Seth Kaller, Inc.

Inspired by History

Other Abraham Lincoln Offerings

More...

Abraham Lincoln Lengthy and Attractive Signed Legal Brief in a Case Heard by Judge David Davis, Later Lincoln’s Campaign Manager and Supreme Court Appointee
Click to enlarge:
Select an image:

On September 20, 1849, William L. Saltonstall began building a road through Josiah Matthews’ land, southwest of Tremont, Illinois.  Matthews objected and retained Abraham Lincoln and local attorney John M. Bush to file suit against in the Tazewell County Circuit Court, at the newly constructed courthouse in Pekin, on March 9, 1850. Matthews sued in the action of trespass and requested $500 for damage to his land. Saltonstall retained Lincoln’s former partner John T. Stuart and local attorney Benjamin F. James. In an affidavit filed on April 6, they declared that Guerdon F. Saltonstall could testify that six years earlier, when he owned the land, he and Matthews agreed that a lane be left along Matthews’ property as a right-of-way. Pending his testimony, the judge ordered a continuance. Both parties then agreed to arbitration, and on June 4, 1850, Matthews agreed that a right of way was necessary, and Saltonstall agreed to pay actual damages to be set by the arbitrators.  Three arbitrators viewed the land and listened to testimony. On June 12, they rendered their decision that Saltonstall should pay Matthews $16 and also pay $5.90 for the costs of the arbitration. At the September 1850 term of the Tazewell County Circuit Court, Judge David Davis dismissed the case, ordering Matthews to pay $2.40 in court costs.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Autograph Manuscript Signed by Lincoln as “Bush & Lincoln pq,” Narratio, March 1850, in the case of Matthews v. Saltonstall, April 1850 term of the Tazewell County Circuit Court. 2 ½ pp with approx. 670 words in Lincoln’s hand, blue paper.

Inventory #24513       Price: $11,500

Excerpt: (complete transcript available below):

“Josiah Matthews, plaintiff, complains of William L. Saltonstall, defendent, being in custody &c of a plea of Trespass….with force and arms, broke and entered the close of the said plaintiff, situate in the county aforesaid, and then and there forced, broke open, threw down damaged and spoiled, divers fences of the said plaintiff of great value…and with feet in walking, trod down, trampled upon, consumed and spoiled the grass and corn…and with the feet off the said horses, mares, geldings, sheep, cattle and oxen; and with the wheels of the said carts, wagons, and other carriages, tore up, subverted, damaged and spoiled the earth and soil of the said close; and thereby and therewith, during all the time aforesaid, greatly encumbered the close aforesaid, and hindered and prevented the said plaintiff from have the use, benefit, and enjoyment thereof, in so large and ample a manner as he might and otherwise would have done…     

                                                                                    Bush & Lincoln p.q”

Historical Background

Some years after this case, Abraham Lincoln prepared notes for a potential law lecture.  Among his advice: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser, in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opertunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”  Perhaps Lincoln followed his own advice to encourage these neighbors to settle their differences through arbitration.

Josiah Matthews (1802-1867), born in Vermont, purchased 40 acres of public domain land in Tazewell County in 1835. He was a farmer, and a strong anti-slavery activist and one of the first Underground Railroad operators in Tazewell County, Illinois. In 1855, Lincoln successfully represented Matthews in his divorce from his wife Lucy; the Jury found Josiah Matthews not guilty and found his wife, who filed for divorce, guilty of desertion.

William L. Saltonstall (1823-1899) was born in Kentucky to Guerdon F. and Mary Saltonstall, moving to Illinois in 1839. William was involved in some estate litigation after his father’s death in 1851, and Lincoln represented the children.  In 1857, Lincoln represented Saltonstall in another case in federal court to foreclose a mortgage. In the 1880s, Saltonstall moved to Saline County, Missouri.

John M. Bush (1811-1860) was born in Ohio and was an attorney in Tazewell County, Illinois, where he also served as County School Commissioner from 1846 to 1848. Between 1848 and 1855, Lincoln and Bush acted as co-counsel in five cases, including this one, and as opposing counsel in six cases, in the Tazewell County Circuit Court.  He later served as probate judge of Tazewell County. An active Republican, Bush introduced Lincoln to a crowd in Pekin in October 1858, when Lincoln was campaigning against Stephen A. Douglas for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Of the five cases that Lincoln and Bush worked on together, the most interesting is Pearl & Pearl v. Graham et al. According to the Legal Papers of Abraham Lincoln: 

“Graham and twenty other men broke into a grocery store owned by Frederick Pearl and Sylvester Pearl and destroyed everything, including large amounts of liquor.  Pearl and Pearl sued them in an action of trespass and requested $5,000 in damages.  Graham retained Lincoln and pleaded not guilty because the grocery was actually a disorderly house where “drunkenness, idleness, quarrelling, profane swearing, obscenity, and other offensive acts” occurred.  Graham and the other defendants claimed that they were peaceful citizens who became annoyed at the public nuisance and destroyed the liquor to stop the problem.  Pearl and Pearl motioned for a change of venue, and the case moved to the Woodford County Circuit Court.  Once in Woodford County, Lincoln motioned the court to change the venue again, and the case returned to the Tazewell County Circuit Court.  Pearl and Pearl decided not to prosecute four defendants.  The jury found eleven defendants not guilty, six defendants guilty, and awarded Pearl and Pearl $50 in damages.  Lincoln received $25 for defending this suit and the criminal suit (People v. Sickler et al.).”

