Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Report on Alton and Springfield Railroad [1]

August 5, 1847

ALTON AND SPRINGFIELD RAIL ROAD.

ADDRESS OF THE COMMITTEE.

At a meeting of the citizens of Sangamon County, the undersigned were appointed a committee to collect facts and report an address on the project of connecting Alton and Springfield by means of a Rail Road. A portion of the committee have examined the subject with great zeal and industry, and submit the following as the result of their labors:

Constructing a rail road from Alton to Springfield, is viewed but as a link in a great chain of rail road communication which shall unite Boston and New York with the Mississippi. Whatever interest Illinois has in this great improvement, and whatever advantages this particular route through Illinois may possess, is necessarily connected with the proposed work from Alton, on the Mississippi, to Springfield. A rail road commencing from the Mississippi, andPage  399 running through Springfield to the eastern boundary of the State, in the direction of Lafayette, was marked out many years ago in a system adopted by the State, and a million or more of dollars were expended upon it before it was abandoned. This route commenced at Quincy, on the Mississippi, and crossing the Illinois at Meredosia, extended through Springfield east to the State line. The work from the Illinois river to Springfield, a distance of fifty-seven miles, was completed by the State. More than two hundred thousand dollars were expended east of Springfield in the direction to Lafayette in Indiana.

Since the abandonment of the Internal Improvement system by the State, several acts of incorporation have been passed by the legislature, the object of which was to secure to the people of the State, if possible, the construction of the most important of these works by individual enterprise and capital. These acts of incorporation have looked to no general plan, such as is now contemplated, and the great work of connecting the Mississippi with the eastern cities, through Indiana and other States, can now be commenced only by blending some two or three charters. Of these acts of incorporation, one was passed last winter to construct a rail road from Alton to Springfield. The route proposed in this act is from Alton through Carlinville, in Macoupin county, and New Berlin to Springfield, a distance of about eighty miles. The company is authorised to use fifteen miles of the grade already completed, or nearly so, by the State, from Alton in the direction to Carlinville, and fifteen miles of the Springfield and Meredosia rail road, from Springfield to New Berlin, under certain stipulations named in the law. The capital stock of the company is $500,000, and may be increased under the law to $1,000,000.

In 1845 the legislature passed a law incorporating the Sangamon and Morgan rail road company with a capital of $1,000,000. This act required the company to purchase the road from Springfield to the Illinois river at a stipulated price before it could organize. No company was organized under this act, and at the late session of the legislature a law was passed authorizing the Governor to sell the road from Springfield to the Illinois river at public auction to the highest bidder. The purchaser or purchasers under this law were to be entitled to all the benefits of the act for the incorporation of the Sangamon and Morgan rail road company, and were to be held by this law to be the subscribers to the whole capital stock of said company of $1,000,000. A law was also passed at the late session, supplemental to the act incorporating the Sangamon and Morgan rail road company. By this supplemental act the company was authorized to construct the cross rail road east from SpringfieldPage  400 to the Indiana State line, on the route previously located by the State, and all the materials, grade, and work done by the State east of Springfield, amounting in value to more than two hundred thousand dollars, were given to the company for that purpose. The capital stock of the company was also increased, $1,000.000. The road from Springfield to the Illinois river has been advertised and sold by the Governor, and the purchasers, N. H. Ridgley and others, have thus secured the benefits of the laws for the incorporation of the Sangamon and Morgan rail road company. A company is therefore organized for the construction of a rail road from the Illinois river to the line dividing the States of Illinois and Indiana; and for about eight thousand dollars, the sum given for the road from Springfield to the Illinois river, all the work on this route, which cost the State more than $1,000,000, is made available to the company. These advantages ought, by all means, in the course of a few years, to secure the completion of the road from Springfield to the line of Indiana. Thus the two or three acts of incorporation above alluded to, fully authorize, with an aggregate capital of $3,000,000, the construction of the great work, so far as Illinois is concerned, which proposes to connect the Mississippi with eastern cities by means of rail road. The citizens of Indiana are now actively engaged in doing whatever is necessary to forward the work in that State; and the proceedings of a meeting in Lafayette show that the proper measures are being taken to secure, so far as Indiana is concerned, the energetic prosecution of the work to completion.

So far as the acts of the Illinois Legislature are concerned, but one difficulty presents itself. The road from Alton to Springfield passes for fifteen miles over the road from the Illinois river to Springfield. The Sangamon and Morgan company own the road from the Illinois river to Springfield, and such work as is done between Springfield and the Indiana line; and possesses, also, the sole right to complete the road from Springfield to the eastern line of the State. If the company had also the sole right of making the road from Springfield to Alton, no difficulty could possibly occur. But if the road from Alton to Springfield should fall into the hands of other individuals, then would they be compelled, under the laws, to use that portion of the road lying between New Berlin and Springfield, which belongs to the Sangamon and Morgan company. This might be embarrassing to the Alton and Springfield company, and could be fully obviated only by the Sangamon and Morgan company taking stock in the Alton and Springfield rail road, to the full and fair value of the portion of their road lying between Springfield and New Berlin.

