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Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  432 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
The true story of Abraham Lincoln's last murder trial, a strange case in which he had a deep personal involvement--and which was played out in the nation's newspapers as he began his presidential campaign.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 m ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Hanover Square Press (first published June 1st 2018)
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Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Talk to the jury as though your client's fate depends on every word you utter. Forget that you have any one to fall back upon, and you will do justice to yourself and your client."
- Abraham Lincoln


There are many levels of biography and history. There are academic books, published by small academic presses. There are popular biographies, written by journalists, etc., that tend to follow a more narrative-style. Obviously, Dan Abram's short history of Abraham Lincoln's last murder trial fits the l
Nathan Albright
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge2017
[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Edelweiss/Hanover Square.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

The title of this book is not entirely accurate.  While this was the last sensational case that Lincoln handled as an attorney before his nomination for the presidency, he had a few smaller cases after this one finished in the summer of 1859.  Also, it is a bit of a stretch to say that this case propelled him to the presidency, although it could have done a lot of harm had he lost th
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating book this is. Reading like a novel, it reveals the history of a murder case in which Abraham Lincoln defended an accused young man in Springfield, Illinois, in 1859. Due to the great good fortune of a transcript of the trial being found in the 1980’s, we are able to follow the trial almost verbatim from that hot summer so long ago.

Before the development of stenography, verbatim transcripts of trials simply didn’t exist. We are lucky that Robert Hitt, a steno man who was known
The 2 star rating is more of an average than anything.

This book deserves at least 4.5 stars for presenting a legal case that is interesting enough on its own, let alone because it includes insights into Abraham Lincoln pre-presidency. I was quickly caught up in the case and kept reading out of a real desire to know how it would end. The authors balance the account of the trial with interesting asides about the history of the U.S. legal system, simultaneously revealing the characters of the peop
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a person who has never heard of Lincoln's last murder case, I found this book very informative. Not only Abe Lincoln was yet again proven to be a great leader but he had an amazing ability to win a case that was set for failure from the beginning.

For those who do not know the case, Peachy Quinn Harrison had stabbed Greek Crafton during a fight. Days earlier the two had another clash during town's gathering and both made treats against each other. The night of the horrific incident, Peachy pul
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-adult
I read this from an ARC from the publisher, not the final sales edition.
This work of narrative non-fiction is very readable, but has a bibliography that made me wonder a bit. About half of the sources listed are internet versions of things, some of which are merely online versions of books, but others are articles which, themselves, would have to be checked for veracity.
In any case, what the two authors have done is take the facts of a real murder trial, and using various sources, turn it into a
Just when you thought there was not another angle to find to write a new Lincoln book, here is a book that looks at the last major trial Lincoln was involved with as a lawyer before he became President. The story tries to work like a novel and uses transcriptions from the trial in an attempt to do that.

The trial itself is a self-defense/murder trail so there is never any mystery other than whether or not the accused will be found not-guilty by reason of self-defense. The story itself was not all
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best Non Fiction Book of 2018 (for me)
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I received a free digital copy of this text via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fantastic read, full review to come.


See my full review here:

Lincoln's Last Trial is an account of the 1859 trial of Simeon Quinn "Peachy" Harrison whom Lincoln successfully defended against the charge of murder in the stabbing death of Greek Crafton. While this was not technically Lincoln's last trial, it was his last murder trial. An although it is a stretch to say that the trial propelled him to the presidency, it is fair to say that it was a very high profile trial and the visibility and winning the case did not hurt his public standing.

Author Dan Abr
Lincoln's Last Trial is a well-written, compelling telling of Lincoln's last major case (a murder trial) prior to his election as the 16th President. Told through the point of view of Robert Hitt, scribe to the trial, whose handwritten manuscript of the trial discovered in 1989 is the basis of the book, we learn how well-respected Lincoln was as a lawyer and a man. His decades long law practice had spread his reputation far and wide in Illinois, and the recent Lincoln-Douglas debates had put him ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so much fun to read that I zipped through it in a day. The story of Abraham Lincoln's last major trial before securing the nomination for president and the office itself, it not only brings Lincoln's skill as a criminal trial lawyer to life, it's also an interesting story in and of itself of a terribly poignant fight and killing between two young Springfield area men who were often friends.

