Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) Script

I tell you that Andrew Jackson, that great volcano at Washington, is belching forth a lava of political corruption which is sweeping over the length and breadth of this land, leaving unscathed no green spot, no living thing.

Sangamon County, take warning.

Send me, John T. Stuart, back to the legislature, and I'll see that every Jackson man in office is whipped out of the place like a dog out of a meat house!

And now, my friends, I bow to one of your own citizens of New Salem who will address you further on behalf of the great and incorruptible Whig Party, God bless it.

Gentlemen and fellow citizens,

I presume you all know who I am.

I'm plain Abraham Lincoln.

I've been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the legislature.

My politics are short and sweet like the old woman's dance.

I'm in favor of a national bank, of the internal improvement system, and high protective tariff.

These are my sentiments and political principles.

If elected, I shall be thankful.

If not, it'll be all the same.

Hey, Abe!

Somebody wants to do business with you.

Howdy, ma'am. Howdy. Howdy.

How you been making out? Right good.

We ain't hit the hard places yet.

Won't you get down and rest yourself? Well, thank you.

We was aimin' to stretch a bit.

My old woman figured on gettin' some flannel for shirts.

I reckon that could be arranged. Yeah, but... we ain't got any money.

Well, you can send it to me.

We don't aim to ask for no credit.

If it'll ease your mind any, ma'am, the whole shebang here's worked on credit.

That's right, Abe.

Berry and me never put up a penny to start with.

From the way things look we never will.

Well, there's an old barrel in the wagon that might be worth 50 cents to some folks.

Of course, there ain't much in it.

Just some old things laying around the house, along with some books that belonged to my grandpappy.

Books? Yeah, in the last barrel.


Well, you folks go in the store and help yourself.

I'll go on back and get the barrel.

Blackstone's Commentaries.

That's law.

Law. I knew that book was about somethin'.

Hardly a thumb mark on it either.

No, sir. We took mighty good care of it.

Reckon you can read it, sir?

I expect I could make head or tails out of it, if I set my mind to it.



That's the rights of persons and the rights of things.

The rights of life, reputation and liberty.

The rights to acquire and hold property.

"Wrongs are violations of those rights."

By jing, that's all there is to it.

Right and wrong.

Maybe I ought to begin to take this up serious.

Hello, Mr. Lincoln.

Abe. Well, hello, Ann.

Give me a minute to try and untangle myself.

Aren't you afraid you'll put your eyes out reading like that upside-down?

Trouble is, Ann, when I'm standin' up my mind's lyin' down.

When I'm lyin' down, my mind's standin' up.

Of course, allowin' I got a mind.

You've a wonderful mind, Abe, and you know it.

River's sure pretty today, ain't it?

You think a lot about things, don't you?

Well, my brain gets to itchin' inside sometimes, I gotta scratch it.

Father says you've a real head on your shoulders, and a way with people too.

He says it's not all just making them laugh.

They remember what you say because it's got sense to it.

Mr. Rutledge is a mighty fine man, Ann, but if you ask me, I'm more like the old horse the fella's tryin' to sell.

Sound of skin and skeleton and free from faults and faculties.

I know how smart you are.

How ambitious you are too.

Ambitious? You are, deep down underneath.

Even if you won't admit it.

Gotta have education these days to get anywhere.

I never went to school so much as a year in my whole life.

Oh, but you've educated yourself.

You've read poetry and Shakespeare and... and now law.

I just had my heart set on your going over to Jacksonville to college when I go to the seminary there and...

You're mighty pretty, Ann.

Some folks I know don't like red hair.

I do.

Do you, Abe?

I love red hair.

Pretty, aren't they?

Got 'em up at Bowling Green's place.

You never saw anything like 'em in your life, sittin' there in the snow like scared rabbits.

Bet the woods are full of 'em too.

Snow's nice, ain't it, the way it's driftin'.

Ice is breakin' up.

It's comin' in to spring.

Well, Ann, I'm still up a tree.

Just can't seem to make up my mind what to do.

Maybe I ought to go into the law, take my chances.

I admit, I got kinda a taste for somethin' different than this in my mouth.

Still, I don't know.

I'd feel such a fool, settin' myself up as a-knowin' so much.

Course, I know what you'd say.

I've been hearin' it every day, over and over again.

"Go on, Abe. Make somethin' of yourself.

You got friends. Show 'em what you got in ya."

Oh, yes, I know what you'd say.

But I don't know.

Ann, I'll tell you what I'll do.

I'll let this stick decide.

If it falls back toward me, then I stay here, as I always have.

If it falls forward towards you then it's...

Well, it's the law.

Here goes, Ann.

Well, Ann, you win.

It's the law.

Wonder if I could've tipped it your way just a little.

Hello, Abe. What are you doin' in Springfield?

Figurin' on settin' myself up as a lawyer.

What do you know about law, Abe? Not enough to hurt me.

You did, durn ya! You did!

That's a lie! I can prove it, I tell ya!

Then go ahead! I got the law on my side!

I'll show ya, y- you... you durned thief!

Ah, gentlemen, just hold your horses and sit down.

Now, Brother Woolridge?

Yes, sir?

Brother Hawthorne here says you agreed to furnish him two yokes of oxen to break up 20 acres of prairie sod ground.

He did such.

And that were to allow him to raise a crop of corn on another piece of land.

That's right. But he never done one thing he promised. Not one!

