Abraham Lincoln in Illinois
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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August 15, 1837

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On April 15, 1837, Abraham Lincoln moved from New Salem to Springfield. Although Springfield only incorporated as a town on March 29, 1832 and would not incorporate as a city until February 3, 1840, it was the Sangamon County seat and the state legislature had just voted to make it the state capital.

Only four months after moving to Springfield, Lincoln joined four prominent Sangamon County residents in signing this bond for Charles R. Matheny, who had been elected as clerk of the Sangamon County Commissioners Court. Most public officials were required to post bond before serving in office. The bond helped ensure that if they committed a crime in office or failed to perform their duties properly, they would be financially penalized. By signing the bond, Lincoln and the others agreed to pay $1,000 if Matheny was a dishonest public official. Because Matheny was a well-known member of the community, the signers of the bond had little to fear that it would be needed.

The signers represent a bipartisan group of individuals. Matheny had settled in Sangamon County in 1821 and had served in numerous county government positions. From 1832 until his death in 1839, he served as the first president of the Springfield Board of Trustees.

William Butler was a close friend of Stephen T. Logan and was serving as clerk of the Sangamon County Circuit Court when he signed the bond. He later became state treasurer and worked as a manager for Lincoln at the 1860 Republican Presidential Convention.

Robert Allen was a Democrat whose criticism of Lincoln during the latter's 1836 race for state representative caused Lincoln to write him a very bitter note. Still, in 1845, Lincoln would recommend Allen for the position of U. S. marshal.

A. G. Herndon was also a Democrat and was the father of Lincoln's future law partner. Herndon served in the General Assembly with Lincoln. He and Lincoln worked together as part of the "Long Nine" who helped move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield.

Points to Consider

Why would a public official need to post bond to hold an office?

What does it say about Lincoln's standing in the community that he signed the bond with leading local residents?

Could the signing of the bond have helped Lincoln politically? How?

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