The publication of Roy P. and Christian O. Basler's second supplement to The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln has not exhausted the supply of unpublished Lincoln manuscripts. As an ongoing project of the Henry Horner Lincoln Collection at the Illinois State Historical Library and the Abraham Lincoln Association, the following transcriptions of previously unrecorded Lincoln letters are offered. No one can discern how many more Lincoln documents remain to be discovered. Clearly, the items that have surfaced in the past twenty years have provided more information about aspects of Lincoln's life, but nothing to warrant major changes in our understanding of him.

If we have reached a point of diminishing research returns on new Lincoln documents, then is a new edition of Lincoln's letters, speeches, and writings warranted? The answer to this question becomes even more difficult when the high costs of documentary editing projects are considered. There are, nevertheless, problems with the original volumes of the Collected Works and greater failings in each supplemental volume. Budgetary constraints, unprocessed manuscript collections, and publication deadlines account for many of the errors and omissions in the original edition.[1] The transcriptions, however, remain accurate enough for use in most research projects and provide a high standard for establishing an authoritative canon of Lincoln's writings. [2] Page  [End Page 47]

The supplemental volumes do not reflect the same high standards of editing and selection found in the original eight volumes. Too many entries are based upon transcriptions found in dealer catalogs; often the editors do not have even facsimile reproductions. Anyone who has dealt with manuscripts knows how notoriously unreliable dealer-catalog transcriptions can be. However, a larger question is raised as well—is the item authentic? A dealer recently sold an item purporting to be Lincoln's, which, upon examination, was found to be not even a good forgery.

Finally, the audience for documentary editions is not limited to scholars. Private collectors, manuscript dealers, curators, and genealogists are also users of these editions. The first three groups are interested in a complete listing of all known manuscripts as well as the institutional location of each. Genealogists are interested in correspondence to and from an ancestor and footnote information that provides a context for the letters. All groups would argue that a complete authoritative, and carefully annotated, edition is necessary. Whether the solution is a new edition or continued supplemental volumes remains to be seriously discussed.


I would like to thank Louise Taper, James Ruddy, Mary-Jo Kline, and Ellen Whitney for their assistance.

Petition of Support for William F. Thornton[3]

Vandalia 20th July 1837

To Genl. Thornton

Sir the undersigned having heard with regret that you design to resign your Station as President of the Board of Canal Commissioners beg leave to say that they would regard such a result as deeply affecting the progress of the work and to express their hope that you will continue in your station untill that next session of the General Assembly [4]

Very Respectfully your

Obt Servant

A. Lincoln [and 73 others]

 William F. Thornton
William F. Thornton Page  [End Page 49]

Bill to Reduce the Limits of the Eighth Judicial Circuit[5]

[ca. January 24, 1853]

A bill for an act to reduce the limits of the eighth judicial circuit, and to fix the time of holding courts therein.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois represented in the General Assembly, That the counties of Sangamon, Logan, McLean, Woodford, Tazewell, DeWitt, Piatt, Champaign, and Vermillion shall heretofore constitute the eighth judicial circuit.

That the time of holding courts in said counties shall be as follows, towit:[6]

Spring Term—Sangamon, on the Third Monday of March

  • Logan, two weeks thereafter
  • McLean, one week thereafter
  • Woodford, two weeks thereafter
  • Tazewell, one week thereafter
  • DeWitt, two weeks thereafter
  • Piatt, the Friday thereafter
  • Champaign, the Monday thereafter
  • Vermillion, the Friday thereafter

Summer Term—Sangamon, on the Second Monday of June; and there shall be no Grand Jury at said Summer Term.

Fall Term—Logan, on the First Monday of September

  • McLean, one week thereafter
  • Woodford, two weeks thereafter
  • Tazewell, one week thereafter
  • DeWitt, two weeks thereafter
  • Piatt, the Friday thereafter
  • Champaign, the Monday thereafter
  • Vermillion, the Friday thereafter
  • Sangamon, on the Third Monday of November.

That all process, and the service, thereof, which have been, or may be hereafter made, in conformity with the terms of the courts as heretofore and now fixed by law, shall be taken and held at conforming to the terms as fixed by this act; and that this act shall be in force from and after its passage. Page  [End Page 50]

To Henry E. Dummer[7]

Springfield, Oct. 13. 1853

H. E. Dummer, Esq

My dear Sir:

I need your testimony to be used in a suit in Kentucky; and I have appointed the 15th of November next to take your deposition at Beardstown. I write this to request you to be at home on that day. I expect to be there in person. The matter I wish you to testify about is that old claim of Oldham Todd & Co[8] against some body; & on which you paid me fifty dollars. Please answer, saying whether you can be at home on the 15th Nov.

Very truly Yours etc.

A. Lincoln

To John M. Clayton[9]

Washington, June 23, 1849

Hon: J. M. Clayton

Dear Sir:

My friend Martin P. Sweet [10] will probably be an applicant for some diplomatic appointment. A direct recommendation from me would be in conflict, as I think, with at least one recommendation I have already made, and might be expected to by other aspirants in that portion of our state where I reside. After saying so much, it affords me great pleasure to bear testimony in behalf of Mr. Sweets high merits intellectually, morally, and politically; and to repeat, what I have so often said; that some encouragements should be given to the North Western District of Illinois; I have not any doubt that in that District, Mr. Sweet is the favorite, for any appointment which may be given.