He claims further that when he talked to you about these promises you did strike, beat and knock him down pluck, pull and tear large quantities of hair from his head and that with stick or fists you did strike him many blows on or about the face, head, breast, back, shoulders, hips... and diverse other parts of the body and with violence did push, thrust and gouge your fingers in his eyes.

Yeah. I got witnesses to prove it.

And for that he demands $250 damages.

Yes, I do.

Well, Brother Woolridge, what you got to say to that?

You forgot to put in there about me whoppin' him with a neck yoke.

Now, it says here, Brother Hawthorne, that you owe Brother Woolridge $55.47 board at the rate of a dollar and a half a week.

You owe him $90 for use of a team and wagon for eight months besides $100 cash on a loan.

Yeah. Well, I never said I didn't.

Well, I ain't no lightnin' calculator, but accordin' to my figurin',

you owe him 245 dollars and 47 cents.

You're askin' $250 damages.

Now, my idea's to split the difference of $4.53

which, by a strange coincidence, happens to be exactly the amount of my legal fee.

And the whole thing's settled.

Well, what do you say?

I won't do it! Me either!

I'll go to law first.

Gentlemen, did you ever hear about the time in the Black Hawk War when I... butted two fellas' heads together and busted both of 'em?

Well, I'm willin' if he is.

'Tain't fair, but I'll do it just to be shut of him.

Thanks, gentlemen.

Well, that's gonna save us all a heap of legal trouble and headaches.

Well, if you'd just give me my and Stuart's share, I'll mosey along over and see the parade.

It's gonna be a heap of yellin' and carryin' on.

It's gonna be quite a pleasure to listen to after this.

Yessiree, Bob.

Yessiree, Bob.

Hay foot, straw foot!

Hay foot, straw foot! Hay foot, straw foot!

Hay foot, straw foot! Hay foot, straw foot!

Here comes Lily!

Hey, Ma!

Hey, Lily! I'll have my flapjacks well done, Lily!

Buckwheat cakes! Buckwheat cakes, Lily!


Yep. Them's the veterans of the revolution.

Mornin', Miss Edwards. Good morning.


Mornin', Mr. Douglas. Mr. Lincoln.

How are you, Miss Ricketts? Ladies?

Nice parade, Ninian.

Mary, this is Mr. Abraham Lincoln.

This is my sister, who's just come up from Lexington to visit us... Miss Mary Todd.

Mr. Lincoln, I've been hearing some mighty fine things about you.

Mustn't believe everything Douglas here says about me.

We kinda straddle different political fences.

Oh, but I haven't been discussing you with any other gentlemen.

My sisters told me about you. You're in the legislature, aren't you?

If you put that in the past tense, I'll plead guilty. I was in the legislature.

Mr. Lincoln's practicing law with John Stuart, my opponent for Congress.

That's a mighty flatterin' way he puts it, ma'am, when what I'm really doin' is wearin' a hole in Stuart's best rocking chair.

First I thought it was that apple, for sure.

Then I sank my teeth into that peach, and...

I just couldn't seem to make up my mind.

So I sample the apple again.

Hey, you all can't do that to me.

Aw, go on back to that!

What is it? It's a pie-judging contest, Ma.

I should've brung one of my sweet potato pies.

You sure should, Miss Clay. You'd sure win.

I wish you had, Miss Clay. They're so good!

Look! He's sure hungry! Yes, he is!

By the time I get the apple down, the peach is smellin' so good I'm sure it's the best.

So it goes.

First one, then the other.

The Hog Wallow Boys, undefeated champions of Sangamon County, led by Buck Troup!

The Speed County Demons, led by Efe Tyler!


Get set!

One, two, three, go!

Dig your heels in!

Leave my wife alone.

Who, me?

If you ain't lookin' for trouble, get away from here.

Adam! Matt! You'd better look out, Scrub.

You're gonna get hurt. Yeah.

What are you gonna use on me? Knives, or pistols, or your fists?

We ain't botherin' nobody.

We're just here to have a good time, so you please to leave us alone.

Come on now, Matt. Come on, Adam. Come on, Scrub. We got plenty of time later.

Bye, honey. See you later.

Dig your heels! Dig your heels!

Dig your heels in!

Come on!

Hey! Giddyap, mule!

Adam, you got to promise me somethin'.

You got to promise me we'll come to town every single year we're livin'.

You just got to, Adam!

You just say that now. You wait till we're married and have babies to tend to.

That'll be different. No, it won't neither.

Matt and Sarah have a baby, and they came.

Yeah, but maybe we'll have lots of babies.

Maybe we'll have twins, uh, or somethin'.

I don't care. I don't care if we have 50 babies.

Oh, Adam, you got to promise me.

All right, Carrie Sue, I promise.

Adam, I wished we was married right now, like... like Sarah and Matt.

I been meaning to talk to your family about us soon as we get home.

Did you? Did you honest, Adam?

Oh, Adam!

Adam, let's go back. Let's hurry, 'fore they light the tar barrels, huh?

All right. Only I wish it was gonna be that fella splittin' them rails again.

I do, for a fact! Do you?

Now, you folks go along.

I'll sit with her. You go, Ma. It's my place to stay.

You and Matt go. You go on.

We're goin' over yonder!

Let me get my coat! Shh!

Hey, Matt, how 'bout a nip before we go? Go along, the four of you.

