Lincoln Legal Briefs

July-September, 1989, Number 11

The Volunteer Factor

The value of volunteer help is evident this year in both quantitative and qualitative terms. During 1989 project volunteers (including student interns) will have contributed nearly 1,500 hours of research and clerical assistance. This is the equivalent of nearly one full-time employee.

The qualitative measure is equally impressive. Our newest recruit, Dan Bannister, is systematically examining Lincoln's 250 Illinois Supreme Court cases and carefully preparing a brief for each one. This research will be invaluable as we begin collecting and assessing the case files. Dan is a retired lawyer and insurance company executive who recently moved back to Springfield. We welcome and appreciate his service.

Our other 1989 volunteers have included Laura Clower, Rose Anne Davis, Sharon Hiltibidal, Roberta Jones, Dave McCarthy, Linda Moore, and Leslie Wright.



Students of Lincoln the lawyer will be interested to learn about the bibliographic effort of Dr. Elizabeth Matthews, librarian and professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Dr. Matthews has spent several years tracking monographs and journal articles pertaining to Lincoln's law practice. This work has already yielded over 300 entries, with more expected from her current travels to major Lincoln collections.

The resulting annotated bibliography will be published by Southern Illinois University Press. Interested persons can contact Dr. Matthews at SIU School of Law, Carbondale, IL 62901-6803.


Thanks for Your Support

Since the last newsletter, the following persons have made donations to the Abraham Lincoln Association in support of the project: Michael J. Devine, Bernard O. Dow, Michael Gross, Sherrill Halbert, Norman F. Hampton, Jr., Janine D. Harris, Roy Licari, Lewis P. Mallow, Jr., Lee C. Moorehead, Dannie F. Melson, Wallace C. Sieh, Mrs. Donald Trescott, Mrs. Robert C. Underwood, and Frank J. Williams.


New Faces

The newest addition to our staff is Tammy Lescaleet, who joined us last month as a student clerk. Tammy, a senior at Springfield High School and an aspiring court reporter, works on the project each afternoon as part of a work study class. She has provided a needed boost of energy to the mass mailings of the collection phase, and has tackled several important jobs that have been on the back burner.

Scheduled to join the staff in November is Joanne Walroth, who has extensive research and editorial experience. Previously she held a fellowship in historical editing with the Benjamin Franklin Papers at Yale University, and was assistant director of publications at the New Jersey Historical Society. She is a Ph.D. candidate in American history at the University of Chicago. Joanne is filling a new position made possible by increased state funding, and she will work with Bill Beard in accessioning documents from Illinois county courthouses and major Lincoln repositories.


An Interesting New Discovery

The project mail survey is proceeding smoothly. We have received high-quality photocopies of over 200 items from repositories not noted for their Lincoln holdings. Major Lincoln collections will be researched by project staff after the survey is completed. One of the most interesting discoveries came from the archives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Philadelphia, PA. No copy of this letter exists in the Lincoln Collection of the Illinois State Historical Library, and it has not been previously published.

AD, PPPrHi (1)

Springfield, March 31. 1854

M. Brayman, Esq (2)

Dear Sir:
I write this to inform that
the people, (or some of them) of McLean and
DeWitt counties, through whose farms the I.C.
R.R. (3) passes, are complaining very much that
the Co. does not keep its covenants in re=
gard to making fences- (4) An old man from DeWitt
was down here the other day to get me to
bring a suit on this account; but as I had
sold myself out to you, (5) I turned him over to
Stuart, (6) who, I understand, will bring the suit- (7)
A stitch in time may save nine in this matter- (8)
No decision yet in our tax case; (9) and I am not
quite easy about it-

(1) Lincoln's signature in this autographed document has been excised.

(2) Mason Brayman, b. May 23, 1813 in Buffalo, New York, d. February 27, 1895 in Kansas City, Missouri. Brought up as a farmer, Brayman became a printer and edited "The Buffalo Bulletin," 1834-1835; studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1836; moved west in 1837 and was city attorney of Monroe, Michigan; and moved to Kentucky and edited "The Louisville Advertiser" in 1841. In 1842 he opened a law office in Springfield, Illinois; the following year was appointed by Governor Thomas Ford a commissioner to adjust the Mormon troubles; and in 1844-1845 he was selected to revise the statutes of the state. Brayman served as general solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad, 1851-1855. During the five years before the Civil War, he worked to construct a railroad from Bird's Point, opposite Cairo, into Arkansas. He became Major of the Twenty-ninth Illinois Volunteers in 1861, and rose to the brevet rank of Major-General. Continuing his railroad enterprises in the South after the war, he returned to Springfield to edit the "Illinois State Journal," 1872-1873; removed to Wisconsin; and was appointed Governor of Idaho, 1876-1880, after which he returned to Ripon, Wisconsin.

(3) Illinois Central Railroad Company. See John F. Stover, History of the Illinois Central Railroad (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975); John W. Starr, Jr., Lincoln and the Railroads (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1927), 57-79.

(4) The Illinois Central's charter and the general railroad incorporation law of 1849 do not mention the responsibility of the company to build and maintain fences. While the Illinois Central was not obligated by the charter to construct fences along the right of way, it may have made such a commitment to neighboring farmers. See Private Laws of Illinois, 17 G.A., 1st Sess. (February 10, 1851), 61-74, and Laws of Illinois, 16 G.A., 2nd Sess. (November 6, 1849), 18-35.

(5) Lincoln's relationship with the Illinois Central was long term and intimate. Though not a member of the legislature, he participated in the struggle over the passage of the railroad's charter, approved February 10, 1851. No comprehensive study of Lincoln's railroad cases exists, but his practice included at least fifty cases with the Illinois Central. He received an annual retainer and free pass for his services. On Lincoln's role in the charter controversy, see Paul W. Gates, The Illinois Central Railroad and Its Colonization Work (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934), 44-45; Charles Leroy Brown, "Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Central Railroad, 1857-1860," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 36 (1943): 128; Starr, Lincoln and the Railroads, 40-45; Robert M. Sutton, "Lincoln and the Railroads of Illinois," Lincoln Images, Augustana College Centennial Essays, ed. O. Fritiof Ander (Rock Island, IL: Augustana College Library, 1960), 48; Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952), 156.

(6) John Todd Stuart, b. November 10, 1807 in Fayette County, Kentucky, d. November 28, 1885 in Springfield, Illinois. Stuart graduated from Centre College, Danville, Kentucky, in 1826, was admitted to the bar in 1827, and arrived in Springfield on October 25, 1828. After service in the Black Hawk War, he was elected to the state legislature and encouraged Lincoln to study law. Lincoln was admitted to the bar and joined Stuart as a partner, April 1837-April 1841. In 1843 Stuart formed a partnership with Benjamin S. Edwards which continued until his death. There is no satisfactory biography of Stuart. See Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1982), 292.

(7) The case has not been identified. DeWitt and McLean Circuit Court records for the years 1854-1856 are incomplete.

(8) Lincoln applied this proverb as advice to Brayman that the Illinois Central would avoid costly and time-consuming litigation by constructing fences along its route.

(9) Lincoln was referring to Illinois Central Railroad v. County of McLean, 17 Ill. 291 (1856). Though successful in the suit, Lincoln was forced to sue the railroad to collect the balance of his $5,000 fee. See John J. Duff, Abraham Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Bramhall House, 1860), 312-318.

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois