Abraham Lincoln to Mason Brayman, 3 October 18531Pekin, Ills, Oct 3. 1853.M. Brayman, Esq[Esquire]Dear Sir:
Neither the county of McLean nor any one on it's behalf, has yet made any engagement with me in relation to it's suit with the Illinois Central Railroad, on the subject of taxation–2 I am now free to make an engagement for the Road; and if you think fit you may "count me in"Please write me, on receipt of this– I shall be here at least ten days–3Yours trulyA. Lincoln–
<Page 2>PEKIN Ills.[Illinois]
PAIDM. Brayman, EsqChicagoIllinois–
Oct– 3– 1853–
Oct– 3– 1853–
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2Lincoln is discussing what ultimately became the case Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke. The Illinois Central Railroad owned 118 acres of land in McLean County, Illinois. The county assessor levied a $428.57 tax on the railroad's property. The railroad claimed that the Illinois General Assembly act incorporating the railroad exempted the railroad from taxes. In September 1853, the railroad sued McLean County in the McLean County Circuit Court for an injunction to stop the county from selling railroad land to pay taxes. In late-September 1853, the parties reached an agreement, in which the circuit court would dismiss the bill, thus ruling for McLean County, and the railroad would appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, where the only question would be whether the county had a lawful right to tax the Illinois Central Railroad’s property.
In September 1853, Thomson R. Webber had expressed interest in having Lincoln represent him against the railroad, but ultimately did not retain him.
Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke, 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=136867, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=136868; For the act incorporating the railroad, see “An Act to Incorporate the Illinois Central Railroad Company,” 10 February 1851, Private Laws of Illinois (1851), 61-74; Abraham Lincoln to Thomson R. Webber.
3Lincoln was traveling to circuit courts throughout the Eighth Judicial Circuit for nine weeks. He departed Springfield during the second week in September and did not return until November 10.
Mason Brayman replied to this letter on October 7, 1853, offering Lincoln a retainer fee of $250 on behalf of the railroad company, which he enclosed. Lincoln represented the railroad in its Illinois Supreme Court case, which began in December 1853. In December 1855, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the McLean County Circuit Court, and Justice Walter B. Scates ruled that the Illinois General Assembly could exempt property from taxation. Therefore, the Illinois Central Railroad’s charter was constitutional. Lincoln received $5,000 for his legal services, although he had to sue the railroad in 1857 to collect the fee.
At the request of Brayman, Lincoln declined new cases against the railroad that came his way between 1853 and 1855, passing at least some on to John T. Stuart and therefore lost opportunities to earn legal fees as a direct result of his employment for the railroad.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 7 September 1853, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1853-09-07; 10 November 1853, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1853-11-10; Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke, 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=136867, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=136868; Receipt of Abraham Lincoln to Illinois Central Railroad Company; Abraham Lincoln to James F. Joy; Abraham Lincoln to Mason Brayman; For details on Lincoln suing the railroad to collect the fee for his services, see: Lincoln v. Illinois Central RR, 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=136777.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Society Collection, Lincoln Special Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA).