Skip to main content

Full text of "Centennial history of Illinois"

See other formats






[O'Connor's Statue of Abraham Lincoln] 









A. C. McCLURG & CO. 





? //. 3 





III. AGITATION AND COMPROMISE, 1848-1852 ..... 53 





VIII. THE ELECTION OF 1 860 ........... 181 


X. CHURCH AND SCHOOL, 1850-1860 ....... 230 

XI. THE APPEAL TO ARMS ........... 253 








XIX. THE SPOILS AND THE SPOILERS, 1867-1870 .... 404 


XXI. PLAY AND THE PRESS ........... 436 

BIBLIOGRAPHY .............. 459 

INDEX ................. 477 


















THE development of Illinois out of the frontier and 
through the storm and stress of Civil War is the story 
of an evolving western democracy in a period of grave transi- 
tion; it was then that the hopes of the pioneer were finding 
buoyant expression in the prosperity of the prairies and in 
the assumption of a full share of responsibility in the nation's 
burdens. The story of Illinois thus striving to be " first in war 
and first in peace " is complicated by the place taken by Illinois 
leaders on the roll of national heroes; indeed, the historian of 
this period finds himself torn between the demands of the 
common people for an interpretation of their democratic influ- 
ence over against the looming influence of the statesman on the 
hustings, in the national legislature, or in the presidential chair. 
In the synthesis here presented the author has tried to weigh 
with care the proportions due to every phase of the stirring 
life on the prairies of Illinois. 

The author is greatly indebted to several institutions which 
have responded generously to his appeals for assistance by the 
loan of source material: The Library of Congress, the Illinois 
State Historical Library, the Chicago Historical Society, 
McKendree College Library, the Belleville Public Library, the 
Joliet Public Library, the Rockford Public Library, and Red- 
dick's Library of Ottawa. A large number of individuals and 
newspaper offices have cooperated by placing at the disposal of 
the author their private files of newspapers which were other- 
wise unavailable. Acknowledgments for such favors are due 
the publishers of the Rushville Times, the Carthage Republi- 
can, the Jonesboro Gazette, the Canton Register, the Jackson- 
mile Journal, Quincy Whig, Aurora Beacon, and to Mrs. Grace 
Scripps Dyche of Evanston for a copy of her father's Gem 
of the Prairie for 1848 and 1849. The trustees of the Cairo 
Trust Property have loaned valuable materials now under their 


custody, as have Mr. W. T. Norton and Mr. J. True Dodge of 
Alton, Mr. Judson Phillips of Jonesboro, and Mrs. James W. 
Patton of Springfield. 

In the accomplishment of this essay in historical writing, I 
have been aided by the facilities offered by the Centennial Com- 
mission. Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber of the Illinois State His- 
torical Library and Miss Caroline M. Mcllvaine of the Chi- 
cago Historical Society have been exceedingly helpful in many 
ways. I am especially indebted to those who have served me 
in the capacity of assistants: Mr. Jacob Hofto, Miss Jessie J. 
Kile, Miss Jeannette Saunders, and Miss Agnes Wright. The 
usual editorial acknowledgments are due to my chief, Clarence 
W. Alvord. 


URBANA, July i, igi8. 




THE year 1848 marks the beginning of a new epoch in 
Illinois history. Not only had the polity of the common- 
wealth found it necessary to lay aside its swaddling clothes 
for a new constitution, but its citizens began to move forward 
in strides that rendered obsolete existing institutions and pre- 
vailing methods in almost every phase of the life of the times. 
Agriculture was revolutionized in many of its aspects; urban 
life discarded more and more of the traces of the frontier; 
the prairies were filled up by a progressive population which 
flowed in from every corner of the new and the old world; 
industry developed into new and untried fields; and the state 
came to take a front rank among Mississippi valley common- 
wealths. The way was prepared for the leading role Illinois 
was to play in bearing the burdens of the union in the storm 
and stress of civil war. 

The outstanding feature of life in Illinois during the fifties 
was the passing of the frontier. Every aspect of its social 
and economic make-up declared that the spirit of western 
pioneering could not perpetuate its dominance over the grow- 
ing commonwealth. Every stroke of a hammer, every rattle 
of a farm machine, every puff of a locomotive, was a blow at 
the peace and calm of the untamed prairie wilderness, still 
the haunt of the rabbit, the deer, and even the wolves a 
taunt to the slow and inefficient man power of the primitive 
first settlers. 

The upbuilding of towns and cities was one of the strong- 
est indications of the rapid development of the state. Illinois 
of 1850 boasted only ten incorporated cities: Chicago, Alton, 
Springfield, Beardstown, Pekin, Quincy, Peoria, Bloomington, 
Galena, and Rock Island. Inasmuch, however, as several of 
these had been insignificant hamlets in 1840, this represented 
a remarkable development toward a more highly civilized 


commonwealth. There were in addition, moreover, towns of 
from three to five thousand inhabitants in places to which ten 
years before not so much as a trail had led. 1 It was noted 
that the growth of towns and villages seemed to run parallel 
with the growth of grain; cities grew up only at points of 
special vantage for the penetration of interior districts by 
incoming settlers and for the ready exchange of farm prod- 
ucts for the finished output of the factory and workshop. For 
this reason the river towns of the forties had swelled into 
thriving cities, their life supplied by the sonorous breathing 
of steam engines; and a business formerly confined to the 
barter of hazelnuts, butter, and eggs, for buttons, beads, cap 
ribbons, powder, and shot, was replaced by a business of thou- 
sands of dollars in merchandise and produce. 2 For this 
reason, too, the network of railroads that came to traverse 
the states developed the municipalities in the fifties; while the 
smaller communities were receiving new accretions by the hun- 
dreds, Chicago increased from a city of 29,963 in 1850, to 
80,028 in 1855, and 109,260 in 1860. 

Rapid accumulation of population prevented the municipal 
improvements that might well have been expected of places of 
such size, for in most senses the cities and towns were mere 
overgrown villages. Housing facilities could not keep pace 
with such rapid growth; dwellings were small and crude, often 
mere shacks. Bloomington erected over 250 new dwellings 
in 1850, and a scarcity was still noted, while newcomers to 
Springfield, after looking in vain for some place of residence, 
passed on in hopes of finding a more favorable location. 3 
Home-owning was fairly general among the older towns- 
people; but rents for the newcomers were uniformly high, 
sometimes exorbitant. There was a steady shortage of dwell- 
ings in Alton, and houses were "worth from fifteen to twenty 
per cent, per annum on their cost." 4 In Chicago houses that 
cost $500 sometimes rented for $300 and $400 a year; "a 
moderate little tenement which might be got in the suburbs of 

1 Chicago Daily Journal clipped in Illinois State Register, June 22, 1850. 

2 Naples Observer clipped in Belleville Advocate, September 12, 1850. 

3 Illinois Journal, May 18, 20, 23, 1850. 

4 Alton Courier, February 7, 1854, see also September 27, 1852, March 9, 
1853, March 20, 1854. 


London for 25 per annum here fetches 200," reported a 
visiting Britisher. 5 

Alongside these conditions, however, were others which 
showed how hard it was for Illinois to outgrow entirely the 
frontier atmosphere that had shortly before prevailed in most 
parts of the state. The backwoods pioneer was not wholly 
out of his element in the cities, still less in the towns and 
villages. Even the editor of the Charleston Courier protested 
at the "enormous rent" he had to pay for his newspaper 
plant, $60 a year. At the same time the sturdy shoemaker 
at Morris had high hopes of establishing his economic pros- 
perity on a capital of $50; he proposed to build a "small 
house 12 by 12 middling lumber nails, doors, windows, $12.00 
put up by a few neighbors gratis. $25.00 for stock in my line 
of business which is shoemaking and the Ballance as a reserve 
and i am certain of doing well." Both men applied to the 
governor of the state for the necessary loans, the one as a 
political backer, the other as a stranger whose only security 
was "the word of a man of honor," and who submitted as a 
text Raleigh's lines, " True nobleness is not confined to palaces 
alone." Q It is to be hoped that Governor French was able to 
justify their confidence the sublime confidence of the pioneer 
in the spirit of democratic cooperation. 

No town or city was sufficiently urban to develop a drain- 
age system. In bad weather the streets approached the con- 
dition of a quagmire with dangerous sink holes where the 
boatman's phrase "no bottom" furnished the only description. 
An absence of civic pride made them the dumping ground of 
the community rubbish so that the gutters were filled with 
manure, discarded clothing, and all kinds of trash, threatening 
the public health with their noxious effluvia. 7 

In Chicago the drains in the streets, the alleys, and the 

5 Chicago W eekly Democrat, April 7, 1855. Special correspondence of 
London Times clipped in Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1860; see also Chicago 
Press and Tribune, April 2, 1859. Missionary effort in the west was discour- 
aged by rents of $200 or $300 for houses that would bring only $60 in the east. 
Presbytery Reporter, 4: 74. 

*J. J. Brown to French, April 3, 1849; James Campbell to French, July, 
1851, French manuscripts. 

7 The square at Springfield always seemed in a disgusting condition. 
Illinois State Register, March 17, 24, 1853; Illinois Journal, September 13, 1853. 


vacant lots were "reeking with every description of filth;" 
" all the slops of the houses, and the filth of every kind whatso- 
ever, incident to cities, are emptied in the gutters, and offend 
the nostrils of every traveler, either on the sidewalks or the 
streets," complained a zealous advocate of clean streets. 
Michigan avenue was decorated with manure heaps while 
the contents of stables and pigsties were deposited upon the 
lake shore, a horrible stench arising from that " Gehenna of 
abominations." The rain washed this filth into the lake to 
be mixed with the drinking water supply of the city, for nothing 
short of frogs or fish seemed to clog the supply pipes of the 
city water system. The zealous apostle of cleanliness was 
often served with "chowder" in his bathtub. Some improve- 
ment was made in the later years of the decade; paving with 
planks, macadam, or cobblestones reduced the problems, 
although only a few dozen miles were paved out of the four 
hundred miles of city streets. 8 

Then, too, every city had its hog nuisance or some equiva- 
lent. The streets, squares, and parks seemed public hogpens ; 
hog holes with all their filth met the eye and nose at every 
turn. Springfield wrestled with this problem long and ear- 
nestly; the controversy came to a climax in 1853, when an 
ordinance allowing the hogs to run at large was successively 
passed and repealed, followed by the requirement that they be 
rung if allowed to run at large. The city council was equally 
divided over this question and the mayor pursued a vacil- 
lating course in casting the deciding vote; while the hog and 
anti-hogite forces wrangled, his swineship contentedly pulled 
himself out of the mushy batter of his gutter-wallow, threaten- 
ing to upset pedestrians as he carefully chose a freshly painted 
fence against which to plant himself and transfer the unctious 
matter with which he was loaded. In the fall of that year 
swine were more numerous on the streets of Springfield than 
in the pens of the state fairgrounds. Urbana had a record of 
more hogs in the community than people, and the porker had 
equal rights with citizens upon the streets. Decatur's anti- 

8 Chicago Democrat, March 30, May 7, 1849, August 7, 1851; Free West, 
June 22, 1854; Chicago Press and Tribune, October 8, 1858, March 25, April 2, 


hogite forces triumphed by a narrow margin in 1859. For a 
time cows ran at large on the streets of Chicago, often passing 
the night on the sidewalks. Quincy prided itself on the use 
of geese instead of hogs as street scavengers. 9 

At the beginning of the decade not one of the cities of the 
state was provided with public utilities. Chicago almost imme- 
diately, however, arranged to have its streets lighted by gas 
and shortly afterwards provided itself with a sewerage system 
and a water system, though the latter was far from carrying 
out the original plan to supply the city with pure and whole- 
some water. Pekin and Rockton prepared to install a water 
system in 1853, while Quincy and Peoria put their energies 
into gas companies. Not until two years later were Spring- 
field and Quincy able to arrange for water systems; by that 
time gas, light, and coke companies were organized in all the 
more progressive cities. Soon primitive wooden mains were 
installed and the decade brought to Illinois the beginnings of 
the so-called "modern conveniences." 10 

Chicago, the "garden city," became in this period a cos- 
mopolitan metropolis, the commercial emporium of the Lake 
Michigan region and the adjacent states. The foreign born 
population came to outnumber the native born, with a con- 
siderable representation for every national group. After the 
completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal the current of 
trade which formerly flowed down the Mississippi was turned 
eastward, making Chicago the great market place of the 
west to the disadvantage of St. Louis which had previously 
dominated the situation. Excellent and extensive railroad 
connections next brought additional advantages; in 1854 
seventy-four trains a day tapped the upper Mississippi and 
the whole northwest. By 1851 the total value of the trade 
of the lake port reached nearly $30,000,000; in 1855 it had 
a grain trade of 20,487,953 bushels, nearly twice that of its 
rival on the Mississippi. It had already become the greatest 
primary wheat depot in the world; in spite of a chronic com- 

9 Illinois State Register, May 5, 12, June 30, 1853; Illinois Journal, May 
12, September 7, November 9, 1853; Urbana Union, September 27, 1855; Chicago 
Democrat, September 19, 1849; Quincy Whig, August 15, 1853; June 26, 1854. 

10 Quincy Whig, August 15, 1853, June 26, 1854; Private Laws of 
p. 417-432, 504-505, 510-511, 516-517; Private Laws of 1855, p. 544 ff. 


plaint of a shortage of capital, by 1860 over five million 
dollars of capital were invested in Chicago. 11 

This precocious western city presented many incongruities. 
In 1850 it had several impressive public edifices, "large ware- 
houses and stores, five or six stories high, splendid hotels, 
five public schools and dwellings, frequently magnificent 
churches;" 12 ten years later it had taken on even more met- 
ropolitan atmosphere. Yet at the same time these massive 
stone and brick stores, warehouses, and factories, even 
"palatial" hotels, were surrounded by wooden huts and 
shanties. Rough stumps of pine trees were set along the 
roads in all directions to carry telegraphic wires. On the occa- 
sion of the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860, the London 
Times correspondent reported that Chicago was an " extraor- 
dinary melange of the Broadway of New York and little 
shanties of Parisian buildings mixed up in some way with 
backwoods life." 13 The streets, though filthy, were generally 
broad and pleasant; and a commendable zeal for planting 
rows of shade trees furnished the beginnings of city beauti- 
fication. An extensive park system was planned and given 
authorization by the state legislature. Regular omnibus service 
was started on the principal thoroughfares in 1850, while the 
State street horse railroad was opened in April, 1859. The 
community supported seven daily papers in 1853, besides 
weeklies and monthlies. With the westward march of the 
American people, Chicago came to have a central location; 
equipped with fifty-seven hotels in 1855, eight of which were 
" first class," it had come to be a point of attraction as a 
convention city. 14 

Springfield, the state capital, a city of 4,533 in 1850 and 
of 9,320 in 1860, was a place of few attractions. It had little 
civic beauty, was famous for the wretched condition of its 
streets, and for a long time lacked a single good hotel. Citi- 

11 DeBow's Review, 15:374; Chicago Dally Democratic Press, January 7, 
1856; Illinois State Register, December 21, 1854. 

12 DeBoiv's Review, 15:374. It was called "the city of churches;" it laid 
claim to having more free public schools than any city of its size in the world. 
Chicago Democrat, May 4, June 5, 1849. 

13 Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1860. 

14 Chicago Press and Tribune, March 5, April 2, 1859; Chicago Democrat, 
April 21, 1855. 


zens talked of a waterworks system during the entire decade 
without accomplishing anything; nor did it acquire any other 
public utilities. It was amazingly slow in starting a system 
of public schools. Yet it had all the optimism of the day; 
lots on the public square sold as high as $100 a foot and 
farming property on the outskirts was worth up to $100 an 
acre; its citizens always vigorously opposed the numerous 
proposals from rival cities to move the state capital to a more 
suitable point. 15 

Alton, an important port on the Mississippi, struck out 
aggressively for a railroad connection with Chicago and for 
a cross-state line to Terre Haute; these brought so important 
a westbound traffic to the city that, with the rush of settlement 
to Kansas, a direct steamship line to that territory was estab- 
lished which, as the easiest route, gave the city many of the 
economic advantages that St. Louis had previously secured 
from this movement. Peoria was a beautiful young city in 
1860 with an important commerce sustained by a tributary 
agricultural region of unsurpassed fertility and first-rate facil- 
ities for manufacturing. 16 In the decade it had passed Galena, 
to become, with a population of 14,045, the second largest 
city in the state. 

Cairo was in this period Illinois' great city of prophecy, 
the speculation of a company of eastern capitalists. Situated 
at " the most important confluence of rivers in the world " 
and at the center of the American republic, at the southern 
terminus of the Illinois Central, it was expected as the 
entrepot between the northern and southern markets to 
dominate commercially the Ohio, Wabash, Tennessee, and 
Cumberland valleys as well as the great northwest, becoming, 
as a great inland emporium, the largest city in the world. In 
1850, however, it was an embryo city of 242 inhabitants, living 
largely in wharf boats and small temporary shanties, waiting 
for the marshy bottom lands to be reclaimed from the over- 

15 Illinois State Journal, February 28, 1861; Illinois State Register, August 
25, September i, 8, 1853. The only change they ever would concede was that 
the name " Sangamo " or " Illini " was more suitable than Springfield for the 
state capital. 

16 Presbytery Reporter, 3:247; Western Journal, 1:113-114, 2:267 ff; Chi- 
cago Daily Democratic Press, July 12, 1855. 


flow of the rivers. 17 With the beginning of active work on 
the Illinois Central, rapid developments took place, so that 
by 1860 the city had an enthusiastic population of 2,188, with 
the neighboring towns of Mound City and Emporium com- 
peting for a share of the expected prosperity. 

Some of the more important centers of that period were 
places which after a few decades ceased to find favor with 
Dame Fortune. In 1860 Quincy was a bustling river port 
of 13,718 which prided itself on its gas plant and other civic 
improvements. Belleville, " a firm city of brick," with half 
a dozen breweries, was a prosperous community of 7,520, 
famous throughout the west for its lager beer. It sold 
great quantities of dry goods, hardware, and groceries to the 
Illinois back country; its place with reference to St. Louis 
corresponded to that of East St. Louis of today, then the 
insignificant village of Illinoistown. 18 Beardstown, thriving on 
the transportation facilities furnished by the Illinois and Mich- 
igan canal, was an important market for grain and provisions, 
but won its right to public attention chiefly through the busy 
scenes at its hogpens and slaughterhouses. Peru was for a 
time the successful competitor of its near neighbor, La Salle, 
for the benefits of the termination of the canal. Separated 
by only a half-mile, connected by river steamers with St. Louis 
and by the Illinois Central with Chicago and Galena, and 
crossed by the Rock Island and Chicago route, the two places 
promised to furnish the location for an important trade empo- 
rium. The spokesman of the sister town of Ottawa was com- 
pelled to admit that there was "more enterprise in a half 
dozen men in Peru than in the whole of Ottawa put together." 
The latter, however, soon began a rapid development so that 
real estate boomed and farms two or three miles out sold for 
from fifty to one hundred and fifty dollars an acre. 19 

These cities and towns were the focusing points of a popu- 
lation of 851,470 that had by 1850 found homes in the mid- 
west commonwealth. The state had already given proof of 

17 DeBovj's Review, 19:683; Illinois Organ, April 26, 1851; Chicago Daily 
Journal, June 10, 1851. 

18 Belleville Advocate, February 22, 1849, March 2, May 4, 1859. 

19 Ottawa Free Trader, November 30, 1850, May 13, 1854; Beardstown 
Gazette, April 30, 1851. 


having attained its majority by showing a natural increase of 
a native born population of 333,753. This generation which 
had played no direct part in the westward march of the pio- 
neer bade fair to outgrow the ideas and ideals of their sires. 
Already names of native Illinoisians began to appear on the 
roll of the houses of the general assembly, 20 although as 
candidates for important offices they were still rare. 

Another decade during which the population of the state 
increased to 1,711,951 was to work important consequences 
in obliterating the more important frontier survivals. So rapid, 
indeed, did the forces of progress move in Illinois that the 
growing sophistication drove out the restless pioneering spirits 
to the frontier regions of the far west. In the period after 
1848, they contributed largely to the development of Cali- 
fornia, Kansas and Nebraska, and Colorado. With the dis- 
covery of gold in California the "gold fever" attacked 
Illinoisians; "Ho, for California!" became the rallying cry 
everywhere. In the winter of 18481849 companies began 
to form at various points ready to move west in the spring. 21 
These companies, organized under strict regulations which 
excluded all but persons of industry and good reputation, 
usually elected a captain, lieutenants, sergeant, and wagon 
master and hired a guide to conduct them on the Overland 
trail. Stout wagons were procured, drawn by horses, a double 
team of mules, or three or four yoke of oxen. At first the 
young men were the victims of the California fever, then the 
infection spread to the older generation for the romance 
of the gold fields made a wide appeal. In certain districts 
about Quincy, by February, 1849, a majority of the males 
were making preparations to leave. Prosperous farmers and 
settled artisans joined the restless youths; 10,000 to 15,000 
were scheduled to leave that year. Illinois seemed the banner 
state in its contribution of "forty-niners;" a majority of the 
wagons on the Overland seemed to hail from Illinois. Plans 
for a company of fifty or sixty were made in Alton in January; 
by March one hundred and twenty selected emigrants took 

20 Alton Courier, March n, 1853. 

21 Illinois Journal, December 20, 1848; Quincy Whig, December 26, 1848; 
Beardstoivn Gazette, December 27, 1848; Illinois Globe, January 6, 1849; 
Chicago Democrat, January 9, 1849. 


the trail as the " Sucker Mining Company." Companies from 
Springfield, Jacksonville, and other points in western Illinois 
were soon off in parties of fifty, one hundred, or more. Many 
small groups left without flourish or display; on the trail they 
seemed to outnumber the organized companies. " Every 
wagon is apparently an independent nation of itself every 
emigrant a captain," reported an enthusiastic emigrant. 22 

The progress of the emigrants on, the trail was reported 
by the newspapers and aroused new interest. Finally, in 1850, 
however, as a result of editorial warnings, of discouraging 
letters from unsuccessful adventurers, and of the complaints 
of " California widows," a dismal picture of life in California 
replaced the glittering mirage; and contentment with prevail- 
ing conditions was restored in Illinois. The beginning of 1852 
saw a serious recurrence of the California 1 fever, but after 
another season of heavy migration the movement to California 
was gradually restored to a normal basis. 23 

No sooner had the gold fever subsided, however, than 
another diversion came when the fertile fields of Kansas and 
Nebraska were thrown open to settlement in the spring of 
1854. An important movement had already begun the pre- 
vious year; but now old rangers prepared in companies to go 
west to establish land claims* in the new territory. 24 The 
genuine hard-fisted yeomanry of the older portions of south- 
ern and eastern Illinois yielded to the temptingly high prices 
offered for their own farms and transferred their families 
to the new pioneer field. The attention of the land speculator 
was also attracted to the new opportunities for investment. 

A different incentive, however, soon came to dominate this 
emigration; in the fight between the north and the south for 
the control of the new territory under squatter sovereignty 

22 Quincy Whig, February 6, 1849; Illinois State Register, May 31, 1849; 
Alton Telegraph, March 23, 1849. 

23 Illinois Journal, October 17, 1849, February 8, 1850; Illinois Globe, 
December 22, 1849; Ottawa Free Trader, March 16, 1850, January 31, 1852; 
Alton Telegraph, March 22, 1850; Beardstown Gazette, February n, 1852; 
Quincy Whig, March 16, April 26, 1852. The La Salle Standard reported the 
passage of at least a hundred wagons a day with three to five persons each. 
Five to twenty-five persons passed through Peru daily. 

24 Chicago Weekly Democrat, November 26, 1853; Urbana Union, March 
23> *854; Illinois Journal, April 13, 1854; St. Clair Tribune, April 22, May 13, 
June 3, 1854; Belleville Advocate, June 14, 1854. 


the people of Illinois began to take a hand to preserve Kansas 
from the institution of slavery. An advance guard of one 
hundred and fifty New Englanders sent out by the Emigrant 
Aid Society had passed through Illinois en route for Kansas 
in July and aroused considerable attention; 25 when other com- 
panies followed, alongside the pioneer who sought the more 
fertile prairies of the west and alongside the restless adven- 
turer, there marched from the sober homes of the northern 
counties, from the rich Military Tract, the garden of Illinois, 
the sturdy pilgrim who proposed to plant and water the seeds 
of freedom in that fresh soil. 

In the beginning no special encouragement to emigrants 
was necessary; emigrant wagons passed through the state 
with the letters "Kansas" and "Nebraska" boldly chalked 
on their canvas coverings. The first mission from Illinois 
went from Quincy; a " Nebraska Colonization Company" was 
organized in that neighborhood in March, 1855, to found a 
city named Fontenelle, in which the moral and intellectual 
atmosphere of a free community should be preserved in a 
literary society and other institutions. But when blood began 
to flow upon the soil of Kansas, the more timid held back. 
Then companies of young free-state men were organized and 
conducted to the field of "bleeding Kansas," prepared, with 
Sharpe's rifles in their hands and the plow and sickle among 
the baggage, for either peace or war. 26 Following them whole 
communities were aroused to take part in these ventures; the 
material means to transfer these companies to Kansas were 
collected in the spring of 1856 by Emigrant Aid or Kansas 
Settlers' societies in Chicago, Rockford, and other towns. 

Excitement began to quicken when, in spite of their mili- 
tary preparations, the Chicago company was held up by a 
superior force of Missourlans, disarmed, and sent back to 
Alton under guard; while the outrage fanned the zeal for 
aiding Kansas sufferers, the company was again fitted out and 
sent to Kansas by a safer route. 27 

25 Alton Weekly Courier, July 27, 1854. 

26 Rockford Register, February 23, March 8, 1856; Rockford Republican, 
March 5, 1856; Chicago Weekly Democrat, March 31, December 22, 1855. 

27 Chicago Weekly Democrat, July 12, 19, 1856; affidavit of Charles H. 
Wood, August i, 1856, Trumbull manuscripts. 


A state Kansas aid committee was created in Illinois to 
dispense relief, and local committees were organized and set 
to work. Upon the arrival of the news of the destruction 
of Lawrence, the free-state stronghold in Kansas, a meeting 
was held at Rockford at whrch $1,000 was easily raised as 
the nucleus of a fund to represent that community. At the 
same time a Chicago meeting raised $15,000 to aid persons 
willing to go to Kansas as actual settlers. Not to be outdone, 
the ladies of Chicago organized a " Kansas Women's Aid 
and Liberty Association," with active auxiliaries in the impor- 
tant towns and villages of northern Illinois, and sewing socie- 
ties worked for the relief of their distressed sisters in 
Kansas. 28 

Enthusiasm thus aroused caused a general revival of 
unassisted emigration in the spring of i85y. 29 Thus did a 
state which a few years before had been the El Dorado of 
agricultural pioneers, give up a part of her settlers and their 
descendants to fill up the still farther " great west" 

In the closing year of this decade, the rumor of the dis- 
covery of gold again reached Illinois, and the lure of the gold 
fields aroused the spirit of adventure in the manhood of 
Illinois. Soon the old scenes of 1849 were renewed; a rush 
to Pike's Peak attracted companies of young men from all 
sections of the state, usually in smaller groups than in the 
California gold rush. Thousands left for the gold fields 
and many others had completed preparations before the news 
came in May that the gold hunters were returning in droves- 
with the cry of "humbug." 30 

The place of these citizens lost by Illinois to the trans- 
Mississippi west had been more than filled by a great influx 
from without which was still bringing in a great diversity 
of population. There was the Yankee stock from the rugged 

28 Rockford Republican, May 28, 1856; Peter Page to Trumbull, June 3, 
1856, Trumbull manuscripts; Chicago Weekly Democrat, June 21, 28, 1856. 

29 Rockford Republican, February 26, 1857; Aurora Beacon, March 9, 1857; 
Illinois State Journal, April i, 1857; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, June 5, 

30 Quincy Whig, January 28, March 19, 1859; Ottawa Free Trader, April 
2, 1859; Chicago Press and Tribune, March 28, 1859; Rockford Register, May 
14, 1859; Ottawa Weekly Republican, May 14, 1859; Alton Courier, May 19, 


farms of New England, enterprising fortune seekers from the 
seaboard states as a whole, and, coming from the old world 
at the same time, the restless, ambitious, and freedom-loving 
refugees from the political and economic oppression of the 
European states all destined to do their part in the develop- 
ment of the hospitable prairie commonwealth and by the diver- 
sity of the cultures they introduced to hasten the passing of 
the frontier. 

Of the American born immigrants it was in large measure 
the northern elements that made up the westward movement. 
The Yankee immigrants found a special welcome because of 
their " good old New England character for thrift, morality, 
and intelligence;" furthermore they usually brought enough 
means to purchase improved farms, thus freeing the true pio- 
neer to exploit other pieces of the prairie wilderness. 31 The 
Yankees showed a strong tendency to migrate in parties or 
even in well-organized colonies, groups of from twenty to 
forty families being fairly common. In 1855 two hundred 
families came from the vicinity of Rutland, Vermont, under 
the auspices of the Vermont Emigrant Association and, on 
the lands opened up by the Illinois Central, established a new 
Rutland in La Salle county. New England groups first sought 
their kind and kin in the northern counties, but it was not long 
before they turned to the attractive fields of middle and 
southern Illinois. In those regions the colony grouping was 
even more marked. Near the junction of the Ohio and Mis- 
sissippi with the Illinois Central was Hoyleton, a Yankee 
colony of Congregational temperance men and republicans; 
in their zeal for education they included in their plans the 
scheme of erecting a seminary of learning. 32 

In Egypt, Yankee enterprise, industry, and frugality were 
welcomed, for they promised to bring about the development 
of the enormous wealth that lay latent and unused in south- 

31 Illinois Journal, May 19, 1853; Carthage Republican, clipped in Chicago 
Daily Democratic Press, November 24, 1855; Belleville Advocate, November 26, 
1856; Cairo Gazette, April 29, 1859; Rock River Democrat, April 28, 1857; 
Alton Courier, February 4, 1854. 

32 Ottawa Free Trader, May 2, 1857; Rockford Republican, May 7, 1857; 
St. Clair Tribune, May 22, 1857; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, July 18, 
1855; Cairo City Times, July 25, 1855; Ovid Miner to Trumbull, May 31, 1860, 
Trumbull manuscripts; Central Illinois Gazette, June 8, 1859. 


ern Illinois. Many a local poet paid tribute to this vast 
transforming force: 

"And westward ho ! on either side, 

See towns as if by magic rise; 
What Genii then the wonder works? 
Why, none but Yankee enterprise." 33 

Both the Egyptian and the New England pilgrim, how- 
ever, realized the absence of congeniality in their interests; 
the one frankly voiced his execration of "Yankee 'kinks' in 
politics," while the other deplored the survival of " intemper- 
ance accompanied with ignorance and indolence" that dated 
from the earlier settlers from the south. 34 "One thing is 
certain," declared a new arrival, "that where New England 
emigrants do not venture, improvements, social, agricultural, 
mechanic, or scientific, rarely flourish, and seldom intrude." 

New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, Ohioans, and even Hoo- 
siers also came to play an important part in the settlement 
of central and southern Illinois. First, the Wabash valley, 
claimed by boosters to be the garden of America, was the 
region of attraction; wagons crossed the river at Terre Haute 
almost as fast as the ferryboats could carry them. With the 
opening up of railroad communication, however, settlers 
spread over the entire lower half of the state, which the best 
classes of immigrants previously passed by. Two hundred 
Pennsylvanians came in a group to settle in Adams county 
near Mendon. Joseph and M. L. Sullivant, wealthy land 
owners of Columbus, Ohio, purchased many thousand acres 
of Illinois prairie and sent out several well-equipped parties 

33 Belleville Advocate, February 8, 1849. The Yankee bard paid his 
respects to the attractions of Illinois in the Boston Post: 

" Westward the "& of Empire takes its Course." 
Come, leave the fields of childhood, 

Worn out by long employ, 
And travel west and settle 

In the state of Illinois: 
Your family is growing up, 

Your boys you must employ. 
Come, till the rich prairies 

In the state of Illinois. 
Clipped in Belleville Advocate, April 25, 1850. 

34 Cairo City Times, July 25, 1855; unsigned letter to Trumbull, January 
n, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts; see also Western Citizen, August 3, 1852. 


of industrious farmers and mechanics to develop them; ex- 
Governor William Bebb of Ohio bought an extensive tract 
in Winnebago county. 35 These and similar ventures testified 
to a new era in Illinois settlement, when the advanced stages 
of the frontier had been pushed well across the Mississippi. 

A novel feature of the immigration movement was the 
assisted migration of women and children. Missionary socie- 
ties in cities like Springfield and Danville sent agents to the 
east to select worthy orphans to place in Illinois homes; 
groups of twenty-five to fifty were brought west and distributed 
among the farmers, to whom they were indentured until they 
became of age. It is evident that the problem of labor supply 
entered into this charity, and such an element is even more 
apparent in the scheme to secure for the west the surplus 
female population of eastern cities. In 1858 the agents of 
Women's Protective Immigration societies in New York and 
Philadelphia placed groups of fifty as servants in each of the 
towns of Decatur, Springfield, and Urbana. 36 

Only a slight immigration entered Illinois from the south- 
ern states. North Carolina made some contributions, while 
Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky sent many settlers across 
the Ohio ; but they were outnumbered even in Egypt by north- 
ern born settlers. These new southern immigrants were supe- 
rior to the old stock; they seemed "a better class, accustomed 
to think & act for themselves." 37 

The distracted state of affairs in Europe, with economic 
oppression increasingly unbearable and with liberal and revo- 
lutionary forces crushed under the iron heel of reactionary 
authority, promoted a spirit of restlessness that made the 
thoughtful, sober-minded workers 

"Turn from the old world their anxious eyes,. 
To seek a home beneath the western skies." 38 

35 Illinois Organ, June 28, 1851; Terre Haute Journal clipped in Illinois 
State Register, October u, 1849; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, March 6, 
1855, April 18, 1857; Belleville Advocate, July 18, 1855. 

36 Illinois Journal, August 4, 1855 ; Illinois State Journal, January 13, March 
17, 24, 1858; Urbana Union, February 21, 1856, March 18, 1858; Aurora Beacon, 
April 20, 1857; Belleville Democrat, April 17, 1858; Belleville Advocate, No- 
vember 20, 1857; Our Constitution, March 13, April 3, 1858. 

37 Edward Holden to Trumbull, March 9, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

38 Chicago Daily Journal clipped in Illinois State Register, July 5, 1849. 


Crowded cities of the old world poured forth a mighty stream 
of immigrants, whom Illinois received with enthusiastic wel- 
come. With almost every national element already represented 
in the population of the state, Illinois offered the bewildered 
immigrant a hospitable asylum among friendly fellow-country- 
men. The hardy workmen found places on the vast system of 
public works just being undertaken; to the more prosperous 
newcomers were offered the fertile farms of the state. 39 

Of the European nations, Germany and Ireland made the 
largest contributions to Illinois; in 1860 there were in the 
state 130,804 Germans and 87,573 Irish. Illinois drew so 
large a quota of the immigrants from all countries that even 
before 1850 it could boast of 111,860 foreign born settlers, 
or one-eighth of the total population of the state; by 1860 
their number had nearly tripled, reaching a total of 324,643. 
Chicago, rapidly becoming an important immigration depot, 
retained so large a number of the new arrivals that the foreign 
born population of the city actually outnumbered the natives. 

For a considerable period Illinoisians seem to have been 
unaware of the size of this foreign element. In January, 1854, 
however, the ice in the Mississippi held up fourteen steamers 
loaded with two thousand German and Irish immigrants, who, 
landed near Cairo and suffering greatly from cold, want of 
food, fever, and cholera, drew attention to the fact of the 
heavy foreign immigration. It became evident that the Ger- 
man and Irish emigrant societies of St. Louis who aided in 
the relief work had no effective Illinois counterpart, although 
a few local German societies had their agents on the ground. 
It became widely published, also, that of the emigrants land- 
ing at New York in 1856 seven per cent went to Illinois, but 
they brought with them over fourteen per cent of the " cash 
means'" listed with the immigration authorities. Inducements 
to foreign immigrants to come to Illinois were therefore 
urged; a proper immigration system at Chicago was espe- 
cially favored. 40 

39 Belleville Advocate, May i, 1851. 

40 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, January 24, 1854; Illinois State Reg- 
ister, January 26, 1854; Peru Daily Chronicle, February i, 1854; Rockford 
Register, February 7, 1857; St. Clair Tribune, February 13, 20, 1857; Illinois 
State Journal, January 12, 19, 1859; Chicago Democrat, July 24, 1857. 


A considerable accession of French and French Canadian 
settlers was made during the fifties. The sons and daughters 
of la belle France increased so rapidly in Chicago that just 
when the influence of the old regime had about disappeared 
they became numerous enough to erect a church of their own 
where services were performed in their own language. French 
confectionery establishments began to make their appearance 
and even a French hotel. Nearby was the strong French 
Canadian settlement at Kankakee. It had steadily grown 
with fresh additions from lower Canada, the emigration be- 
coming so considerable that the Canadian government took 
alarm. In. 1857 a French paper, the Journal de L' Illinois, 
started publication at Kankakee with a subscription list of 
1,200 persons. Twelve miles up the Kankakee river, at St. 
Anne, a new settlement of French families from Montreal 
and Quebec was started in 1852 by Father Chiniquy, a Roman 
Catholic priest and temperance apostle of note, who acted as a 
spokesman of French Canadian discontent; by 1860 these 
two settlements included over 1,500 families. The settlement 
at St. Anne was then just recovering from a period of hard 
times and financial embarrassment. Father Chiniquy, more- 
over, had become involved in a long and bitter contest with 
the Catholic bishop of the Chicago diocese; as a result of 
his increasing impatience with hierarchical authority a ma- 
jority of his parishoners withdrew from the Catholic church 
and in 1860 joined the Presbyterian or Baptist churches. 41 
Father Chiniquy himself with 1,000 communicants from 
the French churches of St. Anne and Kankakee became a 
part of the Presbyterian organization, and thirty-six young 
men of his flock offered themselves as candidates for the 

Other French settlements were scattered over th.e state. 
A company of Trappist monks, direct from France, located 

^Chicago Dally Journal, November 13, 1850, June 18, 1851; Illinois State 
Register, March 9, 1849; Quebec Gazette clipped in Gem of the Prairie, Decem- 
ber 23, 1848; Jollet Signal, November n, 1851; Belleville Advocate, September 
i, 1852; Chicago Press and Tribune, December i, 1859, January 18, 1860; 
Presbytery Reporter, 5:126; Canton Weekly Register, September 18, 1860. 
Eight months after the establishment of the Journal de L'llllnols, it was trans- 
ferred to Chicago. Chicago Dally Democratic Press, January 6, September 9, 


near Beardstown in 1849, while Ottawa, already something 
of a French settlement, in 1859 welcomed the arrival of a 
large number of families of Waldenses from the Vaudois. 
Another Waldensian colony was established near Odell, in 
Livingston county, on the line of the Chicago and Alton rail- 
road. At the same time a large body of French Canadians 
were assisted by wealthy French planters in Louisiana in estab- 
lishing themselves at Tacusa on the Illinois Central to serve 
as a central depot for the deposit and distribution of the 
staples of Louisiana. 42 

Probably the most interesting French settlement in the 
state was the company of French communists who acquired 
the property of the Mormons at Nauvoo. In 1849, under 
the leadership of A. Charles Cabet, an Icarian colony estab- 
lished itself there ; soon upon the fifteen acres of ground 
with its outlying farm 340 colonists were housed; the settle- 
ment, with the remodeled old Mormon temple as headquarters 
had excellent educational facilities, a good library, together 
with workshops, mills, and a store in St. Louis for the sale 
of their textile manufactures. The progress of the colony was 
chronicled in its official paper, the Popular Tribune, edited 
by M. Cabet; later a German and a French weekly paper 
were added. 