Miss Clay, I wish you was goin' with us. Honest, I do.

I've seen so much now, I'm fit to pop.

Now, be careful and don't get into any trouble, like I told you.


Miss Clay! Miss Clay! Miss Clay! Miss Clay!

Matt! Adam! They're fightin'!

That man... he came back! He's drunk!

Where are they? Over yonder, in that clearin' over there.

I'm going with you! No! You and Sarah stay with the baby!

He's got a gun! He's going to kill Matt! I know he will!

Oh, the baby! Miss Clay!

Stay right in that clinch there! Come on!

Adam! Matt! Come on, Matt! Come on!

Adam! Matt! Stay on top of him, Matt!

That's it! Come on, Matt! Roll right over the top of him!

Stay in the clinch, I tell ya!

Look out! He's got a rock!

Adam! Adam!

Come on!

That's it! Come on now!

Look out, Matt! He's got a gun!


Ma. Ma.



Scrub. Scrub!


He's dead.


Lord have mercy on us.

Cut him right in the heart with this knife.

Get the sheriff.


Get the sheriff.

Hey! Come over here, somebody!

There's been a murder! Murder!

Matt! Adam!


Murder! Come over here, somebody!

There's been a murder!

Look! Scrub White! Stuck right through the heart!

Sheriff, it's Scrub White! He's dead!

Scrub White! Somebody killed him.

How'd it happen?

It was them two fellas over there. They was fightin' with Scrub.

They cut him.

Here's the knife they done it with.

You gonna do somethin', Sheriff?

Which one of you fellas this knife here belong to?

Me. No, me.

I want the truth. Which one of you cut him? I did.

That ain't so. I did it. It was me! He came after me with a gun.

One of you is lyin'. Now, which one is it? Which one is it?

Anybody see it?

I reckon I did.

Who are you? Their mother.

Well? Which one was it?

I ain't sayin'.

Well, don't make no difference anyhow. Under the law, they're both equally guilty.

Come on. You're under arrest.

Palmer Cass, I appoint you temporary deputy. Help me get these fellas down to the jail.

Take 'em out now. Adam, tell them you didn't do it!

You and Jake stay here and take care of the body and this here knife.

Don't let nobody touch nothin' till I get back.

They sure made a good job of him. That's a fact. Never knew what hit him.

Looked like trouble to me. Leastwise, I never saw 'em around here before.

I liked Scrub. He was mean, but I liked him.

Mean or not, folks ain't got no business comin' to our town cuttin' up people!

Two against one! That's what I don't like!

Yeah, and stabbing him right in the back too!

What they need is a little taste of the rope.

Well, what are we waitin' for?

Wait a minute! Wait!

Miss Clay, stop 'em!

They're gonna lynch 'em, Abe. They're gonna lynch 'em.

Come on. We gotta hurry.

Who are you?

I'm your lawyer, ma'am.

Open it up, Sheriff! Let me outta here!

I can't! I can't! They're gonna break in! Don't be a fool! They'll get us too!

Can't help it! They gotta bust in first!

Come on! Get 'em out here!


Hold on! Listen to me!

Get out of there, Lincoln!

Put down that pole and listen to me!

Get out of the way!

Put down that pole and listen to me! Get out of the way!

By jing, I said listen to me, and by jing, you will!

Now, gentlemen, I'm not up here to make any speeches.

All I got to say is, I can lick any man here hands down.

Come on, men! Come on! We gonna let that man stand in our way?

Hold on, Buck!

I thought I'd find that big mouth of yours around here, tellin' people what to do.

I'm Big Buck, all right. I'm the biggest buck in this lick.

Well, come on up and whet your horns. What's slowin' ya?

Well, what's that got to do with us? Are you gonna move?

Get away, Lincoln! We're coming through!

Now, wait a minute, fellas!

Ho! All jokin' aside.

Let's look at this matter from my side.

Why, you all know I'm just a fresh lawyer tryin' to get ahead.

But some of you boys act like you wanna do me out of my first clients.

Let him talk! Go ahead.

I'm not sayin' you fellas are not right.

Maybe these boys do deserve to hang.

But with me handlin' their case, don't look like you'll have much to worry about on that score.

All I'm asking is to have it done with some legal pomp and show.

That's all right, Abe. How 'bout our side of it?

We've gone to a heap of trouble not to have at least one hangin'!

Sure you have, Mac.

And if these boys had more than one life, I'd say go ahead.

Maybe a little hangin' mightn't do 'em any harm.

But the sort of hangin' you boys'd give 'em would be so... so permanent.

Trouble is, when men start takin' the law into their own hands, they're just as apt, in all the confusion and fun, to start hangin' somebody who's not a murderer as somebody who is.

Then the next thing you know, they're hangin' one another just for fun till it gets to the place a man can't pass a tree or look at a rope without feelin' uneasy.

We seem to lose our heads in times like this.

We do things together that we'd be mighty ashamed to do by ourselves.

For instance, you take Jeremiah Carter yonder.

There's not a finer, more decent, God-fearing man in Springfield than Jeremiah Carter.

And I wouldn't be surprised if, when he goes home, he takes down a certain book and looks into it.

Maybe he'll just happen to hit on these words...

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Why don't you put it down for a spell, boys?

Ain't it gettin' heavy?

That's all I've got to say, friends.

Good night.

Nice pair of mules you got here, ma'am. Well gentled.

