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ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Autograph Document Signed. Legal Brief. [Springfield, Ill., April 16, 1839]. 1 p., 7 5/8 x 12 5/8 in.

Inventory #22878       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Complete Transcript

State of Illinois
Sangamon County    }sb
2nd Circuit

Of the July term of the Sangamon
Circuit Court in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred
and thirtynine—

Moses Hoffman, plaintiff, complains of William H. Wernwag, defendant, being in custody &c of a plea in assumpsit: For that whereas heretofore, towit, on the [blank] day of [blank] in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirtynine at the county and circuit aforesaid, the said defendant was indebted to the said plaintiff in the sum of one hundred an[d] twentyeight dollars and sixtyfive cents lawful money of the United States, for the work and labour care and diligence of the said plaintiff, but him the said plaintiff before that time done performed and bestowed in and about the business of the said defendant, and for the said defendant, and at his  special instance and request—

And also for divers goods, wares and merchandize by the  said plaintiff before that time sold and delivered to the said defendant, and at his like special instance and request; and being so indebted, he the said defendant, in consideration thereof, afterwards, towit, on the day and year aforesaid, at the county and circuit aforesaid undertook, and then and there faithfully promised, the said plaintiff to pay him the said sum of money when he the said defendant when he the said defendant should be there unto afterwards requested—

Yet the said defendant (Although often requested so to do) hath not as yet paid to the said plaintiff the said sum of money or any part thereof, but so to do, hath hitherto wholly neglected and refused, and still doth neglect and refuse. To the damage of the said plaintiff of the sum of two hundred dollars, and there he sues &c.

                                                            Stuart & Lincoln p .g.

Docketing on verso:

Moses Huffman
vs}        Decln
William H. Wemway

Filed June 28 1839
Wm Butler clerk

Historical Background

William H. Wernwag, nephew of the more famous bridge builder Louis Wernwag, was contracted to build a bridge over the Sangamon River at Carpenter’s Ferry, a site north of Springfield, Illinois. After contracting with suppliers and laborers, he died, leaving many creditors in the lurch. Lincoln filed suit on behalf of at least three of the nine creditors who sued Wernwag’s estate. Here, Lincoln files a plea in assumpsit, (taking on a promise, in this case, to pay) on behalf of Moses Hoffman, who claimed that Wernwag owed him $128.65 for goods and services.

It is unknown whether or not Lincoln won this case, but he was forced to dismiss another of his cases against Wernwag’s estate because Wernwag died deeply in debt. Considering that he introduced an “Act for the Relief of the Creditors of the late William Wernwag” in the Illinois Legislature on December 29, 1840, it is likely that even if he won on behalf of Hoffman, the estate had few assets from which Hoffman could recover damages. The relief bill relied on creditors petitioning the county commissioners for payment, and took effect February 27, 1841.


“Biog. of the Wernwag Family, Bridge Builders.”

William E. Baringer, Lincoln Day by Day, A Chronology 1809-1865, Volume I (Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1991) pp. 108-110; 150.

Laws of the State of Illinois Passed by the Twelfth General Assembly... (Springfield: Willia, Walters, 1841) pp. 212-213.

Kay MacLean, The Broadwells of Clayville and Their Roots, Part II: Family Land Dealings in Illinois (Clayville Rural Life Center and Museum, Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois) pp. 24-25.

Paul Simon, Lincoln’s Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years (Norman, Ok.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965) pp. 254-256.