Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie, 11 February 18541Springfield, Feb. 11– 1854
To day a petition was circulated in and Springfield, and signed by some of the citizens, instructing the Sangamon members to vote for Brough's road– Whether this is a movement to force the members to desert us or to excuse them, being already so inclined, we do not certainly know; but either way, it behoves us, who have been their fast friends, in all things, for the last seventeen years, to have our eyes open–2 We sincerely hope the movement is too limited to amount to any thing, for we much prefer standing with old friends, to being driven to form new ones– But if Springfield, and Sangamon county, are determined to try their fortunes in other company, we have no power to hinder it; and all [we can do is to] take [care] of [ourselves as we best] may– They, of course, will not complain of us– It probably would help us more than Brough's road would hurt us, to be enabled to tap the East & West line of road ^running^ through Springfield, by forming a connection between La Fayette, Indiana and Paris in this state; and we have no doubt that Brough himself would be glad to help us to the connection, in consideration that we should withdraw our opposition to his road–3 It thus is plain, that if Springfield must sell us
...?] she may find herself sold in the same market before the end of the session– Being
released from Springfield, there are some other matters, of which she is not wholly
indifferent, in relation to which we possibly could gain as many votes, even against
Brough's road, as it is in the power of [Springfield] to take from us– It is our [interest] to be looking about for the [means of indemnity in case she is really preparing to stab] us.
<Page 2>to Brough, [
Abraham Lincoln wrote the within4
1Abraham Lincoln wrote this letter in the Senate Chamber. Joseph Gillespie arrived before Lincoln could finish; thus, the document is unsigned.
Certain parts of the image are damaged and the text therefore illegible. Supplied text comes from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works, reconstructed these words from Paul Angle’s New Letters and Papers of Lincoln.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:212; Paul Angle, comp., New Letters and Papers of Lincoln (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930), 122.
2Lincoln lobbied against the Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad Company, arguing that it was not a legal corporation. The company had encountered significant opposition in Illinois in the previous few years and had halted progress on the road. However, a few weeks after this letter was written, on February 23, the Illinois General Assembly passed an act to allow the company to begin constructing the railroad. The next day, February 24, Congressman Robert Smith wrote a letter to Lincoln and two colleagues, requesting that the recipients explain the precise legal position of the Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad Company. The lawyers responded with a letter of March 1 detailing the flaws in the organization of the company. Nevertheless, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the company was legally organized under Illinois law, with Chief Justice Samuel H. Treat opining that the company had been perfected to prosecute the work to completion.
The People v. Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad Company, 13 Ill. (Peck) (1851), 67-68; Railroad Record and Journal of Commerce, Banking, Manufacturers, and Statistics (Cincinnati, OH), 2 March 1854, 5:3; “An Act Recognizing and Authorizing the Construction of the Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad,” 23 February 1854, Laws of Illinois (1854), 79-80; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 19 April 1854, 3:4; People of the State of Illinois, on the Relation of Eldredge S. Janney, Appellants, v. The Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad Company, Appellees, 14 Ill. (Peck), 440-46.
3Some of the resistance to the Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad stemmed from its proposed location, which one New York stockholder of the company labeled “State Policy” opposition. The company planned to build the road to Illinoistown (the present city of East St. Louis) rather than Alton, thus commercially benefitting Missouri.
American Railroad Journal. Steam Navigation, Commerce, Mining, Manufactures. 2nd Quarto ser., 10, No. 14 (8 April 1854): 212; Albert J. Churella, The Pennsylvania Railroad, Volume 1: Building an Empire, 1846-1917 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 279.
Copy of Handwritten Letter, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).