Abraham Lincoln to Robert M. Dunlap, 2 September 18511Springfield, Sept 2. 1851Mr Robt Dunlap,Present.Dear Sir:
The moment you reach Alton procure and send me by mail an Alton Newspaper, having in it a publication of "the notice for opening^the^ books for subscription to the capital stock" of the Alton & Sangamon Railroad Company– Dont omit this for a moment; and be sure you do not send a wrong paper–2Yours trulyA. Lincoln
<Page 2>Robt Dunlap, Esq.[Esquire]Present–
Sept[September] 2 1851–3
Sept[September] 2 1851–3
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the text “Robt Dunlap, Esq. Present–” shown in the second image.
2Robert M. Dunlap’s reply, if he wrote one, has not been located. However, if he sent Lincoln a newspaper from Alton, Illinois it was most likely the Alton Telegraph, one of the few newspapers published out of Alton at the time of this letter.
This request to Dunlap was part of Lincoln’s efforts to collect evidence for lawsuits on behalf of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company, which had retained William 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, 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.
“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, 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, 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; 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, 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. 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).