Julie A. Oseid*
Brevity persuades. Abraham Lincoln knew the power of brevity. Lincoln’s eloquence was grounded in his ability to express much with few words.1 He learned the persuasive power of brevity while practicing law. Lincoln’s brevity in his Presidential speeches persuaded his audiences, and it continues to inspire and persuade us. Today, brevity is just as persuasive, and even more necessary.2
This short article3 focuses on the use of brevity in legal brief writing. Part I defines “brevity.” Part II focuses on the persuasive power of brevity in legal writing. Part III reviews Lincoln’s legal career, focusing in particular on his use of brevity. Part IV examines Lincoln’s use of brevity to persuade as President by considering three speeches: the First Inaugural, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural. Part V explores Lincoln’s writing and editing habits, and it urges lawyers to adopt Lincoln’s habits of writing early, visualizing audience, and ruthlessly editing. Lincoln worked hard for his eloquence and persuasiveness, and by adopting his habits we lawyers can also increase our eloquence and persuasiveness.
I. “Brevity” is the Quality of Expressing Much with Few Words.
Lincoln gave us a glimpse of his definition of brevity by describing what it was not. Lincoln made the following observation about another lawyer: “He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.”4 The opposite of that practice, the quality of expressing much with few words,5 captures what this article means by brevity. This quality is what judges mean when they plead for brevity. They are beseeching the advocates, “Please, tell me exactly what I need to know to make the right decision, but not one single thing more.”
Several other words make multiple appearances in “brevity” definitions, such as terse, succinct, concise, pithy, and brief.6 The word “brevity,” as opposed to these other terms, suggests the art involved in writing and editing.7 Lawyers are professional writers.8 Lawyers write legal briefs for professional readers.9 Writing is the craft of our profession, and writing with brevity enhances our persuasiveness.
Brevity also encompasses more than simply using the shortest paragraphs, the least number of words, or words with single syllables. The goal of brevity should be clarity. Striving for brevity means the writer is seeking a delicate balance. The legal argument must not be obscured, either by
so many words that the heart of the argument is lost or by so few words that the argument omits critical assumptions or connections.10 Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White Jr. notes, “The opposite of verbose is not simple. [Abraham] Lincoln was not bent on brevity alone. He was intent on precision. Sometimes precision might mean more.”11 One example is telling. Lincoln’s outstanding awareness of rhythm and sound resulted in the longer “Four score and seven years ago” instead of the shorter “Eighty-seven years ago” beginning of the Gettysburg Address.12
II. Brevity Persuades in Legal Writing.
Not only do we lawyers know who reads our briefs, but those readers have repeatedly told us about their preference for brevity. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Professor Bryan A. Garner emphasize the importance of brevity throughout their new book Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.13 They offer compelling advice about the persuasive power of brevity:
[A] long and flabby brief, far from getting a judge to spend more time with your case, will probably have just the opposite effect.
Ponder this: Judges often associate the brevity of the brief with the quality of the lawyer. Many judges we’ve spoken with say that good lawyers often come in far below the page limits—and that bad lawyers almost never do.14
Judge Ruggero Aldisert from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals lists the criticisms expressed by judges about briefs: “Too long. Too long. Too long.”15 Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski expounds, “[W]hen judges see a lot of words they immediately think: LOSER, LOSER. You might as well write it in big bold letters on the cover of your brief.”16
In 2000, Kristen Robbins conducted a thorough study asking federal judges to rate the way lawyers write and to then indicate what they consider good legal writing.17 The results: “What judges really want is shorter, harder hitting briefs.”18 Federal judges see brevity as absolutely essential to persuasiveness.19 Robbins explains, “When asked how important conciseness is to legal writing’s persuasiveness, ninety percent of the judges said that conciseness is “essential” and “very important.”20 A few of the judges’ handwritten comments responding to a survey question about what law schools can do to improve persuasive writing are revealing:
•A brief can be brief. Please tell your students that I have a lot to do and little time to do it. Write a brief that I can adopt as my opinion with a straight face and you will please me.
