Lincoln even mary referred to him as mr lincoln or

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typically signed letters to his friends “Yours as ever, A. Lincoln.” Even Mary referred to him as “Mr. Lincoln,” or “Father.” Nobody called him “Abe”—at least not to his face—because he loathed the nickname. It did not befit a STEPHEN B. OATES / 51
respected professional who had struggled hard to overcome the limitations of his frontier background. In sum, Lincoln was an out- standing attorney in a flourishing, populous western state that had left its pioneer past behind, as he had. Frankly Lincoln enjoyed his status as a prominent Illinois lawyer and politician. And he liked money, too, and used it to measure his worth. He was fair and reasonable when it came to legal fees, but he did expect prompt remuneration for his services. “I have news from Ottawa,” he wrote an associate, “that we win our Galatin & Saline county case. As the dutch Justice said, when he married folks, ‘Now, vere ish my hundred tollars.’” And if clients refused to pay up, Lincoln sued them to get his money. By the 1850s, thanks to a combination of talent and sheer hard work, Lincoln was a man of considerable wealth. He had an annual income of $5,000 or more—the equivalent of many times that today—and large financial and real-estate investments. While Lincoln handled a remarkable variety of bread-and-butter cases out on the circuit, he became known in the 1850s as a railroad lawyer. And this was true to the extent that he and Herndon regu- larly defended the Illinois Central and other railroad companies. After all, these were years of prodigious railroad construction all over the Midwest, and this in turn created a whole new area of law and legal practice in which Lincoln was anxious to participate. Moreover, the coming of the Iron Horse marked the end of steam- boating’s golden age and precipitated a titanic struggle in the Mid- west between rail and water interests for commercial supremacy. And that struggle offered lucrative rewards for attorneys like Lincoln who could command a mass of technical data. And he harvested the rewards, collecting fees of $400 to $5,000 for precedent-setting victories in both state and federal appeals courts. Yet Lincoln never used the law for nefarious personal gain, never used it to acquire cheap land and other property as did many of his associates. No, Lincoln was as honest in real life as in the le- gend. Even his enemies conceded that he was incorruptible. 52 / ABRAHAM LINCOLN
“Resolve to be honest at all events,” he urged potential attorneys; “and if in your judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.” Moreover, Lincoln had broad humanitarian views, some of them in advance of his time. Even though he was a teetotaler, he was ex- tremely tolerant of alcoholics in a day when most temperance advoc- ates branded them as criminals who ought to be locked up. Lincoln did not view them that way. In his opinion, alcoholics were unfortu- nates who deserved understanding, not vilification. He noted that some of the world’s most gifted artists had succumbed to alcoholism,

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