You won't let nothin' happen to Adam and Matt.

Don't you worry about a thing.

I'll keep my eye on 'em, all right.

Matt, he don't eat much at all, but Adam's just a boy... he's sure to get hungry.

Well, they'll get plenty with the sheriff's wife in the kitchen.

I, uh...

I ain't one to talk much, but after what you've done for us tonight...

Now, now. Save your thanks.

Course, you know I'm just a sort of jackleg lawyer without much experience in this business.

But as long as you want me, I'll do the best I can.

Still, you might feel a lot safer if my partner was here.

Or you could get Steve Douglas.

We don't know nothin' about lawyers or that kind of thing.

Well, at any rate, I'll drop around in the morning and have a little talk with the boys.

One of these days I'll take a ride into the country and let you ladies know how things are comin'.

You know, my mother, Nancy Hanks, would be just about your age if she was alive.

Got an idea she'd be a whole lot like you too.

A whole lot like you.

Well, good-bye, ma'am.

Watch out for the ruts.

Get along, mule. Giddyap!

Oh, uh, Lincoln...

Upon my word, ma'am, in all my experience, I've never danced with a more graceful and charming partner.

Thank you so much.

I'm awfully glad you don't share Mr. Lincoln's aversion to feminine society.

Well, Mr. Lincoln's a great storyteller.

Like all such actors, he revels in boisterous applause.

And yet Ninian says it was his wit that saved those two wretched boys.

Yes, unquestionably he has ability in handling an unthinking mob.

Not even his enemies deny he has a certain political talent.

Uh, Mr. Lincoln, are you, by any chance, a member of the well-known Lincoln family of Massachusetts?

Not by any chance I know of, sir.

A very fine family, sir. Very fine.

Then I'd say the evidence is all against us belongin' to it.

No Lincoln I ever knew amounted to a hill of beans.

Mr. Lincoln, in the part of the South I come from it's customary for a gentleman to ask a visiting lady to dance.

Wouldn't you care to ask me?

I'd like to dance with you the worst way, ma'am, but since all the dancin' I've ever done was behind a plow, I...

Mr. Lincoln, I shall be very glad to dance this dance with you.

Mr. Lincoln, at least you're a man of honor.

You said you wanted to dance with me the worst way, and I must say you've kept your word... that was the worst way I've ever seen.

I warned you, ma'am.

Should we go outside and talk instead of dancing, Mr. Lincoln?

I'd be delighted, ma'am.

Well, Mr. Lincoln, what are you up to now?

Got the smell of the country in my nose just ridin' out.

If a client comes by, Abe, where will we tell him you're at?

In my office, of course.

Where is your office, Abe? In my hat!

Abe, you sure love that river, don't you?

It's a mighty pretty river, Efe.

Never saw a man like you look at a river like you do.

Folks'd think it was a pretty woman or somethin', the way you carry on.

How come they call that thing you're playin' a Jew's harp?

Comes down from David's harp in the Bible.

I don't wanna say nothin' against the Bible, but those people back there sure had funny taste in music.

What's that tune you're playin'?

Don't know. Catchy, though.

Makes you wanna march or somethin'.

Good morning, Mrs. Clay, Sarah.

I reckon that's plenty.

People used to say I could sink an ax deeper than anybody they ever saw.

Well, that's still not bad for a city feller.

This house certainly takes me back to the time when...

I was just a little old shirt-tailed boy in Kentucky.

Our place was just about this size too.

One window, I remember, and a dirt floor.

Some wild crab apple trees out in the front yard.

And a big hearth inside where I used to stretch out while my mother read to me.

I'll never forget how bad I felt the day we decided to pull up stakes and head for Indiana.

Kentucky's a mighty fine place to live, but with all the slaves coming in white folks had a hard time making a livin'.

And you folks just like my folks.

I said that to myself the minute I laid eyes on you.

"My mother'd feel right at home with Mrs. Clay," I said.

Now I know she would.

Sarah, I bet you didn't know I had a sister once, just about your age.

Named Sarah too.

Only she died when her baby was born.

And I knew a girl like you, Carrie Sue,

named Ann.

Ann died too.

Well, finished reading your letters yet?

I read mine, by myself too.

I never learned to read yet.

I thought maybe you'd read it to me.

Why, certainly. I'll be glad to.

"Dear Ma, I seat myself this evening to inform you that I and Matt are well and hoping these few lines may find you all enjoying the same blessings.

We had turnip greens and pork chops for supper.

But, oh, me! Nobody can cook turnip greens like you, Ma."

Matt always says nobody can cook turnip greens better than me.

Sarah can cook 'em as good as anyone. So can Carrie Sue.

"We've been treated mighty nice.

The sheriff says he never had anybody in here who could beat me playing checkers.

Well, Ma, I bet you wish we were there to do some plowing and laying in fresh meat.

Oh, me! Wouldn't a squirrel stew taste good?"

Yeah. Them boys were great ones for hunting.

"A preacher comes in regular and reads us the Bible.

I'm fixing to learn me a whole psalm, if I don't get hung first.

Well, my pen is bad, my ink is pale, my love for you will never fail.


Sarah, do you suppose you've got an extra piece of paper in the house?

I want to make some notes while I'm talking to your mother.

We ain't got any paper that I know of, but we got a new almanac.

Reckon you could write on it? Almanac? Why, yes, it's just the thing.