•Brevity, brevity, brevity. . . .
•Remind the students that as they learned in English 101, clarity and brevity are virtues. . . .
•Conciseness! . . .
•Excessive length may hurt your case.
•Encourage brevity and precision. . . .
•[A] judge has only a limited amount of time to devote to each case . . . the good advocate must be sure that none of that time is wasted. If briefs are too long, the judge’s attention will often stray and the good arguments will be lost in the sea of irrelevance.21
Lawyers are in the unique but valuable position of knowing exactly what our readers want. Those readers have made it abundantly clear that they value brevity. Lawyers will increase their persuasiveness by giving those readers exactly what they want.
III. Lincoln as Lawyer—Learning the Value of Brevity.
Other writing professionals use brevity to persuade. One of the most poignant examples comes from literature. According to legend, friends bet Ernest Hemingway that he could not write a short story in six words. Supposedly, Hemingway returned the next day with his six-word masterpiece, “For sale: Baby shoes. Never used.”22
Lincoln scholars point out that Lincoln could have had a very successful career as a professional writer.23 This article focuses on our fellow lawyer Abraham Lincoln because he used brevity so effectively.24 Picking one specific
quality of Lincoln’s writing talent, his use of brevity, certainly does not mean this was his only literary skill. Lincoln used many rhetorical devices very effectively including alliteration, rhyme, repetition, contrast, balance, and metaphor.25 Lincoln loved poetry from his childhood to the time of his death.26 Both the Gettysburg Address and The Second Inaugural have been called prose poems.27 In some ways it is not fair to choose just one quality, brevity, from Lincoln’s speeches. Lincoln often chose to forego brevity in favor of another rhetorical device. Yet it would be disingenuous to turn a short article on brevity into a long treatise on all of Lincoln’s literary skills. Brevity is the focus here because it is so critical for legal writers.
Lincoln’s particular skill in persuading with brevity was honed during his days practicing law.28 Lincoln spent twenty-five years practicing law before becoming President of the United States, but his legal career was initially ignored by historians.29 This oversight is somewhat surprising because “no other president spent quite so much time inside a courtroom; and the law had never exercised quite so exclusive an influence over a chief executive.”30 One notable exception was Benjamin P. Thomas, who wrote a 1952 biography of Lincoln. Mark Steiner explains,
Thomas was also one of the first biographers to describe how the lawyer influenced the president. Thomas, for example, concluded that Lincoln’s presidential speeches and writings were a product of his legal training. In Lincoln’s state papers, he “manifested that capacity to understand an opponent’s point of view, and to present his own case clearly and simply, which he had so painstakingly acquired as a circuit lawyer.”31
More is known today about Lincoln’s legal practice than in any previous time.32 Research into Lincoln’s legal career has been greatly enhanced by the recently completed Lincoln Legal Papers project, which compiled all the available court records from Lincoln’s state and federal cases. The researchers for the project went to eighty-eight Illinois counties, other states, and Washington, D.C. to study Lincoln’s legal career, which lasted from 1836 to 1861.33 As a result of this project, several new books about Lincoln the lawyer are available.34
Studying Lincoln’s career as a lawyer raises several questions. Was he a masterful lawyer35 or merely an average practitioner whose legal career would not be studied or found significant if he had never become President?36 Did Lincoln have a special insight into the hearts and minds of people,37 or did he practice law with an intentional distance from both his clients and his colleagues?38 Was Lincoln the lawyer a champion of freedom, a supporter of slaveholders’ rights, a frontier philosopher, a gifted student of human nature, or a practical lawyer who worked to reduce friction by resolving disputes?39
One fact is not contested: “Lincoln was a lawyer, and he thought and spoke like a lawyer.”40 He developed his writing and speaking style preferences during his legal career.41 Lincoln used clear, simple language when arguing a case before a jury.42 He avoided technical language but instead used a conversational tone.43 Lincoln the lawyer used a common language to appeal to the average person.44 He did not quibble over nonessential matters and was known to say he “reckoned” it was fair to allow a certain piece of evidence or admit the truth if he knew something was true.45 Lincoln did not waste his arguments. He saved his words, and used just the necessary number of those words, for essential matters.
