Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency
By: Dan Abrams
At the end of the summer of 1859, twenty-two-year-old Peachy Quinn Harrison went on trial for murder in Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln, who had been involved in more than three thousand cases— including more than twenty-five murder trials— during his two-decades-long career, was hired to defend him. Lincoln's debates with Senator Stephen Douglas the previous fall had gained him a national following, transforming the little-known, self-taught lawyer into a respected politician. He was being urged to make a dark-horse run for the presidency in 1860. Taking this case involved great risk. His reputation was untarnished, but should he lose this trial, should Harrison be convicted of murder, the spotlight now focused so brightly on him might be dimmed. He had won his most recent murder trial with a daring and dramatic maneuver that had become a local legend, but another had ended with his client dangling from the end of a rope. The case also posed painful personal challenges for Lincoln. The murder victim had trained for the law in his office and Lincoln had been his friend and his mentor. The accused killer, the young man Lincoln would defend, was the son of a close friend and loyal supporter. And to win this trial he would have to form an unholy allegiance with a longtime enemy, a revivalist preacher he had twice run against for political office— and who had bitterly slandered Lincoln as an "infidel… too lacking in faith" to be elected. Dan Abrams and David Fisher capture the presidential hopeful's dramatic courtroom confrontations in vivid detail as he fights for his client but also for his own blossoming political future.