BOOK REVIEW: Congressman Lincoln

The Making of America’s Greatest President

By Chris DeRose | Threshold Editions | $26 | 335 pages | 2013

Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln served a single term in the United States House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. Little has been written about this part of his legal career. Consequently I recommend that you purchase and read Mr. DeRose’s book.

You will find examples of Lincoln’s oratory. It is also interesting to learn about his colleagues in the Capitol, including former President John Quincy Adams and Kentuckian Henry Clay.

James K. Polk of Tennessee was our president at the time. Lincoln opposed “Polk’s War” against Mexico. I was disappointed to find two of my heroes in disagreement.

Did Lincoln get legislation enacted? Not much. A law creating new mail routes (“postal routes”) topped his short list.

Before leaving Washington in March 1849 at the end of his legislative term, Abraham Lincoln orally argued his only U.S. Supreme Court case, Lewis for use of Longworth v. Lewis. It involved the commencement of a statute of limitations. Lincoln lost.


Donald F. Paine DONALD F. PAINE is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is of counsel to the Knoxville firm of Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers LLP. He lectures for the Tennessee Law Institute.