Friday, March 9, 2012

John Todd Stuart, 1807-1885

John Todd Stuart marker in Danville, Kentucky at Centre College (Side 1)Boyle County, KY
Marker Number 2244

Marker Text: Abraham Lincoln’s friend and 1st law partner was born on Nov. 10, 1807, in Fayette Co. The son of a Presbyterian minister & Mary Todd Lincoln’s aunt, Stuart graduated from Centre College in 1826. Two years later he became a lawyer in Springfield, IL. Met Lincoln when an officer in Black Hawk War and encouraged him to study law. Over.

John Todd Stuart marker in Danville, Kentucky at Centre College (Side 2)(Reverse) Lent Lincoln law books and they were law partners, 1837–1841. He was a Whig in IL legislature and US Cong. Backed John Bell over Lincoln in 1860 election and went to Cong. as Democrat in 1862. Was frequent White House visitor despite disagreeing with some of Lincoln’s policies. Was pres. of Natl. Lincoln Monument Assoc. Presented by the Ky A. Lincoln Bicent Commission

Location: On Main Street, Danville, KY across the street from Danville Presbyterian Church and in front of Stuart Hall on Centre College campus. Erected by the Kentucky Historical Society, Kentucky Department of Highways in 2007.

  Today's marker is about a man who was a friend and law partner of Abraham Lincoln. I have read many historical accounts of Lincoln over the years and there are many things to admire about Lincoln and his place as one of the most respected U.S. President's is well deserved. One characteristic of Lincoln, I have come to admire is his ability to surround himself with people who did not hold the same opinions or viewpoint about the nation and politics as he held. This ability to maintain friendships with people who held different views, I believe made him a stronger leader. I believe our current political climate in the U.S. could be enriched and learn from Lincoln's prospective rather than only surrounding ourselves with people who hold the same viewpoints. I know I have benefited through conversations I have had with people who hold a different view than mine.

  As you read this marker, it makes a person wonder what if Lincoln had never met Stuart, would Abraham Lincoln had become the U.S. President? What if, in fact, he had never entered into politics or law and had simply become a...blacksmith? According to Lincoln's bio this might have happened had it not been for John Todd Stuart. If not for Stuart's influence, it is conceivable that Lincoln might never have been interested in the law - and thus, might not ever have become president.

John Todd Stuart marker on Main Street, Danville, KY  John Todd Stuart was born in Fayette County, Kentucky near Lexington, on November 10, 1807, the son of Robert Stuart, a Presbyterian clergyman, and his wife, Hannah Todd Stuart. Stuart was a cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln by his mother who was Mary's aunt. Stuart graduated from Centre College in 1826, then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1828. Stuart then moved to Springfield, Illinois and opened a law practice. Stuart was a major in the Black Hawk War in 1832, where he first met Abraham Lincoln, who was in the same battalion serving in the Illinois militia. Stuart encouraged Lincoln to study law and lent Lincoln his law books. The two men were law partners from 1837 to 1841.

  In 1842, Lincoln met his future wife Mary Todd through Stuart; Mary was a cousin for whom he held a great fondness. It is also during this time that Stuart faced off against Stephen Douglas in a congressional election that excited national attention, an election that would end with Stuart victorious. Douglas would go on to be Lincoln's most formidable opponent in the fight against slavery. Their debates, too, acquired national attention. Douglas would also go on to lose the presidential election to Lincoln.

John Todd Stuart marker across from Danville Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church in Danville, KY is across Main Street from the marker. Click any photo to enlarge.

  Like Lincoln, Stuart served in the Illinois legislature and the U. S. Congress. Although he and Lincoln were friends, Stuart backed Constitutional Union candidate John Bell in the 1860 presidential election instead of Lincoln. In 1862, Stuart went to Congress as a Democrat, where he disagreed with several of Lincoln’s wartime policies, including emancipation. Stuart saw the Civil War “as a mistake and crime on the part of the South” and thought that the “battle should have been fought at the ballot-box, under the Union and constitution.”

  Despite his political disagreements with Lincoln, Stuart remained a friend of the president and a favorite cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln. After his election to Congress in 1862, he was a frequent visitor to the White House, even though he was an anti-emancipation Democrat. After Lincoln's assassination, Stuart went on to become head of the National Lincoln Monument Association in Illinois, an organization that constructed the memorial to the fallen president where he and his wife are buried.

John Todd Stuart marker in front of Stuart Hall, Centre College

The marker as shown from across the street and in front of Stuart Hall.

  Stuart established a law partnership with Benjamin S. Edwards in 1843, a partnership that would last for forty years. During Stuart's political career, he served was a member of the State house of representatives 1832-1836. Stuart was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1836 to the Twenty-fifth Congress. He was, however, elected as a Whig to the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh Congresses (March 4, 1839-March 3, 1843), winning over Stephen A. Douglas in 1838. He was not a candidate for re-nomination in 1842. He served as a member of the State senate 1848-1852; was the unsuccessful Constitutional-Union candidate for Governor of Illinois in 1860; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-eighth Congress (March 4, 1863-March 3, 1865); resumed the practice of law; died in Springfield, Sangamon County, Ill., November 23, 1885; interment in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

  In the fall of 2007, Centre College (Stuart's alma mater) dedicated Stuart Hall, a building that once housed the College's bookstore but is now a residence hall, in honor of the influence Stuart had over Lincoln's career path as well as Stuart's contribution to law. Centre College web site has a page about Stuart and the dedication of this marker.

  The firm that Stuart founded in Springfield Illinois, once known as "Stuart and Lincoln," is still operating under the name "Brown, Hay, & Stephens," and includes his great-great-grandson as a partner.

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