By Brian McGinty
The untold tale of ways one sensational trial propelled a self-taught attorney and a destiny president into the nationwide spotlight.
In the early hours of might 6, 1856, the steamboat Effie Afton barreled right into a pillar of the Rock Island Bridge—the first railroad bridge ever to span the Mississippi River. quickly after, the newly developed vessel, crowded with passengers and farm animals, erupted into flames and sank within the river less than, taking a lot of the bridge with it.
As legal professional and Lincoln student Brian McGinty dramatically unearths in Lincoln's maximum Case, not anyone was once killed, however the query of who was once at fault cried out for a solution. subsidized through strong steamboat pursuits in St. Louis, the owners of the Effie Afton fast pressed swimsuit, hoping victory wouldn't purely hinder the development of any destiny bridges from crossing the Mississippi but in addition thwart the burgeoning unfold of railroads from Chicago. The destiny of the long-dreamed-of transcontinental railroad lurked ominously within the historical past, for if rails couldn't go the Mississippi via bridge, how may they span the continent the entire technique to the Pacific?
The reputable identify of the case used to be Hurd et al. v. The Railroad Bridge Company, however it might have been St. Louis v. Chicago, for the transportation way forward for the total kingdom was once at stake. certainly, used to be it to be ruled by means of steamboats or via railroads? carried out at virtually an analogous time because the infamous Dred Scott case, this new trial riveted the nation’s realization. in the meantime, Abraham Lincoln, already popular as the most effective trial attorneys in Illinois, was once summoned to Chicago to affix a handful of crack felony practitioners within the security of the bridge. whereas there, he succesfully helped unite the disparate areas of the rustic with a really transcontinental rail approach and, within the technique, extra to the stellar attractiveness that vaulted him into the White condominium below 4 years later.
Re-creating the Effie Afton case from its not likely inception to its arguable finale, McGinty brilliantly animates this felony cauldron of the past due 1850s, which grew to become out to be the main consequential trial in Lincoln's approximately sector century as a legal professional. alongside the way in which, the tall prairie lawyer's consummate criminal abilities and instincts also are delivered to bright lifestyles, as is the background of steamboat site visitors at the Mississippi, the development of railroads west of the Appalachians, and the epochal clashes of railroads and steamboats on the river’s edge.
Lincoln's maximum Case is felony historical past on a grand scale and a vital first act to a pivotal Lincoln drama we didn't recognize was once there.
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Additional info for Lincoln's Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge, and the Making of America
This book could not have been written, nor could the story of the Effie Afton case have been told—or told as well—without them. ONE A Great Highway of Nature The Mississippi River and the streams that feed into it form one of the greatest river systems in the world. 1 The Mississippi-Missouri combination is generally ranked as the fourth-longest river system in the world, behind only the Nile, the Amazon, and the Yangtze. The watershed of the Mississippi extends from the Appalachian Mountains in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West and covers all or parts of thirty-one of the United States and two provinces of Canada.
The road itself was poorly built, and its equipment was inadequate to carry all of the products Springfield and its environs wanted to send to New Orleans. What’s more, economic conditions had so glutted New Orleans with the products of the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys (mostly wheat, corn, vegetables, and fruits) that the market for products from Illinois was nearly nonexistent. 12 Lincoln left Springfield to attend his first (and only) term in Congress in October 1847, traveling with his wife and two sons.
Lincoln joined with two attorneys from St. Louis to represent the railroad and its officers. The resulting case of Eads and Nelson v. The Ohio and Mississippi Railroad raised complicated questions of admiralty jurisdiction, salvage rights, and insurance law. Samuel Treat, the district judge in Springfield, entered a judgment allowing the salvagers to foreclose a lien on the rescued railroad cars. 54 Lincoln’s close involvement with the rivers and riverboats was attested to by an event that occurred in 1848, when he was serving as a Whig congressman from Illinois.