CASE 3

Lincoln Helps the Homeless

As a prominent Springfield lawyer, Abraham Lincoln often rendered opinions on disputed issues within his community. Here he considers the case of John Fitzgerald, an Irish immigrant who had become homeless due to illness. Lincoln argues that the City of Springfield should “bear the charge” of caring for him.

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Transcription of artifact / document:

John Fitzgerald, eighteen years of age, able-bodied, but without pecuniary means, came directly from Ireland to Springfield Illinois, and there stopped, and sought employment, with no present intention of returning to Ireland, or going elsewhere– After remaining in ^the^ City some three weeks, part of the time employed, and part not, he fell sick, and became a public charge. It has been submitted to me, whether the City of Springfield, or the County of Sangamon is, by law, to hear the charge–

It is my opinion, and decision, that the City is to bear it– I base this upon the construction I give the 4th Section of the 13th Article of the new City charter (Approved March 2. 1854) I think the Legislature intended that all public charges, arising from the indigence of persons, resident within the City, were to be borne by the City-- and not by the County– I think it was not the intention that this class of charges was to be parcelled out between the City and county, by critical discussions on the words “citizen” “pauper” and the like–

Dec: 18– 1854.

A. Lincoln–

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