Carrie Sue, my mouth's beginning to water for some of those turnip greens.


Do you think there's anything you can do about that?

Yeah! Sarah and me'll fix some together.

Thanks, Sarah.

Now, then, suppose you tell me somethin' about the boys.

Well, there ain't very much to tell.

Your husband... did he die?

Yes. The summer after we got here. We just finished building the house.

It's a fine house, all right. Not a nail in it.

No, he was mighty good with his hands.

He was killed by a drunk Indian.

It was 'long round sundown.

I was just coming back from milking.

Adam was clearing out the timber, and Matt was down with a fever.

That Adam... I'll bet he knew what to do with an ax.

Yeah. He takes after his father.

Matt was always the puny one.

Why, once when he was a baby, I... I held him for two days while he was burning up with lung sickness.

Mrs. Clay, which one of your boys killed Scrub White?

I can't tell you.

I just can't.

But I'm your lawyer. You can trust me.

I don't want to scare you, but we've got an awful fight on our hands.

I've gotta know what I'm doing.

I can't.

Be just like choosing between 'em.

What do you suppose made 'em both say they done it?

Matt did because he's older, and Adam said so because Matt has a wife and baby.

There are a lot of people'd like to see those boys hang.

I know, but I... I just can't.

They've got a pack of witnesses and a lot of mighty fine lawyers on the other side.

It ain't no use.

I can't.

No, I don't reckon you can.

Better take them in the back door, Sheriff.

Hang 'em up!

Order! Order! Quiet!

Quiet! Quiet! Order!

Hey! We're just waitin' for ya!

Order! Order!

Take off your hats!

Put them jugs away.


Mighty big crowd here today.

All right, Mr. Clerk. We're ready.

Oyez, oyez, oyez.

The honorable court of the Eighth Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois is now in session.

Judge Herbert A. Bell presiding.

Is the State ready, Mr. Felder?

May it please the court, the State of Illinois is ready... ready and waiting, sir.

Then go ahead, gentlemen, and pick yourselves a jury.

So your name's Bill Killian? Yes, sir.

You don't like my clients, do you, Bill? No, sir, I don't.

Well, tell me this.

You any kin to old Jake Killian, used to live down in New Salem?

Why, yes, sir. I'm his son.

Well, Bill, if you take after your dad, you're a smart boy and an honest one too.

Reckon he's all right with us, Your Honor.

Clarence, how you stand on capital punishment?

You mean, do I want to see them two fellas hung? I do.

You're a blacksmith, aren't you? Sure.

Well, there's going to be a heap of horseshoein' around here this week.

I wouldn't want to keep you from your job.

You're excused. Get going, Clarence.

You say you've never discussed this case?

No, sir, I never did.

Ever hear anybody else discuss it?

No, sir.

How long you been a barber in this town?

Oh, about 18 years, goin' on.

And you never heard it mentioned?

No, sir, not that I remember.

Do you know the, uh, gentleman who's prosecuting this case, Mr. Felder?

I guess I know him. Then you're excused.

Your Honor, this is a waste of time.

Mr. Lincoln should know that the mere fact that a prospective juror knows counsel for the State does not disqualify him.

I know that, John.

What I'm afraid of is that some of the jurors might not know you, and that'd put me at a great disadvantage.

Order! Order! Order!


Heh. Nipped you then, John.

Sam Boone! Sam Boone!

Guilty. No, no, Sam. Sit down.

Sit down!

You drink liquor, Sam? Yup.


Go to church regular?

Enjoy hangings?

Got a job?

Just like to loaf, huh?

Ever tell a lie?

Well, you're just the kind of honest man we want on this jury.

Take your place.

All right, Mr. Prosecutor. Your move.

Gentlemen of the jury, "Thou shalt not kill."

So says the sixth Commandment as handed down to Moses on Mouth Sinai by the Lord God of Israel himself.

Thou shalt not kill.

But Matt and Adam Clay did not heed that command.

They killed Scrub White.

Two against one, they came at him with their deadly weapons.

Two against one, and that one a peace-loving servant of the law.

From all I hear, Scrub was doing some might fancy fightin' for a peace-lovin' man.

True, Mr. Lincoln!


For Scrub White was a man, an American, in whose veins flowed the blood of pioneers who braved the wilderness to make this great state what it is.

He fought in self-defense as he would have fought against the wild beasts of the forest, for...

Scrub White loved life.

He loved the blue of God's heaven, the soft caress of the south wind.

He loved life, but he is dead.

And there, gentlemen... there sit his murderers!

I tell you, gentlemen, they must be wiped out as a man wipeth a plate!

Order! Order! Quiet! Quiet!


Come, come, men!

You've got to give the boys a fair trial, a jury trial, before you hang 'em.

Get going, John.

John, it's a pure shame you aren't runnin' for congress or somethin'.

Or are you runnin' for congress or somethin'?

No, Mr. Lincoln.

I'm here for the sole purpose of seeing justice done.

Justice! My error.

Sure a spellbinder from way back.

As attorney for the State of Illinois, gentlemen,

I shall prove that by their own confessions the defendants did stab unto death the deceased.

I shall prove that they were under the influence of an alcoholic beverage at the time.


when I have proven these facts, gentlemen, I expect you, as 12 loyal, intelligent, red-blooded citizens to find Adam and Matt Clay guilty of murder.

Quiet, please.

