Abraham Lincoln to James W. Somers, 25 June 18581
James W. Somers, Esq[Esquire]My dear Sir
Yours of the 22nd inclosing a draft of $200 was duly received– I have paid it on the judgment, and herewith you have the receipt–2
I do not wish to say ^any^ thing as to who shall be the Republican candidate for the Legislature in your District, further than that I have full confidence in Dr Hull.3 Have you ever got in the way of consulting with McKinley, in political matters?– He is true as steel and his judgment is very good– The last I heard from him he rather thought Weldon of DeWitt was our best timber we have for representative, all things considered– But you there, must settle it among yourselves.4
It may well puzzle older heads than yours to understand how, as the Dred Scott decision holds, ^congress^ can authorize a territorial Legislature to do every thing else, and can not authorize them to prohibit slavery– That is one of the things the court can decide, but can never give an intelligible reason for–5
Yours very truly,A. Lincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Lincoln’s receipt to James W. Somers has not been located. Somers gave Lincoln $200 toward a judgment and costs owed related to the case Thompson, White & Pryor v. Wilson & Parks. In the fall of 1857, the firm Wilson and Parks gave the firm Thomson, White and Pryor two promissory notes totaling $541.34 . After Wilson and Parks failed to pay, Thomson, White and Pryor sued in an action of assumpsit in the U.S. Circuit Court, Southern District of Illinois and requested $800 in damages. Lincoln and Somers represented Wilson and Parks; Major W. Packard and Robert E. Williams represented Thomson, White and Pryor. After Wilson and Parks failed to appear, Judge Samuel H. Treat ruled for Thomson, White and Pryor, awarding $555.33 plus court costs. Lincoln did not charge a fee for his services in the case.
Declaration, Praecipe, Document ID: 67371; Execution Docket, Document ID: 67379, Thompson, White, & Pryor v. Wilson & Parks, 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), https://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137692 .
3Somers resided in Champaign County, Illinois, which, at the time, was in Illinois’ Sixteenth Senatorial District and Thirty-Sixth House District.
Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A. McLean, Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County (Urbana, Champaign County Herald, 1886), 36-37; Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392-93.
4James B. McKinley wrote Lincoln on May 28 regarding his views on Lawrence Weldon’s chances for election to the Illinois House of Representatives in the election of 1858. McKinley wrote Lincoln another letter regarding the election in August 1858.
5In his June 22 letter to Lincoln, Somers requested clarification on “how it is that Congress has the power to inhib[it] the introduction of slaves in a Territory but no power to establish or Legislate it therein.” In his reply to Somers’ question, Lincoln references the implications of the case Scott v. Sandford. In addition to ruling that both free and enslaved black persons were not U.S. citizens, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit the introduction of slavery into the western territories. For full details on the case, see Scott v. Sandford.
Lincoln criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Scott v. Sandford in his June 16, 1858 “House Divided” speech at the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention, and the court’s decision in the case featured heavily in the 1858 Federal Election—including in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
The Republicans of Illinois’ Thirty-Sixth House District ultimately nominated Daniel Stickel rather than Peter K. Hull for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives, as Hull had not lived in the district long enough to be eligible for office per article three, section three of the 1848 Illinois Constitution. Voters elected Stickel to the Illinois House in the election of 1858.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:439; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Fragment of A House Divided Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Report of Speech at Springfield, Illinois; Henry C. Whitney to Abraham Lincoln; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 3 November 1858, 2:2; 13 November 1858, 2:3; Ill. Const. of 1848, art. III, § 3.

Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).