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Abraham Lincoln to William Martin, 27 February 18511
Hon: Wm MartinDear Sir:
I suppose you know that one of my suits here is against James A. Barret– He holds 30th shares of the Stock; and his complaint [in them is]2 the changing the road away from New-Berlin, near which the principal part of his real estate lies– To-day he has sent in a proposal that if he can be released from 15 shares he will pay up the other 15– Of course I can do no more in this, than to notify the higher powers of it, which I hereby intend doing through you– I have an impression that the board have not the legal authority to release a stockholder in whole or in part but I have not examined the question particularly–
Write concerning this–3
Yours trulyA. Lincoln
<Page 2>
5
SPRINGFIELD Ill.[Illinois]
FEB[February] 28
Hon: Wm MartinAltonIllinois–
[docketing]
02/27/1851
A. Lincoln
Feb 27– 1851.4
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter, including the address on the last sheet, which was folded to create an envelope.
2The text is damaged; the supplied text comes from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990), 11:6.
3Lincoln references legal work for the Alton & Sangamon Railroad Company, which had retained Lincoln & Herndon to collect balances due on shares of capital stock purchased by stockholders. The Illinois General Assembly chartered the railroad in February 1847 to construct and operate a railroad between Alton, Illinois, via New Berlin, and Springfield, Illinois. Section two of the company’s charter allowed the incorporators to issue $500,000 in stock at $100 per share, and section six required subscribers to purchase stock by paying $5 on each share subscribed at the time of subscribing and the balance in installments called for by a board of directors. The incorporators opened subscription for stock in May 1847, and Barret purchased thirty shares ($3,000). He also owned 4,215 acres of land in southwestern Sangamon County, Illinois, which bordered the proposed route. On January 29, 1851, however, the General Assembly altered the charter to allow the company to construct the road on a more direct route, bypassing the property of several stockholders, including Barret. Believing that the change in route voided their subscription agreements, Barret and other investors refused to pay their remaining installments, and the company hired Lincoln & Herndon to collect the full subscriptions. Barret and several other delinquent subscribers were from Sangamon County, and thirty-seven were from Madison County, Illinois. William Martin was among the incorporators.
Lincoln planned to bring suit on behalf of the railroad against Sangamon County residents Barret, Joseph Klein, Sr., John M. Burkhardt, and Thomas J. Kirkpatrick. Lincoln wrote Martin on February 19 that Kirkpatrick had paid his installments, and the railroad dismissed its case against him. Lincoln continued to work on the three other lawsuits.
Barret refused to settle, and in March 1851, the company sued Barret in the Sangamon County Circuit Court in an action of assumpsit to collect the balance due on the thirty shares of capital stock. In November, the court ruled for the railroad, and awarded it $1,351. Barret appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment in December, establishing an important precedent for subsequent stock subscription cases. Justice Samuel H. Treat, who wrote the opinion for the court, relied on Lincoln’s legal citations and argument, reasoning that unforeseen construction problems concerning a public improvement could not be fully known when the General Assembly granted a charter. Therefore, the General Assembly might remedy the situation by amending the charter without the consent of all the incorporators. Treat concluded that a "few obstinate stockholders should not be permitted to deprive the public and the company of the advantages that will result from a superior and less expensive route." The development of Lincoln's argument is clear from letters that Lincoln wrote Martin between March and August 1851. Lincoln wrote Martin an additional ten letters relating to these cases.
"An Act to Construct a Railroad from Alton, in Madison County, to Springfield, in Sangamon County," 27 February 1847, Private and Special Laws of Illinois (1847), 144-49; Alton & Sangamon Railroad Stock Subscription Book; List of Stock Subscriptions, Document ID: 93972, Alton & Sangamon RR v. Barret, 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=138164; Barret v. Alton & Sangamon RR, 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=138165; “An Act to Amend the Charter of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company,” 29 January 1851, Private Laws of Illinois (1851), 35; Declaration, Praecipe, Document ID: 4786; Order, Document ID: 5224, Alton & Sangamon RR v. Kirkpatrick, 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=138126; Alton & Sangamon RR v. Klein, 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=138127; Alton & Sangamon RR v. Burkhardt, 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=138122; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin; Abraham Lincoln to William Martin. For full treatment of these cases, see Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 2:172-210. For the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, see James A. Barret v. The Alton & Sangamon Railroad Company, 13 Ill. (Peck) (1851) 504-14.
4Martin wrote this docketing.

Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).