Sunday, August 11, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 110: Abraham Lincoln, Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder (#60)

Abraham Lincoln, "Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder" (1846) from True Crime: An American Anthology:

Since my usual procedure when reading LoA stories is to read the story first and then the webpage that discusses it, I had a fun time with this one: while reading this, I assumed it was included in a volume of Lincoln's works, and I thought to myself, "This really could go into their True Crime volume." Well, whaddaya know, that's exactly where it is.

In fact, when I think of Lincoln's writing, I tend to think of grand oratory with some down-home folksiness. (Not always in the same piece.) But this story is very prosaic, where Lincoln just lays out--as well as he can--the confusing facts in this case of (not really) murder.

As a fan of John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, I half expected this story to be about a murder case involving a farmer's almanac. But it's actually the story of a non-murder, where not all the facts line up neatly. Here's the case: Two Trailor brothers get arrested for murder after the third Trailor provides witness against them. But even though there's lots of circumstantial physical evidence proving third Trailor's story, it eventually turns out that... there never was any murder at all. So Lincoln wraps up with a worry: imagine how wrong the court could have been if the "murder victim" didn't show up.

Yet even with that forward-thinking bit of legal worry, the overwhelming tone here is one of objective fact-giving, like a lot of true crime articles. Which probably means that this is mostly for those true crime fans out there.

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