Jonathan K. Cooper to Abraham Lincoln, 7 May 18581Peoria, May 7/58Hon. Abram LincolnDr[Dear] sir:
A young friend of mine, George Phelps, Esqr[Esquire], of Lewistown, Fulton County, admitted to the Bar sometime since, is desirous of obtaining the post of Prosecuting Attorney in his District, become vacant recently, by the resignation of the late incumbent, John S. Bailey, Esqr of McDonough Co., who, it seems, they have made Judge of the circuit court for that District–2
Mr. Phelps is a promising young Lawyer, and a gentleman of very high character, besides being a good Republican, of the genuine old Whig stamp; And I shouldyour’s very truly &c.[etc]Jona. K. Cooper
<Page 2>be much pleased to see him appointed to the post he desires– But having no personal acquaintance with Gov. Bissell, (who, I believe, has the appointment in case of a vacancy occurring in this way)3 I have made free to ask, if you shall not deem it out of place, and can without inconvenience do so, that you will present the matter to the Gov., with such suggestions as you may deem proper– I confess that I do so with some hesitation, not liking to trouble you, and certainly not feeling that I have, either for myself or friends, any special claims upon your time or attention— tho[though]’ I do claim to rank myself among the number of your admirers & friends– I understand from Mr. Phelps that Mr. Browning will interest himself for him– But as there is likely to be
<Page 3>some competition for the post, and he is perhaps rather late in making application, he feels somewhat solicitous as to the result– If you feel that you can consistently do anything for Mr. Phelps, it will be duly appreciated by4
1Jonathan K. Cooper wrote and signed this letter.
Cooper wrote and signed a copy of this letter the same day. The copy differs from this letter only in minor respects. It includes an endorsement and docketing in Abraham Lincoln's hand.
2John S. Bailey had served as state's attorney for Illinois' Fifth Judicial Circuit since 1853, but resigned his position and was elected judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit.
S. J. Clarke, History of McDonough County Illinois (Springfield, IL: D. W. Lusk, 1878), 304, 306; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 19 June 1858, 2:3.
3Per legislation enacted in 1835, the Illinois General Assembly was empowered to elect state's attorneys biennially. The governor could fill vacancies that occurred between sessions of the General Assembly via appointment of a qualified individual. Article five, section twenty-one of the 1848 Illinois Constitution stipulated that state's attorneys would be elected by the public. Section twenty-three of article five granted the governor the right to fill vacancies in state’s attorneys positions that occurred by “death, resignation, or removal,” in the manner directed by the General Assembly .
Ill. Const. of 1848, art. V, § 21, 23; An Act to Amend an Act, Entitled “An Act Relating to the Attorney General and State's Attorneys”.
4Abraham Lincoln replied to this letter on May 10.
In the end, George Phelps did not receive the appointment; Governor William H. Bissell appointed Louis H. Waters to serve out the remainder of Bailey’s term as state’s attorney. Waters served in this position until 1860.
S. J. Clarke, History of McDonough County Illinois, 306.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), SC343, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).