A very uncommon document signed by both men from the legendary law office.
On March 6, 1857, two days after President Buchanan was inaugurated, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the Dred Scott case, holding that as a slave, Scott had no rights under the U.S. Constitution and thus no liberty to present a case in a Federal court. Further, since slaves were...
On March 6, 1857, two days after President Buchanan was inaugurated, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the Dred Scott case, holding that as a slave, Scott had no rights under the U.S. Constitution and thus no liberty to present a case in a Federal court. Further, since slaves were property, and since the Fifth Amendment spelled out that no person could be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of the law,” the federal government was powerless to prohibit the practice of slavery anywhere in the Union. This decision appeared to undermine the Kansas-Nebraska Act, for in the assertion that the federal government was powerless to deprive an individual of his property, the corresponding powerlessness of a state government seemed implicit. While Stephen A. Douglas desperately attempted to reconcile the Dred Scott decision with his principle of popular sovereignty, Lincoln prepared to face off against him in the 1858 Senate election. Even as great events began to draw Lincoln in, he still had to attend to his law practice.
The firm of Lincoln and Herndon handled about two dozen cases for S. C. Davis & Company, a St. Louis-based dry-goods wholesaler who sold sundries to local merchants. In many instances, these local stores didn’t make enough money to pay their debts; and if the stores were in Illinois, S. C. Davis hired Lincoln and his partner to sue them. The documentary evidence suggests that Lincoln was not fond of these cases. He clearly saw himself as a mediator, wanting debtors to have an opportunity to pay their debts instead of having their assets seized. Lincoln and Herndon later turned S. C. Davis over to another law firm.
On December 7, 1857, Lincoln filed praecipes in assumpsit (complaints for breach of contract) in the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of Illinois for nine of the S. C. Davis cases. One of these was S. C. Davis & Co. vs. Henry J.D. Sanders. Document signed by Lincoln and Herndon, being a Bond For Costs, saying “We enter ourselves as security for costs in this cause,” and promising to pay the court-assessed costs themselves if their client failed to do so.
Documents from their legendary practice signed by both Lincoln and Herndon are extremely uncommon. This is the second one we’ve had in our quarter century in business, and we recall seeing only two or three others over that entire span of time.
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