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I forgot to comment this in general. Railroads are key in the Lost Cause narrative of Lincoln as a tool of capitalist interests (and this even found its way into "communist" accounts of US history, the source I heard it from).

When I finally checked up on the matter, the best source I found was Abraham Lincoln as a Railroad Attorney, a 17-page essay by James W. Ely Jr., a professor of law as well as history. I won't review that, but the most important counter to the Lost Cause narrative is that he represented cases both for and against the railroads, taking cases as they came.

Checking some additional sources, the Wikipedia account of the Council Bluffs visit seems severely distorted:

  1. Norman Judd wasn't an exclusive lawyer for M&M.
  2. Nor was Norman Judd merely an attorney: he was a key Illinois Republican (before that Democrat) operative and Lincoln's campaign manager. (Judd's loyalty is similar to Stanton's with respect to its negative origins. In 1854, Judd led a small group of Illinois state congressmen who broke away from the Democrats over the issue of slavery but foiled Lincoln's Senate nomination on a joint anti-slavery ticket, forcing Lincoln's Whigs to accept one of theirs instead. Lincoln however refused to treat him as a traitor, earning both the merger of Judd's anti-slavery Democrats into the Whig-dominated new state Republican party, and personal loyalty.)
  3. Lincoln inspected no "M&M facilities" but 17 parcels of land owned by himself and Judd since 1857.
  4. The occasion in 1859 was that Lincoln invoked an earlier agreement with Judd that Judd buy his half of the land, but with no cash at hand, Lincoln "loaned" the purchase price with fixed interest (which was paid to Lincoln's widow by 1867), retaining the lands as collateral. In short, he wouldn't profit from any future land price increases or compensation due to future rail construction.
  5. Nor was Greenville M. Dodge an "M&M engineer" in 1859, though he did work a lot as a freelancer surveyor for M&M (alongside ventures like a bank and a coach company), and his pioneering 1850s surveys for a transcontinental railroad received private funding from Durant.
  6. The meeting between Dodge and Lincoln was a chance meeting: Dodge, a resident of Council Bluffs, was in attendance at a public meeting Lincoln held and was introduced thereafter. The discussion was one-way (Lincoln thoroughly querying Dodge about his ideas).

A rough itinerary of Lincoln's four-day visit to Council Bluffs can be read here; the account of the Lincoln-Dodge meeting is here; details on Norman Judd's connections to Lincoln can be read here. Two bios on Greenville Dodge discussing his work in the 1850s (the second mentioning an 1858 attempt at selling the transcontinental railroad idea to East Coast financiers meeting total lack of interest) are here and here.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 21st, 2014 at 03:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to add to the 3rd point: it is possible that Lincoln and Judd decided in 1857 to purchase land in Council Bluffs in the expectation of future expropriations for a railroad line (though it's unlikely that they were already thinking of a transcontinental line), but a railroad from Chicago reached Council Bluffs in 1867 only, and the Missouri bridge to Omaha (the starting point of Durant's own Union Pacific) wasn't built until 1873.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 22nd, 2014 at 05:52:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's typically "Grenville Dodge."  That's how it's spelled on his gravestone.

There is an old joke that the modern American legal system was created to sort out disputes between banks and railroads in the mid-19th Century and hasn't changed since.  Suffice it to say it was difficult to have a successful law practice and not be involved in railroad cases.

by rifek on Thu Jan 30th, 2014 at 08:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's typically "Grenville Dodge."  That's how it's spelled on his gravestone.

And in all of my sources, too. Ooops, sub-conscious mis-reading.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 31st, 2014 at 07:54:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I said "typically" because there are records where it was spelled "Greenville."  His middle name got spelled a couple of different ways, too.
by rifek on Fri Jan 31st, 2014 at 10:54:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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