Abraham Lincoln ALS, He Gives Legal Advice to a Friend

Autograph Letter Signed, “A. Lincoln”, 1p, 7.75” x 12.75”, Springfield, Illinois, November 16, 1858. Lincoln pens his reply on the lower half of the third page of a letter to him from Martin L. Bishop. Esq., 2pp, on two sheets conjoined at top of each sheet. Expected creasing and folds with small areas of loss. Slight smudging to Lincoln's signature. Toning, soiling and scattered foxing. In very good condition.

Martin L. Bishop of McLean County, Illinois, forwards an agreement whereby the rights to an invention was sold to him in 1856 by the inventors for $2,400, noted by Bishop to be a “Copy”, Bloomington, Illinois, November 12, 1858. Beneath, Bishop pens a letter to lawyer Abraham Lincoln, signed, "M. L. Bishop". His letter, in part: “Above please find Copy of County right for ditching machine which I purchased from the parties whose names are attached thereto, and on which right I still owe a portion of the purchase money. They on their part have suffered other parties to infringe on their patent, will not the above assignment of the right to this County be a valid rebut to their claim against me? And as the parties above stated have sued me & they having a Suit now pending in the U.S. Court against others for said infringement will not this act be held as a sufficient cause for Continuance, until the decision of said cause by the U.S. Court. And is it necessary on my part to have the above article recorded in Washington Prior to said decision. Please Answer immediately & oblige."

Lincoln handwrites his response beneath Bishop’s letter to him, in full: "I do not think ‘the above assignment of the right of the County will be a valid rebut to their claim against you.’ I do not think the fact that the Patentees have a suit pending in the U.S. Court can avail you in defence, or for a continuance of their suit against you - Before you can sue, your assignment should be recorded; but the recording has nothing to do with the suits already brought."

Martin L. Bishop (1818-1897) moved to McLean County, Illinois, from Ohio in the fall of 1840. A miller, he owned over 1200 acres. His friend, Abraham Lincoln, was also his attorney. Five years earlier, Bishop had retained Lincoln and sued the Illinois Central Railroad for $5,000 in damages to twenty acres of his land. In April 1854, the jury found for Bishop and awarded $583. There was an appeal, and the court granted a new trial. In the second trial, the court ruled for Bishop and awarded $470 in accordance with the arbitrators’ award. In September 1856, Bishop had retained Lincoln and sued the Illinois Central Railroad in an action of assumpsit. The court dismissed the suit with the railroad paying the costs.

Lincoln’s reply is not in Basler. On “The Papers of Abraham Lincoln” website, "The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln” reports that in November 1858, “Lincoln provided legal advice to Bishop”, and summarizes Bishop’s letter: “Bishop purchased the rights to a patent for improvements to a plow from Marquis and others for $2,400. Bishop asked Lincoln for legal advice regarding the validity of his ownership of the patent and his liability for pending law suits involving the invention.” However, Lincoln’s reply (the here offered letter) is not recorded.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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