Description

    Abraham Lincoln. Unsigned Autograph Note, in pencil. No place or date, approximately two-thirds page, quarto, written on a large piece of ruled blue paper torn from a folio sheet. An astonishing missive from "Honest Abe", in which he asks a court clerk to alter legal documents that were already in the clerk's hands, and otherwise "fix" a mistake. This directive was sent to Thompson R. Webber of Champaign County, one of Lincoln's most trusted friends among the court officers of the eighth circuit; in an 1862 recommendation to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton he called Webber "an honest and capable man." The present note evidently refers to Strong vs Thomas, a May 1854 suit in which Lincoln represented the plaintiff and which involved some 47 heirs. A rather anxious Lincoln writes, in full: "In the Strong case, Mr. Webber will carefully go through all the papers - Bill, decree, & whatever has the misdescription on it, and correct the mistake, in as workmanlike manner as possible -- & then get the purchasers of the misdescribed land, to give up their deeds, and make them new ones, with correct description. I want it so fixed that it may not appear there ever was a mistake; & so you should not put the report, you now have, on file, but have a new one to make at the next term. Do all this very carefully, & then destroy this note." The seeming impropriety (if not illegality) of Lincoln's request makes this an autograph of characterological and not just historical interest. What he feared most from these legal documents with mistaken land descriptions -- aside from potential embarrassment - may have been reflected in a rhetorical question he once wrote down for a law lecture: "Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds, in search of defects in titles…to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket?" Surely one of the most extraordinary documents to survive from Lincoln's law practice - and unpublished! The pencil writing is somewhat light -- perhaps intentionally - but it is entirely readable. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection. Accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA.

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    Auction Dates
    February, 2006
    20th-21st Monday-Tuesday
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