Abraham Lincoln 1858 Autograph Letter Signed as Lawyer – “Lincoln & Herndon”


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16th President.

Autograph letter signed “Lincoln & Herndon”, November 30, 1858, to “Messrs. S. C. Davis & Co“, Springfield. Written during his final and most famous legal partnership with William Herndon, Lincoln advises Samuel C. Davis & Co. regarding foreclosures and property the company had been awarded in a case handled by their firm:


Yours of the 27th returning letter of Mr. Fishback is just received. What amount will have to be paid Mr. Fishback, we can not tell until we hear further from him – We await your direction about making sales – The first Monday of January will be the 3rd day – so that judgment can be obtained at the January Term if process be served as early as the 24th of Dec – being ten days – If suit be commenced as early as the 15th the Marshal will have from that till the 24th to find the parties, and serve the process – reasonable time, but not quite so safe as if it were a little greater.

Yours &c

Lincoln & Herndon

The young Arkansas lawyer (and later Governor of Arkansas), William Meade Fishback handled foreclosure proceedings for Lincoln & Herndon, and is referenced in the opening of this letter. In 1857, Fishback moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he was admitted to the bar and briefly practiced law. Poor health prompted him to move to Sebastian County, Arkansas in 1858. In 1861, Fishback was elected to the Arkansas Secession Convention as a pro-Union delegate. Fishback was elected Governor of Arkansas in 1892.

William Henry Herndon (1818-1891) was born in Kentucky and moved to Springfield with his family in 1823. Herndon worked as a store clerk before studying law in the Logan and Lincoln partnership. Admitted to the bar in 1844, Lincoln later that year chose him as his junior partner. The partnership of Lincoln and Herndon lasted until Lincoln’s death in 1865, and handled at least 3,200 cases in the county courts of central Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court, and the federal courts in Illinois. Provenance: Emanuel Hertz (his sale, Anderson Galleries, 15 Nov 1927, lot 324).

An outstanding lawyer, Lincoln rose to prominence in his home state of Illinois. He was initially associated with John Todd Stuart, then with Stephen T. Logan, and finally with William H. Herndon. This letter, written entirely in Lincoln’s hand, was written during his successful partnership in Springfield with Herndon. As a partner, Lincoln prepared cases for the federal courts, the Illinois Supreme Court, and the state’s Eighth Judicial Circuit, which covered most of east-central Illinois. Lincoln, gaining important exposure throughout the state, rode the circuit for six months during the year, but Herndon usually stayed at their law office in Springfield.

Lincoln’s partnership with Herndon was not officially dissolved until Lincoln’s death in 1865. In his celebrated Lincoln biography, Herndon reported that just before Lincoln left Springfield to become president he told Herndon, “If I live I’m coming back some time, and then we’ll go right on practicing law as if nothing had ever happened.”

Even mat toning at edges, light creasing.