Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller

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Author: Alexander K. McClure

"Webster Couldn’t Have Done More."

Lincoln "got even" with the Illinois Central Railroad Company, in 1855, in a most substantial way, at the same time secured sweet revenge for an insult, unwarranted in every way, put upon him by one of the officials of that corporation.

Lincoln and Herndon defended the Illinois Central Railroad in an action brought by McLean County, Illinois, in August, 1853, to recover taxes alleged to be due the county from the road. The Legislature had granted the road immunity from taxation, and this was a case intended to test the constitutionality of the law. The road sent a retainer fee of $250.

In the lower court the case was decided in favor of the railroad. An appeal to the Supreme Court followed, was argued twice, and finally decided in favor of the road. This last decision was rendered some time in 1855. Lincoln then went to Chicago and presented the bill for legal services. Lincoln and Herndon only asked for $2,000 more.

The official to whom he was referred, after looking at the bill, expressed great surprise.

"Why, sir," he exclaimed, "this is as much as Daniel Webster himself would have charged. We cannot allow such a claim."

"Why not?" asked Lincoln.

"We could have hired first-class lawyers at that figure," was the response.

"We won the case, didn’t we?" queried Lincoln.

"Certainly," replied the official.

"Daniel Webster, then," retorted Lincoln in no amiable tone, "couldn’t have done more," and "Abe" walked out of the official’s office.

Lincoln withdrew the bill, and started for home. On the way he stopped at Bloomington, where he met Grant Goodrich, Archibald Williams, Norman B. Judd, O. H. Browning, and other attorneys, who, on learning of his modest charge for the valuable services rendered the railroad, induced him to increase the demand to $5,000, and to bring suit for that sum.

This was done at once. On the trial six lawyers certified that the bill was reasonable, and judgment for that sum went by default; the judgment was promptly paid, and, of course, his partner, Herndon, got "your half Billy," without delay.

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Chicago: Alexander K. McClure, "Webster Couldn’t Have Done More.," Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller, ed. Jameson, J. Franklin (John Franklin), 1859-1937 in Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller Original Sources, accessed September 26, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKL2KWZ3VDW4A25.

MLA: McClure, Alexander K. ""Webster Couldn’t Have Done More."." Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller, edited by Jameson, J. Franklin (John Franklin), 1859-1937, in Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller, Original Sources. 26 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKL2KWZ3VDW4A25.

Harvard: McClure, AK, '"Webster Couldn’t Have Done More."' in Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller, ed. . cited in , Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Lincoln Famous as America’s Greatest Story Teller. Original Sources, retrieved 26 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKL2KWZ3VDW4A25.