraham Lincoln to Beardstown's Cass County Courthouse many times. For instance, Lincoln defended Charles Reynolds in a rent dispute, represented Jonathan Gill in a divorce case, and sued the Illinois River and Peoria and Hannibal railroads on behalf of local railroad promoter Charles Sprague. This type of work provided Lincoln with an income, while helping bolster his reputation. Lincoln's attorney friend, Henry Dummer lived in Beardstown. Lincoln met Dummer when the young Lincoln borrowed law books for study from Demmer's Springfield firm. Lincoln succeeded Dummer as John T. Stuart's partner when Dummer moved to Beardstown. The two developed a close personal and professional relationship and corresponded after Lincoln was elected president. In 1864, Dummer attended the Republican Convention in Baltimore that

Cass County Courthouse image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Beverly Pfingsten, June 10, 2012
2. Cass County Courthouse
nominated Lincoln for a second term.
Erected by State of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency & Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Events. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is May 7, 1897.
Location. 40° 0.985′ N, 90° 26.039′ W. Marker is in Beardstown, Illinois, in Cass County. Marker is on West 3rd Street just west of South State Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Beardstown IL 62618, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. In Memory of Abraham Lincoln (a few steps from this marker); Site of Abraham Lincoln's Speech (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln the Candidate (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Lincoln Photograph (about 600 feet away); Lincoln in Beardstown (about 600 feet away); Traveling to Beardstown (about 700 feet away); Lincoln and the River (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lincoln and Blackhawk (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Beardstown.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 9, 2019. It was originally submitted on July 26, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 571 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 26, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.

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Jun. 5, 2023