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Abraham Lincoln Collection Agent, Ulysses S. Grant Bill Collector

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Rather than specializing, Lincoln practiced general law, and so we see him taking on both civil and criminal cases, with breaches of contract and patent infringements sharing space with bootlegging, assault, even murder cases. Much of his work concerned debt collection, for which Lincoln was known well beyond Illinois, and these cases provide a unique window on nineteenth-century business. Lincoln also went out on the road twice yearly to try cases in the state’s circuit courts; this edition documents some of these tours in detail.

The cases represented paint a vivid picture of America in the decades leading up to the Civil War. The nation's surging expansion is reflected in cases over land speculation, property disputes, construction, and, of course, the railroads, whose interests are a consistent theme throughout. Other trials touch on domestic law, the Black Laws, even the California gold rush.


 We thank the University of Virginia Press for the information above.

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln:
Legal Documents and Cases

Daniel W. Stowell, Editor
Susan Krause, Assistant Editor
John A. Lupton, Assistant Editor
Stacy Pratt McDermott, Assistant Editor
Christopher A. Schnell, Assistant Editor
Dennis E. Suttles, Assistant Editor
Kelley B. Clausing, Research Associate
R. Dan Monroe, NHPRC Editing Fellow


Another Lincoln Collection Letter

To Mrs. Deziah Vance [1]

Mrs. Deziah Vance Springfield,

Madam June 9, 1860

Your letter of June 5th. is received. I have no money collected by me for Mr. Vance, and I had ceased trying to collect any for him long before his death. You speak of my letters to Mr. Vance; and if I remember, they will show that the charge of Mr. Vance's claim here was transferred to Mr. W. H. Herndon. I think his claim was against a man, or men, by the name of Vanmeter. I never keep any body's money, which I collect, an hour longer than I can find a chance to turn it over to him. If you doubt this, get some of the busy bodies who are imposing on you in this matter, to find somebody who will swear he paid me money for Mr. Vance. If there is any such man he can be found.

If, as you say, Mr. Trimble spoke to me, and I gave him no satisfaction, it was because the truth was not satisfactory. Let Mr. Trimble or any one else come here and see the man or men, of whom they or you, think I received money for Mr. Vance, and learn of them how the truth is. I have no papers in my hands, belonging to Mr. Vance. I do not certainly know, but my opinion is that nothing can be got on those old claims, or that old claim of Mr. Vance.

Yours &c





[1]   ALS, owned by William H. Townsend, Lexington, Kentucky. Since Mrs. Vance's letter of June 5 is not in the Lincoln Papers, it is not possible to clarify entirely the matter about which she wrote, but it probably concerned claims similar to those about which Lincoln wrote to her husband, John W. Vance, on July 7, 1844 (q.v., supra). 



To Maria Bullock [1]

Dear Aunt Springfield, Ills, Jan. 3. 1859

I have recently had two letters from our cousin Charles Carr, [2] in relation to your business. It annoys me to have to say that I can not collect money now. I now believe the quickest way I can get your money is for me to buy the debts of you, as soon as I can get in any money of my own to do it with. I keep some money loaned at ten per cent; and when I can get hold of some, it would be a ready investment for me to just take these debts off your hands; and I shall try to do so. I think it will be better all round than to resort to the law. This does not apply to the small debt of eighty odd dollars, upon which I shall sue and foreclose the mortgage next court.

All well. Yours as ever,




[1]   ALS, IHi.

[2]   Charles D. Carr, an attorney at Lexington, Kentucky, was Mrs. Bullock's nephew. Carr's letters are not extant, and there is no record of Lincoln's purchasing the mortgages. 



Ulysses S. Grant

(born Hiram Ulysses Grant) (April 27, 1822 - July 23, 1885) was the eighteenth President of the United States of America from 1869 to 1877.

Between The Wars 

The Mexican-American War concluded on February 2, 1848. On August 22, 1848, Grant married Julia Boggs Dent (1826-1902), the daughter of a slave owner, and together, they had four children. Grant remained in the army and was moved to several different posts. He was sent to Fort Vancouver in the Washington Territory in 1853, where he served as quartermaster of the 4th Infantry Regiment. . In 1854, Grant was promoted to captain, one of only 50 still on active duty, and assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt, California. Grant abruptly resigned from the Army with little advance notice on July 31, 1854, offering no explanation for his decision. Rumors persisted in the Army for years that his commanding officer, Bvt. Lt. Col. Robert C. Buchanan, found him drunk on duty as a pay officer and offered him the choice between resignation or court-martial. However, the War Department stated, "Nothing stands against his good name."

At age 32, Grant struggled through seven lean years. From 1854 to 1858, he labored on a family farm near St. Louis, Missouri, using slaves owned by his father-in-law, but it did not prosper. Grant owned one slave, whom he set free in 1859, and his wife owned four slaves
. From 1858-1859 he was a bill collector in St. Louis. Failing at everything, he asked his father for a job, and in 1860 was made an assistant in the leather shop owned by his father in Galena, Illinois. Grant & Perkins sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods and purchased hides from farmers in the prosperous Galena area.

The Civil War 

Ulysses S Grant was very active in the American Civil War, and there is so much to say....

Ulysses S. Grant - Bill Collector