Quiet! Quiet! Call Sheriff Billings.

Hi, Gil.

Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth...

I do.

...and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?

Sheriff, have you ever seen this knife before?

Yes, sir. That's the knife they killed Scrub White with.

Did you see 'em do it with a knife? No, but I...

I just wanted to get you back in your groove. Go ahead.

Your Honor, I must insist, if the learned counsel for the defense wishes to object, let him address the court, not my witness.

You heard that, Abe.

One thing more, Sheriff.

Did you visit the wagon owned by the defendants?

Yes, sir. Yes?

And then what did you find there?

A jug of liquor about three-quarters full.

Did the boys deny they'd been drinking on the night of the crime?

No, sir. They said they'd had a snort or two, as usual.

"As usual." Yes, sir. That's what they said. "As usual."

Thank you, Sheriff. Your witness.

Where's the jug now? In my jail.

Empty? Well, there's some left.

How much? About one-fourth full.

Who drank it? Well...

Never mind.

That'll be our little secret.

Tell me this... Did Scrub White have a pistol?

He was a deputy. He had to have one.

Do you know if he tried to use it on the defendants?

No, sir. You don't know he didn't.

No, sir.

Sheriff, did you ever hear about the fix a man was in when he was comin' down the road with a pitchfork on his shoulder and a farmer's dog ran out and bit him on the leg?

No, sir. That must have been out of my district.

Well, then you probably don't recall that in defending himself he stuck one of the prongs of the pitchfork into the dog and killed him.

The farmer got pretty mad.

"What made you kill my dog?" he said.

Well, the fellow said, "What made your dog bite me?"

"Well," the farmer says, "why didn't you go after him with the other end?"

To which the man replied, "Well, why didn't your dog come at me with the other end?"

Pretty good, Gil.

Abe, tell 'em the one about the mule!

Order! Order!

Get going, Lincoln.

Now, Sheriff, let's just suppose that my two defendants here were like that man with a pitchfork, only, let's say, they've got a knife.

And Scrub White was the farmer's dog, only instead of teeth he's got a pistol.

Well, now, wouldn't you say it was a matter of self-defense to use that blade, so long as Scrub didn't come at 'em with the other end of the pistol?

Your Honor, I object and move that these remarks be stricken from the record.

Counsel is presenting an argument.

The counsel's remarks will be stricken from the record.

The jury will disregard them.

Now, you jurors watch out. Don't remember about that dog.

That's all. Just a moment.

You don't...

You don't, of your own knowledge, know that Scrub White came at them with the shooting end of the pistol, do you?

No, sir. Therefore...

That's the end the bullets usually come from, isn't it?

Yes, sir.

There... But you didn't see a shot fired, did you?

No, sir. Then...

But you heard it. I heard something sounded like a shot.

What do you figure you're best at... seeing or hearing?

Well, both.

That's what I figured. Step down.

If you...

Call Palmer Cass.

Palmer Cass, take the stand.

Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?

I do. What's your name?

J. Palmer Cass.

You knew Scrub White, didn't you?

Sure. I knew him well.

When was the last time you saw him? The night he was killed.

You had spent a great part of that day with him, hadn't you?

I was with him all day, near abouts.

Tell me, Mr. Cass, just what did you and Mr. White do that day?

Well, we went to the parade first and then to the fairgrounds.

Had supper down at the People's House and went back to the fairgrounds that night.

I see. Yes. And do you recall... where, and under what circumstances, you first saw the defendants?

We went on down to the tug-o'- war, and there they were.

First thing I knew, they was both cussin' Scrub out and wantin' to fight him.

Why, 'tain't so. It's a lie, sure enough.

What did Mr. White do then?

Well, he just laughed some more and asked them what they wanted to fight him with... knives, pistols or fists.

And how did he ask that... jokingly?

Oh, sure. He was laughin' all the time.

And that night, Mr. Cass, just before the killing...

Tell the jury what happened then.

Well, Scrub and me had a little argument and he went off by hisself.

The next thing I knew, I heard a shot. You heard a shot?


I run down there as fast as I could, but by the time I got there Scrub was layin' on the ground, and them two fellas was standin' over him.

And the knife was on the ground between the defendants?

Yeah. And where was Mr. White's pistol?

Well, it was in his holster.

It went off, then, while he was trying to get it out of his holster.

Yeah. I guess it did, yeah. Thank you.

Your witness.

You say your name's J. Palmer Cass? Yeah.

What's the "J" stand for? John.

Anybody ever call you Jack? Yes.

Why J. Palmer Cass? Why not John P. Cass? I don't know...

Anything the matter with "John P."? No, but...

Has J. Palmer Cass anything to conceal? No.

Then what do you part your name in the middle for?

I got a right to call myself anything I please, as long as it's my own name.

Well, if it's all the same to you, I'll just call you Jack Cass.

Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! Your Honor!

Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! Your Honor!

Your Honor, I object to this ridiculous line of questioning.

Mr. Lincoln's clownishness may win him a laugh from his friends, but I assure him his entire game of buffoonery is lost on this intelligent jury.

Stick to the point, Mr. Lincoln.

I'll do my best, Your Honor.

Well, J. Palmer Cass, you say you and Scrub White had a little argument.

Yeah. Jackass. I just got it.

What kind of an argument?

I'd rather not say.

Oh, you'd rather not say.

Well, Jack, suppose I told you I'd rather you did say.

