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Circa 1845-1849 Abraham Lincoln Signed Legal Brief in Framed Display—Full JSA

Lot Number 1816

Quantity: Bid Starts: 07/21/2017 12:00:00 
Bid Open: 1500.00  Bid Ends: 08/04/2017 00:14:43 
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Abraham Lincoln, the lawyer, comes to light with this elegantly framed display housing a legal brief section written and signed by the man who went on to become the 16th POTUS and one of the greatest figures in American history. Authored by Lincoln (d.1865) this legal brief segment dates to the period 1845-1849, during which time he was partnered in a law practice with William Herndon.


This historically significant document is tied to the case of (Thomas) Lewis vs. (William) Lewis, two parties with coincidently the same surname, who are not related. “Thomas Lewis” is named prominently in the body of Lincoln’s writing. Dealing with a land purchase, this case was first tried in Illinois circuit court in 1845, with the decision going against Lincoln’s client. Lincoln appealed the case and it eventually led to his only appearance in trying a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which took place on March 7th and 8th, 1849.


Framed in gold gilt with stately blue matting and bronze accents to dimensions of 24x14, a 5x7 portrait photo of Lincoln and an approximately 7-3/4 x 1” section cut from a legal brief penned in Lincoln’s hand are elegantly displayed. This fifty-word written passage is signed by Lincoln precisely with the firm name “Lincoln & Herndon” with surnames only, showing deliberate (“8”) potency. Full photo LOA from JSA. More on our website.


A personal friend, who was described by Lincoln as a “studious young man”, Herndon was chosen to be part of the Springfield, IL. firm of Lincoln & Herndon to satisfy Lincoln’s desire to have a younger partner for the first time in his legal career. Up to that point Lincoln had been partners with older gentlemen who aspired to political office and this move put him in the position of having his name come first in the firm title. Lincoln and Herndon’s partnership is noted as having lasted from 1844-1852.


This legal brief segment positions as a very important part of Lincoln’s career. The passage begins with the words “And for further plea on the behalf”, giving rise to the reasonable belief that Lincoln wrote these words as part of the appeal process after the 1845 circuit court hearing. It is also possible Lincoln wrote this brief for the Supreme Court, but that determination is beyond the scope of your humble H&S staff.


The ornate frame is marked by a few small chips that are unobtrusive and it remains both very attractive and serviceable. The photo presents in excellent condition and the irregularly trimmed document section is clean and off-white in color with clearly discernible writing that reads in full as:


“And for further plea on the behalf, said defendants say actis now, because they say the said Thomas Lewis, at the time he assumed to assign said note, had not full power and authority, to make said assignment of this, the defendants put themselves upon the county, Lincoln & Herndon”.


The Supreme Court verdict went against Lincoln and his client, with majority opinion delivered by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who was often at odds with Lincoln. Ironically it was Taney who administered the presidential oath at Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration. Taney’s opinion and a dissenting opinion by Justice McLean can be found by following this link:




Frames included with lots: while we make every effort to protect the frames included in these lots during pre-auction storage and post-auction shipping, we are not responsible for any damage to the frames themselves, and no refunds will be given due to frame damage. 

Pictures  (Click on Photo to Enlarge)