Abraham Lincoln to Manny & Company, 1 September 18551Springfield, Sept. 1, 1855.Messrs. [Messieurs] Manny and Co.Rockford, Ill.
Since I left Chicago about the 18th of July, I have heard nothing concerning the Reaper suit.2 I addressed a letter to Mr. Watson, at Washington, requesting him to forward me the evidence, from time to time, as it should be taken, but I have received no answer from him.3
Please write me on the receipt of this.5Yours truly,A. Lincoln.
1This letter is attributed to Abraham Lincoln but no manuscript version with his signature has been located.
2The reaper suit was that of McCormick v. Talcott et al., which was instituted by Cyrus H. McCormick against the Rockford firm of Manny & Company in the U.S. Circuit Court in November 1854. McCormick accused Manny & Co. of patent infringement, claiming that the mechanical reaper of John H. Manny’s design and manufacture copied several elements of McCormick’s own reaper. Following the recommendation of Elihu B. Washburne, Washington DC attorney and patent agent Peter H. Watson visited Lincoln in Springfield in June 1855 and hired him for the defense with a $400 retainer. In addition to Watson, who had helped Manny obtain his patents, Manny & Co. was represented by attorneys George Harding and Edwin M. Stanton. Lincoln was apparently an attractive addition to the legal team in part because the trial was scheduled to be held in Chicago, and none of the other defense attorneys lived in Illinois. The trial was instead moved to Cincinnati, where it commenced on September 20, 1855, and while the other members of the defense team allowed Lincoln to attend, they blocked his participation in the case. McCormick’s attorneys in the case included Isaac N. Arnold and Edward N. Dickerson. The verdict in the case was announced on January 16, 1856 in favor of Manny & Co., after which McCormick appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Elihu B. Washburne to Abraham Lincoln; McCormick v. Talcott et al., 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=137741; McCormick v. Talcott et al., 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=137742; Harry E. Pratt, The Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln (Springfield, IL: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1943), 54-56; William T. Hutchinson, Cyrus Hall McCormick: Seed-Time, 1809-1856 (New York: Century, 1930), 433-49; Charles A. Church, History of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois (Rockford, IL: W. P. Lamb, 1900), 322; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 20 September 1855, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1855-09-20.
3In his letter to Watson of July 23, 1855, Lincoln expressed his understanding that at their meeting in Springfield in June 1855 Watson had stated that he would send copies of the bill of complaint, answer, and depositions in McCormick v. Talcott et al. Lincoln had been able to obtain copies of the bill of complaint and answer while in Chicago attending the U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois, but he urged Watson to send him any additional evidence obtained, as he would have time to work on the case in July and August.
4Lincoln was at Cincinnati for the commencement of the trial on September 20, 1855. He attended the early portion of the ten-day trial, but after his fellow defense attorneys blocked his participation, he did not stay for the end of the proceedings and departed for home about September 26, 1855.
William T. Hutchinson, Cyrus Hall McCormick: Seed-Time, 1809-1856, 442; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 20 September 1855, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1855-09-20; 21 September 1855, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1855-09-21; 26 September 1855, http://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1855-09-26.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Gilbert A. Tracy Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), 61.