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University of Illinois Library 


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DEC 01 

NOV 3 

Sllmois Centennial ^publications 


























A. C. McCLURG & CO. 







II. THE NEW STATE GOVERNMENT, 1818-1828 ... 33 





VII. STATE POLITICS, 1830-1834 ......... 136 





SYSTEM, 1837-1842 ........... 216 



VENTION SYSTEM ............ 251 

XV. STATE POLITICS, 1840-1847 ......... 278 

XVI. STATE AND PRIVATE BANKING, 1830-1845 .... 303 


SOLUTION .............. 316 


XIX. THE MORMON WAR ............ 340 

XX. THE SLAVERY QUESTION .......... 363 

XXI. ILLINOIS IN FERMENT ........... 383 


1830-1848 .............. 410 

BIBLIOGRAPHY .............. 443 

INDEX ................ 455 



STUMP SPEAKING Frontispiece 





CHICAGO IN 1843 192 






THE time available for the writing of this volume was 
necessarily shortened by the entrance of the United States 
into the European war and my consequent decision to apply 
for admittance to a Reserve Officers' Training Camp. The 
final revision was done during the short interval between the 
time when I was awarded my commission and the time of my 
reporting for duty. Much of the work of revision, therefore, 
that I should under normal conditions have done, I have of 
necessity intrusted to others. When I entered the training 
camp two chapters ( 8 and 21) were unwritten. Miss Agnes 
Wright, my assistant, has supplied these and, in addition, has 
given valuable assistance during the preparation of the manu- 
script of the entire volume. My brother, Albert A. Pease, has 
carefully read the volume in manuscript and has suggested 
many improvements in the text. The editor-in-chief of the 
series, Clarence W. Alvord, has very kindly added to the 
customary duties of an editor a care for details which of right 
falls to the author. I congratulate myself that in the emer- 
gency I have been able to draw on my friends for competent 
assistance ungrudgingly given. 

It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge my indebtedness to 
individuals not connected with the work of the Centennial 
Commission. I am under obligation to Mr. Milo M. Quaife 
for several important suggestions and for permission to repro- 
duce the copy of the Peck-Messenger map in the Wisconsin 
History Society's library. Mrs. J. B. Dyche has assisted me 
with material of various sorts. The Chicago Historical Society 
through its librarian, Miss Caroline M. Mcllvaine, has 
accorded me every imaginable assistance and privilege in 
connection with the prosecution of the work in Chicago. 


Among those immediately connected with the enterprise I 
must particularly mention Dr. Otto L. Schmidt and Mr. Evarts 
B. Greene of the Centennial Commission, who officially and 
unofficially have afforded me every possible assistance. A 
third member of the Commission, Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber, 
in her capacity of librarian of the State Historical Library, 
has given me the privilege of working there during the col- 
lection of material at Springfield and has assumed responsi- 
bility for the correctness of many quoted passages. My special 
obligations to the editor-in-chief I have already mentioned. At 
every stage he has done everything in his power to facilitate 
the work. 

Somewhere in France. 




task of reconstructing for the student of history the 
JL politics, manners, and customs of a frontier community 
such as the Illinois of the first decade of statehood is not an easy 
one. The newspapers of that day only dimly reflect the life 
about them and contain no information whatever about the 
phases of it which their readers took for granted. The contem- 
porary traveler too often saw only a small part, and that inac- 
curately, detached from its surroundings save in so far as the 
inhabitants condescended to explain them to him, while too 
often his prepossessions in favor of the land of political liberty 
or his disgust at the impossibility of continuing his accustomed 
habits of life lent a roseate or a dingy hue to his picture. The 
reminiscences of the pioneer, set down long after the occurrence 
of the events he tried to describe, are generally open to the 
suspicion that they have been unconsciously foreshortened so 
that the descriptions of the rapidly changing life and conditions 
of the frontier are focused at but one point and that perhaps 
not the most important. Under such limitations of information 
the picture of Illinois a hundred years ago, if it is to be accurate, 
must be somewhat indistinct. 

Change and evolution sound the keynote of frontier Illinois. 
For the first thirty years of statehood its politicians sprang up, 
flourished, changed sides, and left the state to seek new careers 
with a rapidity that is the despair of the chronicler. Pioneers 
passed over its territory in waves with varying manners, ideals, 
and habits of life. Civilization first of simple, then of more 
complex, gradations sprang up with amazing rapidity behind 
and among the frontiersmen. The half savage frontiersman 
and the college-bred lawyer, the woman of the backwoods and 


the fine lady rubbed elbows in the little village where the frame 
house was rapidly replacing the log cabin. Into communities 
without religion came numerous denominations striving to 
supply the lack of spiritual life. Churches were organized, 
were torn by quarrels and secessions, and yet reached out for 
better education. Above all, this community ready and eager 
to go up and possess the land continually had to fight politically 
in the hope of obtaining from its landlord, the federal govern- 
ment, better and better terms for the acquisition of its land. 
In the beginning was the land ; the vast stretch of diversified 
hill and plain, forest and prairie, scrub oak, barren, and swamp 
stretched before the people. Shutting off the greater part of it 
from them were the intangible but nevertheless annoying restric- 
tions of the United States government, and the more concrete 
barriers of Indian tribes, jealous of the presence of the white 
settlers among them, and of the wilderness itself, untraversed 
by roads and locking from the settler with its standing timber 
and tough sod the cornfields of the future. The story of the 
acquisition of this domain, of how the little community of fron- 
tiersmen waxed to conquer its lands to cultivation, of how suc- 
cessfully or unsuccessfully they sought to drive through it lines 
of transport which might connect them commercially with the 
outside world, and of how they wrestled politically with their 
brethren of the eastern states for a freer hand at its legal 
conquest is the material side of the history of provincial Illinois. 
On the day when Illinois was both territory and state its 
population of some 35,000 lay in two columns on opposite sides 
of the state, resting on the connection with the outside world 
furnished by the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Wabash rivers 
respectively. The population clustered in the rich river bottom, 
gift of the Mississippi, where Illinois history began, and in the 
neighborhood of the United States saline in Gallatin county. 
It tended always to make settlements on water courses for the 
sake of securing timber, water, and easy communication. Away 
from the rivers lay an unpopulated region in the interior of 

southern Illinois, where the traveler to St. Louis or Kaskaskia 



who preferred to cut across by road from Vincennes or Shaw- 
neetown rather than pole up the Mississippi, could still stage 
tales of robbers, murders, and hairbreadth escapes. On the 
east population had crept north, clinging closely to the Wabash, 
as far as the present Edgar county. On the west settlements 
had reached the southern part of Calhoun county and were 
pushing up the creeks into Greene and Macoupin; they had also 
followed the Kaskaskia and its south-flowing tributaries, so that 
settlements lay in Bond, Clinton, and Washington counties. 
Elsewhere there was wilderness. 

To the north of the area of settlement lay another world 
distinct and independent from that to the south. The Kickapoo 
Indians still inhabited central Illinois, and the Sauk and Foxes, 
chastised in the War of 1812, but still morose, occupied a little 
of the territory northwest of the Illinois river the Military 
Bounty Tract though this had for some time been surveyed 
and allotted in military bounties to soldiers of the War of 1812. 
The main strength of the Sauk and Foxes in Illinois, however, 
lay in the territory near the junction of the Rock and the Mis- 
sissippi, where Fort Armstrong on Rock Island had lately risen 
to overawe them. In the territory east of them lay villages of 
Winnebago and Potawatomi. Among them in northern 
Illinois and on the Illinois and the Wabash rivers wandered 
the fur traders of the American Fur Company; these came 
south down the lake in their Mackinaw boats each fall, dragged 
their boats over the Chicago portage to the Des Plaines river, 
went into winter trading posts along the Illinois from which 
trading expeditions were sent out during the winter, and carried 
their harvest of furs to Mackinac in the spring. Besides Fort 
Armstrong there lay in this district Fort Edwards on the Mis- 
sissippi, Fort Clark at the present site of Peoria, and Fort 
Dearborn ; though as Indian dangers waned and Indian cessions 
were consummated, the forts were successively abandoned. 

The terms upon which the United States government dis- 
posed of its domain in Illinois materially affected settlement in 
the state. From an early period in the history of the United 


States land policy the method of regular surveys had obtained. 
The face of the country was surveyed into rectangular town- 
ships approximately six miles square. These were defined by 
their number north or south of a line called the base line and 
in ranges east and west of a principal meridian. Each township 
was divided into thirty-six sections, each containing 640 acres 
and capable of division into quarters and similar subdivisions. 

In the method of disposing of these the federal government 
had grown more and more liberal as the years passed. Starting 
from the concept that the lands were a fund for the payment 
of the national debt, it had gradually offered better and better 
terms to the small purchaser. In 1 8 1 8 the system of sale was 
as follows: Lands put on sale for the first time were set up at 
auction at the land office in the district containing them. In 
Illinois in 1818 there were but three offices Kaskaskia, 
Edwardsville, and Shawneetown soon to be increased con- 
siderably in number. If not bid in at auction for two dollars 
an acre or more, lands might be bought at any time thereafter 
at private sale, the terms being two dollars an acre, payable in 
four annual installments. In 1820, however, in spite of stren- 
uous opposition from the western representatives, the credit 
system was abolished, and the land after having been put up 
at auction sold at one dollar and twenty-five cents cash per acre. 

The first result of the measure was to cut down sharply 
purchases from the government. Great amounts of land in 
southern Illinois had already passed out of the hands of the 
government, partly as gifts to the old French inhabitants and 
partly by speculative entries under the credit system. Numbers 
of speculators as well as settlers had been lured by the low 
initial payment into contracting for more land than they could 
pay for; and it took act after act permitting the application of a 
first installment on a large piece of land to apply as payment in 
full on a smaller before they were extricated from their diffi- 
culty. Meanwhile sales of the great body of land that remained 
were slow. In 1822 sales were as low as 27,000 odd acres; in 
1826 they were some 80,000, the next year they fell off to 

Population of Illinois 
per Square Mile in 


50,000, and not till 1829 did they pass the hundred thousand 
mark. From 1820 to 1828 the equivalent of twenty townships 
was sold. Of this the greater part lay in the Springfield land 
office district, sales in the Edwardsville and Palestine districts 
coming next in amount. In the Kaskaskia, Vandalia, and 
Shawneetown districts, which served southern Illinois, the sales 
were insignificant; in 1821 the three offices sold some 14,000 
acres, but in 1822 they sold 5,916; in 1823, 2,636; in 1824, 
4,160; in 1825, 2,963; in 1826, 5,4595 in l82 7 7>3395 and in 
1828, 11,518. The significance of this situation is that the 
course of settlement by men with money had shifted from the 
south and had passed on to the Sangamon country and northern 
Illinois. In the south settlers were squatting on the public land. 
In 1828 W. L. D. Ewing estimated that in the counties of Clay, 
Marion, Shelby, Tazewell, and Fayette there were 1,230 
voters of whom 217 were freeholders. 1 The large sales under 
the credit system with the great numbers of Military Bounty 
tracts thrown on the market had created such a glut that men 
with cash to pay for land would buy only the land of their 
choice. Otherwise the newcomers to the state held their land 
by squatters' right, and by the force of public opinion they were 
able to maintain themselves against those who would buy the 
improvements over their heads. The west was ripe for agita- 
tion for new legislation in favor of the squatters legislation 
which directly or indirectly would be opposed by men with 
heavy landholdings. 

In the Illinois of 1 8 1 8 the French. hahltan^^t^ mustered 
strong in numbers in the villages of the American Bottom, 
though with a few exceptions, such as the Menards, the well- 
to-do and better educated of their race were to be found across 
the Mississippi. Their economic and social life has been the 
subject of the preceding volume of this series and furthermore 
requires no special attention here, since the influence of the 
French upon the development of Illinois in the nineteenth 
century was negligible. 

1 American State Papers, Public Lands, 5:554-556. 


It is not easy to describe, or even to divide into classes, the 
newcomers who were sweeping over the land of Illinois. On 
the outskirts of settlement was a fringe of hunters leading a 
half savage life in the forests, supporting their families by the 
products of the hunt and by the produce of a few acres of corn- 
land planted among the girdled forest trees. Their life was 
a series of retreats before the advance of civilization, and they 
were ever ready to sell their improvements to a newcomer and 
to push out one stage further into the wilderness. 2 

It is possible to differentiate this first class from later 
comers only in degree, since the men of the whole frontier were 
more or less migrating. The men who succeeded the hunters 
came also from the south for the most part, yet they were in va- 
rious degrees more civilized in their habits, laid less emphasis on 
hunting and more on building, making improvements, and clear- 
ing land for the cornfields. They very often possessed hogs 
and cattle which furnished to the little towns a continually 
increasing amount of raw products to be traded for store goods 
and to be freighted in flatboats or keel-boats down the Ohio 
and Mississippi as articles of commerce. This produce of the 
farm was not only corn, ginseng, beeswax, salted pork, tallow, 
hides, and beef, the last named sometimes bought by the store- 
keepers on the hoof and slaughtered for market, but also vari- 
ous rough wool and flax fabrics. Important in the frontier 
market were such items as deer skins and venison hams, 
distinctly the products of the rifle rather than of the hoe. 3 

The habit of some writers to classify these southern meYi 
as hunter pioneers and to contrast them with the New England 
and northern farmers who settled the prairies of the north is 
misleading unless the contrast is carefully limited and defined. 
The settlers of the south hunted, as did white men everywhere 
in the wilderness where there were no game laws. JThey 
enlarged their cornlands by clearing the forest instead of cul- 
tivating the prairies because, in the decade in which they settled 

2 Fordham, Personal Narrative, 125-126; Flower, History of the English 
Settlement, 129. 

8 Fordham, Personal Narrative, 181 ; Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey, 155. 


the state, farmers preferred such lands, chiefly because the 
forested lands offered greater accessibility to wood and water, 
partly because they lacked the capital necessary for breaking 
up and fencing the prairie, and partly because the scarcity of 
markets offered no temptation to raise grain that could not be 
sold. Without a heavy ox team breaking the prairie was almost 
impossible, and without improved transportation produce could 
not be carried to market. 

There has grown up a traditional interpretation of events 
sanctioned now by age, that would explain the stoppage of the 
northern thrust of the southern pioneers by the downpouring 
of immigrants from the northeast into the valleys of the upper 
Illinois river. There is little in the sources of information that 
gives warrant for interpreting the encounter as a meeting of 
opposing forces. It is true that the immigration of the north- 
erners followed closely on the heels of the backwoods hunters, 
but this relation in the time of the two movements has only 
apparently justified the interpretation, for to all appearances 
the two peoples settled down side by side in peace and concord 
throughout the state, the southern element naturally enough 
preponderating in the southern counties and the "Yankee" 
element in the northern. 

Besides this class of so-called hunter pioneers the commu- 
nity had a set of young men of education, of legal training, and 
of good address, who aspired to the leadership of the com- 
munity. Frequently they had a few hundreds or thousands 
to invest in land speculations. Some of them married into the 
well-to-do French families. They were men of more finished 
manner than the average pioneer, and their wives and daughters 
speedily gave the community a touch of sophistication. Doubt- 
less it was for this class the stores advertised the finer goods 
such as silks, crepes, and other fabrics of similar character, and 
kept the choicer wines, liquors, and groceries. 4 

The conditions in the towns are more or less truthfully 

4 In this chapter I have made much use of an unpublished monograph by 
my assistant Miss Agnes Wright on the subject of social conditions in early 


mirrored in the contemporary newspapers. In the towns, when 
the state was young, the rising brick and frame houses con- 
trasted sharply with the log cabins of the territorial days; yet 
the stage of civilization must not be overestimated, for even 
in 1821 Shawneetown had no courthouse, jail, church, or school. 
The towns were disorderly places at best, a Shawneetown 
Sunday being a byword. Frequently they were rendered 
unhealthy by pools of stagnant water and by the lack of all 
sanitation. In 1822 the trustees of Shawneetown had to pass 
an ordinance providing for the removal of dead animals and 
for the laying of sidewalks. Town government in so far as 
it was distinct from other local government was rudimentary. 
Towns were incorporated by individual acts which gave the 
trustees power to legislate for the order of the town and to levy 
taxes on town lots. 5 

The towns of the early days could boast of only the most 
rudimentary manufactures. The newspapers contain numer- 
ous advertisements of grist mills, steam distilleries, log stills, 
sawmills, etc. In 1817 Jesse B. Thomas set up a carding 
machine in Cahokia, which was managed by Adam W. Snyder. 
Promoters of towns were continually offering special induce- 
ments to mechanics and skilled workmen to settle within their 
communities in order that the simplest needs of the inhabitants 
might be supplied, and the advertisements in the newspapers 
show the presence of coopers, tanners, clock and watchmakers, 
hatters, and milliners. There is some evidence, however, that 
the economic position of such artisans was not altogether pros- 
perous; at least the Illinois Gaz-ette in 1820 complained that 
high rents had driven the mechanics from Shawneetown. 6 

The most important function which the towns performed 
was that of furnishing a buying and shipping point for country 

8 Illinois Gazette, May 19, December 8, 1821, May 25, November 30, 1822; 
Tillson, Reminiscences, 35 8. ; Laius of 1819, p. 249,259; Laivs of 1821, p. 160,176. 

6 Illinois Gazette, March 30, July i, 8, 1820, April 10, 1824; Ediuardsville 
Spectator, May 23, 1820, May 4, 1822; Illinois Intelligencer, February 17, De- 
cember 15, 1819, September 9, 1820; Snyder, Adam W. Snyder, 28. A manufac- 
turing company in Bond county was incorporated. There was also a general 
incorporation law. Laius of 1825, p. 113. 


produce and a distributing point for store goods. Stores were 
ordinarily kept by men of considerable means. They adver- 
tised in the local papers alluring lists of goods "just in" and 
offered to dispose of them " cheaply for cash, for produce, or 
on terms." Shawneetown, Edwardsville, and Carmi appar- 
ently did a wholesale trade as well. Moreover, some store- 
keepers at Edwardsville and one at Shawneetown regularly 
advertised semiweekly auctions of goods. Occasionally mer- 
chants employed peddlers to go through the country to sell their 
merchandise. The Illinois Gazette contains an indignant adver- 
tisement for a runaway peddler " from Connecticut, and is no 
doubt a perfect chip of the old block 1 " One notices frequent 
insistent advertisements calling on delinquent debtors to 
settle. 7 

In the Illinois of 1818 Shawneetown seemed to hold a 
favorable position as the gateway, a fact which had been recog- 
nized by the United States government by the designation of 
the town as a port of entry. It was the natural Illinois entre- 
pot for the eastern part of the state and for the country up the 
tributaries of the Wabash. One rival to its trade near at hand, 
however, was the New Harmony settlement of Frederick Rapp, 
which in 1823 maintained a store in Shawneetown for the sale 
of its goods, woolen cloths, cottons, hats, shoes, stockings, 
leather, flour, wine, whisky, brandy, beer, etc., as well as a line 
of eastern goods from Philadelphia. Rapp's failure to buy as 
well as sell made him unpopular, however, with the resident 
merchants. 8 

On the west side of the state St. Louis had the position of 
dominance. It held western Illinois subject to it commercially, 
despite the attempts at Alton and at Cairo to build up rivals 
on Illinois soil. Its merchants advertised in western Illinois 
papers, and they were even able to regulate the discount at 
which Illinois bank notes should pass; indeed, they exercised 
some influence on the politics of the state. 

7 Frequently merchants bought and sold goods on commission, see Illinois 
Gazette, September 9, 1820. See also ibid., October 9, December 4, 1819. 

8 Ibid., November 8, 1823. 


In the Illinois of 1818-1828 transportation was a serious 
problem, and the means available for it necessarily influenced 
the state's contact commercially and intellectually with the out- 
side world. Transportation overland was an extremely diffi- 
cult matter. The so-called roads of southern Illinois were of 
but little account and transportation facilities were meager. 
Not till 1819 was a stage line from Kaskaskia to St. Louis in 
operation. In the summer of that year a second line from 
Shawneetown to St. Louis was projected. In 1822 a stage 
wagon was advertised to run from Springfield to St. Louis once 
in two weeks, taking two days for the trip. 9 

The state's main reliance had to be on river transporta- 
tion^ At the time of the admission of Illinois to the union the 
steamboat was just replacing the flatboat and keel-boat. The 
keel-boat or flatboat was often of considerable size, nineteen 
and even twenty-seven tons. The farmer who chose to eschew 
steamer transportation to his market either himself navigated 
a flatboat or keel-boat with his produce 10 or intrusted it to the 
tender mercies of the river boatmen, hard drinking, desperate 
men who terrorized the villages along the river, governing 
themselves by a rough and ready code of their own in which 
stealing under certain circumstances was permissible and mur- 
der an ordinary matter. Year by year their importance was 
destined to wane as law and order grew stronger in the river 
towns and the steamboats multiplied in number. Sweeping 
down the river to the tune of such doggerel boat songs as 
" Hard upon the beach oar ! She moves too slow ; All the way 
to Shawneetown, Long time ago," they lent to the frontier 
a touch of the picturesque and romantic peculiarly grateful to 
the literature of the next generation. 

The river steamer, which was ultimately to displace these 
men's monopoly, had its difficulties with the Ohio river. Feb- 
ruary io, 1820, the Illinois Gazette noted the passage up the 
river to Louisville of six or seven steamboats, delayed since 

9 Illinois Intelligencer, January 20, 1819, July 5, 1823; Edwardsville Spec- 
tator, August 7, 1819, April 27, 1822. 

10 Illinois Gazette, December 15, 1822; Illinois Intelligencer, May 31, 1820. 


June by low water. The previous spring, on the other hand, 
high water had cut Shawneetown off from the outside world. 11 
During the twenties the navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi 
were improved by the federal government to the extent of the 
removal of obstructions, the channeling of sand bars, and the 
grubbing out of " snags " and " sawyers." 

Even with improvement in the navigation of the Mississippi 
river the problem of transportation was still a serious one. 
The inevitable tendency of trade in the west until the coming 
of the railroad was toward water routes. Down every Illinois 
creek or river, produce naturally poured to the Ohio and Mis- 
sissippi, thence to pile up on the wharves of New Orleans. 
Manufactured goods had to come from the east whether they 
were shipped by sea from Philadelphia and Baltimore to New 
Orleans and thence brought up the Mississippi, or whether they 
followed the stream down from Pittsburg. The balancing 
of credits was an exchange problem that the age was not able 
to solve ; and with her credits receivable at New Orleans and 
her debits due in the east, Illinois was facing an impossible 
situation that drained her scanty currency in remittances and 
lent a specious excuse for the founding of unstable banks. 12 . 

Some, foreseeing that Illinois could never prosper without 
new outlets for its commerce, turned to the hope of internal 
improvements. In 1824 George E. McDuffie pronounced in 
congress that if the west's relations were to continue solely 
with New Orleans, the union could not last fifty years. It was 
said that the produce of the west was floated down the Missis- 
sippi at high water to pile up at New Orleans in the unhealthy 
season; that Illinois beef and pork which was not put up with 
imported salt spoiled in the New Orleans market; that in the 
last five years one-sixth of the flour unloaded there had spoiled; 
and that even then the trade route to Europe was too long. 
Thomas Hart Benton, in debate on " Foot's Resolution," laid 
down a counter-proposition that internal improvements over 

11 Illinois Gazette, March 27, April 3, 1819. 

12 In 1821 a firm tried to devise an exchange of produce for goods at New 
Orleans. Ibid., December 15, 1821; Edwardsville Spectator, June 18, 1820. 


the mountains were useless to the west, and that she must still 
find her market at New Orleans; but every year was to add 
fresh demonstration that Benton's proposition was fallacious. 
The Illinois-Michigan canal whereby the Illinois river might 
be made tributary to a transportation system which would lead 
over the Great Lakes to the Erie canal and the east was the 
measure which to Daniel Pope Cook and to an increasing num- 
ber of Illinoisans appeared the best remedy. 13 

The history of the development of Illinois between 1818 
and 1822 would be incomplete without mention of a concerted 
scheme of colonization that, running in channels completely 
different from those which carried the ordinary course of set- 
tlement, was to influence the development of the state out of all 
proportion to the numbers engaged in it. This enterprise was 
the settlement of English Prairie in Edwards county by Morris 
Birkbeck and the Flowers. At its inception the motive force 
in the movement was the discontent with economic and political 
conditions in England that affected men of the comparatively 
affluent classes. For example, Morris Birkbeck by his industry 
and ability had raised himself to the position of a tenant farmer, 
farming on long lease a holding of 1,500 acres in the hamlet of 
Wanborough; yet he was not a freeholder and therefore not 
entitled to the vote; he chafed at the social and political inferi- 
ority which thus marked him, as well as at the heavy taxes and 
tithes levied on him by the parliament in which he had no voice 
and by the church in which he was not a communicant. 14 He 
aspired, to use his own words, to leave his children citizens of 
" a flourishing, public-spirited, energetic community, where the 
insolence of wealth, and the servility of pauperism, between 
which, in England, there is scarcely an interval remaining, are 
alike unknown." 15 The United States seemed to him the real- 
ization of his political ideals; and except for his detestation 
of slavery he looked on its institutions and the assumed polit- 
ical and social virtues of its republic and citizens through glasses 

13 Illinois Intelligencer, February 8, 1823. 

14 Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey, 8-9; Birkbeck, Letters from Illinois, 28. 

15 Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey, 10. 


of rose tint. No less attractive perhaps was the opportunity / 
it afforded him of becoming a freeholder at a rate comparable 
to English rental values. George Flower, son of Birkbeck'j 
friend, Richard Flower, who had been sent to the United State 
in search of land, had conceived a romantic affection for th 
prairies of which he had read in Imlay's Topographical 
Description of the Western Territory of North America. 
When at last he and Birkbeck crossed the Wabash into Illinois 
and attained the Boltonhouse prairie, depressed as they had 
been by the mighty forests through which they had journeyed, 
the broad expanse of meadow stretching for miles embayed in 
the surrounding timber seemed to them the manor park that 
they coveted, and they hastened to acquire as much of it as 
their funds would permit. 16 

In presenting their design of a colony to the English public 
by the publication of Birkbeck's letters, the promoters strove 
to induce men of their own social status tenant farmers pos- 
sessed of capital and desirous of becoming landholders to 
take up land from them or in their vicinity. As a complement 
this necessarily required the establishment of a class comparable 
to English agricultural laborers or cottagers; and in fact the 
enemies of the enterprise later insinuated that while holding 
great tracts for wealthy emigrants who never came, the pro- 
moters refused to sell smaller tracts to poorer men. The accu- 
sation was made that they had founded a rich man's 
settlement. The first settlers to come, however, were mechan- } 
ics and laborers, who had not been concerned in the original: 
enterprise but who were attracted by Birkbeck's books. 17 

Birkbeck, who remained on the ground over winter with 
the uncertain labor obtainable from the backwoodsmen half / 
hunters, half farmers who surrounded him, was not able to 

18 Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey, 16 ff., 37, 57, 58, 98, 107, 113; Birkbeck, 
Letters from Illinois, 28-29, 4* > Flower, History of the English Settlement, 64; 
Flower, Letters from Lexington and the Illinois, 102-103 ; Faux, Memorable 
Days in America, 254-255. 

17 Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey, 132-133, 141-163; Birkbeck, Letters from 
Illinois, ip, 18-19, 755 Faux, Memorable Days in America, 235, 238-239, 244; 
Flower, History of the English Settlement, 96. 


; get accommodations completed for newcomers. Food for the 
first year had largely to be procured from the nearby Rapp 
/ community at New Harmony in Indiana. The newcomers and 
| such wealthier immigrants as followed fared well or ill, accord- 
ing to their ability to work for themselves and to make the best 
of backwoods conditions. Men without large capital or enter- 
prise missed the agricultural laboring class of England and the 
presence of women servants, and they were described by per- 
sons not well disposed to the enterprise as for the time reduced 
to squalid wretchedness. Attacks inspired by the "borough 
managers," so the leaders believed, and by men interested in 
eastern lands who enlisted in their behalf the sharp pen of 
Cobbett sometimes known as Porcupine Cobbett spread 
the tales of the wretchedness and woe existing at English 
Prairie. They made the most of expressions of pleasure by 
Birkbeck at the absence of all religious observance on the fron- 
tier and used them to brand the enterprise as irreligious; this 
accusation was met by the building of churches, in one of which 
Unitarian and in the other Episcopal services were installed by 
Flower and Birkbeck, respectively. 18 

To add to the difficulties of the settlement a feud broke out 
between Birkbeck and George and Richard Flower. The 
causes of it undoubtedly were connected with the marriage, 
during the exploratory trip, of George Flower to Miss 
Andrews; 19 but whether Birkbeck's anger was the jealousy of 
a rejected suitor or the just resentment of a man who had 
unconsciously been made a party to an impropriety in offense 
of good taste, if not of good morals, it is not necessary to decide. 
On George Flower's return Birkbeck refused to have any deal- 
ings with him, and he was left to establish a home for his 
father's family as best he might. The settlement clustered in 
two groups, one centering in Wanborough, the town founded 

18 See the descriptions of the various families in Faux, Memorable Days in 
America, 252-273. Fordham, Personal Narrative, 216, 227 ff. ; Birkbeck, Letters 
from Illinois, 23 ff. ; Flower, Letters from Illinois, 124, 129, 131-132, 144-145. 

10 Faux, Memorable Days in America, 271 ff. Contrast this gossip with the 
discreet silence of Woods, T<wo Years' Residence, 348-349. 


by Birkbeck in August, 1818, the other in Albion, the town 
some two miles to the east laid out by George Flower with 
Elias Pym Fordham and others two months later. In the 
course of two or three years the men who were determined 
on success had made headway. By 1819 there were 400 Eng- J 
lish and 700 Americans in the settlement. They had estab-/ 
lished comfortable homes and large farm structures, had disi 
covered the futility, in default of labor, of extensive grair 
farming, were turning their attention to the raising of cattle 
sheep, and hogs, and were making progress. Practical farm- 
ers with money and industry were doing well, and good laborers 
imported by the leaders were acquiring lands of their own. 20 ^ 
The leaders had perhaps totally abandoned their desire of a 
cluster of manors in southeastern Illinois, as they discovered 
that the English agricultural laborers they imported also caught 
the land fever. Men of narrower views believed they saw in 
the lack of labor a justification of negro slavery and a necessity 
for it. Men like Birkbeck were able to accept the facts as they 
were and at the same time to foresee an Illinois of free farmers, 
neither masters nor servants. 

The enterprise had done much for Illinois. It had brought 
the prairie into notice if not into vogue. Against the agriculture 
necessarily practiced by the farmer of small means a corn- 
patch among trees girdled by the ax, growing larger year by 
year it had set the utility of prairie land either for grazing 
or for grain when broken as it could be by men able to afford 
a six-ox team. Through the numerous books of Birkbeck, the 
Flowers, and others, it had brought Illinois into notice not only 
in England but in the eastern United States and in continental 
Europe as well. More important still L it had in Morris Birk.-__ 
beck brought to the state a leader whose services in the struggle 
with slavery werqpast all estimate. 

Almost equally important was Birkbeck' s influence in thel 
advancement of scientific agriculture. The call for the forma- 

20 Flower, History of the English Settlement, 130; Flower, Letters from Lex- 
ington and the Illinois, 104, 157-142; Woods, Two Years' Residence, 258-259, 339. 


tion of an agricultural society appeared October 8, 1819, in 
the Edwardsville Spectator. It was signed "A Farmer of 
Madison" and hence may very possibly have originated with 
Edward Coles. At the meeting for organization held on No- 
vember 10, the society elected Birkbeck president and Coles 
first vice president, and it speedily drew the support of the 
prominent men of the state. It offered premiums not only for 
wheat, corn, hay, and fine livestock, but also for hemp, flax, cot- 
ton, homespun cloth the premium for this last was in 1823 
awarded to Governor Bond tobacco, castor oil, wool, malt 
liquor, salt, and cheese. Agricultural societies, with some 
emphasis on the policy of non-importation due to the hardness 
of the times, were founded in Madison and Bond counties; and 
these were affiliated with the state society. In 1825, however, 
the society disbanded, turning over its funds to Sunday 
schools. 21 

The most interesting work of this society was the series of 
proposals for better agriculture that emanated from its mem- 
bers. Birkbeck's suggestions are of most interest. He repeat- 
edly urged on the society the importance of turning a large 
share of attention to grazing and dairying, insisting on the 
need of growing finer grasses before fine wool could be hoped 
for, and insisting on the need of stringent measures against 
wolves, as a prerequisite to successful sheep raising. 22 In 1820 
he voiced a prophetic warning against the danger of skinning 
the soil, a practice already too prevalent in the older states. 
He suggested various devices for successful prairie farming, 
recommending also in an article in the Illinois Gazette the use 
of ditches for prairie fencing. Coles came forward with a 
method which he thought would reduce the expense of breaking 
prairies, a second surface plowing followed by harrowing. 23 

21 Illinois Intelligencer, January 19, 1822, December 13, 1823, January 25, 
1826; Illinois Gazette, March i, 1823. 

22 In 1823 the legislature offered a premium of $200 for the greatest number 
of wolves above sixty killed in the state, and a premium of $40 for the greatest 
number killed above ten in each county. In 1825 they substituted a general 
bounty of one dollar per head. See also Illinois Intelligencer, May 13, 1820. 

23 Illinois Gazette, May 5, 1821, January 5, 1822. 


One point of especial interest treated by the society was 
the need of improving the health of the country by draining 
standing and stagnant waters. These conditions were often 
perpetuated in the small running streams of Illinois by mill dams 
designed to afford pressure for water mills. In 1821 the Agri- 
cultural Society announced a premium for an essay on the sub- 
ject which detailed the foregoing objections to water power and 
proposed animal power in its place. 

If it is difficult to describe frontier Illinois in its physical 
aspects since it is impossible to describe it in its mental and spirit- 
ual; the evidence is even more fragmentary and more subject to 
bias in the observers. Again, it is to be regretted that the news- 
papers which might seemingly furnish unconscious evidence on 
this subject do not reflect the mental attitude of great parts of 
the population, since their circulation was very limited. One 
wonders often how far. the traditional shibboleths of frontier 
Illinois are humorous exaggerations ; for instance, how far was 
the oft-cited prejudice against Yankees based on a piece of pop- 
ular humor comparable to the mother-in-law joke? 

Some general characteristics can be positively described. 
English observers, friendly or hostile, commented on the open 
and unabashed manner of the people. In the Illinois frontiers- 
man there was none of the self-conscious awkward rusticity of 
the English peasant. The instillation of the doctrine of liberty 
and equality undoubtedly had so far borne fruit as to make 
the conviction of his own dignity apparent in the conversation 
of every man. The interpretation put upon this attitude 
and the form it took naturally varied with the attitude of the 
observer. If he expected his money to buy him obsequiousness 
he was disappointed and had to complain often of a positive 
bad faith and trickiness which at times may well have been a 
desperate attempt on the part of the native to vindicate an 
affront to his dignity. If the traveler met all men with an 
open friendliness, he generally encountered in return a real 
kindliness and courtesy. If the frontiersman was appealed to 
as a man for help and sympathy he usually responded in liberal 


measure. If he was hired as a servant, little good could be 
expected from him. 24 

Probably the jarring with backwoodsmen and accusations 
of bad faith and trickiness in bargains made against them fre- 
quently arose from the fact that on the frontier specific per- 
formance of contract had hardly come to be regarded as the 
touchstone of honesty. In a wild country where natural ele- 
ments continually intervene to prevent the performance of a 
set duty at the proper time, it is an easy and natural step to 
regard personal convenience or even personal whims as worthy 
to be taken into account. In Illinois men from older settled 
communities might fume in vain, if they had not tact to wheedle 
a performance of contract out of the party bound. 

Probably this furnishes a clue to the reason for the dislike 
of the Yankee so far as it was not a half humorous attitude. 
Even in a moderately well-to-do settlement of southern men, 
the Yankee's insistence on writings, mortgages, bonds, and the 
like, and his superstitious observance of days and times con- 
tributed to render him unpopular as being unneighborly. To 
ask a man on the frontier to hire out his oxen rather than to 
lend them was thought to imply a belief that he would " act like 
a Yankee." Furthermore, the frontiersman divined the prim 
New Englander's suppressed feeling of criticism for all the 
shiftless, easy-going habits of frontier life. Taking thought 
for the morrow and multiplying mechanical devices to meet 
it were considered especially " Yankee;" and Mrs. John Tillson 
found her clothespins looked upon as the latest Yankee notion. 
In spite of the prejudice against Yankees, they were repeatedly, 
as in Tillson's case, placed in situations of importance, often 
probably because their education and disciplined attention to 
business rendered them indispensable for many duties. 25 

How far social distinctions divided the frontier state into 

24 Fearon, Sketches of America, 398, 437 passim; Birkbeck, Notes on a 
Journey, 107; Fordham, Personal Narrative, 196. 

25 Woods, T<wo Years' Residence, 261, 317; Buck, "The New England Ele- 
ment in Illinois Politics before 1833," Mississippi Valley Historical Associa- 
tion, Proceedings, 6:49-61. 


classes, it is difficult to say. Most observers remarked that, 
the backwoods pioneer being omitted, the various classes did 
not vary nearly so much in intellectual grasp as in England. 
" In this remote part of America, judges, generals of militia, 
colonels, captains, and esquires, are not generally men of prop- 
erty or education ; and it is usual to see them employed in any 
common kind of labour. Yet I have seen men among them that 
possess very good abilities; far from ignorant, and much better 
informed than could be expected from their appearance." 26 So 
far as wealth and its means of display were concerned, however, 
the basis for social distinction existed. When Shawneetown 
was a village of one brick and several frame houses amid a 
cluster of log cabins, it boasted one jewelry store which at 
least advertised a surprisingly wide selection. Advertisements 
of silks, satins, broadcloths, muslins, cambrics, and silk gloves, 
among plaids and cheap stuffs and offerings of fine groceries 
and Madeira wine as well as of whisky by the barrel prove the 
existence of such distinctions. To take action against the im- 
portation of such luxuries, societies were formed between the 
years 1819 and 1821. The political aspirations of the well-to- 
do men doubtless induced them, especially at elections, to keep 
such distinctions in the background. Nevertheless the society 
of afternoon teas and great dinners must have lived side by 
side with the simple society whose social events were the dance 
after the corn husking or barn raising and the gathering at the 
county seat on court day or at the camp meeting, the last two 
probably partaken of by rich as well as by poor. Woods 
mentions husking, raising, reaping, rolling, picking, sewing, and 
quilting frolics ; and they were much more common than their 
mention in the contemporary literature of the frontier might 
lead one to suppose. 27 

Patriotism of a higher or lower type flourished in pioneer 
Illinois. In the frontiersman, according to Fordham, it might 
be described best as a belief that Americans, especially the 

26 Woods, Two Years' Residence, 346. 

27 Fordham, Personal Narrative, 210; Woods, Two Years' Residence, 300. 


people of his own state, were the best soldiers in the world. 
In the class reached by the newspaper, it took a finer form. 
At the Fourth of July dinners so often noted in the papers 
" The memory of Washington " usually was drunk in silence, 
and there was almost always a toast to the heroes of the Revo- 
lution, both toasts indicating a pride in what rapidly was coming 
to be hallowed by distance as a great and glorious past. The 
valor of the frontiersman and of the jack tar in the War of 
1812 offered a new stimulus to national pride. Further, as the 
newspaper reported for its readers, the monarchical weaknesses 
of the old world, the contemptible foibles of the libertine 
George IV and his immodest queen, the stirrings of revolution 
and liberty in Europe and South America under the influence 
and example of republican America made the nation seem 
destined to an even nobler and more significant future as the 
standard bearer of republican principles. Adherence to these 
principles as yet seemed a bond of political unity beside which 
considerations of dynastic allegiance or racial ties seemed 
frivolous. In 1820 men were well content to ask no other 
unity for the American nation. The doubts and fears that 
beset the whigs in later days as to the influence of the foreigner 
and the rabble on the future of the republic were thus far 
characteristic only of the despised federalist minority. 

The part which the newspaper played in the community is 
an interesting one. The present day definition of news was 
unknown to editors who thought it their duty to keep from their 
readers anything that might be considered contrary to good 
manners and morals; an editor might even rebuke as mere idle 
curiosity the desire for the details of murders and steamboat 
explosions. ' The paper's main function was to furnish a 
medium of polite communications from the editor to his 
patrons. Usually he regaled them with foreign news, accounts 
of the proceedings of congress, and the state general assembly, 
with occasional speeches made in congress, political articles, 
and forecasts, accounts of improvements in agriculture or manu- 
factures, and moral anecdotes in the manner of Franklin, 


interspersed with jokes about the sea serpent matter nearly 
all obtained by clipping from papers nearer the center of the 
great world or of the United States. In times of election, 
however, politics displaced all else. 

The scissors usually supplied the literature, which was 
sentimental in imitation of Goldsmith, humorous after the 
manner of Sterne, or romantic in the fashion of the author of 
Waverley in any case distinctly exotic in character. This 
was supplemented by local contributions, political, controver- 
sial, and humorous, though the point of many a satire, doubtless 
keen enough in its hour, has long since rusted away completely. 
On the whole the newspaper was much less a suggestive index 
to the intellectual habits and tastes of the country than it was 
ten years later. 

The economic status of the newspaper was usually based 
on the possession of state or national printing contracts or on 
the desire for them. The printing week by week in their 
columns of national laws and treaties or the issuing of laws and 
journals of the state general assembly made the newspaper 
business profitable. Editors were, in many cases, itinerant 
editors partly by grace of their editorial capacity, partly by their 
knowledge of printing. Such men were free lances willing to 
enter the pay of any aspiring politician who was ready to pro- 
vide a press and type, usually veterans of former wars, to loan 
a few hundred dollars, and to drum up a small subscription list. 
Without the bounty of public printing, newspapers could not 
live save by subsidy. Four hundred was a very good list of 
subscribers; and subscriptions often ran unpaid for years de- 
spite the pleadings, threats, and blacklisting resorted to by the 
editor. There are traces of other intellectual influences. Lists 
of books advertised for sale are short but contain the titles of 
some good books ; and no doubt the few persons with genuine 
tastes for good reading could satisfy them as well as if they 
lived in the east. There were literary and debating societies in 
Fayette and in two neighboring counties. There was even a 
Handel-Haydn society. That an outlet to spiritual aspirations 


was doubtless offered by Masonry is indicated by the St John's 
Day orations published from time to time, though apparently 
Masonry met disapproval from a section of the clergy. 28 

Such systematic education as the state afforded was supplied 
by private schools and for a price, for the state during the first 
decade made scarcely any use of its endowment from the federal 
government. Some of the schools were of about the grade of 
grammar schools; and girls' schools where needlework, paint- 
ing, and similar subjects were taught for an extra charge were 
not uncommon. Frequently board was offered also. Charges 
for tuition varied from three dollars and fifty cents to seven 
dollars a quarter, according to subjects taught, needlework in 
girls' schools usually being an extra. 

There were not wanting, however, more ambitious estab- 
lishments. One at Salu was kept by a New England 
schoolma'am. The Reverend Mr. Desmoulin had a school in 
Kaskaskia in which he taught Latin and French. At Ebenezer 
they advertised for a preceptor who was qualified to teach 
Greek, Latin, and the higher mathematics. At Galena in 1829 
a school (Aratus Kent's) purported to teach Latin and Greek. 
One public school at Alton was free to the children of parents 
residing in the corporation, for Alton had been incorporated 
with an endowment of one hundred lots for religious and educa- 
tional purposes. 29 

The foundations of collegiate education were laid before 
the end of the period. In 1827 the indefatigable John Mason 
Peck opened a seminary at Rock Spring as a theological training 
school, equipping it with the books and other property that he 
had collected in the east. It was intended primarily for the 
education of ministers, but in addition it offered courses in 
literature and tne sciences. At a meeting at Rock Spring, 
January i, 1827, Peck was appointed superintendent and agent 
to obtain funds. It was decided that a farm for student labor 
be operated and that subscriptions be solicited for buildings 

28 Illinois Gazette, January i, December 2, 1820; Illinois Intelligencer, May 
15, 1821 ; Edtvardsville Spectator, July 3, 1821. 

29 Illinois Intelligencer, April 7, 1819. 


payable in provisions, cattle, labor, books, or building materials. 
Contribution entitled a subscriber to send his children or wards 
without charge for rent or for the use of the library. The 
school was to have a theological professor and one for mathe- 
matics, natural philosophy, and languages. 30 

Religion came to be the most universally pervasive intellec- 
tual force of the frontier. As might be expected, on the frontier 
the first tendency was toward a disregard of religious 
observances. The emigrant from the older settled regions left 
behind him the machinery and the establishment of sectarian 
religion. Until that machinery could be set up again on the 
frontier he lived without formal worship and often for the 
time at least the sense of the need of it passed out of his life. 
In cases where observance had been due to social convention 
there was no doubt a welcome feeling of freedom and restraint. 

Normally the frontiersman was unreligious. Birkbeck 
noted with relish the absence of ceremony at baptism or funeral 
and the tolerance of all backwoods preachers alike, whether 
they raved or reasoned. Sunday was a day for riot and dis- 
order. Other observers looked with horror on such a state of 
things, did their best to set up at least stated regular worship, 
and noted an improvement in morals as a result. 31 Yet for 
years the riot and license of a Shawneetown Sabbath was a 
shocking thing to a prim New England bride. Further, if one 
may believe the early preachers of both Baptists and Metho- 
dists, deistic and atheistic belief flourished on the frontier 
among even the better classes. Evidence is not lacking to cor- 
roborate the frequency of this attitude of mind, which 
accentuated the sharp line drawn among men between the re- 
ligious and the irreligious, the good and the wicked. The 
latter term connoted those who did not fall in with the beliefs 
and practices of the denominationally pious. The idea of the 
sheep and goats divided by observances and beliefs, possibly 

30 Ediuardsville Spectator, February 19, 1820; Illinois Intelligencer, March 
24, 1824; Babcock, Memoir of John Mason Peck, 225-228. 

31 Birkbeck, Letters from Illinois, 24-25 ; Flower, Letters from Illinois, 124- 


also by such habits as profane swearing and drinking, persists 
in the pioneer narratives. "A man of good character," wrote 
Fordham, "is an acquisition; not that there is a small propor- 
tion of such men, but because the bad are as undisguisedly bad, 
as their opposites are professedly good. This is not the land 
of Hypocrisy. It would not here have its reward. Religion 
is not the road to wordly respectability, nor a possession of it 
the cloak of immorality." 32 

Into this western wilderness containing many who had 
grown accustomed to the lack of religious food, many who 
openly professed diabolism, and many who yearned for re- 
ligious observances, the organizations of the Protestant 
denominations threw themselves. 

At every point the Methodist order was best equipped for 
waging a systematic and thorough campaign against the in- 
different and hostile. Its organization was ideal for such a 
purpose. In effect, under the executive leadership of the 
bishops of the church, elected by delegates from local confer- 
ences to the general conference, but holding for life, it was a 
self-perpetuating aristocracy of the traveling elders organized 
in their various conferences; while in its quarterly meetings, 
love feasts, class meetings, and the like, it gave opportunity for 
lesser officers, local preachers, and class leaders, and even the 
rank and file to bear their share in their local government under 
the guidance of the traveling eldership. For a man to be 
"settled" was to lose his place in the government; he could 
hold his position in this aristocracy with its ridiculously meager 
stipend only by continuing itinerant until under burdens that 
equalled St. Paul's his strength gave out. 

The whole organization was an elastic one, capable of 
adaptation to the changing march of the frontier and yet always 
ready to respond to the touch of the executive officers. The 
best men, transferred from circuit to circuit year by year, could 
be thrown at one community after another until vast numbers 
of people at some time had come under the influence of their 

32 Fordham, Personal Narrative, 128. 


preaching. The faith and theology of the Methodist rejected 
the stern predestinarian doctrine of Calvin and proclaimed a 
divine grace freely offered. They looked toward the sudden 
working of the grace of God in the hearts of great audiences 
gathered to hear impassioned preaching. The great Methodist 
preachers of the backwoods were men with a tremendous gift 
of eloquence which could sway congregations back and forth 
like fields of waving grain while sinners by the hundreds " fell 
slain," as the preachers said, and were led to the mourners' 
bench to be exhorted and prayed with till the divine ecstasy took 
the form of rapture and peace. This power the ministers com- 
monly used and struggled for, and they were depressed when 
they could not exercise it. Its importance in the development 
of the church was tremendous. Once the preaching of Peter 
Cartwright or James Axley had wrought this experience in a 
man the local organization of exhorters, preachers, and class 
leaders was at hand to lead and instruct him. 

The men who were the most successful in the struggle for 
the conquest of the frontier to Christ were a distinct type, un- 
learned, well-nigh unschooled, only a stage or two above 
illiteracy. They had a strong contempt for college-bred 
ministers as unfit to follow in their footsteps, unable with their 
written sermons to get the effects that the native eloquence of 
the pioneer attained. Men who had spent four years in rubbing 
their backs against the walls of a college 33 were not the men to 
ride wretched roads week in and week out, swim their horses 
over creeks, and by address, by stratagem, or by force of su- 
perior muscle defeat the efforts of the rowdies to break up 
camp meetings. The pioneer preached a Christianity emotional 
rather than intellectual. His exegesis was often astonishing. 
In the sermon attributed to Axley preached from the text 
"Alexander the Coppersmith did me much evil," Alexander 
figures as a reformed still-maker who turned class leader, but 
who under the influence of a heavy peach crop, backslid, and 
made stills for the brethren to the destruction of sobriety in 

33 Sturtevant, Autobiography, 162. 


the neighborhood Yet the pioneer preachers worked a revo- 
lution in the moral life of the communities they served. 
Methodists for many years were known by a plainness of dress. 
Wherever they were, Axley and Cartwright on all occasions 
struck straight from the shoulder at the vice of liquor drinking 
and the sin of slaveholding. 

The Baptist polity, on the other hand, represented the 
natural centrifugal tendency of the frontier. The wilderness 
congregations united by loose associational ties tended to split 
or to divide. The application of the faulty logic of untrained 
minds to the interpretation of the doubtful things of scripture 
was continually resulting in the production of strange and weird 
doctrines; and since there was lacking the organization by 
which the Methodist church secured uniformity, the Baptists 
were in their remote congregations likely to become far sepa- 
rated from each other in matters of belief and practice. 

Among the various denominations in Illinois Baptist, 
Methodist, and Presbyterian differences of opinion arose in 
general upon the various doctrines of predestination and of 
baptism. These, however, were only the starting points for 
subdivision. Thus the Cumberland Presbyterians in their prac- 
tice came somewhat near to Methodism, while they were 
scarcely Calvinistic in their beliefs. The Campbellites, on the 
other hand, were non-Calvinistic Baptists. 

When Illinois became a state, Methodism had long been 
established in it. At that time the district of Illinois was united 
with the Missouri conference, and there were a presiding elder 
and seven circuit preachers. The church had a membership of 
1,435 whites and 17 blacks. In 1824 a separate Illinois con- 
ference including a part of Indiana was formed. Illinois itself 
had a presiding elder and nine circuits with eleven preachers. 
At that time the membership had increased to 3,705 whites and 

27 colored. Jesse Walker, the indefatigable preacher who had 
first worked in Illinois in 1806, was assigned as missionary in 
the settlements between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and 
Fort Clark. There he formed the first class at Peoria. In 


1825 he was assigned as missionary to the Potawatomi located 
on the Fox river above the Illinois. The expense of the enter- 
prise was $1,000 a year. In 1829, however, when their lands 
were sold, the mission among the Potawatomi was abandoned, 
and missions at Galena and Fox River were opened. 34 

The only other denomination of comparable strength in 
the state was the Baptist. In 1825 the Baptists were estimated 
to have fifty-eight preachers and exhorters, and the Emanci- 
pating Brethren and the Christian Body had thirteen each. 35 
In the midst of the individualism characteristic of the denomina- 
tion there stands out the figure of one man, John Mason Peck. 
Peck was born in 1789 in the Congregational atmosphere of 
Connecticut. The birth of his first child in 1 8 10 first discovered 
to Peck his disbelief in efficacy of pedobaptism. Becoming at 
length a Baptist by conviction, he began to preach a little and 
in 1813 was ordained. In 1816, to prepare himself for a mis- 
sionary career, he studied in Philadelphia, gaining some 
knowledge of Hebrew and a greater mastery of Latin and 
Greek, as well as some acquaintance with medicine. In 1817 
he was dispatched by the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions 
as missionary to the west, where he settled himself for the time 
at St. Louis. His duties soon carried him to the Illinois side of 
the river. In 1820 the board abandoned the St. Louis mission. 
In 1822 the Massachusetts Missionary Society appointed Peck 
a missionary; and in April of that year he removed to Illinois, 
still keeping an eye to the maintenance of his hard-won foothold 
in St. Louis. 

Peck's activity was tireless. From the time of his coming 
to the west he rode circuit as assiduously as a traveling Metho- 
dist elder, braving the dangers and hardships of the wilderness. 
With indefatigable Yankee energy he was ever founding, 
establishing, and sustaining Sunday schools, Bible societies, 
missionary societies, and their auxiliaries, laboring for better 
schools, striving with the perversions and oddities of doctrine 

3 * Lcaton, Methodism in Illinois, 48, 151-152, 213. 
35 Edtuardsville Spectator, October 22, 1825. 


ithat had grown up in the wilderness. He was not successful in 
avoiding the excitement of enmity among the Baptists, partly 
as the result of the jealousy of local illiterate preachers who 
feared that the better educated missionary preacher might 
lessen their prestige among the people, partly from a distrust 
that the mission system was an approximation to Methodism 
and that the organization of general societies was an encroach- 
ment on the autonomy of the individual church governments. 
Peck soon had a growing opposition to contend with in Illinois. 
His opponents in clumsy satires made light of educated minis- 
ters. They opposed all concerted denominational methods, 
such as the establishment of Bible societies, missionary societies, 
and Sunday schools. This opposition they justified partly, one 
would judge, on predestinarian grounds, considering that such 
aids to salvation were flying in the face of divine election. A 
further development of this opposition was the "two seed" 
doctrine of Daniel Parker, at one time Illinois senator, which 
predicated the fact that the seed of the woman and the seed of 
the serpent were fixed to all eternity, declining any attempts of 
the missionary methods to change the one to the other. 36 

Sometimes the opposition took unusual or interesting forms. 
In Sangamon county in 1823 an association debarred from 
membership any Baptist holding membership in a missionary 
society. In the legislature in 1828 Cartwright and James 
Lemen sponsored a bill for the prevention of vice and im- 
morality, and a member proceeded to amend the clause 
prohibiting the disturbing of congregations in this fashion: 
" that if any person on the Sabbath or first .day of the week, 
should attempt to disturb the peace or good order of any con- 
gregation or body of people gathered together for the purpose 
of worshiping Almighty God, by offering to sell pamphlets or 
books of any description whatever; or by begging money, or 

36 Babcock, Memoir of John Mason Peck, 12-14, 30, 106-110, 172. See Illi- 
nois Intelligencer, December 7, 1822, for a letter by Parker, declaring a Baptist 
paper was full of philosophy and enticing words of men's wisdom. Training 
preachers he pronounced a mark of the beast. His declaration that not one. as- 
sociation in five in the west corresponded with the Board of Missions is inter- 


any other thing for the support of Missionary Societies, Bible 
Societies, or Sunday Schools, shall be fined any sum not more 
than $15, nor less than $5." 37 Strangely enough twelve votes 
were mustered in the house of representatives for this amend- 
ment. Occasionally a charge of attempts to unite church and 
state was used against some particular candidate. It was 
undoubtedly true that appeals were occasionally made to re- 
ligious people to vote against " an enemy to religion." John 
Russell was several times attacked on charges that he wished to 
set up Presbyterianism as the state religion and the same 
charge was frequently brought against S. H. Thompson with 
reference to his Methodist connections. The supporters of a 
convention in 1824 attempted to argue that the Methodists 
were trying to run the state. 38 

Other denominations in Illinois were of minor importance. 
In 1825 it was said that there were fourteen Cumberland 
Presbyterian ministers and two Presbyterian, with one each for 
the Covenanters, Dunkards, and Independents. In Bond 
county in 1824 it was said that the Methodists, Presbyterians, 
and Cumberland Presbyterians would frequently unite in 
services. 39 There was enough Universalism to cause much an- 
noyance to the orthodox ministers. Catholic activity, at first 
confined to a few French parishes and missions in the southern 
part of the state, was, in the late twenties and early thirties, 
beginning to follow the thickening population into central and 
northern Illinois. 

As a corollary to the efforts of distinctly denominational 
religion on the frontier must be noted the activities resulting in 
the spread of Sunday schools and Bible societies. It is said 
that the first Sunday school in Illinois was established at Alton 
in May of 1819. In 1821 a female society at Edwardsville 
had been in operation over a year. In 1822 the ladies and gen- 
tlemen of Vandalia were asked to meet to form a Sunday 
school. In 1824 societies to promote the formation of Sunday 

37 H ouse Journal, 1828-1829, i session, 78. 

38 Illinois Intelligencer, July 27, 1822, December 9, 1825. 

39 Ibid., November 12, 1824. 


schools were established in Greene, Madison, Sangamon, Mor- 
gan, and St. Clair counties, as well as in a few others. The total 
number of schools was thirty-five with 1,047 scholars, who had 
recited according to report, 82,441 verses, the Bible verses 
memorized being the important quantitative unit of measure. 
The purpose of the schools was to furnish a little education in 
communities that could not sustain ordinary schools, to teach 
reading, instill moral habits, induce a due observance of the 
Sabbath, but chiefly to commit scripture to memory. In 1826 a 
general Sunday School Union for Illinois and Missouri was 
formed, which in its second annual report, claimed 77 schools, 
340 teachers and superintendents, and 2,546 scholars in Illinois. 
It planned to establish depositories of books at Kaskaskia, 
Shawneetown, Vandalia, and Springfield. Its appeal was to 
all denominations. Apparently both the county and the state 
societies were founded under Peck's leadership in the hope of 
checking the anti-mission movement. In December of 1823, 
perhaps under his guidance also, Bible societies were formed in 
Greene and Madison counties; in 1824 one was also formed in 
Bond county. In 1825 there were said to be twenty-two auxil- 
iaries and branch Bible societies in the state. 40 These societies 
appear to have encountered opposition from the same source 
as that to missions, even in such an important task as the distri- 
bution of Bibles. In 1826 it was estimated that in Madison 
county there were 720 families in which were 3,237 persons 
able to read and 27 families in which no one could read. There 
were 79 families in which some person could read and which 
had no Bibles. In 1828 a state Bible society, on the call of the 
Bond county society, was formed at Shoal Creek. 

With a purpose closely akin to these the American Tract 
Society depository was founded in Greenville in 1824 and 1825 
with William M. Stewart as agent; Bond county, it may be 
noted, seemed to take a prominent part in many enterprises of 
the sort. In November of 1824 a temperance society was 

40 Edwardsville Spectator, October 22, 1825; Babcock, Memoir of John 
Mason Peck, 185, 192; Illinois Intelligencer, August 28, 1821. 


formed there which a year later served as the nucleus of a state 
society; the members pledged themselves to abstain from offer- 
ing liquor at house raisings, a habit apparently already frowned 
upon in the county. They attacked the use of liquor upon the 
ground, familiar enough nowadays, that it was the fruitful 
source of idleness, profanity, and crime, depicting drunkenness 
as a vice that produced tenfold more misery than stealing or 
dueling, caused 10,000 deaths a year in the United States, and 
wasted $12,000,000 directly for spirits and $60,000,000 in- 
directly through its use. The society, however, did not insist 
upon prohibition but rather upon the barring from public office 
all those addicted to strong drink. 41 

Crude and artificial as often were the forces promoting a 
higher culture on the frontier, one feels as he takes his leave of 
the period no reason to regret their work. The virtues of man 
living in the state of nature are alluring, but an analysis of the 
social life of the frontier discloses nothing of good that 
necessarily must be lost in a change to a higher civilization and 
much that might well be replaced by something better. The 
neighborliness that found expression in the barn raising does 
not seem so great when compared with the every day acts of 
kindness that flourish in a rural community today, when the 
comparative value of time and labor in the one and the other 
case is considered. Side by side with the honesty and open- 
hearted hospitality existed the villainy of the scoundrel who had 
fled to the backwoods to evade the law. The summary punish- 
ment inflicted on the outlaw by the backwoodsman was well 
replaced by the due forms of law. The squalid surroundings 
of the backwoods cabin happily disappeared before the trim 
farmhouse. And even the emotionalism or dogmatism of the 
early preacher compared favorably with the intellectual dark- 
ness of the years before Peck and Cartwright, or the intellectual 
self-complacency of the shallow freethinker. A young Eng- 
lishman at first fired with enthusiasm for the free life of the 
frontier finally came to see in the freedom little but lawless- 

41 Illinois Intelligencer, November 13, 1824, April 21, 1827. 


ness. On the page after that on which he records the killing 
of six Indians, men and women, on English Prairie in the spring 
of 1817, he wrote "Instead of being more virtuous, as he is 
less refined, I am inclined to think that man's virtues are like 
the fruits of the earth, only excellent when subjected to culture. 
The force of this simile you will never feel, until you ride in 
these woods over wild strawberries, which die your horse's 
fetlocks like blood yet are insipid in flavour; till you have seen 
waggon loads of grapes, choked by the bramble and the 
poisonous vine; till you find peaches, tasteless as a turnip, and 
roses throwing their leaves of every shade upon the winds, 
with scarcely a scent upon them. Tis the hand of man that 
makes the wilderness shine. His footsteps must be found in 
the scene that is supremely & lastingly beautiful." 42 

* 2 Fordham, Personal Narrative, 225. 


THE constitution of 1818 and the laws under which the 
people of the state lived for the first ten years of its 
existence afford an interesting elaboration and commentary on 
certain phases of the general life of the people already de- 
scribed. Such material, of course, has to be used cautiously; 
the passage of a law by no means implies that the condition 
toward which it is apparently directed prevailed to any con- 
siderable extent. Without some such study, however, the 
picture of early Illinois would be incomplete. Reserving the 
financial legislation to a later chapter, the important elements 
in Illinois' early legal history will be next considered. 

The government of Illinois in its constitution and in its 
tendency for the first fifteen or twenty years after 1818 was a 
government by the legislature. The observer is impressed not 
only by the extent of the power exercised by the general 
assembly in comparison with that exercised by the judiciary and 
the executive, but by its assumption of the choice of local officers 
which are now by almost universal practice chosen by individual 

The legislature by the terms of the constitution was to meet 
biennially; there were to be between one-third and one-half as 
many senators as representatives. In practice the first and 
second general assemblies consisted of fourteen senators and 
twenty-nine representatives; there was a slight increase there- 
after until 1 83 1. 1 The representatives were elected annually 
for each assembly and the senators for terms of four years, 
half of the senate retiring every two years. In addition to its 

1 Up to that time the senate regularly had eighteen members excepting the 
fourth with nineteen. The house was composed of thirty-six increasing to 
thirty-seven in the third and forty in the fourth. 



powers of legislation the assembly enjoyed the usual powers 
in impeachment, counted the votes in gubernatorial elections, 
elected members of the supreme court, appointed the auditor, 
attorney-general, state treasurer, state printer, and other 
necessary state officers. By a two-thirds vote it could submit 
to the voters the question of calling a convention to amend the 
constitution. The senate could pass on the governor's nominee 
for secretary of state and had a similar voice in the selection of 
other officers created by the constitution without a specific pro- 
vision for their election. 

On the legislative department the constitution grafted a 
very curious body, almost indeed a third house the council 
of revision. The origin of this institution was generally traced 
to a similar one in New York, and when it became unpopular 
Elias Kent Kane was usually charged by his enemies with re- 
sponsibility for it. The council was composed of the governor 
and the justices of the supreme court; its duty was to examine 
all laws passed by the house and senate and to return such as it 
disapproved, which last could be passed over its veto by a 
majority of the members in each house. In practice the insti- 
tution prevented some useless legislation by calling to the atten- 
tion of the legislature technical defects in laws passed; but the 
council's vetoes of laws on grounds of public policy or of 
unconstitutionality were apt to be futile or merely irritating, 
because legislators in early Illinois were rarely absent during 
the session and the majority of members elected in each house 
required to pass a bill over the veto of the council was usually 
only one or two greater than the vote by which it originally 
passed. Furthermore, the supreme court in deciding cases in- 
volving the constitutionality of state laws was continually 
embarrassed by the fact that the justices in the council of re- 
vision had already passed on them. This function of the 
justices undoubtedly heightened the political character, already 
too apparent, of the early Illinois judiciary. 

The powers of the executive of the state were defined by the 
constitution within narrow limits. The governor could pardon 


and reprieve and could nominate to the senate for appointment 
all officers whose choice was not otherwise prescribed by the 
constitution or whose functions were not exclusively local. He 
was commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the state and 
of the militia. In case of his impeachment, resignation, or 
absence from the state he was to be succeeded by the lieutenant 
governor, who normally presided over the senate. The veto 
power, however, which has come to be an important function 
of the governorship, he could exercise only by his single vote 
in the council of revision. 

The judiciary was only sketched in by the constitution. In- 
ferior courts could be established and their judges appointed 
by the legislature and removed by it on the formal application 
of two-thirds of each house. The supreme court till 1824 was 
to consist of four justices chosen by joint ballot of the assembly, 
and charged with both circuit and supreme court duties. At the 
end of that period the legislature might remodel the supreme 
and circuit courts and elect judges who were to hold office during 
good behavior. As might have been foreseen this gave a 
political cast to the first supreme bench; and it is not surprising 
that in 1822 two justices should have been openly candidates 
for governor and a third a potential candidate for either the 
governorship or the senate. 

The court as first constituted consisted of Joseph Phillips, 
Thomas C. Browne, William P. Foster, and John Reynolds. 
Of these men Foster never acted and was succeeded by William 
Wilson ; Phillips resigned in 1822 and was replaced by Thomas 
Reynolds. In 1825 the legislature reconstituted the court with 
a chief justice, three associate justices, and five circuit judges. 
The justices elected under this law, however Samuel D. 
Lockwood, Theophilus W. Smith, Thomas C. Browne, and 
William Wilson by an act of 1827, were compelled to return 
to circuit duties; and the circuit judges were legislated out of 
office. 2 

2 In this and in following chapters when the date of a law is given in the 
text, no further reference is made. 


The displaced circuit judges drew up a communication to 
the senate protesting against the act as calculated to displace 
the balance of the three divisions of government and leave the 
tenure of the judiciary at the whim of the legislature. This 
was the main argument advanced by their supporters; while 
those who favored the abolition of their offices urged economy 
and the advantage of keeping the supreme justices fresh in the 
law by service in the circuits, instead of leaving them to be in 
session twenty-eight days in a year and a half to decide sixty- 
three cases. They discounted the argument that the benefit of 
appeal would be destroyed by referring to the supposedly 
similar experience of Great Britain, the United States and New 
York state. On one ground or another probably the majority 
of the people were in favor of the repeal. 3 

Local government in Illinois for its first decade was as rudi- 
mentary as the state government. The constitution had little 
to say on the subject. It provided that three county commis- 
sioners be elected in each county to transact all county business 
but left their duties and term of service to be regulated by law. 
The first general assembly expanded the constitutional pro- 
vision regarding county commissioners by defining their duties 
as follows : " That said court in each county, shall have juris- 
diction in all matters and things concerning the county revenue, 
and regulating and imposing the county tax, and shall have 
power to grant license for ferries and for taverns, and all other 
licenses and things that may bring in a county revenue; and 
shall have jurisdiction in all cases of public roads, canals, turn- 
pike roads, and toll bridges, where the law does not prohibit 
the said jurisdiction of said courts ; and shall have power and 
jurisdiction to issue all kinds of writs, warrants, process, and 
proceedings, by the clerk throughout the state, to the necessary 
execution of the power and jurisdiction with which this court 
is or may be vested by law." The court, it was expressly 
stated, had no legal jurisdiction in the ordinary sense, "but 

3 Illinois Intelligencer, January 6, 27, 18*7; Ed<wards<ville Spectator, Feb- 
ruary 25, September 29, 1826; Illinois Gazette, October 14, December 2, 16, 1826. 


said court shall have jurisdiction in all cases where the matter 
or thing brought before the said court, relates to the public 
concerns of the county, collectively, and all county business." 
The function of the court was clearly designed to be adminis- 
trative. 4 This act, however, did not specify the term of office 
of the members and indeed none did until 1829. 

Of other county offices the sheriffs and coroners were by 
constitutional provision to be elected biennially. Notaries 
public, public administrators, and recorders were appointed by 
the governor and senate, surveyors by nomination of the house 
of representatives to the senate. The first general assembly 
assigned probate functions to the county commissioners; the 
third to a probate judge who was to hold office till the end of 
the next general assembly. In 1825 the assembly installed new 
probate judges elected by the legislature on joint ballot. The 
county commissioners and the circuit judge both appointed 
their own clerks. In most cases the returns from fees were 
small and the county offices themselves were held as minor 
prizes and rewards in the political game. Very often, especially 
in the case of a new county, several of these offices were held 
by the same man. " The offices in a new county " was a not un- 
common political proffer or request. In such cases through 
long tenure county clerkships sometimes became almost private 
political freeholds especially in view of the fact that the law 
recognized little or no responsibility on the part of the county 
to provide clerks with offices or equipment. It will be seen 
that the legislature allowed to the people of the counties a voice 
in the selection of few of their officers. 5 

As defined by the constitution and the earlier statutes there 
was nothing unusual in the duties of the Illinois justices of the 
peace. By the act of 1 8 19 they were to be elected by the senate 
on the nomination of the house of representatives; constables 
were to be appointed annually by the county commissioners' 

4 Laws of 1819, p. 175. 

5 Laws of 1819, p. 18, 31; Laws of 1821, p. 62; Laws of 1823, p. 87,132; Laws 
of 1825, p. 70; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 397-398; Reynolds to Grant, 1830, 
in Eddy manuscripts. 


courts. In 1827, however, the law was changed to provide for 
their election by districts. The jurisdiction of the justice as 
first defined extended to civil matters not exceeding one hundred 
dollars, with appeal in all cases in which over four dollars was 
at stake. The act of 1819 gave him general powers in criminal 
cases to commit for all offenses and to free on recognizance in 
minor cases. He was also given a rather vague jurisdiction in 
criminal matters, which later acts rendered more specific. He 
could commit vagrants and could discharge apprentices from 
their masters, subject to appeal, or could correct them for mis- 
behavior. 6 

One minor function of local government may here be dis- 
cussed. Poor relief was provided for by a statute of 1819 
which called for the annual appointment of overseers of the 
poor in each township by the county commissioners. They 
were directed to farm out the poor and to apprentice poor chil- 
dren, and they might in behalf of the poor administer bequests 
not aggregating in yearly value $1,200. There were added 
elaborate provisions as to how a person might obtain a settle- 
ment in the district and penalties for being without one, which 
sound strangely on the frontier. Indeed the whole matter was 
one of form only and Governor Coles, in answering a query 
from New York regarding the Illinois poor system, was happy 
to be able to remark that in no county had the poor been suffi- 
cient in numbers to exercise the statutes. 7 

The constitution had left the appointment or election of 
many officers now chosen by popular vote in the hands of the 
governor and the general assembly. For the limited number 
left to the popular choice any male white inhabitant above the 
age of twenty-one residing in the state six months was entitled 
to vote. For members of the general assembly the constitution 
prescribed the payment of a state or county tax and United 
States citizenship and for the governor United States citizen- 
ship for thirty years. The specific laws relating to elections 

6 Laws of 1819, p. 5, 88, 162, 186-195. 

1 Ibid., p. 127-139; Laivs of 1827, p. 309-310; Greene and Alvord, 
Governors' Letter-Books, 1818-1834, p. 51. 


were altered rapidly by the various general assemblies. The 
successive laws provided for the division of the counties into 
election districts with judges chosen by the county commis- 
sioners' court. In 1819 and 1823, provision was made for vote 
by ballot, in 1821 and 1829, by viva voce. All the acts after 
1823 allowed the voter to cast his vote at any polling place in 
the district in which an office for which he had the franchise 
was to be filled. 

The question between viva voce and ballot voting gave rise 
to some interesting political discussion. In 1819 there seemed 
to be a tendency to defend viva voce voting as a necessary 
complement to the hustings, where the candidate appeared, to 
be interrogated or pledged by the voter if he wished. Vote by 
ballot, on the other hand, was held to imply some form of 
previous nomination; and a nomination by clique or meeting 
enabled a man to stand aloof and unpledged and be elected by 
his friends. 8 Whatever force this theory may have possessed 
disappeared with the multiplication of polling places. One 
has more sympathy with the attacks made in 1821 on viva voce 
voting as a relic of British tyranny which admitted of overawing 
voters. The general assembly was attacked for ordaining 
viva voce vote in popular elections and for conducting its own 
by ballot; and as a result of this criticism the assembly in 1829 
provided by law that its own elections should be viva voce. 9 

At first the quinquennial state census was apparently designed 
as an aid to apportionment. The laws of 1819 prescribed only 
returns of heads of families, free white males of twenty-one 
years, other free whites, free people of color and slaves. The 
laws of 1829, however, contained additional provisions for 
returning the number of persons of both sexes and colors in 
ten-year age periods, the number of males eighteen to forty-five 
subject to militia duty, and the number of factories, machines, 
distilleries, etc. 

In the legislation of Illinois during the period of its first 

8 Illinois Intelligencer, March 17, June 9, 1819. 

8 Ibid., January 16, July 31, 1821; Senate Journal, 1821, i session, 68. 


constitution the militia occupies a much more prominent place 
than a legislature of this day would assign it. Indications are 
not wanting that its importance was much less than the bulk 
of legislation would imply. The constitution defined the militia 
as all free white males from eighteen to forty-five except those 
exempted; it provided for the exemption of conscientious ob- 
jectors, it prescribed the election of company and regimental 
officers by the whole of their respective commands, and election 
of general officers by the officers of the commands in question. 
The legislature provided for conscientious objectors by allow- 
ing them to obtain release from drill, not from active service, 
by payments for flags and martial musical instruments or for 
the poor of the county, or by additional road service. 

The militia was organized on a territorial basis ; its unit was 
the company whose captain was to enroll in a specific district all 
those liable for duty; the regiment represented a county, and 
the brigades and divisions, groups of counties. The men were 
brought together in company, battalion, or regiment for drill 
several days in each year. The officers formed regimental 
courts-martial which assessed petty fines for nonattendance at 
musters or for improper equipment. 10 

In spite of elaborate militia statutes, notices in newspapers 
of militia elections, and even store advertisements of martial 
trappings, one doubts if the militia service was a very important 
one in men's minds, or even if the musters gained in the social 
life of communities such a place as that held by the circuit court 
days. Coles in reporting to the war department in 1826 ex- 
pressed the belief that a volunteer corps would be far more 
valuable. He thought that the musters were productive of 
little military knowledge and that their effect on society was bad. 
He believed one muster a year for companies and regiments 
would be enough, though he thought the officers would need 
additional training in "the duties of the field and camp." 
" The Militia," he said, " as now organized is a mere school of 

10 Laws of 1819, p. 13-14, 270-296; Laws of 1821, p. 13, 106-112; Laws 
of 1823, p. 40; Laws of 1827, p. 296; Laws of 1829, p. 107-108. 


titles where honors are conferred more from a momentary 
impulse of personal kindness than from a sense of the qualifi- 
cations of the individuals." 11 This criticism was amply justified 
in the course of time, for when in 1861 the call came for six 
regiments of militia, there were " no available, efficient, armed 
and organized militia companies in the State, and it is doubted 
whether there were thirty companies with any regular organ- 
ization." 12 

The problem of transportation in pioneer Illinois was a most 
important one. By general acts, by special licenses to individuals 
and corporations, by state aid, successive legislatures labored at 
the problem, and none too successfully. The general acts left 
the handling of this problem in its primary sense of good local 
roads under the charge of the county commissioners' courts. 
In local districts in their counties these courts were required 
annually to appoint supervisors of highways who were empow- 
ered to call on the people of their districts for specific amounts 
of labor or for money commutation in lieu of them which might 
be expended for hiring extra labor and teams and buying 
scrapers or materials. These acts generally laid the burden of 
labor on the highways on all males of from eighteen to fifty 
years, but the act of 1825 allowed in addition a levy of one-half 
per cent on all taxable property to be collected in labor or 
money. The provision was repealed in 1827. In this provi- 
sion lay a direct issue as to whether good roads were to be con- 
sidered so universal a benefit that the poll tax principle was 
properly applicable, or whether the benefit to property was 
sufficiently great to warrant its taxation. The debate assumed 
a class character; and while in Illinois legislation the poll tax 
principle prevailed, it may be questioned if it was a triumph of 
justice. 13 

In dealing with tne problem of long distance transportation 
the legislature was inclined to rely on private enterprise. In 

11 Greene and Alvord, Governors' Letter-Books, 1818-1834, p. no. 

12 Reports General Assembly, 1863, 1:467. 

13 Laws of 1825, p. 130, 135; Laws of 1827, p. 340, 346; Ediuardsville Spec- 
tator, May 9, 1820, January 15, 1826. 


1819 it allowed county commissioners' courts to authorize the 
establishment of ferries and to fix rates for fares, which rates 
the owners apparently sometimes tried to alter at pleasure. It 
further authorized by similar means the construction of toll 
bridges and turnpikes. In addition the legislature was free 
with special acts allowing individuals to erect toll bridges or 
build turnpike roads, sometimes with a provision allowing 
county purchase after a term of years. Sometimes a lottery was 
authorized for some such purpose as improving the Grand 
Rapids of the Wabash or draining the American Bottom. In 
1825 the county commissioners of Sangamon county were 
allowed to receive subscriptions and to levy a tax for the im- 
provement of the Sangamon river. 

Sometimes the state legislature made grants in aid. Thus 
in 1823 it provided for the laying out of a series of roads radi- 
ating from Vandalia and appropriated $8,000 to build them in 
Fayette county. Frequently it passed acts appointing com- 
missioners to lay out specified roads. "Vast sums from the 
public Treasury," protested the council of revision in 1827, 
"have been thrown away on commissioners to view and mark 
out roads, which have never been and never will be opened." 14 

In 1827 and 1829 the legislature set about appropriating the 
proceeds from the sale of the surplus saline land which had 
been authorized by congress. The act of 1827 provided for its 
use in improving Saline creek, for a local road, and for a canal 
on the Little Wabash, allotting the proceeds from the Vermilion 
saline to the improvement of the Great Wabash. In 1829 it 
distributed all the proceeds above $10,000 to various counties 
for miscellaneous public works. This was apparently the 
triumph of a scheme of legislative logrolling in which amend- 
ments and additions without number were proposed for the 
benefit of various localities and vain appeals made for economy 
or for reimbursing the school fund instead. Two broad pro- 
jects of internal improvement by federal activity or federal 
aid the Cumberland road and the Illinois and Michigan 

14 Senate Journal, 1826-1827, i session, 126. 


canal though projected in this period, were not undertaken 
till later and may most appropriately be considered elsewhere. 

From the first session of the general assembly the question 
of the establishment of an adequate code of statute law came 
up repeatedly. The first legislature was criticized sharply 
for repealing the territorial code and for the alleged discrep- 
ancies and omissions in the laws with which they sought to 
replace it. In the session of 1823 a joint committee of the 
general assembly decided against revision of the laws until a 
permanent judiciary could be established, possibly intending 
to postpone consideration till the question of a revised consti- 
tution was settled also. That question settled, the legislature 
of 1825 required the justices of the supreme court to digest the 
statutes and report discrepancies to the general assembly for 
adjustment. They were also directed to consider the expedi- 
ency of printing with the statutes the English statutes in force 
in the state, a reminiscence of the act of the first general assem- 
bly which had made the rule of decision, subject to legislative 
alteration, the common law of England and all statutes with 
certain exceptions made in aid of it before i6o6. 15 

In reporting to the general assembly of 1827 the justices 
excused themselves for not undertaking the prescribed research 
in early English laws on the plea that many of the statutes were 
barbarous, long since obsolete and at variance with free insti- 
tutions, as well as by the fact that there was no set of the Acts 
of Parliament in the state. They had further decided it would 
be inexpedient to prepare a digest since a permanent statutory 
code was designed. Meanwhile they wished to examine the 
new Louisiana code and, if they might take the time necessary, 
the new New York code. Their uncertainty as to the sense of 
the legislature on the revenue and execution laws, they con- 
cluded, prevented them from having the work completed. The 
legislature appointed a joint committee of fourteen which set 
to work on the judges' recommendation. Their work, though 

18 Illinois Intelligencer, May 25, 1819; Edwardsville Spectator, December 
27, 1819; Senate Journal, 1822-1823, i session, 77; Laivs of tStQ, p. 3. 


partly enacted into law in the form of statutes, was not finished 
until the session of 1829. 

The early criminal codes of Illinois were influenced in their 
tenor by the impossibility of providing for punishment by im- 
prisonment. In spite of repeated statutes requiring county 
commissioners to provide strong jails, there were probably even 
as late as 1829 many counties without them. A state peniten- 
tiary did not exist, and the expense of keeping malefactors to 
serve out prison terms was a burden which counties were unwill- 
ing to assume. Accordingly, when fines could not be collected, 
the most feasible method of punishment for the more serious 
offenses appeared to be whipping. In spite of such traces of 
savagery as the fact that an act providing for punishment by 
extreme mutilation was lost in the Illinois house in 1823 by a 
vote of but fourteen to eighteen, it is probable that tender- 
hearted juries often neglected to apply the punishment of whip- 
ping. None the less, the early codes have on their face savage 
penalties in which the whipping post and even the brand play a 
part. 16 

By the criminal act of 1819 only four offenses were pun- 
ishable by death. From this list the code of 1827 subtracted 
assault and arson, unless a life were lost in the fire, while adding 
two corollary offenses. As to punishments by whipping, the 
code of 1827, while applying it to nine offenses including crimes 
of violence, forgery, counterfeiting, and altering marks and 
brands, cut down the number of lashes; in certain cases the 
code of 1819 prescribed five hundred lashes, but the later code 
in no case exceeded a hundred. The large number of addi- 
tional offenses created by the act of 1827 were punished by fine 
or by civil disability. 

Some of the offenses specified in the early act are interesting 
commentaries on the economic conditions of the day. In the 
act of 1819 were penalties for hog stealing, altering marks 
punished by a fine of fifty to one hundred dollars and from 
twenty-five to thirty-nine lashes and for defacing brands 

19 House Journal, 1826, 2 session, 58; ibid., 1828-1829, i session, 7. 


punished by a fine of five dollars plus the value of the animal 
and forty lashes if a first offense and by branding for a second. 
Persons killing cattle or hogs in a wood were required to show 
the head, ears, and hide to the next magistrate under penalty 
of ten dollars. Every person owning livestock was required 
to record his brand or earmark with the county commissioners' 
clerk, and a person buying neat cattle must within eight months 
brand them with his own brand before two credible witnesses. 
Any man bringing earless hogs to a house was to be judged a 
hog stealer. The act is strangely reminiscent of the custom of 
the Anglo-Saxon frontier a thousand years earlier. 

Certain interesting aspects of social life are touched in the 
various Illinois codes. In 1819 and 1827 acts were passed 
against dueling, the first of them limiting the death penalty to 
the principal, and the second making any participation in a 
fatal duel murder. Both acts punished anyone concerned in 
the formalities of a duel with civil disability. There was 
repeated legislation from 1819 against gambling. In 1825 the 
purchase or importation of packs of cards or other gambling 
devices was punished by a fine. In 1 827 a curious provision was 
enacted making payments of gambling debts recoverable at 
law at treble value by the loser or, if he did not act, by any 
other person. There was a severe penalty prescribed against 
tavern keepers who tolerated gambling or who kept open on 
Sunday. The term tavern was given a definition by an act of 
1823 which had forbidden county commissioners to grant 
"grocery" licenses unless the applicant gave security to pro- 
vide lodging for four persons besides his family. The code of 
1827 continued the penalty against tavern keepers who toler- 
ated gambling; further it provided a fine for tavern keepers 
who sold liquor without a license or sold it to a slave without 
his master's consent. There was a general penalty for keeping 
a tippling house open on Sunday or for keeping a gambling or 
disorderly house. 

Most curious of all, both for the spirit that prompted them 
and for the spirit which they were intended to combat, were 


the Sunday laws. The act of 1819 assessed a fine of two dol- 
lars on persons fighting, working, shooting, or hunting on 
Sunday. Further it assessed swearing of oaths at from fifty 
cents to two dollars. Persons swearing or behaving in a dis- 
orderly manner before a court or a congregation were fined 
from three to fifty dollars. No provisions on the subject appear 
in the code of 1 827, but in 1 829 an act provided that any person 
disturbing Sunday by work be fined not to exceed five dollars, 
and anyone disturbing a congregation be fined not to exceed 
fifty dollars. 

Acts of 1819, 1825, and 1827 provided for divorces to be 
granted by circuit courts. The act of 1825 allowed divorce 
from bed and board for cruelty or for habitual intoxication. 
Otherwise only impotence, adultery, and the existence of a 
previous spouse were recognized as valid reasons. In spite 
of these provisions, the legislature was repeatedly appealed to 
for special divorces and was usually in the throes of contest 
over the principle of granting them. A limited right of impris- 
onment for debt was granted by the act of 1823, but it applied 
only in case of an affidavit that the debtor was on the point of 
absconding and lasted only till security was given or an oath of 
insolvency taken. 

It is comparatively difficult to determine the character and 
the amount of crime that flourished in the Illinois of the first 
decade of statehood. In default of searching court records 
one is thrown back on the newspaper accounts, which of course 
are far from complete and indeed difficult to estimate. Crimes 
of violence exclusive of those resulting from mere affrays like 
that one at Vandalia when James Kelley, cashier of the state 
bank, was killed in the act of cowhiding his assassin, found 
their most fruitful source in the gangs of desperadoes, half 
counterfeiters and horse thieves, half robbers and murderers, 
such as the one which infested southeastern Illinois in the early 
years of statehood. These gangs, having their rendezvous at 
taverns where they trapped unwary travelers well supplied with 
money, often mustered sufficient strength to make open war 


on the posses sent out against them. Occasionally the inhabi- 
tants in desperation enforced a lynch law of their own, as for 
instance when in Hamilton county in 1823 two persons were 
acquitted of the death of a bad character whose house they had 
gone to search. 17 

Among lesser crimes counterfeiting and horse stealing throve 
exceedingly. The temptation to the former was irresistible 
when the large number of banks of issue and the comparative 
ignorance of the people is considered, and the plates once made 
the business could be conducted as well in the seclusion of the 
woods as in cities. Horse stealing was so prevalent in Madison 
county in the first years of statehood that Mrs. Ninian Edwards 
was compelled to lead the family horses through the house into 
the yard every night. 

From the beginning. Illinois had a savage black code. By 
jact of {he firsf legislature all Efagipoes and mulattoes settling in 
the state must produce a certificate of freedom to be recorded 
by the clerk of the circuit court. Any person bringing in Negroes 
to be emancipated must give bond of one thousand dollars for 
each. All resident blacks must enter their names and evidence 
of their"lfre"edbm with the circuit clerk, and no one was to hire 
them unless they produced the clerk's certificate to their free- 
dom. Harboring runaway slaves, like receiving stolen goods, 
was felony. Blacks without certificates were to be advertised 
in the papers and hired out for a year. If no owner appeared 
within that time the black was given a certificate of freedom. 
No Negro might be a witness, except against a Negro, a mulatto, 
or an Indian. The code of 1827 stated that justices of the 
peace had jurisdiction over free Negroes, indentured servants, 
or slaves in cases of larceny and with the verdict of a jury might 
condemn them to stripes. The act of 1819 had also left to 
justices power of inflicting similar punishment on insubordinate 
servants. The law of 1829 provided that no black or mulatto, 
not a citizen of one of the United States, was to enter the state 
unless he gave bond of a thousand dollars and exhibited a cer- 

17 Illinois Gazette, July 19, 1823. 


tificate of freedom. This law was ushered in by a report by 
Joseph Kitchell which pronounced the presence of negroes 
with masters a moral and political evil and their presence with- 
out them a greater one, especially as they could never be citi- 
zens. This measure passed the house by a vote of twenty-five 
to eleven and probably represents the sentiment of the day. 

The clause of the act of 1819 which penalized the bringing 
in of servants without giving bond caught at least one illus- 
trious victim in Edward Coles, who had brought in his slaves 
a month after the passage of the act but five months before it 
was published and had, through ignorance, neglected to comply 
with its provisions. He was sued on behalf of Madison county 
late in 1823 or early in 1824, and a verdict for $2,000 was 
given against him. The next legislature passed an act releasing 
all penalties, judgments, or verdicts under the provision of the 
law of 1819, as Coles' enemies alleged at his special instance. 
Samuel McRoberts, however, who was now the presiding judge, 
overruled a plea to set aside the judgment and verdict, arguing 
that the legislature could not legally revoke the penalty. His 
decision was reversed by the supreme court in 1826. Mean- 
while it gave rise to a long newspaper controversy between 
Coles and McRoberts. 18 

With the presence of free blacks in the state the kidnapping 
of them into slavery in the south was all too common, especially 
in the decades 1820-1840. For instance in 1823 certain 
freedmen from Vincennes were kidnapped and carried off 
through Shawneetown in spite of the fact that a son of William 
Henry Harrison endeavored to raise a pursuit. 19 There were 
repeated laws on kidnapping. The act of 1819 penalized it by 
a fine of one thousand dollars. The act of 1825 made it a fel- 
ony punishable by twenty-five to one hundred stripes, by two to 
four hours in the pillory, and by a fine of one thousand dollars. 
It was much more closely drawn than its predecessor and in- 
cluded the case of kidnapping from one county of the state to 

18 Ed<wards<ville Spectator, April 12, 26, 1825. 

19 Illinois Gazette, August 2, 1823. 


another and prohibited the selling of indentured servants out of 
the state. The code of 1827 had somewhat similar provisions. 
The act of 1829 prohibited marriage between the races under 
penalty of stripes, fine, and imprisonment. Jacob Ogle in 1823 
was not permitted by the legislature to introduce a petition 
from persons of color begging for the suffrage. When Flower 
sent some freed Negroes from Illinois to Haiti, they were 
stopped in Shawneetown under suspicion of being fugitive 
slaves. It was intimated that the men in charge of them might 
design to sell them at New Orleans. The prevailing attitude] 
toward the Negro or his friends was distinctly one of distrust 
and dislike. 20 

There were Negroes other than freedmen in Illinois not 
only the slaves of the old French inhabitants supposedly guar- 
anteed them by the Virginia act of cession but numerous inden- 
tured servants as well, held on long terms that made them 
slaves in all but name. Exactly what the economic status of 
these indentured servants was is hard to say. The indenture 
records kept in various counties, however, afford some light on 
the problem. Sometimes a cash consideration as high as $500 
is named, but probably in such cases the sum was paid to the 
former owner of the slave in or out of Illinois. Oftener the 
consideration was a suit of clothes, a blanket, or something of 
the sort. The term of service varied widely, but the normal 
period usually was one that terminated at the slave's sixtieth 
year. Sometimes whole families down to the babe at the breast 
were indentured, but more frequently the indentures represent 
the acquisition of an adult slave. Except near the saline at 
least as many women as men were indentured. Undoubtedly 
this points to the presence of southern women unable to handle 
alone the task of housewifery or to procure white help. The 
need of servants in his own home doubtless caused many a 
young man, who was making his way to prosperity without 
being able to give his wife the benefits of it, to favor slavery. 

The indenturing of new servants ceased of course with 

20 House Journal, 1822-1823, i session, 36; Illinois Gazette, April 3, 1829. 


the new state constitution. A rush to indenture servants is 
especially noticeable in White and Gallatin counties at the time 
when the first draft of the new constitution would have reached 
them, about August 25, 1818. After the admission of the 
state there was open trading in French slaves and in indentures 
with varying terms to run. Slavery was not to be pronounced 
legally at an end in Illinois for a quarter of a century thereafter. 
Upon the first legislature the duty of providing a new capi- 
tal had been laid, not by popular demand, but by the influence 
of speculators in the constitutional convention. Kaskaskia, for 
a hundred and fifty years the seat of empire in the central west, 
was still by post road, by water, and by commercial connection, 
the most important city of the state; a change from this logical 
capital was premature and unnecessary. But in a day when the 
projection of a new town was the favorite get-rich-quick scheme, 
speculators were not likely to let slip so fat an opportunity as 
the promotion of a new capital. The question was brought 
before the convention by the introduction of three written pro- 
posals from proprietors of sites on the Kaskaskia river north 
of the government surveys, offering to donate land to the state 
for a capital site. At once the convention took issue. A bitter 
wrangle ensued with the outcome a draw, for the resolution 
finally adopted, though it made a change necessary, was de- 
signed to remove the transaction from the field of private 
speculation. As incorporated in the constitution, it provided 
that the first legislature should petition congress for four 
sections of land for a capital site " on the Kaskaskia river, and 
as near as may be, east of the third principal meridian;" if 
the petition was granted commissioners were to be appointed 
to select and lay out a town site to be the seat of government 
for twenty years. In case the petition was refused, the general 
assembly was to fix the capital where it thought best. By 
requiring that the site be located east of the third meridian 
where no individuals had land claims, it was thought that the 
state, and not private enterprise, would profit from the sale 
of lots. The gains from this source were practically the only 


advantage reasonably to be expected from the change, and to 
many minds they seemed trifling indeed as compared to the sac- 
rifices entailed. 

In spite of some such protests, the legislature, when it con- 
vened, proceeded as directed by the constitution. Its petition 
was granted by congress and five commissioners selected as the 
new site for the capital Reeve's Bluff, a beautiful spot in the 
midst of an unsettled wilderness eighty miles to the northeast 
of Kaskaskia. 

The legislative ruling that only one hundred and fifty lots 
of the new site were to be put on sale caused such absurdly 
high prices to be bid for them that on paper the state realized 
over $35,000. Only a small portion of this sum was paid in 
cash, however, and it became impossible to exact full payment 
when in a short time the dream of a swift-growing city was seen 
to be chimerical. This uninhabited spot was christened Van- 
dalia ; 21 having thus been chosen as the repository of the state 
archives, these were bundled into a small wagon and carried 
through the forest to the temporary building erected for them. 

21 The name was probably taken from the name of the proposed colony of 
Vandalia that was an issue in British politics and later American during the 
last quarter of the eighteenth century. 


THE public finance of early Illinois introduces the student 
to a strange world, in which currency normally circulates 
at a score of different discounts from par, in which banks are 
organized to loan money on the state's credit to hard-pressed 
citizens, and in which the state derives but a small portion of 
its little revenue from the taxation of its own citizens. Illinois 
state finances, while not expressed in sufficiently great sums to 
be impressive, are sufficiently bizarre to be interesting. 

As an introduction to the public finance of the state it will 
be necessary first to consider the currency and private finance. 
The currency in circulation in Illinois for the first years of ks 
majority was emphatically of an opera bouffe character. Not 
merely did the notes composing it pass at a discount ; they passed 
at forty different discounts, varying with the reputation, of the 
banks from which they issued or purported to issue. Some were 
issued by solvent banks, some by specie paying banks, some were 
issued by banks that had failed, some were counterfeit notes 
of existing banks and others of purely fictitious ones. Of the 
notes in circulation, a few were issued by New England banks, 
a few came from western New York, more came from Pennsyl- 
vania and the District of Columbia, still more from thf banks 
of Ohio and of the south, in particular Tennessee and Ken- 
tucky. Local notes composed but a small fraction of the total, 
and notes of the Bank of the United States were very rare. 

In great measure the uncertainty of the note issues in cir- 
culation was due to the course of western trade. Illinois was 
poor ; her agricultural products were her main source of wealth ; 
and these, poured down the Mississippi in such quantities as 
to glut the markets of New Orleans, afforded meager returns. 
Furthermore, New Orleans was not able to act as the source 



of supply for the needs of the state; and the manufactured lux- 
uries and necessaries that Illinois drew from older communities 
came from the northeast, notably from Philadelphia and Pitts- 
burg. Means of making payments in the eastern cities were 
scanty in the extreme. The good eastern money brought in by 
immigrants found its way to the land offices and from them it 
was drawn into the government treasury to be spent in the 
east. The west was accordingly compelled to drain out the 
dregs of its good money to pay its eastern debts. The one 
means of relief would have been a commercial or exchange 
organization capable of setting off credits at New Orleans 
against debits in the east, but no such organization existed. 
The Bank of the United States had hoped to establish a uniform 
currency by making notes issued at one branch redeemable at 
all others; but the western branches had issued such floods of 
notes to be applied in local improvements or land speculation 
that the United States Bank was threatened by the drain of 
its specie in the east. The fact that it was compelled to receive 
for the government the notes of any bank at all prevented it 
from circulating its own notes locally in the west and providing 
a different system of exchange; and it refrained for some years 
from any issue of notes whatever in the west. 

Under these circumstances the question, whether or not the 
government land offices would accept the uncertain currency of 
the west was vital to the people of the state. William H. Craw- 
ford, secretary of the treasury, undertook the task of devising 
a means whereby the government might accept the better notes 
current in the west and convert them into eastern funds. The 
Bank of the United States had at first agreed in localities where 
it had no branches to designate local banks to receive the 
public money from land offices. It soon discovered that in 
spite of the treasury limitations as to notes which were land 
office money, it was becoming responsible for vast sums of 
paper it could not convert into current funds without delay and 
loss by exchange. In June, 1818, therefore, it announced that 
it would henceforth be responsible only for the transmission 


of legal currency of the United States or of funds convertible 
into it. Crawford then undertook to use state banks in the 
west as deposit agencies, requiring them to transmit the gov- 
ernment funds in their possession by degrees to the United 
States Bank; and in 1819 he granted them fixed government 
deposit balances. At the same time he required them to be 
responsible for the transmission without depreciation of bank 
notes deposited by land offices, but allowed them to discon- 
tinue receiving notes of any particular bank on due notice to 
the receiver of the depositing land office. 1 In 1820 he entered 
into arrangements by which the depository banks were to re- 
ceive and remit at par notes of certain eastern banks and of 
specie paying banks in their own community. This was a 
distinctly able measure toward building up sound local cur- 

Undoubtedly this policy saved the west from much hard- 
ship. Had it not been entered into, the government could have 
received only specie, United States Bank notes, and good east- 
ern notes, all of which were rare in the west. Undoubtedly as 
Crawford's enemy, Ninian Edwards, later charged some gov- 
ernment money was lost in transactions with fraudulently con- 
ducted banks; possibly also Crawford used the measure to 
favor his political friends ; but when all has been said the policy 
was essentially statesmanlike in character and was executed, 
if one can judge from the State Papers, with much skill. 

The Bank of Missouri served the longest as a depository 
bank for Illinois. Crawford had designated it first as the de- 
pository for the Illinois receivers. In 1819 he allowed it a 
fixed government deposit of $175,000. At one time it held as 
much as $600,000 of government funds awaiting transmission, 
much of it in such notes as the United States Bank would not 
accept, and much of it of uncertain value from any standpoint. 
Yet only $152,000 was caught in the bank when it finally sus- 
pended; and part of that may have been in uncurrent notes 
received before the bank had a right of veto on the paper it 

1 American State Papers, Finance, 3:725, 741, 747-750, 4:583, 587, 844, 853. 


received. 2 It suffered heavy drains of specie to pay accounts 
for which exchange could not be procured $90,000 in a year; 
in June, 1821, it appealed to Crawford for an additional de- 
posit of $50,000 and in August suspended. It had loaned 
nearly the full amount of its paid-in capital, $210,000, over 
half the sum going to the directors, who had in addition bor- 
rowed $80,000 on mortgage, $60,000 on personal security, and 
$37,000 as indorsers. The reason for its downfall is obvious, 
but considering conditions in the west it had served with fair 
efficiency as the government's fiscal agent. 

Needless to say, there was from the beginning jealousy in 
Illinois at the preference accorded to the bank across the river 
in receiving deposits from United States land offices. At the 
time of admission Illinois had two banks in operation, the 
Bank of Edwardsville and the Bank of Illinois at Shawnee- 
town; the banks of Cairo and Kaskaskia, though chartered, 
were not in operation. The Bank of Illinois numbered among 
its officers many of the most substantial men of Shawnee- 
town John Marshall, Leonard White, Samuel and John 
Caldwell, John McLean, Michael Jones. Through the earlier 
part of its career it was distinctly well managed. The Bank 
of Edwardsville, though displaying on its list of sponsors the 
great name of Ninian Edwards, had men in its directorate 
whose financial stability was seriously questioned. The bank 
was backed by Richard M. and James Johnson and General 
Duval Payne of Kentucky. In 1819, $214,250 of its stock 
was held in Kentucky, $18,000 in St. Louis, and $66,750 in 
Illinois. Only a tenth of this was paid in. Both the Bank of 
Illinois and the Bank of Edwardsville were made government 
depositories late in i8i8. 3 

The career of the Bank of Edwardsville as a government 
agent was short and troublous. Its ownership apparently 
involved it in a series of associations with several other banking 
enterprises of uncertain character and in resulting rivalries 

2 American State Papers, Finance, 3:753, 758. 

3 House Journal, 1819, 2 session, 107; American State Papers, Finance, 3 : 741. 


with other banks. It was connected with the Bank of St. Louis, 
a rival to the Bank of Missouri, which finally failed. Crawford 
was continually assailed by recriminations from the two rival 
banks, the Edwardsville institution accusing the Bank of Mis- 
souri of robbing it of specie through presenting its notes re- 
ceived in land office deposits. The Bank of Edwardsville was 
never allowed to decide what notes it should accept. It was in 
continual difficulty with the government over failures to make 
remittances, for which it excused itself by the plea that eastern 
funds could not be procured in the state and that it was impos- 
sible to ship specie. Benjamin Stephenson, the president, in 
his capacity as receiver of the land office, failed to make deposits 
regularly. Ninian Edwards cautiously disclaimed responsi- 
bility for the institution in 1819, and in 1821 it failed, carrying 
a heavy government deposit with it. 

The Bank of Illinois had a better record than its rival in 
its career as a government agent. It made its remittances 
with comparative regularity and in good funds. Its notes 
passed at par in Illinois in 1822. In 1824 it declared a seven 
per cent dividend. Its sound condition undoubtedly was due 
to the fact that late in 1819 it voted for the future to discount 
bills of lading only; thus it practically confined its discount 
business to the equivalent of good commercial paper, repre- 
senting bona fide transactions. Eventually it abandoned busi- 
ness, only to resume it ten years later at the time of the internal 
improvement excitement. 4 

The first general assembly under the provision of the state 
constitution attempted to contribute to the financial world of 
Illinois a state bank with a capital of $4,000,000 half sub- 
scribed by the state and half by private persons. Of the 
capital only one-fifth was to be paid in during the first six months. 
The bank's notes were to be receivable for state dues at par so 
long as they were payable on demand and were to draw twelve 
per cent interest a year when they were not so payable. The 

* American State Papers, Finance, 4:956; Illinois Intelligencer, June 15, 
1822, July 17, 1824; Illinois Gazette, December n, 1819. 


enterprise from the first encountered the bitter hostility of the 
Illinois Emigrant which claimed that it was the work of a 
Kaskaskia clique. The Intelligencer retorted that the Emi- 
grants hostility was due to the solicitude of the Shawneetown 
newspaper for the welfare of the Bank of Illinois. The debate, 
however, was futile as the bank never went into operation. 5 

Undeterred by the fiasco the second general assembly of 
1 8 20 1 821 proceeded with a scheme for another bank. It was 
to be administered by a head office and four branches, each with 
a local directorate. Its capital was to be $500,000, and it 
might issue $300,000 in notes bearing two per cent interest 
which were to be loaned among the counties, each citizen being 
entitled to a total discount not in excess of $1,000. Loans 
in excess of $100 were to be secured on real estate. The faith 
of the general assembly was pledged to the redemption of these 
precious notes in ten years, one-tenth of them each year. 
Against money received from the United States government 
by the state treasurer which was to be deposited in the bank, 
demand notes to the amount of twice the sums deposited were 
to be issued and loaned in sums not exceeding $300 at six per 
cent. A replevin law, applicable for three years to all execu- 
tions in satisfaction of which state notes were not accepted, 
indicates the purpose of the whole act. Times were hard and 
money scarce, and a benevolent state accordingly issued money 
in plenty to loan its citizens and protected their debts in case 
these could not be satisfied in it. 

