Page images

the hands of some one else.” “The evidence bore heavily upon his client,” says Mr. Shaw, one of the counsel for the prosecution. “There were many witnesses, and each one seemed to add one more cord that seemed to bind him down, until Mr. Lincoln was something in the situation of Gulliver after his first sleep in Lilliput. But, when he came to talk to the jury (that was always his forte), he resembled Gulliver again. He skilfully untied here and there a knot, and loosened here and there a peg, until, fairly getting warmed up, he raised himself in his full power, and shook the arguments of his opponents from him as if they were cobwebs.” In due time he called for the almanac, and easily proved by it, that, at the time the main witness declared the moon was shining in great splendor, there was, in fact, no moon at all, but black darkness over the whole scene. In the 66

In the “ roar of laughter" and undisguised astonishment succeeding this apparent demonstration, court, jury, and counsel forgot to examine that seemingly conclusive almanac, and let it pass without a question concerning its genuineness.

In conclusion, Mr. Lincoln drew a touching picture of Jack Armstrong (whose gentle spirit alas ! had gone to that place of coronation for the meek), and Hannah, this sweet-faced old lady with the silver locks, — welcoming to their humble cabin a strange and penniless boy, to whom Jack, with that Christian benevolence which distinguished him through life, became as a father, and the guileless Hannah even more than a mother. The boy, he said, stood before them pleading for the life of his benefactors' son, -- the staff of the widow's declining years.

1 Mr. E.J. Loomis, assistant in charge of the “Nautical Almanac" office, Washington, D.C., under date of Aug. 1, 1871, says,

“ Referring to the ‘Nautical Almanac' for 1857, I find, that, between the hours of ten and eleven o'clock on the night of the 29th of August, 1857, the moon was within one hour of setting.

“The computed time of its setting on that night is 11 h. 57 m., three minutes before midnight.

“ The moon was only two days past its first quarter, and could hardly be mistaken for nearly full." »

“In the case of the People vs. Armstrong, I was assisting prosecuting counsel. The prevailing belief at that time, and I may also say at the present, in Cass County, was as follows:

“Mr. Lincoln, previous to the trial, handed an almanac of the year previous to the murder to an officer of the court, stating that he might call for one during the trial, and, if he did, to send him that one. An important witness for the People had fixed the time of the murder to be in the night, near a camp-meeting; "that the moon was about in the same place that the sun would be at ten o'clock in the morning, and was nearly full,'therefore he could see plainly, &c. At the proper time, Mr. Lincoln called to the officer for an almanac; and the one prepared for the occasion was shown by Mr. Lincoln, he reading from it at the time referred to by the witness ‘The moon had already set;' that in the roar of laugh. ter the jury and opposing counsel forgot to the date. Mr. Carter, a lawyer of this

“ The last fifteen minutes of his speech," his colleague declares, “was as eloquent as I ever heard ; and such the power and earnestness with which he spoke to that jury, that all sat as if entranced, and, when he was through, found relief in a gush of tears." " He took the jury by storm,” says one of the prosecutors. 66 There were tears in Mr. Lincoln's eyes while he spoke, but they were genuine. His sympathies were fully enlisted in favor of the young man, and his terrible sincerity could not help but arouse the same passion in the jury. I have said a hundred times that it was Lincoln's speech that saved that criminal from the gallows.” In the language of Hannah, who sat by enchanted, “ he told the stories about our first acquaintance, - what I did for him, and how I did it;" and she thinks it " was truly eloquent.”

"As to the trial," continues Hannah, “Lincoln said to me, Hannah, your son will be cleared before sundown.' He and the other lawyers addressed the jury, and closed the case. I went down at Thompson's pasture : Stator came to me, and told me soon that my son was cleared and a free man. I went up to the Court House: the jury shook hands with me, so did the Court, so did Lincoln. We were all affected, and tears. streamed down Lincoln's eyes. He then remarked to me, · Hannah, what did I tell you? I pray to God that William may be a good boy hereafter; that this lesson may prove in the end a good lesson to him and to all.' After the trial was over, Lincoln came down to where I was in Beardstown. I asked him what he charged me; told him I was poor. He said, "Why, Hannah, I sha'n't charge you a cent, - never. Any thing I can do for you I will do for you willing and freely without charges.' He wrote to me about some land which some men were trying to get from me, and said, “ Hannah, they can't get your land. Let them try it in the Circuit Court, and then you appeal it; bring it to Supreme Court, and I and Herndon will attend to it for nothing.'"

city (Beardstown), who was present at, but not engaged in, the Armstrong case, says he is satisfied that the almanac was of the year previous, and thinks he examined it at the time. This was the general impression in the court-room. I have called on the sheriff who offici. ated at that time (James A. Dick), who says that he saw a'Goudy's Almanac' lying upon Mr. Lincoln's table during the trial, and that Mr. Lincoln took it out of his own pocket. Mr. Dick does not know the date of it. I have seen several of the petit jurymen who sat upon the case, who only recollect that the almanac floored the witness. But one of the jurymen, the foreman, Mr. Milton Logan, says that it was the one for the year of the mur. der, and no trick about it; that he is willing to make an affidavit that he examined it as to date, and that it was an almanac of the year of the murder. My own opinion is, that when an almanac was called for by Mr. Lincoln, two were brought, one of the year of the mur. der, and one of the year previous; that Mr. Lincoln was entirely innocent of any deception in the matter. I the more think this, from the fact that Armstrong was not cleared by any want of testimony against him, but by the irresistible appeal of Mr. Lincoln in his favor.” HENRY SHAW.

This boy William enlisted in the Union ariay. But in 1863 Hannah concluded she "wanted" him. She does not say that William was laboring under any disability, or that he had any legal right to his discharge. She merely " wanted” him, and wrote Mr. Lincoln to that effect. He replied promptly by telegraph:

SEPTEMBER, 1863. MRS. HANNAH ARMSTRONG, --I have just ordered the discharge of your boy William, as you say, now at Louisville, Ky.



For many years Mr. Lincoln was the attorney of the Illinois Central Railway Company; and, having rendered in some recent causes most important and laborious services, he presented a bill in 1857 for five thousand dollars. He pressed for his money, and was referred to some under-official who was charged with that class of business. Mr. Lincoln would probably have modified his bill, which seemed exorbitant as charges went among country lawyers, but the company treated him with such rude insolence, that he contented himself with a formal demand, and then immediately instituted suit on the claim. The case was tried at Bloomington before Judge Davis; and, upon affidavits of N. B. Judd, O. H.

Browning, S. T. Logan, and Archy Williams, respecting the value of the services, was decided in favor of the plaintiff, and judgment given for five thousand dollars. This was much more money than Mr. Lincoln had ever had at one time.

In the summer of 1859 Mr. Lincoln went to Cincinnati to argue the celebrated McCormick reaping-machine case. Mr. Edwin M. Stanton, whom he never saw before, was one of his colleagues, and the leading counsel in the case; and although the other gentlemen engaged received him with proper respect, Mr. Stanton treated him with such marked and habitual discourtesy, that he was compelled to withdraw from the case. When he reached home he said that he had “never been so brutally treated as by that man Stanton ; and the facts justified the statement.

« PreviousContinue »