Abraham Lincoln to James T. Thornton, December 2, 1858

Abraham Lincoln to James T. Thornton, December 2, 1858




A reproduction of a letter sent from Abraham Lincoln to James T. Thornton. The Internet Archive describes the letter as follows: The following autograph letter of Abraham Lincoln was brought to Wilsonville, Oregon, from Urbana, Cham- paign county, Illinois, by J. W. Thornton, in February, 1906, and is a precious heirloom of his family, having been given him by his father, the gentleman to whom it was written. The Mr. Widmer referred to followed Mr. Lin- coln's advice and began the study of law, but before he secured a license to practice the Civil war began. Then his legal studies were dropped and he enlisted in response to the first call for volunteers, and rose from the ranks to a colonel. After the war he resumed his law studies and in a few years became eminent in his profession and now lives in Urbana, Illinois. It is believed that this is the first time that anything appears in Mr. Lincoln's writings describing how he acquired a knowledge of the law. The Historical Society is under obligations to Mr. Thornton for kindly loaning the letter to Mr. Himes, Assistant Secretary, with permission to both copy and photograph it.

Description Source

Internet Archive. https://archive.org/stream/jstor-20610216/20610216_djvu.txt (accessed October 17, 2019).


Justice Frank J. and Virginia Williams

Approximate Creation Date



10 3/8 X 9 1/2 inches

Materials and Techniques Display

paper (fiber product); reproduction (copying)


recto, facsimile: Springfield, Dec'r 2, 1858 / James T. Thornton, Esq. / Dear Sir / Yours of the 29th, written in behalf / of Mr. John H. Widmer, is received. I am absent al- / together too much to be a suitable instructor for / a law student. When a man has reached the / age that Mr. Widmer has, and has already / been doing for himself, my judgement is, that / he reads the books for himself without / an instructor. That is precisely the way that I / came to the law. Let Mr. Widmer read / Blackstone's Commentaries, Chitty's Pleadings, / Greenleaf's Evidence, Story's Equity, and Story's / Equity Pleadings, get a license, and go to / the practice, and still keep reading. / That is my judgment of the cheapest, quickest, / and best way for Mr. Widmer to make a / lawyer of himself. / Yours truly / A. Lincoln.


Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865

Work Type

reproduction (derivative object)




Copyright protected by Mississippi State University Libraries. Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required.



Current Location

Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana (Mississippi State, Mississippi, United States)


Mississippi State University Libraries

Digital Publisher

Mississippi State University Libraries (electronic version).

Contact Information

For more information about the contents of this collection, email sp_coll@library.msstate.edu.

Abraham Lincoln to James T. Thornton, December 2, 1858