Men were not wanting in the legislature to point out the 
obvious arguments against the plan. Wickliffe Kitchell and 
three others protested in the house, holding that the operations 
of the bank would be a palpable evasion of the constitutional 
provision against state emissions of bills of credit. Further 
they held that the bank would encourage speculators and make 
bankruptcy easy. Joseph Kitchell in the senate had previously 
offered a resolution denouncing the establishment of a bank 

5 Illinois Intelligencer, March 17, April 21, May 19, 1819; Illinois Emigrant, 
April 17, June 5, 12, 1819. 


without specie capital with which to redeem its paper on de- 
mand. The council of revision objected to the bill on the 
"bills of credit" ground and provoked only an overruling 
which was preceded by a peevish report adducing among other 
arguments for the bill that as the notes would not be accepted 
outside the state they would remain at home for the use of 
the citizens of Illinois ! In spite of the opposition of McLean, 
the speaker of the house, the bill became a law. 6 

The measure once passed, the Illinois Gazette, while de- 
ploring it, was inclined to make the best of it and even attacked 
the Shawneetown merchants for receiving state bank paper 
only at a fifty per cent discount. The Edwardsville Spectator 
approved the measure from the first. Some of the bank's 
opponents, such as Joseph Kitchell, were apparently conciliated 
by offices in the bank. The notes were speedily disposed of at 
a fifty per cent discount. A further issue of notes proposed 
in January of 1823 was fortunately voted down. 7 

The state bank indeed is not to be judged and condemned 
by the ordinary principles of banking, for this most extraordi- 
nary bank was, if its officials may be believed, almost philan- 
thropic in purpose. " When it is recollected," said a document 
of 1827, "that the establishment of the State Bank was a 
MEASURE of RELIEF that its object was not to loan money 
on usury to the wealthy, for the purpose of gain, but to lighten 
the burthens of our indigent and embarrassed citizens and 
that, therefore, if any preference was to be shewn among appli- 
cants for loans, it was to be exercised in favor of those who 
were encumbered by debt the only real matter of surprise 
is that loans made under provisions so liberal, would have been 
reduced with so much promptitude, and so little loss." 8 On 
reading this statement the professed economist will cheerfully 
resign the subject, although colorably pertaining to him, to 
the historian. 

6 House Journal, 1820-1821, i session, 145-227. 

7 Illinois Gazette, July 8, 1821. 

8 Replication of William Kinney, Abraham Prickctt, and Joseph A. Beaird 
to Edwards' charges, Illinois Intelligencer, February 3, 1827. 


The capital was divided, $83,516.86^ to the Edwards- 
ville branch, $48,834 to Brownsville, $84,685 to Shawneetown, 
$47,265.02 to Palmyra, and $35,699.11^ to the head office 
at Vandalia. The capital of the Edwardsville and Shawnee- 
town branches was practically loaned out a few months after 
the banks went into operation. The Illinois Gazette sarcas- 
tically suggested that the only way one could obtain a loan from 
the bank was by being indebted to a director. This suggestion 
may explain the attitude of a storekeeper like William Kinney 
connected with the Edwardsville branch who accepted the notes 
in satisfaction of specie claims of $20,000. The reader may 
wonder whether the claims were good or bad. There is not 
very much doubt that the Edwardsville branch loaned some 
money for political reasons, some for the establishment of a 
proslavery press. Loans were frequently made on real estate 
of value insufficient to cover them. To add to the opera boufe 
character of the situation the justices of the supreme court 
declared that in their opinion the act establishing the bank was 
unconstitutional and their opinion made the directors chary 
of legal proceedings to enforce collections from debtors. 9 

The situation was brought to the attention of the legislature 
in 1823 by the auditor, who in his report pointed out that the 
notes were circulating at fifty per cent discount, thereby taxing 
unduly state officers who were paid in them at par, and giving 
an advantage to nonresidents who paid their taxes at par in 
the depreciated paper. He offered the wise suggestion that 
while the measure was one of relief and had been salutary, 
the time had now come to press the liquidation of the bank as 
the law prescribed. A legislative committee suggested a repeal 
of the replevin provision in the law, and the legislature voted 
an increase of fifty per cent in the salaries of state officers; 
but the main difficulty in the application of any adequate reform 
measure was found to be the lack of reports from which the 
conditions of the branches could be learned. 10 

9 Illinois Intelligencer, December 23, 1826, February 3, 1827; Ed<wardsville 
Spectator, December n, 1821; Illinois Gazette, July 28, 1821. 

10 Illinois Intelligencer, January n, 1823; Laics of 1823, p. 131, 181. 


The legislature of 1825, after an investigation, found the 
condition of the bank hopeless. Except at Edwardsville and 
Palmyra the expenses of the institution had exceeded its profits 
from discounting. The books of the Shawneetown branch were 
in hopeless disorder and those at Brownsville little better. Leg- 
islation was needed to force the Shawneetown branch to turn 
over to the head office the funds necessary to advance the work 
of liquidation. The assembly reenforced the legal provision 
requiring the cashiers to retire annually ten per cent of the 
notes and provided that cancelled notes be burned or, if re- 
issued, be stamped so as not to draw interest. It put an end 
to the business of the branches except as collecting agencies. 
By one act, however, it fatally involved the state finances with 
those of the bank since it provided that auditor's warrants for 
appropriations made in terms of "state paper" should issue 
at its current value to be determined by state officers ; the law 
recognized the current value as thirty-three and one-third 
cents on the dollar. Probably this was due to a desire to issue 
in auditor's warrants a currency in which debtors could pay 
their debts; but the effect on state finances was disastrous. 11 

The auditor's report for 1826-1827 summarized the result 
of this policy. The value of state paper rose to seventy cents 
on the dollar, approximately one-half the warrants being issued 
at or above fifty. About one-third of the state paper had been 
retired and destroyed. The house in 1825-1826 was inclined 
to oppose further relief and passed a measure that warrants 
be issued at specie value and be payable in state paper at fifty 
per cent discount; but the friends of relief were strong in the 
senate and secured the retention of the old system. Edwards 
in his campaign for the governorship in that year criticized 
acutely the fatuous policy of the legislature. He pointed out 
that in the first place the issue of auditor's warrants was made 
necessary by the fact that nonresidents were required to pay 
taxes only biennially. The debased warrants could then be 
used by nonresidents to pay their taxes at their face value and 

11 Laws of 1825, p. 16, 82, 182; Illinois Intelligencer, August 3, 1826. 


must themselves ultimately be paid at par. If yearly settle- 
ments of taxes were required, he declared, the notes would rise 
in value because of the need of a medium in which to pay. 12 

As governor, Edwards hampered himself by his own actions 
from carrying through a wiser policy. The legislature enacted 
a law for a gradual scaling up of the rate of discount at which 
warrants were to issue which would carry them to par by 
November 29, 1830. But Edwards frittered away his influ- 
ence by violent attacks on his political enemies which brought 
him no advantage. He attacked James M. Duncan, cashier 
at the head office of the state bank, for failures in duty which 
certainly did not amount to malfeasances and of which a legis- 
lative committee acquitted him. He attacked T. W. Smith, 
Kinney, and the other directors and cashiers of the Edwards- 
ville bank. There can be little doubt that they were guilty at 
least of improper conduct but the legislature in Smith's case 
took refuge behind the fact that his charges against the bank 
for services were a proper matter for judicial determination; 
and the men accused were cleared. 13 

The intent and purpose of the act in the first instance 
had been that the bank should by gradually retiring its notes 
automatically liquidate as its loans were paid. A series of acts 
reduced the organization of the bank to a collecting agency. 
Thus in 1829 the position of cashier of the head office was 
abolished, the auditor and treasurer performing his duties. 
The collections came slowly. There was the troublesome ques- 
tion of constitutionality already adverted to; and further there 
can be little doubt that the directors and presidents used to the 
fullest extent the borrowing privilege which the original law 
granted them. In 1827 a statement of the Brownsville branch 
showed that William M. Alexander had borrowed $1,900.83 ; 
Abner Field, $1,700; William McFatridge, $750; Joseph 
Duncan, $2,000, and Edward Cowles, a well-known merchant 
of Kaskaskia, $1,750. Of these, Cowles had paid in full, 

12 Illinois Intelligencer, August 3, 1826. 

13 Laws of 1827, p. 81; Illinois Intelligencer, January 20, February 3, 10, 
17, 1827. 


Field had paid $922, and Duncan $275. The statement speaks 
for itself. With such influential debtors the cry for leniency 
in dealing with bank debtors was soon raised. In his farewell 
message Governor Coles had deprecated the extension of 
inducements to debtors to pay up. Meanwhile he urged as 
the true remedy as simple an administration of bank affairs as 
possible. A contrary point of view was set forth in a house 
resolution offered by John Reynolds, January 19, which urged 
that inducements to secure immediate payments would save 
the expense of administration. An act was passed allowing 
debtors on paying up past due installments to renew their notes. 
Two years later they were allowed to pay up in three annual 
installments with interest. The bank lingered as a problem 
after the passage of the first decade of state history. 14 

Some of the complications in the revenue of Illinois intro- 
duced by the currency and the banks have been already hinted 
at. A clearer understanding of the problem may be obtained 
by an analysis of the source from which the state's revenue 
was derived. In 1821-1822 it received but $7,121.09 from 
resident taxpayers and $38,437.75 from nonresidents owning 
land in the state ; in its capacity as landed proprietor the state 
received $10,563.09 from the rental of the salines and in its 
capacity of land speculator, $5,659.86 from the sale of Van- 
dalia lots. 

The importance in the state finances of the method of taxing 
nonresidents is self-evident. The enabling act had prohibited 
the state from taxing nonresidents at a higher rate than resi- 
dents, from taxing land within five years from the time of pat- 
enting, or taxing the bounty lands remaining with the patentees 
for three years after the date of the patent. The state's 
dealings with nonresident landholders under these provisions 
are interesting. The first revenue act of 1819, while prescrib- 
ing a triple tax on landholders who did not schedule their lands 
and bank stock before a certain day, left nonresidents too short 
a time to comply and caused them to believe the state was 

14 Greene and Alvord, Governors' Letter-Books, 1818-1834, p. 132. 


swindling them out of their lands. The second general assem- 
bly allowed those subject to triple tax till January i, 1822, to 
redeem for a single tax plus interest and provided for the adver- 
tising in the eastern cities of lands on which taxes were unpaid. 
The auditor even under the circumstances thought it unwise 
actually to force a sale and contented himself with an advertise- 
ment as a threat to secure payment of delinquent taxes. The 
act of 1825 gave nonresidents till January i, 1826, to redeem 
for a single tax and interest all lands stricken off to the state 
under the act of 1819 and 1823; it further allowed a period 
of two years in the future during which land could be redeemed 
for one hundred per cent penalty. The legislature of 1826 pro- 
vided that sales for taxes of lands owned by nonresidents 
thenceforth be held once a year instead of biennially. A further 
provision designed to prevent nonresidents from taking advan- 
tage of their virtual monopoly of state paper by allowing resi- 
dents only to pay in specie and at the prevailing premium was 
dropped at the suggestion of the council of revision. 15 

The nonresidents, however, were not without their revenge 
for the treatment which the laws clumsily accorded them. Time 
and again, as nearly as one can judge, they forced the state to 
terms by refusing to pay the excessive penalties laid for failure 
to pay taxes. It was believed also that the nonresident tax- 
payers in the east had bought up the notes of the state banks 
at a discount to use them at par in paying their taxes. Thus they 
deprived the people of the use of the notes as a medium of 
exchange and taxed them the amount of the depreciation. 
Edwards claimed for himself at least part of the credit for the 
attempt to obviate this situation by forcing annual sales of 
nonresidents' lands. 16 

Administratively the state's first revenue law was as bad as 
it well could be and it was only gradually that the defects in it 
were remedied. It was questionable if, in dividing lands into 
three classes and setting an arbitrary value on each, the law of 

15 Laws of 1825, p. 106. 

16 About 6,000 tracts were sold in 1827, most of them for the whole tract. 
Few were stricken off to the state. Illinois Intelligencer, January 27, 1827. 


1819 did not violate the constitutional provision that all prop- 
erty be taxed according to value. Taxation was made on the 
basis of lists turned in by the taxpayers, resident and nonresi- 
dent. Furthermore, while the auditor was authorized to obtain 
from land offices abstracts of lands entered, it must have been 
impossible for county assessors to know surely whether land 
was listed or entered; and the auditor had no check as to the 
amount of tax he was entitled to receive from the sheriff. The 
auditor gave as a reason for not selling lands for taxes in 1822 
that the validity of both the tax law and the law allowing state 
sales for nonpayment of taxes was seriously questioned. The 
auditor's report of that year is important because of its sugges- 
tion that local taxation records be based on lists sent to the 
counties by the auditor showing lands entered in the county 
according to the United States land office records. A further 
suggestion that the auditor be allowed to fix the necessary tax 
rate was premature. 

The most important part of the local machinery of taxation 
perhaps is the dividing by whatever method of state from county 
revenues. The act of 1819 retained for the state the tax on 
bank stock, on nonresidents' land, and two-thirds the tax on 
residents' land, giving the county the tax of one-half per cent 
on slaves and servants and permitting it to levy an additional 
tax of one-half per cent on personal property. The act of 1821, 
when the state revenue seemed likely to be superabundant, 
assigned the county two-thirds of the residents' land tax. In 
1827 in answer to an urgent need of more county revenue the 
county was allowed all the land tax paid by its residents. The 
counties in the Military Tract were dealt with in a somewhat 
different fashion. A subsidy of $750 was granted to Pike 
county in 1821. In 1823 this grant was continued and Fulton 
county received $450. In 1827 this was altered to a gift of 
$275 to each Military Tract county, in return for which the 
state took all the land tax. 17 

17 The grand jury of Madison county represented the county revenue as 
inadequate. Ed<wardsville Spectator, September 27, 1823. 


By virtue of the enabling act the state came into possession 
of the salines including the reservations made to supply fire- 
wood for salt boiling. The state thus had the regulation of a 
large landed estate that normally would have furnished no 
inconsiderable portion of the revenue. In 1823 Thomas 
Mather estimated the income from the saline as one-seventh 
of the state revenue. The state, however, was to learn by 
experience the difficulty of making this estate productive. 18 

The difficulty was the securing of punctual payments of rent 
from the persons to whom the saline was leased. At the state's 
admission the saline, of course, was in the hands of private 
lessees holding under leases from the United States govern- 
ment. They asked for a renewal of their leases and offered 
$8,000 a year if they were permitted to sell salt at $1.25 a 
bushel and $10,000 if they could sell at $1.50. The legislature 
at its first session rejected both propositions. At the second 
session the legislature leased the saline to the former lessees, 
probably on the basis of salt at seventy-five cents a bushel and 
a rent payable in salt. In the carrying out of the leases there 
was continual difficulty. The lessees refused to pay over to the 
state the salt due on the unexpired portion of the 1818 rent; 
and by March, 1820, some were still delinquent. 19 

The assembly of 1821 created the office of superintendent 
of the saline and charged it with the duty of taking possession 
of establishments which had forfeited their leases. In practice, 
however, it proved difficult to make the agent answerable to the 
auditor; and in 1823 the assembly had to pass an act requiring 
reports of leases not yet entered to the auditor and accounts 
regularly kept with him. 

As a matter of practice the state found it impossible to col- 
lect from the lessees of the saline the rents which they had 
agreed to pay; and the legislature of 1823 began the practice 
of condoning the nonpayment of them by releasing the securities 
of one of the lessees from liability for a balance of $1,511.11 

18 House Journal, 1822-1823, i session, 157. 

19 Greene and Alvord, Governors' Letter-Books, 1818-1834, p. 16, 19, 23, 
26, 27. 


due the state. In great measure the loss was probably due to 
the fact that the salt spring gave too weak a solution to furnish 
a commercial product that could compete in price with Kanawha 
salt. Much of the legislation of relief was directed to the pur- 
pose of encouraging the lessees to search for springs of a 
greater strength. Thus in 1823 it offered to those lessees who 
had paid up their rent an extension of their leases for ten years 
in case they found salt water stronger by a third than that pre- 
viously used. In 1825 certain of the Shawneetown lessees were 
excused from paying the state arrears of rent in case they 
expended them in searching for stronger salt water. In 1822 
the Illinois Gazette had announced that the discovery of a 
new salt spring had cut the price of salt to fifty cents a bushel. 20 
Governor Coles, who during his term had taken much interest 
in the problem of the saline and had inquired particularly into 
the practice of older states in managing theirs, in his farewell 
message advocated that a tax per manufactured bushel be sub- 
stituted for the fixed rents, which indeed had been calculated 
upon the basis of a much higher price for salt than could be 
obtained in the face of the competition from Kanawha and 
imported salt. The inferior quality of the salt rendered it unfit 
for salting provisions for the southern market, which was the 
most important commercial use for it The legislature in 1827 
passed an act leasing the saline until 1836 to two lessees at a 
price proportioned to the strength of the water they should find. 
The surplus land attached to the saline and to the Vermilion 
saline was sold under the authority of successive acts of the 
federal government. 

The state of Illinois started on its career with an endowment 
for schools from which much more might have been expected 
than actually was obtained. The state received section sixteen 
in each township for the benefit of its schools, two townships of 
thirty-six sections each for a seminary, and three per cent on net 
proceeds from the sale of lands in the state. Of this amount 
one-sixth was for a college or university. 

20 Illinois Gazette, February n, 1822. 


Legislation on the subject of the school land was at first 
limited to a provision authorizing local renting of it for the 
benefit of schools and preventing waste on it. 21 The school act 
of 1825 was more general in scope and was really an able 
attempt to establish at any cost a good system of primary 
education at public expense. The act made provision for the 
creation by local initiative of school districts containing not less 
than fifteen families which might levy taxes on themselves for 
the support of schools, provided they did not exceed one- 
half per cent or ten dollars a person. It provided also in the 
interest of the district schools for the regulation of the share of 
school land pertaining to each district and for state aid to the 
amount of the state's school fund and of a fiftieth of its revenue 
in addition. The law, which was defended because it taxed 
rich and poor alike for schools, was attacked as a " Yankee 
device " and was repealed by the next general assembly, which 
left the payment of the tax purely optional with the payer; it 
retained, however, the provision for the apportionment of the 
section sixteen lands among the school districts interested in 
them. In 1829 an act, passed subject to the assent of congress, 
allowed the sale of school lands at a minimum of a dollar and 
twenty-five cents an acre and the investment of the proceeds 
in mortgages. The same legislature passed an act for the sale 
of the seminary lands. 

Meanwhile there had already begun the process by which 
the school fund of the state arising from the three per cent of 
the sales of public lands was diverted to other uses. The act 
of 1821 had required the treasurer to pay into the state bank 
the payments made by the federal government for the fund. 
These payments as being made in good funds were made the 
basis for the issue of bank notes to double their amount payable 
on demand in specie. The legislature of 1825 in spite of its 
excellent school law was guilty of directing the use of the school 
fund to redeem state bank notes, auditor's receipts payable in 
legal United States currency being placed in the fund. In 1829 

21 Laics of iSiff, p. 107, 260 ; Laws of 1821, p. 60. 


the fund was invaded not for an emergency but to supply the 
ordinary expenses of the government. The governor was 
authorized to borrow all the specie in it and in the seminary 
fund at six per cent interest and to use it in paying warrants 
drawn at their specie value. The fact that this was the device 
used to get the state warrants back on a specie basis cannot 
excuse the act. 

Considered as a whole, the administration of the state's 
finances during the first decade of statehood cannot be com- 
mended. The state in 1 8 1 8 had found it necessary to authorize 
a loan of $25,000 to pay the territorial debt and to meet the 
expenses of the first year of statehood. In 1820 Bond had 
been able to report that the territorial debt had been extin- 
guished and that the treasury was in a flourishing condition. In 
1823 the auditor's report showed receipts of $79,946.83 
against warrants of $46,285.72 leaving a net balance of about 
$33,661.11. The items comprised are of interest. The gen- 
eral assembly cost $14,966.18, the judiciary, $7,932.33. Sala- 
ries of state officials amounted to $8,470.74 and the printing 
of the laws and journals cost $2,976.22. The device intro- 
duced by the legislature of 1825 of issuing warrants at three 
for one soon changed the aspect of the finances of the state. 
The auditor's report for 1826 showed a total fund of $132,000 
to meet warrants amounting to $154,000; but as $29,000 of 
these were in the school fund, representing sums extracted from 
it for state expenses, the state was practically solvent It had 
due from nonresidents $26,000 in taxes and from the saline 
lessees $24,000, which on account of the exemption from rent 
of the lessees in return for boring for salt water could not be 
collected. 22 

In short, the history of the first ten years of Illinois finance, 
public and private, is the story of the struggle of men with con- 
ditions which they did not understand and which they had not 
the courage to meet, even according to the intellectual light that 
they possessed. In the beginning they had sought to establish 

22 Senate Journal, 1818, i session, 7. 


banks, public and private, in order to remedy by abundant 
issues of notes the dearth of money in the country or to relieve 
the financial distress of hard-pressed individuals. In the case 
of one bank, good management made it efficient and safe ; in the 
case of the other bad management led to complete failure. The 
state bank, begun as a measure of relief, threw the expense of 
the relief that it afforded to individuals upon the people of the 
state at large. Because the legislatures did not have the cour- 
age to pay for liquidating it, they diverted to this end the trust 
fund of the schools and borrowed of the future by warrants 
issued at triple the value of the service for which they paid. In 
part the obliquity exhibited in Illinois finance may be attributed 
to the fact that so little of the state's revenue was actually 
drawn from its citizens. The state wisely parted with its poten- 
tial revenue as owner of the saline in order to reduce if possible 
the price of salt; but it relied for years on possible speculative 
returns from Vandalia lots and developed its system of taxation 
with an eye to the fact that much of it was paid by nonresidents. 
Among the evils of absentee landlordism in Illinois was the fact 
that the state was slow to attain the sense of sobriety and 
responsibility arising in a state of things in which the voter 
realizes that his demands on his government in the way of 
service must be reimbursed by him in his capacity of taxpayer. 


THE union into which Illinois entered on the third of 
December, 1818, was a union already at the verge of 
sectional strife on the issue of slavery. The session of congress 
in which the first Illinois representatives took their seats saw 
the beginning of the struggle as to whether Missouri was to be 
slave or free; and the last aftermath of that struggle was not 
gleaned till in the summer of 1824 the people of Illinois finally 
registered their resolution that their constitution should not be 
altered to admit slavery. For the first six years of Illinois' 
[ existence as a state, the question of slavery hung like a threaten- 
ing storm over her politics. 

Distrust of the effectiveness of the more or less ambiguous 
antislavery clause in her constitution led the opponents of 
slavery in congress to cloud the title of Illinois to statehood. 
John McLean, the first representative from Illinois, appeared 
in the house Tuesday, November 19, after the session had 
begun. The house decided, however, that he should not be 
admitted till it was satisfied that the constitution of Illinois 
corresponded to the enabling act. When the resolution for ad- 
mission came up for third reading four days later, opposition, 
hitherto in the interest of orderly procedure, was now directed 
against the constitutional provisions allowing indentured 
< service and limited slavery. James Tallmadge of New York, 
; later famous for his part in the Missouri struggle, declared 
that in these provisions the Illinois constitution contravened the 
Ordinance of 1787. Richard C. Anderson of Kentucky replied 
that the ordinance was not a compact either with Virginia or 
with the people of the territory, and that Virginia by her deed 
of cession had protected the right of the French inhabitants 
to their slaves. William Henry Harrison of Ohio defiantly 



assured Tallmadge that the people of Ohio would never come 
to congress or to New York for permission in case they desired 
to repeal their constitutional prohibition of slavery. Finally, 
only thirty-four representatives in a house of one hundred and 
fifty-one followed Tallmadge in voting against the admission 
of the new state ; and Illinois took its place in the union. 

The validity of the northwest ordinance again came into 
discussion during the Missouri debate which followed hard on 
that over the admission of Illinois. If the slavery restriction 
in that ordinance were a valid limitation on the states that had 
grown up under it, these latter could hardly be considered on 
an equality in all respects with the older states, which could 
lawfully admit or exclude slavery. The supporters of the 
slavery restriction pointed to the ordinance as a proof that the 
new states need not necessarily be on a complete equality with 
the old; the supporters of the Missouri constitution naturally 
argued that in view of the federal constitution's guarantee of 
equality, the ordinance could not prohibit slavery to the states 
that had been under it. The representatives from the north- 
west, among them Daniel Pope Cook of Illinois who had suc- 
ceeded McLean, generally maintained the validity and the 
sacredness of the ordinance. "This ordinance," said Benja- 
min Ruggles of Ohio, " has been to the people of the North- 
western territory a rule of action a guide to direct their 
course ' a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.' " l On 
the other hand representatives from the south argued that in 
spite of the ordinance the people of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois 
might alter their governments as they saw fit. John S. Bar- 
bour of Virginia was inclined to argue that the Virginia cession 
required that the new states must be as sovereign as the old. 
In view of such doctrine the slavery leaders in Illinois may 
well have wondered if the decision of 1818 need be regarded 
as final. 

The votes of the Illinois delegation in congress were not 

1 Annals of Congress, 16 congress, i session, 281; see also ibid., 15 congress, 
2 session, 1170 if., 1411 ff. 


calculated to inspire in the foes of slavery a conviction that the 
new state would make an unflinching resistance to the intro- 

duction of that institution. The two Illinois senators. Ninian 

- ~~** --- 

Edwards and Jesse B. Thomag, consistently supported the 
~Cause uf Missuurir Their votes in no instance would have 
altered the result; but McLean, voting in the house on one 
crucial roll call with the majority of one, may possibly have 
turned the tide. 2 Daniel Pe.-Cook^ .who 

in the session of 1819-1820, voted against the Missouri Com- 
promise; but he was not above countenancing the use of the 
popularity Edwards had gained in Missouri to endeavor to 
secure the election of his brother John Cook as senator from 
that state. 

It was on the Missouri question, however, that Cook beat 
McLean in the Illinois congressional election of 1819. 
McLean defended his vote on the ground that the attempted 
dictation to Missouri of an antislavery proviso was a violation 
of state sovereignty. He attempted to evade Cook's assaults 
by accusing the latter of being really proslavery and of con- 
cealing his belief as a matter of policy. Cook's friends insisted 
that he had always been the unflinching foe of slavery. They 
accused McLean of having made in the former canvass anti- 
slavery pledges which he had violated. Worse still they alleged 
he was the tool of John Scott, the Missouri territorial delegate; 
Missouri when admitted a slave state as McLean wished would 
give the slave states control of the senate. " McLean," said 
one writer, "will vote us under the feet of slaves." 3 Cook's 
supporters in their publications usually assumed that the people 
of Illinois were generally opposed to slavery three- fourths 
of them according to one writer and that her representatives 
had misrepresented and disgraced her. 

The congressional election of 1820 indicated in its course 
the possible relation between the triumph of slavery in Missouri 
and its adoption in Illinois. Early in July the Edwardsville 

z Annals of Congress, 15 congress, 2 session, 1273. 

3 Edivardsville Spectator, June 19, 1819; Illinois Intelligencer, June 30, 
July 14, 1819. 


Spectator, edited in Edwards' interest by Hooper Warren, 1 
charged Kane who was Cook's opponent with a share in a 
deliberate plot to amend the constitution to introduce slavery. 
Kane was to be put forward for congress to test the strength 
of the party; control of the Illinois Gazette and of the Illinois 
Intelligencer was to be secured; and a third proslavery press 
was to be established at Edwardsville. Cook's friends took up 
the cry, recalling that in the midst of the Missouri debate 
Missouri slaveholders had talked of setting up at Edwardsville 
a press to advocate the extension of slavery in Illinois in order 
to keep the people of Illinois busy at home. Denials appeared 
speedily from Kane and from the various persons accused in the 
plot. Kane insisted that Edwards was responsible for the attack 
on him and that it was made to aid Cook's cause. With some 
pertinence he adverted to Edwards' twenty-two slaves and to 
the fact that Edwards had voted on the same side with McLean, 
who had been defeated the year before. Edwards retorted 
with a denial. 4 If the plot actually existed, however, the defeat 
of Kane in the election shortly afterward checked it for the 
time being. 

That same year saw an open proposal for amending the 
constitution to admit slavery, which emanated from a new 
quarter and from a man who strangely enough has frequently 
been set down as an anti-convention man, Henry Eddy. In 
offering himself as a candidate for the legislature in 1820, he 
addressed the voters of Gallatin county as follows: "With 
regard to the Saline, then, I am clear for extending to it, for 
another term of years, the privilege which it now enjoys of 
hiring and indenturing servants for the purpose of working 
the same. And being of this opinion, I am, of course, in favour 
of a convention, for that object can only be effected through 
the means of another convention, our present constitution 
having limited the time during which that privilege may be 

4 Edwardsville Spectator, July 4, n, 25, August i, 1820; Illinois Gazette, 
August 5, 1820. Much of the material for the remainder of the chapter is found 
in contemporary numbers of the Illinois Intelligencer and Edwardsville Spec- 


claimed to the year i825." 5 He alleged as reasons for 
speedy action the fact that the salines in the neighborhood 
kept money in circulation, and business good, and the time 
when western Illinois was still dependent on Illinois salt 
was, he thought, the favorable moment to strike. The 
economic interest of eastern Illinois in the call of a conven- 
tion is obvious. Eddy was elected and duly introduced into 
the Illinois general assembly resolutions corresponding to his 

Widespread financial distress in Illinois in the years im- 
mediately following 1820 insured a favorable hearing to advo- 
cates of a fundamental change in the economic order. The act 
of 1820 abolishing credit sales and lowering the price of public 
lands to a dollar and a quarter necessarily caused financial 
embarrassment and reduced the value of lands in private 
hands. 6 It was a period of hard times which in 1821 prompted 
the establishment of a state bank distinctly as an institution to 
afford relief. It was not surprising that many should have 
listened to the assertions of the slavery party that the admission 
of the institution would bring in planters with ready money who 
would spend it freely and who would especially use it in buying 
up at good prices the farms of those anxious to leave the state. 
Many a man naturally opposed to slavery may well have 
wished for the institution that he might sell his property and flee 
from the wrath to come. 

/ The canvass for governor in 1822 turned frankly on the 
question of slavery. Joseph B. Phillips, who announced his 
candidacy February 20, 1821, was soon accused by letters in 
the Spectator of designing to introduce limited slavery and thus 
pave the way for a complete extension of the institution to the 
state. At first Phillips' friends denied the charge; but July 3 
the Intelligencer published a letter which admitted Phillips' 
proslavery_leanings, assured the proslavery forces in the~state 
that they had a majority, and called on them to rally for the 

5 Illinois Gazette, July 8, 1820. 
* Ibid., July 31, 1824. 


cause and no longer to be withheld by mere sentiment from pur- 
suing the true interests of the state. 7 

Curiously enough such announcements did not seem to 
cause excitement The Intelligencer began publishing a series 
of scriptural parodies which touched on Phillips' alleged con- 
version from slavery advocacy on a former occasion for the 
sake of a seat in the supreme court. The Spectator contented 
itself with pronouncing the scheme chimerical and with warning 
the voters to beware of the many wealthy men who wished to 
own slaves and to use care in selecting their representatives. 
Instead of pressing the proslavery charge against Phillips it 
printed letters depicting the evil results of the activity of judges 
in politics and accusing Phillips of blasphemy, irreligion, and 
gambling. 8 

Edward Coles who announced his candidacy October 30, 
182!, might have been expected to find greater favor in the 
sight of an antislavery man like Hooper Warren. Coles was 
a Virginian of the planter class who had served as private 
secretary to Madison and who had been sent on a special 
mission to Russia. By inheritance a slave owner, he had emi- 
grated to Illinois that he might free his Negroes and establish 
them on land of their own in a free state. It is significant of a 
certain feeling for the dramatic in the man that he reserved 
the announcement of their freedom to his slaves to a beautiful 
morning in April as his boats were gliding down the Ohio 
below Pittsburg. Principle was the food on which his soul 
was nourished; in their cooler moments even his bitter enemies 
were compelled to admit his untarnished integrity. Withal 
there was about him a certain stiffness, a certain consciousness 
of his own virtue, possibly a tendency to pose. For some 
reason his personality seemed to grate on Hooper Warren, 
who consistently assailed him in the Spectator with a studied 
malice that was so obvious as to defeat its own end. He made 
clumsy mockery of Coles' somewhat awkward attempts to 

7 Edtvardsville Spectator, April 10, 1821; Illinois Intelligencer, July 3, 1821. 

8 Ed<wards<ville Spectator, May 22, November 6, 27, 1821; Illinois Intelli- 
gencer, July 31, 1821. 


mingle familiarly with men. On the ground that Coles was 
register of the Edwardsville land office, Warren represented 
him as a federal appointee from without the state. He even 
juestioned the sincerity of Coles' opposition to a convention 
md tried to fix on him the stigma of holding slaves in 
[issouri. 9 

The Edwards faction, unable to agree on a candidate of its 
'own for governor, was apparently hostile not only to its old 
enemy, Phillips, but also to Coles and to a third candidate, 
James B. Moore. In the case of Coles at least the hostility was 
natural as Coles was a supporter of Edwards' enemy, Secretary 
William H. Crawford. Pope and other members of the faction 
endeavored to persuade Edwards to run ; when he refused they 
considered John Reynolds. Finally Pope, having come to a 
decision in favor of some candidate, tried, much to Edwards' 
displeasure, to bind the party to his choice. Probably this 
candidate was Thomas C. Browne of the supreme court, who 
had been quietly making ready for some time but who 
announced his candidacy only at the end of the campaign. He 
did not gain the full support of the Edwards party, Edwards 
flatly refusing to take any part in the contest. 10 

4 Coles was elected by a narrow margin. He received 2,854 
tes^tcnZj'S^yTor ?hillips, 2,443 f r Browne, and 622 for 
oore. Certainly the Edwards faction had not efficiently 
' exerted itself for any candidate; and while there is little evi- 
dence in regard to the activity of their opponents it seems 
unlikely that the selection turned in any decisive fashion on 
factional alignments. Apparently the personality and opinions 
of the candidates played a controlling part. 

Coles, evidently concluding that the bold course was the 
safe one, determined to force the fighting on the slavery issue. 
In his message to the assembly in December he pointed out 
the fact that slavery, contrary to the spirit of the northwest 

9 Edtoardsvllle Spectator, April 9, 1822. 

10 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 190-192. This is a draft letter of Edwards 
which Washburne surmised was written to Governor Bond. Internal evidence 
shows without doubt it was to Pope. 

[From original owned by Chicago Historical Society] 


ordinance, existed in the state and concluded that the provision 
of the act of cession protecting the French inhabitants could be 
regarded as having expired after the passage of forty years; 
he suggested the abolition of the institution, the repeal of the 
black code, and the passage of effectual laws against the kid- 
napping of free blacks. A majority of the senate committee 
to which the antislavery recommendations of the governor 
were referred Risdon Moore and John Emmet submitted 
a favorable report. The minority member, Conrad Will, dis- 
sented. The house committee returned an unfavorable report. 
Both these dissenting reports declared the abolition of the 
slavery existing in the state to be beyond the power of the 
legislature. The senate report argued that the convention of 
1 8 1 8 had been hampered by the provisions of the Ordinance of 
1787 but that as a sovereign state Illinois could deal with the 
whole question in a new constitutional convention. This, the 
senate report concluded with clumsy irony, was the only way 
of settling the question that the governor had at heart. 

The slavery advocates now openly set about submitting the 
question of a convention to popular vote. The senate off 
but little opposition. There, on February 10, 1823, the resolu- 
tion passed twelve to six. The canal bill was before the senate 
at the same time with the resolution for a convention, indeed 
it was passed with a negative vote of only three immediately 
after the passage of the convention resolution. In both houses 
the pro-convention group captured some votes by threatening 
the canal bill with destruction unless the convention resolution 
went through. They brought into play every form of petty 
politics. Sometimes they brought pressure on individual mem- 
bers by introducing bills that would if passed irritate their 
constituents. Sometimes they resorted to bargains on the 
location of county seats and the creation of new counties. 
Sometimes they drummed up among a recalcitrant member's 
constituents instructions in favor of a convention. 

In the house the convention party tried ftfrgst vote on \ 
January 27 and found twenty-two affirmative and fourteen / 


negative votes, the latter including William McFatridge and 
Thomas Rattan who finally voted for the convention. It was 
evident that the vote would be a close one, and on January 29 
a resolution formerly presented by A. P. Field to the effect 
that the two-thirds vote requisite to pass the resolution was a 
two-thirds vote of both houses sitting together was reconsid- 
ered and passed. This device, however, can have been in- 
tended to serve only as a last resort 

The pro-convention leaders were suspicious, with good 
/reason as it proved, of the loyalty of some who had hitherto 
/voted with them, notably of Nicholas Hansen, the member 
s from the Military Tract. Hansen they apparently hoped to 
keep in line, however, by threatening him with bills which 
would injure his district and through the fact that his name 
was on the list of commissioners in the canal bill. When the 
vote in the house of representatives was taken February 1 1 
on the senate resolution for a convention, Hansen deserted; 
and the vote stood twenty-three to thirteen. Dumbfounded 
apparently by the reverse, the convention party moved to recon- 
sider; but a vote of nineteen to sixteen sustained the chair in 
the obvious decision that on a vote lost for want of two-thirds, 
the motion to reconsider must come from a member of the 
minority. James Turney moved that the senate be requested 
to state the number voting for and against the resolution in 
that house, obviously an attempt to enforce the interpretation 
that two-thirds of both houses together would suffice. The 
legislature adjourned in confusion. That night a mob of legis- 
lators headed by a justice of the supreme court, furious at their 
defeat, groaned under the window of one of the anti-conven- 
tion leaders, George Churchill, and burned Hansen in effigy. 11 
The convention leaders probably decided over night on the 
means to retrieve their defeat the unseating of Hansen. At 
the beginning of the session Hansen's seat had been contested 
by John Shaw. Elections in Shaw's " Kingdom of Pike " were 
strange matters; in this particular one a dispute about the 

11 Edivardsville Spectator, February 15, March 29, 1823. 


judges of election in one precinct had resulted in eighty-three 
votes for Shaw in a polling place set up by the electors and of 
twelve votes for Hansen in another one presided over by the 
regular judges of election. The returns for Shaw were thrown 
out; he filed notice of a contest but at Hansen's request he let 
it be held over for a few days and did not file it again until the 
legal time for filing had expired. The house committee on 
elections seated Hansen, very possibly because he was a bitter 
enemy of Edwards and could therefore be trusted to vote for 
Thomas for senator. Certainly inasmuch as they threw out 
Shaw's contest on the ground that it had been filed too late; 
and, since the delay occurred at Hansen's request and for his 
benefit, the equity of their procedure is not very clear. The 
seating of Hansen, however, as compared with his unseating 
on February 12 was the quintessence of justice and orderly 
procedure. 12 

On the twelfth of February, a day by a curious coincidence 
commemorative of a greater struggle with slavery, the general 
assembly convened for as strange a day's work as ever was done 
by an Anglo-Saxon parliament. The house by a division of 
twenty-one to thirteen ordered a reconsideration of the report, 
accepted two months before, that Hansen was entitled to a 
seat; it considered certain documents laid before it, notably an 
affidavit that to the affiants' belief a majority of the votes were 
cast for Shaw; and the conventionist members offered what 
reasons they could for the course they were about to take. By 
a vote of twenty-oneVo fourteen the name of Shaw was substi- 
tuted for that of Hansen in the report. Shaw now took his 

seat, and Turney moved to reconsider an appeal from the 
decision of the chair on a motion for a reconsideration of the 
convention resolution. The decision was reversed, the recon- 
sideration ordered; and the resolution for the conventioi 
passed twenty-four to twelve. It only remained to chastise 

12 Stevens, " The Shaw-Hansen Election Contest," in Illinois State Historical 
Society, Journal, 7:389 ff. ; Edwardsville Spectator, February 15, March 9, 1823. 
I believe the evidence to the effect that Hansen was originally seated to gain 
his vote for Thomas is better than Mr. Stevens judges it. 


Hansen; and his name, on Field's motion, was stricken out of 
the list of canal commissioners. 13 

Conventionists and anti-conventionists began immediately 
to organize for the eighteen months campaign before the people 
on the acceptance or rejection of the proposed call for a con- 
vention. The advocates of a convention held a meeting at 
Vandalia February 15 and appointed a committee to prepare 
an address and resolutions which defended the call of a conven- 
tion on various grounds not connected with the slavery issue. 
On February 18, fifteen of the eighteen members of the 
I assembly who voted against the convention held a meeting and 
1 adopted an address arraigning the methods of the majority 
I and exposing their design of introducing slavery. The persons 
J present agreed to subscribe each for a given number of copies 
of the Spectator provided Warren's loyalty to the cause were 

assured. 14 

The opponents of a convention pushed the work of local 
organization. On March 22 the "St. Clair Society for the 
prevention of slavery in the state of Illinois" was organized 
for the purpose of " disseminating light and knowledge on the 
subject of slavery, by cool and dispassionate reasoning, by 
circulating pamphlets, handbills, and other publications." A 
similar society was formed May 9 in Monroe possibly with 
but a small membership. In the next month an organization 
similar to that of St. Clair was formed in Edwardsville, though 
it did not specify the nature of the propaganda to be under- 
taken. On the fourth of July citizens of Morgan established 
a more elaborate organization apparently designed to support 
antislavery candidates for office. 15 

As the day of the election approached, the opponents of 
slavery held caucuses or conventions to nominate anti-conven- 

13 That Coles, as Hooper Warren insinuated, had bought Hansen over by a 
promise of the recordership of Fulton county is unlikely. The bargain could not 
possibly have been consummated after the consideration had been earned. Ed- 
ivardsville Spectator, February 15, 1823. 

14 Ibid., March i, 1823. 

15 Ibid., April 12, July 12, September 20, 1823; Illinois Intelligencer, July 
26, 1823. 


tion candidates. They drew the issue even in contests for 
local offices ; and naturally in legislative elections they concerted 
measures to prevent divisions of the anti-conventionist forces 
and a possible recurrence of the events of 1823. In St. Clair 
county a convention made up of delegates elected in each 
township was called to nominate county and legislative candi- 
dates. A similar call was issued in Bond, Fayette, and 
Montgomery for the choice of a candidate for senator. All 
this the convention party denounced as caucus methods. 

From the sources of information available the convention- 
ists appear to have been slower in organizing than their 
opponents. In August a meeting in Madison county recom- 
mended the appointment of township committees to promote 
the cause of the convention; in October, 1823, and March, 
1824, township party organization was adopted in White and 
Wayne counties. The anti-conventionists averred that on 
December 3, 1823, a convention meeting at Vandalia adopted 
a state organization consisting of a central committee of ten, 
and committees of five in each county, and of three in each, 
township. 16 

The conventionists complained of the influence of the clergy 
which was generally thrown on the antislavery side. The 
Christian church conference located on the Wabash and a 
Baptist sect, the Friends of Humanity, both denounced slavery 
as a sin. The Methodist circuit riders and preachers assailed 
slavery and slaveholders to the point of provoking bitter 
retorts. Conventionists accused them of denouncing slavery 
in Illinois and stopping at the houses of slaveholders in Mis- 
souri and pronounced their real dislike of a convention due to 
the fear that it might exclude them from the legislature. The 
Illinois Republican was so prolific in abuse of this sort that 
Warren took occasion to brand it as hostile to the Methodists 
as a body. He believed further, he said, that the clergy of all 
denominations were zealous in opposition to the convention. 

18 Edwardsvillt Spectator, January 27, February 17, April 13, 1824; Illinois 
Intelligencer, November i, December 6, 1823 ; Illinois Gazette, April 10, 1824. 


Illinois tradition affirms that John Mason Peck labored assidu- 
ously against a convention though no contemporary evidence 
of his activity appears. 17 

In newspaper publicity the resources of the two parties 
were more evenly divided. For Henry Eddy's Illinois Gazette 
the politic course was proslavery, and while the paper admitted 
articles on both sides its guarded expressions of sympathy were 
for the convention. Coles at the beginning of the struggle 
suggested that Morris Birkbeck and Richard Flower establish 
an anti-convention newspaper for eastern Illinois at Albion, 
but the suggestion was never carried out Coles had hopes 
of the support of the Kaskaskia Republican Advocate till April 
of 1823; but finally under the editorship of R. K. Fleming it 
supported the convention, as did the Illinois Republican at 
Edwardsville. 18 

The editors of the Illinois Intelligencer, William H. Brown 
and William Berry, disagreed on the issue involved in the con- 
vention struggle. In order to force out the anti-conventionist 
Brown, the assembly before adjournment voted the public 
printing to Berry and Robert Blackwell. Under the new pub- 
lishers the newspaper at once took up the cause of the 
convention. A year later, however, with its purchase by Coles 
and a coterie of anti-conventionists, David Blackwell replaced 
his brother as editor; and the Intelligencer became an open 
opponent of slavery. 19 The Edwardsville Spectator at the 
beginning of the struggle pursued an anomalous course. Its 
strictures on the Shaw-Hansen scandal were those rather of 
an enemy of Edward Coles and Nicholas Hansen than of an 
opponent of the convention. T. W. Smith hoped for a time 
to win Warren over; but the anti-convention forces by promises 
of financial support assured the newspaper's loyalty to the side 
of freedom. 

Coles further sought support from outside the state. His 

17 Ediuardsville Spectator, May 24, August 2, November i, 22, 1823 ; Illinois 
Intelligencer, May 17, July 5, August 23, 1823, May 17, 1824. 
18 Washburne, Edward Coles, 178. 
id., 167. 


friendship with Nicholas Biddle introduced him to certain 
Philadelphia Quakers who supplied him with antislavery tracts 
for distribution by the thousand. These were forwarded to 
St. Louis merchants along with their goods and were thence 
forwarded to Coles. Their source apparently was never 
learned by the conventionists. Had it been there would doubt- 
less have arisen a tremendous outcry against the interference 
of citizens of other states in the affairs of Illinois. 20 

The conventionists entered the controversy with their 
opponents under one serious handicap. They apparently 
judged it unwise to take an irrevocable position that the con- 
vention was designed to introduce slavery; yet they did not 
positively deny that some alteration in that direction was 
intended. There was an undercurrent of slavery sentiment 
noticeable in all their manifestoes. At the beginning, however, 
they emphasized the anti-conventionist opposition to submitting 
the question of a convention to the people, representing it as ; 
denial of the popular right to alter and remodel the governmen 
at will. The anti-conventionists, they said, were unwilling tc 
trust the people; they were contemners of instructions from 
their constituents; they were even federalists. On the other 
hand the anti-convention party argued that the convention 
which would be called would not carry out the will of the 
people. They pointed to the fact that under the existing 
system of representation, eight northern counties would have 
eight members in a convention and nine southern and eastern 
ones, with substantially the same number of voters, fifteen. 
Once the southern counties on indifferent grounds had secured 
a convention, their delegates in it could decide as they would 
the question of slavery and freedom. 21 

Meanwhile the conventionists were all things to all men. 
"They avow the object to be," said one writer, "to amendi 
the particular defect which you may imagine the constitution/ 
to have. Thus if you should be in favor of removing the seat 

20 Washburne, Edward Coles, 154-164. 

21 Illinois Intelligencer, March 8, 29, May 31, 1823; Edviardsville Spectator, 
March i, April 12, 1823 ; Kaskaskia Republican, April 20, 1824. 


of government to Alton or to Carmi, to Edwardsville or to 
Palestine, Kaskaskia, Covington or [MS. torn] [be] assured 
that his particular wish will be effected by having a convention. 
If you have no other objection to the constitution but the county 
commissioners court and the council of revision, then these are 
the only alterations that will be made to it. If one is in favor 
of altering the constitution and appointing the judges for a 
term of years, he is assured that that is one of the principal 
objects to be effected; if on the other hand another should be 
opposed to it he will be assured there is no danger of such an 
alteration being adopted. If one is opposed to the extension 
of Slavery, he will be told that it is not contemplated, and that 
if it were to be attempted, it could not be effected. If on the 
other hand he should be in favor of making this a slave holding 
state, he is assured that that is the great and chief object in 
view." 22 Such were the types of argument employed. The 
antislavery party answered them by pointing out for instance 
that the constitutional provision regulating county commis- 
sioners was so elastic that it said nothing of the duties or pay 
of the commissioners, or by stating that Elias K. Kane of the 
.convention party had himself been the sponsor for the council 
of revision. 23 

Where slavery, limited or unlimited, was the avowed 

motive for the convention, the arguments varied. In the 

-. neighborhood of the Gallatin saline, the Illinois Gazette printed 

\ articles dwelling on the advantage to accrue from the renewal 

I of the supply of indentured Negroes, which otherwise under 

the existing constitution would be cut off in 1825. Starting 

from the propositions that it was vain to expect a sufficient 

supply of white labor to man the salt works, since not even 

enough to supply the saline with agricultural produce was 

forthcoming, and that the work in so warm a climate could be 

I performed only by Negroes, they concluded that the welfare 

of the saline was bound up in slave labor, and that the pros- 

22 Edwards-wile Spectator, May 25, 1824. 

23 Ibid., March 2, April 13, 1824. 


parity of the whole district depended on the salines. Such 
arguments were used to persuade the people of Gallatin that 
slavery was an object well worth buying at the expense of 
support to the canal, even though the latter would diminish the 
importance of their county as the gateway to Illinois. 24 

So far as the conventionists undertook to justify slavery in 
the abstract they relied on the current method of reasoning of 
the day what may be called the diffusion argument. Admit- 
ting that the presence of slavery in America was a thing bitterly 
to be deplored, they proposed so far as was possible to amelio- 
rate the situation by extending as widely as possible the area 
in which slaves were to be found. This would not only improve 
the material condition of the slaves by enabling their masters 
to keep them in a country where food was cheap but in the long 
run would tend to bring about their emancipation. "Usually 
the conventionists claimed that their intention was at most only 
to introduce a limited slavery which in time would abolish itself. 
Sometimes they suggested provisions by which a man might 
hold a limited number of slaves for a term of years, the 
offspring of the slaves to be free at a certain age. Lest the 
state be overrun with free blacks, the freedmen were to be sent 
to Africa by that fashionable slavery specific, the Colonization 
Society. 25 

For this policy advantages both moral and material were 
claimed. Many slaveholders, it was said, who disapproved of 
the institution would be glad to avail themselves of so excellent 
a scheme. It would extend Christianity among the Negroes, 
supply labor of a type adapted to clear the soil without suffering 
the sickness that impaired the strength of the white settlers and 
suited to the menial tasks of drawing water and making fires 
in the salt works, which Adolphus Frederick Hubbard had 
singled out as the duties prescribed to Negroes by the laws of 
nature. In the background of the minds of advocates of this 

34 Illinois Intelligencer, June 28, July 5, 1823; Illinois Gazette, July 5, 1823, 
January 10, 1824. 

25 Kaskaskia Republican, March 30, 1824; Illinois Gazette, October n, De- 
cember 20, 1823, January 10, April 17, 1824; Illinois Intelligencer, November 
22. 1823. 


benevolent scheme was often the idea that the philanthropic 
slaveholders who entered the state would buy lands and 
improvements from the pioneers then in possession and would 
with their wealth form a welcome addition to the upper classes 
of the population. The complacent smugness of such argu- 
ments which passed current in the Gazette particularly prompts 
a savage desire to let a sentence which was written in all 
seriousness stand as a caricature of them. After commenting 
on the fact that the great men of the state were all slaveholders 
the writer added: "Other strong inducements I have for the 
introduction of slavery into this state are, that in the sickly 
season, the sick could have more attention paid them the 
community would flourish, our state would be more republican, 
and more populous the condition of the slaves much amelio- 
rated, and the several churches of Christ would be considerably 
enlarged." 26 

The antislavery writers in their range of arguments well- 
nigh ran the gamut. There is hardly a line of argument used 
by the abolitionists of later days but has its prototype in this 
period. The question of the validity of the slavery prohibition 
in the Ordinance of 1787 and of the guarantee in the Virginia 
deed of cession was debated at length. 27 The pretense of 
biblical authority for the institution was exposed by a keen 
, analysis of the limited slavery of the Jewish law as revealed in 
the books of Moses. Slavery in itself was denounced as a sin 
and the parent of vices and sins; it was declared contrary to 
the fundamental principle enunciated by the Declaration of 
Independence that all men are created equal. Sketches descrip- 
tive of the misery of the slave appeared set in language 
appealing to the emotions as frankly as did Uncle Tom's 
Cabin. Above all the antislavery pamphleteers insisted that 
slavery was a moral issue and this more than a quarter century 
before the Lincoln-Douglas debates. 28 The following passage 

26 Illinois Intelligencer, April 26, 1823. 

27 See above p. 47-50. 

28 Edwardsvllle Spectator, July 12, August 16, 1823; Illinois Gazette, Novem- 
ber 8, 1823. 


is a startling analogy to a well-known memorandum of Lin- 
coln's " Is it not quite as unjust, because some men are black, 
to say there is a natural distinction as to them ; and that black 
men, because they are black, ought to be slaves ... is it not 
the hight [sic] of arrogance to allege that because we have 
strong feelings and cultivated minds it would be great cru[el]ty 
to make slaves of us; but that because they are yet ignorant and 
uncultivated, it is no injury at all to them? Such a principle 
once admitted lays the foundation of a tyranny and injuce[jfc] 
that have no end." 29 

On material grounds the opponents of slavery pointed out 
the flaws in the diffusion argument. The history of mankind 
and of the slave trade from Africa and from the old south was 
cited to show that no matter how great the drain from it a 
reservoir of population always filled again to its ancient level. 
Slavery in Illinois it was said would only increase the demand 
for slaves and provoke anew kidnapping and the slave trade. 
Nay furthermore as the cool climate of Illinois unfitted it for 
the slave crops but adapted it as a home for men, the state 
would be degraded to a breeding ground of slaves for the 
southern market! 

To the man of today, however, the most powerfully con- 
vincing arguments against slavery were those which warned 
the free farmer of Illinois of the ruin that the introduction of 
the institution would bring upon him. Here the slavery penmen 
were face to face with overwhelming odds in the character of 
the combatants who opposed them. Confronting them was 
Morris Birkbeck, a man trained in the principles of human 
liberty, intellectually the descendant of well-nigh six generations 
of radicals who had labored for the people's freedom. The 
conventionists who opposed the petty tricks of political election- 
eering or addresses smacking of the college debating hall to 
the writings of Birkbeck were holding up a lath sword against 
the hammer of Thor. With a greater cause than Swift's to 
inspire him the author of the earlier letters of "Jonathan ' 

29 Illinois Intelligencer, May 21, 1824. 


Freeman " may claim a comparison not discreditable with " the 
Drapier's" letters. Birkbeck, knowing how to make a phrase 
of homely English do the work of a highly polished paragraph, 
in his "Jonathan Freeman" letters strove in simple language 
to inspire the small farmer who was dispirited by hard times 
to renew his faith in his ability to subdue the land and possess 
it without calling in slaveholders. 

" I am a poor man, that is to say, I have no money but I 
have a house to cover me and the rest of us, a stable for my 
horses, and a little barn, on a quarter of good land, paid up at 
the land office, with a middling fine clearing upon it. ... We 
help our neighbors, who are generally as poor as ourselves; 
some that are new-comers are not so well fixed. They help us 
in turn, and as it is the fashion to be industrious, I discover that 
we are all by degrees growing wealthy not in money, to be 
sure, but in truck. 

"There is a great stir among the landjobbers and politi- 
cians to get slaves into the country, because, as they say, 
we are in great distress; and I have been thinking pretty 
much about how it would act with me and my neighbors. . . . 

" I have lately seen people from Kentucky . . . are as bad 
off for money as we some say worse. . . . As money seems 
to be all we want, and they want it just as much as we do, I 
don't see how those Slave Gentry are to make it plenty." He 
believed that farmers wanting to sell out would not be able to 
sell their improvements to slaveholders, for "they can get 
Congress land at a dollar and a quarter an acre. It is men who 
come from free states with money in their pockets, and no 
work-hands about them, that buy improvements." 30 As for 
the saline, white workmen would flock to it once the Negroes 
were excluded. The scarcity of which the farmers complained 
was not a scarcity of the essentials of a healthy robust life, but 
merely a scarcity of the money to purchase luxuries. Instead 
of repining because their produce brought little in the New 

30 Edwards ille Spectator, November i, 1823. The slaveholder was an em- 
ployer of Negro, not of white labor, and his money would be spent not in the 
state but in the east for luxuries. 


Orleans market, they should learn to produce at home the 
articles of manufacture they required. In the wilderness they 
enjoyed plenty and liberty, and with that they should be 

With equal effect Birkbeck pointed out the loss of social 
solidarity that would result if the slaveholder came in. " The 
planters are great men, and will ride about, mighty grand, with 
their umbrellas over their heads, when I and my boys are 
working, perhaps bare-headed, in the hot sun. Neighbors 
indeed! they would have all their own way, and rule over us 
like little kings: . . . but if we lacked to raise a building or 
a dollar the d 1 a bit would they help us." 31 Freemen 
came from slave states because " it is impossible for free men 
to thrive by honest labor among slaveholders and slaves." 
The planter would not tax himself for free schools; but the 
farmer must suffer from the pilfering of negroes and ride 
patrol all night while his women shared with the planter's wife 
the dread of a slave insurrection. In a word Birkbeck suc- 
ceeded in fitting the argument against slavery squarely to Illi- 
nois conditions. 

In the election the proslavery men were routed. The vote 
was 4,972 for a convention and 6,640 against it. The con- 
ventionists polled their majorities in the counties of the south. 
Gallatin gave them 82 per cent, Pope, 69, Alexander, 60, 
Jackson, 66, Hamilton, 67, Jefferson, 70, Franklin, 60. They 
carried Wayne with 63 per cent of the votes, and Randolph 
with 55 per cent. On the other hand they either lost or won 
by insignificant margins in such counties as Union, Johnson, and 
White of the south, while the north central counties were decid- 
edly against them by fair majorities and the northern counties 
by overwhelming ones. In Pike the anti-conventionists got 
90 per cent, in Fulton, 92, in Morgan, 91, in Sangamon, 83, 
in Clark, 79, in Edgar, 99. In the group of eleven counties 
bordered on the north by St. Clair, Washington, Marion, 
Wayne, and White, casting 3,788 votes, 62 per cent of the 

31 Edwardsville Spectator, November i, 1823. 


vote was for slavery. In the nineteen counties to the north of 
this, out of 7,814 votes cast only 33 per cent was for slavery, 
and these figures are increased by the 5 1 per cent and 45 per 
cent cast in Fayette and Montgomery respectively. 

It is unlikely that the two factions 32 that divided state 
politics were definitely aligned in the contest. The leaders of 
the anti-Edwards faction were actively for the convention. On 
the other side Cook was definitely aligned against it though he 
took no very active part in opposition, and Edwards, while 
remaining publicly noncommittal, privately confided to a few 
friends his opposition to the measure. Yet many loyal lieu- 
tenants of Edwards such as Henry Eddy and Leonard White 
were active conventionists. In view of the rapid changes of 
affiliation and the lack of data as to the factional alignments 
at different times it is impossible to say definitely how many of 
the conventionists or anti-conventionists were at the time active 
in either faction. After the election many anti-conventionists 
were found in Edwards ranks but many conventionists as well. 
As Peck remarked, after the election the question of the intro- 
duction of slavery in Illinois was at an end politically, though 
Edwards was not above trying to revive it for political effect. 
Future political movements and alliances had no relation to 
the position of parties in the convention struggle. 

The two men who had been most closely associated in the 
struggle, Coles and Birkbeck, made no political advantage out 
of the triumph of their cause. Coles as a candidate for the 
senatorship in 1824 joined the coalition against Edwards only 
to see the prize fall to Elias Kent Kane, a proslavery man. 
Several of Coles' nominations to office were rejected by the 
senate, notably that of Birkbeck to be secretary of state, an 
office he had held in the interim. In his messages of 1824 and 
1826 Coles reiterated his suggestion that the assembly provide 
by law for the abrogation of the remnants of slavery in the 
state and the repeal of the black code and adopt effective meas- 
ures against kidnapping; but in spite of the antislavery attitude 

32 For discussion of these two political factions see below, p. 92 ff. 


of the state long years passed before this was done. Coles' 
work in Illinois was finished. He wished to run for congress 
in 1828 and did run in 1830; but both times his ambition was 
disappointed. He left the state and its politics for a long, 
happy, and apparently uneventful life at Philadelphia. 

The end of Birkbeck's career was a tragedy. The country 
of the Illinois had but poorly recompensed his high hopes. It 
had brought him financial losses, galling criticism, disappoint- 
ment in love, and estrangement from his friends. He had 
performed with high efficiency the duties of secretary of state, 
but the enemies he had made by his war on slavery sought to 
wound him so far as they could by rejecting his nomination for 
the office. A few months later while swimming his horse over 
a swollen creek he was swept away to his death. Long since 
those most directly interested in preserving his memory have 
left the state, and his name has been practically forgotten in 
the commonwealth he served so well. 


HE question of slavery apart, Illinois politics for the first 
JL twelve years of statehood consisted of a struggle between 
personal factions. Till the rise of Jacksonian democracy 
national parties in the modern sense of the word were nonexist- 
ent; and in Illinois the divisions and disputes over the presi- 
dential aspirations of Crawford, Adams, Clay, Calhoun, and 
Jackson were secondary in interest to the contests between the 
state factions and at best served only to intensify their strife 
or to create cross divisional lines. At first sight political con- 
tests within the state are a maze of personal and factional 
rivalries. The clue lies in the existence of two factions, the 
Edwards and anti-Edwards, each a rather loose group of 
personal followings, in which disaftections, mutinies, and 
changes of side occurred with confusing rapidity. 

In the case of the Edwards faction at least the bond of 
union was partly common business interests. During the con- 
stitutional convention in 1818 the attempts of Nathaniel Pope, 
Benjamin Stephenson, and others of the Edwards faction to 
secure the location of the state capital on one of their town 
sites reacted against Governor Ninian Edwards when he was 
candidate for the senate in I8I9. 1 Stephenson, Edwards, and 
Theophilus W. Smith in 1820 were concerned in promoting an 
addition to Edwardsville. Both Stephenson and Edwards, 
along with William Kinney, and with Richard M. and James 
Johnson of Kentucky were interested in the Bank of Edwards- 
ville. Thomas Hart Benton bitterly attacked the institution in 
the St. Louis newspapers; and, when in 1822 he assailed the 
national policy of leasing the lead mines to the Johnsons and 
others, it was Edwards who came to their support. The con- 

1 Buck, Illinois in 1818, p. 286-292. 



duct of the Bank of Missouri toward the banks of Edwards- 
ville and Shawneetown created a common bond of financial 
interest between Edwards and John Marshall and John Cald- 
well of the Shawneetown bank; and both men politically were 
his friends and supporters. 2 

The central figure in this party was the stately Ninian 
Edwards, already a politician of note in Kentucky when in 
1809 he was appointed governor of Illinois territory. Kindly, 
charitable, generous, and at the same time pompous, overbear- 
ing, and affected, he had many warm friends, many enemies 
too, and perhaps many associates who humored his foibles 
so long as doing so would promote their own advantage. The 
quality of mental balance was almost completely lacking in, 
Edwards. By turns he was bold and overcautious, headstrong 
and vacillating, now plunging rashly into an enterprise such as 
the attack on Crawford, of which he had not counted the cost, 
now hestitating between two courses and striving to follow both 
when an irrevocable decision between them had to be made. 
A mental shiftiness sometimes led him into equivocal positions 
which he could justify only by elaborate explanations. Notably 
in the Crawford imbroglio by piling up card houses of circum- 
stantial evidence to prove his innocence of charges which he 
should have been able to ignore or to deny flatly, he frittered 
away his fair fame. His contemporaries, like students in these 
latter days, doubtless grew weary of reiterations and of elab- 
orate proofs of his abilities and integrity. Finally, trying to 
hit on a course that would throw away none of his claims on 
the various presidential candidates, he was swept away in the 
flood of intolerant Jacksonism. 

Aligned with the Edwards faction were Nathaniel Pope, 
formerly delegate in congress and at the beginning of the state 
period a federal judge, Daniel Pope Cook, his nephew, in a 
year or two to become Edwards' son-in-law, Thomas C. 
Browne, a justice of the state supreme court, and Leonard 

~ Annals of Congress, 17 congress, i session, 465-470; Washburne, Edwards 
Papers, 156, 158. 


White of Gallatin county. Of the lesser men William Kinney, 
Theophilus W. Smith, and E. J. West were soon to desert 
the faction and ultimately to become leaders of the opposi- 

Comparatively little of the methods and purposes of the 
opposition party is known except from its opponents. Of its 
leaders, Jesse B. Thomas had begun his career with the bargain 
of the Illinois country delegates that had led to the division of 
Indiana territory. John McLean from the eastern side of the 
state was a man of considerable ability but with an irascible 
temper which led him to bitter and vindictive outbursts against 
enemies or false friends. Joseph B. Phillips, till his removal 
from the state after his defeat for governor, was another 
member of the party; Shadrach Bond, a man of no great spirit 
or ability, was soon by Kane's influence drawn from a position 
of neutrality into the faction. 3 

Elias Kent Kane, who was apparently till his death in 
December, 1835, the chief of the faction whenever he chose 
to exert his influence, is the enigma of early Illinois politics. 
In the case of every other man of prominence, the man, his 
friends, or his enemies have left materials for a sketch or a 
caricature of him. Kane is a man in a mask. Letters to and 
from him, even from father and friends, newspaper puffs, the 
epithets of enemies, a school boy's letter about him, survive; 
but among them can be found not one human touch, not one 
phrase that can endow the man with a living personality. No 
anecdotes that would characterize him have survived. Cata- 
logs of his political abilities, virtues, and vices can be found; 
again and again is seen his influence at work; but from all these 
can be drawn no picture of Kane himself. It is known that he 
was of a decayed aristocratic New York family, a graduate 
of Yale who came to Illinois to seek his fortune. Yet strangely 
he seems to have taken no interest in the great enterprise that 
in the days of his highest power Yale men undertook at Illinois 
College. The distinctive gift of his alma mater to her sons 

3 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 150. 

[From original owned by Illinois State Historical Library] 


has sometimes been said to be a certain reserve and convention 
of manner; and at the last one is compelled to dismiss Kane 
as so far typically a Yale man. 

At the time of the institution of state government the two 
factions appear to have reached a compromise as to the dispo- 
sition of offices. Shadrach Bond, who had belonged to neither 
faction, was elected governor without opposition; both sides 
had been anxious that he should withdraw from the congres- 
sional race in which McLean beat Cook by fourteen votes. 
In the legislature, Cook was elected attorney-general, and 
Thomas C. Browne and Joseph B. Phillips, judges of the su- 
preme court by decisive majorities. Ninian Edwards was 
similarly elected to one senatorship, receiving thirty-two votes 
out of forty cast. Jesse B. Thomas of the opposite faction was 
elected to the other seat on the fourth ballot, by a majority of 
three over Leonard White, an Edwards man. In this election 
a bargain apparently had failed, and in the congressional elec- 
tion none can have existed. The fact, however, that Edwards, 
who drew the short term expiring in 1819, hesitated about 
announcing his candidacy for reelection led to an attempt to 
defeat him by arousing jealousy among eastern Illinois mem- 
bers on the score that both senators were from the western part 
of the state. He was finally elected by a vote of twenty-three 
to nineteen. 4 

Edwards and Thomas carried their factional rivalries to 
the senate. They were soon at outs on the question of federal 
appointments in the state. Edwards, who fared the worse 
in the contest for registerships and receiverships, rather injured 
his standing by the energy of his protests. Jealous of interfer- 
ence with his power of appointment, President Monroe refused 
to entertain Edwards' proposal that he and Thomas be per- 
mitted each to select two of four officers for the new land offices. 
The president and the more staid part of official Washington 
appear to have been surprised and puzzled at the bitterness of 

* Senate Journal, 1818, i session, 16, 28; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 149- 
150, 154. 


the contest between the two factions. 6 ;< The local parties, in 
which you appear to have lived," wrote William Wirt to 
Edwards, "have kept you in a constant state of partisan war- 
fare which, of all conditions of human life, is best calculated 
to sharpen the observation of character, to whet the sagacity 
in the detection of hostile movements, even at a distance, and 
to fructify the invention in the adoption of countervailing 
manoeuvres. But when a man rises, as you have risen, above 
the horizon of this petty warfare, he ought to forget all local 
feuds. . . ." 6 Such was the counsel of a friend who had 
attained a mental poise such as Edwards never achieved. The 
advice was calculated to conditions of the political age that 
was passing rather than of that which was coming in; but 
Edwards might well have taken it to heart. 

The rivalry between Edwards and Thomas was soon inten- 
sified by their affiliations in the presidential conflict. Thomas 
together with Thomas Hart Benton, whom Edwards had 
sought to defeat for the Missouri senatorship by running 
Cook's brother against him, espoused the cause of William H. 
Crawford. Daniel Pope Cook, who, as has been seen, had in 
1819 and 1820 been elected to congress over the anti-Edwards 
leaders, McLean and Kane, apparently was inclined to favor 
Adams. Edwards was at first inclined in the same direction, 
but by his own account seeing that Calhoun had a better chance 
against Crawford, he transferred his allegiance to the war 
department. 7 Soon he and Cook were carrying on a dangerous 
and daring warfare against the redoubtable Crawford. 

In the session of congress of 1821-1822 Cook began a 
vigorous attack on Crawford, the secretary of the treasury, 
for appointing Jesse B. Thomas to the lucrative task of exam- 
ining western land offices. He pursued this in the house with 
a persistency that probably detracted from its effect, persevering 
even after a committee report exonerated Thomas and Craw- 

5 Crawford to Edwards, January 10, 1821, in Chicago Historical Society 
manuscripts; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 167, 181, 185. 
"Washburne, Edwards Papers, 188-189. 
7 Adams, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, 5: 304, 525. 


ford of unconstitutional or improper conduct 8 The attack 
was doubtless for the moment against Thomas rather than 
Crawford. The Calhoun leaders were anxious to see Thomas 
as a Crawford partisan defeated for reelection to the senate; 
and Edwards was urged directly by Calhoun to secure his 
defeat even by a bargain. "The reelection of Thomas," he 
wrote, " would have a very bad effect. You must run but one, 
and if necessary you ought to come to an understanding." 9 
The Illinois papers of the Edwards faction attacked Thomas 
during the course of 1822, accusing him of trying to buy his 
election by promises of offices and charging that he was in 
opposition to Monroe and in alliance with Crawford. 

The Edwards faction was not under strict enough disci- 
pline to agree on any one candidate to oppose Thomas. Pope, 
perhaps in the earlier part of the year, had endeavored to 
pledge the Edwards support to John Reynolds. Edwards was 
incensed that this should have been done without his knowledge ; 
very likely at this time he had none too good an opinion of 
Reynolds' ability and integrity; and he was piqued at being 
pledged without his knowledge to support another Edwards' 
faction aspirant for the senatorship whom Pope proposed to 
get out of the way by that means. At the meeting of the 
assembly, Lockwood, White, and John Reynolds were all can- 
didates on the Edwards side. 10 Reynolds tried to postpone 
the election in the hope that the charges brought against 
Thomas might gain weight or that the various persons to 
whom he was reported to have promised the same offices might 
grow suspicious. He also appealed to Edwards for unity in 
the faction and for efficient use of the patronage to fix wavering 
supporters, but with no result. Thomas, Kane, Bond, Joseph 
Kitchell, and McLean were united; and January 9, 1823, 

8 Annals of Congress, 17 congress, i session, 635-637, 829-831, 876, 897-898, 
912-916; Illinois Intelligencer, May 4, 1822; Ed<wards<ville Spectator, February 
5, 1822. 

9 Edwards, History of Illinois, 493. 

10 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 192-203. This is a draft without an address. 
Washburne believed it was written to Bond, but a careful study of its contents 
leaves no doubt that it was to Pope. 


Thomas was reflected, receiving a majority of six over Reyn- 
olds, White, and Lockwood. 

Meanwhile, Edwards and Cook had become directly in- 
volved in a contest with the secretary of the treasury. Craw- 
ford's financial policy toward the western states has been con- 
sidered in a preceding chapter. 11 Here it may be recalled that 
he had undertaken to use the unstable banks of the west in col- 
lecting the revenue from the public lands in the more than 
unstable bank note currencies of that region. Statesmanlike 
as the measure was, it had resulted in losses to the govern- 
ment; and no doubt a politician so active as Crawford had not 
failed, where he could, to advance his political fortunes by 
his financial favors. On specific points this policy was attacked 
by Edwards and Cook, the latter securing in the house of repre- 
sentatives repeated calls on Crawford for the production of 
great masses of correspondence with agent banks. Edwards, 
by the use he endeavored to make of this material against 
Crawford, involved himself in what became known as the 
A. B. plot. 

The A. B. plot had developed in 1823, when there appeared 
in the Republican, the Calhoun organ at Washington, a series 
of articles under the signature A. B. which not only attacked 
Crawford for malfeasance in his official relations with banks 
but further insinuated that, under a call made by the house the 
year before for correspondence relating to banks, certain letters 
had been withheld and crucial parts of another marked for 
omission when the correspondence should be printed. To 
weigh the testimony fully would require a chapter by itself; 
here it may be said that at best the evidence was far from prov- 
ing conclusively bad faith on the part of anyone concerned and 
that the details alleged to have been suppressed were of no 
great importance. John Quincy Adams, by no means likely 
to be prejudiced in favor of Crawford, believed the design 
of the A. B. letters was to remove Joseph Gales and William W. 
Seaton, Crawford supporters, from their post of public print- 

11 See above, p. 53 ff. 


ers. 12 An investigation, perhaps of a somewhat partisan 
cast, finally exonerated all accused in the A. B. letters. It was 
generally understood that Edwards was the author of the 
letters; and the fact that he had used information obtained in 
a semiofficial capacity as a basis for anonymous attacks on 
his political enemies seriously impaired his prestige with men 
like Adams and Monroe and was sedulously used against him 
by the partisans of Crawford. 

Edwards' senatorial career indeed had not been especially 
gratifying or profitable to him. His financial interests had 
suffered by his absence from Illinois. His reputation for so- 
briety of judgment had been impaired not only by his supposed 
leadership in the A. B. plot, but possibly also by an occasional 
vehemence such as marked his attempt in 1820 to amend the 
land bill in the senate, an attempt which some senators con- 
sidered indecorous. He had seen Thomas outstrip him in the 
race for preferment when in 1820 the latter received an 
appointment on the senate committee on the public lands. Per- 
haps on account of his ill health he was not active in the senate 
during the 1822-1823 session, frequently failing to answer to 
his name and presenting almost no memorials and petitions; 
in this session he was on no standing committee. During his 
term he had repeatedly considered resigning, for the first time 
in 1819, then in 1821 when in a huff at his discomfiture over 
appointments, again in 1822 when he resented Pope's attempts 
to dissuade him from resignation, and finally in 1823 when 
Calhoun entreated him to remain. 13 Early in 1824, however, 
he sought from Monroe the nomination as minister to Mexico. 
Monroe was at first inclined to refuse to consider him because 
of the A. B. affair. Cook was earnest in his efforts with Adams 
in behalf of his father-in-law, and Edwards obtained the nomi- 
nation. For some time it seemed that the senate might reject 
it for the same reasons that had influenced Monroe in his 

12 Adams, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, 6:227-228, 296-297, 370-372. 
is Washburne, Edwards Papers, 202-203; Edwards, History of Illinois, 496; 
Annals of Congress, 16 congress, i session, 9, 26. 


opposition, but finally it confirmed the appointment. Edwards, 
however, was destined never to set out on the mission. A new 
outbreak of his feud with Crawford brought both men to a 
death grapple. 

Edwards in his arraignment of Crawford for depositing 
the public money in banks where it proved a total loss had had 
to encounter the uncomfortable fact that he himself had been 
instrumental in securing a deposit for one of the defaulting 
institutions, the Bank of Edwardsville. He had asserted, how- 
ever, that in the fall of 1819 he had disclaimed further respon- 
sibility for the bank in a newspaper publication, a copy of which 
he had sent to Crawford, and that further he had induced Ben- 
jamin Stephenson, in his capacity as receiver at Edwardsville, 
to write Crawford suggesting that for the present he had better 
not deposit further with himself as bank president. So Edwards 
had testified before a house committee in February of 1823. 
In view of the attacks previously made on him, it is not sur- 
prising that Crawford, in sending to congress a report contain- 
ing a last installment of the correspondence demanded by the 
various calls, should have concluded with the statement that no 
such letter as Edwards described was to be found in the 
treasury files. 

Edwards, on the point of departure from Washington when 
this report appeared, regarded it as an attempt to ruin his 
good name. Continuing on his journey toward Illinois, he sent 
to the house of representatives a communication with accom- 
panying documents, recapitulating several of his former charges 
against Crawford and reiterating his statement as to the exist- 
ence of the letter. At the Edwardsville land office he procured 
a copy of the rough draft of the letter in question and of another 
which referred to it. The house of representatives promptly 
recalled him to testify in an investigation. It seemed at the 
time that the presidential race was likely to be run with Craw- 
ford against the field ; and his partisans realizing that Edwards' 
charges against him, if established, would ruin his chances, 
rallied around him. Edwards' old associates, on the other 


hand, hesitated to imperil themselves by defending him too 
openly; and he was left to fight almost single-handed against 
his enemies. 

In this situation Edwards found himself committed to 
charges which were not susceptible of plain demonstration. 
The death of Stephenson had left no direct witness to the 
writing of the letter save Edwards. The existence of the draft 
letter in the Edwardsville oJffice indorsed by Stephenson, but 
as it developed written in Edwards' own hand, was no positive 
proof that Stephenson had actually sent a letter casting doubts 
on the solvency of his bank, or that Crawford had received it. 
Edwards tried to meet the difficulty by deducing from the later 
letters by Crawford a fine-spun thread of proof that the letter 
had actually been received. Crawford's counsel before the 
committee were able to advance an interpretation at least as 
plausible in favor of their client; what was more important, by 
a comparison of dates and of the time taken by the mails they 
showed that it was impossible that the letter could have been 
taken into account in a letter which Edwards argued was a fur- 
tive answer to it. Edwards was reduced to the position of 
impeaching Crawford's veracity on his own word, plus a tenu- 
ous line of circumstantial evidence. 

On the other specifications of his charge Edwards was 
equally unfortunate. In general they depended for proof on 
elaborate arguments drawn from intricate bodies of evidence, 
the sifting of which is wearisome to the scholar and inex- 
pressibly dull to the lay reader. Edwards' proofs were suf- 
ficient to convince Crawford's enemies but not to silence his 
friends. Further Crawford's counsel by various witnesses, 
notably Senator James Noble of Indiana, sought to discredit 
Edwards' veracity by proving that when he feared that his 
nomination would be rejected by the senate he had denied to 
several persons the authorship of the A. B. letters. The stroke 
from the politicians' point of view was a masterly one. Instead 
of being content merely with turning aside Edwards' charges 
by controverting evidence and interpretation, they impugned 


the veracity of the man on whose unsupported evidence much 
of the charge was based. 

In meeting this counter attack Edwards' intellectual habits 
betrayed him into his supreme error. Instead of taking the 
stand and denying on his oath the testimony against him, he 
devoted himself to building up by a long series of witnesses, 
letters, and affidavits a structure of circumstantial evidence 
designed to show that it was impossible that such conversations 
should have taken place, but in each instance falling a little 
short of demonstration. The committee, though made up in 
Crawford's interest, in exonerating him left a serious blemish 
on Edwards' reputation. 

It is impossible to decide whether Edwards or Crawford 
had the major part of truth on his side. In view of Crawford's 
political situation it is impossible to accept implicitly the con- 
clusion of a committee numbering several of his friends and 
allies. It is as easy to explain the facts regarding Stephenson's 
letters by supposing them to have been suppressed in Craw- 
ford's office as to explain them by supposing that Stephenson 
wrote the first letter to please Edwards, and the second to 
convince him the first had been sent, and actually forwarded 
neither. It is easy to believe that Crawford in his dealings 
with banks had shown political friends "undue favors," such 
as Edwards alleged. There are certain grave discrepancies in 
the testimony designed to fix on Edwards the denial of the 
A. B. letters. Finally one must remember that by their enemies 
at least many of Crawford's followers were accounted des- 
perate and unscrupulous politicians. 

On the other hand certain facts of Edwards' conduct point 
toward what was at least a moral obliquity in his character. 
Occasionally he seemed to attempt a suppression of facts. The 
affidavit which he secured to describe the draft of Stephenson's 
letter specifies that the draft was indorsed in Stephenson's 
hand but not that it was written in Edwards'. In the whole 
course of his narratives Edwards overemphasized the warning 
Crawford might have taken from his publication and from 


Stephenson's letter, for both publication and letter were labori- 
ous in their attempts to shift responsibility without giving cause 
for real alarm. Edwards' conduct in the A. B. affair had not 
seemed to dissentients or even to friendly onlookers overscru- 
pulous on the point of honor; further, several of his attacks 
on Crawford's dealing with specific banks were trivial and 
unfair. To dismiss Edwards with a clear character and to give 
him the verdict against Crawford is impossible. 

Whatever be the conclusion as to Edwards' deserts there 
can be no doubt that for the time being he was brought to the 
verge of financial ruin. He had of course resigned his senator- 
ship before accepting the Mexican appointment; and his deten- 
tion to testify as to his charges against Crawford compelled 
him to resign that also. He was obliged to refund the portion 
of his salary which had been advanced him; and the sum he 
had already invested in his outfit proved almost a dead loss. 
He was prepared to dispose of his speculative landholdings at 
a heavy sacrifice, and he even professed himself willing to 
accept a county clerkship to support his family. 14 

Meanwhile Cook had upheld the political fortunes of the 
Edwards faction in Illinois against the ablest and most popu- 
lar leaders of the opposition. In 1819 and 1822 he defeated 
McLean; in 1820, Kane; and in 1824, Bond; all by decisive 
pluralities. His tremendous personal popularity was the prin- 
cipal cause of his success. In 1819 and 1820, it was true, he 
had triumphed on the antislavery principle ; but his opponents 
seemed able to devise no issue that would enable them to over- 
come his popularity. Charges that he had been guilty of 
improper use of his frank and of associating politically with 
federalists were of no avail. In 1822 James Hall, under the 
signature of Brutus attacked him in the Illinois Gazette, accus- 
ing him of assailing Crawford for bank policies that had helped 
the west in its need, but to no purpose. In 1824 the attempt 
on the part of Bond's friends to identify Cook with the anti- 

14 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 225-229, 230-231, 429; Adams, Memoirs of 
John Quincy Adams, 6:374-375. 


convention party led the Gazette to remark that half the con- 
ventionists in eastern Illinois were for Cook and that for Bond 
to create a coalition between Cook's friends and the anti- 
convention party was suicidal. It is much more significant to 
find attacks circulating which represented Cook and Edwards 
as members of a reigning family. 15 In years to come such 
charges had their effect. 

One issue, however, had been raised against both Cook 
and Edwards as early as 1820 and was destined to annoy them 
both so long as they remained in politics. The accusation was 
made that from self-interest they had voted against a reduction 
of the price of public land in 1820. Edwards and Cook both 
declared that they had voted against the bill which reduced 
the price of public land from $2 to $1.25 an acre, because it 
also oppressed the west by abolishing the credit sales system. 
Edwards pointed to the fact that in the senate he had repeatedly 
endeavored to lower the price still more and to secure preemp- 
tions to actual settlers, pressing his amendments with such 
vehemence that at last he had fallen in a swoon on the floor 
of the senate. Edwards must have known the futility of offer- 
ing for the approval of eastern senators such radical price 
amendments as he did; the whole series that he proposed has 
a touch of buncombe to it. No doubt the reduction in price 
operated disastrously on men like Cook and Edwards with 
heavy speculative holdings, and it was said on fair authority 
that Edwards had written to his associate in speculation express- 
ing his fear lest the measure pass. Of a piece with this charge 
was one brought against Cook in 1822 to the effect that he had 
opposed the creation of a new land office and of preemption 
rights in the Sangamon country with a view to the possibility 
of his own family's monopolizing the land in case it were 
sold at Edwardsville. 18 This charge was, however, effectively 

10 Illinois Gazette, June 29, July 6, 1822; Ediuardsville Spectator, July 18, 
1820, July 27, 1822; Illinois Intelligencer, July 22, 1820, July 27, 1822; Kaskas- 
kia Republican, April 20, 1824. 

16 Illinois Gazette, June 29, July 27, August 3, 1822; Illinois Intelligencer, 
July 27, 1822; Edwards, History of Illinois, 510, 517, 518. 


Local issues, or local applications of national issues, pre- 
dominated in congressional elections. Thus in his address to 
his constituents in 1824, Cook found but little room and no 
important place for the Monroe Doctrine and the slave trade. 
Instead he stressed the feasibility of an Illinois-Michigan 
canal, appropriations for the improvement of the Ohio and 
the Mississippi, the extension of the Cumberland road, a pos- 
sible system of national internal improvements, a more liberal 
policy of relief to purchasers of public land and finally and 
most important the tariff. The tariff by virtue of the home 
market argument was made an important political issue in the 
west in the early twenties. Thus in 1824 Bond's avowed policy 
of encouragement of agriculture was set down in his party as 
opposition to protected manufactures. 17 Crawford was at- 
tacked in Illinois as hostile to internal improvements and pro- 
tection, and it is not clear that as yet his friends ventured to 
join issue on the question. The appearance of the tariff as a 
sectional issue must be noted in this connection. About 1820, 
because of its interest in a protective tariff, the east was assailed 
for hostility to the west. In view of the future trend of poli- 
tics toward a low tariff alliance between west and south, it is 
interesting to note the declarations of southern members that 
if oppressed by a high tariff the south could no longer afford 
to furnish the principal market for the livestock of the west. 
As yet, however, in the limited materials for Illinois history 
available, no answering echo can be detected. 18 

The presidential question was before the people of Illinois 
for nearly three years before the election of 1824. For some 
time, as nearly as one can determine, predilections of individ- 
uals often expressed by Fourth of July toasts in favor of one 
candidate or another determined their respective allegiances. 
As the election drew near, however, the field narrowed. Cal- 

17 Illinois Gazette, April 24, July 17, 1824. Cook on the tariff of 1824 voted 
generally for protection, dnnals of Congress, 18 congress, i session, 1545, 2236, 
2289-2294, 2310-2316, 2327-2330, 2337, 2338, 2627-2629. 

IK Illinois Gazette, June 3, 1820; Annals of Congress, 18 congress, i session, 


houn withdrew from the race. Clay and Crawford, in spite 
of the fact that factional considerations would suggest Craw- 
ford's support by the anti-Edwards men, were believed to have 
little strength in one or another of the three electoral districts 
in which the state was divided. Later it was said that Kinney, 
Kane, McLean, and others of the anti-Edwards faction had 
favored Crawford. Accordingly the presidential election, 
though attracting fewer voters than the congressional election, 
became complicated by coalition candidates, trades, and rumors 
of trades. 

In the third district, comprising southwestern Illinois, noth- 
ing remarkable occurred. In the first district a delegate 
convention nominated James Turney as a candidate for elector 
pledged to vote for either Jackson or Clay according to the 
turn of events. The Intelligencer, which favored Clay, warned 
his supporters not to be deceived as Clay actually was stronger 
than Jackson or Crawford, whom it regarded as the probable 
beneficiary of the movement. Finally Jackson, Adams, Clay, 
and Crawford electors were all run. 19 

In the second district a different set of problems presented 
themselves. The chief of them was the danger lest the Jackson 
vote be split among several electors and an Adams man be 
chosen. Henry Eddy was nominated as Jackson elector by a 
public meeting which his enemies stigmatized as a caucus. This 
and the statement that Eddy secretly favored Adams led 
Joseph M. Street to offer himself as elector pledged to vote 
for Jackson for president and some republican for vice 
president. The suspicion was openly expressed that he was a 
stalking horse to divide the Jackson vote and secure the election 
of a nominal Clay elector who would vote for Crawford. Both 
Jackson and Adams men denounced this scheme; and in parody 
of Street, an Adams man, A. G. S. Wight, offered himself as 
elector for " Crawford for President, and Joseph M. Street, 
or some well known Republican for Vice President." 20 

19 Illinois Intelligencer, September 24, October 22, 1824. 
ao Illinois Gazette, October 16, 1824. 


In view of the interpretations later put upon Cook's pledge 
to vote in the house for the man who had a majority of the 
vote in Illinois it is important to note the results. An Adams 
elector was chosen in the first district, and Jackson electors in 
the other two. In no case had the presence of two electors 
for the same candidate caused a serious split in the vote. In 
the state at large Adams had 1,542 votes; Jackson, 1,272; 
Clay, 1,047; an d Crawford, 219. This estimate, however, 
does not include 629 votes cast in the first district for Turney, 
the Jackson and Clay elector. His vote given to either Jackson 
or Clay would have given either a plurality over Adams. On 
the other hand the Edwardsmlle Spectator in its abstract of 
the votes lists Turney's under " Crawford," and this undoubt- 
edly represents the source of a portion of the vote. It is not 
surprising that Cook apparently considered that he had received 
no popular mandate and was at liberty to follow his personal 
inclinations which led him in the house of representatives to 
cast the vote of Illinois for Adams. 

Six months later, and almost a year before the congressional 
election of 1826, Joseph Duncan offered himself as a rival can- 
didate to Cook. Duncan had played a minor part in state poli- 
tics for several years, serving as a senator in the legislature 
of 1824-1826; he can scarcely be classed with anti-Edwards 
faction. Intellectually he was by no means the peer of Cook, 
nor did his followers claim it; and it is not surprising that 
Cook and his friends hardly took his candidacy seriously. 
Duncan, however, had a fair military record. As a boy of 
seventeen serving as ensign it had fallen to him to be the first 
to give his vote in council of war for the defense of Fort 
Stephenson, one of the military successes of the War of 1812, 
whose memory was still green in the west. His military service 
and the fact that he was a farmer were made to contrast favor- 
ably with Cook's long career in public office; he had the hearty 
support of the anti-Edwards faction; and to improve his 
position, immediately after the adjournment of the legislature 
in 1826, he began a thorough canvass of the state. 


It soon became apparent that the campaign against Cook 
was to be carried on by negation rather than assertion. Mut- 
terings of discontent with his vote for Adams had appeared 
a full year before Duncan was held up to the people as 
" a citizen who has been weighed in the balance and not found 
wanting." Cook's friends soon concluded that this vote was 
a vulnerable point which must be defended. Sometimes they 
endeavored to explain Cook's conduct as according with his 
pledges. Sometimes they appealed to the voters to remember 
that Cook had dLfered with them but this once in six years. 
As a motive to forgiveness of this offense, if offense it were, 
they pleaded the influential position Cook had attained in 
congress and the great services that in virtue of it he had ren- 
dered and could still render to his constituents, notably on 
behalf of the canal. , 

A second vulnerable point in Cook's position was reached 
by the cry that the Edwards-Cook connection formed a reigning 
family. ' The public land vote of 1820 was brought out for use 
against both Cook and his father-in-law. To this charge 
Cook's supporters replied by attempting to demonstrate in the 
family relations of James M. and Joseph Duncan, their uncle 
R. K. McLaughlin, and David Blackwell a family dynasty 
similar to the Cook-Edwards-Pope alliance ; but the attack was 
hardly as successful as that of their opponents, who could point 
to the fact as a graphic demonstration of their charge that 
while Cook was running for congress, Edwards was running 
for governor. 21 

Edwards had embarked on the campaign for the governor- 
ship in the hope of receiving a popular vindication from the 
charges made against him in his controversy with Crawford. 
In the 1824 legislature he had stood for reelection to the 
senate and had been defeated for the unexpired term by John 
McLean who, in his turn, was beaten for the full term by Elias 
Kent Kane. In spite of the fact that the election left his enemies 

21 Edivardsville Spectator, May 27, June 30, July 7, 28, August 4, 1826; 
Illinois Intelligencer, January 25, June 29, August 3, 1826; Illinois Gazette, April 
*8, 1836. 


quarrelling among themselves and that Lockwood and Browne 
of his faction were reelected to the supreme court, the rebuff 
was a hard one ; and he naturally listened to those of his friends 
who assured him that the people were anxious to prove their 
confidence in him by giving him an overwhelming vote for gov- 
ernor. R. M. Young assured him of a vote of five or more to 
one in the southwestern counties where the Jackson men were 
anxious to rebuke Crawford. Till the campaign of 1826 was 
near its climax Edwards retained his confidence that his vindi- 
cation was to be by a flood of popular votes and could not 
understand why his opponent Thomas Sloo did not give up 
the contest unless he trusted to some bit of eleventh-hour chi- 
canery. 22 

Edwards set forth on a state wide personal campaign. 
Everywhere his main theme was an arraignment of the financial 
mismanagement of the state in recent years. He assailed the 
legislature for paying out state paper at a third its face value 
and for issuing auditor's warrants at a similar depreciation. 
He took credit to himself for having secured annual sales for 
taxes of nonresidents' land as well as residents'; under the 
former system he averred nonresidents had deprived the people 
of Illinois of a currency by hoarding depreciated state paper to 
use in paying their taxes. " Such impositions as these," so 
ran his drafted speech, "upon a free, high-minded and inde- 
pendent people, I boldly assert have no parallels in the annals 
of free government, and they are only to be borne by that 
Christian charity. . . ," 23 One writer not disposed to be 
unfriendly to Edwards stated that sometimes his denunciations 
traveled even farther and covered the whole course of govern- 
ment from the halcyon days of his territorial role and 
" arraigned and charged at the bar of public opinion every 
man who has shared with yourself the confidence of the people." 
Edwards, it may be noted, denied this charge in its terms rather 
than in its spirit. 24 It would not be surprising if in oratorical 

22 Washburne, Ediuards Papers, 237-239. 

23 Edwards, History of Illinois, 203-206, 213-214. 

24 Illinois Intelligencer, July 6, 1826. 


enthusiasm he sometimes transgressed the bounds of his manu- 
script speech. Whether, as his opponents suggested, in each 
county he expressly exempted its delegations from his censures 
cannot be known. 

Edwards' attacks on the legislature drew forth a retort 
which contributed powerfully to Cook's defeat and to the nar- 
rowness of his own plurality. Strangely enough it came from 
George Forquer, a man hitherto, and later, hand-in-glove with 
Edwards politically and even then inclined to favor him as 
against his opponent. Forquer was a man of hot and suspicious 
temper, quick to suspect and resent treachery on the part of a 
political associate; and possibly in a moment of irritation at 
Edwards' attacks on the legislature of which he had been a 
member and of distrust of Edwards' good faith toward himself, 
he published in the Illinois Intelligencer of July 6 an article 
signed "Tyro." In spite of the signature the blow was sped 
by the hand of a master of controversy, and it reached not only 
Edwards but the whole system of factional strife in politics 
which he personified. 

"Tyro" pronounced that the attacks of Edwards on the 
legislature as a body merely to pave his own way to political 
power were enough to alienate all thinking men from him. 
Though politically able, he was by no means infallible ; instead 
of seeking the office as a vindication he was pursuing it madly 
through ex-cathedra denunciations of measures and men. He 
should remember, " Tyro " added, that the days when the 
factional strife of the territorial parties could keep men in 
political subjection had departed. "The sycophants of terri- 
torial bondage have lost their influence and dwindled into con- 
tempt. The dazzling halo, with which the former exercise of 
lordly power, occasioned the ignorant to associate your name, 
is broken, and you now stand before them as an object of 
political charity a naked, crumbling monument of a morbid 
ambition. A race of men, honorable in their views, pure in 
their feelings, with talents hereafter to be felt, are now in 
political embryo, who have not been tamed or degraded under 


the banners of either of the old parties that originated the 
territorial feuds, and which have ever since harassed the coun- 
try with the most intolerant proscription." Forquer had dis- 
cerned the fallacy that underlay the whole factional system 
it imbued its adherents with the idea that the open and avowed 
end of politics was the gratification of a personal ambition. 
Under "Tyro's" analysis the absurdity of Edwards' seeking 
a public office to salve his honor of a thrust received in factional 
warfare is self-evident. 

" On the first appearance of Tyro" wrote John Marshall 
after the election, " I anticipated the storm that was to follow. 
... I was not mistaken, it was a fatal storm. You must be 
aware now that the freedom with which you commented on the 
management of the finances, State Bank, &c., however just was 
nevertheless very impolitick. It arrayed almost every man that 
had been in the Legislature since 1821 and all the Bank and 
Circuit Court interest against you, which, by a little manage- 
ment aided by the cry of 'a family of rulers' was unfortun- 
ately brought to bear on Mr. Cook." 25 

The attempt to turn the politics of a state to the advantage 
of a personal faction had resulted fatally to the faction whose 
work first was made apparent to the people. Edwards was 
elected by a vote that considering the weakness of his opponent 
and the great expectations with which he had begun the contest 
was in itself a disgrace. He could muster but 6,280 votes 
against 5,833 for Sloo and 580 for Adolphus F. Hubbard, the 
butt and jest of Illinois politics. Joseph Duncan defeated Cook 
by a vote of 6,322 to 5,619 excluding 824 votes cast for James 

Cook's defeat has usually been laid to popular resentment 
at his vote for Adams. But while the issue was raised in the 
campaign and while outside the state Cook's defeat was re- 
peatedly assigned to it, the evidence that it was the deciding 
factor is by no means conclusive. Edwards asserted that it 
had not been, though his statement may be assigned to an 

28 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 255. 


anxiety to convince Clay that he held the balance between the 
Jackson and administration forces in the state. Duncan, how- 
ever, did not run as a Jackson man. Further, in 1826 Cook lost 
decisively but few Jackson counties on which his hold had not 
been precarious before, though in many instances he lost them 
by increased majorities. Not one of the Jackson counties that 
he lost in 1826 did he carry both in 1822 and 1824. Further 
he obtained decisive votes in several strong Jackson counties 
such as Pope, Gallatin, Edgar, Morgan, Greene, and Alexan- 
der. Pope county he carried by an increased majority and 
Gallatin and Alexander he had lost in 1824. Marshall's letter 
already cited is evidence against the accuracy of the assertion. 
Further the story that Cook's vote was the cause of his defeat 
tended to establish itself in Illinois history, since in 1830 the 
supporters of Kinney were anxious to prove Reynolds' apos- 
tasy to Jackson ; and they argued that he had supported Cook 
in 1826, representing Cook as at that time defeated on the 
Jackson issue. 

The explanations offered by friends who were in close touch 
with the situation were Cook's inability to stump the state, the 
reiterations of the old public land charge, and the use of the 
fact that father-in-law and son-in-law were at the same time 
running for the two highest offices in the gift of the people of 
Illinois. 28 Yet the historian may speculate whether in view of 
the letter of Marshall and the article by "Tyro" the causes 
mentioned were not symptoms of a cause rather than causes 
themselves. Their gravamen after all lies in the assump- 
tion that Edwards and Cook in their political course had been 
moved by their pecuniary interests and their personal ambi- 
tions. It was that against which "Tyro" had really pro- 
tested, the governing of the state for the benefit of the leaders 
of a personal clique. 

Finally one may note that Edwards and Cook assumed 
toward their constituents an attitude characteristic of the past 

18 Edwards, History of Illinois, 451 ; Washburne, Edivards Paptrs, 260- 
261 ; Edtvardsville Spectator, July 7, September 29, 1826. 


rather than the future. Edwards had pompously asserted that 
he was a candidate for office by the call of the people, and that 
anyone contesting with him must do so for sinister motives. 27 
Cook's friends repeatedly urged the grants he had obtained at 
Washington and the further benefits that he as a member of 
ability and a friend to the administration could procure for the 
state. Yet in spite of apostrophes to the paramount abilities of 
Edwards and of promises of canal lands to be procured by 
Cook, the people of Illinois had voted in great numbers for 
men admittedly of narrow abilities who could promise little 
in the way of public services. The older political order was 
fading away, and Jacksonian democracy was on the horizon. 

27 Illinois Intelligencer, August 3, 1826. 


first waves of the rising tide of westernism which 
JL found its expression in Jacksonian democracy had helped 
to undermine Cook's popularity in 1826. As year after year 
the tide rose the old factions of Illinois politics were to take 
note of it and to seek to turn it to their own political advantage 
or else to endeavor to evade its full force without traveling 
with it; but in the end the whole factional system of state 
politics was to be swept away by the flood tide of the new 
democracy. To understood fully the character and ideals of 
the movement on which Jackson rode triumphant through the 
latter part of his political career is to understand the history 
of the United States for two decades. Such an understanding 
is not easy to attain. Sometimes nearer, sometimes farther, 
from the heart of the movement was the chicanery and man- 
agement of crafty politicians. The personnel changes: old 
leaders go over into opposition, and late converts take their 
places. Intellectually the movement develops and evolves so 
that the radical ideals of 1837 and 1840 to the Jackson men of 
1824 would have appeared outlandish. Any estimate of Jack- 
sonism must take careful account of the fact that it was an 
idea intensely alive and therefore intensely variable. 

Perhaps the surest guide to the underlying elements of 
Jacksonism that persisted throughout the movement is the 
character of Jackson himself. That his character could divide 
men into worshippers and bitter critics was shown in the con- 
gressional investigation of the Seminole campaign during the 
session of 1818-1819, the first in which the state of Illinois 
had a voice. To men of one type of mind the raid into Spanish 
territory, the execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and above 
all, Jackson's deliberate disregard of his orders in raising a 



company of Tennessee riflemen and mustering them into 
United States service, instead of calling on neighboring states 
for militia as he had been instructed, were alike characteristic 
of a "military chieftain" ruthless and lawless, the very coun- 
terpart of the men who have in Europe and South America 
made republican government a travesty on liberty. 

On the other hand in the defenses of Jackson's character 
and conduct one catches an echo of the spirit of the American 
frontier its directness and its disregard of all theories of 
action not corresponding with the facts of life. Jackson had 
been set the task of defending the frontier. He had taken the 
shortest and most direct way to do it, using the forces best 
suited to it, and not refraining from regard to the sensibilities 
of men who actually sympathized with the Indians. The means 
he had taken were neither humanitarian nor constitutional, but 
they were effective. Such a man to a west that had seen the 
doubts, hesitations, and failures of the Jeffersonian school 
seemed formed more nearly in the image of Washington and 
the revolutionary heroes. 

