Illinois Central R. R.

Illinois Central R. R. (HM1315)

Location: Bloomington, IL 61701 McLean County
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Country: United States of America
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N 40° 28.711', W 88° 58.888'

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"I am now free to make an engagement for the road; and if you think fit you may 'count me in,'" wrote Lincoln to Illinois Central Railroad attorney Mason Brayman in October 1853. In 1851, the Illinois Central Railroad charter had exempted it from local taxes, but McLean County taxed its property despite the exemption. The railroad filed suit to avoid paying the local taxes, engaging Lincoln to work with its own attorneys to avoid the taxes. To get the case before the Illinois State Supreme Court, attorneys for the railroad and the county agreed that the McLean County Circuit Court should dismiss the case, which it did, allowing the railroad to appeal it to the Illinois State Supreme Court where Lincoln was the lead attorney. Lincoln argued that, because the state had exempted the railroad from paying local taxes in the charter, the county could not tax its property. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Central Railroad charter was constitutional and that the Illinois General Assembly had the authority to do so. Despite the victory, Lincoln was forced to sue the railroad for his fee.

Abraham Lincoln received his largest fee ever for representing the Illinois Central Railroad in a suit against McLean County in 1853-1857. When the company rejected his $5,000 fee, Lincoln sued, bringing "forth testimony to prove that his charges were very reasonable under the circumstances." The court ordered the railroad to pay Lincoln the amount, less the $200 retainer already received. Lincoln deposited the check in a Springfield bank on August 12, 1857. On August 31, he withdrew that amount (see the warrant on the left) and shared half the fee with his partner, William H. Herndon; Lincoln lent the other half to Norman Judd to purchase land in Iowa.

In the 1850's Bloomington became an important railroad hub. Bloomington's State Senator Asahel Gridley had been instrumental in securing the passage of the Illinois Central Railroad through Bloomington, and in 1854 the Alton and Sangamon Railroad reached Bloomington, while the Toledo, Peoria and Western crossed northern McLean County. The presence of the railroads spurred Bloomington's economy, and its population grew rapidly.

The Illinois Central Railroad depot, depicted here in an 1860 lithograph, is evidence of Bloomington's rapid growth and prosperity in the 1850's. Abraham Lincoln was placed on retainer by the Illinois Central Railroad through much of the 1850's and handled more than fifty cases for it. As one of the railroad's principal attorneys, he continued to receive an annual pass over the railroad even after he had sued for his fee.

HM NumberHM1315
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, October 19th, 2014 at 5:22pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16T E 332043 N 4482755
Decimal Degrees40.47851667, -88.98146667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 28.711', W 88° 58.888'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 28' 42.66" N, 88° 58' 53.28" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)309
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 401-499 Railroad St, Bloomington IL 61701, US
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