So well did the experiment succeed at the start with a 
net profit of $9,000 for the year 1852 that it was arranged 
to make Nauvoo, as the parent colony, a place for the prepara- 
tion of new colonists who would found similar establishments 
in Iowa and elsewhere. Soon, however, discussions arose over 
administrative matters, and the authority of Cabet was chal- 
lenged by opponents who sought his overthrow ; the opposition 
acquired a majority and deposed Cabet shortly before his 
death in November, 1856. In resisting the leadership of 
Cabet, the rebels insisted upon the failure of the colony so 
aggressively that in spite of a considerable degree of pros- 
perity, they succeeded in convincing even themselves of the 
truth of their assertions. They claimed that Cabet with his 
wild theories had fleeced fifteen hundred victims; they, there- 

42 Beardstown Gazette, January 10, 1849; Chicago Dally Democratic Press, 
March 7, August 20, 1857; Qulncy Whig, March 5, 1857. 


fore, petitioned for the repeal of the act of incorporation and 
removed to St. Louis. 43 This brought the complete ruin of 
Icaria; the faithful remained at Nauvoo but without spirit; 
farming operations were abandoned, and the property became 
heavily mortgaged. In August, 1859, they disposed of some 
goods at a public sale to satisfy a debt of $10,000 and a month 
later realized $10,000 on the remaining properties. Thus 
out of a factional opposition to the authority of Cabet, an 
end came to this promising experiment in the realization of a 
nineteenth century communistic Utopia. 

During this decade Illinois acquired two Portuguese settle- 
ments, one in north Springfield and one in the vicinity of 
Jacksonville. In each case they were Protestant Portuguese 
exiles from the island of Madeira; the first company of 200 
arrived November i, 1849, followed by groups of from 60 
to 150, until each settlement numbered 500 persons. These 
exiles proved to be thrifty and industrious workers and rapidly 
attained material prosperity. They promptly built homes for 
themselves and the Springfield group established a Portuguese 
school and church where they zealously guarded the cultural 
atmosphere of their native land. 44 

So considerable an increase in the Scandinavian population 
was made during the fifties that by 1860 it numbered well over 
10,000. The Norwegians located largely in and around Chi- 
cago. They began to arrive in numbers about 1848; a year 
later there were nearly 600 in Chicago and by 1853, a Nor- 
wegian paper, the Banner of Freedom, was started in that 
city. Toward the end of the decade the Norwegian popu- 
lation of Chicago was variously estimated at from two to 
twelve thousand, with three Norwegian churches in the city. 
Chicago acted as a great distributing station from which Nor- 
wegians were supplied to other regions of the state; Norse 
groups gathered at "Old Sangamon Town" and in the " Kin- 
caid neighborhood" north of Athens. Most of them, how- 
ever, hired out with the farmers, who were so well satisfied 
with their work that some sent money to Norway to contract 

43 New York Tribune clipped in Chicago Dally Democratic Press, Novem- 
ber 18, 1852; ibid., April 10, 1855, February 21, 1856, February 16, 1857. 

44 Illinois Journal, November 13, 14, 1849; May i, 10, 1854; October 9, 


in advance for further help. 45 In 1850 the chief Swedish 
settlements were in Chicago, Rockford, Galesburg and Vic- 
toria in Knox county, Bishop Hill and Andover in Henry 
county, Lafayette in Stark county, Berlin, later Swedona in 
Mercer county, and dispersed throughout these northern coun- 
ties. Swedish churches were to be found in Rockford, Ando- 
ver, and in Chicago with congregations in Moline, Galesburg, 
and in other communities. A newspaper printed in the Swedish 
language, the Swedish Republican, was published at Galva in 
Henry county for over a year, but was removed to Chicago 
in i857. 46 

The Bishop Hill colony five miles west of Galva was a 
settlement made in 1846 by hardy pioneers who left their 
native land with their leader, Eric Janson, to secure a religious 
toleration denied to them at home. The original settlement 
of 400 increased to 700 or 800 by the end of 1850, although 
over a hundred were lost in 1849, tne cholera year, when 
sixty persons died in one week; the migration continued until 
1854 by which time 1,000 Swedish exiles had chosen to join 
this colony. Here was another interesting experiment in 
communism. With a tract of 12,000 acres large scale agri- 
culture was successfully practiced; in 1860 the settlers raised 
3,000 acres of broom corn, 2,000 acres of wheat and of corn, 
and 2,000 in mixed crops, besides a considerable acreage of 
hay and pasture. Besides the brick, leather products, and 
other materials needed for local consumption, they manufac- 
tured 5,000 dozens of brooms annually, and produced some 
famous table linens, towels, and other needlework articles 
from flax raised by the colony. The society attained its great- 
est economic prosperity in 1860, just before its dissolution and 
the repeal of its charter of incorporation. Its collapse was 
occasioned by internal dissension and a factionalism that in- 

45 Chicago Democrat, January 10, 1848, July 14, 15, 1852, August 15, 1859; 
Chicago Daily Journal clipped in Illinois State Register, August 9, 1848; Chicago 
Press and Tribune, September 4, 1858; Robert H. Clarkson to W. H. Swift, 
October i, 1849, Swift manuscripts. Many Norwegians were inclined out of 
a sense of superiority to resent being confused with the Swedes, whose special 
susceptibility to " ship fever " or cholera on the ocean trip, they declared arose 
from a want of cleanliness and from an addiction to strong liquor. 

46 Illinois State Register, January 10, August 22, 1850; Chicago Daily 
Democratic Press, April 15, 1856. 


creased until the community feature was abandoned in 1860 
and i86i. 47 

The scattered English element in Illinois was promised 
an important accretion as a result of the building of the Illinois 
Central railroad. English capitalists interested in the Central 
first used every possible means to direct the attention of emi- 
grants to the lands of the company; as a result in 1859 a large 
body of English farmers and mechanics began to settle in 
companies along that road south of Centralia; meanwhile the 
agents of the largest English stockholders elaborated a plan 
for making such settlement more attractive. A little later in 
the same year steps were taken in London toward the organi- 
zation of the "Prairie Land and Emigration Company" with 
a capital of $2,500,000, the object of which was to purchase 
prairie land in Illinois and colonize it with English farmers. 48 
Such inducements encouraged English emigrants until the Civil 
War began; by 1860 they had reached a total of 41,745. 

The great works of internal improvement of the forties 
had brought vast hordes of brawny Irish to the Illinois 
prairies, many of whom took their place in the permanent 
population of the state. A Chicago Hibernian Benevolent 
Emigrant Society was organized in January, 1848, to encour- 
age and assist immigrants seeking locations in the west. The 
railroad construction work of the fifties now offered employ- 
ment to those still on the ground and attracted a new immi- 
gration, mainly of those unfortunates driven from home by 
the potato famine. 49 The Irish remained to a large extent 
a restless floating population, little attracted by agricultural 
opportunities, but looking primarily to the cities for the essence 
of real life; in 1860 they constituted four times as large an 
element of the population of Chicago as of the agricultural 
regions of Illinois. 

^Chicago Democrat, August 2, 1850; DeBow's Review, 9:330; Chicago 
Daily Journal clipped in Rockford Forum, October 9, 1850; Chicago Press and 
Tribune, July 17, 1860; Rockford Register, November 24, 1860; Private Laws 
f f $53> P- 328-329; Kiner, History of Henry County, 638-645; Stoneberg, "The 
Bishop Hill Colony," ibid.; Mikkelson, The Bishop Hill Colony. 

48 Belleville Advocate, April 16, 1859; Mound City Emporium, May 12, 
1859; Our Constitution, May 14, August 6, 1859; Chicago Press and Tribune, 
May 17, August 5, 1859. 

49 Gem of the Prairie, January 29, February 5, 1848; Illinois State Register, 
March 24, 1853. 


There seemed to be two strains, sometimes combined in 
the same individuals, in the Irish population of the state. 
There were on the one hand the brilliant idealists who sup- 
ported the cause of civil liberty and liberal institutions in all 
its forms and expressions, whether in the Irish struggle for 
independence or in the European contests for self-government. 
Their local and state Hibernian societies were important 
agencies for the expression of this high ideal as well as of the 
feeling of brotherhood among the Irish. Irish relief work 
was carried on, and men like Senator Shields held themselves 
in readiness to join in the redemption of their native land 
when the hour to strike should come. 50 

But to the people of Illinois the Irishman more often 
appeared in another guise. To them he was pictured as the 
noisy, quarrelsome seeker after excitement, who found it in 
the company of John Barleycorn, in bloody street brawls, and 
even in the lower depths of crime. When an overwhelming 
majority of the visitors at police court were repeatedly re- 
ported to be Irishmen, it was not surprising that the public 
should make such adverse deductions. 51 The common prac- 
tice of contemporary journalists was reflected in the point 
raised by the Chicago Tribune, December 23, 1853: "Why 
do our police reports always average two representatives 
from 'Erin, the soft, green isle of the ocean,' to one from 
almost any other inhabitable land of the earth? .... 
Why are the instigators and ringleaders of our riots and 
tumults, in nine cases out of ten, Irishmen?" There fol- 
lowed the report of a riot at La Salle and of the murder of a 
contractor by a set of Irishmen. The Tribune, aroused to the 
point of approving action under lynch law, declared: "Had 
the whole thirty-two prisoners that were taken been marched 
out and shot on the spot, as the citizens did the Driskells in 
Ogle County, some years ago, the public judgment would have 
sanctioned it at once." 

A more careful analysis, however, revealed a situation 
that scarcely warranted such a superficial judgment. The 
railroad contractors were often shrewd schemers and hard 

50 Aurora Beacon, September 14, 1848; Illinois Journal, January 22, 1849. 
61 Chicago Democrat, December 17, 1849. 


men who sought to impose upon the ignorant Irish laborers 
and to direct matters to their own advantage. Palpably unfair 
treatment was almost certain to arouse the temper of the hot- 
headed Irishman. As it was, however, thousands quietly sub- 
mitted to conditions upon the public works that brought death 
or ill health, u from exposure to miasmi, bad accommodation 
in camps and shanties, and from improper diet;" when sick- 
ness fell upon them they were discharged and turned loose 
upon the world. 52 It is to be remembered, moreover, that 
the Irishmen who drew the fire of public criticism were largely 
members of the sturdy band of humble toilers, brutalized by 
the religious and political oppression and economic exploita- 
tion of their native Ireland and, in this land of opportunity 
which they had so eagerly sought, deprived of contact with 
the finer forces. 

The German " forty-eighters," the unsuccessful revolution- 
ists of 1848, fled to America in a steady stream and were led 
to Illinois by Friedrich Hecker, the organizer of the revolt 
in Baden. Conditions continued favorable to a heavy emigra- 
tion of refugees from the political and economic oppressions 
of the fatherland. The German population of Illinois in 1860 
was 130,804, with Chicago, Belleville, Galena, Quincy, Alton, 
Peoria, and Peru as the chosen places of settlement. This 
influx was directed to Illinois by the guidebooks of John 
Mason Peck and similar works. Charles L. Fleischman, 
United States consul at Stuttgart, prepared in 1850 to write 
an emigrant's guidebook exclusively on Illinois, having pre- 
viously written two general works. 53 

Early in 1854 a number of prominent Chicago business 
men enlisted their support in a movement in favor of a law 
to create the office of commissioner of emigration, whose prin- 
cipal duty it should be to travel through Germany for the 
purpose of directing the stream of German emigration to 
Illinois. The Illinois Staats-Zeitung, however, opposed the 
move as a sharp business transaction and a political maneuver 
in the interest of ambitious local politicians. Nothing devel- 
oped along this line; instead, taking their cue from the Irish, 

52 Illinois State Register, December 22, 1853. 

83 Charles L. Fleischman to French, March 20, 1850, French manuscripts. 


Chicago Germans organized a society for the protection of 
German immigrants arriving at that city and employed an 
agent to devote his time to the care of the new arrivals. 54 
Similar societies were organized, as the need for them was 
felt, at other points of German settlement and carried on an 
important relief work. 

In this period a new center of German culture was devel- 
oping at Chicago. There the Teutonic immigrants created a 
set of social institutions in which the familiar atmosphere of 
the fatherland was transplanted. German Lutheran churches 
and parochial schools under Lutheran preachers the only 
schoolmasters had appeared at an early date to perpetuate 
their fundamental social traditions. Now the refinements 
which they had sorely missed in their new western home were 
enthusiastically added: a German theater which made brilliant 
the dramatic atmosphere of Chicago ; an orchestra which built 
up a musical reputation for the city, and a Mannerchor, in 
which the lusty " liedersingers " vied with each other in the 
attempt to produce a spirited ensemble. The German brass 
band, the German militia companies of black jager rifles, of 
Washington rifles, of Washington grenadiers, and of Washing- 
ton light cavalry were features of many a gay procession. A 
German Odd Fellow lodge fostered the fraternal spirit among 
these settlers in true American style. Meantime other German 
settlements actuated by the same cultural impulse were acquir- 
ing the same institutions and stimulating the spiritual develop- 
ment away from frontier conditions. 

There was much of an atmosphere of revolutionary democ- 
racy in these German circles. The forty-eighters were full 
of the failure of their cause. Many were downhearted, but 
others looked upon their residence in the United States as a 
training for future revolutionary attempts. In 1852 they 
invited Dr. Gottfried Kinkel, the German revolutionist, to 
include different Illinois groups in his tour of the country to 
collect funds for the German revolutionary committee which 
they hoped would soon strike another blow. This erstwhile 
professor of history and literature at Bonn was welcomed at 

54 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, February 2, June 19, 1854, November 
5, 1857; Free West, February 23, May 18, 1854. 


Chicago and Belleville with elaborate orations, and generous 
contributions were made to his fund. 55 

The hopelessness of the revolutionary cause, however, 
caused the German population in general to settle down into 
more conservative channels. The Turnverein was introduced 
into Illinois in 1851 with a company at Peoria and Chicago; 
Belleville and Springfield soon had their own German gym- 
nastic companies. The Northwestern Turnerbund held its 
annual meeting in 1858 at Belleville, and in the following 
year the United States Turner organization met in convention 
as the guests of the Chicago society. The social democratic 
atmosphere of this movement, however, had not been trans- 
planted to America; and the political significance of the move- 
ment was very slight. The meeting at Belleville was addressed 
by Friedrich Hecker of that city, one of the originators of the 
Turner movement in America ; his brilliant attack upon Doug- 
las and his plea for the republican party showed that American 
issues had replaced the problems of the fatherland in the minds 
of leading revolutionary exiles. In 1850, however, the centen- 
nial of Schiller's birth was commemorated in festivals at Chi- 
cago and Belleville which did much toward arousing a feeling 
for German nationality on a democratic basis. 56 

Rich as was the cultural atmosphere of their communities 
and content as they were with the surroundings they were able 
to create, these Germans could not confine their influence 
within these narrow barriers. Politically courted by both 
parties, their leaders took a prominent part in democratic 
politics and later transferred their allegiance to the new repub- 
lican movement. Gustave Koerner continued a prominent 
figure in the politics of Illinois; with him were associated men 
like Caspar Butz, a prominent Chicago politician; George 
Schneider, editor of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, and one of the 
founders of the republican party of Illinois; Friedrich Hecker, 
a republican elector on the Fremont ticket in 1856; and George 
Bunsen, an early advocate of a public school system, and an 
important influence in the educational development of the state. 

55 Koerner, Memoirs, 1:576, 580; Bess, Eine popular e Geschichte der Stadt 
Peoria, 434. 

56 Koerner, Memoirs, 2:45-50, 69. 


The German voters held the balance of power between the 
whig and democratic parties before 1856 and between the 
democratic and republican parties after that date. The demo- 
crats rewarded them by giving Koerner the lieutenant gover- 
norship in 1852, and the republicans in 1860 honored in the 
same way Francis Hoffman, a Chicago banker and a former 
whig. The Lutheran and Catholic clergy exercised a strong 
political influence upon their congregations; being conserva- 
tives like the rest of their profession, they were slower to 
see that they were acting "wickedly, and against God's Holy 
will, by their supporting the Democratic party." Those in the 
outlying towns of Washington and Clinton counties were a unit 
for Buchanan, in 1856, but in 1860 their ranks were broken as 
the result of an aggressive campaign by republican agents. 57 

The German press of Illinois, firmly grounded in this 
decade with a daily in every important center, showed better 
than anything else that the Germans had turned their backs 
upon Europe and taken up the political issues of the state and 
nation. These papers were naturally democratic organs until 
the slavery issue led them into the new republican party. The 
Illinois Staats-Zeitung was established at Chicago in 1848 and, 
under the editorial direction of George Schneider and his asso- 
ciates, wielded an important influence. It became a daily in 
1851. Other experiments to establish German papers in Chi- 
cago inevitably failed after a short struggle. This was true 
in other Illinois German centers where a single paper was 
successfully established, and other attempts to enter the field 
fell stillborn. 

As thus these different racial elements began to make 
potent their distinctive contributions to the evolution of the 
prairie state, it became increasingly evident that the simple 
society of the frontier state was giving way to the complexity 
of a mature commonwealth. 

57 William H. Pickering to J. Gillespie, July 20, 1860, Gillespie manuscripts. 


DURING the decade preceding the war, the coming of the 
railroads revolutionized life on the prairies of Illinois. 
The advent of the " iron horse," his rapid multiplication, and 
his fiery plunges through the unsettled wildernesses that sepa- 
rated the river valleys, trampled under foot the trappings of 
the frontier state and furnished the power which produced 
industrial Illinois of today. There is romance in the story of 
how those changes were wrought; it is a wild and confused 
tale of lofty idealism smothered by lust for wealth and for 
power, of a spirit of public service buried in zeal for self- 
aggrandizement, of popular will compromised by factionalism 
and intrigue. It is the tale of human life in natural re- 
action to the complex economic institutions of modern 
society in which public welfare is at the mercy of men tempt- 
ed to confine their vision within the narrow horizon of self- 

The great need of the pioneer west had always been good 
transportation facilities to connect the sturdy farmer with an 
entrepot in which to market his surplus and from which it 
might be transported to the agents of the ultimate consumer 
in the industrial centers in the east. The facilities of Illinois in 
1848, however, were limited either to the use of muddy prairie 
roads by the mud wagon, the prairie schooner, the stage, and 
other wheeled vehicles, or to the navigation of river systems 
that networked the state. Neither of these methods had been 
brought up to a high state of efficiency: river improvement 
was a prime necessity, but the state treasury did not permit 
of expenditures in that field, and the federal government had 
been dispensing "pork" with considerable economy. The 
general assembly did continue to create state roads by legis- 
lation, laying them out by stakes in the prairie and blazes on 
the trees, but experience demonstrated that even a sovereign 



state could not legislate a mudhole into a turnpike. Attempts 
at road improvement by local authorities and by private cor- 
porations availed little. 

Coincident with the revival of railroad agitation, the plank 
road fever seized Illinoisians. 1 A general law was enacted in 
1849, with later revisions to make easy the incorporation of 
plank road associations. 2 Companies secured charters and 
ambitiously organized to give the cities of their state the 
advantages of improved transportation over " farmer's " or 
" poor man's roads." From a provoking indifference that 
prevailed in. 1848, the farmers aroused themselves to a state 
of tremendous enthusiasm. Hundreds of plank roads were 
located, and stock was eagerly taken up. Chicago entered 
the field with the Southwestern plank road toward Naperville 
and the Northwestern road toward Elgin; in the first six 
months of only partial operation of the latter the toll receipts 
were so heavy that the road paid expenses and forty-two per 
cent on the money invested. 3 Another project was that of 
building a road from the southern limits of the city to the 
north line of Will county; $53,000 of stock was subscribed 
on the first day, and three months later teams were rattling 
over the first mile and a half. 4 So it was all over the state. 
A traveler up the Illinois river reported almost every town 
and landing " engaged in constructing plank roads to the inte- 
rior. Florence is building a road to Griggsville and Pitts- 
field Beardstown to Virginia Frederic to Rushville and 
Macomb Copperas Creek to Canton Liverpool to Can- 
ton, also Pekin to Bloomington. Peoria has several in con- 
templation. So also has Peru, La Salle and Ottawa. The 
plank road fever fully keeps pace with the railroad excite- 
ment." 5 By the middle of 1851, six hundred miles of plank 
road were said to have been built or laid out; at a cost of 
approximately $15,000 a mile, this involved an investment of 
nearly a million dollars. While mere child's play compared 

1 Joliet Signal, April 10, 1849; Illinois State Register, January 24, 1850; 
Chicago Democrat, July 31, 1850. 

2 I Laws of 1849, p. 138-146; Laws of 1851, p. 11-12, 15-18, 146-147. 

3 Prairie Farmer, July, 1850; Illinois State Register, January 31, 1850. 

4 Chicago Daily Journal, May 28, 1850. 

5 Chicago Tribune clipped in Illinois State Register, March 13, 1851. 


with the difficulty and expense of railroad construction or 
with the facilities thereby afforded, these projects brought 
immediate results in the improvement of transportation 

More significant by far was the completion of the Illinois 
and Michigan canal in the spring of 1848. This important 
connection between the Illinois valley and the Great Lakes was 
the dream-child of the prophets of the pioneer west, and its 
achievement meant the fulfillment of a long cherished vision. 
Heavy traffic began immediately, and a line of packets went 
into regular operation between Chicago and Peru. In the 
1 80 days of navigation in that season nearly $88,000 was 
collected in tolls from 162 licensed boats on the canal. Navi- 
gation opened again in April, 1849; an d in spite of complaints 
of mismanagement made by Chicago commercial interests, 6 
receipts averaged nearly fifty per cent more than the previous 
season. By 1850 and 1851 the limits of the canal were so 
nearly reached that it was necessary to restrict its use to boats 
drawing no more than four feet and three inches. Though 
boats carrying nearly six thousand bushels of corn passed 
through the canal, the suggestion was made that it ought to 
be enlarged into a ship canal navigable by steamers of three to 
five hundred tons. 

As a result of the canal traffic the entire upper river valley 
experienced a tremendous awakening. Lockport became a 
bustling town with large freighting and boat-building inter- 
ests; and Joliet, Ottawa, La Salle, and Peru shared in the 
general prosperity. To Chicago, however, went the special 
advantages of the trade that followed the new route. The 
contents of the enormous granaries on the banks of the Illinois, 
which previously had no other outlet than the Mississippi 
river, now took advantage of cheap transportation by way of 
the canal. Unless a clear margin of from five to eight cents 
a bushel prevailed in favor of St. Louis, corn almost invari- 
ably took the cheaper northern route; and Chicago received 
the huge profits of the middlemen. 7 It was not evident, how- 

6 Ibid., July 3, 1849; Chicago Daily Journal, April 15, 16, 1851. 

7 St. Louis Intelligencer clipped in Illinois State Register, April i, 1852; 
ibid., April 18, 1852. 


ever, that the canal could endure the competition of parallel- 
ing railroad lines. 8 

A natural complement to this development was the grow- 
ing importance of Chicago as a lake port. In 1850 a fleet 
of 145 sail and four steamers, totalling 20,637 tons > was 
registered in the district of Chicago. Inasmuch as the com- 
mercial supremacy of that port depended not upon the rail- 
roads but upon the superiority of its lake marine for the 
economical interchange of products with the east, energetic 
efforts were made to maintain the advantage even after the 
building of the trunk roads opened a sharp competition. 
Before the coming of the railroads, the various companies 
operating steamships on the lakes had in 1848 and 1849 
taken advantage of the favorable situation to fix uniform 
and increased rates. Such arrangements could not hold later, 
however, when it was seen that only by low freight rates could 
there be a steady increase in the tonnage of lake commerce. 
A policy was pursued of furnishing more and more extensive 
accommodations, which finally led to the consideration of a 
ship canal for direct trade with Europe by way of Georgian 
Bay to Lake Ontario. 9 

One essential to extensive water transportation was the 
matter of river and harbor improvement; regardless of party 
affiliations, federal aid was invoked by Chicagoans and citizens 
of northern Illinois. A river and harbor convention was held 
at Chicago in July, 1847, which declared the constitutional 
authority of congress over improvements of a national char- 
acter; the Great Lakes, and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers 
were designated as within the purview of congressional powers. 
Since financial embarrassment prevented the state itself from 
undertaking internal improvements, a northwestern Illinois 
river convention at Peoria in November, 1851, unanimously 
urged the national government to assume the expense of remov- 
ing the obstacles to navigation from the Illinois river. Public 
sentiment in the west became too strong on this subject to 
brook the opposition of democratic leaders, who diplomatically 

8 See letters to W. H. Swift in the Swift manuscripts. 

e Chicago Democrat, April 20, May 8, 1848; September 17, 1849; Chicago 
Daily Democratic Press, October 17, 1855. 


yielded to the prevailing demand. True, southern Illinois chose 
democratic orthodoxy on this point and sustained the policies 
of President Polk and other party leaders; but the predomi- 
nating voice of upper Illinois determined the course of Doug- 
las, who championed river and harbor appropriations and 
stoutly contended that even an appropriation for the improve- 
ment of the Illinois river fell within the principles laid down 
by Andrew Jackson. In 1852, however, Douglas hit upon the 
expedient of state tonnage duties as a method of eliminating 
political bargaining in the raising of funds for such improve- 
ments. A year later during the agitation for the conversion 
of the Illinois river into a national thoroughfare of trade, 
Douglas brought his tonnage duty scheme aggressively to the 
fore, but suddenly the whole issue was pushed completely aside 
by the all-absorbing interest in the slavery question. 10 

The telegraph was the true forerunner of the railroads. 
By the beginning of 1848 the outposts of the eastern telegraph 
lines had been pushed westward to Chicago, Springfield, and 
St. Louis. Under the act of February 9, 1849, f r tne estab- 
lishment of the telegraphs, connecting lines were soon sent out 
in every direction, so that by 1850 the outlines of an extensive 
telegraph system networked the state. In December, 1848, 
the first presidential message was relayed to the Illinois border 
at Vincennes; two years later almost every town and village 
had been placed in touch with current happenings by the aid 
of "lightning wires." The Illinois system was largely con- 
trolled by Judge John D. Caton, who rapidly became "the 
telegraph king of the West." 1X 

Many improvements in land and water transportation and 
of telegraphic communication resulted from the stimulus of 
railroad agitation and the completion of new rail connections. 
These did not come, however, until the state had learned the 
full lesson of the collapse of public finance and of private 
enterprise that followed the panic of 1837. The reaction that 
had then set in placed the advocates of railroad construction 

10 Chicago Weekly Democrat, July 6, 13, 1847; Illinois State Register, July 
16, 1847, December 4, 1851; Ottawa Free Trader, November 15, 1851; Chicago 
Daily Journal, November 15, 1851; Chicago Democrat, November 29, 1851; 
Douglas to Matteson, Alton Courier, January 28, 1854. 

11 Chicago Weekly Democrat, November 5, 1853; Koerner, Memoirs, 1:509. 


upon the defensive and engendered a new caution and sober- 
ness of judgment that augured rather better for the future 
development of the state. But the rich resources of Illinois, 
increasingly evident, could not be ignored; railroad schemes, 
accordingly, began to reappear to run the gauntlet of public 
opinion; and in the closing years of the forties a serious rail- 
road fever began to infect the people of the state, for it 
was becoming more and more apparent that lack of adequate 
transportation facilities alone held back development; thirty- 
six counties with over two-fifths of the population of the state 
had only unimproved mud roads over which to market their 
crops. Extremely fertile regions little more than twenty miles 
from the canal, the lake, and the rivers, however, lay isolated 
and untouched because of the lack of cheap internal transpor- 
tation. Without adequate market facilities, the rich prairie 
loam of the east central counties could not begin to compete 
with the less fertile soil in Egypt or northern Illinois. More- 
over, the settlement of the state had gone on apace, the 
agricultural output had more than doubled in a decade, while 
industrial conditions showed that the atmosphere of the log 
cabin and of homespun had yielded to the march of progress. 
There was still fabulous mineral wealth to be tapped, and a 
large part of the state was virgin soil one-third of the land 
remained in the hands of the federal government. 

Two policies were involved in this new discussion: the 
need of tying together the various parts of the state and 
opening up the resources of unsettled areas by one or two 
north and south routes and by corresponding crosslines sug- 
gested projects of considerable dignity and expense which 
might be utilized to connect with trunk lines to the Atlantic 
seaboard and with the Mississippi water route; there was also 
the natural ambition on the part of isolated localities for short 
but necessary connections with undeveloped mineral deposits, 
with nearby markets and with adjacent water routes. The one 
need was theoretical and prophetic, the other practical and 
immediate. To realize these policies, a number of projects 
now seemed to warrant support: a central railroad beginning 
at Cairo, the southern point of the state, and running north 
to the terminus of the Illinois and Michigan canal with 


branches to Galena and Chicago; a connection between Chi- 
cago and Galena in the northwestern corner of the state, which 
would connect the Atlantic coast with the Mississippi as a 
continuation of the Michigan Central; an extension of the 
Northern Cross line from Springfield and from Meredosia so 
as to complete the lateral bisection of the state, and a line 
between Springfield and Alton with the possibility of a later 
extension northward to Chicago. 

The interests of the chief towns of the state were linked 
with this system. Cairo was expected to become the southern 
entrepot of Illinois ; Springfield a halfway station in the whole 
system ; Alton and Galena were to profit as termini, while such 
places as Rockford would be rescued from their isolation in the 
country. To Chicago, however, went the peculiar benefits of 
the projected system. A Chicago branch of the Illinois Central 
was counted on as a prime necessity, for, like the Illinois and 
Michigan canal, it would divert trade from St. Louis. The 
wretched condition of the Galena road out of Chicago consti- 
tuted an effective argument when it was again pointed out that 
this made the lake-shore city unable to compete with the freight 
rates by way of St. Louis. In both instances the water routes 
of Chicago were tied up for several months by the freezing of 
the lake and canal, whereas St. Louis had no such handicap. 12 

This " Illinois plan " for a system of railroads was advo- 
cated as the embodiment of true "state policy" for the devel- 
opment of the state and its interests; projects not included in 
the plan met with prompt opposition. An Ohio and Missis- 
sippi route running across the state from St. Louis to Vincennes 
and Cincinnati, with eastern connections, was condemned on 
the ground that it would violate "state policy;" Illinois could 
not afford to contribute to the building up of a city of an out- 
side state at the expense of all the small towns along the route. 
A similar argument was urged against the Atlantic and Missis- 
sippi railroad, a proposed line from St. Louis to Indianapolis 
or Terre Haute; most objections disappeared, however, with 
the suggestion that Alton be made the terminus. 13 It was 

12 Chicago American, June 25, 1840; Chicago Daily Journal, February 4, 5, 

13 Alton Telegraph, February 5, 19, 26, March 5, 1847. 


suggested that a railroad might connect the Mississippi river 
at the Rock Island rapids to the canal and slack water navi- 
gation of the Kankakee, but for a long time Chicago interests 
were neutral. 14 Opposition to "state policy" was fairly well 
localized in the southern quarter of the state, a region directly 
tributary to St. Louis. 15 There it was felt that every facility 
ought to be afforded by the state to all companies desiring 
charters, and sentiment developed in favor of a general rail- 
road incorporation act. In reply the people of Egypt were 
told by advocates of "state policy" that they were about 
to cut their own throats by favoring a course which would 
prevent the building up of an important city in their own 
section. 16 

The quarrel over "state policy" became especially heated 
in the summer of 1849. The supporters of the Ohio and 
Mississippi road were anxious to secure legislative authority 
for their project and welcomed the idea of a special session 
of the legislature which was then being urged to fill the seat 
in the United States senate left vacant as a result of Shield's 
ineligibility. The question of a called session aroused general 
interest; the northern counties were strongly opposed, 17 while 
the southern section was anxious to secure the railroad con- 
nection in question. Local railroad meetings, followed in June 
by a general railroad convention at Salem, were held by advo- 
cates of a rail connection between St. Louis and southern 
Illinois. This convention, termed by its opponents a "Rebel- 
lion Conclave, a Rebellion against our own State," 18 was 
attended by Governor French, who was himself interested in 
the St. Louis road; he and the Springfield democratic machine 
were opposed to the "state policy" propaganda and were 
carefully canvassing the situation. When it became evident 
that the discussion had aroused a general popular interest in 

14 Chicago Daily Journal, June 5, 1847. 

15 Belleville Advocate, October 14, December 9, 1841, November 19, 1846. 
A line to connect Belleville with Illinoistown which would make the first town a 
suburb of St. Louis and a summer resort for transients was too local in interest 
to attract favorable notice from outside. 

16 Cairo Delta clipped in Illinois State Register, March 3, 1849; Illinois 
Journal, May 29, 1849. 

17 Chicago Democrat, August 27, 1849. 

18 Pickering to French, June 16, 1849, French manuscripts. 




railroads and that the state was about to be swept by a veri- 
table railroad fever, the governor issued a proclamation calling 
for the special session and enumerating railroad legislation 
among its objects. 19 He was at once bitterly assailed for 
taking this step and dubbed the tool of St. Louis and of a 
clique of railroad speculators. The Charleston Globe, a demo- 
cratic paper from French's home district, edited by a personal 
friend, was convinced that St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Vincennes 
were " tricking Illinois out of interest and privileges which are 
of vast import." 20 

A bitter struggle was now under way. The advocates of 
" state policy" held railroad meetings and called for a general 
railroad convention to meet at Hillsboro. At this meeting, 
which was held on the fourth of October, eight or ten thou- 
sand persons coming from fifteen or more counties decided 
to terminate the tribute to St. Louis and passed resolutions 
aggressively demanding that no legislation be attempted in the 
interest of Missouri connections. 21 

When the legislature assembled, Governor French called 
attention to the authority of that body to pass general laws 
regarding internal improvements and recommended a general 
railroad law to end the disputes that had been occupying so 
much attention in politics and legislation. The "state policy" 
men were able to defeat any direct form of the St. Louis propo- 
sition. Their opponents then came out for "liberal general 
laws" and made sufficient headway to cause the moderate 
"state policy" men to support a bill "for a general system 
of railroad incorporations " which was passed and immediately 
approved by the governor. This act, however, was considered 
a triumph for " state policy," as it required every road to 
secure a special grant of a right of way and legislative action 
to fix its termini. 22 For this reason both the demand for a 

19 Preston to French, April 12, 1849, and Casey to French, August 23, 1849, 
French manuscripts; Illinois State Register, September 4, 1849. 

20 Latshaw to French, December 4, 1848, French manuscripts; Illinois Globe, 
September 15, 1849. 

21 Latshaw to Keating, Buckmaster, Smith, et al., May 27, 1849, Gillespie 
manuscripts; Illinois Globe, June 16, 1849; Alton Telegraph, August 10, October 
10, 1849. 

22 Illinois State Register, October 25, December 20, 1849; 2 Laws of 1849, 
18-33, 33-35; Illinois Globe, November 10, 1849. 


cross-state road to St. Louis and for a " real" general railroad 
law continued. 

The most popular railroad project in Illinois was clearly 
that for a great central highway connecting the northern 
"Yankee" counties with the region of "Egyptian darkness." 
It found its advocates in all parts of the state and, while 
looked upon as a primary feature of " state policy," was also 
warmly supported by the "anti-state policy" party. A com- 
pany had been organized and incorporated in 1836 to build 
such a road; it was the backbone of the system provided for 
under the internal improvement act of 1837, under which a 
considerable amount of preliminary work was done; and it 
was revised in 1843, when the rights of the state were trans- 
ferred to the Great Western Railway Company, incorporated 
to construct a railway from Cairo to the Illinois and Michigan 
canal. Confidence in this undertaking, however, had become 
impaired as a result of continued ill-fortune; and in 1845 
the company yielded its charter and its work reverted to the 
state. 23 

The disastrous failure of railroad undertakings in general 
and of this central project in particular seemed to furnish 
convincing evidence that large and expensive enterprises could 
not succeed without material aid from the national govern- 
ment. Senator Sidney Breese was from the start a champion 
of the Illinois Central railroad; his favorite scheme was to 
induce congress to grant to the builders of the road pre- 
emption rights to a portion of the public lands through which 
it should pass. 24 This would enable the railroad company to 
market the lands at a profit, which would insure an income 
on the investment. Breese seemed to have secured little assist- 
ance, however, from other members of the Illinois legislature. 
With the entry of Stephen A. Douglas into the United States 
senate an important advance was made in the preparations 
for successful railroad construction in Illinois. Douglas was 
also an ardent supporter of the central road, but differed with 
his colleague's preemption policy in that he advocated a direct 

23 Brownson, History of the Illinois Central Railroad, 17 ff. ; Newton, Rail- 
way Legislation in Illinois, 21 ff. ; Ackerman, Historical Sketch of the Illinois 
Central Railroad. 

24 Congressional Globe, 29 congress, i session, 208. 


grant of land to the state of Illinois, which was to be respon- 
sible for the construction of the road. 25 This form of national 
aid in internal improvement made allowance for the tenderness 
of democratic feeling on the subject of state rights. 

Both Breese and Douglas had personal interests in this 
great undertaking. Both were strongly inoculated with the 
western fever of land speculation; Breese, one of the original 
incorporators in 1836 and a director of the Great Western 
Railway Company, sought to satisfy his ambitions in connec- 
tion with the construction of this railroad, while Douglas, 
moving to Chicago in the summer of 1847, shrewdly foresaw 
the development of a western metropolis at this commanding 
position on the lower end of Lake Michigan and hazarded his 
available capital in a heavy investment in Chicago real estate. 26 
Moreover, Douglas was more keen than his less able colleague 
in the analysis of political benefits; he realized the growing 
seriousness of the sectional line of cleavage between the north- 
ern and southern parts of the state and the threat at his own 
political ambitions involved therein; accordingly, a scheme 
that promised to contribute so effectively to a greater unity and 
harmony in party politics was certain of a hearty welcome. 

Douglas now stressed the Chicago connection, which had 
been subordinated in previous schemes. He undertook to draw 
on the natural interests of the business men of that city, of 
shippers along the Great Lakes, and of eastern capitalists to 
secure support for the central project. He featured it, there- 
fore, as a trunk line connecting the Atlantic seaboard with the 
Mississippi river at Cairo by way of Chicago and the lakes. 
Thus destroying some of the sectional character of the enter- 
prise, he added eastern support to the general western demand 
for the inaugurating of government aid to railway construc- 
tion. As a result his land grant bill easily carried the senate, 
although the south and the landless states, western as well as 
eastern, combined to effect its defeat in the house on strict 

25 See correspondence between Douglas and Breese in Breese, Early History 
of Illinois, appendix; also see Illinois State Register, January 23, March 13, 

26 Breese to Douglas, Illinois State Register, February 6, 1851. Governor 
French also had a " private interest " in the Chicago branch. Sturges to French, 
August 7, 1851, French manuscripts. 


construction grounds. 27 Breese's proposition then had the 
same legislative experience. 

