By terry hammond executive director national guardianship association
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The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln: Ethical Guardianship in the 19 th Century and Beyond 19th Annual NAPSA Conference AUGUST 26 - 29, 2008 Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers “APS: A dvocating, P rotecting and S erving Vulnerable Adults” By Terry Hammond Executive Director

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By Terry Hammond Executive Director National Guardianship Association

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The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln:Ethical Guardianship in the19th Century and Beyond19th Annual NAPSA Conference AUGUST 26 - 29, 2008Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers “APS: Advocating, Protecting and Serving Vulnerable Adults”

By Terry Hammond

Executive Director

National Guardianship Association


Mary Todd Lincoln


Robert Todd Lincoln


The Lincolns at Ford Theater


Grand Pacific Hotel


Old Chicago Courthouse


Leonard Swett


Isaac Arnold


Jury Verdict

"We, the undersigned jurors in the case of Mary Todd Lincoln, having heard the evidence in the case, are satisfied that said Mary Todd Lincoln is insane, and is a fit person to be sent to a state hospital for the insane..." (jury verdict after 10 minutes of deliberation, May 19, 1875).


Bellevue Place, Batavia, IL


"Six physicians in council informed me that by longer delay I was making myself morally responsible for some very probable tragedy, which might occur at any moment.”

Robert Todd Lincoln, in a June 1, 1875 letter to Mary's Lincoln’s friend Sally Orne, explaining his difficult decision.


Illinois Lunacy Statute, 1874

  • “That when any person is supposed to be insane or distracted, any near relative, or in case there be none, any respectable person residing in the county may petition the judge of the county court for proceedings to inquire into such alleged insanity or distraction. For hearing such application and proceedings thereon, the county court shall be considered as always open….”

  • “At the time fixed for the trial of a jury of six persons, one of whom shall be a physician, shall be impaneled to try the case. The case shall be tried in the presence of the person alleged to be insane, who shall have the right to be assisted by counsel, and may challenge juries as in civil cases….”


Illinois Conservatorship Statute, 1874

“That whenever any idiot, lunatic, or distracted person has any estate, real of personal, or when any person by excessive drinking, gaming, idleness, or debauchery of any kind, so spends, wastes or lessens his estate as to expose himself or his family to want or suffering, or any county, town, or incorporated city, town or village to any charge or expense for the support of himself or his family, the county court of the county in which such person lives shall, on the application of any relative or creditor, or if there be neither relative or creditor, then any person living in such county, order a jury to be summoned to ascertain whether any such person be idiot, lunatic or distracted, a drunkard or such spendthrift; and if the Jury return their verdict that such person is an idiot, lunatic or distracted, or drunkard, or so spends, wastes or lessens his estate, it shall be he duty of the court to appoint some fit person to be the conservator of such person.”


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