Abraham Lincoln to Alexander M. Dubois, 13 November 18541Springfield Nov 13. 1854.A. McKim DuboisDear Sir
Our court sets on the 20th Inst. and you will be wanted as a witness in the Illinois College case. I merely write this to notify you will be wanted. When we fix a day we will give you more particular notice.2Yours &c.[etc.]A. Lincoln.
2No additional correspondence between Lincoln and Alexander M. Dubois has been located. However, in an endorsement on a letter Nathaniel Coffin wrote to Lincoln in June 1853, Lincoln revealed that he wrote to Dubois around that time as well.
Although the fall term of the Sangamon County Circuit Court was scheduled to begin on Monday, November 20, 1854, the opening was deferred until Tuesday, November 21.
This letter is related to the legal case, Gilman et al. v. Hamilton et al. In 1835, Gideon Blackburn purchased more than 16,000 acres of land throughout Illinois as a fund with which to build a seminary in Carlinville. Blackburn conveyed the land to six trustees to carry out his wishes, then died in 1838. By 1844, the Blackburn trustees had sold some of the land to pay the taxes but had not yet begun to build the seminary. Fearing that the land was not valuable and that they could not raise enough money, in 1844 Winthrop S. Gilman and the other Blackburn trustees sued Elizabeth H. Hamilton and Blackburn's other heirs in an action to convey the land to the trustees of Illinois College and establish the "Blackburn Theological Professorship" at Illinois College. The case began in the Macoupin County Circuit Court, but, in September 1844, the court granted a change of venue to the Sangamon County Circuit Court. Blackburn's heirs agreed with the trustees, and the court ordered the conveyance of the land to Illinois College in March 1845. Illinois College subsequently sold most of the land to Coffin. Blackburn's heirs apparently reconsidered and appealed the judgment to the Illinois Supreme Court. In December 1850, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the case on a technicality and remanded it back to the Sangamon County Circuit Court. Gilman and the other Blackburn trustees had not proven their case, especially against Blackburn's minor heir.
The case returned to the Sangamon County Circuit Court in March 1851, and Gilman retained Lincoln, Coffin, John M. Palmer, and David A. Smith. Blackburn's heirs filed a cross-bill against Gilman and the Blackburn trustees, Coffin, and the Illinois College trustees. In November 1854, the Sangamon County Circuit Court ruled that neither Coffin nor Illinois College had any title in the lands, which remained with the Blackburn trustees. The court ordered the Blackburn trustees to sell the land, build the buildings, establish the seminary as Gideon Blackburn had wished, and pay Illinois College and Coffin the money that they had expended in taxes. In December 1854, Gilman, Coffin, and Illinois College appealed the case to the Illinois Supreme Court. That same month, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. Justice Walter B. Scates invoked the cy-pres rule, which called for the fulfillment of Gideon Blackburn's original intentions as nearly as possible. Scates asserted that the Blackburn trustees incorrectly attempted to change Gideon Blackburn's idea of a seminary to a professorship at a different college. As a result of the decree, Coffin applied to the Sangamon County Circuit Court for a refund of $7,677.18, but, after some reductions, the master in chancery awarded him $2,921.14 in October 1858. In September 1859, the court set aside that award and awarded him $2,697.61 on his claim. Lincoln received at least $100 for his legal services.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 20 November 1854, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1854-11-20; Decree, Document ID: 134855, Gilman et al. v. Hamilton et al., 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=139109; Hamilton et al. v. Gilman et al., 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=139111; Master in Chancery’s Report, Document ID: 74521; Decree, Document ID: 74529, Gilman et al. v. Hamilton et al., 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=139110; Gilman et al. v. Hamilton et al., 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=139112.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).