Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Gillespie, 19 January 18581Springfield, Jany 19. 1858Hon: Joseph GillespieMy dear Sir:
This morning Col McClernand showed me a Petition for a mandamus against the Secretary of State to compel him to certify the apportionment act of last sess[ion]; and he says it will [be] presented to the court to-morrow morning– We shall be allowed three or four days to get up a return; and I, for one, want the benefit of consultation with you–2 Please come right up–3Yours as everA. Lincoln–
2A mandamus is a writ by which a court exercises its authority over a public official and compels them to perform an official duty. In this instance, the official was Illinois Secretary of State Ozias M. Hatch, who was being sued in the Illinois Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to furnish state printers Lanphier & Walker of the Democratic Illinois State Register with a true copy of an 1857 bill apportioning representation in the Illinois General Assembly. The bill had been drafted and supported by the Democrats with an eye towards maintaining their party’s majority in the General Assembly. The Illinois House of Representatives passed the bill on February 16, 1857, and the Illinois Senate concurred on February 18. Republican Governor William H. Bissell mistakenly signed the bill then cancelled his signature after his secretary had already reported his approval to the House. John A. McClernand was one of the Democratic attorneys representing the plaintiffs, while Hatch retained Lincoln, Orville H. Browning, and Jackson Grimshaw. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in Hatch’s favor in February 1858 and denied the writ.
In addition to this letter, Lincoln telegraphed George T. Brown in Alton on this same day telling him to send Joseph Gillespie to Springfield immediately. Lincoln wrote a similar letter on this date to Gustave P. Koerner requesting his consultation on the case. Neither Gillespie nor Koerner was an attorney of record on the case.
“Mandamus,” 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; People ex rel. Lanphier & Walker v. Hatch, 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=139920; Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 4:64-91; Illinois House Journal. 1857. 20th G. A., 909-10, 1004, 1018; Illinois Senate Journal. 1857. 20th G. A., 760.
3No response to this letter has been located. On February 7, 1858, Lincoln again wrote to both Gillespie and Koerner to apprise them that the case had been resolved in Hatch’s favor and that McClernand had given no indication that he intended to plead over.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).