The men who urged Jackson's claims to the presidential 
succession contrasted the claims of the man who had served 
his country in the field with the claims of those who had served 
her in congress or in the cabinet. They felt that the closet 
statesmen at Washington had disregarded Jackson's just claims 
because he was not one of themselves and had not been initiated 
into their methods of political finesse. The caucus which nomi- 
nated Crawford must have seemed the very embodiment of 
such methods. The feeling culminated in 1825 when John 
Quincy Adams was elected president by the house of representa- 
tives, in spite of the fact that Jackson, of the four candidates, 
had received a plurality of electoral and possibly of popular 
votes. That the wirepullers should triumph over the plain 
soldier aroused intense indignation. 1 The cause of Jackson 
was associated by his friends with the broader cause of democ- 
racy. In the session of 1825-1826 a constitutional amendment 

1 Annals of Congress, 15 congress, 2 session, 256, 517, 529, 656, 689. 


introduced in congress providing for a direct popular vote on 
the presidency put on record in the debate those who were will- 
ing to trust the people and those who were not. On one side 
were men who averred that the constitution of the United 
States did not permit of democracy and that a legislative train- 
ing in statesmanship was an implied requisite for a holder of 
high office ; men who defended the caucus because they believed 
that, if the congress did not eliminate a plurality of candidates 
before the election, the house or the senate would have to 
choose between them in the end ; and finally, men who used the 
states' rights argument. 2 Everett stated bluntly what was per- 
haps in the minds of many, when he declared that a president 
elected by an overwhelming majority would be a dangerous 

On the other side were those who believed that the people 
should nominate and elect the president directly, that he should 
be dependent on them for office and responsible to them for 
his acts. 3 This was the theory which was later to be so boldly 
asserted by Jackson in his claim to represent the popular will 
and which was exemplified by him in his war on the senate. 

In Illinois the Jackson campaign of 1828 began December 
9, 1826, when in the house of representatives A. P. Field offered 
a resolution indorsing Jackson and asserting that the election 
of Adams was by bargain and sale and contrary to the will of 
the majority. Three days later a motion to lay on the table 
till July 4, the usual way of killing a measure, was lost by a 
vote of 1 6 to 20. The counter-argument, as expounded by 
Alfred W. Cavarly, was that such action would prejudice the 
land grants for which the people of Illinois were petitioning 
congress, that it was unusual and could not be supported by any 
valid proof of the charges made. A compromise amendment 
offered by Thomas Reynolds which merely expressed confidence 
in Jackson was lost 18 to 18. Field finally moved to make the 
matter a mere nomination of Jackson, but his motion was 

2 Storrs, Archer, Stevenson, Ingersoll, and Mitchell of Tennessee. 
3 Saunders, Cambreleng, Drayton, Polk, Isacks, Lecompte, and Mitchell of 
South Carolina. 

defeated 19 to 17. January 8, 1827, a motion to take up the 
resolution was lost 1 8 to 1 8 by a slightly different alignment 
of votes. On the last day of the session, with five Adams men 
and one Jackson supporter absent, a resolution declaring for 
Jackson passed 19 to 1 1. Such was the alignment of the house. 
Although no vote directly indicating the alignment was taken 
in the senate there was said to be an administration ma- 
jority of 2. 

Outside the legislature the movement in favor of Jackson 
was continued through the agency of county meetings. One 
was held at Belleville on March 8, which recommended Jack- 
son as a candidate and urged the holding of similar meetings 
to take measures for his election. "They hope," was the 
comment of the administration organ, the Intelligencer, "by 
this mean, not only to discover their own strength but to give 
tone to public feeling; and if possible, induce a belief that 
Jackson is the strong candidate." 4 In May, Kinney, West, 
T. W. Smith, and Kane were busy with a project to publish a 
Jackson newspaper in the state; and the next fall Fleming 
began printing the Illinois Corrector at Edwardsville. In the 
late fall and winter under the tutelage of the leaders district 
conventions to nominate electors were held; and in these as 
well as in the county meetings which elected delegates to them, 
resolutions were adopted denouncing Adams and praising Jack- 
son. The Illinois Gazette asserted that the county meetings 
rarely consisted of over twelve or fifteen persons and that they 
were drummed up in county after county by political circuit 
riders like A. P. Field. Undoubtedly there was machinery at 
work, but in view of the results there must have been something 
more. 5 

In the political comment of the Illinois administration 
papers one notes surprise or even alarm at the lengths to which 
the Jackson enthusiasm was going. The Intelligencer com- 

* Illinois Intelligencer, March 24, 1827. 

5 Kinney to Kane, May 12, 1827, in Kane manuscripts; Illinois Intelligencer, 
October 12, 1827, January 5, March i, 29, May 10, June 21, 1828; Illinois 
Gazette, May 3, 17, 1828. 


mented sarcastically on such ebullitions of enthusiasm as public 
meetings in which the planting of hickory trees was an impor- 
tant part of the exercises. It complained that New York had 
been lost to Adams by the votes of the riffraff. One Fourth 
of July orator of the preceding year had reminded his hearers 
that popular rights was the favorite theme of demagogues and 
that the fathers of the republic had equally opposed the des- 
potism of a monarch and the licentiousness of the mob. 6 The 
Intelligencer clipped from Niles Weekly Register an editorial 
speculating as to why the election of a president should be 
fraught with so much more violence than the elections of sena- 
tors, especially in view of the fact that the senate with its 
power of trial in cases of impeachments was by so much the 
more important branch of government! The enthusiasm for 
Jackson presaged to men of conservative mind the end of a 
stable and balanced political universe, in which sobriety, stand- 
ing, and solid talents had governed. 

Either side in the campaign freely barbed its arguments 
with abuse of the opposing candidate. For the Jackson forces 
the "corrupt bargain" between Clay and Adams by which 
Clay in return for the secretaryship of state was alleged to 
have thrown his forces to Adams did full duty in spite of the 
numerous refutations that were published. The South Ameri- 
can policy of Adams and the alleged loss of the West India 
trade were duly considered, together with such matters as his 
lavish furnishing of the east room of the White House and his 
purchase of a billiard table a' piece of furniture that in the 
Illinois statutes figured only as a gaming device. In view of 
Clay's duel with Randolph, the accusation was made that the 
government at Washington was a " duelling administration ! " 7 

For the reason that files of two Illinois administration 
newspapers have been preserved and almost no Jackson papers 
have been handed down, it is easier to outline the attack on 
Jackson than to state his defense. Efforts were made to prove 

6 Leonard Ross at Atlas. Illinois Intelligencer, August 4, 1827. 
''Ibid., November 4, 1826, August n, September 8, 15, 1827. 


that the real attempt at bargain and intrigue in 1825 had been 
in his favor. The statement that Jackson was a federalist in 
disguise was supported by the publication of his letter to 
Monroe in 1817 urging the latter to appoint federalists to 
office. Jackson himself was represented as a rowdy, a cock- 
fighter, a gambler, and a devotee of the code of honor. 8 
Toward the end of the campaign his opponents fell back on 
such charges as that he was a Negro trader and a ferreter out 
of flaws in land titles. 

Naturally in this campaign also Jackson was represented 
as a "Military Chieftain." A remark of Jefferson to Coles 
to the effect that the heavy popular vote for Jackson made 
him doubt the stability of free institutions was made to do 
duty in Illinois. His arbitrary conduct when New Orleans 
was under martial law was represented as an instance of his 
military violation of civil power. The incident most relied 
on, however, was his execution of six militiamen for what was 
represented as at the most a technical desertion after their term 
of service had expired. 9 For many a long year of his service 
in the democratic party Sidney Breese writhed under the charge 
that he had distributed " coffin handbills," with the coffins of 
the six depicted at the top and subscribed with doleful verse : 

He ordered Harris out to die, 

And five poor fellows more ! 
Young gallant men in prime of life, 

To welter in their gore 

'T was all in vain, John Harris prayed, 

'T is past the soul's belief. 
Hard as a flint was Jackson's heart, 

He would not grant relief 

8 Illinois Gazette, June 7, 1828; Illinois Intelligencer, August 4, October 13, 
November 17, 1827, April 5, May 24, 1828. 

9 Ibid., August 4, December i, 1827. 


Sure he will spare ! Sure Jackson yet 

Will all reprieve but one 
Oh hark ! those shrieks ! that cry of death ! 

The dreadful deed is done ! 10 

Besides all the personal issues there were issues of national 
policy at question in the election. The administration news- 
papers represented that the Adams policy of internal improve- 
ments and protection to manufactures was the policy pre- 
eminently adapted to the needs of the west. ' The insufficient 
market for western produce at New Orleans was a graphic 
argument for a system that would both enable manufactures 
to spring up on the soil of Illinois and furnish her with outlets 
to additional markets. Many of the Jackson men were dis- 
posed to agree with this estimate of the true interest of the 
west and to insist that Jackson also favored the policy. The 
administration papers forced the fighting on the tariff issue, 
a live national issue even at this early date, accusing the 
Corrector of hedging and vacillating on it. 

The Adams internal improvement policy offered an issue 
even more vital to Illinois. 11 Edwards as early as 1825 had 
pointed out to Clay the strength that the administration would 
gain by the announcement of a project for a connection between 
western waters, the lakes, and the Atlantic. In the meetings in 
northern Illinois held to celebrate the passage of the canal bill 
of 1827 there were resolutions and speeches full of gratitude 
to Edwards, Cook, Adams, Clay, and the internal improvement 
policy. Calhoun's casting vote against the measure in 1826 
and the unfriendliness to it of Jackson's friends were supposed 
to have seriously imperiled Jackson's chances. Consequently 
the Intelligencer laid its greatest emphasis on the importance 
of the internal improvement policy to Illinois. Toward the 

10 Chicago Democrat, April 29, 1840. 

^Illinois Intelligencer, April 21, 1827; Illinois Gazette, February 23, 1828; 
Kimmel to Eddy, November 7, 1827, in Eddy manuscripts. The Jackson con- 
vention at Springfield resolved that it was convinced that its candidate, Andrew 
Jackson, was for protection and internal improvement. Illinois Intelligencer, 
May 10, 1828. 


end of the campaign in an attempt to stir up sectional prejudice 
the administration papers represented anti-tariff and anti- 
internal improvement as policies dictated by the slave states. 12 
The supporters of Jackson endeavored to demonstrate 
Adams' hostility to western interests on another issue, that of 
the public lands. Ever since the spring of 1824 Benton had 
been urging a measure designed to remove the complaint that 
the United States arrested the development of the western 
states by disposing of its lands on terms too unfavorable to 
the purchasers. His graduation bill embodied the principle 
that the unsold public lands be each year reduced in price 
twenty-five cents an acre till they reached twenty-five cents, 
when if they did not find purchasers they should be ceded to 
the states. The measures also provided that when the price 
of public lands had reached fifty cents an acre, they should be 
donated to actual settlers in eighty acre tracts. Benton intro- 
duced this bill year by year, but it was not till 1826 that he 
was permitted even to speak on it. In that year, when in a 
propaganda for the measure he had secured a memorial from 
the Missouri legislature indorsing it, it was taken under the 
wing of the Jackson party in the state. In congress it received 
the support of Kane and Duncan, but roused the opposition of 
such men as Benton's colleague and rival, David Barton, who 
insisted it was an attempt to carry on the movement, frustrated 
in 1820, which had been throwing the public domain into the 
hands of speculators. It was defeated in 1828 in the senate, 
eleven Jackson senators, as the administration men pointed 
out, voting among the twenty-five opponents of the measure. 
The Jackson men, however, turned to Richard Rush's last 
report as secretary of the treasury in which he injudiciously 
urged protection to manufactures on the ground that it would 
keep population in the east where it could accumulate capital 
instead of spreading it thinly over the lands of the west. His 
further argument that the low price of the public lands acted 

12 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 240; Illinois Gazette, June 28, 1828; 
Illinois Intelligencer, March 17, August 4, November 3, 1827, July 5, 1828. 


as a bounty on agriculture which should be supplemented by 
one on manufactures was, if anything, still more unfortunate. 
Both were used by the opposition to prove the sinister aspect 
of the whole Adams policy toward the west. 18 

The question of the public lands in Illinois politics followed 
a rather unusual course. First it must be noted that side by 
side with Benton's scheme in congress appeared the suggestions 
on the part of certain members that congress might well cede 
the public lands to the states in which they lay. This plan was 
usually based on an extreme theory of state sovereignty which 
proclaimed that, as the new states were admitted into congress 
on an equal footing with the old in all respects, it was prepos- 
terous that the federal government should control the soil in 
them, and accordingly declared that all compacts recognizing 
such a right were null and void. Benton had disclaimed any 
such implication in his measure ; but the theory was enunciated 
by several westerners, such as Hendricks, who were well dis- 
posed to it. Tazewell indeed had in 1826 proposed a corre- 
sponding measure. 14 Other senators had favored the principle. 
But in Illinois, Edwards, who had declared in his message of 
1826 that if the state did not receive the cession it must have 
classification and who in 1828 supported Forquer's rival pro- 
posal for a graduation based on a classification by value, came 
out in his 1828 message with a tedioo and labored defense of 
the right of the states to the public lands based on doctrines 
of state sovereignty. This measure may have been an attempt 
to outbid his old enemies, Benton, Kane, and Duncan for 
popular support or it may have been, as his enemies suggested, 
designed in the interest of his own landholdings to stir up such 
animosity in the east as would ruin the chances of the gradu- 
ation bill. Possibly, as Duff Green suggested, he hoped that 
the measure would be the basis of a coalition between the west 
and his old friends of Calhoun's party in the south. On pub- 
lic lands, tariff, and internal improvements in 1828-1829 it 

13 Congressional Debates, 1827-1828, p. 483-521, 614-629, 678, 2832 ff. 

14 Ibid., 1827-1828, 152 ff., 625-629; ibid., 1825-1826, p. 782. 


was a question of alliances : would the west accept tariff and 
internal improvements and yield up the public lands policy 
to the jealousy of her growth harbored in the east, or would 
she ally herself with the south in return for free trade and a 
favorable land policy? The alternative was not clearly per- 
ceived in 1828 ; nor was it definitely recognized for some years; 
but in the large, so far as Illinois was concerned, the decision 
had been made. 

The graduation policy as presented by Benton was a meas- 
ure democratic in its intent. In spite of what was said by 
Barton and others one cannot help feeling that Benton was 
right in holding that speculation on a large scale in unim- 
proved land was a hazardous business so long as so much wild 
land was still in government hands and that hitherto specu- 
lators had burnt their fingers in handling both public lands 
and military bounty lands. 15 Benton argued that the measure 
would give to the poor the opportunity by which they might 
rise to the position of useful citizens; he even argued that it 
was the duty of the government to settle the wild lands as 
expeditiously as might be, since men naturally had a right to 
the soil. 

The tide flowed toward Jackson. Although the final vote 
9,582 to 4,662 was overwhelmingly in Jackson's favor, 
the change in sentiment was by no means immediate or general 
throughout the state. On May 16, 1827, Joseph M. Street 
reported to Edwards from Shawneetown that the old Clay, 
Adams, and Crawford men were nearly all supporting the ad- 
ministration; and early in the next month he ascribed the 
weakness of Jackson to the bitter factional feeling in that 
section against Kinney and Smith. In a later letter he reported 
McLean much cooler toward Jackson. As late as August 15, 
1827, one of Kane's correspondents believed that, while at 
that time Jackson had a majority in the state, in the end Adams 
would run very well. By February 22, 1828, Smith estimated 
that the Adams men had given up Illinois. 

15 Congressional Debates, 1825-1826, p. 720. 


While the political issues of the future were brewing in the 
real Jackson movement, the leaders of the faction were watch- 
ing events and planning that their personal interests should 
not suffer. Such old Crawford men as Kinney, Kane, T. W. 
Smith, Bond, and McLean had gone over to Jackson. By 
1828-1829 the fervency and zeal of these converts for party 
regularity and proscription of their opponents was viewed 
by the older Jackson men, such as S. H. Kimmel and A. P. 
Field, with ill-concealed impatience. 

On the other side Edwards was balancing on the political 
fence which divided the Jackson forces and the administration. 
On the one hand Duff Green was assuring him of Jackson's 
regard, his disposition to condone Cook's vote for Adams, and 
the certainty of Edwards' triumph if he only would come out 
for the constitutional amendment, which was the Jacksonian 
profession of faith. On the other hand, Edwards after his 
election took an independent if friendly tone toward Clay. 
While he did not hesitate to speak plainly on attacks against 
himself originating in administration sources, he declared that 
he could not, in view of the attitude of Jackson's friends 
toward the canal, expect the Jackson interest to predominate 
in Illinois. He explained the small plurality by which he had 
been elected by saying that he had made exertions to throw all 
his opponents on the Jackson side, so that he might eventually 
turn the balance either way. The hint to the administration 
was obvious. Edwards was supposed in 1827 to have come 
out for Jackson, but he supported a declared Adams man for 
congress in 1828, so that his position remained more or less 
equivocal. 16 

In state politics Edwards gathered what hope he could 
from the fact that the ranks of his opponents were disinte- 
grating. The two senate rships to be filled in 1824 had sown 
discord. In the spring of that year Kane, Kinney, Sloo, and 
Kitchell all had their eyes on the prizes. McLean and Coles 
also stood forth as candidates. Kane apparently succeeded in 

16 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 256, 259. 


combining the forces in support of McLean in order to beat 
Edwards who was hoping for a vindication by reelection. 
On the third ballot McLean had thirty-one votes to nineteen 
for Edwards and two for Pope. A week later Kane was 
elected for the long term, beating Lockwood, McLean, Coles, 
and Sloo. McLean, who believed he had been tricked into 
entering the contest only to be humiliated, was furious and 
refused to be soothed by asservations that he had been 
reserved to cap the triumph of the coalition by beating Cook 
for congress. Another member of the coalition had to com- 
plain of similar treatment. In the election of justices of the 
supreme courtr, Wilson and Browne were confirmed, Lockwood 
and T. W. Smith elected, and John Reynolds frozen out. 
Exactly how the justices of the Edwards faction were elected 
is a problem. Reynolds very probably had been displaced by 
T. W. Smith's intrigues, and he did not hesitate to say that 
he had been the "whetstone" in the affair. 17 

The effect on the make-up of the factions of this intriguing 
is admirably described by a political observer of 1827 whose 
statements are corroborated by such independent evidences as 
exist "Smith, Kinney, and West, are about to set up a News- 
paper at Edwardsville ostensibly for Jackson, but in fact to 
operate in State politics. Smith and Kinney want to be Senator 
and Governor. They go against Edwards, Thomas, but most 
especially and bitterly against McLean. Party No. 8 consists 
of John Reynolds and Tom Reynolds the Beairs, etc., Jno 
Reynolds wants to be Senator is inveterate against Smith, 
Edwards, Thomas and dont much like McLean. Party No. 
5 consists of Jesse B. Thomas Solus the privates and officers 
yet to be enlisted. The Honorable Jesse is very bitter against 
Smith and Co., but more against McLean. He swears that 
McLean is a dishonest man and a dishonest politician that 
he cant, and by G he shant be elected ! 

"I do not see how the above named men can ever again 

17 Kinney to Kane, April 10, 1824, in Kane manuscripts; McLean to Sloo, 
January 16, 1825, in Illinois State Historical Society, Transactions, 1911, p. 39; 
Reynolds to Cook, December 30, 1824, ' n Edwards manuscripts. 


imaigamate, at any rate they will not join with Party No. 4 
which consists of Jno McLean and his friends Nor with 
Party No. 5 which is composed of Edwards & Co. 

"Depend upon it, my dear Sir," he continued, "these com- 
binations which are going on in our State will ruin every man 
who is engaged in them. The people are beginning to com- 
plain loudly. Kinney is sinking faster than I ever saw any 
man, his violence disgusts even his friends. Thomas and 
Edwards are gone. Smith is universally feared, his ambition 
and his intriguing spirit alarm friends and foes. Lockwood 
and Wilson are greatly depreciated. All of these men must 
go down. McLean stands best, but his prospects are very 
doubtful. . . ," 18 

Other evidence attests the precarious condition of Edwards 
and his faction. It did not have control of the legislature 
chosen in 1826, and thereby all Edwards' assaults on the admin- 
istration of the bank and finances were frustrated. In the leg- 
islative elections he was beaten. By the death of Cook in 1827 
he lost a man of popularity and of recognized ability and what 
was worse a loyal comrade. There were none too many such 
left among Edwards' followers. Still he patiently worked 
away, seeking once more to attain victory by the old methods. 

The senatorial election of 1828 was the point toward which 
all eyes turned. Thomas, who had not followed his old asso- 
ciates into the Jackson ranks, was out of it. His one hope had 
been a close contest with many candidates. By 1828 Edwards 
believed that Kane would succeed in bringing Reynolds, Bond, 
and Kinney to a bargain by which Smith would obtain the 
honor. Meanwhile Edwards, though not himself avowedly 
a candidate, kept himself informed of the probable disposition 
of candidates for the legislature in certain districts. Street 
believed Lockwood the only available candidate. Pope was 
anxious to run, being privately told by Smith and his followers 
that he was their second choice; but Edwards was provoked 

18 Hall to Sloo, June 3, 1827, in Illinois State Historical Society, Transac- 
tions, 1911, p. 41-42. 


because Pope was not supporting Forquer against Duncan for 
congress. Accordingly he secretly appealed to McLean, sug- 
gesting that he support Forquer, promising in turn to support 
him for the senate even as against Pope and warning him that 
the combination behind Smith was planning to drive him out 
of state politics. McLean, however, apparently felt sure of 
his election and made no particular response to Edwards' 
overture, except by answering in a friendly tone after Forquer's 
defeat. He was elected senator unanimously, but his election 
redounded in the end to the benefit of the Kane group. Two 
years later Forquer lamented the fact that Kane by playing 
on McLean's violent likes and dislikes was able politically to 
do with the latter as he would. 19 

Meanwhile in a conference of his political associates at 
Vandalia Forquer late in 1827 had been put forward as a 
candidate for congress against Joseph Duncan. Breese and 
Coles had hoped for such indorsement from the group and 
each was correspondingly disappointed. On the other side, 
Kinney, Kane, West, Smith, and Reynolds supported Duncan 
as the Jackson candidate against Forquer, who was avowedly 
an Adams man. Forquer's friends tried to make the contest 
a personal comparison between the candidates, criticizing Dun- 
can for various alleged oversights, blunders, and neglects that 
had hindered the state's interests. Further they tried to draw 
an issue between Benton's graduation scheme, reported to the 
house by Duncan, and a measure devised by Forquer for classi- 
fying public lands according to value, at one dollar, seventy- 
five cents, and fifty cents an acre with cession of all lands below 
the latter value to the state and immediate donations to actual 
settlers as compared with the eight years, during which they 
would have to wait under Benton's bill, after the land was 
brought into market. The expense of valuing the land was 
the obvious objection to this measure which Forquer's friends 
tried to explain away. 20 

19 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 343, 353, 358, 360, 477. 

20 Illinois Intelligencer, July 5, 12, 26, 1828; Illinois Gazette, July 19, 1828; 
Forquer to Eddy, December 15, 1827, in Eddy manuscripts. 


As contrasted with Edwards' and Cook's campaign of two 
years before, it is interesting to note the democratic and popu- 
lar appeal made by Forquer. Against his opponent's claim 
to be a simple farmer whose shortcomings should be on that 
account condoned he set up the fact that he himself had been 
a mechanic. " Forquer, having been a mechanic," wrote 
Edwards to Eddy, "operates like a charm. . . . Our tickets 
should be ... headed with the figure of a plow & plane, 
&c, ' For the peoples friend, who, like them, knows what it is 
to get his living by the sweat of his brow.' " 21 Forquer's handi- 
caps in other directions, however, were too many to be over- 
come thus even in the year of Jackson's election. The admin- 
istration party was badly split between Edwards and anti- 
Edwards men, who had introduced their factional discords 
even in the chaos of Adams' election. Forquer lost many 
administration votes and by his own account received no real 
support from the great semi-independent feudatories of the 
Edwards group; and the fact that he was for Adams was used 
to turn the Jackson vote against him. In his defeat by a vote 
of 10,398 to 6, 1 66 Edwards had suffered still another humili- 
ating reverse. 

The revolution of factions and Edwards' own restless 
political ambitions were next to bring him into alliance with 
John Reynolds, a man for whom he had hitherto scarcely con- 
cealed his contempt. Since Edwards had rebuffed Reynolds' 
senatorial aspirations in 1822-1823, the latter had gone over 
to the opposition, had in some way lost their support for 
reelection to the supreme bench in 1824-1825, and had in 1826 
supported Cook. In 1828, as has been seen, he was a satellite 
in the Kane constellation and had exchanged several broad- 
sides of abuse with Edwards. During the following session 
he had endeavored to strike some bargain in regard to the 
senatorship with both Kinney and Smith in return for support 
for governor. Disappointed here he had turned to the 

21 Edwards to Eddy, Election, August, 1828, in Eddy manuscripts; Illinois 
Intelligencer, July 12, 1828. 

Edwards group, and in spite of the intention of the Jackson 
following to proscribe all Adams men, he had assisted together 
with McLean in electing Forquer attorney-general over 
McRoberts. 22 

Immediately after the legislative session he began his cam- 
paign. " I must stir or git beat. The people is with me," he 
wrote to Grant, February 7, 1829. Artfully emphasizing his 
Jackson affiliations he was nominated later in the fall by Jack- 
son meetings. His circular set him forth as a child of the 
people, pitiful to the poor who suffered from taxation, and a 
friend to internal improvements and to a speedy distribution of 
the school fund for the benefit of the children then growing up 
in ignorance. So large were his promises that one irrev- 
erent critic suggested that, after promising internal improve- 
ments and lighter taxation to boot, it only remained to engage 
that the Mississippi run upstream one half the year and 
downstream the other for the special benefit of the river 
trade. 23 

By this time Reynolds had made his formal peace with 
Edwards, predicating his overtures on the practical ground 
that they had many friends in common and on the ideal one 
that it was necessary to unite to procure the good of the people. 
He again offered the senatorship bargain in general terms. 
Edwards in reply somewhat condescendingly accepted his 
overtures, stipulating that he have an authoritative voice in 
drawing the plan of the gubernatorial campaign apparently 
planning to bring in his public land doctrines on Reynolds' 
shoulders to prepare for his own future political success with 

The characters of John Reynolds and William Kinney, the 
two men who confronted each other as rivals in the race for 
the governorship, are an interesting contrast. John Reynolds, 
by virtue of a certain kindliness of spirit and a degree of cun- 

22 Illinois Intelligencer, January 9, February 20, June 12, July 10, 24, 1830; 
Illinois Gazette, January 17, December 12, 1829. 

23 Galena Advertiser, November 9, 30, December 28, 1829, January n, 
February 15, 1830. 


ning, was to shuffle his way through Illinois politics, getting 
much of what he wanted. He had been brought up in pioneer 
Illinois, had seen some ranger service in the War of 1812, 
and apparently in imitation of Edwards had adopted as a 
political asset the sobriquet of " The Old Ranger." He had 
had a narrow schooling in a primitive Tennessee academy 
termed by courtesy a college and had acquired some small 
classical learning which in certain circles he took care to dis- 
play. Toward the end of his life he tried to carry on a learned 
correspondence with Joseph Gillespie, and at the end of a 
sophomoric composition on the traitor Count Julian and the 
ruin of the Visigothic kingdom, he begs his correspondent to 
write him his views on the pyramids of Egypt! The books 
which he wrote in the latter part of his life confirm the con- 
temporary tradition of his mental slovenliness. His discourse 
couched in the shambling phrases of the pliant demagogue, 
while not ungrammatical, is strikingly unidiomatic. When he 
endeavored to cover his meanness of spirit with dignified or 
distant phrases, he is a pantaloon peeping from behind his 
mask. In politics, even in his seeking for office, he affected a 
transparent reserve. " I am in the hands of my friends," was 
his favorite phrase. Aided by his ability to avoid committing 
himself he pushed his way by means of factional politics, 
never hesitating to abandon old friends whom he no longer 
needed till at length in an age of sharply defined parties he 
discovered that the older political methods would no longer 

Kinney was the antithesis of Reynolds. He too was a 
product of frontier Illinois and had attained prosperity as a 
storekeeper. In that day his business did not seem incongruous 
with his calling as a Baptist minister. Hot-tempered, 
vehement, a good hater, a keen and open seeker for office, he 
exhibited in politics few of the conventional ministerial traits. 
He was far more straightforward, far more loyal to his 
friends than Reynolds. He was almost completely illiterate, 
but except in having his political addresses written for him, 


he made no effort to conceal the fact. His keen mother-wit 
was the source of a long series of shrewd characterizations of 
men and events, couched in rustic metaphor which often rises 
to the height of epigram. Genuinely trained in the world's 
culture he would have been the most remarkable man in the 
Illinois of his day. 

Reynolds' plan of campaign was what might have been 
expected. He urged his friends to emphasize the contrast 
marked by his service as a ranger while Kinney stayed at home 
and speculated, until it was discovered that such comparisons 
called out derogatory comments on his own military services. 
In the neighborhood of the saline he saw to it that his policy 
of low saline rents to encourage large production was empha- 
sized. He suggested that Kinney and the Reverend Zadoc 
Casey, candidate for lieutenant governor, be decried as minis- 
ters of the gospel who meddled with politics; he repeated the 
story that Jackson, solicited by Kinney for an office, told the 
latter that as a preacher he had an employment higher than 
any the president could confer and one which should demand 
his full attention. The tale was made to do duty in spite of 
Kinney's denial of its truth. In the attacks on Kinney directed 
by Edwards, Kinney's record on the state bank received impor- 
tant attention ; and toward the end of the campaign Edwards 
insisted that it was necessary to inject the subject of the public 
lands more forcibly into the contest. Finally, as a last resort 
to remedy a " strange defection " among the Methodists, 
Edwards played on their old distrust of Kinney as a slavery 
advocate. 24 

The contest witnessed a use of the press by both sides to an 
extent previously unknown in state politics. Of the older 
papers, the Illinois Intelligencer under James Hall's editorship 
was frankly for Kinney on personal grounds, as Hall was an 
Adams man of 1828. Hall accordingly drew on himself much 

** Reynolds to Eddy, July 13, 1830, Reynolds to Grant, June i, 1830, in 
Eddy manuscripts; Illinois Intelligencer, April 3, 10, 17, 1830; Illinois Gazette, 
March 6, April 17, 1830; Edwards to Cyrus and B. F. Edwards, July 15, 1830, 
in Edwards manuscripts. 


abuse ranging from charges that he was a bankrupt and a 
defaulter to ridicule of his publication, the Western Souvenir** 

The Illinois Gazette edited by A. F. Grant supported 
Reynolds; R. K. Fleming, who had edited a Jackson paper in 
1828 but had been defeated for election as state printer, was 
employed under Breese's direction to print a Reynolds paper, 
the Western or Kaskaskia Democrat. Hooper Warren who 
had edited the Sangamo Spectator in Edwards' interest at 
Springfield moved to Galena and on July 20, 1829, began the 
publication of the Galena Advertiser. The Miner's Journal 
already in existence there finally threw its support to Kinney. 
At Springfield, S. C. Meredith in 1829 set up a Kinney paper 
directed by McRoberts, which Forquer vainly tried to capture 
under the noses of the opposition by inducements to Meredith. 
In the winter of the same year Forquer established the Courier 
there, ostensibly as a Jackson paper. 26 

That an Adams man should edit even secretly in Reynolds' 
interest a Jackson paper was an illustration of the anarchy, 
from the view of national politics, implicit in the factional 
alliance between the friends of Reynolds and Edwards. Old 
Jackson men in the Reynolds ranks, like S. H. Kimmel, 
McLean, and even Reynolds himself, had to urge the Adams 
men in the Edwards group either to refrain from attacks on 
Jackson or to say openly as little as might be on behalf of 
Reynolds. The Jackson contingent in the Reynolds party took 
the position that they were good Jackson men, often older and 
truer supporters of the Old Hero than were the new converts, 
and in no wise worthy of being read out of the party because 
they deprecated the proscription of Adams men in state politics 
or because they had not, like Kinney, been fortunate enough to 
gain the president's ear by misrepresentation. 27 

25 Illinois Intelligencer, January 9, 1830; Galena Advertiser, July 27, 1829, 
January 25, March 29, 1830. 

26 Illinois Intelligencer, February 6, 20, April 3, September 29, 1830; Flem- 
ing to Kane, September 29, 1828, in Kane manuscripts; Washburne, Edwards 
Papers, 467. 

2T Kimmel to Grant, October 29, 1829, McLean to Grant, December 18, 
1829, in Eddy manuscripts; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 432; Illinois Gazette, 

The attitude of the two opposing camps is better under- 
stood in view of the fact that during 1829 a hot struggle for 
recognition and support from Washington had gone on 
between the two factions. Edwards through his brother-in- 
law, Duff Green, was in touch with the Calhoun party there; 
and apparently he was inclined for a time to speculate on par- 
ticipating, four years after 1828, in a contest in which Calhoun 
and Van Buren would be the contestants; but Duff Green 
warned him that Jackson would almost certainly be a candidate 
for reelection. In May Green assured him that Jackson at 
length understood the state of parties in Illinois and was 
resolved to sustain Edwards and his friends. With this proof 
of Jackson's friendship to Edwards it is interesting to compare 
a letter of Hooper Warren of July 6, asking Edwards whether 
he wished the Advertiser to support Jackson in the new views 
of proscription and of opposition to the American system that 
had developed since Warren's last conference with Edwards. 
In Washington, Kinney with the aid of Kane and Duncan suc- 
ceeded during the summer in persuading Jackson to recognize 
them in appointments. For the time Edwards' representative, 
Duff Green, believed that he had undeceived Jackson; but in 
November he had to admit that Duncan's influence with 
Samuel D. Ingham had prevailed against Edwards' candidates. 
Three months before Ingham had warned S. H. Kimmel that 
the administration would recognize no Jackson faction that 
had formed a coalition with Adams men. For the time Kinney 
appeared to have the indorsement of Washington. 28 

In the background of the Kinney-Reynolds contest were 
Edwards' perennial ambitions for election to the senate. 
Green had already pointed out to him that, if he came into 
the senate on his doctrine of the right of the state to the public 
lands, it might well be the ground of an alliance of the west 

February 16, 1828, December 5, 26, 1829, April 3, 1830; Illinois Intelligencer, 
May 17, October 4, 1828. To impeach Reynolds' Jacksonism, the point was 
raised that Cook, whom he had supported in 1826, had been beaten because of 
his Adams vote. Illinois Intelligencer, May 22, 1830. 

28 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 379, 399, 427, 450; Ingham to Kinney, 
August i, 1829, in Eddy manuscripts. 


and Calhoun's friends in the south against the east. Toward 
the end of the campaign Edwards brought the land issue into 
the gubernatorial election. The opposition had already 
revived the old story of Edwards' land speculations, and now 
they opened up on him in full cry, maintaining that his measure 
was designed to advance his own pecuniary interest by frus- 
trating the west's hope of obtaining by moderate demands a 
reasonable measure of relief. Kinney pronounced against 
state ownership on the ground that the legislation would allow 
the public domain to fall into the hands of wealthy specu- 
lators. 29 

Forquer was afraid that the intrusion of Edwards' sena- 
torial ambitions into the election would result in Reynolds' 
defeat. He impressed upon Edwards his belief that if he 
appeared as an open contestant the forces of Kane, Duncan, 
and Kinney would coalesce and bring about Reynolds' over- 
throw and that the opposition was trying to drag Edwards into 
the campaign with that end in view. Edwards' friends had 
met the charges of a bargain with Reynolds by assertions that 
Edwards was not a candidate for the senatorship; but 
Edwards, stung by an anonymous attack by Kane, prepared an 
address to the people expressing a willingness to enter into a 
contest with his antagonist. Forquer advised against its pub- 
lication, however, until Edwards should have been openly 
attacked by J. M. Duncan, lest its premature appearance would 
mean defeat for both Reynolds and Edwards. 

But the chief political factor in the campaign proved to 
be Reynolds' own personality; his election was a triumph for 
his policy of cautious campaigning designed to alienate as few 
voters as possible. Further, it meant a passing triumph of 
the older factional school of politics over the tendency to wage 
local elections on national issues. After his election, the 
governor prepared for publication in the newspapers an 
unsigned leader announcing that his policy would be one of 

29 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 379, 427, 494; Illinois Intelligencer, June 
12, 1830; Illinois Gazette, June 12, 1830; Jones to Browne, June 25, 1830, in 
Eddy manuscripts. 


moderation and not proscription. Reynolds, temporizing suc- 
cessfully with Jacksonism, had gained the full advantage to be 
derived both from anti-Jackson voters and from factional 
alliances. The conquest of Illinois politics by the Jackson 
party was delayed, but it was inevitable. 


THE course of Illinois politics between the years 1818 
and 1836 may stand as a warning to the superficial his- 
torian of the danger which attends an attempt to describe and 
classify political parties at different periods by the same terms 
or under the same categories. Not only is there danger of falling 
into the comparatively obvious error of using at too early a stage 
the terms whig and democrat but also the danger, less appar- 
ent, of attempting to explain state politics exclusively in terms 
of national issues and leaders. The cautious student must 
recognize the fact that state factions differed from period to 
period, not only in alignment and personnel but in degrees of 
unity and cohesiveness. Thus till 1826 it is easiest to explain 
Illinois politics in terms of two local factions. By 1830 it 
becomes difficult to use this classification and after 1830 it is 
impossible. For three or four years after that date it is neces- 
sary to describe politics in terms of individual cliques and 
followings, which at first used Jackson's name and then his 
measures as issues with which to embarrass their opponents. 
Only by degrees did the outlines of what are truly national 
parties emerge from the confusion. 

The decay of the factional system in Illinois politics is illus- 
trated in a series of letters from George Forquer in 1830 
which when analyzed are an illuminating commentary on the 
political conditions of the time. To Forquer the successful 
management of a campaign meant the bringing to bear in favor 
of his candidate all influences and groups in any way obligated 
to him and the keeping neutral of as many other groups and 
influences as possible. "We must make Wilson and Lock- 
wood and their friends fight with us. They shall not be indif- 
ferent any longer, and hold themselves like Pope, ready to dine 


STATE POLITICS, 18301834 137 

with our enemies whilst our slain carcasses are yet bleeding. 
Embroil every man of them in the contest. . . . Could you 
write without attacking Kane, would it not be better? If you 
can whip his forces by killing off his generals, is it not the 
safest way to whip him too ? Fix it so as to force him to attack 
as Duncan has done. They intend to have him in the scales. 
Give him no excuse to say he has been dragged into it. They 
will drag him in." 1 In urging Edwards against openly chal- 
lenging Kane to a contest for the senate, he wrote "Every 
man here when pushed for his real sentiments believes that 
Kinney is quite enough for us at one time. All agree that Kane 
and him at once against you and Reynolds and we are gone." 2 

The conditions in the Edwards faction made apparent by 
these letters were significant of the change that was taking 
place in it. The minor cliques of the older party, surrounding 
Samuel D. Lockwood, Thomas Mather, and William Wilson, 
secure in the spoils of past contests were slow to risk themselves 
in battle at the call of their old leader. T. W. Smith and 
Breese soon drifted away into independence. Outside the old 
Edwards ranks, Kane, Kinney, the Duncans, and Reynolds had 
each his little following, or rather a circle on which he was able 
to exert influence. The practical politicians counted on com- 
binations of these cliques and influences rather than on the 
shadows of the two old factions. The times were ripe for the 
intrusion into politics of new rallying cries of wider appeal 
than personal popularity and for the creation of new parties. 
These came to pass through the introduction of national issues 
into state politics and of resulting national party divisions. 

The disintegration of both factions is strikingly illustrated 
in the senatorial election of 1830. Kane and Kinney probably 
maintained something more than a benevolent neutrality 
toward each other on the governorship and senatorship. The 
death of McLean, however, left both senatorships vacant and 
caused Wilson, T. W. Smith, R. M. Young, and others to 
enter the field each with his personal following. Reynolds was 

1 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 519-520. -Ibid., 516-517. 


thought to favor a coalition between Wilson and Young. Wil- 
liam L. May, a member of the Springfield clique, suggested a 
coalition between Kane and Smith. The final result was the 
choice of Kane and John M. Robinson, a man from eastern 
Illinois of whom little is known at this time except that he was 
probably opposed to Kane. But while William C. Greenup 
gleefully announced to Kane that the Edwards forces were 
disintegrating so fast that both Edwards and Reynolds had 
offered to sign a recommendation for Kinney to be governor 
of Huron territory, Kane was apparently meditating a realign- 
ment D. J. Baker believed that he had made tentative ad- 
vances through him to Edwards. In January, 1831, Kane 
offered to support Edwards for congress in preference to 
Duncan. Duff Green through whom the offer was made be- 
lieved that Edwards might in this way attain the leadership of 
the Illinois delegation. 3 

The secret of Kane's vacillation is perhaps to be found in 
the situation in national politics. As it reacted on the state it 
appeared primarily as a sheaf of personal rivalries. The 
Jackson party was split up into cliques. The power of Cal- 
houn and of his mouthpiece, Duff Green of the Telegraph 
still the official newspaper of the party was waning. Cal- 
houn was not the only aspirant for the power of Jackson when 
the Old Hero should be ready to relinquish it. Those who had 
formerly supported Crawford were now wavering between 
their allegiance to their former leader or to Van Buren. Kane's 
position was still uncertain, and even in 1831 Duff Green be- 
lieved that Edwards might influence the whole Illinois delega- 
tion for Calhoun. 4 

3 Rountree to Kane, February 15, 1830, Prentice to Kane, January 31, 
1830, James M. Duncan to Kane, February 25, 1830, McRoberts to Kane, 
March 12, 1830, Greenup to Kane, November 3, 1830, May to Kane, October 
21, 1830, D. Turney to Kane, October 15, 1830, in Kane manuscripts; Eddy to 
Grant, December 9-10, 1830, Breese to Browne, September 14, 1830, in Eddy 
manuscripts; Washburne, Edioards Papers, 557, 569. 

* Edwards' information came partly through Duff Green, who believed 
Jackson would not run. Washburne, Edwards Papers, 488-489. Green wrote 
that he believed Kane, as soon as he thought it safe, would turn on him in Van 
Buren's interest. Ibid., 552-554, 570. 

STATE POLITICS, 18301834 139 

Edwards was anxiously scanning the situation in Illinois 
which had become for a man of his type extremely difficult. 
His position was hard to maintain. For his strength he still 
had to rely in a measure on Adams and Clay men. Yet to 
oppose the cause of Jackson openly in a state wide canvass was 
to insure defeat. Edwards, still loyal to Calhoun, privately 
assured Jackson of his good will and desire for his reelection, 
protesting bitterly, however, against the deciding voice that 
Kane and Kinney had in Illinois appointments. He assured 
Jackson that they were old Crawford men, that they were dis- 
tributing offices among totally unworthy men of the same clique 
and were proscribing the original Jackson men. He even tried 
to inspire Jackson with the fear that they were plotting the 
union of diverse elements on Crawford against him, should he 
stand for a reelection. 

In 1831 at the last state wide election for a member of 
congress, Edwards had refused to run; and Duncan had won 
easily over Field and Breese, the one an avowed Jackson man 
and an opponent of Edwards' land policy, the other a sup- 
porter of that policy, constructively a Jacksonian if his land- 
bill past were forgotten, but otherwise with a whiggish 

Edwards was near the end of his career. In 1832 with 
the state divided into congressional districts he entered the 
race in the first district at a late hour. Charles Dunn and 
Breese, the latter not without a trace of bad faith, were already 
in it along with Charles Slade. Edwards' belated entrance 
prevented him from stumping the district. Mather deserted 
his old leader, and the Adams and Clay men abandoned him 
because he was supporting Jackson. With a divided vote, 
Edwards was defeated by Slade. 

As a matter of fact the opposition to Van Buren, disap- 
pointed in Calhoun, took up Richard M. Johnson for the vice 
presidency. As a western man, he was a candidate who could 
be favorably contrasted with Van Buren; and his candidacy 
could be made to take the form of a popular protest against 


the political management for which Van Buren had become 
notorious, especially as it was exemplified in the Baltimore 
convention, which it was claimed was a device to force on the 
country the candidate of a clique. The issue was sharply joined 
at a Jackson meeting held at Vandalia, January 2 and 3, 1832. 
McRoberts and Ewing after a vain attempt to adjourn the 
meeting sine die withdrew with their followers; and Field, 
John Dement, and Duncan remained to direct the Johnson 
men. An address was drawn up indorsing Johnson and pro- 
testing against appointing uninstructed delegates to Baltimore. 
Reynolds and Edwards lent the movement their support. On 
March 26, in spite of the protests of the Illinois Advocate tKat 
a Johnson indorsement would result in throwing the vote 
of the state to Clay, a Johnson convention met at Vandalia 
to appoint electors pledged to Jackson and Johnson. The 
personnel of the convention is most interesting. Some of 
the men in it, as James W. Stephenson, J. S. Hacker, and 
Dr. Early, emerged sound democrats. Others ended as 
whigs. 5 

The movement as might have been expected was unsuccess- 
ful. The nomination of Van Buren at Baltimore compelled a 
reasonable party regularity. Of the Johnson electors, three 
refused to serve, but before the election an attempt to reinstate 
the ticket was made. From the first the victory of Jackson 
and Van Buren in Illinois was assured. Even the whigs, while 
believing Illinois ready for a movement against Jackson and 
Van Buren, felt that Clay's land bill was too heavy a load for 
him to carry in Illinois and professed it wiser to support Wirt 
or McLean, whom it was thought Edwards would support. 

With 1832 a new element of complexity appeared in the 
Illinois political situation which finally in connection with the 
older factional alignments and the personal issues of 1829- 
1832 caused the redistribution of partisans into whigs and 
democrats. Until that year, as nearly as one can judge, if a 

5 Illinois Intelligencer, January 21, 1832. John M. Robinson was for 
Johnson, Robinson to Grant, February 9, 1832, in Eddy manuscripts; Wash- 
burne, Edwards Papers, 579-580. 

STATE POLITICS, 18301834 141 

candidate was personally loyal to Jackson the voters were 
inclined to permit him considerable freedom of belief on what 
they considered the minor issues. Tests of party faith other 
than adherence to Jackson had not yet been devised. Thus in 
1831 Duncan could avow his freedom from partisanship on 
political measures and still be supported by Jackson men. 6 
But with 1832 and the years following, the demand that not 
only Jackson's name but also Jackson's measures be adopted 
caused a realignment among the factions. 

Till 1832 national issues in general did not take a strong 
hold on the people or influence seriously the alignment of fac- 
tions. With the Jacksonian policy of the removal of the 
Indians from the neighborhood of the settlements the west 
was heartily in sympathy, but no one was inclined to court 
defeat by opposing it. Edwards' public land policy was, of 
course, a prominent issue in 1830, 1831, and 1832; but it was 
hardly so expressed as to come into collision with any nation- 
ally proposed* measure. When Clay prepared his distribution 
measure in 1832 even his friends were inclined to regard it as 
indefensible in Illinois. 

On the tariff and internal improvements issues, the Clay- 
Adams men, if Breese is any criterion, were inclined to push 
the fighting. Breese came out boldly for protection and 
internal improvements and endeavored to force that issue 
against his rival, Coles. The year before he had suggested to 
Judge Thomas C. Browne that the Gazette publish an attack 
on Kane for his support of the president's internal improve- 
ments veto and possibly as a result had drawn from Kane a 
letter hedging on both the tariff and internal improvements, 
but indicating his opposition to a recharter. The newspapers 
occasionally raised the tariff question. These issues, however, 
till 1832 seemed not only to create little division among the 
factions but also to have aroused little interest among the 
people. 7 

9 Illinois Intelligencer, July 16, 1831. 

''Ibid., December 4, 1830, May 21, September 16, 1831; Breese to Grant, 
June 22, 1831, and Breese to Browne, September 14, 1830, in/ Eddy manuscripts. 


The election of 1832 saw a sharply drawn party division at 
least so far as the Clay element was concerned. Specifically 
they assailed Jackson for his policy against internal improve- 
ments and a protective tariff and for the danger to the country 
and especially to the currency of Illinois involved in his refusal 
to recharter the Bank of the United States. Indeed they ap- 
parently thought their best chance was to divide the Jackson 
men by supporting candidates favorable to their doctrinal 
position. The Jackson forces were none too well united on 
points of doctrine. The republican Jackson meeting at Van- 
dalia, December 14, 1831, took no definite stand on the tariff 
question but laid the emphasis on Jackson's opposition to the 
"aristocratic doctrine" of vested interest in office, and his 
distinctly western attitude as friend to the settler and advocate 
of Indian removals. 8 

The issues steadily increased in national importance in 
the years following 1832. On the question of nullification 
Illinois had no doubts whatever. The senate spread Jackson's 
proclamation against the nullifiers on its journals and ordered 
3,000 copies of it printed. Both houses joined in a resolution 
against the nullifiers. The removal of the bank deposits 
seemed at the outset to arouse no excitement in Illinois. The 
Sangamo Journal indeed avowed its belief that the people of 
southern Illinois gave themselves little concern about it and 
would not approve the call of a special session to charter a 
bank. It avowed also that the destruction of the bank had 
been the issue in 1832 and that Jackson was acting under a 
mandate from the people, however ill-considered a one it might 
be. Not till the spring of 1834 did the calling of meetings to 
approve or to protest begin. 9 

8 Sangamo Journal, December 8, 15, 22, 1831, January 5, August 2, Sep- 
tember 22, October 27, 1832; for meeting at Vandaha see Illinois Intelligencer, 
February 18, 1832, and see also December 24, 1831. The Vandalia Whig and 
Illinois Intelligencer in its prospectus advocated Jackson's reelection but pro- 
nounced for the whig measures. Illinois Intelligencer, March 3, 1832. 

The only votes against the first resolution were cast by Davidson, Forquer, 
Mather, and Snyder; against the second were William B. Archer and David- 
son. Senate Journal, 1832-1833, i session, 70; Sangamo Journal, October 26, 
November 2, 9, 1833. See protest of Gallatin in Vandalia Whig, April 3, 1834, 

STATE POLITICS, 18301834 143 

The two new elements described above, the personal rival- 
ries between Jackson's would-be successors and the growing 
importance of national issues based on his measures, completed 
the breakdown of the older system of politics predicated on 
personal loyalty to Jackson and the older factional system. 
The flux was not fully completed for some years; not till 1836 
can the rearrangements be regarded as the secessions of indi- 
viduals and groups from one party to the other rather than as 
changes in the alignment of factions. 

The best known change, that of Joseph Duncan, came with 
a certain dramatic quality and may be stated in detail both as 
typifying the forces at work and as being the pivot on which 
numerous other changes occurred. Duncan was certainly con- 
sulted by Kinney and Kane about the appointments by which 
they raised to power in Illinois their friends of the Crawford 
following. He had relied for his influence on his close accord 
with Secretary Samuel D. Ingham, a Calhoun man who fell in 
the cabinet reorganization. In 1830 the Kane followers sus- 
pected Duncan's loyalty to their chief in the senatorial contest, 
and Kane early in 1831 proposed to throw Duncan over and 
support Edwards. It is doubtful if the breach between them 
was ever closed. Personal ties doubtless were drawing Duncan 
away from his earlier alliance. Further he had maintained a 
policy of independence toward Jackson's measures for which 
in 1831 he had been criticized at home. He voted to pass the 
Mayville turnpike bill over Jackson's veto. Jackson's veto of 
the Wabash internal improvement measure doubtless irritated 
him more than his temperately worded letters indicate. Re- 
peatedly in the session of 1833-1834 he voted against 
administration measures. 10 

Very possibly by 1 833 he realized that he could no longer 
hope for national patronage and accordingly prepared to 
relinquish his seat in congress to seek a position of importance 
in state politics. Everything impelled him toward a change 

and approval, of Hillsboro and Danville in ibid., February 27, June 12, April 
13, 1834. 

10 Congressional Debates, 1833-1834, p. 2182, 2207, 2375, 2627, 2739. 


of camps, and by 1833 the opposition to the administration in 
Illinois was prepared to accord him enthusiastic support. His 
candidacy for governor was announced early in 1833 by the 
Vandalia Whig, and the whig papers began a policy of keeping 
him before the public. " By keeping him constantly before 
them as an old public servant, against whom nothing is as yet 
alleged, and confirming by an occasional commendation in the 
newspapers the favorable standing he now occupies, they will 
be prepared for a formal annunciation when his friends think 
the proper time has come for it." u The Jackson-Van Buren 
party promptly prepared for war. They sent an agent into the 
state, if Duncan is to be believed, under pretext of examining 
land offices to stir up opposition to him. The Advocate at 
once declared war on him, and indicated the council of revision 
as the source of his candidacy. The council was at that time 
made up of Reynolds, Wilson, Lockwood, and T. W. Smith, 
most of them till recently Edwards' partisans. 12 The Jackson- 
Van Buren party began to canvass the list of available men to 
oppose him. First Berry was suggested, then Ewing; finally, 
November 27, the name of R. K. McLaughlin, Duncan's uncle, 
was proposed by a Coles county convention. A month later a 
Belleville meeting brought out Kinney and on him the sup- 
port of the Jacksonian or Van Buren party finally centered. 13 
Duncan by no means received the undivided support of the 
whig papers. For some reason the Sangamo Journal opposed 
his candidacy with asperity. It was accused by the Shawnee- 
town Journal of having been bought up by Slade and Kane 
with the federal printing to support Van Buren and oppose 
Duncan. 14 The Sangamo Journal had previously denounced 

11 Grant to Dement, June 26, 1833, in Eddy manuscripts; Sangamo Journal, 
February 9, 1833 ; Illinois Advocate, February 2, 1833. 

12 In February it was supposed that A. P. Field was grooming Richard M. 
Young for the race. Grant to Reynolds, February 6, 1834 and Reynolds to 
Grant, February 10, 1834, in Eddy manuscripts. 

13 The Sangamo Journal, March 30, 1833, denied Swing's candidacy, and in 
the January 25, 1834 issue, expressed the opinion that Duncan would not run 
against his uncle. See also Illinois Advocate, December 7, 1833. 

14 Shavmeeto<um Journal clipping in Vandalia Whig, April 3, 1834. The 
Alton American was inclined to believe the charge, see issue of April 14, 1834. 

STATE POLITICS, 18301834 145 

the Banner and the Patriot of Jacksonville for having per- 
mitted themselves to be influenced to suppress charges against 
Duncan's financial integrity. It charged the existence of a 
Jacksonville regency headed by Duncan which sheltered itself 
under Jackson's name though it was opposed to his principles. 
It countered the charges of the Vandalia Whig by the insinua- 
tion that Duncan had bought it to his support with a promise 
of the state printing, and by slurs on its opposition to Jackson. 
Certainly its opposition could not have taken a form more em- 
barrassing to Duncan. 16 

In the spring of 1834 the Sangamo Journal gave enthusi- 
astic support to the candidacy of General James D. Henry, 
the Illinois hero of the Black Hawk War. It is difficult to 
estimate exactly what was behind this movement. Henry was 
extolled as a man independent of party and as a mechanic; he 
was nominated by a series of county meetings, but the hopes 
of his supporters were destroyed by his sickness and death in 
the spring of 1834. Thereafter the Sangamo Journal inclined 
to the support of R. K. McLaughlin. 

Of the four candidates McLaughlin offered his record as 
state treasurer and his former unflinching opposition to the 
state bank. James Adams' position in the campaign is not so 
clear; he was perennially a candidate and always an unsuccess- 
ful one. In spite of his later democratic affiliations the Chicago 
Democrat affected to believe that General Adams would be 
elected by the votes of the old Adams men, the stalwart Jackson 
votes being split between Kinney and McLaughlin and the 
"milk and cider" votes going to Duncan. Kinney based his 
hopes of office on his personality, his friends alleging that his 
errors were of the head and not of the heart. He was senti- 
mentally pictured as a farmer and as a democrat in personal 
habits. The attacks he found it necessary to meet were mostly 
on his opposition to the canal and on his connection with the 
state bank. To the first charge the answer of his followers 
was a straight denial ; to the second the claim that the Edwards- 

18 Sangamo Journal, February i, April 19, 1834. 


ville branch of the state bank with which he had been connected 
had really given relief to the public and had lost the state 
nothing. For the rest he relied on his undoubted allegiance 
to Jacksonism. 16 

Duncan of course had to stand or fall by his congressional 
record, so far as the voters understood it. The Chicago Demo- 
crat and the Illinois Advocate, assailing him as a deserter from 
Jacksonism, singled out his proposal for a bank and his other 
anti-administration votes. The Alton Spectator answered that 
he had stood firmly for his principles from the beginning on 
both internal improvements and the bank it was Jackson 
who had departed from his. At a later time Duncan claimed 
that he had never, since 1830, used Jackson's name to carry 
his elections, being convinced that Jackson, his mind weakened 
by grief at the death of his wife, had been persuaded to drop 
his own principles and adopt Van Buren's. 17 Considering the 
political conditions in 1834 it is hard to see how any but the 
ignorant could have failed to see that Duncan was no longer 
in harmony with the federal administration. Possibly the lack 
of a specific renunciation of Jacksonism caused it to be taken for 
granted that he still made formal profession of faith. In 1834 
that was still considered sufficient. 

After the election, however, in spite of a few attempts by 
Jackson papers to regard his election as a Jackson success, 
there could be no doubt of his position. The Sangamo Journal 
judging him on his congressional record pronounced him an 
opposition man; an anti-administration toast proposed by him 
at a dinner after his election should have left no doubt of it; 
and the Jackson papers generally took the fact of his apostasy 
for granted. 18 

18 Alton American, April 14, June 2, 1834; Chicago Democrat, July 23, 
1834; Illinois Advocate, April 19, 1834; Alton Spectator, February n, April 
17, 1834. The Alton Spectator pointed out that both Kinney and Van Buren 
were hostile to the canal, June 5, 1834. 

17 Chicago Democrat, March 4, May 21, July 2, 23, 1834; Alton Spectator, 
July i, 1834; letter in the Sangamo Journal, February 4, 1837. 

18 Chicago Democrat, August 27, September 17, November 12, 1834; San- 
gamo Journal, August 30, October 4, 18, December 6, 1834. 

STATE POLITICS, 18301834 147 

The story is told on doubtful authority that as Duncan was 
proceeding to Illinois to take his place as governor, he met 
Reynolds, then newly elected to congress ; and after comment- 
ing on their exchange of offices, he was told by Reynolds that 
they were likewise changing political alignment, Duncan going 
over to the whig opposition while he himself had elected to 
stay by Old Hickory. Whether authentic or not^the story 
shows an acute grasp of the political situation of the day. 
Duncan was passing through the zone of doubt in the direc- 
tion of the opposition while Reynolds was traversing it in 
the opposite direction to a place in the Jackson-Van Buren 

In 1834 in neither the congressional race of the third dis- 
trict between William L. May and Benjamin Mills nor in that 
of the second between Casey and William H. Davidson was the 
anti-Jackson line sharply drawn. Mills was in favor of R. M. 
Johnson for the succession as against May who advocated 
leaving the choice to a convention; but both made profession 
of faith in Jackson and both were supposed to be at the same 
time in favor of a bank. Similarly in the second district, 
Davidson while opposing the removal of the deposits from the 
bank and favoring its recharter was occasionally at least repre- 
sented as pro-Jackson. 19 But in the first district Reynolds, 
while running as avowedly a Jackson man, courted the aid of 
the same knot of opposition men who were supporting Duncan 
for the governorship. 

Reynolds claimed the support of A. F. Grant and Eddy at 
Shawneetown. A newspaper edited by R. W. Clarke was 
established there to support both Reynolds and Duncan. 
Friends of both men supported the enterprise by their subscrip- 
tions. The race began as a three-cornered one between Slade, 
Reynolds, and Adam W. Snyder, a partisan of Kinney. Slade 
had voted both for a recharter and against a restoration of 
deposits, votes which he had been able to reconcile to his own 

19 Chicago Democrat, May 7, 1834; Alton American, January 30, 1834; 
S any a mo Journal, February 8, June 7, 1834. 


satisfaction by a process of casuistry but for which he was held 
up to derision as a wobbler. In the election, however, he was 
set down by his opponents as opposed to a bank. The death 
of Slade left the decision between Reynolds and Snyder. Both 
men, of course, were avowed Jackson men, but Snyder was in 
favor of a United States Bank. His candidacy was under 
especial patronage of the St. Clair Gazette. Reynolds pro- 
posed a bizarre scheme for a new bank and also a temporary 
recharter of the old bank. 20 His expressed ideal was a modi- 
fied United States Bank, " so that all parties will be satisfied." 21 
Reynolds was elected. As the death of Slade and the resigna- 
tion of Duncan made necessary special elections to fill out their 
unexpired terms, Reynolds and May each in his district offered 
themselves for these also on the ground that the additional 
terms would give them needed experience and acquaintance. 
Reynolds delayed his announcement until he was sure that men 
to whom he was under obligation did not offer themselves and 
then pulled the wires necessary to make audible the voice of 
public opinion soliciting him to become a candidate. Pierre 
Menard became a candidate for the unexpired term in 
Reynolds' district, and Pope appealed for support for him on 
the ground of his benevolence and also because in spite of his 
national republican affiliations his name had never been in- 
volved in the Jackson and anti-Jackson war. 22 Reynolds pro- 
tested that the only result of Menard's entrance would be that 
a Kinney partisan would beat him. He accused Pope of 
already having gone over to Kinney. This was true in so far, 
at least, that Pope had declined supporting him and had taken 
up Snyder on the ground that Reynolds was " playing for all 
the pockets," an art which indeed was the alpha and omega of 
the politics of "John of Cahokia." Again he asked the help 
of his Shawneetown friends, but not long after his election 

20 Alton Spectator, April 24, May 25, July 15, 1834; Shawneetoiun Journal 
clipping in Vandalia Whig, April 24, 1834; Eddy to Clarke, April 26, 1834, in 
Eddy manuscripts. 

21 Reynolds to Eddy, February 17, 1834, in Eddy manuscripts. 

22 " It is hoped that his name is a Talisman to neutralise the senseless noise 
about Jackson-ism." Pope to Eddy, August 7, 1834, ' n Eddy manuscripts. 

STATE POLITICS, 18301834 149 

perceived the truth of Pope's warning that Reynolds was now 
" Ultra-Jackson and Anti-Bank." 23 

The process of political disintegration in Illinois had 
reached its height. Personal jealousies and factional rivalries, 
personal adherences to Jackson, Van Buren, Johnson, and dif- 
ferences over administration measures had thrown politics 
into confusion. The changes that had in four years taken 
place in the " Springfield clique " on account of the dominant 
Jacksonian powers in the state can be traced and are doubtless 
significant of what was passing elsewhere. In 1830 Forquer 
found that there was opposed to the Edwards faction in Sanga- 
mon county a knot of men probably headed by May, including 
A. G. Herndon, E. D. Taylor, and James Adams. About 1 832, 
probably disgusted with the failure of the Edwards faction to 
follow their leader, Forquer accepted the support of the clique 
for the state senate. Two years later he succeeded May as 
register at Springfield when the latter resigned that office, to 
which he had been appointed through Kane's influence, to enter 
congress. It was later charged by the whigs that this was all a 
deliberate bargain, by which Forquer had sold himself; and 
it was also said that Peter Cartwright had made a bargain 
to support Duncan, the report alleging that John Calhoun, 
said to be another old opposition man, had bought him up by 
the promise of a surveyor generalship. In 1837-1838 the 
clique, headed as it was supposed by Forquer, read May but 
of the party altogether. Herndon, in 1835, disappointed of 
an office, was said to have joined the opposition. 24 Out of 
such personal rivalries and alliances cemented by national issues 
and national party allegiances was to arise a new political 
organization in Illinois based on broad and fundamental 

23 Pope to Eddy, September 23, 1834, in Eddy manuscripts. 

24 Sangamo Journal, May 2, 1835, February 6, 13, June 18, July 16, 30, 
1836; Chicago Democrat, August 12, 1835. Apparently a letter from May to 
Duncan existed as proof of the charge that Cartwright had made a bargain 
to support Duncan. 


ILLINOIS in 1830 presented that sharp dualism of devel- 
opment common to frontier societies. A small group of 
talented lawyers and jurists questing fortune in the west had 
brought with them the intellectual outlook of eastern cities; 
the towns of Illinois buzzed with political life. Affairs of 
state and nation, however, came only as whispers from afar 
off to the pioneer who, pushing out farther and farther from 
the tiny urban centers of the state, must single-handed win a 
home from forest wilds. He had, by this time, satisfied his 
most primitive wants. The replacement of the coonskin cap 
and leather breeches by store hat and homespun suit indicated 
the degree to which all material comforts had advanced ; cabins 
were more substantial, clearings a little more extensive, settle- 
ments larger and closer together. Opportunities for mental 
and social development were still excessively meager. This 
poverty the pioneer felt keenly, if inarticulately; but at best he 
could enrich his life very slightly. A political campaign 
with its sharp personal interests, its clashes, its victories, its 
eager seeking and jovial solicitation of the voter formed a 
spot of vivid color in the drab months of the year. For the 
rest, the annual wolf-hunt, the house raising, the revival meet- 
ing must afford stimulus and diversion. Any news, any excite- 
ment, was welcomed. A wedding was an event seized upon 
and celebrated by the countryside for twenty-four hours; the 
report of a murder, the trial of a criminal was sufficient to 
draw an avid audience fifty miles. 1 Events like these broke, for 
a little, the isolation of the frontiersman's clearing the clear- 
ing that was but a hole he himself had painfully cut out of the 
malaria infested forest. 

1 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, 1:39-41. 



It was the forest, moreover, that concealed somewhere in 
its depths Indians the great menace of the pioneer. To be 
sure, this menace was connected only remotely in his mind with 
the particular redskin who came begging at his door, whom 
he chased out of his cornfields or pursued after a raid on his 
hog pen; the latter was a creature to be dealt with good- 
naturedly, summarily, or sternly. One could usually drive a 
good bargain with him where peltries and a little whisky were 
concerned. When " Injuns " was whispered, however, its 
black magic called up not the image of these improvident, good- 
natured creatures, but that of a mounted gang of demons, who 
with wild whoops rode down upon a cabin "to imbrue their 
hands in the blood of innocent women and children." 

This fear had not for many years been fed by direct expe- 
rience. As settlements had thickened in the land, contact with 
the whites had broken down the independence of savagery 
and had robbed the Indian of the virility that had once made 
him a foe to be dreaded. Except on the outer fringes of set- 
tlement, knowledge of the Indian was identical with the legacy 
of horror tales treasured in each family. Combined with this 
fear, however, was hate, engendered by the War of 1812, that 
many settlers had brought with them when they emigrated to 
Illinois at the close of that conflict. Young, enterprising men, 
who in the campaigns of the preceding years had felt the lure 
of the untouched solitudes along the Mississippi, came pouring 
west to find a home on land that they felt should now be torn 
from the hostile Indian. It was this great increase in race 
hostility that brought about a new interpretation of Indian 
removal. 2 In response to it, Illinois extinguished Indian land 

2 Abel, " History of Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi," in 
Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1906, 1:233-412. Indian 
removal, when reduced to its simplest terms, was the exchange of tribal hold- 
ings within a state for unoccupied federal land in the far west. Originated by 
President Jefferson, the policy had had a vacillating and uncertain career under 
succeeding administrations. Indian removal was at times a method of lenient 
dealing, at times a means of harsh treatment of the aborigines. Gradually it 
became identified with democratic measures, as involving the doctrine of states 
rights, with an economic appeal to south and west alike. Jackson, with a 
westerner's hate of the Indian, had influenced Indian affairs since Monroe's 
administration; his own inauguration left no doubt of the future meaning of 


titles with astonishing rapidity; small nomadic tribes made it 
easy for a man with the zeal of Ninian Edwards to render 
vast tracts clear of Indians far in advance of white popula- 
tion. To the pioneer, as well as to the politician and land 
speculator, Jackson's federal policy of removal of the Indians 
to some trans-Mississippi territory was a confirmation of their 
own conviction that the land belonged to the white man; they 
welcomed the means it supplied of ridding the country of the 

Except for the episode of the so-called Winnebago War 
in 1827 which lasted only long enough to send panic through 
the frontier, most Illinoisans of the thirties had had no oppor- 
tunity to express the peculiar complex of emotions that made 
up their feeling toward the aborigines. The Indians were 
far to the north and west of the settlements; for, although 
the population had by 1830 grown to over 157,000, it was 
confined to the south and central portions of the state along the 
wooded rivers and streams. The prairie country was still 
almost superstitiously avoided, and it was only the discovery 
of lead at Galena which caused a sudden spurt of immigration 
to cross the transverse barrier of the Illinois river. The 
whole of the north country was a trackless wilderness except 
to the fur trader and Indian; even to them much of it was 

Practically all this land north of the Illinois had been 
ceded by the Sauk and Foxes to the federal government in 
1804. In November of this year five of their chiefs and 
headmen had gone to St. Louis to endeavor to secure the 
release of a tribesman held there for the murder of a white 
man. It is possible that in the council preceding their depar- 
ture, some instruction was given as to the sale of land. The 
Sauk and Foxes, small tribes, held much more land than they 
used, and they were envious of those tribes near them who 
were enjoying annuities from the government. 3 It is, however, 

Indian removal. With the passage of the " force bill" in May, 1830, he 
committed the government to forcible removal of the Indian to the west. 
3 Drake, Life and Adventures of Black Haivk, 60. 


a matter of conjecture only, as to whether the tribe had 
instructed a sale of some sort; but it is certain that the United 
States government has usually misapprehended the nature of 
the power exercised by the Indian headmen. They repre- 
sented in no sense a centralized or autocratic power; what 
obedience they secured in civil matters was obtained through 
tact and persuasion, and the proved wisdom of their advice. 
Individual liberty was paramount in the Indians' scheme of 
things ; coercion was unknown among them. A majority never 
bound the minority, however small, to regard its decision. In 
an evolved Indian government even Jeffersonian democracy 
would have been felt an irksome restraint. When this funda- 
mental attitude of the Indian is borne in mind the difficulty of 
making and keeping any treaty is evident. In this instance the 
treaty was negotiated by William Henry Harrison who became 
popular with westerners for his success in securing land ces- 
sions; it was his custom to deal with factions and isolated bands 
by methods somewhat unscrupulous, though the practice 
was an invariable trouble breeder. 4 In this transaction he 
treated with five chiefs, away from home, on a mission which 
was, at least primarily, for a different purpose; while these 
headmen were befuddled by fire water, he concluded a treaty 
which, in return for an annuity of one thousand dollars, stripped 
the Sauk and Foxes of fifty million acres of land. This land, 
though overlapping into Wisconsin and Missouri, formed in 
Illinois the great triangular wedge between the Mississippi and 
Illinois river systems. By the terms of the treaty, however, 
the Sauk and Foxes were allowed to live and hunt upon the 
land so long as it was the property of the federal government. 5 

4 Abel, " History of Indian Consolidation West of the Mississippi," in 
Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1906, 1:267. Jefferson 
strongly disapproved of such methods and in May, 1805, he ordered Harrison 
to make explanations to certain threatening chiefs and to "counteract the 
effect of his own questionable methods." 

5 Thomas Forsythe, agent for the Sauk and Foxes, and for this reason 
knowing them better than any other white man, in 1832 wrote of this episode: 
"The Sauk and Fox nations were never consulted, nor had any hand in this 
treaty, nor knew anything about it. It was made and signed by two Sauk 
chiefs, one Fox chief and one warrior. 


In 1816, 1822, and 1825 the Sauk of the Rock river coun- 
try, without making any specific reference to its substance, 
unconditionally assented to and confirmed the treaty of i8o4. 6 
Black Hawk, a war chief who fought with the British in the 
War of 1812, acknowledged the land cession when he finally 
signed a treaty of peace in 1816, athough he later claimed 
that he was ignorant of its conditions. 7 

The great village which had for a hundred years been the 
principal seat and burying ground of the Sauk was on the 
north side of Rock river near Rock Island, with that of the 
Foxes three miles away on the Mississippi. 8 Here they lived 
during the spring and summer months, while the women culti- 
vated the great fertile cornfields, lying parallel with the 
Mississippi. The crops from these fields never failed; year 
after year they supplied the Indians bountifully with corn, 
beans, pumpkins, and squashes. The island across from them 
was a garden filled with strawberries, blackberries, plums, 
apples, and nuts; and the river abounded in fine fish. The 
uncultivated land about the villages afforded rich pasturage 

_"When the annuities were delivered to the Sauk and Fox nations of 
Indians, according to the treaty above referred to (amounting to $1000 per 
annum), the Indians always thought they were presents (as the annuity for the 
first twenty years was always paid in goods . . . ), until I, as their Agent, 
convinced them of the contrary, in the summer of 1818. When the Indians 
heard that the goods delivered to them were annuities for land sold by them 
to the United States, they were astonished, and refused to accept of the goods, 
denying that they ever sold the lands as stated by me, their Agent. The Black 
Hawk in particular, who was present at the time, made a great noise about this 
land, and would never receive any part of the annuities from that time forward. 
He always denied the authority of Quash-quame and others to sell any part of 
their lands, and told the Indians not to receive any presents or annuities from 
any American otherwise their lands would be claimed at some future day." 
Printed as appendix to Mrs. J. H. Kinzie, Wau-Eun, 383; Royce M Indian Land 
Cessions in the United States, 666 and map 16. 

Ibid., 680. 

7 He says of the transaction, "Here, for the first time, I touched the goose 
quill to the treaty not knowing, however, that by that act, I consented to give 
away my village. Had that been explained to me, I should have opposed it, 
and never would have signed their treaty. 

"What do we know of the manner of the laws and customs of the white 
people? They might buy our bodies for dissection, and we would touch the 
goose quill to confirm it, without knowing what we are doing. This was the 
case with myself and people in touching the goose quill the first time." Black 
Hawk, Autobiography, 69. 

8 The Sauk had about eight hundred acres under cultivation. 


for their horses, while hunting grounds and lead mines lay 
not far away. 

Miners on their way to Galena observed this chosen spot, 
and about 1823, although the far fringe of settlements was 
still fifty miles away, squatters appeared to give the Indians 
their first experience of the white man as a neighbor. Appar- 
ently at the mercy of the red men, these daring forerunners 
were quite untouched by fear; in violation of both federal law 
and the provisions of the treaty of 1804, they at once began 
to take possession of the Indian cornfields. Of all the vast 
domain ceded to the whites, this particular region was the 
only part actually used by the Indians; but the newcomers, 
feeling that the land by right belonged to the white man, and 
relying on the support of both public and official opinion, 
worried themselves not at all over fine discriminations. They 
wanted the fields. They took them. 

The Sauk and Foxes, though a spirited people, had killed 
no white man since the treaty of 1816; their meekness under 
the treatment of these whites is surprising. Each year the 
squatters encroached further upon their fields, continually 
fencing in greater portions. Indian women and children were 
severely whipped for venturing beyond the limits thus set, and 
boys and men were summarily chastised when the temper of 
the newcomers was aroused. 9 

The proximity of the whites quickly had its effect on the 
social organization of the red men. " Many of our people, 
instead of going to their old hunting grounds, where game was 
plenty, would go near to the settlements to hunt and, instead 
of saving their skins to pay the trader for goods furnished 
them in the fall, would sell them to the settlers for whiskey! 
and return in the spring with their families, almost naked. 
. . ." 10 Each year only increased this unhappy condition. The 
most important Sauk chief, Keokuk, an able, eloquent, and 

9 Black Hawk was himself severely beaten on the suspicion of hog-stealing, 
an affront to his dignity that he never forgave. Black Hawk, Autobiography, 

10 Ibid., Si. 


sagacious man, felt the futility of protesting at the advance 
of the whites. He decided, upon the advice of the Indian 
agent at Rock Island, that his people had better remove to 
their lands across the Mississippi, and all his influence was 
used to bring about the migration. 

Black Hawk, a fighter from his youth, now an old war 
chief over sixty years of age, was by nature an active protes- 
tant. Having had but slight contact with the Americans, and 
that, unfortunately, of an untoward nature, he was quite 
frankly no friend of theirs. The British, however, had long 
ago secured and thereafter retained his friendship. He and 
his band made frequent trips to Canadian Maiden, an unfailing 
source of presents and flattering words. This old man, his 
resentment easily roused and slowly quieted, disdained the 
counsel of Keokuk. His reaction in this matter may have been 
influenced by the fact that his own power waxed only in days 
of war; he was clearly jealous of Keokuk and the latter's sway 
over the people, and Keokuk's talk of removing roused the old 
warrior's contempt for his supineness. The faction opposing 
Keokuk's plan found a ready champion in Black Hawk, who 
at one stroke thus divided Keokuk's power and increased his 
own, and in addition opened a possibility of the Indians' stand- 
ing their ground against the arrogant white neighbors to the 
end of retaining the beloved homeland. The struggle between 
the chiefs lasted two seasons ; when Keokuk's eloquence finally 
persuaded the majority of the tribe to cross the river, Black 
Hawk and his band remained staunchly at their village. 

In spite of his warlike nature, up to this time the old chief 
had in advice and action shown a paradoxical meekness and 
forbearance in dealing with the white intruders. For a long 
time he was concerned only with being allowed peaceably to 
remain in his village. These settlers, however, were bringing 
a biting realization of the full meaning of federal claims, and 
with the sharp goad of mistreatment he had become convinced 
that the treaty to which the whites so constantly referred was 
a fraud. Even to Black Hawk's simple standard, the thousand 


dollars annuity was too greatly disproportionate to the land 
involved. The only living signer of the treaty had always 
vigorously denied that he had ever so much as considered 
the sale of land north of Rock, river, much less consented to 
it in a signed treaty. When Black Hawk told his story to the 
British agent at Maiden, and later to General Cass, they 
affirmed that if it was true the whites could not remove him; 
and Black Hawk determined now to employ different tactics 
with the intruders. Almost simultaneously with his decision, 
however, the squatters, who for seven years had with increas- 
ing self-assurance been encroaching more and more daringly 
upon his homeland, took out preemption rights over a few 
quarter sections of land which included most of the village, the 
graves, and the cornlands that time out of mind had belonged 
to the Sauks; the force of the provision in the treaty of 1804 
that guaranteed the right of the Indians to live and hunt upon 
the land as long as it remained the property of the United 
States was thus cleverly evaded. 

The squatters, now squatters no longer, but preemptioners 
with legal property rights over part of the disputed land, at 
once ordered the Indians to remove not from the land actu- 
ally sold, but to the west side of the Mississippi. To their 
astonishment, fortified by advice of friends that the land had 
never been legally ceded, Black Hawk turned upon them and 
indignantly ordered them to leave the country. Strangers 
appropriating their fields, strangers plowing up the graves of 
their fathers, strangers in the homeland regarding the Sauk 
as intruders these burning realities were dire fulfillment of 
the fear of white rapacity that had come upon him when first 
he learned that the yearly presents his people had been receiv- 
ing were in reality payment for tribal lands. To Black Hawk 
it ^appeared incomprehensible that the Great Father should 
wink at the forcible seizure of this one small point of land 
when the whites had gained from his people such quantities 
beside. If such was the case, however, he proposed a stand 
against the aliens. 


At this unexpected change of front the settlers fled in panic. 
In April, eight of them sent a memorial to Governor Reynolds 
setting forth their grievous wrongs at the hands of the Indians. 
It appeared that the Sauk on the Rock river had " threatened 
to kill them; that they acted in a most outrageous manner; 
threw down their fences, turned horses into their corn-fields, 
stole their potatoes, saying the land was theirs and that they 
had not sold it, . . . levelled deadly weapons at the citizens," 
and as a final outrage these Indians had gone "to a house, 
rolled out a barrel of whiskey, and destroyed it." 11 On April 
30, thirty-seven settlers again asked protection from the Sauk, 
who it was claimed were acting in " an outrageous and men- 
acing manner," and in May, receiving no reply, sent a personal 
delegation to the executive. 

Governor Reynolds, from memorials, letters, and rumors 
was convinced of the imminent danger of an Indian war; in 
fact, he proclaimed Illinois in a state of "actual invasion" 
and called for volunteers. 12 

By June there were six hundred volunteers and ten com- 
panies of regulars in the field under General Edmund P. 
Gaines, marching across the northern wilderness. They were 
a comforting array to the terrified inhabitants. The Indians, 
dismayed by this menacing reply to their crude effort to secure 
justice, watched the demonstration of the assembled troops 
in front of their village on June 25 ; and during the night the 
whole band quietly withdrew to their lands in Iowa, so that 
the next day the troops entered an empty village. On June 
30, 1831, General Gaines and Governor Reynolds were able 
to negotiate a treaty of capitulation and peace by which the 
Indians not only confirmed the ancient cession of 1804 but 
solemnly agreed never to cross to the eastern side of the 

11 Drake, Life and Adventures of Black Hawk, 100 ; Stevens, Black Haivk 
War, 80-85. Black Hawk avers that he pleaded with the whites to cease selling 
whisky, but that one man in particular persisted until he went with a party 
of Indians, rolled out a barrel and destroyed the liquor. " I did this for fear 
some of the whites might be killed by my people when drunk." Black Hawk, 
Autobiography, 89. 

12 Sangamo Journal, April 26, 1832. 


Mississippi except by permission of the United States gov- 

The Indians, however, had left their growing crops in 
Illinois, and it was too late to plant anew in Iowa. By autumn 
they were out of provisions. One night a little company of 
their young men crossed the river to steal roasting ears from 
the crops they had left on their old lands. The whites fired 
upon them and complained loudly of the double offense of 
thieving and of violating the treaty. Much more startling 
was the daring of an expedition of Foxes, who went up the 
Mississippi to avenge upon the Menominee warriors the mur- 
der of eight Fox chiefs the previous year. 13 They fell upon 
a party of twenty-eight drunken braves encamped on an island 
opposite the fort at Prairie du Chien, and scalped and muti- 
lated the whole band. This to the Indian code was only just 
reprisal; Black Hawk indignantly refused to deliver up any of 
his band for trial, especially since no such demand had been 
made of the Menominee the year before. 

During this episode famine conditions continued. At the 
invitation of the Prophet, Black Hawk determined to cross 
the Mississippi the following spring and raise a crop with his 
friends, the Winnebago. He had a childlike conviction that 
so long as he showed no warlike inclinations and was not enter- 
ing his old village, the government would not molest him. 
After his people had been strengthened by a year's plenty, he 
hoped to perfect the rosy, if somewhat nebulous, plans that 
he had formed from reports brought to him by Indian runners. 
They assured him that a powerful coalition of British, Winne- 
bago, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi stood ready to aid 
the Sauk and Foxes not only in regaining their village but in 
repaying the humiliation and injustice they had suffered from 
the Americans. The supreme importance of filling the stomachs 
of his band made the present consideration of war impossible. 
With naive security in the thought of his present peaceful 
intentions, he with his four hundred warriors took their 

* s Sattffamo Journal, May 3, 1832. 


women, children, and belongings and in full view of Fort 
Armstrong, crossed the Mississippi in April, 1832, and started 
up Rock river toward the Winnebago country. 14 

General Henry Atkinson with a small company of regulars 
had recently been stationed at Fort Armstrong to enforce the 
demand of the Indian department for the Fox murderers of 
the Menominee. Upon news of the invasion, he sent an 
express ordering the band to return. Black Hawk, affronted 
at his preemptory tone and protesting his peaceful mission of 
making corn, refused and continued to refuse when threatened 
with force. 

Meanwhile, the news had spread, and Illinois was ablaze 
with excitement. Conditions in the state were ripe for an 
Indian war; a month after Governor Reynolds' fiery appeal, 
sixteen hundred volunteers rendezvoused at Beardstown. They 
were backwoodsmen, hardy, courageous, excellent marksmen 
and horsemen, who had progressed across a continent by the 
aid of rifle and ax with an appeal to fisticuffs in case of 
personal difficulties. Their independence, their isolation, their 
whole habit of life, built on a proud consciousness of Anglo- 
Saxon and Jeffersonian tradition, produced the sharpest indi- 
vidualism. These men, starving for incident, heard in the call 
to arms a promise of a frolic more venturesome than a wolf 
hunt; it involved an appeal to the spirit of public service to 
hunt down and destroy a pest more deadly than wolves. 15 
They themselves were unconscious of the tremendous psychic 
hold the savage had established over them in the form of a 
fear, which in the face of a threatened reverse would stampede 
them in frantic hysteria. 

The troops had been gathered in from the fields. Will- 
ingly, even in the face of two successive bad seasons, they left 

14 When the Black Hawk and party re-crossed to the east side of the 
Mississippi River in 1832, they numbered three hundred and sixty-eight men. 
They were hampered with many women and children, and had no intention to 
make war." Printed as appendix to Mrs. J. H. Kinzie, Wau-Eun, 385; Thwaites, 
"The Story of the Black Hawk War," Wisconsin Historical Collections, 12:230. 

15 In 1814 the territorial legislature offered fifty dollars to any citizen killing 
or taking a depredating Indian, while only two dollars was given for a wolf. 


their plows, grabbed their rifles, and rode away to form them- 
selves democratically into companies at the nearest crossroads. 
They chose their officers as children form for a tug of war, by 
standing in line behind the man of their choice. Then, whoop- 
ing, yelling, firing their guns in the air, they raced off to war. 16 
That such troops would be able to understand or submit 
readily to discipline was not possible. Allow the man whom 
they had recently honored by electing captain a man whom 
they knew thoroughly as no better than themselves allow 
such a one to take advantage of his position to direct an action 
undesirable to them? Incomprehensible! To the recently 
elected captain this point of view seemed entirely reasonable. 
With an active sense of political favors to come, he was not 
the one to insist when thoroughly convinced that such insistence 
would effect nothing but his own unpopularity. 

The rollicking volunteers, divided into four regiments, 
a spy battalion, and two odd battalions, marched to Fort Arm- 
strong where, on the seventh of May, General Atkinson 
assumed command. It was at once agreed that General Samuel 
Whiteside with the recruits should proceed about fifty miles 
up Rock river to Prophetstown, there to rest until the ten 
companies of infantry regulars from the fort with provisions 
could follow in keel-boats. The troops, arrived at Prophets- 
town, burned the vacant village by way of pastime and marched 
on toward Dixon, with splendid improvidence abandoning 
baggage trains and provisions in order to make better time. 
Upon their arrival they found two independent battalions of 
mounted volunteers under Major Isaiah Stillman, itching to 
get into a scrimmage and display their prowess. Accordingly, 
Whiteside sent them to spy out the land farther up Rock river 
and, if possible, to find the Indians. On the fourteenth of 
May, Stillman, with his men on the alert for a chance to scalp 
a savage, encamped in a small grove of scrub oak completely 
surrounded by open, undulating prairie. 

leWakefield, History of the Black Haivk War, 154; Nicolay and Hay, 
Abraham Lincoln, 1:89. 


The Indians were not far away. For a week Black Hawk 
had been in council with the Prophet and the Winnebago; and 
to his dismay he was learning that the fair promises of British 
and Indian aid awaiting him when he should require were 
empty. Hospitality even was not of the warmest. Black 
Hawk, himself an unsophisticated old fellow, was often the 
dupe of the wily and mischievous who had persuaded him into 
believing that which he secretly desired. Added to his own 
growing fear that his hopes were groundless came the sharper 
one that his people should discover the fruitlessness of their 
quest. Disturbing rumors of war preparations among the 
whites were brought him. With gathering apprehension he 
pushed on to Sycamore creek in the hope that his council there 
with the Potawatomi might bring forth something more hope- 
ful. But the advice of Shabonee, the friend of the whites, was 
well heeded; Black Hawk could effect little. The Potawatomi 
were politely aloof; they had no corn to share, much less had 
they men. Only a handful of hotheads and jingoes listened 
to Black Hawk. The day of a sharp repulse to white aggres- 
sion would never dawn; the story of British aid was false; 
and the Indians were now too well acquainted with buttered 
bread to risk plainer fare. 

For Black Hawk the bubble had burst; he was defeated; 
he was now ready to return and make corn in Iowa. On the 
heels of his resolution came the news of an encampment of 
three hundred and forty soldiers only eight miles away. Here 
was a chance, with not too great a loss of dignity, to accede 
to the whites, and he immediately sent three young men under 
a flag of truce to arrange a council at one of the other camps. 
The Indians rode to Stillman's eager men, who, toward sunset, 
saw the approaching trucebearers nearly a mile away; await- 
ing no orders, many jumped upon their horses and ran the 
Indians in amid yells and imprecations. While their mission 
was being explained five other Indians whom Black Hawk 
had sent to watch the effect of his message were observed on 
a knoll about three-quarters of a mile away. The excitement 


in camp increased; first twenty men, then others, dashed away 
to bring in the newcomers. The Indians, seeing the headlong 
approach, wheeled to ride away. The whites fired; two of the 
Indians were killed; and when the camp heard the shots, one 
of the Indians who had accompanied the flag of truce was shot 
down in cold blood. 17 

With the shooting, it became impossible for the officers 
to exert any control over the raw and independent men. Here 
was the fun they had left home to find. Little groups continued 
to gallop away in an irregular stream over the darkening 
prairie to join their comrades who had been so fortunate as 
to be first in an Indian fracas. 

In the bedlam of the camp, the two remaining Indians 
escaped; three of the party of five hurried to Black Hawk 
with the news of the reception given his flag of truce. Black 
Hawk was astounded. He had with him forty warriors only; 
but, seeing the pursuing riders approaching, he formed his 
men behind a clump of chaparral with a stirring appeal dearly 
to sell their lives in avenging their wantonly murdered com- 
rades. When the foremost of Stillman's men was all but upon 
them the Indians burst from cover with a crackle of rifles 
whooping, yelling, and dashing madly into the midst of the 
advance guard. That squad in one blinding flash realized its 
temerity; imagination peopled thickly the early darkness with 
blood-thirsty savages. With a yell of " Injuns ! Injuns ! " the 
troops wheeled and fled headlong toward camp the whole 
force in a very madness of fear. 18 

The astonished Indians pursued, but it was impossible to 
come up with the flying foe. They had to satisfy themselves 
with dispatching those unfortunates who fell behind. The 
men did not stop when they reached camp but abandoning 
everything rushed on through toward Dixon. All night and 
the next day exhausted men came straggling into Atkinson's 
camp with fearful and wonderful tales of the fifteen hundred or 

17 Stevens, Black Hawk War, 132-133; Sangamo Journal, October 6, 1832. 

18 Captain Adams and a handful of men made a brave stand and fought 
till they fell. Stevens, Black Hawk War, 134. 


two thousand Indians deployed about with diabolical military 
genius by General Black Hawk ! 19 Each was convinced that 
the slaughter had been tremendous that any not yet arrived 
in camp were slain. The actual loss in fact was only eleven 
men, but the immediate effect on Indians and whites was tre- 
mendous. Black Hawk, feeling that he had been precipitated 
into certain war, was elated by his success; the capture of pre- 
cious provisions, blankets, saddlebags, and camp equipage 
now made it possible for him to think of carrying on hostilities. 
Sending out scouting parties to watch the movements of the 
whites, he removed his women and children to the swampy 
fastnesses of Lake Koshkonong, near the headwaters of Rock 
river in Wisconsin. Leaving them here, he and his braves, 
with parties of recruits from the Winnebago and Potawatomi, 
descended on terrified northern Illinois to harass it with border 

The panic that had arisen in Illinois at news of the Indians' 
first coming was as nothing compared to that which now swept 
over the state. Everywhere on the frontier homes were hur- 
riedly deserted, while families and whole settlements scuttled 
to forts. 20 The frontier shivered with an apprehension which 
feverishly increased as stories of bushwhacking warfare began 
to come in. 

Governor Reynolds at once issued a fresh levy for two 
thousand men. This was necessary as the troops, completely 
disheartened by Stillman's disaster, clamored to be discharged. 
Many had enlisted for a few weeks only; though there was 
now direct need of their services a storm of protest arose from 
them in which the bad weather, the neglected fields, the lack 
of provisions, and the futility of further pursuit, all played 
a part as reasons for abandoning the enterprise. The impos- 
sibility of carrying on a war with an unwilling militia as 
soldiery was only too apparent; late in May the governor 
mustered them out of service. Three hundred rangers ree'n- 

19 Sangamo Journal, May 3, 14, 24, 1832. 

20 Ibid., May 31, June 21, 1832. 


listed at once so that the frontier might have some protection 
while a new army was being raised. 21 

During this interval, an irregular border warfare was 
carried on in which two hundred whites and about as many 
Indians lost their lives. News of the massacre at Indian creek 
where fifteen men, women, and children were slaughtered, 22 
of the sharp skirmish on the Pecatonica where Major Henry 
Dodge and a gallant handful avenged five murdered whites, 
and of the desperate attack on Apple river fort hurried the 
army into service. In less than three weeks after Stillman's 
defeat thirty-two hundred mounted militiamen took the field 
under Atkinson. This force was divided into three brigades, 
with Generals Alexander Posey, Milton K. Alexander, and 
James D. Henry in command. Colonel Jacob Fry's rangers, 
Dodge's Michigan rangers, and the regular infantry completed 
the fighting force of four thousand men, or ten to one of the 
Indian strength. 23 

The real problem that faced these commanders was that 
of bringing to the consciousness of the unruly men under them 
a realizing sense of the necessity of obedience. Neither the 
disciplined companies of infantry under Atkinson nor the thou- 
sand regulars being rushed from the seaboard under General 
Winfield Scott could win the war against a mounted enemy, 
unwilling to make a stand. But a militia, however well- 
mounted and however intrepid, which refused to submit itself 
to discipline, would convert the war into a series of Still- 
man's runs. 

In General James D. Henry, Illinois found the man for 
such troops. A blacksmith in civil life, his avocation had been 
the study of military tactics and memoirs. The narrow limits 
of the incident called the Black Hawk War afforded him the 

^Sangamo Journal, May 24, 31, 1832; Galenian, June 13, 1832; Stevens, 
Black Hawk War, 141. 

22 Sangamo Journal, May 31, 1832. 

28 Thwaites, "Story of the Black Hawk War," in Wisconsin Historical 
Collections, 12:246. It is to be remembered that the description of the Wis- 
consin country is drawn from contemporary accounts of men suffering from the 
hardships of marches through a wilderness. 


opportunity to display an alert tactical sense, a military judg- 
ment far above that of his colleagues, and, most important, a 
power in handling men that in a few weeks turned obstinate 
material into a trained army. 

For some weeks, however, it was not evident that the 
second campaign would be more fruitful than the first. Though 
all advantages were with the whites, the army seemed unable 
to apprehend how weak an enemy they were pursuing. Black 
Hawk had no army only a band of warriors heavily encum- 
bered with the unaccustomed responsibility of women and 
children. For more than a year they had been ill nourished, 
and they had now been reduced to a literally starving condi- 
tion. The rugged country through which they fled was quite 
unknown to them; their guides, as ill-fortune pressed close, 
deserted them. Though it was midsummer, these dreary 
wastes of bogs, morasses, lakes, and pine forests yielded 
neither game, fruit, nor fish. They lived on the bark of trees, 
roots, and horseflesh. 24 Black Hawk had selected this deso- 
late country in the belief that the whites could not follow into 
its fastnesses; but when Atkinson with the main army pursued 
him to the headwaters of Rock river at Lake Koshkonong, he 
was forced to flee onward, west and north in the hope that he 
and his starving band might reach and cross the Mississippi 
to safety. 

The army, after the hopeful rush on the warm trail to 
Koshkonong, only to find a hastily deserted camp, began to 
flounder about in aimless marches and unsatisfactory explora- 
tions. Spirits rapidly sank. Men grumbled that they could 
wander forever in that hateful northern country and the In- 
dians could remain that long a will o' the wisp. Sleeping 
uneasily on their arms in fear of a night attack, being short 
rationed for days at a time, wading hip deep through water 
and mud, marching toward nothing but long stoppages all 
this they were enduring with never a sight of a hostile Indian ! 

2 * Drake, Life and Adventures of Black Hawk, 152; Black Hawk, Auto- 
biography, 130. 


The whole thing seemed ridiculously futile; Governor Rey- 
nolds and his staff with other prominent Illinoisians having 
had sufficient experience of war left for home. By the middle 
of July the volunteer force had been reduced one-half. Fatigue, 
delay, hardship, privation were not the frolic for which they 
had enlisted. 25 

Under these circumstances Atkinson fell back to Fort Kosh- 
konong to await the return of Henry, Alexander, and Dodge 
who with their commands had been sent to Fort Winnebago 
for supplies. While there, these officers were positively 
assured that Black Hawk was encamped about thirty-five miles 
north of Atkinson. Elated at his proximity, they agreed to 
disobey orders and to march directly toward Black Hawk. 
Alexander, however, almost at once reported that his men 
refused to go. Henry, of different stuff, quelled a threatened 
mutiny among his officers and with Major Dodge started on 
a three days forced march over miles of treacherous swamps. 
Then, unexpectedly, they struck the broad, fresh trail of Black 
Hawk trying to escape by way of Four Lakes and the Wis- 

The men were rejuvenated. Tents, baggage, blankets, 
and even clothing were dumped in a pile in the wilderness; 
and the forced march continued. Here at last was a chance 
for real fighting and a speedy end to the war; there was no 
grumbling even when a terrific rain storm forced the men to 
travel over a hundred miles with nothing in their stomachs 
but a little wet flour and raw meat. They were hot on the 
trail, with the rear guard of the Indians only two or three miles 
in advance. Pots and kettles and all manner of Indian camp 
equipment lined the way. Exhausted old men, too ill to keep 
up with their flying bands, fell behind to disclose by their weak- 
ness the straits to which Black Hawk was reduced. 26 

25 Reynolds, My Own Times, 251-252; Ford, History of Illinois, 132-135. 

26 Ford, History of Illinois, 139-146. Some half dozen of these old creatures, 
blind and infirm, were promptly shot and scalped by the whites. Thwaites, 
"Story of the Black Hawk War," in Wisconsin Historical Collections, 12:253; 
Wakefield, History of the Black Hawk War, 109-110. 


Late in the afternoon of July twenty-first, the Indians 
came within a mile and a half of the Wisconsin river. To 
protect the crossing of the main body, a chosen war party 
of about fifty braves, directed by Black Hawk, made a stand 
on the bluffs. After a wild charge, the Indians fought lying 
down in the tall grass. The whites left their horses behind 
and, "with the most terrific yells that ever came from the 
head of mortals, except from the savages themselves," charged 
the position again and again with a heavy fire. 27 The fighting 
continued for a half hour with casualties about even, when 
the Indians began to retreat slowly toward the river. Henry, 
instead of following up this seeming advantage, did not pursue 
them into the unknown, marshy ground ahead. He knew that 
disaster would have met his men in the darkness, though the 
engagement itself had cost them only one life and eight 
wounded. There are varying accounts of the Indian loss, but 
this valiant stand of the weakened warriors accomplished its 
end; it kept the superior force of the whites at bay until the 
band crossed the Wisconsin. 28 

For the Indians, ugly misfortune was biting close; they 
realized it keenly. Just before the dawn of the day following 
the battle of Wisconsin Heights, the troops encamped on the 
battlefield were terrified to hear the shrill, eager tones of an 
Indian in a long harangue, which they supposed was addressed 
to a war party. The Indian guides and interpreters had left 
the army after the battle, and no one in camp understood the 
oration. Henry felt it necessary to quell the rising fear of 
his men by an address reminding them of their dauntlessness 
on the previous day, of the diabolical wickedness of the enemy, 
appealing to them to stand firm, and prophesying that they 
would again be successful. That the Indian's oration was a 
speech of surrender in which he confessed their starving condi- 
tion, their inability to fight when encumbered by women and 
children, and their anxiety to be permitted peaceably to pass 

27 Wakefield, History of the Black Hawk War, in. 

28 Sangamo Journal, September i, 1832. 


over the Mississippi, to do no more mischief, was not learned 
till after the annihilation of the band at Bad Axe. 29 

A large party of women, children, and old men begged 
canoes and rafts from the Winnebago and floated down the 
Wisconsin, trusting that as noncombatants the garrison at 
Fort Crawford would allow them to escape. But a party of 
regulars from Prairie du Chien attacked them, capturing 
thirty-two women and children; the rest of the party were 
killed or drowned during the onslaught; and those who escaped 
into the woods perished with hunger or were there massacred 
by a band of three hundred Menominee allies under a staff of 
white officers. 30 

Those of the Sauk who had no means of descending the 
Wisconsin started out over the densely wooded hills and inter- 
vening black swamps toward the Mississippi. "Many of our 
people were compelled to go on foot, for want of horses, 
which, in consequence of their having had nothing to eat for 
a long time, caused our march to be very slow. At length we 
arrived at the Mississippi, having lost some of our old men 
and little children, who perished on the way from hunger." 31 

On the afternoon of the same day the steamboat Warrior 
was seen approaching under the command of John Throck- 
morton. Black Hawk, eager that no more of his miserable 
band should die, told his braves not to shoot, hoisted a white 
flag, and called out in the Winnebago tongue to send a little 
canoe that he might go aboard and give himself up. 32 The 
captain, though the message was translated to him, affected to 
believe that the flag was a decoy and ordered them to send a 
boat on board. This was impossible, because every boat the 
Indians could secure was being used to carry a load across the 

29 Ford, History of Illinois, 146; Wakefield, History of the Black Hawk 
War, 115-116, 134. 

30 Thwaites, "Story of the Black Hawk War," in Wisconsin Historical 
Collections, 12:255; Black Hawk, Autobiography, 132. 

31 Ibid., 133. Twenty-five warriors, wounded at Wisconsin Heights, also 
died and marked the trail for the whites. Ford, History of Illinois, 146. 

32 Sangamo Journal, October 6, 1832. 


Mississippi and all were far beyond call. The captain in 
writing an account of the incident, August 3, 1832, continues: 
"After about fifteen minutes delay, giving them time to remove 
a few of their women and children, we let slip a six-pounder, 
loaded with canister, followed by a severe fire of musketry; 
and if ever you saw straight blankets, you would have seen 
them there. . . . We fought them for about an hour or more 
until our wood began to fail. . . . This little fight cost them 
twenty-three killed, and of course a great many wounded. 
We never lost a man. . . ." 33 

Such was the reception of Black Hawk's last chance at 
surrender, for the army bringing destruction was close upon 
him. Following the battle of Wisconsin Heights Henry's 
command, in need of provisions, fell back to Blue Mounds 
whence the whole force under the command of Atkinson started 
in pursuit of the Indians. No effort was spared to make time 
over the toilsome way and the army was only twenty-four hours 
behind Black Hawk in reaching the river. Upon their ap- 
proach, the Indians, in order to gain time for crossing, sent 
back about twenty men to intercept the army within a few 
miles of their camp. This party was to commence an attack 
and then retreat to the river three miles above the Indians. 
The ruse succeeded. The attacking party fired and then fell 
back before the charge of the whites; the army immediately 
began a hot pursuit. 

Henry was bringing up the rear with the baggage; Atkin- 
son, jealous that the Illinois militia and its commander rather 
than the regulars with their chief should have discovered the 
enemy and won a victory, had placed the recently victorious 
brigade in the rear and had left it without orders. Reaching 
the point of attack, Henry plainly saw the main trail leading 
lower down. His three hundred men were formed on foot 
and advanced upon the main body of three hundred Indians, 
who were taken completely by surprise. They fought des- 

33 Drake, Life and Adventures of Black Haiok, 153-154; Ford, History of 
Illinois, 156-157. 


desperately; but in their famished condition they were no match 
for their opponents, who with bayonets fiercely forced them 
back from tree to tree toward the river. Women, with children 
clinging around their necks, plunged desperately into the river 
to be almost instantly drowned or picked off by sharpshoot- 
ers. 34 Atkinson, hearing the din behind, returned a half hour 
later, and the slaughter proceeded more fiercely than ever. 
The steamboat Warrior came back to rake with canister the 
islands that some of the Indians had reached. Old men, 
women, and children alike were slain. "It was a horrid sight," 
wrote a participant, " to witness little children, wounded and 
suffering the most excruciating pain, although they were of the 
savage enemy, and the common enemy of the country." 35 

The massacre of the Bad Axe continued three hours. One 
hundred and fifty Indians were killed outright and as many 
more lost their lives by drowning. About fifty, mostly women 
and children, were taken prisoners. Three hundred Sauk 
succeeded, either before or during the battle, in reaching the 
Iowa side, to be there set upon by one hundred Sioux, sent out 
by General Atkinson; half of them were slain, and many 
others died of exhaustion and wounds before they could reach 
their friends in Keokuk's village. Thus by the second of 
August not more than one hundred and fifty of the band of 
nearly a thousand which crossed the Mississippi in April, lived 
to return to their lands in Iowa. 

