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

To J. McDowell [1]

Dear Sir: Springfield, August 8. 1845

I hope you will excuse me for not sooner answering Mr. Constable's [2] letter, inclosing also one from you, when I assure you that I have not until now, had an oppertunity to examine the case.

Mr. Constable has stated or rather propounded several interrogatories, but I think I can express my views better without following them strictly. Whatever your uncle could do, if he were now alive, in relation to this contract, I think these devisees can now do---that is, your uncle, if now alive, could tender the remaining payment and interest, and have a specific performance, or damages in lieu, unless he should be barred by the Statute of limitations; but he would be barred by the Statute, unless there is some great length of time allowed by the terms of the bond for the payment of the money. The terms of the bond, in this particular you have not aforded me the means of knowing. But these devisees may stand on better ground than your uncle would if alive, as against the Statute of limitations; that is to say, if your uncle was not, by the terms of the bond, in default of payment, before his death, then the time of the minority of the devisees will not be counted against them otherwise, if he was so in default.

Page  346My opinion upon the whole case is about this: If your uncle was in default of payment, by the terms of the bond, before his death, these devisees can maintain no sort of suit in relation to the matter; if he was not so in default, they can, by tendering or paying the remaining payment, with interest, have the land, or damages in lieu.

Mr. Constable has said something about these devisees having no more than a life-estate. My view of our Statute on this subject is, that these devisees take a life-estate, and their heirs male, the title in in [sic] fee---nothing ever returning to your fathers heirs so far as this question is concerned.

I will say farther that, if I were you, I would not compromise the case at any cost; but let them sue if they will. Even if the main point of the case is against you, there will be so many little breaker's in their way, as to prevent their ever getting through safely. Respectfully



[1]   ALS, IHi. J. McDowell was a resident of Mount Carmel, Illinois.

[2]   Charles H. Constable, attorney and state senator of Mount Carmel. There is no further record of Lincoln's connection with this case.