Abraham Lincoln to William Martin, 29 August 18511Springfield, Aug: 29. 18512Hon: Wm MartinDear Sir:
I have just seen a letter of yours to Mr Hickox, in which you reiterate that the publications for the calls were ^all^ made in the both the city papers at Springfield– May be they were; but I tell you if they were, neither I, nor the editors or publisher’s of the papers can find them.3 All we can find is an a publication made in time for the first call, & one for the second, not in time– Surely you can not suppose I would be so pertenaceously urging you to send the papers publications, if I had them here altogether already–
You also say "If we had been informed that these books & witness were needed a week ago &c[etc.]"
Well, nearly or quite six months ago, you & I by our correspondence, had it distinctly settled that I should need this book, witness & newspapers, when the trials of my cases should come on; and you had distinctly promised me that you would send them up whenever as I should want them– Now, send send them at once, if you shall not have done so already–4Yours as everA. Lincoln
<Page 2>SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
5Hon: Wm MartinAltonIllinois–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
3The two leading newspapers in Springfield at this time were the Illinois Journal and the Illinois State Register. In August 1851, Simeon Francis edited the Illinois Journal, and he also published it alongside his brother, Allen Francis. Charles H. Lanphier and Edward Conner edited and published the Illinois State Register.
Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 321, 322.
4Lincoln was collecting evidence for lawsuits on behalf of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company, which had retained Martin and 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, many investors refused to pay their remaining installments, and the company hired Lincoln & Herndon to collect the full subscriptions. Several of the delinquent subscribers were from Sangamon County, Illinois, and thirty-seven were from Madison County, Illinois. The railroad hired Martin to collect the full subscriptions in Madison County and Lincoln & Herndon to collect in Sangamon County. In addition to being an attorney for the railroad, Martin was also one of the original incorporators.
Lincoln planned to bring suit on behalf of the railroad against Sangamon County residents James A. Barret, Joseph Klein, Sr., John M. Burkhardt, and Thomas J. Kirkpatrick. Burkhardt and Kirkpatrick paid their installments, and the railroad dismissed their cases against them. Lincoln continued to pursue cases against Barret and Klein.
Lincoln was particularly keen to obtain evidence that the railroad had given proper notice in calling for stockholders to pay their installments. Section fourteen of the railroad’s charter required the directors to give notice of the payments required at least ninety days prior 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. The case files include handwritten transcriptions of calls for installments from the Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review and the Illinois State Journal, but this did not satisfy Lincoln; he was eager to find proof of the railroad’s calls in the newspapers themselves, particularly Springfield’s papers. Lincoln explicitly asked Martin to send him the newspaper publications of the calls in a letter dated August 25.
Lincoln’s reference to “these books & witness” relates to Lincoln’s request, first made in a letter to Martin dated February 21, 1851, for the books of the corporation, containing the entries of the orders of calls, and a witness or deposition certifying them as the books of the company. Lincoln iterated and reiterated the importance of these books and a witness in other letters to Martin. On February 26, Lincoln wrote Isaac Gibson, secretary of the railroad, requesting that he bring the books and appear before the Sangamon County Circuit Court at the opening of its spring session on March 17. 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 court in March 1851, forcing Lincoln to postpone the suits against Barret and Klein until the August term. In August 1851, Gibson gave a deposition in the cases in New York City. Gibson did not send the books, but he did include transcriptions of the minutes of the board of directors’ meeting where they resolved to call for installments. Lincoln was obviously not satisfied with this, and he continued to ask for a witness to appear in court, suggesting to Martin in a letter of August 25 that Robert Ferguson be that witness.
Between February and August 1851, Lincoln wrote Martin ten other letters on these cases. Martin replied to at least some of Lincoln’s letters, but his replies are not extant, so it is difficult to know what evidence Martin gave Lincoln.
“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; “An Act to Amend the Charter of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company,” 27 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, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=138126; Declaration, Document ID: 4789; Order, Document ID: 5225, 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; Notice to Take Deposition, Interrogatories, Document ID: 4783; Deposition, Document ID: 4927; Newspaper Transcripts, Document ID: 5228, 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; List of Stock Subscriptions, Document ID: 93972; Notice to Take Deposition, Document ID: 4791, 4914; Deposition, Document ID: 93976; Newspaper Transcripts, Document ID: 93968, 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; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin. 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.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Box 4, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).