James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., “Swett, Leonard,” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1889), 6: 9.
SWETT, Leonard, lawyer, b. near Turner, Me. 11 Aug., 1825. He was educated at North Yarmouth academy and at Waterville (now Colby university), but was not graduated. He read law in Portland, enlisted as a soldier in the Mexican war and at its close in 1848 settled in Bloomington, Ill. He travelled the circuit in fourteen counties, and was an intimate friend of Abraham Lincoln and David Davis. In 1865 he removed to Chicago. In 1852-'61 he took an active part in politics, canvassing the slate several times, and in 1858, at the special request of Mr. Lincoln, was a candidate for the legislature on the Republican ticket, and was elected by a large majority. This is the only official place he has ever held. When Mr. Lincoln became president Mr. Swett was employed in the trial of government cases, one of the most noted of which was that for the acquisition of the California quicksilver-mines in 1863. In the course of his practice Mr. Swett has defended twenty men indicted for murder, securing the acquittal of nineteen, and a light punishment for the other one. He has also been retained in criminal cases in nearly every part of the country, though his professional work has been mainly devoted to civil suits. His success is attributed to his careful personal attention to details and his eloquence as an advocate. He has rendered much gratuitous service to workingrnen, servants, and other poor clients. He delivered the oration at the unveiling of the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago, Ill., 22 Oct., 1887, and at the Chicago Republican convention in June, 1888, in an eloquent speech, proposed Walter Q. Gresham, of Illinois, as a candidate for the presidency.