The document is a complaint that Lincoln wrote when he was practicing law with Stephen Trigg Logan (1800-1880). Lincoln worked with Logan from 1841-1844, following his partnership with John Todd Stuart (from 1837-1841) and preceding his partnership with William H. Herndon (from 1844-1860). Logan, a Springfield attorney and politician who was nine years Lincoln’s senior, sought to work with Lincoln because of the younger man’s personal popularity and visible success as a trial attorney. The firm began in the office that had housed the firm of Stuart and Lincoln; it was in a single-floor frame building on the east side of North Fifth Street in Springfield, Illinois. The firm subsequently moved to a much more prestigious location in Springfield on the third floor of a a three-story building at the southeast corner of the public square. Logan and Lincoln worked in a variety of areas, including criminal defense, actions in assumpsit, slander, trespass, replevin, appeals from judgments of justices of the peace, as well as litigation over land titles, foreclosures for mortgages, and suits for divorce. (Townsend, p. 89.)
The complaint is on a single leaf of paper, front and back. It measures 12.25 x 7.25 inches and contains 34 lines of text. Lincoln wrote it in Sangamon County, Illinois, and dated it March 1, 1842. It is written on behalf of a group of lumber merchants, among them, William Porter, James Donnell, and Joseph P. Eagen, who sought restitution and damages from a man named Frederick A. Patterson who, they claimed, owed them money. “For that whereas the said defendant… was indebted to the said plaintiffs in the sum of one hundred and twenty three dollars, and eighty five, for scanting, joists, sheeting, rafters, weatherboarding, flooring and other lumber… yet the said defendant although often requested to do so has not as yet paid the said sum of money…” Lincoln signed the complaint “Logan & Lincoln PQ.”
Much of their firm’s practice was devoted to debtor/creditor suits. For example, a public notice of a bankruptcy hearing appeared in “The Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser” on October 28, 1842, listing Logan and Lincoln as counsel (solicitors for petitioner).
The Law Library hosts on its website a digitized collection called Lincoln and the Law.
The Library of Congress holds a collection of over 40,000 documents related to Lincoln in the Abraham Lincoln Papers.
Stewart, Judd. “Law Partnerships of Abraham Lincoln,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. 9, No. 2 (July 1916), pp. 209-210.
Townsend, William H. “Logan and Lincoln” American Bar Association Journal, Vol. 19, No. 2 (February 1933), pp. 87-90.
Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.