To make it all the more fascinating, the dead man was a youth who had studied law under Linc
Barbara Heerman
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
The murder trial described in the book is an interesting case. We don't learn much about the accused; we learn a lot about the victim. The writing style is stilted, lessening this reader's interest. Although a long bibliography is presented, and they assert that every fact is checked, I am wondering how the authors knew that the judge wore only his undergarments under his robe. They do a lot to discuss the state of jurisprudence in IL and nation in the 1850s, but some of the discussions seem lik ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, lincoln
*Disclaimer: I received my copy of this book after winning a free giveaway here on Goodreads.*
As someone who is deeply fascinated by and interested in Abraham Lincoln, I was so excited to read this book. Lincoln's law career has been the subject of relatively little scholarly examination, at least in comparison to his presidency. And while this discrepancy is certainly understandable, I was thrilled to read an in-depth look at his last trial. Overall, this book is quite good - the authors do a
Chaim Shapiro
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is well written and it is an enjoyable read. Abrams chose to tell the story from the perspective of the trail stenographer, Rober Hitt, which brought an interesting perspective.

At one point in the book, Abrams noted that the stenographers were taught to be careful not to falsely attribute quotations in their notes. Abrams should have followed that advice himself.

For some reason, Abrams created dialogue and quotations throughout the book. That was completely unnecessary and made me que
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
A competent and interesting history that does a good job with the legal concepts involved. The writing is adequate, but fails to deliver on portraying the brilliance of Lincoln in the courtroom or the importance of the case in Lincoln's political career. Lincoln's courtroom brilliance is legendary, but none of the anecdotes recounted reflect that brilliance. As a veteran of criminal jury trials, I can say that many of of tactics, questions, and arguments retold do show Lincoln to be skilled and ...more
Jo Wilkinson
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Let me preface this by saying I'm a stenographer or court reporter, and this book is told from the perspective of Lincoln's "steno man," Robert Roberts Hitt. This profiles Lincoln's last trial, a murder trial in Springfield, Illinois. By this time, there's presidential interest in Abe, so there's that pressure. Plus he's well acquainted with both the victim and the defendant. I thoroughly enjoyed the trial strategy and the realization that Lincoln was such a gifted lawyer, able to move the juror ...more
As an attorney, I enjoy reading about cases (as long as they're not in textbooks), especially those few that find their way to jury trials. Because I don't see that sort of action myself, it opens up a whole new world to me. And this book certainly did that in an interesting way, by highlighting the ways in which trials worked differently in the past than they do now. While the subject matter was engaging, the style just wasn't for me. The imagined conversations between different characters and ...more
Roger Taylor
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
An extremely enjoyable study of the last trial of Abe Lincoln's legal career in which he defended Quincy Harrison, who was charged with murdering Greek Crafton after a bitter conflict. The skills and great intelligence which Lincoln demonstrated as President were fully on display in his brilliant defense in a case where the prosecution seemed to have an air tight case. What is so remarkable about this book is that much of the information was obtained from the transcripts which had been recorded ...more
Ashley Davidson
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don’t read a lot of non fiction but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lincoln’s life as an attorney. The book used the trial transcripts and notes from a court reporter, which was a new concept in 1859. This specific steno-man also transcribed the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates in the months prior to the trial, which helped shine a spotlight on the eloquent Springfield attorney in the years prior to his run for President. Keep in mind this book was written by an attorney, and there are a few ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book about my favorite President!!!! This book really focuses on how determined and passionate Lincoln was in everything he did and I am just an awe at how amazing and fascinating he was. We need more presidents like him and Washington! On a recent visit at Washington's Mount Vernon, one of the speakers asked, "Do you know why Washington is a favorite president? Because he never lied to the people." Powerful sentence and I believe that although Lincoln played the field of politics, he al ...more
Patrick Macke
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
We tend to think of Lincoln the statesman, the emancipator, this book stands out because it provides a compelling look at Lincoln the lawyer, Lincoln the actor and Lincoln as a master communicator ... Lincoln spent many more years lawyering than anything else and his accomplishments, style and reputation in this arena are a revelation ... But the best thing about this book (aside from showcasing the lesser-known sides of Lincoln) is that it is told from the perspective of the court stenographer ...more
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Using the frame of Lincoln's last major courtroom appearance before he became president, Abrams gives insight not only into the future president, but also the milieu of "western" America in the 1850s and the development of the American legal system. The minute by minute tension of Lincoln's defense of the accused keeps suspense high in this excellent non-fiction title. My only criticism is Abrams hints at Lincoln's personal life but never rounds out those comments. But that's minor; I highly rec ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A most satisfying and intriguing book. I can not believe a NETFLIX series has not been created to focus on all of Lincoln's work as a lawyer. We so think of him as our 16th President and are clueless about the 20 years he spent as a lawyer. Hundreds of cases, many surprising arguments at the US Supreme Court as well as 20+ murder cases. And the case in this book is fascinating as it is his last. In addition it is told through the eyes of a "court reporter" which was a fledgling career at the tim ...more
Angela R.
While I have long stated that I am an admirer of Lincoln, I have to say it was difficult to read this book. The idea of reading about Lincoln as a lawyer was intriguing; however, I wasn't as drawn in as I had hoped. I co-worker and I were both reading this as part of our "reclusive book club" and we agreed it was just hard to get through. I did keep going and I am not sorry that I did, but I felt like I was doing a school project.
Michael Murphy
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Better Fourth