Lincoln’s years spent practicing law “shaped his use of language at various points throughout his political career, giving him a high degree of clarity and a judicious use of words.”46 Lincoln’s First Inaugural was delivered by Lincoln, the lawyer, making a case to the jury, the people of the North and South.47 It might be entertaining to consider whether Lincoln would have turned out differently had he been a farmer or teacher,48 but his skillful use of brevity was tied particularly to his choice to become a lawyer.
IV. Lincoln as President—Using the Power of Brevity.
Lincoln continued to use brevity’s persuasive power when writing some of his great Presidential speeches. Lincoln wrote for the live audience who would listen to his speeches.49 Yet Lincoln also wrote for the reader, knowing that his speeches would be transcribed in newspapers across the country.50 The speed at which Lincoln’s printed speeches spread across the country changed dramatically during his four years as President. The First Inaugural made its way to California via the Pony Express,51 while The Second Inaugural traveled the day after it was delivered from New York to California via the just completed transcontinental telegraph line.52 Lincoln valued both speaking and writing but believed that writing was “the supreme artifact of human genius.”53 Lincoln also praised printing for its ability to distribute the written word to thousands.54 Throughout his life, Lincoln relied on newspapers for his own education.55 While in his twenties, he often read newspapers out loud to others.56 He learned himself by reading out loud, and he also believed that reading out loud “made him more retentive by giving him the sound as well as the sight of the words.”57 A complete understanding of Lincoln’s eloquent use of brevity cannot be gleaned from analyzing only three speeches.58 Still, a review of the First Inaugural, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural, gives us at least a glimpse into the importance of brevity in Lincoln’s work.
A. Editing for Brevity—The First Inaugural.
The First Inaugural, which was Lincoln’s first speech as President, is an example of how Lincoln used brevity when editing.59 Lincoln asked several people, including William H. Seward, who would become his Secretary of State, to read and comment on a draft of his First Inaugural.60 Seward, who had a reputation as an excellent speaker, took his role as editor very seriously.61 He made forty-nine suggestions, and Lincoln incorporated twentyseven of those when rewriting the First Inaugural.62
The most fascinating changes to the First Inaugural occur in the way Lincoln handled Seward’s suggestions for the Conclusion:
|1. I close.||I am loth [sic] to close.|
|2. We are not, we must not be, aliens or enemies, but fellowcountrymen and brethren.||We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.|
|3. Although passion has strained our bonds of affection too hardly, they must not, I am sure they will not, be broken.||Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.|
|4. The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battlefields and so many patriot graves, pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet again harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angel of the nation.||The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.|
For three of the four suggested changes, Lincoln used a shorter version than Seward suggested.63 In the third sentence, he used thirteen words instead of Seward’s suggested twenty-one words. He also eliminated redundant words by changing Seward’s “aliens or enemies” to “enemies” and Seward’s “fellowcountrymen and brethren” to “friends.”64 In only one instance, the first suggested change, did Lincoln add words. He changed Seward’s “I close” to “I am loth [sic] to close.” This change is an example of Lincoln not choosing brevity over all other goals. White explains that “the result of expanding Seward’s first sentence, “I close,” to Lincoln’s “ I am loth [sic] to close” was to achieve a pleasing assonance in bringing together “loth [sic]” and “close.”65 Other scholars have noted that the additional three words improved the cadence, but also make “the sentence throb with connotative meanings and emotive force.”66 The last sentence is admittedly long, but Lincoln needs all those words to convey his final thoughts about warmth and conciliation. Historian Douglas L. Wilson notes, “Thus stretched, the ‘mystic chords of memory’ become something like a musical instrument, capable of producing a harmonious music that will return us to our commonality. . . . This can occur . . . by the ‘better angels’ of our own natures.”67 Lincoln biographer Fred Kaplan calls Lincoln’s changes to Seward’s suggested closing a transformation from “the adequate to the brilliant.”68
