Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Author Pleads Guilty to Stealing Lincoln Document

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Springfield, IL

Hat tip to one of my favorite bloggers, Kevin Levin, at Civil War Memory, for calling my attention to this unfortunate story.

Edward Renehan, historian and author of six books, plead guilty on Tuesday to interstate transportation of stolen property for trying to resell historical documents through a Manhattan gallery.

Prosecutors said Renehan stole three documents from the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay on Long Island, NY and tried to resell them for $97,000. To make matters worse, Renehan was acting director of the association at the time of the theft.

Renehan's lawyer told reporters his client was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which along with family issues, contributed to his actions.

"It's similar to getting drunk and doing something you wouldn't do if you were thinking straight," he said.

Renehan faces up to two years in prison and a possible fine of $250,000. He will be sentenced on August 21.

Renehan is also accused of stealing at least one more document, a 1918 letter written by Theodore Roosevelt, which details his son's death in World War I. Those charges are still pending.

However, the three documents Renehan plead guilty to stealing included two letters written by George Washington, one penned on December 29, 1778, the other on August 9, 1791.

The other stolen document was a handwritten letter by Abraham Lincoln. This was no ordinary letter. It was dated March 1, 1840, more than twenty years before he became president.

The letter appears in the Collected Works of Abraham. Here is the document in full, along with the relevant annotations:

AL to John T. Stuart, 1 March 1840, CW, 1:206-207

Springfield, March 1, 1840. [1]

Dear Stuart: I have never seen the prospects of our party so bright in these parts as they are now. We shall carry this county by a larger majority than we did in 1836, when you ran against May. [2] I do not think my prospects individually are very flattering, for I think it is probable I shall not be permitted to be a candidate; but the party ticket will succeed triumphantly. Subscriptions to the ``Old Soldier'' pour in without abatement. This morning I took from the post-office a letter from Dubois [3] inclosing the names of sixty subscribers; and on carrying it to Francis, I found he had received one hundred and forty more from other quarters by the same day's mail. That is but an average specimen of every day's receipts. Yesterday Douglas, having chosen to consider himself insulted by something in the ``Journal,'' undertook to cane Francis in the street. [4] Francis caught him by the hair and jammed him back against a market-cart, where the matter ended by Francis being pulled away from him. The whole affair was so ludicrous that Francis and everybody else (Douglas excepted) have been laughing about it ever since.

I send you the names of some of the Van Buren men who have come out for Harrison about town, and suggest that you send them some documents: Moses Coffman (he let us appoint him a delegate yesterday), Aaron Coffman, George Gregory, H. M. Briggs,---Johnson [5] (at Birchall's book-store), Michael Glynn,---Armstrong [6] (not Hosea, nor Hugh, but a carpenter), Thomas Hunter, Moses Pilcher (he was always a Whig, and deserves attention), Matthew Crowder, Jr., Greenberry Smith, John Fagan, George Fagan, William Fagan (these three fell out with us about Early, and are doubtful now), [7] John Cartmel, Noah Rickard, John Rickard, Walter Marsh (the foregoing should be addressed at Springfield). Also send some to Solomon Miller and John Auth at Saulsbury; [8] also to Charles Harper, Samuel Harper, and B. C. Harper; and T. J. Scroggins, John Scroggins, [9] at [Mount] Pulaski, Logan County.

Speed says he wrote you what Jo. Smith [10] said about you as he passed here. We will procure the names of some of his people here and send them to you before long. Speed also says you must not fail to send us the New York journal he wrote for some time since. Evan Butler [11] is jealous that you never send your compliments to him. You must not neglect him next time. Your friend, as ever,



[1] ALS, Theodore Roosevelt Assoc. Oyster Bay, NY

[2] William L. May, Democrat.

[3] Jesse Kilgore Dubois, state representative from Lawrence County.

[4] Simeon Francis, editor.

[5] J. H. Johnson, partner of Caleb Birchall.

[6] John Armstrong.

[7] William Fagan, a Kentuckian who settled on a farm near Springfield in 1831, and his two sons, John, who was Lincoln's age, and George, who was a few years younger. Probably Lincoln refers to the defense by Stuart & Lincoln which brought about the acquittal of Henry B. Truett for the murder of Dr. Jacob M. Early on March 7, 1838.

[8] Salisbury, Illinois.

[9] Thomas J. Scroggin.

[10] Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.

[11] Evan T. Butler, deputy circuit clerk, Sangamon County.

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