News and Observations from Wapella, Illinois: Home of the Wildcats.

Facebook Activity for Wapella

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lincoln in the Lobby: A Historical Perspective


This from my pal Tom Roeser, Dean of Chicago Journalists about Abe Lincoln as Lobbyist working the Illinois Central in Central Illinois :

"I take second to no one in condemning Blago but I must say I was rather troubled when Patrick Fitzgerald said that Lincoln must be turning over in his grave. Undeniably, Lincoln was the second greatest president…and more than that-a genius-which the first greatest, Washington surely wasn’t, But turning over in his grave?

Are we talking about the same Lincoln, the railroad lobbyist, who as state rep led his Whig party to appropriate $12 million…then a huge sum…for subsidies for railroad building and where, in the old capitol, he drew a map for a railroad from Galena in the extreme northwestern part of the state and a road to run north of St. Louis, three roads to radiate and then a road to run from Quincy through Springfield and another from Warsaw to Peoria…another from Pekin to Bloomington? I think we are. It led to a huge financial debacle with no projects being completed and all of the money either wasted or stolen…or paid to railroad lawyers of which Lincoln was the prime example.

Yes we are, that same Lincoln who became the nation’s premier railroad lawyer (read: “Lincoln and the Railroads” by John W. Starr)…the same Lincoln who was continuously one of the crack attorneys for the Illinois Central from its organization in 1849 until he became president…who was such a corporate insider that he traveled the Midwest in a private rail car with a free pass…who successfully defended the road against McLean county which wanted to tax the road’s property. He won and sent the railroad a bill for $5,000. That sum is roughly equal to more than $200,000 today, the largest sum ever paid at that time to any Midwest lawyer for a single case in the 1850s. Lincoln presented his staggering bill to the president of the road, George B. McClellan by name, the vice president of Illinois Central-yes the same McClellan who would work for Lincoln as the Union’s top general of the Grand Army of the Potomac, whom Lincoln replaced twice and who ran against Lincoln as a Democrat in 1864.

The IC board didn’t want to pay it so Lincoln and McClellan hatched a plan to get him the fee. Lincoln then sued IC for the money but meanwhile McClellan worked inside the company to get them to lay down for it so when Lincoln showed up in court, no lawyers from IC were there, so he got paid by default. Lincoln became the most successful railroad lawyer of his time…representing not just the IC but the Chicago & Alton, the Ohio & Mississippi and the Chicago & Rock Island. Nothing wrong with that nor with the fact that the New York Central offered him its general counsel’s job at a stratospheric salary…$10,000 per annum…then approaching a million a year-which he turned down because he would have to move to New York and he had political plans here.

Nothing wrong with that either. Nor by the standards of the time with the trip he took free on the railroad to Council Bluffs, Iowa where he purchased some property from his fellow railroad attorney Norm Judd who had acquired the tracts from the Chicago & Rock Island. Why did he do so when Council Bluffs was a town of 1,500 with little future? Because Lincoln knew there would be a transcontinental railroad sometime and that Council Bluffs would figure in the future as being a good starting point for the railroad. How did he know that coming from Springfield? Because the renowned railroad engineer (one who designed routes), Grenville Dodge, told him so.

And thus it came to pass that when he became president he proposed emergency legislation to create just that self-same transcontinental railroad and that he personally picked Council Bluffs, Iowa as the eastern terminus. And he named Dodge as chief engineer for the UP.

Nothing wrong with this stuff by the rubric of the mid-19th century. But he was not just a genius and humanitarian. He was more than that. He was one hell of a lobbyist, lawyer and manipulator. Of course he never sold a senate seat but he damn sure took care of his friends who took care of him.

He’s probably disturbed a lot about Rod but not enough to turn over in his grave. At least not yet. Of course there’s more to come out about Rod and so maybe the Great Emancipator is getting ready to make his move."

23 comments:

EEP said...

Did I just log on to Boring.com or is this Worthless.net?

I kid, I kid.

Tom Roeser's opinion is valued here at all times.

