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Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency
Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency
Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency
Ebook377 pages9 hours

Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



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The award-winning, New York Times–bestselling chronicle of the sensational murder trial that would be the capstone of Lincoln’s legal career.

In the summer of 1859, twenty-two-year-old “Peachy” Quinn Harrison went on trial for murder in Springfield, Illinois. When Harrison’s father hired Abraham Lincoln to defend him, the case took on momentous meaning. Lincoln’s debates with Senator Stephen Douglas the previous fall had transformed the little-known, self-taught lawyer into a respected politician of national prominence.

As Lincoln contemplated a dark-horse run for the presidency in 1860, this case involved great risk. A loss could diminish Lincoln’s untarnished reputation. But the case also posed painful personal challenges for Lincoln. The victim had been his friend and his mentor. The accused killer, whom Lincoln would defend, was the son of a close friend and loyal supporter. And to win this trial he would have to form an unholy allegiance with a longtime enemy, a revivalist preacher he had twice run against for political office.

Lincoln’s Last Trial vividly captures Lincoln’s dramatic courtroom confrontations as he fights for his client—but also for his own blossoming political future. It is a moment in history that shines a light on our legal system, our history, and one of our greatest presidents.

A Winner of the Barondess/Lincoln Award
Release dateJun 5, 2018
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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    It would seem that at this late date there would be nothing new to say about the life of Abraham Lincoln, but of course that is not true as new information is discovered all the time which shines light on a heretofore unexplored aspect of this greatest, and most consequential, of Americans lives. That is why LINCOLN’S LAST TRIAL, by Dan Abrams and David Fisher, is so interesting, especially for those who can’t get enough of Lincoln. Based upon a firsthand meticulous record by professional stenographer Robert Roberts Hitt, the book is an account of an 1859 murder trial in Springfield, Illinois, which puts the spotlight on Lincoln the defense lawyer as few books ever have.The defendant in the trial was a young man named Peachy Quinn Harrison, the grandson of a revivalist preacher who had been a staunch political opponent of Lincoln’s, while the victim, Greek Grafton, studied law in Lincoln’s office. There had been something of a feud going between the families of the victim and the accused, and youthful passions, seem to have gotten the better of Greek, who made public threats against Peachy. A fateful encounter in a local store left Greek mortally wounded by Peachy’s knife. The latter, who was physically smaller than Greek, claimed self defense, but the law, at the very least, said it was manslaughter. It became a question for a jury to decide. Much of the drama came from the fact that everyone involved – the defense lawyers, the prosecutor, the judge, the members of the jury, the witnesses, the families of the victim and the accused – had all known each other for years, as Springfield was still very much a small town at the end of the 1850s. Though there is no Perry Mason moment, Abrams and Fisher weave a good tight courtroom drama thanks to the transcript Hitt left behind, which wasn’t discovered until 1989. The authors give us look at what life was like in America just before the Civil War, a time when the country was still dominated by small towns and farms, where communities were close knit, with strong ties to the land. The book is also short history lesson in American justice, and how our legal system developed. The other characters beside Lincoln are well rendered inside the pages, and we all but feel the heat of the late summer of 1859. The best thing the book does is give us a fuller picture of Lincoln the lawyer, and his talent as a communicator, which served him very well when summing up the case before the jury, just as it would serve him very well in the political arena. LINCOLN’S LAST CASE flows like a novel; that is because Abrams and Fisher fill in between the lines of Hitt’s transcript by giving us “deductions” as to what certain characters are doing or thinking at any given time. It’s a liberty the authors are entitled to take, but they do blur the line between fiction and non-fiction for many readers. They also claim that the trial is the case “that propelled” Lincoln to the Presidency. But they don’t back that up and it feels like hyperbole. Lincoln was fresh off his race for the Senate in Illinois the year before, where his debates with Stephen Douglas had already brought him national fame and attention. Lincoln was very much a dark horse candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination by the time the trial commenced. But those are trivial faults, as it is, Dan Abrams and David Fisher’s book is a must read for any Lincoln fan and American history buff.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    This book by lawyer Dan Abrams focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s last major trial as a working lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln’s client, “Peachy” Quinn Harrison, was accused of killing Greek Crafton in a fracas at a local Splringfield store. The story centers on the self defense laws at the time. The protagonist, strangely enough, is really not the two litigants in the trial; it’s the court reporter, Robert Roberts Hitt. Hitt, who went on to an illustrious career including several terms in Congress, proves to be a dogged recorder of the trial’s testimony. Hitt got the job based on his transcription of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which happened shortly before the trial. It’s easy to forget how import the role of the court reporter was in this age of audio and video record