Abraham Lincoln to Thomas J. Turner, 15 December 18492Springfield, Decr 15– 1849. Hon: T. J. TurnerDear Sir:
Your letter of the 5th Inst, accompanied by the Bill in Chancery, found me so busy that I have not yet had time to attend to it–3 I am not engaged on the opposite side, and will attend to the matter, at the earliest moment I find leisure to do so– So soon as I can do this, I will write you in full–4Very truly YoursA. Lincoln
5Hon: T. J. TurnerFreeportIllinois–
2Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
3Turner’s letter to Lincoln of December 5, 1849, has not been located. Bill in Chancery is a generic term for any action in the chancery division of the law. The chancery or equity division is devoted to settling legal issues where there is no remedy in the common law.
“Bill in Chancery,” “Chancery,” 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; Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th ed. (St. Paul, MN: West, 1990), 231.
4Lincoln is referencing a lawsuit involving John H. Kemper, Adam Adams, and John Bovey. Kemper recovered a judgment against William F. Bradshaw, and the U.S. marshal sold Bradshaw's land in Ogle County, Illinois, to satisfy the judgment. Bradshaw conveyed the land to Adams and Bovey. Adams and Bovey had possession of the land that Kemper claimed to own by virtue of the judgment. Kemper sued Adams and Bovey in an action of ejectment in the U.S. Circuit Court, District of Illinois, to remove them from the property. Adams and Bovey retained Lincoln, Turner, and Solon Cumins; Kemper retained Stephen T. Logan. Lincoln and his fellow attorneys for the defense argued that the time during which Kemper could sue had expired. The Circuit Court found for Kemper, and Adams and Bovey motioned for a new trial. The court granted the motion, and the jury found for Kemper. Adams and Bovey apparently sued Kemper for an injunction to stop the execution of the judgment, and in March 1858, the U.S. Circuit Court, Northern District of Illinois, ruled for Adams and Bovey. Lincoln received $100 for his legal services.
Between 1850 and 1858, Lincoln wrote Turner nine letters relating to this case. He also corresponded with Adams, Bovey, and Cumins.
For the letters related to this case, see Kemper v. Adams & Bovey, 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=140935.
5Reference to the travails of the administration of President Zachary Taylor, which received fierce criticism from both Whigs and Democrats over the distribution of patronage. Conflicts and complaints over the distribution of patronage dominated the first nine months of the Taylor presidency. Taylor had positioned himself as a candidate above or unbound by party affiliation, but this proved easier in making policy than in distributing jobs. The federal civil service had grown to over 18,000, and Whigs, out of power since 1840, were eager to reap the rewards of the victory in 1848. The pool of applicants was vast, however, and Whigs often squabbled over who was most deserving of accommodation. Many Democrats also voted for Taylor, and they wanted Taylor to make good on his pledge to be a president of all Americans. Taylor did seek to broaden support for his administration by offering appointments to both Whigs and Democrats, but the administration’s inept handling of patronage irritated both groups. Whigs divided bitterly over patronage, and Democrats, led by its press, continually condemned President Taylor’s patronage policies as a betrayal of his promise of bipartisanship. Lincoln was among the deserving Whigs having failed to receive an appointment, losing out to Justin H. Butterfield in the contest to become commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office. The Democrat Turner also apparently came away empty handed. See the General Land Office Affair.
Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 414-19; Elbert B. Smith, President Zachary Taylor: The Hero President (New York: Nova History, 2007), 169-70.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Box 3, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).