Douglas' measure was lost by such a close vote in the 
house that the railroad promoters concluded that it was only 
a matter of time before the measure could be passed. The 
Illinois legislature, therefore, was induced by the members of 
the former Great Western Railway Company, the most formi- 
dable aggregation of capital in the state, to renew their charter, 
into which a clause was smuggled surrendering to the company 
whatever lands the federal government might grant to the 
state. 28 Knowledge of this situation in Illinois embarrassed 
Douglas and the Central advocates at Washington until the 
company was induced to surrender its corporate rights tempo- 
rarily. Then Douglas, aided by Shields, who had succeeded 
to Breese's seat, and by John A. McClernand, John Went- 
worth, and William H. Bissell of the house delegation, pressed 
the land grant proposition in congress; by making provisions 
for similar grants to Alabama and Mississippi, the hostility 
of the south was allayed, so that the " Chicago and Mobile 
railroad" measure was able to survive a bitter opposition in 
the lower house 29 and become law on September 20, 1850. 

The question immediately arose as to how the central 
road should be constructed. The corporate interest concerned 
was a group of capitalists, dominated from the beginning by 
Darius B. Holbrook, who were organized as the Cairo City 
and Canal Company for land speculation at the southern Illi- 
nois terminus. This "Holbrook company" was anxious, under 
the charter of the Great Western, to secure the benefits of the 
federal land grant by constructing the road; it had, indeed, 
pursued a policy of watchful waiting until favorable action by 
congress was assured before taking the steps required under 
the charter for the construction of the road. 30 

The company was, therefore, unwilling to yield its charter 

27 Brownson, History of the Illinois Central Railroad, 25 ; Johnson, Stephen 
A. Douglas, 170-171. 

28 This act was not published in the session laws of 1849; see, however, its 
repeal, Laws of 1851, p. 192-193. 

29 Congressional Globe, 31 congress, i session, 1838. 

30 Holbrook to French, December 24, 1849, September 2, October 8, 1850, 
French manuscripts; see also Greene and Thompson, Governors' Letter-Books, 
1840-1853, p. 235. 


unless reincorporated in another form. But Douglas was 
sufficiently irritated by the grasping ambitions of the specu- 
lators to suggest that it was not a bona fide construction 
company but on the contrary was planning to profit by the 
sale of the charter in Europe. It was suggested that if the 
work were to be done by a private corporation, a more dis- 
interested group of eastern capitalists might be found to do 
the work under proper restrictions. This proposition does not 
seem to have grown out of any rival interests, as it was some 
time before any definite project was placed before the people. 
Another suggestion was that a company composed of holders 
of state bonds be given the right to construct the road under 
semi-legislative management, thus simultaneously reestablish- 
ing the credit of the state. Though many advocates of direct 
state construction were still to be found, the lessons of the 
past weighed heavily against such an experiment; Senator 
Shields especially argued against the practicability of this 
method. 31 

When Senators Douglas and Shields returned in triumph 
from Washington they received the gratitude of the state for 
their sturdy devotion to the land grant; about the banquet 
table the victory they had secured was celebrated, and its sig- 
nificance proclaimed in the flowery language of the after-dinner 
speaker. The adherents of all the various ways of using the 
land grant soon clashed in a free for all political fight; with 
no definite provision for the route of the road, every village 
and hamlet along the line sought to influence the choice of 
route favorable to its development. In each legislative district 
the practical obligations of the next assembly were carefully 
considered; but the schemes for state ownership and for the 
continuance of the Holbrook company, being concrete and 
definite, were so vigorously assaulted that they were worsted 
by their opponents. The newly elected legislature showed a 
triumph of the forces of negation. When that body met, how- 
ever, and proceeded to clear the way for action, it was found 
that no satisfactory substitute proposition was available. This 

31 Bissell to Gillespie, December 22, 1850, Gillespie manuscripts; Chicago 
Democrat, January u, 1851; Illinois Journal, November 30, 1850, January 29, 


situation was relieved when Robert Rantoul of Massachusetts 
in behalf of a group of eastern capitalists offered to build the 
road and, on condition of a surrender to it of the federal land 
grant, to pay the state in return a percentage of the gross 
receipts. The offer was regarded as very fair; it was favor- 
ably received by the friends of the central road; and Governor 
French promptly recommended it to the legislature. An act 
of incorporation fixing the share of the state at seven per cent 
of the gross revenues was passed almost unanimously and 
became law on February io. 32 

The builders of the Illinois Central thus undertook to con- 
struct a road over twice as long as the largest railway system 
of that day, the New York and Erie. The charter allowed the 
company four years to complete the main line and six years 
for the branches; as a problem in contemporary engineering 
this required most careful planning. The organization was 
promptly completed, 33 and within a few months a preliminary 
survey was under way. A hotbed of agitation, bribery, 
and litigation developed along the general line of the Central 
where rival points struggled to secure the railroad for 
their own particular districts; the survey, however, went 
forward on considerations of engineering and administrative 

In regions not directly influenced by the Central system, 
attention was centered on securing other railroad facilities. 
The project of the Galena and Chicago railroad incorporated 
in 1847 was popular with both Chicagoans and residents of 
northern Illinois generally, who put it actively in the field 
with subscriptions to over a quarter million of stock; in one 
day President William B. Ogden of the company secured 
$20,000 on the streets of Chicago from farmers who were 
selling wheat. Early in 1848 contracts were let and construc- 
tion was started on the section from Chicago to Elgin, and 
by the spring of 1849 fourteen miles were in operation; the 
thirty-five miles to Elgin, however, were not completed until 
February i, 1850, when a grand celebration took place. On 

32 Illinois Journal, January 22, 1851; Senate Journal, 1851, p. 237, 265, 266. 
The act is not printed in the session laws. 

33 Schuyler to French, March 24, 1851, French manuscripts. 


August i, 1852, the cars made their entrance into Rockford 
amid the firing of cannon and ringing of bells, while on the 
fourth of September, 1853, the road was opened to Freeport, 
125 miles west of Chicago. This was for a time the western 
terminus, the Illinois Central being used to cover the remaining 
fifty miles to Galena. With the completion of branches to the 
Wisconsin line from Elgin and Belvidere, the Galena and 
Chicago was ambitious enough to project an air line across 
the state to Fulton on the Mississippi ; this was over half com- 
pleted by the end of 1853, and by the beginning of 1856 it 
went into complete operation furnishing through service as 
the shortest line between Chicago and the Mississippi. The 
early operations of the road were very extensive and profitable, 
with net earnings varying from ten to twenty per cent. Such 
earnings in 1849 on ^ ess than twenty miles of road were 
$25,000. Dividends of ten per cent and eight per cent were 
declared in February and October, 1850. The road soon paid 
a higher percentage to stockholders than any road in the union, 
with semiannual dividends of from eight to twelve per cent. 

Another early Chicago connection was the Aurora branch 
or Chicago and Aurora railroad, chartered in 1849. It used 
the Galena and Chicago track for thirty-three miles, while the 
remaining ten miles down the Fox river valley to Aurora it 
completed in 1850. Books were then opened for stock to 
continue it forty-three miles farther to Mendota on the pro- 
jected Galena branch of the Illinois Central. This was com- 
pleted in the fall of 1853. 

By this time stable foundations had been laid for the Rock 
Island and Chicago, originally the Peru and Rock Island. 
Work was commenced in the fall of 1851 ; 34 a year later the 
line was opened to Joliet; in February, 1853, the rails were 
laid to Ottawa, and the road was hurried westward at a rate 
of nearly a mile a day, progressing more rapidly than any 
railroad in the state. On February 22, 1854, the completion 
of the road was celebrated with pomp and ceremony at Rock 
Island, for this made the first continuous connection of the 
Great Lakes with the Mississippi. Steamship connections with 
St. Louis and St. Paul were immediately established, and a 

34 Ottawa Free Trader, October 4, 1851., 


bridge built across the river to tap the central Iowa 
country. 35 

During these years the Illinois Central was making rapid 
progress. The surveys were completed by the beginning of 
1852 and the work was promptly put under contract; a force 
of 10,000 laborers prosecuted the work with vigor from the 
terminal points toward the center. By the end of 1853, 175 
miles of track had been laid; the Chicago branch was opened 
to Urbana in midsummer of the following year; on the first 
of January, 1855, all the main line and most of the Galena 
and Chicago branches were in operation. Connections with 
other lines enabled the company to open through passenger 
and freight service, although the formal laying of the last rail 
and the driving of the last spike did not take place until 
September 27, i856. 36 With additional improvements the 
Illinois Central became almost immediately the best built and 
equipped railroad in the west. 

The Springfield and Alton railroad, another north and 
south line authorized in February, 1847, began operations in 
the middle of 1850. In September, 1852, through trains were 
running from Springfield to Alton, where they connected with 
fast steamers for St. Louis, making the total distance in four 
hours. Before that time an extension to Chicago had been 
planned; and the general assembly on June 19, 1852, changed 
the name to Chicago and Mississippi Railroad Company. On 
October 18, 1853, the road was completed to Normal; and the 
first communication by railroad from New York City to the 
Mississippi river was established by way of the Chicago and 
Rock Island to La Salle, and from there to Normal by the 
Illinois Central. Then, in the flowery language of the rail- 
road celebration after-dinner orator, the iron horse that sipped 
his morning draught from the crystal waters of Lake Michi- 
gan could slake his evening thirst upon the banks of the Mis- 
sissippi. By October, 1854, with the complete installation of 
its own train service, the "Alton" road had opened another 
through connection between the Father of Waters and the 

35 This bridge became a subject of serious controversy with the federal 
government, incited in part by rival St. Louis interests. 
86 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, October 2, 1856. 


Great Lakes. Before 1860 a railroad extension from Alton 
to St. Louis was completed. 

The downstate interests were engaged in converting their 
own cross-state projects from mere paper schemes into sub- 
stantial railroad lines. The neglected Northern Cross line, the 
sole railroad remnant of the internal improvement orgy of 
^37, was transferred to a private company and became known 
either as the Springfield and Meredosia, or Sangamon and 
Morgan railroad; in 1853, however, the legislature changed 
the name to the Illinois Great Western, and in 1860 it became 
a part of the Toledo, Wabash, and Great Western. This road 
was overhauled in 1848 and opened for regular passenger 
service to Naples in the summer of 1849. For a time energies 
were concentrated on securing a federal land grant to aid its 
completion across the state. In 1853 the eastern extension 
was brought to within a dozen miles of Decatur; the track 
was slowly carried forward until in 1857 the Indiana state line 
was reached, putting into operation 174 miles of road. The 
connection across the state, however, was not completed until 

The Central Military Tract railroad was built in 1854 
and formed an extension of the Aurora branch railroad from 
their common junction with the Illinois Central at Mendota 
to Galesburg where it connected with the Quincy and Gales- 
burg branch of the Northern Cross railroad. In 1856 the 
Central Military Tract was consolidated with the Chicago, 
Burlington, and Quincy railroad, which also secured the North- 
ern Cross line from Galesburg to Quincy. The Peoria and 
Oquawka railroad, incorporated to carry out the project of a 
great central railroad, was slowly carried forward in the 
period from 1853 to 1857. 

The railroad problem of southern Illinois was complicated 
by rival cross-state enterprises. Alton and the backers of 
"state policy" continued to fight the St. Louis interests in 
their alliance with the rival land speculators, and the advocates 
of more southerly routes. The "state policy" forces had held 
their own down to 1850, although their opponents could match 
their professions of principle. The latter championed as true 
liberal "state policy" the privilege of railroao! construction 


for every part of the state where the people were willing to 
undertake the enterprise and supply the capital. 37 Men like 
Governor French, Governor Matteson, Ben Bond, Bissell, and 
Koerner zealously pleaded for a free field for all enterprises; 
and Douglas was induced to go on record as in favor of a free 
field for cross-state lines. 38 The rival factions accordingly 
marshalled their forces in railroad conventions. The contest 
became so keen that even political issues were at times subord- 
inated to the railroad question; a bipartisan combination at 
Alton supported " state policy " legislative candidates while 
elsewhere politics were sacrificed to the hopes of the backers of 
the roads. 

The "railroad war" continued to be waged in each suc- 
cessive session of the legislature. Alton interests back of the 
Terre Haute and Alton were especially zealous in their hos- 
tility toward the Atlantic and Mississippi line, as it prepared 
for an aggressive campaign under the presidency of Colonel 
John Brough. In spite of a powerful backing, however, 
Brough's road repeatedly met with defeat even after the 
Ohio and Mississippi railroad from Vincennes to Illinoistown 
secured legislative sanction on February 12, 1851. In 1853 
the assembly granted charters for enterprises totalling several 
thousand miles of railroad, but rejected the bill for the 
"Brough road" and tabled a resolution in favor of a general 
railroad law. 39 The authorization of the Vincennes road 
placed an additional obstacle in the way of the Atlantic and 
Mississippi; although it had previously rallied the liberal 
policy forces on the basis of the sectional resentment of Egypt 
to northern selfishness, the Vincennes backers now came to 
look upon the "Brough road" as a possible competitor for 
financial support. 

37 Belleville Advocate, January 12, 1853. 

38 Banks to French, January 10, 1850, Manly to French, August 28, 1851, 
French manuscripts; Douglas to Manly, December 28, 1850, Illinois State 
Register, January 16, 1851. 

39 It was even proposed by Joseph Gillespie that in return for a payment 
of one per cent of their gross earnings, the railroads already chartered should be 
given a virtual monopoly under state supervision, their consent being necessary 
to any charters for new roads running within twenty-five miles of any road 
already incorporated; all the territory between the Terre Haute and Alton and 
the Ohio and Mississippi roads was to be closed to east and west roads. Illinois 
State Register, February 3, 10, 1853, 


By the fall of 1853, however, after the Ohio and Missis- 
sippi had sold its bonds and was on a firm financial footing; 
the " Brough road" supporters decided that the time was ripe 
to press their project by a combined opposition against "the 
narrow contracted policy of Alton." They immediately began 
an active campaign for an extra session as confident of the 
support of Governor Matteson as they had been of that of 
Governor French. 40 Breese, McClernand, Reynolds, Logan, 
Casey, and Morrison were active in organizing the forces that 
favored the call. At the close of a vigorous newspaper fight 
between northern and southern Illinois journals, an extra ses- 
sion convention was held at Salem on November 25, 1853, 
which, with twenty-four counties represented, proved the reality 
of the demand. Governor Matteson responded in January 
with his proclamation. Downstate interests began their cam- 
paign for a liberal railroad policy and were finally able to 
secure the charter for which its supporters, including two 
governors of the state, had been laboring for over five years. 
St. Louis gave the Illinois legislature a festival in honor of 
the passage of the bill that marked the end of the great Illinois 
railroad war. 

A survey in retrospect revealed the fact that for four years 
countless controversies over applications for special railroad 
charters had wrecked the dispatch of legislative business. 41 
"State policy" was therefore shelved even by its advocates 
as having fulfilled its purpose and become an obstacle in the 
way of progress. 

The construction of two of the three southern lateral lines 
was completed in the latter half of the decade. The Terre 
Haute and Alton was organized for active work in 1850, but 
the road was not built until the period from 1853 to the end 
of 1855. Before it was completed, however, it secured a col- 
lateral branch to Illinoistown. This direct connection with St. 
Louis, like that of the Chicago and Alton, robbed Alton of 
the special advantage that her backers had expected to enjoy 
as a railroad terminus; they had to be content with the posi- 

40 Belleville Advocate, September 28, 1853. Lieutenant Governor Koerner 
went on record as in favor of the special session. Koerner, Memoirs, i : 607-608 ; 
Chicago Daily Democratic Press, October 28, 1853. 

id., January 17, 1855; Illinois Journal, January 3, 1855. 


tion of an important way station, while the St. Louis interests 
chuckled over the advantages that accrued to their city. 

The Ohio and Mississippi road was opened from Illinois- 
town to Vincennes in July, 1855, although the connection with 
Cincinnati was not completed until nearly two years later. This 
road traversed a rich belt of country and brought important 
advantages to St. Louis as a direct east and west line of com- 
munication. It failed, however, to draw from Chicago the 
trade that was now accustomed to go east by the lake route. 
After energy had been expended in securing the charter for the 
Terre Haute and Illinoistown line, this project fell through 
and was not taken up again until 1865; St. Louis was thus 
deprived of another important eastern connection. 

Belleville had contributed in Gustave Koerner, John Rey- 
nolds, and Don Morrison some of the most enthusiastic backers 
of both the Ohio and Mississippi, and Mississippi and Atlantic 
lines. They expected that their city would be made a station 
on both lines. The first disappointment came when the Ohio 
and Mississippi line decided, because of the land holdings of 
St. Louis investors and of Illinois speculators, 42 to pass .four 
miles to the north of Belleville; bitterly did the Belleville lead- 
ers denounce the land sharks and speculators in bounty land 
warrants and tax titles. In their chagrin they hit upon the 
scheme of building a road to Illinoistown, which they were able 
successfully to execute by the fall of 1854, after which they 
carried a northern extension to Alton there to connect with the 
Alton and Terre Haute. This saved them from excessive 
disappointment over being left off the line of the road from 
Terre Haute and over the later failure of that project. 

At the end of 1850, the completed portions of the North- 
ern Cross line and of the Galena and Chicago Union railroad 
had given the state only a little over one hundred miles of 
railroad, yet in the first six years of the decade Illinois built 
a larger mileage than any other state in the union. With 2,235 
miles of track it outranked all the states of the middle west. 43 
By 1860 with important eastern connections running into Chi- 

42 Including even Don Morrison. Belleville Advocate, June 30, 1852; 
Koerner, Memoirs, 1:565, 586, 587. 

* 3 Urbana Union, February 19, 1857, 


cago, with the Chicago and Milwaukee (1855), and with 
the Chicago and Northwestern railroad systems tapping the 
state of Wisconsin at different points, Illinois was ade- 
quately provided with railroad communication with the outside 

Yet the story of Illinois railroad development in the fifties 
is not finished without a mention of the numerous projects 
dreamed of by those who wished to have a hand in networking 
the state with railroad lines, for nowhere perhaps did the rail- 
road fever rage more violently than in the state of Illinois. It 
seemed that the people would not be content until a railroad 
was located on every four miles of the state. Thousands of 
miles of road were authorized by the general assembly that 
never passed the state of paper projects; others were begun 
only to collapse of their own weight, worthy as well as merely 
ambitious enterprises going to ruin with the rest. At the begin- 
ning of 1851, the legislature petitioned congress for federal 
aid in behalf of the Alton and Mt. Carmel line provided for 
in the internal improvement act of 1837 ; but by the end of the 
year a lone Irishman working under the direction of General 
William H. Pickering, its indefatigable proprietor, was mak- 
ing the last effort to rescue this important project from 
oblivion. 44 

A tremendous array of forces gave to Illinois its railroads 
and railroad schemes. Local investors and land speculators 
conceived an enterprise and rallied the support of the com- 
munity; farms were mortgaged to assist in the accumulation of 
capital; counties and municipalities voted to subscribe stock. 
In addition, the aid of eastern capitalists was called in. But 
such capital, even in the case of one of the more promising 
enterprises, was supplied only when special privileges were con- 
ferred upon the easterners who took every advantage of the 
Illinoisians. " Swarms of hungry cormorants " clamoring for 
special legislation besieged the state capitol. It was said that 
the bills pressed by these lobbyists "were prepared in New 
York, and were first canvassed by Wall street men before they 

44 Laws of 1851, p. 204; Allen to French, December 9, 1851, French manu- 
scripts; a manuscript note to Pickering by Joseph Gillespie, 1879, is appended 
to a letter from Pickering to Gillespie, July 20, 1860, Chicago Historical Society 


were sent to Springfield to secure legislative endorsement." 45 
At times western investors were refused directors to represent 
their interests. In 1853 rumors circulated of a corruption fund 
of $80,000 to defeat the Mississippi and Atlantic railroad. 
Only the general enthusiasm for railroad development pre- 
vented a strong reaction in line with democratic prejudices 
against corporations and corporation influence. 46 

The service furnished by these newly built railroads varied 
according to circumstances. Most of them were constructed 
to meet a long felt want; the heavy freight and passenger 
traffic that immediately began often taxed the roads to their 
utmost capacities. When earnings ran as high as sixteen per 
cent roads like the Galena and Chicago were able to add new 
accommodations in response to the growing demands. All 
lines ran daily freight and passenger trains in each direction 
and in instances the time-table gave the traveler a wide range 
of choice. Good time was made by passenger trains; thirty 
miles an hour was a common speed, and Chicago and Alton 
trains were able to average twenty-two miles and rarely vary 
ten minutes from schedule. When the traveler, accustomed to 
a ride of three days and nights from Chicago to Springfield 
in Fink and Company's stages, made the trip by rail in twelve 
hours, it seemed "more like a sketch from some part of the 
Arabian Nights, than a matter of stern reality." 47 The ele- 
ment of luxury in travel was introduced into Illinois with the 
appearance of the sleeping coach on the Illinois Central line. 
Rates were very reasonable; while varying greatly passenger 
fares in most cases did not exceed three cents a mile. During 
the later fifties the Galena and Chicago and the Northwestern 
roads competed for traffic between Chicago and Rockford and 
both cut the passenger fares to one dollar. 48 Accidents, how- 
ever, were frightfully common at the start especially because of 

45 Chicago Dally Democratic Press clipped in Illinois State Register, 
August 4, 1853. 

46 Belleville Advocate, March 30, 1853; Chicago Daily Democratic Press 
clipped in Alton Courier, April 12, 1853. As it was, a sober vote of warning 
came from papers like the Chicago Daily Democratic Press, Illinois State 
Register, July 28, 1853, and others. 

47 Alton Courier, June 3, 1853, February 22, 1854. 

48 Chicago Democrat, April 2, 1853; Rockford Republican, December i, 1859; 
Rockford Register, January 7, 1860. 


the want of fences along the right of way to keep out the 
cattle. 49 

The railroads rendered obsolete the prevailing methods of 
handling the mails. Very few of the 86 1 post offices located in 
Illinois in 1850 enjoyed regular daily mail service. Trans- 
ported by the stage lines over unimproved and often impass- 
able roads, the mails suffered serious delays from schedule as 
a result of washed out bridges and flooded roads. River mails 
were next adopted and worked a considerable improvement for 
the regions able to take advantage of them. But the railroad 
made possible the general and prompt transmission of the 
mails at all seasons. It took time, however, to perfect arrange- 
ments; in 1853 a traveler from New York could carry the city 
papers to Alton and deliver them four days in advance of the 
mails. 50 In a few years, however, a letter from New Orleans 
could be delivered in Chicago within three days. 

The coming of the railroads hastened the forces that were 
revolutionizing the prevailing social and economic practices 
of the day. The railroads brought a great influx of population, 
first of laborers to participate in railway construction and later 
of immigrant passengers. The consequent heavy demand for 
both the food and other products of the state improved the 
local market. Reduction in the cost of transportation coupled 
with the new element of reliability, automatically increased the 
producer's share in the market prices of his crops. Prices in 
the east and west were now more nearly equalized. 

The whole field of agriculture experienced a remarkable 
stimulus. 51 The new inducements to immigration attracted 
many men of means who often came to Illinois demanding 
improved lands; as a result farm values experienced a rapid 
rise of almost fifty per cent. The new availability of large 
tracts of unimproved lands offered tempting fields for land 
speculation; many a fortune was made on a gambler's risk of 
a successful guess of adequate railroad communications for the 

49 The Chicago and Alton superintendent issued an order that section 
masters pass over their respective sections in hand cars within an hour of train 
time and drive off any cattle that might be on the track. Illinois State Register, 
November 10, 1853. 

60 Alton Courier, August i, 1853. 

51 Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, 27:759. 


land warrant locations. Methods of getting stock to market 
were improved; special stock-train service was furnished by 
certain roads at a great saving. Perishable fruits and vege- 
tables now found a wide market which gave added attractions 
to horticulture; railroad communication placed the tomatoes 
and berries of southern Illinois upon Chicago dinner tables 
weeks before the home crops were harvested. 

In the towns and cities changes took place which paralleled 
those of rural life. Merchants found new demands for their 
goods both from the railroad workers and from the farmers 
who found it easier in every sense to keep in touch with the 
distributing centers. Manufacturing experienced a remarkable 
stimulus with the advent of the railroads ; both the raw material 
and the markets were brought nearer the factory. The rail- 
road further rendered accessible the inexhaustible supplies of 
mineral wealth with which Illinois was blessed. The railroads 
soon discovered that coal burning locomotives were far more 
economical than those that used wood ; by the end of the decade, 
the Illinois Central began to adopt the former type. 52 The 
process of supplying the railroads with coal promised to open 
up a new mining industry of equal importance to the manufac- 
turing establishments and to the households of the timberless 
state. Thus it was that many a sleepy town or village of log 
huts and shanties was aroused and converted into a bustling 

Towns sprang up with mushroom rapidity along the rail- 
road lines that intersected the open prairies. In 1854, West 
Urbana was a depot on the Illinois Central; in another year 
it was a hamlet of a hundred houses with four or five hun- 
dred inhabitants, while three hundred buildings were in process 
of erection, including "two large hotels, six stores, a large 
furniture ware-house, four or five lumber yards, and a large 
ware-house for forwarding purposes," besides a Presbyterian 
church and a large school house costing some $4,ooo. 53 A 
census taken sixteen months later revealed a population of 
over 1,200. In 1861 this was the thriving town of Champaign 
with a separate corporate existence. A little to the south at 

82 Qulncy Whig, April 16, 1858; Chicago Democrat, January 24, 1859. 
53 Ibid., May 5, 1855. 


the junction of the Central and Alton and Terre Haute rail- 
road, the town of Mattoon sprang up almost overnight; in 
April there was not a sign of human life, by August there was 
"a large hotel," with another in process of erection, a post 
office, a dry goods store, and two groceries to supply a rapidly 
increasing population. 54 The hamlet of Earlville, thirty-five 
miles west of Aurora on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy 
railroad, in a short time grew from a settlement of six or eight 
dwellings, a store, blacksmith shop, and a tavern into a place 
of a thousand inhabitants, with over a score of stores, three 
public houses, and four church organizations. Favorably situ- 
ated older settlements received similar benefits ; Hillsboro and 
Carlinville were instances of towns that rapidly forged ahead 
when provided with railroad connections. Immigration poured 
in from every direction, merchants did a thriving business, 
the streets were often impassable because of the presence of 
farmers' teams. 55 

The greatest advantages, however, were derived by the 
termini of the roads, particularly Chicago, Alton, and St. 
Louis. In 1856 thirteen railroads centered in or were con- 
nected with Chicago which was served by 104 trains daily. 
Alton had dreamed of superseding St. Louis as a western 
metropolis; and in the economic domination of central and 
southern Illinois, a sharp competition for control of the field 
ensued. 56 In the summer of 1848 St. Louis tried to improve 
her harbor facilities by altering the channel of the Mississippi 
river with a dyke that would compel it to flow on the west side 
of Bloody Island. As this threatened to divert the channel 
away from the Illinois shore, Governor French was induced 
to exercise his authority to prevent the work; he accordingly 
authorized the sheriff of St. Clair county to use military force 
or a civil posse to enforce an injunction against the St. Louis 
authorities. The supreme court of Illinois sustained the gov- 
ernor in the dyke controversy, though later a compromise 

54 Chicago Weekly Democrat, September i, 1855; Presbytery Reporter, 
4: 327-328. 

55 Aurora Guardian, December 9, 1853 ; Carlinville Statesman, July 8, 1852, 
clipped in Illinois State Register, July 15, 1852; Hillsboro Mirror clipped in 
ibid., March 31, 1853. 

56 Review of the Commerce of Chicago, 31; Alton Courier, September 18, 
1852, April 4, 1853. 


arrangement permitted the work to be completed. 57 While 
Alton and St. Louis continued their squabbles over the Ohio 
and Mississippi and over the " Brough railroad," other rail- 
roads were being constructed, and these cities suffered greater 
and greater losses to the metropolis on the lake. 

Not Alton, but Chicago the key to the railroad system 
of the northwest was to succeed to the economic leadership 
of St. Louis. Railroads reenforced the canal and even com- 
peted with it for the lighter freights. 58 When the rail con- 
nections with Rock Island and Peoria were completed, the 
process of making the Illinois valley tributary to Chicago 
was rounded out. The Chicago and Galena diverted from 
St. Louis and the Mississippi route the lead traffic and the agri- 
cultural products trade of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern 
Iowa as well as of northwestern Illinois. The Illinois Central 
brought forward to Chicago quantities of products from cen- 
tral Illinois, though it carried enough to Cairo to threaten to 
build up another rival to St. Louis at the southern extremity 
of the state. 59 At the beginning of the decade with five-eighths 
of the agricultural trade of St. Louis drawn from Illinois and 
with Illinoisians taking in return nearly three-fourths of the 
merchandise sold in St. Louis, the Missouri legislature was 
able to levy a tax of $4.50 on every $1,000 worth of foreign 
products and merchandise sold in that state and on articles 
purchased by outsiders; in the closing years St. Louis bent all 
her energies toward saving what remnants she could from the 
grasp of Chicago. 60 

With Chicago as the hub of a vast transportation system, 
Illinois promised to become the great railroad center as it 
was the geographical center of the nation. Prophets felt little 
boldness in predicting a leading role in the future for Illinois. 61 

57 Reynolds to French, June 17, 1848, Reynolds et al. to French, June 23, 
1848, Reynolds, Koerner, P. Fouke, William H. Underwood et al. to French, 
July 12, 1852, French manuscripts. -Correspondence covering every side of the 
dyke controversy may be found in this collection. 

68 See E. S. Prescott to W. H. Swift, January 30, 1851, Swift manuscripts. 

59 St. Louis Republican clipped in Illinois State Register, May 8, 1851; St. 
Louis Intelligencer in ibid., May 22, 1851 ; see also DeBoiv's Review, 24:212. 

60 Illinois State Register, October 30, 1849, January 17, 1850; Belleville 
Advocate, November 29, 1849. 

61 Lee, "Transportation: A Factor in the Development of Northern Illinois 
previous to 1860," Illinois State Historical Society, Journal, 10: 17-85. 


IN THE midst of the excitement of a successful war, with 
the distractions attendant upon a heated agitation of the 
slavery question, Illinois in 1848 entered upon a new era in 
her political development. Forces of more recent origin, how- 
ever, were relegated to the background while old party align- 
ment and orthodox political issues were revived in the discussion 
of candidates for the presidential office. In the country at 
large, as well as in Illinois, all omens pointed to the success 
of the democratic party, which, having generously fed the 
people's voracious appetite for expansion, had a claim to grati- 
tude not to be matched by their empty-handed opponents. 
Party leaders for a long time would admit an uncertainty 
only as to who should represent the democracy in receiving 
from the tribunal of public opinion a formal recognition of 
the party's valued services. 

Whig leaders, in desperation, consequently began to cast 
about for the most effective means of recovering their recent 
losses. "All the elements of party strife will bubble in the 
caldron," warned Orlando B. Ficklin, congressman from the 
third district. "War, pestilence, and famine, slavery & free- 
dom, military and civil claims, will each and all lend their 
influence to the strife of '48." 1 The democrats, shaken in 
their confidence of victory, set about to rally their full strength 
about their strongest candidates. President Polk, though the 
official party leader in those days of storm and stress, was not 
the authoritative embodiment of democratic principles : there 
was little reason why he should be continued in the executive 
office in the face of the natural ambitions of party chiefs like 
Lewis Cass and James Buchanan. He had seriously offended 
many elements in the northern states by his silence on land 
reform and by his veto of the river and harbor bill as well as 

1 Ficklin to French, January 6, 1848, French manuscripts. 



by his subserviency to the south. 2 Nevertheless, since he had 
not allowed himself to become entangled in the Wilmot proviso 
issue, he could still run a fair race. If Cass and Buchanan 
should wear each other out, those who opposed Folk's nomi- 
nation feared that he might forget his declared lack of ambition 
for reelection and avail himself of the opportunity to come up 
from behind as a compromise candidate; Congressman " Long 
John" Wentworth thought he detected a skillful Polk elec- 
tioneering campaign on the part of Springfield politicians. 3 
Wentworth himself advocated Douglas as a representative of 
the youthful spirit of the west which alone could carry the 
party to victory. But " Long John's " aggressive personality 
had created strong enemies within the party, who seem to have 
gradually gained the ear of even the cautious Governor French, 
and they combined with the Springfield machine politicians, 
who, disgusted by Wentworth's antislavery activities, were 
determined to block his control at all hazards. 

Soon a contest developed in which the two factions meas- 
ured their strength against each other. The point at issue 
was the manner of selecting delegates to the national conven- 
tion. Wentworth wanted to have them elected by conventions 
in each judicial circuit, while the members of the state machine 
insisted on a state convention. The latter would secure a har- 
monious, unified delegation to represent the state on the prin- 
ciple of majority control; the district scheme, on the other 
hand, recognized a situation which clearly existed: the demo- 
crats of the state were radically divided on many questions 
and each district would in this way have the right of self- 
determination. 4 "We Barnburners believe in free opinion, 
free speech & free discussion as well as free labor and free 
soil," said Wentworth. 5 In the northern section of the state 
democrats were strongly devoted to the Jeffersonian slavery 
restriction policy initiated in 1787; they declared frankly in 
favor of " free soil once, free soil forever," 6 and for river 

2 Congressional Globe, 29 congress, i session, 1181. 

8 Wentworth to French, March 5, April 13, 1848, French manuscripts. 

4 Chicago Democrat, January 31, 1848 ; Wentworth to French, March 5, 
1848, French manuscripts. 

5 Wentworth to French, April 13, 1848, ibid. 

6 Chicago Democrat, April 18, 1848. 


and harbor improvements without qualification. As one left 
the northern region, however, for the middle and southern 
counties, increasing democratic hostility to all these proposi- 
tions appeared. 

Wentworth and his following succeeded in controlling the 
local party organizations in the vicinity of Chicago but failed 
to secure the recognition of his principle of "live and let live," 
worked out through district conventions. The state convention, 
accordingly, met on April 24 and 25 to perform the work of 
selecting delegates to Baltimore, as well as to place a state 
ticket and an electoral ticket in the field. The convention 
expressed a decided preference for General Cass but did not 
formally instruct the delegation to support him. The resolu- 
tions adopted condemned all intemperate discussion and unnec- 
essary agitation of the slavery question and ignored other 
issues over which democrats differed. The state ticket sched- 
uled Augustus C. French for reelection as governor and 
William McMurty for lieutenant governor. 7 The state plat- 
form was not at all satisfactory to antislavery democrats, and 
the national convention a month later, by nominating Lewis 
Cass on a platform silent as to slavery, added to their unrest. 

Democratic dissensions gave little encouragement to the 
whigs, who faced even more serious embarrassment They, 
too, were divided on the slavery issue. There were " con- 
science whigs" or " wooly-heads," who rallied to the Wilmot 
proviso standard; but in the state, as in the nation, they were 
outnumbered by those who would avoid new and distracting 
issues. The whig party, moreover, already suffering from 
regularity of defeat, had further declined in prestige as a result 
of its opposition to the Mexican War and to territorial 

Under these circumstances it was not easy to map out a 
program. Orthodox whigs felt that a consistent adherence to 
party principles and existing leadership would carry the day; 
these were Henry Clay men who hoped that the war had so 
weakened the democracy that Clay could easily swing the win- 
ning vote in 1848. Others felt that a policy of opportunism 
under a standard bearer who possessed real "availability" 

7 Illinois State Register, April 28, 1848. 


was the only course to pursue. The brilliant exploits of 
Generals Taylor and Scott had given them a popularity that 
promised an assured response to their leadership. Early in 
1847, therefore, promptly after the battle of Buena Vista, 
papers like the Quincy Whig and the Morgan Journal hoisted 
the name of General Taylor as a candidate for the presidency. 
Lincoln was one of the active group of Taylor congressmen 
who upheld the general's cause at the national capital. 

General Taylor had no real political interests or beliefs; 
party lines had thus far concerned him but little, and there 
had already arisen an increasing nonpartisan demand for his 
nomination. Here was a candidate to offer the nation. " Old 
Zach" was the hero of the Mexican War; hampered as he 
had been by official democratic jealousy, he was the man to 
wipe out the whig stigma of opposition to a popular war. A 
struggle was soon under way between availability, as repre- 
sented by Taylor, and orthodoxy, as identified with Clay; the 
result was a Taylor victory and a grave disappointment for 
Clay supporters. 

Whig energy in Illinois was directed exclusively toward the 
national convention; after the ticket of Taylor and Fillmore 
was launched in June, it was discovered that no preparations 
had been made to contest the state election. This reflected 
the prevailing disorganization; the Illinois Journal frankly 
admitted that the party had no hope of carrying the state 
election in August, and that a defeat would detract from whig 
strength in the November election. 8 On the other hand, many 
whigs objected to letting the state election go by default because 
it would keep them from ascertaining the actual strength of 
the party; accordingly the Quincy Whig and other papers 
hoisted the names of Pierre Menard for governor and J. L. D. 
Morrison for lieutenant governor. 9 

The administration of Governor French had been emi- 
nently satisfactory to all impartial men of the state. He had 
displayed no unfair partisanship, with the result that even 
many whigs desired his reelection. 10 He had, moreover, kept 

8 Illinois Journal, June 19, 1848. 

8 Quincy Whig, June 6, 1848. 

10 Turner to French, no date, 1848, French manuscripts. 


fairly clear of the factionalism that had prevailed in his own 
party. Even John Wentworth, the ubiquitous critic, approved 
the absence of official dictation and pointed to the unwonted 
harmony in the ranks of the state democracy as justification 
of French's reelection. 11 When finally the cry of " Springfield 
clique " was raised, it seems to have referred to the Illinois 
State Register following rather than to the state administra- 
tion. For all these reasons, the opposition to the French state 
ticket was very feeble and the election in August went off very 

The newly elected legislature was strongly democratic; 
anti-war whiggery proved a millstone for the whig legislative 
triumvirate, Stephen T. Logan, Isaac Williams, and William 
Thomas, who sank in political waters normally favorable for 
a plunge. 12 The complexion of the Illinois congressional dele- 
gation was unchanged, Edward D. Baker being elected as the 
lone whig member. Thomas L. Harris, a democrat, was 
elected to Lincoln's seat in a close contest; William H. Bissell 
without opposition replaced Robert Smith in the first; John A. 
McClernand, Wentworth, and William A. Richardson were 
all reelected over their opponents, with Timothy R. Young in 
the third district. 

