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Abraham Lincoln to William D. Briggs, 19 March 18531
W. D. Briggs, Esq.[Esquire]Dear Sir.
I suppose it will be necessary to take a deposition in the ^attachment^ case you mention–2 It will have to be done under the act of March 1st 1845— found in the Session acts of 1845, at page 27– The way will be to make out a notice with interrogatories, precisely as you do to take a deposition of a non-resident witness in an ordinary case, except that 4 weeks instead of 10 days time must be given; and as you can not serve the notice, post one copy on the court house door, & file the other in the clerks office 4 weeks before suing out the commission– If posted at the court-house [I?] door I think it need not be published in a news-paper— one or the other will do–3
As to the declaration, I suppose that a common count is all that is necessary, & accordingly I send a draft of that sort–4
Yours trulyA. LincolnP. S.[Postscript] When you send on for evidence, better also get an authenticated copy of the Charter– Also look over the declaration I send, fill in blanks, correct mistakes, if any, on names, amounts, &c.[etc.]A. Lincoln5
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this document, including the postscript.
2Lincoln references a lawsuit between the Harris Lime Rock Company and Samuel B. Harris. In 1852, the Harris Lime Rock Company, an incorporated company in Rhode Island, retained Lincoln and William D. Briggs and sued Samuel B. Harris, an agent of the company, in an action of trespass on the case on promises (assumpsit) in the Tazewell County Circuit Court for $15,000 that Harris had received as an agent of the company. Harris owned two farm lots near Delavan, Illinois, and the company had them attached. Attachment involved a legal action through which a plaintiff could have the court seize the defendant’s personal or real property pending the outcome of a case involving a debt of $20 or more or an out-of-state defendant; creditors frequently used attachment against debtors, in many cases in aid to an Assumpsit action. Assumpsit involved a legal action for the breach of a simple contract (express or implied), which was not under seal. Virtually synonymous with trespass on the case on promises, Assumpsit was used in a wide variety of situations and was the most commonly used common law action in antebellum Illinois.
“Attachment”; “Assumpsit,” 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; Attachment Bond, Document ID: 46409; Writ of Attachment, Document ID: 46411; Publisher’s Certificate, Document ID: 46416; Narratio, Document ID: 3687, Harris Lime Rock Co. v. Harris, 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=136406.
3Lincoln references an act passed by the Illinois General Assembly on March 1, 1845, amending an act regulating the mode of taking depositions, which the General Assembly enacted on February 9, 1827. Lincoln makes special reference to provisions for depositions of non-Illinois residents. Samuel B. Harris was a resident of Providence, Rhode Island. Briggs completed the notice for deposition on March 18, 1853 and filed it with the court on March 21. The deposition took place in Providence on April 18.
“An Act to Amend an Act, Entitled ‘An Act regulating the Mode of Taking Depositions, and to Provide for the Perpetuating of Testimony,’ Approved, February 9, 1827,” 1 March 1845, Laws of Illinois (1845), 27; “An Act regulating the Mode of Taking Depositions, and to Provide for the Perpetuating of Testimony,” 9 February 1827, Revised Laws of Illinois (1827), 174-79; Notice to Take Deposition, Interrogatories, Document ID: 46408; Dedimus Potestatum, Deposition, Document ID: 46412; Publisher’s Certificate, Document ID: 46416, Harris Lime Rock Co. v. Harris, 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=136406.
4The draft declaration was not enclosed in this letter, and its whereabouts is unknown.
5On May 3, 1853, the Tazewell Circuit Court heard the case. Harris failed to appear, the court ruled for the company, and a jury awarded the company $5,000 in damages.
The Harris Lime Rock Company bought the two farm lots, owned by Harris, at a public sale to satisfy Harris’ debt. Before the execution, Harris deeded the lots to his sons to hide his property from creditors. Harris Lime Rock Company again retained Lincoln and in October 1855, sued Harris in the Tazewell County Circuit Court to cancel the fraudulent deeds. Harris defaulted, but later appeared. Harris motioned the court to set aside the default, and the court granted the motion. Apparently, the parties reached a settlement, and in September 1856, the company dismissed the case.
Judge’s Docket, Document ID: 46417; Order, Document ID: 46414, 46415, Harris Lime Rock Co. v. Harris, 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=136406; Harris Lime Rock Co. v. Harris et al., 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=136407.

Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s). Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).