Abraham Lincoln to John T. Stuart, 23 December 18391Springfield, Dec: 23 1839—Dear Stuart:
Dr Henry will write you all the political news— I write this about some little matters of business— You recollect you ^told^ wrote me me you had drawn the Chicago Musick money & sent it to the claimants— A. d—d[damned] hawk billed yankee2 is here, besotting me at every turn I take, saying that Robt Kinzie never received the $80. to which he was entitled—3 Can you tell any thing about the matter?— Again Old Mr Wright, who lives up South Fork4 some where, is teasing me continually about some deeds which he says he left with you, but which I can find nothing of—5 Can you tell where they are?—
The legislature is in session, and has suffered the Bank to forfeit it's charter without Benefit of Clergy—6 There seems to be but verry little disposition to resuscitate it— Whenever a letter comes from you to Mrs Stuart, I carry it to her, and then I see Betty— She is a tolerably nice fellow now— May be I will write again when I get more time—Your friend as everA. LincolnP.S. The Democratic giant is here; but he is not now worth talking about—7A L.
<Page 2>SPRINGFIELD Il.[Illinois]
Free.John T. StuartWashintonD.C.
Lincoln to Stuart 1839
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the body of the letter, signature, postscript, address, and the word “free.” John T. Stuart penned the first docketing on page two.
2Yankee was originally a term to identify New Englanders, but by the early 1800s it was a term of derision to describe anyone trying to defraud, cheat or outsmart someone.
Sir William Craigie and James R. Hurbert, comps., A Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942), 4:2514-15.
3Robert Kinzie’s Chicago companies Kinzie & Hall and Kinzie & Forsythe held two debts totaling $1,271.40 against Samuel Musick’s estate. After Musick’s death in 1836, the estate distributed various payments on the debts, and on October 10, 1839, Stuart sent a Bank of Chicago check for $80 to Kinzie in Chicago.
Promissory Note of Samuel Musick to Kinzie & Hall, 10 September 1835; Promissory Note of Samuel Musick to Kinzie & Forsythe, c. 1835, both in case file 269, Sangamon County Probate Justice of the Peace, Illinois Regional Archives Depository, University of Illinois Springfield; Copy of Stuart & Lincoln Office Fee Book, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, IL; Stuart & Lincoln collected debt for Kinzie & Forsythe, 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=141173; Stuart & Lincoln collected debt for Kinzie & Hall, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=141172; Abraham Lincoln to John T. Stuart.
4Lincoln was likely referring to the south fork of the Sangamon River.
5There were at least seven men named Wright living outside of Springfield in Sangamon County in 1840. However, Lincoln may have been referring to James Wright who had paid Stuart & Lincoln $5 in September 1838 and for whom Lincoln had written a petition regarding the construction of a mill dam on Brush Creek in southern Sangamon County.
6In old English law, members of the clergy were exempt from the punishment of death. With this reference, Lincoln used sarcasm to report that the legislature had allowed the State Bank of Illinois’s charter to die. Section twenty-five of the bank’s incorporation act stipulated that if the bank refused or neglected to redeem, for ten days after demand, its notes or evidence of debt in specie, the bank would discontinue operations and its charter would be forfeited. An act supplementary to the incorporation act gave the bill an additional fifty days to suspend specie payments. In May 1837, the bank suspended specie payments in response to the Panic of 1837. In July, a special session of the legislature commenced to deal with the banking crisis. On July 21, the General Assembly passed an act suspending until the end of the next general or special session of the legislature provisions of the law requiring the bank to forfeit its charter for refusing to redeem its notes in specie for sixty days. In December 1839, the state’s debt crisis forced the bank to again suspend specie payments. Governor Thomas Carlin called the legislature into special session to deal with the crisis. In his message to the General Assembly, Carlin attacked the bank and demanded an investigation of its affairs. The legislators complied by establishing a joint select committee. Despite Carlin’s hostility and Lincoln’s skepticism, the legislature passed an act on January 31, 1840, resuscitating the bank with, as Lincoln described in a letter to Stuart, “some trifling modifications.” The act revived the bank’s charter and suspending stipulations on specie payments until the end of the next legislative session.
John Bouvier, ed., A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution of the Laws of the United States of America, 6th ed., (Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson, 1856), 165; Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 30, 51, 69, 219-20, 221, 222; Illinois Senate Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 25, 26, 41, 156, 159, 163, 166; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:138, 147; Charles Hunter Garnett, “State Banks of Issue in Illinois” (essay, University of Illinois, 1898), 30-35.
7In December, Stephen A. Douglas was likely in Springfield for the December session of the Illinois Supreme Court, and he was present at a political discussion in which Lincoln delivered a speech, which articulated key political and economic distinctions between the Whig and Democratic parties.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 3 January 1840, 4:1-2.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).