Page  401But the money which is to make the road from Alton to Springfield, and from Springfield to Lafayette, is principally to come from eastern capitalists. Boston and New York can, and probably will, furnish the funds necessary to connect those cities with the Mississippi river; and as the same interests will be blended in the prosecution of the work through its whole extent, so is it probable that the same interests will ultimately get possession of and control the entire work through this State. No eastern capitalist, therefore, will be likely to take stock in the Alton and Springfield rail road but with a view of its extension so as to form a complete connection between the eastern cities and the Mississippi river. In this view, the apparent difficulty between two works running over the same ground, as probably productive of disagreement between two companies, would ultimately disappear. In presenting, therefore, the Alton and Springfield rail road to the consideration of capitalists, as a distinct work, it will be understood as a matter of course, to be only the beginning of a great work, the construction of a single link in the great chain of improvement; and if we can show that this link can now be profitably undertaken, we apprehend that no existing obstacle, growing out of the laws of this State, will prevent such subscriptions of stock as will be necessary to the speedy commencement of the work. That the business of this country, its productions, its population, its demands, would justify the making a good rail road from Alton to Springfield, independent of its connection with a great chain of improvement, is the object of this committee reasonably to show.

The distance from Alton to Springfield, by way of Carlinville and New Berlin, is about eighty miles. Of this distances, fifteen miles from Alton to Brighton, is graded. This fifteen miles embraces by very far, the heaviest grade on the whole route, passing over the bluffs of the Mississippi river to the table land. The expenditure by the State on this fifteen miles was very heavy, and though the law provides that the State shall receive a price to be estimated in State indebtedness and paid by the company, yet there can be no doubt that the legislature will, as in other cases, surrender the work done to the company without compensation. The State will find an ample inducement to do this in the advantages she will derive in the completion of the road.

Fifteen miles of the road from Springfield to New Berlin, is completed. Deducting, therefore, thirty miles, but fifty remain to be graded. These 50 miles pass over a level prairie country, with a natural grade, almost fitting it for a rail road, and upon which the expenditure for grading would be very light. In the whole fiftyPage  402 miles there is but one place where the expenditure for grading would be considerable. This is the crossing of Macoupin creek. Here a considerable embankment with a bridge and cutting through the bluffs is required. The whole grade from Alton to New Berlin, could easily be contracted for a sum less than three thousand dollars per mile, and the whole sixty-five miles could be fully completed with a T rail, at a cost not exceeding ten thousand dollars per mile, or an aggregate cost of $650,000. (Locomotives, cars, engines-houses, depots and all other fixtures, together with the right of way, would not probably exceed the sum of $150,000---making the total cost of the work $800,000.)

The road proposed would either pass through or drain the products from the counties of Madison, Macoupin, Sangamon, Logan, Macon, DeWitt, Christian and Morgan. As Madison is situated on the Mississippi river, and will probably do the greater portion of its business independent of the rail road, it is entirely left out of the following calculations, though very much of the business of the parts remote from the river must be done on the road. One-third of Morgan county is also deducted from the estimates, it being presumed that at least one-third of its business will be done independent of the road in the direction of the Illinois river.

The population of the eight counties, Madison, Macoupin, Sangamon, Logan, Macon, DeWitt, Christian and Morgan, in 1840, was 69,019, and in 1845, was 75,609. By the same ratio of increase, the population of these counties is estimated in 1850 at 96,526. Deducting the estimated population of Madison and one-third of Morgan, leaves the estimated population of the counties, whose business will all be done on the rail road, in 1850, at 67,073.

The productions of the above counties, except Madison, in 1840, were as follows:

Horse and Mules, ..... 23,383

Neat Cattle, ..... 69,086

Swine, ..... 196,679

Bushels of Wheat, ..... 245,890

do of Indian Corn, ..... 3,582,659

Estimating the increase of production from 1840 to '45, and from 1845 to '50, in the proportion to the increase of population, we have the production of 1845 as follows:

Horses and Mules, ..... 26,866

Neat Cattle, ..... 80,150

Swine, ..... 237,777

Bushels of Wheat, ..... 284,334

do of Indian Corn, ..... 4,231,455

Page  403And for 1850, we have the following results:

Horses and Mules, ..... 34,599

Neat Cattle, ..... 104,120

Swine, ..... 308,584

Bushels of Wheat, ..... 363,840

do of Indian Corn, ..... 5,459,274

Deducting from the above the one-third of the population and products of Morgan, and the following table will furnish a true exhibit of the country immediately dependent on the rail road:

Population, ..... 67,000 per ct. Surplus.