David Davis (1815-1886) was born in Maryland and graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio in 1832. After studying law in New England, he gained admission to the bar in 1835 and moved to Pekin, Illinois, where he opened a law practice. Within a year, he relocated to Bloomington. Elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1844, he became judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit in 1848, with the reorganization of the judiciary based on the Illinois Constitution of 1848. At the time, the Eighth Circuit consisted of fourteen counties in central Illinois stretching eastward to the Indiana border. There, he heard thousands of cases argued by Abraham Lincoln, for whom he developed a strong personal and political friendship. Effectively Lincoln’s campaign manager in his 1860 bid for the Presidency, Davis worked tirelessly at the Republican national convention in Chicago to secure Lincoln’s nomination. In 1862, Lincoln appointed Davis to the U.S. Supreme Court where he served until 1877, when he resigned to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. He served as the administrator of Abraham Lincoln’s estate and assisted Robert T. Lincoln, when it became necessary to commit his mother Mary Lincoln to an asylum.

Complete Transcript

                                                In the Tazewell Circuit Court / April Term A.D. 1850.

State of Illinois

Tazewell County } SS.

            Josiah Matthews, plaintiff, complains of William L. Saltonstall, defendent, being in custody &c of a plea of Trespass. For that the said defendant, on the twentieth day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine, and on divers other days and times between that day and the day of bringing this suit, with force and arms, broke and entered the close of the said plaintiff, situate in the county aforesaid, and then and there forced, broke open, threw down damaged and spoiled, divers fences of the said plaintiff of great value, towit of the value of one hundred dollars then standing and being in the close of the plaintiff aforesaid, and with feet in walking, trod down, trampled upon, consumed and spoiled the grass and corn of the said plaintiff, of great value towit, of the value of one hundred dollars, then growing and being in the close aforesaid; and with divers horses, mares, geldings, sheep, cattle and oxen, and also with the wheels of divers carts, waggons, and other carriages, crushed, damaged and spoiled, other the grass and corn of the said plaintiff, of great value, towit of the value of one hundred dollars, then and there also growing and being in the close aforesaid; and with the feet off the said horses, mares, geldings, sheep, cattle and oxen; and with the wheels of the said carts, wagons, and other carriages, tore up, subverted, damaged and spoiled the earth and soil of the said close; and thereby and therewith, during all the time aforesaid, greatly encumbered the close aforesaid, and hindered and prevented the said plaintiff from have the use, benefit, and enjoyment thereof, in so large and ample a manner as he might <2> and otherwise would have done, towit, at the county aforesaid.

            And also for that the said defendant, on the twentieth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fortynine, and on divers other days and times between that day, and the day of bringing this suit, broke and entered a certain close of the said plaintiff situate in the county aforesaid, and being of the description following, towit, <[Lincoln left a blank for the property description. The text on the four lines between here and “Range >” was inserted in another hand] the Southwest quarter of section Twenty Four (24) in Township Twenty Four (24) North, Range Four (4) West of 3rd principal Meridian and the North Half of the Northwest quarter of section Twenty Five (25) in the same Township and Range> and then and there forced, broke open, threw down, damaged and spoiled, divers fences of the said plaintiff, of great value, towit of the value of one hundred dollars, then and there standing and being in the close of the plaintiff last aforesaid, and with feet, in walking, trod down, trampled upon, consumed, and spoiled, the grass and corn of the said plaintiff of great value, towit, of the value of one hundred dollars then growing and being in the close of the said plaintiff last aforesaid, and with divers horses, mares, geldings, sheep, cattle, and oxen, and also with the wheels of divers carts, waggons, and other carriages crushed, damaged, and spoiled other the grass and corn off the said plaintiff, of great value, towit of the value of one hundred dollars, then and there also growing and being in the close last aforesaid, and with the feet of the said horses, mares, geldings, sheep, cattle and oxen, and with the wheels of the said carts, waggons, and other carriages, tore up, subverted, damaged, and spoiled, the earth and soil of the close last aforesaid, and thereby, and there- <3> with, during all the time aforesaid, greatly encumbered the close last aforesaid, and hindered and prevented the said plaintiff from having the use, benefit and enjoyment thereof in so large and ample a manner as he might, and otherwise would have done. And other wrongs to the said plaintiff then and there did, To the damage of the said plaintiff of five hundred dollars, and therefore he brings his suit &c

                                                            Bush & Lincoln p.q

[File Notes:] Taz. Cirt Court April Term 1850 / Josiah Mathews / vs /Wm L. Saltonstall / Nar./ 39 / Filed March 9, 1850 / J. A. Jones / Clerk


Add to Cart Ask About This Item Add to Favorites