Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency
The true story of Abraham Lincoln’s last murder trial, a case in which he had a deep personal involvement—and which played out in the nation’s newspapers as he began his presidential campaign
Hanover Square Press
On Sale: June 5, 2018
Hardcover / e-Book
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Non-Fiction History | True Crime
At the end of the summer of 1859, twenty-two-year-old
Peachy Quinn Harrison went on trial for murder in
Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln, who had been
involved in more than three thousand cases—including more
than twenty-five murder trials—during his two-decades-
long career, was hired to defend him. This was to be his
last great case as a lawyer.
What normally would have been a local case took on
momentous meaning. Lincoln’s debates with Senator Stephen
Douglas the previous fall had gained him a national
following, transforming the little-known, self-taught
lawyer into a respected politician. He was being urged to
make a dark-horse run for the presidency in 1860. Taking
this case involved great risk. His reputation was
untarnished, but should he lose this trial, should
Harrison be convicted of murder, the spotlight now
focused so brightly on him might be dimmed. He had won
his most recent murder trial with a daring and dramatic
maneuver that had become a local legend, but another had
ended with his client dangling from the end of a rope.
The case posed painful personal challenges for Lincoln.
The murder victim had trained for the law in his office,
and Lincoln had been his friend and his mentor. His
accused killer, the young man Lincoln would defend, was
the son of a close friend and loyal supporter. And to win
this trial he would have to form an unholy allegiance
with a longtime enemy, a revivalist preacher he had twice
run against for political office—and who had bitterly
slandered Lincoln as an “infidel…too lacking in faith” to
Lincoln’s Last Trial captures the presidential hopeful’s
dramatic courtroom confrontations in vivid detail as he
fights for his client—but also for his own blossoming
political future. It is a moment in history that shines a
light on our legal system, as in this case Lincoln fought
a legal battle that remains incredibly relevant today.
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