The mediocre advocate is apt to miss the crucial point in his case and is easily diverted by minor matters. Mr. Lincoln instinctively saw the kernel of every case at the outset, never lost sight of it, and never let it escape the jury.
Often he clinched his point with some anecdote which so riveted it in the minds of the jury that it could not be dislodged by any amount of eloquence from his opponent. There was the case where he appeared for a defendant who was charged with assault and battery. It was proved that the plaintiff, who had been seriously injured, had made the first attack, but his lawyer argued that the defendant should not have defended himself so forcefully.
"That reminds me of the man who was attacked by a farmer's dog, which he killed with a pitchfork," commented Lincoln. "'What made you kill my dog?' demanded the farmer. 'What made him try to bite me?' said the other. 'But why didn't you go at him with the other end of your pitchfork?' persisted the farmer. 'Well, why didn't he come at me with his other end?' was the retort."
Another time Lincoln disposed of the contention that custom makes law with this anecdote:
Old Squire Bagley from Menard once came to my office and said, "Lincoln, I want your advice as a lawyer. Has a man what's been elected a justice of the peace a right to issue a marriage license?" I told him he had not. "Lincoln, I thought you was a law-