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James Lemen

James Lemen Sr. (1760 – January 8, 1823) was an American justice of the peace and minister who was a leader of the anti-slavery movement in Indiana Territory in the early nineteenth century.

Born near Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia), in colonial times, he served a two-year enlistment in the American Revolutionary War. He married Catherine Ogle, from the family whose name is perpetuated in that of Ogle County, Illinois. Lemen was a protégé of Thomas Jefferson.[citation needed]

Most historians reject as unsubstantiated the claim there was a "Jefferson-Lemen Secret Anti-Slavery Compact,"[1] whereby Jefferson secretly asked Lemen to move to Illinois (then Indiana Territory), and to take up the anti-slavery cause there.[2]

Lemen became a leader of the anti-slavery movement in Indiana Territory, and influenced the Illinois' first "Free State" Constitution, which was framed in 1818 and preserved in 1824.

In a letter to Lemen's son, Rev James Lemen Jr., dated March 2, 1857, Abraham Lincoln praises Lemen senior's anti-slavery work. Lemen, as Jefferson's agent in Illinois, founded the anti-slavery churches, which in Lincoln's view, "set in motion the forces which finally made Illinois a free state."[3]

In Appendix II of "The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln" this letter is listed as a forgery.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Macnaul, W.C. (1865). The Jefferson-Lemen Compact.
  2. ^ Clarence Walworth Alvord, Illinois in 1818 (Springfield, 1917) pp 242, 319
  3. ^ Hill, John Wesley (June 2003). Abraham Lincoln, Man of God, p. 401. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-6110-8