On August 7, 1832, General Winfield Scott, who had been 
delayed by the outbreak of cholera among his troops, arrived 
to assume command. 36 The following day he mustered the 

34 Sangamo Journal, October 6, 1832, September 7, 1833. 

35 He piously reflected, however, that " the Ruler of the Universe, He who 
takes vengeance on the guilty, did not design those guilty wretches to escape 
His vengeance for the horrid deeds they had done, which were of the most 
appalling nature. He here took just retribution for the many innocent lives 
those cruel savages had taken on our northern frontiers." Wakefield, History 
of the Black Ha<wk War, 132-133. 

30 Sangamo Journal, August 2, 1832. The asiatic cholera first reached this 
country in June, 1832, and broke out among Scott's detachment of troops while 
they were passing up the Great Lakes. It was so virulent that two of the four 
vessels proceeded no farther than Fort Gratiot; the others, after a period of 
delay reached Chicago in July. Fort Dearborn was converted into a hospital, 


volunteers out of service. Black Hawk, with several of his 
prominent men, was taken prisoner and held as hostage for 
some months, during which time he was taken through the 
eastern states so that the white man's power might be fully 
impressed upon him. In June, 1833, he was released, and 
shorn of all power the old chief returned to the remnant of 
his people in Iowa. "Rock river," he said, "was a beautiful 
country. I loved my towns, my cornfields, and the home of 
my people. I fought for it. It is now yours. Keep it as we 
did." 37 

He was conquered; no other Indian in Illinois questioned 
the dominance of the white race. The north country was now 
ready for white possession. 

where the pestilence raged violently for several days; checked there in August, 
it again broke out among the troops at Rock Island, to be finally arrested by 
removing the men to small camps on the Iowa side of the Mississippi. Quaife, 
Chicago and the Old Northwest, 328-337; Stevens, Black Hawk War, 242-249. 
37 Ibid., 271 ; Quaife, Chicago and the Old Northwest, 337. Thwaites, 
"Story of the Black Hawk War," in Wisconsin Historical Collections, 12:264- 


EVEN before the Indians had retreated from northern 
Illinois, the advance of settlers into that region began. 
This advance of population northward is one of the most sig- 
nificant facts in the history of the decade from 18301840. It 
influenced not only the character of the population through 
the type of immigrants who poured in, but also the demands 
of the state for public land legislation and the consequent 
course of political events. Further by making evident the 
need of better transportation the immigration provoked the 
internal improvement mania of 1837. The land speculator, 
as elsewhere in Illinois, seeing a future metropolis in his town 
site, turned to a railroad as the quickest means of realizing his 
vision; and what was of greater consequence of persuading 
others that it was a reality. 

By 1830 it was evident that the tide of immigration was 
passing by the vacant lands of southern Illinois and turning 
to the north. Already in the rich bottoms of the Sangamon 
the pioneer stage had passed, and settlement was thickening in 
Sangamon and Morgan counties at a rate that was provoking 
the jealousy even of Madison and Greene, to say nothing of 
the counties to the south. 1 Throughout the Military Tract 
the population was beginning to spread; the southern end of 
the tract had been settled ever since the days when Shaw and 
Hansen had contested the throne of the kingdom of Pike; but 
now pioneers were moving north. Peoria on the Illinois river 
was laid out in 1826. In the same year an Ohio speculator 
plotted Lacon under the name of Columbia. When in 1826 
a pioneer from Bond county settled near Magnolia his nearest 

1 Alton Spectator, November 23, June 25, 1833 ; Sangamo Journal, January 
19, February 2, July 12, 1833. 



neighbors were fur traders at Hennepin. In 1835 he sold out 
his holdings for $4,200 only to lose his profits in town lot specu- 
lation. In 1830 the county of Putnam, then including Bureau, 
Marshall, and most of Stark, had 700 inhabitants. 2 The town 
plots of Macomb and Monmouth dated from 1831. Rush- 
ville, in 1829 a hamlet of seven cabins, was incorporated in 
1831 with 1 80 inhabitants. 

The spread of population tells a part of the story. 3 In 1831 
there were some ten thousand people in the southeastern part 
of the tract Calhoun, Pike, Adams, Schuyler, and Fulton 
and the increase of population to this day has necessitated the 
formation of but one additional county in that region. Else- 
where in the tract there were some two thousand inhabitants, 
most of them in Hancock, Knox, and Henry; north of them 
there was a straggling population. The Indian traders, 
Colonel George Davenport and Russell Farnham at the Sauk 
village, were the leaders of a few squatters, whose settlement 
later became Rock Island; and at Dixon's Ferry where the 
Peoria-Galena trail crossed the Rock there was a little settle- 
ment with a few others along the trail above it. By 1840 Knox 
county alone had seven thousand inhabitants, while the four 
counties just north and west, Jo Daviess, Whiteside, Carroll, 
and Rock Island, had together a population of some nine 
thousand persons. 4 

Another interesting means of visualizing the settlement of 
the north is found in the record of the public land sales, though 
one must be careful to make the proper allowance for the 
activity of the speculator. Illinois land sales for the period 
were very speculative in character, varying more from year to 
year than those in Missouri ; in all the west the prevailing rule 
was large sales in one state in one year and in another the 
next. Thus in 1834 less land was sold in Illinois than in Ohio, 
Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, or Michigan. In 1835 the 

2 Peoria Register, April i, 1837, May 5, August 25, September 8, 1838; 
Pooley, Settlement of Illinois, 380, 381. 

3 Ibid., 559. 

4 Sixth Census of the United States, 376. 


Population of Illinois 

per Square Mile in 



sales leaped from 354,013 acres to 2,096,623, outstripping 
Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Alabama. Illinois did not dis- 
tance Mississippi till 1836. Again in 1836 Indiana outran 
Illinois. 5 As passing events drew the attention of the specu- 
lator now to this state, now to that, the sales rose to high 
figures, then fell to comparatively low ones. A glance at the 
table of sales reveals the fact that the boom of 1835-1837 
was most evident in the western and central Illinois offices 
Edwardsville, Springfield, and Quincy and at Chicago. In 
the other Illinois offices the increase was more uniform, show- 
ing least in the ill-starred Vandalia district. In all the offices 
the sales reached their height in 1836, then showed a rapid 
decline and a more moderate rate of sales thereafter. 

Before examining in detail the settlement of northern 
Illinois it is necessary to consider for a moment the unusual 
speculative conditions which existed in the Military Tract. 
This territory lying between the Illinois and the Mississippi 
rivers had been set aside for the location of military land war- 
rants issued to soldiers in the War of 1812. By 1837, 17,075 
patents had been issued for 2,831,840 acres of land. 6 This 
by no means included the whole which contained 3,500,000 
acres. Further, all tracts much in excess of, or much less than, 
1 60 acres had been excluded from selection. Accordingly the 
government still had considerable desirable land in the region. 
The greater part of the lands, however, passed into the hands 
of speculators. Some of it, forfeited for nonpayment of taxes, 
was snapped up by such Illinois magnates as Ninian Edwards. 
The general policy of speculators was to hold out for high 
prices. Romulus Riggs of Philadelphia, who affected a senti- 
mental interest in the state and named his daughter for it, 
offered in 1837 two hundred and sixty-six quarter sections for 
sale at prices which S. H. Davis supposed would run from five 
to forty dollars an acre. 7 Davis pointed out that it was foolish 

5 Executive Documents, 24 congress, 2 session, number 6, p. 8, n; Senate 
Documents, 25 congress, 3 session, number n, p. 12, 16. 

6 Executive Documents, 25 congress, 2 session, number 83. 

7 Peoria Register, October 14, April 8, July 8, 1837. 

i 7 6 


to pay such prices when federal land of good quality could still 
be had for $1.25 an acre, especially in Peoria and Knox 
counties. 8 

During the same period the prices of town lots also showed 
the influence of the speculators' activity. In 1836 lots in 
Quincy sold as high as seventy-eight dollars a front foot. In 
April, 1837, desirable town lots in Monmouth were worth 
one thousand dollars. Less desirable ones were selling at the 
rate of seventy-five to one hundred dollars. In Peoria at the 




































































26 767 










50 380 

27 763 

60 532 

43 986 

45 801 

80 080 

58 601 



This table Is compiled from the following sources : Executive Documents, 21 con- 
gress, 2 session, number 2, p. 57 ; ibid., 23 congress, 2 session, number 3, p. 92 : 
ibid., 24 congress, 1 session, number 5, p. 10 ; ibid., 24 congress, 2 session, number 6, 
p. 8 ; ibid., 26 congress, 2 session, number 38, p. 10 ; Senate Documents, 23 congress, 
1 session, number 9, p. 62 ; ibid., 25 congress, 2 session, number 11, p. 13 ; ibid., 
25 congress, 3 session, number 17, p. 8 ; ibid., 26 congress, 1 session, number 21, 
p. 13. 

same time the best lots sold for one hundred dollars a front 
foot; 9 and in March, 1837, there were twelve or fourteen 
houses within sight on Kickapoo prairie when nine months 
before there was not a house. 

In the Rock river country the effects of the boom of 1836 
1837 were more apparent. On the way to Savanna in Carroll 
county, Dayton, Cleveland, Portland, Lyndon, and Union 
Grove had all been laid out in 1836, most of them then having 
from three to twelve houses, with lots selling at from ten to 
one hundred and twenty-five dollars. On the road to Galena, 

8 By 1838 land near Peoria cost from ten to thirty dollars an acre; land in 
the tract could then be had for three to five dollars an acre. Peoria Register, 
October 20, December 8, 1838. 

9 Ibid., April i, 1837. 


Grand Detour and Dixon had been laid out in 1836. In 1839 
they were towns of fifty houses, and the most desirable lots in 
them and in Oregon were held at from four hundred to six 
hundred dollars. 10 

It was in the northeast, however, that the records of land 
sales indicate the highest prices and most rampant speculation. 
The price of unimproved land in the vicinity of Ottawa had 
in 1838 increased to three dollars an acre. In the years 1835 
1837 land speculation was focused at Chicago. June 18, 1834, 














































































































the Democrat remarked the fact that seventy-five buildings 
had been erected in Chicago since spring. By December the 
city had a population of 3,279. Next year strangers were 
crowding in so fast that for want of accommodation they were 
sleeping on floors. Provisions were scarce, and flour sold at 
twenty dollars a barrel. It became necessary to meet the 
criticism of the envious east with assertions that prices of one 
hundred and fifty-five dollars a foot for town lots were based 
not on speculation but on the exigency of the business situation. 
Lots, that in the spring of 1835 sold for nine thousand dollars, 
by the end of the year were held at twenty-five thousand dol- 
lars; and rents were correspondingly exorbitant. 11 

The same effects of feverish speculation and settlement 
were to be seen to the south of the Illinois river. In the nar- 
rative of a journey to the northeast of Springfield in 1837, 
Bloomington was noted as a town with six or eight stores, 

10 Peoria Register, May 25, June i, 1839. 

11 Chicago American, August 15, 1835, January 2, July 9, 1836. 


separated from Decatur by an almost unsettled country. 
Mackinaw had drawn together twenty-four houses and five 
stores, the existence of five or six mill " seats " within two or 
three miles being an attraction. Speculative town sites were 
scattered far and wide. Washington in Tazewell county, with 
three or four hundred inhabitants, had four stores, two black- 
smith shops, one cabinet shop, a steam mill, four schools, and 
six liquor-selling establishments designated under various 
names. 12 The nucleus of a town was a mill to grind grain, a 
store to supply dry goods and hardware for the sustenance of 
the family and the supply of the farm, and a grocery or public 
house to supply wet goods for the comfort of the inner man. 
A special feature of the settlement of the north was the 
coming of settlers in colonies or organized groups. As early 
as October, 1832, Simeon Francis, who was inclined to depre- 
cate the tendency to form colonies, noted wagon trains passing 
through to Fulton county from Ohio and another company of 
emigrants from Vermont, which led him to comment on the 
advantages for the settler of prairie and timber country. 
Sometimes there was more of the speculative than of the group 
spirit in the movement, as when in 1839 it was rumored that 
six eastern capitalists were about to offer for sale to actual 
settlers forty thousand acres near Mt. Auburn in Christian 
county. This, however, was not a typical case. La Grange 
in Henry county was settled by a colony from New York and 
New England that bought twenty thousand acres, setting apart 
a quarter section for a town site. 13 In 1833 a caravan of 
fifty-two people from Vermont, New Hampshire, and northern 
New York, led by the Lyman brothers, came by wagon to 
settle in Sangamon county, the country having been previously 
explored by two of their number. A Connecticut colony estab- 
lished Rockwell in LaSalle county. In 1836 three colonies 
were located, one at Tremont in Tazewell, one in Knox county, 

12 Sangamo Journal, June 10, September 9, 1837. 

13 1 bid., October n, 20, 1832. As early as 1834 there was a society in 
Massachusetts, the Old Colony Brotherhood, to promote emigration to Illinois. 
Chicago Democrat, November 12, 1834. 


and one somewhere near Varna called Lyons. The founding 
of Weathersfield in Henry county by a colony from the Con- 
necticut town of that name is of interest. The first settler 
came out to the purchase in October, 1836; in the next year, 
sixteen men were there, six with their families; by July of 
1839 there was a population of one hundred. Each colonist 
had a quarter section of prairie, twenty acres of timber, and a 
village lot. In 1836 a New York colony settled at Galesburg 
on sixteen sections of which one thousand and four acres were 
reserved for a college. The purchaser of each eighty acres 
was allowed the free tuition of a youth at any time within the 
limit of twenty-five years in the institution which is now known 
as Knox College. In 1839 a Catholic colony was projected at 
Postville in Logan county. 14 

It remains to consider the broader economic principles 
underlying the progress of the individual settlers in the north. 
These are not so obscure as those effecting the settlement of 
southern and central Illinois in the preceding decade. In fact 
it is possible to describe the processes of home-making from 
abundant data collected almost on the spot by careful observers 
in so many specific instances as to make generalization possible. 

The problem of the settler in this decade was to sustain 
himself on the land while he broke and fenced enough prairie 
to farm successfully. Instead of grubbing up the underbrush 
and planting his corn in the shadow of girdled trees as the 
earlier pioneer did, the later settler added to his field by break- 
ing each year a little more of the tough prairie sod. When he 
himself did not own the oxen necessary for the work, he was 
able to hire it done at a fairly well-established price of $2.50 
an acre. Similarly there were standard prices for fencing 
usually $1.25 to $2.00 a hundred rails, a rate increasing with 
the distance it was necessary to haul them. At every turn 
whether for breaking prairie or hauling rails, the use of oxen 
was necessary and the man who located his farm on heavy 

14 Peorla Register, July 8, 1837, May 12, June 30, 1838, July 6, 1839; San- 
gamo Journal, January 23, 1836; Gale, Brief History of Knox College, passim; 
Chicago Democrat, May 22, 1839. 


prairie at a distance from timber found himself penalized for 
his choice in dollars and cents. 

The generally established principle for the location of a 
farm was that it must contain both prairie and timber, usually 
in a ratio of two to one. A man could, it is true, avoid the 
necessity of having timber of his own by helping himself from 
timber lots still belonging to the federal government or owned 
by nonresidents, but to some New England consciences the 
latter method if not the former seemed unethical. For the 
future development of a farm, however, the wise man held to 
the proper proportion of timber and prairie as essential. The 
speculator accordingly made haste where he could to seize on 
the timber at the edges of the great prairies, secure in his 
knowledge that those who were foolhardy enough to enter the 
adjacent untimbered land would in the end have to buy from 
him at his price. 

Still, as the decade passed, men began to assume such risks. 
An observer in Tazewell county in 1837 noted with surprise 
that settlers had pushed out four or five miles into the prairie. 
Repeatedly it was proposed to plant timber on the prairies, or 
to use "stone coal" for fuel and to substitute sod fences or 
white thorn hedges for the usual rail fence. In 1 839 the cost 
of putting a rail fence around a "forty" was from two to 
three hundred dollars, a rate which seemed to call for a more 
economical system of fencing. It was this need that caused 
the popularity of the Osage orange hedge which was advocated 
by Jonathan B. Turner. In the minds of most settlers, how- 
ever, proximity to timber as to water was still essential. 15 

His selection of land once made, the settler's method of 
conquering it depended on whether or not he had money. If he 
had financial resources, he built a cabin for his family, bought 
or hired several yoke of oxen, and set to breaking prairie at a 
rate of twenty to forty acres a year, meanwhile buying grain 
to sustain his family and his oxen. His sod corn, however, 

16 Sangamo Journal, February 2, 1832; Peoria Register, August n, 1838; 
Chicago Democrat, March 25, 1834. 


raised on the newly broken prairie, unless the hogs got into it 
while it was still unfenced, produced perhaps fifty bushels an 
acre. Sometimes he came out alone in the spring to plant the 
first crop and brought his family in the fall. If on the other 
hand he had merely his own labor and a yoke of oxen, he 
easily found enough work to support his family, while in his 
spare moments he improved his own land. If he was a skilled 
carpenter or millwright, he was sure of good wages and he 
might rent a farm while waiting to develop his own claim. If 
the owner stocked his leasehold for him, the rent was half or 
two-thirds of the produce. If he stocked it himself, it was 
one-third. Meanwhile his wages, if he was industrious, at 
length enabled him to buy a claim and usually to enter it at 
government price when the land was put on sale. 16 

An integral part of this system was, as may be imagined, 
a recognition of the binding force of squatters' right. Long 
before the country was put on sale by the federal land officers, 
squatters had established claims on the most desirable combi- 
nations of timber, prairie, springs, and healthful sites. Such 
claims the rough and ready custom of the frontier accepted as 
valid, and another settler coming on the land was forced by 
public opinion to recognize the claim by buying off the occupy- 
ing claimant. Except where extensive improvements had been 
made, the prices of such claims were not high; but the business 
was moderately profitable, and many pioneers made and sold 
one claim after another in their progress toward the sunset. 
This perennial squatter, so obnoxious to the eastern congress- 
man, was defended by the westerner, because he was aiding in 
the development of the country by enabling the permanent 
settler to purchase even in the wilds a little grain, a few broken 
acres, and a cabin that, until other itinerant squatters had 
helped him to raise a better one, would shelter his family. 17 

Property rights so acquired and transferred were real 
bases of land titles and wealth, and there were exact rules to 

1B Peoria Register, July i, 1837, April 7, September i, 29, 1838, June 15, 

17 Ibid., August 25, 1838. 


govern them. Thus in the early days of the settlement of the 
north, laying four logs for the foundation of a cabin estab- 
lished a claim for the duration of a year. In order to keep off 
the claim jumper, it was necessary in 1837 to build a cabin 
sixteen or eighteen feet square or to break five acres of land. 
These improvements served to hold the claim for six months. 
In the Military Tract the usual claim was one hundred sixty 
to two hundred forty acres, but in the north three thousand 
acres could be so held, and even town sites were said to have 
been located on such claims. 18 

In the face of legislation and executive rulings framed by 
indignant eastern statesmen, such claims were maintained by 
force of public opinion, usually manifested in the settlers' 
meetings, which before each district was put on sale bound all 
settlers to hold together in support of each other's claims 
against outside bidders and sometimes even established boards 
of arbitration to decide disputes between claimants. Some- 
times, in case settlement had preceded survey, these boards 
devised ways by which each man might make secure his im- 
provements by a common bargain. Having once reached an 
agreement among themselves, the settlers attended sales in a 
body to exercise moral suasion on any rash outsider who dared 
to bid over the minimum for an "improvement." Under 
such circumstances scarcely a tract of land was struck off at 
ordinary sale at more than $1.25 an acre. 19 

The settlers were not able in the same way to guard them- 
selves against usurious interest charges in case they had to 
borrow money to buy their claims. Frequently a sale was set 
at a time that seemed almost designed to give the money lender 
his opportunity, before crops were harvested or shortly after 
money had been put into improvements on assurances that the 
sales would not take place for a year. At such times short 
term loans brought ten per cent a month, thirty to fifty per 
cent a year, and thirty to forty per cent for two years. A 

16 Peoria Register, July i, 1837, J u 'y 28 l8 3 8 - 

19 Chicago American, January 14, 1837; Chicago Democrat, March 9, May 
4, July 20, 1836; Executive Documents, 25 congress, 3 session, number 241. 


lesser annoyance was the seeming caprice of land office receiv- 
ers in the designation of the bank notes which they would 
accept. Frequently it was charged that, by refusing to take 
the money brought to them, the receivers compelled the buyers 
to pay a brokerage of from two to five per cent to have it 
"shaved" by some local financier. Land office officials were 
often charged with trickery and with speculation in this and 
other ways. 20 

As has been said before the determination of the national 
public land policy turned on the fact that the economic interests 
of east and west and their theories of the purpose of the public 
domain were fundamentally different. To the easterner the 
public land was the heritage of the states, bought by the blood 
of their sons in the Revolution, and the pledge of national 
unity and good faith. To him as to Alexander Hamilton it 
was the source of a fund for public finance, not the future 
home of a great part of the American people. 21 Indeed as the 
easterner saw settlers flocking into the new lands of the west 
draining eastern towns of labor and leaving the farms in the 
old cradles of liberty to revert to wilderness, he sometimes did 
not attempt to conceal his dislike of western settlement and his 
desire to retard its progress. To the westerner who com- 
plained that settlement was too slow and who called for legis- 
lation to accelerate it, he listened with ill-concealed derision. 

Against the squatter, that typical western figure, the 
easterner's wrath was especially aroused. He considered him 
a worthless trespasser on the public property, whose trespasses 
had repeatedly to be condoned by preemption acts. Said 
Samuel A. Foot : " The disposal of the public lands has been, 
in this way, absolutely wrested from the Government, and 
monopolized by speculators and squatters; land system is vir- 
tually broken down, and we are gravely told, * it is best for us 

20 Pe or'ta Register, August 4, September 29, November 17, 1838; Chicago 
American, October 7, 18, 26, November i, 1839; Sangamo Journal, June 25, 
July 30, 1836. 

21 Congressional Debates, 1830-1831, p. 471. Ohio was passing out of the 
ranks of the public land states. Ibid., 1831-1832, p. 1452. 


it should be so,' and nothing remains for us but to give the 
squatters preemption rights; and, instead of legislating for 
them, we are to legislate after them, in full pursuit to the Rocky 
Mountains, or to the Pacific Ocean." 22 In the mind of the 
easterner the squatter was a prolific source of trouble with the 
Indians, equally galling to the humanitarian sentimentalists 
from districts that had not heard the war whoop since Queen 
Anne's War and to the thrifty public financiers. Of the squat- 
ter's lauded services as a pioneer of settlement, the eastern 
congressman was frankly skeptical. 

On the other hand, to the westerner from the public land 
state the vacant national domain appeared as the source of 
freeholds for uncounted thousands, the basis of the majesty 
and power of great commonwealths. Only let the govern- 
ment unbar the gate and all this dream would speedily be real- 
ized. Meanwhile, so long as men without money had to squat 
without title upon the public domain and men with money had 
to limit the extent of their exploitation by the high government 
price of wild land, all these advantages were postponed. States 
sat with the greater portion of their lands under the control of 
a landlord who elected to keep it desert, yielding no revenue 
to the state, adding nothing to its population and wealth. The 
public land policy, that in the opinion of the easterner was 
draining the older states of population, to the mind of the 
westerner was locking up the west from settlement. The one 
trembled at the rapidity of change and development, the other 
fretted because he saw how much more rapid settlement might 
become under more liberal land laws. 

The debate on Foot's resolution, which was designed to 
limit the sale of public lands by forcing the sale of those already 
on the market, apart from its significance in constitutional his- 
tory, places the two points of view in sharp contrast. To the 
westerner it appeared that the Connecticut senator's inquiry, 
by stopping surveys, would leave only undesirable and picked 
over lands in the west, would cut off emigration to states like 

22 Congressional Debates, 1829-1830, p. 443. 


Illinois, and would close for many years to come the northern 
half of its domain. 23 Robert Y. Hayne had been quick to 
point out to the west that its true friends lived in the south and 
the debate resolved itself in its earlier phases into an argument 
between Webster and Benton as to whether or not the tradi- 
tional New England policy was to hamper the west. Benton, 
eschewing the internal improvements that the east proffered 
the west through the American system, elected to stand fast 
with the south in an alliance based on free trade and liberal 
public land policy; and in its broader outlines that alliance 
comprehends the history of the older democracy until the dis- 
aster of 1840. 

The western land policy generally supported in congress 
was that of Thomas Hart Benton. It is true that in Illinois 
politics Edwards' doctrine of the state's right to the public 
lands persisted till 1833, and its revival in congress by a Mis- 
souri representative in 1839 merely embarrassed Benton and 
the advocates of his policy by serving as a red rag to arouse 
the east. Clay cleverly sought to connect Edwards' policy 
with Benton's. 24 "The Senator," he said, "modestly claimed 
only an old smoked, rejected joint; but the stomach of his 
Excellency yearned after the whole hog!" 25 The outlines of 
Benton's policy of graduation, the scaling down year by year 
of the price of unsold land, and preemption, the allowing of 
special purchase privileges to actual settlers, has already been 
outlined. In general it may be said that preemption measures 
were intended to enable the small buyer to earn on the public 
land enough to acquire title to a farm; graduation measures 
by successive reductions of price were designed to bring onto 
the market parts of the older west, such as southern Illinois, 
that still were thinly settled. 26 

The east and the whig party, as the diminution of the 

23 Congressional Debates, 1829-1830, p. 4, n, 23, 44, 6p, 96. 

24 Illinois Intelligencer, April 16, May 21, 1831; Illinois Advocate, Janu- 
ary 26, 1833; Sangamo Journal, April 19, 1823. 

25 Congressional Debates, 1831-1832, p. 1102. 

26 Ibid., 1829-1830, p. 8. 


public debt seemed about to force a new disposal of the public 
land revenue allotted to its discharge, were obliged to find a 
rival public land policy. They found it in the distribution 
measure first proposed in 1832 by Henry Clay, a westerner, 
but not a citizen of a public land state. Clay's policy proposed 
the distribution among the states of the revenue from the sale 
of the public land, with especially favorable consideration to 
western states. The measure was adroitly conceived that the 
west might be conciliated by the offered sop of hard cash. The 
east, its framers hoped, would welcome a measure which would 
postpone the necessity for reducing the price of the public 
lands and would prevent the immediate drain of factory 
operatives to cheap lands in the west. The supporters of the 
policy designed to enlist the aid of the old advocates of the 
American system by laying stress on the state works of internal 
improvement which the distributed funds might initiate. 
Above all, the measure was in their intent one step in the 
direction of federalization of power. 

Distribution remained a standing whig policy for years to 
come, and Benton accepted its challenge. He avowed openly 
that distribution must be defeated before his measures could 
be adopted, and he once more summoned the south to an 
alliance with the west. A distribution measure was passed in 
1833, however, but was vetoed by the president. Meanwhile 
there was passed a series of acts granting preemptions for 
short terms of years in 1830 for two years, in 1833 and in 
i8 34 . 27 

In 18351836 a further development in what may be called 
the western land policy took place under the initiative of Sena- 
tor Robert J. Walker of Mississippi, a state still as much 
western as southern. The tremendous sales of 1834 and 1835 
in Illinois had provoked the fear that the public domain would 
pass into the hands of speculators, and Walker to prevent it 
proposed a preemption and graduation measure designed to 

27 Congressional Debates, 1829-1830, p. n, 44; ibid., 1831-1832, p. 785, 903, 
1148, 1167; ibid., 1836-1837, p. 789. 


limit sales to actual settlers in quantities not exceeding a sec- 
tion. Emphatically this would have benefited the small farmer 
of the north rather than the planter of the south. Concerning 
this measure, Clay prophesied that if it were passed the public 
domain was gone. Even some of the western senators opposed 
it. Calhoun's alternative measure, which proposed to cede 
the lands to the several states for one-third their proceeds, 
procured him some passing popularity in the west. 28 

Distribution in the form of deposit with the states suc- 
ceeded in congress in 1836, after it was apparent that a pure 
distribution measure could not be passed over Jackson's veto. 
Meanwhile the land speculator was becoming a more and more 
disturbing problem, and his ubiquity is revealed by his figuring 
as a type character in the newspapers of that day. Walker 
designed his suppression, as has been seen, through preemption. 
Benton characteristically aimed at the same result by a proposal 
that only gold and silver be received in payment for lands; and 
this proposal was finally embodied in Jackson's specie circular, 
which, Benton pronounced, had itself served as a preemption 
act. 29 

In Illinois as elsewhere the whigs and democrats took 
ground on the rival land policies, and Illinois elected to adopt 
the democratic policy. Benton's policy, in 1831 and 1832, 
found indorsement by the Illinois legislature and in public 
meetings. 30 Preemption in 1834 was a popular measure. 
Duncan, however, voted for the distribution act of 1833, which 
met the opposition of the Illinois Jackson papers and politi- 
cians; the Sangamo Journal favored it. The issue was also 
drawn in the presidential campaign of 1836, the whigs advo- 
cating distribution as a measure which would give the state a 
fund for internal improvements. In 1837 the Illinois senate 
approved Walker's measure. Van Buren's first message, 
deprecating temporary preemption acts as inducing a disregard 

28 Congressional Debates, 1835-1836, p. 1028, ibid., 1836-1837, p. 663, 733; 
Congressional Globe, 25 congress, 3 session, appendix, 44 ff. 

29 Ibid., 25 congress, 2 session, appendix, 291 ff. 

30 House Journal, 1832-1833, i session, 740. 


for law, advocated graduation by quality; but the Illinois 
papers pointed out that this proposal showed no more friend- 
ship for the west than Clay's plan. Clay indeed, no longer 
"Harry of the West," suffered the consequences of his con- 
temptuous remarks on squatters which were noted down by R. 
M. Young for use against him in Illinois. 31 

In the end, the public land policy acted upon by these two 
opposing forces remained stationary. On the one side the 
whigs were never able to secure a full measure of distribution ; 
on the other, while the democrats in 1841 secured a permanent 
preemption measure, they never achieved graduation. Yet the 
democrats throughout had stood more or less consistently for 
the interests of the western settler and in their policy was the 
germ of the homestead legislation, that prevented the total 
eclipse of the small freehold domain in the west. Whether 
graduation would have assisted the penniless farm laborer, or 
whether it would only have depreciated the holdings of those 
who had already bought for the benefit of the new land specu- 
lators cannot be said. The democratic party, however, es- 
poused the policy that looked particularly to the development 
of the west; and it is significant that Illinois, generally indorse- 
ing that policy, gave its votes to the party that maintained it. 
On public lands, as on other matters, the party of Andrew 
Jackson was still the party of the west. 

After a digression, in which has been noticed the influence 
of the settlement of northern and central Illinois on the state's 
political course, a return may be made to the consideration of 
a more obvious result from settlement development of com- 
merce and the consequent demand for more adequate 
transportation. Indeed the great speculative public land sales 
of 1834-1837 may be regarded as the decisive cause of the 
more than speculative internal improvement scheme on which 

31 Illinois Advocate, October 5, 1833; Alton Spectator, December 28, 1833; 
Alton American, January 3, 1834; Sangamo Journal, August 10, 1833, March 12, 
April 2, June 25, July 2, July 16, 1836, May 10, 1838; Chicago American, Janu- 
ary 30, 1836; Illinois State Register, June 24, August 19, 1836; Senate Journal, 
1835-1836, i session, 80, 85; Congressional Globe, 25 congress, 3 session, ap- 
pendix, 225. 


the state embarked in 1837. That system and the state's later 
attempts to extricate itself from the ruin it brought divides the 
pioneer period of the state's history from the era of transition. 

Some notice has already been paid to the meteoric rise of 
Chicago in the commercial field; but the city which showed the 
steadiest commercial development in the decade was Alton. 
Alton had been hampered at the beginning of its career by liti- 
gation over the title to its site, and its aspirations to rival St. 
Louis had led it into a long drawn out and fruitless struggle to 
procure the passage of the Cumberland road through it rather 
than through St. Louis. It had been some time before Alton 
succeeded in enlisting the full strength of Illinois on its side. 
By 1831, however, the city was making rapid progress in im- 
portance as a produce market. New England capital came to 
its support. Griggs, Manning, and Company offered St. Louis 
prices for produce, calling for forty thousand bushels of wheat 
and offering to execute commissions in the east at a charge of 
two and one-half per cent. 32 By 1835 there were at least three 
firms of commission and forwarding merchants in business in 
the city; beef, pork, lard, whisky, furs, flour, lead were coming 
in for export from Quincy and Galena as well as from Alton's 
natural hinterland. Apparently tributary to Alton were num- 
erous small towns where storekeepers bought of its whole- 
sale merchants and forwarded local produce to its market. 

Business methods in Illinois were from the modern point of 
view somewhat rudimentary. Alton merchants sold old stocks 
of goods at auction to country merchants on long credit. Col- 
lections everywhere were slow, a favorite business principle 
being that in hard times one did better by not driving his debtor 
to extremities. Newspapers, it is true, preached the modern 
gospel that true advertising consists in setting forth your wares 
in such fashion as to create a desire for them; and they laid 
down the rule that the true index of a town's business was the 
newspaper advertising of its merchants. Yet even while they 

32 Alton Spectator, May 14, October 23, 1832, January 22, 27, 1833, Decem- 
ber 31, 1835. 


urged this precocious wisdom on their patrons, they felt it 
necessary to advise them to show civility and courtesy to their 
customers and to warn them to beware of expecting every man 
who was shown goods to purchase. 33 

Galena in 1830 was a typical mining town which had 
grown up between 1823 and 1829 with the rise of lead produc- 
tion from 335,130 pounds to 13,343,150. The population 
was migratory, the miners coming to work in the lead mines 
in summer and most of them returning south in winter. It was 
a typical bonanza town with wages as high as twenty-five dol- 
lars a month and speculatively high rents, until the fall in the 
price of lead in 1829 produced genuine hard times. Even in 
1837 a two-story frame store rented for eight hundred dollars 
a year, and lots were held at two hundred dollars a foot. The 
federal government in 1829 was still the landlord, leasing the 
lead mines on shares which were hard to collect. In 1829 it 
provided for a sale of town lots to holders, which curiously 
enough aroused some local opposition. In the thirties a doc- 
trine, which had considerable vogue, that the federal govern- 
ment could not constitutionally lease its land made the collection 
of rents almost impossible ; and the commissioner of the general 
land office as well as the state legislature urged the sale of the 
mineral lands to private holders. 34 

The most significant natural development in transportation 
between 1830 and 1840 was the establishment of a network of 
communication lines radiating from Chicago. Chicago's 
career began as a distributing point for merchandise brought 
by the Great Lakes route. In 1831 Enoch C. March imported 
goods to St. Louis via Chicago at one-third less cost than by 
way of New Orleans. In 1833 O. Newberry shipped several 
hundred barrels of beef from Chicago to New York via Albany 
at a cost of only thirteen dollars a ton. In 1834 weekly ar- 

33 Alton American, December 13, 1833; Galena Advertiser, August 31, 
1829; Peoria Register, May 26, 1838; Sangamo Journal, July 13, 1833. 

34 Galena Advertiser, July 20, August 3, September 14, November 9, 1829, 
February 8, 15, 1830; Peoria Register, October 21, 1837; Illinois Intelligencer, 
October 7, 1831; Miner's Journal, July 22, September 20, 1828; Senate Docu- 
ments, 25 congress, 2 session, number 131. 


rivals of steamers from Buffalo were advertised. In 1835, 
255 sailing ships arrived at Chicago; in 1836, 49 steamboats 
and 383 sailing ships. By 1839 there was a full-fledged steam- 
boat pool which divided profits according to tonnage. Chicago 
merchants, not content with three weeks time and aspiring for 
even quicker and cheaper transportation, hoped that the New 
York and Erie railroad would enable freight to be shipped 
through as early as March 10 while the Erie canal was still 
frozen. Once this railroad and those across Michigan were 
in operation, it was said New York and Chicago would be only 
seventy-four hours apart. 35 Even with the twelve to fourteen 
days which was the minimum time required for freight between 
Chicago and the east in 1839, there were great possibilities in 
supplying other Illinois markets; thus it was believed that 
Galena could get goods two months quicker and much cheaper 
by way of Chicago. For penetrating the central part of the 
state, there was the Illinois river which was navigable as far 
up as Peoria or even Ottawa. The bad roads above Peru, 
however, were a serious difficulty, in rendering it a route of 
commerce tributary to Chicago. 

Indeed the Illinois river for a time seemed more likely to 
become the trunk line of a considerable transportation system 
tributary to the Mississippi. In 1828 steamers went up to 
Naples, in 1829 to Pekin, in 1830 to Peoria. In 1831 there 
were 186 steamer arrivals at Naples, 32 at Beardstown, and 
17 at Peoria. In 1837 the Peoria Register advertised seven 
packets to ply between Peoria and St. Louis and one between 
Peoria and Pittsburg. Nevertheless there were serious diffi- 
culties. The bar at Beardstown was a particularly obstinate 
handicap. In even the most favorable seasons navigation was 
practically at an end in September. Even thus, Naples, 
Beardstown, and Peoria enjoyed direct commercial relations 
with the outside world at Pittsburg and New Orleans. In 
1838 Peoria had a daily stage to Springfield which linked it 

35 Illinois Advocate, October 21, November n, 1831; Chicago Democrat, 
June 4, 1834; Alton Spectator, July 9, 1833; Chicago American, September 26, 
November 21, December 5, 1835. 


with Terre Haute and St. Louis, as well as triweekly stages to 
Galena, Ottawa, and Rushville and semiweekly ones to 
Oquawka. 86 

Even from the earlier settlements the smaller rivers of 
Illinois had served for the transportation of freight. The 
Talisman's trip up the Sangamon is well known. As early as 
1829 flatboats with cargoes of lead descended the Pecatonica 
and the Rock. In 1836 a steamer ascended the Rock as far as 
Dixon and in 1838 as far as Rockford. In 1839 there was a 
St. Louis and Rock river packet. 

The Mississippi, however, remained the state's most im- 
portant transportation route, and the ease of its navigation 
brought prosperity to the towns along its banks. In 1839 
Savanna, a town of two hundred fifty inhabitants, was sending 
four hundred tons of freight a year to Oregon, Rockford, 
Freeport, Beloit, and Elkhorn. In 1837 Monmouth imported 
from St. Louis through Oquawka. Alton and Galena have 
already been mentioned; Warsaw and Nauvoo belong to a 
later period. 87 

In the midst of wild land speculations, it was inevitable 
that calculations of the cost of bringing produce to market 
from some " Stone's Landing," portentously rechristened 
" Napoleon," should have an important part. Already fair 
transportation routes were in existence; the question was how 
to improve them. The federal government would improve 
the Mississippi; in a liberal mood it had already endowed the 
Illinois and Michigan water route that would allow Chicago 
merchants to take their toll of what passed in and out by the 
lakes. To improve such rivers as the Illinois and the Rock 
by state enterprise was feasible. Men were not content, how- 
ever, with these comparatively modest improvements. Not 
only were the "Goose Runs" of Illinois to be improved into 

Register, July i, 1837, April 7, September 15, December 8, 1838, 
July 27, August 17, 1839; Chicago American, July 6, August 31, 1839; Chi- 
cago Democrat, February 10, 1836; Sangamo Journal, February 9, 1832; Illinois 
Intelligencer, November 19, 1831. 

87 Sangamo Journal, November 28, 1835; Peoria Register, April i, 1837, 
April 27, May 12, 1838, October 12, 1839. 

^ u 


< a 
U o 




" Columbus Rivers," but scarcely five years had passed since 
the railroad had demonstrated its practicability, before 
dreamers in Illinois were devising routes by which the new 
discovery might give fabulous values to the lands away from 
the water routes. A state wide mania for improved transpor- 
tation ended in logrollings and bargains which initiated a state 
system of internal improvements based on calculations imperial 
enough to have originated in the brain of Beriah Sellers 


THE internal improvement scheme of 1837 is not only 
the opening of a new era in the state's history; it is also 
the climax of the former one. The various threads of the 
state's political and economic interests the desire of southern 
Illinois for an equivalent to the Illinois and Michigan canal, 
the local rivalries over the location of the state capital, the 
aspirations of land speculators all were woven together to 
produce the fabric of the internal improvement system. It 
can indeed be most easily explained if each thread be fol- 
lowed separately to the point where it intertwines with the 

The problem of connecting the waters of the Great Lakes 
at Chicago with the Illinois river seemed enticingly simple. 
The Des Plaines branch of the Illinois flows south parallel to 
the lake shore and sometimes not ten miles away from it. 
Moreover the two branches of the Chicago river, uniting from 
north and south to flow into the lake, contribute to lessen even 
that distance. Between the south branch and the Des Plaines 
lay in dry weather a portage of no longer than three miles, and 
in the wet season a lake or slough five miles long and six to 
forty yards wide through which Mackinaw boats of six and 
eight tons could pass into the Illinois without a portage. So 
nearly even were the levels of the two rivers that the change 
of the breeze would float objects from the " lake " now into 
Lake Michigan, now into the Des Plaines. This route, unim- 
proved as it was, was regularly followed by the fur traders of 
Mackinac. 1 

The engineering problem, though simple in appearance, 
was in reality extremely difficult. Since the bed of the Des 
Plaines was in 1819 estimated to be some two feet higher than 

1 American State Papers, Miscellaneous, 2: 555. 



the lake, a bed channel would simply have turned the waters of 
the river into the lake. To correct this difficulty 2 Major 
Stephen Long recommended the construction of two locks at 
the two ends of the slough ; but the opinion was generally held 
that in the dry season there would not be enough water to 
operate them and that it would be necessary to construct the 
canal to a lower point, somewhere near the falls of the Des 
Plaines. There was of course also the possibility of using some 
other portage, for instance that to the Kankakee, or that from 
the St. Joseph or Maumee to the Wabash, all of which were 
enumerated in the engineers' report of 1819. 

At the beginning Illinois was concerned rather with obtain- 
ing means to construct the canal than with the engineering 
problem involved. After some differences both houses of the 
second general assembly concurred in a resolution directing the 
congressional delegates to work for a grant of the two per cent 
fund reserved for roads and of a strip of land a section wide 
along the canal route to the Illinois river. At the next session 
of congress in accordance with a resolution offered by Cook, 
an act was passed granting a strip ninety feet wide on each 
side of the canal and reserving from sale the adjoining sections. 

Meanwhile, the canal had become a subject of newspaper 
discussion apparently both as a political question and as a 
matter of sectional rivalry. In 1822 articles began to point 
out the importance of a route to market other than that through 
New Orleans. 3 For this very reason it was generally supposed 
that southeastern Illinois would be opposed to a project that 
would tax that region to destroy its monopoly of the route to 
market via the Mississippi. Opposition developed a second 
time in the general assembly of 18221823, when A. P. Field 
proposed once more to memoralize congress to apply the two 
per cent fund to digging the canal. A canal bill after vicissi- 
tudes apparently promoted by members representing constitu- 

2 American State Papers, Miscellaneous, 2:555. Since the foregoing was 
written the full account of the Illinois and Michigan canal by J. W. Putnam 
has appeared. See also Annals of Congress, 17 congress, i session, 2586. 

3 Illinois Intelligencer, November 30, 1822. 


encies of the Ohio and the Wabash rivers was finally passed, 
February 10, 1823. Curiously enough it was finally reported 
back to the house the same day with the convention resolutions, 
probably both as parts of the same bargain. 4 

As finally passed, the bill provided for five commissioners 
to lay out a route for a canal and to calculate its cost; it 
directed them further to bring to the attention of the governors 
of Indiana and Ohio the desirability of improving the Wabash 
and the Maumee rivers. 5 The commissioners tried in vain to 
get the services of New York canal engineers, but finally were 
content with Justus Post to whom later they added Rene Paul. 

The legislature of 1825 determined to turn the enterprise 
over to a private corporation which it created, consisting of 
Coles, Bond, Post, Erasmus Brown, W. S. Hamilton, Joseph 
Duncan, and John Warnock, who were to receive all canal 
grants and complete a canal in ten years ; they were permitted 
to charge a toll of one-half cent per ton per mile on tonnage of 
boats through it, three cents on Illinois produce or merchandise, 
six cents on foreign merchandise, and eight cents on all else. 
In fifty years the state might buy the canal for cost plus six per 
cent interest. 

Congressman Cook could hardly have been expected to 
approve this scheme. His political opponents were in control 
of it; it was contrary to the solution at which he himself had 
been working a generous congressional land grant. During 
the session of 18231824, he had attempted to unite the inter- 
ests of the enterprise with those of similar ones in which other 
states might join and to secure a grant to the state of lands 
along the canal reserved from sale by the federal government. 6 
In November of 1825, therefore, he published an address 
urging a repeal of the canal act. In part his argument was 
that the sum of money which it would finally be necessary 
to raise to purchase the canal would be huge. He, therefore, 
advised borrowing on the credit of the school lands and the 

4 House Journal, 1822-1823, 1 session, 262. 

5 Laws of 1823, p. 151. 

e Annals of Congress, 18 congress, i session, 873, 1914. 


three per cent school fund, or better still seeking aid from the 
government ; in the latter case he possibly intended to combine 
the project with one for an armory on the Illinois or Fox river. 
By an optimistic calculation he sought to show that the probable 
increase of Illinois population and of traffic would enable the 
state to finance the canal from the tolls. He was on safer 
ground when he pointed out the danger to the state of placing 
such a transportation monopoly in private hands and of the 
chance that it would control the politics of the state. Cook's 
figures were attacked, but his argument against the monopoly 
was not destroyed. As the Edwardsville Spectator pointed 
out, his opponents had to admit that the terms of the act were 
too unfavorable to the state ; yet it was impossible to interest 
investors on less favorable terms. The legislature, meeting 
in special session January, 1826, to redistrict the state, repealed 
the act, the senate voting fourteen to three. 7 

In congress a bill for a canal grant had been brought up in 
the session of 1825 and again in 1826. The Intelligencer 
alleged that it suffered from the jealousy of Mississippi and 
Louisiana members, who feared that trade would be deflected 
from New Orleans. Finally in 1827, the act was passed. It 
granted the state one-half the land to a depth of five sections 
on each side of the canal, reserving for the benefit of the United 
States all alternate sections; the canal was to be toll free to 
the United States government and was to be begun in five 
years and completed in twenty. The act may perhaps be 
regarded as a last triumph of the liberal internal improvement 
policy of the administration; it was certainly regarded as a 
triumph in Illinois. 8 

Two successive Illinois assemblies undertook to utilize 
the grant thus obtained. An act was passed in 1829 which 
provided for the biennial appointment by governor and senate 
of three commissioners, one of whom was to act as treasurer. 

7 Illinois Intelligencer, November 25, 1825; Edwardsville Spectator, Decem- 
ber 3, 1825; Senate Journal, 1826, 2 session, 58. 

8 Illinois Intelligencer, March 25, 1825, April 21, 1827; Congressional 
Debates, 1826-1827, appendix, xviii. 


They were to survey a route, to select the land granted by 
the United States, and to sell it in tracts or in town lots. They 
were to use the funds obtained as soon as practicable for the 
construction of a canal, four feet deep and forty feet wide at 
the surface. This act, which as can be seen was very loosely 
drawn, was amended in 1831 so as to increase the efficiency 
of the board. 9 It raised the question of the practicability of 
improving the navigation on the Illinois river below the Fox 
in lieu of the lower route of the canal, and also the question 
of the use of the Calumet as a feeder below the Chicago and 
the Des Plaines; but of greater importance it raised the more 
fundamental question whether a railroad might not serve the 
state better than a canal. The commissioners, in their report 
of November 22, 1831, recommended on professional advice 
the construction of a railroad instead of a canal. During the 
winter of 1832 they made inquiries in New York as to possible 
financial supplies but without eliciting any offer which the state 
could accept. 

The canal project, after a period of quiescence during 
1833, became a political issue of importance in 1834; and 
candidates for office gave the matter much attention. Some 
merely declared for the measure. Of those who were more 
specific, some advised the completion of the enterprise by a 
private company; others specifically declared against taxation 
for it. In the south there was some attempt to move for the 
construction of a canal from the Wabash to Alton as more 
advantageous; this proposition of course called forth angry 
protests from the north. 10 

There was much dissent from the current opinion that 
expense must be avoided at all hazards. The Chicago Demo- 
crat denounced the proposal to endow a New York company 

9 La<w s of 1829, p. 14; Laws of 1831, p. 39. 

10 Alexander M. Jenkins, Alton American, June 2, 1834; Benjamin Roberts, 
Illinois Advocate, July 5, 1834; James Evans, Sangamo Journal, July 5, 1834; 
James Shepherd and James Adams, ibid., July 12, 1834; William Alvey, ibid., 
July 19, 1834; R. K. McLaughlin, ibid., July 26, 1834; William B. Archer, ibid., 
August 2, 1834; George Forquer, ibid., June 25, 1834. Forquer's proposal com- 
prised a scheme for purchase in ten years for cost less the value of canal lands. 


with the canal lands and to allow it to construct a railroad 
instead of a canal. Would the people, it asked, in order to 
keep the state's skirts free of debt, hand over canal lands that 
in five years would be worth two millions? 11 It disagreed 
with the findings of James M. Bucklin, an engineer of promi- 
nence, who had been consulted by the commissioners in 1831 
as to the relative desirability of a railroad, concluding that 
he had overestimated the cost of a canal. Governor Duncan 
clung obstinately to the idea of a canal planned on an elaborate 
scale. In his inaugural he urged that the state proceed boldly 
with the enterprise relying on additional federal grants. He 
presented the stock arguments for canals as against rail- 
roads permanency and freedom from repair costs. They 
furnished avenues of trade, so he pointed out, by which farmers 
in defiance of monopoly might carry their own produce to 
market. With a view of future developments imperial in its 
scope he suggested at the outset a cut sufficiently wide for a 
steamboat canal, except on the summit level where the cut 
could later be widened; and since the tolls would yield, in his 
estimation, a revenue out of proportion to any sum the work 
could possibly cost, he urged the state to undertake the work 
on its own account. A similar light-hearted optimism had 
marked his attitude toward the project, when it was discussed 
in congress. 12 

In the legislative session of 18341835 the debates on the 
canal act turned on the question as to whether the faith of the 
state or merely the canal land and its resources were to be 
pledged to the enterprise. The argument of the opponents of 
state credit was that if the lands were as valuable as they 
appeared to be they should be sufficient to attract capital; but 
the proposers of the measure argued that capitalists were 
ignorant of the value of the lands. As the act was finally 

Democrat, April 30, November 19, December 17, 1834; Sangamo 
Journal, June 21, 1834, 

12 House Journal, 1834-1835, i session, 25; Chicago Democrat, December 
17, 1834, January 21, 1835, indorsed Duncan's policy. Sangamo Journal, July 
26, 1834. 


passed, the credit of the state was not pledged. The division 
on the roll call was sharply north and south, giving some color 
to the charge of the Chicago Democrat that the southern part 
of the state was trying to retard the progress of the northern. 13 

The act of 1835 authorized the governor to negotiate a 
loan not to exceed $500,000 on the canal lands and toll for the 
construction of the canal. He was to appoint with the advice 
of the senate a canal board of five, distinctly an executive tool 
of the governor, to construct a canal forty-five feet wide and 
four deep. The method of construction was not prescribed. 
Ex-Governor Edward Coles found in the east that the funda- 
mental objection of the capitalists to this loan was the failure 
to pledge the faith of the state for the payment of principal 
and interest. It was pointed out that interest would have to 
be paid either out of the loan or from sales of town lots, the 
sale of which was purely discretionary with the authorities ; and 
that it would not be possible, in case of default, to take pos- 
session of the canal. Capitalists regarded the transaction as 
based too much on the pleasing prospect of a further federal 
grant which might not be forthcoming. The character of the 
security behind the loan made it impossible to float it in 
Europe, where five per cent loans had ultimately to find a 
market. The northern friends of the enterprise, accepting 
Coles' conclusions, declared for a special session to formulate 
a proposition more acceptable from the financial point of 

Primarily for purposes of apportionment a special session 
of the legislature was held. Duncan was optimistic as usual 
in his message. He predicted that the sale of United States 
lands at Chicago showed that the lands and town lots owned 
by the state, not counting the additional grants that might be 
relied on from congress, were even then worth from one to 
three millions. " It is now no longer to be dreaded," pro- 

13 Chicago Democrat, December 24, 1834; Illinois Advocate, February 4, 
n, 1835; House Journal, 1834-1835, i session, 459. In advancing to the third 
reading, it was then amended by striking out the credit of the state and passed 
40 to 12, p. 503. See also ibid., 470, 472, 501. 


ceeded Duncan, " that any reasonable sum of money borrowed 
for the purpose of constructing this canal, will become a charge 
on the State Treasury." He therefore advised a loan and the 
sale of lots at Chicago from time to time to pay the interest. 14 
He still insisted on a steamboat canal. 

The canal bill was drawn up by its supporters in Chicago 
and altered and corrected by George Forquer. According to 
whig accounts it was endangered and nearly defeated by the 
partisan efforts of the democrats to provide for the appoint- 
ment of commissioners. The act as it was finally passed, 
largely through the influence of the whigs, provided for the 
negotiation by the governor of a loan on the credit of the state 
for $500,000, issuing for it a six per cent stock redeemable 
after 1860, with a provision that it should not be sold for less 
than par. The governor and senate were to appoint three 
commissioners, removable for cause, to hold office until Janu- 
ary, 1837, after which they were to be appointed biennally as 
the legislature should direct. 

The canal was to be of boat size and supplied with water 
from Lake Michigan and such other sources as the commis- 
sioners might decide. The commissioners were instructed to 
sell lots in Chicago and Ottawa on annual installments. The 
canal was to begin at or near Chicago on canal lands and ter- 
minate near the mouth of the little Vermilion on land owned 
by the state. The needed legislation had been obtained; but, 
as events showed, the difficulties had only begun. The fate of 
the various projects in the public improvement system began to 
be vitally connected with the interests of the various aspirants 
in the impending contest over the location of the state capital ; 
and in the trades and bargains, by which local projects of one 
kind and the other were advanced, local and sectional interests 
were predominant. The state capital was originally located 
in the wilderness at Vandalia with the intent that the state and 
not private speculators should profit from the exploitation of 

14 Coles to Duncan, April 28, 1835 in House Journal, 1835-1836, 2 session, 
14; Delafield to Coles, April 20, 1835 in ibid., 19 ff . ; ibid., 8. 


town lots ; but population had not followed the seat of govern- 
ment. The town lot speculation had been a failure ; the town 
was supposedly unhealthy, and its boarding houses were reputed 
expensive and poor. An agitation begun, as it was claimed, 
by legislative candidates from Sangamon and Morgan counties 
in 1832 looked toward a settlement of the question of the loca- 
tion of the capital, after the allotted twenty years at Vandalia 
had expired. As soon as this subject was broached in the 
legislature, complicated sectional alignments appeared. By 
clever maneuvering the Madison county members, it was 
claimed, defeated a proposal for a location by a board of 
commissioners and substituted one providing for a popular 
referendum on Jacksonville, Springfield, Alton, Vandalia, 
Peoria, and a town to be located at the geographical center 
of the state. 15 

As it was passed, the act was by no means to the taste of 
the people of Springfield. The amended bill had been carefully 
devised to break up the phalanx of the north. It was evident 
that with Peoria, Jacksonville, and the geographical center all 
to contend with, the chances of either Alton or Vandalia were 
brighter than Springfield's. The Sangamo Journal bewailed 
the fact that the choice must be a minority one. It protested 
that no one could determine where the geographical center 
was or what was its fitness; it depicted the reputed unhealthi- 
ness and the liability to summer malaria of Alton. 16 The 
Alton Spectator advised it to look at the matter philosophi- 
cally, remembering that if any town had been left out, Spring- 
field might well have been it. 

In December the idea of a convention to overcome the 
effect of the act by uniting the northern politicians on some 
one location was discussed. A meeting at Springfield on 
January 4, 1834, called such a convention to meet at Rushville 

15 Illinois Advocate, October 29, 1834; Alton American, May 12, 1834; 
House Journal, 1832-1833, i session, 271 ; Senate Journal, 1832-1833, i ses- 
sion, 290. 

10 Sangamo Journal, May 9, June i, July 20, 27, 1833. The Journal was 
especially angry with the grasping spirit of Alton, ibid., January u, 1834. 


the first Monday in April. The meeting duly convened on 
April 7 with delegates present from Knox, McDonough, San- 
gamon, Hancock, Morgan, Macon, Tazewell, Adams, Warren, 
Putnam, Schuyler, Peoria, and Cook counties. An attempt 
was made by a Schuyler delegate to recommend a repeal of 
the law and the selection of Springfield by popular vote. A 
postponement was moved and the adoption of an address 
protesting against the multiplication of northern aspirants and 
recommending Springfield was secured by an overwhelming 
majority. The minority, however, from Peoria, Putnam, 
Tazewell, Knox, and Cook complained that the convention had 
organized at an unduly early hour, before all the delegates 
had arrived. They believed that designating any one northern 
place would unite the whole southern part of the state; rather 
than have that happen, they preferred that the act should be 
repealed. 17 

With a view to the vote, all the aspirants put forth their 
arguments for themselves and against their neighbors. A 
Vandalia meeting, July 3, protested against the unfairness of 
deciding the question six years before the expiration of the 
allotted time, as Vandalia was just beginning to develop and 
urged the unconstitutionality of the law. The board of trade 
of Alton, June 16, issued an address calling attention to that 
city's well-nigh year-round water communication which made 
it accessible from various parts of the state. The location 
of the capital there they urged would insure the location of 
the Cumberland road as the state wished it. It would enable 
Alton to rival St. Louis in earnest, for " the great city of the 
Northwest is yet to be reared on the banks of the Mississippi." 
Jacksonville could argue a large population, a college, and a 
reputation for culture; Springfield could claim a location near 
the center of the state. Peoria urged its facilities for manu- 
facture, its location on the main routes of travel between 
Galena, Chicago, St. Louis, and the south, and its water con- 

17 Sangamo Journal, January n, April 19, November 15, 1834; Chicago 
Democrat, April 23, 1834; Illinois Advocate, July 19, 1834; Alton Spectator, 
April 17, 24, 1834. 


nection. 18 Against Jacksonville and Springfield was alleged 
their distance from navigable rivers. In the referendum vote 
Alton was successful but by a narrow margin only. 

The decisive struggle came in 1837. In Sangamon county 
the legislative elections had resulted in the choice of nine 
staunch whigs the famous "Long Nine." They stood for 
the unity of the county and a common effort to promote its 
interests. In revenge for this complete overthrow the demo- 
cratic -opponents, John Calhoun and his friends, attempted to 
defeat the Springfield project, some of them lobbying for 
Peoria and some for Illiopolis, a town set near the center of 
the state in which Duncan was said to be interested. In May 
of 1837, Simeon Francis of the Sangamo Journal sardonically 
noted that the town was represented only by a wolf trap, a fit 
symbol of those trapped there. 19 The measure for which the 
Sangamon county members determined to work was a vote by 
the general assembly thus they could ultimately hope to 
eliminate rivals that divided their vote. By a narrow margin 
they carried their new act. On the vote that followed, Spring- 
field was successful on the fourth ballot; and Vandalia at the 
next session sought in vain to secure the repeal of the act. On 
June 20, 1839, Governor Carlin issued his proclamation re- 
moving the capital to Springfield on or before July 4. 

The means by which the Sangamon delegation achieved 
their triumph were probably maneuvering and trading of the 
frankest sort. Orville H. Browning in his somewhat pompous 
way at a dinner in Springfield gave all praise to the delegation, 
pronouncing that it was their "judicious management, their 
ability, their gentlemanly deportment, their unassuming man- 
ners, their constant and untiring labor for your interests," 20 
that had won Springfield her triumph. Stephen A. Douglas 
more bluntly denying that he had traded his vote to the dele- 

18 Sangamo Journal, July 27, 1833, June 21, 1834; Alton Spectator, July i, 
1834; Chicago Democrat, April i, 1834. 

19 Sangamo Journal, May 13, July i, 1837; House Journal, 1836-1837, i 
session, 610, 613, 663, 702. 

20 Sangamo Journal, July 29, 1837. 


gation for a land office and indeed he voted for Jacksonville 
to the last declared the delegation had traded everything 
to obtain the capital. Peter Green of Clay county denied that 
the trade had been made of votes for the capital at Springfield 
for votes for a system of internal improvements for the south. 
But later when it was proposed to repeal the internal improve- 
ment system, Lincoln indignantly declared that a bargain had 
been made between the friends of the system and the friends 
of Springfield and that it was irrepealable. A casual examina- 
tion of the legislative journals shows the Sangamon men always 
working for everyone's interest, voting for all additions to 
the system proposed, and splitting on motions to substitute 
one thing for another. Thus the sectional contest over the 
capital location led to the triumph of local interests in public 
improvement legislation. 21 

Meanwhile between 1829 and 1836 various local projects 
for internal improvements had been broached, discussed, 
expanded, all of them being based on more and more extrava- 
gant calculations of profits. The time was ripe for their 
friends to unite, and by bargains of one sort or another to com- 
mit the state to putting under construction a wild and fantastic 
system of internal improvements. At first such proposals had 
attracted but passing notice. Thus in 1829 the Galena Adver- 
tiser clipped an account of a projected railroad from Pittsburg 
to the head of steamboat navigation on the Illinois and thence 
to the Mississippi. In 1831 one or two meetings were held to 
urge a railroad from Lake Erie to the Mississippi. On Decem- 
ber 28, 1832, a Jacksonville meeting, while indorsing the broad 
project, added a suggestion for a railroad from Jacksonville 
to the Illinois river. Abraham Lincoln in offering himself for 
the general assembly in 1832 suggested such a railroad with 
an extension to Springfield but concluded that the estimated 
cost, $290,000, was prohibitory. He judged it better to 
improve the navigation of the Sangamon, making it available 
for boats of twenty-five to thirty tons, and reenforced his 

21 Illinois State Register, July 20, 1838; Sangamo Journal, April 22, 1837. 


statement with arguments based on his flatboat trip down the 
river. 22 

In 1834 the project took a form which provoked the hos- 
tility of the friends of the Illinois and Michigan canal. As 
then framed the transverse project involved a canal from the 
Wabash to the Mississippi to connect to the eastward with 
the projected series of canals to Lake Erie and Buffalo. In 
support of such a project it was argued that Lake Erie would 
be open much earlier. in the spring than Huron and Michigan 
and that a circuit would be thereby avoided. 23 Forquer in 
1834 did not by any means reject the plan of an Illinois and 
Michigan canal. Instead of the transverse canal, he sug- 
gested a railroad via Danville, Decatur, Springfield, Beards- 
town, Rushville, and Quincy. 24 The Alton Spectator sarcas- 
tically pronounced that Forquer's scheme had special reference 
to Springfield's ambitions for success in the capital election. 
The Sangamo Journal in turn pronounced that the thing that 
would really insure the position of Alton would be a railroad 
which would make it the depot and market of the Sangamon 
country. 25 

This last project gained favor in Springfield during 1835. 
In a meeting on May 25, Forquer elaborated the possible 
advantages to be gained from a vigorous enlistment of local 
support for the enterprise. He regarded such a railroad as 
only a step in the completion of a line to the Wabash and Erie 
canal, which should be accompanied by one to the Illinois and 
Mississippi rivers. He computed the total cost at $1,248,000 

22 Galena Advertiser, September 14, 1829; Sangamo Journal, January 5, 
March 15, 1832. 

23 Sangamo Journal, April 19, 1834. It stated the Alton Spectator and 
Beardstown Chronicle were favorable to the project. See Alton Spectator, 
April 24, 1834. 

24 Sangamo Journal, June 28, 1834. James Adams in his canvass for gov- 
ernor advocated a canal or railroad from the Wabash to the Mississippi. Ibid., 
July 12, 1834. Representatives from Adams and Schuyler counties met on 
December 7, 1835, and urged a railroad from the Erie and Wabash canal to 
Quincy via Springfield and Jacksonville and also suggested a railroad to the 
Ohio via Vandalia. Ibid., December 19, 1835. There was a meeting at Macki- 
naw to urge a railroad from the Wabash to the Illinois. Ibid. Ewing proposed 
this in his message of 1834. House Journal, 1834-1835, i session, 16. 

25 Sangamo Journal, April 25, 1835; Alton Spectator, August 26, 1834. 


and estimated the tonnage as 45,000 annually, yielding $675,- 
ooo in freights. The return from the bonanza he calculated 
at eighteen per cent, and he believed the farmers perfectly 
warranted in pledging their farms for stock. Once these roads 
and the Charleston-Memphis line, together with the Wabash- 
Erie and Illinois-Michigan canals were completed, Springfield 
would sit enthroned with markets on three distant seaboards 
as her vassals. A railroad convention of delegates from San- 
gamon, Macon, Madison, and Macoupin was held a few weeks 
later to push the Springfield-Alton railroad scheme. 26 The 
cost of the Springfield and Alton railroad was estimated at 
$500,000. But it was also estimated that the country would 
provide for it 37,346 tons of freight a year assuming that 
each of 3,000 farms exported annually 100 bushels of wheat, 
200 of corn, and 100 of oats, 12 hogs, and 5 cattle. Imports 
would be 1 2,500 tons annually. The gross receipts from Sanga- 
mon county alone would yield $172,050 revenue annually, not 
counting that of the three other favored counties. The mania 
for calculations of imperial commercial enterprises was in 
men's blood and had to run its course. 

One section of the state began to vie with another in pur- 
suing bubbles. In the fall of 1835 the project of the central 
railroad began to take form. On October 28 the Chicago 
Democrat printed a letter from Sidney Breese suggesting the 
construction of a railroad from the junction of the canal with 
the Illinois river to the mouth of the Ohio. Meetings in 
support of such a project were held in Shelby county, October 
19 and 20, and November 18; at Vandalia, October 26; and 
at Decatur, November n. A meeting in Jackson county, 
December 2, deplored the comparative apathy of southern 
Illinois in pushing her interests and warned her that by stand- 
ing still she was losing position. It demanded support from 
southern members to the central railroad project. 27 An act 
for a two and a half million dollar corporation with a long 

28 Chicago Democrat, June 10, 1835; Sangamo Journal, April 25, May 
22, 1835. 

27 Illinois Advocate, October 21, 28, December 17, 1835. 


and impressive list of incorporators passed the assembly 
in 1836. 

Several schemes, as might be imagined, centered on Chi- 
cago. One that attracted some interest in 1835 was for a 
railroad from Chicago to Vincennes. A federal land grant 
was asked for it, and the company was incorporated with three 
millions of capital to construct a railroad via Danville, Paris, 
and Palestine, to be begun in three years and completed in 
eight. There was provision for territorial location of direc- 
tors and the road might be operated by steam or animal power. 
Next summer stock subscription books were opened. 28 In 
1837 T. W. Smith and others petitioned congress for a right 
of way and a right to preempt in a ten-year credit a section 
on each side of the road. In return, they made the offer to 
carry the mails daily. At the time it was said that a million 
dollars of stock had been subscribed. 

Inevitably various localities of the state came each to the 
conviction of the advisability of pooling local interests in inter- 
nal improvements in a common stock. As early as 1830, Coles 
had prepared for the historical society of the state an excellent 
account of the state's physiography with reference to naviga- 
tion and internal improvements; but such considerations were 
not to have the decisive voice in the laying out of public works. 
On November 2, 1833, the Sangamo Journal noticed the state- 
ment of a London paper that fifty million dollars of English 
capital could be lent to states desiring internal improvements 
or state banks. In 1834 several candidates garnished their 
announcements with statements for or against internal improve- 
ment systems. 29 Duncan in his inaugural message proposed 
the future improvement of the Illinois and Wabash channels 
on some such fashion, but like a good whig he looked for a 
possible change of heart on Jackson's part which would bring 

28 House Journal, 1834-1835, I session, 141; Laws of 1835, p. 88; Chicago 
American, September 26, 1835. 

29 Illinois Intelligencer, January 16, 1830; Illinois Advocate, June 26, July 
5, 1834. Easton Whitten and Benjamin Roberts offer for the senate in Bond 
county against internal improvements in state money. James Evans offers for 
the governor. Sangamo Journal, July 5, 1834 declares for the system. 


federal aid. The Chicago Democrat, clipping the Peoria 
Champion, on December 3, 1834, proposed as business for 
the legislature the following railroads, Chicago to the Wabash, 
Chicago to Galena, and Terre Haute to Quincy. In that 
session, however, internal improvements were regarded as 
possible rivals to the canal and as such for the moment to be 
discouraged. 30 

In 1835 the movement gained fresh impetus. Forquer's 
speech, already cited, bears its testimony to the fact. On Octo- 
ber 1 6, Sidney Breese 31 pointed out a possible combination 
of internal improvement schemes which he thought might 
supply transportation both to the south and west. The scheme 
included a railroad on the route of the Illinois Central, for 
which the credit of the state might be pledged. From it, 
branches might radiate to the Wabash and the upper Mis- 
sissippi. This prospect of juncture of the canal and the central 
railroad was considered by some as stretching the credit of the 
state too far. A member professed that in the next session 
he voted against the canal, not because he thought there was 
any danger in pledging the bulk of the stock for the canal, but 
because of a scheme to couple canal and railroad and borrow 
four millions for them. 32 Such a combination was proposed 
by a meeting at Ottawa, November 18. 

Breese's plan was indorsed by a letter in the Sangamo 
Journal of November 28, 1835, which proposed also a rail- 
road from Alton to Shawneetown to intersect the railroad 
from Louisville to New Orleans as well as a railroad from 
the Wabash and Erie canal to Quincy and from Springfield to 

30 Henry reported in the house, January 10, 1835, that it was necessary to 
put the whole energy of the state in the canal, and accordingly he moved the 
rejection of the petition for the improvement of the Illinois river. House 
Journal, 1834-1835, i session, 264. William J. Gatewood argued similarly on 
the incorporation of a railroad from Logansport to Quincy. Forquer argued 
on the other side that after all the south had gained from salines, the north 
might be entitled at least to an incorporation. The difficulty was caused by a 
squabble as to the terminus at Alton or Quincy. Sangamo Journal, January 
17, 1835. 

31 Sangamon Journal, October 31, 1835. 

82 Illinois Advocate, December 2, 1835, January 16, 1836. 


Alton. By way of financing these projects the author suggested 
a combination of land and stock aid and a private company. 
The editor of the paper commented that the novelty lay in the 
setting forth of a system for the whole state. 

In the Illinois senate in the session of 18351836, Edwards 
offered a set of internal improvement resolutions in which he 
proposed that, to limit the impending multiplication of ineli- 
gible routes, the committee on internal improvements should 
report bills incorporating companies for railroads from the 
state line toward the Wabash and Erie canal through Danville, 
Decatur, and Springfield to Quincy; from the termination of 
the Illinois and Michigan canal through Bloomington to Deca- 
tur; and from Alton through Edwardsville and Equality to 
Shawneetown. He proposed state loans to these enterprises 
and a state subscription of one-third the capital stock in case 
the stockholders of a company had subscribed two-thirds. The 
right to buy out the company on terms was reserved to the 
state. A week later, he amended the resolution by providing 
that the line to Bloomington and Decatur serve to connect 
the canal with the Wabash and Mississippi and the Alton and 
Springfield railroads. His intention was to extend the road 
at a future time from Decatur via Springfield to Vandalia 
where it would connect with the Kaskaskia river which was 
to be made navigable, if it was possible to do so, by the use 
of future appropriations. 33 Edwards saw far enough into 
the defects, such as they were, of the haphazard system of 
granting charters that obtained in the 1836 session; but his 
positive argument for the concerted system which he outlined 
was singularly wanting in insight. The plan he proposed was 
merely building the railroads to connect the navigable rivers 
and to furnish communication between the small cities of 
that day. 

Taken collectively the charters of 1836, which were passed 
at haphazard and usually with no opposition, are rather inter- 
esting. First it may be said that they varied widely in their 

33 Senate Journal, 1835-1836, 2 session, 154, 198. 


provisions, probably in accord with the preconceptions of the 
lawyers who drew them up. Some of them contained provi- 
sions by which the state might take the properties over after 
a term of years, either at an appraised value, or at the original 
cost plus a fixed yearly interest, or for cost plus cumulative 
interest. Several contained provisions allowing the legislature 
to regulate rates, if after a, term of years the profits of the 
company exceeded a certain percentage. There were charters, 
however, which lacked one or many of these provisions. Most 
of them contained a forfeiture clause in the event the road was 
not duly begun, and some specified elaborately the rate at 
which construction must progress. Sometimes the charters 
were for limited periods; in other cases the only limitation was 
a power of legislative purchase in a term of years; sometimes 
there was not even that. 84 The Illinois Central was granted 
a monopoly limited by regulation of tolls and a right of pur- 
chase after twenty-five years. 35 On stock issues, the limita- 
tions devised often seemed rather intended to secure a wide 
distribution of stock than any other purpose. Sometimes the 
capital was specified in the charter, sometimes a specified 
increase was allowed, and sometimes a limit was placed upon 
the income. The sole limitation on the Mississippi, Spring- 
field, and Carrollton railroad was that ten per cent of the 
stock be paid in. The Warsaw, Peoria, and Wabash was 
under practically no limitation whatever. 36 Some charters 
included provisions for reports to the -legislature and others 
did not. Had the hopes of 1836 ever reached fruition, Illinois 
would have been covered with a railway system almost defying 

The details of the various evanescent charters of the 1836 
session are of comparatively little interest. They suggest in 

34 Charters of Mt. Carmel and Alton; Pekin, Bloomington, and Wabash; 
Belleville; Alton, Wabash and Erie; Rushville; Wabash and Mississippi; 
Central Branch Wabash; Wabash and Mississippi Union; Pekin and Tremont; 
and Mississippi, Springfield, and Carrollton railroads in Laws of 1836, p. 8, 12, 
16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 36, 54, 63, 65, 89, 90. 

33 Ibid., p. 129. 

36 Ibid., p. 12, 76. 


no great degree the railroads of the present This is true in 
the main probably because they were centered commonly at 
Alton rather than at St. Louis. Of the projected lines, the 
Galena and Chicago Union, the Illinois Central line from 
LaSalle to Cairo, and one from Danville to Meredosia sug- 
gesting the line of the Wabash are the only extensive lines 
which still persist. 

The fateful legislative session of 18361837 was the logi- 
cal result of the charters of 1836. With so many enterprises in 
the field, the feeble resources that would scarcely have suf- 
ficed a single enterprise were diffused among many. It is 
difficult in the case of most of the enterprises projected during 
1836 to trace any successful prosecution of the task of organ- 
izing them. In the fall, Gallatin, Wayne, Sangamon, and 
probably other counties appointed delegates to a convention 
at Vandalia to decide what parts of the various lines had better 
be supported. 37 

In the Illinois legislative session of 1836-1837 the internal 
improvement system began with Douglas' resolutions. They 
specified the Illinois and Michigan canal, a railroad from the 
terminus of the canal to the mouth of the Ohio, a railroad 
from Quincy to the Wabash and Erie canal, the improvement 
of the Illinois and Wabash rivers, and surveys of other works. 
These were to be constructed at the state's expense on a loan 
of [blank in resolution] on the state's credit, and the debt 
was to be floated by sales from the lands of the Illinois and 
Michigan canal, that enterprise being compelled to forego its 
I ' r _ privileged position and take its chance with the other works. 
Three days later in the senate, Edwards proposed a joint 
inquiry by the internal improvement committee of the two 
houses as to the expediency of devising a system for the whole 
state, the interest on the loan to be paid from a part of the 
distribution fund. He left open the question of construction 
by chartered companies. Full reports were made, and in con- 

37 Sangamo Journal, February 13, August 27, November 26, 1836; Illinois 
State Register, December 8, 1836. 


sequence both houses passed resolutions begging shamelessly 
for federal land grants. 38 The house internal improvement 
committee reported on January 9. It began with the usual 
appeal to the brilliant prospects of New York and the even 
greater opportunity before Illinois. It fortified itself by the 
fact that in the internal improvement convention the people 
had been represented and had spoken their mind. It offered 
a plan more conservative than the conventions certainly in 
view of the huge sale of lands in the previous year and the 
oncoming flood of immigration none too radical. It cheerfully 
dispensed with inquiry into costs with the fact that the cost 
of constructing railways in Illinois was capable of exact esti- 
mate and that if the routes were surveyed first, the state could 
not hope to buy adjacent lands at the federal price. 

Descending to particulars, it recommended a loan of eight 
millions in the hands of a board of fund commissioners. To 
meet this debt the state might count on twelve million acres 
of taxable land by 1842. The railroads were to be begun at 
intersections with navigable streams and important towns and 
to be extended in both directions from them. It estimated 
the cost of railroads at $8,000 a mile or less and it recom- 
mended the expenditure of $100,000 each on the Great 
Wabash, and the Illinois and Rock, $50,000 on the Kaskaskia 
and Little Wabash, $100,000 on the Great Western Mail 
route, $3,500,000 on the Illinois Central, $1,600,000 on the 
Southern Cross railroad, and $1,850,000 on the Northern 
Cross. 39 As finally passed the act added $150,000 to the 
appropriation for the Western Mail route, and added to the 
act provisions for a railroad, Bloomington to Mackinaw 
involving an expenditure of $350,000; one from Belleville to 
intersect the Alton and Mt. Carmel at $150,000; one from 
Lower Alton via Hillsboro to the Illinois Central railroad at 
$600,000; one from Peoria to Warsaw to cost $700,000; and 
a branch of the Illinois Central railroad from the point where 

38 Senate Journal, 1836-1837, i session, 87, 89, 127; House Journal, 1836- 
1837, i session, 36. 

39 Ibid., 1836-1837, i session, 202. 


a line from Hillsboro to Shelbyville would intersect it to the 
Indiana state line. In addition, $200,000 was divided between 
the unfortunate counties which obtained no other appro- 

The procedure by which these amendments were added is 
difficult to trace. The bill was reported to the house along 
with the report; it was reported back on January 23. Several 
attempted amendments were defeated, the Sangamon members 
usually voting for additions. An attempt to condemn the whole 
system by resolution was lost by a vote of 9 to 70, most of the 
opposition being from Greene, the lower Military Tract, and 
Egypt. A second attempt to obtain a referendum on it at the 
next election was lost 20 to 59, the opposition again coming 
from the Military Tract and from Egypt. The amendments 
usually were supported by the members interested in the addi- 
tion, the members from Sangamon and Morgan and the 
irreconcilables who wished to kill the bill. The bill passed 
January 31, by a vote of 61 to 25. 40 

February 16 the senate committee reported the bill with 
amendments. In the senate two additions were voted down. 
The Bloomington and Mackinaw railroad was added. William 
O'Rear's proposal for a popular vote was lost 20 to 20. The 
amendment for $200,000 to the counties not otherwise favored 
was added here also and adopted 31 to 9. The third reading 
was carried, 25 to 15 and the passage by a similar vote. 41 
The representatives of White county in the house February 23 
spread on the journal of the house a protest against the meas- 
ure as designed to do nothing but raise the value of town lots 
in certain favored spots ; and as saddling the state with a debt 
the interest on which was ten times the ordinary revenue. It 
pointed out that the locations of the railroad lines were made 
not by any settled plan but rather as a result of logrolling. The 
protesters pointed out especially the disaster that might result 
from the method of financing by bank capital. 42 

40 House Journal, 1836-1837, i session, 363, 366, 443. 

41 Senate Journal, 1836-1837, i session, 445, 452, 466, 474, 475, 487. 

42 House Journal, 1836-1837, i session, 680. 


Two days later the council of revision returned the bill 
with objections. Judges Browne and Lockwood objected to 
certain mere technical provisions which could be easily altered. 
Smith in concurring especially declined any expression of 
opinion on the question of expediency which he left to the 
general assembly. Duncan took issue on the ground that such 
roads could be made in a free government only by citizens or 
corporations. He pointed out the danger of interference in 
elections of those in power over the system. The objections 
of Browne and Lockwood were at once obviated and the bill 
passed 53 to 20. On February 27 the senate adopted the 
house amendment and passed the bill 23 to I3. 43 The state 
had embarked on its mad speculation in haste; it was to have 
full seven years in which to repent at its leisure. 

48 Senate Journal, 1836-1837, i session, 529, 531. 

MENT SYSTEM, 1837-1842 

AS SOON as the internal improvement system had been 
adopted by the legislature, the board prepared to begin 
construction with all possible speed. It divided the state into 
three districts each with a principal engineer. As the law pre- 
scribed the policy of working on the enterprises simultaneously 
in proportionate amounts, construction was allotted among 
them. Accordingly 105 miles were put under contract on the 
Northern Cross, 69^ miles on the Illinois Central, 24 on the 
Peoria and Warsaw, 15 on the Alton and Shawneetown, 38 
on the Alton and Mt. Carmel, 33 on the Alton and Shelbyville, 
and 9^4 on the Bloomington and Pekin. The board estimated 
the mileage of the roads at 1,341 24 and their total cost at 
$11,470,444.50. It pointed out that this sum exceeded the 
original figure set because the roads were found to be longer 
than they had been estimated. By December of 1838 the 
commissioners of public works had drawn on the fund com- 
missioners for $1,142,027.00. 

There was needed no acute observer to predict from the 
manner of its inception the ill success of the internal improve- 
ment system. Not only were some of the commissioners guilty 
at least of neglect and mismanagement, if not of positive mal- 
versation, but the enterprises were from the first befogged 
in the atmosphere of logrolling and bargain, under which the 
system had been initiated by the legislature. This condition 
necessitated an equal attention to all the localities benefiting by 
the improvements and contributing their share to the bargain 
by which it was pushed into operation. Accordingly the pro- 
vision requiring simultaneous construction on all the roads 
prevented the concentrating of effort to complete any one and 



install it as a revenue producer. Out of a piece of newspaper 
pseudoscience Governor Kinney evolved a phrase to describe 
the situation. Writing to the citizens of Peoria who had asked 
that part of the projected railroad in their vicinity should 
be put under contract, he expressed the following opinion: 
"Respecting the 25th section of the Internal Improvement 
Law, to which you refer me, it is idle to say that there is any 
thing therein contained as a positive injunction upon the Com- 
missioners' that they should commence on each side of every 
navigable stream, and progress each way at the same time, 
and also at each principal town. You know that every town, 
in the eyes of them that inhabit it, is a principal one. Such a 
course of proceeding would cut upon the whole system of rail 
roads into so many parts, disjointed and disconnected one 
from the other for the time being, that it would appear in the 
attitude of a 'jointed snake,' which had been whipped into so 
many pieces that some of them would be decayed and rendered 
useless before they could crawl to each other's relief, and 
therefore bring the whole into disrepute at once." The jointed 
snake was a good analogy for the internal improvement 
system. 1 

The mania for internal improvement was not satisfied even 
by the system itself. Private enterprises flourished side by 
side with it. Thus at the time when the system was beginning 
its journey through the general assembly, there appeared in 
the Sangamo Journal the prospectus of the Beardstown and 
Sangamon canal. The thirty mile cut from Beardstown to 
Huron would at a cost of six thousand dollars a mile take the 
place of a river route of one hundred miles. A possible con- 
nection with the Wabash canal was set forth and the prospects 
of the vast quantities of produce from the Sangamon country 
and of deflected trade from the Ohio were held out to 
investors. The state was to be asked to subscribe one-third 
of the capital. Among the other projects was one for a 
railroad from Rock Island to Bloomington by way of Henne- 

1 Sangamo Journal, March 17, 1838. 


pin. Inside and outside the system men were living in a 
gilded age. 2 

In a very especial sense, as has been seen, the internal 
improvement system was the offspring of southern Illinois, 
which hoped to regain the ground that it had lost to the north- 
ern portion of the state during the preceding fifteen years. 
The men of Egypt hoped that the numerous railroads pro- 
jected might turn back the tide of emigration which had flowed 
either along the Great Lakes or through southern Indiana to 
the head waters of the Illinois river. The traveler in 1839 
commented on the backwardness of the region between Mt. 
Vernon and Equality, where the old settlers were still living in 
their rude cabins with very few improvements; but he added 
that the internal improvement system had drawn new attention 
to the south. Middle Illinois in view of the interest of the 
south in the internal improvement system was inclined to be 
somewhat sarcastic about it. In the assembly of 1837 there 
was an amusing passage at arms between Peter Green of Clay 
county and William Lane of Greene. Mr. Green advocated 
a bill authorizing a state bounty on wolf scalps, only to be 
told by Mr. Lane that his earnestness was due to the large 
proportion of wolves to human beings in his county, especially 
in comparison with Greene. Lane assured him, however, that 
when the various railroads projected in Clay had been con- 
structed the ringing of the engine bells would scare all the 
wolves into Greene county, where, no railroads having been 
projected, they might live in peace. 3 

The faith of southern Illinois was pinned especially to the 
Illinois Central railroad. Not only was it the center of the 
system, having as tributaries the various crossroads and 
branches, but it served to connect the outlet of the Illinois and 
Michigan canal with year-round river transportation on the 
Mississippi. What the central railroad was to the system 
in the mind of the south, Cairo was to the central railroad. 

2 Illinois State Register, September 15, 1837; Sangamo Journal, January 6, 
1837, January 28, 1838; Alton Telegraph, May 9, December 8, 1838. 

3 Sangamo Journal, February 25, 1837. 


Men foresaw the development of Cairo into a commercial 
metropolis central to all the union; for was it not possible that 
the great Charleston railroad might terminate, if not at Shaw- 
neetown, at least at Cairo, thus uniting the junction of the Ohio 
and Mississippi with the southern Atlantic seaboard? John 
Logan of Jackson county, in the Illinois legislature, painted an 
inspiring word picture of ocean going ships laden with the 
produce of the West Indies discharging their cargoes at the 
wharves of Cairo. Meanwhile, with just scorn he repelled 
the possibility that the rival village of Caledonia, a little further 
up the Ohio might hope to rival Cairo as the Venice of the 
New World. 4 

But while southern Illinois and other parts of the state 
especially interested were enthusiastic over the system, the 
program of improvements had met consistent opposition from 
the first. It had been a political issue in the campaign of 1 838, 
the democrats claiming that the whig nominees, Edwards espe- 
cially, were then, or had been, hostile to the system. The whigs 
it is true endeavored to disprove the assertion that Edwards 
had opposed improvements, but admitted that he preferred 
that they should be constructed by private enterprise rather 
than by the state. Thomas Carlin, the democratic nominee, 
declared in favor of the system, though he later believed its 
scope was out of all proportion to the resources available for 
its construction. 5 

Joseph Duncan, of course, was the most inveterate oppo- 
nent of the whole program ; and the tendency of the whigs, as a 
party, especially in view of the fact that their political oppon- 
ents upheld the system, was toward opposition. The Fandalia 
Free Press, for instance, declared that, while it was not opposed 
to a judicious employment of internal improvements, it con- 
sidered that the system as it had developed had been rashly 
and unwisely adopted and that with the cessation of federal 

4 Illinois Slate Register, December 22, 1837, December 13, 1838, March 8, 
15, 1839. 

'"Ibid., February 9, March 9, July 13, 1838; Alton Telegraph, March 7, 


deposits with the state, it was a difficult problem to obtain 
the money with which to carry it out. The Sangamo Journal 
pointed out the hindrance that a currency of gold and silver, 
limited in amount, would impose upon the financing of such a 
scheme. In the summer the Peoria Register began the publi- 
cation of a series of bitter attacks written by a certain E. 
Harkness. Harkness declared that all the enterprises could 
not yield a revenue equivalent to the yearly interest on the 
money expended. He maintained that in reality the state had 
little surplus produce to export, not enough indeed to supply 
the laborers on the works. Where, he asked, were the reasons 
for the railroads to Cairo? What was the use of a railroad 
beginning and ending on the Mississippi? Galena was the 
only town upon its route that was not a mere name. Harkness 
finally called upon the people to express immediately their 
disapprobation of the system and of the men who had 
framed it. 6 

Until the arguments of the opponents of the system were 
reenforced by actual failure of the state finances, they did not 
become effective. The clue to the legislation of the session of 
1839 is suggested in a New York letter published in the Peoria 
Register January 19, 1839, in which the correspondent stated 
that while London was flooded with state stocks, the preference 
was given to those of free states engaged in internal improve- 
ment. If Illinois would face the question of direct taxation, 
she might with profit send a commission to London to borrow. 
Of course, the prospect of taxation caused a recurrence of 
attacks on the system. Defending it against O. H. Browning, 
W. J. Gatewood of Gallatin warned him that, if its progress 
was checked, southern Illinois would retaliate on the canal 
which in earlier years it had sustained. He urged that the 
statesmanlike attitude toward the question was not a calculation 
of profits and losses in money but rather a consideration of the 
matter in the broader aspect of the development of the state. 

6 Illinois State Register, July 14, 1837; Alton Telegraph, March 14, Septem- 
ber 22, 1838; Sangamo Journal, October 21, 1837; Peoria Register, August 25, 
September 8, 22, 29, October 27, November 2, 1838. 


Abraham Lincoln suggested, in lieu of taxation, financing the 
proposed improvements by a speculation in the unsold land of 
the federal government. 7 

The net result of the legislative session was an enlargement 
of the system rather than its curtailment. In an amendatory 
law certain further expenditures for additional work were 
allowed. For the rest, a general taxation law was passed. It 
levied twenty cents on each one hundred dollars of property 
in the state. Needless to say this provoked opposition of the 
bitterest sort. At first, the State Register was disposed to de- 
fend the act. It pointed out that the law really was a poor 
man's tax law, as it compelled speculators to list land at its true 
value and carried no poll tax provision. It defended the 
obnoxious provision requiring the filing under oath of one's 
statement as being optional with the assessor to require or not 
and insisted that the law was not passed necessarily to support 
the internal improvement system, and hence could not be 
directly connected with it. The state, it was said, had never 
taxed itself hitherto and as a result had been led into uncertain 
financial devices such as plundering the school fund and the 
making of the Wiggins' loan. 8 

The text of the foregoing comment was the proceedings 
of a meeting in Bond county which attacked both the internal 
improvement system and the revenue law. The report of the 
meeting, rather able in its way, mercilessly cut to pieces the 
specious promises and calculations of profit on which the sys- 
tem had originally been founded. It stated that to pay interest 
on the cost of the railroads centering at Alton, sixteen thousand 
wagonloads of freight must pass in and out of the city in each 
month. The Register, coming to see light by April, had ceased 
to defend the revenue law and was inclined to leave it to the 
people for their acceptance or rejection. The meeting in Bond 
county was followed by one in Hillsboro, at which A. P. Field 
was present. It urged a special session of the general assembly 

7 Alton Telegraph, January 26, 1839; Illinois State Register, February 19, 
March 15, 1839. 

8 Ibid., March 29, 1839. 


for the purpose of repealing the system. The Register depre- 
cated the demand on the ground that the cry for a special ses- 
sion was a whig device to break up the system and incidentally 
to elect a whig to the United States senate. 9 

The opposition to the law spread fast. In Bond county it 
was proposed that the revenue law be defeated by the appoint- 
ment of assessors who would refuse to serve. In one county 
after another, resolutions attacking the system were passed, 
frequently calling for a special session to curtail or classify it. 
The revenue law, too, was often included in such denunciation. 
Furthermore the enterprise was often arraigned as a white ele- 
phant foisted on the state by bargain and corruption, sure to 
involve the state in hopeless debt. Only occasionally was a 
voice lifted in behalf of the system as it then stood. 10 

The whigs were generally in favor of calling a special 
session. So far as parties were aligned on the question, the 
democrats were at first opposed to it, alleging their fear that 
the whigs might take advantage of it to repeal the revenue law 
or to engineer a coup d'etat respecting the secretaryship of state 
-and the senatorship. The whigs denied that they had any 
such intention. In the spring their papers were flatly for a 
classification of the system, by which work would be continued 
only on a part of it. They pointed out that the democrats 
were inconsistent in favoring classification of the system and 
opposing a special session, for if a change were to be of any 
avail whatever it must come immediately. The democrats, 
however, were by no means completely in favor of an alteration 
of the system at this time. Thus on June 2 1 the State Register 
pronounced against classification reporting a scheme by which 
the people might yearly decide what sum they must spend upon 
improvements. It pointed out the difficulty of satisfying by a 
classification the jarring local interests and of deciding which 

9 Alton Telegraph, March 24, April 13, May 24, 1839; Illinois State Register, 
May 29, 1835, April 5, 19, 1839. 

10 Alton Telegraph, May ir, 18, 1839; Illinois State Register, June 14, 1839; 
Vandal'ia Whig, June 7, 1839; Peoria Register, June 15, July 6, 1839; Sangamo 
Journal, June 28, July 26, 1839. 


locality must suffer the abandonment of its pet enterprise. The 
same issue contained an illustration in point in the action of a 
meeting in Edgar county which would not consent to the classi- 
fication if its own route was omitted. 11 

During the summer the two parties shifted their position on 
the question of a special session. In July, Carlin had offered 
as excuse for not calling one the fear that it might, like the 
previous session, extend the system instead of curtailing it. 
In September, the whig newspapers professed that in the pres- 
ent situation they could see no need for a special session, though 
they still inclined to favor classification. By November 
democratic meetings were declaring against the internal im- 
provement system or urging its classification. When Carlin 
finally called a special session to meet on December 9 the State 
Register took to task the Chicago Democrat for opposing his 
action, adducing as reasons for the call the fact that the plans, 
even if they were not too extensive for 1837, were certainly 
too ambitious for 1839, and that the people generally desired 
a reduction of the system to a size proportionable to the state's 
hope of completing it. Possibly in this argument there was 
the desire ascribed to the Register by the Journal of embarrass- 
ing the " Long Nine " of Sangamon county by compelling them 
either to abandon their pledges or to oppose the will of their 
constituents. It was said at the beginning of the special session 
that Carlin was coming to the capital late so that his message 
might not be revised by the party leaders as it had been in 
1838, when a proposal for classification had been omitted at 
the behest of the locofoco leaders. The democratic leaders at 
the beginning of the session were reported to have disclaimed 
any responsibility for the call of the assembly, and they left 
Carlin to state the reasons for it and to bear the brunt of the 
consequences of having called it. 12 

11 Chicago American, May 29, September 5, October 2, 1839; Sangamo 
Journal, May 17, 24, June 14, July 19, 1839. 

12 Illinois State Register, November 9, 16, 1839; Sangamo Journal, Decem- 
ber 16, 1838, May 24, July 19, September 23, November 15, 1839; Alton Tele- 
graph, December 14, 1839. 


In his message to the general assembly Carlin pronounced 
in favor of a classification of the internal improvement system 
and of the adoption of a more economical method of carrying it 
into effect. He ascribed the system in the first place to the 
spirit of speculation, " the natural offspring of an inflated paper 
circulating medium," that had affected not only individuals but 
even such conservative bodies as the general assembly. In 
spite of the fact that it was well understood that the system was 
the result of mutual concession and compromise and that its 
advantages were to be dispensed as equally as possible through- 
out the state, it was necessary to classify immediately. The 
localities with favorite improvements, which should be elimi- 
nated by the scheme of classification, must bear their loss with 
patriotism for the common good. The message detailed the 
progress of the financial negotiations in London for funds to 
support the system, which will be considered later. The session 
finally provided for the cessation of work upon the system and 
in effect by so doing brought about its permanent abandonment. 
Thenceforth the state was confronted with the problem of 
paying for the extravagance into which it had entered and from 
which it withdrew too early to obtain any considerable advan- 
tages. 13 

The attempt to obtain in exchange for state bonds the 
funds with which to carry on the internal improvement enter- 
prise had begun in 1837, when Mather and Oakley, the fund 
commissioners, endeavored to negotiate a loan in New York. 
Finding no success there, they turned to the State Bank and to 
the Bank of Illinois. The State Bank agreed to take seventeen 
hundred and sixty-five bonds of one thousand dollars each and 
the Bank of Illinois nine hundred similar bonds. A second 
appeal to the New York market was more successful than the 
first. The commissioners sold a million dollars in state internal 
improvement stock to Nicholas Biddle, a similar amount to J. 
Irvine, and three or four blocks of one hundred thousand each 

18 Illinois State Register, January 4, 1840; Alton Telegraph, January 25, 
February 8, 1840; governor's message to legislature, January 8, 1845, in House 
Journal, 1839-1840, 2 session, 14. 


to other capitalists. May 7, 1839, the fund commissioners, 
M. M. Rawlings and Charles Oakley, sold to John Delafield 
$283,000 in state bonds, interest on the bonds beginning May 
7, 1839. Delafield, by the terms of the contract, was to pay 
for the bonds in five installments of fifty thousand dollars each 
on the first of December, February, March, April, and May, 
and one of thirty-three thousand dollars on June i. The con- 
tract certainly was not favorable to the state. The committee 
also made some sales of bonds in smaller amounts to eastern 
banks and one more considerable to the contractor for the 
Northern Cross railway. 

Having exhausted the possibilities of the New York money 
market the Illinois agents turned to London. On August 22, 
1839, Rawlings and Oakley made a contract with John Wright 
and Company of London. By this contract, which was rather 
elaborately drawn, the Illinois agents agreed to turn over to 
Wright for sale $1,500,000 in state bonds in return for two 
advances and gave him the option on the flotation of a further 
sum to the amount of $4,000,000. The borrowers on behalf 
of the Illinois and Michigan canal, who had been working 
independently, had now reached the same point in their pursuit 
of money. Although the commissioners had disposed of a con- 
siderable number of bonds to federal and state banks, to pri- 
vate banks and investors, the terms were not advantageous to 
the state ; and they too were obliged to seek money in London. 
On October 30, 1839, Reynolds and Young made an agreement 
with Wright and Company for the sale of a million dollars in 
canal bonds. 14 

No sooner had this series of loans been consummated than 
the whole financial house of cards began to fall. First the 
stages of the negotiations with the Wrights may be followed. 
There was a fatal difference of opinion as to the interpretation 
of the law prescribing that the Illinois bonds be sold at not less 
than par. The contract for a million in sterling bonds of the 
state had required Wright to advance but $250,000, and in 

14 Reports General Assembly, 1839-1840, house, 393. 


return for this he was to be the state selling agent, deducting 
his commission from the proceeds. Further, the bonds were 
drawn at the face value of 225 but were to yield only $1,000 
in the United States, although the exchange between London 
and Illinois might be as high as fourteen per cent In remitting 
for interest and for final payment, therefore, the state would 
remit far more than the par value of the amounts due trans- 
lated into American currency in Illinois. A senate committee 
declared the contract null and void, insisting that Wright was 
no better than a financial shark. The report was drawn in 
O. H. Browning's somewhat flowery style. "Well may we 
say of London," exclaimed he, " ' the shark is there, and the 
shark's prey, the spendthrift and the leech that sucks 
him.' " 15 Hacker retorted with a report from the committee 
of the senate on internal improvement, indulging in some 
rather cleverly put personal allusions derogatory to Brown- 
ing. 16 The majority and minority of the house committee dif- 
fered as to the legality of the sale of canal bonds, which Wright 
had been permitted to sell at 91 or over in London, retaining 
for himself any excess between 91 and 95 and above 95 divid- 
ing his profits with the state. A joint judiciary committee re- 
ported against the legality of the sale. 17 

Naturally such action by the Illinois general assembly did 
no good to the financial interests of the state in London. 
Whether Wright had intentionally misled the representatives 
of the state or whether he had merely been too sanguine in 
interpreting the contract and laws which they brought with 
them, it is not necessary to state. But the report of the Illinois 
committee compelled him for a time to cease his operations, 
even though the general assembly did not adopt the report 
recommending the disavowal of the contract. Carlin, under 
the circumstances, could not in February of 1840 see his way 
clear to continue the contract with Wright. The contractors 
on the canal, however, proposed to proceed with the work, if 

15 Senate Journal, 1839-1840, special session, 140. 

16 Reports General Assembly, 1839-1840, senate, 209. 

17 Ibid., 1839-1840, house, 123, 149, 393. 


they might receive canal bonds in payment which they could 
hypothecate with Wright, according to the terms of the con- 
tract which the legislature had not indorsed. Young, mean- 
while, did not cease to urge on Carlin that the state contract 
with Wright be carried out. Finally, on May i, Carlin 
yielded and confirmed the sale of the million canal bonds. 
Characteristically he protested to the last that it was not a sale 
at par within the meaning of the act. 18 But Carlin's hesitation 
and the attitude of the general assembly had done their work. 
It was too late to save Wright's position in London. Over- 
loaded with the state's bonds and possibly suffering from 
the malignity of other houses opposed to dealing with 
Americans and the American states, in November of 1840 
Wright became bankrupt. William F. Thornton, president 
of the board of commissioners, had previously on July 20 
agreed to sell at a rate of 83 to Magniac, Smiths and Com- 
pany 225,000 sterling in bonds belonging to the contractors, 19 
and for a time that firm attended to the financial interests of 
the state. 

