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other Whig judges having thus been ousted, Douglas himself and other Democrats were appointed to the newly constituted bench.
As a lawyer, Lincoln was always inclined to enter heartily into the cause of one whom he believed to be wronged, yet lacking means to secure legal redress on ordinary terms. Many cases which brought him little or no pecuniary return, afforded him more than compensating satisfaction in having protected the weak against tyrannous injustice. One instance was that of a poor widow, of whose pension arrears a greedy attorney had kept quite an undue share. When her case was stated to Lincoln, he not only interested himself in her behalf, but became indignant, and secured prompt retribution without legal process or fee. He was occasionally the attorney for a negro defendant whose freedom was in question, though at the risk of prejudice to his political standing. Without resorting to the courts, he secured the release of a free negro of Illinois, who had landed from a steamer in New Orleans in violation of a local law, and was to have been sold for want of means to pay his fine. Lincoln raised the needed money, himself a contributor, choosing an immediate practical remedy without delaying justice by inflammatory talk. He was retained in a suit brought in Tazewell County in 1839 to enforce payment of a promissory note given in payment for a negro woman named Nance — a relic of the “vested rights” of certain French slaveholders before the Louisiana Purchase — the parties in court being residents of Illinois. Lincoln was counsel for the defendant; and judgment having been rendered for the plaintiff, an appeal was taken to the Illinois Supreme Court. Before that tribunal he argued the case in 1841, maintaining that the contract was void for lack of consideration; that under the ordinance of 1789 and the Constitution of Illinois adopted in 1818, slavery had no lawful standing; and that Nance being legally a free woman, could not be the subject of a sale. His contention was sustained by the court, and the question as to slavery in Illinois was settled. *
He sometimes defended an alleged fugitive slave, but did not refuse to act as counsel for a Kentuckian seeking to reclaim certain slaves he had voluntarily brought into Illinois for temporary employment. His client, one Matteson, of Bourbon County, had put some of his slaves at work on a farm in Coles County, Illinois. It appears that these servants would have been willing to return to Kentucky when required by their master, but for philanthropic intervention through an appeal to the local court. It can hardly be supposed that Lincoln was at all disappointed in losing his case. It is a relief, however, to have so good a proof — after all that has been told to the contrary — that he had no invincible objection to a good client with a bad cause.
At Danville, in Vermillion County, which borders on Indiana, he had a case in 1842, in which John J. Brown, his client, was the plaintiff, and Mr. Juneau, of Milwaukee, was the defendant, whose attorney was John P. Usher, twenty years later Secretary of the Interior Department. It was a complicated case, growing out of a speculative transaction. Lincoln gained the suit not only in this first trial, but afterward on appeal to
* Notwithstanding, it was later alleged by Douglas, in debate, that Illinois had been a slave state.
the Supreme Court. Mr. Usher, who here met him for the first time and knew him well thenceforward, said of his manner of addressing a jury, that his voice was so smooth and attractive as never to become wearisome; that in posture and gesture he was not graceful or always dignified — sometimes placing one foot in a chair, or leaning on the back of one, sometimes standing with his arms akimbo; but that he never failed of being listened to with close attention and lively interest from the beginning to the end of his argument.
During his last term in the Legislature, Lincoln was for some time in a state of serious mental depression. As told by his friend Speed:
In the winter of 1841 a gloom came over him till his friends were alarmed for his life. ... In his deepest gloom, and when I told him he would die unless he rallied, he said: “I am not afraid, and would be more than willing. But I have an irrepressible desire to live till I can be assured that the world is a little better for my having lived in it.” ... In the early summer of 1841 Mr. Lincoln came to Kentucky and spent several months at Farmington, the home of my mother, near this city (Louisville).
He returned from this visit with restored health, and resumed his professional business in September. There was nothing really dangerous in these moods, as the event always proved — for this was neither the first nor the last of his experiences of like sort. One cause may be readily discerned by those who know the effects of such a persistent malarious influence as he had always been exposed to. He was subject to glooms of the darkest blue, but without entirely losing self-control when they were at the worst. To Mr. Speed, who was himself given to like depressions, he later suggested that it was only necessary to bear in mind that he would soon be well again, to retain his balance, and to live down the trouble. Those who knew him best were aware that what he specially needed at such a time was genial companionship, and that nothing would more quickly and completely dispel the mists than social sunshine. Once before, in one of his darkest periods, this treatment had been successfully tried at New Salem.
Plainly, his outlook for the future was not at this time such as to inspire cheerfulness. He had been three or four years at Springfield, gaining ground, to be sure, but not receiving an ample income. Major Stuart had taken his seat in Congress, and in April (1841) their partnership was to end. It must be remembered, too, that sedentary life could not but unfavorably affect one hitherto wont to be much out of doors and to give vigorous exercise to his robust physical powers. There was otherwise a great contrast between the life led here and that almost wild freedom enjoyed in the little Salem hamlet. He had at once passed into a greatly different state of society. Now, too, he was at an age (past thirty) when to many minds the world begins to wear its most serious aspect, and when disappointment over youthful dreams unrealized quite eclipses the satisfaction of partial success and dims the light of sanguine hope.
Sensitiveness and modesty were as native to him as bold strength and courage — a seeming paradox, but a truth to be remembered in trying to comprehend a character so unique. Two significant incidents of about this date may be taken as rather an illustration than a digression. The exciting political canvass of 1840 had come to the final issue at the polls. On the line of railway then in construction, near by, there was a large gang of laborers, mostly of the “alien” class, whose right to vote had been denied, but sustained by the new Supreme Court organized under the “Douglas bill.” The contractor who employed them was an ardent Democrat, and on election day it came to the ears of Lincoln that he had marched up his battalion of voters and taken possession of one of the polling places. It was not a question now whether these men should be allowed to vote; but that they should refuse honest voters access to the ballot-box was not to be borne with resignation. With true Berserker rage he hurried to the scene, faced the offenders, and — without need of blows — drove back the riotous crowd. From the statements of Mr. Speed, who gave the substance of this account from his own knowledge, it appears that Lincoln started, cudgel in hand, under an impulse to clear the way to the polls by force.
The other ancident also rests on the authority of Mr. Speed. One day Lincoln, Baker, Hardin, Speed and others were riding on horseback along the road, two-and-two, some distance from Springfield. In passing a thicket of wild plum and crab apple trees, Lincoln and Hardin being in the rear, the former discovered by the roadside two young birds not old enough to fly. They had been shaken from their nest by a recent gale. “ The old bird,” said Mr. Speed, “was fluttering about and wailing as a mother ever does for her babes. Lincoln stopped, hitched his horse, caught the birds, hunted the nest, and placed them in it. The rest of us rode on