Lincoln Legal Briefs

July - September 1999, Number 51

The Lincoln Calendar

Forthcoming conferences on Illinois history will include sessions of interest to Lincolnphiles. The program for this yearís Conference on Illinois History offers "The Anti-Lincoln Tradition" and "Illinois and the Civil War" on Friday, October 22, and "Whatís New with Illinois Civil War Roundtables" on Saturday, October 23. The conference will take place in Hearing Rooms 114 and 118 at the Illinois State House in Springfield. Advance reservations are required for the banquet. Contact State Historian Thomas Schwartz, (217) 782-2118, if you have not received the program and registration form..

The 20th annual Illinois History Symposium takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield on December 3-4. Sessions of Lincoln interest include "Engaged in Battle: Illinoisans and the Civil War," and "Abraham Lincoln: His Associates and Partners." To receive a copy of the program (for registration and banquet reservation purposes), contact the Illinois State Historical Society, (217) 525-2781.



Extraordinary expenses associated with producing and packaging the Complete Documentary Edition are placing a strain on project resources, so it was welcome news to learn that the Illinois General Assembly had approved a special increase for the current fiscal year in our funding from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. We also continue to benefit from private contributions, and therefore acknowledge with deep appreciation the generosity of the following recent donors: Luann Elvey, Benjamin Shapell, Springfield Medical Club, Daniel Willenborg, and Louise F. Wollan.


Staff News

A featured program at the October 9 Lincoln Colloquium in Springfield was "Lincoln and His Legal Contemporaries," a discussion and demonstration by assistant editors John Lupton, Stacy Pratt McDermott and Christopher Schnell, with help by graduate assistant Tracy Berner. Lupton first explained the Lincoln Legal Papers and the forthcoming publication of its Complete Documentary Edition. Then he demonstrated the way researchers can investigate how closely Lincoln worked with other lawyers like Ward Hill Lamon and Henry Clay Whitney on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Schnell described and illustrated the breadth and extent of Lincolnís and Stephen A. Douglasí interaction as lawyers. McDermott offered examples of the publicationís usefulness to researchers in womenís history, noting some interesting cases that involved women as business owners or proprietors. Throughout the daylong colloquium Berner answered questions and demonstrated the electronic edition to interested attendants.


Complete Edition Update

Collaborative effort stretching back more than ten years will soon bear fruit, as staff members finish proofing all data and images for The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition. Some time late in October all editorial work will end, and production will begin. As previously announced, the edition will consist of three DVD-ROM discs, packaged with a userís manual, in a handsome "clam shell" container designed to resemble a traditional legal treatise or compilation of statutes. Staff members presently are working with officials at the University of Illinois Press on design, production, marketing and distribution matters. The edition will be released in January, but there also will be a publication ceremony on or just before Lincolnís birthday, February 12, 2000. No firm price has been set, but it will not exceed $2,000. Members of the Abraham Lincoln Association will be entitled to a substantial discount. Readers may inquire at the offices of the Lincoln Legal Papers for additional information.


A. Lincoln, Lobbyist

There has been speculation for years over the extent, if any, of Abraham Lincolnís lobbying activity. It certainly is plausible that a politically active lawyer like Lincoln, living in the capital city of Springfield, would have included lobbying among his legal services. For example, there is some evidence that he lobbied in the state legislature against granting a charter to the Illinois Central Railroad, though he eventually might have been pleased to have failed in that effort, because the railroad became an important and lucrative client and adversary in subsequent litigation. There also are references relating to the famous Illinois Central Railroad v. McLean County case that Lincoln had "the ear of (Governor William H.) Bissell," suggesting that his alignment with the railroad might be politically as well as legally useful. Finally, developer William B. Ogden of Chicago probably engaged Lincoln to lobby the legislature in support of chartering the Chicago Dock and Canal Trust, which owned a valuable tract north of the Chicago River.

The evidence is much clearer in a fourth instance, involving claims by owners of a Joliet saw and grist mill against the I & M Canal for diverting waters of the Des Plaines River. Lincoln scholar Wayne C. Temple has carefully investigated this story, and has generously permitted us to draw upon his work for the story.

Elias Haven and his sons were enterprising Joliet citizens who decided to dam the Des Plaines River to establish a milling business. They managed to purchase several lots on the east bank and near the west bank, prompting them (beginning in 1839) to construct saw, grist and lath mills on the property. The business evidently prospered until 1848, when I & M Canal workers diverted a substantial portion of the stream above the mills to the main channel of their canal, depriving the Havens of much of their water power. Orlando and Philo Haven accordingly filed suit in Will County Circuit Court for damages, and the court ruled in their favor. However, state officials appealed the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, which in 1850 decided that the Havens lacked riparian rights because their property did not border both sides of the river.

Failing in the courts, Orlando Haven next sought relief through a private act in the state legislature. His petition, which was not altogether accurate in its factual assertions, was deferred while the state in 1852 created a board of commissioners to hear all claims by property owners against the canal. Abraham Lincoln served on the board, which in 1853 concluded (among other things) that there was no new information regarding the Haven dispute to counter the supreme courtís ruling. Haven then renewed his quest for a private act, which the state senate duly approved early in 1853.

Alarmed by this legislative maneuver, canal trustees engaged Lincoln to lobby against the bill in the house of representatives. His efforts succeeded, and the bill was defeated in committee. In the I & M Canal records at the Illinois State Archives, Dr. Temple found two documents that prove Lincolnís role as lobbyist in this matter. The canal "Cash Book" recorded a payment of $25 to Lincoln on March 16, 1853 "for opposing Haven bill in Legislature." Although the executed check has not been found, the files do contain the original and a duplicate of Lincolnís signed receipt of payment. A clerkís description on the receipt specified the basis for payment: ". . . for opposing before a Committee of the House Mr. Havenís Bill to prevent diverting water from the Des Plain (sic) River at Joliet."

Lobbying was still in its relative infancy in antebellum America, but there is no doubt that A. Lincoln, Esq. was a practitioner of this art, which many modern critics disparage.

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