In the First Inaugural, Lincoln used other legal skills. He argued his case, relied on his precedential political speeches, used logic and reason, and supported the Constitution.69 He also concluded the speech with brevity, which would become an even more key factor in the persuasive power of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. Many historians consider these two “quite short” speeches as not only Lincoln’s greatest, but the greatest speeches given by any President.70
B. “Startlingly Brief for What It Accomplished”— The Gettysburg Address.71
The Gettysburg Address summarized the Civil War in ten sentences and 272 words.72 It took President Lincoln, a slow speaker,73 between two and three minutes to deliver the speech.74
Historians often compare the brevity of Lincoln’s speech favorably to Edward Everett’s two-hour-long speech dedicating Gettysburg National Cemetery.75 Everett’s speech is largely forgotten, but in fairness to Everett, the audience both expected and looked forward to a long address.76 Lincoln was not expected to make a long speech, yet even so the Gettysburg Address is “startlingly brief for what it accomplished.”77
The Gettysburg Address, now engraved on a wall in the south chamber of the Lincoln Memorial,78 reads:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.79
Of the 272 words, 206 are one syllable long.80 Lincoln used ordinary vocabulary to persuade his listening and reading audiences.81 These common and ordinary words gave “greater dignity” to the speech.82 Garry Wills calls The Gettysburg Address “a stunning verbal coup” and “an open-air sleightof- hand” resulting in a new founding of the nation, with a resulting new interpretation of the Constitution.83 In these 272 words, Lincoln created a new Constitution based on its spirit instead of its words; one that valued equality and did not tolerate slavery.84
© Julie A. Oseid 2009. Associate Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis, Minnesota. I owe thanks to several people for helping with this article. First, my brother Professor Stephen D. Easton from the University of Missouri Law School inspired this article when he gave me his old copies of Smithsonian magazine. The April 2002 article about Ronald C. White, Jr.’s book Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural started me on my path to researching and writing about Lincoln’s use of brevity in his Presidential speeches. Professor Charles J. Reid, Jr. helped me on that path when he recommended that I visit Renaissance Books in the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. During an unexpected six-hour layover I purchased several books about Lincoln and perused many others. Professor Michael Stokes Paulsen stopped to talk with me in the hallway about my article and then generously bought me Douglas L. Wilson’s Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words. Librarian Mary Wells researched the history of the Lincoln Memorial. Alan Heavens was my able and enthusiastic research assistant for this project. He tirelessly tracked down answers to all my detailed questions. He was also a great sounding board for my ideas. Last, but certainly not least, I thank the editors from J. ALWD, especially Professor Melody Daily. It is frightening to send an article to a peer-reviewed journal. Professor Daily and my other editors, including Sue Painter-Thorne and Linda Berger, made the process one of my very best educational experiences. They improved my writing, forced me to prove my thesis, and encouraged me. Unintentionally and incidentally, they taught me how to be a better writer, editor, and teacher.
1 Lincoln is often lauded as our most eloquent president. See Ronald C. White, Jr., The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words 308 (Random House 2005) (“Lincoln’s eloquence may prove to be his most lasting legacy.”) [hereinafter White, The Eloquent President].
2 See infra discussion at Part V.B. (examining judicial preference for brevity and increased judicial work load).
3 Although this is a “short” article by law review standards, I am far surpassing the length of the shortest law review article. That distinction goes to one of the following articles, depending on how titles, text, and footnotes are counted: Erik M. Jensen, The Shortest Article in Law Review History, 50 J. Leg. Educ. 156, 156 (2000) (“This is it.”); Grant H. Morris, The Shortest Article in Law Review History: A Brief Response to Professor Jensen, 50 J. Leg. Educ. 310, 310 (2000) (“Not so!”); Thomas H. Odom, A Response to Professors Jensen and Morris, 50 J. Leg. Educ. 311 (2000) (“Why?”). See also Erik M. Jensen, The Intellectual History of “The Shortest Article in Law Review History” (Case Research Paper No. 08-29, 2008) (available at http://ssrn.com/ abstract=1277394). Cf. Jeremy A. Blumenthal, The Problem Of The Two Ships Peerless, 35 SetonHall L. Rev. 1097 (2005) (“Neither was.”).
