pleased to offer an assemblage of five letters, about 12 pp in total, slightly
different sizes but approximately 8 x 10, written by WILLIAM CARLIN, a Democrat
and the son of Illinois Governor Thomas Carlin.
[Provenance Christie’s, The Norman Boas Estate]
William Carlin gained notoriety when he sat on stage during the 6th Lincoln-Douglas debate. When Lincoln asked for his support, Carlin shook his head negatively. Lincoln responded, “Carlin, don’t fall in. I perceive and I suppose he will not do much for me, but I am glad of all the support I can get anywhere, if I can get it without practicing any deception…I say to Carlin and Jake Davis…, ‘Give it to Douglas—just pour it into him.’”
In these five letters, Carlin, obviously acting as attorney, discusses with Charlotte Prickett, widow of the honorable David Prickett, her legal claim that her husband’s land sale violated her dowry rights. Dowry rights were an historically important way for a bride’s family to transfer a gift to the marriage ostensibly for the bride. David Prickett died in 1847.
The Pricketts were a pioneering Illinois family (research included). Illinois was in a chaotic condition when David Prickett was elected to the state’s General Assembly. Punishment was barbaric for those who violated the law. Prickett helped establish the penitentiary system, which brought some civility to the criminal justice system. During his legislative term, his was commissioned by Gov. Coles, aide-de-camp to Gen. Samuel Whitesides, which extended to service in the Black Hawk War. His associates in the war were Gen. Stillman, Zachary Taylor, Jefferson Davis. One of the letters offered here mentions Thomas Prickett, David and Charlotte’s son. Thomas entered the Civil War as a captain in 1862 and served on the staff of Gen. John A. McClernand. He later practiced law in Springfield, Il.
The letters, in small part: Quincy [IL], May 11th, 1852, “There are two cases commenced in this court some years ago in which you and your children are interested. One was brought by the heirs of Wheelock and his successors…against the heirs of David Prickett…intended to divest you and your children of all right and title to the property…upon the ground that David Prickett never had a legal title to said property. This suit was dismissed…The other suit was brought by you and the other heirs against a number of citizens…who occupy and own property that was purchased of your husband…I presume the object…was to compel them to pay the Dowry right you hold in said property as you never signed the deeds or relinquished your right in the property…This suit still stands for trial…The suit is brought against some forty or fifty citizens of Quincy who live upon the property…Among those against whom this suit is brought…are some of the best lawyers and best citizens…These lawyers have a direct personal interest in defeating your claim…Any other lawyer…would be very reluctant to take charge of a case which would be likely to affect as deep the interests of their personal friends…You had better get some friend…to affect some compromise with the purchasers…”
One page, Quincy, Ills, April 25, 1856, “…I have neglected to answer your former letter…for two reasons…I was only indefinitely employed by Mr. Milton to assist Messrs Warren and Edmonds in relation to your business and they have never consulted me or shown me any of the papers…Second, I took some trouble to furnish you all the information I could upon the same subject about four years ago and never heard any more from you till very recently. On Wednesday next, I expect to be in Springfield and you or any other person can find me at the City Hotel…”
One page, Quincy, Ills, June 2nd, 1856, “The Power of Attorney you sent me and your subsequent letter arrived in time but as I was about the circuit, I did not receive them until yesterday…As soon as I get the list, will endeavor to compromise some of the most important cases, and if that effort fails, I will bring suits at the approaching term…”
2 ¾ pp, Quincy, Ills, March 18th, 1857, “…I was assured by the friends of Mr. Wilton that he would be in this city…and that when he came he would explain and settle up your business to my satisfaction…I have heard nothing from him. There is therefore nothing left for you or me to do but to resort to the course suggested when I was in Springfield…”
3 1/3 pp, Quincy, Ills, Sept. 2nd, 1857, “I have…received a letter from your son, Thomas G. Prickett requesting me to write to you. Two days before…your last letter, Mr. Harry Wilton was here as he had promised to be long before. The reason I have not written…has been that your statements and those of Wilton & others differed so materially that I felt wholly unable to advise you…Mr. Wilton admits what I told you last winter, that the contract you showed me, the one in which you convey him one third of all your right of dower in your husband’s estate is…unlawful. At the time, I gave you my opinion on the question involved in that contract, the Supreme Court of this state had never decided such a case but sense then the court has decided the question…that a widow cannot convey by deed as you did in the contract with Mr. Wilton, but can relinquish her rights of dower in real estate to the party or parties holding the interest of the husband in that of his other heirs…Mr. Wilton represented that he had an irrevocable Power of Attorney from you…in addition to the contract…You did not admit or deny this statement in any of your letters…If he has such a paper, it changes the entire face of the matter…I would have to commence upon an entirely new set of principles…Why did you not inform me of the fact? And not leave me to work all this time in the dark?...”
The letters are very readable. Folds, toning and some foxing. Two letters have a piece of paper missing on the last page, likely removed for other uses, not affecting the writing.
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