Abraham Lincoln to William Butler, 26 January 18391Vandalia, Jany 26— 18392Dear Butler:
Your letter of the 21st Inst is just received—3 You were in an ill-humor when you wrote that letter, and, no doubt, intended that I should be thrown into one also; which, however, I respectfully decline ^being done—^ doing— All you have said about our having been bought up by Taylor, Wright, Turley, enemies &c[etc] I know you would not say, seriously, in your moments of reflection; and therefore I do not think it worth while to attempt seriously to prove the contrary to you— I only now say, that I am willing to pledge myself in black and white to cut my own throat from ear to ear, if, when I meet you, you shall seriously say, that you believe me capable of betraying my friends for any price—4
The grounds of your complaint I will answer seriously— First, then, as to Athens— We have Allen's letter of which you speak; and although, he did not in that letter, pretend that he was specially authorized to speak for the people of Athens, he did pretend, that he knew their feelings, and that he fairly expressed them— And further; Hall & Francis5 of Athens are now here, and I assure you, they say nothing about "giving us hell"— They are as good-humored as I ever saw them—6 About Cowardin's county—7 We passed the bill through the House with the lines precisely as Cowardin himself agreed they should pass— After Cowardin left, Turley insisted on having the Buffalo Heart Grove, insisting that the people of that Grove desired to go in the new county— We knew they desired no such thing; and to get rid of Turley's importunity, we promised him, that if he would get a majority of the people of the Grove to petition to go to
<Page 2>the new county, we would let him have it— We immediately notified the people of the Grove of this promise; and we, on yesterday received a petion praying that the Grove may remain in the old county; and signed by every citizen in the grove but two; so that the grove neither is, ^nor^ will be struck off to the new county— The lines, and every thing pertaining to the county are now, and will remain just as Cowardin agreed they should be— Wherein, then, has Cowardin, been betrayed, or your pledges to him violated?
Again; as to the Allenton county—8 You know that we could not control the teritory proposed to be taken from Shelby & Montgomery counties. You complain that we run too far West— The justification for this is, that we could not get the teritory from Montgomery in any other shape, the legislature, recognizing the right of the member from that county, to divide the same as he pleased— And as to the part to be taken from Shelby, that, we could not get at all, Thornton, refusing peremtorily to let his county be divided, or curtailed in any way— Since the bill passed the House, Frink has been here (and here let me say, he is not half as mad as you would make us think) and obtained a pledge from Thornton, that if he can get a majority of Shelby county consenting to the curtailment he desires, he, Thornton, will go for it— Frink has gone to Shelby, ^to get petitioners,^ and the probability is, that we will yet be able to get from Shelby what Allenton desires—9 Nothing could do more credit to your heart, than the mortification you express at seeing the friends with whom you acted in getting up the remonstrance disappointed; but surely you ought not to blame us for being unable to ac-
<Page 3>plish impossibilities—
My respects to Mrs Butler & Salome.Your friend in spite of your ill-natureLincolnP.S. Judge Stone is here, and I am about to get him to help me about your clerk-fee appropriation
<Page 4>Mr Wm ButlerSpringfieldIllinois
Per Mr Francis
A Lincolns Letter Vandalia Jany[January] 1839.
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the body of the letter, the closing and his signature, the postscript, the address, and the docketing “Per Mr Francis.” William Butler penned the last docketing.
4Butler’s ill-humored letter was precipitated by Lincoln’s role in and position on the division of Sangamon County. Lincoln opposed division of Sangamon County, but as the first session of the Eleventh General Assembly proceeded, some division appeared inevitable. The general consensus was to divide the county into four equal sized counties, substantially decreasing the size of Sangamon and isolating it in the corner of one of the new counties. Using his position on the Committee on Counties, Lincoln hoped to divide the county in such a manner that Sangamon would not be disadvantaged. On January 16, 1839, Lincoln introduced a bill dividing Sangamon into three counties. The House passed the bill on January 21, creating the three small counties of Logan, Dane, and Menard, and leaving Sangamon relatively large. Butler accused Lincoln of kowtowing to land speculators.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 145; Edward D. Baker to William Butler; Abraham Lincoln to William Butler.
5Josiah N. Francis and Calvin Francis, brothers of Simeon Francis, resided in Athens at the time; Josiah was more active in politics. "Hall" has not been identified.
Roy P. Basler, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:139.
7Cowardin was active in the creation of Logan County.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Chicago Historical Society (Chicago, IL).