Abraham Lincoln to Usher F. Linder, 8 March 18531Springfield, March 8. 1853.Dear Linder–
The change of circuits prevents my attending the Edgar court this Spring, and perhaps generally hereafter–2 There is a little Ejectment case3 from Bloomfield, in which the name of Davidson figures, but in which a couple of men by the name of Bailey are interested; and for defending which I have been paid a little fee– Now I dislike to keep their money without doing the service; & I also hate to disgorge; and I therefore request of you to defend the case for me; & I will, in due time, do as much or more for you– Write me whether you can do it–4Yours as ever,A. Lincoln
Lincoln to Linder about attending to a case.5
2Lincoln references Edgar County Circuit Court’s relocation from the Eighth Judicial Circuit to the Fourth Judicial Circuit, which took place February 12, 1853 via an act passed by the Illinois General Assembly.
“An Act to Change the Time of Holding Courts in the County of Shelby, and For Other Purposes,” 21 February 1845, Laws of Illinois (1845), 47; “An Act to Change the Limits and Fix the Time for Holding Courts in the Fourth Judicial Circuit,” 12 February 1853, General Laws of Illinois (1853), 64.
3In American law, “ejectment” relates to an action to recover land or other real property and to collect damages. Originally, in the English common law, only tenants could use this action to recover possession of land from which they had been unlawfully ousted. Because of the simplicity and swiftness of the ejectment procedure, landowners began to use this action to recover land. To do so, the landowner, on behalf of a fictitious tenant (John Doe), sued a fictitious defendant (Richard Roe) for ousting the fictitious tenant. The court titled such cases John Doe ex dem. “Landowner” v. Richard Roe. When the defendant appeared in court, the clerk sometimes replaced “Richard Roe” with the defendant’s real name. In an act passed in March 1839, the Illinois General Assembly abolished the need for the fictitious names. The losing party in an ejectment case was entitled by law to one new trial simply by paying the court costs.
“Ejectment,” Reference, Glossary, 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/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html.
4Usher F. Linder’s reply, if he wrote one, has not been located.
Lincoln is discussing the case Davidson v. Bailey. In the case, in October 1851 Samuel Davidson sued David Bailey to eject him from property in Edgar County, Illinois that Davidson claimed to own. Bailey retained Lincoln and pleaded not guilty. Lincoln then wrote this letter to Linder asking him to take the case since he could not travel to Edgar County, which was no longer a part of the Eighth Judicial Circuit which he generally traveled. Although it is unclear if Linder took the case, Lincoln was in court trying another case in Metamora in Woodford County, Illinois on April 28, 1853—the day before the Davidson v. Bailey case went to trial in Edgar County. On April 30, 1853, Davidson gave up the suit, and the court ruled that he reimburse Bailey for the costs incurred for his defense.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 28 April 1853, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1853-04-28; Judge’s Docket, Document ID: 37918; Order, Document ID: 37922; Order, Document ID: 37923, Davidson v. Bailey, 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=135750.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Box 4, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).