Opinion regarding the Estates of Joseph Smith and James M. Bradford, 6 January 18551
Joseph Smith and James M. Bradford were partners in trade– Bradford died, and there was, and is, an administration of his estate– Smith, as surviving partner, proceeded to settle the firm business; but without finishing it, died also, and there is an administration of his estate–2
1.st Who, according to law, is to finish the adjustment of the firm business–
2.nd If any firm debt has been lost, which Smith could have saved during his surveyorship, is Smith's estate liable for Bradford's share of such lost debt?
3rd If it be held that Smith's administrator,3 is to settle up the firm business, and any firm debt be lost, which such administrator could have saved, is Smith's estate liable for Bradford's share of that debt?
4 In the absence of any agreement, is the partner who advanced more cash than the other, entitled to interest on the excess?–
5 If the surviving partner, make advances, to pay debts, is he entitled to interest?
While the firm was in active business, the estate of Micajah Smith loaned certain money to the firm, which is still unpaid–
At What rate, and in what manner, is interest to be allowed on this?
The foregoing questions having been submitted the following are our answers–
To the 1st We say the Personal representatives Administrators of the estate of Joseph Smith deceased.
To the 2nd & 3rd We reply— in our opinion Joseph Smith the surviving partner, and after his death— his administrators, are chargeable with all the debts that at the time, of, and after the death of James M. Bradford, were good, and could have been collected by the use of ordinary diligence— that is, such diligence as a prudent business ^man^ would exercise in the management of his own affairs of a similar character— and that in settling the accounts the estate of Joseph Smith deceased is to be charged with all the debts due to the partnership ^that were good at the time of the death of Bradford^ except such as they can show satisfactorily, could not have been collected by said Joseph Smith in his life time, or by them since his death, by the use of the diligence aforesaid–
The 4 & 5th questions we answer with a negative
To the 6th The ^members^ firm of Bradford & Smith is4 jointly liable to repay money borrowed with ^simple^ interest upon the amounts loaned from the times they were so severally loaned– The interest cannot be compounded– If no agreement as to interest was made, with the creditor— the rate of interest would be six per cent– As between the estates of Bradford, & Smith— from the time (if such be the case) sufficient money was received from the assets of the firm, by Smith or his administrators, or might by the use of ordinary diligence as aforesaid have been collected ^to pay all the debts due by the partnership^— the esta[te] of Bradford would be chargeable with no part of that interest– other5Jany 6. 1855,A. Lincoln–B. S. Edwards
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the questions in this document, which constitute the entire first page and the top of the second page, shown in the first and second images. Benjamin S. Edwards wrote the answers to Lincoln’s questions, starting on the second page and concluding on the third page, shown in the second and third images. Lincoln and Edwards each signed their own names, shown toward the bottom of the third image.
2Joseph Smith and James M. Bradford had been partners in a Springfield, Illinois mercantile firm called Bradford & Smith since 1845. After Bradford’s death in March 1852, the Sangamon County Circuit Court recognized his will as legally valid and acknowledged the rightful executors of his estate. After Smith’s death in August 1853, the Sangamon County Circuit Court recognized his will as legally valid and granted the requested appointments of executors to his estate.
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 27 November 1845, 2:7; Illinois, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999, 2 March 1852, Sangamon County; 2 August 1853, Sangamon County (Lehi, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, 2015).
3Per Joseph Smith’s will, his wife, Sally Smith, was originally the administrator of his estate. However, she relinquished administration of the estate, and the Sangamon County Circuit Court subsequently granted administration of the estate to John T. Smith and Joseph S. Smith.
Illinois, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999, 2 August 1853, Sangamon County.
5In July 1829, the Illinois General Assembly enacted comprehensive legislation governing wills and the settlement of estates. The General Assembly amended this act with additional laws in 1831 and 1833.
Although Edwards served as one of two witnesses to Bradford’s last will and testament, no legal records that reveal additional information about Lincoln’s involvement with the estates of either Bradford or Joseph Smith are extant.
“An Act Relative to Wills and Testaments, Executors and Administrators, and the Settlement of Estates,” 1 July 1829, Revised Laws of Illinois (1829), 191-237; “An Act to Amend an Act Entitled, ‘An Act Relative to Wills and Testaments, Executors and Administrators, and the Settlement of Estates,’” 14 February 1831, Laws of Illinois (1831), 191-93; “An Act Supplementary to an Act Entitled, ‘An Act Relative to Wills and Testaments, Executors and Administrators, and the Settlement of Estates,’” 25 February 1833, Revised Laws of Illinois (1833), 657-59; “An Act Supplemental to an Act Entitled, ‘An Act Relative to Wills and Testaments, Executors and Administrators, and the Settlement of Estates,’ Approved January 23, 1829,” 1 March 1833, Revised Laws of Illinois (1833), 659-60; Illinois, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1772-1999, 2 March 1852, Sangamon County; Lincoln & Edwards provided legal opinion, 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=141351.
Copy of Handwritten Document Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).