Long and occasionally heavy-handed, this carefully documented book is a complete account of a part of Lincoln's career frequently skimped by historians: his record in the Illinois law-courts before his election to the Presidency. One popular Lincoln legend is that he came to Washington as an unknown and almost illiterate country lawyer from the wilds of Illinois; in fact, he was famous as one of the keenest trial lawyers in the Midwest; a born public speaker, he had served in the Illinois Legislature, one term in Congress, and had argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Admitted to the Illinois Bar in March, 1837, Lincoln, largely self-educated, never read right through a law book; he kept his files in his stovepipe hat, chose unsatisfactory legal partners, and was both prosperous and successful. Noted as a criminal lawyer willing to use all means, ethical and unethical, to win a case, he defended murderers, embezzlers, and once a slave-owner against a suit for freedom brought by a fugitive slave. Accurate and detailed, missing few of Lincoln's cases in his 22 years of practice, this book is for serious historians alone; but its appeal to the casual reader will be limited.