All right. You wanna know, so I'll tell you.

We was arguing about politics.

Well, that's something new to argue about.

I've found out a lot different since, but I said I figured you had more sense in politics than Steve Douglas, and Scrub got mad as a wet hen and said you didn't.

Well, Mr. Cass, I reckon we can let all you said go in till we've heard from my side.

Step down.

May it please the court, the next witness for the State is not, in the strictest sense, a witness for the prosecution.

However, in the interest of mercy as well as justice, the State desires, at this time, to call upon an eyewitness to the killing of Scrub White.

Mrs. Abigail Clay. Mrs. Clay.

Don't let 'em. Tell 'em I did it.

Matt! Mrs. Clay.

Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

The Bible.

Say, "I do."

I do. Take the stand.

You are the mother of Adam and Matt Clay, aren't you?

You love your boys, don't you?

And you would like to save their lives, if you could.

I'm sure you would, Mrs. Clay.

You were present the night Scrub White was killed, weren't you?

I saw them fighting.

No, no. Don't be afraid of me, Mrs. Clay.

I'm not a bloodthirsty man.

I have no desire to see you lose your two boys.

In fact, no man could wish that less.

So, on behalf of the great state of Illinois, on behalf of the People, I am prepared to offer you the life of one of your sons, provided you tell us which one of your boys stabbed and killed Scrub White.

Don't prompt her, Mr. Lincoln.

Let her answer.

I can't.

Mrs. Clay, you believe in God?

You believe that if you take a sacred oath in the sight of God, and on his holy Bible, that you are bound to speak the truth?

Yes, but I can't. I just can't!

Mrs. Clay, do you appreciate the grave situation your two boys are in?

Don't you know that, under the law, they are equally guilty of murder, that, under the law, they may both be hanged for it?

But I can't tell you, and you can't make me!

Don't you understand?

I am offering you the life of one son.

Take it and tell us which boy killed Scrub White.




Don't you know this court can make you answer my question?

Don't you know that you can be sent to jail yourself?

That shielding a criminal makes you an accessory to that crime?

That by your mistaken affection you are deliberately sending both boys to the gallows?

Don't you know... That's enough of that.

Your Honor, I protest against the prosecution's attempt to force this woman to decide which one of her two sons shall live and which shall die.

In her eyes, these boys hold an equal place.

Perhaps if my learned friend knew more of the law...

I may not know so much of law, Mr. Felder, but I know what's right and what's wrong, and I know what you're asking is wrong.

Put yourself in this woman's place, Your Honor.

Can you truthfully say you'd do differently?

But look at her. She's... She's just a simple, ordinary country woman.

She can't even write her own name.

Yet has she no feelings, no heart?

I've seen Abigail Clay exactly three times in my life, gentlemen, and yet I know everything there is to know about her.

I know her because I've seen hundreds of women just like her, working in the fields, kitchens, hovering over some sick and helpless child.

Women who say little, but do much, who ask for nothin' and give all.

And I tell you that such a woman will never answer the question that's been put to her here.


I'd rather, Mrs. Clay, see you lose both your boys than to see you break your heart trying to save one at the expense of the other.

So don't tell him.

May it please the court.

To save the jury any more of these harrowing outbursts, the State will withdraw the question and excuse the witness.

No doubt Mr. Lincoln will be glad to hear that she was not the only eyewitness to the murder of Scrub White.

Recall Palmer Cass to the stand.

Mr. Cass, where were you when Scrub White was killed?

I was about a hundred yards away, I reckon.

And you saw the killing with your own eyes?

Yes, sir. I... I did.

Quiet! Quiet!


Why didn't you tell us this before?

Nobody asked me.

Have you told anybody else about this?

No, sir. Why not?

Well, I...

I just didn't want to help get nobody hung, that's all.

And that was your only reason... this natural reluctance against being a party to any man's hanging?

Yes, sir. Why do you tell us now?

Well, I... I just began to realize that if I don't tell, maybe both of 'em will get hung.

Mr. Cass.

How could you see so clearly from a distance of a hundred yards at 11:00 at night?

Well, it was... it was moon bright.

Moon bright. Yes, sir.

Then you clearly saw which boy pulled the knife?

Yes, sir. I did.

The defendants will stand up.

Now, Mr. Cass, tell us.

Which defendant stabbed and killed Scrub White?

It was the bigger of the two. That ain't so!


Adam! Matt!

Quiet! Quiet!


Quiet, quiet!

Clear the court! Your Honor, the State rests its case.

Quiet! Quiet!

This court is adjourned till tomorrow morning at 9:00.

Sheriff, take the prisoners away!

That's mighty pretty, Matt.

Sorry, folks. You'll have to leave now.

We've all got a long, hard day ahead of us tomorrow.

You were discussing your political plans, Mr. Douglas.

Please go on.

Good evening, Judge.

Doggone it!

Lincoln, this is against all my principles, but I want to talk to you as an older man.

Go ahead, Judge. I'm listenin'.

What I mean to say, uh, dag-blame it, is, don't you think you ought to have some older lawyer with more experience to help you out tomorrow?

Are you suggesting that I retire, Judge, or just take a back seat?

I'm suggesting, that is, if you want me to, I'll speak to Mr. Douglas and get him to act in a sort of advisory capacity.

I'm sorry, Judge, but I...

I'm just not the sort of fella can swap horses in the middle of a stream.