4 Lincoln’s Own Stories 36 (Anthony Gross ed., Harper & Bros. 1912).
5 Webster’s Dictionary defines brevity as “the quality of expressing much in few words; terseness; succinctness.” Webster’s American Dictionary 99 (2d college ed., Random House 2000).
6 “Succinct” is defined as “expressed in few words; concise; terse; characterized by conciseness or verbal brevity.” Id. at 786. Terse is defined as “neatly or effectively concise; brief and pithy, as language.” Id. at 812.
7 I rejected several synonyms because of their connotations: “concise” seems technical; “succinct” seems scientific; and “terse” seems impatient.
8 See Helene S. Shapo, Marilyn R. Walter & Elizabeth Fajans, Writing and Analysis in the Law 3 (5th ed., Found. Press 2008) (“[L]awyers write all the time. . . . To be a good lawyer, you must be a good writer.”). Linda Edwards points out, “Most lawyers write and publish more pages than a novelist, and with greater consequences hanging in the balance.” Linda H. Edwards, Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization 1 (4th ed., Aspen Publishers 2006).
9 Alex Kozinski, The Wrong Stuff, 1992 BYU L. Rev. 325, 327 (1992).
10 See Ruggero J. Aldisert, Stephen Clowney & Jeremy D. Peterson, Logic for Law Students: How to Think Like a Lawyer, 69 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 1, 7 (citing S. Morris Engel, With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies 20 (6th ed., Bedford Books 2000)).
11 Ronald C. White Jr., Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural 76 (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks 2002) [hereinafter White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech]; see also infra Part V.C. (advising that a legal writer should write with variety to maintain reader attention).
12 Theodore C. Sorenson, A Man of His Words, Smithsonian 96, 103 (Oct. 2008).
13 Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges 25, 59, 98, 106, and 182 (Thomson West 2008).
14 Id. at 98; see also Ruth Anne Robbins, Painting with Print: Incorporating Concepts of Typographic and Layout Design into the Text of Legal Writing Documents, 2 J. ALWD 108, 111 (2004) (arguing that visual effects of a document can influence the writer’s credibility).
15 See Ruggero J. Aldisert, Winning on Appeal 25 (2d ed., NITA 2003).
16 Kozinski, supra n. 9, at 327.
17 Kristen K. Robbins, The Inside Scoop: What Federal Judges Really Think About the Way Lawyers Write, 8 Leg. Writing 257, 260 (2002). Robbins explains the depth of her study: Surveys were sent to all sitting federal judges on the supreme, circuit, and district court level (excluding senior and bankruptcy judges). One Supreme Court justice, 68 (out of 163) circuit judges, and 286 (out of 601) district court judges responded to the survey. These 355 responses represent forty-six percent of all federal judges as of September 1999. Id. at 261 (footnotes omitted).
18 Id. at 257.
19 The survey results showed: Judges seem most interested in an advocate’s ability to be brief. From the judges’ perspective, conciseness is not inspirational, it is essential. Seventy-three of the 355 judges who participated volunteered that the best briefs are concise; 70 said that the worst briefs fail to be concise; and 118 said that conciseness should be taught in law school writing courses. Id. at 279.
21 Id. at 281.
22 In some versions the last word in Hemingway’s short story is “worn” instead of “used.” See In which Hemingway short story is the saying, “Children's shoes for sale”? http:// www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Section/In-which-Hemingway-short-story-is-the-saying- Childrens-shoes-for-sale-.id-305403,articleId-41062.html (last accessed June 19, 2009) (noting that Hemingway scholars are not able to confirm that he wrote this story, but neither are they able to prove that he did not write the story). This myth inspired one new book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure (Larry Smith & Rachel Fershleiser eds., Harper Perennial 2008). See also Susan Henderson, Smith Magazine, http://litpark.com/ 2008/02/06/smith-magazine/ (last accessed June 19, 2009).