In apportioning blame for the disaster to the Wrights it is 
impossible to avoid the conclusion that in a certain degree their 
misfortune was their own fault. The interpretation which they 
gave to the term " par " was certainly a forced one, and while 
in all probability in view of the way Illinois securities were 
marketed no better rates could have been obtained, they should 
have been more cautious; and even in spite of any representa- 
tion made to them, they should have recognized the fact that 
they should have trusted their own judgment as to the terms 
of the loan rather than the judgment of such men as Young and 
Reynolds. At the same time the vacillation of Carlin and the 
general assembly at the critical moment undoubtedly con- 
tributed to rendering the financial position of the Wrights 

It was in the United States that the effect of the fund com- 

18 Reports General Assembly, 1840-1841, senate, 360, 362, 363, 364, 373, 374. 

19 Ibid., 1840-1841, senate, 30 ff., 393. 


missioners' policy was most apparent. The Atlantic Bank 
which had bought the public improvement bonds broke before 
the Illinois bonds had passed out of its hands, and these were 
ordered returned to the state's order. John Tillson and the 
other two fund commissioners worked at cross-purposes, and 
Tillson was accused of malfeasance. It is not easy to deter- 
mine whether or not he was guilty, but certainly he was 
hoodwinked in at least one negotiation with the result that the 
security for fifty bonds sold became worthless. He had also 
private dealings with Delafield which may have affected his 
course as a public officer. The state's contract with Delafield 
soon led to a lawsuit devised to prevent him from disposing to 
innocent third parties of the state bonds of which he had gained 
possession. Governor Carlin had protested and rightly against 
the terms of Reynolds' contract with the United States Bank 
by which the state was compelled to pay principal and interest 
in London, thereby giving the bank at home a premium based 
on exchange. Furthermore, the use of various agencies for 
marketing the state bonds made it impossible for any financial 
house to deal in them successfully or to hold them for a favor- 
able turn of the market. Again and again large customers 
of the state, like the Wrights, had to complain that parcels 
of bonds that had come on the market for small pur- 
chasers were being passed about at rates which spoiled the 
sale of larger holdings. In 1839 the canal commissioners 
began the issuance of checks to pay contractors on the 
canal; and by fall this method of financing was completely 
out of control. 20 

The problem of providing for interest on the state loan 
was becoming increasingly difficult. An act of the session of 
18391840 provided for the payment of interest on canal 
bonds out of sales of canal lands. 21 The interest on state bonds 
held in London due in July, 1840, was paid out of 20,000 
received from John Wright; and for the payment of interest 

20 Reports General Assembly, 1839-1840, senate, 370; house, 55; ibid., 1840- 
1841, senate, 68. 

21 Laws of 1840, p. 80. 


in the United States, Thornton borrowed $5,000 at home. 
Far more difficult was the problem of providing interest in 
January, 1841. In December the legislature passed an act 
allowing the hypothecation of bonds. But even with this 
proviso it was only by desperate effort that R. F. Barrett, the 
fund commissioner, succeeded in obtaining the money necessary 
for the interest. At the beginning of the session the assembly 
adopted a law levying a tax of ten cents on the hundred dollars 
for the interest on the loan and allowing the hypothecation of 
bonds to anticipate it, in spite of the protests of certain demo- 
crats at allowing banks to dictate the policy of the state in this 
particular. The interest far July, 1841, was obtained by John 
D. Whiteside as fund commissioner in return for the hypothe- 
cation with Charles Macalister and Henry Stebbins of 804 
bonds, a proceeding which saddled the state for years to come 
with a dispute involving the question of the disposal of bonds 
to innocent third parties. 22 

Upon the abandonment of the internal improvement system 
the vital question was how the state might pay what it had al- 
ready borrowed to construct that system rather than how the 
state might obtain funds to complete it. Interest in the ques- 
tion of internal improvement shifted to the attempt of persons 
interested in the Illinois and Michigan canal to engage the state 
to find the funds necessary to proceed with that work. In 
Cook county the canal question was an extremely important 
one in local politics. Thus in the summer of 1840, partly as a 
result of a disagreement in the democratic convention, it was 
urged, especially by the Chicago American, that the democratic 
ticket was anti-canal; and a canal ticket was nominated. The 
whigs nominated no candidates against them and apparently 
the ticket drew a good share of the whig support, the canal 
laborers alone being held responsible for the defeat of the canal 
ticket. John Pearson was elected senator over James Turney; 
Ebenezer Peck, Albert G. Leary, and Richard Murphy repre- 

22 Reports General Assembly, 1840-1841, senate, 327; ibid., 1842-1843, senate, 
75; Laws of 1841, p. 167; Illinois State Register, December 18, 23, 1840. 


sentatives over W. B. Ogden, John M. Wilson, and G. A. O. 
Beaumont. 23 

The canal ticket, though defeated, had its revenge, for the 
canal delegation, as it was called, had no success in its attempt 
to push the interests of the canal in the legislature. The whig 
papers stated that the partisanship of the canal members alien- 
ated the friends of the canal in the general assembly and 
frustrated their attempts to secure a measure for its continu- 
ation. Pearson especially was accused of committing the 
unpardonable sin of interfering with the local measures of his 
fellow senators, and the fact that the Cook county delegation, 
worked for the election of a partisan canal commissioner dis- 
gusted the whigs, who would otherwise have been disposed to 
favor the canal. Whatever may have been the cause, the legis- 
lature finally adjourned without making any provision for the 
continuance of the work. 24 According to the Alton Telegraph, 
the canal members discovered that their party would not sup- 
port them in behalf of the canal, and their partisanship drove 
away whig support in the senate. The vote on the question 
bears out this statement fairly well. 25 

Certainly, whether or not the canal delegation could have 
guided their enterprise more skillfully, there was great wrath 
in the north among both whigs and democrats. As the San- 
gamo Journal put it in commenting on the result of the session 
of 18401841, the delegation had upset the judiciary, turned 
out Thornton, the canal commissioner, elected Peck to an office, 
and as a result had stopped work on the canal by antagonizing 
its friends. The State Register had to take the Chicago Demo- 
crat to task for its attacks upon the legislature. The political 

23 Belleville Advocate, August 23, 1840; Chicago American, June 26, July 
27, 30, August 5, 1840. 

24 Alton Telegraph, February 13, 1841; Chicago American, January 14, 
February 15, March 18, 1841; the contractors had proposed forming a corpora- 
tion to contract with the canal commissioners for the completion of the canal. 
According to the American it appealed to the canal members to give this project 
a chance at success by refusing to caucus for the appointment of canal commis- 
sioners, warning them if they did so they would prejudice the whigs against the 

25 Alton Telegraph, April 10, 1841. 


careers of all members of the delegation except those already 
ensconced in office were at an end, an effect which possibly 
" Long John " Wentworth, whose views may be found in the 
Chicago Democrat, did not deplore. Certainly neither Leary, 
Murphy, Pearson, nor Peck ever again interfered with his 
political ambitions in the north. 26 

The canal region did its best to undo the fatal work of its 
delegation. Meetings were held in the north demanding a 
special session to devise a means for the continuance of work 
on the canal. The newspapers issued similar appeals and de- 
mands for the resignation of the canal members in the hope 
that more efficient ones might figure in the special session. 
Carlin, though he did not call a special session, was induced to 
make promises of issuance of state bonds for the continuation 
of work on the canal. The Sangamo Journal protested that 
the issue of bonds was impossible, declaring that the only relief 
would be by reverting to the method of a chartered company. 
Being on the line of the canal the Chicago American was of 
course in favor of Carlin's plan, but generally throughout the 
state the whigs opposed the hypothecation of bonds for the 
benefit of the canal or for any other purpose whatever. The 
reason is to be found perhaps in clippings from the New York 
Herald to the effect that the hypothecation of bonds to Macal- 
ister and Stebbins had ruined the credit of the state. The 
Sangamo Journal was inclined to think that, while the state 
would not repudiate and would ultimately pay all, the bond- 
holders must be resigned to wait for a few years without 
interest until the restoration of prosperity under a whig admin- 
istration in the nation would make it possible for Illinois to 
pay off her seventeen millions of debt. 27 

Eventually the hard times, the overwhelming debt, the 
difficulty of meeting even such taxes as were laid, produced 
throughout the state a cry for repudiation. In the general 
assembly of 1841 one member, describing conditions in his 

28 Sangamo Journal, March 26, 1841; Illinois State Register, March 19, 1841. 
27 Sangamo Journal, September 10, October 22, November 19, December 3, 
17, 1841; Alton Telegraph, November 13, December n, 1841. 


neighborhood, declared that magistrates and constables were 
the only business men. In Bond county, a meeting to protest 
against additional taxation laid down the doctrine that the 
state was not morally bound to pay its debts. In Montgomery 
a nonpartisan meeting called for frugality in government, de- 
nounced the baleful results of government debts, and advanced 
the doctrine that there must be no taxation to pay principal or 
interest on debt except in so far as the people had received 
some return for it. In Scott county it was said that the bonds 
were bills of credit and as such unconstitutional and not binding 
upon the state. 

Both whig and democratic papers denounced the doctrine 
of repudiation as stated by such extremists, but there was some 
sparring between the two parties in attempting each to force 
the other to a definite stand. First the Sangamo Journal de- 
clared that a proposed anti-repudiation article in the democratic 
state platform of 1841 had been tabled. On the other hand 
the Register declared that the Journal had come out for repudi- 
ation or for taxation sufficient to pay the debt; and the Register 
pronounced the people too honest for the one and too poor for 
the other. On December 16, the Alton Telegraph declared 
the Battle Axe to be the only paper in the state in favor of 
repudiation; but by November 13, it had declared that the 
payment of interest should stop unless the bondholders would 
take still more bonds at par. It pointed out truly enough the 
fact that Illinois bonds had been hypothecated at thirty-three 
cents on the dollar, while Indiana bonds on which the interest 
even was not paid were sold at a higher rate. It believed that 
the legislature, refusing longer to issue state bonds unless 
creditors would take them at par, should levy as heavy a tax as 
possible for their ultimate payment. 28 

The payment of the July, 1841, interest was the last 
attempt to keep the state's finances solvent. From that time 
the state defaulted on her interest, and her bonds fell far below 

28 Illinois State Register, October 29, November 5, 1841; Sangamo Journal, 
December 24, 1841. 


par. The financial situation sank into deeper and deeper con- 
fusion. No proper accounts were kept, and the progress of 
the various fund commissioners in settling with the state's 
debtors, such as Delafield and the New York banks, multiplied 
the intricacy of the situation. The party jealousies which had 
hampered and biased the work of the state's financial officers 
from the beginning continued in political squabbles, such as 
that one on the canal route between the friends of Thornton 
and of Isaac N. Morris. The taxation law of 1841 was used 
by surrounding states as an argument by which to attract emi- 
grants from Illinois to their own borders. The oft repeated 
statement that Illinois was a ruined state was heard on every 
hand. The railroad lines which had been intended to make 
her the commercial center of the union were abandoned, finding 
employment only where thrifty farmers used their rights of 
way to grow beans. 29 

In the maze of proposals, or appeals for relief, that came 
from all sides, not much can be seen in 1842 but the claims of 
personal, factional, sectional, or party interest. In 1842 there 
was a recrudescence of repudiation sentiment which was, how- 
ever, generally frowned upon. County meetings here and there 
demanded strict economy in the legislature in the way of sala- 
ries and the elimination of such time-wasting devices as 
committees of the whole and allowing members to speak more 
than one hour on a question. From the line of the canal ema- 
nated various proposals for continuing that work, which still 
went on. Sometimes these implied obtaining a larger federal 
land grant, the sale of canal lots and lands, or the use of the 
distribution fund. The people of southern Illinois rather be- 
lieved that the distribution fund should go to rehabilitate the 
school fund. Various schemes for the system as a whole were 
proposed. The Chicago American of May 1 1, 1 842, published 
a plan calling for drastic economy, a revision of local govern- 
ment in the interest of economical administration, and taxation 

29 Alton Telegraph, August 27, 1842; Illinois State Register, February 4, 
August 26, 1842; Chicago American, June 14, July 27, 1842. 


to pay the interest on the bonds; for the property itself the 
newspaper went back to the old idea of 1836 of construction 
by chartered companies, to whose stock the state should sub- 
scribe. The State Register on behalf of Gatewood contended 
with the Telegraph for the honor of the authorship of a scheme, 
the crux of which was to dispose of the state lands at the gen- 
erous estimate of $20 an acre. The Telegraph and the 
Register were unable also to agree as to the amount of the debt, 
the Register insisting that for practical purposes the bonds 
sold by the bank, the appropriated school fund, the federal 
deposit, and all bonds irregularly issued should be deducted to 
the amount of six million. Another proposal was that the state 
sell its property for bonds and scrip; the distribution fund 
according to this proposal was to go to the school fund. The 
Sangamo Journal published a letter which offered the solution 
of a tax of thirty cents on the hundred to be directed to payment 
of the state debt, using the proceeds of state lands and the dis- 
tribution fund for expenses of government. This letter further 
suggested dividing the debt pro rata to real and personal 
property throughout the state and exempting from its shares 
of the debt each tract which paid the share thus alloted to it. 30 
The very extravagance of these schemes is eloquent of the 
hopelessness of the situation, as it appeared to men of the time. 
As the political situation stood at the outset of the guberna- 
torial campaign of 1842, it was to Joseph Duncan that the 
question naturally presented itself for decision. He had op- 
posed the system in the beginning, and now running for office 
as an elder statesman it was for him to find the state a solution. 
But Duncan's mind could supply him with nothing but nega- 
tives. He would not issue more bonds or hypothecate them, 
and he would seek additional land grants for the canal, but 
beyond that apparently he could not go. He proposed to sell 
off all state properties and bank stock, taking state indebtedness 
in return. Like most whigs, he apparently thought the only 

30 Sangamo Journal, March 25, April i, 1842; Alton Telegraph, January 8, 
29, August 13, 1842; Chicago American, December i, 1841; Illinois State Regis- 
ter, February 25, March 25, May 27, 1842. 


possible solution was the return of his party to power and an 
enlargement under their direction of the field of the federal 
government. He relied on federal measures, banks, tariffs, 
distribution, and the resulting prosperity. To face the prob- 
lem as one for the state to solve by application to it of her own 
abilities and of her own slender resources was a step beyond 
Duncan. The answer of Illinois had to be made in other terms 
than advocacy of federal legislation, and it was to be made 
through a man of very different type from Duncan. 31 

* l Sangamo Journal, March 4, July 22, 1842; Alton Telegraph, July 2, 1842. 



OUT of the presidential contest in Illinois in 1835-1836, 
emerged the forms of the whig and democratic parties; 
out of the struggle over the subtreasury and the specie circular 
in 18371839 came a close alignment of the parties on party 
measures. Between 1835 and 1839 the doctrine of the neces- 
sity of party regularity was forced on the democratic party, 
and that party became a closely organized body with accepted 
principles. No longer could a man be saved politically by the 
name of Jackson unless he did the works of Jackson. 

Nationally Van Buren was the candidate of the followers 
of Jackson who were beginning to term themselves democrats. 
The old Clay-Adams men mustered around candidates with a 
local appeal such as Webster or William Henry Harrison, 
hoping thus to beat the Van Buren forces in detail and throw 
the election into the house of representatives. The followers 
of Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee occupied a somewhat 
different position. Practically, they were allies of the opposi- 
tion to Van Buren. They professed, however, that they were 
really Jackson men, loyal to their past professions of faith, but 
unable to swallow the personality and methods of Van Buren; 
and they were inclined to repel indignantly the charges of their 
opponents that they were deserters to the Clay-Adams party 
of 1828 and 1832. 

The contest for the presidency in Illinois seemed at the 
outset of the campaign to be between Van Buren and White, 
and the supporters of each sought for all the aid they might 
derive from the great name of Jackson. There could be no 
doubt of Jackson's support of Van Buren; and accordingly the 
followers of White in their claims were compelled to argue 



that they were the true original Jackson men and that they held 
fast to the principles that Jackson had held and abandoned. 
Behind this willingness of even his opponents to trade on the 
traditions of Jacksonism there was, of course, an intention to 
play over the game that had elected Duncan governor in 1834 
and to consolidate the anti- Jackson vote on an ostensibly Jack- 
son candidate. This purpose the Sangamo Journal unwittingly 
revealed by its remark that Van Buren would run no stronger 
in Illinois than Kinney, for his party was Kinney's. 

The Van Buren men naturally argued that White was a 
renegade from Jackson and his principles and a nullifier, 
seduced by Clay to follow out the scheme of splitting the nation 
between various candidates only to elect a whig in the house or 
senate. Accordingly they insisted on the need of conventions 
to insure party unity and on the necessity of party regularity. 
The Van Buren men, notably the congressmen, sought to bring 
this about, as the whigs claimed, by using national patronage 
to build up an Albany regency in Illinois. The Sangamo Jour- 
nal pronounced that this was the intent of every appointment 
made during the past six months. It repeatedly accused the 
Springfield clique, May, Forquer, Calhoun, and Cartwright, 
some of them late converts to Jacksonism, of seeking to read 
out of the party on account of their loyalty to White such old 
time Jackson men as Bowling Green and A. G. Herndon. This 
in a nutshell was the White argument. 

The number of Jackson leaders who supported White may 
be roughly estimated by a consideration of certain votes in the 
Illinois assembly on political resolutions in 18351836. On 
December 19, 1835, by a vote of thirteen to twelve the senate 
passed resolutions attacking Van Buren as an old federalist 
and a former opposer of Jackson, and nominating White with 
a disclaimer of the intervention of caucus or convention. On 
January 15, eleven members spread on the journal a protest 
against the truth of the resolutions and the expediency of 
bringing them forward. 1 The fact that on December 12 a 

1 Senate Journal, 1835-1836, 2 session, 76, 256. 


resolution instructing the state's senators to vote to expunge 
the censure of Jackson passed by a vote of fifteen to ten affords 
an opportunity to gauge the amount of Jackson strength for 
White. Benjamin Bond, Levin Lane, and James A. White- 
side voted both for expunging and for the White resolution; 
and they may be set down as the measure of the Jackson- White 
strength. 2 Applying a similar test of the house, only three men 
who voted for expunging voted for a resolution deprecating 
conventions. Only four, Peter Butler, Thomas Hunt, Thomas 
Trower, and Milton Carpenter voted for expunging and 
against a preamble attacking White's supporters as nullifiers 
and federalists. Whatever may have been the alignment of 
the rank and file the leaders were certainly not seriously 

The opposition had to learn that it was not always possible 
in a national election to play the same game that had elected 
Duncan in 1834 running a candidate who could be posed as 
a Jackson man and at the same time receive a solid whig vote. 
Their electoral ticket was assailed by the enemy on the ground 
that it was hand-picked and that too in Sangamon county. 3 As 
a partial concession to the complaints of friends in the north 
that the Military Tract was unrepresented, Bowling Green, a 
Jackson man of 1832, resigned; and to succeed him Colonel A. 
G. S. Wight was named. By whom was he nominated, the 
democrats asked at once. 4 The remainder of the ticket was 
composed of James A. Whiteside, Benjamin Bond, and Levin 
Lane, the three men who had voted for both the expunging 
and the White resolutions; the fifth man, John Henry, had 
stood firmly against both expunging and against the convention 
system. 5 

2 Senate Journal, 1835-1836, 2 session, 30, 78; House Journal, 1835-1836, 2 
session, 63, 211, 233, 235. 

8 Chicago Democrat, January 20, February 17, 24, 1836. The Galena 
Gazette and the Jacksonville Nevis condemned the ticket as hand-picked in 

4 Sangamo Journal, March 26, April 16, 1836; Chicago Democrat, May 
4, 1836. 

8 He repeatedly introduced anti-convention resolutions. House Journal, 
1835-1836, 2 session, 27, 63, 234. 


But even if Jackson men could support White, who had 
apostasized only on the bank question and by his attempt to 
rescind rather than to expunge, it was not to be expected that 
they could with equal facility support Harrison who had 
scarcely a tinge of Jacksonism. The democrats can hardly be 
blamed for regarding the question as to whether the White 
electors should vote for Harrison if Van Buren could so be 
defeated as one which would strip the White electors who con- 
sented to do this of even the pretense to Jacksonism. Bond, 
however, pledged himself to vote for Harrison in such a con- 
tingency, and the Sangamo Journal professed to be satisfied 
that the others would do the same. 6 

The Harrison movement appeared to gain ground as the 
campaign went on. There had always been an undercurrent of 
sentiment in Illinois in his favor. The Mt. Carmel Sentinel 
had favored him at first, though it had forsaken him for White 
without insisting on a convention. The Chicago American in 
1835 had leaned toward him. In the fall of 1836, the 
American and the Sentinel were supporting him and the Tele- 
graph was friendly to his candidacy. The democrats had 
perhaps foreseen this, as ever since February their newspapers 
had been firing occasional shots aimed in Harrison's direction. 
The first Harrison meeting in the state, according to the Regis- 
ter, was held in Madison county on August 13, 1836. 
Harrison was set forward as the friend of the west, the friend 
of the small farmer, the first to propose the sale of public lands 
in small tracts. As a western candidate he aroused enthusiasm 
such as could not be called forth by White who was accused of 
being the candidate of the nullifiers and the cloak for Calhoun's 
desire to organize the south on a sectional basis. Their alleged 
purposes seemed the logical fulfillment not merely of the 
Sangamo Journal's sneers at Carpenter, a legislative candidate, 
as an advocate of Negro suffrage, but also of the attacks on 
Van Buren for support of a similar measure in the New York 

6 Chicago American, September 17, 1836; Sangamo Journal, October 8, 
15, 1836. 


convention and on Richard M. Johnson, the vice presidential 
candidate, as an " amalgamator." White whiggism in Illinois 
wore a distinctly southern and proslavery cast. At this stage 
indeed the Journal distinctly criticized John Quincy Adams. 
It is therefore not surprising to find Lincoln and Dan Stone, 
the two signers of the memorable antislavery protest of 1837, 
participants in a meeting to celebrate the anniversary of the 
battle of the Thames. 7 

The democratic attacks on Harrison followed the same 
line as in 1840 criticism of his military career and services 
especially as compared with those of Johnson, the slayer of 
Tecumseh, of his civil and military incompetence, of his fed- 
eralism, of his vote to sell men out to service in satisfaction of 
fines. The story that the women of Chillicothe, in derogation 
of his military qualities, presented him with a petticoat was 
dragged out, not for the last time. 8 

The democrats in Illinois found Van Buren a rather heavy 
load to carry. It is significant that they rarely attempted an 
appeal to the personality or measures of the man himself. 
Instead they preached assiduously the necessity of union against 
the measures to divide the party and by that division secure the 
triumph of the "monster" and of its tool, the usurping senate. 
Especially before the Baltimore convention, which the opposi- 
tion declared a political trick to foist Van Buren on the country, 
they emphasized the necessity for unity in the party and for 
the support of measures rather than of men. 9 " Resolved," 
ran one set of resolutions, "That the cry of 'no party' 'pro- 
scription' 'Office holders' 'Kitchen Cabinet' and 'Magician' 
are terms ' invented by knaves, and made current among 
fools.'" 10 

''Chicago American, October 24, 1835, September 10, November 5, 1836; 
Sangamo Journal, April 16, May 28, July 9, October 8, 22, 29, 1836; Alton Tele- 
graph, April 6, 1836; Chicago Democrat, February 24, April 20, July 27, 1836; 
Illinois State Register, June 3, September 2, 1836; Illinois Advocate, May 27, 
June 3, 1835. 

8 Chicago Democrat, July 27, October 26, 1836. 

9 Illinois Advocate, May 6, June 3, 1835. 

10 Meeting at Danville, May 16, in Illinois Advocate, June 10, 1835. 


In general the democrats were glad to fall back on Jackson 
and use his mantle to cover the man professing to be his suc- 
cessor. The story told by a whig editor that a man of some 
intelligence from central Illinois had been convinced by demo- 
cratic asseverations that Jackson had reared Van Buren from 
a youth in Tennessee to succeed him is doubtless exaggerated, 
but there is an element of truth in the situation it suggests. At 
best the democrats were able to do no more to make their 
candidate lifelike than to paint his countenance into the portrait 
of the conventional statesman of the day. 

The whigs, however, in the twelve years between 1832 and 
1844 when they had Van Buren for an opponent, sketched, 
deepened, retouched, and fixed a portrait that was as vivid as 
it was unflattering. Under their brush "little Matty" stood 
forth, outwardly a foppish, simpering, snobbish dandy, the 
antithesis of everything virile, the opponent of every measure 
desired by the west, and withal a tricky, shrewd political 
intriguer who had gained the ear of the great Jackson in his 
decay and had won his support to measures alien to the prin- 
ciples of the days of his strength, and all to satisfy 
Machiavellian ambitions that in the ordinary course of events 
would have been chimerical and preposterous. 11 

In this portrait there was most obvious justification so far 
as Van Buren's attitude toward the west was concerned. He 
had voted against western internal improvements, against the 
Cumberland road, the Illinois and Michigan canal grant, and 
the reduction of the price of the public lands. Here the con- 
trast of his record with Harrison's was marked. 12 Against 
Van Buren there were brought other charges. There were 
stories that he was in friendly communication with the pope, 
that he was lending the public money to speculators, that he 
had opposed the War of 1812, had opposed white manhood 
suffrage, and advocated Negro suffrage in the New York 

11 Sangamo Journal, January 12, 1832, said that Jackson was formerly for 
internal improvements and tariff, and Van Buren had won him from them. 

12 Chicago American, November 5, 1836; Sangamo Journal, October 15, 1836. 


convention. He was twitted with his Crawford connections 
and his attacks on Jackson in i824. 13 

The whigs attempted to make Van Buren's personality the 
issue and they were rather inclined to avoid any other. Of 
course, they ventured occasional attacks on the bank policy of 
the administration; the Alton Telegraph believed that the 
specie circular would turn the hearts of Illinois away from 
Jackson. But usually they declined meeting the democrats on 
the issues of Jackson's administration. The senate whig reso- 
lutions of 1836 deal with a theory of the federalist origin of 
the democratic party rather than with real political issues. 14 

One exception there is. The whigs stood firmly as the 
opponents of the convention, the caucus, and party regularity. 
It was on these issues that John Henry forced the fighting on 
the house resolutions. At this point a plausible attack was 
made on the convention system as Van Buren's own system of 
fraud, trickery, and deceit by which the despicable Amos Ken- 
dall had brought about his nomination. The whigs insisted 
that from the Baltimore convention down to the lowest county 
caucus such bodies were packed with officeholders for a selfish 
and corrupt purpose. 15 In spite of all the efforts of the sup- 
porters of White and the whigs, Van Buren in 1836 was 
successful in both state and nation. 

The final flux in the casting of the democratic party was 
the currency and banking question which was at its crisis in the 
years 18371840. Under the older system, the regulation 
of the note issue of state banks, the regulation of exchange, the 
care of all government funds were intrusted to the United 
States Bank. That bank Jackson had instinctively distrusted 
as the self-appointed regulator of the currency of the country, 

18 Chicago American, July 23, 30, November 5, 1836; Sangamo Journal, 
June 4, July 16, 30, 1836. 

14 Senate Journal, 1835-1836, 2 session, 76. Alton Telegraph, November 16, 
1836; Illinois Advocate, May 6, 1835, gives address of democratic convention 
rehearsing and indorsing Jackson's measures, and proving Van Buren a sup- 
porter of them. 

18 Chicago American, June 20, 1835; Sangamo Journal, June 13, September 
19, 1835, February 20, 1836. 


a private institution powerful enough to dictate to the govern- 
ment. In the name of the people he had made war on the 
"monster," had refused it a recharter, and had removed the 
government deposits from its keeping. In spite of the protest 
of the financial interests of the country, exemplified in the 
censure spread on the journal of the senate in 1834 and 
expunged in 1836 at the behest of Jackson and Benton, Jackson 
had continued on his course and, abandoning the use of a 
national fiscal agent, had deposited the funds of the govern- 
ment in selected state banks throughout the union. Despite 
the attacks of the opposition on the pet banks, as unsafe deposi- 
tories chosen by favor, Jackson pressed on in his course, the 
democrats loyally following after him. They accused the 
United States Bank of using its power to oppress the state 
banks and by first expanding and then sharply contracting its 
credits of making financial stringencies in which a public 
clamoring for relief might be led to demand its recharter. In 
1835 the democratic convention declared that two years experi- 
ence with state banks showed them to be as useful to the 
government as the United States Bank had been. 16 

The situation, however, when viewed otherwise than 
through political spectacles was far from encouraging. By 
legislation in 1834 against small bank notes, repeated by 
proclamation in 1835, the general government sought to force 
specie into circulation as the customary medium of small trans- 
actions. Moreover, by 1836, the issues of state bank notes, no 
longer controlled by the United States Bank and encouraged 
by the deposits of government funds, were reaching startling 
figures more startling still was their apparent tendency not 
to find a place in the commercial business of the country, but 
instead to be used for purchases of the public lands. Credit 
by means of bank notes had been expanded far beyond the 
needs of the legitimate transactions of business, simply because 
these fruits of overexpansion could be used to procure public 
lands. To save the public lands of the nation from passing 

18 Illinois Advocate, May 6, 1835; Chicago American, April 23, 1836. 


into the hands of speculators Jackson issued the much criticized 
specie circular, forbidding the reception of anything but specie 
and notes of specie paying banks, immediately in the case of 
large purchases and in the near future in the case of small ones. 
Jackson's last official act in 1837 was to pocket an act repealing 
the circular, which the whig papers duly catalogued as one 
final example of the president's willingness to subordinate 
to his whim the welfare of the country. As the panic of 
1837 gathered force they characterized the circular as the 
gambler's throw on which the outgoing administration 
depended for resources to keep it until Van Buren could 
take office. 17 

The panic of 1837 dashed to fragments the system of state 
banks which had replaced the United States Bank and which 
Jackson had sought to control by the specie circular. The 
roots of that panic perhaps lay partly in the accordance by 
English banks and exporters of excessive credits to our mer- 
chants; partly no doubt, in the era of unrestricted banking that 
followed the war on the United States Bank. The democrats 
insisted on the first reason, and asked if Jackson was respon- 
sible for the panic in Europe as well as for that in the United 
States. But the whigs laid the whole at the door of Jackson's 
financial policy. In his message addressed to the special session 
of the legislature of 1837 Duncan denounced the whole panic 
as due to the destruction of the United States Bank, the creation 
of state banks, and the attempt of the executive to bolster up 
his mistake by a cry for an exclusively specie currency. Duncan 
only gave official expression to what had filled the whig papers 
for months; the whigs gleefully professed their belief that 
Van Buren's party was ruined never to rise again. 18 

The Illinois State Register loyally stood to its guns, but 
as the whigs sarcastically pointed out it was for some time at a 
loss as to what it should profess as the true democratic creed. 
In June it came forth with a declaration that the true remedy 

"Alton Telegraph, March 22, April 26, 1837. 

18 Senate Journal, 1837, special session, 7; Illinois State Register, July 15, 
1837; Sanaamo Journal, June 3, 1837. 


was a control by the government of its funds through its own 
officers and a divorce from all banks, and to this issue it clung 
and tried to hold the whigs. The Sangamo Journal on the con- 
trary amused itself by listing the democratic papers that 
disclaimed any intention of establishing an exclusively metallic 
currency and rather sought to force that issue. It argued that 
the establishment of the Madisonian at Washington under 
William Allen's editorship implied Van Buren's desire for sup- 
port in abandoning the kitchen cabinet, the locofocos, and the 
Jackson financial policy. 19 

If the democratic doctrine was fixed, its acceptance by con- 
gress was less certain. The Journal rejoiced and the Register 
raged over the election of Allen as public printer in preference 
to Francis P. Blair of the Globe. When it became apparent 
even to the Register that Casey, May, and Snyder, the Illinois 
representatives, had all voted for Allen, it could no longer 
apologize for their vote to table the subtreasury bill on the 
ground that they were waiting to know the will of their con- 
stituents. As early as October 6, it had had its doubts of May 
and Snyder; and now it denounced all three on the ground that 
their delay to seek the will of their constituents was all a fraud ; 
and it branded them as members of the little knot of twelve 
Jackson men who had betrayed the cause of democracy at the 
very moment when the issue was self-government or govern- 
ment by banks. 20 

Judging by the attitude of its representatives in congress 
Illinois democracy was divided on the financial measures. 
Richard M. Young and John M. Robinson, the senators, who 
had both been of suspected orthodoxy in the past, were staunch 

10 Illinois State Register, May 20, June 2, 10, August 25, September i, 1837; 
it claimed in the last named issue that the Jacksonville Patriot, Sangamo Journal, 
and Alton Telegraph were opposing the divorce. Sangamo Journal, July 29, 
August 19, 1837; the latter issue enumerated the Globe, Alton Spectator, Quincy 
Argus, Jacksonville News, Danville Enquirer, and Chicago Democrat. 

20 Illinois State Register, September 22, October 27, November 4, 10, 17, 
1837; Sangamo Journal, September 25, October 7, 1837; Congressional Globe, 
25 congress, i session, 73, 96, 103, 117. For the resolution that it was inexpe- 
dient to charter a United States Bank, May voted in the negative; Robinson and 
Young both voted for the subtreasury. 


supporters of the administration's policy; Zadoc Casey and 
Adam W. Snyder though supposedly orthodox were undecided; 
and William L. May, hitherto the democratic, even the Van 
Buren leader in the state, was openly opposed to the whole 
fiscal program. The newspapers of Illinois, however, were 
generally locofoco, as the whigs would have said, and sup- 
ported the subtreasury; and public meetings, probably under 
the spur of the party management, were beginning to in- 
dorse it. 21 

As an interlude in the struggle for party regularity on the 
fiscal issue came an attempt to use the issue to drive May out 
of the party. May and Forquer, whose janglings and jeal- 
ousies had repeatedly been satirized by the Sangamo Journal, 
had finally broken company late in 1836. Forquer, so the 
Journal declared, deserted the Van Buren candidates, May, 
McRoberts, and Ewing, and threw his support to Richard M. 
Young, whose past was strongly tinged to say the least with 
whiggism and who had courted and obtained whig support 
by professing himself to be a Jackson man for prudential rea- 
sons only. Young on his part accused May of promising sup- 
port for congress to both George W. P. Maxwell and Douglas 
in return for aid in sending him to the senate. As early as 
April, 1 837, the Journal predicted that May would be read out 
of the party by the Springfield junto. In July the Illinois Re- 
publican was attacking May for his votes in the last session on 
the distribution of the surplus and the repeal of the specie circu- 
lar. The Journal believed that Forquer was planning the ruin 
of Casey and Reynolds as well as of May. 22 

Others than Forquer, however, were destined to reap the 
reward of the plot, if plot there was. At the time when his 
control of the party was apparently the strongest, he disap- 
peared from Illinois politics; in another year he died of 
consumption. Douglas and Young, however, continued their 

21 Illinois State Register, October 20, November 10, December 9, 1837. 

22 Sangamo Journal, November 5, 19, December 17, 24, 1836, April 22, 
May 27, July 8, 15, 29, August 5, November 5, 1837; Illinois State Register, 
August 4, 1837; Chicago Democrat, August 16, 1837. 


war upon May. Douglas devoted himself to drumming up 
delegates to a convention at Peoria to nominate himself for 
May's place; and the Chicago Democrat, scenting a plot for 
Douglas' personal aggrandizement, began to shift its ground 
a little. The Journal praised May's course in congress but 
advised him not to be a candidate again, thus leaving the field 
clear for a whig to beat the nominee of the Peoria convention 
on the issue of radicalism and conservatism. 23 

The factional disorder in the democratic party for the 
moment offered a magnificent chance for the whigs to disrupt 
it. May drew up a powerful defense of his course in congress, 
pronouncing that against the subtreasury initiated three years 
before by an obscure congressman the authority of the sages of 
the past was for the use of banks as depositories for the gov- 
ernment funds. He denounced the measures of the specie 
circular as calculated to retard the growth of the west and as 
having been three times rejected by congress. While justifying 
the old war on the bank because of its known interference in 
politics, he admitted that Jackson's party had not given the 
country a currency as good as that of the old bank. He 
defended his vote for Allen on the old ground of his Jackson- 
ism. May thus took a strong position on which an attack 
might once again split the party. The whigs were eager to 
complete the work. The Journal praised all three of the 
representatives for their stand against locofocoism. A. P. 
Field begged the whigs to support Snyder if the democrats 
tried to beat him with a convention nominee. The democrats 
had the difficult task of attacking May for his financial votes 
without driving Snyder and Casey and their following out of 
the party with him. The whigs prophesied that the locofoco 
anti-bank doctrines would disgust true Jackson men. Kinney 
and Reynolds were believed to be unorthodox on the bank 
and subtreasury. It might well be regarded as doubtful if 
the " conservatives," like May, might not succeed in establish- 

23 Sangamo Journal, October 14, December 2, 1837; Chicago Democrat, 
August 16, 1837. 


ing themselves as a party in Illinois even if they did not wrest 
from their opponents control of the older organization. 24 

Unfortunately for the conservatives the locofocos con- 
trolled all the orthodox democratic newspapers in Illinois 
except May's Backwoodsman and the Shawneetown Voice and 
Journal. Thus they were handicapped by having their day in 
court in the columns of the whig papers. The radical demo- 
crats with an instinctive political wisdom which they frequently 
displayed in Illinois politics took issue frankly on the subtreas- 
ury, despite the whig cry of "purse and sword," and their 
accusation that the administration's doctrine was to be forced 
on Illinois by the influence of officeholders. The Register on 
the other hand discreetly indorsed the repeal of the specie cir- 
cular on the ground that the measure had after all fulfilled its 
usefulness and that it was now a discrimination in favor of 
the east against the west. Slowly the party in Illinois was 
forced into line. Snyder between March and June of 1838 
turned to support the subtreasury, discreetly declining a reelec- 
tion. Some of the whigs even advocated supporting him for 
governor in preference to Edwards, if he cared to run. 25 

It was harder for the democrats to deal with Casey than 
with Snyder. June I, 1838, the Register attempted an apology 
for Casey's irregular course on the old ground of awaiting 
instructions. It professed that it had suggested a convention 
in his district only for fear that a Van Buren man would run 
against him and thereby elect a whig. It admitted the validity 
of Casey's reason for refusing to submit to a convention 
that his candidacy was announced before a convention had been 
projected. It came to the conclusion, humiliating for the party 
of conventions, that conventions were new things in Illinois, 
that one might injure the party, and that, since Casey had 
the administration's indorsement, perhaps a convention would 

2 *Sanaamo Journal, .November 18, December 2, 1837, January 20, 1838; 
Alton Telegraph, December 20, 1837. 

25 Sang am o Journal, April 21, May 19, June 30, July 14, 20; Congressional 
Globe, 25 congress, 2 session, 213; Illinois Slate Register, February 9, 1838, 
June i, 29, 1838. 


be inexpedient after all. 26 The secret was that Casey's strength 
in his district was so great that neither McRoberts nor Breese 
dared to run against him. 

After Casey's vote against the subtreasury in 1838, how- 
ever, the Register was forced to denounce him for his duplicity 
in deceiving the party on his position, and in selling himself 
to the bank. It attempted in vain to induce McRoberts to run 
against him and on Casey's reelection it had to admit him as 
a democrat, sound on all points except the subtreasury and 
entitled to credit for having at last deserted the Madisonian. 2 "* 

It was only, however, by means of extraordinary personal 
popularity such as Casey's that one could defy the mandate of 
the party. The use of the convention as a means of enforcing 
regularity and submission to the will of the party had really 
been eminently successful in its purpose, even though it meant 
submission to the will of the master manipulators like Douglas. 
Its value became strikingly apparent in the campaign for the 
governorship in 1838. Late in 1837 a party convention had 
nominated for governor J. W. Stephenson, and for lieutenant 
governor, J. S. Hacker. The whigs claimed that Stephenson 
had been nominated only because Reynolds, Kinney, Casey, 
and Snyder, the best men of the party, were all under suspicion 
of heterodoxy. The choice could not have been more unfortu- 
nate. "Stephenson is a defaulter to the amount of 40,000," 
wrote Field to Eddy. " Say nothing about it to nobody. We 
will modestly set on foot an inquiry by our papers. They 
will of course deny it & then May has the Documents to prove 
the facts." In fact, May's Backwoodsman was the first to 
open fire, whig papers at first affecting to believe that the story 
was a democratic trick. The democratic newspapers were soon 
divided into contending camps, mainly on the question whether 
Stephenson's alleged default was not a load too heavy for his 
party to carry. The Register, the Chicago, the Galena, and 
Ottawa Democrats, and the Shawneetown Voice Jtood by him. 

26 Illinois State Register, June i, 1838. 

27 Ibid., July 13, 27, August 3, 31, 1838. 


The Belleville News, Quincy Argus, Alton Spectator, and Illi- 
nois Standard approved him, while the Illinois Republican 
remained on the fence. According to the Journal, however, a 
caucus at Springfield decided that he must be dropped as too 
heavy a load for Douglas to carry in the congressional race.- 8 
A new convention assembled and chose Thomas Carlin of 
Quincy as the candidate for governor. He was a man of 
honesty, but ignorant, and his choice seemed to point to a 
compromise in the ranks of the party. He was probably ortho- 
dox on the bank question, but he had been friendly to May 
after the attack on him had begun; and he was supported by 
the Backwoodsman.- 9 His opponent in the convention was 
Breese, who apparently was one of the leaders of the faction 
attacking May. 30 The Belleville group, Reynolds, Gustave 
Koerner, W. C. Kinney, and Shields united in supporting 
Snyder. It was claimed that Carlin's victory was due to a 
bargain with McRoberts, and that the representation at the 
convention was small three counties in the north, five in 
the center, nine in the south, and two in the east. 31 The nomi- 
nation, however, was carried successfully into an election. 
The convention system of party organization, though sorely 
tried, had produced a degree of unity in the party that could 
hardly have been attained otherwise. It is little wonder that 
clever whig politicians like Lincoln, who were not too much 
wedded to the traditions of the past, came to look on the 
system with envy and to press its adoption in their own ranks. 

28 Sangamo Journal, January 20, 22, March 3, May 12, 1838 ; Illinois State 
Register, May n, 1838, stated that Hacker resigned. Field to Eddy, January 
22, 1838, in Eddy manuscripts. 

29 Sangamo Journal, May 12, July 28, 1838. 

30 Field to Eddy, January 22, 1838, in Eddy manuscripts; he was said to be 
back of the movement to run against Snyder. 

31 Illinois Slate Register, June 8, 1838; Sangamo Journal, June 16, 1838. 


IN THE decade between 1830 and 1840 the democratic 
party developed the idea of party regularity and devised 
the convention as a means of attaining it. To comprehend 
the character of this innovation one must first contrast it with 
the system it displaced. At the time of the admission of Illi- 
nois to the union the complete triumph of the republican party 
had for the time put an end to bipartisan politics; the political 
game turned around the ambitions of political leaders, the 
rivalries of political cliques, and the adaptation of political 
measures to the supposed interests of various sections of the 
nation. With the rise of Andrew Jackson, there came out 
of the confusion a party which obligated its members to 
loyalty to Jackson, the vindicator of the popular will. But 
as the "Old Hero" took his self-willed course in politics 
and expected those who professed to be his friends to supr 
port him in one measure after another, his partisans soon 
came to amplify the obligations of personal loyalty until it 
included support of Jackson's measures as well; and this new 
test they added as a sequel to the old shibboleth of personal 

So long as the political methods of the older day remained 
it was difficult to enforce any such test. The idea that one 
man should stand forth as a party candidate for an office 
was as unfamiliar to the politicians of the twenties as was the 
existence of national parties themselves. It often happened 
that a man was persuaded not to run for an office lest he jeop- 
ardize the chances of a friend who was also a candidate; but 
except where personal or factional considerations intervened, 
men felt free to present themselves as candidates for office as 



they would. Sometimes various polite devices intervened to 
bring the candidate and the people together. It often hap- 
pened that a few voters, actuated by friendship, or by unwill- 
ingness to offend a rich man or a notorious bully, signed a 
newspaper notice or attended a public meeting summoning a 
coy politician to permit the use of his name. 1 The politicians 
of the day were expert in the arts of aiding a candidacy by 
putting forward or withholding other candidates and by form- 
ing elaborate combinations to sap the strength of a dangerous 
rival. Under such a system it was so difficult for the people 
to express clearly by their votes support or disapproval of the 
acts or political opinions of candidates that a bare profession 
of Jacksonism carried Duncan through election after election, 
whether in congress the Jackson measures enjoyed his sup- 
port or not. 

To combat such situations, the ideas of party regularity 
and of the use of the convention were worked out in the 
democratic party. As the theory was stated after 1835 in set 
after set of resolutions, politics in the United States was 
based on differences of principle as to government. The tri- 
umph of principles, rather than the triumph of any particular 
leader, was the end to be sought. "Without a frequent 
interchange of political sentiment, expressed by the people, 
and repeated by their delegates, properly authorized, the 
democracy cannot insure that success in their elections, 
which the purity and integrity of their principles, entitle them 
to claim." 2 The democrats saw that victory for their 
principles could be won only by centering the vote of the 
party on one man pledged to their support and by frowning 
on the candidacy of any rivals, as likely to divide the vote 
of the party and allow a minority in opposition united on 
one candidate to win. The means to this end was the con- 
vention; whether district, county, state, or national, it could 
state the principles of the party, choose a candidate to exem- 

1 Illinois Advocate, November u, 1835; Chicago Democrat, February 
25, 1834. 

2 Illinois Advocate, December 17, 1835. 


plify them, and call upon the rank and file of the party to 
support him loyally. 3 

Its originators adduced many a truth in favor of the system. 
Not only did it tend to the triumph of just principles of gov- 
ernment, but it was essentially democratic. Theoretically at 
least, it rested on a series of representations of the people, 
from the primary meeting in the district up to the national con- 
vention. Applied to national nominations, the convention was 
insurance against choice by a caucus or by the house voting by 
states the dilemma of the statesman of 18241825. 
Further, since the representative assemblages were made up of 
incorruptible patriots, wealth and influence could have no part 
in their actions as they could under the old system of private 
nominations. 4 Under the convention system, in theory at 
least, the nomination sought the patriot purest in political life 
and most orthodox in principle. 

Of course the practice in many cases scarcely corresponded 
to the theory. In the case of the Baltimore convention that 
nominated Van Buren for the presidency, the intention obvi- 
ously was to rally the whole strength of the party to a man 
who unquestionably was not the choice of a large part of it. 
In that convention the vote of Illinois and Kentucky was cast 
by a man who had no authorization from the party in either 
state to represent it. If the convention lessened the influence 
of the man of wealth, it increased the influence of the man 
clever in political manipulation. Under the convention system 
poor young men who were at the same time shrewd politicians 
frequently rose to power. The political career of Stephen A. 
Douglas who boasted that he had introduced the convention 
system in Illinois was a typical example of such political shrewd- 
ness. 5 Yet even from such a result democracy may have been 
the gainer. 

The adoption of the convention system in Illinois was not 

3 Illinois Advocate, April 15, 22, June 3, November 18, December 17, 1835; 
Chicago Democrat, May 27, 1835. 

4 Illinois Advocate, September 2, 1835; Chicago Democrat, July 15, 1835. 

5 Sangamo Journal, May 16, June 13, July n, 1835, May 7, 1836. 


the work of a day even in the democratic party. Thus in 1832 
the cry that Johnson's claims to the vice presidency be sub- 
mitted to the national convention was met by the nomination 
of electors pledged to Jackson and Johnson. In 1835 the 
alleged lack of time was set forth as a reason why Illinois 
should content itself with county meetings indorsing in advance 
the work to be done by the Baltimore convention. Neverthe- 
less a democratic state convention was held which nominated 
delegates instructed for Van Buren and Johnson, and a long 
series of county meetings was induced to indorse the work of 
the convention. 

Opposition was naturally aroused. A legislative nominat- 
ing convention, held at Ottawa in the northern district in 1834, 
drew forth protests against it as a snap convention and caused 
the nomination of rival candidates. In the fall of 1835 Eben- 
ezer Peck's proposal to nominate state officers in a convention 
called to nominate electors and his advocacy of extending 
throughout the state " the wholesome system of conventions " 
aroused protests. W. J. Gatewood strenuously opposed the 
system. The Greene county convention in 1836 resolved to let 
all who wished run for county offices. Southern Illinois was 
slow to adopt the idea of the convention as an enforcer of 
party regularity. 6 

The whigs at first criticized the convention system for what 
often enough it undoubtedly was, a devise of political manipu- 
lators to kill off candidates opposed to them. John Henry 
in the legislative session of 18351836 offered resolutions 
which declared that the application of the convention system to 
state and county offices was anti-republican. He drew an 
illuminating contrast between the new conventions, managed 
to whip the party into line in the interest of such cliques as the 
Albany regency, and the older public nomination meetings. 7 

8 Sangamo Journal, March i, April 5, 1832, April 18, May 2, 1835, February 
6, 13, March 26, 1836; Illinois Advocate, March 9, 23, 1832, April i, 15, 22, 
May 6, 1835; Chicago Democrat, March 4, 18, 21, May 21, 28, June 25, 1834. 

7 House Journal, 1835-1836, 2 session, 27; Sangamo Journal, January 
30, 1836. 


The principle of exclusion and regularity was the crux of the 
distinction between the older and newer system. 

Some of the proceedings of early conventions afforded the 
whigs legitimate material for their satire. The Chicago 
Democrat one year argued for conventions, and the next, dis- 
gruntled at the local nominee for the legislature, refused to 
be bound by a convention nomination on the ground that as 
the convention had not harmonized public sentiment, its deci- 
sion was not binding on the party. William L. May was 
nominated for congress in 1836 by a state convention at Peoria, 
consisting, as the Sangamo Journal averred, of twelve persons 
representing five out of twenty-three counties, chosen in pri- 
mary meetings aggregating some twenty persons. Next year, 
with Douglas in control, conditions were changed; and a con- 
vention dominated by an over-representation, so it was said, 
of Sangamon and Morgan delegates nominated Douglas at 
Peoria. May protested that where a plurality of popular votes 
would elect, the action of a convention was not binding. The 
Sangamo Journal believed the affair had made the Military 
Tract ready to give up conventions and declared they were in 
such bad odor that Casey and Ewing would not consent to be 
nominated by them. 8 

Still the convention idea spread and with it went the organ- 
ization of counties and districts by committees to call meetings 
and to correspond. 9 The system was applied to nominations 
in both county and state. Conventions of all grades adopted 
resolutions and addresses defining the path of the party. With 
all its faults, with all its abuses, the convention did its work 
well for the democratic party. It brought unity; it ended the 
possibility of such campaigns as Duncan's in 1834; and at 
least twice, in 1838 and 1842, it enabled the party to perform 

8 Sangamo Journal, April 30, May 14, July 2, 1836, September 2, October 
21, November 25, December 9, 1837, January 13, August 4, 1838; Chicago 
American, July 4, August i, 1835, July 23, 30, 1836; Chicago Democrat, July 
8, 1835, July 20, 1836. 

9 Illinois Advocate, June 3, September 16, 30, December 2, 1835; Chicago 
Democrat, June 10, 1835, February 24, 1836; Illinois State Register, July 22, 
1837, May 18, 1838. 


the delicate maneuver of replacing one candidate with another 
under the enemies' fire without throwing the ranks into con- 

The whigs made no use of the convention corresponding 
to that of their opponents. They scarcely used it except for 
such matters as the nomination of electors. They drew their 
skirts carefully aside from the defilement of anything like 
caucus dictation. They came in time to use conventions for 
congressional and legislative nominations, but they shrank 
from a broader application of the system. There was always 
trepidation in the ranks when a convention seemed to be neces- 
sary to decide between state candidates and a feeling of relief 
when by the adjuration of newspapers and other persuaders, all 
but one withdrew, doubtless often leaving as much ill-feeling 
as a hard-fought convention battle would have left. 10 

Because the convention system proved satisfactory to the 
democratic party it does not follow that the whigs could have 
used it with equal success. The difference between whig and 
democrat was more than a mere difference in name and more 
than a difference of opinion on important questions of public 
policy. The difference was fundamental, it came from the 
inmost nature and marked diametrically opposite viewpoints. 
Barring accident and self-seeking a whig was a whig and a 
democrat a democrat because he had a certain well-defined 
attitude toward the world outside himself. 

" I have been seeking and obtaining information upon the 
subject of your Bank Directory at this place," wrote William 
Thomas from Jacksonville to Henry Eddy in I838, 11 "we 
can furnish as good a Directory as can be found in Illinois 
but we cannot divide the power between parties as is desirable, 
because all of our solvent business men in Town are opposed 

10 Sangamo Journal, September i, 22, 29, 1832, February 20, 1836, Decem- 
ber 23, 1837; Alton Telegraph, June 28, July 5, 1837, March 28, 1838; Chicago 
American, July 26, 31, August 2, 22, 1839; Peoria Register, December 9, 1837. 

"William Thomas to Eddy, January 4, 1838, in Eddy manuscripts; see 
also Chicago Democrat, August 16, 1837. I* remarked that of the emigration 
to northern Illinois the laborers were democrats and the speculators and claim 
jumpers whigs. 


to the Administration. We have but two solvent merchants 
in Town as exceptions; they are doing small business." Gen- 
erally speaking the foregoing passage may serve as a guide in 
a rough and ready division of political Illinois between the 
whigs and the democrats. The development of the actual 
alignment of individual politicians, the shifting and alteration 
of personal factions cannot so be generalized. The important 
fact to keep in mind is that in the decade between 1830 and 
1840 two distinct groups of ideas developed into opposing 
political platforms and philosophies; and the passage quoted at 
the head of this paragraph may serve as a useful criterion to 
determine the location of the line of demarcation. It must be 
remembered that both these schools of political thought devel- 
oped gradually and that while the turn and emphasis given their 
various doctrines were governed by local conditions in Illinois, 
the doctrines themselves came from without, growing in impor- 
tance as they found a response in the minds of the natives. 

Of these, the whig political philosophy is hardest to derive 
from the utterances of its Illinois exponents. Unlike their 
democratic opponents, they were not given to stating broad 
principles. In their case it is necessary to presuppose a rarely 
expressed affection and prejudice for the stability and perma- 
nence of the political institutions as they supposedly had existed 
and operated in the days of the fathers. Looking toward the 
past as they did, they were sentimentalists rather than idealists; 
their first great political victory was won on a sentimental 
appeal for a return to the measures and the political purity of 
the past and for the election of a man who seemed one of the 
last links to the days of the Revolutionary heroes. 

The presence of this atmosphere of sentiment and conser- 
vatism would imply to the European student of politics a 
bourgeois party constituency. Paradoxical as the idea may 
seem, the business man, accustomed to do his work through 
a complex of human relationships is, however cynical, a good 
deal of a sentimentalist. Certainly the whig party in its specific 
measures appeared as a business man's party. In a fit of frank 


analysis of political parties in Illinois in 1839, the Sangamo 
Journal, 1 - a whig organ, averred that among the whigs were 
to be found a "large proportion of the mercantile class 
the shifting, bustling, speculating class whose wealth and for- 
tunes enable them to court pleasure or enjoyment, or repose." 
It admitted that this class, comprising as it did bank directors 
and borrowers at banks, would find a common interest in 
the welfare of banking institutions. In its measures banks, 
protection, internal improvements the whig party was the 
party of the business classes and of those within their sphere 
of influence. 13 

Since the storm of innovation that was breaking on the 
country was forced on congress by the overpowering influence 
of the executive supported by a strongly organized party 
machine, the principles of the whigs naturally opposed the use 
of executive power and patronage for party purposes and sus- 
tained the legislature in its old standing and power against the 
assaults of the executive branch. It was for this reason that 
the whigs fought desperately the expunging resolution as cal- 
culated to destroy the independence of the senate. " Destroy 
public confidence in the Senate," wrote Governor Duncan in 
transmitting to the Illinois senators their legislative instruc- 
tions to vote for the expunging resolution, "let the Legisla- 
ture rebuke them for warning the people, that a new, dangerous 
and unconstitutional power had been asserted by a co-ordinate 
and powerful branch of the government let the right be 
fully established that any power or person, except the imme- 
diate constituents of each separate member of Congress, shall 
have authority to call their acts in question or that a man 
at the head of our government, at whose command six thousand 
bayonets will bristle in an instant, surrounded immediately and 
remotely, by one hundred thousand organized office holders, 
and numerous partisan office seekers, ready to obey his will 
shall have authority to protest against, interrupt or question 

12 Sangamo Journal, February 16, 1839. 

18 In another light this appears in the complaint of democratic papers, that 
whig merchants would not advertise in them. 


any of the acts of the peoples' Representatives, who are sitting 
in the presence of this mighty power, unarmed and unprotected, 
and who should look alone to the approbation of their constitu- 
ents and the ballot box for all favor and all rebukes; in a 
word, let the Senate of the United States lose its independence 
by the loss of public confidence . . . and you must perceive 
that all power will soon be centered in one man; and that our 
march to despotism is inevitable." 14 With a somewhat similar 
feeling the whigs were occasionally disposed to question the 
right of instruction, arguing it as absurd that a legislature con- 
stitutionally empowered to elect senators every six years should 
by this device elect them whenever it would. 15 Senators took 
an oath to maintain the constitution, not to obey their constitu- 
ents. It was precisely on this article in the whig creed, the 
guarantee of constitutional stability through the independence 
of the legislature, that the democratic attack began. Thus in 
1835 the democrats branded the avowed attempt of the whigs 
to throw the election into the house of representatives as an 
endeavor to defeat the will of the nation. 16 They quoted, too, 
the alleged remarks of Tristram Burgess that he wished all 
future presidential elections might take place in the house of 
representatives so that no candidate could ride in on a wave 
of popularity and unseat republican institutions. 17 Exagger- 
ated charges of the same sort accused the whigs of desiring 
a property qualification for voters and a president elected for 
life. Democratic papers fed their readers with clippings accus- 
ing the United States Bank of buying up newspapers, and 
portraying the rowdyism and violence of whigs in the east. As 
indicated elsewhere the reputed hostility of eastern whigs to 

Sangamo Journal, March 5, 1836. 

15 Alton Telegraph, April 6, 1836. This theory of the independence of the 
legislature is probably the abstract expression of the impatience of many con- 
gressmen personally strong in their districts at attempts to dragoon them into 
party ranks by stirring up trouble for them at home. A favorite cry of the 
whigs was election of men on their merits, not for their party affiliations. For 
example see Chicago American, June 20, 1835. 

16 Illinois State Register, November 9, 1838. The whigs it was said, like 
English lories, scorned instructions, Illinois Advocate, December 23, 1835. 

17 Ibid., May 20, 1835. 


removal of the Indians, to graduation, to preemption, and to 
squatters was a heavy load for their party in the west to bear. 
More generally of course, they had to bear the imputation of 
aristocracy and of being friends to the rich. The democrats 
labored to show that the whigs were the spiritual descendants 
of the federalist party, just as the whigs labored to enumerate 
the many federalists who had been baptised democrats in 
good standing. Challenged to define federalism, one demo- 
cratic editor strung together the following familiar political 
catch phrases of the day believes in the Bank of the United 
States, that no vulgar democrat is fit for office, talks of the 
huge paws of the farmers, is for Daniel Webster or any other 
available candidate, fills people with Jack Downing froth and 
lies instead of facts relating to the prosperity of the country. 
The sketch of the whig, as the locofoco affected to see him, 
could not be improved on. 18 

Among the whigs there was always a strong undercurrent 
of native American sentiment which the democrats, intent on 
securing the foreign vote, were not slow to bring to the surface. 
In most instances where it appeared overtly in Illinois this 
sentiment was expressed in the very judicious question as to 
whether newly arrived immigrants to the United States should 
be permitted to vote. The conservative Backwoodsman, proba- 
bly under May's tutelage, in 1838 denounced the practice of 
allowing the " Irish of the canal zone " who had been six 
months in Illinois to vote whether naturalized or not. It pro- 
nounced that if foreigners were not to rule the United States, 
the question of foreign votes must be decided. By 1839 the 
native born democrats of Joliet had been forced to join the 
whigs against the Irish. At the same time the Irish vote in 
Cook county was said to be a half of the total. 19 

18 Chicago American, April 22, 1837, advocated a property qualification and 
barring out foreign voters. Sangamo Journal, February 2, 1839, on behalf of 
the whigs disclaimed a similar belief. Illinois State Register May 25, 1838, 
Chicago Democrat, May 21, November 5, 1834, January 15, 1838; Illinois Advo- 
cate, July 29, 1835. 

19 Peoria Register, October 20, 1838; Chicago American, July u, 1835, 
August 3, 12, 1839; Sangamo Journal, September i, 1838, January 5, 1839, clips 


This issue leads to another one on which whigs and demo- 
crats joined battle, that of religious observances. The whigs 
as the party of conservatism were naturally sticklers for observ- 
ance of religious forms. The tendency, of course, does not 
appear strongly in their own prints, though the Chicago Ameri- 
can did clip an article accusing Tammany Hall of atheism. 
But the Chicago Democrat complained that the American was 
charging it with deistical opinions in order to secure the sub- 
scriptions and the advertising of the pious. The whigs were 
inclined to be emphatically Protestant and were accused, in 
connection with Nativist attacks, of being anti-Catholic. Most 
interesting of all, toward the end of 1833, an attack was made 
on Duncan, then on the verge of turning whig, alleging that 
he had come to represent the interests of the bank aristocracy 
and the national church aristocracy, especially of the Presby- 
terian church and the clique centering around Illinois College. 20 

So far as in this period the whigs succeeded in basing their 
opposition to the administration on fundamental political prin- 
ciples they did it by pointing out the danger to free institutions 
of the growth of the executive power. The lines on which this 
attack was developed have already been indicated. In its 
milder forms it appeared as a suggestion that Van Buren was 
planning to found a dynasty clipped Out of the whole cloth 
of a silly article in a London paper. The people were reminded 
of the rarity with which earlier presidents had used the veto. 

the Backwoodsman. This material appeared at the time the whigs were much 
exercised at the canal vote being thrown to Douglas against Stuart. The Quincy 
Argus declared the whole difficulty was that they had not voted whig; clipping 
in Illinois State Register, September 28, 1838. At this time the German vote in 
contradistinction to the Irish was said to be whig, ibid., October 19, 1838. Gus- 
tave Koerner on behalf of his German fellow-citizens addressed an inquiry as 
to the belief in native Americanism. It was answered with a letter favoring 
a liberal encouragement to immigration, ibid., July 6, 1838. During the summer 
of 1835 the Chicago American evinced a sharp hostility to immigrant voters, 
especially in its clips, July u, August 8; it attacked Van Buren because of his 
supposed willingness ^to let immigrants vote, June 20, 1835. 

20 Chicago American, June 20, July n, 1835; Chicago Democrat, extra, 
March 25, 1835; Illinois Advocate, December 28, 1833, November n, 1835. A 
basis of the charge was the fact that Duncan had refused to vote for R. M. 
Johnson's Sunday mail report. A resolution approving it had passed the Illi- 
nois senate unanimously January 17, 1831, Senate Journal, 1830-1831, i ses- 
sion, 262. 


After 1832 they excused the defection of old-time Jackson 
men by claiming that Jackson himself had abandoned his prin- 
ciples, on the use of the patronage, on internal improvements, 
and on the independence of the judiciary and of the senate. In 
1839 the Alton Telegraph characterized the modern democrat 
as a man willing to bolt his principles to order and who thus 
had come to swallow the whole Hartford convention. 21 

There was much truth in the whig strictures for democratic 
principles were in a continual process of evolution, in the course 
of which reversals were frequent. Jackson had come into 
power as supposedly the friend of tariff and internal improve- 
ments, the foe of a second presidential term, and of the use 
of political patronage, yet on all these points the vigorous old 
man had seen or been made to see new light. But he had also 
come in as a protest against the refusal of the house of repre- 
sentatives, in exercising its constitutional right of election, to 
regard the expression of the popular will. That he was the 
vindicator of that will Andrew Jackson never forgot. He was 
the first of American presidents to grasp the fact that he might 
make himself the representative of the people. It was in the 
name of the people of the United States that he made war 
on the bank. Beyond any other in American history his figure, 
aged, but not senile, vibrant, passionate, masterful, has the 
eternal vigor of the will of the people. 

There were men in America able to catch the inspiration 
and to enumerate the principles of a new democracy, the mov- 
ing force in the war of the people against the moneyed interests. 
Illinois newspapers copied into their columns George Ban- 
croft's address to democratic men of Massachusetts, claiming 
that the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people was opposed 
to the doctrine of the whigs which in its defiance of the populace 
and its faith in special privileges, harks back to the principles 
of their predecessors, the whigs of 1688. Coupled with this 
doctrine of the sovereignty of the people necessarily went a 

21 Sangamo Journal, December 18, 1831, October 20, 1832; Alton Telegraph, 
April 6, August 10, 1839. 


limitation of what their servants in congress could do, a denial 
of the power of congress to grant special privileges to corpora- 
tions, or by tariff or internal improvement to confer on any 
section of the country benefits in which the whole was not a 
sharer. Hence strict constitutional construction; "The world 
is too much governed" was the motto which the Globe set 
at the head of its column. It was accompanied by a repudiation 
of the doctrine that corporate rights are irrepealable. The 
whigs believed that these principles of the democrats were 
anarchistic, and they summarized their opponents' general 
principles as agrarianism, Fanny Wrightism (free love), and 
finally the supreme term of abuse, locofocoism. 22 

These were the fundamental principles of the democratic 
party. Whoever attempts to discover that they were consist- 
ently carried out, that they were in many, very many, cases 
more than stalking horses for coming politicians, whoever 
seeks to find in many of their caucuses and conventions anything 
but knavery and sharp politics will be disappointed. But the 
ideal was always there ; the principle that the democrats stood 
for the rights of the many against the few, for the rights of 
man against the rights of property remained to mold into a 
different and more ideal frame the principles of some, at least, 
of those who professed them. 23 

Their translation into measures of interest in Illinois inter- 
nal affairs indicates why the practical interests of Illinois would 
tend to bring the state to the support of the democrats. To 
Illinois, protection for its almost purely agricultural products 
was unnecessary. The United States Bank and its place in 
the financial life of the country was a thing capable of being 
visualized only by a few. And when panic descended on the 
country the people of Illinois, the rank and file not being hard 
hit, accepted the theory that the bank had deliberately brought 

22 Illinois Advocate, November 25, 1835; Chicago Democrat, June 3, 1835, 
May 4, 18, i8?6; Sangamo Journal, December 16, 1837. The whigs argued that 
the credit sysv m was really the democratic system, as it enabled the man with 
little money to get ahead. 

23 See the resolutions readopted at the state convention of 1838, Illinois 
State Register, June 8, 1838. 


it on. The issue of internal improvements by federal aid was 
more tempting; but the canal grant was assured; in the thirties 
the democratic principles were still liberal enough to authorize 
grants for the improvements of the great rivers ; and the only 
whig proposal, the distribution bill, was ominous of an eastern 
public land policy. To the west the vital questions were as yet 
those of the Indians and the public lands and on both of 
these questions they naturally accepted the leadership of the 
men with western vision, Jackson and Benton. 


THE democratic party in Illinois had scarcely completed 
its physical growth before its deterioration began. It 
had achieved unity and coherence and had become a distinct 
entity; but meanwhile in the union at large the party was 
rapidly changing; old rallying cries were forgotten, and others 
hitherto comparatively unimportant were stressed. The bank 
and the tariff sank to subordinate places, and slavery and its 
protection became the exemplification and end of states rights 
doctrine. The party was becoming less and less western and 
more and more southern. Its members in Illinois, rallying 
behind the old party name, were slow to see that nationally in 
its ideals and ends the party was not what it had been. The 
overthrow of the party in the election of 1840 marked the 
beginning of the end of the old democracy in the nation; and 
though they were still victorious in Illinois the democrats were 
soon to perceive that a change in their national relations had 
taken place. 

The campaign in which Harrison was elected over Van 
Buren was one of the strangest in American politics. A party 
presenting an essentially sound financial policy exemplified in 
its recent record was swept away by opponents who scarcely 
joined issue with it save to caricature its views and who placed 
their chief reliance on a pageantry and enthusiasm essentially 
sentimental in their appeal. Not only was the contest and its 
aftermath one of the most picturesque in American annals, but 
it was with reference to the political habits of the parties and 
the nation one of the most significant. 

On issues the position of the democratic party in 1840 
should have been strong. Van Buren by the boldest and most 
statesmanlike measure of his career had brought his party 



finally to accept the subtreasury as against any bank. The 
county meetings and conventions in 1839-1840 generally 
declared for the subtreasury and the divorce of banks and 
government, often with a fling at banks in general as founded 
on special privilege, often with a reference to the danger of 
moneyed oligarchies and paper money mills and sometimes 
with an indorsement of Benton's specie currency policy. 1 With 
similar unanimity they attacked the whig bills barring office- 
holders from participation in elections and approved the repeal 
of the salt tax. Again they recurred to their old doctrine that 
the whigs were really federalists in the hope of placing on them 
the stigma of an unpatriotic past. 

The whigs, on the other hand, attacked the subtreasury 
with a vehemence that as their opponents complained occa- 
sionally ignored the nature of the institution. It is true that 
they frequently argued for the necessity of a bank, a paper 
currency, and a credit system, maintaining that the prevailing 
hard times were due to the destruction of the paper circulating 
medium of the country; they argued with some plausibility 
that the credit system instead of being aristocratic in essence 
was really democratic inasmuch as it enabled the man without 
capital of his own to get a start in life on borrowed money. 
But they also argued that the democratic ideal was to reduce 
the wages of labor and the price of staple commodities to star- 
vation rates eleven pence a day wages and sixteen cents a 
bushel for wheat; they even went so far as to draw conclusions 
from the supposed fact that the subtreasury was the institution 
of the autocratic countries of Europe and hence unsuited to 
the free air of America. They raked up a scheme for a terri- 
torial army proposed by Joel R. Poinsett, the secretary of war, 
and prophesied the direst consequences to American freedom 
when by its adoption and by the institution of the subtreasury 
both the purse and the sword would rest in the hands of one 
man. They condemned the subtreasury as a fertile source of 

1 Illinois State Register, August 31, November 9, 16, 23, 30, December 7, 
21, 1839, January 4, April 3, 1840. 


defalcations on the part of the various officers with public 
money in their charge. "The Saviour of the world," said 
Abraham Lincoln, "chose twelve disciples, and even one of 
that small number, selected by superhuman wisdom, turned out 
a traitor and a devil. And, it may not be improper here to 
add, that Judas carried the bag was the Sub Treasurer of 
the Saviour and his disciples." 2 

However, in the heat of the campaign the fiercest fighting 
centered about the personality of the rival candidates. The 
whigs assailed Van Buren for having forced the subtreasury 
scheme through after repeated rejections by congress, recalling 
the fact that Jackson had never favored it. In this as in his 
candidacy for a second term, they declared, Van Bur'en had 
departed from the principles espoused by Jackson in the days 
of his strength. In the wake of the democratic policy they pre- 
dicted the advent of free trade and as its corollary, direct 
taxation, the rising power of the president fortified by the 
use of the patronage, the army, the funds of the subtreasury, 
and the general perversion of the ways of the fathers. It 
would have been well had their attack gone no further. The 
old charges of 1836, however, accusing Van Buren of foppery, 
of voting for a limited franchise, and for allowing the vote to 
free negroes also appeared. Congressman Charles Ogle 
gained much temporary fame by a speech widely circulated in 
different versions, in which he commented on the luxurious fur- 
nishings provided for the president's house at the public 
expense and made rather clever demagogic use of French 
menus and bills written in French for the materials for certain 
pieces of furniture such as taborets, which he pointed out had 
their place in the ceremonial of European courts. Occasionally 
a paper deemed worthy of circulation an absurd story from an 
absurd London newspaper to the effect that Van Buren was 
planning to establish a dynasty on the throne of the United 
States. Under these circumstances the visit of " Prince John " 

2 Sangamo Journal, March 6, 20, April 3, 10, May 29, July 10, October 30, 
1840; Chicago American, May 29, July i, 10, August 20, 1840; Alton Telegraph, 
February 8, September 5, 1840. 


Van Buren to the court of England was a portent fraught with 
dire meaning. 3 

In Illinois especially the old theme of Van Buren's hostility 
to the west was made to do duty, reenforced in this instance by 
Van Buren's refusal to support schemes for internal improve- 
ment in the west, the abandonment of work on the Cumberland 
road and the lake harbors, and the sale of the machinery per- 
taining to them. This it was said by the whigs was the price 
that Van Buren was paying for Calhoun's support. In con- 
tradistinction to such policies the whig papers cited Clay's 
last distribution bill, which they calculated would have aided 
the state's credit in a marked degree. 4 

The democrats tried in vain to counter with effect on the 
character of Harrison. They rang the charges on the fact 
that as a young man he had joined what was called an abolition 
society; they used once more the old charge that he had voted 
to sell white men into slavery. They twisted his words to 
make it apparent that in 1798 he had been a black cockade 
federalist of the Adams school. They assailed his military 
career at its most vulnerable points. They maintained with 
some truth that he was a manufactured candidate designed to 
catch the votes of the west. They told again and again the 
story that a committee at his home at North Bend had him in 
charge and that he was kept in a cage ; a charge which the whigs 
insisted in interpreting in a more or less literal sense and in 
repelling with scorn. 5 

The fatal blunder of the democrats in scornfully referring 
to Harrison as a log cabin and hard cider candidate gave the 
whig leaders their inspiration. By the rarest stroke of political 

8 Sangamo Journal, April 10, July 3, August 2, 21, 1840; Chicago American, 
April 20, May 2, 8, July 16, August 18, September 23, 1840; Illinois State Regis- 
ter, September 25, October 2, 1840; Belleville Advocate, September 5, 1840. 

4 Sangamo Journal, October 12, 1839, January 24, July 10, October 16, 
1840; Chicago American, April 17, August 13, September 24, October 28, Decem- 
ber 29, 1840. 

6 Illinois State Register, January 21, February 21, March 6, 13, April 17, 
May 8, 22, 29, September 28, 1840; Sangamo Journal, January 28, March 13, 
1840; Belleville Advocate, April 4, n, 18, May 2, August 29, September 12, 
October 10, 1840; Chicago American, June 10, October 15, 1840; Chicago Demo- 
crat, April 13, 25, 1840. 


genius they took Harrison, a man, good, pious, well-meaning, 
but one who had never displayed brilliant ability either in 
politics or in war and represented him as a man of a stature 
comparable to the heroes of the Revolution, a man whose 
political virtues would bring back the golden age of the past. 
The veteran of the Revolution was told that Harrison had re- 
ceived his first commission from the hands of George Washing- 
ton. The farmer of the west was reminded that in a double 
sense he owed his farm to the man who had at once secured 
the passage of the law for the sale of small tracts and had 
protected the frontier from the Indians. As monster rallies 
were held on the old battlefields of the west, now centers of 
a teeming population, the sentimental appeal for the man 
whose active life had spanned this marvellous progress, who 
had represented the whole Northwest Territory in congress 
and who had been the backwoods governor of what were now 
three prosperous states was well-nigh irresistible. 

The sentiment found expression in political pageantry on a 
scale hitherto undreamed of. There was rough horseplay 
enough in the manner of college freshmen; as for instance 
when a delegation from Chicago setting out to a monster whig 
rally at Springfield captured an enemy banner in the form of 
the derisive petticoat and bore its trophy with it in triumph. 
There was much carolling of whig songs, which seemed to 
the democrats the only answers their opponents made to chal- 
lenges on the serious issues of the campaign. The whigs, 
abandoning all discussion, swung along in unreasoning sub- 
jection to the refrain 

Without a why or a wherefore 
We'll go for Harrison therefore. 

Yet there was a deeper meaning to all this seeming frivolity. 
In the delegations that set out to the monster whig rallies, 
camping out at night on their way in the log cabins set up in 
the cities long past the pioneer stage, in which banker, mer- 
chant, and mechanic toasted Harrison in mugs of hard cider, 


one catches the spirit of a sort of national feast of tabernacles, 
a commemoration of the hardships and privations by which the 
west had been won. East and west alike at outs with the 
administration, but unable to agree on any set of measures, 
found common cause in the sentimental dream that with the 
election of Harrison the political virtues of the fathers and 
the golden age might come once more. 

With the whigs one monster rally followed another. At 
one in McDonough there were said to have been present 2,500 
men anjd 500 women; at Galena 2,486 men and 340 women; 
at Carlinville 3,000 persons. 6 The greatest of all was reported 
to have been that at Springfield which called together some 
fifteen thousand attendants who paraded by county delegations 
with banners and special floats. In reply the democrats could 
only allege that these were drunken and disorderly meetings, 
but they protested with more truth that the whigs were making 
an appeal frankly to the passions. The whigs retorted that 
the personal weakness of Van Buren in the state necessitated 
using the great name of Jackson at every turn in an appeal 
essentially perhaps as sentimental as their own. The whigs 
wisely refrained from attacking Jackson, rather professing a 
belief that the old Jackson men would vote for Harrison. 7 

In spite of all, however, the whigs did not carry Illinois. 
They attributed their vote, a little short of a majority, to the 
fraudulent ballots cast along the line of the canal; but the 
democrats were as quick to respond with countercharges of 
fraud and wholesale colonization. The whigs were able to 
rejoice, however, over a series of victories from the carry- 
ing of Maine to the final success, which was celebrated with 
firing of cannon for the Harrison states. Chicago celebrated 
with a barbecue at "Walter Newberry's enclosed lot, corner 
of Clarke and North Water." 8 

6 Sangamo Journal, July 17, August 2, 1840. 

7 Sangamo Journal, January 10, June 5, 1840; Chicago American, June 10, 
1840; Chicago Democrat, April 29, May 20, 1840. 

8 Illinois State Register, October 16, 23, 1840; Alton Telegraph, October 31, 
1840; Chicago American, September 18, November 23, 25, December 4, 1840. 


With that election much passed out of American politics. 
It was the last on which the shadow of the aggression of slave 
power in the west did not fall heavily. It saw the overthrow 
of the older democratic party. That party under an uninspir- 
ing leader had ranged itself for battle behind measures 
following naturally from the principles of democracy that it 
professed and it had been smitten hip and thigh. The sober 
second thought to which the democrats appealed turned the 
tide in their favor at the next election, but thenceforth it became 
increasingly apparent that southern politicians had taken the 
party out of pawn and that the vigor of its creed had departed. 

The whigs did well to rejoice while they might for one of 
the most ironical instances of retributive justice in politics that 
history affords was about to overtake them. They had by the 
nomination of Harrison and Tyler sought to gather together 
the various elements that had in ten years past split off from 
the Jacksonian party. They had, therefore, made no attempt 
to formulate a national platform of principles which would 
have to hold bank and tariff whigs side by side with Virginia 
abstractionists like Tyler who prided themselves on their votes 
for the force bill. When the aged Harrison sank into the 
grave a month after inauguration, almost with his last breath, 
so the democrats believed, protesting against the policy of 
removals forced upon him in violation of his pledges, the whigs 
were face to face with a man on whose loyalty they had no hold. 
The party platform had been indefinite on the political issues. 
True in Illinois, they had argued for a national bank, but they 
did not stand firmly arrayed for it, contenting themselves with 
finding fault with their opponents rather than proposing meas- 
ures of their own. Therefore they could not justly hold Tyler 
bound to the execution of their program. 

Previously the whigs had been in high feather. They had 
occasionally warned the people that too much in the way of a 
revival of business must not be expected until whig measures 
could be inaugurated, but they gloated over the prospect of a 
United States Bank and of a retaliation on the democrats by 


a policy of removals that ostensibly sparing the worthy among 
their opponents in office would in effect spare few or none. It 
was true, that the democrats complained that Harrison's 
inaugural address was no more specific on bank or tariff than 
previous party pronouncements had been but the whig papers 
asserted that his sentiments on the supremacy of the legislature, 
the veto, and officeholders' interference in politics would 
restore the halcyon days of Washington. 9 

It was not at first apparent that the death of Harrison and 
the accession of Tyler had brought about any marked change. 
Democratic papers set about appropriating for their own use 
the last of the sentiment and glamour that had enveloped Har- 
rison by insinuating that the importunity of whig office seekers 
for removals had hastened his death and that the last words 
of his delirium, " Sir, I wish you to understand the true prin- 
ciples of the Constitution. I wish them carried out. I ask 
nothing more," represented a last appeal against the force that 
was driving him to the violation of his preelection pledges. 
Indeed Tyler's early removals caused renewed wails from the 
democrats. The Belleville Advocate expressed a lingering 
hope that Tyler might be consistent with his strict construction- 
ist principles and oppose a bank; but the State Register 
pronounced his message a jumble of federalism, democracy, 
whiggery, and locofocoism. 10 

The successive bank vetoes at the special session of con- 
gress sent politics spinning like a teetotum. The Alton Tele- 
graph, while deprecating the burning of the president in effigy 
by indignant whigs at Jacksonville, was disposed to call for 
instructions to Tyler to resign. The Sangamo Journal was at 
best inclined to say little, and when it spoke, spoke in sorrow 
rather than anger. It protested that it could see no cause for 
locofoco rejoicing, for Tyler had approved the repeal of the 
subtreasury and the loan, bankrupt, and distribution bills. 
How could even locofocos take pleasure in the ruin of their 

9 Chicago American, December 14, 1840, February 27, March 16, 1841. 

10 Illinois State Register, May 19, 1841; Belleville Advocate, April 23, May 
15, 29, June 26, 1841. 


country? " The Log Cabins had been blown up," true enough, 
and pork and beef were selling at two cents a pound! The 
democratic papers triumphantly proclaimed that Tyler had 
followed his conscience. The State Register defended his 
integrity, averring that while the whigs had made the bank an 
issue in Illinois and had been beaten on it they had not made 
it so throughout the nation. The democratic county meetings 
throughout the state in the fall of 1841, while condemning the 
whig repeal of the subtreasury, tariff, and distribution meas- 
ures and occasionally censuring Tyler for his share in them, 
were disposed to give the president full praise for his veto of 
the bank. 11 

The whigs, unable like the democrats to wait for action on 
the part of their opponents, rallied slowly. On the bank 
scheme proposed in Tyler's fall message, the whig papers were 
not enthusiastic. The general consensus of their opinion as 
collected by the Sangamo Journal was " half a loaf is better 
than no bread." The Sangamo Journal, inspired, as William 
Walters of the State Register insinuated, by hopes of obtaining 
the post-office printing, was inclined to be friendly to the ad- 
ministration. The whigs attempted to attribute the hard times 
to the specie standard. In the winter of 1842 they wished 
to revive the tariff issue. In part their propaganda, founded 
as it was on the danger of competition to southern cotton in 
British markets by East Indian cotton, was manifestly designed 
to win the south to the whigs. Most of the arguments seemed 
hardly adapted to western consumption with the possible excep- 
tion of the home market argument and the fact that American 
wheat was taxed in England. They taunted the democrats 
with fearing to join issue on the question, and in fact the demo- 
cratic papers had little to say till after Tyler's veto. 12 

11 Alton Telegraph, August 28, September 4, 25, 1841 ; Illinois State Register, 
September 3, October r, 1841; Sangamo Journal, September 3, 17, 24, October 
29, 1841; Belleville Advocate, September 3, November n, 25, 1841. 

12 Sangamo Journal, January 6, February 4, April 8, 15, December 22, 
1842; Chicago American, January 14, 21, February u, 26, April 20, September 
16, 1842; Illinois State Register, January 14, October 7, 1842; Belleville Advo- 
cate, December 23, 1841, August 18, October 13, 1842. 


In the midst of the confusion, party lines for a time were 
almost erased. Clay and his friends had in the name of the 
whigs excommunicated John Tyler, but for a time the mighty 
Webster remained in Tyler's cabinet. Tyler was able to count 
on many former democrats as well who rallied for a time to 
his standard. Charles Prentice persuaded William Walters 
of the Illinois State Register by dreams of controlling the pat- 
ronage in the state to make overtures to Tyler, which Prentice 
used to persuade Tyler of his control of the party in Illinois. 
A longing for the patronage caused many whigs and democrats 
to come as near to Tyler as their consciences would permit. 13 

In the whig party the Clay men were the irreconcilables. 
The attitude which the party assumed toward Webster is 
instructive. Immediately after the vetoes, the Telegraph was 
inclined to criticize him for not resigning and the Journal to 
palliate his remaining in office. By the fall of 1842, however, 
whig papers were generally attacking him openly. The demo- 
cratic papers during the congressional campaign of 1843 were 
inclined to diagnose the situation as Clay with his measures of 
assumption, bank, distribution, and tariff, as against Tyler and 
Webster, again the old Webster of 1818, the opponent of 
bank, tariff, and the American system. The Telegraph served 
notice on Webster that to run against Clay would insure his 
defeat and political ruin. By December the Register had 
decided that the Clay plan was to use Webster to elect Clay 
and then drop him, and that accordingly the Illinois whig 
leaders had ceased to attack him. Thus the question of the 
assumption of state debts by the national government, mani- 
festly Clay's American system under another form, was 
advanced by the whigs late in 1842 for the congressional cam- 
paign, the Telegraph coming out for it openly, and the 
American at first hanging back. The Register pronounced it 
the plan of J. Horsley Palmer of Palmer, Dent, and McKillop, 
the great London financiers. In the fall of 1843 tne whig state 

18 Alton Telegraph, October 2, 9, 1841; Belleville Advocate, December i, 
1841; Chicago American, March 29, December 20, 1841, March 12, 16, October 
4, 12, 1842; Sangamo Journal, October i, 1841. 

convention pronounced the issues to be protection, distribution, 
and a bank, and declared the party was united behind Clay. 1 ' 

The possibility of an independent Tyler movement in the 
campaign of 1844 was not disposed of till the opening of the 
campaign. In 1843 Tyler had attempted to rally the office- 
holders to the Madisonian. In April the Register had assailed 
Isaac Hill for going over to Tyler, declaring that as a third 
candidate Tyler could not get thirty votes in Illinois and pro- 
nouncing his best course to be to seek to unite his former 
political associates. But at the same time Walters through 
Prentice was cooperating with Tyler to get whig officeholders 
replaced by democrats. In the spring of 1 844, A. G. Herndon, 
Archibald Job, G. Elkin, and S. R. Rowan were active for 
Tyler on the Texas issue, but finally the issue was transferred 
to the Polk armory. 15 Ebenezer Peck represented it as the last 
attempt of the desperate Tyler men to get away from the tariff 
and currency issues. 

The democrats had been at a loss as to their candidate. 
James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, and Thomas Benton had been 
suggested at different times. In August of 1842 the Chicago 
American thought they were about to take up Calhoun. In 
the summer of 1842 when Van Buren came to Chicago on 
what the American considered an electioneering visit, it urged 
the whigs to refrain from all but the ordinary civilities to him; 
Judge Henry Brown, who was given to reminiscences of New 
York, gave a picture of him lounging in dandified fashion 
about Albany. Some one placed a barrel of stale cabbage in 
the public square in possible reference to Van Buren's Dutch 
ancestry, but no further unpleasantness occurred. 16 

For a time there was a boom of moderate proportions for 
R. M. Johnson. The Belleville Advocate, Reynolds' paper, 

14 Illinois State Register, March 3, June 2, 16, 23, December 8, 1843; Alton 
Telegraph, November 12, 1842, April 15, December 23, 1843; Chicago American, 
March 15, July 21, 1842. 

15 Alton Telegraph, April 22, 1843; Sangamo Journal, January 25, April 
n, May 30, June 13, July 14, 1844; Illinois State Register, April 7, 1843. 

16 Chicago American, December n, 1841, March 18, June 23, 24, July 8, 
August 6, 1842. 


came out for him in 1841 as the friend of the west and the 
advocate of reduction of the price of public lands. In May 
of 1843 h e visited Belleville where the Advocate had not 
ceased to work for him. It insisted that he would get five 
votes in Illinois to one for any other democratic candidate. 
Only the Galena Sentinel, however, came to the support of the 
Advocate. Johnson's candidacy, however, was thought to be 
linked by Reynolds with his own as the anti-convention candi- 
date for congress against Lyman Trumbull, Shields, or 
Koerner. The Advocate complained that the county conven- 
tions were packed against Johnson resolutions, and in Illinois 
his candidacy was practically at an end. 17 

By the late fall of 1843 tne opinion of the state had crystal- 
lized in favor of Van Buren. The Register came out for him, 
September 22, the Democrat, December 20; and a series of 
county meetings had previously declared for him. The Regis- 
ter was accused of supporting Van Buren after having been 
bought off by Benton from its previous support of Johnson. 
Possibly too the Register had a slight inclination toward 
Calhoun. 18 

The democrats at the beginning of the campaign, began 
their restatements of principles in such form as has already 
been indicated. They began too a series of bitter attacks on 
Clay for his insolent reference in 1820 to the workers of the 
north as white slaves, for his contemptuous remarks about 
squatters and his opposition to liberal land policies. His part 
in the Graves-Cilley duel and his general violence of character 
were all brought out, even to the alleged " corrupt bargain." 
The party made the bank and the tariff its more serious issues. 
The whigs in their pre-convention campaign assailed Van Buren 
on the old issues of 1836 and 1840 his hostility to the west, 
the standing army of 1839. The issues made by their conven- 
tions were usually protection, distribution, a bank, one term. 

17 Belleville Advocate, September 17, 1841, May 18, 23, December 21, 28, 
1843; Alton Telegraph, September 9, 1843. 

18 Illinois State Register, April 28, June 16, November 24, December i, 
1843, February 16, 1844; Belleville Advocate, November 2, 30, 1843. 


The democrats contended they were trying for a hurrah cam- 
paign like that of 1840, and evidenced their use of shingles for 
purpose of applause. 19 

A first result of the nomination of Polk instead of Van 
Buren at Baltimore was to overset all the whig preparations. 
The whigs had to change their position in the face of the enemy, 
hastily alleging against Polk his vote against the Cumberland 
road and his descent from tories, and finally using such stories 
as the famous Roorback. This last consisted in an incident of 
Featherstonhaugh's travels which was revamped into a 
description of a gang of slaves being marched south to be sold, 
each branded " J. K. P." This thrilling tale professed to be 
extracted from the travels of the Baron von Roorback, a 
mythical German nobleman whose name has found immortality 
as an American political catchword. 

Otherwise the issues were narrowed to banks, a tariff, and 
the annexation of Texas; and in all these the democrats had 
the superior position. 20 Polk was easily successful in Illinois 
and successful by a narrow margin in the nation. 

Yet the party was actually far from unanimous. The 
democratic papers had been quick to recover from their invol- 
untary start of surprise at Folk's nomination and to multiply 
virtues in him and arguments for his election. Yet the Register 
lately alleged that a faction in Illinois guided by Benton had 
fought desperately against him. Once his course on the Texas 
and Oregon questions and on river and harbor improvement 
had become clear, that same faction in the democracy repudi- 
ated him and the newer southern democracy he represented. 

19 Illinois State Register, December 8, 1843, April 5, May 10, 31, 1844; 
Belleville Advocate, May 2, 9, 1844; Chicago Democrat, March 27, May i, 15, 
1844; Sangamo Journal, March 7, April n, 1844. 

20 Alton Telegraph, October 5, 26, 1844; Vandalia Free Press, July 20, 
1844; Chicago Democrat, August 28, October 16, 1844. 

XV. STATE POLITICS, 1840-1847 

SETTING aside national politics and party maneuverings 
for advantage on the issues arising from the internal 
improvement system, the springs of political life between 1839 
and 1846 are to be found in a series of political quarrels and 
rivalries ending in the expulsion from active politics one after 
another of the older political leaders. True enough there were 
state issues proper in 18391840; but these speedily became 
incrusted with personal and factional rivalries. To trace this 
whole series of squabbles would be insufferably tedious. If the 
events be studied, however, as clashes between certain striking 
characters Ebenezer Peck, T. W. Smith, William Walters, 
John Reynolds, and John Wentworth they may engage the 
reader's attention. 

The fact that the whigs were in an unfortunate situation 
on two state issues explains their failure to carry Illinois for 
Harrison in 1840. One of these issues arose from the so-called 
" life office " controversy in which they were on the unpopular 
side of a question that might be treated as one of fundamental 
political principle. The office of secretary of state had been 
held by A. P. Field since his appointment by Governor 
Edwards in the days when he was an " original Jackson man." 
The passage of time, however, had wrought miracles in party 
alignments, and in 1838 Field was a whig too inveterate for 
the democrats to endure in office. When Governor Carlin 
attempted, however, to choose a secretary of state more con- 
genial politically to his associates, Field, always of a 
pugnacious disposition, refused to be ousted, pointing out that 
the constitution of the state failed to specify the term for which 
the secretary of state was to be chosen. Accordingly the whig 
senate, with the assistance of a few democrats, supported him 



in standing upon his so-called rights. The governor's nomina- 
tions were rejected; but after the legislature had adjourned, 
the governor's appointee, John A. McClernand, sued for the 
office. Two justices of the supreme court, Samuel D. Lock- 
wood and William Wilson, held that while the term of the 
office was not for life the tenure under the constitution, until 
the senate should alter it, was dependent only on good behavior. 
Thomas C. Browne, a third justice, because he was related to 
McClernand did not give his opinion, and Theophilus W. 
Smith dissented. 

Politicians were quick to take advantage of the issue. The 
democratic papers argued that it was beyond the constitutional 
power of the legislature to fix the term of an officer appointed 
by the governor and accordingly removable by him with the 
consent of the body that concurred in the appointment. 1 They 
recalled the story that on a former occasion Elias Kent Kane, 
the virtual author of the constitution, had declared it the inten- 
tion of the convention that the governor should have power to 
remove. The state democratic convention accused the whigs 
of favoring a life tenure of office, adding to the accusation an 
attack on the "federalist" judges and senate. The topic was 
prescribed to the local conventions by a democratic circular 
issued by the state committee, October 10, 1839 ; and it figured 
duly in their resolutions. 2 The final result was that no law was 
passed and that the right of governor and senate to remove 
was vindicated. 

Before the life office question had been settled, another 
politico-constitutional question had been injected into state 
politics; and, though the democrats were far from being in so 
favorable a position on it, in the end it gave the whigs no real 
advantage. A test case as to the right of aliens to vote, which 
Governor Ford declared to have been made up by two whigs 
and which the court itself at one time believed to be fictitious, 

1 Illinois State Register, August 17, 24, 31, September 28, December 14, 
25, 1839. 

-Ibid., November 2, 9, 23, 30, December 7, 21, 1839, April 3, 1840. 


appeared on the calendar of the circuit court at Galena. It 
was there decided on the principle that the provision of the 
constitution giving the franchise to free male inhabitants of 
specified age and color did not serve to include unnaturalized 
aliens even though they had fulfilled the time required for resi- 
dence. The case was carried up to the supreme court in 1839 
and argued in December. It came up again in June when 
according to Ford, Judge Smith privately suggested to the 
lawyers for the alien side a flaw in the record, which postponed 
the decision until after the election of 1840. Meanwhile the 
democratic leaders in the general assembly had planned such a 
legislative reorganization of the judiciary as might for the 
future at least secure them from any partisan decisions favor- 
ing the whigs. 

The justices of the supreme court took the alarm and 
handed down this decision on the case at the December term, 
1840. Judge Smith in the longest opinion decided the case 
squarely on the question of the right of the alien to vote 
whether naturalized or not. Judges Lockwood and Wilson 
in their decisions were more obscure. They concurred in the 
reversal of the lower court's decision but solely, as nearly as 
one can judge, on the ground that the law left the clerk no 
power to inquire whether the voter were an alien or not. 

The assembly did not wait for the supreme court. On 
December 10, 1840, Snyder introduced into the senate a bill 
for the reorganization of the judiciary. After a prolonged 
debate the bill passed the senate by a vote of twenty-two to 
seventeen. On February i the house adopted it by a vote of 
forty-five to forty. In neither the house nor the senate were 
the democrats able to cast their full party vote for the 

As passed the measure provided for the appointment of 
five additional justices of the supreme court who with the four 
judges already sitting were to perform the duties of the nine 
circuits of the state and incidentally insure a democratic major- 
ity in the court. On February 8 the council of revision returned 


the measure with its objections signed only by the members of 
the supreme court. The three whig members instanced the 
terms of the measure and the fact that the circuit judges would 
be so overworked that cases would accumulate on the dockets. 
Smith dissented on the ground that the act was unconstitutional 
as retroactive and that it was subversive of private right as 
well as of public faith to the displaced circuit judges. On the 
reconsideration of the bill in the senate, E. D. Baker attempted, 
as nearly as one can determine, to start a filibuster, but was 
promptly declared out of order when he attempted to read 
documents or to have them read by the clerk and finally gave 
up. The bill passed the same day twenty-three to sixteen. 3 
In the house the whigs, as they had done before, tried to obtain 
a popular referendum on the question, but failed. On the 
same day, the bill repassed by a vote of forty-six to forty- 

The judiciary bill had far reaching effects on the democratic 
party. McClernand and Trumbull made the measure a test 
of party faith and bitterly denounced such men as S. G. Hicks 
and A. C. Leary of Cook who voted against it. The political 
ruin which the measure indirectly brought upon that insatiable 
Tammany politician, Theophilus W. Smith, is a better story. 
Smith had originally suggested to the democratic lawyers the 
flaw in the record which they had been able to use to postpone 
the decision of the alien case till after they had used the alien 
votes in the presidential election of the same year. At that 
time he had told the democrats that the whig justices were 
about to decide the case on constitutional grounds that would 
bar aliens from the right to vote. But in February of 1841 he 
issued with the other three justices a statement denying that 
the decision given out in December differed from that which 
they had reached in June. The various democratic leaders 
thereupon published their assertions that Smith had assured 
them to the contrary in June, and there is no particular reason 
to doubt their testimony. Smith, who in spite of his denial 

3 Illinois State Register, February 12, 1841. 


probably had senatorial aspirations in the summer of 1840, 
had been disappointed in the election of McRoberts as sena- 
tor, 4 and his wrath against his old associates was bitter. It was 
reported a year later that he had engaged to fight a duel with 
McClernand. The State Register declared that Smith was 
planning to establish at Springfield a newspaper, The Jefferson- 
ian Democrat, ostensibly democratic but whose true object was 
to wreck the party. The Register charged that the paper 
would profess democracy but advocate whig measures and, 
while supporting the presidential candidate of the party, would 
oppose its nominee for governor. In August of 1842 the 
Register published a long attack on Smith, accusing him of 
heading a riot in Chicago during the election of 1840, of drunk- 
enness, of nepotism, and of harassing the politicians who had 
favored the judiciary bill. The Register which published the 
article and the Chicago Democrat which clipped it were made 
defendants in libel suits by Smith on some of the charges in 
this attack. Smith's erratic conduct led some to believe that his 
mind was affected. Under a cloud mostly of his own raising, 
he resigned in December, 1842, from the supreme court and 
ended his long political career. 5 

Similarly the judiciary bill resulted in a turn in the political 
fortunes of another democratic politician, Ebenezer Peck. 
Peck was one of the ablest and at the same time one of the 
most abused of the democratic party leaders. The whigs were 
never tired of recalling the fact that while an American citizen 
he had gone to Canada, had become a king's counselor, and 
had, if report was true, done work for the government in the 
suppression of revolt and discontent before he came to Illinois 
about 1835 to preach the pure doctrine of democracy, conven- 
tional, undefiled, and regular. He had done yeoman service 
in the election of 1840 and now perhaps was claiming his 
reward. As a result, the whigs insinuated, of his conversion 

4 Chicago American, September 15, 1840, February 6, June 6, 1841; Illinois 
State Register, February 5, 1841; Alton Telegraph, June 26, 1841. 

5 Illinois State Register, March 12, 1841, August 26, December 2, 1842; 
Chicago American, March n, 1841; Chicago Democrat, November 30, 1842. 


to the support of the judiciary bill, for which, however, he had 
uniformly voted, the new supreme court, consisting, beside the 
former justices, of Sidney Breese, Thomas Ford, W. B. Scates, 
S. H. Treat, and S. A. Douglas, elected him clerk of the 
supreme court in the place of J. M. Duncan. There were but 
five justices present at the election and four of them voted for 
Peck. Even many of the democratic papers had nothing good 
to say of the appointment of the " midnight clerk," and Peck 
with his friends of the State Register and the Springfield clique 
found enemies ready to assail them on all sides. 6 

Notable among the enemies whom the Springfield clique 
had to encounter was " Long John " Wentworth, editor of the 
Chicago Democrat and for many years the leader of his 
party in the city. He had come to the state to seek his 
political fortune in 1836, and if Peck is to be believed had 
begun his career with Peck's financial support and patronage. 
Peck professed a very poor opinion of him; if it was real, like 
many others he understood Wentworth's political ability too 
late. Throughout 1842 Wentworth with the Ottawa Free 
Trader and Carrolton Advocate, waged open war on Peck, 
the Register, and the clique. For a time he hoped to secure 
in the legislature the defeat of Walters for public printer. In 
the legislature the clique was triumphant in the elections of 
1842-1843. It defeated R. M. Young for senator, Walters 
alleging that he had Tyler leanings and was of doubtful ortho- 
doxy, and elected Sidney Breese as a result, it was claimed, of 
a bargain by which the latter had withdrawn from the guber- 
natorial race of i842. 7 

Walters was elected public printer, and for the three vacant 
seats in the supreme court left by the resignations of Ford, 
Breese, and Theophilus W. Smith there were chosen Young in 

6 Sangamo Journal, August 7, 1840, March 19, 26, 1841; Chicago American, 
June 27, July 14, 18, 24, September 18, 1840, March 17, 1841 ; Illinois State 
Register, May 7, July 16, 1841. 

''Alton Telegraph, October i, December 24, 1842; Sangamo Journal, Novem- 
ber n, 1842; Illinois State Register, November 4, 1842; Chicago Democrat, 
October 5, 19, November 30, December 14, 1842; Belleville Advocate, Novem- 
ber 17, 1842. 


the northern circuit, James Semple, and J. M. Robinson. 
Wentworth was much aggrieved at the placing of southern 
men in positions in the northern part of the state, asserting that 
the south would not permit a similar proceeding. 

The rise to political prominence of such men as Wentworth 
had been preceded by the elimination of the politicians of the 
past decade. The congressional elections of 1841 especially 
had marked the end of an era. Of the three successful candi- 
dates the career of each had run its course with his election in 
this year. In the looseness of their party affiliations they 
typified the passing democratic regime in Illinois. In the first 
district that old political war horse John Reynolds had little 
difficulty in beating Henry L. Webb. Webb was a man of little 
ability and his candidacy was supported by the Alton Telegraph 
only after it felt assured that no stronger whig could be induced 
to run. Stephen R. Rowan had offered himself as a kind of 
independent candidate appealing especially to whig votes. 
Reynolds attacked him in spite of his three votes for Jackson 
and two for Van Buren as being for a bank, distribution, and 
the repeal of the subtreasury. The Alton Telegraph on the 
other side refused to consider Rowan's professions genuine in 
view of his political past; and finally, after in vain trying to 
bring Reynolds' blunders as financial agent for the state into 
the campaign, he did actually withdraw in favor of Webb. On 
the day of election Reynolds received 8,046 votes to 4,829 for 
Webb and 171 for Rowan. 8 

In the second district Zadoc Casey with a very nondescript 
record in congress was barely successful over Stinson H. Ander- 
son, receiving 7,121 votes to 6,949 for his opponent. Casey 
had finally been read out of the party by the State Register 
which pronounced him no better than a whig, evidencing his 
declaration for a United States Bank, his course on the sub- 
treasury, and his somewhat underhanded attempt to secure 
the speakership of the house. The whigs were disposed to give 

8 Alton Telegraph, April 17, May 15, 22, June 14, July 10, 17, 31, 1841; 
Belleville Advocate, April 17, July 3, 23, 1841 ; Illinois State Register, May 28, 
1841 ; Sangamo Journal, June 4, 1841. 


him support on the ground assigned by the Sangamo Journal 
that he was sound on at least one whig measure. 9 

In the north, John T. Stuart made his last successful run 
for congress. The democrats, according to their opponents, 
made a desperate attempt to defeat him by inducing some whig 
to run against him. The Alton Telegraph indeed felt it neces- 
sary to threaten R. F. Barrett with an exposure in case he 
ventured to fulfill the desire of the democrats by running 
against Stuart James H. Ralston opposed him as the demo- 
cratic candidate. The State Register reproved the Chicago 
Democrat for lukewarmness in his behalf, alleging that Went- 
worth had opposed the holding of a congressional convention 
in the district and had to the last endeavored to bring about 
the nomination of some favorite of his own. Wentworth pro- 
fessed to believe that anyone of half a dozen men might have 
successfully run against Stuart and concluded that it might have 
been better after all to have held a convention. At an earlier 
time, Thomas Ford had been considered as a possible candi- 
date in the district. Stuart's victory was not imposing, for he 
received but 21,698 votes as against 19,553 f r Ralston and 
470 for Frederick Collins. 10 

Before the congressional race was over, the contest for the 
governorship had begun. At the end of 1840 O. H. Fellows, 
Edwards, Lincoln, Browning, Eddy, William Fithian, W. F. 
Thornton, and Joseph Duncan were all mentioned for the whig 
nomination. At the meeting of the legislature, however, the 
whig members reached a practical conclusion to run Duncan 
on his past record on the bank, internal improvements, and the 
canal. The question whether a state convention was necessary 
to reach an agreement as to the candidate, or whether the old 
method of compromise and of bringing influence to bear to 
induce rival candidates to withdraw might not be successfully 

9 Illinois State Register, June u, July 9, 23, November 12, 1841; Sangamo 
Journal, May 21, August 20, 1841. 

l Alton Telegraph, June 19, 1841; Sangamo Journal, May 7, June 4, August 
20, 1841; Chicago American, January 29, 1841; Illinois State Register, August 
13, 1841; Chicago Democrat, September n, 1841. 


applied, arose as soon as it appeared the party was not unani- 
mous for him. The Peoria Register and the Chicago American 
had favored the candidacy of Thornton; and the Shawneetown 
Republican and the Kaskaskia Republican were for William H. 
Davidson, a candidate who on account of his anticanal record 
was not acceptable to the northern part of the state. Toward 
the end of the summer the Fulton Telegraph suggested the 
name of Abraham Lincoln, but the Sangamo Journal did not 
believe that Lincoln desired the office, since it would take four 
of the best years of his life from his practice and he had already 
been noted for the sacrifices he had made for party principles. 
The whigs issued a call for a convention to meet the third 
Monday in December, signed by J. F. Speed, A. G. Henry, 
Lincoln, E. D. Baker, and May. Early in November, David- 
son withdrew from the contest for the nomination, and the 
whigs at once entertained hopes that this move might render a 
convention unnecessary. The dislike of southern Illinois for 
conventions was advanced as a reason why it was especially 
desirable to avoid holding one if possible. The whig central 
committee accordingly withdrew the call for the convention, 
the democratic papers insinuating that it was at the command 
of the Springfield junto. 11 If one can judge by the later com- 
ments on the campaign by such whigs as Lincoln the harmony 
in the party in favor of Duncan was mainly on the surface. 

