“Not for all you are worth,” replied Lincoln. “You must remember that some things which are legally right are not morally right. I shall not take your case.”

“I don’t care a snap whether you do or not,” angrily replied the man, starting to go; “there are other lawyers in the State.”

“I’ll give you a piece of advice without charge,” added Lincoln. “You seem to be a sprightly, energetic man. I would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars some other way.”

One afternoon an old coloured woman came into the office of Lincoln and Herndon1

to tell her sad story. She was once the slave of one Hinkle in Kentucky, who brought herself and children into Illinois, and made them free. Her son had gone down to New Orleans on a steamer, and very imprudently went ashore, when the police arrested him, under State law that authorized the seizure and sale of free negroes from other States; and he would be sold back into slavery unless immediately redeemed. Lincoln’s sympathetic nature was deeply stirred, and his indignation was also aroused.

“Run over to the State House and ask Governor Bissell if something cannot be done to obtain possession of the negro,” he said to Mr. Herndon.

The inquiry was soon made, and Herndon returned to say, “The governor says that he has no legal or constitutional right to do anything in the premises.”

Lincoln was thoroughly aroused by this feature of inhumanity which the legal status disclosed, and starting to his feet, and raising his long right arm heavenward, he exclaimed,—

“By the Almighty’s help I’ll have the negro back soon, or I’ll have a twenty years’ agitation in Illinois, until the governor does have a legal and constitutional right to do something in the premises.”

He and his partner immediately sent money of their own to a New Orleans correspondent, who procured the negro and returned him to his mother.

A person applied to Colonel E. D. Baker, who afterwards became United States Senator from Oregon, for aid in behalf of a fugitive slave.

“I’m sorry that I cannot serve you,” Colonel Baker replied; “I should be glad to help the fugitive, but, as a political man, I cannot afford it.”

The applicant then sought the advice of an ardent anti-slavery friend, who said:—

“Go to Lincoln; he’s not afraid of an unpopular case. When I go for a lawyer to defend an arrested fugitive slave other lawyers will refuse me, but if Mr. Lincoln is at home, he will always take my case.”

Judge Treat furnishes the following:—

“A case being called for hearing in the court, Mr. Lincoln stated that he appeared for the appellant, and was ready to proceed with the argument. He then said: ‘This is the first case I ever had in this court” [it was just after he was admitted to practice in the Circuit Court of the United States, December 3rd, 1839], “and I have therefore examined it with great care. As the court will perceive, by looking at the abstract of the record, the only question in the case is one of authority. I have not been able to find any authority to sustain my side of the case, but I have found several cases directly in point on the other side. I will now give these cases, and then submit the case.’ ”

One lawyer, who could not understand that the true purpose of a court is to “establish justice,” remarked, “The fellow is crazy.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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