University Archives


A. Lincoln Case Worked on by David Davis Future Supreme Court Justice

DAVID DAVIS, Small Archive of two Autograph Documents Signed and one Autograph Document, written while an attorney and judge in Illinois, 1846-1855. 5 pp. total, 7.75? x 4.375? to 7.75? x 12.75?. Expected folds; some edge tears; jury instructions separated on fold in center; very good.

This archive contains documents from David Davis’s career as an attorney and as a judge in Illinois, including one from a case in which Abraham Lincoln was an attorney.

Highlights and Excerpts:

William P. Withers to Thomson R. Webber, April 22, 1846, Bloomington, Illinois; with endorsement by David Davis, May 7, 1846. 

“Received of T. R. Webber Esqr Clerk of Champaigne Circuit Court, the sum of $568.17, in State Bank Certificates.
May 7, 1846 D. Davis for W. P. Withers

David Davis, Autograph Document Signed, [June 1, 1855], draft decree in case of Chenowith & Miller v. Robinson et al., Vermilion County Circuit Court, Danville, Illinois.
“All the land to be sold if required to pay liabilities. The residence to be sold last & not at all if balance will pay debts. The widow to have possession of residence for twelve months from this date. Master to sell on a credit of 1 & 2 years with six per cent interest giving usual notice in Newspapers & otherwise.
David Davis

William Robinson had been a business partner with Thomas N. Chenowith and James H. Miller, but Robinson died owing the firm $738.59. Chenowith and Miller sued Robinson’s estate to settle the account. Abraham Lincoln represented Robinson’s widow and children. Judge David Davis ordered the master in chancery to sell enough of Robinson’s estate to pay the debt.

David Davis, Autograph Document, jury instructions in unidentified case, ca. 1850s.
“The Court instructs the Jury – That the degree of credit which ought to be given to the testimony of an accomplice, is a matter exclusively within the province of the Jury, and the Jury have the right, if they think proper and believe the testimony of the accomplice, to convict upon his evidence alone, without any confirmation of his statements.
“The testimony of an accomplice should be weighed by a Jury with great caution – and although the Jury can convict upon the testimony of an accomplice alone, if they Judge proper, yet it is usual with a Jury to require confirmatory testimony.
“The confirmation ought to be in such things, as may reasonably satisfy the Jury that the accomplice is telling the truth, without restricting the confirmation to any particular point or points, leaving the whole effect of such confirmation for the consideration of the Jury. If the Jury have a reasonable doubt of the guilt of the defendants they will acquit them.
“The Jury can convict one defendant and acquit the other, if they are satisfied the evidence so authorizes.
“If the Jury find the defendants guilty, they will find what is the value of the property stolen & say how long the defendants shall serve in the State Penitentiary – not less than one, nor more than ten years.”

David Davis (1815-1886) was born in Maryland and graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio in 1832. After studying law in New England, he gained admission to the bar in 1835 and moved to Pekin, Illinois, where he opened a law practice. Within a year, he relocated to Bloomington. Elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1844, he became judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit in 1848, with the reorganization of the judiciary based on the Illinois Constitution of 1848. At the time, the Eighth Circuit consisted of fourteen counties in central Illinois stretching eastward to the Indiana border. There, he heard thousands of cases argued by Abraham Lincoln, for whom he developed a strong personal and political friendship. Effectively Lincoln’s campaign manager in his 1860 bid for the Presidency, Davis worked tirelessly at the Republican national convention in Chicago to secure Lincoln’s nomination. In 1862, Lincoln appointed Davis to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served until 1877, when he resigned to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. He served as the administrator of Abraham Lincoln’s estate and assisted Robert T. Lincoln, when it became necessary to commit his mother Mary Lincoln to an asylum.

From the famous Supreme Court collection of Scott Petersen.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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