The identity of the author of this letter has not yet been confirmed. The first initial in his name is “E” but I cannot decipher the other initials. From the content of the letter, he may have been involved in the newspaper business. The content revolves around the passage of legislation in Illinois on matters of railroad regulation.
The letter was addressed to Col. Eugene Beauharnais Payne (1835-1910) of Waukegan, Illinois. Payne was a soldier, lawyer, federal official, and author. He served throughout the Civil War and was brevetted brigadier-general of volunteers. In 1866-69, he was a member of the Illinois state legislature.
Addressed to Col. E. B. Payne, Member of the Legislature from Lake County, Springfield, Illinois
January 29, 1867
My very dear Col:
In answering your letter of the 16th inst. after so long a date after its receipt, I beg to assure you that it is not because I am not pleased to hear from you. I preferred rather to wait until I had something to write: and I write it, depending on your honor that I shall not be betrayed.
In the first place, then, I find myself by the force of circumstances in a very absurd position which I can not relieve myself of from now until June. That I shall get out of this then, you may believe. You know it all so well that I will not undertake to depict either the miseries or the absurdities of my situation.
I have watched your course and personally, I think you have done right and acted like any other man of the world. A certain individual, however, is dissatisfied and will possibly come up to Springfield to see what you are doing. Something in the ______ has set his jealous little soul on fire. He is no real friend of yours. He has taken the idea you are in with B______ [possibly Blodgett?]. That is quite enough to damn you with him. If he comes, I would quiet his uneasy little mind. If not, I would at any rate write him a soothing letter. He reads the proceedings and is all at sea. He does not know just what to do. I try to give legislative news but I work like an unarmed soldier — I can’t fire my own gun.
My own idea of Railroad monopoly is just this: the cry is true in a part, & is a humbug in the way it is managed. I think (as your friend) you would be foolish to go against public opinion & there is no doubt the public sentiment is against railroad extortion.
(I am interrupted — will finish there ‘ere mail goes out.)
Wednesday, January 30.
So far, I had got, my dear boy, last evening: when I had to pause. Tonight I have a fire in my own room & locked my door & can bid the world defiance.
From developments today, I know this. You are inimical to the little clique which has assumed for years to run this town. If it were any of my affair — if I had not half made arrangements to drop the whole machine in June — if I had cared anything about it, I would say, Payne, “let us take this newspaper business into our own hands and run Lake County our way.” But altho’ the thing would pay well enough, I can do better. I prefer, therefore, to help you all I can now. My arrangements look in another direction.
Don’t be foolish enough to trust either of the two cliques in this county. In neither of them, with neither of them can a politician make anything. It is not industry, education, or even brains than wins. Some of the Senators (like Fuller ¹) want to go to Congress, and some of the very newspapers that are sore today could be healed tomorrow. Fuller’s worst sin here is Ferry hates him like hell.
As to the Grand Army of the Republic, let it stop. It can be of no use now. If I were you, I would use every means at my command to penetrate the county — Lake County — outside of Waukegan. If I could spare the time, I should run down to see you. Give my kindest regards to your wife. I am so busy with my own affairs I have little time to write to you. My daughter is well and going to school and is very happy. I miss you much. Payne, you are the only real friend I have in Lake County.
I gave my friend M. H. B___ of this cousin the anti capital punishment man a line to you. He is a gentleman. Treat him kindly however you view his “theories.”
I believe from what I can learn, that [Henry Williams] Blodgett & [Alonzo] Mack are playing into each other’s hands & that Blodgett saw the bill for the equalization of railroad tariffs before it was presented. I suspect he drew it.
Yours sincerely, dear Col., — E. Z. L. [?]
¹ Allen C. Fuller was the adjutant general of Illinois from November 11, 1861 to January 1, 1865, during the Civil War. After the war, he was elected as the representative of Boone County in the Illinois House of Representatives. He became Speaker of the House, and afterwards served two terms in the Illinois Senate from 1867 until 1872. He was described as “a man aloof in mannerisms and balding in physical appearance.” The Belvidere Republican (1901) called him “austere, overbearing and unapproachable.” Fuller was chairman of the Senate Railroad Committee in 1868 and considered himself a candidate for Illinois governor.