The atmosphere having thus been cleared, all energies 
were thrown into the presidential canvass. The whig leaders 
set out to develop a dramatic hero worship of General Taylor, 
the "people's candidate." The spirit of 1840 was revived in 
their ranks. Processions, mass meetings, and barbecues became 
the order of the day. The rank and file were urged to keep 
up the "grape" that the hero of Buena Vista, the general 
who " never surrenders," might bring the enemy to his knees. 13 
The disaffection of Clay whigs gradually subsided and termi- 
nated when Clay formally declined to allow his name to be 
used independently. Little was said of concrete whig prin- 
ciples. The bank issue was declared obsolete; since the land 
warrants of Mexican War veterans would absorb the public 
domain for years to come, there would be no proceeds of the 

11 Wentworth to French, December 19, 1847, April 13, 1848, French manu- 

12 Illinois State Register, August 18, 25, 1848. 

13 Beardstoivn Gazette, September 13, 1848. 


public land for distribution; with the heavy demands created 
by war debt, the tariff could no longer be a party matter. The 
great and vital issue, therefore, was the question whether the 
people or one man should rule. In the past the vetoes of 
democratic presidents had thwarted the public will; had not 
Polk in this way defeated a crying need for river and harbor 
improvement? 14 

The democrats replied by challenging the meager qualifi- 
cations of the whig candidate for political preferment. Wilmot 
provisoists were reminded of the fallacy of voting for a planter 
and slaveholder. The German and Irish were played upon by 
the customary charge of whig hostility to foreigners; Taylor, 
it was claimed, was in league with the nativists. 15 

In counter attacks the whigs ridiculed the attempt of the 
democrats to write General Cass into a military hero. Abra- 
ham Lincoln from the floor of the house of representatives 
made a burlesque of his own military exploits and those of 
General Cass, drolly suggesting that neither had seriously 
qualified for the presidency on that score. 16 Cass's position 
was declared to be no more satisfactory on the slavery ques- 
tion. Originally inclined toward the Wilmot proviso doctrine 
he had found it expedient to expound in his canvass a non- 
committal doctrine of popular sovereignty for the territories, 
a doctrine which was promptly attacked as a Janus-faced appeal 
to both antislavery and proslavery democrats. The genuine- 
ness of his democracy was challenged by referring to a state- 
ment in which he was alleged to have favored "whipping and 
selling poor white men and stubborn servants." 17 

With the increasing seriousness of the sectional contro- 
versy, it became evident that the restless antislavery elements 
would hold the balance of power. There was widespread dis- 
content with both national parties for their consistent evasion 
of the slavery issue; both in their national conventions had 
just rejected propositions to check the extension of slavery's 
domain. In New York, where an explosion had been threat- 
ening for some time, the antislavery democrats, or "barn- 

14 Beardstoiun Gazette, October 4, n, November i, 1848. 

15 Chicago Democrat, June 22, 1848. 

16 Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2: 104. 

17 Illinois Journal, September 16, 1848. 


burners," were so disgusted with the proceedings of the 
national convention that they launched an independent move- 
ment, summoning all antislavery forces to meet in convention 
to agree upon common cause. The result was the organiza- 
tion of the free soil or free democratic party at Buffalo on the 
ninth of August, 1848. 

Illinois delegates led by Owen Lovejoy, Isaac N. Arnold, 
C. D. Wells, Samuel J. Lowe, C. Sedgwick, and Charles V. 
Dyer, attended this convention but took no conspicuous part 
in the proceedings. 18 Immediately, therefore, the question 
arose as to whether or not the movement would take root in 
Illinois, where the weak and despised liberty party polled 
only 4,000 votes. 19 The "barnburner" movement, however, 
quickly gathered strength. An Illinois free soil convention, 
with sixteen counties represented, assembled at Ottawa on 
August 29; they prepared an electoral ticket of their own 
and made ready to take an active part in the canvass. 20 Five 
or six new papers were started to advocate the election of 
the free soil candidates, Martin Van Buren and Charles Francis 
Adams. 21 

Shrewd political prophets predicted a free soil vote of 
20,000 in Illinois. Managers of both old parties were deeply 
concerned over the inroads that were being made into their 
ranks: which would suffer most heavily? 22 Democrats were 
frightened to see some of their best men, like Norman B. Judd, 
Dr. Daniel Brainard, Isaac N. Arnold, Mahlon D. Ogden, 
and Joseph O. Glover bolt the Baltimore nominations to go 
for Van Buren. 23 When Wentworth was renominated by a 
district convention controlled by "barnburners" which refused 

18 Gem of the Prairie, August 12, 1848 ; cf. Smith, The Liberty and Free 
Soil Parties in the Northwest, 142. 

19 Illinois Journal, September 6, 1848. This was the congressional vote of 
1848, just the size of Birney's vote in 1844. Owen Lovejoy polled 3,130 votes in 
the Chicago district. 

20 Illinois State Register, September 8, 1848; Beardstown Gazette, Sep- 
tember 13, 1848. 

21 Prospectus of Alton Monitor in Shurtleff College scrapbook. A free 
soil league at Chicago fitted up a club with a reading room and displayed 
considerable activity. Chicago Democrat, September 8, 1848. 

22 Quincy Whig, September 5, October 10, 24, 1848 ; Illinois State Register, 
September 15, 1848. 

23 Reddick to French, July 12, 1848, French manuscripts; Joliet Signal, 
October 16, 1848; Rockford Forum, October 24, 1848. 


to sustain the national ticket, 24 it was rumored that he, too, 
had bolted the Baltimore nominations. Wentworth at once 
replied, however, that since he believed in making his objec- 
tions before a convention and not afterwards, he had never 
even considered bolting; he also declared that he preferred 
Cass to Taylor on the slavery question. 25 Under democratic 
representation that David Wilmot and all true Wilmot proviso 
men were supporting Cass and that Van Buren stood no chance 
of election, former democrats like David Kennison of Chicago, 
the 1 1 2-year-old survivor of the Boston tea party, gave up 
their free soil predilections to sustain Cass. 26 

Whigs reversed the argument to favor their candidates: 
Van Buren was an ancient ally of slavery; every vote given 
by a whig to Van Buren was half a vote given to Cass. "The 
abolition party under the cloak of Van Burenism," they de- 
clared, " are attempting to play the same game " that defeated 
Clay in i844; 27 the free soil question "is a cardinal prin- 
ciple of the Whig party." 28 Abraham Lincoln, campaigning 
in behalf of General Taylor, stressed these points in indicating 
the policy and duty of all anti-extensionists. Many old liberty 
party men, it was boldly suggested, " prefer Gen. Taylor to 
Van Buren believing him sounder and entitled to more 
confidence on the free soil question, than the Buffalo conven- 
tion." 29 

These paradoxical and unconvincing arguments reflected 
the fears of party politicians as to the outcome of the election. 
Cheered by the encouraging results of the October elections 
in Pennsylvania, whigs counted the chances of carrying Illinois. 
Several items were listed in their favor; a hostile Mormon 
vote of 3,000 had been withdrawn from the state, the "barn- 
burners " were expected to carry off thousands from Cass, while 
his position on river and harbor improvement and other issues 
would cause further democratic losses. 30 Even the least san- 
guine democrats, however, relied upon being able to hold their 

24 Galloway to French, June 9, 1848, French manuscripts. 
23 Wentworth to French, June 23, 1848, ibid. 

26 Chicago Democrat, November 6, 1848. 

27 Aurora Beacon, September 27, 1848. 

28 Beardstown Gazette, November i, 1848. 

29 Quincy Whig, October 31, 1848. 

30 Ibid., August 15, 1848; Aurora Beacon, September 13, 1848. 

Free-Soil (Van Buren) 
more than 5% 


existing strength and upon using a normal democratic majority 
to carry the state. 

The returns showed that Taylor had carried the nation. 
The whigs of Springfield celebrated this victory with bonfires, 
cannon, a torchlight celebration, and an illumination of whig 
residences and places of business. Nevertheless, in the state 
the democrats had been correct in their calculations. Cass 
was given a plurality of 3,099 less by 9,000 than that for 
Polk four years before. Both parties suffered heavy losses 
to the free soil movement, which netted 15,702 votes. In the 
vicinity of Chicago the Van Buren vote was especially heavy; 
a free soil plurality was returned in the city and in Cook and 
seven adjacent counties, besides many other single precincts. 
This was largely at democratic expense, the result, said Went- 
worth, of Cass' announcement, at the dictation of Georgia 
politicians, of the doctrine of popular sovereignty. 31 

The logical result of the campaign that had just closed 
was a demand for concrete and tangible evidence of the much 
heralded devotion of both old parties to the principle of the 
Wilmot proviso. The free soil whigs promptly undertook to 
place the legislature on record in this matter. A drastic whig 
proviso resolution, however, was rejected in the house by a 
party vote, only a dozen democrats voting with the whig dele- 
gation. A long debate began on the Wilmot proviso and 
kindred propositions. Several resolutions were discussed; 
finally a mild resolution offered by Senator Ames was adopted 
in the senate by a vote of fifteen to ten. The house accepted 
the joint resolution and it was spread on the record. 32 It was 
voted, however, that it was not a resolution of instruction 
relating to any specific proposition then before congress; 33 
accordingly Douglas, despite the clamors of the whig press at 
this " rank federalism," quietly ignored it. 

It was the task of this legislature to elect a successor to 
Senator Sidney Breese. The whigs were clearly out of the 
race and democratic sentiment was divided between Breese and 

31 Hereafter, he urged, " let the North stand firm and she will compel 
southern men to announce themselves against slavery extension in order to get 
northern votes." Chicago Democrat, November 20, 1848. 

32 / Laiui of 1849, p. 234. 

33 Quincy Whig, January 16, 1849. 


General Shields. Breese was an experienced legislator but not 
a statesman of eminence; Shields laid claim to neither quali- 
fication but had powerful personal friends, popularity as an 
Irish champion of liberty, and the reputation of a military hero 
in the Mexican War. Breese was the favorite of the conserva- 
tive Egyptian democracy and found favor with the national 
administration at Washington; Shields was popular with 
Wilmot provisoists and with advocates of river and harbor 
improvement in the northern portion of the state. 34 As a 
result, this immigrant from the Emerald Isle, still ready, when 
Ireland should prepare to strike for liberty, to aid in the 
redemption of his native land, secured the nomination in the 
democratic caucus and was promptly elected by the legislature. 

General Shields presented his credentials- to the special 
executive session of the senate following Taylor's inaugura- 
tion. His eligibility was promptly challenged on the score of 
his inability to meet the constitutional requirement of nine 
years of citizenship. It was recognized at once that the chal- 
lenge had been made in behalf of Sidney Breese, his unsuccess- 
ful and disappointed rival; 35 but since he actually lacked a few 
months of fulfilling the requirement, the senate was compelled 
to reject him as ineligible. The democratic party in Illinois 
was racked by the controversy; both Breese and Shields seemed 
to have worn each other out, but no strong neutral candidate 
was available to take the place. 

Governor French was in no sense disposed to play the part 
of arbiter in this dispute. Finding himself in a tight place, 
pressed by the two rivals on the one hand and on the other 
by compromise candidates, he held, in opposition to the opinion 
of Douglas, that as no election had taken place, he had no 
power to appoint. 36 He therefore called a special session of 
the legislature to select a senator. 

By this time democratic politics had become hopelessly 

34 Rockford Forum, January 17, 24, 1849; Qu'incy Whig, January 30, 1849. 

35 Shields to French, March 17, 1849, French manuscripts. A heated cor- 
respondence took place between the two leaders. 

36 Douglas to French, May 16, Douglas to Lanphier and Walker, August 13, 
Illinois State Register, August 30, 1849; French to Manly, June 8, ibid., June 
21, 1849. Robert Smith and Thomas J. Turner also offered themselves as can- 
didates for the appointment. Robert Smith to French, March 9, 1849, Turner 
to French, May 17, 1849, French manuscripts. 


entangled. The friends of John A. McClernand, of lower 
Egypt, put him forward as a compromise candidate on the 
ground that the two rivals had worn each other out; they 
welcomed the idea of a special session as favorable to his 
ambition. 37 Advocates of special legislation requested the 
governor to include their schemes in his proclamation summon- 
ing the legislators to Springfield. Free soilers at first feared 
the danger of having their Wilmot proviso instructions with- 
drawn; later they made their plans to have them formally 
renewed. 38 The sectional division of the state over railroad 
development served as a leading line of cleavage between the 
advocates and opponents of a called session. When in October 
the session finally convened a hot contest between Breese, 
Shields, and McClernand took place in the democratic caucus. 
Shields was able to draw upon McClernand's following and 
win out on the twenty-first ballot; whereupon his election was 
formally accomplished in joint session. 39 

The attention of the Illinoisians was now drawn from these 
petty factional disturbances to the lowering cloud on the hori- 
zon threatening to deluge the nation in the flood tide of dis- 
union. North and south had grown more and more defiant in 
their intention to stand by their respective views on the slavery 
question, the north to prevent the spread of the hated insti- 
tution to another inch of soil already consecrated to freedom, 
and the south to enter the new territories with slave property 
on equal terms with the free states. Southerners, pushed to 
the wall and losing their hold on national politics, showed a 
disposition defiantly to insist upon their position. Should this 
be denied them, they were prepared to withdraw to secure 
their rights and to defend them with the sword. 

37 Illinois State Register, July 3, 1849; Chicago Democrat, September 3, 
1849; Illinois Globe, October 20, 1849. 

38 John Wentworth led the northern democrats in their opposition to the 
called session. Wentworth to French, June 28, 1849, French manuscripts; see 
also Chicago Democrat, July, August, and September, 1849. 

39 Illinois State Register, November i, 1849. Breese quietly acquiesced in the 
result; McClernand's organ, the Shawneetown Southern Advocate, however, 
burst out bitterly claiming that " McClernand was defeated and betrayed by 
the free soil members of the legislature." " When such men as McClernand and 
Breese," it commented, " are beaten by an arrogant, vain, ignorant, lying Irish- 
man, it is high time that all men, who respect their characters should retire in 
disgust from the political arena." Illinois Journal, November 8, December n, 


This ominous situation was closely followed in Illinois. 
The northern section was strongly committed to free soil; 
Egypt, still seeking some middle ground, helplessly decried 
agitation. The closing months of Folk's administration saw 
Oregon organized under a policy of slavery restriction; the 
Illinois votes in favor of this action were given on the ground 
that it was not an application of a new policy but a moral 
obligation created by the Missouri compromise line. 40 The 
question of the disposition of California, of New Mexico, and 
of Utah remained as a bone of contention between the hostile 

Illinois had contributed large numbers of her citizens to 
the settlement of California and naturally watched with great 
interest developments on the Pacific coast. Great was her 
applause, therefore, when a constitution was drawn up in the 
new territory which refused to make provision for the insti- 
tution of slavery. This was a development even more satis- 
factory than congressional prohibition of slavery because it 
promised to add a new free state to the union and to destroy 
the even balance between the north and south in the senate. 
Taylor's annual message and his special California message 
urging the admission of this new state were warmly received 
by the Wilmot provisoists and furnished them with a practical 
working platform. 

The situation naturally provoked bitter hostility in the 
south. The admission of California as a free state, it was 
declared in alarm, would be followed by New Mexico and 
Utah. Even sober-minded southerners, influenced by a new 
and more aggressive generation of leaders, began to calculate 
the value of the union; separation was threatened in terms 
of more or less passion and violence. In the tense and heated 
atmosphere legislators at Washington became overwrought 
and excited. Illinoisians were for the first time convinced 
that there were southern politicians "determined, if possible, 
to bring about a dissolution of the Union." 41 Their reply 
was that it was the duty of the state, of the entire west, to 

40 Illinois whigs were flattered that the office of governor of Oregon was 
tendered to Abraham Lincoln, although he found it necessary to decline the 
honor. Illinois State Register, October 4, 1849. 

41 Illinois Journal, February i, 1850. 


prevent the accomplishment of this foul plan. "The great 
and patriotic West," declared the Alton Telegraph, "has 
become strong enough to strangle the monster of disunion the 
moment it shall venture to raise its head." 42 It was denied 
that ground for disunion existed. 43 William H. Bissell, the 
Alton representative in congress, maintained an admirable 
self-control under these trying conditions; but on the floor of 
the house on February 21, he declared after an analysis of the 
southern threats that the people of Illinois and of the northwest 
would spring to arms to save the union. 44 

Douglas eloquently claimed for his section a deciding role 
in this stirring controversy: "There is a power in this nation 
greater than either the North or the South a growing, in- 
creasing, swelling power, that will be able to speak the law 
to this nation, and to execute the law as spoken. That power 
is the country known as the great West the Valley of the 
Mississippi, one and indivisible from the gulf to the great 
lakes, and stretching, on the one side and the other, to the 
extreme sources of the Ohio and Missouri from the Allegha- 
nies to the Rocky mountains. There, sir, is the hope of this 
nation the resting place of the power that is not only to 
control, but to save the Union This is the mis- 
sion of the great Mississippi Valley, the heart and soul of the 
nation and the continent." 43 

John A. McClernand, Douglas' right-hand man in the 
lower house, felt that the situation demanded that the west 
prepare to display her strength. On the seventy-fourth anni- 
versary of American independence he greatly feared for the 
continuance of the union; Texas was making ready to defy 
the federal government by force of arms; such action many 
felt to be the signal for a disunion movement on the part of 
the whole south. McClernand, therefore, confidentially giv- 
ing his view of the interests of Illinois to Governor French, 
advised the governor to take measures immediately to give the 
state militia the greatest efficiency: "I would prepare for the 
storm I would provide against portentous violence. This 

42 Alton Telegraph, February i, 1850. 

43 Chicago Democrat, April 8, 1850. 
^Congressional Globe, 31 congress, i session, 225-228. 
* 5 Ibid., 365; Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas, 175-176. 


as a citizen of Illinois and a lover of the Union, I call upon 
you to do." 46 

Thus did the " raw head and bloody bones " of disunion 
leer over the horizon to terrify the more timid. Soon a union- 
saving cry arose promising to checkmate the strong sectionalism 
that had been dominating the situation. Henry Clay, the great 
compromiser, had left his retirement at Ashland to play the 
role of peacemaker; his bold leadership made the idea of 
compromise popular, and all sorts of schemes were brought 
forward under that guise. Senator Douglas, though calm amid 
the prevailing hysteria, became one of the union savers. His 
clear fresh vision enabled him to foresee the failure of any 
single comprehensive compromise proposition such as Clay had 
recommended. Northern supporters of a California admis- 
sion bill, aided by advocates of popular sovereignty in the 
south, might easily enact that measure ; propositions for terri- 
torial governments for New Mexico and Utah on the same 
principle would receive support from moderate men in both 
parties; and in both sections, after extreme sectional devices 
had failed, the slave trade in the District of Columbia and the 
fugitive slave evil could be dealt with on their merits; but to 
tie all these into a single bungling scheme as Clay had urged 
would bring defeat because of the unanimity of opposition to 
specific objectional features. He commended the self-sacrificing 
spirit of Clay and of Webster, but optimistically declared: 
"The Union will not be put in peril; California will be admit- 
ted; governments for the territories must be established; and 
thus controversy will end, and I trust forever." 4T 

Douglas held that the effective solution of the slavery ques- 
tion would come through " the laws of nature, of climate, and 
production " recognized and ratified by the people of a state or 
territory, not by act of congress. He stressed the great demo- 
cratic principle of leaving each community to determine and 
regulate its own local and domestic affairs in its own way. This 
was a safe road to freedom because the vast territory stretch- 
ing from the Mississippi to the Pacific was rapidly filling up 
with a hardy, enterprising, and industrious population, des- 

46 McClernand to French, July 4, 1850, French manuscripts. 

47 Congressional Globe, 31 congress, i session, 364 ff. 


tined by the laws of nature and of God to dedicate the new 
territories to freedom. 

For these reasons Douglas offered his solution on March 25 
in the form of a California bill and a territorial bill; they were 
drafted after conferences with Richardson and McClernand, 
who introduced the same bills into the house. 48 Clay arranged 
to incorporate these bills as the first part of the omnibus bill 
which the select compromise committee of thirteen reported. 
Douglas' territorial bill was silent on the slavery question; the 
committee's measure contained an additional clause, prohibiting 
the territorial legislatures from legislating on the slavery ques- 
tion. This Douglas attacked as a restriction on the right of the 
inhabitants of the territory to decide what their institutions 
should be, for he was already in the lists as a champion of 
popular sovereignty. 49 

Congress began a long discussion of the Clay compromise, 
of President Taylor's proposal to await the action of the people 
of the territories in question, and of the northern and southern 
schemes for the disposition of slavery. Douglas' proposal and 
other plans were subordinated to these leading propositions. 
Douglas was frequently on his feet in the senate ; Shields, his 
colleague, usually followed his lead, while McClernand, Rich- 
ardson, and Harris urged the same course in the house. 
Douglas carefully explained his objection to the Wilmot pro- 
viso but found it necessary in accordance with the instructions 
of the Illinois legislature to vote with Shields for proposi- 
tions embodying that principle ; 50 he was always much relieved 
to find himself in the minority. The house delegation was 
under no such formal obligation; its vote was usually divided, 
with a majority against congressional intervention to restrict 
slavery. John Wentworth, the strongest Wilmot proviso man 
in the delegation, voted consistently for that principle; he 
seldom took the floor, however, except to press the passage 
of the California bill at times when its success was threatened 
by other distracting questions. 51 Edward D. Baker, the lone 

48 McClernand offered them, however, as parts of a single bill, a plan " not 
of my authorship." Ibid., 628. 

49 Ibid., 1114 ff. He was later gratified by the dropping of this clause. 

50 Senate Journal, 31 congress, i session, 375. 

51 Congressional Globe, 31 congress, i session, 1444, 1468. 


whig, usually voted with Wentworth, while the other five demo- 
cratic members opposed congressional restriction. 

Douglas, preferring the separation of the various items in 
the omnibus bill, had the satisfaction of witnessing the failure 
of that measure in line with his predictions. By midsummer, 
the omnibus had jolted over the rocks of sectionalism until all 
its occupants had been spilled out save one the Utah terri- 
torial proposition. Then Douglas, in accordance with his 
original plan, began to press the items separately. The Utah 
bill was given the right of way and rushed to passage. Then 
in quick succession came the enactment of the New Mexico 
territorial law, the California admission bill, and measures for 
the more effective rendition of fugitive slaves and for the aboli- 
tion of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. 

The Illinois representatives at Washington voted solidly 
for the California and the District slave trade measures; but 
Wentworth and Baker opposed the Utah, New Mexico, and 
fugitive slave laws, which the other congressmen supported. 
Douglas and Shields voted in favor of every one of these 
measures of adjustment except the fugitive slave law. On the 
days when it was brought up for final action, Douglas was 
absent from Washington on business, but his colleagues knew 
that he was in favor of the bill. 52 Shields, however, had no 
alibi; the evidence suggests that he was one of the vote- 
dodgers with whom Douglas was classed in the popular mind. 53 
It is bootless to attempt to apportion the exact amount of 
credit due to the different advocates of an amicable adjustment 
of the slavery controversy, but Douglas was able to claim in 
all modesty that he had played " an humble part in the enact- 
ment of all these great measures." 54 

Coincident with the struggle in congress the same forces 
in Illinois were fighting for a decision. Whig journals that 
had led in the demand for slavery restriction as essentially 
part of the whig creed issued the call: " Rally f friends of 

52 Congressional Globe, 32 congress, i session, appendix, 65. 

63 At any rate he answered roll call on other propositions on two differ- 
ent days when he abstained from voting on the fugitive slave bill. Senate 
Journal, 31 congress, i session, 565, 581. 

54 Senator Jefferson Davis declared to his colleagues in these words: "If 
any man has a right to be proud of the success of these measures, it is the 
Senator from Illinois." 


the Union, rally ! ! " Whigs were divided into advocates of the 
Clay compromise and supporters of the president's no-action 
plan; both groups, however, agreed to waive the Wilmot 
proviso policy as one no longer necessary. 55 The democrats, 
moreover, welcomed the opportunity to heal the division in 
their own ranks over the slavery issue. 56 

The union savers at an early date began organizing to 
influence public sentiment in favor of compromise. Belleville, 
a town where the populace gathered in mass meeting at the 
slightest provocation usually ex-Governor John Reynolds 
was one of the first cities in the country to hold a union meet- 
ing; on January 24 it adopted resolutions offered by Reynolds 
that the union be saved at all hazards. 57 A little later union 
mass meetings in Jacksonville, Edwardsville, and a few small 
towns voiced the same sentiment; the large Illinois cities, how- 
ever, remained inactive until the middle of June. When, 
finally, a Springfield meeting indorsed the report of the com- 
promise committee of thirteen, it was in numbers scarcely 
representative of that community. 58 The Jacksonville com- 
promisers again summoned the voters of Morgan county to a 
union gathering, but three days later the Wilmot provisoists 
were able to arrange an equally successful meeting. 59 

The cry of "compromise" stimulated the activity of the 
agitators throughout the nation; in Illinois such excitement 
on the slavery question had never been known as prevailed in 
March of 1850. Proviso meetings were held at Waukegan, 
Ottawa, and other places. 60 A considerable stir was caused 
by a nonpartisan free soil meeting at the city hall in Chicago 
presided over by Mayor J. H. Woodworth, in which resolu- 
tions were adopted expressing utter abhorrence at all com- 
promises that permitted the further extension of human slavery ; 
condemning a compromise scheme attributed to Douglas by the 
press; and firmly declaring in favor of the Wilmot proviso 
and of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. 

65 Illinois Journal, May 2, 1850; Joliet Signal, May 28, 1850. 

66 Belleville Advocate, May 30, 1850. 

57 Alton Telegraph, February 8, 1850. 

58 Illinois Journal, June 18, 1850. 

59 Morgan Journal, June 22, 1850. 

60 Chicago Democrat, March 15, April 6, 1850; Ottawa Free Trader, March 
16, 1850. 


In spite of the "no-party" appeal, whig provisoists were dis- 
appointed because Henry Clay's name was received with cold- 
ness while Benton's brought an outburst of applause; demo- 
crats, moreover, claimed that it was the work of fanatics and 
of political opponents of Senator Douglas a charge corrobo- 
rated by the Illinois Journal, which disapproved of this " knot 
of politicians .... bent on driving Mr. Douglas from 
the Senate." 61 

The free soilers sought to utilize the opportunity to 
strengthen their independent party organization; local and 
district conventions were arranged and the propriety of a 
state convention discussed. This activity was sufficient to 
douse completely the interest of old-line party men, who, for 
fear of embarrassing their own organizations, withdrew from 
the movement. Finally the Chicago Tribune, for two years 
a free soil organ, announced its decision to sever its ties with 
the free democratic organization. 62 

By this time, moreover, the union antidote had begun to 
work; the suggestion that it was "THE UNION vs. THE WIL- 
MOT PROVISO " left no alternative but to yield the principle of 
congressional intervention in the territories to the preserva- 
tion of the compromises of the constitution. 63 Webster's sev- 
enth of March speech, though characterized by the Belleville 
Advocate as "profound but soulless" and "lacking in hon- 
esty," circulated in large editions, and strengthened the argu- 
ment of those who held that slavery could never go into New 
Mexico or Utah. Clay's compromise scheme began to win 
support as an arrangement which despite its defects was likely 
to allay thre excitement that was pervading the country. 64 

The main obstacle in the way of the union savers was the 
hostility to the proposed fugitive slave legislation. Douglas 
was known to be in favor of the measure as simple justice to 
the south under the constitution; papers like the State Register, 

81 Chicago Dally Journal, February 22, 1850; Illinois Journal, February 27, 
1850; Illinois State Register, February 27, 28, 1850; Joliet Signal, February 26, 
1850. Douglas repudiated the alleged compromise proposition and denounced 
the resolution of censure. Douglas to Woodworth, March 5, Illinois Journal, 
March 26, 1850. 

62 Chicago Tribune, May 29, clipped in Western Citizen, June 4, 1850. 

88 Quincy Whig, February 19, 1850. 

64 Alton Telegraph, March i, 8, 22 and other numbers, 1850. 


therefore, came out in support of the proposed measure. 65 
This only served, however, to arouse protests from those who 
denied that they were so destitute of humanity and feeling as 
to accept such a clear violation of the principle of common 

The news of its passage inflamed these objectors to action; 
the measure, they declared, had no moral or constitutional 
justification and ought to be resisted. 66 Petitions for its imme- 
diate repeal were widely circulated. Thirteen thousand copies 
of an anti-fugitive slave bill pamphlet were sold in three weeks 
at the rate of five cents per copy. " In our candid judgments," 
declared the Ottawa Free Trader, "there has not been, during 
the present century a law passed, or an edict issued by any 
government claiming to be free, which outrages justice as this 
law does." " The law will be a dead letter. It cannot be 
enforced." 67 

The friends of the Negro rallied to express their opinion 
in indignation meetings. Kenosha citizens on October 18 
appointed a vigilance committee and listened to a deputy mar- 
shall assert that he would not serve a writ for the arrest of 
a fugitive slave. 68 The Congregational church at Aurora 
became the meeting' place of a similar assembly. From many 
pulpits and ministerial, associations were thundered violent 
denunciations. Chicagoans in mass meeting assembled spoke 
in strong, earnest condemnation of the obnoxious law. 69 Re- 
flecting the popular indignation, the Chicago common council, 
with only two dissenting votes, formally pronounced the law 
cruel, unjust, and unconstitutional, a transgression of the laws 
of God, and declared that congressmen from the free states 
who assisted in its passage or "who basely sneaked away from 
their seats, and thereby evaded the question," were "fit only 
to be ranked with the traitors;" it was formally resolved that 
the city police would not be required to render any assistance 
for the arrest of fugitive slaves. 70 

65 Illinois State Register, September 19, 26, 1850. 

66 W estern Citizen, October 8, 29, November 5, 19, 1850. 

67 Ottawa Free Trader clipped in Chicago Democrat, October 14, 1850. 

68 Ibid., October 23, 1850. 

^Aurora Beacon, October 24, 1850; Chicago Journal, October 26, 1850. 

70 Illinois State Register, October 31, 1850; Joliet Signal, December 3, 1850. 


Shields and Douglas, returning to their homes while public 
opinion was in this state of ferment, tried to stem the tide of 
protest, the former at a speech in Springfield on October 29 
and the latter in an address at Chicago on the evenings of 
October 21 and 23. In spite of his absence at the final roll 
call Douglas, greeted by the hisses and jeers of a hostile 
audience, assumed the full responsibility of an affirmative vote; 
in his speech he so boldly and eloquently reminded his hearers 
that refusal to return a fugitive slave to his master was a 
violation of the constitution and a blow at the permanence 
of the union that at its close occurred one of those remarkable 
instances of mob spirit dropping a set of old idols for a new 
shrine at which to worship. Douglas presented a series of 
resolutions declaring the obligation of all good citizens to 
maintain the constitution and all laws enacted in accordance 
with it; these were adopted without a dissenting vote, where- 
upon a bolder step was taken and the audience was actually 
induced to vote an express repudiation of the resolutions of 
the common council. 71 

This unexpected indorsement of Douglas' position may 
be interpreted as a personal triumph of a masterful statesman 
in the very citadel of fanaticism, the laurels won by the per- 
suasive eloquence of a lion-hearted orator. Time, however, 
showed that it had a deeper significance. Public opinion, 
wearied of agitation, was especially susceptible to any appeal 
for political quiet; the practical man realized the difficulty 
of effecting a repeal of legislation that had formally reached 
the statute books, while the agitator exhausted himself in futile 
condemnation of the most strenuous nine months of legislative 
controversy in American history. 

The revival of party allegiance was a potent force in this 
process of readjustment. Party leaders finally came to realize 
that interest in the struggle at Washington had interfered 
with normal political activity at home. The closing weeks of 
congress and the period following adjournment, therefore, 
witnessed a general attempt to get the party machinery into 

71 Sheahan, Life of Douglas, 186; Flint, Life of Douglas, appendix 30; 
Chicago Daily Journal, October 24, 1850, The author of the other resolutions 
was B. S. Morris, a prominent old-line whig. Shields also introduced resolu- 
tions supporting the fugitive slave law. Illinois State Register, October 31, 1850. 


running order for the state and congressional elections in 
November, though it was too late to hold state conventions 
to nominate candidates for state treasurer. The democratic 
state committee, therefore, took the responsibility of offering 
the name of John Moore, 72 while the whigs made a feeble 
effort to rally to the support of John T. Knox. 

Democratic forces were badly split in the northern dis- 
tricts; but party leaders and party journals eloquently pleaded 
for union and harmony, for dropping past differences and unit- 
ing under one banner. 73 So zealously was this matter pressed 
that the separate free democratic candidate in the Chicago 
district was compelled to withdraw from the field. "Long 
John " had found his place in congress too unattractive to run 
again, 74 so that the party united on Dr. Richard S. Moloney, 
a Wentworth protege of strong antislavery feelings ; the State 
Register, however, struck his name from the list of democratic 
candidates that it posted. 75 This made the contest in that 
district, as elsewhere, a straight-out whig and democratic duel 
with only a handful of abolitionists in an independent move- 
ment. In the Springfield district Richard Yates, the whig 
candidate, defeated Thomas L. Harris in his campaign for 
reelection and was the only whig member returned to congress. 

Old party allegiance had thus crushed the very existence 
of the promising free soil movement of 1848. Strong anti- 
slavery activities were regarded as inconsistent with a proper 
loyalty to the union; they had been proved, moreover, in a 
party sense, to be disorganizing and party politicians now 
opposed them more than ever on that score. No sooner, 
therefore, had the legislative session organized in January, 
1851, than a joint resolution was introduced declaring that 
inasmuch as the constitution was created and adopted in a spirit 
of compromise, and as slavery was one of the principal sub- 

72 Illinois State Register, September 5, 1850; Zarley to French, August 30, 
1850, French manuscripts. 

73 Ottawa Free Trader, August 17, 30, September 28, 1850; Chicago Demo- 
crat, August 26, 30, September 6, 1850. 

74 Wentworth to E. W. Austin, July i, 1850, ibid., July 19, 1850; Chicago 
Daily Journal, July 10, 1850. 

75 Illinois State Register, October 17, 1850. Wentworth's opponents were 
planning to establish a rival conservative democratic paper in Chicago. Gal- 
loway to French, July 24, 1850, Harris to French, July 27, 1850, French manu- 


jects of compromise, as the constitution did not conflict with 
the divine law and as there was no higher law than the con- 
stitution, therefore, all controversy upon the subject of slavery 
was to be deprecated; for these reasons the measures of adjust- 
ment passed by congress in 1850, including the fugitive slave 
law, were given a hearty approval, the Illinois delegation in 
congress was instructed to use their best abilities and influence 
in resistance to any attempt to disturb this settlement, and the 
Wilmot proviso resolutions of instruction of 1849 were 
rescinded. 76 

This resolution, which was promptly passed, is an indi- 
cation of the spirit that dominated party politics in Illinois 
up to the enactment of the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Especially 
was this true of the Illinois democracy, which was able to 
congratulate itself, despite antislavery resolutions of county 
and district conventions in the northern part of the state, that 
the state organization had never become contaminated with 
free soilism but had succeeded on the principles laid down by 
Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, while the party in 
other states had been divided by schisms and overwhelmed by 
defeat. 77 This remained a source of party strength until 1854 
when it suddenly became a serious element of weakness with 
the reopening of the slavery controversy. 

La<ws of 1851, p. 205-207; Underwood to Gillespie, January 15, 1851, 
Gillespie manuscripts. 

77 Joliet Signal, July 22, 1851. 


WITH the rush of immigration into Illinois new blood 
and energy was injected into all phases of agricul- 
tural activity. While the rest of the industrial population of the 
state increased only twenty per cent, the agriculturists more 
than doubled in the decade ending in 1860. The new settlers 
brought with them their own notions of successful farming, 
but their enthusiasm for the new environment tempered their 
devotion to old methods and inclined them to select only those 
features which might make for improvement. With the prairies 
thrown open for agricultural development and prairie farming 
only in its infancy this spirit of experimentation contributed to 
the important progress made in the last decade of the ante- 
bellum period. 

Already by 1850 the adaptability of Illinois soil for spe- 
cialization in corn culture had been demonstrated; a crop of 
57,646,984 bushels of this staple represented an output nearly 
three times that of other grain crops. This emphasis on corn 
continued and was reflected in even stronger terms in 1860 
when an output of 115,174,777 bushels moved Illinois from 
third rank as a corn growing state to the head of the column. 
In this decade the corn belt began to shift from the Illinois 
valley to the prairies of the eastern counties in the central divi- 
sion. Besides its supremacy in corn production, Illinois, the 
fifth wheat growing state of 1850, by more than doubling its 
wheat production, carried off first honors in 1860 with 23,837,- 
023 bushels. In the early fifties the belief spread that the risks 
in wheat culture were less in southern Illinois where the grain 
matured earlier and was saved from the blight and rust caused 
by the June and July rains ; and Egypt, which had been steadily 
losing ground during the forties, recovered with a sixfold 
increase while the northern and central divisions doubled their 
crops. The northern counties, however, still produced over 



one-half the wheat of the state. Northern Illinois also raised 
nearly three-fourths of the 15,220,029 oats crop of 1859, 
which represented a fifty per cent increase for the decade, and 
two-thirds of the rye crop of 951,281 bushels, and of the bar- 
ley crop of 1,036,338 bushels, both of which represented ten- 
fold increases. 

With these important gains in the agricultural output of 
the state, Illinois became one of the most important granaries 
for the supply of the industrial centers of the Atlantic seaboard 
and Europe. Illinois flour began to find its way into eastern 
and European markets, the southern Illinois product being 
especially favored. Chicago came into its own as the grain 
emporium of Illinois and the west, an "agricultural weather- 
cock" "showing from whence comes the balmy winds of pros- 
perity." Soon it was the largest primary grain depot in the 
world. 1 

Grain buyers from Chicago scoured every section of the 
state, including even the extreme southern portion, and ar- 
ranged to ship the crops northward. In order to hurry the 
grain to the eastern markets, eighteen of the most prominent 
mercantile houses organized a " Merchants' Grain Forwarding 
Association" in September, 1857. This represented a division 
of labor which changed the Board of Trade, organized in 1848, 
into a general commercial organization. Heavy grain specu- 
lation began to develop at Chicago ; the operators worked inces- 
santly at the exchange at the Board of Trade rooms and at a 
certain street corner known as " gamblers' corner." Many a 
fortune of $20,000 or $30,000 was made within a few weeks, 
though numbers of "lame ducks" appeared at the same time. 2 
The general effect upon the business of the city was extremely 
good, but the farmers were restive under this system ano! 
throughout the decade continued a spasmodic agitation for 
cooperative associations for the disposal of their produce. 
Finally in 1858, local agitation led to a farmers' congress at 
the state fair at Centralia which adopted a declaration in favor 

1 Illinois State Journal, September 6, 1855; Ottawa Free Trader, Feb- 
ruary 1 8, 1854. 

2 Cairo Times and Delta, July 15, 1857; Quincy Whig, October 3, 1857; 
Chicago Daily Times, October 7, 1857; Guyer, History of Chicago, 23; Chicago 
Democrat, May 5, 1857; Chicago Press and Tribune, July 4, 1859. 


of the formation of wholesale purchasing and selling agencies 
in the great centers of commerce " so that producers may, in 
a great measure, have it in their power to save the profits of 
retailers." 3 It was another matter, however, to translate this 
resolution into action. 

Good crops prevailed generally throughout the decade ex- 
cept in 1854 when a general drought did especially heavy 
damage in the southern part of the state. Vegetation in many 
districts was entirely burned up, wells and creeks dried up, and 
farmers unable to secure water often sold their stock to be 
driven where feed and water could be had rather than see it 
perish. The corn crop was seriously damaged, but small grains 
suffered less. Although there was no danger of a food short- 
age, the food speculators were soon at work forcing prices up 
to new records. High prices had been prevailing since the 
European famine year of 1847 which drove wheat up to $1.25 
a bushel; a gradual drop had ended with the Crimean War 
news in early 1854 which, followed by the activity of foreign 
buyers, brought back $1.10 and $1.25 wheat. By that time 
prices which had previously varied considerably were becoming 
standardized by Chicago and New Orleans markets. The 
summer drought sent prices of breadstuffs higher than they 
had been for eighteen years, wheat selling at $1.25, corn at 40 
cents and potatoes at $1.50. Normal prices had not been 
entirely restored when the panic of 1857 arrived. Speculators 
began to talk of short grain crops and of the rot in potatoes, 
but crowded cellars and bursting grain ricks contradicted their 
statements. They were able, however, to keep the bottom 
from falling out of the market, although the farmer suffered 
from the depression; the price of foodstuffs was prohibitive 
for the poor of the cities. 4 

It was obvious to the more aggressive and progressive agri- 
culturalists of the state that education could work a vast 
improvement in prevailing methods and practices. Even con- 

s Rockford Register, October 16, 1858; Rockford Forum, July 18, 1848; 
Western Citizen, January 8, 1850; Our Constitution, June 26, 1858. 

