David Davis to William H. Bissell, 8 May 18571Danville Ills
May 8th 1857.His Excellency Govr Bissell,Dear Sir–
– John Hibbs was indicted in the Logan Circuit Court for Manslaughter— & venue changed to Sangamon— and at the March Term 1856, he was convicted, & sent to the Penitentiary for two years–
– There was no motive for the Killing proved, and none that was even reasonable suggested– The men who were both living in the same neighbourhood, and it was not intimated that there
<Page 2>was even a suspicion of ill blood–
The parties were left in a field together.— & the deceased person found dead—2 & probably killed by a small club— & Hibbs was found at a house a small way off very— very drunk–
– Hibbs. & the deceased were seen last together—
– As I understand, Hibbs does not profess to know ^how^ he killed him.— & does not know that he killed him at all–
Hibbs has already been in the Penitentiary about fourteen months–
<Page 3>^He^ Hibbs has a wife & small children, depending on him for support— & they seem tenderly attached to him–
I am inclined to think that Executive Clemency would not be misplaced.— in remitting the balance of Hibbs term–With High Respect
Yr obtServt[Your obedient Servant] David Davis
[ endorsement ]
We defended John Hibbs, mentioned in Judge Davis' letter above; and we concur with the Judge, that a pardon now, after his having served about fourteen months of his two years, would not be improper–3A LincolnJohn T. Stuart4
3Abraham Lincoln wrote this endorsement and signed his own name.
This letter is related to the case People v. Hibbs. In June 1855, the State of Illinois indicted John Hibbs for manslaughter. Hibbs retained Lincoln and William Herndon for his defense and pled not guilty; Amzi McWilliams represented the people. On June 13, the Logan County Circuit Court granted a change of venue and transferred to case to the Sangamon County Circuit Court. The case came before the court in March 1856, and, on March 19, the jury found Hibbs guilty and recommended a sentence of two years. Lincoln and Herndon motioned for a new trial, but, on March 29, the court sentenced him to the recommended two years in the Illinois State Penitentiary. As this letter to Governor William H. Bissell and a petition demonstrate, in 1857 Lincoln and others petitioned Bissell to grant Hibbs a pardon. On May 16, 1857, Governor Bissell ordered Hibbs pardoned.
Although the precise date that Lincoln wrote this endorsement and that he and John T. Stuart each signed it is unclear, it must have been sometime after Davis wrote the above letter on May 8 and May 16—when Governor Bissell pardoned Hibbs.
People v. Hibbs, 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=140068.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Illinois State Archives (Springfield, IL).