Your Obt. Sevt.

A. Lincoln

To William W. Danenhower[11]

Executive Mansion

March 25, 1861

W. W. Danenhower, Esq

My dear Sir

It was with great pain that I turned you away without an interview this morning. The Senate is about adjourning, and hence my time is next to a matter of life and death with me. Besides, there is one Illinois appointment which circumstances forced me to make to-day and that done I can crowd Illinois no further, until I have time to take a recovering.

No less your friend than ever

A. Lincoln

To Gideon Welles[12]

Executive Mansion,

Washington, Sep. 6, 1864.

Hon. Secretary of the Navy

My dear Sir

Herewith is a very extraordinary proposal to furnish coal to the government. If it be all as stated would it be available? Or perhaps I should ask, would it be eligible? I have seen the lady two or three times; and while I can not quite demonstrate it, I have a strong suspicion that she is insane.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln

To John R. Dahlgren[13]

[ca. August, 1862]

Capt. Dahlgren, please see Capt Diller, about new powder.

A. Lincoln

To Benjamin B. French[14]

I am grateful for your kind offer; but really I know nothing about a trip of mine away from here, except from your note, and the newspapers.

A. Lincoln

Aug. 3, 1863.

Washington Aug. 1, '63

To the President

My Dear Sir,

It is said that you contemplate visiting New England this month. I should esteem it a great favor to be permitten to accompany you, and give you any attention I possibly can, to make your trip pleasant. My position calls me to look after your personal comfort here, & why not when you are away?

Very truly & faithfully yours

B. B. French

To Mary Lincoln[15]

[ca. May 20, 1864]

Executive Mansion,

Washington, _____, 1864

Mother—Please put something now in Tad's room.

A L.

Mrs. Lincoln [in Mary Lincoln's hand]

President Mrs. Lincoln & Secy. Usher want Tad's room fixed.

May 20, 1864 Page  [End Page 53]

 Mary Lincoln in 1861 by Mathew Brady, Washington, D.C.
Mary Lincoln in 1861 by Mathew Brady, Washington, D.C. Page  [End Page 54]

Ordered Mr. Haliday to fix it.

B.B.F. [in Benjamin B. French's hand]

Will Mr. French please fix up the room of Master Tad Lincoln as he desires if it can properly be done.

J. P. Usher

May 20, 1864

Wrote Mr. Haliday to do the work Tad wanted and I would see it paid for.


To Dr. Robert K. Stone[16]

Will Dr. Stone please send Mrs. L. prescription for one of her cases of billious headaches? [17]

A. Lincoln

May 26, 1864 Page  [End Page 55]


  1. These points are described in Thomas F. Schwartz, "Lincoln's Published Writings: A History and Supplement," Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 9 (1987): 19–62. return to text
  2. For corrections to entries in the Collected Works, see Don E. Fehrenbacher, ed., Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings, 2 vols. (New York: Library of America, 1989), and Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). return to text
  3. DS, IHi. William Fitzhugh Thornton served as director of the State Bank of Illinois as well as president of the Board of Canal Commissioners. return to text
  4. This was a special session of the General Assembly. return to text
  5. AD, IHi. An incorrect transcription appears in Roy P. Basler and Christian O. Basler, eds., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln: Second Supplement, 1848–1865 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990). return to text
  6. This bill was introduced by Senator Asahel Gridley but was drafted by Lincoln. A substitute bill eliminating Piatt County from the Eighth Judicial circuit was passed on January 31, 1853. return to text
  7. ALS, IHi. Henry Enoch Dummer was a lawyer in Beardstown. return to text
  8. The case is described in William Townsend, Abraham Lincoln Defendant (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923). return to text
  9. ALS, Private Collector. John Middleton Clayton was secretary of state, from 1849 to 1850. return to text
  10. Martin P. Sweet was a Whig leader in Freeport, Illinois. return to text
  11. ALS, Private Collector. William Weaver Danenhower was editor of The Chicago Literary Budget as well as The Native Citizen, a Know-Nothing party paper that ceased in November 1856. return to text
  12. ALS, Private Collector. No further information on the proposal has been found. return to text
  13. ANS, IHi. John R. Dahlgren was the officer in charge of the Naval Ordnance Bureau. See Thomas F. Schwartz "'About New Powder:' An Unpublished Lincoln Note," Illinois Historical Journal 84 (Summer, 1991): 119–24. return to text
  14. AES, Private Collector. French's request was: Private. return to text
  15. ANS, Private Collector. Located under Lincoln's note is the following series of notes: Please give Tad a board & some plank. return to text
  16. ALS, Private Collector. Dr. Stone was the Lincoln family's physician in Washington, D.C. return to text
  17. Probably a reference to Mrs. Lincoln's migraines. return to text