4 Joliet Signal, August 29, September 5, 1859; Chicago Daily Times, Sep- 
tember 3, 1857. While exorbitant prices prevailed in Chicago, corn was burned 
for fuel at Kankakee as cheaper than coal. Rockford Republican, January 21, 


temporary critics characterized the methods of cultivation as 
"most slovenly." "This is especially true in the Southern 
counties. The best farmers plough only four or five inches 
deep, never use a hoe, but do perhaps once in a season run a 
cultivator between the rows of Indian corn. Under such cir- 
cumstances it is not probable that much more than half of 
what might be is raised." This was obvious, when in contrast 
with the general average of 35 bushels such large scale pro- 
gressive farmers as B. F. Harris of Champaign county and 
David Strawn of La Salle county could raise over 60 bushels 
of corn per acre. B. F. Harris in 1855 harvested 700 acres 
of corn at 65 bushels per acre, 70 acres of oats at 30 bushels, 
20 of wheat at 20 bushels, and 2 of potatoes at 75, besides 
raising 100 tons of hay, 360 head of cattle, 21 horses, 200 
hogs and 12 sheep. In the same county Michael L. Sullivant 
planted over 7,000 acres in corn. There were farms with an 
acreage of 10,000 and even 27,000, one of the latter having 
3,000 acres of corn in a single field. These large farms 
attracted considerable attention, but little was known of their 
methods by the small holders. 5 ' 

With the decade of the fifties, however, the Illinois agri- 
culturist began for the first time seriously to analyze his weak- 
nesses and to determine his future needs. Out of the agitation 
for industrial education came the proposition to organize a 
state agricultural society. Farmers' associations and agricul- 
tural societies already existed in several counties, and under 
the leadership of the Sangamon County Agricultural Society 
the Illinois State Agricultural Society was launched at Spring- 
field on January 5, 1853. One function of the new organiza- 
tion was to encourage the formation of additional county 
agricultural societies; it drafted a model constitution; and by 
the direct cooperation of its officers new societies were formed, 
first in the northern and central counties and later in southern 
Illinois. The legislature was induced to appropriate an annual 
sum of fifty dollars to each county society having an active 
existence. By the end of the decade, therefore, eighty-eight 
agricultural societies were to be found in Illinois, twenty more 

5 Prairie Farmer, July, 1855; Western Journal, 2:254; Urbana Union, Oc- 
tober 25, 1855; Our Constitution, June 12, 1858; Illinois Globe, September 22, 


than in any other state in the union. At the same time a 
broader connection was established when Illinois came to take 
part in the sessions of the National Agricultural Society, and 
when the Northwestern Agricultural Society established its 
headquarters at Chicago in i859. 6 

Both the state and county societies placed especial emphasis 
on their annual fairs; the first state fair was held at Spring- 
field, October 11-14, 1853. It was the policy of the society at 
this time to pass the state fair around among the various cities 
of the state ; a movement gathered considerable force to local- 
ize it at Springfield with permanent grounds, purchased with a 
legislative appropriation ; but it was defeated by the combined 
opposition of rival places. 7 

The premiums offered by the State Agricultural Society 
aroused general interest in new agricultural machinery. Sev- 
eral Illinois reapers were on the market, including, besides 
the Cyrus H. McCormick machine, the manufacture of which 
had come to be concentrated at Chicago, the inventions of 
Obed Hussey of Chicago, J. H. Manny of Freeport, Jerome 
Atkins of Will county, Charles Denton of Peoria, and G. H. 
Rugg of Ottawa. It was said that three of the four reaping 
machines that took prizes at the Paris exhibition in 1855 were 
owned and manufactured by residents of Illinois. Reaper 
trials were arranged to test the respective merits of the various 
machines; the State Agricultural Society held a trial at Salem 
in July, 1 857, followed a few days later by a privately arranged 
contest at Urbana in which five reapers were entered. Advan- 
tages continued in favor of the C. H. McCormick machine 
which enjoyed special patent rights. 8 The success of mowers 

6 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, October 25, 1852; Prairie Farmer, De- 
cember, 1852; Illinois State Register, January 13, 1853; Peru Daily Chronicle, 
January 6, 1854; Chicago Weekly Democrat, April 8, 1854; Chicago Press and 
Tribune, September 19, 1859, April 13, 1860. 

7 Illinois State Agricultural Society, Transactions, i:43ff. ; Aurora Beacon, 
January 27, 1859. 

8 When, in 1852, McCormick applied for the renewal of certain patents 
that had already expired, considerable opposition developed on the part both 
of reaper inventors and of farmers who were unwilling to pay the patent fee 
of $30 which McCormick was able to collect under his monopoly. Ottawa Free 
Trader, February 7, 12, April 17, 1852; J. D. Webster to Trumbull, August 7, 
1856, Trumbull manuscripts. See article "Illinois The Reaper State," Chicago 
Advertiser clipped in Illinois State Register, November 6, 1851; also ibid., 
September 4, November 13, 1851, September 13, 1855. 


and reapers was so evident that inventive genius was next 
directed toward raking and binding attachments; L. D. Phil- 
lips of Chicago patented such an invention in December, 1857. 
Others brought out improvements in old machines with special 
devices of their own. The desire to develop a "steam plow" 
which might be used to turn the prairie sod with more economy 
than the use of horses, oxen, or mules would permit, furnished 
an interesting field of experimentation. At a trial at Decatur 
on November 10 and n, 1858, a demonstration was made 
under unfavorable conditions, which was voted satisfactory by 
the newspaper correspondents. Another trial was made at the 
state fair at Freeport in 1859 with the Fawkes' steam plow, 
which had been awarded the grand gold medal at the United 
States Agricultural Fair the preceding year; the committee, 
however, was unable to arrive at a decision as to its success. 9 

By this time a considerable amount of agricultural machin- 
ery had been introduced on the large farms in certain regions 
along the Illinois river and in the upper counties, so that cul- 
tivators, seed drills, reapers, and mowers became fairly com- 
mon while even a threshing machine was occasionally seen. 10 
The value of farm implements and farm machinery increased 
from $6,405,561 in 1850 to $17,235,472 in 1860. 

One of the chief difficulties of the Illinois farmer was that 
of securing a cheap and efficient fencing. Wood was too scarce 
and too expensive for its limited wearing qualities; wire and 
specially prepared sheet iron strips nailed to posts in the 
ground proved not altogether satisfactory; ditching and bank- 
ing schemes and sod fences met with slight success, and though 
various kinds of hedges were tried, they were usually too slow 
of growth. Then Jonathan B. Turner introduced the Osage 
orange which had all the qualities most needed for a successful 
hedge cheapness, certainty, quick growth, and unlimited 
endurance. By 1848 he had tried out two or three miles of 
hedge on his farm; and though it cost him $150 a mile for a 
three years' growth, he was able to sell plants at $10 per thou- 

9 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, January 8, 1858; Chicago Press and 
Tribune, November 15, 1858, September 13, 1859; Belleville Advocate, Novem- 
ber 24, 1858; Illinois State Agricultural Society, Transactions, 3:99-100; 4:23. 

10 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, September 17, 1857; Alton Courier, 
August 2, 1858. 


sand. Turner immediately called the attention of leading 
agriculturalists to his experiments, and by 1851 so many were 
converted to the Osage orange hedge that it threatened to 
supersede all other kinds of fences in a few years. 11 

Signs of a growing diversification of agriculture appeared 
during the fifties. Northern Illinois was raising potatoes in 
increasing quantities while in the southern counties castor beans 
became a favorite crop. The pioneer farmer and the recent 
settler had lacked the time to set out fruit trees and had later 
neglected this means of varying their hog and hominy diet. In 
1850 there were few signs of fruit culture in Illinois. "Where 
the strawberry-bed ought to be, you will perhaps find a tobacco 
patch, and the hog-pen has usurped the place of the currant 
bushes," 12 commented a thoughtful traveler. 

Illinois farmers gradually became alive to this neglect of 
horticulture, especially as the demand arising for fruit and 
vegetables brought exorbitant prices for the available supply. 
Soon important developments were evident in the extreme 
southern counties of the state; by 1860 apples, peaches, and 
melons were shipped in large quantities from the southern 
fruit farms. Alton became an important fruit market with 
large exports; its peaches were sometimes ordered direct by 
New York fruit houses. Peach orchards of 1,000 trees became 
fairly common. Isaac Underhill of Peoria had on his " Rome 
Farm" of 2,200 acres an orchard one mile square with 10,000 
grafted apple trees and 6,000 peach trees. William Yates had 
a four hundred acre farm in Perry county with over 4,000 
peach, pear, and apple trees besides a wide assortment of 
smaller fruits. Mathias L. Dunlap's nursery near Urbana 
came to have a wide reputation for its excellent fruit and filled 
orders from every part of the west. Grape culture flourished 
in the German districts around Alton and Belleville; many 

11 J. B. Turner to French, May 24, July 7, 1848, French manuscripts; Prairie 
Farmer, January, 1851 ; Western Journal, 5: 190; Joliet Signal, January 14, 1851; 
Illinois Journal, April 2, 1851. Wire fences cost $181.80 per mile; rails $149.60, 
according to J. D. Whitely in Prairie Farmer, October, 1848. 

12 Chicago Tribune clipped in Illinois State Register, March 13, 1850. Potato 
prices hovered around the dollar mark during the earlier years of the decade 
but later dropped to twenty-five and thirty-five cents a bushel and became in 
truth the "poor man's comforter." Alton Weekly Courier, August 24, 1855; 
Mound City Emporium, May 13, 1858, March 17, 1859. 


temperance advocates began to look to the use of native wines 
as the most satisfactory way of banishing drunkenness from 
the land. 13 In October, 1851, the Northwestern Fruit Growers' 
Association was organized; and, supported almost entirely by 
residents of Illinois, it met in annual session until 1857, when 
it decided to merge itself into the Illinois Horticultural Society, 
organized in 1856. 

There were, of course, some unsuccessful attempts at diver- 
sification. In 1848 an enthusiastic campaign was inaugurated 
to develop hemp growing to the point of successful competition 
with the Missouri farmers; in a few years, however, the move- 
ment collapsed. Experiments were attempted with flax culture 
but without marked success, while the cotton crop of southern 
Illinois rapidly declined in spite of the previous success with it 
in that region. 

The most exciting venture in the field of agriculture during 
the decade was in the cultivation of the " Chinese sugar cane." 
The whole northwest nourished the ambition to convert itself 
into a sugar-growing district. In 1856 J. M. Kroh and a few 
other farmers in Wabash* county planted small plots of this 
"Chinese millet," "sorgo sucre" or "northern sugar cane" 
as it was variously called, and reported great success with 
an output of forty-five gallons of syrup from a half acre not- 
withstanding many unfavorable factors. Immediately the 
keenest interest was aroused in this new discovery. Kroh alone 
sold seed to over 2,000 persons, and his neighbors distributed 
their su-rplus; seed was also distributed by congressmen as 
political favors to their constituents. In the next season the 
cane was planted in every county in the state ; in many districts 
nearly every farmer planted at least a few rows by way of 
experiment; and Kroh's neighbor, Edwin S. Baker of Rochester 
Mills, tried the experiment on the largest scale, with twenty 
acres. The success of these various enterprises aroused enthu- 
siasm for the new crop; sorghum molasses was immediately 
enrolled as an Illinois staple, and successful experiments in 
granulation made domestic sugar merely a question of the cost 
of manufacture. An Illinois State Sugar Cane Convention was 
held at Springfield, January 7, 1858; after an organization 

13 Chicago Weekly Democrat, August 6, 1853. 


of the sugar growers was perfected, experiences were ex- 
changed and important data assembled. 14 The result was an 
increased acreage and harvest. Sugar mills were installed, 
and although the production of sugar was found impracticable, 
the extraction of syrup was very successful; one mill in Spring- 
field was operated in season day and night with a three hun- 
dred gallon daily output. The Illinois advocates of the Chinese 
sugar cane were exultant; nowhere in the United States had its 
cultivation been so successful and so encouraging. 

Stock raising was an especially important interest in central 
Illinois where it proved a most profitable business when prac- 
ticed on advanced principles. Three of the most extensive 
cattle raisers were Isaac Funk of Bloomington, who in 1854 
sold in a single lot 1,400 head of cattle averaging 700 pounds 
for $64,000; Jacob Strawn, who fed the first steers in Morgan 
county and who " has probably fed more since that time than 
all other men in the county together;" 15 and B. F. Harris of 
Champaign county who made a fine showing at the World's 
Fair at New York in 1853; in 1855 he raised 500 head of cat- 
tle and 200 hogs and marketed a drove of 100 bullocks aver- 
aging 2,373 pounds. In the early days large cattle feeders 
like Jacob Strawn had to scour all central and southern Illinois 
and the settled parts of Missouri and Iowa to secure stock; 
now in the fifties cattle was brought in droves from Missouri, 
Texas, and even Mexico to convert the immense yield of Illinois 
corn into marketable form. 

The more enterprising farmers of central Illinois were with 
decided advantage beginning to introduce blooded stock to 
improve the breed of cattle raised. It was next suggested that 
a joint stock company be organized to import first grade cattle 
from the east and from Europe. This suggestion was acted 
upon in December, 1856, when the Illinois Stock Importing 
Company was organized at Springfield with an immediate sub- 
scription of $12,700 worth of capital stock. A few months 

14 Western Journal, ^.-.i^G. ; F. S. Frazier to Trumbull, February 5, 1857, 
John H. Bryant to Trumbull, February 12, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts; Illinois 
State Journal, January 13, 1858. 

15 Prairie Farmer, November, 1854; cf. Chicago Weekly Democrat, Decem- 
ber 23, 1854. His cattle sales in that season exceeded $96,000. Strawn for years 
either supplied or controlled the St. Louis beef market. 


later its agents headed by Dr. H. V. Johns, former president 
of the Illinois Agricultural Society, were sent to England to 
make purchases. Some eighty head of imported stock arrived 
in Springfield in August, 1857, and were sold at auction to 
citizens of Illinois on the understanding that they should 
remain in the state for two years. 

For pork growing few regions were as favorable as the 
Illinois prairies. Allowed to run at large upon the open plains 
as well as in the few timbered districts, hogs multiplied so 
rapidly that it was often a matter of difficulty to decide to 
whom a lot of grunting porkers owed allegiance. For this 
reason there were many advocates of a law for their confine- 
ment. 16 Since this was the only problem in hog raising for 
there seemed to be no hog cholera or other disease until the 
spring of 1859 hogs were the chief means of converting the 
corn of the state into good marketable form. In 1850, 1,915,- 
907 hogs were raised; by 1860 the number had increased to 

Woolgrowing met with less success than other livestock 
interests in spite of the fact that Illinois seemed admirably 
adapted for sheep raising and although for some time the 
annual output of wool, chiefly from the northern counties and 
certain central districts, showed an increase. Extensive wool- 
growers like Truman Humphreys of Peoria and James McCon- 
nell of Sangamon county insisted that wool could be grown 
in Illinois more profitably than anywhere else in the United 
States. With uncertain prices for wool, however, and with 
a more certain reward in other fields, most farmers were 
content to leave these opportunities to the advocate of wool- 
growing. In the census of 1850, 894,043 sheep were listed 
with a wool crop of 2,150,113 pounds; but by 1860 an actual 
decrease of 14 per cent was indicated in the census total of 
769,135 sheep. 

The total value of the livestock of the state in 1850 was 
$24,209,258 and consequently meat packing had become an 
important industry ; in that year animals to the value of $4,972,- 
286 were slaughtered. Pork brought in this decade prices 
ranging from $2 and $2.50 per hundred in the early years to 

16 Cairo Weekly Delta, November 23, 1848; Prairie Farmer, November, 1848. 


$5 and $6 in the latter part. For an average pork packing 
town 20,000 was a fair season's packing, and nearly a half 
million were packed annually in the state. In Alton and in 
the towns along the Illinois, notably Beardstown the origi- 
nal Porkopolis and Peoria, thousands of hogs were slaugh- 
tered each year; but with the opening of the canal and of the 
railroads more and more of the hogs were taken to Chicago 
to be slaughtered. By 1859 this tendency was so marked that 
Chicago had become the third pork packing city in the west 
and promised shortly to eclipse its rivals in the hog trade. 
The same development in the beef packing industry made 
Chicago in 1860 the greatest general meat packing center in 
the west. 

The decade of progress along agricultural lines increased 
5,039,545 acres of improved lands in 1850 to 13,096,374 ten 
years later. Unimproved holdings of 6,997,867 acres in- 
creased to 7,815,615. This represented an increased acreage 
of 73.7 per cent. The number of farms nearly doubled and 
the value of farm property nearly quadrupled. These statis- 
tics reflect the extraordinary demand for land that prevailed 
throughout the decade. Illinois, indeed, was still in the whirl 
of land speculation. The inpouring of settlers and the opening 
of the canal and of the railroads combined to produce a 
heavier demand and a greater accessibility for unoccupied 
holdings. Generally speaking, land sales came to involve 
fewer and fewer direct transactions between the government 
and the actual settler. 

The unique event of 1848 was the placing upon the mar- 
ket of the Illinois and Michigan canal lands, an event which had 
been delayed by the interests of a clique of Chicago specu- 
lators. Prominent Chicago politicians claimed preemption 
rights which held up some of the most valuable pieces; 17 and, 
with money scarce and the speculative feeling supposedly not 
very high, the sales went off with little spirit. The remaining 
lands, increased by 35,000 acres under a new construction of 
the federal grant, were offered to the public in annual sales. 
A rush to these sales began in 1852 and 1853; Chicago hotels 

17 Colonel Charles Oakley to French, August 26, September 6, 1848, French 


were crowded, considerable excitement and competition among 
purchasers developed, and the bidding was prompt and spir- 
ited. By 1855 the best of the lands had been taken, although 
the sales continued to be held each successive year until the end 
of the decade. 

On September 28, 1850, congress donated to the several 
states in which they lay, the public swamp lands and lands 
liable to overflow. These lands, which eventually totalled 
1,833,413 acres, were promptly surveyed; and the general 
assembly of Illinois granted them to the counties in which 
they were located for the construction of the necessary levees 
and drains to reclaim them ; the balance, if any, was to be dis- 
tributed among the townships equally for education or roads 
and bridges as the county authorities might decide. These 
lands had been placed on sale and many disposed of when the 
federal government intervened on account of certain technicali- 
ties, which were not adjusted until after the purchasers had 
gone through a long siege of uncertainty. When in 1857 the 
rights of the states were confirmed by congress, the lands were 
again placed on the market; and all sales were later formally 
approved by the general assembly. 18 

In 1851, the assembly first directed the auditor to with- 
hold from sale state lands along the more important railroad 
lines and later suspended the sale of all state holdings until 
two years later when they were again placed on the market, 
the proceeds to be devoted to the liquidation of the state 
indebtedness, with preemption rights for squatter settlers. 19 

The state, however, was not the most important factor 
in the land sales of this period. The various federal land 
offices dispensed tracts from the millions of acres still in the 
possession of the federal government. Cash sales continued to 
be heavy while thousands of acres were entered with Mexican 
War land warrants and with warrants under the bounty land 
act of September 28, 1850. The lands along the Illinois Cen- 
tral were withheld from sale for a year while the selections 

18 Laws of 1852, p. 178-186; Laws of 1859, p. 201, 202; see petitions in 
Trumbull manuscripts for 1856. 

19 Laws of 1851, p. 23, 204; Laws of 1853, p. 231-234. These preemption 
rights and sales in general were extended under acts of February 15, 1855, and 
February 16, 1857. 


were being made for the Illinois Central railroad under its 
grant of 1850, after which there was a heavy rush both by 
actual settlers and by speculators; soon all lands within the 
grant were entered. Sales were especially brisk in southern 
Illinois, where the best lands were soon exhausted. The 
poorer lands, however, spurned in the open market, were 
quickly taken up, when, in 1854, congress passed a graduation 
act which permitted land entries at as little as twelve and one- 
half cents an acre. 

As a result of these activities the public lands rapidly dis- 
appeared. The Quincy land office was closed up in June of 
1855 ; already the Shawneetown district was rapidly approach- 
ing the 100,000 acre minimum which would terminate its claim 
to a separate land office. It was not long before the books 
of the general land office showed only a little over one quarter 
of a million acres remaining unsold. 20 

This left the Illinois Central the greatest landed proprietor 
of Illinois. An immense tract of two and a half million acres 
scattered over forty-seven counties and equal to ten counties 
of over four hundred square miles was transferred by the 
federal government to the railroad through the state as an 
intermediary. The selections were made and the titles com- 
pleted by the spring of 1852 when the company prepared to 
open up its land office. The lands were divided into four 
classes: about 50,000 acres valuable either as especially 
suitable for town sites or as containing mineral wealth were 
to sell at not less than $20 per acre; 350,000 acres of superior 
farming land at $15 an acre; 1,300,000 acres at $8; and the 
remainder at $5. These prices were to be applied to land 
which, lying on the unbroken prairies, had previously been 
undesirable at $1.25 an acre; and while this schedule was being 
fixed, the government was selling its adjacent holdings at a 
maximum of $2.50 an acre. On September 27, 1854, the 
company opened its Bloomington office which in the first month 
reported the sale of 15,242 acres in McLean county at an aver- 
age price of $9.97. In another year the company was aggres- 
sively pushing the sale of its lands in all parts of the state. By 

20 Chicago Weekly Democrat, June 23, 1855; Chicago Daily Democratic 
Press, March 22, 1858. 


1857 with its grant half sold the company had realized 
$14,000,000. 21 

Thousands of squatters who had developed improved farms 
were found in southern Illinois on the lands along the Illinois 
Central. The general assembly recommended to congress that 
squatters on the federal domain be granted preemption rights 
for a period of twelve months; the company, left to itself, pur- 
sued a policy of similar generosity toward the bona fide settler. 
In addition it extended long credits to settlers generally and 
was lenient to purchasers who found themselves unable to 
make their payments. 22 

The speculator also had his innings in all this confusing 
race for control of the soil. Thousands of acres in every 
county remained the unimproved property of purchasers who 
were holding them for a rise in value ; extensive feeling among 
the settlers was aroused against these land monopolists, many 
of whom were eastern capitalists. 23 

The great bulk of the speculators, although they often 
followed outside leadership, was found in the local residents 
successful farmers, lawyers, business men, and politicians. 
Governor French in his second term took advantage of the 
renewed agitation in favor of the Illinois Central railroad to 
buy up warrants and locate lands through a dozen friends and 
agents all along the probable route. His interests were also 
linked with the supporters of the Atlantic and Mississippi, a 
group of southern Illinois democratic leaders, who, while 
pressing its claim before the people and in the legislature, 
avidiously bought land about the strategic points on the line. 
Uri Manly, one of them, after having waited twenty years for 
such an opportunity, was fortunate enough to secure the land 
at the intersection of the Illinois Central and this proposed 
railroad; when the legislature refused a charter in 1851 and 

21 Beardstown Gazette, July 30, 1851; Peru Daily Chronicle, May 5, 1854; 
Ottawa Free Trader, September 5, 1857. 

22 Laws of 1851, p. 207-208; M. Brayman to Noah Johnston, November 4, 
1852, in Illinois State Register, December 2, 1852; Chicago Press and Tribune, 
March 18, 1859. 

23 The Munn Illinois Land Company, an eastern concern, declared a divi- 
dend of $15 a share in 1851. Cairo Sun, May 22, 1851. The proverbial acumen 
of poets was proved by William Cullen Bryant, who sold his holding on the 
Rock Island railroad for $10 per acre shortly before it rose in value to many 
times that amount. Boston Post clipped in Illinois State Register, June 29, 1854. 


again in 1852, he complained that he had lost a $15 accretion 
on two pieces of 4,000 acres in Effingham county, besides 2,300 
acres in Clark county. "I had made a town a city where 
our Road & the Central crossed," he lamented to his colleague 
in misfortune, Governor French. 24 

With the rapid disappearance of the public domain and 
with the inflated prices of speculative holdings, agrarian move- 
ments began to take form in Illinois. Many citizens came to 
decry, with John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat, the 
trend toward " the tenant system, under which Republicanism 
is impossible. This system," they held, "tends to separate 
classes in society; to the annihilation of the love of country; 
and to the weakening of the spirit of independence." 25 Already 
by 1850 the landless were the most numerous class of people 
in Chicago. The remedy agreed upon by all advocates of 
land reform was the free grant of homesteads to actual settlers, 
thus taking from the capitalist his last stronghold, the monop- 
oly of the soil. Such reformers were numerous within the 
ranks of both political parties; in his zeal for his party, how- 
ever, the whig politician often claimed a homestead policy as 
" true whig policy" while the democrat claimed the same honor 
for his party. 

Radical land reformers, who were usually also aggressive 
abolitionists as well, spurned the advance of the old political 
parties and organized independent land reform associations, 
carrying on an aggressive propaganda of their own. In 1848 
the "national reformers" held a national industrial congress 
and chose as their presidential candidates, Gerrit Smith of 
New York, and William S. Wait of Illinois. In the fall of 
that year the "national reformers" held a meeting in Chicago 
in which they repudiated the newly organized free soil party 
and its reform platform because it failed to assert "man's 
inherent and inalienable right to a limited portion of the soil 
upon which he subsists " as the real and only ground of " free 
soil." Later, however, when Van Buren placed himself on sat- 
isfactory ground and the free democracy of Chicago adopted 

24 Uri Manly to French, September 3, October 27, December 17, 1851, 
January 29, March 2, 1852, French manuscripts; see also French manuscripts 
for 1850 and 1851. 

25 Chicago Democrat, January 22, March 28, 29, 31, 1848. 


" the true free soil principle," they were able to effect a working 
agreement. They immediately undertook an active campaign 
which culminated in an Industrial Congress at Chicago* on June 
6 and 7, 1850, which adopted resolutions offered by H. Van 
Amringe, a prominent lecturer and reformer, declaring that 
" the free land proviso would everywhere, on the cotton planta- 
tions of the South, and in the cotton factories of the North, 
unite all lovers of freedom and humanity, against all haters of 
freedom and humanity, and would strip the question of liberty 
of all prejudices resulting from sectional and partial agitation." 
These reformers saw the folly of fighting an autocracy that 
dominated the southern half of the nation while supporting in 
their own midst, " Factory Lords, Land Lords, Bankers, Spec- 
ulators, and Usurers." 26 

Independent thinkers like John Wentworth had always seen 
the issue of land monopoly behind the slavery question; from 
this point of view the Wilmot proviso was "but a modifica- 
tion of the great principle, that the earth was given for the 
uses of man ; and that, like the other essential elements to exist- 
ence, no portion of its surface should be the subject of monop- 
oly." For that reason he was a supporter of the preemption 
policy and in the spring of 1848 introduced into congress a 
resolution for the extension of three years of the time for pay- 
ment under the preemption laws; later he presented many 
Illinois petitions for land reform and on January 22, 1850, 
laid before the house a resolution passed by the lower house of 
the Illinois legislature in favor of a homestead law. 27 

With this official sanction from the most representative 
body in Illinois, it was now obvious that a radical reform had 
become popular. Douglas had introduced a homestead bill on 
December 27, 1849, and defended it with eloquence; Richard- 
son and other members of the Illinois delegation also accepted 
the principle of free grants to actual settlers and were kept 
busy presenting memorials of Illinoisians in its favor. When 
therefore, in the congressional campaign of 1850 the "Na- 

26 Gem of the Prairie, May 20, July i, 22, October 7, 14, 21, November 25, 
December 9, 1848. Wait, however, declined the nomination and was made 
elector at large on the ticket of the " national reformers." Chicago Democrat, 
November 3, December 12, 1848, June 7, 8, 17, 1850. 

27 Ibid., November 20, 1848 ; Congressional Globe, 31 congress, i session, 302. 


tional Reform " Association of Chicago questioned the various 
candidates on their attitude toward land reform it received 
without exception favorable replies. 28 In 1851, the general 
assembly adopted a joint resolution urging congress to enact a 
homestead law. With another land reform convention at 
Chicago on October 13, 1851, the reformers had completed 
their work and were gratified to x see their views adopted by 
the lower house at Washington. In the senate the fight con- 
tinued without success until June, 1860, when the law was 
blocked by the veto of President Buchanan. With the organ- 
ization of the republican party and the incorporation of a 
homestead plank in its platform, the republicans claimed spe- 
cial consideration as the champions of the homestead bill; 
challenging the devotion of their opponents on all occasions, 
they were able to make effective use of Buchanan's veto as an 
argument in favor of the election of Lincoln in the campaign 
of 1860. On the basis of their success they were able to carry 
out their promises in the homestead law of 1862. 

Railroad construction and the land boom of the fifties had 
an important effect upon the state of the public treasury. At 
the beginning of this period the state, with an indebtedness of 
$16,661,795, was still virtually bankrupt and unable to pay 
the accumulated and long overdue interest. Under the refund- 
ing act of 1847, however, the conversion of the internal 
improvement indebtedness was started under the direction of 
Governor French, and confidence in the credit of the state 
began to develop in the financial world. The constitution of 
1848 placed the state on a basis of strict economy in the matter 
of salaries and general expenditures and article fifteen author- 
ized a two mill tax to be applied to the state indebtedness. 
With the authorization of the Illinois Central and various 
other railroads, moreover, Illinois stock began to take a rapid 
rise. New York bondholders for some time urged that the 
Central road be constructed by a company composed of bond- 
holders under special favors from the state. 29 The last install- 

28 Ibid., 31 congress, i session, 87, 262-267; Chicago Democrat, Novem- 
ber 4, 1850. 

29 Aurora Beacon, September 26, 1850; Beardstown Gazette, April 30, 1851; 
James Holford to French, December 10, 1850, William Osman to French, April 29, 
1851, French manuscripts. 


ment of the $1,600,000 canal loan and interest was paid in 
October, 1853, when the canal passed to the exclusive direction 
of the state. The state debt had just reached its maximum 
and was officially reported at $16,724,177. The two mill 
tax was being applied to the payment of interest on outstand- 
ing bonds; a. proposed constitutional amendment to appro- 
priate it to the purchase of state bonds failed of receiving pop- 
ular ratification in November, 1852. Matters improved, how- 
ever, so that internal improvement bond quotations began to 
approach par. In December, 1855, the first payment of the 
state's share of seven per cent of the profits of the Illinois 
Central railroad was made with the sum of $29,000. By 1859, 
certain Illinois indebtedness was commanding a premium of 
three per cent in certain markets, and it was no longer found 
necessary to collect the two mill tax. 

In 1859 the fraudulent redemption of nearly a quarter 
million of 1839 ninety-day canal scrip was discovered, and 
ex-Governor Matteson was found to be the chief beneficiary. 
Inasmuch as he had been chairman of the senate finance com- 
mittee before his election as governor in 1852, it was hard 
to prove his plea of ignorance of the fraud involved. He was 
allowed, however, to give security for refunding the money 
to the state within a period of five years. 

The same year witnessed certain irregularities that led 
to the resignation of Secretary of Treasury James Miller; 
simultaneously Governor Bissell under a misapprehension of 
the law ordered the funding of a portion of the Macallister 
and Stebbins bonds, but his mistake was discovered in time 
to withdraw his action without injury to the state. With the 
public finances rapidly attaining bedrock soundness, therefore, 
these frauds and charges of frauds became subjects of political 

One obstacle to the free and untrammelled development 
of the state along economic lines was the absence of adequate 
banking facilities. The need of capital was a fundamental 
factor in the plans of the merchant, manufacturer, or farmer 
for expansion. The legal rate of interest was advanced to ten 
per cent in 1849, hut little money could be had even at that 
price. Money handlers were able to violate the law with 


impunity and demand fifteen, twenty, and even twenty-five per 
cent. Little specie appeared in circulation, and the uncertain 
paper money of foreign banks that is, of banks organized in 
other states had the field. Agricultural and business prog- 
ress naturally was held back by these conditions. 

Yet the outlook in 1848 was anything but encouraging. 
The attempt to extend the charter of the State Bank for two 
years had failed in 1848 ; and arrangements were made to wind 
up the affairs of that institution a result that called forth 
from the Illinois democracy, the political majority, a sigh of 
relief that suggested vivid recollections of fingers burned in 
the banking debauch of the thirties. Although the bank demo- 
crats were evident in the commercial districts of northern Illi- 
nois, democratic leadership insisted that banks and the bank- 
ing issue be relegated to oblivion to save the party from their 
contaminating influence; a hard money policy was defined as 
an essential test of genuine democracy. Whig politicians shortly 
undertook to make their party the distinctive champion of the 
banking facilities for which the business interests clamored; 
this alignment stood out in the election of the constitutional 
convention and in the discussions of the banking issue in that 

When the new constitution was drafted, though every 
attempt to secure a constitutional prohibition against banking 
failed, an article shaped by radical anti-bank democrats was 
adopted which required every bank charter authorized by the 
general assembly to be submitted first to the people for their 
acceptance or rejection. 

This was an ironclad guarantee against special legislation 
in the interest of favored business interests; at the same time 
it conveyed to bank advocates the hint that they might secure 
their ends in a general banking system such as might parallel 
the "free" banking systems recently inaugurated by New 
York, Ohio, and other states. From this point of view the 
bank forces hailed the adoption of the new constitution as a 
favorable indication of popular acceptance of their viewpoint. 
Soon an active campaign was launched; the Chicago Board of 
Trade framed a bill for the authorization of general banking 
privileges to be submitted to the legislature, while the business 


interests in other cities organized meetings to agitate in favor 
of banks. 30 

The faithful and vigilant sentinels on the democratic watch- 
towers of Illinois sounded the warning of this new danger. 
The party, therefore, incorporated in its 1848 platform a plank 


LAWS." The interests of Illinois were declared by downstate 
democrats to be agricultural and not commercial. Governor 
French in his message of January, 1849, expressed himself 
explicitly and unreservedly against the introduction of banking 
institutions ; and for a time the tide was stemmed. 31 

Then began a war of words between the bank and anti- 
bank forces, the one finding in the presence of banks the expla- 
nation of every economic ill with which banking states were 
afflicted, the other attributing the economic backwardness of 
Illinois and the dullness of business to the absence of banking 
facilities. Meantime, it was discovered that there was no 
constitutional or legal provision against insurance companies 
that might furnish money for loans and add to the facilities 
for carrying on trade by issuing some form of evidence of 
indebtedness as a circulating medium. The paper of the Wis- 
consin Marine and Fire Insurance Company, an institution 
located at Chicago and controlled by George Smith, had a wide 
circulation in northern Illinois. Chicago business interests 
considered the expediency of utilizing the Chicago Fire and 
Marine Insurance Company to this end. Springfield inter- 
ests advocated the establishment of a local company to supply 
money to local borrowers. 32 

This eagerness for paper currency stimulated the organi- 
zation of unincorporated private banking companies whose 
issues began to circulate at a variable discount. It also brought 
into the state a flood of foreign paper: Ohio "red backs," 

30 Western Journal, 4:2iiff. ; Illinois State Register, May 5, December 29, 
1848; Joliet Signal, January 2, 1849. 

31 Illinois State Register, May 5, 1848; Joliet Signal, January 16, Feb- 
ruary 27, 1849. 

32 Chicago Democrat, February 19, April 19, May 8, December 6, 1849; 
Illinois Journal, April 27, May n, 1850; Illinois State Register, June 21, 1849. 


Indiana " shinplasters," and all sorts of "rag" money of out- 
side banks of unknown soundness. It was estimated that in 
1850 St. Louis had a bank circulation of nearly half a million 
dollars in Illinois, while the people of the state paid annually 
in the form of interest not less than $600,000 of tribute money 
to foreign financial institutions. 33 

The laws of trade had proved stronger than the laws of 
Illinois; as a result Illinois suffered from all the evils of a 
paper circulating medium without receiving any of the benefits 
which banks conferred. "The present system has driven capi- 
talists from the State to invest their wealths elsewhere, and 
domestic enterprise hobbles about on crutches, being forced to 
pay the unlicensed usurer twenty and twenty-five per cent, 
interest, for the poor privilege of moving at a snail's pace," 
complained the spokesman of the bank forces. 34 " Since we 
cannot prevent the bank paper of other States from flooding 
ours," he reasoned, " and since we must pay so enormously 
for its circulation, does not necessity and self-preservation call 
upon us to doff our scruples about banking for the present 
make our own Banks, use our own money, and pay the profit 
to our own States." 35 

The bank forces concentrated their energies on a plea for 
a system of free banking that would provide a safe and reliable 
currency by which every dollar issued would be secured by real 
estate or other good, safe, and reliable property; a general 
banking law similar to the one prevailing in New York was 
urged. The issue was fought to a decision in the legislative 
session of 1851, after a large number of bank men had been 
elected to the general assembly. Governor French and down- 
state democratic leaders threw their entire strength against 
the movement; several professed anti-bank assembly men 
from the northern counties, however, including E. B. Ames 
and Peter Sweat, voted for the law because of the strong 

33 Illinois Journal, January 3, October 12, December 19, 1850. 

34 Rock Island Advertiser clipped in Illinois Journal, January 3, 1850. 

35 Tazeivell Mirror clipped in ibid., October 12, 1850. Said the Journal, 
November 23, 1850: "If banks are to furnish the medium of exchange of property, 
we can see no reason why we should not have them under our control; and we 
can see many reasons why such institutions would consolidate scattered funds, 
collect capital, and thus furnish facilities for doing the heavy produce business 
of our State." 


demand of their constituents for banking facilities. Senator 
Joel A. Matteson cast the deciding vote in the upper house 
on the principle that it had become a question for the people 
to decide. When the bank bill passed both houses it promptly 
met the gubernatorial veto. Upon reconsideration, however, 
the assembly overrode the suspensive veto of the governor 
and enacted the measure over his head in the closing hours of 
the session. 36 

This law provided for the incorporation of banking asso- 
ciations on a minimum of fifty thousand dollars of capital 
stock. They were authorized to do a general banking business 
and were to receive from the auditor circulating notes to the 
market value of state or federal bonds deposited with him. 
The prevailing uncertainty as to the stability of Illinois securi- 
ties occasioned a discrimination against them in the require- 
ment that they be listed at twenty per cent less than their 
average market value. Banks were limited to seven per cent 
interest on loans, three per cent less than the current rate. The 
banks were to operate under the supervision of the auditor 
and of three banking commissioners. 37 

It remained for the measure, in accordance with the con- 
stitution, to go before the people for their approval. A stir- 
ring contest followed. Invoking the shade of Andrew Jackson, 
democratic leaders fought the " hydra headed monster," 
throwing themselves in the way of " the great oligarchy of 
money" that was said to rule Chicago. The New England 
and New York elements in northern Illinois, however, had 
brought with them preferences for banks which even local 
democratic leaders could not defy. This fact came out clearly 
in the canvass and proved the undoing of democratic leader- 
ship. The election in November, 1851, returned a fifty-four 
per cent vote in favor of the law: only four counties north of 
Springfield went anti-bank, while the counties about Chicago 
returned bank majorities of from eighty-five to ninety-five per 
cent; southern Illinois, except the old whig strongholds, voted 
overwhelmingly against the law. The democrats soon found 

36 E. B. Ames to French, December 22, 1851, Peter Sweat to French, Decem- 
ber 22, 1851, French manuscripts; Illinois Journal, February 12, 17, 27, 1851; 
Laws of 1851, p. 163-175. 

