Abraham Lincoln and Clifton H. Moore

Abraham Lincoln and Clifton H. Moore


“Moore and Lincoln were such good friends that when Lincoln was entitled to choose a parcel of government land as a reward for his service in the Black Hawk War, he took Moore’s advice and selected a tract in Iowa near property owned by Moore, who acted as his representative and paid his real estate taxes.”
Professor Michael Burlingame
“Abraham Lincoln Traveled this Way: The America Lincoln Knew”


In the years leading up to his political career, Abraham Lincoln practiced law throughout central Illinois.  Herode the Eighth Judicial Circuit with the other traveling attorneys of the day.  He came twice a year to Clinton, Illinois, where Clifton H. Moore had opened a legal practice in 1841.

Over some two decades the two men tried eighty-five cases as co-counsel or opponents.  Lincoln tried more cases with Moore than any other attorney.  As Michael Burlingame writes in Abraham Lincoln Traveled this Way, “Lincoln and Moore worked on so many railroad cases that they formed what was virtually a seasonal partnership.”


Moore shared his law office with Lincoln for the first several years after its construction in 1856.  Today this fully-restored historical building remains in active use as the headquarters for Moore & Warner Farm Management.

A number of other prominent attorneys who would rise to national fame also came before the DeWitt County circuit court in Clinton during this time: Stephen A. Douglas, David Davis, Ward Lamon, Leonard Swett, and Lawrence Weldon.


Stephen A. Douglas, David Davis, Leonard Swett & Ward Lamon

Moore and David Davis, whom Lincoln would later appoint to the US Supreme Court, formed a land investing partnership together.  Moore’s agricultural holdings became the C. H. Moore Trust Estate upon his death in 1901.

Traveling the Circuit CourtIn Lincoln’s time and the early days of settlement, the sparse population outside of large established cities made small town resident attorneys like C. H. Moore a rarity.  More frequently, attorneys and judges would travel from county to county to hold court.

Vespasian Warner (1842-1925), the law partner and son-in-law of C. H. Moore, was a young law student during Lincoln’s final visits to Clinton.  He described the circuit court:

“In the olden times the lawyers traveled with the judges around the circuit on horseback, or in buggies, and they had no reports; they had no books of forms; they had to rely upon themselves instead of following the law as laid down by the supreme and other courts.

They were making laws for the courts thereafter. They carried their own stationery. The majority of them were compelled to write with goose quills, they couldn’t afford steel pens, and they carried their papers in plug hats on their heads.”


Read the first-hand account of Lincoln’s 1858 speech in Clinton by Vespasian Warner

For additional information on C. H. Moore, visit The C. H. Moore Homestead, www.chmoorehomestead.org.