2013 Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society.
In the antebellum Midwest, Americans looked to the law, and specifically to the jury, to navigate the uncertain terrain of a rapidly changing society. During this formative era of American law, the jury served as the most visible connector between law and society. Through an analysis of the composition of grand and trial juries and an examination of their courtroom experiences, Stacy Pratt McDermott demonstrates how central the law was for people who lived in Abraham Lincoln’s America.
McDermott focuses on the status of the jury as a democratic institution as well as on the status of those who served as jurors. According to the 1860 census, the juries in Springfield and Sangamon County, Illinois, comprised an ethnically and racially diverse population of settlers from northern and southern states, representing both urban and rural mid-nineteenth-century America. It was in these counties that Lincoln developed his law practice, handling more than 5,200 cases in a legal career that spanned nearly twenty-five years.
Drawing from a rich collection of legal records, docket books, county histories, and surviving newspapers, McDermott reveals the enormous power jurors wielded over the litigants and the character of their communities.
Lincoln's America: 1809 - 1865
Edited by Joseph R. Fornieri and Sara Vaughn Gabbard Southern Illinois University Press, 2016 Library of Congress E457.2.L838 2008 | Dewey Decimal 973.7092
To fully understand and appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s legacy, it is important to examine the society that influenced the life, character, and leadership of the man who would become the Great Emancipator. Editors Joseph R. Fornieri and Sara Vaughn Gabbard have done just that in Lincoln’s America: 1809–1865, a collection of original essays by ten eminent historians that place Lincoln within his nineteenth-century cultural context.
Among the topics explored in Lincoln’s America are religion, education, middle-class family life, the antislavery movement, politics, and law. Of particular interest are the transition of American intellectual and philosophical thought from the Enlightenment to Romanticism and the influence of this evolution on Lincoln's own ideas.
By examining aspects of Lincoln’s life—his personal piety in comparison with the beliefs of his contemporaries, his success in self-schooling when frontier youths had limited opportunities for a formal education, his marriage and home life in Springfield, and his legal career—in light of broader cultural contexts such as the development of democracy, the growth of visual arts, the question of slaves as property, and French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations on America, the contributors delve into the mythical Lincoln of folklore and discover a developing political mind and a changing nation.
As Lincoln’s America shows, the sociopolitical culture of nineteenth-century America was instrumental in shaping Lincoln’s character and leadership. The essays in this volume paint a vivid picture of a young nation and its sixteenth president, arguably its greatest leader.