February 12, 2011
Foner, Eric, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (New York: Norton, 2010) (See James M. McPherson, "The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln," New York Review of Books, November 25, 2010/Volume LVII,Number 18, at 10; and David S. Reynolds, "Learning to Be Lincoln," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/2/2010.).
White, Ronald C., Jr., A. Lincoln: Biography (New York: Random House, 2009) ("The law had changed a great deal in the twelve years since Lincoln began practicing with Stuart in the spring of 1837. Formality in the courtroom began to replace the informality that had reigned during the 1830s and '40s. Legal precedent had become ascendant over argument. Spontaneous oratory, for the most part, had been replaced by careful preparation and presentation. Instead of the clear meaning of the law applying to all cases, now complex meaning of the law applied to specific cases." "A popular saying in Lincoln's day was that the Bible, Shakespeare, and Blackstone's Commentaries made up the foundation of any well-stocked legal library. The best lawyers in the first half of the nineteenth century were typically well versed in both literature and law. After the Civil War, the trajectory of law would point to professional training and specialization. From this perspective, some observers described pre-Civil War lawyers as wanting in their preparation, but from another point of view we can see that they approached law from the established traditions of Western literature and religion. One can find frequent descriptions of lawyers' eloquence in the pre-War courtroom, where literary and rhetorical expression had a high value. As for Lincoln, his growing eloquence sprang not from a knowledge of legal precedent, but from his familiarity with the classic resources of the Bible, works of history and biography, and literature, especially Shakespeare." Id. at 170-171. It is unfortunate that the 'professionalizing' of law has resulted in a decline in lawyers being well-grounded in the traditions of Western literature. It is amazing how poorly read lawyers are. Also see, William Safire, "Lincoln Monuments: A Review of New Lincoln Books, NYT Book Review, Sunday, 2/8/2009.).