Jackson Grimshaw to Abraham Lincoln, 3 April 18581Quincy 3 April 1858Hon A. LincolnSpringfield IllsDear Sir
Your favour of 27th ult. came duly to hand– I have been engaged in court or it should have been sooner answered.2
I return your agreement with the title of cases & signed. I also annex an additional agreement, which if you will, please sign & notify me that you have done so. I also enclose you with a view to that agreement the certified copy of the deed as recorded.3 We can prove the facts stated by Recorders, but for the purpose of presenting the dry legal question in these cases can see no use in either party being at any unneccessary trouble. Please return me this copy & notify me whether you do or do not sign the agreement.4
We have a rumour here per telegraph that Lecompton is defeated in the house.5 We will not however sell out to Douglass & Morris.6 The resolutions at our meeting the other night were drawn by Jonas, are a little too strong in several particulars, but in the main express the position
<Page 2>of the Republicans of 5th District.7
We are not content merely with the defeat of Lecompton, we are opposed to the extension of slavery & believe Douglass & the leaders of the Illinois Democracy are responsible for affording the south the opportunity of carrying slavery into Kansas.
Mess[Messieurs] Douglas, Morris et id omne genus8 may vote with me, but I never will vote for them or aid in endorsing them or elevating them to office. I am out of politics so far as any personal aspirations are concerned but I never will forgive any northern man who voted for the repeal of the Mo. Compromise while in Congress or who as a leader has since sustained it.9Yours trulyJackson Grimshaw
2The spring term of Adams County Circuit Court was scheduled to commence on the fourth Monday in March, which in 1858 was March 22.
“An Act to Change the Time of Holding Court in the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,” 19 February 1857, Laws of Illinois (1857), 27.
3The documents that Grimshaw enclosed here were related to the case of Powell v. Ament & Beer, which involved a dispute over the ownership of land in Adams County, Illinois. The case commenced in the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of Illinois in January 1858, with Abraham Lincoln representing the plaintiff and Grimshaw as an attorney for the defendants. At issue in the case was title to property which had originally been military bounty land patented by Jabez Morse and which Jeremiah Evarts claimed to have purchased from Morse, apparently through land agents Moore, Morton & Company. Lincoln’s client claimed ownership originating in Evarts’ supposed title to the property, and the defendants traced their title through transactions that originated with Morse’s heirs. Neither the deed nor the agreement in the case enclosed here have been located, but Grimshaw summarized what stipulations relative to the above facts of the case had been agreed upon by both sides in a letter he wrote to Lincoln on behalf of the firm of Williams, Grimshaw & Williams later in the course of the lawsuit. Based on Grimshaw’s summary the certified copy of a deed returned here was likely one that purported to convey the land in question from Cyrus True to defendant Anson C. Ament, with True having purchased from Morse’s heirs. Neither the deed nor the agreement was apparently ever filed in the case. Lincoln’s involvement in the case ended about 1860. After three trials, the case was ultimately decided in 1863 in favor of the plaintiff.
Powell v. Ament & Beer, 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=137595; Richard Lloyd to Abraham Lincoln.
4Lincoln responded to Grimshaw on April 11, 1858.
5The U.S. Senate had passed a bill to admit Kansas as a state under the Lecompton Constitution on March 23, 1858. Rather than approving the Senate bill, the U.S. House of Representatives instead voted on April 1 to approve a measure that became known as the Crittenden-Montgomery resolution, which provided for the resubmission of the Lecompton Constitution to the residents of Kansas. The resolution had previously failed in the Senate, thus Congress was now deadlocked on the issue of the Lecompton Constitution. The matter was sent to a conference committee, which produced a compromise measure that became known as the English bill. The English bill provided for an up or down vote on the Lecompton Constitution in the Kansas Territory and avoided a direct resubmission of the constitution to the people of Kansas by attaching it to an adjusted land grant. On April 30, the English bill passed in both houses of the U.S. Congress, but Kansans overwhelmingly voted against it on August 2.
David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 322-25.
6Stephen A. Douglas criticized the Lecompton Constitution and James Buchanan’s support of it in December 1857, causing a rift in the Democratic Party. Some Republicans were excited by Douglas’ repudiation of the Lecompton Constitution to the extent that they considered supporting his bid for reelection to the U.S. Senate in the election of 1858. Although Douglas later denied it, he courted Republican support—meeting in person with prominent men such as Horace Greeley and hinting in correspondence to Republicans that he was finished with the Democratic Party. Lincoln and other Republicans were concerned by these developments and urged fellow party members to remain loyal in the upcoming election. In Lincoln’s view, Douglas disagreed with the Buchanan administration over whether the Lecompton Constitution accurately represented the will of Kansans, but did not repudiate the overall goal of admitting Kansas as a slave state.
Democrat Isaac N. Morris was the current U.S. Congressman from Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District, which included Adams County. Morris also opposed the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution, and in a speech on the subject he praised Douglas for his position on the matter and argued that the Lecompton Constitution did not represent the will of the residents of Kansas. Morris stated in his speech that if he were a Kansan, he would prefer the territory to become a free state.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:445-50; Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 10, 140; Speech of Hon. I. N. Morris, of Illinois, Against the Admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution. Delivered in the House of Representatives, February 23, 1858 ([Washington, DC]: Lemuel Towers, ).
7A Republican Party mass meeting was held at the Adams County courthouse in Quincy on April 1, 1858. At the meeting Abraham Jonas successfully moved for the creation of a committee of five to draft resolutions “expressive of the sense of the meeting” and was himself named to the committee. The meeting members unanimously adopted the resolutions drafted, which included a reaffirmation of the 1856 Republican Party platform, a condemnation of the Democratic Party’s “outrageous attempt” to bring the Kansas Territory into the union as a slave state under the Lecompton Constitution, a vow to oppose the admission of any slave state created out of territory where slavery had never been allowed or had been abolished, a declaration of opposition to any future compromise on the subject of slavery, and an intention to “organize and prepare for the coming contest between Freedom and Slavery”.
Quincy Daily Whig and Republican (IL), 1 April 1858, 3:1; 2 April 1858, 2:2.
8The Latin phrase “et id omne genus” can be translated as “and all of that sort”.
Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 761.
9Despite his assertion that he no longer had personal political aspirations, Grimshaw challenged Morris in the 1858 election for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. Grimshaw lost to Morris, garnering 45.4 percent of the vote to Morris’ 52.7 percent. Grimshaw had also previously lost the U.S. House of Representatives race in the Fifth District to Morris in the election of 1856.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990, 10, 11, 140, 142.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), SC606, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).