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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Abraham Lincoln and the Law

Lincoln wrote, in a draft of a speech dated 1859:

          "The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done.
           Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser--in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.
          Resolve to be honest at all events, and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation rather than one on the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave."

          Lincoln was a forceful advocate for causes he believed in, but he would no doubt be surprised, and dismayed, by the ease and frequency with which Americans resort to litigation to resolve disputes.

(Source: The Essential Lincoln--Speeches and Correspondence; Edited by Orville Vernon Burton; Hill and Wang, 2009)