Abraham Lincoln to Joseph W. Brackett, 27 November 18571Springfield, Novr 27– 1857J. W. Brackett, Esq.[Esquire]Dear Sir:
Yours of the 7th was received in due course–2 I have been to the Land Office two or three times about it, and, for the last time, this morning. The Register will not receive and file the pre-emption proofs as you desire– He conceives it to be his duty to refuse.3Yours &C[etc]A. Lincoln4
3Pre-emption refers to “the right of a settler of a tract of public land to purchase it before other applicants.” Lincoln had previously written to Brackett on May 18, 1857, regarding the pre-emption claims of Jacob Warner and Cyrus Conkling. The pair were among a group of men local to Rock Island County who acted together in the spring of 1857 to attempt to claim land on the island of Rock Island. Warner and Conkling both settled on the island on April 10, 1857, and through Lincoln filed declaratory statements of pre-emption at the Springfield Land Office on May 9. Rock Island, however, was subject to competing claims of ownership, some by earlier settlers who had apparently failed to file pre-emption claims, and arguments ensued. Following this unsuccessful attempt by Lincoln to file proofs of pre-emption for Warner and Conkling with Springfield Land Office register John Connelly, Sr., members of Warner’s and Conkling’s group went to Springfield themselves in April 1858 to prove title. The General Land Office in Washington, DC prohibited further action at that time, however, and announced that the U.S. War Department intended to sell the land at public auction as a military reservation. Ownership of land on Rock Island was still unsettled on the advent of the Civil War, but when the U.S. Congress established an arsenal on the island in 1862, the remaining settlers relinquished their pre-emption claims.
“Pre-emption,” Reference, Glossary, 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/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html; Lincoln registered land for Warner & Conkling, 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=141538; D. W. Flagler, A History of the Rock Island Arsenal (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1877), 62-65, 85-86.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Lincoln Manuscripts, Indiana University (Bloomington, IN).