Horses and Mules, ..... 32,211 20 6,442

Neat Cattle, ..... 97,921 20 19,444

Hogs, ..... 296,152 331/3 98,717

Bushels of Wheat, ..... 342,363 50 171,181

Bushels of Indian Corn, 5,177,231 20 1,035,446

The right hand column of the above table exhibits the surplus of production in those articles which this country produces in the greatest abundance, and is carefully prepared from information obtained of persons well qualified by their business pursuits to judge accurately. For instance, the surplus of hogs is put down at one third. This leaves one-third for home consumption and one third for stock. That one-third is abundant for home consumption is evident from the fact that it will furnish more than a pound of pork per day to every man, woman and child in the district. That the stock is ample when put at one third every farmer in the country will attest.

The horses, mules and neat cattle will go to market principally on foot: and in estimating production for rail road transportation, they are left out of the calculation entirely, though the completion of the rail road would probably lead to beef packing, to a very considerable extent, in this city. In 1850, therefore, the surplus production of the country dependent on this road, and on which reliance can be placed for rail road transportation, will be 98,717 hogs, 171,181 bushels of wheat, and 1,025,447 bushels of Indian corn. Oats, barley, rye and potatoes, though produced in large quantities, are not taken into the estimate, the object of this address being to show the reliable results, which the rail road transportation of the great staples of the country will furnish. The great demand for corn for foreign exportation is relied upon to justify its production and sending to market at the cheapest rates of rail road transportation. It will always be exported when the price in Alton and St. Louis is twentyfive cents or more a bushel; and the counties embraced in this rail road district, could produce an immensely greater quantity than isPage  404 at present estimated, if a market at fair prices could be always expected with any degree of certainty.

Nine-tenths of all the produce for this rail road will be furnished at Springfield and New Berlin, as all the counties but Macoupin will centre their produce at those points. In estimating therefore the value of freights, the sum assumed for transportation from Springfield has been applied to all the products estimated to pass over the road. A price, however, has been assumed so low as to leave no doubt that the average will fully equal, if not exceed it.

If the rail road should, therefore, be completed in 1850 the following results might be anticipated:

Transportation of 1,206,628 bushels of Wheat and

Corn at 61/2 cts. per bushel, $75,441 25

98,717 head of hogs at an average weight of 200 Ibs.

would yield at 25 cts. per cwt. 49,358 00

The amount now paid in the above counties for bringing

supplies from the river, estimated from the actual

amounts paid in Springfield, and at the actual

cost of transportation from the river to Springfield

is $74,180. We estimate the rail road rates at one-third

the common rates, and find that bringing the

necessary supplies for the above counties will yield

to the rail road, 24,726 66

We estimate that 30 passengers will travel over the

road each day for 300 days in the year, which at

$2 each will produce, 18,000 00

-------

Producing for 1850, $167,498 91

The estimated cost of the road is $800,000.

The annual interest on this sum at 6 per ct. 48 000 00

-------

Leaving a balance of $119,498 00

or nearly fifteen per cent. on the estimated cost to keep the road, fixtures, engines, &c., in repair, and to pay the costs of running trains and furnishing necessary materials. We think this sum most ample, but whether it be too large or too small, we have not now here the means of determining. Those who may be disposed in the East to take stock in this company, will easily be able from the above estimates to arrive at tolerably accurate conclusions. If that portion of this proposed road, between Springfield and New Berlin, should continue in the hands of the present owners, or if some company, other than the Alton and Springfield company should continue to control it, an additional expenditure on that account will be required. The estimate of costs have been made only for thePage  405 sixty-five miles, from New Berlin to Alton. We think, as we have suggested in another part of this report, that the whole of this great route will ultimately get into the hands of one company, and that those who are really interested in prosecuting to completion this grand scheme of improvement, will soon overcome the difficulty arising from conflicting ownership and interests.

John Calhoun, John T. Stuart,

A. Lincoln, William Pickerell,

J. N. Brown, J. Bunn,

P. P. Enos, John Williams,

S. B. Opdycke, Virgil Hickox.

Annotation

[1]   Sangamo Journal, August 5, 1847. How much Lincoln contributed to the composition of the report is uncertain. The Democratic Illinois State Register designated the same document as the ``address of John Calhoun,'' but that Democrat Calhoun was solely responsible seems unlikely.