Proceedings of Meeting of Citizens of Sangamon County regarding the State House, 24 June 1837
THE STATE HOUSE.
The proceedings of the meeting called by Dr. G. Henry last week, as well as those of the Committee appointed by that meeting, will be found below. The character of the Committee of Investigation is a sure guarantee for the fairness and justice of the Report. The public have now all the facts before them upon which they can form an opinion. That those facts fully bear out the committee in saying, that the Commissioners are “entitled to the thanks and gratitude of their fellow citizens,” we believe there should not be a dissenting voice.1
The committee who made this Report are among our best citizens; and fairness requires us to say that a majority of them are opposed, politically, to Dr. Henry.
At a meeting of Citizens of Sangamon County, held at the Court Room in Springfield, on the 24th of June, 1837, JOHN T. STUART, Esq. was called to the Chair, and Col. ROBERT ALLEN was appointed Secretary. The object of the meeting having been stated, A. Lincoln, Esq. offered the following Preamble and Resolutions:
“Whereas we have seen several publications in the “Illinois Republican,” stating that Dr. A. G. Henry, one of the Commissioners appointed by the Legislature to superintend the building of the State House, is squandering disadvantageously and uselessly the public money appropriated by the citizens of this place for that object; and, whereas, if the charge be true, it is highly important to the interest of the State, that the trust now held by Dr. Henry should be immediately placed in other hands: therefore
Resolved, That a Committee of seven be appointed to examine the books and proceedings of the Commissioners appointed to superintend the building of the State House, and that said Committee make a full and complete Report of said proceedings, together with such remarks upon the facts disclosed as their acquaintance with such business may enable them to make, that may go to show whether the Commissioners are, or are not, progressing with the work in the most economical and judicious manner; and that said Report be published in the newspapers of this place.
On motion, Resolved that the following gentlemen compose said Committee, viz. Major JAMES CAMPBELL, Col. ROBERT ALLEN, JONAS WHITNEY, P. C. LATHAM, NICHOLAS BRYANT, BENJ. FERGUSON and J. HEWETT, Esq’rs; and that they have power to fill any vacancies which may occur in said Committee.2
The resolutions passed unanimously.
On motion, adjourned. J. T. STUART, Chairman. ROBT. ALLEN, Sectetary.
1On March 3, 1837, the Illinois General Assembly had passed legislation appointing Dr. Anson G. Henry one of four commissioners for the construction of the statehouse in the new capital of Springfield. At the same time, Henry was challenging James Adams for the post of Sangamon County Probate Justice of the Peace—a campaign that became increasingly contentious and eventually culminated in Adams’ win on August 7. The Illinois Republican, a Democratic newspaper in Springfield, attacked Henry’s appointment as a partisan political appointment for an unqualified candidate. On June 24, Dr. Henry called for a public meeting to convene that day “for the purpose of enquiring into the truth or falsity of said charges.”
Also appearing in the Sangamo Journal on June 17 and 24, and later on July 8, 15, 22, and 29, were six letters signed “Sampson’s Ghost,” in which the author or authors condemned Adams for defrauding Mary Anderson out of her husband’s land. (“Sampson” was Andrew Sampson, who had leased property to Adams with the understanding that the latter would pay the property taxes and that Sampson would be allowed to reclaim the land if he compensated Adams for any improvements he might make to the land. Adams eventually claimed the tract for himself, though it clearly belonged to Sampson. The author conflated Sampson and Anderson.) The author or authors also accused Adams of writing and planting letters in the Democratic press to injure Anson G. Henry, his opponent in the election for probate justice of the peace.
Given the details from the Anderson case and the contentious circumstances surrounding the election, these letters were possibly the work of Lincoln and his colleagues Stuart, Baker, and Logan. Charges that Lincoln made explicit in his handbill and subsequent replies to Adams’s rejoinders were more vague in the “Sampson’s Ghost” letters, but it is obvious that only the attorneys and their associates defending Mary and Richard Anderson would have been aware of the evidence upon which the author or authors made their accusations. Some contemporaries believed that the letters originated with Lincoln alone, and some modern scholars have also assigned Lincoln sole authorship, including the editors of The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, who included the “Sampson’s Ghost” letters as part of the case file for Wright et al. v. Adams. Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, did not include them, believing that Lincoln scholars had been “somewhat precipitous in assigning Lincoln’s authorship.” In the instance of pseudonymous or anonymous articles published in newspapers, Basler and his editors excluded all but those which they could prove were “incontrovertibly Lincoln’s.” Adams believed the letters came from a group rather than one individual, and Basler could find no internal evidence within the letters to determine conclusively that they came from Lincoln’s pen. Subsequent to the publication of the handbill and Lincoln’s replies to Adams’s rejoinders, the Sangamo Journal on September 30 and October 7, published letters from “An Old Settler” offering evidence of Adams’ dubious character and improper conduct in a land transaction with Elijah Iles. These missives may or may not have come from Lincoln, but incontrovertible evidence to his authorship could not be found, so Basler left them out of this edition. The editors of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln have largely followed Basler’s policy in regard to the “Sampson’s Ghost” letters and other pseudonymous or anonymous articles found in the press. Wright et al. v. Adams languished in the Sangamon County Circuit Court, the Schuyler County Circuit Court, and again in the Sangamon County Circuit Court until Adams died, whereupon the Sangamon County Circuit Court abated the case.
Wright et al. v. Adams, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=139662; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:89; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:133-36; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 17 June 1837, 2:1, 3:1; 24 June 1837, 2:1,4; 8 July 1837, 2:4; 15 July 1837, 3:1-2; 22 July 1837, 2:3; 29 July 1837, 2:7; 5 August 1837, 2:1; 12 August 1837, 2:1, 2:7; 30 September 1837, 2:6; 7 October 1837, 2:7.
2On June 26, the committee of seven reported their findings, which were printed in the Sangamo Journal. The commitee concluded that Dr. Henry as well as the other commissioners had used appropriate judgment and care in the letting of contracts and keeping of records.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 1 July 1837, 2:5-6.
Printed Document, 1 page(s), Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 1 July 1837, 2:5