37 Ibid., p. 163 ff. 


themselves embarrassed by the question as to whether they 
could still make hostility to banks a test of party orthodoxy. 38 
A number of banks were promptly organized throughout 
the northern part of the state under the law of 1851. The law 
was so construed, however, as to result in two types of insti- 
tutions: those engaged in a general banking business under 
the supervision of the auditor and issuing non-secured notes, 
and those depositing securities with the auditor and obtaining 
notes for circulation. Only two banks issuing secured paper 
were organized by the summer of 1852, so that secured bank 
notes furnished but a small part of the circulating currency. 
For this reason there was much complaint and considerable talk 
of repeal in the session of 1853, the senate formally acting in 
favor of a repeal measure. This caused a rush for bank 
applications; within a few days twenty-seven were filed with 
the auditor. At the end of 1852 the first bank in southern 
Illinois was established at Belleville, St. Clair county; so 
eagerly did this district, which gave the largest numerical vote 
against the bank law, seek to embrace the opportunities created 
by it that a few months later four other companies were organ- 
ized in that county with an aggregate capital of eight and a 
half millions, although none of these passed the stage of paper 
projects. By 1854, however, the banking commissioners, 
headed by ex-Governor French, reported only twenty-nine 
banks operating under the law, ten of which were located in 
Chicago, and two each in Springfield and Naperville, with other 
cities supplied with a single institution; these had an author- 
ized capital of seventeen millions and resources totalling over 
six millions. Notes to the amount of over a million dollars 
were issued during the first year of the general banking act. 
They constituted, however, but a small fraction of the entire 
circulating medium of the state. Illegal issues by both private 
banks and certain of the newly authorized banking associations 
together with the notes of foreign banks comprised the vast 

38 Jolift Signal, September 9, 1851; W. Reddick to French, November 27, 
1848, F. C. Sherman to French, December 6, 1848, E. B. Ames to French, Decem- 
ber 16, 1851, William M. Jackson to French, January 2, 1852, French manuscripts. 
William Reddick, Joel A. Matteson, Norman B. Judd, Plato, Charles V. Dyer, 
John Hise, and Benjamin F. Hall were among the democratic bank men. ^Chicago 
Democrat, December 3, 1851. 


bulk. At the recommendation of Governor French and his 
successor, Governor Matteson, the legislature undertook in 
the supplementary act of 1853 to drive out all unauthorized 
issues, whether domestic or foreign. This was successful in 
eliminating the Illinois lawbreakers; but in spite of the drive, 
paper of non-specie paying foreign banks continued in the field, 
largely pandering to the demand for small notes which grew 
out of the high premium on silver coins. In 1854, over two 
and a quarter million secured notes were in circulation, but 
these were estimated as furnishing only thirty pr cent of the 
entire volume of circulation in Illinois. 39 

The domestic issues, however, furnished a very reliable 
currency 40 amply protected through the cautious policy of the 
auditor in regard to the securities deposited with him. In the 
fall of 1854 Illinois banks were put to their first test when 
panic conditions began to appear in the west as a result of 
overdevelopment in railroads. When Virginia and Missouri 
bonds, which constituted two-thirds of the bank securities, 
dropped several points below par, a general alarm seized the 
holders of Illinois currency, especially of that based on Vir- 
ginia and Missouri securities. The panic struck Chicago in 
November; runs on various institutions commenced; thou- 
sands of dollars of notes were presented for redemption; and 
several banks were compelled to close their doors. In a few 
weeks, however, after assurances by two of the bank commis- 
sioners, the excitement subsided, although money continued to 
be very tight. The auditor's report for December I, 1854, 
showed three banks permanently closed by the panic; five 
others still in a state of suspension were later forced into 
liquidation under the supplementary act of i855. 41 

By 1856 banking operations had expanded until $6,480,873 
of notes were in circulation. Even then this paper constituted 

39 Illinois Journal, February 12, 1853; Belleville Advocate, December 8, 
1852, February 16, 1853; Illinois State Register, June 15, 1854; Bankers' Maga- 
zine, 9:102-113. Many bankers preferred to circulate their notes outside of the 
state in order to postpone the necessity of redeeming them; domestic needs, 
therefore, had to be cared for largely by recognized foreign paper. 

40 Thompson's Bank Reporter clipped in Ottawa Free Trader, May 20, 1854. 

41 Alton Weekly Courier, November 23, 1854; Chicago Daily Democratic 
Press, November 17, 1854; Free West, November 23, 1854; Illinois Journal, 
November 24, 1854; Aurora Guardian, December 7, 1854; Bankers' Magazine, 


but a minor part of the currency of Illinois. Much foreign 
paper, especially the notes of Georgia banks, circulated in the 
state. Several of the Georgia banks were institutions owned 
by Chicagoans. George Smith had opened two banks in 
Georgia to take advantage of the opportunity of circulating 
paper unhampered by bond deposit restrictions and by limited 
interest rates. Although bitterly attacked by regulation bank- 
ers and by the journals of the state almost without exception, 
Smith's Georgia operations had sufficient stability not only to 
weather the storm of abuse but for a long time to thrive upon 
it as an excellent advertising medium. The war on the 
" Georgia red dogs and wild cats " took the form of pro- 
longed runs on the bank of issue and of a boycotting agree- 
ment in which the leading merchants and business men of 
Chicago urged the banks to refuse to receive Georgia paper 
on deposit. 42 Smith, however, held his own until declining 
profits hastened his retirement in 1858. 

The banking system was given a thorough overhauling in 
an act of February 14, 1857, which provided for more ade- 
quate regulation and at the same time sought to encourage 
legitimate banking by increasing the legal rate of interest from 
seven to ten per cent. This revision in part reflected the signs 
of an approaching storm in the financial world. The warning 
of 1854 had not stemmed the tide of overspeculation in the 
west, nor had it pointed out the danger of overexpansion of 
loans, discounts, and note issues, in the banking world. Two- 
thirds of the securities of the stock banks consisted of the bonds 
of Missouri, whose credit was now almost ruined by its wild 
fling at internal improvements. All these factors undermined 
the banking and currency situation in Illinois, and signs pointed 
to a financial collapse. The state was saved, however, by the 
solid foundations laid during the first six years under the bank- 
ing act of 1851 and by the cooperation of the various forces 
in the financial world in making the necessary adjustments. 
The banks retired a part of their note issues and reduced the 

42 Belleville Advocate, October 4, 1854. " George Smith ought to pay the 
editors for abusing his bank of Atlanta. They have abused it into credit all 
over the United States. It is current all over the Union." Chicago Weekly 
Democrat, July 2, 1853 ; Rockford Republican, January 2, 1856; Andreas, History 
of Chicago, i : 546, 547, 2: 617. 


outstanding circulation by nearly a million; Chicago bankers 
agreed to receive the notes of Illinois banks at par despite 
steady depreciation. Auditor Jesse K. Dubois called for addi- 
tional securities to cover the decline in the value of state bonds. 
The action of St. Louis merchants in voting to reject all Illinois 
currency offered at their counters caused general alarm, but 
they were shortly induced to recall their decision and to accept 
Illinois paper at a slight discount. 43 

In this way Illinois was saved from the full effects of the 
panic of 1857. Six banks out of fifty-four failed; but with a 
single exception, all redeemed their notes without loss to the 
holders. Business for a time came to a complete standstill in 
Chicago, 117 establishments failing out of 1,350; in the rest 
of the state, however, conditions were far from serious, with 
199 failures out of n,459. 44 The early months of 1858 
showed rapid recovery; but with a short grain crop in that 
year, it remained for another twelvemonth to initiate the com- 
plete restoration of normal conditions. The bank commission- 
ers, reporting in January, 1859, proclaimed the fact that the 
banking system had withstood the test of two trying years of 
financial depression and was therefore entitled to public 
approval. Governor Bissell subscribed to this fact in his mes- 
sage, and the legislature on this ground acquiesced in the 
decision to allow the system to stand without change. The 
decade, therefore, gave the state the experience of passing 
from a puerile hostility to banking institutions through a suc- 
cessful experiment with the institutions of a complex economic 
order. 45 

43 Illinois State Journal, April i, 1857; Ottawa Republican, April 4, 1857; 
J. K. Dubois to Trumbull, October 5, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts; Quincy Whig, 
October 5, 1857; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, October 6, 9, 14, 1857; Cairo 
Weekly Times and Delta, October 14, 1857. 

44 Bankers' Magazine, 12 : 68 1. 

45 Illinois State Journal, January 5, 1859; Dowrie, The Development of 
Banking in Illinois, 131-158. 


IN THE closing decade of the ante-bellum period no polit- 
ical issues remained vital enough to hold voters rigidly to 
old party affiliations. In Illinois local issues had changed with 
three decades of statehood; new problems in banking, railroad 
development, and education scarcely permitted an alignment 
that would coincide with old party divisions. In the main these 
questions came to be settled on their merits exclusive of the 
possibility of making political capital out of them. National 
politics in spite of the senility of orthodox leaders and issues 
was forced to furnish the chief basis of party alignment. An- 
drew Jackson, the popular champion of western democracy, 
had passed away without leaving any successor to continue the 
old traditions in their former vigor. Surely President Polk 
had not done so, nor was Franklin Pierce to meet with any 
more success. The leadership of Stephen A. Douglas was an 
acknowledged factor in Illinois but not in the nation at large. 
Even this was more than any whig could claim. Henry Clay 
had closed his career in a blaze of glory, not as a party chief- 
tain, but as a national leader. No one fell a clear heir to his 
mantle, not even Abraham Lincoln, the aggressive Illinois 
orator who following Clay's death delivered the commemo- 
rative eulogy in the statehouse at Springfield. 1 Lincoln, indeed, 
was just reappearing from the obscurity forced upon him by 
his unpopular opposition to the Mexican War. 

Whiggery was now upon its deathbed; anaemic democracy, 
desperately seeking a blood transfusion from political move- 
ments of youthful vigor, hoped to save itself from a like fate. 
The national bank issue was dead and buried; it was no longer 
politic to resurrect it either as a Cerberus to protect the nation's 
treasure or as a dragon to call forth a new American St. George. 
The tariff was discussed by all in terms of the revenue needs 

1 Illinois State Register, July 8, 1852. 


of the government and the prosperity of American industry. 
Land policy was debated only in reference to the great agrarian 
reform demanded by the whole west to give land to the land- 
less. Eyes were fixed on Washington, the federal capital, to 
be sure, but largely to judge of the nearness of the political 
storm that was gathering, a menace to all existing party lines. 
Illinoisians watched, ready to take refuge under the new 
standard of "liberty and union." 

Before the crisis of 1850 the general desire of the north- 
west that the new territories should not be disgraced by the 
incubus of the enslaved African had expressed itself in an out- 
burst of political independence which had threatened to arouse 
the south, regardless of party allegiance, to battle in defense 
of its institutions. The danger of disunion brought a reaction 
in which zeal for liberty was replaced by an even keener devo- 
tion to the union; even the professional politician decried that 
agitation out of which he had hoped to secure so much profit 
and sent forth the rally cry of loyalty to party. 

This reaction was carried to completion in the course of 
1851, undisturbed by the unexciting contests for city and county 
offices. The new bank law which was submitted to the voters 
for ratification aroused some democratic anti-bank prejudices. 
Party activities that sought to defy the general lethargy were 
directed toward the coming presidential and state election. 
Democrats early began to discuss the relative merits of their 
available candidates. Almost all were agreed upon Senator 
Douglas for the presidency, so that livelier discussion took 
place concerning the gubernatorial nomination. An array of 
names was suggested including those of David L. Gregg of 
Cook county, then secretary of state, Colonel John Dement of 
Lee county, and Joel A. Matteson, a well-known politician and 
contractor upon public works. 2 It was generally agreed, 3 that 
the nominee of the party must be a democrat ready to eschew 
with a holy abhorrence all Wilmot provisoism or free-soilism. 
Others, in line with traditional democratic anti-bank doctrine, 
held that the recent revival of the bank question also required 

2 Matteson to French, November 18, December 15, 1851, French manuscripts. 

3 Chicago Democrat, February 10, 1852, spoke for the few dissenters to this 


the old test of orthodoxy and that only anti-bank men ought to 
be considered. 4 To the Egyptian democracy anti-Wilmot 
provisoism and anti-bankism were cardinal principles. When 
Dement, their early favorite, came out against the bank ques- 
tion as a party issue, they abandoned him for Gregg, who 
seemed to have a clean bill of health on both points. 5 North- 
ern democrats, satisfied with the abortive death of an attempt 
to apportion the state convention on the basis of the democratic 
vote of 1848 as against total population, bided their time. 6 
When the state convention opened at Springfield in April, 
Gregg was easily the favorite candidate. For six ballots he 
led the field; then his opponents began to concentrate on Matte- 
son, whose strength grew until finally he was nominated on 
the eleventh ballot. The ticket was completed by the selec- 
tion of Gustave P. Koerner for lieutenant governor, Alexander 
Starne for secretary of state, and Thomas H. Campbell for 

Steam roller tactics seemed to dominate the convention, 
making possible the harmony that prevailed. All new business 
had to pass through the hands of a special committee, so that 
the introduction of various disorganizing resolutions was pre- 
vented. This accounted for the silence of the convention on 
the bank and slavery questions and explained the passage of 
resolutions approving the democratic principles of '40, '44, 
and '48, declaring for full obedience to the laws of the country, 
especially the recent compromise legislation, and seriously 
deploring all sectional agitation. 7 It was further agreed that 

4 The new bank law submitted to voters for ratification in 1851 aroused 
some democratic anti-bank prejudices but at the same time met with support 
from large numbers of northern Illinois democrats, who saw no harm in 
cooperation with whig bank men. [Lewiston] Illinois Public Ledger, clipped 
in Chicago Daily Journal, March 18, 1851; Jonesboro Gazette, May 21, 1851; 
Cairo Sun, December 4, 18, 1851. 

5 Canton Weekly Register, January 24, 1852; Illinois Journal, January 7, 
February 6, 1852; Breese to French, January 5, 17, 1852, French manuscripts. 

6 Illinois State Register, February 5, March 4, 1852. 

7 Ibid., April 22, 1852. There was only one attempt to disturb the prevailing 
harmony; one of the southern delegates was prevailed upon to offer a set of 
resolutions indorsing the compromise laws, declaring ineligible to seats any 
person known to have been and still to be hostile to those measures and closing 
by proclaiming John Wentworth a political renegade and expelling him from the 
convention. Chicago Democrat, April 24, 28, 1852; Quincy Whig, April 26, 1852. 
The resolutions had such a smack of Cook county factionalism, however, that they 
were tabled by a large majority 1 . 


all future state conventions ought to be based solely upon the 
democratic vote of the state. 8 

The nomination of Matteson caused much astonishment. 
He was a capable business man, "a man of integrity, & a man 
of property," but it was an unexpected victory for the bank 
men and for the moderate antislavery democrats of northern 
Illinois. 9 Matteson's private convictions on both points were 
well known, although he was publicly noncommittal to a degree 
very acceptable to the entire party. The shelving of Gregg, 
however, caused such dissatisfaction as to require some expla- 
nation, especially when a rumor began to circulate that he was 
discarded because of his Roman Catholicism. The whig press 
immediately attacked their opponents for such bigotry. 10 
Gregg was, therefore, induced to write a letter in which he 
denied the assumption that the convention had been actuated 
by such motives; "it is doubtless true," he said, "that a few 
men in the convention and out of the convention, sought to 
stir up religious prejudices with a view of accomplishing my 
defeat. But does that afford a reason for branding the con- 
vention with improper motives? Are the democracy of Illinois 
to be held responsible for the unworthy course of an inconsider- 
able number of knaves or bigots ? " ai 

The whigs were meantime reorganizing in an attempt to 
" hold their own " in the coming contest: a tacit recognition by 
party enthusiasts of the inroads time had made into the party's 
strength; a grim and determined effort must be made to drive 
away the growing apathy and despondency even among the 
old stand-bys. A preliminary state convention was held at 
Springfield, December 22, 1851, which nominated delegates 
to the national whig convention and appointed a provisional 
state central committee to cooperate with committees to be 
appointed in every county. 12 

8 Illinois Journal, April 29, 1852. 

9 Illinois Slate Register, May 13, 1852; Illinois Journal, June 23, 1852; 
Wentworth to French, March 5, 1848, French manuscripts. 

10 Illinois Journal, April 24, May 15, 1852; Quincy Whig, April 26, May 3. 
1852; Rockford Forum, May 12, 1852. 

11 Gregg to Morris, May 12, in Quincy Whig, May 24, 1852; Illinois Journal, 
May 26, 1852; Illinois State Register, May 27, 1852. " Governor" Zadoc Casey 
had argued against Gregg on the score of his religious connections. Preston to 
French, January 20, 1852, French manuscripts. 

12 Quincy Whig, December 9, 30, 1851, April 12, 1852. 


The county conventions in the spring months developed 
considerable whig enthusiasm and prepared the way for the 
state and national elections. The party recovered from a 
severe fright when Ninian W. Edwards, assemblyman from 
Sangamon county, after abjuring his whiggery and resigning 
his seat, was defeated for reelection by James C. Conkling, 
the regular whig candidate. A state nominating convention 
was held on July 7; its deliberations resulted in agreement 
upon a ticket with Edwin B. Webb of White county for 
governor, Colonel J. L. D. Morrison of St. Clair county 
for lieutenant governor, Francis Arenz for treasurer, and 
Charles A. Betts for auditor. 13 

The presidential canvass was now well under way and 
attention was diverted from the state contest. It seemed in 
the spring of 1852 that the young and able Stephen A. Douglas 
was to come into his own by receiving the highest honor within 
the gift of his party, a nomination which was equivalent to an. 
election. For a year the state democratic press and the rank 
and file of the Illinois democracy had been shouting for Doug- 
las. His rapid promotion from a "favorite son candidacy" 
attested his leading place in the national councils of the party. 
He was supported as emphatically "a national man;" "he 
was born in New England and reared in New York, resides 
in Illinois and was married in North Carolina, and it can be 
truthfully said that he is connected with every section of the 
Union." "Place of birth accidental; of rearing, arbitrary; 
of immigration, choice; and of marriage only indicating his 
love for the Union." 14 Such was the role assigned to him by 
his enthusiastic followers. 

Only one important democratic paper looked elsewhere for 
a candidate. This was John Wentworth's Chicago Democrat, 
which declared that Douglas was not the party's strongest 
candidate. The antislavery predilections and radical western 
sympathies of the editor made him favor a less orthodox can- 
didate. He turned, therefore, to that great western figure, 

13 Illinois Journal, April 9, 27, 30, May n, July 9, 10, 1852; Illinois State 
Register, April 29, May 6, June 10, 1852; Quincy Whig, July 19, 1852; see also 
Koerner, Memoirs, i : 587. 

14 Freeport Prairie Democrat and Knoxville Journal clipped in Quincy 
Whig, July 22, 1851. 


Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, the veteran senator recently 
denied reelection because of his bold stand against the southern 
fire eaters. But the Cairo Sun and other journals speaking 
for the southern democracy promptly declared that Benton 
could command no real support south of Mason and Dixon's 
line, where his "political trickery and faithlessness," and "his 
pandering to the wishes of northern fanatics" was held in 
abhorrence. This revelation with the astounding strength that 
Douglas developed swept the Chicago Democrat into line. 
Since Douglas as a young man was likely to be more liberal, 
if not more radical, than some of the old fogies, Wentworth 
was content. 15 

This was precisely the strength of Douglas outside of 
Illinois. He was looked upon as the candidate of "Young 
America." An active group of young progressive democrats 
were booming Douglas, using the Democratic Review as their 
organ. 16 They defined the ideal candidate in terms of Ste- 
phen A. Douglas. No broken-down politician would do, no 
second or third rate general, no conservative representative 
of "old fogyism." He must be a "statesman who can bring 
young blood, young ideas, and young hearts to the councils of 
the Republic." "Old fogyism," however, still sought to con- 
tinue its leadership; the delegations sent to Baltimore showed 
their skill in keeping young America out of control of the party 
machinery. Cass and Buchanan were the chief contenders; 
the former might easily have been nominated but for the cus- 
tomary two-thirds rule. It was expected that the northwest 
would go strongly for Douglas. The Illinois democracy was 
urged by Douglas to be represented in force at Baltimore. 17 
Only eleven delegates, however, presented themselves; while 
they clung loyally to their favorite they received too little sup- 
port from outside. Douglas started out with twenty votes, 
only four from the west in addition to Illinois. His total 
reached ninety-two on the thirty-first and thirty-second ballot, 
when he was leading the field, but without the slightest pros- 
pect of securing the nomination. His vote dropped off imme- 

15 Chicago Daily Journal, April 29, May 6, 1851; Illinois State Register, 
May 16, 1850; Cairo Sun, May 29, 1851; Chicago Democrat, March 31, 1852. 

16 Democratic Review, 30: 12. 

17 Douglas to Lanphier, February 25, 1852, Lanphier manuscripts. 


diately; on the thirty-fifth, delegations began to break for 
Franklin Pierce, who received the nomination on the forty- 
ninth ballot. 

Douglas, ready to prove himself a good loser, gener- 
ously accepted his defeat with good grace. In his congratu- 
latory telegram to the convention he promised that Illinois 
would give Pierce a larger majority than any other state in 
the union. The promise, however, was not redeemed; Illinois 
voters were too little content with convention politics to 
acquiesce so easily in a victory over their favorite by a dark 
horse. Instead there were wry faces all over the state and 
disgusted ejaculations of the inevitable question, "Who is 
Franklin Pierce?" 

The general gloom did not disappear until it was demon- 
strated in the national convention of the whigs that they were 
to enter the campaign with little more harmony and enthusiasm. 
Illinois whiggery, however, was less affected by factionalism 
than many sections of the party. No marked preference for a 
presidential candidate had been expressed; President Fill- 
more's administration was generally indorsed even in county 
conventions that recommended General Winfield Scott as their 
first choice. At Baltimore the Illinois delegates, who had 
generally supported Scott, rejoiced in his nomination. The 
conservative whig forces had first insisted on the adoption of 
a resolution acquiescing in the finality of the compromise meas- 
ures; when after a stirring debate the vote was taken the 
Illinois delegation supported the resolution, though by the 
barest majority. 

Approval of these proceedings was passed by the whig state 
convention in July. The nomination of Scott was indorsed as 
the first choice of the whigs of Illinois. 18 It seems to have been 
the intention of the leaders to give the "finality" resolution 
of the Baltimore platform the "goby." A ratifying resolu- 
tion, however, was introduced which the convention did not 
dare to reject; it was adopted because of the danger of alienat- 
ing union men if defeated. One of the members proposed 
that it be omitted in the published proceedings. It happened 
that it did not appear in the official proceedings, when first 

18 Illinois Journal, July 9, 10, 1852. 


published in the Illinois Journal, although they were later 
reprinted in corrected and finished form. 19 

Relatively slight success attended the determined effort of 
whig politicians to arouse enthusiasm for the famous hero; 
Scott clubs with their " soup songs " did not overcome an 
apathetic indifference. Actual and open disaffection was rare. 
Alfred Dutch, editor of the Chicago Commercial Advertiser, 
was one of the few disgruntled Fillmore and Webster conserva- 
tives. He had found himself outmaneuvered by his rival, 
Charles Wilson, of the Chicago Journal, when a Scott delegate 
was appointed to the national convention and when Cyrus 
Aldrich was selected as congressional candidate for the Chicago 
district. Condemning "the rotten machinery of primary elec- 
tions and delegate conventions," he announced himself as an 
independent candidate for congress, but failed to make much 
of a race. 20 

With the congressional nominations the troubles of the 
democrats increased. In the Chicago district, because " Long 
John " Wentworth seemed inclined to repudiate the Baltimore 
platform, Ebenezer Peck bitterly fought his nomination. 21 In 
the Alton district the rift threatened to be even more serious. 
After William H. Bissell, the popular congressman, had an- 
nounced himself a candidate for reelection, Sidney Breese 
undertook to challenge his claims. Under the influence of 
Breese a legislative caucus of half the members from the dis- 
trict called a convention to meet at Carlyle, the town of Breese's 
residence. This call received little publicity and did not give 
Bissell time to return to exert a personal influence. Meantime 
a new democratic journal, the Alton Courier, began to oppose 
Bissell's nomination on the ground of his neglect of duties in 
order to serve the Illinois Central railroad in the capacity of 
attorney. The friends of Bissell consequently decided that 
there was not time for an adequate representation at the Car- 
lyle convention ; when that body met, therefore, it was a bobtail 
meeting without delegates from certain counties. After a hard 

19 Illinois State Register, July 15, 1852. 

20 Joliet Signal, May 25, 1852; Chicago Democrat, September 22, October 
13, 1852; Illinois State Register, September 30, 1852. 

21 Illinois State Register, July 29, September 30, 1852; Chicago Democrat, 
September 16, 1852. 


race, in which Breese led forthirty-one ballots, Philip B. Fouke 
of Belleville was nominated, probably to pacify Bissell's friends 
at that place. The latter, however, condemned the clique 
management and scheming and brought out their favorite as 
a bolter. The hot fight which ensued encouraged the whigs, 
whose candidate, Joseph Gillespie, made an active canvass. 22 

These local contests diverted attention from the presiden- 
tial canvass, in which cudgels were being vigorously wielded. 
Pierce was represented by his opponents as the bitter enemy 
of the west: had he not turned his face against appropriations 
designed to obtain for the people of the west secure harbors 
and navigable rivers ? No river and harbor bills would become 
laws in case Pierce were elected. 23 Such doctrine appealed to 
southern Illinois, which insisted that all the benefits went to 
the northern part of the state ; but along the upper Mississippi, 
the Illinois, and the lake front, Wentworth and democrats 
generally held that this was not a party issue and boldly cham- 
pioned river and harbor improvements, ignoring the record of 
the democratic candidate. Douglas sought to appeal to this 
same demand on democratic ground; in his "tonnage duties" 
scheme he proposed that the improvements be made by each 
town and city on the basis of the duties collected, thus taking 
the "pork barrel" out of politics. 24 Pierce and King were 
pictured as the enemies of the landless poor, voting against a 
homestead policy which was solidly supported by western 
members of congress. 25 On the tariff question there was no 
clear party issue; the democratic party, however, was desig- 
nated as the " British party," because the English press was 
favoring Pierce's election in order to connect a democratic 
tariff with British interests. 26 

Charges of nativism and abolitionism were the two effective 
points scored against General Scott. On account of a " native 

22 Belleville Advocate, July 21, 28, August 4, u, 18, September 8, October 20, 
1852; Alton Courier, August 4, 5, 12, October n, 13, 14, 19, 23, 25, 29, 1852. 

23 Illinois Journal, June 28, September 3, 22, 1852; Alton Telegraph, August 
2, 17, 1852; Chicago Daily Journal, June 23, August 27, 1852. 

24 Chicago Democrat, April 10, 1851; Chicago Daily Journal, October 2, 
1851; Joliet Signal, September 21, 1851; Alton Courier, July 31, August 3, 6, 
October 30, 1852; Jacksonville Constitutionist, November 6, 1852. 

25 Illinois Journal, July 20, 1852; Chicago Daily Journal, August 27, 1852. 

26 Illinois Journal, August 31, 1852. 


American " letter he was charged with being tinctured with an 
" ism " that would be fatal to the success of any candidate in 
the northwestern states. Scott's supporters countermoved by 
pointing out that Illinois democrats had considered Catholicism 
sufficient to disqualify their leading candidate for the guber- 
natorial nomination. 27 In the meantime German votes were 
solicited on the strength of Koerner's name on the democratic 
state ticket, while the nomination of Arenz made a similar 
appeal for the whigs. Again, Scott was accused of abolition- 
ism; it was pointed out .that Senator Seward of "higher law" 
fame was his sponsor, that he was unwilling to give an unequiv- 
ocal indorsement of the finality of the compromise measures. 
Both parties in Illinois made a two-faced campaign. In the 
upper counties they appealed to the free soil voters for their 
support on strong antislavery grounds ; in Egypt they talked in 
terms of the finality resolutions adopted by their respective 
national conventions and deplored further agitation. The poli- 
ticians in the central districts were called upon to show a skill 
in political gymnastics for which many of them were too inade- 
quately trained. It was no easy matter to know when to desig- 
nate one's party as the true free soil party, or the true 
compromise party, or when to keep mum on the slavery issue. 
When in November the returns slowly came in, it was 
found that Pierce and the state ticket had carried in Illinois 
by over 15,000 votes, that the new legislature was overwhelm- 
ingly democratic, but that the whigs, under the new redistrict- 
ing of the state, had won three additional seats in congress. The 
Illinois Journal, November 19, commenting on the election, 
ascribed the result of the presidential contest to the disappoint- 
ment of Fillmore's friends and to the disastrous effects upon 
the whigs of the " isms " of the day. " Every ISM was against 
them Free soilism, Abolitionism, Native Americanism, Se- 
cessionism, Anti-Rentism, Free Public Landism, Intervention- 
ism, Filibusterism in a word, all the little factions in the 
country." This was doubtless true of the national election, 
but in the northern districts of Illinois the whigs had profited 
by their free soilism and their bids for antislavery votes. It 

27 Illinois State Register, June 17, 1852 ff ; Illinois Journal, June 4, 12, 21, 


was there that the new seats in congress were gained; Richard 
Yates was returned from the Springfield district over John 
Calhoun, who suffered somewhat from democratic defection; 
but Elihu B. Washburne's victory in the first district, Jesse O. 
Norton's in the third, and James Knox's in the fourth were 
made possible by free soil pledges, just as John Wentworth's 
victory in the Chicago district was made possible by his anti- 
slavery views. In the three new whig districts, the majorities 
were less than the difference between the free soil vote for 
president and for congressmen; only one had a whig presi- 
dential plurality. 

This election proved to be the fatal crisis for whiggery in 
Illinois. It had never secured a strong hold on the pioneer 
population of the western prairies. It was the party par 
excellence of the wealth and intelligence, the respectability 
and dignity of the state. Though it drew upon the industrial 
dependents of whig employers, and upon the socially and polit- 
ically ambitious elements of the population, it was unable to 
develop real strength outside of industrial centers except as 
it came forward with a "log cabin and hard cider" or "mili- 
tary hero " appeal. 28 No new popular reform ever emanated 
from the party to save it from withering decay under its proud 
record for aristocratic conservatism. 

The year, 1853, was a Y ear f general political calm the 
lull before a storm. Political activity in Illinois was confined 
to the general assembly, where the democrats outnumbered the 
whigs nearly four to one. The whigs deplored blind servitude 
to party leadership; even the democrats were not in a humor 
to utilize their majority to draw party lines. Local and private 
rather than general or party considerations determined the 
issues presented and their fate at the hands of the legislators. 29 
Liquor and bank legislation had their advocates and opponents. 
Railroad development was the chief subject of discussion, 
emphasizing the sectional interests within the state. 30 The 
quarrels of rival sections even threatened for a time to jeopar- 
dize Douglas' reelection to the United States senate by involv- 

28 Brown to French, December 8, 1851, French manuscripts; Illinois State 
Register, February 5, 1852. 

29 Illinois Journal, January 8, 1853. 

30 See chapter II. 


ing him in the quarrel over railroad policy. 31 The session had 
no sooner closed before the disappointed faction began to 
agitate a called session, which was approved or condemned, not 
according to party lines, but according to local interests. When 
Governor Matteson finally summoned the legislature the strug- 
gle was resumed under the new nonpartisan alignment. 

Democratic politicians concerned themselves chiefly with 
the fruits of victory. The numerous spoilsmen engaged in a 
mad scramble at Springfield to secure the indorsement of the 
electoral college for their respective claims upon the Pierce 
administration. Soon the obvious disappointment of the un- 
successful began to find expression. Some voiced it calmly in 
a demand for the popular election of postmasters. In Egypt, 
however, feeling became intense because it was felt that Went- 
worth and other northern politicians were dictating the appoint- 
ments and that the plums were going to democrats of anti- 
slavery proclivities. Many of the democratic papers of the 
state were soon engaged in a guerilla warfare in which the 
"old hunker" forces sought to drive the free soil element out 
of the party. Meantime party interest waned to the extent 
that in this " off " year a special judgeship election in Chicago 
went to the whig candidate by default, in spite of the efforts 
of the Democrat to get a candidate into the field. Critics of 
the convention system began to appear, while some persons 
condemned all party organization on the score of corrupting 
and anti-republican tendencies. 32 

Whig dissolution was well under way. In central and 
southern Illinois, numbers of " silver grey " conservatives were 
leaving the ranks upon the evidence that in the northern part 
of the state most whigs were trying to effect a union with the 
free soilers. This movement even split the party in some of 
the northern counties, where " silver greys " refused to permit 
such leadership. Other whig reorganization plans were in the 
air, in Illinois as in other parts of the union. There was some 
inclination to take up the temperance issue, while the more 
vague "people's party" was the favorite dodge of many. 

81 Chicago Weekly Democrat, January i, 1853. 

32 Ibid., January 15, April 9, 23, 30, 1853; Illinois Journal, July 14, August 
18, 1853 ; Southern Illinoisan clipped in Alton Courier, August 12, see also May 
10, 1853; Joliet Signal, September 6, 1853, February 7, 1854. 


Democratic leaders naturally welcomed this opportunity to 
whip party laggards into line and played up these tendencies to 
revive the old fear of the opposition. 33 

It was into this atmosphere of party disorganization that 
Douglas exploded the issue that killed off the whig party and 
left the democratic ranks rent in twain. Almost without warn- 
ing came the crash as the territorial issue was launched in a 
form more insidious than had ever appeared in American poli- 
tics. The land across the Missouri river was still the hunting 
ground of the American redskin, but emigrants from Illinois 
and neighboring states were beginning to pour in to dispute 
their rights. Douglas now proposed to open up the territory 
of Nebraska to all settlers to the Yankee pioneer of the 
north and northwest, to the immigrant from European oppres- 
sion, and to the southern planter with his drove of ebony-hued 
retainers. Proclaiming the broad principle of local self- 
government, of popular sovereignty, he hoped to ignore a 
solemn pact of nearly a quarter century's standing which dedi- 
cated to freedom the very territory into which he now sought 
to establish an unqualified " open door." 

The possibility of such an issue was foreseen two months 
before Douglas' famous report on the Nebraska situation. A 
government diplomatic agent had been sent in to arrange 
treaties with the Indians to secure their lands, but he seemed 
to procrastinate and merely reported the Indians ready to sell 
out. A shrewd observer saw in the situation the reflection of 
a heated contest between two Missouri rivals, ex-Senator Ben- 
ton, the champion of westward expansion on free soil, and 
Senator Atchison, the proslavery fire eater, who was anxious 
to prevent the growth of the political strength of the north. 
But the quarrel was now in danger of assuming " such a degree 
of importance as to threaten a renewal in Congress, with all 
its fury, of the * Wilmot Proviso' agitation which it was hoped 
was settled by the compromise measures of i85<D." 34 

The question of the origin of the repeal of the Missouri 
compromise is a controverted one. Senator Douglas is looked 

33 Aurora Guardian, October 12, 19, 1853; Joliet Signal, October 18, 1853; 
Chicago Weekly Democrat, July 23, 1853. 
84 Ibid., November 12, 1853. 


upon by orthodox historians as the responsible party, although 
they differ as to his motive : did he act on the high and broad 
ground of principle the principle of local autonomy, of 
popular sovereignty; was he, because of his presidential aspira- 
tions, throwing out a sop to the south; or, because of his 
interest in and zeal for a transcontinental railroad, was he 
anxious to see the new territory opened to railroad develop- 
ment under any form of organization which could pass both 
houses of congress, particularly the senate? 35 Another view 
of the matter is that Senator Atchison of Missouri is entirely 
to be credited with the authorship of the repeal, with Douglas 
nothing more or less than his tool. 36 

In the fall of 1853 Douglas returned to Washington after 
a summer abroad and immediately took up the political prob- 
lems he had temporarily laid aside. While analyzing the work 
which would come before the session of congress to meet in 
December he wrote his well-known letter of November 1 1 to 
the editors of the Illinois State Register. 37 In this letter he 
first disposed of rumors concerning his presidential candidacy. 
Stressing the obligations that were due to the party in its "dis- 
tracted condition," in order to secure the consolidation of its 
strength and the perpetuity of its principles he waived aside all 
talk of the coming contest and declared his intention of remain- 
ing entirely noncommittal. 

In this announcement he let fall the mysterious statement: 
" I think such a state of things will exist that I shall not desire 
the nomination." What, then, did this mean? The issues 
that would require attention were tariff reduction " to a legiti- 
mate revenue standard," the river and harbor question, which 
he proposed to solve by a well-devised system of tonnage duties, 
and the Pacific railroad, which he felt the federal government 
could aid only by a land grant modelled after the Illinois 
Central precedent. 

No mention was made of the organization of Nebraska 
territory or of popular sovereignty. Does this silence warrant 

36 Hodder, " The Genesis of the Kansas-Nebraska Act," Wisconsin State 
Historical Society, Proceedings, 60:69-86. 

36 Ray, Repeal of the Missouri Compromise. 

37 Douglas to Walker and Lanphier, November n, 1853, Lanphier manu- 


the conclusion that Douglas was not alive to the significance 
of the territorial issue in its new form? This is scarcely pos- 
sible inasmuch as the organization of Nebraska had been 
repeatedly before congress and had been a leading question 
in the last session, when Douglas, as chairman of the senate 
committee on territories, had exerted his influence in favor of 
the proposed legislation. 38 Letters may have gone forward 
to his confidants at Springfield taking note of the territorial 
issue. At any rate, the editors of the State Register were able 
on December 16 to publish an editorial condemning the agita- 
tion in the south for the establishment and in the north for the 
prohibition by congress of slavery in the new territory. " The 
territories should be permitted to exercise, as nearly as prac- 
ticable, all the rights claimed by the states, and to adopt all 
such political regulations and institutions, as their wisdom may 
suggest. This liberty is calculated to attach them to the Union. 
We therefore hope that no slavery provisos will 
be attached to any territorial bill." 39 By this time a Nebraska 
bill had been introduced by Senator Dodge of Iowa and re- 
ferred to the committee on territories; inasmuch, however, as 
the measure was referred on the afternoon of the fourteenth, 
the interval was not sufficiently great for Douglas to react on 
the bill and influence the editorial cited if he had waited for 
the measure to reach his hands. The editors, moreover, would 
have realized the danger of embarrassing the senator, whose 
confidence they enjoyed, if they had attempted to formulate 
a policy for themselves in the absence of some statement from 
Douglas. It seems, therefore, that an opinion must have 
developed in his mind at a rather early date and that the 
editors of the Register were promptly informed of his views. 
This evidence reduces the possibility that outside influence, 
whether from Senator Atchison or from some other source, 
directly influenced Douglas in reaching this decision; it elimi- 
nates almost entirely the element of deliberate presidential 
ambitions as the motive. Douglas had, in a spirit of oppor- 
tunism, resurrected an old principle which accorded with his 

38 Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas, 226, 228 ; Ray, Repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise, 186; Congressional Globe, 32 congress, 2 session, 1116-1117. 

39 Published in the weekly issue of December 22, 1853. Professor Allen 
Johnson does not distinguish between the different parts of the weekly issue. 


desire to see Nebraska thrown open to settlement and to rail- 
road development and to a practical experiment in the realm 
of this much flaunted principle of popular sovereignty. Thus 
it was that Douglas and Atchison actuated by different motives 
worked side by side lending each other aid and comfort in 
their efforts to reach a common goal. 

