Just having finished up Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams and David Fisher, I am struck by a couple of things. For one, Lincoln was a fine lawyer and a great man. For another, the right of self-defense is a tried and true principle of jurisprudence which endures through the ages.
When a larger man publicly threatens repeatedly to whip you with the help of his friends, then stomp your face, you can be forgiven for keeping a weapon on your person and being prepared to use it in defense of your person.
That is something of the lesson we should take away from the last murder trial Lincoln presided over as a defense attorney. And it is worth noting that Lincoln had something of a reputation for only taking up cases he believed in for clients he could in good conscience plead the case of.
I wonder in reading this how this last case impressed on the man who would be our nation’s 16th president the justice and necessity to defending with manly vigor life and limb when pressed, even as he came to wield in due time authority over a nation which faced an existential crisis. A class and culture of people in the South who would rather see the country torn in two than give up their superiority to some men they regarded as so many cattle.
Dare I say it, we either find ourselves in a similar predicament, or we may shortly.
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