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Ignorance of the law is no defense. How did Abraham Lincoln learn this fact?
04-21-2020, 01:17 PM
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RE: Ignorance of the law is no defense. How did Abraham Lincoln learn this fact?
I am not sure this story fits what you are asking, but I shall post it anyway as I do not think Lincoln knew the pertinent Kentucky law beforehand. The story comes from Louis A. Warren's Lincoln's Youth - Indiana Years, 1816-1830." (pp. 146-147)


"During his spare time Abe had built a small row boat at the Ohio River landing. One day, two men came up and singling out him and his boat, asked him to row them with their luggage to a packet that was coming down river. He agreed, and carried them out to the waiting steamer and saw them and their gear safely aboard. Before they steamed away they each tossed a silver half dollar into his little boat. He could scarcely believe his eyes—"a poor . . . boy [earning] a dollar in less than a day." The "world seemed wider and fairer" and he was "a more hopeful and confident being from that time."

Apparently after that he offered such service to other steamer passengers and his private little business finally got him into the clutches of the law. Two brothers who lived on the Kentucky side of the river, John T. and Len Dill, had the ferry rights across the Ohio from a point opposite Anderson River. They regarded Abraham's ferrying of steamer passengers as an encroachment upon their jurisdiction, and had him brought before Samuel Pate, a justice of the peace near Lewisport, Kentucky. The pertinent clause of Kentucky law was read : "... if any person whatsoever shall, for reward, set any person over any river or creek, whereupon public ferries are appointed, he or she so offending shall forfeit and pay five pounds current money, for every such offence, one moiety to the ferry-keeper nearest the place where such offence shall be committed, the other moiety to the informer; and if such ferry-keeper informs, he shall have the whole penalty, to be recovered with costs."

The evidence presented revealed that Abraham had limited his operations to depositing his passengers on board steamers in the middle of the river, and that he had never ferried any of them clear across the Ohio. The magistrate ruled that inasmuch as there was no occasion cited on which he had "set any person over [or across] any river or creek/' he was released from the charge."
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RE: Ignorance of the law is no defense. How did Abraham Lincoln learn this fact? - RJNorton - 04-21-2020 01:17 PM

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