While Duncan was being chosen by the whig members of 
the state legislature, Adam W. Snyder was being selected by 
the democrats. An opposition to him developed, partly based 
on the fact of his uncertain course on the measures that were 
the tests of party faith in 1837. A. G. Herndon wrote letters 
to the State Register signed "A Slashergaff," in which Robin- 
son was in this particular favorably contrasted with Snyder; 
and in the fall Robinson was informally suggested as a candi- 
date. Then, too, there was real hostility to Snyder exhibited, 
so the State Register claimed, by the Chicago Democrat on the 

11 Chicago American, January 13, 1841; Alton Telegraph, February 13, 
July 3, 10, 31, November 13, December n, 1841; Illinois State Register, February 
19, 1841; Sangamo Journal, October 15, 22, 29, November 26, 1841. 


ground of his supposed attitude toward the canal. Utterances 
came emphatically from northern Illinois that it would support 
no man who was not unqualifiedly in favor of the completion of 
the canal. Finally Snyder, albeit in somewhat uncertain and 
equivocal fashion, declared in favor of the canal; and as the 
time of the convention approached, opposition to him died 
away. He was nominated on the first ballot, receiving 148 
votes to 1 1 cast for M. K. Alexander, who had not, however, 
been put in nomination. According to the whigs the inner circle 
of the democratic party had decided that William A. Richard- 
son should be run for lieutenant governor; it took four ballots 
in the convention, however, before John Moore was finally 
nominated. The Quincy Herald was rather loath to accept 
Snyder, apparently in view of his declaration for the canal; 
but there was no help for it. 12 

In Snyder southern Illinois had imposed on the party its 
gubernatorial candidate, but the chances of life and death were 
to render frustrate its advantage. As early as February re- 
ports of Snyder's serious illness began to circulate. By the end 
of April it was known that he was too ill to take the stump as 
the democratic papers were demanding, and on May 14 he 
was dead. Immediately the southern democrats began to 
move to secure the appointment of a man from that section as 
his successor. Reynolds was mentioned, but the telegraph had 
not yet revolutionized convention and nomination methods, 
and it was doubtful if his assent to a candidacy for the nomi- 
nation could have been obtained in time to enable him to return 
from Washington for an effective campaign. Even so, his 
friends manufactured some support for him in Scott, Shelby, 
Williamson, and Gallatin counties. 

The movement in favor of Breese was much stronger than 
that for Reynolds and developed much earlier. He was nomi- 
nated by a meeting at Vandalia, and by the Belleville Advocate 
and by the Illinois Sentinel. It was said that the whole of the 

12 Illinois State Register, July 16, October 15, 22, 29, December 17, 29, 31, 
1841; Alton Telegraph, January 22, 1842; Sangamo Journal, November 12, 
December 17, 1841; Belleville Advocate, October 15, 21, November, passim. 


Wabash country was in favor of his candidacy, the W abash 
Republican, the Mt. Carmel Republican, and a meeting in 
Effingham county all declaring for him. Breese expressed his 
willingness to run, provided it was possible to concentrate the 
approval of the party by county nominations and the support 
of democratic papers. Finally he withdrew in favor of Ford. 13 

Meanwhile northern Illinois with the assistance of the 
State Register had secured the acceptance of Thomas Ford as 
the candidate of the party, disregarding the claim of the south 
for a southern man. The Register on May 27 declared its 
belief that Ford was as good a candidate as could be selected 
and might as well be accepted in view of the fact that there 
was not time to hold another convention and that the consent 
of Reynolds could not be obtained in time. The Chicago 
Democrat also favored Ford's nomination. The Chicago 
American declared that a meeting at Springfield which for- 
mally assumed to nominate him was a packed one, only four 
counties out of the twenty represented in it lying below Van- 
dalia. In the face of the Chicago Democrat's denials it insisted 
that the nomination of Ford had been arranged before Snyder's 
death by a clique of northern officeholders and office seekers, 
without allowing the southern part of the state any voice in 
the matter. 14 

As in 1838, the whigs were now to find that their intro- 
ductory campaign work was almost worthless. Snyder's record 
was well known and offered openings to attack from various 
angles. Putting aside his supposed reliance on Mormon votes 
and his somewhat uncertain attitude on the canal, his opponents 
could say that he had tried to evade payment of a debt owed 
to the first state bank on the plea that the bank was unconstitu- 
tional and hence could have no existence sufficient to collect 
debts due to it. His course in congress in the critical years, 

13 Chicago American, February 17, April 29, May n, 23, June 6, 7, 15, 
18, July 14, 1842; Illinois State Register, May 27, July 8, 1842; Belleville Advo- 
cate, May 26, June 2, 9, 1842. 

14 Illinois State Register, May 27, 1842; Chicago American, June 2, 14, 
30, 1842. 


1 837-1 839, could be made to appear equivocal and had so been 
branded by such democrats as McRoberts and A. G. Herndon. 
The Chicago American indeed, on April 4, had remarked that 
democrats of the old school would support Duncan rather 
than Snyder. 15 

All efforts at collecting evidence against Snyder had been 
thrown away. The whigs had now on short notice to find 
material with which to assail Ford, and they made hard work 
or it. The best they could do was to denominate him a judge 
who had used his position to make political capital. The Chi- 
cago Democrat ran a cut of a dolefully long face representing 
Duncan when he heard that Ford had consented to run. The 
Chicago American, which had praised Ford's efficiency and 
integrity as a judge before it contemplated his entrance into 
politics, was now compelled to have recourse to hints of dan- 
gerous ambition on his part. His past as an Adams man was 
of course dragged out against him with the old charge of 
circulating coffin handbills. Whig papers remarked with 
great glee on what they alleged were Ford's discomfitures on 
the stump at the hands of Duncan. They tried in northern 
Illinois also to identify Duncan as the canal candidate, claiming 
that at Mt. Carmel Ford had declared that he was opposed to 
involving the credit of the state one cent more for the benefit 
of the enterprise; further that he had repeatedly tried in the 
southern part of the state to represent Duncan as the canal 
candidate to the latter's discredit. 16 

More worthy of note was the attempt to use against Ford 
the widespread movement in northern Illinois for union with 
the territory of Wisconsin in accord with the original plan for 
the division of the northwest territory. This agitation was 
probably due to despair at the overwhelming weight of debt 
that the state internal improvement system had apparently 
irrevocably imposed on Illinois. During 1842, and even 

15 Chicago Democrat, February 9, 1842; Chicago American, January n, 
28, 29, March 2, April 4, u, 13, May 9, u, 1842. 

16 Chicago Democrat, June 8, 1842; Chicago American, June 30, July 2, 16, 
22, 25, 26, 27, August i, 1842; Illinois State Register, July 29, 1842. 


before that, meetings were held in one after another of the 
northern counties involved. Ogle, Stephcnson, Jo Daviess 
declared for the union with Wisconsin by overwhelming major- 
ities; in Stephenson it was said to be five hundred to one. In 
1840 there had been in several counties a movement for a con- 
vention to consider sending delegates to sit in union with the 
people of Wisconsin. In 1842 Governor Doty warned Gov- 
ernor Carlin against making any selections of land on what, 
according to the people of Wisconsin, was the soil of their 
territory and under the jurisdiction of Illinois only from acci- 
dental and temporary conditions. The fact that Ford in 
southern Illinois opposed annexation was used duly against 
him in the north by the Chicago American, which professed 
to believe that the people of the north would sooner vote for 
an opponent like Duncan than for a traitor to their interests 
like Ford. 17 

For the rest the campaign centered on Joseph Duncan, as 
was inevitable in view of his long and checkered career in 
Illinois politics. The whigs were able once more to exhibit 
the finer points of his record the boyish enthusiasm of the 
young officer of seventeen, the piety of the mature man, the 
long political career in congress and in the state, at least out- 
wardly statesmanlike. On the other hand, all the devious 
things so readily to be found in the career of any man who has 
striven to become rich by means of speculation, were mercilessly 
pointed out by the democrats. Whether their case was good 
in all instances in many it certainly was not the explanation 
of many a shift and device of such a record, if not disgraceful, 
was sure to be embarrassing. The Chicago Democrat did not 
stop with advising Duncan to campaign with a plat of Illiopolis, 
the town site that had once aspired to be the capital of the state. 
Discarding such stories as the one that he had extorted from 
the people of Meredosia a part of their town site in return for 
his services to them in congress, and that he had negotiated for 

^Chicago American, June 25, 1840, June 24, July 9, 18, 19, 23, 28, 1842; 
Sangamo Journal, February 4, 1842; Alton Telegraph, June 25, 1842; Chicago 
Democrat, March 23, 1840, August 10, 1842. 

[Plate owned by Illinois State Historical Library] 


the location of an internal improvement railroad thither 
stories the latter of which at least is disproved by Duncan's 
assertion that in spite of his opposition to the whole scheme of 
internal improvements, that system, touching town after town 
in which he was interested, seemed almost designed to buy his 
support still other matters remained. He had certainly 
borrowed heavily from the State Bank, even though no proof 
except assertion existed that his borrowing had influenced his 
official conduct toward it. Finally there was the matter of the 
defalcation of his brother-in-law, William J. Linn, receiver at 
Vandalia ; Duncan had been a surety for Linn, and if Walters 
of the State Register may be believed though Ford was 
inclined to doubt the hypothesis Duncan had procured from 
Linn for his own security a mortgage on all his property, leav- 
ing the other bondsmen helpless. Walters was ready to avow 
graver charges against Duncan to the effect that the fruits of 
Linn's defalcations had assisted in Duncan's speculations in 
Illiopolis and Michigan City. There is far from enough evi- 
dence to convict Duncan of trickery or dishonesty, but the 
whole situation was one that to a man of a delicate sense of 
honor would have been intolerable. 18 

Although the democrats were unsuccessful in fixing upon 
Duncan the responsibility for the State Bank failure and for 
the collapse of the internal improvement system, so far as the 
bank was concerned they could state truthfully that he had at 
least called a special session of the legislature in. 1837 to 
authorize its suspension and that his alternative to the internal 
improvement system construction by chartered companies 
to the stock of which the state should subscribe might have 
been even more disastrous to the state than the system finally 
inaugurated, since in that case the state would have given up 
any chance for profits. 19 

18 Chicago American, March 14, 28, April 26, June 10, July 22, 1842; Illinois 
State Register, May 13, June 17, July i, 8, 22, 1842; Alton Telegraph, April 2, 
May 14, June n, 1842. 

19 Belleville Advocate, May 5, 12, 1842; Sangamo Journal, April 15, 1842; 
Illinois State Register, April 8, 29, 1842; Chicago American, February 19, April 
7, May 7, 18, 19, July 18, 1842. 


Finally the democrats were prepared to take more decisive 
positions on national issues than their opponents. The whigs 
in vain protested against having the campaign fought on the 
national issues rather than on that of democratic misrule in 
the state; in vain they protested at having the hard times so 
evident within the state contrasted with their promises in 1840. 
Moreover Duncan, not realizing, as indeed he never did real- 
ize, that the school of politics founded on faction and personal 
influence in which he had grown up had, with the newer political 
order, gone, never to return, attempted to avoid taking a hard 
and fast stand on national issues; in a day when the worship of 
Jackson had passed even among the democrats he persisted in 
representing himself as a Jackson man, thereby only causing 
democrats to produce the caustic attacks on Jackson from some 
of his messages as governor, and northern whigs to refuse to 
support a renegade. After the election indeed the whigs 
attempted to explain their defeat by saying that the whig vote 
had not turned out, that in certain counties no attempt had been 
made to get it out. This attitude is an amazing contrast to the 
appeals for union on party lines and the warnings of the danger 
of split tickets that emanated to the democratic party from the 
Chicago Democrat and the Belleville Advocate. 20 

Evidence is not wanting to indicate that the weakness of 
Duncan's showing he received but 39,020 votes, to 46,507 
for Ford was due to the fact that the party had never fairly 
united on him. The statement already cited 21 shows that such 
was the case even among men who called themselves whigs and 
adds as one reason for the lack of unity that Duncan had been 
nominated by the Telegraph and Journal without consulting the 
whigs of the northern part of the state. This is borne out in 
the implied comment on the conduct of the affair in the mani- 
festo for party organization promulgated later by Lincoln, 

20 Belleville Advocate, June 30, 1842, July 14, 1843; Chicago American, 
May 26, July 14, 25, 26, August 30, 1842; Illinois State Register, May 20, 1842; 
Chicago Democrat, March 16, June 8, August 3, 1842; Chicago Daily Journal, 
January 20, 1845 ; Sangamo Journal, August 12, 1842. 

21 Chicago Daily Journal, January 20, 1845, and Alton Telegraph, May 13, 


S. T. Logan, and Blackwell. Duncan's answer was the answer 
of the man dwelling to the last in the political atmosphere of 
his youth in which close party alignment had been well-nigh the 
mark of the beast. Once again he reiterated the political ideas 
of his younger days as the only means of safety and honor for 
the whigs; but to the new practical politicians like Lincoln, 
quick to perceive the advantage of the democratic party dis- 
cipline and party unity, that course led only to defeat. 

The new complications introduced into state politics by the 
redistricting of the state in 1843 f r tne seven congressional 
seats to which it was entitled contributed still more to bring 
forward new men. Walters in the State Register opposed the 
scheme of apportionment finally agreed on, arguing that on 
the basis of the vote of 1 840 it made three districts safely whig; 
and he advocated the election of congressmen by the state at 
large instead of by districts, arguing that such a scheme would 
make for party unity. Possibly Walters foresaw what actually 
was the result, that the localizing tendency in the distribution 
of political power was to make it less easy to exercise control 
from the center. 22 

The democrats set about their work in the congressional 
districts eager for victory. In the seventh district, centering 
at Springfield and strongly whig, they nerved themselves with 
the cry that the district, formerly democratic, had been lost 
through the breaking of the ranks in the White movement of 
1836. The democrats urged the use of the convention system 
as the device which had rescued northern Illinois from the 
whigs in 1841. The main interest, however, lay in the three- 
cornered struggle for the whig nomination between John J. 
Hardin, Edward D. Baker, and Lincoln. According to the 
State Register, in the contest at the whig mass meeting at 
Springfield between Baker and Lincoln, Baker polled his votes 
early, obtained the lead, and then called on Lincoln to with- 
draw, which the latter did. Later the Register declared that 

22 Illinois State Register, February 3, March 17, 1843; Alton Telegraph, 
January 28, 1842. 


Sangamo'n county was kept in the whig column by the manipu- 
lations of the whigs who kept careful lists of the voters, knew 
how they voted, and brought influence to bear accordingly. 
Hardin, according to the Register, in spite of the attempts of 
the whigs of the junto at Springfield to sidetrack him, was the 
candidate and won handily, polling 6,230 votes to James A. 
McDougall's 5,357- 23 

Elsewhere the democrats were successful. In the fifth dis- 
trict which included the Military Tract, Douglas defeated 
Orville H. Browning by a vote of 8,641 to 8,180. In the 
fourth or Chicago district, Wentworth beat his opponents by 
a comfortable margin, polling 7,552 votes to 5,931 for Giles 
Spring and 1,167 f r Jhn Henderson. In the sixth, north- 
western Illinois, Hoge beat Walker 7,706 votes to 7,222, the 
scale being tipped by the vote in Hancock, where Hoge polled 
2,088 votes to Walker's 733. In the third district in eastern 
Illinois the democratic congressional committee addressed 
queries to the various democratic candidates as to their views 
and their readiness to submit to a convention. Of the candi- 
dates answering, Berry, Wickliffe Kitchell, and Orlando B. 
Ficklin all showed themselves reasonably orthodox, though 
Ficklin was inclined to dodge the question of the subtreasury. 
This apparently did not hinder his nomination on the fifth bal- 
lot. Ficklin beat Justin Harlan 6,425 to 5,528. 

In the second district McClernand as convention nominee 
beat Zadoc Casey 6,364 to 3,629. Casey was still trying to 
play between whigs and democrats, and both expressed pleasure 
at his defeat. "Zadoc Casey," was Wentworth's comment, 
" the democrat, the whig, the conservative, the all-things-to-all 
men, is now beaten for the first time in his life and badly 
beaten too." 24 

In the first district the election was marked by the beginning 

23 Illinois State Register, March 24, April 14, June 9, 16, August 18, 1843. 

24 Ibid., April 28, May 12, June 2, July 14, 21, 1843 ; Belleville Advocate, 
April 6, May 4, 1843. The Belleville Advocate had declared, April 6, that it 
believed the race lay between Berry, Forman, and Kitchell, with French and 
Ficklin as possibilities. See also Chicago Democrat, August 23, 1843 ; Alton 
Telegraph, August 26, 1843. 


of an open feud in the democratic party that was to last with 
the utmost bitterness through three elections and end in the 
political overthrow of John Reynolds, the oldest and shiftiest 
politician in the state. John of Cahokia was a candidate for 
renomination, arguing to his constituents that, taken in its 
strictest sense, the doctrine of rotation in office did not compel 
them to abandon a candidate who had served them well. The 
position of parties as it disclosed itself in the campaign for the 
nomination was as follows. On one side were Reynolds and 
Trumbull who on account of Trumbull's difficulty with Ford 
were both bitterly hostile to the governor and the so-called 
Springfield clique. On the other was the triumvirate of 
Shields, Koerner, and William H. Bissell, all destined to 
achieve prominence in national politics. There was a warm 
contest for delegates to the congressional district convention, 
complicated by factional differences of opinion as to the proper 
methods of apportionment differences too nice to dwell upon 
here, but responsible for the turning of the majority in a closely 
divided convention of some twenty odd delegates. As a result 
Reynolds and Trumbull, if one accepts the account of their 
friends, feeling that they had no chance before the convention 
as it was organized, withdrew or declined to allow their names 
to be presented. Accordingly on the first ballot, Robert Smith 
was nominated, receiving fourteen votes to eleven for Shields 
and two for Reynolds. In spite of the fact that Shields was 
apparently inclined to sulk and that the Repository, a sup- 
posedly democratic newspaper, kept up a hot fire on Reynolds 
during the campaign, and in spite of the fact that the whigs 
continually assailed Smith as a shifty Yankee speculator, the 
latter was elected. The Alton Telegraph attributed the result 
to a whig convention which had divided rather than united the 
party. 25 

The congressmen elected in 1843 naturally came up for a 
reelection in 1844. In most of the districts there was no 

25 Belleville Advocate, March 30, June 8, 29, 1843; Alton Telegraph, July 
15, August 26, 1843; Farmers and Mechanics Repository, July 15, 22, 1843. 


change. Baker in the seventh district was nominated by a con- 
vention in place of Hardin who, according to the Sangamo 
Journal, declined a reelection. The most interesting struggle, 
however, came in the first district where a second campaign in 
the war of John Reynolds against his foes was about to open. 
During the past year Reynolds' Belleville Advocate had waged 
relentless war on Walters, Ford, and the clique. Reynolds 
insisted that Smith had pledged himself in 1843 not to be a 
candidate for reelection and, after a series of more or less 
veiled depreciations of conventions and attacks on the conven- 
tion system, prepared to run independently. The old party 
quarrels broke forth again. The Springfield Times was 
declared by the Sangamo Journal to represent the southern 
Illinois end of the party as against Ford and the northern; and 
along with the Kaskaskla Republican, it took Reynolds' side 
against his opponents. The Belleville Advocate declared that 
the Register had conspired with the Telegraph and the San- 
gamo Journal to beat Reynolds and Trumbull and to rally a 
conservative party. The Register declared early in January 
that the Times apparently intended to support Reynolds and 
the whigs; by July, however, the Belleville Advocate was de- 
manding that the Times keep out of the congressional fight 
and its attitude is impossible of diagnosis. 26 

Reynolds meanwhile struggled on. He repelled the 
declarations of his opponents that he was a whig insisting that 
he was against whig measures and only opposed assailing the 
whigs themselves with reproaches. He appealed to the voters 
on the ground of his long residence in the state, claiming that 
he was " acting democratic" before many of his present oppo- 
nents were born. He asked them if the new settlers should be 
permitted to drive off the old settlers, and why, other things 
being equal, an old resident should not be preferred, once more 
bringing to notice that he had been a "ranger" thirty years 
before. All was to no purpose. The attacks of his opponents 

26 Chicago Democrat, May 28, 1845; Belleville Advocate, January i, 18, 25, 
February i, April 25, May 2, 9, 16, 30, June 6, July 4, 1844; Illinois State 
Register, December 8, 1843; Sangamo Journal, February 6, May 16, 1844. 


and especially those of Koerner and W. C. Kinney in the St. 
Clair Banner did not relax. Reynolds after a long life of 
political shiftiness was at last pinned squarely on the point of 
party organization. He had run his last political race. He 
did not poll even five thousand votes out of 13,091 cast; and 
he carried only one county, Pulaski. 27 

Convention or no convention, Reynolds' day was done. In 
1846 there was a new dispute as to the apportionment in a dis- 
trict convention, which after Smith's name had been withdrawn 
nominated Reynolds' ally, TrumBull, for congress. Smith was 
not to be beaten, however, as he had beaten Reynolds. County 
meetings began to call on him to run and to repudiate Trum- 
bull. Smith finally issued an address to his constituents in a 
somewhat humble tone appealing to them not to stigmatize 
him alone among the delegation and pointing out his oppor- 
tunities to be of more service than a new member. The whigs 
when he declared his intention to run independently decided 
apparently to support him, the Journal advising it, and the 
Telegraph favoring him decidedly in its news columns. Prob- 
ably this was the result of a belief that Smith was not so 
extreme in his views as Trumbull, though as the Advocate 
suggested, it may have been the result of a bargain. The State 
Register was inclined at this time to take Trumbull's side and 
to plead for party regularity; the fact that the Advocate 
claimed that Ford and the clique were supporting Trumbull 
may indicate that the Register was no longer with the so-called 
clique. Smith beat Trumbull by two thousand votes. 28 

The next victim to the partisanship that obtained in the 
democratic politics in Illinois was Walters of the State Regis- 
ter, who with that more or less vague body defined as the 
" Springfield clique " challenged the congressional delegation 
and went down in the fight. The congressional delegation in 
the matter of patronage speedily reached the habit of acting 

27 Belleville Advocate, June 6, 27, August i, 8, 1844. 

28 Alton Telegraph, May 2, June 13, 27, July 25, 1846; Belleville Advocate, 
May 7, 14, 28, June 18, 25, July 2, 9, 16, 29, 1846; Sangamo Journal, July 16, 
1846; Illinois State Register, May 8, June 19, July 17, 1846. 


together. According to Wentworth in 1845 tne Springfield 
group, including members of the legislature then in session, 
had apportioned the good things among themselves and had 
then written letters of recommendation for applicants with the 
greatest freedom. According to him, further, the men at 
Springfield in order to facilitate the multiplication of promises 
were in the habit of sending the letter of recommendation to 
the applicant instead of the president. Finally President Polk 
insisted that the congressional delegation should agree on all 
offices before appointments were made. The State Register 
began a war on the delegation pointing out the danger of the 
concentration of political power in their hands in case the rule 
laid down by Polk were to be established. In part this discord 
arose over a new attempt, in the last session of the legislature, 
by John S. Zieber, Louis M. Booth of the Qulncy Herald, and 
Kinney to oust Walters from the public printing office. The 
Register was speedily at swords' points with several of the most 
prominent democratic papers of the state. The Quincy Her- 
ald, the St. Clair Banner, the Randolph County Record, Peoria 
Free Press, Illinois Gazette, Warsaw Signal, and Chicago 
Democrat all set upon it. At Chicago, Walters could count 
on help against Wentworth from the Chicago Democrat Advo- 
cate, apparently controlled by I. N. Arnold who was aggrieved 
at the appointment of Mark Skinner as United States district 
attorney for Illinois. In the war on the congressmen, the 
Register had at first tried to draw Douglas in against them; 
but Douglas sharply declined to be separated from his col- 
leagues and repelled the attacks against their efficiency and 
ability, notably for the loss of the school fund, which the Regis- 
ter was sending out against them. Walters was soon as bitter 
against Douglas as he had been against the others. 29 

The whigs insinuated their belief that the attempt to set 
Douglas against the rest of the delegation was an attempt to 

29 Chicago Democrat, January i, 8, 22, February 19, April 2, September 24, 
1845; Illinois State Register, April 4, May 2, June 6, July ir, 18, August 9, 22, 
November 7, 1845; Sangamo Journal, April 10, August 21, 1845; Alton Tele- 
graph, January 18, May 10, 1845; Chicago Daily Journal, January 19, 1846. 


weaken him so that he might be out of Ford's way in the race 
for the senate. Ford denied any such attempt, however, and 
the Chicago Democrat and other papers disclaimed any inten- 
tion of being so easily lured into a quarrel with Ford. The 
situation cleared up slowly. In the fall the attack on Ford was 
continued by the Jackson Standard, edited at Jacksonville by 
J. S. Roberts, which accused Ford of using his office to elevate 
himself to the senate and to secure a governor favorable to 
his pretensions. Ford came out with an absolute denial, calling 
on his appointees to state if there had been a bargain in the case 
of any one of them. This attack as it seemed to the State 
Register was the result of a bargain between Douglas, McCler- 
nand, and Wentworth by which the two men first named were 
to be senators in order, Trumbull, governor, as an especial 
rebuke to Ford, and Lewis W. Ross of Fulton, lieutenant 
governor, to clear Richardson's way toward Douglas' seat in 
congress. In January the Register was compelled to admit 
that in view of a letter from Douglas to E. D. Taylor the 
charge of a bargain was groundless. 30 

Walters' career as a free lance had impaired the influence 
of his paper and ruined him politically. The winter had seen 
more bickering on his part with the delegation. 31 George R. 
Weber, his junior partner on the Register, had withdrawn 
in the preceding August. In June, 1846, Charles H. Lanphier 
assumed the duties of editor, Walters having volunteered for 
the Mexican War. A month later Walters died at St. Louis 
at the age of forty-four. His career was typical of many an 
Illinois journalist. He had been in his youth editor of the 
IV 'timing tonian in Delaware, had then been one of Duff Green's 
subordinates in Washington, and had taken part in a kind 
of labor demonstration against Green, whom he afterwards 
claimed was in a plot to control the newspapers of the country 
financially, running them by his apprentices. He had then come 

30 Chicago Democrat, July 9, 23, October 8, 21, 1845; Alton Telegraph, July 
19, October 18, 1845; Sangamo Journal, August 7, 1845; Illinois State Register, 
October 17, 31, November 7, 1845, January 23, 1846. 

31 Illinois State Register, February 20, March 13, 20, 1846. 


to Illinois where he had preached democratic principles with 
some ability; he had become hopelessly involved financially by 
his liability on Linn's bond, had intrigued for the public print- 
ing, played partisan politics, and bandied back and forth coarse 
accusations of drunkenness with his rival, Simeon Francis of 
the Sangamo Journal. There was nothing extraordinary in 
the course of his life and just enough promise of something 
better in it to lend a touch of pathos to its end. 

Another political journalist affords an instructive contrast 
with Walters. The early part of John Wentworth's career has 
already been sketched. It was, and continued to be, a series 
of quarrels with political rivals in the Chicago district in which 
Wentworth demonstrated an amazing capacity at retaining 
an unbreakable hold on the voters. In the campaign of 1846 
Wentworth had against him in Lake county a paper edited by 
Aristides B. Wynkoop, a democrat with abolitionist tendencies, 
which did not belie its name. The Little Fort Porcupine began 
a series of attacks on the democratic clique in Lake county 
allied with and dependent on Wentworth, accusing them of 
spoils politics, and malfeasance in office. Its animus against 
Wentworth was open and apparent in every number, but the 
Democrat gave it comparatively little attention. The Chicago 
Journal, June 13, 1846, remarked that so long as it advanced 
Wentworth's financial interests in Little Fort he cared little 
for its attacks. 32 

Specifically, however, it assailed Wentworth with a number 
of charges which the whig papers were not slow to use against 
him. It called him to account for alleged shortcomings in 
securing good things for the district in the way of harbor 
improvements, his vote for Texas without an equivalent for 
the north, and held him up to execration as a laughingstock in 
Washington and an intriguer at home. Wentworth was accused 
not merely of such venial sins in pursuit of votes as riding 
the circuit under pretense of practicing law to keep his fences 

32 Little Fort Porcupine, 1845, 1846, passim; Chicago Democrat, June 30, 
July 28, 1846. 


in repair, of flooding the district with franked documents, and 
of using the Chicago Democrat to puff him shamelessly, but 
also of prowling around the haunts of vice and immorality. 
He was accused of using conventions to cement his power, 
packing them with officeholders and then preaching party regu- 
larity. He was accused even of the worse political vice of 
disloyalty, of beating men for appointments and then none the 
less asking and securing their political support. 33 The political 
ghosts of Peck, of Leary, of Murphy, of Arnold, all sometime 
prominent in the district, were raised to accuse him of ingrati- 
tude. Such attacks recurred in campaign after campaign 
against the editor of the Democrat. 

In return Wentworth usually warned his supporters to 
beware of split tickets and of alleged democratic tickets from 
which his name had been omitted. He retailed as former roor- 
backs told against him that he had fallen from his horse and 
been killed and that while still unmarried he beat his wife and 
child. He made merry about alleged democratic handbills 
appearing against him. 34 Hard hitting, astute, sometimes 
cynically frank, he held absolute sway in the northern district. 

In spite of the acrimonious prelude, the gubernatorial con- 
test of 1846 was a comparatively quiet affair. Among the 
democrats there were numerous pronouncements against banks 
without any very obvious statements to the contrary for them 
to combat. Trumbull, Scates, Cavarly, and McConnell were 
all proposed for the office, but finally the choice of the conven- 
tion fell on'Augustus C. French, an eastern Illinois man. The 
gossip had been that the Springfield clique had favored Cal- 
houn as against Trumbull, and the nomination of French was 
represented as a compromise of good omen for the party. 85 

The only hope of the whigs had been apparently that 
Hardin, or possibly Lincoln, might be willing to run for gov 

33 Chicago Dally Journal, March 4, 6, 8, 13, May 5, June 23, July 29, 30, 

34 Chicago Democrat, July 28, August 4, September 8, 1846. 

35 Illinois State Register, August 22, October 3, September 26, 1845, January 
30,1846; Belleville Advocate, March 14, 1846; Chicago Dally Journal, Decem- 
ber 19, 1845, January 29, 1846. 


ernor. When Hardin declined they were generally unenthu- 
siastic. In April the Telegraph talked for a while of the need 
of a close and compact whig organization, recognizing that 
organization and not numbers was the true strength of the 
democrats; and it urged a state convention; on a convention 
the Sangamo Journal was not inclined to be enthusiastic, hoping 
the whigs could agree without one. The Telegraph was 
inclined to think the convention unimportant providing that 
unity in that or in some other way was assured, even the sug- 
gestion was put forward by the Sangamo Journal that a nomi- 
nation be made by a central committee on the basis of letters 
written to it by whigs. George T. M. Davis of the Telegraph, 
disagreed with this policy of his senior editor, claiming that at 
Springfield in the winter the whigs had concluded to run no 
one and to let the democrats for want of opposition quarrel 
among themselves. Finally when the nominations were made 
by a meeting at Peoria, the Chicago Journal put them at the 
head of its columns but refused to consider their strength or 
failure any criterion of the democratic strength in the state. 
The State Register insinuated that the whigs were only nomi- 
nating to keep up the organization. With the exception of a 
few slurs at French as "Mrs. French's husband," a medi- 
ocre man with a taste for drawing the long bow in accounts 
of his exploits, the whigs did but little. 36 At the close of the 
period of the first constitution the party that still called itself 
democratic controlled Illinois. 

36 Belleville Advocate, June 31, 1846; Alton Telegraph, July 26, August 9, 
December 27, 1845, April 18, 25, May 2, 9, 16, 30, 1846; Sangamo Journal, 
November 6, 1845, April 23, 1846; Chicago Daily Journal, March 24, December 
13, 1845, April 20, July 15, 1846; Illinois State Register, June 16, 1846. 


IN SPITE of the fiasco of the first State Bank ten years had 
not passed since that institution had reached the height of 
its career when a new State Bank was created which had a 
history at least as unfortunate as that of the old bank. The 
state's second venture into the field of banking, like everything 
else in the political and economic life of the state in the period, 
was in the end connected intimately with internal improve- 
ment plans, although for years before the adoption of the 
internal improvement system, the establishment of a new State 
Bank had been urged on grounds both financial and political. 
The beginnings of agitation for a State Bank may be 
traced to the belief that since the nation by the mouth of 
Andrew Jackson had rejected a national bank, state banks 
must arise to supply its place. In 1830-1831 and 1832-1833 
bills for the establishment of a bank had been introduced into 
the general assembly. In the winter of 1832 a movement in 
Springfield for a bank to be run on capital borrowed by the 
state was sanctioned by so good a Jackson man as May; and 
in the senate of that year, when the bank bill was defeated by 
one vote, such democrats as Ewing, John Grammar, and Will 
voted in the affirmative. 1 In the fall of 1833 the Illinois State 
Register suggested a bank with capital to be paid in specie so 
as to escape dependence upon the note issues of banks of 
other states. The Alton Spectator believed, however, that 
before granting a charter it was necessary to allay the popular 
prejudices attaching to the idea of a State Bank. On March 
1 8, 1834, it pronounced against a State Bank. The Alton 
American had on the day before declared for the bank on the 

1 Sangamo Journal, November 23, 1832, February 9, 1833; Senate Journal, 
1832-1833, i session, 579. 



ground of its possible assistance to business. The Sangamo 
Journal declared that the winding up of affairs of the United 
States Bank made necessary the establishment of an institution 
to supply currency in the place of that withdrawn from circu- 
lation, if the state were not to be overrun with the paper of 
other states. 2 

The session of 1834-1835 saw the inauguration of the new 
bank. W. L. D. Ewing, acting governor for the last part of 
Reynold's term, in his message to the legislature advocated a 
bank for the reason given by the Sangamo Journal; but Dun- 
can, the new governor, was disposed to deprecate such a 
measure. The legislature set about putting the suggestions 
into law. By a margin of one vote in the house a measure was 
passed creating a bank with a capital of $1,500,000, of which 
$100,000 might be subscribed by the state and the remainder 
by individuals, preference over nonresidents and corpora- 
tions being given to residents and small subscribers. The act 
required ten per cent of the capital to be paid in specie. When 
$250,000 in specie had been obtained from payments for stock 
or by borrowing, the bank was authorized to begin business. 
There were provisions which required the bank to liquidate, 
if for a period of ten days it refused to pay specie for its notes, 
and which imposed a ten per cent penalty for the time during 
which payment was deferred. 3 

The stock of the new bank being several times oversub- 
scribed, the commissioners in charge of the subscription lists 
met in May to prorate the stock. Governor Ford relates 
that in spite of precaution taken to prevent such a contin- 
gency, Godfrey, Gilman and Company, John Tillson, Thomas 
Mather, T. W. Smith, and Samuel Wiggins succeeded in plac- 
ing large blocks of the stock in the hands of eastern capitalists 
by using the names of Illinois citizens on subscription blanks 
for small amounts. In the meeting there was a sharp contest 

2 Illinois State Register, November 30, 1833; Illinois Advocate, December 
30, 1833; Alton Spectator, December 7, 1833; Alton American, April 4, 1834; 
Sangamo Journal, December 13, 1834. 

3 House Journal, 1834-1835, i session, 14-15, 33, 510. 


whether or not an attempt should be made to go behind the 
records of the subscription books. Finally, after much jockey- 
ing and maneuvering for position they decided by a vote of 
eight to seven not to go behind the books. Benjamin Godfrey, 
W. S. Gilman, Mather, and Tillson voted in the majority. 
Subscriptions standing in the names of foreigners and corpora- 
tions were stricken off the list, and subscriptions of residents 
were cut to one thousand dollars and then prorated. Ford 
seems incorrectly to ascribe a share in these proceedings to 
Smith. When finally the bank was organized, Griggs, Weld 
and Company, Wiggins, Gilman, and M. J. Williams owned 
7,539 shares, and eleven other persons 3,948 shares, an over- 
whelming majority of the stock. 

The bank opened under the presidency of Mather; and, 
beside the head office at Springfield, branches were established 
at Vandalia, Galena, Jacksonville, Alton, and Chicago. Under 
the laws of 1836 additional branches were opened at Danville, 
Quincy, Belleville, and- Mt. Carmel. In 1836, in return for 
a supplementary act which interpreted a provision in the first 
charter allowing an issue of an additional million of capital 
by the bank and extended to sixty days the term for which the 
bank could suspend payment on notes without invalidating its 
charter, the bank agreed to take over the payment of the 
famous Wiggins' loan. A large block of the additional shares 
issued came into Wiggins' hands. 4 

The State Bank meanwhile had been maneuvering to be 
chosen as United States depository, but it had encountered 
political difficulties. The sponsors for the bank had sought in 
vain to induce Reuben M. Whitney, the special examiner of 
depositories, to use his influence in their behalf. Secretary of 
the Treasury Lev! Woodbury hesitated. He was informed 
that the bank was in the control of whigs and that to recognize 
it would give a check to the loyal friends of the administration 
in Illinois. Woodbury finally indicated his unfavorable atti- 

4 Dowrie, Development of Banking in Illinois, 65-67, 71 ; Illinois Advocate, 
June 10, 1835. 


tude toward the application, specifying as reasons for the 
unfair allotment of stock the alleged unconstitutionally of the 
bank as being a State Bank only in name and its custom of not 
redeeming the notes of one branch at every other. 5 In all 
these charges there was much of truth. 

Meanwhile 1837, the year of the internal improvement 
mania, drew on. In view of the liberal dividends paid by the 
State Bank it appeared to the advocates of internal improve- 
ment an ideal means of financing their ambitious project without 
subjecting themselves to the unpopularity sure to arise from 
an application of increased taxation. Accordingly the stock 
of the State Bank was increased by a $2,000,000 state sub- 
scription, which was to be paid for by an issue of state bonds 
at not less than par. Of these enough were to be sold to make 
the necessary cash payment on the stock. The state placed 
five additional directors of its own on the board, which hith- 
erto had consisted of nine members. 6 

Meanwhile a similar subscription for a million was made 
to the old Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown, which had been 
revived in 1835. The bank had remained quiescent since its 
suspension in 1823, had started into life again in 1834, and in 
1835 had had its charter extended to 1857. A committee in 
1837 reported that the bank was well managed and that prac- 
tically all its notes had been redeemed when it had ceased to 
discount in 1822-1823. It was in 1837 doing a legitimate 
business in buying bills of exchange on New Orleans issued 
against shipments of produce at one per cent discount and in 
selling exchange on Philadelphia and New Orleans at one per 
cent premium. 7 

The panic of 1837, which had such disastrous effects on 
the internal improvement system, began by putting into dif- 
ficulties the banks upon which the system was based. Late in 

5 Dowrie, Development of Banking in Illinois, 72-73, 75 -passim; Sangamo 
Journal, January 23, 1836. 

G Laivs of 1837, p. 1 8. 

7 Dowrie, Development of Banking in Illinois, 64; Senate Journal, 1836- 
1837, i session, 356. 


May the banks suspended payments. Governor Duncan was 
persuaded to call a special session of the assembly to legalize 
the suspension of payments by the State Bank and to prevent 
the consequent forfeiture of its charter. This the assembly 
proceeded to do with certain limitations upon the business 
which the bank might perform during the period of suspen- 
sion. It provided for relief to the bank's debtors during the 
time of suspension and limited to the amount of the capital 
paid in the amount of notes that the bank might issue. Finally, 
it prohibited dividends until payments were resumed. 8 

Partly perhaps as a result of local dissatisfaction with the 
banks' curtailment, partly with a view to the national political 
situation, almost immediately on the suspension of payments 
a hostility to all banks became vocal in the democratic party. 
For instance, some ten votes in the senate were cast against 
the bank's suspension measure. The Sangamo Journal, which 
justified the suspension on account of the financial relations 
of state and banks, was quick to mark this hostility and to call 
attention to its inconsistency with the democrats' responsibility 
for the creation and use of the banks; it proclaimed that the 
democrats were now declaring for a metallic currency. Shields 
used similar arguments against the antibank men in the demo- 
cratic party, declaring that the men who had formerly employed 
the bank stock speculation to avoid the necessity of taxation 
for internal improvements were now claiming to be opposed 
to the bank on principle. He urged the necessity of giving 
the bank time in order to avoid involving the state and its 
citizens in ruin and declared that the ultras in his party were 
playing into the hands of the whigs. "The ultra democrats," 
he said, "are opposed to state institutions, they want specie. 
The ultra whigs are opposed to state institutions, they want 
a National Bank." 9 

The opposition to the bank in the democratic party was 
not convinced. Semple, for instance, who claimed he had 

8 2 Laius of 1837, p. 6. 

9 Senate Journal, 1837, special session, 71; Illinois State Register, August 


always been opposed to banking institutions denounced banks 
as enabling the rich to grow richer by issuing three dollars in 
notes for one in specie and by enjoying corporate privileges. 
Jackson, he said, whatever might be said or inferred to the 
contrary, had never recommended the establishment of a bank. 
The Sangamo Journal, October 28, declared its belief that 
Kinney, Reynolds, Ewing, Shields, and Wyatt were against 
the locofoco doctrine of the Chicago Democrat and the Jack- 
sonville News the destruction of all banks. Resolutions 
denouncing banks that did not pay specie and urging the over- 
throw of all banks began at this time to make their appearance 
in the proceedings of county meetings. 10 

For a year and a half, however, the banks drew compara- 
tively little attention. Nevertheless the clouds were thickening 
about the State Bank. In May of 1839 the Chicago Democrat 
published an article accusing it of financing pork and land specu- 
lations through the relatives and friends of its directors, as 
well as heavy lead speculation at Galena. The Sangamo 
Journal defended the bank, arguing that it had brought into 
the state a considerable amount of foreign capital which it 
would have held there but for the undeveloped resources of 
Illinois and the baleful effects of that democratic whimsy of 
specie currency. 11 

In the democratic county conventions held in the fall of 
1839, perhaps in response to the pulling of wires at Spring- 
field, resolution after resolution was passed demanding the 
divorce of state and bank and the reducing of the banks to a 
proper subordination to the will of the people. These resolu- 
tions warned the public against the danger of monied oligar- 
chies, going so far as to declare against all banks, and pointed 
with alarm to bank influence in the government of the state. 
The Bank of Illinois, for its abstention from speculation and 
its endeavor to serve the people, had found favor in the eyes 

10 Sangamo Journal, October 28, November 18, December 9, 1837; Illinois 
State Register, August 14, December i, 1837; Chicago Democrat, August 16, 1837. 

^Sangamo Journal, August 23, September 6, 1839; Chicago Democrat, 
May i, 1839. 


of the Register at least; but R. F. Barrett, himself accused of 
speculation with funds of the State Bank, declined an appoint- 
ment as state director in it on the ground that no system of 
management could restore the credit of the bank and regain 
the support of the public. 12 

In his message to the special session called to consider what 
was to be done with the internal improvement system, Gov- 
ernor Carlin was very severe upon banks in general and the 
State Bank in particular. He pronounced the incorporation 
of fiscal institutions to regulate the finances of the country 
contrary to the genius of a free people; he declared that the 
channels of business ought not to be filled up and controlled 
by a circulating medium susceptible of expansion and contrac- 
tion at the pleasure of a few. He pointed to the danger of 
inflation and the resulting high prices and to the distress 
caused by the pressure of the bank on its creditors. He 
denounced the suspension whether legalized or not. Finally 
he invited a legislative investigation as to whether the bank 
legitimately tried to serve the business and public interests of 
the state or whether it had been of service solely to specu- 
lators. 13 

The legislative investigation forced even the friends of the 
bank to admit that a sorry condition of affairs existed. It was 
found that Wiggins had been allowed to use his bank stock 
as collateral for a loan with which to meet the payments due 
on it; it was found that the cashier of the Chicago branch had 
loaned considerable sums to pork speculators while accommo- 
dation was denied to others. Moreover it was discovered that 
the bank had lent its aid to ambitious schemes for building up 
in Illinois a commercial metropolis to rival St. Louis. 

The commercial aspirations of Alton have already been 
noticed. They centered in the activities of firms of New 
England men, such as Godfrey, Gilman and Company, and of 
New England houses like Griggs, Weld and Company of 

12 Illinois State Register, September 28, November 23, 30, December 25, 
1839; Sangamo Journal, December 10, 1839, January 21, 1840. 

13 Senate Journal, 1839-1840, special session, 17. 


Boston. Godfrey and Gilman, by virtue of their influence as 
large stockholders in the bank had secured discounts and loans 
in one form or another to the amount of some $800,000. They 
had used these sums largely in attempts to turn the lead trade 
of the upper Mississippi from St. Louis to Alton. They had 
endeavored to operate a corner in lead as well as to make 
extensive purchases of smelters. The bank through other 
agencies too had come very near to buying and selling lead 
speculatively. Much of this speculative business not even the 
friends of the bank could condone. 14 

For a time the whig newspapers informed their readers 
that the locofocos designed to destroy the State Bank and to 
establish in its stead a political one guided by Ebenezer Peck 
and Theophilus W. Smith. Soon, however, they came to 
believe that the locofocos, finding that the whigs would not 
interfere to arrest their affected fury against the bank, were 
taking more moderate counsel rather than shoulder the respon- 
sibility of its destruction. The Register especially printed 
articles urging moderate courses, lest for the sake of antibank 
principles the country be ruined. Finally the legislature 
allowed the bank to continue its suspension, until the close of 
the next session of the legislature, under certain limitations in- 
cluding the obligations to accept its notes in payment of all 
debts due it. 15 

The wording of this grace was such as to enable the oppo- 
nents of the bank to curtail the benefits which the institution 
might legitimately have expected from it. In order if possible 
to meet the problem of providing for the interest on the state 
debt, Governor Carlin in the fall of 1840 summoned the new 
general assembly in special session two weeks before the regu- 
lar day of meeting. The democrats elected to believe that this 
special session must necessarily terminate before the day on 
which the regular session would begin. Accordingly the end 
of the next session of the legislature would fall not in February 

14 Dowrie, Development of Banking in Illinois, 90 ff. 

13 Sangamo Journal, January 7, 21, 1840; Illinois State Register, December 
2 5. 1839; Alton Telegraph, December 28, 1839. 


as might have been expected, but in December. A resolution 
was pushed through both houses of the legislature for sine die 
adjournment, as the whigs claimed from the malevolence of 
Theophilus W. Smith. The whigs in the house strove to pre- 
vent adjournment by absenting themselves in such number as 
to prevent a quorum. As a laot desperate resort, Abraham 
Lincoln, Joseph Gillespie, and Asahel Gridley inscribed a defen- 
estration on the annals of Illinois by jumping out of the state- 
house window, an expedient worthy of better things than the 
twitting Hardin later gave Lincoln on the subject. 16 The 
assembly adjourned. The legislators considered themselves 
ill used when the governor declined to waste a second message 
on them in their new session. The State Bank resumed pay- 
ments, hoping that other banks would live up to an agreement 
to resume on the fifteenth of January. 17 

The democrats, in spite of the whig charge that a clique 
among them desired the destruction of the bank that there 
might be reared a structure of six millions in its stead, 
affected at least some of them to claim that the bank had 
been frightened by false fire and that adjournment had been 
taken on the grounds of purest constitutional practice with no 
reference to the bank whatever. The bank's refusal to finance 
the state further or to cash salary warrants soon caused the 
democrats to look with sympathy on its plight; and they ulti- 
mately legalized its suspension till other banks in the south 
and west should resume and even allowed it to issue notes of 
one dollar, two dollars, and three dollars. A minority of some 
fourteen democrats in the house, and ten in the senate served 
to pass the bill. 18 

The State Bank under the suspension act went on its way; 
it increased instead of reducing its note issue; it made loans 
to directors and began work on an expensive banking house. 

16 Illinois State Register, December 18, 1840. 

17 Dowrie, Development of Banking in Illinois, 97-98 ; Illinois State Register, 
December n, 1840, January i, 1841; Chicago Amtncan, December 10, 1840; 
Belleville Advocate, December 12, 1840. 

18 Chicago American, December 10, 12, 26, 1840; Illinois State Register, 
December u, 1840, January i, 1841; Sangamo Journal, December n, 1840. 


Throughout 1841 and the earlier months of 1842 democratic 
attacks on the bank redoubled. Suspensions, nonliability of 
stockholders, the unholy alliance of bank and state were all 
attacked in heated resolutions. The State Register the week 
after praising the Bank of Illinois for its judicious course 
declared against all banks. The Belleville Advocate repeatedly 
urged farmers to take only gold and silver in payment for 
their produce. The whigs, affecting to resign themselves to 
the fate of the State Bank, devoted themselves to fixing on 
their opponents the responsibility for its crimes and misman- 
agement, looking only to a national bank for relief. At times 
the Chicago American was as keenly critical as the Democrat, 
which had to explain the defects of the bank management under 
democratic administration as the fault of easy virtued demo- 
crats who were sufficient in numbers when allied with the whigs 
to give the bank control in the legislature. By the early sum- 
mer both whigs and democrats agreed on the general proposi- 
tion that the banks must resume or forfeit their charters. 
The stock of the State Bank a year before had fallen to thirty- 
seven cents on the dollar. In February of 1842 the credit of 
its notes in Illinois declined, and in April they fell to forty- 
four cents on the dollar. 19 

Meanwhile it was thought that the Shawneetown bank 
might extricate itself from its difficulties and resume; but it 
passed the day set for resumption, June 15, 1842, and its notes, 
which on May 14 had been within six or seven per cent of par 
at Chicago, were a month later at ten per cent discount. John 
Marshall, who as president had conducted the bank's affairs 
with skill, refused a reelection in January, 1843. The notes 
of the Bank of Cairo, representing another revival of a terri- 
torial charter which had furnished in 1840 a very large share 
of the small note currency and which apparently was then on 

19 Chicago Democrat, February 9, June 8, October 19, 1842; Belleville Advo- 
cate, January 27, March 3, 10, April 28, September 22, 1842; Illinois State 
Register, April 8, May 6, 13, 1842; Chicago American, March 10, 19, April 2, 
7, 13, 25, 1842; Alton Telegraph, July 16, 1842; Dowrie, Development of Bank- 
ing in Illinois, 99, 101. 


a sound basis, by 1841 had begun to depreciate; and by Decem- 
ber, apparently after it had been rumored that the Wrights 
were interested in the bank, the notes were unsalable in both 
Chicago and St. Louis. The charter was repealed in 1843, 
but the bank was not liquidated for twenty years thereafter. 20 

The fate of the State Bank and Bank of Illinois was ren- 
dered inevitable by the fact that they were linked with the 
disastrous state internal improvement system. Compelled to 
pay dividends on stock paid for by bonds selling in 1840 and 
1841 at all manner of discounts, their burden was a heavy one. 
Bad banking only hastened the inevitable result. 

With the fall of the banks the currency of the state, which 
had hitherto consisted largely of bank notes, fell into appar- 
ently hopeless confusion. In the fall of 1842, state offices 
finally refused to accept State Bank paper for taxes. In 
July, it was said business was very near a specie basis in both 
Chicago and St. Louis. In September the American declared 
that at Chicago little was in circulation beside specie and notes 
of the State Bank of Indiana and the Wisconsin Marine and 
Fire Insurance Company. The latter concern, whose guiding 
spirit was George Smith, a canny Scotchman, for many years 
gave Chicago a sound paper currency almost in defiance of 
the law. 21 

When the State Bank came up for final judgment in the 
assembly of 18421843, two different points of view were 
evident. There were certain radicals who were opposed to 
all banks and all corporate privileges on principle and 
advocated repeal of the bank charter. The radicals won over 
Governor Carlin to their side and induced him to recommend 
the repeal in his last message. This action seriously hampered 
his successor, Ford, who rejected the proposal on grounds both 
of the state's financial advantage and of the bad effect on 

20 Chicago American, September n, 1840, January 13, December 10, 1841, 
March 22, April 19, May 4, 14, 18, June 29, 1842; Dowrie, Development of 
Banking in Illinois, 126-128. 

21 Chicago American, July 12, 27, August 27, 1842; Dowrie, Development of 
Banking in Illinois, 129. 


European capitalists that such a violation of vested right would 
produce. Instead he proposed a compromise by which the state 
bonds should be withdrawn dollar for dollar in return for the 
surrender of the state's stock. 22 Governor Ford with the sup- 
port of McClernand and Douglas forced a bill through the 
house of representatives adopting the project, by a vote of one 
hundred and seven to four. Peck and Trumbull in the hope 
of receiverships if the bank were smashed, according to the Al- 
ton Telegraph demanded more violent measures; but their 
agitation merely served to draw on Trumbull the fire of Mc- 
Clernand at its hottest. They made Ralston their agent in the 
senate to oppose the bill; but the only result was to give the 
latter the opportunity to sit for his portrait in Ford's history, 
the governor drawing the picture with his pen dipped in the 
sharpest caustic. The act passed, and the bank began what 
was to be a long period of liquidation. The bonds of the 
state, turned over almost immediately, were burned by the 
governor before the statehouse, as a symbol of the state's 
decision. But this was only the beginning of a process the end 
of which lies far outside the period of this volume. 23 

The Bank of Illinois was compelled to accept liquidation 
of a similar sort, but it was allowed a year to pay up the 
second half of the million of indebtedness to the state in 
exchange for state stock. In the second payment, it attempted 
to include certain of the bonds hypothecated to Macalister and 
Stebbins; this resulted in a controversy and finally the accep- 
tance of the bonds by the state at forty-eight cents on the dollar. 
Ultimately the only creditors to suffer a total loss were the 
private stockholders in the bank. 24 

Thereafter at least until the close of the period, the doc- 

22 On Investigation it was found that the State Bank held $2,103,000 in 
state bonds which could be set off against a sum some fifty thousand dollars 
larger, made up of the following items: bonds $1,686,000, scrip $17,534.50, 
advance for current expenses $292,373.17, advance for fund commissioners $156,- 

28 Alton Telegraph, December 31, 1842; Dowrie, Development of Banking 
in Illinois, 13, 166 ff. ; Ford, History of Illinois, 307 passim; Illinois State Reg- 
ister, January 6, 1843; Sangamo Journal, February 2, 1843. 

24 Dowrie, Development of Banking in Illinois, 124-126. 

trine of the democratic party was against further incorporation 
of state banks, against the connection of state or nation with 
a bank, and, as phrased by certain ultra-radicals, against any- 
thing but a gold and silver currency. Antibank utterances were 
bandied back and forth in the party meeting and journals with 
a view, as Ford sarcastically remarked, to the obtaining of 
personal popularity at a cheap rate. Nevertheless in the party 
there was a tendency on the part of more moderate men to 
recognize the inevitableness of some form of banking institu- 
tion. The State Register had occasionally to meet charges 
that it secretly desired the establishment of banks. And there 
was in the democratic party, as the constitutional convention of 
1847 was to demonstrate, a strong element inclined to temper 
its utterances regarding the iniquities of all banks. The next 
chapter of banking in the state, however, remains to be written 
in the succeeding volume. 25 

25 Illinois State Register, February 3, August 18, 1843, February 9, October 
n, 1844; Belleville Advocate, August i, 16, 1843, January i, 1844, November 
29, 1845; Chicago Democrat, July 10, 1844, February 23, 1846; Ford, History 
of Illinois, 297. 


TO COMPLETE the story of the internal improvement 
system so rashly inaugurated by the state of Illinois in 
1837 it remains to give an account of the means by which the 
state was finally extricated from the seemingly hopeless posi- 
tion into which its general assembly had thrown it. With the 
story of the salvation of the state is inseparably connected the 
name of Thomas Ford. Thomas Ford, seventh elected gov- 
ernor of Illinois, had had an obscure political career until the 
time he was elected to the position of chief executive. Poverty 
had hampered him in his political ambitions as it had hampered 
his half-brother, George Forquer, compelling them both to 
serve for years as stout henchmen to other leaders. Forquer 
had been embittered by his overlong apprenticeship in politics, 
and Ford probably suffered from a similar cause. He was a 
lawyer of no mean ability and had served with honor as circuit 
judge before he became governor. At the end of his term as 
governor he set himself to write a history of Illinois, one of 
the two or three remarkable books written in the state during 
the formative period. Ford undertook the task of explaining 
the political tendencies and habits of the Illinois of his day, in 
particular, of explaining for the benefit of future generations 
the seemingly inexplicable devotion of the people of the state 
to the kind of partisan politics exemplified by Peck. With 
this ideal before him, Ford produced a book that only the dis- 
illusioned cynicism with which it is written has held back from 
recognition as one of the clearest and most subtle analyses of 
American politics. Being one of the earliest of books on the 
philosophy of American history, it should no longer be neg- 
lected and dismissed as merely an old book of state history. 



At Ford's inauguration the state stood at the point where 
a decision must be made with reference to internal improve- 
ments. Carlin, passing off the stage as governor, sent a 
farewell message to the general assembly that is no more than 
a sigh of " 'Tis a' a muddle." Like the good locofoco he 
was he attributed the whole internal improvement scheme to 
the baleful effect of paper money. He detailed in meager, 
bewildered paragraphs the steps of the state's downfall; he 
told the legislature that their duty was to provide for the pay- 
ment of the interest on eleven millions of debt, some $670,000. 
He denounced as impracticable the raising of any money from 
the sale of state lands; and as arguments against taxation to 
discharge the interest he pleaded a declining tax roll, a disap- 
pearing circulating medium and popular disapproval. Thus 
abandoning all hope of paying the interest on the debt, he told 
the general assembly that it must plan to reduce the principle 
by surrendering the state lands to the bondholders in case they 
cared to take them. He recommended the rejection of the 
state's share of the distribution fund on grounds of principle 
and stammered his way to the close alike of his message and 
of his official career. 

No stronger contrast to this message can be imagined than 
the inaugural of Ford. By the openness and sincerity with 
which it discussed the state's plight it carried conviction of 
the honesty of its statements and proposals. The frankness 
with which it coupled the admission of the justness of the 
state debt with the need for patience on the part of the credi- 
tors, if the state ever were to be able to pay all, showed that 
the backwoods judge had found instinctively the method of 
address that wins the confidence and support of men of affairs. 

"The whole amount of the State debt," wrote Ford, 
" excluding interest now due, may be put down at the sum of 
fifteen millions one hundred and eighty-seven thousand three 
hundred and forty-eight dollars and seventy-one cents; which 
sum, from the best information which I can obtain, appears 
to be composed of the following items: 


Bonds negotiated on account of the Canal $3,747,000.00 

Scrip and certificates of indebtedness issued to contractors by the 

Canal Board 689,408.00 

Bonds negotiated on account of the system of internal improvements. 5,085,444.00 

Scrip issued to contractors on account of internal improvements 929.305.53 

Bonds issued to and purchased by the State Bank on account of State 

stock 1,765,000.00 

Bonds issued to and purchased by the Bank of Illinois on account of 

State stock 900,000.00 

Bonds issued on account of the State House at Springfield 121,000.00 

Due the government of the United States, when called for, on account 

of surplus revenue deposited in the State Treasury 477,919.00 

A portion of this sum, by act of the General Assembly, was added 
to the school fund, and consequently, by our present law, we 
are indebted to the school fund on that account in the sum of . . . 335,592.00 
Due the school, college and seminary funds for money borrowed by 
act of the General Assembly, to assist in paying the current ex- 
penses of the State 472,492.18 

Due the State Bank of Illinois for paying Auditor's warrants and 

interest on the same 294,190.00 

To the Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown on settlement 369,998.00 

" Upon the whole of this sum, except so much as is due to 
the school, college and seminary funds, and so much as is due 
to the United States on account of surplus revenue deposited, 
interest is now due from the first day of July, 1841. It has 
hitherto been supposed, that the profits of the State stock in 
the two banks would be amply sufficient to pay interest, not 
only on the sum paid in bonds, amounting to two million six 
hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, but also on the further 
sum of three hundred thirty-five thousand and five-hundred 
ninety-two dollars, part of the surplus revenue, first added to 
the school fund and then converted into bank stock. But the fail- 
ure of those banks, and their present precarious situation, ren- 
ders it almost certain that if we continue our connection with 
them the amount of bonds paid in will be nearly a total loss, 
and consequently that sum will form one of the demands upon 
which interest will have to be provided in future. Those banks 
have not for a long time past, as far as I am informed, de- 
clared or paid any dividends in favor of the State; conse- 
quently, the interest provided by law to be paid to the several 
counties on the sum of $335,592, part of the surplus revenue 
added to the school fund, has formed a demand on the State 
Treasury and has been paid out of the ordinary revenues de- 


rived from taxes. I cannot believe that it was the intention of 
former legislatures to make this a permanent demand upon the 
treasury, to be raised by taxation. It must undoubtedly have 
been supposed by our predecessors that the profits of banking 
would be fully sufficient to meet the appropriation. I, there- 
fore, submit to the General Assembly whether the State is any 
longer bound to pay interest on that sum, unless it can be 
derived from the profits of the investment. 

" Many persons suppose, and I think with great proba- 
bility, that an arrangement can be made with the two banks, 
by which the State can get back the two million six hundred and 
sixty-five thousand dollars in bonds, which have been issued to 
them." 1 

At the outset Ford declared that the people of Illinois did 
not believe in repudiation. He pointed out that even in 1841 
they had in good faith done their best through their general 
assembly to raise a sufficient fund for interest. He dismissed 
as impossible the sale of state lands and property or the tax 
of one and one-half cents on the dollar necessary to meet 
the interest on the state's debt. "The main thing with which 
the world can justly reproach us is, that we were visionary 
and reckless; that without sober deliberation, we jumped head- 
long into ambitious schemes of public aggrandizement, which 
were not justifiable by our resources. Nor are our original 
creditors free from reproach, on the same account. 

"They as men of intelligence, sufficient for the proper 
management of large capital, ought as well as ourselves, to 
have forseen our future want of ability, and the constant 
catastrophe which our common error has produced." He 
pointed out that while a single year's tax at a rate sufficing to 
pay the interest might be raised, that it could not be repeated, 
and that the creditors would be left if they insisted upon such 
a measure, to deal with a depopulated and ruined state. "If 
our creditors are ever to be paid, it will not be by the mere 

1 House Journal, 1842-1843, i session, 39-51; Senate Journal, 1842-1843, i 
ession, 33-44. 


territory composing the State, nor by the abstract thing called 
State sovereignty, but by the people who may be here, the 
inhabitants of the land; and how are they to be paid if we 
depopulate our country?" 

Having thus stated to the creditors the argument against 
taxation to the hilt, Ford stated the true remedy. "Let it 
be known in the first place that no oppressive and exterminat- 
ing taxation is to be resorted to ; in the second, we must convince 
our creditors and the world, that the disgrace of repudiation 
is not countenanced. ... I would, therefore, recommend to 
the General Assembly to speak on this subject in the most 
decisive manner, so as to give every assurance that in due 
time, we will tax ourselves according to our ability, to pay our 
debts. The consequence will be, that our creditors, who are 
persons of power and influence, instead of reproaching us and 
getting up a moral crusade against us, as against a confederated 
band of unprincipled swindlers, with a view to coerce us to 
our duty, will be directly interested in doing us all the good 
in their power." Wiser words had not been spoken since the 
system began. 

Ford suggested that immediately the creditors be offered 
at a fair valuation all the landed property of the state to dimin- 
ish the debt by so much. Meanwhile he urged the completion 
of the canal as sure to enhance greatly the value of a portion 
of the state land. He recommended that the canal, now five- 
eighths completed be pushed to completion as a lock canal. 
With a series of sound recommendations for state finance 
the document concluded. In its twelve pages Ford had carried 
conviction to his hearers. 

Inaugurated by such a message the work of the general 
assembly was fruitful. It passed acts for the winding up of 
the State Bank and of the Bank of Illinois, providing in each 
case for the surrender to the state of the bonds which they 
held in exchange for the surrender of the stock in the institu- 
tion owned by the state. The general assembly further pro- 
vided for the sale of all state lands and property acquired in 


connection with the internal improvement system to be paid 
for in evidences of state indebtedness or in gold and silver 
with the intention that a part of the state indebtedness might 
thus be liquidated. Unfortunately the assembly reduced the 
tax rate to twenty cents on the hundred; further it provided 
for the issue of warrants in return for the surrender of the 
Macalister and Stebbins bonds, but years passed before this 
act resulted in the final settlement of the controversy. Further 
the legislature passed a resolution disclaiming any intention 
of repudiation. Most Important, however, it passed an act 
for the completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal. By 
it the governor was authorized to negotiate on the credit of 
the canal and its appurtenances a loan of $1,600,000 from 
holders of canal bonds or from others. The canal property 
was to be made over to trustees elected by the subscribers as 
security for the payment of the loan and bonds, with the pro- 
viso that bonds were not to be sold till after the completion 
of the canal which would be within three years after the act 
went into operation. Meanwhile, the trustees were to operate 
it for the benefit of the subscribers and other bondholders 
until the indebtedness to them was fully paid. The governor 
was authorized to negotiate the terms except that he might 
not pledge the state's faith for the payment of the bonds. 

In his history of Illinois 2 Ford gives the credit for devis- 
ing originally the scheme of completing the canal to Justin 
Butterfield of Chicago, who in the summer of 1842 had suc- 
ceeded in interesting several of the large capitalists among 
the state's eastern creditors in the device which was proposed. 
Undoubtedly, however, Ford must be given the credit for 
adopting the scheme and for stating it officially in the clearest 
possible manner as he presented it in his first message. 8 

These measures did not pass without sectional and partisan 
opposition. Southern members like McClernand denounced 
the measures as calculated to tax southern Illinois for the 

2 Ford, History of Illinois, 295. 

3 Laws of 1843, p. 21, 30, 54, 191, 231 ff. 

3 22 


benefit of the northern counties; Ficklin protested against the 
payment of the Macalister and Stebbins debt by taxation. It 
was the Alton Telegraph that kept up the most consistent, 
concerted, and malevolent attack on the program by which 
Ford sought to rescue the state finances. It declared that it 
was criminal for Illinois to borrow another dollar until her 
debts were reduced. It served notice that it would expose any 
garbled statement of state finances, naturally thereby doing 
what it could to diminish the confidence of the foreign investors 
whose aid was so necessary for the initiation of the schemes. 
It showed the cloven hoof by declaring in the end for assump- 
tion of state debts by the national government as the only 
means out of the difficulty. It asked if Oakley and Ryan, on 
their pilgrimage to the English bondholders, would tell them 
that the democrats had repudiated the Macalister and Stebbins 
bonds and repealed the charter of the Bank of Illinois. It 
declared frankly that foreign capitalists were justified in hesi- 
tating to lend the state more money. Similar statements came 
from the east; the democrats might well wonder if the opposi- 
tion to the measure was not further inspired by a desire to 
induce the state in desperation to adopt federal assumption 
and distribution and with these measures the political party 
that favored them. 4 

In pursuance of the act for the completion of the canal 
Ford appointed Oakley and Ryan commissioners of the state 
to the bondholders. They found themselves much hampered 
by the reduction in the rate of taxation by the legislature at 
the last session, finding it difficult to give the bondholders satis- 
factory assurance in view of it that the state could from that 
time be trusted to fulfill its obligations. They procured a con- 
siderable subscription, however, amounting to a million and 
a half in the United States and sold about two millions of the 
bonds in England at rates of thirty-two to forty per cent, on 
the terms that twelve and a half per cent be paid at once and 

* Chicago Democrat, March 21, October n, 1843; Illinois State Register, 
March 17, 24, 1843; Alton Telegraph, February 4, 1843. 


that the remainder should be forthcoming only in case the 
next legislature provided for the future payment of a part of 
the accruing interest and a gradual payment of the arrears 
the terms that twelve and a half per cent be paid at once and 
of it. The subscription, however, could not be completed and 
accordingly was not binding. Baring Brothers and Magniac, 
Jardine and Company, in London, interested themselves in 
behalf of the state's proposal. 5 They requested Abbott Law- 
rence, W. Sturgis, and T. W. Ward of Boston to choose agents 
to examine into the canal situation in Illinois and in the United 
States and to report to them as to the feasibility and security 
of the whole scheme. Perhaps unfortunately they chose as 
commissioners Captain William H. Swift and John Davis, the 
latter a whig politician of Massachusetts who boasted the 
sobriquet of " honest." 

Davis and Swift visited Illinois in the late fall of 1843 
and produced a long report, somewhat prosy reading, in which 
after professing extreme caution on every point they inclined 
to favor the proposition ; and so they reported to the English 
bondholders. Unfortunately the suspicion of political motives 
entered here. Probably at the suggestion of Abbott Lawrence, 
Davis was summoned to England by the English bankers inter- 
ested; and the subscription to the loan was delayed. The 
democrats, including Michael Ryan, one of the commissioners, 
were inclined to believe that it was a piece of politics to attempt 
to frustrate the settlement of the debts of Illinois in order 
that in the presidential election of 1844 tne whigs might have 
one more argument for assumption of state debts. The Eng- 
lish bankers concerned denied any such motive, without doubt 
sincerely; but it is far from clear that some of the wealthy 
whigs of New England who were their trusted advisers on 
American affairs were equally innocent. 6 Whatever may have 
been the reason the negotiations hung fire until the legislative 

5 Reports General Assembly, 1844-1845, senate, 90 ff., 129 ff. 

6 Chicago Democrat, November 27, December 25, 1844, September 24, 1845; 
the charge appeared originally in the Ne<w York Journal of Commerce. Re- 
ports General Assembly, 1844-1845, senate, 133. 


session of 1844-1845. There the crucial question was as to 
whether the state would comply with the demand of the bond- 
holders for additional taxation. 

Once more the word repudiation was current and perhaps 
somewhat less generally in men's minds. Various measures 
were suggested in the course of the session. Orval Sexton of 
Gallatin proposed that the canal law of 1843 be repealed and 
work on the canal be stopped, and that for the payment of 
the debt the state rely on a sinking fund. He proposed a pro- 
viso to the interest bill allowing the legislature to repeal 
it at will terming the act "real cane break, hunting shirt" 
democracy. 7 There were on various hands complaints of the 
dictation of the bondholders and statements that their demand 
for the levy of an insignificant tax out of all proportion to the 
$1,600,000 loan was absurd. In addition there were expres- 
sions of dread at the danger to Illinois of her entanglement in 
a perpetual monopoly. Alfred W. Cavarly was for complet- 
ing the canal by taxation and by the issue of scrip due in three 
years. Richard Yates declared for refunding the internal 
improvement and statehouse debt at three per cent, for relying 
on taxation to raise the interest and for the use of any surplus 
for a sinking fund. There were counsels even more eloquent 
of blank despair. Fithian proposed turning over to the state's 
creditors its property and one or two millions more in bonds 
on which the interest was actually to be paid. George H. 
Hanson of Coles was firm in the belief that further taxation 
would ruin the state past all repair and that it would never be 
able to pay. 8 

The measure which was finally passed provided for a mill 
tax in 1845 increasing in 1846 to a mill and a half and there- 
after remaining at that figure, which was to be sacredly devoted 
to the payment of the interest on the debts of the state except- 
ing that on the bonds hypothecated with Macalister and 
Stebbins. A new canal act repeating the provisions of that of 

7 Sangamo Journal, February 27, 1845; Alton Telegraph, January 25, 1845. 

8 Sangamo Journal, March 6, 13, 1845; Belleville Advocate, January 16, 
23, 1845; Chicago Daily Journal, January 13, 16, 1845. 


the previous session completed the necessary legislation. 
Northern Illinois was wild with joy; public meetings thanked 
the various men concerned, Oakley, Ryan, Davis, Leavitt, and 
the governor. The Chicago Journal headed the news with 
" Joyful News ! ! ! Get out your Spades and Go to Digging ! ! " 
The vote on the interest bill had been twenty-one to twenty in 
the senate and in the house sixty-six to thirty-nine on a test 
vote. 9 

At one time the democratic papers of the north were 
inclined to attempt to set the whigs down as repudiators. In 
general the whigs were nearer the mark in declaring that the 
true enemies of the state's rehabilitation were the southern 
democrats, though Davis of the Alton Telegraph now as here- 
tofore was inclined to criticize viciously. 10 It was probably 
true, however, that some of the whig papers were inclined to 
believe that in the failure of their proposal, the distribution 
act, the democratic measure was fair game. 11 As a matter of 
fact proportionately more whigs than democrats voted for the 
measure in both houses. The real significance of the vote is to 
be sought from another angle. If we except a little block of 
votes in Hancock and Adams and a few scattered votes in the 
south, the vote on the measure was sectional. The valleys of 
the Illinois and the Rock were for the measure, and southern 
and eastern Illinois against it. 

Here ends the internal improvement question as an issue 
vital to the life of the state. There were still to be squabbles 
between the trustees appointed by the state and the trustees 
appointed by the bondholders. Whig papers claimed that the 
price of Augustus C. French's nomination as governor had 
been the removal of Jacob Fry as trustee, and they denounced 
savagely his appointment of Oakley. Oakley soon became 
involved in an open quarrel with the other trustees whom he 

9 Chicago Dally Journal, March 3, 7, 1845; Laws of 1845, p. 31, 44; Senate 
Journal, 1844-1845, i session, 400; House Journal, 1844-1845, i session, 577. 

10 Illinois State Register, March 14, 1845; Alton Telegraph, February 8, 
22, 1845; Chicago Daily Journal, January 25, March 8, 12, 22, 1845; Chicago 
Democrat, February 5, 1845. 

11 Sangamo Journal, January 2, 1845. 


accused of incompetence, nonresidence, and the taking of exces- 
sive salaries. An attempt on his part to get William Gooding 
removed as engineer failed in a bondholders' meeting. 12 The 
session of the legislature of 1847 saw a series of laws designed 
to complete the refunding of the state debt. One authorized 
the issue of new bonds in exchange for the old, as well as of 
certificates for the payment of interest then in arrears, the cer- 
tificates to bear interest after 1856 and to be redeemable after 
1876. A second act authorized a settlement with Macalister 
and Stebbins. A third provided for the issue in exchange for 
canal scrip of Illinois and Michigan canal bonds and for the 
accrued interest of certificates of indebtedness of noninterest- 
bearing certificates receivable for canal lots and lands hitherto 

Here may be concluded the tedious story of the financial 
devices and arrangements by which Illinois in sober earnest 
succeeded in extricating itself from its financial embarrassment. 
The tale of such devices cannot be made so interesting to the 
reader of history as can the account of the party alliances and 
the bargaining mania by which the state at first plunged itself 
into the internal improvement system. Yet, for the student 
of the politics of the state the contrast between the two is in- 
structive. Between the Illinois of 1837 and the Illinois of 
18471848 there was all the difference between light-hearted 
reckless youth and sober responsible manhood. The state by 
democratic machinery of government had chosen a man to extri- 
cate it from the result of its errors and headlong extravagance. 
In doing so Illinois had learned and learned much, and had 
acquired poise and balance. Undertaking in the end the pay- 
ment of her debt the state acquired the respect of the world 
and acquired also political experience and judgment which 
were to fit it for active and efficient participation in the great 
affairs of the union during the next twenty years. 

12 Chicago Dally Journal, December 19, 1846, January 25, February 2, 8, 
September 20, 1847; Chicago Democrat, July 20, November 19, 1847; Illinois 
State Register, June 17, 1847. 


THE events of President Folk's administration made it 
plain that the old Jacksonian democracy had disap- 
peared, and that in the party that ostensibly represented it, the 
interests of the south appeared to dictate the decision on every 
issue. Texas and Oregon had been coupled in the expansionist 
democratic platform of 1844. But no sooner was Polk in the 
saddle than excellent reasons were found for compromising 
the north's controversy with Great Britain over Oregon and 
pressing the south's interest in Texas to the extreme of war 
with Mexico. Finally the doctrine of strict construction was 
so applied to appropriations for river and harbor improve- 
ments that the outraged north found itself cut off from the 
fruits of federal bounty apparently at least essential to its 
very commercial existence. So at least the north argued. The 
student of history would hardly admit, in toto, the north's 
indictment of the motives of the southern statesmen in the 
party; but the fact remains that northern democrats believed 
or professed to believe them and that the Oregon and river 
and harbor questions were sufficient to cause in the democratic 
party in Illinois and in the nation a division having a slavery 
and antislavery cast. 

In its propaganda for the annexation of Texas the south 
since 1843 had been able to count on support in southern 
Illinois. John Reynolds especially had taken Texas under his 
tutelage, arguing that it would be a necessary counterset to 
Iowa and Wisconsin, and the southern Illinois democratic 
papers followed him in advocating annexation frankly on pro- 
slavery grounds. The division on the question in the state 
was as much sectional as political, the Chicago Democrat hav- 



ing little to say on the question, the whig papers, such as the 
Telegraph and the Chicago Journal, handling it severely as an 
iniquitous southern scheme and a sop to the slave power. 1 
After the presidential election was decided and during the 
18441845 session of congress the various papers maintained 
their former attitudes toward the measure, the Belleville Advo- 
cate enthusiastically approving, the Chicago Journal bitterly 
hostile, and the others saying as little as possible. Actual hos- 
tilities within the state, however, began only when 18451846 
saw the administration's surrender of the alleged rights of the 
north in Oregon. 

Illinois' interest in Oregon, like that of its neighbor state, 
Missouri, and of the latter's political prophet, Thomas Hart 
Benton, was on account of its geographical outlook most lively. 
Semple claimed that the first all-Oregon meeting held in the 
United States had been held under his promotion at Alton in 
1842. Anger over England's bullying attitude on the McLeod 
affair and the Maine boundary added fuel to the flame. The 
whig papers, though some of them, such as the Telegraph, 
were outspoken, occasionally entered a mild dissent against too 
violent a policy. When in the presidential contest of 1 844 the 
cry of "54 40' or fight" had triumphed, the Illinois demo- 
crats affected to fear lest before they could take office their 
opponents would compromise the rights of the United States 
for had it not been such secretaries of state as Adams, Clay, 
and Webster who had yielded the rights of the United States 
on Texas, Maine, and on Oregon itself? 2 

In Illinois the democrats were vociferous in their resolution 
that, if needs must, 54 40' be submitted to the arbitrament of 
the sword. Both whigs and democrats made a possible naval 
war on the lakes an argument for the construction of a ship 
canal at the Illinois-Michigan portage as an essential measure 

1 Belleville Advocate, November 9, 1843, May 16, 1844; Illinois State Regis- 
ter, May 24, 31, June 14, 1844; Alton Telegraph, August 31, October 12, 1844; 
Chicago Journal, July 27, 1844. 

2 Belleville Advocate, February 27, November 4, 1841, December 29, 1842, 
January 9, 1845; Chicago American, April 25, 1842; Alton Telegraph, Novem- 
ber 12, 1842; Illinois State Register, February 17. March 24, April 14, 1843. 


of preparedness, and writings of Lieutenant Maury on the sub- 
ject under the name of " Harry Bluff " were widely copied and 
commented on. 3 By fall however, the whig papers declared 
their belief that the democratic administration in the end would 
back down a forecast verified by Folk's first offer of a com- 
promise on the 49 line. 

Folk's withdrawal from 54 40' threw into a quandary 
Illinois democrats with northern sympathies who wished to 
remain loyal to the party. John Wentworth, the Chicago con- 
gressman, was especially hard beset. Along with Stephen A. 
Douglas, Joseph P. Hoge, John A. McClernand, and Robert 
Smith of Illinois he voted among the " immortal ten " who 
declared that the Oregon question was no longer a subject for 
compromise. In debate Wentworth, Ficklin, and Douglas 
insisted that Oregon and Texas had been linked by the Balti- 
more convention and that the faith of the party was pledged 
to achieve both. In the state the county meetings held in the 
early winter, while not taking direct issue with Polk, urged the 
maintenance of a claim to all Oregon, and the state convention 
resolved that since the proffered compromise of 49 had been 
rejected, congress should dissolve joint occupancy. 

The senate's delay in adopting the resolution giving notice 
for termination of the joint occupancy added new fuel to the 
fire. The State Register was confounded, solemnly warning 
the southern democrats that this offense would never be for- 
given by the west. A meeting of voters in St. Clair county 
resolved that they would not support for office anyone who 
submitted to a compromise on 49. They proposed William 
Allen of Ohio as the next president. Wentworth warned 
the southern democrats that their course on the Texas and 
Oregon question was fatally weakening the party in the 
north. 4 

In March and early April, 1846, the democrats still clung 

3 Belleville Advocate, April 17, May 22, 1845; Little Fort Porcupine, May 
21, 1845; Chicago Democrat, October 18, 1845. 

4 Illinois State Register, January 30, 1846; Belleville Advocate, April u, 
1846; Chicago Democrat, April 3, 1846. 


to the hope that 49 had been offered for the last time and that 
thenceforth the nation would stand firm on the 54 40' line. 
Both whigs and democrats for the moment believed war immi- 
nent. The county meetings and conventions held in McLean, 
Livingston, Vermilion, Lake, De Kalb, and Champaign, while 
not censuring Polk and while even praising him, insisted on 54 
40'. On April I, however, the Chicago Democrat printed a 
letter from Wentworth admitting the 49 men controlled the 
senate. The State Register was very bitter in its comment. 
The Galena Jeffersonian, the Chicago Journal remarked, had 
read Polk out of the party on the subject, but predicted that 
the 54 40' men in Egypt would soon tack. The whigs, while 
far from united on the question, had avoided committing them- 
selves unfavorably. 5 In the democratic party, on the other 
hand, the question had created a bitter feeling between the 
northern and southern wings of the party. 

The ill-feeling aroused by the prospective settlement of 
Oregon on the basis of 49 was stirred up to fever heat by the 
violation of northern interests caused by Polk's veto of the 
river and harbor bill, and here too the measure divided the 
party in the state against itself. For years democrats inter- 
ested in federal internal improvements had had to steer a care- 
ful course to avoid the implications of the growing strict 
construction doctrines of the party. In Illinois the difficulty 
was complicated by the fact that the interests of the various 
parts of the state were diverse and even conflicting. While 
Wentworth was interested primarily in the lakes, Ficklin and 
Robert Smith were anxious for the continuance of the Cumber- 
land road, and McClernand and Smith for the improvement of 
navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi; and on grounds of 
principle they voted repeatedly against bills for the improve- 
ment of the lake harbors. From lack of unity, the seven Illinois 
congressmen that took their seats for the first time in 1843 
1 844 were not able to achieve the results that might have been 

5 Chicago Dally Journal, April 5, July 6, 18, 1846; Belleville Advocate, 
March 14, April 4, 25, May 21, August 6, 1846; Illinois State Register, March 
27, 1846; Chicago Democrat, May 26, June 16, 1846. 


expected and in the end only produced jealousies and divisions 
in the party through the state. 

In session after session the same divergencies of interest 
divided the Illinois members. Thus in 1844 Wentworth and 
Douglas labored hard to prove constitutional in the western 
river and harbor bill the Illinois river appropriation a cru- 
cial item from the strict constructionist viewpoint. Finally 
McClernand, Robert Smith, and Ficklin voted against the bill, 
the two former alleging constitutional grounds and meager 
appropriations for the Ohio. This vote drew down on 
Smith the censure of the Belleville Advocate. Wentworth too 
was much exercised that Ficklin, Hoge, McClernand, and 
Smith voted against the eastern harbor bill; he believed com- 
plaisance in that direction to be a fertile source of votes for 
western measures. He feared that Tyler's veto of the eastern 
bill would cause retaliation on the west, believing the veto to 
be the work of men who desired to divide east and west. 6 

When in the 18441845 session a similar sectional war in 
congress ended in the pocketing of the river and harbor bill, 
the western internal improvement men sought to persuade the 
south of its community of interest with the west in internal 
improvement. The Memphis convention, largely attended by 
Illinois whigs and democrats, represented an attempt to bring 
about such a union, on the policy of the improvement of north 
and south transportation routes through the great valley for 
needs of peace or of war. The west, from the fact that its 
commerce passed out through the Gulf of Mexico, was 
reminded of the value of coast defenses and lighthouses in 
Florida as well as of similar improvements on the lakes. The 
convention urged the ship canal from Lake Michigan to the 
Illinois river, the completion of the Cumberland road to Fort 
Smith, Arkansas, improvement of lakes, harbors, and northern 
rivers, a military road from Memphis to Texas, and an armory 

Congressional Globe, 28 congress, i session, 568 ; Belleville Advocate, 
May 16, June 6, July 18, 1846; Chicago Democrat, August 14, 1844, declared the 
exertion of Wentworth among others induced Tyler not to veto the "western 
harbor bill;" ibid., October 21, 1845. 


at Fort Massac. The campaign for these and for the ship 
canal was committed to the charge of committees of Illinois 
men, whigs and democrats. McClernand thought the move- 
ment calculated especially to give southern Illinois the impetus 
for the lack of which its growth had been retarded. 7 If ques- 
tion of constitutional principle did not again intervene, the 
democratic party saw an opportunity once more to be in 
complete accord. 

The session of congress of 18451846 presented to the 
democratic party the crucial test of its newly found unity. The 
Cumberland road project was again brought forward by 
Ficklin. Breese, however, opposed land donations for it; and 
the measure, to the wrath of the Sangamo Journal was killed 
by constitutional arguments despite the attempt of its friends 
to demonstrate it as an implied compact between the federal 
government and the new states. 8 Meanwhile Wentworth 
devoted himself especially to the river and harbor bill. He 
was afraid that amendments might be added that would tran- 
scend Folk's conservative constitutional scruples. One of the 
items that he feared was the Cumberland road, another the 
Louisville and Portland canal and still another the ship canal 
to the Illinois river. 9 The latter project was in danger con- 
tinually because according to Wentworth the Indiana delegation 
was determined that any communication of the sort must come 
through their state. Whenever the Illinois river was inserted 
in the bill, they at once added the Wabash. Wentworth com- 
plained that its enemies always sought to kill the bill by 
dragging in rivers and harbors of their own or by including 
such projects as that of the Tennessee river, sure to be vetoed. 

It was on the east emphatically that Wentworth placed his 
reliance for the securing of the appropriations. He hoped to 

7 Alton Telegraph, June 21, 28, 1845; Chicago Democrat, June 25, July 23, 
1845; Belleville Advocate, October n, December 6, 1845; Illinois State Register, 
June 20, September 5, October 21, 1845. 

8 Congressional Globe, 29 congress, i session, 84, 195, 383, 600, 615, 622; 
Alton Telegraph, January 31, April 18, 1846; Sangamo Journal, April 23, 1846. 

9 Congressional Globe, 29 congress, i session, 354; Alton Telegraph, March 
21, 1846. 


unite the Illinois and Indiana members to vote for an appropri- 
ation for Lake Champlain to conciliate the New Yorkers, 
whom he presumed were the friends of western internal im- 
provements. As always he insisted that the opponents of better 
lake harbors resided in the west and south, not in the east. 
Late in February he hoped that the bill would have clear sailing, 
but then came the attacks on strict construction grounds from 
such men as R. Barnwell Rhett. In April the Chicago Demo- 
crat despondingly remarked that the improvement of the lakes 
would be defeated between the whigs, who would vote for any- 
thing to revive Clay's old system, and the southern men who, 
to kill the bill, would vote for any amendment. 10 

The whig papers of Illinois were inclined to regard the 
affair as none of theirs. They predicted the veto of the meas- 
ure, saying that Polk as a result of the party straddle on 
interstate improvements had not been pledged. The Tele- 
graph gave Wentworth full credit for his efforts for the 
measure, especially his success in retaining the St. Louis 
harbor, while declaring that an appropriation for the Cum- 
berland road or the Illinois river would defeat the bill. The 
Chicago Journal, nearer home, declared that Wentworth 
had done his best but was devoid of influence; and after the 
veto of the measure the whig newspapers joined in denouncing 
Polk. 11 

In addition to his troubles in Washington, Wentworth 
again had the handicap of a divided congressional delegation 
and a divided party at home. When Polk vetoed the bill on 
constitutional grounds, McClernand was one of his confidants; 
and both he and Ficklin voted against it. The State Register 
was unsympathetic; as early as April 3, in 1846, it regretted 
that the Mississippi appropriations were in a bill with so many 
unsound items; and it approved Polk's veto saying that if he 

10 Chicago Democrat, February 23, March u, 30, 1846; Alton Telegraph, 
March 14, 1846; Congressional Globe, 29 congress, i session, 438, 479, 485, 493, 
496, 506, 516, 522, 527. 

11 Chicago Daily Journal, March 19, 28, May 26, 1846; Alton Telegraph, 
April 4, 1846. 


erred, he erred on the side of safety. In various sections of 
the state the party presses took the same ground. In the Mili- 
tary Tract the Pike County Sentinel and the Quincy Herald 
approved the veto. The Charleston Globe, in eastern Illinois, 
and the W abash Democrat, at Shawneetown, opposed a river 
and harbor convention. On this movement, the Register was 
inclined to look askance and the Washington Union, whether 
from personal spite at Wentworth, from sectional jealousy, or 
from disdain of logrolling, openly attacked it. 12 Polk could 
count on support for his act in a state whose material interests 
he had injured. 

The veto made Wentworth's position as a good party man 
extremely difficult. To his constituents he had to admit that it 
was of no avail during the remainder of Folk's term to hope 
for river and harbor appropriations. Henceforth he said if 
the people wanted harbors they must elect "northern" men to 
congress. The whig papers went further in expressing popular 
disgust. They denounced Polk as a traitor to his party on the 
tariff, Oregon, and the river and harbor bill. The Chicago 
Journal commented sarcastically on the sale of the harbor 
machinery at Chicago, denouncing Polk's treachery and his 
economizing at the expense of human lives. The ships in the 
harbor half-masted their colors when the news arrived. In the 
river counties the cant term for snags became Polk stalks, and 
a sandbar at the mouth of the Chicago harbor was named 
Mount Polk. 13 

Out of the indignation in the sections and parties interested 
in internal improvements came an extra-partisan movement of 
protest culminating in the river and harbor convention of 1847. 
Loose construction in the direction of internal improvements 

12 Congressional Globe, 29 congress, i session, 530; Illinois State Register, 
April 3, August 21, September 4, October 9, 1846; Chicago Dally Journal, Oc- 
tober 14, 1846; Chicago Democrat, July 2, 1847; Little Fort Porcupine, November 
3, 1846. 

13 Chicago Democrat, April 18, 1846; Chicago Dally Journal, August 10, n, 
12, 19, November 17, 1846, May 13, 1847; Sangamo Journal, August 20, 1846; 
Alton Telegraph, August 28, November 6, 1846. The Chicago Democrat, Novem- 
ber 13, 1846, professed to see in the veto the cause of inroads made by the 
whigs on the democratic strength in the lake congressional districts. 


emphatically was good whig doctrine, and domestic indignation 
in the localities affected chimed in with whig principles. The 
first call for a convention by the Buffalo Commercial was wel- 
comed by whig papers and by the democratic ones concerned 
by their local interests. The Chicago Journal, September 15, 
suggested that it be held July 4, 1847, at Chicago. The Chi- 
cago Democrat hesitated for several weeks and finally 
pronounced for it. The convention, held at Chicago, de- 
cided that both whigs and democrats should apply to every 
candidate the test of loyalty to river and harbor appropria- 
tions. 14 

Wentworth, however deeply provoked as he was, was not 
yet ready to abandon the party. Again and again he protested 
that river and harbor appropriations were good democratic 
doctrines despite Polk and grandfather Ritchie, the " Nous 
Verrons" of the Washington Union. 15 Wentworth had led 
an assault in congress the previous session on the tea and coffee 
taxes proposed by the administration; and he and Douglas, 
who certainly was not warm in the fight on rivers and harbors, 
joined in a bitter war on Thomas Ritchie, the editor of the 
"organ." In the face of the south Wentworth flaunted the 
doctrine of the Wilmot proviso yet at the same time he 
professed his willingness to support the nominee of the Balti- 
more convention. Wentworth manifestly, even while making 
war on the administration, was determined not to break with 
his party. 

Undoubtedly, however, by his repeated assaults upon the 
administration and its policies he was wreaking a vengeance on 
the leaders of his party past his power to undo. Through the 
patient work of years in the columns of the Chicago Democrat 
he had acquired personal influence over the farmers of northern'' 
Illinois that one rival after another had tried in vain to shake. 
Yet the men whom year in and year out he had trained in the 
democratic principles of the older school were not men to 

14 Chicago Daily Journal, September 9, 15, 24, 1846; Chicago Democrat, 
September 29, 1846, July 13, 1847. 

15 Ibid., July 30, 1847. 


forget; they refused to follow Wentworth when he pronounced 
the nomination of northern men like Cass sufficient of a solace 
for the wrongs of the north on Oregon and Texas, on river and 
harbor vetoes, and on the aggressions of the slave power that 
the older democracy had tolerated, half conscious that it vio- 
lated its principles. Abolition had gained ground rapidly in 
the north during late years, and the time was inevitably coming 
when the cumulative effort of southern aggressions would open 
the eyes of the northwest to the fact that " democrat" no longer 
meant what it had in the thirties. It was Wentworth's part in 
politics to state the premises, but only at the last to accept the 
inevitable conclusions that flowed from them. In 1847 ne na d 
denounced the policies that to the end of the " Old South " were 
to dominate the democratic party, but till 1856 he called him- 
self a democrat. 

At the outset of the campaign of 1848 the whigs at every 
point had the tactical advantage. The public land question 
during the administration of Tyler and Polk, so far as Illinois 
was concerned, had been burning itself out. In the spring of 
1841 whigs and democrats in the state set off against each 
other the distribution bill of the whigs and the land cession 
scheme of Calhoun. The democratic papers, of course, 
opposed the whig distribution bill which passed through con- 
gress in the special session of 1841. The bill itself, however, 
contained a provision suspending its operation while import 
duties in excess of twenty cents on the dollar were in existence. 
A bill repealing this proviso was pocketed by Tyler in 1 842, so 
that for all practical purposes the bill was a dead letter except 
in the preemption provisions about which the whigs cared the 
least. Land cession measures were intermittently brought for- 
ward by Illinois congressmen in 1844 and 18451846. In 
1846 a graduation measure was brought forward, argued at 
great length with little originality and finally defeated on a 
petition by eastern members who voted to lay it on the table in 
retaliation for the votes of western congressmen against the 
eastern harbor bill. A graduation bill was introduced at the 


next session but came to nothing. 16 With lands being sold off 
rapidly Illinois was fast ceasing to be a public land state, and 
her interest in a liberal land policy and in the party that had 
promoted it was becoming correspondingly less. 

The war with Mexico, too, was far more advantageous 
from the point of view of party politics to the whigs than to 
the democrats. At the outset the best the Register could do 
was to attempt to fix on various whigs and whig organs the 
charge of opposition to the war carried to unpatriotic extremes, 
but the attempt was not very successful. It early expressed the 
desire of a speedy peace with Mexico in which Mexico might 
under the guise of a sale compound her debts to the United 
States by the cession of territory in a moderate amount. It 
assailed the whigs severely for trying to make the war out to 
be a war of conquest, although at other times it preached the 
doctrine of manifest destiny for the extension ultimately of the 
territory of the United States not merely to California but to 
Darien and the Canadas. The obstinacy of the Mexicans in 
refusing to admit that they had succumbed to the manifest 
destiny of Anglo-Saxonism compelled the democrats to look 
forward to a long and obstinate war to bring them to terms ; 
and such abortive measures as Polk's safe-conduct to Santa 
Anna into Mexico, which only permitted him to become the 
arch leader of the opposition there, were much better cam- 
paign material for the whigs than for the democrats. By the 
summer of 1847 tne Belleville Advocate was compelled to 
admit that an occupation of extensive territory was necessary 
for an indefinite period before it might be hoped that Mexico 
would listen to reason. A war with no apparent end is not an 
attractive plank in the platform of an American party. 17 

16 Sangamo Journal, May 21, 28, September 17, 1841 ; Alton Telegraph, 
April 24, 1841 ; Illinois State Register, August 27, 1841 ; Belleville Advocate, 
October 8, 1841 ; Congressional Globe, 28 congress, i session, 443, 28 congress, 2 
session, 66, 29 congress, i session, 172, 29 congress, 2 session, 41, 200, 528 ; Chi- 
cago Democrat, July 21, August 18, 1846. 

17 Illinois State Register, June 26, July 10, 24, 31, August 14, November 6, 
1846; Belleville Advocate, October 29, December 31, 1846, June 3, October 14, 
November 4, December 2, 1847. 


It was with every tactical advantage that the whigs 
approached the election of 1848. As the Alton Telegraph 
outlined the situation, the administration had tried to cover up 
its retreat on the Oregon question with a " little war " only to 
find Mexico unexplainably obstinate, and further had made the 
mistake of not drawing generously enough on the enthusiasm 
and patriotism of the country to strike a decisive blow. On 
larger issues the paper a year before had pointed out that at 
the time the democrats were committed by their acts to the ultra 
stand on the tariff and slavery and must expect the defection to 
the whigs from their own or from third party banners of tariff 
democrats, native Americans, and abolitionists. The cry of 
democracy and the name of Jackson would no longer serve to 
hold the true democrats in line, and the locofocos would find 
themselves left alone. The whigs need only take issue fairly 
on the tariff and the subtreasury. 18 

Curiously the whigs at first were inclined to pass over the 
advantage they might enjoy in running the hero of Buena 
Vista as their candidate. In the summer of 1847 the Chicago 
Journal seemed to incline strongly in the direction of Henry 
Clay as the old and trusted exponent of whig principles who 
alone could rescue the nation from the crisis to which the policy 
of the administration both foreign and domestic had brought 
it. G. T. M. Davis, one of the two editors of the Alton Tele- 
graph, took a similar stand late in 1847, claiming that Zachary 
Taylor in view of his treatment of the volunteers was not 
entitled to the support of the whigs, and further that they were 
on the verge of a mistake such as that of 1840. John Bail- 
hache, the other editor, was inclined to agree with his colleague 
in regard to Clay, though fearing that his speech against the 
war and conquest had lessened his chances in the west. The 
Telegraph, however, took exception to the action of an unin- 
structed high convention in nominating Taylor, professing that 
he had lost very much in popularity in the last six months 

18 Alton Telegraph, September n, November 20, 1846, October 15, 1847; 
Sangamo Journal, May 7, 1846. 


by his refusal to accept a party nomination and by the luster 
of Scott's triumphs; but Bailhache professed his willingness to 
support Taylor. The Taylor movement indeed was one that 
had begun in the preceding spring. The Sangamo Journal had 
come out for him on April 8, 1847. The Quincy Whig and 
the Morgan Journal had both declared for him a few days later. 
The Chicago Journal and the Alton Telegraph during the 
spring had both praised Taylor to the skies without coming out 
specifically in his favor. 19 By the fall the democratic papers 
were predicting that Taylor would be eliminated in favor of 
Clay or some similar candidate, but finally they inclined to the 
belief that the Illinois whigs would acquiesce in his choice. 

With a military hero as a candidate, with the favorable 
position on every issue, with their opponents torn by personal 
and sectional feuds as well as divided on political principle, 
the triumph of the whigs in the nation in 1848 was assured. In 
Illinois they were not successful. So strongly cemented was 
the fabric of the democratic party, so great was the power of 
the democratic name that the destruction of the party suprem- 
acy there had to be the work of years. That supremacy was 
not to be ended by any defection to the old rival parties. The 
whig name and organization had first to disappear. Yet the 
forces in the democratic party that ultimately were to end the 
day of its power were, by 1 847, plainly apparent to the student. 
In the study of the political as of the animal organism the first 
detection of a morbid condition is more significant than the 
following out of its development to the inevitable result. 

19 Chicago Daily Journal, April 8, 28, 29, May 8, 27, 29, September 16, 1847: 
Alton Telegraph, April 30, December 10, 31, 1847; Belleville Advocate, October 
7, December 9, 1847, February 2, 1848. 


OF ALL the settlements inspired by peculiar ideas or 
beliefs that grew up on the fertile soil of the Military 
Tract, the most ambitious, the most tragic, the one most abid 1 
ing in its effects on the nation, if not on the state, was the 
community of Latter Day Saints or Mormons at Nauvoo. 
The religion revealed by Joseph Smith drew converts from the 
old and new world until almost in a night a city of perhaps 
fifteen thousand people grew up in Illinois as the capital of an 
even larger community, and after thus overtopping Alton, and 
for a time even Chicago, passed away as suddenly as it rose. 
Today only a village of scarce a thousand can recall to the 
student of the past the passions, the ambitions, and the 
tragedies of the holy city of the Mormons in Illinois. 

Of the Mormon belief itself it is difficult to write with the 
balanced detachment of the historical student. The story of 
the miraculous golden plates, protected by the direct interven- 
tion of angels from improper approach in their hiding place on 
the hill at Palmyra, New York, which had seen the overthrow 
of the Nephites by the barbarian invaders, 1 is too much for 
this age of incredulity to accept; the evidence of the eleven wit- 
nesses who testified to the existence of the plates would hardly 
survive the cross-examination of a court of law. The Book of 
Mormon, which Smith claimed he had translated from the 
plates by direct divine assistance, is a book of tedious histories, 
each of which seems to the careless reader much like the rest. 
It contains blunders in grammar which, if we accept Joseph 
Smith's account of the translation, must be laid to the charge 
of the divine power that word by word gave him the English 
equivalents of the characters on the plates. The evidence that 

1 Times and Seasons, April 15, 1841. 



the book is really an historical novel written by the Reverend 
Solomon Spaulding is unsatisfactory; in any case from a liter- 
ary point of view the book is incapable of conferring honor on 
its author. Had Mormonism begun and ended with the book 
on the golden plates, it would have made little noise in the 

Doctrinally Mormonism has little that is distinctive. Its 
theology is usually referred to Sidney Rigdon, a Campbellite 
preacher, who, as an early convert, may have devised its creed. 
Mormonism based itself on a literal interpretation of the word 
of God; it adopted from the Old Testament what is least 
spiritual in the stories of the patriarchs and neglected what 
is finest in the New. The problem of how God can be man 
that perplexed early Christian theology and that was but 
partially solved by the doctrine of the two natures, Mor- 
monism met in easier fashion its God was a God with 
passions like men, with physical parts, the God who turned his 
.hinder parts to Moses, a God who might delight in blood, a 
God from whom frail men might expect not mercy but sym- 
pathy. In place of the authority of an infallible church, 
speaking with the weight of eighteen Christian centuries, or by 
the application to a holy book of reason sent from God, Mor- 
monism substituted a religion of revelation to Joseph Smith by 
a God who could announce the names of the trustees of the 
Nauvoo House and prescribe that his servant Joseph Smith 
and his seed should forever receive free board there. 

To the revelation Smith ever turned to keep his followers 
in order. There were revelations commanding that this man 
should tarry here and that man should go there, revelations 
admonishing, reproving, and praising his followers by name. 
By revelation God commanded the building of the Temple, 
and by revelation he ordained also the discipline of the Mor- 
mon faith. By revelation Smith held under control the fol- 
lowers who had swallowed greedily the marvel of the dead 
races of the past and of the golden plates. The church serv- 
ices were ceremonious; the sacraments were rites to preserve 


the faithful from the devil and to comfort their souls with the 
assurance of salvation for some specific performance. Mor- 
monism, always prefacing its teaching with a reflection on the 
dissensions and differences of opinion on matters of faith of 
the Christian denominations, proffered a certainty and counted 
its converts by ten thousands. 

