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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.” Nobodycalled him “Abe”—at least not to his face—because he loathed thenickname. It did not befit aSTEPHEN B. OATES / 51
respected professional who had struggled hard to overcome thelimitations of his frontier background. In sum, Lincoln was an out-standing attorney in a flourishing, populous western state that hadleft its pioneer past behind, as he had.Frankly Lincoln enjoyed his status as a prominent Illinois lawyerand politician. And he liked money, too, and used it to measure hisworth. He was fair and reasonable when it came to legal fees, buthe did expect prompt remuneration for his services. “I have newsfrom Ottawa,” he wrote an associate, “that we winour Galatin &Saline county case. As the dutch Justice said, when he married folks,‘Now, vere ish my hundred tollars.’” And if clients refused to payup, Lincoln sued them to get his money. By the 1850s, thanks to acombination of talent and sheer hard work, Lincoln was a man ofconsiderable wealth. He had an annual income of $5,000 ormore—the equivalent of many times that today—and large financialand real-estate investments.While Lincoln handled a remarkable variety of bread-and-buttercases out on the circuit, he became known in the 1850s as a railroadlawyer. 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 allover the Midwest, and this in turn created a whole new area of lawand 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 Lincolnwho could command a mass of technical data.And he harvested the rewards, collecting fees of $400 to $5,000for precedent-setting victories in both state and federal appealscourts. Yet Lincoln never used the law for nefarious personal gain,never used it to acquire cheap land and other property as did manyof 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, resolveto be honest without being a lawyer.”Moreover, Lincoln had broad humanitarian views, some of themin 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. Lincolndid not view them that way. In his opinion, alcoholics were unfortu-nates who deserved understanding, not vilification. He noted thatsome of the world’s most gifted artists had succumbed to alcoholism,