Lincoln's Last Trial

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

by Dan Fisher and Dan Abrams

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

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 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 Stephen Douglas had gained him a national following. He was being urged to make a run for the presidency. His reputation was untarnished, but should he lose this trial, the spotlight now focused so brightly on him might be dimmed.

The case also posed personal challenges for Lincoln. The victim had trained for the law in his office, and Lincoln had been his friend and his mentor. The accused killer, the young man Lincoln would defend, was the son of a close friend and supporter. And to win this trial he would have to form an allegiance with a bitter political rival.

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 political future.