Abraham Lincoln to James F. Joy, 2 December 18531Springfield, Ills– Dec: 2. 1853.James F. Joy, Esq[Esquire]Dear Sir:
Yours of Nov.[November] 28– is received, and I am really pleased to learn that you are engaged in the case you mention–2 The case could not be transferred to Ottawa, other than by agreement of parties; and, as yet, there is no counsel here representing the party adverse to the Road– Besides this, though it might not be impossible, it would be inconvenient for me to go to Ottawa– The Court does not meet here, this ensuing term, till the first monday of January; and I think I can get the hearing of the case postponed to the beginning of February– Can you not be here by that time?3 Please write me–Yours trulyA. Lincoln–
<Page 2>SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
PAIDJames F. Joy, EsqWashingtonD. C.
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2James F. Joy’s letter of November 28, 1854 has not been found, but it evidently notified Lincoln that Joy would be joining him in representing the Illinois Central Railroad Company in the appeal of Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke. Lincoln had been retained in this role by Mason Brayman in October 1853. The case of Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke stemmed from an attempt by McLean County to tax the Illinois Central Railroad on 118 acres of land which the railroad owned in that county. The railroad refused to pay the $428.57 in taxes levied by the county assessor on the grounds that the act of the Illinois General Assembly incorporating the railroad exempted it from taxes. In September 1853, the railroad sued McLean County in McLean County Circuit Court, requesting an injunction to prevent the county from selling railroad land to pay the taxes. The litigants reached an agreement that the court would dismiss the bill, effectively ruling for McLean County, and the railroad would appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court at the December 1853 term in Springfield where the only question would be whether the county had a lawful right to tax Illinois Central Railroad property.
Abraham Lincoln to Mason Brayman; 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.
3Ottawa was the location of the third division of the Illinois Supreme Court, which did not commence its annual term until June. The second division of the Illinois Supreme Court which was held in Springfield had a December term. The Supreme Court commenced in Springfield on December 12, 1853, but adjourned day to day until Wednesday, January 4, 1854. The case of Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke was heard at Springfield on February 28, 1854. The case was continued until January 16, 1856, at which point the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s judgment and Justice Walter B. Scates ruled that the Illinois General Assembly could exempt property from taxation and thus the Illinois Central Railroad’s charter was constitutional.
Eugene L. Gross and William L. Gross, An Index to All the Laws of the State of Illinois, Both Public and Private (Springfield: E. L. & W. L. Gross, 1869), 6; “An Act Fixing the Times of Holding the Supreme Court,” 6 January 1849, Laws of Illinois (1849), 57; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 12 December 1853, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1853-12-12; 4 January 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-01-04; 28 February 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-02-28; 16 January 1856, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1856-01-16; 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=136868.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Detroit Public Library (Detroit, MI).