Anonymous said...

Boring.com it is!
Wes Wells' Constitution Jeopardy had more life to it.

IRBW

hrm72 said...

Jeopardy Fridays were always anxiously awaited in Well's class! A close second was his rendition of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which he sang to the class.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, found this post by the moderator to be fascinating. And, while I agree with the basic premise of the article, I do have to say that I believe that Mr. Lincoln did his best to ethically serve the interests of the electorate, and not just himself and/or his cronies. Such is not the case with the Blagos, the Teflon Richies, and the shakedown-artist Jacksons [et al] of the world. They serve themselves...

I do have one sincere question. Why is it always just Illinois governors who take the rap for what is going on in behind-the-scenes government there in IL? Most people know about the corruption at the various levels, but it's usually only a Gov. who ends up doing the perp walk. Truly puzzling...

SoCal

Anonymous said...

Great post Mod. I enjoyed it. As we approach the great man's bicentennial it is only fair to treat him honestly and fairly. The article is both.

Lincoln was not afraid to play ball, even after he became president. Recall that when Chief Justice Roger Taney (see Dred Scott) was critical over the suspension of habeus corpus Lincoln threatened to toss him in jail. He successfully dealt with dissension from within and outside of his own party on many issues (see Emancipation and Draft Riots)and had to deal with a crazy wife and personal tragedy.

I'd vote for him today.

SoCal, if you makes you feel better our last governor is in prison, although I think he'll get a new trial and probably walk. Illinois may be tied with Louisiana for the most governors with criminal convictions.

AWM

Anonymous said...

Great post Mod. I enjoyed it. As we approach the great man's bicentennial it is only fair to treat him honestly and fairly. The article is both.

Lincoln was not afraid to play ball, even after he became president. Recall that when Chief Justice Roger Taney (see Dred Scott) was critical over the suspension of habeus corpus Lincoln threatened to toss him in jail. He successfully dealt with dissension from within and outside of his own party on many issues (see Emancipation and Draft Riots)and had to deal with a crazy wife and personal tragedy.

I'd vote for him today.

SoCal, if you makes you feel better our last governor is in prison, although I think he'll get a new trial and probably walk. Illinois may be tied with Louisiana for the most governors with criminal convictions.

AWM

Anonymous said...

SoCal,

It's not just the governers. Consider Dan Rostenkowski. See background at
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28141995/

HG

Anonymous said...

AWM and HG, I was referring primarily to IL state gov't, and Chicago city politics. Sorry, I should have been more clear, but I was trying to keep it pithy in my earlier post.

AWM, yeah, I've heard about AL's recent gubernatorial woes, and am also familiar with the the state of LA having the market cornered on corruption. The new LA Gov. looks to be a refreshing change, however. And, William Jefferson, he of the "cold, hard cash," [literally], finally was voted out of his Congressional seat.

HG, yes, I was still an IL resident when Rosty did the "frog-march." And, I was there for US Rep.'s Gus Savage and Mel Reynolds being busted for their criminal activites, too. Then, there was Carol Mostly Fraud, George Ryan...ahhhh, the "good old days." ;-)

SoCal

Anonymous said...

This goes back, way way back, Capone, Richard Daly, etc.

ATD said...

I am tried of people picking on Illinois. It is one of the greatest states in the Union as far as I tell. "One monkey don't stop no show," as we use to say in Central Illinois.

JMP said...

RIght on ATD. Illinois rocks. And Chicago, for all its ills, is a world class city. I think one must consider per capita corruption as well, and it's hard to beat the Cajun state for that. One may want to consider Youngstown, OH, for special consideration as well. Also for the more prurient, consider Larry "Wide Stance" Craig and Mark "Page Boy" Foley. Blago is an old fashioned throwback.

HG

Anonymous said...

From today's New York Times....

"Certainly other states have their problems. The Corporate Crime Reporter ranked Illinois a mere sixth on a list of the most corrupt states last year, based on the number of federal public corruption convictions per 100,000 people. (It was beaten by Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Ohio, and ranked slightly ahead of New Jersey and New York.)"

