Friday, July 17, 2009

Reece Reviews the Lincoln Legals

H-Law has posted a review of Daniel W. Stowell, ed., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 4 vols. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008) by Lewie Reece, Anderson College. In part, Reece writes:
For many years, Lincoln’s law practice was so bound up with the romanticized image that it was hard to approach, in a sustained way, Lincoln as a practicing lawyer. When older historical studies examined Lincoln’s study of law it often became a tug of war between those examining Lincoln as a legal theorist and those who pursued a more anecdotal approach to Lincoln as he practiced on the circuit. Yet presenting a more analytical approach to Lincoln’s legal career was often difficult due to a lack of access to the relevant sources. Some were provided in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1951), edited by Roy Basler, but they were only a slight selection of a much larger legal correspondence that was largely buried in Illinois country archives. This deficiency was finally resolved by a massive publication of Lincoln's legal correspondence in 2000 of a three CD-ROM collection, The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition (2000), edited by Martha Benner and Cullom Davis. The last few years have also seen an expansion of interest in Lincoln’s legal career, with a very useful study of Lincoln’s years as a lawyer by Brian Dirck, Lincoln the Lawyer (2007). Dirck’s study was but part of a larger reexamination of Lincoln’s years as a practicing lawyer, and his legal career has been receiving renewed attention from a growing number of scholars.

While The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln was an exceptional work, it was no substitute for a letterpress edition that could put these documents into book form. . . .
The rest, here.