Lincoln the Lawyer
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 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
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 nominated Lincoln for a second term.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
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.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Beardstown Women's Club (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); Captain Abraham Lincoln (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Beardstown.
Categories. • Notable Events •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 26, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 418 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 26, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.