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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,491 Ratings  ·  235 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
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 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
Neile B
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book first grabbed my attention when I read that it was written from the original 1859 transcript that was found in the defendant’s great grandson’s garage, back in 1989. It seems crazy that such a valuable piece of history was simply in a shoebox.
22 yr old Simeon (Peachy) Quinn Harrison was accused of killing Greek Crafton in what he claimed was self defense. This was a high profile case that took place in Springfield Illinois and garnered much attention. Lincoln was already known for his
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, history, biography
“Ask yourself: what is the justice in this case?” A. Lincoln

Exhaustive review of a trial transcript with explanatory amplifications. By the authors’ own admission, Lincoln was already headed toward the presidency, and their work gives no indication how it “propelled him to the presidency,” rather how he dodged a bullet that could have killed his dark horse bid at the Republican nomination.

“I must say I do not think myself fit for the presidency.” A. Lincoln (1959)

Based on the recently recovered
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
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
You can see how this book was put together. The author did a prodigious amount of research to put this together. He had a good place to start. The trial in focus was one of the first in downstate Illinois that had a trial transcript. It wasn’t complete in our sense of modern court transcripts – the closing arguments weren’t captured – but the trial, with teams of lawyers on both sides, was captured in detail. The authors then researched the people involved in the trial, from the judge to the wit ...more
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
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was well-written if you like narrative non-fiction, and I did appreciate hearing more about the pre-Presidency Lincoln, but for the most part, this is just a blow-by-blow of a trial that happened over 150 years ago, with a lot of color commentary about how amazing Lincoln is.

I think, for the most part, real trials are pretty boring because they dissect in agonizing detail everything that happened in and around an event that could be described in about 5 minutes. There was some beef between
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
Angie Boyter
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have to call this a 4-, because of some flaws, but I enjoyed it tremendously. I love courtroom dramas, and this one was real! Plus it was Abraham Lincoln! It is well-told, sounding more like a novel than nonfiction, although there is lots of very interesting history woven in. I especially appreciated the legal history, e.g., I had no idea that in 1859 a defendant could NOT testify at his trial, because he could not be expected to tell the truth! This is a fascinating book, and it has fav ...more
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lincoln's Last Trial was my third Lincoln book this year, but like the others had its own purpose that provided a focus and insight on Lincoln that made it a worthy read. It's also a very easy read, written mostly like a novel, and can be read in just a few sittings. Lincoln tried 27 murder trials, mostly as a defense lawyer, and this book focuses on his last murder case, which he tried less than one year before being nominated as the Republican candidate for President in 1860.

A real strength of
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
An old transcript of a criminal trial found in an attic in 1989? Yes, please! Fascinating stuff, made even more so especially as hand written accounts were just coming into use in 1859 AND this one just happens to be of the last accused man defended by Lincoln before becoming president. I enjoyed the backstories of all the participants, the historical atmosphere, the slow evolution of the laws through time, and the language of the trial. Gotta love the self-effacing stories told to juries by Lin ...more
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
Kenneth Murray
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I liked this book. It is interesting to think that Robert Hitt’s transcript of the trial is used to provide an actual account by an eyewitness to the proceedings. The book provides a look at Lincoln’s life as a trial lawyer that I have not read much about before. It also shows us that court room proceedings were much different than what we are accustomed to. For instance the accused were not allowed to testify on their own behalf and also at different times attorneys acted as judges wit ...more
Sally Lindsay-briggs
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lincoln's Last Trial was a free book I received from the local library summer reading program. Other than the fact it was way too detailed and full of far too many words, I did learn much of our 1800's era law and so much about Lincoln. He was not only very respectful and honest, he was a gifted lawyer who often swayed the jury because he was able to relate and charm them with his sincerity. He genuinely cared about the way the law was interpreted. He often did not take clients if he believed th ...more
Kristi Thielen
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Fine but workmanlike book about Lincoln's last chief effort as a lawyer, before he is nominated for and wins the Presidency.

The author prefaces the book with an explanation that all within it can be substantiated either by court documents, media or personal records; this makes for an abundantly real piece of work but one that lacks the creative spark. Lawyers and those in the legal profession are likely to enjoy it more than a layman.

Still, the book provides not just a look at this trial, but
3.5 stars, rounded up. This was by turns brilliant and boring, sometimes engaging and sometimes not. I started to feel it was repetitive at about the half way point, but then it picked up steam and I really enjoyed the last hundred pages. If not for book group I likely would have abandoned it, so thank you, book group!
Eugenea Pollock
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: car-books
Here is a very small part of why I enjoyed this book: “...Hitt’s original transcript of the trial was...discovered in 1989 in a shoebox stored in the garage of the... defendant’s great-grandson.” (Hitt was the equivalent of the court reporter.)
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best Non Fiction Book of 2018 (for me)
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Decent overall - some parts I found really boring, but it was interesting take on Lincoln as a lawyer and the history of the criminal justice system.
Mina Wender
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Lincoln tale

Interesting view of the state of law in mid 1800s and the intersection of the lives of the main players thereafter. Bathe story is well told.
Lara Arcas
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is about the last case that Abraham Lincoln had to try before he decided to run for President. Its a very interesting read to learn about the person who transcribed the trial and whatvthe case was about. I like the fact that Dan Abrams write it as he gave a legal point ofnview towards the book which if it had been written by anyone else would not have had the same effect.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I selected this book with the understanding that it was history, but it turned out to be a novel.
Albeit an historical novel, but still a novel with more than 50% of the text made up by the author.
I gave up reading novels 15 years ago to concentrate on nonfiction in which I learned something that had actually occurred, mostly history or science where I learned something about reality.
I did read this whole book, however, because I am such a great fan of Lincoln and 15% of the book is really about
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:

Robert Gelms
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Only Honest Man in Illinois
By Bob Gelms
Abraham Lincoln is THE towering figure in American history. Nobody else comes close.
Everyone in America knows him as a politician, and a pretty good one at that. Everyone in American also knows that Abe Lincoln was a lawyer but most don’t know what he did as an attorney. For all they know, Mr. Lincoln wrote wills and handled divorces. Uh…well…he did do wills and divorces along with adoptions, trusts, and corporate documents. He was an all-purpose lawy
Porter Broyles
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I review books, I use 3 criteria:

1. How well written is it?

This book is well written and easy to read. It is just shy of 300 pages, but those are a quick 300 pages. The book is based off of an early stenographer's notes. Abrams' isn't really delving too much into extraneous history or theory, he's simply recounting the events of the court trial and supplementing those notes with other sources (newspaper reports).

2. How interesting is the subject?

This was Lincoln's last capital case. Anythin
David Kent
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This was an engaging book that will give people who are not Lincoln scholars some insight into his personality and legal prowess. It will reach a broad audience, and that is a good thing. For scholars, the book is enjoyable to read; it's fluid, light style making it one that can be quickly read. The case is one generally not discussed in much detail in more comprehensive books, so peaks the interest of those who know Lincoln.

Overall, the book is easy to read. That's both its greatest strength an
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
Zohar -
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
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Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case that Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams & David Fisher is a mini-biography of the 16th President’s last big trial before running for high office. Mr. Abrams is ABC New chief legal affairs anchor and Mr. Fisher is a well known author.

I first noticed this book when author Dan Abrams hawked it on TV as part of a panel on one of the Sunday political shows I watch. The book
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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
“At times he became so entangled in his thoughts that he completely forgot his destination. He wandered, but used the time well.” 1 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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