James B. McKinley to Abraham Lincoln, 28 May 18581West Urbana May 28th/58A Lincoln Esq[Esquire]Dear sir
The bearer of this Mr Jones is the brother of J O Jones whos plead guilty to the charge of stealing the money of the American Express Company You will remember that I gave you a brief statement of the facts &c[etc]2 Mr Jones his brother will call upon you to introduce him to the Governor He has a petition signed by all our best Citizens and the bar & Grand jury that found the indictment &c3 I think I can safely say that it is the desire of this whole community that he should
<Page 2>be pardoned He will show letters from his brother &c I have explained to him your Manner of acting in such cases— that he must not expect that you can do more for him than to mearely give an opinion if you have any to the Governor in the matter4
Since I saw you I have seen and talked with Weldon he will if the nomination is given him run for the Legislature I have been at Decatur & Monticello and find that his nomination will be aceptable &c Usrey thinks he will get a better vote in Mancon than any other man and I am satisfied that he is the man for this and Dewitt
<Page 3>Counties in preference to any other man that can be found in the district5
Any thing you can consciensiously do for Jones will be duly appreciated &cYours trulyJ B McKinley6
2The man who had pled guilty to stealing from the American Express Company was named Orin F. Jones, not J. O. Jones. Orin F. Jones was an agent of the company in Tolono, Illinois, in 1857 when a package containing $509.15 which had been consigned to the company was stolen. At the time, Jones was living with a woman who those involved in the case were uncertain was his legal wife. It was suggested that this woman had either stolen the property or influenced Jones to do so, and that in pleading guilty Jones was protecting her. Jones entered his plea at the April 1858 term of the Champaign County Circuit Court and was sentenced by Judge David Davis to one year in prison.
The identity of Orin F. Jones’ brother who presented this letter to Abraham Lincoln is unknown. One brother of Jones’ who intervened in his case was George O. Jones, who lived in Onondaga County, New York and was assistant sergeant-at-arms of the New York State Assembly in 1858. George O. Jones wrote to Illinois Governor William H. Bissell on his brother’s behalf in February, 1859.
Newspaper Report, Document ID: 130501; Letter, Document ID: 130505, McKinley requested Lincoln’s assistance in obtaining pardon, 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=141546; William D. Murphy, Biographical Sketches of the State Officers and Members of the Legislature of the State of New York, in 1858 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1858), n.p.
3For the petition described here, see: Petition for Pardon, Document ID: 130508, McKinley requested Lincoln’s assistance in obtaining pardon, 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=141546.
4No further correspondence between Lincoln and McKinley regarding Orin F. Jones’ case has been located, however on November 3, 1858, Lincoln added his own recommendation that Jones be pardoned at the foot of similar notes to Bissell from Davis and from Ward H. Lamon, who had served as the prosecuting attorney on the case. Bissell ultimately waited until Jones had served almost his entire sentence before pardoning him, thus restoring his rights of citizenship without shortening his sentence.
McKinley requested Lincoln’s assistance in obtaining pardon, 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=141546.
5The Republicans of the Thirty-sixth District of the Illinois House of Representatives, which included Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt counties, ultimately selected Daniel Stickel of Piatt County and not Lawrence Weldon as their candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives in the election of 1858. Stickel was duly elected to the position on November 2, 1858, defeating Douglas Democrat candidate William N. Coler, and Buchanan Democrat candidate William Prather by several hundred votes.
Henry C. Whitney to Abraham Lincoln; Henry C. Whitney to Abraham Lincoln; Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 3 November 1858, 2:1-2; The Central Transcript (Clinton, IL), 28 October 1858, 2:3; Weekly Central Transcript (Clinton, IL), 12 November 1858, 1:2; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 222.
6No response to this letter has been located. McKinley wrote Lincoln another letter regarding the 1858 election on August 11, 1858.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC)