John T. Stuart and Abraham Lincoln to Martin L. Bishop, 10 November 18531Springfield Illinois
Nov. 10th 1853.Friend Bishop
We have consulted as to the propriety of your accepting the proposition made you by the Central Rail Road through Col. Mason–
We are both decidedly of the opinion that the proposition you made them first will be better for you than the proposition of the Central Rail Road
This opinion of ours is founded upon the belief that it will be impossible to build up any thing like a Town on your farm— that if one were laid out there the only result would be to spoil a good farm and create a nuisance– We also think that under the State of feelings existing between yourself and the Rail Road and much of which will in all probability continue to exist that the sooner you sell out and part company with them the better for you–
Had you not better refer them
<Page 2>to us to conclude this negotiation for you especially if they begin to make you new propositions
Write to us soon2Yours &c[etc.]John T StuartA. Lincoln–
1John T. Stuart wrote and signed this letter. Abraham Lincoln also signed the letter, beneath Stuart’s signature, shown in the second image.
2Martin L. Bishop’s reply, if he penned one, has not been located.
Bishop was involved in at least three lawsuits against the Illinois Central Railroad, all of which took place in the McLean County Circuit Court. The earliest of the three known cases, Bishop v. Illinois Central RR, was dismissed by the railroad company, at their expense, in September 1853. Soon afterward, on October 7, 1853, the Illinois Central Railroad officially hired Lincoln to represent it in the case Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke, and other cases. At the request of Mason Brayman, the railroad’s general solicitor, Lincoln declined new cases against the railroad that came his way between October 1853 and 1855, passing at least some on to Stuart (and thereby losing opportunities to earn additional legal fees as a direct result of his employment for the railroad). However, Lincoln continued representing clients against the railroad during this period if they had engaged his services prior to the date he officially began working for the railroad, as was apparently the case with Bishop and at least one other client.
As this letter indicates, after dismissing the first Bishop v. Illinois Central RR case in September 1853, the Illinois Central Railroad continued negotiating with Bishop regarding his property. In April 1854, Bishop sued the railroad again, in a case also titled Bishop v. Illinois Central RR. William H. Holmes, Stuart, and Lincoln represented Bishop; Asahel Gridley represented the railroad. Bishop asked for $5,000 in damages to twenty acres of his land. On April 20, 1854, the jury found for Bishop and awarded $583. The McLean County Circuit Court granted a new trial. In the second trial, the court again ruled for Bishop, and awarded $470 in April 1856.
In April 1855, Bishop again sued the Illinois Central Railroad, this time in an action of assumpsit, or, in other words, for breach of contract. In an action of assumpsit case, a plaintiff sued for the collection of damages, which were awarded in an amount determined by either the court or jury. This case was also titled Bishop v. Illinois Central RR. Lincoln, Stuart, and Benjamin S. Edwards represented Bishop; Gridley represented the railroad again. The McLean County Circuit Court dismissed the suit in September 1856, with the railroad paying the costs.
Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, states that Lincoln represented the Illinois Central Railroad in Bishop v. Illinois Central RR, and that the railroad won. This is incorrect. Lincoln represented Bishop in both cases titled Bishop v. Illinois Central RR, and neither was decided in the railroad’s favor.
Judgment and Execution Docket, Document ID: 53054; Order, Document ID: 53053; Judgment Docket, Document ID: 53058, Bishop v. Illinois Central RR, 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=136831; Mason Brayman to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to James F. Joy; Judgment and Execution Docket, Document ID: 53063, Bishop 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=136832; For another case in which Lincoln represented a litigant against the Illinois Central Railroad since they engaged his services before he officially became employed by the railroad, see Illinois Central RR v. Hill, 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=135558; “Assumpsit,” Reference, Glossary, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html; Roy P. Basler and Christian O. Basler, eds., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990), 11:8.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Box 4, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).