Douglas made his report on January 4, 1854, presenting 
the bill in a somewhat amended form. The purpose was to 
apply the principles of the compromise measures of 1850 to 
the new territory of Nebraska. Douglas, speaking for the 
committee, held that the Nebraska country occupied " the same 
relative position to the slavery question, as did Mexico and 
Utah, when those territories were organized." Inasmuch, 
therefore, as the validity of the Missouri compromise restric- 
tion was seriously questioned by eminent statesmen, without 
attempting to affirm or repeal that restriction as the matter in 
controversy, the report held that the principles of 1850 ought 
to be carried into operation; the bill, accordingly, provided in 
the language of the Utah and New Mexico acts: "And when 
admitted as a State or States, the said Territory, or any part 
of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without 
slavery, as this Constitution may prescribe at the time of their 
admission." "In order to avoid misconstruction" the famous 
twenty-first section was attached to the bill as the result of 
an eleventh hour decision by Douglas. 40 It specified the prin- 
ciples of the compromise measures, which were to be applied 
in this new legislation, particularly "That all questions per- 
taining to slavery in the Territories and in the new States 
to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the decision of the 
people residing therein, through their appropriate repre- 

This section was always interpreted by Douglas as having 
the effect of repealing by supersedure the Missouri compro- 
mise line of 1820. In this evasive way, purporting to stand 
for a great principle, he was prepared to wipe out that com- 
promise which in 1849 ne na d formally declared to the Illinois 
legislature had "become canonized in the hearts of the Amer- 
ican people, as a sacred thing, which no ruthless hand would 

40 Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas, 232-233. 


ever be reckless enough to disturb." 41 There were others, 
however, both friends and enemies of the proposition, who 
desired a less ambiguous reference to the legislation of 1820 
and who prepared to compel Douglas to come into the open. 
Senator Dixon of Kentucky on January 16 moved an amend- 
ment which forced Douglas' hand. Under the pressure of 
southern democratic leaders, Douglas prepared amendments, 
for which as a party and administration measure he secured 
the approval of President Pierce ; they provided for two organ- 
ized territories, Kansas and Nebraska, in which, it was an- 
nounced, the prohibition of slavery in the act of 1820 was 
specifically "declared inoperative and void; it being the true 
intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any 
Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the 
people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domes- 
tic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution 
of the United States." 42 

For this measure Douglas waged a brilliant fight upon the 
floor of the senate, aided in the house by his trusted lieutenant, 
William R. Richardson, of the Quincy district of Illinois, who 
now occupied Douglas' old post of chairman of the house 
committee on territories. Honors were high for Illinois, if 
with all the seeds of agitation that it sowed, the Kansas-Ne- 
braska act can be looked upon as bestowing honor. Little 
was said by Senator Shields, Douglas' colleague, or by the 
Illinois democratic delegation in the house. Wentworth, who 
opposed the measure, but was so dazed by it as to be unable 
to determine its party effect, remained silent; his journal, the 
Chicago Democrat, did not commit itself against the bill until 
the issue of March 1 1, when it credited Douglas with a sincere 
and consistent devotion to the doctrine of the Nicholson letter. 

Douglas was at his best when, in a brilliant speech on 
March 3, he closed the debate in the senate by summing up the 
arguments in favor of the bill. He courageously and fairly met 
the thrusts of his opponents and cleared the way for giving the 
measure a place in a long series of struggles for the American 
principle of self-government, of popular sovereignty. "This 

41 Illinois State Register, November 8, 1849. 

42 Statutes at Large, 10:277-290. 


was the principle upon which the colonies separated from the 
crown of Great Britain; the principle upon which the battles 
of the Revolution were fought, and the principle upon which 
our republican system was founded." 

None of the Illinois delegation signed Chase's appeal of 
the "independent democrats" against the Kansas-Nebraska 
bill. The northern districts were represented by whigs except 
for Wentworth from Chicago. The Egyptian representatives 
were party regulars ready to take orders from the adminis- 
tration all except William H. Bissell from the Alton and 
Belleville district. He was firmly opposed to the measure, 
but did not attempt to participate in the attack upon it. When 
a final vote was reached in the house on May 22, Wentworth 
went on record with the four whig congressmen, Elihu B. 
Washburne, Jesse O. Norton, James Knox, and Yates, as 
unwilling to follow Douglas in his new lead. Colonel Bissell 
was confined to his room by illness, but authorized Went- 
worth to state that had he been present, he would have voted 
against the bill; as it was, if his vote could bring about its 
defeat, he was ready to be carried to the house on a cot to 
cast it. William A. Richardson, Willis Allen of the Cairo 
district, and James C. Allen of the seventh, cast their votes 
in favor of the bill. 43 The house vote, therefore, would seem 
to indicate that Illinois was not ready to accept the new 
Douglas doctrine with all that it implied. 

Douglas, however, had declared in one of his speeches that 
there was a universality of appeal in the principle of the 
Kansas-Nebraska act that would make it " as popular at the 
North as at the South, when its provisions and principles shall 
have been fully developed and become well understood." 44 If 
this were true there should have been no question as to Illi- 
nois, a border state, with a large southern population, trained 
to follow the lead of the " little giant." Yet there were signs 
that the adverse vote in the house spoke more correctly for 
the state than did the two senators that Douglas in the role 
of prophet was doomed to disappointment. 

43 Alton Courier, June 9, 1854; Cairo City Times, June 21, 1854; House 
Journal, 33 congress, i session, 919-920. 

44 Congressional Globe, 33 congress, i session, appendix, 338. 


The Illinois State Register and the Quincy Herald were 
the only papers to come out with a prompt indorsement. The 
Register followed up the editorial of December 16, 1853, 
with careful explanations of all the forces and principles 
involved. 45 The Quincy Herald, zealously hailing Douglas 
as the real author of the compromise of 1850, commended the 
"sacred" principle for which he stood, "one that lies at the 
root of all governments founded upon the maxim that the 
people are the true and rightful source of all political power." 46 
It labored to show that slavery could never go into Kansas 
and that the measure was one to extend freedom, not slavery. 
The Peoria Press, Eastern Illinoisan, and St. Clair Weekly 
Tribune next entered the thin ranks of active Nebraska sup- 
porters. Other of the party journals merely acquiesced in 
the new test of party orthodoxy and allowed Douglas to 
defend his policy in their columns by printing his speeches. 
When at length the measure was enacted into law, the Joliet 
Signal abandoned a colorless support to break out in rejoicing 
at its triumph. 47 The Cairo City Times was aroused to declare : 
" The Constitution has been vindicated, and the rights of man 
reasserted." 48 

The immediate response of the whig opposition in Illinois 
to the introduction of the Nebraska bill was a shout of protest. 
Led by their central organ at Springfield, the Illinois State 
Journal, they spoke in no uncertain tone. Referring to the 
reopening of the slavery agitation, the Journal on January 13 
declared: "to deliberately raise the flood-gates of those old 
damned up waters, because Mr. Douglas wants to be Presi- 
dent, is too much of an infliction for the most forebearing 
patience." The Chicago Tribune claimed that Douglas' propo- 
sition put an end to the disposition of citizens to pay passive 
obedience to the fugitive slave law: "the violators of the 
Missouri Compromise had forfeited all right to appeal to 
law to sustain them." The Alton Telegraph declared that 

45 Illinois State Register, January 19, 26, February 2, 1854 et seq. 

46 Quincy Weekly Herald, January 30, see also January 16, February 6, 20, 
27, March 6, 27, 1854, et seq. 

47 St. Clair Weekly Tribune, March 8, April 22, 1854; Illinois State Register, 
February 16, 23, 1854; Morris Gazette clipped in ibid., March 2, 1854; Ottawa 
Free Trader, February n, 1854; Joliet Signal, March 7, May 30, 1854. 

48 Cairo City Times, May 31, 1854. 


Douglas had " sprung a mine which will forever blast all his 
presidential aspirations and cripple his political power." 49 
Neutral journals took up the hue and cry. The Canton 
Register, March 2, announced its regret " that a Senator from 
our own State should exhibit such recklessness in regard to 
public feeling and public peace, and such a want of judgment 
and forethought as has been exhibited by Senator Douglas in 
this case." 50 

More significant, however, were the announcements from 
democratic journals that they could not follow Douglas in his 
new lead. Some came out after a considerable delay in which 
the full consequences of political heresy were considered. The 
Chicago Democrat waited until March 1 1 to express an hon- 
est difference of opinion with Douglas. When the measure 
passed, however, the editor declared with feeling: "The wall 
of ' compromises ' has been broken down the ' finality ' is final 
no more the 'wind has been sown' and it may be that the 
sowers shall reap the whirlwind." 51 The Alton Courier pub- 
lished the documents in full and the speeches of Douglas, 
Seward, and Everett in its successive issues from February 13 
to March 4; then in a facetious article on April 1 1 it stated its 
refusal to be committed on the Nebraska question; but finally, 
after the passage of the bill, it made the unequivocal declara- 
tion: "It sanctions what we recognize as a great principle, 
but our objection is that in giving this sanction, it opens the 
door for a great outrage upon human rights, the introduction 
of slavery into Territory now free, and which we would be 
glad to have ever remain so." 52 The Belleville Advocate 
showed the inconsistency of Douglas' position on the Missouri 
compromise and the extent of the opposition to his new policy. 53 
Even the Chester Herald and the Greenville Journal came out 
in opposition in the more truly Egyptian atmosphere of those 
two towns. The Urbana Union had spoken out with remark- 

49 Illinois State Register, February 2, 1854; Chicago Tribune clipped in 
ibid., March 3, 1854. 

50 Canton Weekly Register, March 2, June i, 22, 1854; the Bloomington 
Pantograph, however, deplored the vituperative abuse of Douglas and declared 
that the logic lay in his course, ibid., March 9, 1854. 

51 Chicago Weekly Democrat, May 27, 1854. 

52 Alton Courier, May 24, 1854. 

53 Belleville Advocate, March i, 8, April 5, 26, 1854. 


able promptness; on January 26 it questioned the ability of 
Douglas to settle this matter against all traditions since 1787. 
A few weeks later it frankly declared the introduction of the 
new issue "a very wrong and impolitic act unworthy of the 
head and heart of our distinguished Senator," and prepared 
to wage war on his bill. 54 At the same time the Rock River 
Democrat and Galena Jeffersonian announced themselves out 
of sympathy with Douglas in his course and washed their hands 
of all support of such demagogical proceedings. The Aurora 
Guardian protested: "It is scarcely a wonder that the people 
are arising in their majesty to protest against the Bill of Sen- 
ator Douglas which bids African slavery welcome to the Ter- 
ritory of Nebraska, when it is considered that the boundaries 
include an area equal to ten States of the size of New York." 
"As a bid for the Presidency, Douglas introduces this fire 
brand." 55 

All this opposition was contrary to the belief of Douglas 
that he had applied a principle which would make the party 
" stronger than ever " because " united upon principle." " The 
principles of this bill will form the test of Parties, and the 
only alternative is either to stand with the Democracy or to 
rally under Seward, John VanBuren & Co." 56 

The official expression of the state through the general 
assembly, however, was more favorable to Douglas' course. 
Early in February, at the "little giant's" orders, it was later 
charged by Lincoln, resolutions indorsing the Nebraska bill 
were introduced by Senator Omelveny to whip the lukewarm 
and recalcitrant democrats into line. Inasmuch as it was rep- 
resented as a. mere vote of confidence in the two Illinois 
senators, the resolutions passed with only a handful of demo- 
cratic votes in opposition. In the senate the vote of 14 to 8 
found five democrats, James M. Campbell, Burton C. Cook, 
Norman B. Judd, Uri Osgood, and John M. Palmer voting 
with the three whigs in the negative; in the house eight demo- 
crats, thirteen whigs, and one free soiler went on record as 
opposed to the thirty-three democrats and three whigs who 

54 Urbana Union, February 16, 23, June i, 1854. 

55 Rock River Democrat, February 14, 21, 1854; Galena Jeffersonian clipped 
in Belleville Advocate, March 8, 1854; Aurora Guardian, February 16, 23, 1854. 

56 Douglas to Lanphier, February 13, 1854, Lanphier manuscripts. 


approved the resolutions adopted by that body, while thirteen 
democrats and five whigs comprised the list of those not voting. 
Many an assemblyman, with the rising storm of opposition 
and agitation, came shortly to regret his vote in favor of 
the resolutions; John Reynolds, "the old ranger," publicly 
recanted his vote. 57 

The Kansas-Nebraska measure was from the start the 
subject of heated discussion and angry controversy throughout 
the state. Douglas was burned in effigy on the streets of his 
home city and huge anti-Nebraska mass meetings were held 
in Chicago, Ottawa, Rockford, Alton, and Belleville. Although 
the Nebraska forces countermoved by attempting similar 
demonstrations in favor of the measure, it was without great 

The pulpit burst out in wrath against this great assault 
on freedom; a protest signed by five hundred clergymen of 
the northwest denounced Douglas for his "want of courtesy 
and reverence toward man and God." 58 Three preachers in 
the legislature, to be sure, supported the Nebraska resolutions 
and the clergy of Egypt were but little affected; but twenty- 
five Chicago ministers met in March to protest against the 
Nebraska bill, while Colonel Bissell on April 18 presented 
in congress the remonstrance of S. Y. McMasters and nine- 
teen other clergymen of Alton against the repeal of the Mis- 
souri compromise, and the Reverend W. D. Haley made the 
chief address of the Alton anti-Nebraska meeting of June 2. 59 
John Mason Peck, the sage of Rock Spring, held that, while 
there was a general misunderstanding, among the clergy of the 
north concerning the sacred character of the Missouri com- 
promise, the Nebraska act was "unwise, uncalled for and ill- 
timed, with a direct tendency .... to revive all the 
sectional jealousies, strife, disunion, and Abolitionism, and 
even much more than existed in i85O." 60 

67 Works of Lincoln, 2:245; Chicago Weekly Democrat, March n, 1854; 
House Journal, 1854, p. 168; Belleville Advocate, March 22, 1854. 

68 Congressional Globe, 33 congress, i session, appendix, 654. 

69 They passed a set of strong resolutions to which Douglas replied in a 
long letter of eight columns in the Washington Sentinel; Illinois State Register, 
April 20, 1854; Alton Courier, May 6, June 8, 1854. 

60 John Mason Peck to the editor of the Belleville Advocate, March 21, in 
Belleville Advocate, April 12, 1854. 


Among the most sturdy opponents of the repeal of the 
Missouri compromise were the German voters of Illinois. 
They had at once been alienated by the Clayton amendment 
which denied to foreigners any political rights in the new ter- 
ritories. The German press of the state promptly rejected 
Douglas' pet measure. Before the end of January, George 
Schneider, editor of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, aggressively 
committed his organ to the repudiation of the Douglas program. 
The Quincy Tribune placed its opposition on record in the issue 
of February 22, followed by the Alton Forwdrts and the other 

It has been claimed that the first protest mass meeting to 
be held was an indignation meeting held by Chicago Germans, 
January 29, under the leadership of George Schneider. How- 
ever this may be, the Germans in Cook county promptly placed 
themselves on record as unwilling to swallow the Nebraska 
bill. When the legislature visited Chicago in February a com- 
mittee of German citizens waited upon Lieutenant Governor 
Koerner and placed in his charge a petition to the legislature 
signed by several hundred against the repeal of the Missouri 
compromise. Judd presented in the general assembly a similar 
petition representing eight hundred German voters of Chicago. 
On the evening of March 16 a mass meeting of German citi- 
zens, in which Edward Schlaeger, George Schneider, Alderman 
Francis Hoffman, and others participated, unanimously con- 
demned Douglas as " an ambitious and dangerous demagogue " 
and agreed to take the offensive against the slave power. A 
later meeting of former German supporters burned Douglas 
in effigy. 61 

Thus did the issue of freedom versus slavery become clari- 
fied in the minds of Illinoisians, and thus did they refuse to 
follow the lead of their popular senator when he seemed ready 
to give the advantage to the peculiar institution of the south. 

The German stronghold around Belleville and Alton 
showed similar defection from Douglas democracy, led by Lieu- 
tenant Governor Koerner and others. The Germans of Taze- 

61 Chicago Dally Democratic Press, February 20, March 17, 1854; Illinois 
Journal, February 21, 1854; McLean County Historical Society, Transactions, 
3:53; Illinois State Historical Society, Transactions, 1912, p. 156-157. 


well county held a spirited meeting at Pekin in which they 
selected delegates to represent them at a proposed German 
anti-Nebraska state convention to be held at Bloomington on 
the twelfth and thirteenth of September, simultaneously with 
the proposed state "republican" convention. 62 The Illinois 
Staats-Zeitung took a leading part in all these moves ; in its issue 
of September 20 it made an appeal for a republican party, a 
great American "liberty" party. 

62 Pekin Mirror clipped in Chicago Daily Democratic Press, September 13, 


THE Kansas-Nebraska act proved a most distracting ques- 
tion for the democratic organization in Illinois. A new 
issue had been raised, not by fanatical abolitionists or free 
soilers but by one who had ever declaimed against agitation. 
Was this then " a charlatanism as thin as it is contemptible?" * 
So at least large portions of Douglas' constituency promptly 
declared. The Rock River Democrat openly repudiated 
Senator Douglas and "his pampered allies" and declared: 
" We forbear an expression of our deep indignation, and shall 
choke the utterance of our abhorrence of the men who have 
insanely given us as a Democratic party to the contempt of 
the world." 2 The Chicago Democrat lapsed into pessimism 
concerning the future of the democracy: "Throughout the 
North we behold but one prevailing sentiment, and that is in 
opposition to a great measure which has just been consum- 
mated, the responsibility of which the democratic party of the 
nation will be compelled to bear." 3 When Wentworth, who 
always prided himself on his party regularity, returned to 
Chicago, however, and the sense of disappointment at the suc- 
cess of the Kansas-Nebraska act subsided somewhat, the 
announcement followed that the policy of the democrats was 
to "beat the enemy handsomely carry the state gloriously, 
and thus continue the ascendancy of Democratic principles in 
her councils." All this might be done if the Nebraska issue 
was ignored, if the slavery question was left where. the national 
convention of 1852 left it. There were too many signs that 
this was not to be. 4 Some Nebraska democrats were inclined 
to urge a policy of generosity, but under the influence of Doug- 

1 Galena Jeffersonian clipped in Belleville Advocate, March 8, 1854. 

2 Rock River Democrat, May 30, 1854. 

3 Chicago Weekly Democrat, May 27, 1854. 

4 1 bid., June 24, 1854; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, May 24, 1854; Joliet 
Signal, May 30, 1854. 



las a disposition developed to require approval of the new 
statute as proof of party orthodoxy. Through the pressure of 
Douglas' control over federal appointments and under the 
sting of the party lash, this spirit gained much headway in 

The issue was fought out in the county conventions pre- 
paratory to the fall elections. The anti-Nebraskaites pleaded 
against the application of new tests, but hamstring politicians 
by press-gang methods generally secured the desired indorse- 
ment of the Kansas-Nebraska act and of its author. Morgan 
county seems to have been the only central county where a con- 
vention frankly laid aside the new issue and applied only the 
traditional tests of democracy. 5 The Nebraska test was 
applied everywhere in Egypt except in the Alton district; there 
the convention refused to indorse the Nebraska bill or even 
to pass a simple resolution of compliment to Douglas and was 
disrupted before making a nomination. 6 In the Chicago dis- 
trict and elsewhere in the northern tier of counties, the 
Nebraska and anti-Nebraska forces fought out the issue in 
primary meetings and county conventions with varying results. 
When the Nebraskaites could not secure their way in open 
convention they often seceded and held rival meetings of their 
own to carry the contest up to the next step in the party organi- 
zation. The Galena Jeffersonian disgustedly proposed a state 
democratic convention to consider " formally excommunicating 
the adherents of Douglas' Nebraska scheme, from the great 
Democratic brotherhood." 7 

It was not surprising that the younger democratic lead- 
ers Lyman Trumbull, John M. Palmer, Colonel E. D. 
Taylor, John A. McClernand, and Jehu Baker took issue 
with Douglas on the Kansas-Nebraska act; but it came with a 
shock when old conservatives like John Reynolds and Sidney 
Breese spoke out with equal vigor. Breese " repelled with 
scorn the attempt to foist this bastard plank into the Democratic 
creed." Even Senator Shields began to waver and the rumor 

5 Morgan Journal, July 6, 1854. 

6 Alton Courier, September 9, 1854; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, Sep- 
tember 30, 1854. 

7 Galena Jeffersonian clipped in Ottawa Weekly Republican, September 16, 


circulated which he felt in honor bound to deny that in 
voting for the bill he merely obeyed the instructions of the 
legislature. 8 

Whig leaders directed a bold attack on their enemy; since 
assemblymen James W. Singleton, William H. Christy, and 
James M. Randolph had voted for the Nebraska resolutions, 
the Illinois Journal read the trio out of the party and, with 
the Chicago Tribune, proclaimed the whig party as the anti- 
Nebraska stronghold. Singleton unsilenced by the assaults of 
his party associates, O. H. Browning, and Archibald Williams, 
continued to defend the Kansas-Nebraska act in the neighbor- 
hood of Quincy. Minor whig politicians, restive under the 
yoke of the party moguls, protested as "national whigs" 
against the attempt to convert the party to any brand of aboli- 
tionism; a group of them formally renounced their connection 
with the old party to go for "Douglas, Kansas, and the 
Union." 9 

The idea of common cause for all anti-Nebraska forces, 
regardless of former party lines, made its appearance at an 
early day. A large and enthusiastic mass meeting at Rockford 
on March 18 passed a resolution that "The free States should 
now blot out all former political distinctions by uniting them- 
selves into one great Northern Party." 10 The Pekin Tazewell 
Mirror suggested that a state convention be held of all parties 
opposed to the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and the 
Morgan Journal heartily indorsed the proposal; the Illinois 
Journal, however, frowned upon the idea, complaining that 
as the whigs were a unit on the Nebraska " outrage " there 
was "no necessity of breaking up their organization for the 
purpose of becoming a new political party, with a single object 
in view." X1 It preferred that anti-Nebraska democrats should 
adopt an independent organization. But anti-Nebraska demo- 
cratic papers acceded neither to the idea of their own perma- 

8 Alton Weekly Courier, October 12, 1854; Alton Courier, October 26, 1854; 
Illinois Journal, October 17, 1854. 

9 Illinois State Register, September 7, 14, 1854. 

10 Rock River Democrat, March 28, 1854. A meeting of "respectable 
farmers and mechanics " at Freeport went on record in favor of uniting as one 
party in common cause against the extension of slavery. Illinois Journal, April 
5, 1854. 

11 Ibid., July 27, 1854; Morgan Journal, July 27, 1854. 


nent organization nor to that of a fusion party; instead they 
directed their energies toward healing the schism. 

Many confirmed free soilers and abolitionists, however, 
eagerly embraced the idea of fusion, or " cooperation," as 
their organ, the Free West, preferred to call it. 12 Ichabod 
Codding, a well-known antislavery evangelist, toured the state 
during the summer months in the interest of the new dispensa- 
tion. Influenced by similar movements in Wisconsin and 
Michigan a mass meeting of antislavery independents at 
Ottawa, August i, assumed the name " republican" as the title 
by which the new party was to be known ; they passed a reso- 
lution recommending that a state mass meeting of the oppo- 
nents of slavery extension be held later at Bloomington. Later 
" republican " conventions were held in La Salle, Will, Putnam, 
and other counties, followed by a congressional convention 
for the third district at Bloomington, September 12, which 
was attended by full delegations from ten counties. 13 There 
the name "republican" was formally adopted. A mass con- 
vention in the first district at Rockford, August 30, agreed to 
cooperate in defense of freedom "as republicans," while a 
"people's" mass convention at Aurora, September 30, acting 
for the second district assumed the name of republican; both 
of these put republican candidates for congress into the field. 
In the first and third districts whig and republican fusion was 
complete while the only obstacle to such a combination at 
Aurora was the difficulty of agreeing upon terms. 

The republican state convention finally met at Springfield 
on the fourth and fifth of October. Though the state fair 
was at the same time in session, hope of political capital to be 
made thereby was extinguished when it was found that in 
spite of a public invitation by Lovejoy to the assembled 
throng, only a small band of twenty-six tested antislavery men 
appeared in the convention. Ichabod Codding, Owen Love- 
joy, H. K. Jones of Morgan county, and Erastus Wright of 
Sangamon were the leading spirits. To their disappointment 
Abraham Lincoln carefully avoided the meetings though he 

12 Free West, May 4, 1854. 

13 Ottawa Free Trader, August 12, 1854; Ottawa Republican, August 12, 
19, September 16, 1854. 


had made a thrilling anti-Nebraska speech at Springfield just 
before the opening of the convention. This effort was highly 
commended; " Ichabod raved and Lovejoy swelled, and all 
endorsed the sentiments of that speech," sarcastically com- 
mented the editor of the State Register. Aggressive anti- 
slavery extension resolutions were adopted, after which John 
L. McClun of Bloomington, a whig member of the legislature, 
was named as the republican candidate for state treasurer. 14 
McClun's name was posted by the Illinois Journal, October 
9, and other papers, but was shortly withdrawn in favor of 
James Miller, an anti-Nebraska leader who, as the nominee 
of a whig convention, was of more orthodox stripe. 

A state central committee was appointed by the conven- 
tion, including Lincoln as the Sangamon county representative. 
Lovejoy vouched for Lincoln's agreement with the principles 
enunciated in the platform, but the wily whig leader, unwilling 
as a candidate for the United States senate to incur the political 
unpopularity that would follow association with abolitionists, 
had absented himself from the city in order not to be identified 
with the convention and later repudiated the use of his name. 15 
It was this douche of cold water, probably, that prevented the 
organization of the state committee, and a similar party loy- 
alty deterred all except discredited " abolitionists " from par- 
ticipating in the movement. It was that fact, rather than any 
radicalism in the proposed course of action, that caused the 
prompt death of this " republican" state organization. 

Seldom in the history of Illinois had there been such con- 
fusion in the congressional canvass as in 1854. The Chicago 
district presented one of the worst tangles. Strongly demo- 
cratic and antislavery in tone, it had been repeatedly repre- 
sented in congress by the able but demagogical "Long John" 
Wentworth, a noted champion of river and harbor improve- 
ment, of land reform, and of freedom. Dominating the party 
machine in the district, he was not without his rivals, who 
frankly dubbed him a corrupt knave, " an unscrupulous demo- 
gogue and political Ishamelite," and denounced the abuses of 

14 Illinois State Register, October 12, 1854; McLean County Historical 
Society, Transactions, 3:43-47. 

15 Herndon and Weik, Abraham Lincoln, 1:40-41; Nicolay and Hay, Abra- 
ham Lincoln, Complete Works, i : 209. 


the convention system, that prevailed under his "misrule." 
Several independent anti-Nebraska candidates, therefore, were 
announced to dispute his control long before the democratic 
convention was held; but strangely enough the Free West 
decided to support Wentworth on the strength of his sturdy 
fight against the Nebraska act. 16 

During this pre-convention canvass by democratic forces, 
the local anti-Nebraska "people's" movement was gathering 
headway. At a district convention at Aurora representative 
leaders decided to repudiate all previous party attachments 
and "hereafter cooperate as the Republican party;" James 
H. Woodworth, a free soil democrat since 1848, former mayor 
of Chicago and member of the general assembly, was nomi- 
nated for congress. A whig convention simultaneously placed 
a capable candidate, R. S. Blackwell, in nomination. These 
developments fostered democratic humility. Wentworth's 
anti-Nebraska rivals withdrew ; and he announced that, though 
his election was as certain as his nomination, he would step 
aside in favor of any true democrat who might be nominated. 
Again, Aurora became the scene of bustling political maneu- 
vers. "Long John" and his men found their control disputed 
by a rival camp of Douglasites who held a convention of their 
own. Wentworth's cohorts merely reaffirmed the Baltimore 
platform of 1852 and repudiated all new tests of democracy 
as heresy. They nominated E. L. Mayo of De Kalb county, 
an old-time democrat, while the Nebraskaites put up a polit- 
ical unknown, John B. Turner of Chicago, president of the 
Galena and Chicago railroad. A four-cornered fight was there- 
upon waged which terminated in the success of Woodworth, 
the republican candidate. 17 

In the first and third districts, Elihu B. Washburne and 
Jesse O. Norton, the whig members of congress, were nomi- 
nated as the candidates of the republican party; both had excel- 
lent free soil records that had stood out above their national 
whiggery. In the first district the democratic convention split 

18 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, August 12, September 22, 1854; Free 
West, September 7, 1854. 

17 Ibid., September 21, 1854; Chicago Weekly Democrat, October 7, 1854; 
Aurora Guardian, October 5, 1854; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, October 6, 
1854; Illinois State Register, October 12, 1854. 


on the Nebraska issue with the result that rival democratic 
candidates contested for Washburne's seat. 18 

In the Alton district the democratic party found itself 
embarrassed by the numerous candidates for the nomination. 
The Nebraska faction seemed to control the organization but 
the anti-Nebraskaites served notice that they would not cooper- 
ate under any new test or issue. The result was a split in the 
district convention before a nomination was effected. Joseph 
Gillespie had been in the field as a whig candidate; but when 
Lyman Trumbull, a prominent democrat, came out in bold defi- 
ance of Douglas and the "new test" even the whigs rallied 
with enthusiasm in favor of his election to congress. 19 Trum- 
bull made a brilliant campaign against Philip B. Fouke, a 
Nebraska democrat, and won a handy victory. 

In the Springfield district, the democrats nominated Thomas 
L. Harris, a Douglasite, to make the contest for Yates' seat. 
Yates was, therefore, supported by the anti-Nebraska forces. 
He was doubtless injured, however, by the participation of 
Ichabod Codding in the canvass and the charge that he was the 
candidate of the abolitionists. Harris showed great confidence 
in his support of the principle of popular sovereignty; he per- 
mitted himself to be placed on record as willing on this prin- 
ciple to admit a state with a constitution recognizing and per- 
mitting polygamy. 20 But fear of abolition at their doors was 
so strong in the hearts of the conservatives that even " Polyg- 
amy Harris " was able to win, though by a small vote. In the 
remaining districts, the anti-Nebraska forces were under whig 
leadership. James Knox was easily reflected in the Knox- 
ville district. Archibald Williams made an unsuccessful con- 
test for Richardson's seat in the Quincy district. William R. 
Archer ran James C. Allen a neck and neck race in the Decatur- 
Olney region, while no effective opposition was organized 
against Samuel S. Marshall in the Cairo district. 

These signs of an impending political revolution in Illinois 
summoned Douglas from his triumph at Washington to avert 

18 Free West, September 21, 1854. 

19 Belleville Advocate, August 2, 1854; Alton Courier, August 30, Sep- 
tember 9, 1854; Illinois Journal, September 30, 1854; Alton Telegraph clipped 
in Alton Weekly Courier, October 26, 1854. 

20 Illinois Journal, September 28, 1854. 


the crisis. The announcement that he would address his con- 
stituents at Chicago, Saturday, September I, caused a public 
demonstration of the unpopularity of his recent course. At 
one o'clock on the appointed day, the flags in the harbor were 
lowered to half-mast; later at six o'clock the bells of the city 
were tolled for an hour. Then eight or ten thousand persons 
gathered near North Market Hall; in spite of Mayor Milli- 
ken's admonition to remain quiet, the crowd greeted Douglas 
with a storm of hisses and groans, that overwhelmed the 
plaudits of his supporters. Unable to proceed he announced 
his intention to stay until he could be heard, whereupon the 
mob broke into the chorus: "We won't go till morning, till 
morning, till morning, till daylight doth appear." 21 Douglas 
defiantly faced the mob, "The spirit of a dictator flashed out 
from his eye, curled upon his lip, and mingled its cold irony 
in every tone of his voice and every gesture of his body." 22 
He and the mob defied each other until midnight when at 
length the "little giant" was compelled to acknowledge his 
defeat. Shaking his fist at the audience, his face distorted 
with rage, he shouted: "It is now Sunday morning I'll go 
to church, and you may go to Hell 1 " 23 

This incident gave Douglas an opportunity to travel over 
the state and say that he had been refused a hearing by the 
abolitionists of Chicago. He met with very little more suc- 
cess, however, throughout the northern counties. At Geneva 
he was compelled to leave off speaking until his opponent, Icha- 
bod Codding, responding to the calls of the audience, gra- 
ciously urged that Douglas be heard through. 24 Undaunted, 
he continued on his canvass, dashing from point to point in 
the country of the enemy and in the more favorable terri- 
tory in central Illinois. The climax came at Springfield during 
the state fair, where his supporters hoped to score heavily by 
arranging for a formal address. The anti-Nebraska forces 
made their preparations to meet Douglas; Judge Trumbull, 
Judge Breese, Colonel McClernand, Judge Palmer, Colonel 

21 Free West, September 7, 1854. 

22 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, September 4, 1854. 

23 See Chicago Tribune account in Illinois State Register, September 7, 14, 

24 Free West, September 28, 1854; Aurora Guardian, September 21, 1854. 

5^ : iVVc-NK >VVSWiVr 

22+ % oi vote in Jo Daviess 
County was for Palmar 


E. D. Taylor, and other democrats, were easily prevailed 
upon to be at hand to make reply. With them enlisted Abra- 
ham Lincoln, the whig anti-Nebraska champion. Douglas 
made his main address on October 3 and was answered the 
next day by Lincoln in behalf of the anti-Nebraska group. 
Douglas replied in a "brief" hour and a half speech. On the 
fifth, with McClernand and Palmer standing by ready to meas- 
ure lances with Douglas, Breese, Trumbull, and Taylor fell 
upon their erstwhile leader. 25 Douglas himself, with no oppor- 
tunity to deliver a formal speech, had to content himself with 
brief answers to the assaults of his opponents with such assist- 
ance as could be given by his Sangamon county lieutenant, John 
Calhoun. All this opposition seems to have made no impres- 
sion upon the fighting senator; he was soon off to other battle- 
grounds to get in his blows during the remaining weeks of the 

Loudly and aggressively did the democrats fling the charge 
of "abolitionism" at their opponents, pointing to the active 
participation in the campaign of such antislavery extremists as 
Ichabod Codding and Owen Lovejoy, the brother of the mar- 
tyr, Salmon P. Chase and Joshua R. Giddings, the well-known 
Ohio leaders; even Cassius M. Clay, and Frederick Douglass, 
the Negro abolitionist, invaded the state on short anti- 
Nebraska speech making tours. " Hired gangs of abolition- 
ists of the Horace Greeley and Garrison school," warned the 
Cairo City Times, " are traversing the State, addressing the 
people and telling them how to vote." 26 

The returns in November showed a sweeping democratic 
defeat. " Never before have the democracy of Illinois been 
so completely vanquished," lamented the Joliet Signal of 
November 14. A clear anti-Nebraska legislature was elected; 
and though democrats elected John Moore state treasurer, 
it was only by a policy of silence on the Nebraska question. 
The congressional elections went against their regular candi- 
dates by five to four. The shout of triumph in the anti- 
Nebraska camp brought humility to the Douglas democracy, 

25 Illinois Journal, October 10, 1854; Alton Weekly Courier, October 12, 1854. 
26 See the Free West, June-November, 1854; Cairo City Times, October 18, 


which at length showed a disposition to let the Nebraska issue 
rest 27 

The biggest stake in the elections of 1854 was Shield's seat 
in the United States senate. The anti-Nebraska majority in the 
legislature seemed to assure his defeat, though party allegiance 
still called loudly to democrats of all stripes. Among Shield's 
competitors were Governor Matteson, Lyman Trumbull, and 
Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, still clinging to the obsolete whig 
tradition, was a champion of antislavery whiggery; and the 
main body of anti-Nebraska legislators supported him mainly 
because they themselves were of whig sympathies. But could 
the anti-Nebraska democrats support a candidate who hailed 
from the camp of the traditional enemy? Yet success depended 
upon the support of these democratic heretics. They were 
inflexibly committed against Shields, instinctively preferred 
Trumbull, but regarded Matteson a very moderate Nebraska 
man, as second choice. Matteson, indeed, might well have 
been elected had it not been that Lieutenant Governor Koerner, 
a foreigner and an anti-Nebraskaite, would then have been 
automatically promoted to the gubernatorial chair. 

The house promptly elected anti-Nebraska officers. In the 
senate, however, the Douglas men delayed organization with 
obstructive tactics, while the anti-Nebraska democratic sen- 
ators including Norman B. Judd, John M. Palmer, B. C. 
Cook, and Uri Osgood, refused to participate in the democratic 
caucus on organization. A joint resolution disapproving of the 
repeal of the Missouri compromise and instructing the Illinois 
senators to support its restoration was introduced but failed 
to progress to final passage, although in one vote the house 
committed itself to the resolution. 

Hoping at least to prevent the choice of an opposition 
candidate, if only by preventing the election of a senator, 
Douglas tried to sow discord among the anti-Nebraska forces. 
His organ, the Chicago Daily Times, January 10, patroniz- 
ingly exhorted the whigs to bear proudly their ancient name 
and principles, as embodied in Lincoln, rather than yield to the 
solicitation of democratic anti-Nebraska malcontents. 28 Lin- 

27 St. Clalr Tribune, November u, 1854. 

28 Douglas to Charles A. Lanphier, December 18, 1854, Lanphier manuscripts. 


coin was opposed by some of these democrats, because of his 
" shortcomings on the Republican basis." Besides his connec- 
tion with a conservative u mummy of a party," his unwilling- 
ness to oppose the fugitive slave law and to pledge himself 
in opposition to the admission of any more slave states, was 
regarded as evidence of too much conservatism for the old 
time abolition forces. 29 In the early balloting, Lincoln received 
the vote of every member of whig antecedents but still lacked 
a few votes. The anti-Nebraska democratic bolters supported 
Trumbull on the ground that as a majority of the legislature 
were democrats in old party allegiance, a democrat ought to be 
elected. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon them 
to vote for Shields or Matteson. One of the participants later 
charged that bribery as well as persuasion was attempted upon 
him. Just when the bolters, Judd and his colleagues, were on 
the point of abandoning Trumbull and joining their brethren 
to elect either Shields or Matteson, Lincoln, convinced that it 
was impossible to secure his own election, instructed his whig 
supporters to unite at once on Trumbull as a candidate who 
could be elected. 30 As a result the tenth ballot showed Lyman 
Trumbull the choice of the state legislature for United States 
senator. His election was hailed with universal satisfaction 
by the entire anti-Nebraska press of the state. Douglas and 
his followers, considering it preferable to a whig victory, 
promptly acquiesced. 

While the Kansas-Nebraska question was the chief issue of 
1854 and 1855, other problems competed with it for attraction 
and contributed to the general political chaos. Whig disinte- 
gration and democratic schism provided a favorable atmos- 
phere for the many "isms" that sought a hearing. The tem- 

29 Free West, December 14, 1854; Aurora Guardian, January n, 1855. 

80 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, January 13, 1855. George T. Allen 
claimed in 1866 that he was offered by the democrats through L. F. Mebrille, 
their agent, " all they could give " " to buy any vote for Gov. Matteson." 
George T. Allen to Trumbull, June 14, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts. See also 
Chicago Weekly Democrat, February 17, August n, 1855; Illinois Journal, 
February 9, 1855. As it was, five anti-Nebraska members voted for Matteson 
on the last ballot; two of these were William C. Kinney and Albert H. Trapp 
of St. Clair county in TrumbulPs own district, who incidentally wanted to see 
Koerner become governor as a result of Matteson's election. Belleville Advocate, 
February 14, 1855; St. Clair Tribune, February 17, 1855; Koerner, 
Memoirs, 1:624-625; Johns, Personal Recollections, 75-76; Lincoln to Henderson, 
February 21, 1855, Illinois State Historical Society, Journal, 4:73. 


perance agitation, split though it was into various factions, 
suddenly acquired a magnetic appeal; after a surprising dis- 
play of strength in connection with the proposed liquor law 
of 1855, however, the movement collapsed with equal abrupt- 
ness. An attempt was made also to force an alignment on 
the issue of political nativism when a wave of native Ameri- 
canism swept over the country to the hospitable prairies of 
Illinois; but since it sought to ignore the ever present slavery 
question, this became a centrifugal force which in time threw 
apart the elements of the conglomerate mass. 

