Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 3.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
May 28, 1859

To the Governor Auditor and Treasurer of the State of Illinois Gentlemen

In reply to your inquiry, requesting our written opinion as to what your duty requires you to do in executing the latter clause of the Seventh Section of ``An Act in relation to the payment of the principal and interest of the State debt'' Approved Feby 22 1859Page  382 we reply that said last clause of said section is certainly indefinite general and ambiguous in its description of the Bonds to be issued by you; giving no time at which the Bonds are to be made payable, no place at which either principal or interest are to be paid, and no rate of interest which the Bonds are to bear; nor any other description except that they are to be Coupon Bonds which in Commercial usage means interest paying Bonds with obligations or orders attached to them for the payment of annual or semiannual interest; there is we suppose no difficulty in ascertaining, if this Act stood alone what ought to be the construction of the terms ``Coupon Bonds'' and that it would mean Bonds bearing interest from the time of issuing the same [.] And under this act considered by itself the Creditors would have a right to require such Bonds---but your inquiry in regard to a class of Bonds on which no interest is to be paid or shall begin to run until January 1. 1860, is whether the Act of February 18, 1857 would not authorise you to refuse to give Bonds with any Coupons attached payable before the first day of July 1860

We have very maturely considered this question and have arrived at the conclusion that you have a right to use such measures as will secure the state against the loss of six months interest on these Bonds by the indefiniteness of the Act of 1859. Whilst it cannot be denied that the letter of the Laws favour the construction claimed by some of the creditors that interest bearing Bonds were required to be issued to them inasmuch as the restriction that no interest is to run on said Bonds until 1st January 1860 relates solely to the Bonds issued under the Act of 1857---and the Act of 1859 directing you to issue new Bonds does not contain this restriction, But directs you to issue Coupon Bonds. Nevertheless the very indefiniteness and generality of the Act of 1859 giving no rate of interest no time due no place of payment no postponement of the time when interest commences necessarily implies that the Legislature intended to invest you with a discretion to impose such terms and restrictions as would protect the interest of the State and we think you have a right and that it is your duty to see that the State Bonds are so issued that the State shall not lose six months interest. Two plans present themselves either of which will secure the state.

1st. If in litteral compliance with the law you issue Bonds bearing interest from 1st. July 1859, you may deduct from the Bonds presented three thousand from every $100,000 of Bonds and issue $97,000 of Coupon Bonds by this plan $3,000 out of $100,000 of principal would be extinguished in consideration of paying $2910Page  383 interest on the first of January 1860---and the interest on the $3,000 would forever cease---this would be no doubt most advantageous to the State

But if the Auditor will not consent to this then

2nd. Cut off of each Bond all the Coupons payable before 1st. July 1860

One of these plans would undoubtedly have been prescribed by the Legislature if its attention had been directed to this question

May 28 1859 STEPHEN T. LOGAN