Photo of The statue of Abraham Lincoln, standing in front of the DC Court of Appeals

Weekly Gem #105 The original, and still standing, Lincoln Memorial

Published 2/11/2017

Location:  This 'hidden gem' is located just north of Indiana Avenue, NW, midway between 4th and 5th streets NW, in Washington, DC (see Clue Me! Map).  This particular Lincoln Memorial was unveiled in 1868, three years after Lincoln's assassination, and nearly 55 years before the much better known memorial on the National Mall. It was carved by Lot Flannery, an American artist whose family migrated from Limerick, Ireland when he was a child. Lot knew Lincoln, and was present at the Ford Theater when Lincoln was assassinated. His design was quickly and unanimously selected, and because he completed the carving so quickly, the unveiling was attended by thousands of people who lived through the Civil War, including some of Lincoln's best military leaders.

The location in front of a courthouse reminds us that in addition to being President, Lincoln was an attorney. His practice in Springfield, IL handled over 5,000 cases. It was as an attorney that he became known as "Honest Abe." Even then, honesty was apparently considered to be an unusual trait of lawyers.  As Lincoln wrote in "Notes for a Law Lecture:"

"There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief---resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave."

Lincoln was a lawyer until the day he died.  His third law partnership was with a younger and much less experienced William Herndon, who remained his partner from 1844 to 1865. Of course, Lincoln wasn't active as a lawyer after becoming President, but had visions of returning.  Herndon later recounted their last conversation before Lincoln departed for Washington:

" In the afternoon of his last day in Springfield he came down to our office to examine some papers and confer with me about certain legal matters ... We ran over the books and arranged for the completion of all unsettled and unfinished matters. In some cases he had certain requests to make — certain lines of procedure he wished me to observe. After these things were all disposed of he crossed to the opposite side of the room and threw himself down on the old office sofa, which, after many years of service, had been moved against the wall for support. He lay for some moments, his face towards the ceiling, without either of us speaking. Presently he inquired, ‘Billy,’ — he always called me by that name, — ‘how long have we been together?’ ‘Over sixteen years,’ I answered. ‘We’ve never had a cross word during all that time, have we?’ To which I returned a vehement, ‘No, indeed we have not.’ ... I never saw him in a more cheerful mood. He gathered a bundle of books and papers he wished to take with him and started to go; but before leaving he made the strange request that the sign-board which swung on its rusty hinges at the foot of the stairway should remain. ‘Let it hang there undisturbed,’ he said, with a significant lowering of his voice. ‘Give our clients to understand that the election of a President makes no change in the firm of Lincoln and Herndon. If I live I’m coming back some time, and then we’ll go right on practicing law as if nothing had ever happened.’ He lingered for a moment as if to take a last look at the old quarters, and then passed through the door into the narrow hallway."


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Lincoln Memorial v1


The statue of Abraham Lincoln, standing in front of the DC Court of Appeals

Why It's Interesting

This is the first Lincoln Memorial statue to be built in Washington, DC. It was completed in 1868, more than 50 years before "The Lincoln Memorial."

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