Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
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Opinion Concerning the Estates of Joseph Smith and James M. Bradford [1]

January 6, 1855

Joseph Smith and James M. Bradford, were partners in trade. Bradford died, and there was, and is, an administration of his estate. Smith, as surviving partner, proceeded to settle the firm business; but without finishing it, died also, and there is an administration of his estate.

1st. Who, according to law, is to finish the adjustment of the firm business.

Page  3022nd. If any firm debt has been lost, which Smith could have saved during his surveyorship, is Smith's estate liable for Bradford's share of such lost debt?

3rd. If it be held that Smith's administrator, is to settle up the firm business, and any firm debt he lost, which such administrator could have saved, is Smith's estate liable for Bradford's share of that debt?

4. In the absence of any agreement, is the partner who advanced more cash than the other, entitled to interest on the excess?

5. If the surviving partner, make advances, to pay debts, is he entitled to interest?

6. While the firm was in active business, the estate of Micajah Smith loaned certain money to the firm, which is still unpaid.

At what rate, and in what manner, is interest to be allowed on this?

The foregoing questions having been submitted the following are our answers.

To the 1st. We say the Administrators of the estate of Joseph Smith deceased.

To the 2nd. & 3rd. We reply---in our opinion Joseph Smith the surviving partner, and after his death---his administrators, are chargeable with all the debts that at the time, of, and after the death of James M. Bradford, were good, and could have been collected by the use of ordinary diligence---that is, such diligence as a prudent business man would exercise in the management of his own affairs of a similar character---and that in settling the accounts the estate of Joseph Smith deceased is to be charged with all the debts due to the partnership that were good at the time of the death of Bradford, except such as they can show satisfactorily, could not have been collected by said Joseph Smith in his life time, or by them since his death, by the use of the diligence aforesaid.

The 4 & 5th. questions we answer with a negative

To the 6th. The firm of Bradford & Smith is liable to repay money borrowed with simple interest upon the amounts loaned from the times they were so severally loaned. The interest cannot be compounded. If no agreement as to interest was made, with the creditor---the rate of interest would be six per cent. As between the estates of Bradford, & Smith---from the time (if such be the case) sufficient money was received from the assets of the firm, by Smith or his administrators, or might by the use of ordinary diligence as aforesaid have beenPage  303 collected to pay all the debts due by the partnership---the estate of Bradford would be chargeable with no part of that interest. A. LINCOLN---

Jany. 6. 1855. B. S. EDWARDS


[1]   ADS, owned by Morton D. Hull, Chicago, Illinois. The questions are in Lincoln's handwriting and the answers in that of Edwards.

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