Then at least change your plea.

Accept sentence for your guilty client, and I'll guarantee the State will be lenient with the other.

Well, that's a mighty temptin' offer.

Mighty temptin', but I... I'm afraid it can't be done.

You see, I promised those folks I'd stick with the game till the last available card was played.

But, man, you'll send both defendants to the gallows as surely as the moon sets.


But that's the way it's gotta be.

Good evening, Judge.

Order in the court!

Hello, Judge.

Quiet, quiet.

Get going, Lincoln.

Your Honor, the defense wishes, at this time, to... cross-examine the last witness for the State, Palmer Cass.

Palmer Cass.

What do they want with him for?

What's he calling him back for?

Mr. Cass, yesterday you identified Matt Clay as the killer of Scrub White.

Yes, sir, I did. You're sure of that?

Why, sure, I'm sure.

Well, I just wanted to know.

You say you were about a hundred yards from the scene of the fight?

Just about, yeah.

Are you familiar with the land over there? Yes, sir.

What's the nature of the layout?

Well, there's a little clearing... Any trees?

A few. Where are they?

They're between the clearing and the fairground.

And you saw right through the trees?

No, sir. I was already through the trees when I saw them fightin'.

Oh, I see.


I suppose the clearing was all lit up by lights from the tar barrels.

No, sir. How'd you see so well?

I told you, it was moon bright, Mr. Lincoln.

Moon bright? Yes, sir.

Of course, if it hadn't been moon bright, you couldn't have seen a hundred yards, could you?

Course not. But you did see it.

I told you I saw it, didn't I?

What's he driving at?

And, uh, the only reason you're tellin' us this now is 'cause you feel sorry for one of the defendants.

Well, I didn't want to see 'em both get hung.

Well, I don't reckon you'd lie about a thing like that.

You can step down.

No further questions, Your Honor.

Oh, Mr. Cass.

I forgot. There's just one other question I want to ask you.

Cass, what'd you have against Scrub White?

Why, nothing. I... What'd you kill him for then?

I don't know what you're talking about. Yes, you do.

Look at this. Go on, look at it.

It's the Farmer's Almanac. Go ahead. Look at it. Look at page 12.

You see what it says about the moon?

That the moon was only in its first quarter that night and set at 10:21, 40 minutes before the killing took place.

So, you see, it couldn't have been moon bright, could it?

You lied, didn't you, Cass?

And you weren't trying to save these boys' necks, were you?

You were trying to save your own, weren't you?

Well, come on! Weren't you? No.

Well, then what'd you lie for? I didn't lie.

Oh, yes, you did. It's as plain as the nose on your face.

But why? Why did you lie about the moonlight?

I don't know what you're talking about. I'll tell you what I'm talking about.

You lied because you had a fight with Scrub White, but it wasn't about politics.

You never mentioned politics. That was your first lie, wasn't it?

It was politics, I tell you. It was! No, you were fightin' about somethin' else.

Maybe it was money. Maybe you owed him money.

Or maybe he owed you some. No.

Maybe he was gettin' a little graft and you wanted to get in on it.

That ain't true. Maybe it was some girl.

No, that ain't right. Well, what was it?

It was one of those things. Something made you want to get rid of Scrub.

You're crazy. Scrub was my friend. Maybe.

Just the same, you lied. Now, why? Come on, tell us.

Why'd you say you saw what happened when you didn't see?

I... Well, I'll tell you what happened.

You heard a row, you saw the fight start and you come runnin', and you saw that Scrub was still livin'.


And right there on the ground, you saw the knife that Matt had dropped.

You bent over him and picked up the knife. No.

Your body hid what you were doin'. No.

And you stabbed him. No, I didn't.

You stabbed him in the back and killed him! No.

And these two boys, Matt and Adam...

They each knew that he didn't do it, therefore, each thought the other did it.

And their mother... she saw the knife in Matt's hand, but she couldn't say so without puttin' the rope around his neck.

And you... you killed him.

And you lied. And your lie tripped you up.

No. That crude, cold-blooded lie that was gonna cover up the crime that you committed.

No. The lie you can't deny, now, can you?

No. Can you?

Answer me! You did kill him, didn't you?

Didn't you? I... I...

I didn't mean to kill him! I was drunk! I was drinkin' all day!

He was my friend! I didn't mean to kill him! Honest! I didn't mean to kill him!

I was drunk!

No more questions, Your Honor.

Your witness.

Mr. Lincoln, I... I'm so glad you won.

Thank you, ma'am.

Mr. Lincoln, my congratulations.

Thank you, Mr. Douglas.

Yesterday I made some remarks about you that I now publicly retract.

Furthermore, I give you my sincere promise never to make the mistake of underrating you again.

Well, Steve, I don't reckon neither of us better underrate each other from here in.

Good day.

Hurry up, Abe! The crowd's waiting!

Well, ma'am, I reckon I better say good-bye to you here.

You got quite a ways to go before sundown.

Good-bye, sir. Good-bye, Mr. Lincoln.


We ain't got very much, but after all you've done for us...

Thank you, ma'am.

That's mighty generous of you.

Watch out for the ruts, ma'am.

Giddyap, mules! Giddyap.

I reckon I'd just about die if I didn't kiss you, Mr. Lincoln.

Ain't you going back, Abe?

No, I think I might go on a piece, maybe to the top of that hill.