Abraham Lincoln to John A. Rockwell, 15 February 18531
Hon. John A. Rockwell.My dear Sir:
I have failed to get your Coal Mining Charter. Being very busy in the Courts when your letter reached me, I let a few days slip before attenting to it (sic)2 A little more than a week before the close of the Session, I got a Bill for the Charter howsoever into the Senate, which Body it passed in about five days– It then went to the H. R. and was lost for want of time– No one was opposed to it, but every one was much more anxious about some other Bill, so it became evident a large proportion of all would be lost– With us there is no lengthening out the Session, over a day, to get through with business– The New Constitution, adopted in 1848, limits the pay of members to two dollars per day for the first six weeks, and to one dollar per day afterwards–3 The practical result is they never sit a day over the six weeks.
I have said there was no opposition to your bill– I should qualify this by saying that there was objection to allowing you to connect by railroads with the Canal and Rock Island roads, all three; and so I have to frame the bill to authorize you to make only one of such connections, with the option however, as to which one–
No objection was made about names; and accordingly the bill was to John A. Rockwell, his associates, successors & assigns–
If you continue to desire it, I will get it passed at the next Session— it being borne in mind that at a called Session the door may not be opened for such business.4
Your obt.[obedient] Servant,A. Lincoln.
1This letter is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but the original in his hand has not been located.
2John A. Rockwell’s letter to Lincoln has not been located, so it is unclear when Lincoln received it. However, Lincoln was busy with work on various legal cases from at least January 25-29, 1853 and from February 1-3, 1853.
3Ill. Const. of 1848, art. II, § 24.
4No response from Rockwell has been located.
Asahel Gridley introduced the original bill Lincoln wrote for Rockwell in the Illinois Senate on February 5, 1853, under the title “An Act to Incorporate the Vermilion Coal and Manufacturing Company.” The Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Incorporations. On February 9, the committee reported back the bill with amendments, to which the Senate concurred. It passed the bill as amended, then referred it to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.
On February 10, 1853, the House was informed of the Senate’s passage of the bill, but no further action was taken before the House session ended. Lincoln promised to get the bill passed “at the next Session,” but the bill did not come before the Illinois General Assembly again until 1857.
On January 15, 1857, Burton C. Cook reintroduced the bill in the Senate, under the revised title “An Act to Incorporate the Big Vermilion Coal Company.” The Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Banks and Corporations. On January 17, the committee reported back the bill without amendment and recommended its passage. The Senate passed it and sent it to the House for consideration.
The House took up the bill on January 21 and referred it to its Committee on Banks and Corporations. On January 23, the committee reported back the bill without amendment and recommended its passage. On February 12, the House passed the bill and informed the Senate. The bill was signed into law under its new title in February 1857.
The 1857 law differed from Lincoln’s 1853 bill in several ways. First, Rockwell was no longer associated with it. The law instead named Orville N. Adams, James C. Brown, David Evans, James Strain, and their associates as constituting the company, and specified that Adams was empowered to organize it. The law also did not specify the land or lands to be mined other than to note that they were owned by Adams, Brown, Evans, and Strain. Finally, the law awarded the incorporation for a term of 100 years and authorized the company to engage in the transportation of mineral products—including via boat—but made no mention of the construction of any railroad.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1853. 18th G. A., 318, 398, 403; Illinois House Journal. 1853. 18th G. A., 588; Illinois Senate Journal. 1857. 20th G. A., 92, 116, 565; Illinois House Journal. 1857. 20th G. A., 202, 248, 747; “An Act to Incorporate the Vermilion Coal Mining Company,” 16 February 1857, Private Laws of Illinois (1857), 999-1000.

Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Emanuel Hertz, Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait (New York: Horace Liveright, 1931), 2:613.