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Pope, Nathaniel

b. January 5, 1784, in Louisville, Kentucky; d. January 22, 1850, in St. Louis, Missouri. Pope attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1802 and read law in the office of his brother John Pope, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky. He joined the bar in 1804 and practiced law in Ste. Genevieve, Louisiana Territory (Missouri), and Kaskaskia, Indiana Territory (Illinois), before accepting an appointment as secretary of the newly formed Illinois Territory in 1809. His cousin Ninian Edwards became its territorial governor. In 1815, Pope compiled Laws of the Territory of Illinois, Revised and Digested under the Authority of the Legislature. The following year, he resigned as secretary to serve as territorial delegate to Congress, a position he held until Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. Pope drafted the resolution for Illinois’s admission to the Union that Congress adopted. Largely through his efforts, Congress moved the proposed northern boundary of Illinois more than sixty miles farther north from the southern bend of Lake Michigan, to encompass part of the shoreline of Lake Michigan. In 1819, he accepted a lifetime appointment as U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Illinois and held that position until his death. As a federal judge, Pope presided in more than forty cases and seventy-two bankruptcy proceedings in which Lincoln was an attorney. During his tenure on the bench, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, and he unsuccessfully sought a seat on the United States Supreme Court.
Paul M. Angle, “Nathaniel Pope, 1784-1850,” Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society 43 (1936): 111-81; John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 17:677-78; Allen Johnson, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1964), 8:1:77-78; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News Company, 1879), 215-17; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899), 2:641-42. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.