23 Douglas L. Wilson notes, “Lincoln has thus become one of the most admired of all American writers. ‘Alone among American presidents,’ Edmund Wilson has written, ‘it is possible to imagine Lincoln, grown up in a different milieu, becoming a distinguished writer of a not merely political kind.’ ” Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words 4 (Vintage Books 2006) (quoting Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War 122 (Oxford U. Press 1962)) [hereinafter Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword]. Theodore C. Sorenson, former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy, studied all previous 20th Century inaugural addresses to help Kennedy prepare his inaugural speech. Sorenson notes, “Lincoln was a superb writer. Like Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, but few if any other presidents, he could have been a successful writer wholly apart from his political career.” Sorenson, supra n. 12, at 98. Lincoln Biographer Fred Kaplan notes that Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson were the American presidents who most eloquently expressed the national concerns, but nothing Jefferson wrote during his presidency has “a permanent place in the literary or political canon.” Fred Kaplan, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer 320–21 (HarperCollins 2008).
24 I am well aware that tying my thesis that brevity persuades to Lincoln’s use of brevity increases the attractiveness of the article. As Maury Klein aptly noted, “For more than a century, the Lincoln literature has been a mother lode for writers and publishers. An old joke proclaimed that the ideal surefire best-seller would be a book entitled Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog.”). Maury Klein, Book Review, 9 Roger Williams U. L. Rev. 213, 215 (2003) (reviewing Judging Lincoln by Frank J. Williams). The author of the book reviewed by Klein, Frank J. Williams, is retired Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and a lifelong Lincoln scholar. He estimates that sixteen thousand books about Lincoln have been written. Frank J. Williams, Abraham Lincoln: Commander in Chief or “Attorney in Chief?”, 18 Spring Experience 12, 13 (Spring 2008) [hereinafter Williams, “Attorney in Chief?” ].
25 Sorenson, supra n. 12, at 102–03.
26 Douglas L. Wilson, Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln 71 (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1998) [hereinafter Wilson, Honor’s Voice]. Lincoln loved all forms of literature. Kaplan, supra n. 23, at 292 (noting that Lincoln was an avid reader of literary anthologies, Shakespeare, Bryon, Burns, and The Bible). Kaplan contends that John Quincy Adams is the only other President who loved literature as much as Lincoln. See id. at 346.
27 Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword, supra n. 23, at 266.
28 Without specifically mentioning brevity, Justice Williams notes, This goal [political leadership] remained primary in the imperatives which animated his very being. But, having said that, it is clear that devotion to the law was a significant aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life. As I hope to demonstrate in this article, in achieving his political goals, he constantly utilized skills and tactics honed in the courtroom and in other phases of his legal life. Williams, “Attorney in Chief?”, supra n. 24, at 13–14.
29 For an excellent discussion of the early books discussing Lincoln’s legal career, consult Mark Steiner’s book An Honest Calling: The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln 5–25 (N. Ill. U. Press 2006) (chapter one is entitled, “Lawyer Lincoln in American Memory”). In 1906, a book review in the Yale Law Journal became the first to cite a book about Lincoln’s career as a lawyer. Book Review, 16 Yale L.J. 154 (1906) (reviewing Frederick Trevor Hill’s Lincoln the Lawyer and noting that “little attention has been given to [Lincoln’s] professional career”); see also John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (Rinehart & Co., Inc. 1960); Robert Littler, Book Review, 15 Stan. L. Rev. 146 (1962) (reviewing John P. Frank’s Lincoln as a Lawyer); John Maxcy Zane, Lincoln, the Constitutional Lawyer (Caxton Club 1932).
30 Brian Dirck, Lincoln the Lawyer 171 (U. of Ill. Press 2007). Dirck also notes that over half of the American presidents have been lawyers. Id.
