A lawyer’s footrace

Lincoln was one of the busiest lawyers in central Illinois.  In his law career, he handled more than 5100 cases.  He also rode the 11,000 mile circuit around Illinois each spring and fall 16 years.  Each trip lasted ten weeks and the cases were many and varied.  He gained the nickname “Honest Abe” during this period in his life because of his fairness to clients and fellow lawyers.  It has been said that he gave as much attention to minor neighbor squabbles as he did to affairs of State.

Lincoln & Douglas in a presidential footrace
Published by J. Sage & Sons, 1860. From the Library of Congress.
Rival presidential nominees Lincoln and Douglas are matched in a footrace, in which Lincoln's long stride is a clear advantage.

He enjoyed the finer points of the law and his briefs were complete and all well written with an emphasis on precedent.  He was said to be a real threat during cross examination and closing arguments.  He never had trouble speaking and could always draw a crowd.  That made him a very successful politician, and he used his profession to reach the goal of service to his country as an elected official.  He gave his House divided speech as he was running for the US Senate in 1858 as a candidate for the new Republican Party.  He didn’t win that election, but in 1860 he was nominated for and won the Presidential race without ever giving a campaign speech.  He kept a close eye on the race, but left the campaign to the enthusiasm of the Republican party and they did not disappoint.  He was finally going to serve his country in the greatest way possible and he felt he was ready.  He would need to be.  The most difficult years of our  nation’s history were only months away.


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