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Lincoln both lost and won the case. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, on the one hand, the state legislature could "make exceptions from the rule of uniformity" with regard to corporations it had chartered, thus losing him the corporate personhood argument. On the other hand, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the railroad's charter—which functioned also as a sort of contract between it and the state, since early railroad charters were more similar to modern-day state-subsidized public utilities than traditional private corporations—allowed for direct taxation of the railroad by the state based on its revenues, and therefore the county didn't have the authority to tax the railroad and the railroad didn't have to pay the tax bill.
Lincoln Sues the RailroadLincoln sent the Illinois Central Railroad—whose directors all lived in New York and thus had its headquarters there—a bill for his services in the case: He asked for $5,000. James F. Joy refused to pay him that much, suggesting that Lincoln was asking for more than he was worth. (Joy's fee had been only $1200 for his work on the case.) "The simple truth is that the whole trouble was with Mr. James F. Joy... whom Mr. Lincoln afterward despised," a company memo later noted. To resolve the issue, the railroad's president, William H. Osborne, suggested that Lincoln should simply sue the railroad and let a judge decide how much he should be paid. Lincoln preferred not to sue his client, and almost 3 years later, in March 1857, he traveled by railroad to New York, but was unsuccessful in prying his fee out of the railroad. With no other option, Lincoln filed a lawsuit against the railroad in McLean County Circuit Court, asking for his $5,000 legal fee. The case opened on Thursday, June 18, 1857, then was postponed to the following Tuesday when it was well-attended, as Lincoln was a rising star and there was a huge curiosity factor. In the courtroom that day was a young law student, Adlai E. Stevenson, who, when he was later Vice President of the United States (1893 to 1897) would recall that, "It appeared to me in the nature of an amicable suit." In a process that took only a few minutes, the railroad agreed to pay Lincoln's $5,000 fee except that he had to reduce it by $200 as they had already advanced him that amount as a retainer. Lincoln admitted that he had forgotten about the $200 and agreed to the terms. The Great Corporate Crash Lincoln left the courtroom having won the judgment, but without any money. The railroad procrastinated in paying him, and on August 1, 1857 Lincoln had the sheriff issue a writ. On August 12, 1857, he was paid his $4,800 in a check, which he deposited and then converted to cash on August 31, 1857. It was a fortunate date for Lincoln to get his cash, because just over a month later, in the Great Panic of October 1857, both the bank on which the check was drawn and the railroad itself were "forced to suspend payment." Of the 66 banks in Illinois, the Central Illinois Gazette (Champaign) reported that by the