31 Steiner, supra n. 29, at 15 (quoting Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography 410 (1952)).
32 Williams, “Attorney in Chief?”, supra n. 24, at 13.
33 Abraham Lincoln Online, Lincoln Legal Practice DVD-ROM Released, http://showcase .netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/news/dvdrom.htm (last accessed June 19, 2009) (the project lasted fifteen years and was completed in 2000).
34 Dirck, supra n. 30; Julie M. Fenster, The Case of Abraham Lincoln (Palgrave MacMillan 2007); Allen D. Spiegel, Lincoln, Esquire: A Shrewd, Sophisticated Lawyer in His Time (Mercer U. Press 2002); Steiner, supra n. 29; Frank J. Williams, Judging Lincoln (S. Ill. U. Press 2002).
35 See Steiner, supra n. 29, at 18 (“Abraham Lincoln is one of the great heroes of the American legal profession.”).
36 Dirck, supra n. 30, at 142 (“Lincoln the great American was in reality a pretty ordinary attorney.”); Steiner, supra n. 29, at 55 (“While Lincoln had an extraordinary life, he also had a relatively ordinary law practice. If Lincoln hadn’t become president, it’s doubtful that his law practice would have been noticed by later historians.”).
37 Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals 703 (Simon & Schuster Paperback 2005).
38 Dirck, supra n. 30, at 7. Dirck also emphasizes the professional balance lawyers need because of the changing nature of the profession when adversaries one day can become cocounsel or even judge and advocate the next day. Id. at 43.
39 Id. at 154–55. Dirck explains his new theory about Lincoln as “grease”: [Lincoln’s law practice] taught him about the value of grease—that unglamorous, often overlooked but vital substance that lubricates and reduces friction to acceptable levels, that slips between the cogs and devices of machines and allows continuous movement without malfunction. Lincoln’s age sorely needed grease. . . . Abraham Lincoln the attorney applied his own form of grease, in a multitude of visible and not so visible ways. Id. at 155.
40 Jerry J. Phillips, Uncommon Predicates: Notes on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, 72 Tenn. L. Rev. 807, 810 (2005).
41 Steiner comments that John J. Duff’s book A. Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer (Bramhall House 1960) notes that “Lincoln, while he was a lawyer, developed his judgment, lucidity of expression, and unforgettable prose.” Steiner, supra n. 29, at 23.
42 David Herbert Donald, Lincoln 145 (Simon & Schuster 1995).
43 Id. at 98.
44 See Kaplan, supra n. 23, at 234–35.
45 Donald, supra n. 42, at 149. Lincoln did not yield essentials. Leonard Swett, a Bloomington lawyer who traveled the circuit with Lincoln, said that Lincoln only gave away what he could not get and keep. Donald notes, “Many a rival lawyer was lulled into complacency as Lincoln conceded, say, six out of seven points in argument, only to discover that the whole case turned on the seventh point.” Id.
46 Dirck, supra n. 30, at 152.
47 White, The Eloquent President, supra n. 1, at 97 (noting also that Lincoln relied on precedent by referring to his previous political speeches, his own precedential legal arguments, dating back into the late 1850s).
48 Dirck, supra n. 30, at 12–13.
49 See White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, supra n. 11, at 69 (asserting that Lincoln lived at a time that put a priority on the spoken word). White notes, “Lincoln worked hard to learn the dynamics of the spoken word. . . . His personal magnetism came to life through the ear, not the eye.” Id. at 72.
50 Id. at 187 (stating that Lincoln used the newspaper as his political platform because he recognized that newspapers reached thousands of people). The newspaper printed an exact copy of the speech as spoken because newspaper reporters at that time used shorthand to record speeches. Id. at 70.
51 The First Inaugural reached California by both telegraph and the Pony Express. “The speech was first telegraphed from New York to Kearney, Nebraska. Lincoln’s words were then placed in the saddlebags of Pony Express riders for their relay across plains and mountains to Folsom, California. The [First I]naugural was then telegraphed to Sacramento and from there to other points in the far West.” White, The Eloquent President, supra n. 1, at 94.