The influence of Smith's character on the development of 
Mormonism cannot be overestimated. Though educated only 
by his own efforts and not highly intellectual, he was possessed 
of a vigorous will in a powerful body; and he ruled his fol- 
lowers with absolute sway. He had efficient adjuncts in his 
brothers, notably Hyrum Smith, and in his father and mother. 
The family traced its descent from a long line of Puritan ances- 
tors and pointed with pride to its record in Indian wars and the 
Revolution; although in its New York home its reputation 
had not been of special distinction, on the larger stage on which 
it was called to play it seconded with reasonably good sup- 
port Joseph Smith's performance in the role of p/ophet. la 

But although he was able to gather to the standard of his 
religion a hundred thousand converts, at first chiefly New Eng- 
landers and New Yorkers already having strong religious 
traditions, Smith had certain limitations in his character that 
fatally hindered him from organizing them into an irresistible 
phalanx. He could dominate his humbler followers, but there 
his power stopped. He had not the imagination necessary to 
comprehend or to harmonize with the men outside his faith with 
whom he had to deal; neither was he a judge of the character 
and ability of the men that he gathered around him. Hence, 
perhaps because of the moral weaknesses of his religious dis- 
pensations though Smith to the last retained his grasp on the 
church the history of Mormonism is the history of the seces- 
sion of one trusted leader after another; and Smith, not under- 
standing or grasping the forces of the American frontier, led 

10 Salisbury, "The Mormon War in Hancock County," Illinois State His- 
torical Society, Journal, 8:281 ff. ; Berry, "The Mormon Settlements in Illinois," 
Illinois State Historical Society, Transactions, 1906, 88 ff. 


his followers repeatedly to failure and death in his effort to 
build up a theocracy in the American backwoods. In so doing 
he arrayed against himself and his followers all the strongest 
elements in every community where he sought to establish him- 
self. The Christian churches were outraged by his denuncia- 
tion of them; the powerful proslavery party and its sym- 
pathizers were incensed at his antislavery teaching; and the 
democracy of the frontier was alarmed at his autocracy and at 
his insidious interference in local politics. The opposition was 
intensified by the provincialism of the frontier, impatient of 
anything different from itself and ready to enforce conformity 
even outside the law. 

Joseph Smith was eighteen years old when in 1823 celestial 
visitants first announced his mission to him and showed him 
the plates, and twenty-two when the golden plates were finally 
given to him. On the sixth of April, 1830, the church was 
founded. Then followed a series of persecutions, the church 
seeking a home now at Kirtland, Ohio, now in Missouri. 
Whether the fault was theirs or their opponents', whether the 
causes of their unpopularity were their antislavery sympathies, 
their clannish proclivities, their denunciation of the churches, 
or their belief that the wealth of the gentiles belonged to the 
Saints, they finally in 1838 were driven out of Missouri, with 
the loss of their property and of many lives, and took refuge 
in Illinois. 2 

In Illinois they encountered a favorable reception. Their 
doctrines had previously awakened passing curiosity, and their 
earlier persecution at the hands of the people of Missouri had 
called forth occasional comments from the newspapers. The 
outburst of 1839 provoked indignant comment from the Illinois 
papers, especially those of whig political affiliations, possibly 
with a view to attracting to the whig standard a considerable 
body of voters. 3 

- Times and Seasons, March i, April i, 1842. 

^Chicago Democrat, December 3, 17, 1833, June 18, 1834; Chicago American, 
July 23, October 3, 1839, J une 1J . *842; Peoria Register, May 18, July 27, 1839; 
Sangamo Journal, January 19, 1839; Illinois State Register, November 9, 1838. 


Mormonism at first throve in Illinois. On October 5, 
1839, Commerce, the site of Nauvoo, was adopted as a 
" stake " of the church. The plat of the city, it was said later, 
was bought of a Connecticut firm for $53,500, on long time. 
^A remarkable charter was secured from the legislature with 
little trouble, the member reporting it merely saying that the 
document had an extraordinary militia clause which he believed 
harmless. At Nauvoo a stringent temperance ordinance was 
passed, if not enforced, and a university was founded, which 
had sufficient vitality at least to bestow the honorary degree of 
Doctor of Laws on James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New 
York Herald. Missionaries were sent far and wide in the old 
as well as in the new world and communities of Saints grew up 
in other places than Nauvoo; though even as early as 1841, it 
is ominous to notice the appearance against them of charges 
of immorality, polygamy, and of harboring thieves. 4 

The beginning of the troubles of the Mormons in Illinois 
was their interference as a body in politics. Both parties had 
courted them, the whigs more openly than the democrats. In 
the presidential election of 1840, the Mormons voted for all 
the Harrison electors except Abraham Lincoln, substituting 
the name of one democratic elector for his, as they alleged out 
of complacency to the democrats. Lincoln was too good a 
politician, however, not to congratulate the Mormons warmly 
on the passage of their charters which apparently neither party 
opposed. 5 

Though the Mormons voted for Stuart in 1841, the demo- 
crats, for some reason, won the race for the favor of the 
prophet On January I, 1842, Times and Seasons, the official 
newspaper of the Mormons, published a proclamation declar- 
ing that the Mormons had voted for Harrison as a gallant 

*Times and Seasons, December 30, 1839, November 15, 1840, March i, April 
i, November i, December 15, 184.1, January i, 1842; Chicago American, July 29, 
1842; Warsaw Signal, February 10, 1845. Bennett's paper was indicated as 
worthy of the patronage of the Saints, its attitude toward them being distinctly 

K Times and Seasons, January i, 1841; Chicago American, November 16, 26, 
December 26, 1840, June 8, 1842. 


soldier but that he was now dead and there was no obligation 
on them to support his friends. u Douglass," Smith said, " is a 
Master Spirit, and his friends are our friends we are willing 
to cast our banners on the air, and fight by his side in the cause 
of humanity, and equal rights the cause of liberty and the 
law. Snyder, and Moore, are his friends they are ours." 
The Sangamo Journal commented that if this pronunciamento 
did not set the citizens of the state to thinking it did not know 
what would. The democratic papers were taken a little back 
at this zealous missionary work for their candidate, the Regis- 
ter refraining from publishing the address in full. 6 

With Smith thus openly arrayed on the side of his oppo- 
nent, Duncan in the campaign of 1842 for the governorship 
naturally took an anti-Mormon stand. He attacked the loose 
provisions of the Mormon charters, which, by allowing laws 
to be passed so long as they were not counter to the state or 
federal constitutions, permitted the city council a power of 
legislation almost concurrent with that of the state. He pointed 
out the evil legislation which had been passed under this 
arrangement, such as the ordinance providing heavy fine and 
imprisonment for any person speaking lightly of the estab- 
lished religion. He called attention to the violence of the 
Mormons in Missouri and to the charge that they were 
more or less openly engaged in plots against their old 
enemies there. 7 Suddenly a series of exposures by a man 
hitherto among the most prominent of the Mormon leaders 
threw the whole state into excitement and centered the climax 
of the campaign on the Mormon issue. 

General John C. Bennett, after a more or less checkered 
career in the west, had joined the Mormons at about the time 
of their arrival in Illinois. Educated in medicine, he had 
become, for some reason, quartermaster-general of Illinois 
militia; and it soon became generally understood among the 

6 Ford, History of Illinois, 262; Times and Seasons, January i, 1842; San- 
gamo Journal, January 21, February n, 1842; Illinois State Register, January 
14, 1842. 

7 Sangamt Journal, May 14, June 10, 1842; Alton Telegraph, May 14, 1842. 


Mormons that he was a military genius of the first rank. He 
had had a large share in the political negotiations by which the 
Nauvoo charter was secured, and he was generally believed to 
have acted as a political go-between on other occasions. He 
commanded the "Nauvoo Legion" into which the militia of 
the city was organized and wrote communications to the Times 
and Seasons signed "Joab." For some reason he quarreled 
with Smith and was cast out of the church in 1842, the Mor- 
mons discovering that his character was scabrous in the extreme. 
The tone of his exposures indicates that there was nothing 
inherently improbable in the charge, though it is a little strange 
that his iniquity was not sooner found out. 8 

Undoubtedly Bennett was able to tell many things regard- 
ing the aims, methods, and morals of the Mormon leaders; 
but his exposures appear unreliable. It is possible that men like 
the Smiths, who were prone to use their spiritual authority for 
their pecuniary advantage, did not refrain from using it to 
win over women devotees who took their fancy; but it is dif- 
ficult to believe that the elaborate societies and orders for 
debauchery which Bennett detailed existed outside his own 
evil imagination. It is doubtful if the doctrine of " spir- 
itual wifery" existed at so early a date; indeed, the Mormons 
claimed that the doctrine was Bennett's own invention. Too 
much weight, however, should not be given to the denials of 
Bennett's charges as to the injuries inflicted or attempted to 
be inflicted on Orson Pratt, Sidney Rigdon, and Nancy Rigdon. 
Certainly in spite of the Mormon denials there was a Danite 
band with which Bennett had been threatened; but as a whole, 
except where Bennett's charges can be verified from other 
sources, they are to be discounted, if for no other reason 
because he claimed that he had originally joined the Mormons 
in order to expose them. 9 

8 Times and Seasons, January i, June i, 1841, August i, 1842, November 15, 
1844; Wasp, October i, 1842. 

9 Times and Seasons, April 15, August i, September 15, 1842; Wasp, 
September 3, 1842; Chicago American, July 7, 1842; Bennett, History of the 
Saints, 5. 


The charges of Bennett, especially the commentary on the 
danger to the state from the Mormon scheme supported by 
Mormon militia with state arms in their hands and the accusa- 
tion of attempts on the life of Governor Boggs of Missouri 
by Mormons, rang through the whig papers in the last weeks 
of the campaign; but the Mormon vote was cast solidly for 
Ford; and he was elected by a safe majority. The Telegraph 
was inclined to believe that the charges because of apparent 
improbability might actually have injured the cause of the 
whigs. 10 

In his message of 1842 Ford stated that the people of the 
state desired that the Mormon charters be modified so as to 
allow the people of Nauvoo no greater privileges than were 
enjoyed by their fellow citizens; but the suggestion was not 
followed out by the legislature, since both parties hesitated to 
take a decided stand. The old doctrine of vested rights was 
invoked in behalf of the charters, and the friends of the 
Mormons were always ready with a suggestion to repeal all 
municipal charters in case that of Nauvoo were touched. 11 In 
the congressional campaign of 1843 tne Mormon votes were 
apparently thrown for Hoge, the democrat, against Cyrus 
Walker, in spite of what the Mormons alleged were attempts 
on the part of the whigs to win them over. The democrats 
declared that in the fifth district the Mormons under the 
orders of the prophet voted for Orville H. Browning against 
Douglas. 12 

An important factor in the conduct of the Mormon leaders 
was their constant dread of extradition to Missouri. On Sep- 
tember 15, 1840, Governor Boggs issued a requisition on 
Illinois for the surrender of Smith, Rigdon, and others as fugi- 
tives from justice. The warrants were not executed; but in 

10 Alton Telegraph, August 13, 1842. 

11 Sangamo Journal, December 15, 1842, January 19, 1843; Alton Telegraph, 
December 17, 24, 1842; Illinois State Register, March 31, 1843; House Journal, 
1842-1843, i session, 50. 

12 Chicago Democrat, August 23, 1843; Nauvoo Neighbor, August 2, Sep- 
tember 27, 1843; Illinois State Register, July 7, September 22, 1843; Ford, His- 
tory of Illinois, 317. 


the next June, Smith was arrested at Carlin's direction. Doug- 
las in the Warren county court on June 10 decided the writ was 
not good. In August Smith and Rockwell, the latter Smith's 
alleged tool in his attempt on Governor Boggs, were again 
arrested, charged with the attempted murder; but they eluded 
arrest; and on the accession of Ford, Smith asked to have 
the validity of the writ tested. Justin Butterfield argued 
Smith's case before Judge Pope in the United States court and 
secured his discharge. Rockwell was finally taken to Missouri, 
but no evidence could be found against him sufficient to hold 
him, and he was released. 13 

Nauvoo meanwhile was growing rapidly. How prosperous 
the enterprise was so far as the rank and file are concerned 
cannot be known certainly. Taking the accounts of the Mor- 
mons themselves, and even of some travelers, one gets the 
impression that the city was marked by a prosperity in which 
all citizens alike shared. They commented on the industry 
of the inhabitants, the fine brick houses rising in considerable 
numbers, the stately public structures such as the Nauvoo 
House and the Temple. Yet as one studies the newspapers of 
the town, it is hard to find any evidences of business activity. 
There are few or no advertisements of commission houses, 
few advertisements of stores. On one or two occasions delib- 
erate attempts were made to keep money at home and to preach 
abstinence from purchasing goods made outside the town. 
That was hardly the policy which a town aspiring to be the 
commercial metropolis of any important district would pursue; 
and the town of Nauvoo with a population twice as numerous 
as that of either Chicago or Alton had an agricultural hinter- 
land depending on it less important than that of either of its 
rivals. From the point of view of the economist one wonders 
how such a population without extensive manufacturing could 
sustain itself. 

Indications are not lacking that the leaders of the Saints 

18 Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 524- 
525; Nauvoo Neighbor, January 10, 1844. 


realized this difficulty and that they made repeated efforts to 
attract capital which might furnish employment to the floods 
of mechanics who, bringing little more than their strength and 
their skill, flocked in as a result of the preaching of the faith 
in the Old World and in the eastern cities of the United States. 
Skilled labor for varieties of industries was ready at hand; and 
Joseph Smith and his successors issued appeal after appeal to 
Latter Day Saints living elsewhere who possessed a few thou- 
sand dollars to come to Nauvoo and invest it in manufacturing 
that would supply an economic basis for the vast political and 
theocratic structure that Smith aspired to build up in Illinois. 
Repeated warnings against the immediate immigration of per- 
sons without capital had to be issued. One or two communi- 
cations to the Mormon papers rebuking English immigrants 
for grumbling indicated that some of the newcomers did not 
find Nauvoo a land flowing with milk and honey and that they 
were inclined to denounce as oppressors the little group of 
well-to-do men in the community whose capital was so precious 
to Smith. 

There was more than one possible solution to the problem. 
In spite of the fact that much of the work on the Temple and 
the other public structures was done by men donating their 
labor one day in every ten, there are indications that the work 
was used to feed and clothe the men employed on it. Farmers 
of the Mormon faith around Nauvoo were urged in payment 
of tithes to bring produce for the support of the men laboring 
on the Temple; and the sisters were urged to prepare articles 
of clothing for the persons engaged on it. On several occa- 
sions payment of the tithes was demanded in produce, money, 
or building material; and guns and old watches were pro- 
nounced unacceptable. Possibly in this way materials and sub- 
sistence for the workers on the Temple were obtained, and a 
certain amount of unemployment taken care of. 

A precocious trade organization in the city that grew up 
may have been one result of this. The shoemakers planned 
at one time to have a common shop supplied by their work; 


associations of carriage builders announced themselves ready 
to receive orders; at one time a trades council was held to 
consider the building of a factory on a mutual stock subscrip- 
tion. But many of the Mormon men who emigrated to the 
city of promise scattered to the nearby towns and to gentile 
farms to find work, while Mormon girls proved a blessing to 
overworked housewives of the Military Tract or in some 
instances met an evil fate in the little river towns. To this 
necessary scattering of their coreligionists some Mormons 
were inclined to lay the fact that the church was not strong 
enough to withstand the assaults of its foes. Had certain 
well-to-do men in the east, it was said, come to Nauvoo with 
their money as they had been adjured to do, there would have 
been sufficient numbers of the people in the town and the county 
to have defied all enemies and to have controlled the state 

It was not surprising that aside from any partisan motives 
for wishing ill to the Mormons the fact that this predominance 
in the state was the ideal of the Saints was enough to stir up 
against them a local opposition that deepened and became more 
bitter till the final expulsion of the Mormons. In part this 
antagonism may be ascribed to the jealousy of Warsaw at the 
development of its rival up the river; but the causes of it were 
more deep rooted; and by 1843 hostility to the Mormons in 
the state was open enough to have become a serious issue. On 
August 19, 1843, an anti-Mormon meeting held at Carthage 
adopted resolutions condemning in vigorous language the 
regime at Nauvoo, and denouncing the violence, the defiance 
of law, and the thievery that flourished there and pledged the 
convention to offer resistance. Furthermore, Missouri was 
assured that if another warrant was issued against Smith the 
people of Carthage would do all in their power to see it 
executed. 14 

Events moved rapidly. For some reason, instead of throw- 
ing his support to one presidential candidate or the other in 

14 Alton Telegraph, September 23, 1843; 


1844, Smith decided to announce himself as a candidate. What 
he can possibly have hoped to gain from his candidacy is hard 
to see, unless it was to demonstrate that he held the balance 
of power in the nation as he already held it in the state. At 
all events he began newspaper agitation in support of his aspi- 
rations and sent out Mormon emissaries to electioneer for him. 

Meanwhile another secession from the church was immi- 
nent. On June 7, 1844, there appeared at Nauvoo the first 
number of the Expositor, a paper supported by a group of 
men of whom the most prominent were William and Wilson 
Law, F. M. and C. L. Higbee, and Robert D. and Charles 
A. Foster. The Laws and Robert Foster had been cut off from 
the church in the preceding April. 15 The Nauvoo Neighbor 
promptly found a string of accusations to bring against the 
various members of the group; but in view of the fact that the 
Laws were well-to-do members of the community, the defec- 
tion was, to say the least, a serious one. 16 The Expositor in 
the single number that was permitted to issue went straight to 
the mark. It accused the Smiths of embezzling church funds, 
of enticing immigrants too hastily in order to sell them prop- 
erty at exorbitant prices and of then leaving others to provide 
them with work to support themselves. It denounced the activ- 
ity of the church in politics and the high-handed procedures in 
freeing by writs of habeas corpus, issuing from the municipal 
court, persons arrested by the United States marshal. More 
damaging still, it again accused the Smiths of the deliberate 
seduction of women and the secret practice of plural marriage. 
The authorities at Nauvoo to meet the attack had no other 
recourse than a council order to suppress the paper as a nui- 
sance, and accordingly the press was totally destroyed. 

The crisis was at hand. The anti-Mormons gathered at 
Warsaw and passed resolutions for the extermination of the 
Mormon leaders. They resolved that if the governor would 
not order out the militia to secure the execution of a warrant 

ir> Times and Seasons, April 15, 1843. 
16 Nauvoo Neighbor, June 26, 1844. 


they would rely on the rallying of the posse comitatus with 
assistance from other counties and from Missouri and Iowa. 
Throughout the county and in neighboring districts in Illinois, 
Iowa, and Missouri, men were gathering under arms. A bolder 
man than Joseph Smith might have lost his nerve in the emer- 
gency. For a time he appears to have thought of fleeing to 
the wilderness. From this resolution he was dissuaded; and 
with Hyrum, he surrendered to arrest at Carthage, June 24, 
on a charge of rioting. Next day a warrant charging them 
with treason was prepared and served. 17 Leaving the Smiths 
in the jail at Carthage, Governor Ford, who had arrived on 
the scene with state troops and taken command of the militia 
that had mustered, disbanded all the forces brt three com- 
panies and, leaving two at Carthage, marched with the third 
to Nauvoo to urge a surrender of the state arms still there. 
Meanwhile, on June 27, the Smiths were set upon and mur- 
dered in the Carthage jail. 18 Ford, who returned from Nau- 
voo before the news of the murder reached that place, inclined 
to believe that it was a plot to procure his own assassination 
there, as a preliminary to a state war on the Mormons. Feel- 
ing he could trust neither Mormon nor anti-Mormon, he 
returned to Quincy to watch the excitement gradually quiet 

So perished Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, at the 
hands of a mob, which was too panic-stricken at the Mormons' 
theocratic schemes to show mercy or allow fair fight. By this 
shedding of blood the anti-Mormons probably believed the 
freedom of Illinois and the dissolution of the dangerous power 
had been purchased. The Alton Telegraph commenting two 
years before on a keen analysis of Mormonism by that insa- 
tiable student of ideas, Jonathan Baldwin Turner, had pro- 
nounced the opinion that Smith's empire would not long survive 
him. But from among all the hands stretched out to grasp 
at a fraction of the sway enjoyed by Smith one man seized 

17 Times and Seasons, August i, 1845; Nauvoo Neighbor, June 26, 1844. 

18 Times and Seasons, July i, 1844. 


the reins more firmly than Smith himself had ever held them, 
proving that while he lacked the qualities of imagination and 
boldness needed to found a new religion, he had the strength 
of will and ruthlessness of purpose to dominate it for his own 

At the time of his death Smith governed the church as a 
member of the first presidency, of which Hyrum and Sidney 
Rigdon were the other members. Rigdon at once hastened 
from Pittsburg to Nauvoo to endeavor to assert his constitu- 
tional right as surviving member of the first presidency to lead 
the church. But he was not the man to obtain power that Brig- 
ham Young had marked out for himself. Violent in speech, 
irresolute in action, continually grasping at an authority denied 
him by the stronger willed men who surrounded him, he stood 
helpless, while Young, controlling the people like a second 
Joseph, carried through a complete usurpation in the name of 
another part of the hierarchy that of the "Twelve." 

Secession movements from all sides had first to be checked. 
James J. Strang professed to have received from Smith a reve- 
lation June 1 8, commanding him to establish a "stake" at 
Voree ; and he was promptly cut off from the church, a number 
of followers going with him. According to other accounts 
William Law attempted to establish a Mormon settlement at 
Rock Island. 19 The return of the "Twelve" and the personal 
influence of Young finally brought unity out of confusion. 

On August 8 a meeting of the church was held. Young 
put the question to the people whether they wished a guardian, 
a prophet, a spokesman; but no one answered. Young then 
defined the position of the " Twelve," claiming for them the 
power to regulate the church. Amasa Lyman and Sidney 
Rigdon, he admitted, had been councilors in the first presidency, 
but if either wished to act as spokesman for Joseph, he must 
go behind the veil where Joseph was. Doubtless the double 
entendre was not lost on the men to whom it was addressed. 

19 Chicago Democrat, September 18, 1844; Times and Seasons, September 
2, 1844. 


Rigdon refused to have his name voted for as spokesman or 
guardian, and all voted to sustain the "Twelve." Notice of 
this decision was duly published with the remark that " the 
elders abroad will best exhibit their wisdom to all men by 
remaining silent on those things they are ignorant of." The 
presence of a firm hand had been apparent in the proclamation 
already issued by Young to the effect that the branches abroad 
must be tithed as soon as organized. A day of closer organ- 
ization of the church was at hand. 20 

Rigdon could not refrain from one more snatch at the 
power passing from his grasp. It was said that Joseph Smith 
before his death had received a revelation designating Rigdon 
as a prophet, seer, and revelator. On the night of the second 
of September, according to his enemies, claiming to have the 
"keys" above the "Twelve," he ordained certain men to be 
prophets, priests, and kings. His enemies heard of his pro- 
ceeding almost at once and acted promptly. First they appar- 
ently bullied him into surrender with threats of physical vio- 
lence and on September 8 called a meeting to try him. Young 
adjured those who were for Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the 
Book of Mormon, the Temple, and the " Twelve " to stand 
forth ; those who were for Rigdon or Lyman Wight or James 
Emmett might also stand forth, for they were known. William 
Marks bravely defended the right of Rigdon as a member of 
the first presidency to receive the oracles from Smith and to 
give them to the church. Rigdon was overwhelmed by his 
enemies with ridicule and invective, however, and he and his 
followers were cast out. 21 

Further opposition had to be met from the Smith family. 
For the time Young quieted Mother Smith's insistence on the 
rights of the young son of the prophet by promises that in due 
time his rights would be recognized, but that for the present 
she must remember that by pushing his claim she would expose 
him to danger. William Smith, the younger brother of the 

20 Times and Seasons, August 15, September 2, 1844. 

21 Alton Telegraph, September 21, 1844.; Times and Seasons, September 15, 
1844; Nauvoo Neighbor, October 2, December 15, 1844, 


prophet, was persistent in his protest; and, after it became 
apparent that he could not be kept quiet, he was ridiculed in the 
Mormon papers and finally bullied into keeping silence while 
he was at Nauvoo. In the autumn of 1 845 he was cut off from 
the church. 22 He openly charged that the "Twelve" were 
leading the church out into the wilderness to have the absolute 
sway of it, that they disregarded the claims of the Smiths and 
of the infant Joseph and even treated them with derision; he 
laid the spiritual wife doctrine to the charge of Young and 
the "Twelve," claiming that they had first taught it at Boston. 
A conference in Cincinnati in January of 1846 reiterated Wil- 
liam Smith's attacks on the " Twelve," and pronounced in favor 
of the right of little Joseph. Thus the schism began among 
the Mormons that has continued to our own day. 23 

Meanwhile the necessity of removal from Illinois was 
doubtless becoming increasingly apparent to the leaders of the 
party at Nauvoo. The legislature of 1845 had repealed their 
charter, leaving them without any government adequate for the 
city. In these circumstances for the purpose of keeping stran- 
gers in order they had to take up certain uncouth practices of 
which the mildest was "whittling out of town." 24 

The fetish of the "Twelve" was the completion of the 
Temple at Nauvoo. Probably this policy was dictated partly 
by the fact that according to them, Sidney Rigdon had tried 
to draw the people away to Pittsburg and to scatter the church, 
prophesying that the Temple would never be completed. To 
save their faces the Nauvoo Mormons were compelled to 
wait until the Temple was completed so that the people could 
receive in it their promised endowments. On May 28, 1845, 
the Nauvoo Neighbor announced that the capstone was in 
place. In April of 1846 the Temple was dedicated, admission 
to the ceremony costing one dollar. 

22 Times and Seasons, November i, 1845; Nauvoo Neighbor, June n, 1845; 
Warsaw Sianal, October 29, 1845; see also Lee, The Mormon Menace, 207. 

23 Warsaw Signal, October 29, 1845 ; broadside in Chicago Historical 

24 Lee, The Mormon Menace, 213. 


Since early in 1845 the leaders had been considering the 
idea of removal to some more remote site where the church 
could be governed without exciting the hostility of the gentiles. 
The pine region, Wisconsin, Texas, the country west of Mis- 
souri, and Oregon were mentioned as possible locations. 25 The 
delay of departure caused in a year and a half two armed 
conflicts between the Mormons and their opponents that have 
gone down in the history of the state as the " Mormon Wars." 

Early in the spring of 1845 attacks on the Mormons and 
on the dangerous political tendency of their settlement at Nau- 
voo, controlled in its voting strength by the will of a few men, 
began to appear in such papers as the Warsaw Signal. The 
anti-Mormons denied apparently with some truth that their 
propaganda was a whig device to control the district by driving 
out the Mormon allies of the democrats; on the contrary, they 
alleged that the movement comprised the old settlers in Han- 
cock of both parties. The old charges against the Mormons 
of harboring thieves, of counterfeiting, and of general law- 
lessness were reiterated. 26 But the Nauvoo Neighbor of Janu- 
ary 22, 1845, declared that the thievery was that of a gang in 
Iowa, unconnected with the Mormons, who carried their 
stolen property through Nauvoo. 

In the fall of 1845 tne anti-Mormons initiated a regular 
campaign designed to drive the Mormons out of the county. 
Early in September a mob one or two hundred strong began 
burning the houses of Mormons in the country, requiring them 
to move their household goods to Nauvoo. Jacob B. Back- 
enstos, the sheriff of the county, was a Mormon sympathizer, 
or what at the time was called a "jack-Mormon," a man put 
in office by Mormon votes. In the spring the feeling against 
him in the county had run high because of a speech he was 
alleged to have made in the legislature; and the Carthage 
Grays had ordered him out of the county, charging among 

28 Times and Seasons, September 15, 1844; Hancock Eagle, AprH 24, 1846; 
Nauvoo Neighbor, February 15, 26, 1845. 

** Warsaw Signal, January 15, May 14, 1845; Alton Telegraph, June 
21, 1845. 


other things against him that he had engineered the deal to 
cast the Mormon vote for Hoge in the congressional election 
of 1843; indeed, it was said that Hoge's recent defeat for a 
renomination had been due to public dissatisfaction with the 
appointment of Backenstos, at his instance, as superintendent 
of the lead mines. Whatever his political affiliations were, 
there can be no doubt that Backenstos did his duty in the riots 
of the fall of 1845, even though the motive from which he did 
it may not have been disinterested. 27 

When apprised of the activity of the rioters, Backenstos 
on September 13 attempted to raise a posse at Warsaw for 
the purpose of stopping the disorder. Failing to get any assist- 
ance from the old settlers, he ordered the Mormons in Nauvoo 
to hold themselves in readiness; in a second proclamation of 
September 16 he stated that Colonel Levi Williams, the leader 
of the rioters, had called out the militia of Hancock, McDon- 
ough, and Schuyler counties, and he warned men against obey- 
ing the call. On the same day he called out a force of mounted 
men to rescue his own family and others from the territory 
terrorized by the mob. Proceeding against the mob, he encoun- 
tered them at their work of burning houses and put them to rout 
with the loss of two of their number killed and others wounded. 
The Mormons in their turn fell to plundering, and a state force 
under Hardin had to be sent to disperse them. 28 

Meanwhile meetings held in nearby counties, notably at 
Quincy, at Mendon, and an important one held on October 
i at Carthage, at which eight or nine counties were represented, 
resolved that the only solution was the breaking up of the Mor- 
mon settlement in Hancock. The Nauvoo common council 
offered to remove in the spring in case the gentiles would assist 
them in selling or renting their property and would refrain 
from vexatious lawsuits. These terms were accepted by the 

2T Illinois State Register, April 24, 1845 ! Sangamo Journal, April i, 17, 
1845; Nauvoo Neighbor, April 23, September 24, 1845; Warsaw Signal, Sep- 
tember 17, 1845. 

28 Nauvoo Neighbor, September 17, 1845; Warsaw Signal, September 
17, 1845. 


anti-Mormons on condition that an armed force should occupy 
Nauvoo during the winter to prevent continuance of the alleged 
depredations of the Mormons on the property of the old set- 
tlers. 29 The Mormons at the time were said to be almost 
in military control of the county and were accused of driving 
away the cattle and harvesting the crops of their opponents. 
It was the uncompromising attitude of the people of the neigh- 
boring counties that compelled them to give way. 30 The next 
session of the circuit court found several true bills against 
Mormons, but all except one against Backenstos for a murder 
connected with the reducing of the county to order were nol- 
prossed. On this remaining bill Backenstos was acquitted. 31 
Meanwhile attempts to serve warrants in Nauvoo as late as 
October 25 had been defeated by a show of force on the part of 
the Mormons. The Mormon county commissioners, accord- 
ing to their opponents, attempted to have the expenses of Back- 
enstos' posse charged to the county exchequer. 32 

The Mormons feared a renewal of disorder when the mili- 
tia guard under Major Warren stationed in Nauvoo during the 
winter was withdrawn the first of May. In answer to protests 
against its withdrawal Ford answered that the force was an 
expense to the state and was not large enough to prevent vio- 
lence if either side were inclined to use it. The Mormons, 
whose progress in removing was not so great as it should have 
been at the time, were warned that it was out of the power of 
the governor to protect them at Nauvoo, since the people of 
the state would not fight for them. Although Ford disclaimed 
any responsibility on the part of himself or the state for the 
agreement made the preceding fall by which the Mormons had 
promised to emigrate, he told them plainly that there was noth- 
ing else for them to do. The Mormons asserted that they 
were departing as fast as possible and that the only cause of 

29 Qulncy Whig, October i, 1845; Sangamo Journal, October 2, 1845; 
Nauvoo Neighbor, October 29, 1845. 

30 Chicago Democrat, October 4, 6, 1845. 

31 Nauvoo Neighbor, October 29, 1845; Illinois State Register, December 
19, 1845. 

32 Warsaw Signal, October 29, 1845, January 8, 1846. 


the uproar against them was the fear on the part of the whigs 
that they might cast a few votes. They asserted that at a 
meeting they had declared their intention not to vote again in 
Illinois. On May 15 the Hancock Eagle, ostensibly a "new 
citizen" paper, though Mormon in sympathy, declared that 
about fourteen hundred teams had crossed the river and that 
about twelve thousand souls had already left the state. Major 
Warren, who had received orders the day after his men dis- 
banded to muster them in again, assured the anti-Mormons that 
the Mormons were leaving as fast as possible and that regula- 
tions were in force sufficient to guard against any disorder on 
their part. 33 

Within a few days, however, bands of anti-Mormons were 
again at work driving isolated Mormons in the county off their 
property. Early in June the anti-Mormons, alleging that the 
Mormons to the number of several hundred were planning to 
stay at Nauvoo, using it as a base from which to commit depre- 
dation on the old settlers, proposed to march a force to Nauvoo 
as a demonstration ; to this end they applied for aid to the coun- 
ties represented in the Carthage convention. The result, 
according to the new settlers in Nauvoo, was a desperate rush 
on the part of the few remaining Mormons to get over the 
river. The new citizens who were already moving in had held 
a public meeting on May 29 to determine the question of 
establishing a city government. The anti-Mormons, however, 
affected to believe that the Mormon leaders were still domi- 
nating the policy of the town. They affirmed that the com- 
mittee of new citizens had been put down by Backenstos, who 
had raised a force of five hundred men. On June 9 the new 
citizens, according to the Hancock Eagle, passed conciliatory 
resolutions; but the advance of the hostile army next day led 
the opinion to be expressed that the prosperity of the town was 
what was really aimed at. By June 13 an anti-Mormon force 
of about four hundred was encamped before the town, and 

33 Alton Telegraph, May 2, 9, 1846; Hancock Eagle, April 10, 17, May 8, 
15, 1846. 


about three hundred new citizens were mustered to defend it 
The anti-Mormons insisted that they be admitted to the town to 
force the remaining Mormons to leave, but the new citizens re- 
pulsed them, and forced them to retreat. By the middle of July 
the Warsaw Signal declared that an open state of war between 
Mormon and anti-Mormon forces existed in the county. 34 

In the summer the trouble broke forth with redoubled 
force. The anti-Mormons assembled in arms with the inten- 
tion, as the Hancock Eagle professed to believe, of plundering 
Nauvoo and the new citizens and of murdering those who had 
been forward in the suppression of lawlessness. The Nauvoo 
party, whether directed by Mormons or new citizens, late in 
August summoned a posse to serve warrants against members 
of the opposite party accused of acts of violence. A few days 
earlier a similar posse was summoned to serve writs in Na-uvoo. 
The anti-Mormons professed to believe that the Mormons 
were actually in control in Nauvoo directing the policy of 
its newspaper and that with three thousand Mormons in town 
and three thousand more within easy reach in Iowa they con- 
trolled and terrorized the new citizens, while they sent out 
parties to stir up confusion in the county by deeds of vio- 
lence. 35 

The anti-Mormon army once more marched on Nauvoo 
to force the withdrawal of the Mormons. They were intoler- 
ant in the terms of departure that they insisted on ; they rejected 
terms negotiated by James W. Singleton, one of their officers, 
who thereupon resigned his command. After several other 
attempts at negotiation, in which the anti-Mormons insisted on 
unconditional surrender, they undertook to force their way in. 
A battle occurred which resolved itself into an artillery engage- 
ment without decisive result, from which the anti-Mormons 
withdrew to await an additional supply of cannon balls, with 

34 Hancock Eagle, May 25, June 5, 19, July 13, 1846; Warsaw Signal, June 
14, July 16, extra, 1846; broadside of the New Settlers' committee, June 15, 1846, 
in Chicago Historical Society. 

38 Belleville Advocate, August 27, 1846; Hancock Eagle, extra, August 21, 
1846; broadside of August 29, 1846*. io Chicago Historical Society. 


seven men wounded and their supply of ammunition 
exhausted. 36 

Meanwhile the two parties entered into negotiations 
through the intervention of a committee of citizens from 
Quincy. The anti-Mormons tried to secure the surrender to 
civil authority of all who had resisted them, but finally were 
content with the withdrawal of the Mormons from the city 
and their agreement to surrender their arms to the Quincy 
committee, to be returned to them after they had crossed the 
river. Five of the Mormons were to be allowed to remain to 
dispose of the church property. On marching into Nauvoo on 
these terms, Thomas S. Brockman, the commander of the 
county forces, at once gave the Mormons five days to leave, re- 
quiring the "jack-Mormons," such as Backenstos and William 
Pickett, to leave at once. In addition Brockman forced a num- 
ber of the new citizens, estimated by the Warsaw Signal, 
October 20, as not over thirty families, to leave Nauvoo. Un- 
friendly papers such as the State Register asserted that a reign 
of terror marked by plunder and violence was proceeding in 
Nauvoo. 37 

The opinion even of democrats in Illinois was turned 
against the anti-Mormons on account of their high-handed 
proceedings in Nauvoo, whig papers like the Chicago Journal 
and democratic papers like the State Register similarly con- 
demning them. Ford once more marched with militia into the 
county, only to find that anti-Mormon opinion was strongly 
against him. The local papers treated with derision the march- 
ing and counter-marching of his forces; and the anti-Mormon 
women presented him with a petticoat, which his loyal troops 
decreed should be carried outside the camp and burned by 
three Negroes. 38 

36 Quincy Whig, September 12, December 2, 1846; Warsaw Signal, extra, 
September 14, 1846; circular to the public by James W. Singleton, September, 
1846, in Chicago Historical Society. 

*"* Warsaw Signal, October 27, 1846; Quincy Herald, October 16, 1846; 
Quincy Whig, September 23, 1846. 

88 Chicago Journal, September 30, 1846; Quincy Whig, November 4, 1846; 
Warsaw Signal, November 14, 1846. 


From first to last the party rivalries of whigs and democrats 
had complicated the problem of the Mormon disorders. Thus 
in 1844 despite Ford's denials the whigs insisted that his course 
toward the rioters was designed to curry favor with the Mor- 
mons and to secure their votes for the democratic candidates. 
In reply the democratic papers accused the whigs of trying to 
stir up a civil war in the state, although themselves welcoming 
the Mormon support. 39 In 1845 tne Sangamo Journal affected 
to believe that the State Register was attempting to combine 
the Mormon vote with that of northern Illinois to outbalance 
the south. 40 Even in 1846 the democrats were charged with 
encouraging the retention of enough Mormon votes in the 
county to secure the triumph of the democratic candidates, 41 
though the democrats denied that the Mormon vote had been 
necessary for the triumph of their candidate. 

So after having for six years played a leading role in the 
life of Illinois, the Mormons disappeared from its history 
save as the state in future years had to bear its part in the solu- 
tion of the problem of Mormonism in Utah. 42 After full 
allowance is made for the violence and perhaps the greed of 
the opponents of the Mormons in Illinois, it must be admitted 
that they saw clearly how terrible an excrescence on the politi- 
cal life of the state the Mormon community would be, once it 
had attained full growth. Because legal means would not 
protect them from the danger they used violence. The ma- 
chinery of state government was then, it must be remembered, 
but a slight affair; and to enforce the will of public opinion, 
the resort to private war, though to be deplored, was inevitable. 

39 Sangamo Journal, August 22, 1844; Alton Telegraph, August 24, 1844; 
Illinois State Register, October 4, n, November 8, 1844; Chicago Democrat, 
August 28, 1844. 

40 April 17, July 24, 1845. 

41 Sangamo Journal, January i, March 12, 1846. 

42 A few members, many of them relatives of Joseph Smith, refused to follow 
Young and remained in Illinois where their descendants are still to be found in 
Hancock county. Here they continue to worship in the Reorganized Church of 
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 


THE slavery question in Illinois remained in a state of 
quiescence for at least a decade after the decision of the 
convention struggle. The black laws remained and even in- 
creased in severity; the shameful kidnapping of free blacks out 
of the state went on in defiance of legislation, aided in some 
sections by a proslavery public opinion which was prone to 
sooth itself with the excuse of the kidnappers that they recov- 
ered runaway slaves for their masters and therefore were 
merely vindicators of a just property right. On the other hand 
the underground railroad had its obscure beginnings as the 
escaping Negroes found sympathy and assistance at an increas- 
ing number of doors; there were always communities in the 
state where the slave was safe from his hunters. Little interest 
in the antislavery movement was publicly evidenced. In 1831 
a Presbyterian layman of Bond county that source of much 
propaganda in early Illinois William M. Stewart by name, 
put forth a vigorous protest against the toleration of slavery 
by the churches. On January 9, 1831, an antislavery meeting 
at Shoal Creek, Bond county, made a vigorous protest against 
buying, selling, or holding slaves, declaring that the participa- 
tion of its members in these things was a disgrace to the Presby- 
terian church. Along with the protest came the establishment 
of a local colonization society. 1 

During the next year or two the colonization movement 
attracted more notice, especially as it came to be contrasted 
favorably with abolition. The increased activity of the abo- 
litionists and the gag rules began to bring the subject of sla- 
very under wider discussion. The Sangamo Journal, Alton 
Spectator, and Chicago American were all strongly anti-aboli- 

1 Illinois Intelligencer, February 19, March 12, 19, May 7, 1831. 



tion in their utterances. The Alton Telegraph, on the other 
hand, denounced the gag and interference with the right of 
petition in round terms. 2 It is rather hard to define the atti- 
tude of the Illinois representatives in the national house of 
representatives on the subject. They voted for the gag resolu- 
tion designed to cut off abolition petitions in 1836; but on 
motions and petitions involved in Adams' diplomatic fencing 
with his adversaries, the delegation, Zadoc Casey particularly, 
occasionally voted with him. In Illinois the general assembly 
in the session of 1837 passed some violent anti-abolition resolu- 
tions. These passed the senate unanimously; but in the house, 
Abraham Lincoln, Andrew McCormick, Gideon Minor, John 
H. Murphy, Parven Paullin, and Dan Stone cast their votes in 
the negative. Before the end of the session, Abraham Lincoln 
and Dan Stone recorded on the Journals of the house their 
formal protest against the resolutions. Declaring their belief 
that abolition agitation tended to increase rather than diminish 
the evils of slavery, they pronounced the peculiar institution 
founded on injustice and bad policy; and they based their dis- 
sent to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, not 
on the lack of power on the part of congress to do away with 
slavery there, but on the fact that congress should act only on 
the petition of the people of the district. In view of the in- 
creasing rage against abolitionism rising in the state and even 
more in the country at large, the men who signed this document 
took their political futures in their hands. 3 

In originating abolition propaganda in Illinois even the 
bold act of the man destined to be the freer of the slaves takes 
for the time second place to that of the martyr of abolitionism, 
Elijah Parish Lovejoy. At the time of his death, Lovejoy had 
just attained the age of thirty-five. years. He was born in 

2 Sangamo Journal, November 3, 1832, May n, September 21, 1833, August 
6, 1836; Illinois Advocate, January 19, 1833; Alton Spectator, November 19, 
1835, February 19, 1836; Alton Telegraph, February 17, 1836; Chicago American, 
September 5, 1835. 

8 Congressional Debates, 1834-1835, p. 1141; 1835-1836, p. 2535, 2608, 
2660, 2662, 2779, 4051; House Journal, 1837, i session, 311; Senate Journal, 
1837, i session, 297. 


Maine, the son of a Presbyterian clergyman. He had gradu- 
ated from Waterville College and at the age of twenty-five set 
out to seek his fortune in the west, becoming first school teacher 
and then newspaper editor in St. Louis. In 1832 he entered the 
ministry and in 1833 graduated from Princeton Theological 
Seminary and returned to St. Louis to edit a religious paper, 
the St. Louis Observer. Lovejoy's fearlessness of speech in 
an intolerant community soon led him into a series of difficul- 
ties. His paper manfully denounced the mob rule and disorder 
that arose in St. Louis. When it struck straight from the 
shoulder in denouncing the burning of a Negro by a St. Louis 
mob in April, 1836, and expressed its indignation at the opin- 
ion of a judge, appropriately named Lawless, to the effect that 
what was a crime when committed by one person was not such 
when committed by a mob, the printing office was repeatedly 
attacked and damaged. Lovejoy then moved his press to 
Alton where the presence of a group of New England business 
men, favorably known for piety and charity, seemed to offer it 
a better field. It was destroyed presumably by a St. Louis mob 
immediately after it was landed, but indignation in Alton found 
expression in a public meeting which promised funds for a new 
press. The meeting denounced abolition in vigorous terms; 
and Lovejoy, while declaring his antislavery principles and his 
determination to publish what he pleased in his paper, declared 
he was not an abolitionist. 

It is doubtful if Henrik Ibsen ever saw the newspaper 
materials in which lie hidden the outlines of the story of the 
tragedy staged at Alton, but the tragedy of Lovejoy is the 
tragedy of Brand in real life almost to the letter. Lovejoy 
mentally and spiritually was a Puritan of the Puritans. His 
paper in every issue reveals the sharp, unflinching New Eng- 
land view of life. There are no sentimental and emotional 
tales or religious appeals; Lovejoy was content with preaching 
obedience to the law of God rather than ravishing his hearers 
with the divine love. His temperance preaching was not the 
usual sentimental appeal for the drunkard's wife and children 


but hard common sense or biting contempt. There was much 
politics, much practical agriculture, clipped into the paper. In 
fact it might have been framed for entrance to a balanced, 
regulated, disciplined New England home. 

Lovejoy's denunciations of vice were sharp and hard. 
He referred to a French dancer, then the rage in New York, 
as " Celeste, the obscene and lascivious danceress (danseuse she 
calls herself)." "This," he continued, "is no longer the 
country of the Pilgrims. Parisian courtesans are paid $26,000 
per quarter for the indecent exposure of their persons in pub- 
lic." 4 The popularity of the dancer he believed but one more 
instance of the luxury and licentiousness, the apologizing for 
slavery, the sabbath breaking that had accompanied the specu- 
lative rage and money madness of the last few years. This 
attitude inevitably irritated the free and easy westerner, and to 
this irritation the character of the well-to-do New England 
merchants prominent among Lovejoy's supporters must have 
added. "Although," said the proceedings of an anti-abolition 
meeting of July, "the combination of wealth, interest, and 
moral power were assiduously brought to bear upon the com- 
munity in order to deter them from such a course yet like 
men born to live and die untrammeled by party, by mercenary 
motives, they met as freemen." 5 Further, John Mason Peck, 
who was already editing the Western Pioneer at Alton, had for 
some time looked on Lovejoy and his methods with ill-con- 
cealed dislike. 6 Peck could not indorse Lovejoy's statement 
that the way to stop mobs was to hang a few mobbers; Peck, 
while a New Englander, was not a Puritan. 

In this situation events were drawing Lovejoy's attention 
irresistibly to the subject of slavery. He believed that the old 
and new school split in the Presbyterian church was caused by 
slavery, and during the first half of the year 1 837 he was draw- 
ing nearer and nearer to abolition. On June 8, he urged the 

* Alton Observer, May 25, 1837. 

5 Alton Telegraph, July 19, 1837. 

6 Western Pioneer, July 29, 1836, March 29, October 27, 1837. 


formation of an antislavery church in St. Louis; and, on July 
6, he called for the organization of a state antislavery society. 
The charge began to spread that Lovejoy had violated a sup- 
posed pledge not to publish an antislavery newspaper. He was 
threatened with violence, and on the night of August 21 his 
press was destroyed. The Telegraph (August 23) termed the 
act an outrage. A second press was obtained and destroyed 
on September 21. Still a third press was ordered, and mean- 
while Lovejoy was subjected to continual threat of mob vio- 
lence. At St. Charles, Missouri, only the bravery of his wife 
saved him from a mob. 7 

In the hope of finding some way to restore order and peace 
at Alton public meetings were held in the first days of Novem- 
ber. Lovejoy stood out for his right to be heard. He deliv- 
ered an eloquent and impressive but uncompromising defense 
of his course. It might have had its effect had not Usher F. 
Linder's insane desire to exhibit oratory of a type more pleas- 
ing to western audiences caused him to take the floor after 
Lovejoy and destroy the effect of the latter's words. The Pio- 
neer hoped that the meeting of the colonization society, the 
invariable counter-irritant to abolition, might set things on the 
right path even though " a very few restless spirits will be disap- 
pointed, vexed, mortified, and may struggle for a little time to 
enjoy notoriety" only to find that "the benevolent and real 
friends to humanity will co-operate to benefit the oppressed in 
a way consistent with the peace of our Union and the happiness 
and rights of all concerned." 8 

For a time Lovejoy may have hesitated. The story is well 
authenticated that he handed to the Telegraph editor a note 
resigning as editor of the Observer. A friend of Lovejoy's 
asked to borrow it, and it was never returned. Lovejoy had 
finally resolved, if indeed he had ever faltered, to force the 
issue then and there. A third press was landed at Alton and 

''Alton Observer, June and July, December 28, 1837; Western Pioneer, 
July 29, 1836; Alton Telegraph, September 27, October 4, 1837; Harris, History 
of Negro Slavery in Illinois, 80 ff . ; Illinois State Register, October 6, 1837. 

8 Western Pioneer, October 27, 1837. 


stored in the warehouse of Godfrey, Oilman, and Company. 
A few men under the command of Enoch Long undertook to 
guard it there. On the night of November 7 a mob attacked 
the warehouse. In the first assault one of the attackers was 
mortally wounded. In a second, they attempted to fire the 
wooden roof of the warehouse. Lovejoy and a few more 
sallied out to prevent it. A first volley drove the attackers 
away from their ladder. A second sortie was made for the 
same purpose, and Lovejoy fell mortally wounded. The be- 
sieged gave up the fight and fled; the mob broke into the ware- 
house and threw the press into the river. 

The murder of Lovejoy was a thing not done in a corner; 
it trumpeted the ill-fame of Alton to the ends of the United 
States and placed on the name of the city that aspired for com- 
mercial prominence a brand that has scarcely been removed 
even up to the present time. Probably to most of the people 
of the United States the word which associates itself intuitively 
with the name of Alton is Lovejoy. The papers of the north, 
and many in the south, some nearby like the Peoria Register 
spoke out manfully in condemnation of this assault on the free- 
dom of the press and of speech even while they condemned 
abolition. In later days the abolitionists took pleasure in be- 
lieving that the curse of God had fallen upon the city. 9 

Alton was not convinced. The defenders of the warehouse 
were indicted for "resisting an attack made by certain persons 
unknown to destroy a printing press" and "unlawfully defend- 
ing a certain ware-house." In spite of the fact that Linder 
prosecuted, the defenders were acquitted, as were the assail- 
ants. The Telegraph was thoroughly cowed and protested it 
was best to say nothing which would stir up further ill-feeling. 
Peck's Pioneer at the time expressed its opinion that denuncia- 
tion would do no good. 10 Six months after the Lovejoy affair 

9 Peoria Register, November 18, 1837; Illinois State Register, November 
24, 1837; Western Citizen, May 18, 1843, April 20, 1847; Alton Telegraph, June 
28, 1845. 

10 Western Pioneer, May n, 1838; Alton Telegraph, November 15, 29, 1837, 
June 24, 1838. 


was over, it undertook to justify its course in allaying excite- 
ment among an exasperated people. "But they (the editors 
of the Pioneer) believed in gospel expediency. They had not 
discarded the old fashioned virtue of prudence, and a due 
regard to consequences. And they have not the least occa- 
sion to regret their course. . . . An entire revolution has 
been produced. Moral influence, religion, temperance, 
order, respect for law, a better understanding of each other's 
rights, have all been gainers. A revival of religion in most 
of the congregations in that city, and the conversion of more 
than one hundred souls the progress of the temperance 
cause, of sound morality of quiet and good order, 
of a spirit of kind feeling amongst all parties are the 
proofs." 11 

Doubtless long and tedious wars with " two seed Baptists " 
and similar opponents had blunted the edge of Peck's New 
England conscience to accord with the dictates of expediency 
and prudence that he so blandly preached over the corpse of the 
man he had disliked in life. Because Peck had learned the 
lesson of prudence he had twenty years more of a peaceful and 
useful career to round out. Because the high temper of Love- 
joy's Puritanism would not let him repress an iota of what 
he conceived it his duty to say, because he would not spare a 
word or swerve an inch from his path, he died at thirty-five 
leaving a nerve-wrecked and destitute wife. Yet his career 
and death had not, as Peck easily supposed, merely caused 
an awakened revival of formal religion. The shadow of 
the Puritan had fallen across the page of Illinois history, not 
to recede. 

For Illinois Lovejoy was the protomartyr of a movement 
already under way the organization of the antislavery forces 
in Illinois. On July 4, 1836, an antislavery society in Putnam 
county held its second semiannual meeting. Early in 1837 an 
antislavery society was organized in Will county, and one was 
meeting in Bureau county, one in Jersey and one in Adams 

11 Western Pioneer, June i, 1838. 


(formed in 1836) , and one in Macoupin. On July 6, Lovejoy 
had issued a call for the formation of a state antislavery 
society. Delegates met at Alton, October 27, but Linder with 
others got possession of the meeting and passed anti-abolition 
resolutions. Next evening, however, the antislavery men or- 
ganized by themselves. 12 There was the usual attempt in vari- 
ous parts of the state to apply the counter-irritant of coloniza- 
tion to these ebullitions of abolitionism. 

Though Lovejoy was gone there were men left to take up 
his work. On April 2, 1838, a meeting at Princeton resolved 
that an antislavery newspaper should again be established at 
Alton, but in September a meeting at Hennepin resolved to 
support Benjamin Lundy, who had grown old in the editing of 
abolition papers, with the Genius of Universal Emancipation 
at Hennepin, Illinois. The paper first appeared late in 1838, 
being actually printed at Lowell nearby, though dated at Hen- 
nepin. The issue of February 26 recorded the meeting of the 
Illinois antislavery society, and through its columns there be- 
gan to pass the resolutions of the county societies denouncing 
slavery as contrary to the law of God and to natural right. 
Lundy showed a fine reasonableness, as for instance when he 
refused to attack an old antislavery warrior like John Quincy 
Adams because he was not an abolitionist. He was inclined to 
disapprove the uncompromising attitude of Garrison as tend- 
ing to divide supporters of the cause by his vagaries. But 
Lundy's long warfare was at an end. On July 19, 1839, he 
apologized for missing a week's issue; a small wheat harvest 
had required the editor's care. If, he wrote gallantly, some 
country editors would farm a little they might write more inde- 
pendently. Next week he had to apologize for a lack of edi- 
torial matter because of a light fever which had yielded to treat- 
ment. On August 23, a paper with head line dated the six- 
teenth announced that he had died of a bilious fever on Au- 

12 Chicago American, August 6, 1836, April i, 1837; Harris, History of 
Negro Slavery in Illinois, 82, 87, 125; Alton Observer, June 15, July 13, August 
3, 17, 1837; Alton Telegraph, November i, 1837; Illinois State Register, Sep- 
tember 15, October 13, 1837. 


gust 22. 13 The last number of the paper appeared on Septem- 
ber 13, 1839. 

A new paper, the Lowell Genius of Liberty, was begun 
December 19, 1840, by Zebina Eastman, a former associate of 
Lundy, and by Hooper Warren. Warren edited it with acid 
reminiscences of the old struggle of 1 822-1 824 in which he had 
participated. In 1842 the paper, transferred to Chicago under 
Eastman's editorship, became the Western Citizen. Its circu- 
lation, which soon entitled it to claim patronage as an advertis- 
ing medium, was an indication that the movement was gaining 
fast. 14 

Meanwhile the work of agitation and organization in the 
state had advanced. In 1838, Reverend Chauncey Cook was 
chosen traveling agent of the state society, and he also labored 
with effect in enrolling members and forming new societies. 
For a time Cook and Reverend W. T. Allen, the traveling 
agents, had to support themselves by collections. In southern 
Illinois they encountered mobs and refusals of churches in 
which to hold meetings. In 1843-1844 they again invaded the 
south, but with not dissimilar results. 15 

The antislavery men in Illinois had launched their cause 
in politics; in 1840 they cast one hundred votes for James G. 
Birney for president. Next year at a state society meeting, de- 
spite opposition from many who opposed political action of 
any sort, partly on the ground of the iniquity of acting under 
a United States constitution which supported slavery, it was 
resolved that no antislavery man should vote for any pro- 
slavery candidates. A convention in the third district nomi- 
nated Frederick Collins for congress, and he obtained 527 
votes. In 1842, at the call of a state correspondence commit- 

13 Peoria Register, April 14, October 6, 1838; Harris, History of Negro 
Slavery in Illinois, 126 ; Genius of Universal Emancipation, March 8, 29, June 
28, July 26, August 25, 1839. 

14 Harris, History of Negro Slavery in Illinois, 135; Western Citizen, Sep- 
tember 7, 14, 1843, March 21, 1844, August 28, 1845, June 3, 1846. 

15 Harris, History of Negro Slavery in Illinois, 129, 131; Genius of Uni- 
versal Emancipation, July 5, 1834, January 30, April 24, June 5, 1841 ; Western 
Citizen, August 3, November 9, 1843, April 5, June 20, July 23, 1844. 


tee, a liberty convention was held at Chicago which nominated 
a candidate for governor and urged in its resolutions nomina- 
tions for all local offices. It defined its position as resistance 
to the advance of the slave power rather than unconstitutional 
opposition to it. It savagely arraigned the national losses and 
misfortunes of the last few years as the work of the southern 
slavocracy, and for the state it demanded the repeal of the 
black laws. In 1844, the party put a presidential electoral 
ticket in the field which received 3,469 votes. In 1846 it 
adopted an elaborate plan of organization, reaching down even 
to the school districts for the gubernatorial campaign. 16 It 
declared alike against the annexation of Texas, the black laws, 
and Garrisonism. Its vote for governor ran up to 5,147, and 
in the fourth district Owen Lovejoy received 3,531 votes for 

Antislavery in Illinois in the forties was the center of a 
whirlpool of new ideas in politics and in life that is the delight 
of the student of human belief. When men are thinking in- 
tensely on one ideal, others group around it. Thus in 1839 a 
peace society at Mission Institute near Quincy adopted resolu- 
tions declaring that wars promoted for the glory of rulers were 
paid for by their subjects. Women participated on an equality 
with men in antislavery societies, despite the sneers of whig 
editors; and this participation led to discussion of woman's 
rights. The new wine of Garrisonian abolition, however, was 
a little too strong to be safely introduced into the bottles of 
Illinois antislavery effort; a nonresistance and the alleged in- 
fidelity of Garrison were usually eschewed as stumblingblocks 
to antislavery men in southern Illinois. 17 There were, how- 
ever, denunciations of holding communion with churches or 
mission boards that tolerated slavery and declarations that 

16 Harris, History of Negro Slavery in Illinois, 146, 147, 155; Western 
Citizen, July 26, 1842, April 6, 1843, June 3, 10, 1846; Genius of Universal 
Emancipation, February 6, 27, May 29, June 19, 1841; Genius of Liberty, Jan- 
uary i, 1842. 

17 Genius of Universal Emancipation, August 30, 1839; Western Citizen, 
November 2, 1843, May 2, June 20, September 7, 1844, September 22, October 
13, 1846, February 23, 1847. 


agnostics who were liberty men were better than christians 
who were not. 

The theoretical antislavery argument is a magnificent thing 
to the student of ideas. On the one hand it begins with the 
statement that to justify slavery it is necessary to twist and 
alter the principles of the American Revolution and of the Dec- 
laration of Independence. On the other it built its foundation 
on the old Puritan concept, in which seventeenth century Eng- 
lishmen had sought their guidance, of the law of God. The 
Puritan in Illinois in 1840 walked as genuinely as his English 
predecessor had done two centuries before in the faith that the 
law of God remained binding upon rulers and people and that 
any enactment or practice contrary to it was null and void. 
This to them was not an abrogation of human law but rather 
its fulfillment, for only where the divine law ruled could there 
be perfect liberty. To the antislavery men the law of nature 
and the common law of the land were alike in accord with 
the law of God in opposition to slavery. How could a slave 
father train up his child in the nurture and admonition of the 
Lord as the divine law bade him ? Owen Lovejoy went back to 
Coke to find the law of nature in opposition to slavery. 18 And 
when James Wallace of Hill Prairie, Randolph county, sat 
down to write against slavery under the haughty caption of the 
old Puritan challenge: "The supremacy of God and the 
equality of man," Puritans reached over two centuries to guide 
his pen, so that one might almost swear his discourses were 
plagiarized from forgotten pamphlets written in the seven- 
teenth century by such champions of freedom as Lilburne and 
Overton. The leaven of Puritanism remained unchanged. 

On the political side, it was inevitable that antislavery 
propaganda should deal with economic conditions. The temp- 
tation to blame slavery for hard times was too great. Thus in 
1 843 Alvan Stewart attributed hard times to the fact that in the 
south but one person in five was a laborer, that therefore for 

18 Western Citizen, November 20, 1842, March 30, April 20, July 27, Sep- 
tember 14, 1843, March 28, 1844, November 3, 1846, February 9, 23, June 
22, 1847. 


sustenance the south had borrowed three hundred millions of 
northern labor and then had failed. More significant by far 
was the idea advocated by William Goodell, which spread as 
far as Illinois, that the true course of the party was to stand for 
the right of the white as well as for the colored laborer and to 
advocate free trade and direct taxation. The repeal of the 
English corn laws seemed destined to let the product of the 
free laborer of the north into England as well as that of the 
slave laborers of the south. In 1847 Goodell, issuing a call for 
a national convention of the free-trade wing of the liberty 
party, based it on the highest and best ideals of democracy 
the inalienable rights of men to trade freely and to use the earth 
freely therefore, no tariffs, no laws permitting land monop- 
oly, and no laws permitting slavery. An Illinois man, G. T. 
Gaston, wrote to the Western Citizen urging similar doctrine, 
on the ground that if the liberty party were to be a well-rounded 
party, it must have a complete policy. 19 

One wonders what might have chanced, had the liberty men 
in 1847, perhaps on a less radical platform, been able to unite 
with what was best in the democratic party and set forth on a 
crusade for the liberty of labor of whatever color the laborer 
might be. Wentworth for years had preached genuine democ- 
racy to the people of northern Illinois, except for the inevitable 
concession to the south in the matter of slavery. In 1847 tne 
rejection of river and harbor improvement by southern votes 
had driven him and many another northern democratic poli- 
tician to the point of revolt against slavery. It was one of these 
rare moments when the faces of men seemed turned directly 
toward the millennium. 

It was not to be. The sins of the southern aristocracy 
were not yet full. The policy of "one-idealism" of confin- 
ing the party to the antislavery issue triumphed in the liberty 
party. The Western Citizen preached it assiduously, perhaps 
from dread of Wentworth's skill in pilfering votes from abo- 

19 Western Citizen, April 27, 1843, July 7, September i, 1846, January 19, 
May 25, October 12, 1847. 


litionists. 20 Wentworth professed himself satisfied with the 
nomination of Cass and fell back into his party, though always 
a disturbing element in it because of his championship of justice 
and common sense. When a great antislavery party arose, it 
was to draw its principles except on slavery from the whigs 
rather than from the democrats ; and fifty years of wandering in 
the wilderness have been necessary to make the American peo- 
ple realize as a nation that while rejecting slavery, they ac- 
cepted the principles that their forefathers rejected when 
offered to them by Clay and Webster. 

In the attitude of the Illinois churches on slavery one has a 
study of interest, fascinating because of its vagaries and incon- 
sistencies. There was for instance the little Reformed Presby- 
terian group at Sparta and Eden who on occasion went so far 
as to pronounce the dissolution of a union tainted with slavery 
as not the worst misfortune that might befall. The church at 
Hill Prairie in 1843 sent to congress a strenuous antislavery 
petition. In northern Illinois the Presbyterian churches and 
synods gave repeated testimony against the sin of slaveholding 
and repeated declarations that they would have no fellowship 
with slaveholders. On the other hand, the Alton Presbytery 
discreetly smothered such a resolution in 1844. A northern 
Congregational church occasionally hedged on similar tests, but 
generally the churches of this communion were outspoken in 
favor of antislavery. 21 

Methodism hardly gave so many evidences of protest 
against the general proslavery attitude of the order as did 
Presbyterianism. The antislavery leaders came to expect op- 
position from the Methodists. One finds appeals to the Illi- 
nois conferences to take a decisive stand against the institution. 
In 1844 a " Wesleyan " circuit was formed on Fox river on the 
principle of " no fellowship with slavery." There were about 

20 July 7, September 8, 15, 1846, January 5, May 18, July 27, 1847. 

21 Western Citizen, July 26, 1842, January 25, May 2, July 4, 25, 1844; 
Belleville Advocate, October 25, November i, 1845; Presbytery of Ottawa, Min- 
utes, May 25, 1843; Synod of Peoria, Minutes, December 7, 1843, December n, 
1845; Genius of Liberty, September 18, 1841. 


eleven churches on it and twenty appointments. There was a 
hot antislavery protest from Methodists at Florid as early 
as 1839. In 1845, however, in connection with the case of 
Bishop Andrews, antislavery pronouncements began to appear 
in the ranks of the Methodists proper. Still, next year the 
Western Citizen complained that the Rock River conference 
had done nothing but denounce abolitionists in its last meet- 
ings. 22 A year later the Visitor accused it of trying to cover up 
attacks on its members for holding and selling slaves. 

The Baptists dealt more in accord with their inherent cen- 
trifugal qualities. In 1843 the Citizen complained that in 
Shurtleff College free speech on slavery was gagged. The 
Northwest Baptist Association, it was complained, defeated by 
trickery in 1844 a non-fellowship pronouncement. In the same 
year an antislavery mass meeting of all the Baptist churches 
in Illinois was called to meet at Warrenville. This meeting 
called for the establishment of an antislavery newspaper and 
accordingly on January 16, 1845, tne Elgin Western Christian 
began publication under the direction of the Northwestern 
Baptist Antislavery Convention. In its first number it ex*- 
plained its appearance by the disappearance of the Northwest 
Baptist, as a result, it claimed, of an attempt to remain neutral 
on the slavery issue. It attacked in the course of the year the 
Quincy and Illinois river associations for not standing up to the 
issue. The paper was not abolitionist, but it was outspoken 
against slavery, and it maintained a war on the Baptist Helmet 
for printing advertisements of Negroes committed to jail. The 
Universalists were frankly antislavery, but the Episcopalian 
bishop, Philander Chase of Jubilee College, was repeatedly 
attacked for hedging. 23 With Chase the needs of his dear col- 
lege swallowed up all other considerations. 

^ 22 Genius of Liberty, March 29, 1839, July 10, November 27, 1841 ; Western 
Citizen, July 26, 1842, August 3, 1843, March 21, 1844, February 13, 1845, Sep- 
tember 15, 1846; Sangamo Journal, June 5, 1845. 

23 Western Citizen, April 27, December 14, 1843, October 31, December 
26, 1844, September 15, October 20, 1846; Western Christian, August 14, 22, 
1845; Baptist Helmet, July 16, August 13, 1845; in 1844 the Quincy association 
voted down an antislavery resolution and Elgin did the same on September 
19, 1844. 


In considering the existence of slavery in Illinois, it is neces- 
sary to review a line of supreme court decisions which defined 
its nominal status, remembering always that, since the slave or 
Negro was less capable than his owner of defending his alleged 
rights, the probability is that much illegal servitude existed. 
Legally whatever servitude there was had to be based on the 
territorial act of September 17, 1807, as adopted by the Illinois 
legislature on December 13, 1812. This act allowed the bring- 
ing into Illinois of Negroes above fifteen years of age owing 
service or labor and the indenturing them for terms of years; 
Negroes so brought in under the age of fifteen could be held, 
the males till thirty-five years old and the females till thirty- 
two. Children born of them were to serve, the males until the 
age of thirty and the females until the age of twenty-eight. 
Further the act provided for the registration of Negroes 
brought into the territory, who might lawfully be held till 
thirty-five or thirty-two years old. Between these two classes 
of registered and indentured Negroes, as will be seen, the 
courts were later to distinguish. The state constitution pro- 
hibited the further introduction of slavery except for the in- 
denturing of persons of age while at perfect freedom. It re- 
quired, however, that all persons indentured without fraud or 
collusion should serve out the terms of their indentures and 
that registered Negroes should serve out their appointed times ; 
and it provided that children born of them thereafter should 
become free, males at twenty-one, females at eighteen. 

In the twenties the state supreme court decided that inden- 
tures to be valid must correspond with the form prescribed by 
the act of 1807 and that registered Negroes might be sold like 
other property. 24 But in Phoebe v. Jay in the December term 
of 1828, Justice Lockwood undertook an analysis of the whole 
legal support of existing slavery in Illinois. He pronounced 
the act of 1807 in contravention of the Ordinance of 1787 and 
therefore per se void. Whatever validity it had arose from 

24 Cornelius v. Cohen, I Illinois (Breese), 131; see also Choisser <v. Har- 
grave, 2 Illinois (l Scammon), 317 (318) ; Nance v. Howard, / Illinois (Breese), 
242 ; Phoebe <v. Jay, i Illinois (Breese), 268. 


the constitutional confirmation of indentures and property 
rights arising from it. Indeed he pronounced that nothing less 
than the voice of the people in their sovereign capacity could 
have rendered such contracts of effect. A legislative reenforce- 
ment would have been of no avail. The Ordinance of 1787, 
he believed, had been so far abrogated by the implied assent 
of the people of the state and of congress in framing the con- 
stitution and in accepting it. 

In 1836 the legal basis for existing slavery was sharply re- 
duced by the decision in Boon v. Juliet. Speaking for the court, 
Judge T. W. Smith pronounced it illegal to hold to service the 
child of a servant registered under the act of 1 807. He argued 
that the constitutional allowance of service from children of 
registered Negroes was based on a misapprehension of the in- 
tent of the act of 1807 and as designed to limit that act could 
not be interpreted to confer a right not granted by it. It had 
in no way affected the rights of the children of registered 
Negroes ; and, anything in the constitution to the contrary there- 
fore, they remained free. In 1840 and 1841 the court empha- 
sized the fact that the freedom of a Negro must be assumed 
unless proof of his being legally held to servitude by indenture 
or otherwise was forthcoming. 25 

In 1843 Andrew Borders, a slaveholder of Randolph 
county, was involved in a suit designed to test once more the 
validity of the act of 1807 as it concerned indentured servants. 
For the slave, Trumbull and Koerner argued that the Ordi- 
nance of 1787 was still binding in every respect and would be 
until every state of the original thirteen consented to abrogate 
it, 26 and that as the territorial indenture laws were nullities no 
constitutional provision could be construed to give them effect. 
Judge Scates, however, went back to the old reasoning in his 
decision. The old law remained, 27 though in the case of Jarrot 

25 Kinney <v. Cook, 4. Illinois (3 Scammon), 232; Bailey v. Cromwell et al., 
4 Illinois (3 Scammon), 71. 

26 Borders v. Borders, 5 Illinois (4. Scammon), 341. 

27 Jarrot v. Jarrot, 7 Illinois (2 Gilman), i. I can not see that this nec- 
essarily ended holding by indenture as is usually supposed. 


v. Jarrot, the court decided that in view of the prohibition of 
1787, slavery could not exist in the state even in the case of a 
Negro descended from the slave of a French habitant of the 
days before George Rogers Clark. To the end the best legal 
opinion of the state laid upon the state's own constituent assem- 
bly and the state's own conscience the sole responsibility for 
the continuance of slavery in its borders. 

Several decisions were needed to define exactly the right of 
masters to bring their slaves into or through the state and as to 
the rights of free Negroes within it. In 1842 Judge Treat in 
the circuit court of Sangamon county had decided the law of 
1829 allowing the taking up and selling of the blacks without 
freedom papers to be unconstitutional. In 1 843 John D. Caton 
in a decision in the circuit court of Bureau county laid down 
the principle that a slave voluntarily brought to the state was 
thereby freed. 28 That same year, however, in Willard v. 
People, Scates laid down the principle that the slave of a mas- 
ter passing through the state was not therefore freed. 

Fine legal distinctions and principles apart, slavery and 
antislavery men in Illinois contended as light and darkness. 
Kidnapping on a wholesale scale went on in the south; at Shaw- 
neetown an attempt was made to sell south sixty free blacks on 
the pretext of flaws in their papers of manumission. On the 
other side there was as much assiduity and as much provoking 
defiance in the attitude of those who sought to help runaways to 
escape. In 1844, Gross was in jail for seeking to help run- 
aways to escape. The year before Owen Lovejoy was indicted 
in Bureau county for helping two Negro women the occasion 
of Caton's decision. In 1843 too > Dr. Richard Eells of 
Quincy was, in the circuit court under Stephen A. Douglas, 
fined $400 for aiding a fugitive slave, a decision later sustained 
by Judge Shields of the Illinois supreme court. On the 
strength of the notoriety gained in this case Eells was elected 
president of the Illinois Antislavery Society in 1843 ar| d 
nominated as the liberty party candidate for governor in 1846. 

28 Harris, History of Negro Slavery in Illinois, 109, 112. 


Chicago was a dramatic center of activity. In 1 846 a mob of 
some two thousand assisted in spiriting away two fugitive 
slaves under the very nose of a justice of the peace. At Chi- 
cago and in Kendall county, Negroes put up to sale were 
hired out for twenty-five cents and similar sums. Slaveholders 
were served notice by the Western Citizen that if their slaves 
ever reached northern Illinois their chance of recovering them 
was slim, and a Kane county convention in the same year re- 
solved that Kane county was as safe for runaways as Canada. 
In its issue of July 13, 1844, the Western Citizen printed a car- 
toon of the underground railway that is perhaps Illinois' first 
political newspaper cartoon. Missouri slave hunters on the 
other hand threatened and perhaps did commit arson in revenge 
and offered rewards for the delivery across the river of promi- 
nent officials of the underground railway. In the Illinois legis- 
lature petitions began to appear against the black code, with 
whig as well as abolitionist support; and on the other side 
measures were passed penalizing the assisting of fugitive 
slaves. 29 

The slavery conflict too had its reflection more and more 
in national politics within the state. The Chicago American 
was disposed to praise John Quincy Adams' stand on the right 
of petition. In 1 8421 843 all the Illinois representatives voted 
against abolition petitions. In 1843-1844 all the representa- 
tives but Hardin voted for the gag resolutions; but the next 
year the abolition vote had perhaps caused Wentworth to see 
the light, and he had voted with Hardin against the gag. In 
the election of 1844 the whigs had been inclined to play for 
abolition votes, and such papers as the Citizen endeavored to 
head them off by attacks on Clay. After the election they 
attempted to lay on the shoulders of the abolitionists the blame 
for the admission of Texas to the union by the proslavery 

29 Sangamo Journal, December 5, 1844, January 16, April 3, 1845; Western 
Citizen, November 18, 1842, January 13, March 23, 30, November 2, 1843, Jan- 
uary ii, July 18, August 3, December n, 1844, February 20, March 6, 1845, 
June 23, October 27, November 5, 17, 1846; Chicago American, April 25, 1842; 
Illinois State Register, January 24, 1845; Belleville Advocate, May 6, 1845; 
Chicago Daily Journal, January 9, 28, March 12, 1845. 


democrats of the south. They affected to believe that at Chi- 
cago the Democrat and the Citizen were trying to break up 
the whig party and to divide it on the issues of abolitionism 
and nativism. 30 And they entreated the southern whigs not 
to be misled by such attempts. 

It was the democratic party, however, that was destined 
to be broken by the slavery issue. Wentworth, in his opposi- 
tion to the southern leaders of his party on rivers and harbors 
and the tea and coffee tax, moved toward antislavery in poli- 
tics so far as the Wilmot proviso. This action the Western 
Citizen ascribed to the influence of Lewis Cass. Wentworth 
nevertheless was the only Illinois member who supported the 
Wilmot proviso in 1846, Douglas, Ficklin, Hoge, and McCler- 
nand voting to lay it on the table and Baker and Smith not 
voting. The whig papers in Illinois, while continuing to berate 
the abolitionists severely, especially for opposing the Mexican 
War, were inclined to be antislavery in their attitude. In the 
next session Wentworth's opposition to the south and to south- 
ern measures was as strongly marked as ever, but Hoge was 
the only other Illinois member he could draw with him on the 
vote for the proviso. In the coming election Wentworth 
affected to believe that it would be a northern democrat against 
a slaveholder such as Taylor; and he naturally denounced as 
mere pretense the whig antislavery attitude, in view of their 
prospective candidate. He was disposed to have the demo- 
crats stand against slavery and for free trade on necessities 
not provided by American labor. 31 

A little more than two decades since the decision of the 
state on the exclusion of slavery had seen the question develop 

30 Chicago American, March 16, 1842, December n, 1844, March 31, 1845; 
Congressional Globe, 27 congress, 3 session, 31, 106, 28 congress, i session, 
56, 133, 28 congress, 2 session, 7. Western Citizen, December 21, 1843, March 
28, May 23, June 27, July 18, 1844; Illinois State Register, April 26, 1844; Chicago 
Democrat, April 28, 1844; Chicago Dally Journal, March n, 15, 21, 184$; 
Alton Telegraph, March 22, 1845. 

31 Chicago Democrat, February 2, 23, March 2, June 30, 1846, February 9, 
March 2, 30, April 27, May u, 25, 1847; Western Citizen, July 28, 1846; Con- 
gressional Globe, 29 congress, i session 1217, 29 congress, 2 session, 425; 
Chicago Dally Journal, March 17, June 13, August 26, 1846; Sangamo Journal, 
September 17, 1846. 


in unexpected ways. A process of legal limitation on the tol- 
eration of slavery and indenture was to have been expected. 
But otherwise as against the lawless kidnapping of free blacks 
always prevalent, there had arisen on the antislavery side an 
elastic organization for the assistance of runaway slaves. 
Garrisonian abolitionism arose in the east and spread to Illi- 
nois, quickening the minds of intelligent men whether they 
approved or disapproved. Antislavery sentiment waxed till 
once more it could support newspapers and muster respectable 
votes for its candidates. Thirty years after the admission of 
Illinois to the union, the United States was once more riven 
on the question of slavery; and the two great political parties 
that had meanwhile developed on other issues were, as against 
the abolition and liberty parties, seeking their advantage in it. 


THE closing years of the period under review witnessed 
the eager efforts of Illinois to find itself economically. 
From 1830 to 1840 the population had grown from 157,000 
to 476,000; and still growing, the state was trying to give 
expression to the pent-up energy within it. Experiments 
flourished; the inhabitants of Illinois, conscious of hidden 
riches, sought by means of a diversity of crops, a multiplica- 
tion of towns, and sectional divisions to discover the key 
which would unlock the treasure and open the way to high 

Farmers began to grope somewhat uncertainly for better 
methods in securing the bounty of the rich prairie soil. In 
the late thirties and early forties the dwellers in the Illinois 
river counties led in the formation of county agricultural soci- 
eties for the discussion of farm problems. In 1841 the Union 
Agricultural Society began publishing the Union Agriculturist 
and Western Prairie Farmer, which two years later became 
the Prairie Farmer, a newspaper that in time both directed and 
reflected the agricultural activities of the state. 1 Experiment 
followed experiment; flax, mustard seed, cotton, and tobacco, 
the cultivation of hemp, of the castor bean, and of the mul- 
berry tree were in turn get-rich-quick crazes of the day. At 
one time a nursery in Peoria had 200,000 mulberries and 
100,000 cuttings for sale; with every purchase of trees, silk- 
worm eggs were furnished free. In 1841 agricultural societies 
were awarding prizes for the best cocoons. 2 The great staple 
crop still remained wheat; in 1833 the Illinois crop was esti- 

1 Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 53. 

2 Bateman and Selby, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, 2:243-244; His- 
tory of Winnebago County, 303-304. 



mated at 1,500,000 bushels, and farmers were urged to plant 
more of it. 3 

There could be no great expansion in agricultural activi- 
ties, however, without even greater improvements in imple- 
ments. Throughout the thirties there was still in use the 
most primitive bar-share plows, which made no pretense of 
"scouring." In an effort to improve these, moldboards of 
cast-iron were first substituted, in turn to give way to those 
of polished steel. Necessity was, indeed, the mother of inven- 
tion, and every blacksmith with a knack of "tinkering" was 
trying his hand at a plow. There was the early " Clark," 
then the " Diamond," the "Tobey and Anderson," the "Gary," 
the "Jewitt," with rivals not so well known in every county, 
all warranted to " scour." 4 

Efforts to improve or invent farm machinery were not 
confined to one form of labor-saving device. Cotton gins, 
headers, self-rakes, corn planters were tried out with varying 
success. An advertisement in the Illinois Advocate in 1835 
declared that a machine had been invented that successfully 
performed the five operations of harrowing, opening the fur- 
row, dropping and covering the seed corn, and finally, remov- 
ing all clods not broken by the harrow. A letter to the Alton 
Spectator as early as 1833, while urging the farmers to clean 
their wheat better, suggested the use of the threshing machine ; 
and this continued to be discussed until in 1846 and 1847 the 
reaping machines of Bachus and Fitch of Brochport and of 
Cyrus McCormick absorbed interest. 5 To the farmer on the 
treeless prairies of northern Illinois fencing was a problem 
a very serious one. The earliest substitutes for rails were sod 
ditches or embankments; in 1839 thorn hedges began to be 
suggested; and by 1847 Jonathan Baldwin Turner had paused 
from his other interests to experiment with the possibilities 

3 Illinois Advocate, June 22, 1833. 

4 Belleville Advocate, March 10, 1842; Hicks, History of Kendall County, 
400; Ballance, History of Peoria, 124-125; Rice, Peoria, 1:284. 

5 Alton Spectator, April 23, 1833; Alton Telegraph, August 21, 1841, August 
9, 1845; Chicago Daily Journal, June 12, July 2, 24, 28, 1846. 

Population of Illinois 
per Square Mile in 


of the Osage orange which was to be popular until the advent 
of modern wire fencing. 6 

Throughout this period the handling of livestock in Illi- 
nois was, with a few rare exceptions, unscientific, inefficient, 
and haphazard. In the northern part of the state there was 
the very practical difficulty of housing and feeding during the 
severe winters. In 1836 Dr. J. W. S. Mitchell of Champaign 
county believed he had demonstrated that his herd of blooded 
shorthorn Durhams could be wintered as well as ordinary 
stock; a year later, however, he sold out. 

Aside from these practical considerations stock improve- 
ment met a curious and unintelligent opposition from the 
small farmers. Among the influential the necessity of devel- 
oping better herds was so clear that "the legislature passed 
a law," writes Governor Ford, " for the improvement of the 
breed of cattle, by which small bulls were prohibited, under 
severe penalties, from running at large. On this last occasion 
no one dreamed that a hurricane of popular indignation was 
about to be raised, but so it was: the people took sides with 
the little bulls. The law was denounced as being aristocratic, 
and intended to favor the rich, who, by their money, had be- 
come possessed of large bulls, and were to make a profit by 
the destruction of the small ones." 8 

Leading stock growers of the day, notably Richard Flower, 
were as much interested in the raising of sheep as of cattle. 
Attempts were made to improve the breeds of sheep and to 
foster wool growing. Interest spread to such an extent that 
in 1842 wool in considerable quantities was brought to the 
Chicago market. 9 

Marketing of farm produce wove itself deeply into the 
business life of the state. Trade had many centers every 
thriving village hoped to become an Alton. Belleville was 

8 Sangamo Journal, July 26, 1839, November 19, 1841; Belleville Advocate, 
October 7, 1847. 

7 Western Citizen, April 13, 1836. 

8 Ford, History of Illinois, 107-108. 

9 Sangamo Journal, December 17, 1841, October 23, 1842; Chicago American, 
June 27, 1842; Alton Telegraph, July 26, 1845. 


boosted in season and out by a group -of citizens headed by 
John Reynolds. The Belleville Advocate was eager that 
Belleville, closely allied to St. Louis in trade, should grow as 
its greater neighbor grew but pointed out the danger of being 
engulfed in the prosperity of that city. Farmers of the vicin- 
ity were urged to avail themselves of the advantages to be 
derived from marketing their goods at Belleville instead of 
at the larger place. It was pointed out that they avoided 
thereby the bad roads, inclement weather, the mishaps of the 
long trip, and the crossing of the Mississippi river, at times 
so dangerous, with the uncertainty of the market price at the 
end. In Belleville was a ready market for wheat and hogs 
at cash. 10 

Belleville papers were quick to resent the " cracking up " 
of the northern part of the state at the expense of the southern. 
They repudiated the idea that their section was made up of 
"swamps," and "low, flat, inundated prairies," that its popu- 
lation was "thriftless," or its seasons "sickly;" they stated 
that " notwithstanding the depression of all kinds of business, 
embarrassment from debt, and the number of emigrants that 
have left this part of the State within half-a-dozen years, the 
increase of the population in the counties south of a line drawn 
across the State from Alton by Vandalia to Palestine, from 
September, 1840, to September, 1845, by the State census, has 
been 48,574 in 32 counties . . . a gain of 31 per cent." 11 
The Belleville Advocate for January 20, 1842, set forth how 
Illinois could be " disenthralled from her present prostrate 
condition. . . . The important object is to discover the 
central river port . . . whence the whole State might be 
recruited and resuscitated and which might be employed as the 
commercial fulcrum, moving either end of the State by its 
power of centrality and where is this central point if not 
opposite to St. Louis? ... If the State has now small 
means, the only rational plan is to select a spot where small 

10 Belleville Advocate, December 30, 1841, December 10, 1846. 

11 Ibid., July 2, 1846. 


means will produce the greatest amount of effect, and where 
is this . . . but opposite St. Louis?" 

In spite of jealous assertions that the population of Alton 
was declining and its population withdrawing, that city still 
held its commanding position as the market of the state. Its 
newspapers bitterly protested at the absurdity of irreverent leg- 
islators declaring that its market was glutted by one keg of 
butter and two dozen chickens. It pointed out its very real 
advantage over Chicago, where lake navigation was suspended 
by ice when Alton's port was still open. The Telegraph in 
1847 declared that the older business houses had been swept 
away in the panic of 18371838, scarcely two or three out of 
forty or fifty surviving and that only a few of the former citi- 
zens remained. The ultimate consequences, however, were 
beneficial; business was on a better and more healthy basis; 
there was less selling to retailers on long credits, goods being 
sold for cash or produce. In the fall the Telegraph regularly 
celebrated the huge pork packing business done; it commented 
on the fact that more beef and pork packers were attracted to 
Alton year by year; and it assured the farmers that they could 
get the best prices there better than at St. Louis or New 
Orleans, since Alton pork packers, in return for offal, paid ten 
cents for slaughtering. In 1843 farmers were bringing beeves 
to Alton to be slaughtered instead of selling them, as hitherto, 
to drovers to be driven to the eastern markets. The Telegraph 
was similarly loyal in its insistence that Alton was destined to 
be the grain market of the west. 12 

So strove the southern cities, while in the northern corner 
of the state, close to the lake it was rapidly controlling, Chi- 
cago waxed mighty. A shift in the avenue of trade assisted 
its growth. Ever since 1763 Philadelphia, and later Baltimore, 
had monopolized the trade in Illinois by way of the Ohio 
river. But clever advertising, offers of long credit, the build- 
ing of the Erie canal had rapidly shifted this commerce from 

12 Alton Telegraph, January 4, March 21, 1840, June 23, November 13, 20, 
1841, August 27, November 12, 1842, January 7, October 14, 21, 1843, October 19, 
1844, October n, 18, 1845. 


Philadelphia and Baltimore to New York; and Chicago was 
the child of the new alliance. 18 In 1832 it had been a tiny 
market with two stores, and when incorporated the following 
year it had but little more than one hundred and fifty in- 
habitants. Then within the next few years there sprang up 
such an incredible mushroom growth as would seem to belie 
stability. In May of 1833 a newcomer saw a few houses 
huddled upon the shore of a great lake; by September he 
records "the extraordinary growth of Chicago which only a 
little while ago was nothing but a small village. Now there is 
a street a mile long, and soon there will be two others of the 
same length." When the town was a year old there were " two 
thousand inhabitants . . . and every day you see vessels 
and steam boats put in here from the lake crowded with 
families who come to settle in Chicago. Every day new houses 
may be seen going up on all sides." 14 Its wide streets were 
constantly filled with a bustling, busy throng; in August 
of 1835 immigration was so considerable, that with flour sell- 
ing at $20 a barrel, there was fear of a famine. When the 
city was four years old it had a population of about 8,000 ; and 
one hundred and twenty stores, twenty of which were whole- 
sale, were required to transact its business. 15 The immediate 
result of this immigration was to make Chicago a large import- 
ing center; in 1833 only two boats had visited her port; but, 
during the season of 1836, 456 entries were made, bringing in 
goods worth $325,203; the exports they carried away were 

13 Though Chicago papers did not ignore the packing industry, in 1847 
" Long John " Wentworth described a Chicago packing house which had insti- 
tuted marvelous economies by utilization of waste parts, had a daily capacity of 
one hundred and thirty head of cattle, and exported its products mainly to the 
English market. Western Citizen, December 23, 1842; Chicago American, Decem- 
ber 29, 1840, December 14, 1842; Chicago Democrat, October 18, 1845, October 
1 6, 1847. 

14 Father St. Cyr to Bishop Rosati, Chicago, September 16, 1833, and June 
n, 1834, quoted by Garraghan, "Early Catholicity in Chicago, 1673-1843," in 
Illinois Catholic Historical Journal, volume i, number i ; Quaif e, Chicago and 
the Old Northwest, 349. 

15 For much of the material on the commercial growth in Chicago credit is 
due to Judson Fiske Lee, " Transportation. A Factor in the Development of 
Northern Illinois Previous to 1860," in Illinois State Historical Society, Journal, 
10: 17-18. 


valued at only a thousand dollars. Though Chicago used 
much of this incoming merchandise, a great deal was destined 
for inland towns that had discovered the cheaper northern 
route. But an economical route for imports would present 
similar gainful inducements to exports, and the fast settling 
north country began hauling its grain to Chicago, and within 
the next two years the prices this central market was able to 
offer brought wheat pouring into the city. Throughout the 
season of 1841 when places in southern, central, and northern 
Illinois offered but fifty cents for wheat, Chicago paid an aver- 
age of eighty-seven cents; the day that the Peoria market 
bought wheat at forty cents, Chicago paid one dollar. 
Farmers, singly or in groups, and throngs of teamsters for 
inland merchant middlemen, hauled wheat to Chicago, some- 
times from 250 miles away. 16 Lines of thirteen, twenty, or 
even eighty wagons loaded with wheat were to be seen en 
route for that city. Though 150 vessels a month docked at 
Chicago in the season of 1841, they were insufficient to carry 
away the grain. In 1842 there were 705 arrivals with a ton- 
nage of 117,711, and 586,907 bushels of grain were sent from 
the port. In that year imports were valued at $664,347 and 
exports at $659,305, for Chicago had become the market for 
" about one-half the State of Illinois, a large portion of Indi- 
ana, and a very considerable part of Wisconsin." 17 Until 
1848 the volume of wheat exported continued to increase and 
Chicago's strength to arise from its preeminence as a grain 

A prevalent opinion among the farmers of the day was 
that dealers and commission men cheated them on the market 
price, an idea that Wentworth in his editorials was ready to 
foster. Year after year he claimed that dealers and whig 
papers despite the angry denials from both were in league' 
to cheat the producer; and in the face of the great warehouses 
Chicago dealers were continually building, came Wentworth's 

16 At Ottawa one firm alone, in 1842, advertised for fifty teams to haul 
wheat to Chicago. Ibid., 23. 

17 Ibid., 24. 


warning that the usage farmers received in Chicago would 
force them to seek Illinois river markets. In 1846 the remedy 
for poor prices advocated by the Prairie Farmer was the 
stacking of wheat until a larger return could be obtained, but 
the Chicago Journal believed that in the climate of Illinois it 
would not keep without injury. So keen a contemporary ob- 
server as Thomas Ford, however, regarded the practice of 
hoarding produce as one of the formidable difficulties of the 
day. " Let the price be what it might, many would hold up 
their commodity a whole year, expecting a rise in the mar- 
ket. ... I have known whole stacks of wheat and whole 
fields of corn to rot, or to be dribbled out and wasted to no 
purpose; and whole droves of hogs to run wild in the woods 
so as never to be reclaimed, whilst the owner was saving 
them for a higher price. ... By holding back for a 
higher price, he suffered loss by the natural waste of his 
property, by laying out of the use of his money, by losing 
the many good bargains he could have made with it in the 
meantime, and by being compelled to purchase dear on a 
credit, and pay a high interest on the debt if not paid when 

"This practice of holding up property from the market 
unless the owner can receive more than the market price, still 
[1847] prevails extensively in the southern and some of the 
eastern parts of the State, and fully accounts for much of the 
difference in the degree of prosperity which is found there, and 
in the middle and northern part of the State." 18 

Economic conditions were, of course, profoundly affected 
by a new factor that was just beginning in this period the im- 
portant role it later played in Illinois life the coming of the 
foreigner and his assumption of citizenship. Up to this time 
settlers had come from sister states and, like all Americans, 

18 Ford, History of Illinois, 99-10x5. The large barns characteristic of 
northern farming it was said that in the north a farmer frequently spent $250 
on his house and $1,000 on his barn helped no doubt to enable them to take 
such advice without the losses pictured by Ford, though he asserted that "the 
New England population make it a rule to sell all their marketable property 
as soon as it becomes fit for market, and at the market price. " Ibid., 100. 


were of many parentages English, Irish, Scotch, and Scotch- 
Irish, with some Pennsylvania Dutch; but all had been in the 
new country long enough to have become essentially American. 
In the thirties, however, conditions in most of the northern 
countries of Europe were such as to make emigration impera- 
tive. Illinois, with vast fertile prairies, easy of access, drew 
more than its quota of the newcomers. I 

From Germany there came such numbers that the admix- 
ture of Teutonic blood in the people of Illinois was to furnish 
much of the bone and sinew of the state. At the close of the 
Napoleonic wars political, religious, and economic conditions 
in Germany were distinctly bad; crop failures, over-popula- 
tion and production with the resulting dire poverty, were evils 
from which thousands of peasants, laborers, tradesmen, stu- 
dents, and professional men were eager to escape by emigra- 

At just this time was published Gottfried Duden's Bericht 
tiber eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerlka's. 
In 1824 Duden, a graduate in law and medicine, had gone to 
the Mississippi valley and bought a fertile tract of land in 
Missouri. He was a man of means; and, while his land was 
being cleared, he occupied himself in writing a romantic ac- 
count of his " Garden of Eden," as his plantation came to be 
known. Imagination colored his experiences; he exaggerated 
the freedom and blessings of the country and minimized its 
hardships. 10 To many Germans the book was like an answer 
to prayer; they read it daily, regarded it as an infallible guide, 
and under its sway thousands emigrated to Missouri. The 
only other influence directing settlement to the middle west 
which compared with this book in strength was that of the 
"Giessener Gesellschaft." This was an immigration com- 
pany the practical vehicle by which the dream of founding 
a German state within the United States was to be realized; 
in it the oppressed, the exploited, the idealistic, were to find a 
refuge and there rear a model society. The company finally 

19 Koerner, Memoirs, 1:325-326. 


chose Missouri as the destination for the thousands who re- 
sponded to the plan. 

This wave of immigration was increased by the failure of 
the revolution of 1830 in Germany; many highly educated 
Germans, leaders in their own country, left the fatherland for 
America; and, since the stream of immigration had started 
toward the Mississippi valley, it was natural that large num- 
bers of them turned their footsteps in the same direction. 
Preferring a free to a slave state, however, the leaders deter- 
mined to settle within the regions of Illinois. St. Clair and 
Madison counties, having already a sprinkling of German set- 
tlers, were chosen with Belleville as the center of the first im- 
portant German settlement of the state. 20 Friends in univer- 
sity days, fellow members of the " Burschenschaften," the Ger- 
man student fraternities of a political cast, here began together 
a new life in a new country. Conspicuous among them were 
Gustave Koerner, Theodor Hilgard, George Bunsen, and 
George Englemann. It was this group who became known as 
the "Latin farmers" of Belleville, for they knew more of 
Latin than of land. Most of them had no agricultural expe- 
rience, and their wives were unaccustomed to doing their own 
housework. On the prairies, however, were to be found neither 
workmen nor housemaids, so that these people, accustomed 
to the luxuries of Europe, were obliged to suffer the privations 
and hardships of frontier life. Some succeeded and some 
failed. But they brought to Illinois an element of culture and 
education that was in the long run to affect the life of the 
community. From the first they made no effort to isolate them- 
selves from that life; though they furnished themselves with 
new and better houses, flowers and fruit trees, books and 
music, they at the same time adapted themselves to the simpler 
social standards of the people about them and thereby grad- 
ually elevated the ideals of western life. Their influence was 

20 In Madison county Highland became the home of an important German- 
Swiss colony, led by the families of Kopfli and Suppiger. Faust, German Ele- 
ment In the United States, i: 460; Koerner, Memoirs, i: 327. 


felt in farming, in commerce, in journalism, science, art, and 

They were all men of books, and it is therefore not surpris- 
ing to find that in 1836 they formed a " Deutsche Bibliotheks- 
Gesellschaft," and started a library in Belleville, which was 
one of the first important libraries in the state; in it were 
found Latin books, Greek books, books on philosophy, books 
on subjects of which the pioneer community scarcely knew the 
name. 21 From the first they manifested their interest in edu- 
cation and gave their support to the public schools. During 
the first winter a schoolhouse was erected, and Koerner ap- 
pointed schoolmaster. Their genuine love of music modified 
and cultivated the crude singing of the frontier, and the first 
music school of any moment owed its origin to their initia- 
tive. 22 

In 1850 there were thirty-eight thousand foreign born Ger- 
mans in Illinois. 23 From Belleville they had pushed out over 
the whole state, but particularly into that region opened up by 
the Black Hawk War. By 1847 several German newspapers 
had been organized. 24 Gustave Koerner had become the 
accepted leader in politics and he soon established himself as 

21 The first public library was founded at Albion in 1 1818 and a year later 
Edwardsville had a subscription library. Buck, Illinois in 1818, p. 169-170. 

22 Beinlich, " Latin Immigration in Illinois," Illinois State Historical Society, 
Transactions, 1909, p. 213. Ferdinand Ernst had brought over a colony of 
Germans to Vandalia in 1820 and 1821. When he died in 1822 his personal 
property was listed for public sale in the Illinois Intelligencer, October 5, 1822; 
besides German carriages, fine broadcloth coats, and pantaloons, elegant table 
linen and glassware, looking-glasses, clocks and watches, thermometers, hy- 
drometers, and spy glasses, there were: "one elegant wing piano forte; 
one small do, one elegant steel musical instrument; clarionetts, flutes; french 
horns, bassoons ; contra bass ; bass, tenor & Common fiddles &c. with a large 
and elegant assortment of music." 

23 It must be remembered that the census figures connote "foreign born" 
alone. They do not take into account the second generation, which, though 
native born were " German " to their neighbors, nor does it indicate German 
emigrants from other states. In the thirties a stock company of Cincinnati 
Germans formed a settlement at Teutopolis in Effingham county; Germans from 
St. Louis and Cincinnati had settlements at Havana and Bath, Mason county, 
Perry in Pike county, with other considerable colonies in Woodford and La Salle 
counties. Pooley, Settlement of Illinois, 495-496. 

24 Der Freiheitsbote fur Illinois, 1840; Adler des Westens, 1844; Stern des 
Westens, 1845; Chicago Volksfreund, 1845; Illinois Staats-Zeitung, 1847; 
Koerner, Das Deutsche Element, 268, 276-278. 


one of the powerful figures in Illinois through the influence 
which he exercised over his countrymen. 25 The Germans, in 
no sense susceptible to the sway of a political "boss," could, 
however, be molded into agreeing with their public men by 
rational means. 26 Koerner, a thoroughly trained and capable 
lawyer, early perceived that in this country law and politics 
went hand in hand. He acquainted himself with the language, 
customs, public policies, and opinions of his new home and used 
his knowledge to bridge the gap that its absence caused be- 
tween Germans and natives. He wrote a legal treatise in 
German to inform the former of the laws of the state, and that 
they might learn of politics he published a paper and wrote its 
editorials to supplement his activities as a public speaker. 

In spite of the fact that leading Germans had shown 
marked public spirit, and that the majority were for some 
years too much occupied with the economic struggle to avail 
themselves of political privileges, the Germans aroused the 
antagonism of the " native Americans." German solidarity, 
the idealistic project of the " Giessener Gesellschaft," and the 
violent criticism of American institutions and customs by a 
few of their number aroused a resentment and fear that about 
1838 stimulated the formation of nativistic American socie- 
ties. The Germans, affronted at this misunderstanding of 
them as a group, drew closer together; they vented their anger 
at the nativists' propaganda in most outspoken communications 
to the German newspapers. Koerner translated some of the 
strongest and most exhaustive of these articles and carried them 
to the democratic newspapers, which up to this time had been 
only lukewarm in their attitude toward the foreigners. Faced 
now by a definite issue, the press was afraid to alienate so 
numerous a body of voters who had shown a preference for 
democratic party principles. They took the leap, published 
Koerner's translations, and thus the democratic party became 
the official and powerful sponsor for the aliens. This action 

25 For the political phase of German life in this period I have drawn largely 
upon an unpublished monograph by Miss Jessie J. Kile. 

26 Koerner, Memoirs, i : 427. 


was sufficient to cement the imminent alliance between demo- 
crats and Germans ; at the same time nothing could have more 
impressed the state with the strength of the newcomers. It 
"made the American people and particularly American poli- 
ticians aware that there was a large population among them 
who knew their rights and were willing to maintain them and 
that they had to be taken into account." 27 Still "native born 
citizens" continued throughout the forties to raise the cry 
against aliens, in spite of the spirit that the Germans often 
expressed. 28 

The feeling of the Germans toward their adopted state 
is illustrated by the following resolution of thanks to Koerner 
for his stand on the canal bill and stay law: " Resolved, That 
the German citizens of Chicago and Cook county feel pride 
and gratification that one of their countrymen was in a position 
to repay to some extent, by useful action as a public servant, 
the obligations we all feel to the State of Illinois for the 
liberality towards us in providing us a haven in a land of 
freedom and extending to us the privileges of native born 
citizens." 29 

German antagonism to those who persistently misunder- 
stood them never abated, and they joined the nativist issue 
with vigor. It was the big plank in Koerner's campaign for 
the legislature in i842; 30 and his election served, not only to 
please the Germans, but to allay in them all suspicion of nativ- 
ism in democratic ranks. He was the first German legislator; 
and in fact his political prominence continued conspicuous, 
since, in spite of the respect that politicians paid the German 
vote, the aspirations of these new citizens were modest, and 
they seldom in this period held office. In 1846 a meeting of 
Chicago Germans recommended the appointment of one of 
their number as deputy sheriff, and the following year only one 

27 Koerner, Memoirs, 1:424. 

28 It was sometimes suspected that the democrats used the cry of " nativism " 
to keep the Germans from joining the whigs. 

2a Chicago Democrat, March 21, 1843. 
30 Koerner, Memoirs, i : 464-469. 


German was elected as delegate to the constitutional conven- 

Although the German element in Illinois was by far the 
most numerous and powerful of foreign groups, yet other na- 
tionalities were making significant contributions. Illinois had 
long felt the influence of the coming of individual Irishmen 
such men as John Reynolds, Thomas Carlin, and James Shields. 
But in the thirties general conditions in Ireland, religious, 
political, and economic, with the terrible famines of 1845 an d 
1846 as a climax to misery, led all who could to flee from the 
country. Irish experience in agriculture was not conducive to 
a desire for further knowledge of it even in a new environ- 
ment, and the Irish tended to remain in the large cities as day 
laborers or factory employees. In Illinois the great need of 
canal labor and the promise of good wages and steady em- 
ployment drew thousands of this class to the state. They 
settled in large groups all along the line of the canal at 
Joliet, Peru, LaSalle, and over the adjacent counties. 

For ten years the work on the canal dragged on, but the 
financial embarrassments of the state operated to change 
many Irish laborers into Irish farmers. Canal scrip could 
often be redeemed only in canal land. Moreover, when in the 
early forties work on the canal was abandoned altogether for 
a time, the laborers went into neighboring counties and took up 
sections of land. As a result the farming population along 
the line of the canal, and that from Peoria northward along 
the Illinois river was largely Irish. But whenever possible 
their gregariousness and their fondness for politics and ex- 
citement induced them to remain in the cities, or to return as 
soon as the outside demand for their labor declined; Chicago 
continued their favorite residence. 31 

In 1850 there were twenty-eight thousand Irish in Illinois; 
their Celtic adaptability, facility, and enthusiasm tended to- 
ward their rapid assimilation into the general population. At 
the same time a certain hot and aggressive loyalty to all things 

31 Pooley, Settlement of Illinois, 499-501. 


Irish, together with the bristling qualities of their primitive 
Celtic temperaments, drew a sharp line of antagonism between 
them and their Anglo-Saxon neighbors. 

English emigration to Illinois was led by Morris Birk- 
beck and the Flowers into Edwards county in the early days 
of statehood, and from that time many isolated English fami- 
lies continued to make their way to the Illinois prairies. In 
the thirties, however, agricultural and industrial conditions 
in England were similar to those throughout northern Europe ; 
they fell with crushing weight on the small tenant farmers 
and were scarcely to be borne even by the more fortunate 
classes. Wages were low, tithes and taxes exorbitant. 
" Clergymen urged their parishioners to emigrate to America 
where wages were good. The London Roman Catholic 
Emigration Society hastened to complete preparations where- 
by various parties, each with its clergyman at its head might 
find new homes in America." 32 Farmers, trade-unionists, day 
laborers, and professional men left the country. 33 From 1845 
to 1847 emigration to the United States doubled, and by 
1850 there were 18,600 English settlers in Illinois. They 
were not the most happy and successful settlers. Adaptation 
to life on the prairies was difficult. "Their minds were 
hampered with prejudices in favor of the customs and 
habits of the mother country, which, combined with the lack 
of those qualities that make good pioneers, kept the Eng- 
lish from being classed with the successful settlers of the new 
country." 34 

The Scotch, on the other hand, upon whom economic dis- 
tress had also forced immigration, were markedly successful. 
About 1834 they began to form settlements in Illinois and by 
1850 there were forty-six hundred settled chiefly in the north- 
western part of the state. Their frugality, industry, and so- 

32 Pooley, Settlement of Illinois, 502. 

33 Mormon missionaries sent to England were there singularly successful in 
making converts. In 1840 the first band was brought over and by 1844 it was 
estimated that of the sixteen thousand Saints at Nauvoo ten thousand were 
English. Ibid., 503. 

34 Ibid. 


briety, together with their high rank as agriculturists, made 
them a valuable asset to the state. 

It was a religious rather than an economic or political mo- 
tive that first brought Norwegians to America; in 1825 a band 
of fifty persecuted Quakers, under the leadership of Kleng 
Peerson, came to New York, and ten years later, still under his 
guidance, most of them moved to the more promising Illinois 
country. They settled along the Fox river in La Salle county, 
and, after a preliminary year or so of hardship, prospered. 
Their glowing accounts were sent back to friends suffering 
from hard times, scarcity of money, and shortage of crops; 
to tell such people about " rich, rolling prairies stretching away 
miles upon miles, about land which was neither rocky, nor 
swampy, nor pure sand, nor set up at an angle of forty-five 
degrees, about land which could be had almost for the asking 
in fee simple and not by semi-manorial title," was to fire their 
imaginations with "America fever." 35 Of this country many 
had never before heard the name, and now came these fabulous 
tales, first from letters, copied by hundreds and circulated from 
parish to parish, and then from Ansted Nattestad, who in the 
spring of 1838 came from the far land to visit relatives in 
Norway. Eager inquirers sometimes traveled one hundred and 
forty miles to see him and learn the facts concerning America 
and Illinois. Nattestad brought with him the manuscript of 
Ole Rynning's "True Account of America for the Instruction 
and Use of the Peasants and Common People," in which the 
author, a man of education and sympathy, answered the ques- 
tions that he and many less informed than himself had asked 
about America. Hardly any Norwegian publication has been 
purchased and read with the avidity of the "American-book," 
which was packed with information and advice that reached 
many a circumscribed parish and sent adventuring spirits to 
the new land. 36 

35 Babcock, The Scandinavian Element, 28, 8x. 

88 Rynning was the leading spirit of the ill-starred Beaver creek colony 
a party of fifty Norwegians who first intended to join the Fox river settlement. 
They chose their site in the late summer of 1837 when its grassy verdure gave no 


It was natural that these parties of emigrants should seek 
the Illinois settlements; the towns of Mission, Miller, Rut- 
land, Norway, Leland, Lisbon, Morris, and Ottawa sprang 
up and grew rapidly at their coming. About 1840, however, 
the principal stream of Norwegian immigration was deflected 
into Wisconsin, just when Swedish settlers began pouring into 
Illinois. Swedish emigration, instigated at the outset almost 
entirely by economic motives, was early directed to this state 
through the influence of the brothers Hedstrom. Olaf Hed- 
strom, who was one of a handful of Swedes emigrating as early 
as 1825, had been converted to ardent Methodism, and in 1 845 
was put in charge of a New York mission where he accom- 
plished a unique work among the incoming Swedes. His 
brother Jonas had settled in Knox county, and it was to this 
region as well as to Andover and Chicago that the fatherly 
missionary sent the multitudes dependent upon him for advice 
and direction. 37 

In 1 846 the persecuted religious sect of Jansonists founded 
the first Swedish settlement of considerable size at Bishop 
Hill in Henry county. A year later the thriving communistic 
and religious colony numbered four hundred settlers, and five 
years after their coming they had grown to eleven hundred 
members or almost one-third the population of Henry 
county. 38 

By 1850 Scandinavian immigration had added to the state 
thirty-five hundred thrifty, industrious, and intensely Protestant 
citizens. Though chiefly agriculturists, concerned with win- 
ning a freehold for themselves and founding an honorable 
family competence, they held a high educational standard and 
were remarkable for their loyalty to the public school system. 

hint of the swamps that in the spring made cultivation impossible nor of the 
unhealthfulness that during the summer caused the death of two-thirds of the 
company. Rynning, who in the winter had employed the leisure of illness by 
writing his Account, was one of the victims of the depopulating malaria the fol- 
lowing summer. Babcock, The Scandinavian Element, 28-31; Blegen, " Q\P 
Rynning's True Account of America," in Minnesota History Bulletin, 2:221-232 

37 Babcock, The Scandinavian Element, 54. 

38 Ibid., 56-60. 


So rapidly did this large body of recently foreign citizens 
take their place in the body politic, that when the national 
issue of the Mexican War arose, no cleavage in the state 
occurred. Such companies as that of Captain James F. Eagan, 
who organized the Ottawa Irish Volunteers with one hundred 
and forty-eight on the roll, 39 and that of Captain Julius C. 
Raith made up of young Germans from St. Clair and Monroe 
counties were among the first to volunteer. 40 

The war had come at a time to make it extremely popular 
throughout Illinois. The people were suffering from the most 
stringent "hard times:" money, except that of broken banks, 
was not to be had; repeated failure met any attempt at com- 
mercial or industrial enterprise; farmers, unable to market 
their abundant crops, used what they could and left the rest 
to waste in the field. Suddenly, to the pent-up energy of the 
state and to the spirit of adventure, came the call to arms. 
Causes and issues were hardly considered; party lines were 
swept aside in the response that, swift and enthusiastic, came 
from the people. 41 

A favorite employment of the young men of the state had 
been the organization of rifle companies which drilled and 
marched and displayed themselves in full regalia in Fourth 
of July parades and at patriotic meetings. Now these compa- 
nies saw a chance for real service and at once offered them- 
selves. The quota which Governor Ford had been asked to 
furnish from Illinois was three brigades of infantry. His call 
went out May 25, 1845; ten days later thirty-five companies 
or four thousand men reported to the governor. Eager cap- 
tains of hurriedly mustered companies rode posthaste to the 
governor with letters certifying the worth of their men; he 
who first arrived was accepted, though a shift was sometimes 

39 Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review, July 18, 1846. 

40 Koerner, Memoirs, 1:495-496; Faust, German Element, 1:459. 

41 Enthusiasm, however, was keener in the southern and central parts of the 
state than farther north where the New England element was stronger. Koerner 
remarked on the lack of ardor in Stark and especially in the more northern 
counties as contrasted with that in St. Clair and Madison. Koerner, Memoirs, 
i : 501. 


made when the credentials of another indicated that his men 
were more desirable. There was much jealousy and rivalry, 
and the four thousand who had not been in time to be accepted 
loudly complained. 42 

The colonels of the first three regiments, enlisted for twelve 
months, were John J. Hardin, William H. Bissell, and Ferris 
Forman. E. D. Baker, authorized to raise an additional regi- 
ment, had only to select the required number of companies 
from those already tendered. When a second call for troops 
was made in April, 1847, two additional regiments enlisted 
for the duration of the war and went out under Colonels W. B. 
Newby and James Collins. Besides these six regiments, four 
independent mounted companies were accepted; and one hun- 
dred and fifty Illinoisians enlisted in the regular army. 

The troops composed chiefly of " the well taught youths of 
our farming communities, and our quiet, moral country 
towns," 43 started south with an enthusiasm only equaled by 
that at home which sped them on their way. 44 Companies 
rivaled each other in the assiduity with which they drilled, 
marched, and perfected their organization. They furnished 
themselves with new uniforms; that of one company, for in- 
stance, consisted of a grey forage cap, a gray frock coat 
trimmed with black, and black pantaloons; and in addition to 
their rifles this company was armed with artillery swords, two 
feet long, two inches broad, and double edged a formidable 
addition to their offensive at close quarters. 45 

The trip down the Mississippi, across the gulf to Texas, 
and the march into Mexico was an education to these provincial 
lads. Plantations, sugar cane, cypress trees, Spanish moss, 
levees, seasickness, drill, march, discipline, prickly pear, chap- 
arral, tarantulas, and Texans were words that appeared in 

42 Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review, July 18, 1846. 

* 3 Belleville Advocate, August 12, 1847. 

44 Citizens voluntarily furnished provisions, blankets, provisional uniforms, 
and flags to the departing boys. Koerner, Memoirs, 1:495. 

^ 45 Everett, "Narrative of Military Experience," Illinois State Historical 
Society, Transactions, 1905, p. 195, 196. Although percussion rifles had been 
invented some years before, the war with Mexico was fought with flint locks. 


letters home and indicated a wealth of new experience. In 
spite of the hot, steamy climate, the dust, poor roads, and fre- 
quent sicknesses, the men made the most of this trip. As 
venison and wild grapes varied their diet of salt pork and 
beans, so did the sight of a new vegetation, architecture, and 
people vary and add interest to the monotony of long marches 
under trying conditions. 

General John A. Wool, U. S. A., and other officers of the 
regular army had a merry time in impressing the men with 
the serious necessity of discipline, for an artless insubordina- 
tion pervaded both volunteers and officers. Colonel Forman 
at one time threatened to walk his men home, and when Colo- 
nel Hardin landed he did not march his men directly to camp. 
" I will take away your commission, sir," said Wool. " By 
God, you can't do it, sir," Hardin hotly replied. Wool, ad- 
mitted by the volunteers as a splendid soldier and first rate 
disciplinarian, was still thought to possess " too much regular 
contempt for volunteers." 46 

At home, the doings of the boys at the front were eagerly 
followed. The spirit of democratic papers throughout the 
state did not flag. The State Register praised the legislature 
for passing unanimously instructions to members of congress 
to do their utmost for the vigorous prosecution of the war 
and for its memorial asking bounty lands for those that serve. 47 
A meeting of democrats in St. Clair county late in November, 
1847, appointed a committee consisting of Gustave Koerner, 
John Reynolds, William H. Bissell, Lyman Trumbull, and 
William C. Kinney to express the sense of the meeting in a se- 
ries of resolutions. They declared that the object of the war 
was to force Mexico to relinquish her claims, that the invasion 
of Mexico had not made it an offensive war, but that indemnity 
in land or money had become a legitimate object of the United 
States. They repudiated the idea that any portion of the peo- 
ple of the United States wished to conquer territory for slavery 

46 Belleville Advocate, September 3, 1846. 

47 Illinois State Register, February 5, 1847. 


extension, but they asserted that the United States had a right 
to govern provisionally the conquered territory until the con- 
clusion of peace; they claimed that no declaration of congress 
as to the cause of war should have any weight, but that all 
citizens should support the government in attaining indemnity 
in land or money. The Register was strongly in favor of 
the tea and coffee tax for it supplied the money necessary to 
prosecute the war, and the state submitted gladly to it for 
that reason. 48 

Although the outbreak of the war had been hailed with 
enthusiasm by the people of the state, the whig press at best 
had merely acquiesced in the war and became gradually more 
and more outspoken in its condemnation of the national aims. 
In September, 1847, the State Register charged the whigs with 
being traitors to the country and devoted three columns to 
quotations from party organs in which they were giving " aid 
and comfort" to the enemy. Whig opposition to territorial 
extension was in democratic eyes analogous to the opposition 
of federalists to the Louisiana purchase. At the same time 
the democrats declared it a political move to deprive their 
party of the glory of adding territory to the country, while 
forced to bear the responsibility for a heavy war expenditure. 49 
Whig papers in turn charged that democratic members "think 
it a cardinal quality of national greatness that we are able to 
trounce and conquer a weaker one, and in justification of our 
course with Mexico," lay down " the supposition that because 
we have driven out the Indians from their ancient homes, and 
the deed being just and humane, the people of New Mexico 
and California, being in a more degraded condition, deserve 
the same treatment. 50 They pointed out the dangers, respon- 
sibilities, and resulting evils from annexation that the war- 
loving portion of the people seemed light-heartedly to desire. 
The State Register clung staunchly to its position that national 

48 Illinois State Register, January 29, December 10, 1847. 
4Q Ibid., September 24, October i, November 5, 26, 1847. 
50 Roc kford Forum, April 26, 1848. 


prestige required the war to be carried to a successful close; 
readiness to avenge insult of national honor, it regarded as a 
protection; the whigs on the other hand cried for "peace, 
commerce and honest friendship with all nations," and a 
" speedy close of the bloody tragedy, too long enacted at our 
expense, on the soil of another Republic." 51 

Democratic condemnation of individuals who opposed the 
war was severe. In particular Abraham Lincoln, whig repre- 
sentative in congress, drew this fire. Lincoln in speech and by 
consistent vote had stigmatized the war as one of " rapine 
and murder," " robbery and dishonor." He felt that Illinois 
had sent her men to Mexico " to record their infamy and shame 
in the blood of poor, innocent unoffending people, whose only 
crime was weakness." 52 On December 22, 1847, he pre- 
sented in the house the famous " spotty resolutions " in which 
he challenged the president's statement that Mexico had " in- 
volved the two countries in war, by invading the territory of 
the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the 
blood of our citizens on our own soil;" he pointed out that 
the particular spot on which the first blood was shed was 
Mexican soil, from which the citizens fled at the approach of 
the United States troops; and that it was the blood of our 
"armed officers and soldiers," whose blood was first shed. 53 
To Lincoln, the facts admitted no other interpretation than 
that the war was "unnecessarily and unconstitutionally com- 
menced by the President." 

In a speech before the house, January 12, 1848, he de- 
clared that President Polk " is deeply conscious of being in the 
wrong; that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of 
Abel, is crying to heaven against him; that originally having 
some strong motive ... to involve the two countries in 
a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze 
upon the exceeding brightness of military glory, that attrac- 

sl Rockford Forum, March 22, 1848; Illinois Stale Register, November 5, 

52 Belleville Advocate, March 2, 1848. 

53 Writings of Abraham Lincoln, 2:20-22. 


tive rainbow that raises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye 
that charms to destroy, he plunged into it, and was swept 
on and on till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with 
which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself he 
knows not where. How like the half-insane mumbling of a 
fever dream is the whole war part of his late message ! " 54 

Though Lincoln's charges may have borne some little fruit 
in enlightening public opinion and though such papers as the 
Rockford Forum gave Lincoln unqualified support, the great 
majority of the press and the people were uninterested in hear- 
ing whys and wherefores; to them this was an attack direct on 
their dearest enthusiam. Newspapers and public meetings, 
flaunting their own patriotism, declared Lincoln a second Bene- 
dict Arnold. 55 At a meeting without distinction of party held 
in Clark county, the following resolution was adopted: 

"Resolved, That Abe Lincoln, the author of the 'spotty' 
resolutions in Congress, against his own country, may they 
long be remembered by his constituents, but may they cease to 
remember him, except to rebuke him they have done much 
for him, but he has done nothing for them, save the stain he 
inflicted on their proud names of patriotism and glory, in the 
part they have taken in their country's cause." 56 

The fact that the conduct of the Illinois troops had been 
especially valorous made enthusiastic supporters more bitterly 
resent any criticism of the war. Illinoisians had markedly dis- 
tinguished themselves at the battle of Buena Vista, February 
23, 1847. General Zachary Taylor commended their services 
as follows: "The First and Second Illinois, and the Ken- 
tucky regiments . . . engaged the enemy in the morn- 
ing, restored confidence to that part of the field, while the list 
of casualties will show how much these three regiments suf- 
fered in sustaining the heavy charge of the enemy in the after- 
noon. In this last conflict we had the misfortune to sustain a 

54 Writings of Abraham Lincoln, 2:38-39. 

55 Illinois State Register, March 10, May 26, 1848. 

56 Belleville Advocate, March 2, 1848. 


very heavy loss. Colonels Hardin, McKee, and Lieut-Colonel 
Clay fell at this time, while gallantly leading their commands. 
. . . Col. Bissell, the only surviving colonel of the three 
regiments, merits notice for his coolness and bravery on this 
occasion." 57 

When Colonel Hardin fell while recklessly leading his regi- 
ment in a desperate charge, Illinois lost a popular hero. A 
man without much outward balance crude, artless, almost 
stammering in speech he had become the leading whig of 
the state, being a member of three general assemblies, and a 
representative in congress, 1843-1845. Handsome, impulsive, 
ingenuous, his very handicaps attracted warm friends. 

The Third and Fourth Regiments distinguished themselves 
in the campaign against the city of Mexico and in the battle of 
Cerro Gordo, April 18, 1847, while the Fifth and Sixth, though 
they lost severely through sickness and exposure, arrived too 
late for active service. 

Illinois treated the returning volunteers as heroes, every 
one. Not only were such men as William H. Bissell, John A. 
Logan, Richard J. Oglesby, James Shields, Benjamin M. 
Prentiss, and James D. Morgan rewarded with high places 
in the state, but in their home communities humbler men were 
recognized with county and township offices. In Menard 
county, for instance, five returned volunteers were elected in 
August of 1847 to the county offices of judge of probate, clerk 
of the county commissioners' court, assessor, treasurer, and 
recorder. Towns and counties gave public dinners, barbecues, 
and Fourth of July celebrations to welcome the returning vol- 
unteers. Addresses, speeches, brass bands, fireworks, cannon 
salutes, and enormous crowds of enthusiastic people graced 
these occasions. Five thousand people gathered in Spring- 
field while an equal number sat at the public board in Belleville 
at the barbecue. 58 

Throughout this busy period Illinois had so grown and de- 

57 Moses, Illinois, 1:495-496. 

58 Illinois State Register, July 9, August 13, 1847. 


veloped that the old constitution, designed for a frontier 
community, was felt as a hampering restraint. Never en- 
tirely satisfactory, twenty years' experience demanded a 
change. Popular opinion, newspapers, whigs, and democrats 
condemned the old constitution and urged drastic modifica- 
tion. The question of revision was narrowly defeated in 1842 : 
four years later the answer came strongly in the affirmative. 
One hundred and sixty-two delegates were elected who met 
in Springfield in June, 1847, to begin what proved to be the 
work of drawing up a new constitution. Of this body, large 
and unwieldy, a majority were democrats though it was claimed 
the proceedings were carried forward in a strictly nonpartisan 
spirit. The convention was representative of western democ- 
racy in the fact that contrary to custom, there were only fifty- 
four lawyers to seventy-six farmers in the body. The debates 
which the newspapers anxiously watched were heated and long 
drawn out. After a three months' session the convention fin- 
ished its work on August 31 and presented for the considera- 
tion of the people a new body of fundamental law. 

A mongrel affair the natural result of trying to meet the 
demands of all the document throughout its detailed length 
made a valiant effort to render impossible to the future the 
unhappy experiences of the past. Stupendous debts, reckless 
banking, extravagant legislation, "life" offices these were 
to be eliminated together with the particular aversions of each 
party; above all the will of the people was to be consulted 
and heeded in new places and to a much greater extent than 
formerly. 59 During the six months that intervened before the 
referendum the newspapers never allowed the issue to languish. 
The united support of the organs of each party, as a result of 
the compromises with which the new document bristled, was 
given with a sort of careful lack of enthusiasm; each, jealous 
of the victories gained by the other side, was accused of rais- 
ing the cry of a "party constitution;" yet each was solicitous 

59 Quincy Whig, March i, 1848; Sangamo Journal, April i, 1847; Illinois 
State Register, February 26, 1847. 


that party bickering should not alienate the final support of the 
people. It was said that only six papers within the state 
consistently opposed the constitution and were alone upheld 
in their opposition by the judges, their political appendages, 
and the small fry politicians. 60 The German was the one other 
element of opposition to be really feared. The whigs had in- 
sisted upon the limitation of the franchise: could the Germans 
swallow so bitter a pill? Although suffrage was to be guar- 
anteed to all adult males residing in the state at the time of 
adoption of the constitution, would they suffer the substitution 
of naturalization and a year's residence for the six months' 
residence alone required before? With Koerner combating 
ratification, it remained a question whether the gains in other 
reforms would lead the Germans to overlook the measure that 
had won unqualified whig support. 61 

For this victory of their opponents the disgruntled demo- 
crats found some compensation in the heads of the obnoxious 
supreme court judges, whose duties were now divorced from 
the circuit, and who, along with all other state and county offi- 
cers, were made elective by the people. 62 

To meet the insistent demand for retrenchment and at the 
same time to clip the wings of the distrusted legislature, the 
number of representatives and state officers was reduced and 
all salaries were fixed at absurdly low sums; moreover, the 
session of the legislative body was practically limited to forty- 
two days, for any time in excess of that period was paid at just 
one-half the regular stipend of two dollars a day. 63 With the 
keen remembrance of internal improvement bills still heavy, 
the state was forbidden to contract any debt exceeding fifty 
thousand dollars and that was "to meet casual deficits or 
failures in revenue;" nor was the credit of the state "in any 
manner to be given to, nor in aid of, any individual associa- 

60 Qulncy Whig, February 23, 1848; Illinois State Register, August 6, 1847. 

61 Belleville Advocate, February 10, 1848; Koerner, Memoirs, 1:523. 

62 Chicago Democrat, January 14, 1848. 

63 Illinois State Register, January 22, 1847; Belleville Advocate, January 20, 
1848; Quincy Whig, February 2, 1848. 


tion or corporation." Neither the charter of the State Bank, 
or any bank hitherto existing was to be revived though new 
banks could be established by the sanction of a popular refer- 

The cry for economy did not, however, prevent the taking 
of an important stand on state indebtedness; the fund arising 
from a two mill tax was to be devoted exclusively to debts other 
than school and canal indebtedness; advocates of repudiation 
were thus rendered entirely powerless. 

The council of revision with its unwholesome effect on 
legislation was lopped off, while the governor, his term and 
eligibility remaining unchanged, was invested with a veto which 
might, however, be overridden by the same majority that origi- 
nally passed the bill. 

An agitation for the granting of civil rights to Negroes met 
so prompt and spirited an opposition that it resulted in a fun- 
damental strengthening of the black code. An article was in- 
troduced to "effectually prohibit free persons of color from 
immigrating to and settling in this State; and to effectually 
prevent the owners of slaves from bringing them into this State 
for the purpose of setting them free." 64 

The newspaper campaign of judicious enthusiasm contin- 
ued throughout the winter. It was generally conceded that 
"the new Constitution is not perfect, for it is the work of 
fallible men. Critics and hypercritics, many good men, and 
some who might be suspected of sinister motives, may con- 
demn it; but it is, on the whole, a good Constitution a repub- 
lican one and an immense improvement upon the old in- 
strument." 63 Such support won the day; in March, 1848, 
the people of the state ratified the new constitution with the 
large majority of 49,060 to 20,883, and on April i, 1848, 
it went into effect. 

82 Constitution, 1848, article XIV. 

3 Aurora Beacon, February 10, 1848. 

ADVANCE, 1830-1848 

COMPARED with the Illinois of 1818, the Illinois of 
1848 was a community quickened into mental life and 
independence. On its accession to statehood, Illinois was in- 
tellectually provincial; its leaders came from .older states, 
bringing with them tastes already established; and mental cul- 
ture was the possession and badge of a social class. In 1848 
this was in a measure still true ; but Illinois colleges and schools 
had begun the work of democratizing education. Moreover, 
Illinois numbered among its citizens men like J. B. Turner 
and Thomas Ford whose thought, keen and original, was 
molded by the environment the state afforded them. Eastern- 
ers came to quicken the life of the state, and their own intel- 
lectual life affected by the freedom of their new surroundings 
ceased to be purely eastern. 

The cities growing up in the state were superimposing 
new and more complex social conditions on the older rural 
communities. 1 The old-time Fourth of July celebration con- 
tinued in vogue though sometimes under temperance or Sun- 
day school auspices. As early as 1845, however, newspapers 
were descanting on the number of accidents during such cele- 
brations and were calling for -a sane Fourth. Chicago had 
queens of the May on May day and kept the old-fashioned 
New Year's custom of calls and refreshments. There were 
donation parties and church fairs. There were traveling cir- 
cuses to carry amusement to the village, though these were 
condemned by the fastidious as indecent. There was dancing. 
There were theatricals in Chicago and other cities, amateur 
and professional, the latter becoming from the critic's point 

1 Chicago Dally Journal, October 9, 1846. 



of view, increasingly valid. Among sports there were horse 
races which at least in Chicago were sometimes scenes of dis- 
order. Of course there was hunting, sometimes in the form 
of community wolf drives. At Chicago there was a boxing 
academy in 1845. ^ n ^40 there was even a cricket match be- 
tween Chicago and Auplaine. 2 

Chicago was growing up; by 1842 it recognized a need of 
shade trees, deprecated its ineffective system of checking the 
frequent fires, and dilated on the route northward it offered 
southern travelers. Moreover, it was acquiring, as had for- 
merly Little Fort and even forgotten Salem, a reputation for 
bad morals; in 1842 women of evil fame scandalously ac- 
cused pious men before grand juries. The advantages which 
Chicago offered as a market for products and the frequency 
with which the farmer availed himself of them, made it ap- 
propriate for the newspapers to offer advice concerning his 
conduct in town. He must beware of taverns that assign him 
to garret rooms and set before him shinbone steak. He must 
never go to a house merely because a runner recommends it. 
He must be sure on the register to bracket his name with that 
of the bedfellow he chooses and to bespeak a room when he 
first enters. 3 

Any attempt to reconstruct the cultural life of the state 
must leave out of account the great circles of ignorance and 
illiteracy; they have passed leaving no record. For the rest, 
the newspapers afford perhaps the best criterion, although, 
with the exception of such a sheet as J. B. Turner's Illinois 
Statesman, they fell below the plane of the best in the state. 
It was the papers which encouraged the lyceums that came 

2 Chicago American, May 2, July 8, September 21, 25, 1840, December 31, 

1841, February i, April i, May 31, 1842; Chicago Democrat, January 3, 1844, 
July 9, October 28, 1845; Belleville Advocate, August 22, 1840, May 23, 1841, 
June n, 18, July 16, 1846, April 8, 1847; Alton Telegraph, August 2, 1845; 
Little Fort Porcupine, September 19, 1845, June 23, 1846; Chicago Daily 
Journal, January 16, March 3, 1845. 

3 Chicago American, December 28, 1840, February 10, March 31, 1842, 
February 15, 1847; Alton Telegraph, October 19, 1844; Illinois Journal, No- 
vember n, 1847; Chicago Democrat, September 15, 1841, June 28, December 14, 

1842, June 25, October 28, 1845; Little Fort Porcupine, April 30, May 28, 1845; 
Sangarno Journal, May 13, 1847. 


intermittently to the towns to afford training in debate, to offer 
lectures on science, literature, and phrenology, and to urge the 
preservation of the history of the state; as early as 1831 a 
state lyceum projected an elaborate writing up of the history 
and curiosities of Illinois. The newspapers, moreover, for- 
warded this interest in history directly by publishing in their 
pages numerous discussions of past events, often written by 
men who had participated in them. More ambitious was the 
scheme of a meeting at Vandalia in 1837, which deputed Peck 
to write a complete history of the state. Two years later a 
Peoria Scientific and Historical Society was organized, and in 
1843 tne Illinois Literary and Historical Society was at work. 
The following year the latter issued an appeal for books and 
manuscripts calculated to throw light on the history of the 
state; and three years later it was still working with some 
measure of success. Into these historical activities, it is to be 
marked, contemporary politicians threw themselves with en- 
thusiasm. Sidney Breese, William H. Brown, Thomas Ford, 
and John Reynolds all have left their interpretation of the 
state's past; to an amazing degree they have shaped the tradi- 
tion of Illinois history. 4 

Book advertisements did not indicate the existence of a 
more cultivated literary taste than that which the clippings in 
newspapers satisfied. These clippings were marked by an 
affected romanticism, though for some reason, the democratic 
papers published less sentimental stuff than the whig; little 
of the "literary" material, which filled such papers as the 
Sangamo Journal and the Alton Telegraph, even approached 
good melodrama or romance. It was a farrago of tales of the 
American bourgeoisie : the marriages of merchants' daughters 
to poor but virtuous clerks, the connubial felicities resulting, 
and the final relenting of the hard-hearted father when, as was 

4 Belleville Advocate, March 25, 1841, November 3, 1842; Chicago American, 
January 7, 1837, June 26, July 15, 1839, December 2, 23, 1841, February 15, 1842; 
Sangamo Journal, April 29, 1837, November 15, 1839; Peoria Register, Feb- 
ruary 9, July 6, 1839; Alton Telegraph, September 2, 1843, August 31, 1844, 
September 3, 1847. 



First sectional map of the state 

[From original owned by Wisconsin Historical Society] 


the usual denouement, hard times had swept away his fortune. 
Or, in the time of the excitement stimulated by the Washing- 
tonians, one gets tragic sentiment on the woes of drunkards' 
wives, of starved children fading under neglect, and similar 
tales, ad nauseam. In these, however, democratic papers also 
occasionally indulged. One is hardly surprised when the 
Belleville Advocate pronounces "To Lucasta on Going to the 
Wars" to be lacking in simplicity and fit only for corrupted 
tastes. 6 

There were, however, occasional indications of discrimina- 
tion. Now and then there are reprints of such tales as that 
which is the basis-of William Morris' " Written on the Image " 
or an imitation of Poe's " The Cask of Amontillado." 6 Poe's 
"Gold Bug" appeared in the Alton Telegraph of August 19, 
1 843, in the midst of a mass of sentimental and romantic trash. 
In the Chicago Democrat of 1845 N. P. Willis' "Letters 
from London" are a welcome relief. The one great excep- 
tion to a deprecatory classification, however, is found in the 
enthusiastic cult of Dickens which existed before his strictures 
on America and especially on Illinois had turned popular feel- 
ing against him. 7 Wellerisms were common in the papers 
even rivaling the Negro joke, which playing on the misuse 
of long words was the principal form of humor. 

The attitude of the whig newspapers toward morals and 
manners is, to say the least, generally disappointing. The 
Chicago American within a few months managed to comment 
on the morals of Fanny Ellsler and of Dionysius Lardner, to 
remark on the relative beauties of the Venus of Canova and 
the Venus de Medici and withal to comment much on crimes 
of sex. Comparing favorably with this policy is the frank 
broadness of several of the democratic papers whose stories 
represented the naivete of rural Illinois. 8 

5 April 25, 1840. 

Belleville Advocate, April 17, 1841. 

7 Chicago American, November 23, 1841, January 19, 1842; Belleville Advo- 
cate, April ii, 21, November 29, December 22, 1842. 

8 Chicago American, December 2, 1841, June 4, 1842; Belleville Advocate, 
September 30, 1847. 


The medical profession showed evidence of a growing 
social consciousness in the change from early individual efforts 
at medicine and hygiene to the organization in the thirties of 
medical societies and sodalities. 9 In 1837 Rush Medical Col- 
lege was incorporated at that time no such institution was 
to be found west of Cincinnati and Lexington. 10 The trustees 
did not, however, effect an organization until 1843 when the 
first course of lectures was given by four instructors to twenty- 
two students; the following year the first college building was 
erected. In 1846 a medical library of six hundred volumes 
and improved apparatus for study were added for students 
and a free dispensary and operating clinic opened to the public. 
By 1848 the school enrolled one hundred and forty students, 
and that year graduated thirty-three physicians. 

The faculty of the institution not only contributed their 
services but kept up all expenses of maintenance and alter- 
ation of the college, the only donation either to its establish- 
ment or support being the lot upon which the college was orig- 
inally erected. To Dr. Daniel Brainard is due chief credit 
for the founding and directing in its early years of this first 
institution of science, which made Chicago a recognized center 
of medical instruction. 11 

The life of the people of the early state found its most typ- 
ical expression in their churches. They offered an immediate 
escape from the unending struggle with physical forces, a 
promise of future compensation for the privations that now 
pressed hard, and furnished a social center of varied and 
exciting interest. 

For the religious denominations already strongly estab- 
lished in Illinois, the period from 1830 to 1848 was one of 
more or less steady growth. The Methodists, who in 1830 
numbered about six thousand communicants, were just enter- 
ing on a decade of tremendous growth; in the next five years 

9 The first meeting of the Cook County Medical Society was on October 3, 

10 Chicago American, March 25, 1837. 

11 Andreas, History of Chicago, 464-466. 


they increased to fifteen thousand, and that number was dou- 
bled by 1840. The growth of the next eight years, while not 
so remarkable, was still sufficient to insure this denomination 
with over forty thousand members first place in numerical 
strength. 12 

The Baptists had grown from thirty-six hundred to twelve 
thousand in the decade between 1830 and 1840; in the follow- 
ing ten years, increasing absolutely as much as the Methodists 
during the same time, they almost doubled their membership 
with twenty-two thousand communicants in 1850. Their annals 
throughout this period, however, had not been peaceful. The 
" anti-mission " Baptists, later confused with the " two seed " 
Baptists, strove against John Mason Peck and the supporters 
of the "religious institutions falsely so-called" which taught 
young men to preach and sent them forth under perpetual pay 
to displace the old Baptist preachers; their associations dis- 
fellowshipped those who had to do with missions. 

In spite of opposition the main currents of opinion ran in 
the channels in which Peck would have had them, and the 
aid of the Baptist Home Mission Society in sustaining the min- 
istry in the state was gratefully acknowledged by the Edwards- 
ville association in 1836. That same year saw the formation 
of the Illinois Baptist Education Society designed to aid candi- 
dates for the ministry. Peck in defending the movement argued 
that the educated minister would not drive out the old illiterate 
preacher simply because of his illiteracy. If he was so narrow 
as to stand in the way of others, he deserved it; but a minister 
hearty in the cause would find .no one inclined to take notice 
of slips in grammar. 

The Illinois Baptist Convention, in connection with the 
Home Mission Society, had their traveling missionaries wholly 
or partly supported in the work of building up churches. Be- 
tween April, 1836, and January, 1837, Moses Lemen traveled 
a distance of 2,100 miles, visited fourteen churches, and gave 

12 Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
2:46; 3:90, 99, 297, 399, 513; 4:79, 261, 281. 


one hundred and five religious discourses. In a similar period 
of time his brother James had traveled 1,595 miles and 
preached ninety-six sermons. In 1837 the Illinois Baptist 
Convention agreed to assume one-third the expense of the Bap- 
tist missionaries. The indefatigable Peck was appointed 
general agent to visit the churches, to stir them to renewed 
activity, to seek out students, and to look after the interests of 
Shurtleff College and of the societies. Already for some years 
he had edited the Western Pioneer, a Baptist paper; and he 
was now urged to prepare sketches of religious history in the 
west. A Baptist leader such as Peck had to be a man of tact; 
not only was his attitude toward slavery under scrutiny but 
a sharp lookout had to be kept lest such matters as the informal 
shedding of a heavy coat in warm weather should offend the 
sensibilities of a visiting eastern brother. 13 

The slavery crisis of 1845, resulting from the refusal of 
the Baptist board to allow slaveholding missionaries, ended 
in the promotion of an independent Northwest Baptist Asso- 
ciation including northern Illinois and finally in its dissolution 
and the promotion of an entirely new Baptist central body, the 
Baptist General Association of Illinois. The Western Chris- 
tian was the supporter of the new body in contradistinction to 
the Helmet which was inclined in the slavery direction. 14 

The most significant event in the religious history of the 
period 18301840 is the rise of Presbyterianism and Congre- 
gationalism in Illinois. The two denominations working to- 
gether in the west under the plan of union undertook, in the 
belief that Congregationalism of the Yankee type was exotic 
in the latitude of Illinois, to win the state to a modified Pres- 
byterianism. Eventually, however, the compromise was de- 
nounced on the one hand by Presbyterians who claimed that 
Congregational influence was demoralizing the discipline of 

18 Hicks, Outline of Baptist History, n; Illinois Advocate, December 9, 
1831; Western Pioneer, June 30, September 2, November 25, December 16, 1836, 
March 29, April 14, May 5, September 22, October 27, 1837, February 9, 1838. 

** Western Christian, June 14, 28, October 23, November 6, 13, 1845; 
Baptist Helmet, April 24, May 22, 1845. 


the church, and on the other by Congregationalists who claimed 
that Congregational brains and money had been used by Pres- 
byterians to establish themselves in the west. In the annals 
of the two denominations the same men and enterprises are 
described as Congregational or Presbyterian according to the 
writer's point of view, and it is difficult to find the real truth. 

Illinois Presbyterianism which in 1830 had but four hun- 
dred and ninety-two members established in the one " Presby- 
tery of the Centre of Illinois " had expanded to twenty-three 
hundred communicants in eight presbyteries by the end of the 
decade, and had with eleven presbyteries and two synods more 
than doubled their numerical strength by i848. 15 Through- 
out this period, however, their chief energy was devoted to 
educational and mission society effort; the supporters of the 
movement had to be on the alert lest they arouse western 
pride by a too frank declaration of their belief that the west 
was a moral desert 16 The Reverend John Milcot Ellis, when 
soliciting money for Illinois College, was embarrassed by the 
charge of having acquiesced in such malignant eastern state- 
ments. As a fitting retaliation to former aspersions, in 1833 
the Alton Spectator called on the citizens to meet " in the 
splendid Cong. ch. soon to be built " to consider means of sav- 
ing the east from its moral degradation. 

Jealous opposition met the sedulous Presbyterian activities. 
In 1834 Peter Cartwright, on behalf of the Methodist preach- 
ers who had borne the heat of the pioneer day, testified against 
non-sectarian societies on the ground that they were controlled 
by "new school" presbyteries and that they paid money to 
agents who really worked for their own denominations and 
against the Methodists, breaking up Methodist Sunday 
schools and establishing their own. Had not an agent, lately 
sent east to procure some thousands for Illinois College, said: 
" give me this sum and the Mississippi Valley is ours?" 

Illinois Presbyterianism felt the effects of the split of 1837 

15 Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, 1830, p. 
116-117; 1840, p. 58; 1849, P- 2 73- 

16 Illinois Intelligencer, January 23, 1830. 


between the new and old school. In the national general as- 
sembly of 1837, the old school forces gaining control, their 
opponents declared, by a bargain with the south on the subject 
of slavery abrogated the plan of union of 1801; they cut 
off from the churches all synods believed to be tainted with 
lax discipline and new school, or " New Haven," theology which 
was regarded as not quite severe enough in its phrasing of the 
predestination doctrine ; they denounced the activity of non- 
sectarian boards and established for their denomination its 
own particular missionary societies. Their act was interpreted 
rightly as the earnest of their determination to drive the new 
school element out of the church. 

At this time it is possible to strike the balance with some 
fairness between the parties. Ostensibly at least the old school 
forces had certain grievances that may justify their course. 17 
They were convinced that the union had brought into the 
church Congregationalists who were not only lax in doctrine 
but also disinclined to take seriously the exact and elaborate 
organization of their church. It has been well said that the 
essence of Presbyterianism is discipline; and the old school 
men, while the violence of their proceedings may be condemned, 
may be forgiven for thinking that without the full discipline 
Presbyterianism would not be Presbyterianism. 

As might be inferred the split had a peculiar effect in Illi- 
nois, because there the new school forces had nourished Pres- 
byterianism. Thus the synod of Illinois in 1836 had denounced 
ministers who bought or sold slaves or approved such actions. 
The synod by a small vote refused to condemn the abolitionist 
doctrine, that all slaveholding is sin; instead, it merely declared 
immediate emancipation inexpedient and prescribed a sermon 
on slavery at each annual meeting. This policy satisfied even 
Elijah P. Lovejoy, not yet an abolitionist. In April of 1837 
the Alton presbytery appointed a committee to draft a memo- 

17 For an account of the assembly from an Illinois new school source, see 
Alton Observer, June 8, 15, 22, 29, July 6, 20, 1837. Lovejoy believed that 
slavery was at the bottom of it, Princeton catering to the south, which formerly 
had been new school. Ibid., June 29, 1837; Peoria Register, July i, 1837. 


rial to the synod against receiving into communion persons 
from the south who had sold their slaves instead of freeing 
them. In the convention of old school men which preceded 
the general assembly of 1837 there were many complaints of 
Illinois Presbyterianism. Ministers in the Schuyler presbytery 
denied with impunity the doctrine of imputation; the Alton 
Observer denied that all sinned and fell in Adam ; three-fourths 
of the ministers were said to be New Haven men, brought in 
by the Home Missionary Society. Worst of all a Presbyterian 
minister, a professor of Illinois College, had said "What 
New Haven is in Connecticut I would make Jacksonville in 
Illinois." The general assembly of the church enjoined the 
Illinois synod to purge itself from errors in church order 
and doctrine. When the Illinois synod met in 1838 there 
seceded from it all the delegates from the Kaskaskia presby- 
tery, three out of four ministers and one out of four elders 
from Sangamon; five ministers out of fifteen and seven elders 
out of fourteen from Schuyler, and one elder from Peoria. 
Those who remained condemned in a resolution the action of 
the general assembly and declared it the duty of ministers to 
preach against slavery as counter to the law of God. The 
year before there had been several appeals to the new school 
Presbyterians to organize before they were borne down by the 
old school power. A loose synodical organization was sug- 
gested in which they could continue to cooperate with New 
England associations and with the Congregationalists. 18 

Congregationalism in Illinois as an organization began 
in 1833. Up to that time the communion of Congregational 
churches through the arrangement with the Presbyterians con- 
tributed money, brains, labor, and members to the establish- 
ment of another denomination and had continued to do so even 
after it was realized that the arrangement was having such 
an unequal result. Presbyterian churches had been founded, 
sustained by Congregationalists in New England, and made 

18 Alton Observer, October 27, December 15, 1836, April 20, June 8, July 6, 
13, 27, 1837, April 19, 1838; Peoria Register, October 27, 1838. 


up in Illinois largely of emigrated New England Congrega- 
tionalists. In that year, however, the first three Congregational 
churches were established, and by 1835 seven more had been 
added. In 1836 the first meeting of the Illinois Congrega- 
tional Association was held, churches at Jacksonville, Quincy, 
Fairfield, Pond Prairie, St. Mary, Griggsville, and Long 
Grove being represented. 19 A general association was founded 
in 1844 with two local associations embracing sixty-four 
churches, forty-eight ministers, and 2,432 members. 

The pioneering Congregational missionaries were usually 
men of thorough collegiate and theological training and were 
of indomitable energy though they showed varied talents 
and adaptation for pioneer work. The Reverend Nathaniel 
C. Clark, for example, founded the first Congregational church 
in northern Illinois that near Naperville in 1833 and 
afterwards organized thirty-seven churches in the Fox river 

A great part of their energy, however, was given to the 
planting and nourishing of educational institutions. Here 
again it was not only their own denominational schools that were 
aided, but the heartiest cooperation was extended to others. 
Illinois, Knox, and Beloit colleges, Whipple, Dover, Prince- 
ton, and other academies, Monticello, Jacksonville, Rockford, 
and Galesburg female seminaries were all the fruit of their 
inspiration, planning, or labor. Nearly every one of the 
founders, presidents, and early professors of Illinois colleges, 
nominally Presbyterian, were Congregational ministers. 

From the beginning Congregationalists were inflexibly 
opposed to slavery. The state association in 1844 made a 
standing rule to which its members must assent: "No one 
shall be admitted to membership in this body who does not 
regard slaveholding as a sin condemned by God." For this 

19 In 1833 the first Presbyterian church of Chicago was founded, made up of 
New England Congregationalists: " In fact, Philo Carpenter is said to have been 
the only one . . . who had always been a Presbyterian." Moses and Kirk- 
land, History of Chicago, 331, 375. There was no Congregational church in 
Chicago until 1851. See also Alton Observer, January 26, 1837, March 22, 1838. 


united and outspoken stand, and for the equally bold advocacy 
of temperance reform, Congregationalists for a long time 
aroused the abhorrence of conventional religionists. 20 

One of the most interesting religious developments of 
the period was that of the Christians or Disciples of Christ. 
They had a few scattered churches before 1830, but it was 
that decade which saw the organization of many churches, 
particularly in the southern and central parts of the state. 
Settlers from Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, already 
imbued with the western spirit, found in this movement for 
the restoration of apostolic Christianity a religion most suited 
to their needs. The freedom and simplicity of a church that 
refused to be limited by human creeds, that admitted to mem- 
bership all who, after a scriptural confession of faith, were 
baptized by immersion was too inherently western not to make 
a strong appeal to the hardy, independent spirits of a develop- 
ing frontier. The fact that they as a body incurred the most 
spirited and bitter antagonism from other established denom- 
inations 21 could not prevail over the warmth, good fellow- 
ship, and simplicity of their religion; by 1840 they had sixty 
churches, twenty-seven ministers, and four thousand members; 
the next ten years they more than doubled their strength having 
in 1850 one hundred and twenty-five churches, sixty ministers, 
and ten thousand communicants. 22 

In 1834 three Episcopal churches were organized in Illi- 
nois; and a year later the first annual convention of this body 
was held, seven ministers being present. By 1845 there were 

20 Savage, Pioneer Congregational Ministers in Illinois, passim, 

21 Sturtevant, Autobiography, 246, gives the following striking example of 
the attitude toward this body in their early history. He had been asked to 
preach to a congregation of Disciples and at its close he said: "I could 
say with Peter, ' I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.' God taught me 
that day to beware how I called any body of professed Christians ' common or 

" The report of my doings in that Sabbath startled the community, the story 
could not have been circulated with greater rapidity or repeated with more 
emphasis had I committed an infamous crime.- A few defended my action, but 
most of my good neighbors were shocked." 

22 Thrapp, " Early Religious Beginnings in Illinois," in Illinois State His- 
torical Society, Journal, 4:311; Moses, Illinois, 1077. 


twenty-five clergymen in twenty-eight parishes, with over five 
hundred members; by 1848 the number of communicants had 
grown to over a thousand. 23 The interest in the denomina- 
tion centers around the figure of the missionary bishop, Phi- 
lander Chase, who came to Illinois in 1833. One knows more 
about Chase than about most men in Illinois of that day 
because he was continually breaking into print with pamphlets 
appealing for support for his pet, Jubilee College, or protest- 
ing against attacks on the college or on himself. His attempts 
to be discreet on the question of slavery brought him wordy 
wars with the abolitionists. 

In the earlier years of statehood Illinois comprised a part of 
the Roman Catholic diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky, though 
it was administered by Bishop Joseph Rosati at St. Louis, who 
acted as vicar-general. 23 * During this time there were a few 
scattered congregations, mostly French, in southern Illinois; 
in 1826 there were, according to Bishop Rosati's report, twenty 
missions, whose needs were supplied by missionaries sent out 
from St. Louis. But beginning slowly in the thirties and in- 
creasing rapidly in the forties came that tide of Catholic immi- 
grants, predominantly Irish and German, who, settling in great 
numbers in the northern section of the country, shifted ecclesias- 
tical emphasis to the north and made Catholicism an important 
factor in state development. 

When Chicago was incorporated in 1833 the Catholics 
there numbered 130, or ninety per cent of the population; they 
were largely French, or French and Indian the latter includ- 
ing the half-breed Potawatomi chiefs, Billy Caldwell and Alex- 
ander Robinson. 23b In April of 1833 these Catholics sent a 

23 Alton Telegraph, July 26, 1845; Journal of Annual Conventions of Epis- 
copalian Church of Illinois, 1843-1857. 

23a For the great part of the material here used on the Catholics of Illinois 
I am indebted to the proof of Gilbert J. Garraghan's article, " Early Catholicity 
in Chicago, 1673-1843," which is to appear in the Illinois Catholic Historical 
Journal, volume i, number i. 

23b These were the chiefs so widely and favorably known as friends of the 
whites; it was their influence which saved the Kinzies and others from the fury 
of the Indians when the former arrived on the scene the day following the Fort 
Dearborn massacre; both were later instrumental in preventing the Potawatomi 
from participation in the Winnebago and Black Hawk wars. 


petition for a resident pastor to Bishop Rosati, who, less than 
a month later, was able to comply with their request in the per- 
son of a zealous and intelligent young French priest, Irenaeus 
Mary St. Cyr. He at once began his duties, saying mass in a 
laborer's cabin given him by the hotel keeper Mark Beaubien, 
until the first Catholic church of Chicago could be erected. 
This, a small, unplastered, unpainted chapel, on the south side 
of Lake street, was completed in October, 1 833 ; and the follow- 
ing day the first mass was said in St. Mary's to a visiting band 
of three hundred Indians. 

Father St. Cyr ministered to Indians, French, Canadians, 
Germans, Irish, and Americans, who, notwithstanding the 
priest's poor English, did u not fail to come in crowds to our 
church every Sunday." 230 In the spring of 1835 there was a 
Catholic population of four hundred in Chicago, and Catholics 
were thickening throughout the state. Galena had a resident 
pastor, Father McMahon, in 1833, and at his death Father 
Charles Fitzmaurice, a native of Ireland, was sent out from St. 
Louis as his successor. Missions were established at Bour- 
bonnais Grove, Joliet, in Lake and LaSalle counties; in the 
central part of the state, Father Van Quickenborne was, in 
1832, ministering to Springfield and other localities in Sanga- 
mon county; while Catholics near Peoria and Quincy were need- 
ing pastors. To meet these fast changing conditions Rome, 
when erecting the see of Vincennes in 1834, divided the state 
longitudinally; the western half, according to a suggestion of 
Bishop Rosati, was attached "not only de facto but de jure" 
to the see of St. Louis, while the eastern half, including Chi- 
cago, 23 * 1 became a part of the see of Vincennes under Bishop 

23c In 1836 Father Bernard Schaeffer, a native of Strassburg in Alsace, ar- 
rived in Chicago to care for the German speaking Catholics; at his death the 
following year he was succeeded by Father Francis Fischer. Father St. Cyr 
was removed to Quincy in the spring of 1837, anc ^ tnat summer Father Bernard 
O'Meara succeeded to the pastorate of St. Mary's. Father Maurice St. Palais, 
the future Bishop of Vincennes, came to Chicago in 1838 [ ?] ; at the coming of 
Bishop Quarter in May, 1844, Fathers Fischer and St. Palais were the only priests 
in the city as was the enlarged St. Mary's the only church, the new church of 
brick begun by Father St. Palais at the southwest corner of Wabash avenue and 
Madison street being then unfinished. 

23d By S p ec ial arrangement Chicago, in the pastorate of Father St. Cyr, 


Simon Gabriel Brute; such remained the status of Illinois dur- 
ing the next nine years of tremendous expansion and growth. 
A petition from Chicago Catholics in 1837 states that "we 
have in this town two thousand and perhaps more Catholics as 
there are a large number of Catholic families in the adjacent 
country particularly on the line of the Chicago and Illinois 
canal. . . ." The Catholic population continued to grow 
with the city, until on November 28, 1843, tne diocese of Chi- 
cago, consolidating the entire state of Illinois, was canonically 
established by Pope Gregory XVI. The following spring the 
Right Reverend William Quarter, a native of Ireland, arrived 
in Chicago as its first bishop. During his service of four years, 
he founded the University of St. Mary's of the Lake, built 
thirty churches, ordained twenty-nine priests, and left forty 
clergymen and twenty ecclesiastical students in the diocese. 

The influx of German and Scandinavian immigration in 
the forties brought many Lutherans into the state. In 1846 
the first German Lutheran church was founded in Chicago; 
in 1847 the Norwegian Lutherans there organized themselves 
into a church. The first meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran 
synod of Illinois was called at Hillsboro, October, 1846, and 
reported seven ministers, fifteen congregations and six hundred 
and eighty-five communicants. The Illinois synod, German, was 
organized in 1848, and with the steady increase of German 
and Scandinavian immigration the Lutheran church grew with 
great rapidity. 24 

The work of Bible societies, Sunday school societies, and 
similar institutions in Illinois was actively continued. In 1836 
the Illinois Bible Society employed a general agent who the fol- 
lowing year reported that in forty-seven out of seventy-one 
counties one or more Bible societies had been established. He 

remained for a year longer under Bishop Rosati at St. Louis. In the preceding 
year it would appear that Chicago was in the see of Detroit, the original south- 
ern line of that diocese, as erected in 1833, having run from the Maumee west 
to the Mississippi. 

24 Moses and Kirkland, History of Chicago, 356, 358; Moses, Illinois, 1075; 
Neve, Brief History of the Lutheran Church in America, 93. 


estimated that two-thirds of the Bibles in the state were there 
as a result of the societies' operations. Like the Bible society 
the Sunday school union was an interdenominational affair 
with the support of at least the more liberal members of the 
various Protestant denominations. Such men as Kinney and 
Cartwright, believing that the movement was designed by the 
hated Yankees to civilize the valley, felt a natural jealousy 
that held them aloof from the enterprise. Indeed local utter- 
ances indorsing such a design were not wanting on the part 
of the American Sunday School Union, whose agents from this 
time were active in the state. The underlying purpose of the 
movement was variously defined; sometimes, in default of 
ordinary schools, to afford education that might train for 
intelligent citizenship; sometimes, to prepare the young for 
church membership. One of the reports for 1836 made by the 
three organizing agents of the Illinois Sunday School Union 
was rather diverting; among other things it was stated that 
there was no Sunday school in Johnson county, and it was not 
possible to establish any; in one place only two families wanted 
one, since the experience with a singing school which had bro- 
ken up in a stabbing row had rendered the inhabitants fearful 
of any further educational projects. In general a slowly wan- 
ing opposition to Sunday schools, especially on the part of 
the Baptists was reported, as was also the fact that no more 
day schools than Sunday schools existed. Multitudes of young 
men were growing up unable to read, and the state was slow 
in supplying the greatly needed schools. 25 

The general effect of religious propaganda in the state 
can be set down as nothing but good. It is true there were 
occasional complaints of lukewarmness or hypocrisy on the 
part of the church members, complaints that people went to 
church to show fine clothing or to indulge the newfangled habit 
of munching candy in church. Sabbath breaking persisted, 

25 Alton Observer, December 8, 1836, April 20, 1837; Western Pioneer, June 
30, July 22, August 5, 1836, December 8, 1837; Illinois Intelligencer, July 3, 
August 21, September 18, 1830, February 26, April 2, 1831; Galena Advertiser, 
April 26, 1830. 


the old habits of carrying produce to market and starting a 
journey on Sunday continuing as before. This disregard of the 
Sabbath was constantly noticed by visitors from the east. In 
1847 a convention was held at Belleville to promote better 
Sunday observance. There were the old complaints that the 
people who in the east professed religion became irreligious 
in the west. In 1838, however, the Peoria Register affirmed 
that not a settler in the Military Tract but was within ten or 
twelve miles of divine service on Sunday. 26 

In the cause of temperance during the early thirties there 
were occasional bursts of activity throughout Illinois, notably 
at Alton. In 1836 a state temperance agent was appointed, 
and in the fall of that year the Illinois State Temperance Soci- 
ety celebrated its third anniversary at Alton. Timothy 
Turner, its agent, reported the organization of fifteen societies 
and the taking of twenty-five hundred pledges as a result of 
one hundred and twenty addresses in thirty-three counties. By 
the end of 1837 there were two hundred and fifty local societies 
in the state. 27 

Prohibitory legislation followed in the wake of organiza- 
tion. In 1838 Alton prohibited the selling of spirituous liquors 
producing thereby much excited language. At Peoria the 
question was brought up coupled with the direction of attention 
to the number of " doggeries " kept by aliens and with a sug- 
gested appeal to the state legislature to prohibit retailing of 
spirituous liquor in Illinois. In January there were petitions 
for and against the granting of liquor licenses in the town. 
In Henry county it was said no license had ever been granted. 
In 1837, owing to the refusal of the county commissioners to 
license, there was not a grocery in the county of Wabash. 

28 Illinois State Register, July 9, 1841; Chicago American, September 26, 
1839; Alton Telegraph, June n, 1847; Western Citizen, April 18, 1844; Baptist 
Helmet, April 24, 1835; Belleville Advocate, April 29, 1847; Western Pioneer, 
April 7, 1837, February 18, 1845; Peoria Register, September i, 1838. 

27 Illinois Intelligencer, October 29, 1831; Alton Telegraph, September 26, 
1833, March 16, 1836; Alton American, January 3, 1834; Alton Spectator, Janu- 
ary 4, 1834; Alton Observer, December 8, 1836; Chicago Democrat, February 4, 
1834; Western Pioneer, December 8, 1837. 


Monmouth was a dry town in 1839, and Peoria, Knoxville, and 
Oquawka all had temperance hotels. 28 

The difficulty in dealing with the problems was the all 
pervasive character of the traffic. It wound itself into almost 
every phase of life. The bargain or the store trade was not 
complete without the glass of whisky; it was a political expedi- 
ent used on every hand. Drinking, and hard drinking, was 
everywhere prevalent. Men delighted to number and classify 
in routine the various potations of a day and to give each 
its own name eye opener, phlegm cutter, stomach cleaner, 
fogmatic, anti-fogmatic and so on. 29 To wean men from so 
constant an attendant as John Barleycorn more was required 
than legislation or temperance organizations of the old type. 

The Washingtonian movement took root in Illinois toward 
the end of 1841 and gave a completely different trend to the 
temperance propaganda in the state. It differed from the 
earlier temperance agitation in that the latter was closely 
guided by ministers and paid agents, suspected of fanaticism, 
and that it was designed to save the temperate man \vhile 
leaving the drunkard to his fate. The Washingtonian move- 
ment on the other hand, frankly emotional, appealed to the 
drunkard through the mouth of the converted drunkard. 30 
Here there was no chance of raising the cry of church and 
state. The signing of a pledge to abstinence set in motion a 
psychological force sure to have some effect. The excitement 
died down somewhat after the first burst of enthusiasm of 
1842, but thereafter the Washingtonian interest can be traced 
from time to time. 

The crimes of the day were more numerous than those of 
the earlier period though in both instances they arose from 
the contact of the wilderness with the property rights of civi- 
lization. Robberies, at times involving large sums, were not 

28 Alton Telegraph, May 23, September 12, 1838; Peoria Register, December 
29, 1838, January 19, May 25, July 20, August 3, 1839; Western Pioneer, October 
27, 1837. 

29 Chicago American, January n, 27, 1842. 

30 Sangamo Journal, December 17, 31, 1841, January 21, March 26, 1842; 
Chicago American, January 13, 1842. 


infrequent. There was an occasional murder not the work 
of a gang; one notes but few cases of crimes of sex. Counter- 
feiting and forgery, especially of land titles, were prevalent. 
Gangs frequently combined several activities, making and cir- 
culating counterfeits, horse stealing, and occasional murder. 
The large scale operation and organization of these gangs, 
especially such a one as the banditti of the prairies in north- 
ern Illinois, went far beyond the ability of the slight legal 
machinery of the county to compass. 31 

This being the case the citizens had occasional recourse to 
extraordinary means. Sometimes a mob would wreck a little 
hamlet, the resort of crime of all sorts, sometimes it would 
break up a gambling booth at a race course. Sometimes soci- 
eties would be formed to put down horse stealing. Occasion- 
ally a man of doubtful life in a community who had excited 
the wrath of his neighbors might be visited with the extreme 
penalty of mob violence. 32 

In southern Illinois, Massac and Pope counties had for 
years been terrorized by a powerful gang of horse thieves, 
counterfeiters, and robbers until in 1846 the honest portion 
of the citizens formed themselves into a band of regulators 
to torture and harass the rascals into leaving the state. Sus- 
pected persons were taken to the Ohio and held under water 
until willing to confess; "others had ropes tied around their 
bodies over their arms, and a stick twisted into the ropes until 
their ribs and sides were crushed in by force of the pressure " 33 
in order that information of their confederates might be 
gained. Such methods did not settle the matter, however, for 
the " Flatheads," as the outlaws were called, were, too numer- 

31 Alton Telegraph, September 25, October 23, December n, 1841, January 
i, 1842, January 15, 1847; Chicago Democrat, June 25, July 6, 16, 23, August 9, 27, 
September 24, October 8, 15, 21, November 5, n, 1845, July 21, 1846, September 28, 
1847; Belleville Advocate, September 24, 1836, January 21, 1847; Illinois State 
Register, March 23, 1838, October 15, 1841 ; Sanaamo Journal, September 14, 1833, 
January 18, 1834; Chicago American, February 18, 1837, J u ' v 1 5> J 839, Septem- 
ber 5, 1840. 

32 Belleville Advocate, July 30, 1841, July 23, 1846, September 9, 1847; 
Sanaamo Journal, October u, 1834; Alton Telegraph, November i, 1837; Chi- 
cago American, June 22, 1839. 

33 Ford, History of Illinois, 438. 


ous and had been powerful for too long a period to be sum- 
marily disposed of. In Massac they gained the control of the 
county offices and in August made application to the governor 
for a militia force to sustain the authority of the law. " This 
disturbance," writes Governor Ford, "being at a distance of 
two hundred and fifty miles from the seat of government, and 
in a part of the country between which and the seat of govern- 
ment there was but very little communication, the facts con- 
cerning it were but imperfectly known to the governor." 84 In 
the interval of inquiry that ensued, disturbances broke out more 
violently than ever. Regulators from Pope county and from 
Kentucky joined their fellows in Massac, drove out the offi- 
cers, and defied the judgments of the circuit court forcibly 
liberating those of their number who were arrested; they 
became so sweepingly tyrannical that the counties were almost 
as terrorized as under the outlaws. The militia, however, 
refused to turn out to protect officials in league with horse 
thieves. Thus the regulators were left undisputed masters 
of the county; they whipped, tarred and feathered, and 
drove out of the country both rascals and honest opponents. 
Conditions became somewhat quieter that winter through 
state intervention; special legislation was passed creating a 
court to try offenders and at the same time vesting the gov- 
ernor with additional powers in that region. Notwithstand- 
ing all efforts, however, spasmodic outbursts continued for 
years. 35 

The struggle of the state to master its problem of educa- 
tion, despite its rich endowment, was marked with only a 
measured success. The main reliance for the education of 
the young was still on private schools. A report to the legis- 
lature of 1832 frankly admitted that the state policy must 
be one of grants in aid rather than one of forming by enact- 

34 Ford, History of Illinois, 439. 

35 In August, 1849, a civil war was anticipated. The "Flatheads," who had 
killed a regulator informer by tying him naked to a tree in a mosquito infested 
district, barricaded themselves with ammunition and two cannon taken from the 
regulators, who, determined to arrest the murderers, sent for cannon and aid 
from their friends in Kentucky. Western Citizen, August 14, 1849. 


ment a complete system. In Illinois finance the school, col- 
lege, and seminary funds went into the state treasury to pay 
state expenses, the state holding itself responsible for the pay- 
ment of interest for school purposes to teachers presenting 
proper schedules of teaching. 36 

The absence of anything like uniformity or organization 
in the state's primary school system was keenly felt by those 
intimately connected with it. Teachers complained that par- 
ents afforded them no moral support in disciplining their chil- 
dren, that neighborhoods by preference employed the lowest 
bidders and therefore had the worst teachers. They com- 
plained of cold ill-ventilated schoolrooms, of the thousand 
and one different methods of teaching, use of books, and of 
other difficulties. The actual workings of the Illinois system 
under moderately favorable conditions may be gathered from 
the report of a school township secretary in Peoria county. 
His fund was $6,455.96 all loaned at ten to twelve per cent. 
Of the accrued interest, however, only $178.96 was collected; 
and this with $184.42 from the state school fund was paid to 
five teachers in amounts varying from $24.75 to $118.79. 
The schools, with two hundred and fifty pupils ran two, four, 
six, eight, and eleven and one-half months respectively. With 
this may be compared the account of a school teacher in Taze- 
well, in whose school one hundred and ten scholars were regis- 
tered with a maximum attendance on any day of fifty-eight. 
In addition to the " common school branches" this man taught 
astronomy, philosophy, chemistry, surveying, algebra, and 
bookkeeping. 37 

Nevertheless in the thirties there was real and sometimes 
intelligent interest in educational problems. The demonstra- 
tion of a new method of teaching English grammar by lectures 
would be the occasion of a newspaper invitation to the public 
to attend the meeting. In 1832-1833 the formation of an 
Illinois institute of education was undertaken to deal on the 

36 Sangamo Journal, March 2, 1833; Laws of 1836, p. 249. 

37 Alton Telegraph, June n, 1837; Sangamo Journal, July 22, 1837; Peoria 
Register, January 26, September 21, 1839. 


basis of educational statistics with the difficult problems of 
education in the state. In 1834 delegates to a state educational 
convention were chosen. That convention recommended the 
establishment of school districts by voluntary action but mainly 
devoted itself to recommendations regarding seminary and 
college funds. As early as 1837 one finds an appeal for the 
establishment of the office of superintendent of public instruc- 
tion. Interest began to be directed in particular toward two 
different methods of school management and teaching the 
New England system and the Prussian. 38 

With the forties, however, the state moved on toward a 
unified system. Attention was called to the fact that one hun- 
dred thousand children in Illinois were said to be out of school 
and that 28,780 adults were accounted illiterate. The act of 
1841 provided for township administration of school lands 
in the familiar way with an added provision that congressional 
townships might on vote of the people be incorporated for 
school purposes. The Belleville Advocate urged a similar 
organization in St. Clair county. An attempt in 1843 to secure 
an act allowing the taxation for schools by local vote called 
out a flash of the same opposition to taxation for education 
that had defeated the school law of 1825. O. H. Browning 
pleaded for it referring to what Connecticut's school system 
had done for that state, to which Orlando B. Ficklin retorted 
that taxing one class for the benefit of another was unjust 
witness the fact that Connecticut had inundated the west with 
clockpeddlers and men who lived by their wits. In 1845 an 
act was passed incorporating all congressional townships as 
school townships and allowing voters in school districts to 
levy a special tax for the support of the schools. More than 
this, the school system of the state for the first time was 
given unity by the designation of the secretary of state 
as state superintendent of public schools. An attempt was 

38 Sangamo Journal, November 10, 1831, March 2, 1833, November 15, 22, 29, 
1834, January 24, 1835, September 3, 1837; Alton Telegraph, June n, 1837; 
Alton Observer, January, March, 1838; Chicago Tribune, July, 1840; Chicago 
American, September 17, 1836. 


made to secure state recognition of German schools, but in 
vain. 39 

The last years of the old constitution were marked on the 
part of educators by a renewed interest and hopefulness in 
their profession. A teachers' convention called at Jacksonville 
in 1845 set itself to discuss education for professional, agri- 
cultural, mechanical, and commercial pursuits, differentiation 
of education for the sexes, the possibility of an efficient school 
system without a complete township system, and possible state 
aid to colleges and seminaries in training teachers. 40 A teach- 
ers' convention at Belvidere that same year considered the 
possibility of a normal school that appears to have been near 
akin to the teachers' institute. 

The broadening interest in education perceived the possi- 
bility, and consequent necessity of teaching the blind and deaf. 
The bill for the establishment of the deaf and dumb asylum 
was passed in 1839, but because of insufficient funds, the build- 
ing contract was not let until 1 843 ; three years later the school 
opened with thirteen pupils. In 1847 a blind man had under- 
taken, at the expense of private charity in Jacksonville, the 
instruction of six blind children. The success of the experi- 
ment was instrumental two years later in the passage of " an 
act to establish the Illinois Institution for the Education of 
the Blind." Through the influence of the "Jacksonville 
crowd," that city, after much bickering in the legislature, se- 
cured both schools. 41 

If Illinois lacked for a unified school system, it did not 
lack for much private effort in behalf of schools, seminaries, 
and colleges, a surprisingly large number of which struggled 
on. As early as 1830 one notes high schools and academies, 
sometimes free to subscribers' children, sometimes combined 
with a young ladies' school to teach the polite accomplishments 

89 Alton Telegraph, April 17, 1841, February n, 25, 1843, March 22, 1845; 
Chicago American, November 10, 1841; Belleville Advocate, December 30, 1841; 
Sangamo Journal, February 2, 1843; Laws of 184.1, p. 259; Laws of 184.5, P- 5 1 - 

40 Sangamo Journal, June 5, 1845. 

41 Through the same influence Jacksonville was named as the site of the 
Illinois State Hospital for the Insane, in an act passed in March, 1847. 


of that day. In 1833 the Convent of the Ladies of Visitation 
was established in connection with Menard Academy at Kas- 
kaskia which three years later opened a commodious building 
to pupils. By 1842 eighteen sisters had the care of seventy 
pupils, twelve of whom were orphans taught free of charge. 
Tuition for the curriculum of literature, music, and arithmetic 
was one hundred and twenty-five dollars a year for boarding 
pupils, and twenty-five dollars for day students. In 1844 
the school building was practically destroyed by the Missis- 
sippi flood, and this academy was removed to St. Louis; but 
Catholic day schools were maintained at Cahokia, La Salle, 
and other places in this state. 42 

Every denomination was concerned with similar efforts 
to provide instruction for its children. Cartwright advertised 
a school at Pleasant Plains that began with the three R's and 
ended with natural and moral philosophy and Latin and Greek, 
with promise of other sciences and " female accomplishments " 
as soon as suitable teachers could be found. Meanwhile, com- 
mon branches were taught at the rate of five dollars for a five 
months' session and one might board with Cartwright for one 
dollar a week if paid in advance, otherwise the rate was a 
dollar and a quarter. 43 

In 1835 the Jacksonville Female Academy was incorpo- 
rated by the legislature, a majority voting to apply the stern 
republican principle of making trustees liable for debts con- 
tracted in their corporate capacity. The year 1836 saw a 
much larger crop of school corporations, a favorite type being 
the "manual labor" seminary in which the students were re- 
quired to labor with their hands partly to lessen the cost of 
their education, partly for their health's sake. Session after 
session of the legislature added to the number of these schools, 
many of which had real life and energy. They offered studies 
similar to those in Cartwright's curriculum. 44 

42 Salzbacher, Melne Reise nach Nord-Amerika im Jahre 1842, p. 227. 

43 Illinois Intelligencer, February 6, November 27, 1830; Galenian, May 16, 
1832; Alton Spectator, August 28, 1832, April 2, 1833. 

44 Laws of 1835, p. 192; Laws of 1836, p. 154, 158, 160, 163, 167, 170, 182; 


For children of well-to-do parents, however, outside schools 
held greater attractions. The Menard children went to 
Georgetown University or to Missouri schools. One school 
at Linden Wood, St. Louis, which asked two dollars and a half 
a week for plain tuition and board, prescribed a uniform that 
speaks a certain degree of luxury. Sabbath uniform dresses 
for summer were white dress, pink sash, handkerchief, straw 
bonnet trimmed with light blue ribbon, white cape, and black 
silk apron; for winter a crimson dress of English merino, white 
collar, black silk apron, and dark green cloak. 45 

The legislature had never evidenced any intention of using 
immediately the college and seminary funds for establishing 
the schools for which they had been set aside. Popular opinion 
did not greatly protest. In 1840 the Chicago Weekly Tribune 
believed the time not yet ripe for a state college or university, 
though it did insist that the state should have a competent sys- 
tem of high schools and a school of education. 46 In such a sit- 
uation it was perhaps inevitable that, though deprecated 
by some, collegiate education would develop along sec- 
tarian lines. In 1835 an act incorporating four colleges, 
specified that no particular Christian faith be held or taught 
in any, but the prohibition prevented only for the moment 
theological seminary training for it was soon evaded. In 1840 
the state had twelve colleges, though Illinois College was the 
only one granting degrees. 

The foundations of certain of these colleges had been laid 
before 1830. Shurtleff grew out of Peck's seminary at Rock 
Spring, which in 18311832 had been removed to Alton and 
opened there as Alton Seminary. It rejected in 1833 a char- 
ter which forbade the teaching of theology by any professor; 
but in 1835 a somewhat objectionable compromise was ac- 

2 Laws of 1837, p. 43, 87; Laws of 1841, p. i, 5; Peoria Register, June 22, 1838; 
Alton Telegraph, October 10, 1838; February 22, 1840; Belleville Advocate, 
August 20, 1841, June 5, 1843; Chicago American, April 6, 1841. 

4S Alton Observer, May 25, 1837. 

* a Sangamo Journal, December 8, 1834, August 22, 1835; Senate Journal, 
1833, i session, 538; Lotus of 1835, p. 177; Chicago Weekly Tribune, July n, 


cepted, a seminary being conducted side by side with the col- 
lege until 1841, when the restriction was repealed. In 1836 
the name of the college, in recognition of the donations of Dr. 
Benjamin Shurtleff, was changed to Shurtleff College. 47 

For a time men cherished great dreams of what might be 
done with it. In 1840 the trustees projected a school of dig- 
nified agriculture, designed to teach the farmer his profession 
scientifically. The project as it took shape in their minds 
seemed to be to give the farmer a better intellectual back- 
ground; labor on the farm and in the workshop was to be com- 
bined with study. A few days later the Telegraph printed a 
letter purporting to come from a farmer, praising the scheme, 
and enlarging upon it. He denounced the Latin and Greek 
colleges that gave only a smattering to their students, leaving 
them ignorant of their mother tongue, and praised the plan 
for a professorship of English. For an agricultural depart- 
ment he suggested courses in horticulture, lower mathematics, 
natural philosophy, chemistry, mineralogy, botany, compara- 
tive anatomy, physiology, with the cause and cure of animal 
and vegetable diseases. More broadly he urged an education 
to obliterate the line between gentlemen and laborers. This 
idea was a full quarter century ahead of its time. The college 
continued to develop; in 1841 it had thirty-one preparatory 
and collegiate and four theological students. In 1841-1842 
the opening of a medical school was announced. In the later 
years of the period the more radical Baptists attacked the col- 
lege on account of its proslavery views, and the founder was 
denounced as "one of the greatest proslavery men in the 
state." 48 

McKendree College, a Methodist institution, developed 
from Lebanon Seminary founded in 1828. At first there was 
strong opposition in the board of trustees itself both to aboli- 
tion and to the establishment of a school of theology. The 
institution emphasized the manual training principle and 

47 Jubilee Memorial of Shurtleff College, passim. 

48 Western Christian, June 28, 1848; see also Alton Telegraph, March 4, 
April 4, 1840, August 14, 1841, January 22, 1842. 


boasted a female department. Students' board bills were pay- 
able two-thirds in produce, one-third in good bacon, pickled 
pork, beef, flour, or milch cows with young calves ; tuition for a 
five months' term in the higher branches was eight dollars. 
The school was taken successively under the patronage of the 
Missouri and the Illinois conferences, and in gratitude for a 
donation from Bishop William McKendree it was renamed, 
first, McKendreean College, then, McKendree. It was incor- 
porated with other colleges in 1835. The college had to sus- 
pend in 1845 but reopened in the next year with three pro- 
fessors and a principal for the preparatory department 49 

In 18351836 Bishop Philander Chase collected funds in 
England for an Episcopal college in Illinois; the corner stone 
of Jubilee College was laid in 1839 at Robins Nest, Peoria 
county, but a charter was not secured until i847. 50 

In 1837 the Presbyterians and Congregationalists laid the 
foundations for two small colleges. Through the Reverend 
Gideon Blackburn funds were obtained for a theological insti- 
tution at Carlinville. He entered lands for eastern investors 
at two dollars an acre, keeping twenty-five cents of the surplus 
over government price for himself and appropriating the re- 
mainder to the purchase of lands for the college. In 1837 the 
future Blackburn University had in trust an endowment of sev- 
enteen thousand acres; the enterprise, however, lay dormant 
for twenty years, when in 1857 the college was formally incor- 

The Reverend George W. Gale, a new school Presbyterian 
of New York, was responsible for the inception of the other 
educational venture. In order to combine study with whole- 
some physical labor for students he conceived the idea of buy- 
ing at government prices a township of fertile western land, 
reserving a town site and large farm for the use of a college, 

49 Catalogue of McKendree College, 1916-1917, p. 90; Sangamo Journal, 
September 13, 1834; Western Pioneer, February 8, 1838; Alton Telegraph, 
December 6, 1845; Belleville Advocate, April n, 1846. 

50 Sangamo Journal, February 13, 1836; Peoria Register, December 22, 1838, 
April 6, 1839; Illinois Advocate, December 16, 1835. 


and selling the remainder which carried tuition rights in the 
college at five dollars an acre; the surplus would endow the 
college. The project met with favor; in 1835 a committee 
inspected and purchased land in Knox county, and forty-six 
colonists there undertook to carry out the plan. In 1837 
Knox Manual Labor College was incorporated, and a year 
later forty students were enrolled at the formal opening of the 
academy. By 1842 there were one hundred and forty-seven 
preparatory students, and the collegiate department had been 
opened with ten freshmen. 61 

Illinois College, the greatest educational venture of the 
Presbyterians and Congregationalists in Illinois, was the fruit, 
but a partial fruit indeed, of the imperial dream of a group of 
young students, the famous "Yale band." In Yale Theolog- 
ical Seminary, Theron Baldwin, John F. Brooks, Mason Gros- 
venor, Elisha Jenner, William Kirby, J. M. Sturtevant, and 
Asa Turner, with the magnificent enthusiasm of youth planned 
to be workers in an enterprise, both educational and religious, 
to raise the west out of intellectual darkness. Some of them 
were to serve as settled ministers or missionaries, some of them 
to give their time to seminaries and to a college that was to 
crown the whole educational system. 52 At the time that this 
idea was taking form the Reverend J. M. Ellis, a Presbyterian 
missionary in Illinois since 1826, was busy with the scheme of 
a college in the state of Illinois at Jacksonville; and the little 
group, accepting it as the center of their enterprise the seat 
of a new and greater Yale to be reared on the western prairies 
enlisted the American Home Missionary Association in its 
support. Illinois College opened in January of 1830 with 
Julian Sturtevant as teacher in it; during the year the Reverend 
Edward Beecher came to be president; three years later, a 
brother of Asa Turner, Jonathan Baldwin Turner, arrived and 
began his connection with the state. In 18351836 there were 

51 Alton Observer, October 27, 1836, June 15, 1837; Catalog of Knox College, 
1914-1915, p. 52. 

52 Sturtevant, Sketch of Theron Baldwin, passim; Sturtevant, Autobiography, 


four seniors, seven juniors, thirteen sophomores, sixteen fresh- 
men, and forty preparatory students. In 1839 the preparatory 
department was abandoned as tending to lower the tone of the 
college. 53 Meanwhile in 1837, Baldwin, who had served as a 
pastor and as editor of the Common School Advocate, became 
principal of the Monticello Female Seminary. The college 
had to meet the question of finance. Its founders were able to 
supplement local resources with contributions from the treas- 
uries of the society in the east. A subscription of seventy-five 
thousand dollars was lost in the panic of 1837. Finally in 
1843 tne Society for Promoting Collegiate and Theological 
Education at the West, with Theron Baldwin as its secretary 
and financial agent, took Illinois College over together with 
Western Reserve, Wabash, Marietta, and Lane colleges. In 
1846 Sturtevant urged that the property of the college be sold 
for Illinois bonds than at a heavy discount, but the scheme was 
too visionary for the trustees, and they preferred to sell for 
cash. 54 

From a larger point of view the college never met the ideal 
of its founders, but by no fault of theirs. To begin with the 
scheme excited jealousy both from rival denominations and 
from those who believed New England was plotting to federal- 
ize the west. Hardly had Sturtevant arrived when Peter Cart- 
wright delivered himself of a sermon, anathematizing and 
caricaturing Presbyterian doctrine and ridiculing learned min- 
isters; and Sturtevant, at the time just painfully learning to 
preach without reading his sermon, was at a disadvantage. 
Further the jealousy between old school and new school, and 
new school and Congregational was to do its work. The 
"Yale band" had imbibed at their alma mater the theology of 
N. W. Taylor which was anathema to the strict Presbyterian. 55 
In 1833 Edward Beecher, Julian Sturtevant, and William 
Kirby were accused of heresy in the presbytery at Jacksonville ; 
but subsequently they were acquitted. In 1839, despite previ- 

53 Alton Spectator, February 12, 1836; Peoria Register, October 6, 1839. 

54 Sturtevant, Autobiography, 268. 

65 Ibid., 125-132, 161 ; Galena Advertiser, November 30, 1839. 


ous attempts on the part of Beecher and Sturtevant to prevent 
it, a Congregational church was organized at Jacksonville. 
Sturtevant later gave some countenance to it; and as the tide 
of New Englanders sweeping into the north disregarded the 
plan of union and organized churches of their own, distrust 
and suspicion deepened. The antislavery views of men like 
Beecher and Sturtevant were an added difficulty. Finally, in 
1844, Beecher resigned, possibly from necessity. Turner fol- 
lowed him a few years later; but Sturtevant remained to round 
out a long career at Jacksonville. 

The story of Illinois College leads naturally to the con- 
sideration of one of the most remarkable men intellectually 
in the state of that day Jonathan Baldwin Turner. The 
fact that of what he offered her, his country, and especially 
his adopted state, cared to take only the Osage orange hedge 
and the agricultural college, should not blind the student to 
the fact that Turner's intellectual interests were far broader 
than either scientific agriculture or highly technical education. 
In 18431844 for example, he edited at Jacksonville the 
Illinois Statesman; and that paper to the student of ideas is a 
land flowing with milk and honey in a desert otherwise relieved 
only by half-arid oases. From other papers one can learn only 
by indirection of the intellectual life of Illinois of that day; 
from Turner one gets the comment on it of a powerful and 
keenly interested mind. 

It was not to be expected that Turner would compromise 
with the public tastes of his day. Sensational news had so 
little interest to him that he would not vex himself to give it to 
his readers. Under the head of "Crimes and Casualties" he 
printed: "Our paper is small, and if our readers will for the 
present just have the goodness to imagine a certain due pro- 
portion of fires, tornadoes, murders, thefts, robberies and bully 
fights, from week to week, it will do just as well, for we can 
assure them they actually take place." 56 The man who, when 
the thunders of denominational denunciation were rolling forth 

58 Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, Ixxiv. 


against Mormonism, was moved to analyze the sect as a fas- 
cinating study in comparative religion was not likely to blind 
his eyes to the violence of the deeds and plans of the anti-Mor- 
mons. He urged the people of the Military Tract to abide by 
the law and to have pity on the helpless at Nauvoo. What 
would Europe think of the state, if one year she granted Smith 
lawmaking powers and the next made open war on him? 57 

Because of Turner's keen, trenchant comment on politics 
the Illinoisan made fierce war on the " crack-brained, gaping, 
half-witted theorist Yankee," who cheerfully replied in abusive 
rhetoric that Milton himself might have envied. Turner's 
paper reflected a popular disgust with political partisanship 
and party manipulation on either side, declaring that the poli- 
ticians on both sides were usually men who could not be trusted 
with any of the ordinary concerns of life. Turner was dis- 
gusted with Van Buren as a political manipulator and hoped 
for a time that Calhoun might lead the party to a higher 
plane of statesmanship, until he saw the latter's slavery drift. 
At the same time he regarded the possible defeat of Clay, the 
duelist and gambler, as a moral triumph. Further he tore to 
pieces mercilessly the whigs' argument for protection and other 
of their pet doctrines. He was keen enough to see that the 
democrats really stood in theory at least for certain funda- 
mental truths as well as for certain very important measures. 
To the whigs he was willing to ascribe the conservative func- 
tion, that of promoting steadiness and stability of progress, 
remarking that they necessarily had to show greater states- 
manship than their opponents for this very reason. 58 

In his consideration of the slavery question Turner steered 
as original a course as he did elsewhere. He was not an out 
and out abolitionist, and he occasionally deprecated the vio- 
lence of referring to all slaveholders as kidnappers and man- 
stealers. As to runaways he was disposed to think the proper 
course somewhere midway between turning all the people of 

57 Illinois Statesman, September 18, 25, 1843. 

58 Illinoisan, November 17, 1843; Illinois Statesman, July 17, August 14, 28, 
October 2, 16, November 27, December 4, 1843, February 19, March n, 27, 1844. 


Illinois into slavecatchers and enticing slaves away. As a 
result he had one or two tifts with the Western Citizen. He 
denounced slavery bitterly enough in his own way, as an in- 
stitution in monstrous contrast with the nation's principles of 
political liberty, or an imposition on a majorty of the whites 
for the benefit of an aristocratic ruling-class minority. He 
professed, however, that he could not support the liberty party 
on the ground that he could not vote for a man like James G. 
Birney who was not a tried statesman. 59 On the exclusion from 
church membership of slaveholders he remarked with a full 
vision of the essential barrenness of "one idealism" that "no 
one conformity or non-conformity can make a man good or 
bad." 60 His final comment, however, on the intellectual fer- 
ment that followed on the train of abolitionism in the east 
was, " there is always some good in all protestantism." 

Religiously that was Turner's ideal. His creed was simply 
Christianity, including belief in the atonement and in the Ser- 
mon on the Mount as containing all the doctrine necessary to 
man's salvation. It had, however, no place in it for heresy 
hunting and little for denominational organization. Baptism 
to him was a rite which any minister without regard to church 
bounds was entitled to perform for all believers. His notion 
of church membership ended with the association of men into 
voluntary societies having no control of baptism or of the 
Lord's Supper. He was Congregational in his belief solely 
from a pragmatic view of the essential flexibility of that sys- 
tem. 61 There was to him no halfway house between the entire 
independency of the local church and the centralization of 
government under the Vatican at Rome. 

Turner emphatically was the critic rather than the expo- 
nent of the Illinois of his day. Yet he introduced into the in- 
tellectual life of the state a freshness of view, a cosmopolitan- 
ism that by the very fact that it jars no more sharply upon its 

59 Illinois Statesman, November 27, 1843, February 19, 23, 26, March 4, May 
27, 1844. 

Ibld., February 26, 1844. 
81 Ibid., April 29, 1844. 


surroundings shows how Illinois had traveled since the early 
days of statehood. Society in the state, conventionalized and 
stiff, posing in every intellectual attitude, original in nothing, 
had had a change worked in it. Men had come to think broadly 
in terms of general political principles; they had come to think 
more independently on the set forms of law, of slavery, and, 
as Turner exemplified, of the set dogmas and forms of church 
doctrine and discipline. The Illinois of 1818 like the nation 
it existed in was dreaming dreams and interpreting the future 
in terms of the past; in the Illinois of 1848, there were many 
men of vigorous mind who had visions of the future. 



Eddy manuscripts, Shawneetown, Illinois. Transcripts in Illinois His- 
torical Survey, University of Illinois, Urbana. 
Edwards papers in Chicago Historical Society manuscripts. 
Kane manuscripts in Chicago Historical Society manuscripts. 



Newspapers form a source of inestimable value in writing Illinois history 
of this period. Indeed, for any approximately full or continuous 
record, it is only through them that the pioneer state may be pieced 
together ; economically, socially, and in especial politically, they pre- 
serve, for the critical student, a reflection of early Illinois. 

For a complete bibliography of Illinois newspapers, as well as for 
additional data on those here listed, see : Scott, Franklin W., News- 
papers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879 (Springfield, 1910) 
[Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, volume 6]. 
Files in the Chicago Historical, Springfield State, and University of 
Illinois libraries have been utilized where possible, but files of papers 
at Belleville have supplemented these. 

Alton American, 1833-1834, Alton, Illinois. 

Alton Observer, 1836-1837, Alton, Illinois. 

Alton Spectator, 1832-1839, Alton, Illinois. 

Alton Telegraph, 1836-1848, Alton, Illinois. 

Aurora Beacon, 1847-1849, Aurora, Illinois. 

Baptist Helmet, 1844-1845, Vandalia, Illinois. 

Belleville Advocate, 1839-1848, Belleville, Illinois. 

Chicago American, 1835-1839, Chicago, Illinois [continued as Daily 

Chicago Daily Journal, 1844-1848, Chicago, Illinois. 

Chicago Democrat, 1833-1848, Chicago, Illinois. 

Chicago (Weekly) Tribune, 1840-1841, Chicago, Illinois. 

Congressional Globe, see in the division of federal and state documents. 

Edivardsville Spectator, 1819-1826, Edwardsville, Illinois. 

Farmers and Mechanics Repository, 1842-1843, Belleville, Illinois. 



Galena Advertiser, 1829-1830, Galena, Illinois. 

Galenian, 1832-1836, Galena, Illinois. 

Genius of Liberty, 1840-1842, Lowell, Illinois [continued as Western 


Genius of Universal Emancipation, 1838-1839, Hennepin, Illinois. 
Hancock Eagle, 4-1845-1846-)-, Nauvoo, Illinois. 
Illinois Advocate, 1831-1832, Edwardsville, Illinois, and 1832-1833, 

Vandalia, Illinois. Its title was changed to Illinois Advocate and 

State Register, 1833-1835, then to Illinois Advocate, 1835-1836, 

then to Illinois State Register and Illinois Advocate, 1836, and to 

Illinois State Register and People's Advocate, 1836-1839. 
Illinois Emigrant, 1818-1819, Shawneetown, Illinois [continued as the 

Illinois Gazette, 1819-1830]. 

Illinois Gazette, 1819-1830, Shawneetown, Illinois. 
Illinois Intelligencer, 1818-1820, Kaskaskia, Illinois, and 1820-1832, 

Vandalia, Illinois [then combined with Illinois Whig}. 
Illinois Journal, 1847-1848, Springfield, Illinois. 
Illinois State Register and People's Advocate, 1836-1839, Springfield, 

Illinois [became Illinois State Register in 1839]. 
Illinois Statesman, 1843-1844, Jacksonville, Illinois. 
Illinoisan, 1837-1844, Jacksonville, Illinois. 
Kaskaskia Republican, 1824-1825, Kaskaskia, Illinois. 
Little Fort Porcupine and Democratic Banner, 1845-1847, Little Fort 

and Waukegan, Illinois. 

Miner's Journal, 1826-1832, Galena, Illinois. 
Nauvoo Neighbor, 1843-1845, Nauvoo, Illinois [continued as Hancock 


Peoria Register and Northwestern Gazetteer, 1837-1842, Peoria, Illinois. 
Peoria Register, 1842-1845, Peoria, Illinois [had been Peoria Register 

and Northwestern Gazetteer, 1837-1842, Peoria, Illinois]. 
Quincy Whig, 1838-1848, Quincy, Illinois. 
Rock ford Forum, 1844-1848, Rockford, Illinois. 
Sangamo Journal, 1831-1847, Springfield, Illinois. It was called the 

Sangamon Journal until 1832; in 1847 the name was changed to 

Illinois Journal. 

Times and Seasons, 1839-1846, Nauvoo, Illinois. 
Vandalia Free Press, 1836-1837, Vandalia, Illinois [continued as Free 

Press and Illinois Whig, 1837-1841 ; continued as Vandalia Free 

Press, 1843-1844]. 

Vandalia Whig and Illinois Intelligencer, 1832-1834, Vandalia, Illinois. 
Warsaw Signal, 1841-1843, Warsaw, Illinois. 
Wasp, 1842-1843, Nauvoo, Illinois [continued as Nauvoo Neighbor]. 


Western Christian, 1845-1848, Elgin, Illinois. 

Western Citizen, 1842-1848+, Chicago, Illinois. 

Western Monthly Magazine, a continuation of the Illinois Monthly 

Magazine, Cincinnati, 1833-1835. 
Western Pioneer and Baptist Standard Bearer, 1836-1837, Alton, Illinois 

[continued as Western Pioneer, 1837-1838]. 



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Publications, introductory volume]. 

Buck, Solon J., "The New England Element in Illinois Politics before 
1833," Mississippi Valley Historical Association, Proceedings, vol- 
ume 6 (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1913). 

Catalog of Knox College, 1914-1915 (Galesburg, Illinois, 1915). 

Catalogue of McKendree College (Lebanon, Illinois, 1912). 

County histories have in general been found useful for local informa- 
tion. For complete bibliography of Illinois counties see: Buck, 
Solon J., Travel and Description 1765-1865 together with a List of 
County Histories, Atlases, and Biographical Collections and a List 
of territorial and state Laws (Springfield, 1914) [Collections of the 
Illinois State Historical Library, volume 9]. 

Dowrie, George W., The Development of Banking in Illinois, 1817-1863 
(Urbana, 1913) [University of Illinois Studies in the Social 
Sciences, volume 2]. 


Elliot, Isaac H., (ed.) Record of the services of Illinois Soldiers in the 
Black Hawk War, 1831-1832, and in the Mexican War, 184.6- 
1848. Prepared and published by authority of the thirty-second 
General Assembly (Springfield, 1902). 

Everett, Edward, "Narrative of Military Experience in Several Capac- 
ities," Illinois State Historical Society, Transactions, 1905 (Spring- 
field, 1906). 

Fairlie, John A., County and Town Government in Illinois [Reprinted 
from the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social 
Science, Philadelphia, May, 1913]. 

Faust, Albert B., The German Element in the United States, with spe- 
cial Reference to its political, moral, social, and educational Influence 
(Boston, 1909). 

Garraghan, Gilbert J., "Early Catholicity in Chicago, 1673-1843," Illi- 
nois Catholic Historical Journal, volume I, number I (Chicago, 

Harris, Norman D., History of Negro Slavery in Illinois and of the 
Slavery Agitation in that State (Chicago, 1906). 

Hicks, E. W., Outline of Illinois Baptist History (Toulon, Illinois). 

Hicks, E. W., History of Kendall County, Illinois, from the earliest dis- 
coveries to the present time (Aurora, Illinois, 1877); 

History of Winnebago County, Illinois, its Past and Present (Chicago, 

Jubilee Memorial of Shurtleff College, Upper Alton, Illinois (Alton, 


Koerner, Gustave P., Das deutsche element in den Vereinigten Staaten 
von Nordamerika, 1818-1848 (Cincinnati, 1880). 

Kofoid, Carrie P., "Puritan Influences in the Formative Years of Illinois 
History," Illinois State Historical Society, Transactions, 1905. 

Leaton, James, History of Methodism in Illinois, from 1793 to 1832 
(Cincinnati, 1883). 

Lee, Judson Fiske, "Transportation. A Factor in the Development of 
Northern Illinois previous to 1860," Illinois State Historical So- 
ciety, Journal, volume 10. 

Lockwood, James H., "Early Times and Events in Wisconsin," Second 
Annual Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of 
Wisconsin, 1855, volume 2 (Madison, 1856). 

Moses, John, Illinois, Historical and Statistical, comprising the Essen- 
tial Facts of its Planting and Growth as a Province, County, Terri- 
tory and State, 2 volumes (Chicago, 1889). 

Moses, John, and Joseph Kirkland, History of Chicago, Illinois (Chi- 
cago, 1895). 


Neve, J. L., A Brief History of the Lutheran Church in America (Bur- 
lington, Iowa, 1916). 

Pease, Theodore C., The County Archives of the State of Illinois 
(Springfield, 1915) [Collections of the Illinois State Historical 
Library, volume 12]. 

Pooley, William V., Settlement of Illinois, 1830-1850 (Madison, 1908) 
[Reprinted from Bulletin of University of Wisconsin, history series, 
volume i]. 

Putnam, James W., Illinois and Michigan Canal. A study in economic 
history (Chicago, 1917) [Chicago Historical Society's Collection, 
volume 10], 

Quaife, Milo M., Chicago and the Old Northwest, 1673-1835. A study 
of the evolution of the northwestern frontier, together with a his- 
tory of Fort Dearborn (Chicago, 1913). 

Rice, James M., Peoria, City and County, Illinois; a Record of Settle- 
ment, Organization, Progress and Achievement (Chicago, 1912). 

Royce, Charles C., (ed.) Indian Land Cessions in the United States 
(Washington, 1899) [Bureau of American Ethnology, Eighteenth 
Annual Report, 1896-1897, part 2. In House Documents, volume 
1 1 8, 56 congress, I session, document 736]. 

Salisbury, Herbert S., "The Mormon War in Hancock County," Illinois 
State Historical Society, Journal, volume 8. 

Savage, G. S. F., Pioneer Congregational Ministers in Illinois (Chicago). 

Smith, Joseph and Herman C., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of 
Latter Day Saints, 1836-1844, 1844-1872, volumes 2 and 3 
(Laomi, Iowa, 1908). 

Stevens, Frank E., The Black Hawk War, including a Review of Black 
Hawk's Life (Chicago, 1903). 

Stevens, Wayne E., "The Shaw-Hanson Election Contest," Illinois 
State Historical Society, Journal, volume 7. 

Thompson, Charles M., The Illinois Whigs before 1846 (Urbana, 1915) 
[University of Illinois Studies in the Social Sciences, volume 4]. 

Thrapp, Russel F., "Early Religious Beginnings in Illinois," Illinois 
State Historical Society, Journal, volume 4. 

Thwaites, Reuben G., The Story of the Black Hawk War (Madison, 
1892) [Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 
volume 12]. 

Treat, Payson J., The National Land System, 1785-1820 (New York. 

Wisconsin Historical Collections, volumes I-I2 (Madison, 1855-1892). 


A. B. plot, 98, 99, 101, 102, 103 

Adams, James, 149; gubernatorial can- 
didate, 145, 20611 

Adams, Captain John G., i6$n 

Adams, John Quincy, 92, 240, 268, 289, 
328, 364, 370, 380; charges against in 
campaign 1828, 116, 117, 118, 120, 
121, 122 ; Cook supported, 96, 107, 
1 08, 111-112; Edwards lost favor 
with, 98-99; elected president, 115; 
influence of, in local politics, 123, 
124, 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 133, 139, 
141, 145 ; one founder of whig party, 
236; presidential chances of, 106 

Adams county, 174, 203, 2o6n, 325, 369 

Africa, 85, 87 

Agriculture, 122; abundant crops, 400; 
among Mormons, 348, 349; Birk- 
beck's influence on, and founding of 
society, 15-17; Bond encouraged, 
105; crops, 383; estimated output of 
farms, 207; extent, 6-7, 15; German 
influence on, 393 ; improvements in, 
383-385; Irish undertake, 396; meth- 
ods of, and kind of land for, 179-181 ; 
products shipped to New Orleans, 
52; Scandinavian interest in, 399; 
Scotch influence on, 398; slave labor 
and, 88-89 ; Turner's contribution to, 


Alabama, 174-175 

Albany, 190, 237, 254, 275 

Albion, 82; Flower founded, 15; library 
at, 393n 

Alexander county, 89, 112 

Alexander, General Milton K., 287; in 
Black Hawk War, 165, 167 

Alexander, William M., 61 

Allen, W. T., organized antislavery so- 
cieties, 371 

Allen, William, 247; editor of Madi- 
sonian, 245 ; proposed for president, 

Alsace, 423 

Alton, 9, 84, 192, 198, 206, 209, 210, 340, 
348, 375i 385, 386; all-Oregon meet- 
ing at, 328 ; anti-abolition resolutions 
passed at, 370; branch bank at, 305; 
commercial importance of, 189, 212, 
221, 309-310, 387; Lovejoy killed in, 

365-368; Peck edited paper in, 366; 
prohibition at, 426 ; proposed capital 
site at, 202, 203 ; school at, 22 ; Sun- 
day school established at, 29 

Alton and Mt. Carmel railroad, see 

Alton and Shawneetown railroad, see 

Alton and Shelbyville railroad, see 

Alton and Springfield railroad, see 

Alton Seminary, see education 

Alton, Wabash, and Erie railroad, see 

Ambrister, Robert C., 114 

American Bottom, 5, 42 

American Fur Company, 3 

Amusements, 150, 410-413 

Anderson, Richard C., 70 

Anderson, Stinson H., 284 

Andover, 399 

Andrews, Eliza Julia, 14 

Andrews, Bishop James Osgood, 376 

Anti-Edwards faction, see politics 

Apple river, 165 

Arbuthnot, Alexander, 114 

Archer, William B., n6n, i42n 

Arkansas, 331 

Armstrong, Fort, 3, 160, 161 

Arnold, Benedict, 405 

Arnold, Isaac N., 298, 301 

Atkinson, General Henry, commanded 
forces against Black Hawk, 160, 161, 
163, 165, 166, 167, 170-171 

Atlantic Bank, see banking 

Atlantic ocean, 120, 219 

Auplaine, 411 

Axley, James, 25-26 

Bachus and Fitch, 384 

Backenstos, Jacob B., attempted to stop 

anti-Mormon riots, 356-357, 358, 359, 


Bad Axe, battle at, 169-171 
Bailhache, John, 338, 339 
Baker, David J., 138 
Baker, Edward D., 281, 286, 293, 296, 

381, 401 
Baldwin, Theron, 437, 438 




Baltimore, n, 140, 240, 242, 253, 277, 

329 335, 387, 388 

Bancroft, George, 262 

Banking, 261, 284; Atlantic Bank, 228; 
Bank of Cairo, 312; Bank of Ed- 
wardsville, 55-56, 92-93, 100-101 ; 
Bank of Illinois, 55, 56, 93, 224, 306, 
308, 312, 313, 314, 318, 320, 322; 
Bank of Missouri, 54-55, 93; Bank 
of St. Louis, 56; Bank of United 
States, 52, 53-55, 242-244, 259, 260, 
263, 271, 284, 304; career of new 
state bank, 303-315; Crawford's pol- 
icy, 53-55, 98, ioo, 102, 103; defeat 
of Edwards' policy, 126; democrats 
divided on policy, 245-249 ; Duncan's 
policy, 285; early attempts at, 52-69; 
Edwards faction interested in, 93 ; 
failure of, 400; issues on, in congres- 
sional campaign of 1834, 147-148; 
Jackson's policy, 242-244, 262; new 
constitution revived in charters, 409 ; 
State Bank, 56-62, 74, in, 131, 142, 
145-146, 224, 242-244, 291, 303-315, 
318, 320; State Bank of Indiana, 313 ; 
summary of, 68-69 Tyler's policy, 
272-274; Van Buren's policy, 265- 
266 ; whig attitude toward, 258. See 
currency and finance 

Baptist church, 369; attitude toward 
slavery, 81, 376 ; Kinney minister in, 
130; organization and influence of, 
26, 27-29 

Baptists, atti