Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Lincoln summarizes fraud in 74 words

    Abraham Lincoln Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 7.75" x 10", Springfield, [Illinois]; May 11, 1858. A letter from Lincoln to Joseph Means, written on verso of Means' original letter (dated May 3, 1858), concerning a legal issue relating to property that had belonged to a widow who had no children. An example of his remarkable gift of language, Lincoln summarizes the law of fraud in 74 words.

    Dear Sir

    The statements made within, if true are evidence of fraud on the part of the executor in selling the land. Fraud, by the principles of law, invalidates everything. To get rid of this sale, a bill in chancery is to be filed, charging the fraud, and then, if the fraud can be proved, the sale will be set aside. This is all that can be said. Any lawyer will know how-to do it.

    Yours, &c
    A. Lincoln

    Means' letter begins by referring to a previous conversation or correspondence he had with Lincoln concerning this land issue, which Lincoln claims involved fraud. When Lincoln wrote this letter within days after he returned to Springfield from traveling with Illinois' Eight Judicial Circuit, which he did for three months twice every year. Bloomington was on the circuit, and Lincoln was there in early April and, possibly, mid-April, times in which he may have discussed the land issue with Means.

    Lincoln had obtained his Illinois law license in 1836 and by the 1850s he had achieved success as a lawyer, especially in comparison to his political career, which had stalled after his one term in Congress ended in 1849. Over the duration of his law career Lincoln handled more than 5,000 cases, the bulk of which involved debt collection, contract disputes, divorce, slander, and land issues such as the one referred to in the letter offered here. Lincoln's legal career benefited greatly his political prospects, as he became well known on the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which he rode for more than twenty years.

    Lincoln wrote this letter several weeks before he was nominated by the Illinois Whig Party to challenge one of the state's two sitting United States senators, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. On June 16, the day Lincoln was nominated in Springfield for the Douglas' senate seat, he delivered his famous "House Divided" speech, commencing the campaign against Douglas, which included the historic debates that brought Lincoln national attention as a leading figure in the Whig Party.

    An interesting letter by Lincoln on the legal issue of fraud involving land, written as he was preparing to challenge rival Stephen A. Douglas for one of Illinois U.S. Senate seats. Ex. R. Douglas Stuart.

    Condition: Usual mail folds with foxing. Weakness at folds has caused with small areas of separation. Numerous ink smudges on Means' letter. Remnants of black material at top and right vertical margins.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,267

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold on Oct 19, 2017 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 October 9 Americana & Political Signature Auction Featuring the Michael Ward Collection - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    You reach a customer base that is in many ways completely unknown to the major auction houses, and your marketing to this base is as professional as one could hope for. As I continue to wind down my holdings.
    Michael Z.,
    Hawthorne, NY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search