Friday, April 25, 2014


When Lincoln was still a young lawyer he defended a man named Spencer Turner on a charge of murder in DeWitt County, Illinois. Oddly enough, Lincoln's co-counsel on that case was Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas insisted that he be paid in cash. According to legend, Turner gave Lincoln a worthless horse in payment for attorney's fees. What actually happened is a little less colorful. Lincoln took a promissory note for $200.00.

Turner was acquitted in a speedy trial. (He was indicted in April of 1840 and tried in May of 1840). When Lincoln came to collect on the promissory note, he ran into problems. Turner, who was 20 at the time of the trial, claimed that since he was a "child," he could not legally enter into a contract, therefore the promissory note was null and void and unenforceable. This did not sit well with Lincoln. He sued.

Lincoln filed a complaint against Turner in DeWitt County Circuit Court in 1841, and the suit dragged on for the next six years with numerous court hearings. Lincoln finally got a judgment against his former client in 1847 and had the sheriff levy execution on some land owned by Turner. All of which goes to show that if you were Abraham Lincoln's client, you didn't want to stiff him for his legal fees. He would be tenacious in his attempts to collect.

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