52 White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, supra n. 11, at 183 (explaining that Western Union connected the telegraph wired from New York to San Francisco on March 5, 1865, the day after Lincoln delivered the Second Inaugural).
53 Kaplan, supra n. 23, at 291.
54 White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, supra n. 11, at 187.
55 Wilson, Honor’s Voice, supra n. 26, at 62.
58 White suggests that we examine Lincoln’s speeches “not in splendid isolation from one another, but . . . together in all their shimmering beauty.” White, The Eloquent President, supra n. 1, at xxii. White also notes that “[a] purpose of this book is to see Lincoln’s speeches as a string of pearls. Each pearl, although of different color and size, possesses its own beauty.” White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, supra n. 11, at 224.
59 The First Inaugural was a long speech, but Lincoln effectively edited the concluding paragraph for brevity. A word count of the official copy of the First Inaugural reveals it is 3,633 words long. See Independence Hall Assn., Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, http:// www.ushistory.org/documents/lincoln1.htm (last accessed June 19, 2009). Lincoln delivered the First Inaugural in thirty-five minutes. White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, supra n. 11, at 22.
60 White, The Eloquent President, supra n. 1, at 68–69. Seward made more suggestions than other editors. Lincoln asked Judge David Davis from Springfield, Illinois, to read the speech. Judge Davis “appreciated the speech and made no suggestions.” Id. at 67. He also asked fellow lawyer Orville H. Browning who offered a single suggestion that Lincoln delete the clause “to reclaim the public property and places which have fallen” which might provoke the South. Id. at 68. Francis P. Blair, Sr., also read the speech “and enthusiastically commended the whole address.” Id. at 68.
61 Id. at 63, 68–69.
62 Id. at 69.
63 White also points out that Lincoln chose to edit Seward’s shortest submitted version of edits, instead of Seward’s longer version submitted at the same time. Id. at 90.
64 Id. at 91.
66 Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword, supra n. 23, at 66–67 (citing Don E. Fenhrenbacher, “The Words of Lincoln,” Lincoln in Text and Context 285 (Stanford U. Press, 1987)).
67 Id. at 68.
68 Kaplan, supra n. 23, at 326.
69 White, The Eloquent President, supra n. 1, at 97.
70 Sorenson, supra n. 12, at 102. Part of that greatness is attributable to the content of the speeches which both deal with the largest and most important ideals. Id.
71 Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America 35 (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks 1992).
72 Id. at 20 (noting the speech was 272 words long). A word count of the speech indicates that it is 271 words long, but if “battle-field” is counted as two words instead of as one word the speech is 272 words long.
73 See White, The Eloquent President, supra n. 1, at xxii (“Lincoln’s pattern was to speak or read his addresses slowly. The average person speaks at about 150 or 160 words per minute. Lincoln spoke 105 to 110 words per minute.”).
74 This is an estimate based on Lincoln’s average speaking pace. See Wills, supra n. 71, at 36 (“Read in a slow, clear way to the farthest listeners, the speech would take about three minutes.”).
75 See Donald, supra n. 42, at 464 (reporting that Everett made a two-hour address).
76 See Wills, supra n. 71, at 23 (explaining that a long address for this kind of event was customary at that time).
77 Id. at 35.
78 Natl. Park Serv., Lincoln Memorial Design and Symbolism, http://www.nps.gov/linc/ historyculture/lincoln-memorial-design-and-symbolism.htm (last accessed June 19, 2009) (stating that the Gettysburg Address was chosen “for its familiarity to many, but also because it displayed the president’s strength and determination to see a successful conclusion to the American Civil War”).
79 There is some dispute about the final version of the Gettysburg Address. The version used here is Lincoln’s final version, called the Bliss text. See Wills, supra n. 71, at 18, App. III D 2.
80 That count is based on the following analysis (with single syllable words italicized): Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
81 See Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword, supra n. 23, at 281. Wilson also notes that Lincoln’s “homespun stories and expressions drew the public to him.” Id.
82 See id.
83 Wills, supra n. 71, at 38–40.
84 Id. at 38.