Justin Butterfield to Abraham Lincoln, 27 February 18481Chi Chicago Feby 27. 1848Dr Sir
I received yours of the 13th inst=–2 In order to pass our rail road Bill– as reported by Mr Breese in the Senate, it will be necessary that the delegation in Congress from this State should march shoulder to shoulder in solid column– and vote down all amendments=3 I perceive that since I wanted our project—petitions are getting up in Kentucky and Missouri ^and Wisconsin^ for donations for [
...?] other rail roads, and there is no doubt but an attempt will be made to ride their
Bills in on ours, and to load our bill down with amendments so as to kill it= now
the only way will be for our delegation to agree before hand to propose no amendments themselves and to oppose all amendments that may be offered
by others—our delegation should support the Bill as a measure “to connect the commerce of the upper & Lower Mississippi with the Lakes”=. if supported on this ground, you will see that no other rail roads can be brought
within the principle of this Bill and therefore it would be unjust to attempt to ride
in other rail roads upon our Bill–=
If any of our own delegation commence the game of offering amendments themselves, with what grace can they oppose amendments offered by other states?
There are not two towns in our state that have
stock?] good for a ^branch^ rail road to connect alton and Springfield with it=
<Page 2>shown so much apathy towards the completion of the central rail road as Springfield & Alton. Springfield in particular refused to sign the petions which I sent there, and also has refused to call a public meeting or to countenance in the least the project= they have acted at Springfield as though there ought to be no other rail road in this world, than Col. Mathers rail road from Springfield to Meredocia,= and I will leave it to you whether it would now be right for Springfield to endanger the passage of this Bill by attempting to make it ride through a rail road to Alton; I say let every tub stand on its own bottom=4 after this Bill is passed I should should certainly be in favor of a grant of lands for a rail road from Springfield to Alton= let that come up as a separate measure—at all events if a rail road is made from Chicago to Cans Cairo= it will make the [
Neither should there be any amendments offered on or attempts made to fix the line upon the intermediate points of the road between Chicago & Cairo, leave all that to our own democratic Legislature. The great object now is to get the grant of land= and that object should not be hazz hazzarded by raising minor questions which can—and should be settled among ourselves
Cry?]= I do not say this to influence your votes ^or exertions^ I know you too well––.5
<Page 3>I will now make a prediction, that the Bill will pass the Seate Senate; and as you are our only whig member from this State, if it should be lost in the house, which is Whig, all the loco members from this state, will charge its loss to you and endeavor to make you the victim; and you have some jesuetical friends in and about Springfield who want your place who will unite, in the [
We have nothing new here, the Canal will be completed by the first of April and no mistake
I think Clay will be nominated for Pret.[President] what is your opinion about it– I believe the Whigs in the Southern part of this State are for Taylor but in the Northern part ful for Clay; but the Whigs in this state can do nothing= I think the nomination for Pret.[President] ought to be made by the states that a are; or by any possibility may give a Whig vote= and that it becomes us the Whigs in Ills. to be very mum and modest on the subject=6 I shall be happy to hear from you frequently– I have not received your speech which you said you would send me7Yours trulyJ ButterfieldHon A. LinHonble.[Honorable] A. Lincoln
1Justin H. Butterfield wrote and signed this letter. Butterfield employed single and double dashes--the latter on top of each other-- for ending punctuation. The editors have rendered the double dashes with the equals sign.
3Butterfield worked closely with Stephen A. Douglas and Sidney Breese to get Congress to grant Illinois a right of way and a grant of public land to build a railroad between Chicago and Cairo. On January 13, 1848, Douglas presented a petition from citizens of the state requesting a grant of land to aid in building a railroad. On January 20, Douglas introduced Senate Bill No. 95 (S. 95)--the bill that Butterfield references. The Senate referred S. 95 to the Committee on Public Lands, of which Breese was the chairman. Breese, on behalf of the committee, reported back the bill on January 24 without amendment. The Senate ordered the bill and accompanying report printed. Meanwhile, on February 15 and 23, respectively, Breese and Douglas presented additional petitions from citizens of Illinois requesting congressional assistance in constructing the railroad. Over in the House, Abraham Lincoln presented a similar petition on February 14.
Illinois’ congressional delegation in the Thirtieth Congress included: William A. Richardson, John A. McClernand, Robert Smith, Thomas J. Turner, John Wentworth, and Lincoln, in the House; and Breese and Douglas in the Senate.
John M. Wilson, Memoir of Justin Butterfield (Chicago: Chicago Legal News, 1880), 16; U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 7, 408; U.S. Senate Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 4, 107, 125, 129, 173, 185; S. 95, 30th Cong. (1848).
4This literary allusion is to Charles Macklin’s The Man of the World (1781), Act 1, Scene 2.
Mrs. Inchbald, The British Theatre; or, A Collection of Plays (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1808), 14:14.
5The Senate continued to consider S. 95 through the winter and early spring. As Butterfield predicted, the Senate passed the bill on May 3. The House amended S. 95, but refused to read it a third time on August 12 by a vote of 73 yeas to 79 nays, with Lincoln voting yea. In December 1848, Smith introduced a similar bill in the House, but it did not pass. In January 1849, the Senate passed a similar bill, but the House took no action before the end of the session. In September 1850, Congress finally passed a law making a grant of land and granting the right of way for a railroad--this railroad running from Chicago to Mobile, Alabama. In February 1851, the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation accepting this grant of land.
U.S. Senate Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 290, 314, 592; U.S. House Journal. 1848. 30th Cong., 1st sess., 762, 769, 770, 946, 1151, 1267-74; U.S. House Journal. 1848-49. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 73, 357, 537, 556; U.S. Senate Journal. 1848-49. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 170-71; “An Act Granting the Right of Way, and Making a Grant of Land to the States of Illinois, Mississippi, and Alabama, in Aid of the Construction of a Railroad from Chicago to Mobile,” 20 September 1850, Statutes at Large of the United States 9 (1862):466-67; “An Act to Repeal the Charter of the Great Western Railroad Company, and for Other Purposes,” 17 February 1851, General Laws of Illinois (1851), 192-93.
6Butterfield references the movement to draft Zachary Taylor as the Whig Party’s candidate in the presidential election of 1848, supplanting Henry Clay, who was the party’s standard bearer in the 1844 election and was still the nominal head of the party. Some regular Whigs condemned the movement for Taylor, a southern slaveholder who had no previous political affiliation, as an abandonment of Whig principles. Taylor would get the nomination and win the presidency.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:275-76; Holman Hamilton, Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1966), 63-64; 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), 309-10, 333-39; K. Jack Bauer, Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), 233-34; Abraham Lincoln to Simeon Francis.
Autograph Letter Signed, 3 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC)