Abraham Lincoln to David M. Irwin, [November 1850]1
|The Heirs of Payne|
|To Logan & Lincoln||Dr[Debit]|
|1844. To attending to Ejectment suit against
|Hall in Sangamon Circuit Court–||$20.00.|
|To A Lincoln||Dr|
|1845-6. To attending same suit in Supreme Court.||$10–00|
|To Lincoln & Herndon||Dr|
|1846, 7– 8– 9. &50. To attending to Chancery suit between|
|same parties in Sangamon Circuit Court.||$10–00,|
Above is the Bill as you requested me to send you– Logan only attended the first trial in the circuit court– I, alone, attended that is without any partner attended the case in the Supreme court. In the Chancery case, Mr Herndon was my partner– I mention all this to explain the three separate bills–2Yours. &c.[etc.]A. Lincoln
Heirs of Thomas Payne
2Lincoln received $40 for his legal services in representing David M. Irwin and heirs of Thomas Payne in lawsuits against Henry H. Hall. In 1830, Payne purchased eighty acres of public land southwest of what would become Virginia, Illinois, and in 1834, he would purchase an additional eighty acres. Knowing that he was dying, Payne made his will on September 4, 1835. The will provided for the division of 160 acres of land among Payne's five children and stipulated that any land sale had to yield at least $8 per acre. Payne named no executor in the will, however, and he died shortly thereafter. On September 9, the court appointed Benjamin H. Gatton administrator of Payne's estate. Gatton sold the land to Hall, who owned the land east, west, and north of it, for $1,400, or $120 more than $8 per acre. In October 1843, however, Payne's heirs sued Hall in Cass County Circuit Court to eject him from the land. In May 1844, Irwin and Payne's heirs succeeded in getting the case transferred to the Sangamon County Circuit Court. Stephen T. Logan, representing Payne’s heirs, argued that Gatton, as the administrator, had no power to sell the land because only an executor could perform the sale. The court refused Hall's offer of Gatton's deed as evidence of ownership. In July, the jury found for Payne's heirs, and the court ordered Hall to convey the land to them. In December 1844, Hall appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court on the grounds that the lower court erred in refusing to admit the deed as evidence, and Payne's heirs retained Lincoln. The parties agreed that the Supreme Court should consider only the question regarding an administrator's power to sell and convey land. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, with Justices Richard M. Young and Walter B. Scates dissenting. Writing the court's opinion, based primarily on English sources and a strict construction of the Illinois statute of wills, Justice Gustavus P. Koerner agreed with Lincoln that an executor, but not an administrator, had the power to sell the land. In dissenting, Young and Scates emphasized the need to interpret properly the state's statute of wills rather than English law or the laws of sister states. In July 1846, Hall sued the heirs in Sangamon County Circuit Court for an injunction blocking their taking possession of the property until they paid him approximately $4,000 for his improvements. Lincoln continued to represent Irwin and the heirs of Payne. In November 1850, the court granted the injunction but later ruled for Payne's heirs and dismissed the case.
For documents related to these three cases, see Irwin et al. v. Hall, 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=139231; Hall v. Irwin et al., 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=139233; Hall et al. v. Irwin et al., 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=139232; Hall v. Irwin et al., 7 Ill. (2 Gilman) (1845), 180-97; J. N. Gridley and Others, Historical Sketches [of Cass County, Illinois] (Virginia, IL: Virginia Enquirer, 1907), 103-4.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Huntington Library (San Marino, CA).