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

Discussion in Illinois Legislature
of Bill for Relief of William Dormady [1]

December 21, 1840

Mr. LINCOLN said, as wholesale charges of fraud had been dealt out by the gentleman from Cook, which involved many of his constituents, he felt it his duty to say something in regard to this case.

It was not true, as the gentleman had stated, that the petitioner had been defrauded through the chicanery of the law, or of the courts. He would inform the House that since this Legislature had met, the naked question of fact, of the actual destruction of these notes, accompanied by any question of law, had been submitted to a jury, of the petitioner's own choice, and that a majority of this jury had solemnly decided that it was an attempt on the part of Dormady to impose upon the Bank. Under such circumstances, was it not assuming too much for the gentleman from Cook to get up here and tell us, without examination on his part, that the facts were as he had stated them, and that there was fraud and perjury on the part of the Bank, the court, and the jury?

Mr. MURPHY, in reply, said, it was somewhat strange the gentleman should impute fraud to one of his own constituents. He supposed Mr. Dormady was a loco, and did not vote for the gentleman,Page  225 (Mr. Lincoln) which accounted for his offering the petition. He did not charge the jury with perjury---it was nothing unusual for a jury to disagree about a just claim, especially where they had the instructions of a judge to help them, against right. It might be that Mr. Dormady was unable to procure such testimony as was necessary in a court of law. Mr. M. recapitulated the circumstances of the case which he contended were sufficient to justify the House in passing the bill.

Mr. LINCOLN said, he did not know whether Mr. D. voted for him or not---he presumed he did not. If there were those in this House who thought this fact would have any influence on his conduct in regard to this bill, he should not stop to enlighten them as to his motives; he was careless of the opinion of such. The gentleman from Cook persisted in reciting what he termed the facts of this case. He would say to the House that the trial, to which he had before alluded, was presided over by Judge Breese, whom the gentleman would not charge with partiality to the Bank---that this jury was composed in part by Mr. D.'s own political friends---that he had able counsel to assist him, and that upon the naked question, as to whether these notes were burnt or not, a majority of that jury had determined, after hearing under oath all the testimony, and the arguments of counsel, that these notes were not burnt. And yet the gentleman, without investigation, assumed that for granted, which the jury found otherwise, and upon this assumption charged fraud and dishonesty upon the Bank, and all who had any thing to do with the case. He thought it better that one man should rest under the imputation of fraud than one hundred.


[1]   Sangamo Journal, December 25, 1840. Richard Murphy of Cook County had introduced a bill to remunerate Dormady (also spelled Dormandy) for certain bank notes which were purportedly destroyed by fire.