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/us/14corrupt.html?hp

HG

Anonymous said...

I 2nd the thought from ATD. We elected one of the greatest monkeys in the state, we've probably learned a lesson, and we will definitely bounce back. The Senate turning over is quietly as important as anything as that great statesman Senator Jones (Blago's only ally & yes it takes two baby) is gone.

Financing a campaign is a pain in rear end and brings out the worst in pretty much everyone. It's hard to pull off campaign finance reform in grand fashion with that darn first amendment. Mabye this will move needle on that a bit because I think that is the root of most evil here.

Getting rid of Rod and Emil is a great start to ehtics reform, incarcerating George for not looking into nasty stuff going on around him was ok but obviously didn't send enough of a message. Distinguishing between the lesser of 2 evils (Rod and Judy) and less symbolic votes (woo hoo I showed them & voted for the green party - i.e. vote for Rodney)is a good start for voters. Maybe some people will get off their butt and participate more in democracy- e.g. kudos to David Taylor for giving it a shot! Illinois - the inland empire --- bbd

Anonymous said...

SoCal,

Right on target re Bobby J in LA. He is the future of the GOP. I didn't mean to slur him. Hoping that he is the face the face of the new GOP as we dig out from the last several years of yahoo-ism.

Chicago is a great town. Lots to do, lots to eat, lots to drink. A multi-sensory experience. That isn't to say that it is as corrupt as it can be. But what big city isn't? Brother Bloomberg can only be mayor of one city at a time.

By the way folks, SOMEONE voted for Blago. Everyone seems to be disavowing him (Mod). He didn't get elected by himself.

BEP

Anonymous said...

What is Wapella.com doing to celebrate the bicentennial of the great man's birth?

I hope we aren't going to drive around the square to celebrate.

Let's take some pride in our greatest son and do it up right.

Peace,

BEP

Anonymous said...

Frosty Rosty...

Throw down another one.

AWM

EEP said...

BEP brings up a point I've been laughing about all weekend - everyone is talking about Rod the Mod but now NO ONE in Wapella voted for him. Not even his stringent supporters. Pretty funny.

EEP said...

Also, here is a guy from Tucson making the same points (though not as detailed or as entertaining) as Tom did:

http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/all_headlines/105063.php

Anonymous said...

BEP,

I second your thought that w.com should participate in Honest Abe's 200th bday. Can eep get on the case? I've always had a working theory that Honest Abe must have stayed in the Woolen house, which used to be a hotel? Can we get a verification on the construction date of the Woolen house and its history?

If he didn't do an overnight there, where might Abe have slept in Wapella if he had been on IC business in the area?

HG

EEP said...

Surely Abe had something to do with the car on the barn? At the very least the ZZ Top tree?

Anonymous said...

Today's NYTimes (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/weekinreview/14marsh.html?_r=1&em)

gives some hard data on state-by-state (and US territory) corruption.

On convictions of public officials per resident, Illinois ranks 22/54. Those that had more convictions include in Virginia, Hawaii, Ohio, Florida, South Dakota, Delaware, Alabama, Montana, Alaska, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Where is the moral majority? Tops on the out-of-jail set include Nebraska (Tim Donovan influence), Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, Utah, Colarado, Indiana,....

Not sure how IL would fare if a weighting factor were imposed for governors.....

HG

Anonymous said...

I would like to see GW pardon Ryan.

Anonymous said...

HG,

A couple of points: first, let's do the Lincoln thing up big. Don't worry about the facts. Can't we get him a haircut, night at the opera and some railsplitting while he boarded at the Casa Woolen, Wapella's first B &B? Let the fact checkers worry about the details.

Second, and very sadly, why does the US have an index for the most corrupt states? This is disappointing and disconcerting. We are making Huey Long look tame.

Shame on all of us for not holding our political officials to a very high standard.

Should we adopt the Queen of Hearts' mantra?

BEP

Blog Archive