Abraham Lincoln to James F. Joy, 25 January 18541Springfield, Jany 25– 1854.J. F. Joy, Esq[Esquire]Dear Sir–
Yours of the 20th is just received, and I suppose, ere this, you have received my answer to your despatch on the same subject–2 It is my impression the case will not be brought up for trial before the meeting of the Legislature, but I can not get the promise of the court to that effect– I can only venture to say the first of February; but as this day draws nearer I can see farther ahead, and will try to notify you again–3
Allow me to suggest that it is not safe to regard the case too lightly– A great stake is involved, and it will be fiercely contended for– I think we shall carry it; but I have a suspicion that the feeling of some of the Judges is against us–
I suppose you are aware that the point to be made against is, that the Constitution secures to the counties the right to tax all property, beyond the power of the Legislature to take it away–4Yours trulyA. Lincoln––
2James F. Joy’s letter of January 20, 1854 has not been found. Lincoln’s previous answer to Joy was his letter of December 2, 1853.
3The case in question, Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke, commenced in the Illinois Supreme Court on February 28, 1854. The Illinois General Assembly’s legislative session began on February 9, 1854.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 28 February 1854, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-02-28; Laws of Illinois (1854).
4 The case of Illinois Central RR v. McLean County, Illinois & Parke stemmed from an attempt by McLean County to tax the Illinois Central Railroad Company 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 the 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 where the only question would be whether the county had a lawful right to tax Illinois Central Railroad property. Lincoln and Joy represented the railroad in the appeal. The case was continued from February 28, 1854 to 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.
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; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 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; 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.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).