Living in the next county over from the Lincoln farm where A. Lincoln grew up, of course, I am at the ready for any seemingly false citing of his good name. In the outline drawn on the ground of the once standing cabin I could still imagine the hardships that someway developed the character of this man.
This carefully researched story documents that fine character.
Ted Lehmann
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An account of Abraham Lincoln's defense of Peachy Quinn Harrison, who was tried for murder in 1859, just as Lincoln was being widely mentioned as a candidate for the Presidency in 1860. The trial was dangerous for Lincoln in that he was fighting for a man who killed another man, while risking his growing popularity in a, perhaps, unpopular trial. The books reads like a novel. More coming in a few days, as I pull together my thinking.
Jim Ogle
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No American has been the subject of more scholarship or books over the years as Abraham Lincoln. I have read many of these books. Still, I missed this story of Lincoln in transition. Even as he represented this defendant, others were promoting him as a dark horse Presidential candidate. Abrams excellent scholarship gives us a “slice of life” of Lawyer Lincoln on the verge of becoming our Historical Lincoln. This book shares a facet of life about him that illuminates his skills and character.
Rick Hollis
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. I had know idea there were stenographers in 1860. Lincoln hired a man to make a transcript of what turned out to be his last major trial as a lawyer. Abrams fills in between the actual courtroom spoken words with things that must have come from others or the stenographer's recollections. Especially for the time between the the hours spent in the courtroom.

It puts it together into a very readable book where we hear Lincolns actual courtroom words.
Rob Banks
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book and read it fairly quickly. I had an advance copy from Edelweiss plus. It reads well as it basically follows a transcript of the trial with historical and contemporary detail that fill out the context of the trial. I thought it gave an insight into the style of Lincoln that was a part of his presidency as well as a lawyer. I recommend the book to anyone interested in Lincoln, trials and history.
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Dan Abrams is an attorney, author, Legal Analyst for ABC News, and substitute anchor for Good Morning America.

Early Years
Before joining NBC News, Dan worked as a reporter for Court TV where he became well known for his coverage of the OJ Simpson case. He covered most of the high profile trials of that decade including the International War Crimes Tribunal from The Netherlands, and the assisted-sui
More about Dan Abrams
“At times he became so entangled in his thoughts that he completely forgot his destination. He wandered, but used the time well.” 0 likes
“In 1832, in Lincoln’s first attempt to win public office, the good Reverend Cartwright had defeated him for a seat in the Illinois state legislature. They met a second time in the congressional election of 1846, an especially nasty campaign. Running as a Whig, Lincoln objected strongly to Cartwright’s insistence on bringing his religion into the public square. The Democrat Cartwright responded by tarring Lincoln as “an infidel,” a man unfit to represent good Christians. Lincoln had won that election, and neither of the men had seen fit to apologize.” 0 likes
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