Abraham Lincoln to Isaac Gibson, 26 February 18511Springfield, Illinois Feb 26th 1851Secretary of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad CompanySir
Under the direction of William Martin of Alton, I have commenced Suits against three of your Stockholders who refuse to pay their calls.2 I suppose it is a matter of interest to the Company that we should not fail in these suits, as such failures might encourage others to stop payments. The cases will be fiercely contested at all points– Among other things, we shall be obliged to prove that the calls for instalments were made by the Directors under the 14th Section of the charter.3 This proof we can not legally make without the production of the Book or Books, in which the orders for these calls are entered.
Knowing the inconvenience of producing these Books I have strug^g^led hard to convince myself that we could in some way dispense with them, but in vain. The Books must be here, together with some person, or deposition to certify them as the Books of the Company. Our Court, at which these cases stand for trial, commences its term on Monday the 17th of March next. Now what I wish is, that you will put that Book in your trunk, and bring it here to court. This may be a little troublesome, but I believe it will prevent a greater amount of trouble in future. Please write on receipt of this.4RespectfullyA. Lincoln
1This letter is attributed to, but not written or signed by, Abraham Lincoln. The original letter in Lincoln’s hand is not extant.
2Lincoln references lawsuits against James A. Barret, Joseph Klein, Sr., and John M. Burkhardt on behalf of the directors of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company, which had retained Lincoln & Herndon to collect balances due on shares of capital stock purchased by stockholders.
The Illinois General Assembly chartered the railroad in February 1847 to construct and operate a railroad between Alton, Illinois, via New Berlin, and Springfield, Illinois. Section two of the company’s charter allowed the incorporators to issue $500,000 in stock at $100 per share, and section six required subscribers to purchase stock by paying $5 on each share subscribed at the time of subscribing and the balance in installments called for by a board of directors. The incorporators opened subscription for stock in May 1847. Many stock subscribers owned property near the proposed route. On January 29, 1851, however, the General Assembly altered the charter to allow the company to construct the road on a more direct route, bypassing the property of several stockholders. Believing that the change in route voided their subscription agreements, several investors refused to pay their remaining installments, and the company hired Lincoln & Herndon to collect the full subscriptions. Barret, Klein, Burkhardt, and several of the delinquent subscribers were from Sangamon County, Illinois, and thirty-seven were from Madison County, Illinois. William Martin was among the incorporators. Lincoln wrote three letters to Martin prior to this letter, each regarding these suits.
Lincoln originally planned to also bring suit against Thomas J. Kirkpatrick, but in a letter to Martin on February 19, Lincoln wrote that Kirkpatrick had paid his installments, and the railroad dismissed its case against him. Lincoln continued to work on the three other lawsuits. In addition to the letter on February 19, Lincoln wrote two other letters to Martin prior to this letter to Isaac Gibson, one on February 21 and one on February 24. In his letters of February 19 and 21, Lincoln requested the name of either the clerk or secretary of the railroad. Martin responded on the February 21. Martin’s letter has not been located, and its contents remain unknown, but he probably provided Lincoln with the name of Isaac Gibson, the secretary.
Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; "An Act to Construct a Railroad from Alton, in Madison County, to Springfield, in Sangamon County," 27 February 1847, Private and Special Laws of Illinois (1847), 144-49; Alton & Sangamon Railroad Stock Subscription Book; List of Stock Subscriptions, Document ID: 93972, Alton & Sangamon RR v. Barret, 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=138164; “An Act to Amend the Charter of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company,” 29 January 1851, Private Laws of Illinois (1851), 35; Declaration, Praecipe, Document ID: 4786; Order, Document ID: 5224, Alton & Sangamon RR v. Kirkpatrick, 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=138126; Alton & Sangamon RR v. Klein, 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=138127; Alton & Sangamon RR v. Burkhardt, 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=138122. For full treatment of these cases, see Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 2:172-210.
3The fourteenth section made it “lawful for the directors to require payment of the sums subscribed to the capital stock at such times, and in such proportions, and on such conditions as they shall deem fit.” This section required the directors to give notice of the payments required at least ninety days previous to date of payment, in newspapers in the locations where notice for opening the books for subscriptions had been published. St. Louis, Springfield, and Alton were the cities where the incorporators published notices for subscriptions.
“An Act to Construct a Railroad from Alton, in Madison County, to Springfield, in Sangamon County,” 27 February 1847, 147-48.
4Lincoln hoped to depose Gibson in the Barret and Klein lawsuits. Gibson responded to this letter on March 15 with a telegram and a letter, relating that it would be impossible for him to appear before the Sangamon County Circuit Court in March 1851. Gibson gave his deposition in August 1851 in New York City.
Notice to Take Deposition, Document ID: 4791, 4914; Deposition, Document ID: 93976, Alton & Sangamon RR v. Barret, 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=138164; Notice to Take Deposition, Interrogatories, Document ID: 4783; Deposition, Document ID: 4927, Alton & Sangamon RR v. Klein, 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=138127; Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 2:188-93.
Handwritten Transcription, 1 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).