The "know nothing" party was the name given to this 
revival of native Americanism which, in its political aspect, was 
a protest against the part that the foreign born citizen was 
allowed to play, whether legally or fraudulently, in the prac- 
tical workings of the American political system. It also 
involved some objection to the Roman Catholic allegiance of 
the foreign immigrant, particularly the Irish. Arising in the 
form of a secret political organization which concealed even 
its name and existence and holding up the high ideal of pro- 
tecting American institutions from the " insidious wiles of for- 
eigners," it made a strong appeal to various political groups 
in the state. It furnished an opportunity for a dark lantern 
exodus from old party bondage both to the whigs, who came to 
feel quite like men without a party, and to democrats, who 
were permanently alienated by the unfortunate leadership of 
Senator Douglas; at the same time its novelty, its secrecy, and 
its mystery as a ritualistic secret organization attracted hun- 
dreds of converts. The new nativist movement claimed to 
herald an era of political reform which should rid the country 
of the corruption that had crept into high places, which should 
substitute devotion to the union of the fathers for slavish 
devotion to party. To the conservative who had grown weary 
of the excessive sectional agitation, it promised an opportunity 
to steer clear of the unfortunate slavery controversy. 

During the early weeks of the canvass in 1854, the State 
Register and other Douglas journals issued warnings : " Beware 
of the Know Nothings," and " Beware of secret societies." 
This was clearly an attempt to rally the foreign voters, par- 
ticularly the Irish, in favor of the Nebraska party. Inasmuch 


as the democratic party had always been the chief beneficiary 
of the foreign vote the effect was to encourage nativism in 
the ranks of the opposition which inherited some of the whig 
traditions. 31 Soon evidences were discovered of local organi- 
zations in Joliet, Ottawa, Grayville, Canton, Vermont, Farm- 
ington, Alton, and other communities. A know nothing journal 
entitled the American Era was started at Grayville, while the 
Canton Register among others showed strong nativistic inclina- 
tions; it challenged the "disgusting" flattery bestowed on for- 
eigners to secure their votes and declared that only Americans, 
including naturalized Protestant citizens, should rule America. 
By August the order numbered over three hundred in Alton 
and was preparing for the coming city election. One of its 
meetings was held " in the culvert under Prisa street." When 
the votes were counted on September 12 it was found that a 
closely contested election had quietly taken place which resulted 
in a complete know nothing victory. " The officers elected are 
among the best men in our city," declared the Alton Courier* 2 
It is difficult to state to what extent the November elections 
were influenced by this new issue. Richard Yates was said to 
have lost enough foreign votes to forfeit his seat in congress, 
as a result of the false charge that he was a know nothing. In 
the Belleville-Alton district hundreds of Germans and Catholic 
Americans, fearful that they might vote for some know nothing 
candidate, remained at home or " allowed themselves to be 
persuaded to vote against Mr. Trumbull under the representa- 
tion that every anti-Nebraska man must necessarily be a Maine 
Law liquor man and a Know Nothing." 33 Similar reasons 
were said to have accounted for the defeat of the anti- 
Nebraskaites in the Quincy district. On the other hand, Nor- 
ton and Knox in the third and fourth congressional districts 
and Allen in the seventh succeeded with the indorsement of the 
nativists. It was claimed that many members of the newly 
elected legislature were know nothings as well as anti-Nebras- 

31 Illinois Journal, August 2, 1854; Ottawa Weekly Republican, October 7, 
1854; Joliet Signal, July 4, 1854. 

32 Canton Weekly Register, August 3, September 14, 21, 1854; Alton Courier, 
August 17, September 14, 1854; Illinois Journal, November 14, 1854; Free West, 
December 14, 1854. Lincoln was similarly believed to be one of the nativists. 

33 " An Adopted Citizen," St. Clair Tribune, November 25, 1854; see also 
Alton Courier, November 8, 1854. 


kaites; disgusted democratic editors therefore called it a 
"heterogeneous mixture of niggerism, Native Americanism, 
black republicanism and intrigue," a compound of " Fusion, 
Know Nothingism, and Whiggery." The tabling of a resolu- 
tion opposing any change in the naturalization laws and 
the defeat of Senator Shields, because a son of Erin, was 
offered as proof of the charge. "The Nebraska fight is 
over and Know Nothingism has taken its place as the chief 
issue of the future," declared Douglas anent the senatorial 
election. 34 

The next year was an off-year in Illinois politics; the know 
nothings utilized it to perfect their organization for more 
aggressive political activity. Recruits were enlisted in such 
numbers that the heterogeneous character of the local councils 
and the state organization became apparent. Nebraska and 
anti-Nebraska men were now joining the order without any 
strong conviction that nativism was the dominant issue of the 
day. Soon there was wrangling within the brotherhood; a 
general disposition to soften the proscriptive features of the 
know nothing platform betrayed a desire on the part of both 
the radical and conservative groups to build up strength for 
themselves even at a sacrifice of some of the fundamental tenets 
of the order. Each side charged the other in public with a 
monopoly on bigotry. It soon became a fight between " Sam " 
and "Jonathan." "Sam" represented the original and ortho- 
dox brand of nativism; "Jonathan" was the champion of an 
antislavery brand which welcomed all foreigners who would 
disavow temporal allegiance to the pope. 35 

These were insuperable obstacles to a strong and harmoni- 
ous state organization. 36 Jonathanism, with an antislavery 
extension plank, made rapid progress in Illinois, preparing 
to resist the action of the southern know nothings. At a stormy 
two day session of the Illinois Grand Council at Chicago in 
May, Sam and Jonathan came together in a heated contest in 

34 St. Clair Tribune, February 17, 1855; Joliet Signal, January 16, 1855; 
Douglas to Lanphier, December 18, 1855, Lanphier manuscripts. 

35 Alton Courier, May 8, 1855; Chicago Weekly Democrat, May 5, 1855. 

36 Municipal activity presented the best field. In March, 1855, the know 
nothings elected their entire municipal ticket in Chicago and Rockford, while 
in April they lost the Quincy city election by 250 votes; Urbana Union, March 
*5 I 8ss; Rockford Republican, March 14, 1855; Alton Courier, April 21, 1855. 


which the only gains were made by the latter. 37 A state con- 
vention at Springfield, in July continued the fight: the anti- 
Nebraska forces prevented the adoption of the Philadelphia 
national platform with its approval of the repeal of the Mis- 
souri compromise. The majority report of the committee on 
resolutions, which included a clause calling for the restoration 
of the Missouri compromise, was adopted by a vote of 74 to 
35. The nativistic declarations were mild and ambiguous. It 
contained, indeed, less nativism than it did antislavery doc- 
trine; congress was declared to have full power under the 
constitution to legislate on slavery in the territories. " The 
platform," complained a conservative opponent, also " contains 
enough of treason to the South and the Constitution to suit 
the Abolitionists." Jonathan seemed to have dealt Sam a 
death-blow and to have arranged for his burial. So true was 
this that the rival "know something" order, which welcomed 
the foreign votes on an anti-Nebraska platform, fell for want 
of raison d'etre* 9 

Pursuant to an order of this state convention, a know noth- 
ing organ, the Daily Native Citizen, was established at Chicago 
by W. W. Danenhower. In its first numbers it took strong 
antislavery ground; after a few months, however, its tone 
changed somewhat; and it adjusted itself to a more conserva- 
tive nationalistic position. At the same time its nativism was 
diluted to the point where it was able to commend the idea, as 
promulgated by the German press of the state, that Gustave 
Koerner be given the republican nomination for governor. 39 

It was obvious from all these signs that political nativism 
did not constitute a basis for party organization in Illinois. 
The most important question of the day was the question of 
slavery extension; the northern view, that slavery was a moral 
and political evil and that congress had a duty to prevent its 
extension into the territories was brought into vigorous asser- 

37 The Chicago Democrat charged Douglas with being a lobby member of 
the Grand Council, consulted by a large number of members of the proslavery 
tendencies, whom he advised to hold to their allegiance to Sam. Chicago 
Weekly Democrat, May 5, 1855. 

38 Illinois Journal, July n, 1855; Ottawa Weekly Republican, July 14, 21, 
1855; Cairo City Times, July 25, 1855; Chicago Weekly Democrat, October 
27, 1855. 

39 Daily Native Citizen clipped in St. Clair Tribune, December 22, 1855. 


tion by the enactment of the Kansas-Nebraska act. It was 
evident that various fragments lay upon the political scrap- 
heap which might be cemented together into an effective oppo- 
sition to democratic domination. But blind adhesion to de- 
ceased or expiring parties together with infatuation for novelty 
and change had first to disappear, and this required time. 
Whigs almost convinced themselves at intervals that old issues 
were returning and that the day of resurrection was near at 
hand. At such times they were unwilling to abandon their 
"broad, tried, and natural platform" and their conservative 
friends in the south in order to be swallowed up in a repub- 
lican fusion of democrats, whigs, and abolitionists. The 
Illinois Journal was convinced that the republican movement 
had degenerated into a sectional party; accordingly, it clung 
to its old whig connections but played the part of apologist 
for the native American party. 40 

John Wentworth, still proud of his democratic connec- 
tions, took a long forward step when he permitted his journal 
to declare : " The North is all split to pieces upon matters of 
minor moment compared with the great question at issue. 
Now we think the North should unite as well as the South. 
If slavery can unite the South, certainly freedom should unite 
the North." This was followed by an indorsement of the 
proposition made by the National Era, the old free soil organ, 
for united action by the north in 1856. The Ottawa Republican 
was at the same time conducting a propaganda to the same 
end. 41 The Galena Advertiser next recommended an anti- 
Nebraska mass state convention at Chicago in October in con- 
nection with the state fair. The idea of mixing politics and 
agriculture was first frowned upon, especially in view of a 
protest against such distractions by the executive committee 
of the State Agricultural Society, though a little later, when 
the proposition was renewed, it was widely indorsed. 42 Still 
it was felt that the responsibility for calling the convention 

40 Chicago Dally Democratic Press, December 22, 1854; Quincy Whig, 
July 7, 1855; Illinois Journal, December 12, 1854, January 27, August 4, Octo- 
ber 5, November 23, 24, December 6, 1855. 

^Chicago Weekly Democrat, June 30, 1855; Ottawa Weekly Republican, 
June 30, 1855. 

42 Illinois State Journal, September i, 1855; Quincy Whig, September n, 
October 9, 1855. 


ought to be taken by some organization in the central part 
of the state and none of these had the courage to issue the 
necessary call. 

As a result, all that was done in the field of republican 
party politics during that year was the perfection of local organi- 
zations in the northern counties, where successful contests were 
made in the local elections. Again Ichabod Codding took the 
stump with the republican propaganda and Joshua R. Giddings 
journeyed from Ohio for a speech-making tour in the hopes of 
being able to participate in the christening of an Illinois 
republican party. 

Meanwhile Douglas was energetically at work trying to 
bring unity and harmony into the councils of the democratic 
party. At the end of summer he took the stump, appealing 
to his erstwhile followers to rally for democracy and to beware 
of know nothingism and Maine lawism lurking behind the veil 
of anti-Nebraska. He tried to bully his opponents into acqui- 
escence in the Kansas-Nebraska act by daring Trumbull to 
make a joint agreement to risk their seats in the senate on 
this issue in the coming state election. When his proposal 
was ignored, however, Douglas concentrated on side issues 
wherever he found himself in hostile territory. Douglas and 
Trumbull met in joint debate at Salem, September 26; and the 
two spoke on consecutive days at Chicago during the state fair. 
In general, however, Douglas tended to center his attention 
on Egypt where the party was solidly reorganized on Nebraska 
ground with old time whigs in the place of the few anti- 
Nebraska seceders. 43 

Party organization in Illinois was still in a most chaotic 
condition when the time arrived to consider the coming presi- 
dential election. All democrats believed themselves the true 

43 Chicago Weekly Democrat, October 6, 1855; Cairo City Times, October 
24, 1855. A single outspoken Nebraskaite objector to Douglas leadership was 
found in the Shawneetown Southern lllinoisan, which declared that his visit 
had " not only evidenced the breach between himself and the people, but drawn 
upon him the bitter hatred of many who a short time ago numbered among 
his best friends." "What is Democracy?" it asked. Ottawa Weekly Repub- 
lican, November 3, 1855. " In Illinois it means just now, to hallo for Douglas 
get in office, gain wealth by the dishonest means afforded by your official 
standing, and retire to some secluded spot and spend your remaining days in 
princely style, considering yourself one of the ' luck dogs ' of the earth." Belle- 
ville Advocate, December 19, 1855. 


protectors of the principles of their party, although it was 
apparent that the Douglasites controlled the organization. 
There were anti-Nebraska whigs who had learned to cooperate 
with some of their former opponents in the fight on Douglas; 
there were others who had entered the camp of the enemy 
believing that only in this way could they do effective battle 
for nationalism and conservatism ; there were " old-line " whigs, 
who clung dreamily to the conservative traditions of the party; 
but there was no longer a whig party in Illinois. Know noth- 
ings found themselves driftwood on a tide that, having carried 
them to the high water mark, was now rapidly receding; the 
expediency of working toward an old or, if possible, some 
safer new haven was obvious to them. 

Many whigs, democrats, and know nothings would have 
been glad to welcome the republican party, which had swept 
all before it in the neighboring states of Michigan and Wis- 
consin. 44 They were convinced that henceforward there could 
be but one issue, that of slavery, and that there were to be 
but two national parties the slavery restrictionists, or repub- 
licans, and the slavery extensionists, or democrats. When 
in February, 1856, the combined anti-Nebraska forces in con- 
gress succeeded in electing Nathaniel P. Banks speaker of the 
house of representatives, they hailed this first national " repub- 
lican" victory and summoned the republicans in their neigh- 
borhoods to celebrate it. 45 Anti-Nebraska democrats generally 
rejoiced at Banks' election, but seldom looked upon it as a 
"democratic victory" as did Wentworth in his Chicago Demo- 
crat; many, however, as reluctant as he to part company with 
old associations, did share his hope of being able to convert 
the party to slavery restriction a hope which they would 
never relinquish unless the national democratic convention 
should record itself in favor of the principle embodied in the 
Kansas-Nebraska law. This was the position of William H. 
Bissell, Gustave Koerner, Lyman Trumbull, and hundreds of 
other prominent anti-Nebraska democrats. 46 But such anti- 

44 These democrats felt that they had made " a happy escape from a den 
of thieves, drunkards, gamblers, and blackguards." George T. Allen to Trum- 
bull, January 19, 1856, Trumbull manuscripts. 

45 Rockford Republican, February 13, 1856. 

46 D. S. Phillips to Trumbull, January 15, 1856, Trumbull manuscripts. 


Nebraskaites as John Reynolds, John A. McClernand, and 
William H. Underwood were democrats first and last; they 
would never falter in their allegiance. 

The persistence of party loyalty was a blow to the hopes 
of an effective state republican party. The party had its local 
and county organizations in the northern part of the state but 
lacked the aggressive support of just such democrats in central 
and eastern Illinois. It threw the burden of organization upon 
the whig elements with their reputation for lack of real organ- 
izing ability and energy. For this reason it was natural that 
when a caucus of anti-Nebraska men was held during the 
session of the supreme court at Springfield, it was decided under 
the leadership of Koerner and others that no separate anti- 
Nebraska organization or nominations should be attempted. 47 

Just at this time, the anti-Nebraska press of the state was 
agreeing upon a proposition of prime significance for the future 
of the antislavery extension group in Illinois. The Morgan 
Journal, edited by Paul Selby, a participant in the Springfield 
"republican" convention of October, 1854, suggested a meet- 
ing of the free state editors to consider " arrangements for 
the organization of the anti-Nebraska forces in the state for 
the coming contest." This move was seconded by the Win- 
chester Chronicle, edited by John Moses, and warmly sup- 
ported by William J. Usrey of the Decatur Illinois State 
Chronicle; Usrey suggested a meeting at Decatur on the twenty- 
second of February. The final call was signed by twenty-five 
of the leading anti-Nebraska journals; this did not include 
the Rockford Republican, although its editor had indorsed 
the proposition and appeared at Decatur in time for the open- 
ing meeting. 48 A dozen arrived at the appointed time and a 
few others, delayed by a severe snow storm, participated in 
the later proceedings. The meeting was organized with Selby 
as chairman and Usrey as secretary. Abraham Lincoln came 

47 Thomas Quick to Trumbull, January 24, 1856, ibid, 

48 Rockford Republican, January 30, 1856; list in Selby, "The Editorial 
Convention, February 22, 1856," McLean County Historical Society, Transactions, 
3:36; Selby, "The Editorial Convention of 1856," Illinois State Historical Society, 
Journal, 5:343 if. The Chicago Democrat and the Chicago Daily Democratic 
Press were the leading anti-Nebraska journals who ignored the call. The 
Chicago Weekly Democrat, March 22, declared it had approved the object but 
opposed the time. 


up from Springfield as the only outsider present and actively 
conferred with the committee on resolutions headed by Dr. 
Charles H. Ray of the Chicago Tribune. Lincoln and Ray 
framed resolutions which, though protesting against the repeal 
of the Missouri compromise and against the further extension 
of slavery, were designed to be truly national and conservative 
on the slavery question. George Schneider of the Illinois 
Staats-Zeitung insisted in behalf of his fellow countrymen upon 
a moderate anti-know nothing plank. 49 

The convention appointed a state central committee and 
recommended a state delegate convention at Bloomington on 
May 29. One of the two appointees to the central committee 
for the state-at-large was Lieutenant Governor Gustave Koer- 
ner. Koerner, reluctant to break with his old party associa- 
tions, declined to serve on the committee; he indorsed the 
principles adopted by the convention, however, and hinted that 
if they should be repudiated by the approaching state and 
national democratic conventions, he would feel free to act 
with another organization. 50 

Preparations followed rapidly for the state convention. 
The democratic victories in the March municipal elections in 
Chicago, Springfield, and other Illinois cities only spurred on 
the anti-Nebraskaites ; by the end of April the tide was begin- 
ning to turn following the defeat of the erstwhile whig, Colonel 
Singleton, whom the democrats nominated for mayor of 
Quincy. Local anti-Nebraska and antislavery extension clubs 
were formed; county conventions followed, drawing together 
all the opposition odds and ends. 51 In some instances they 
frankly adopted the republican label, although this aroused 
the protests of those who, wishing to stress the larger appeal, 
called attention to the fact that the word " republican" did not 

49 The satisfactory character of the platform was obvious from its approval 
by the State Journal as " neither ' Know Nothing ' nor ' Republican ' " while the 
Rockford Republican in its turn declared: "There is not a plank in the plat- 
form but what is made of sound-live-oak Republican timber." Illinois State 
Journal, February 25, 1856; Rockford Republican, March 19, 1856. 

50 Koerner to the editor of the Belleville Advocate, March 6, 1856, clipped 
in Quincy Whig, March 14, 1856; Koerner, Memoirs, 2:3-4. These were the 
sentiments of other anti-Nebraska democrats like John M. Palmer and John 
Wentworth. Chicago Weekly Democrat, March 22, 1856. 

51 The Chicago Democrat and Chicago Daily Democratic Press gave the 
movement encouragement. 


appear in the calls of the state central committee. Leaders 
like William H. Herndon, George T. Brown of the Alton 
Courier, William H. Bissell, Orville H. Browning, in confer- 
ence with Senator Trumbull, sought to direct the movement 
and keep it in the control of moderate men and conservative 
influences. It was felt that even the leadership of the Decatur 
convention would kill the movement. 52 

At the appointed time, the anti-Nebraska delegates assem- 
bled at Bloomington. About 270 delegates, outnumbering 
the official apportionment of the central committee, responded 
to roll call, although about thirty southern counties were unrep- 
resented. " Old line Whigs, Jefferson and Jackson Democrats, 
Republicans, American and foreign born citizens, laying aside 
all past differences, united together there in one common 
brotherhood to war against the allied forces of nullification, 
disunion, slavery propagandism, ruffianism and gag law, which 
make up the present administration party of the country." 53 
The democratic state convention had already taken place on the 
first day of the month and had adopted under Douglasite 
influences an aggressive Nebraska platform as a test of party 
orthodoxy; it nominated for governor Douglas' aid-de-camp in 
the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, his "man Friday," 
Colonel Richardson. 54 This was sufficiently decisive to absolve 
John M. Palmer and the more restive anti-Nebraska demo- 
crats from all party allegiance. 

Judge Palmer accordingly presented himself at Bloom- 
ington as a delegate from Macoupin county. He arrived 
sufficiently early to participate with Lincoln, Washburne, and 
others in the speech-making on the night preceding the con- 
vention and made such a favorable impression that he was 
called to the chair by way of honor to the new accessions 
from the democracy. The convention adopted a platform of 
principles which closely followed the Decatur platform and 
made plans for a permanent organization. 55 William H. Bis- 

52 W. H. Bissell to Trumbull, May 5, 1856, O. H. Browning to Trumbull, 
May 19, 1856, Trumbull manuscripts. 

63 Illinois State Journal, May 31, 1856. 

54 Ibid., July 14, 1856; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, July 13, 1856. 

e5 Illinois State Journal, May 30, 1856; McLean County Historical Society, 
Transactions, 3 : 148 ff. 


sell, the old democratic war horse of St. Clair county, was 
nominated for governor by acclamation, to head the state 
ticket. An electoral ticket with Lincoln and Friedrich Hecker 
for electors-at-large was adopted. Illinois republicanism had 
even a few months previously been strong enough to participate 
in the preliminary national convention of the republican forces 
at Pittsburg, February 22. Owen Lovejoy and J. C. Vaughan 
attended as representatives of the more radical elements in the 
state. That body had called a national nominating convention 
at Philadelphia in June, and selections were now made of 
delegates to represent Illinois. After the completion of busi- 
ness the convention listened to addresses by O. H. Browning, 
Owen Lovejoy, B. C. Cook, and Abraham Lincoln, who "made 
the speech of the occasion." 5Q Huge ratification meetings at 
Chicago and Springfield suggested the enthusiasm with which 
the work of the convention was received. 

Next came the national conventions. At Cincinnati on 
June 2 the democrats selected James Buchanan on a squatter 
sovereignty platform; although Douglas had allowed his name 
to be placed in the field and had received the support of Illinois 
and Indiana politicians, 57 it was clear that the Kansas-Nebraska 
act had not advanced his availability. The republican national 
convention with a heavy Illinois representation met at Phila- 
delphia June 17 and nominated John C. Fremont and William 
L. Dayton as the antislavery extension candidates. The Ameri- 
cans or know nothings had already nominated Fillmore and 
Donelson, who were later indorsed by the remnants of 

The Philadelphia convention was in many ways a struggle 
between former democratic and whig elements for a leading 
place in the new republican party. The whigs put forward 
Judge McLean of Ohio, a free soil whig; while the democrats 
settled on Fremont, whom the Chicago Democrat had advo- 

56 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, May 31, 1856. Herndon wrote later 
that he forged Lincoln's name to the document that got him to go to Bloom- 
ington. " Whiggery & Know Nothingism tried to hold him, but they couldn't," 
he wrote to Z. Eastman, February 6, 1866, Eastman manuscripts. 

57 W. D. Latham to Lanphier, November 9, 1855, Lanphier manuscripts. 
Douglas" Chicago organ, the Times, decided in December not to advocate the 
claims of any candidate for the presidency. Cairo Weekly Times and Delta, 
December 19, 1855. 


cated for the democratic nomination as a " Union and constitu- 
tional candidate." But the news of the nomination of the 
conqueror of California, with a whig for the second place on 
the ticket, brought forth a general outburst of enthusiasm. 
" Fremont, the gallant, the indomitable, the hero of our west- 
ern wilds, his name is a household word throughout the Union, 
and his active sympathy with Freedom has endeared him to 
the heart of every free man," was the motto of welcome. 58 
Westerners forgot any disappointment they may have antici- 
pated in their enthusiasm over the republican declarations 
for river and harbor improvements, the great desideratum 
of the west; and for the Pacific railroad, the great national 

The camp of the enemy immediately sent up the cry that 
the "black republicans" were a sectional party; if democratic 
" dough-faces " were trucklers to the slave power, then the 
"kinky-heads" were converts to rank abolitionism! Develop- 
ments conspired to destroy the force of that charge; early 
Illinois republicanism had been repudiated because dominated 
by old-line abolitionists; the latter now in turn rejected the 
new brand because it would not measure up to their standard. 
The ultra abolitionists assembled in state convention at Joliet 
on July 31 and August I to nominate an electoral ticket to 
support Gerrit Smith. 59 This in effect stripped the republican 
party in Illinois of the stigma of abolition fanaticism. 

Soon a spirited canvass was under way, with Illinois as one 
of the chief battle-grounds of the campaign. Here Douglas, 
reenforced by Horatio Seymour and John Van Buren of New 
York, Governor Henry A. Wise of Virginia, and Lewis Cass 
of Michigan broke lances in the ancient stronghold of " dough- 
face" democracy with John P. Hale, the veteran abolitionist 
leader, Nathaniel P. Banks and Anson Burlingame of Massa- 
chusetts, Francis P. Blair, of Missouri, and Governor Charles 
Robinson of Kansas. The main work for the republicans, 
however, was done by local talent and it was of a high order. 
Trumbull and Lincoln, Koerner and Bissell, Owen Lovejoy 

58 Browning to Trumbull, May 14, 1856, Trumbull manuscripts; Chicago 
Weekly Democrat, February 8, 1856; Rock River Democrat, June 24, 1856. 

59 Ottawa Weekly Republican, July 26, 1856; Illinois State Journal, August 
7, 1856- 


and John Wentworth, Richard Yates and John M. Palmer led 
valiant charges on the " Buchaneers." 

The republicans made effective use of the story of " bleeding 
Kansas." Illinois followed developments there with tense 
interest. The state contributed thousands of emigrants to the 
battle-ground of popular sovereignty, who either brought back 
in person livid tales of the outrages committed by the border 
ruffians, or kept their relatives and former neighbors informed 
through written communications. The republican newspapers 
eagerly garnered all fresh details while campaign orators 
equipped themselves with the "tyrannical laws of the bogus 
territorial legislature," and cudgelled their opponents, the 
" nigger-drivers," into silence or apology. 60 

The drive and energy of the republicans astounded their 
opponents. Huge parades and processions with gay banners 
and gorgeous floats preceded the meetings. At Peoria thirty- 
one young women dressed in white with wreaths of flowers 
about their brows, with one in mourning garb to represent 
Kansas, were embarked on a boat, drawn by eight splendid 
white horses; it was "The Constitution," "bound for the 
White House." 61 This device was adopted all over the state; 
often the young women were led by one more beautiful and 
splendidly attired than the rest to represent " the queen of 
hearts," the " adored Jessie," dashing wife of Colonel Fre- 
mont. Free dinners and barbecues, widely advertised in staring 
posters, drew together crowds of thousands; the roar of 
artillery, the fluttering of banners, and the melody of 
bands of wind and stringed instruments, aided in attaching 
the sturdy yeomanry of the Illinois prairies to the republican 

Northern Illinois with its Yankee prejudices became the 
base of the republicans. Egypt was the stronghold of the 
" unterrified " democracy, who shouted for " Buck and Breck; " 
only along the Mississippi, in the counties of Madison, St. 
Clair, Monroe, Randolph, Clinton, and Perry, where the 
German vote was strong, did the work of the Bloomington and 

60 A. H. Herndon to Trumbull, June 16, 1856, Trumbull manuscripts; Illi- 
nois State Register, September 13, 20, 1855. 

81 Rushville Times, September 26, 1856; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, 
October n, 1856. 


Philadelphia conventions find supporters. 62 The central section 
where old time whigs and Americans were numerous and an 
uncertain political quantity, was disputed territory. The anti- 
slavery whigs, led by Lincoln, Yates, Conkling, Browning, and 
others, had joined the anti-Nebraska cause. But many old 
Clay whigs of southern antecedents felt a strong impulse to 
affiliate with the democratic party as having the strongest 
claims to nationality. Don Morrison, E. B. Webb, Colonel 
Singleton, Robert S. Blackwell, and C. H. Constable were 
some of the leaders in this march into the open arms of the 
democracy. 63 

The know nothing situation provided a true political conun- 
drum. Although the national convention had brought out the 
American ticket in February, Illinois supporters hesitated 
before ratifying the nominations. Under the leadership of 
men like Joseph Gillespie of Madison county who had, how- 
ever, been a signer of the Bloomington anti-Nebraska conven- 
tion 64 a state convention was held in May which drew up a 
state ticket and selected a group of Fillmore electors. The 
American nominee for governor was Colonel Archer, the anti- 
Nebraska whig candidate for congress in 1854 who had been 
defeated by one vote. Archer declined the nomination, declar- 
ing it folly for antislavery know nothings to throw away their 
strength on a third ticket, when the Nebraska know nothings 
were generally going for the Buchanan and Richardson ticket. 65 
Buckner S. Morris, an old-line whig, a southerner by birth and 
a slaveowner by marriage, was then brought out as the Fill- 
more candidate for governor. In the end the American move- 
ment courted by both parties and torn between the argument 

62 Koerner, Memoirs, 2:22-23; Parmenias Bond to Trumbull, June 28, 1856, 
Trumbull manuscripts. 

63 Constable was made elector-at-large on the Buchanan ticket, though he 
was known as a nativist and as an anti-Nebraska man with bitter feelings 
toward Douglas and the " political incendiaries " whose " wicked ambition 
drove them rough shod over everything sacred to patriotism in the accomplish- 
ment of their selfish and factious designs." C. H. Constable to T. B. McClure, 
January 6, 1856, Belleville Advocate, August 20, 1856. Blackwell had been an 
anti-Nebraska whig candidate for congress in 1854. Rushville Times, June 27, 

64 Ottawa Free Trader, May 24, 1856. 

65 Rock River Democrat, June 3, 1856. Alfred M. Whitney, an elector from 
West Urbana, declined to serve for the same reason. Chicago Weekly Democrat, 
September 13, 1856. 


that a vote for Fillmore and Morris was either a vote for 
black republicanism or for the Buchaneers was* stripped to its 
nucleus of old-line whigs and bitter-enders. 66 

The republicans elected their candidates for congress from 
the four northern districts, while the democrats returned the 
other four. An interesting contest took place in the third dis- 
trict. Reverend Owen Lovejoy, the abolitionist, was nomi- 
nated by the republicans over Jesse O. Norton, the sitting 
member, and over other conservative candidates. Lovejoy had 
participated in fugitive slave rescues, and the circuit court 
records showed several suits against him for harboring run- 
away slaves; he was also said to be an uncompromising know 
nothing. The delegates from the southern and eastern por- 
tion of the district objected to Lovejoy's antecedents on the 
slavery question and accordingly decided to bolt the nomination 
and run a candidate of their own. A separate convention was 
held at Bloomington and T. L. Dickey of Ottawa nominated; 
he had the support of former whigs led by Churchill Coffing 
and Isaac Funk. 67 Judge Dickey later decided to leave the 
field whereupon the democrats fell upon Lovejoy with the 
charges of the bolters and waged merciless war upon him. 
Much to their surprise, however, Lovejoy carried the district 
by six thousand. 

These circumstances complicated the problem of the for- 
eign vote. The Irish controlled by the adroit politicians of 
their race, were generally firm in their democratic allegiance 
and strongly hostile to nativism. The Germans, like the Scan- 
dinavians, were, on the whole, anti-Nebraska but not clear as 
to the party alignment that this required. 68 The word " demo- 
crat" was still magic to their ears, while charges of the know 

66 B. S. Morris to B. D. Eastman et al., August 12, 1856, Illinois State Reg- 
ister, August 21, 1856. Canton Weekly Register, September 23, 1856. The lead- 
ing light in Illinois nativistic movements, was W. W. Danenhower, editor of the 
Native Citizen, which came to be printed at the office of the Chicago Times. 
Danenhower encouraged by Douglas, started on an aggressive campaign in 
which he deplored the possible success of Fremont, the " sectional candidate." 

67 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, July 19, 1856; Danville Independent 
clipped in Our Constitution, July 24, 1856; Joliet Signal, July 22, 1856. 

68 On July 4, a Swedish paper, Den Svenska Republikanen I Norra Amerika, 
was started by the Bishop Hill colony at Galva to support Fremont and Dayton. 
It was the only Swedish journal in the west. Koerner to Trumbull, July 29, 
1856, Trumbull manuscripts. 


nothingism of many republican nominees made them suspicious 
of a new attachment. Beset by arguments from both sides 
they usually followed the leadership of spokesmen like Gustave 
Koerner, Friedrich Hecker, Francis Hoffman, and George 
Schneider, who supported Fremont and Bissell. Koerner usu- 
ally declared himself still an old-line democrat, working for 
the original aim of democracy, opposition to slavery extension. 

The fall elections generally seemed to point to the election 
of Buchanan, although uncertainty existed in the three-cornered 
fight. Interest in the outcome became more intense as Novem- 
ber fourth approached. When finally the votes were registered 
and counted, it seemed that Fremont had rolled up a vote 
in northern Illinois that must overwhelm the Egyptian 
democracy. 69 

As the returns came in, however, Buchanan showed an 
unexpected strength in the southern districts, which smothered 
the republican majorities of the northern counties. Winnebago 
county was the banner republican county, Fremont having 
polled 89 per cent of the total vote; dominated by Rockford, 
where three republican newspapers flourished, it was a Yankee 
stronghold in the west. St. Clair was the lone star republican 
county in lower Egypt, where conservative democracy piled up 
powerful majorities for Buchanan. The republicans consoled 
themselves, however, that this stronghold of democracy was a 
true "land of darkness" with a monopoly on the illiteracy of 
the state. Republicanism failed primarily in being unable to 
draw off a sufficient number of the whig and American voters 
in the center of the state and in the military tract. It was felt, 
however, that Fremont had done nobly; the Illinois Journal 
declared that while it had not favored Fremont's nomination, 
the election had " proved it right." 70 

The election was in one sense, moreover, a humiliating 
democratic defeat. Colonel Richardson and the state ticket 
went down before Bissell and his associates. Bissell had been 
a remarkably strong candidate. He was popular with every- 
one, with his former democratic associates, with the whigs, 

69 Rockford Republican, November 6, 1856; Rock River Democrat, November 

tJHinois Stafe Journal, November 19, 1856, 


who had helped to send him to congress in 1852, with the 
foreigners, and with the nativists in spite of his Catholic faith. 
Northern and southern Illinois united to support his candidacy. 
The Southern Illinoisan upheld Bissell as a democrat of the 
Je.ffersonian school along with the democratic national ticket; 
Egypt was urged to enlist on his side, rather than that of the 
"burly demagogue and sottish blackguard of the north," in 
order to show that its neck no longer yielded to the yoke of 
Douglas domination. 71 Bissell, therefore, led the state ticket 
to victory with a plurality of nearly five thousand. 

When the contest was finally decided and the governor-elect 
turned his attention to the problems of his administration, he 
found himself confronted by a democratic legislature opposed 
to republican policies. It was necessary for him in his inaug- 
ural address to begin the task of bringing this hostile majority 
to accept at least some of his measures. The problem was 
one not easily solved. Bissell had gone on record as opposed 
to slavery extension, was elected on that principle, and was 
bound to vindicate it; the charges that the republicans were 
largely know nothing had to be met by a liberal policy toward 
foreign born citizens, if the party was not to suffer from a loss 
of their vote as in the late election. Finally, the injustice of the 
existing division of electoral districts made it highly advisable 
to remind the legislature of its constitutional obligations to pass 
a law districting the state according to the population of the 
census of 1855. After long and serious consultations over 
portions of the message, these matters were agreed upon; the 
final wording left to Bissell " whose mastery of style was undis- 
puted." 72 The first republican state paper in Illinois was a 
challenge to the very existence of the weakening democracy. 

71 Southern Illinoisan clipped in Belleville Advocate, July 9, August 20, 
1856; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, October 14, 1865. 
72 Koerner, Memoirs, 2:37-38. 


fruitage of the democratic victory in 1856 was a 
J_ demand promulgated through the supreme court in the 
famous Dred Scott decision that the country at large accept 
the extreme southern, doctrine the right of slavery to go 
into the territories without restriction either from congress or 
from any other source. Here was a blow aimed not only at 
republican slavery restriction ground but also at negative action 
under the squatter sovereignty doctrine. The consequences of 
that decision were so serious that Dred Scott, the Negro slave, 
became a freedman and passed from view on the stage of his- 
tory long before Illinois politicians had evolved satisfactory 
solutions to the problems that were raised. 

The republican journalists sought to cover party embar- 
rassment involved in this blow to their doctrine of congres- 
sional restriction by proclaiming the decision as an infamous 
attack upon the cause of freedom. " Where will the aggres- 
sions of slavery cease ? " asked the Illinois State Journal, March 
u, 1857. "Freedom and white men are no longer safe." "The 
infamous decision of the Dred Scott case, has aroused the whole 
North* to a realization of the danger which our free institutions 
are subject to, at the hands of the slave power, and their adher- 
ents in the Supreme Court," commented the Aurora Beacon, 
March 6, 1857. " It now devolves upon the people," declared 
the- Belleville Advocate, April 8, "to say whether they will 
submit to this revolution, or take their government into their 
own hands." Greater determination was conspicuous in all 
this comment; little consolation was sought in the fact that the 
blow had been struck in the form of what was clearly an extra- 
judicial opinion, " which even Judge McLean and Judge Curtis 
declined to recognize as authority." 1 Convinced that the 
decision was rendered "through political chicanry [sic] & 

1 Illinois State Journal, March 25, 1857. 



fraud for corupt [sic] and political purposes," 2 they set to 
work with greater zeal and energy to fight the battles 1 for 

Democrats received the decision with a silence that betrayed 
their bewilderment and uncertainty; naturally inclined to resent 
the principles proclaimed, they hesitated to declare themselves 
in opposition to the president whom they had just placed in 
the executive office. Better to wait for a cue from some one 
who might discover an escape from the dilemma ; they awaited 
the return of Se.nator Douglas to secure the advice of the cham- 
pion of popular sovereignty. Meanwhile they sought, to forget 
their own troubles by enjoying the- discomfiture of their oppo- 
nents whom they accused of being repealers if not rebels ; 8 they 
pointed out that' the decision declared unconstitutional nearly 
every point sought to be accomplished by the republican party. 

Upon invitation Douglas on June 12 addressed the grand 
jury at Springfield on the topics pf the day. He declared his 
acceptance of the Dred Scott decision; it was now the law of 
the land and should be obeyed. He insisted, however, that 
the great principle of popular sovereignty and self-government 
was sustained and firmly established by the authority of this 
decision. The right to. enter the territories with slaves, he 
explained, "necessarily remains a barren and worthless right, 
unless sustained, protected, and enforced by appropriate police 
regulations and local legislation, prescribing adequate* reme- 
dies for its violation. These regulations and remedies must 
necessarily depend entirely upon the will and wishes of the 
people of the Territory, as they can only be prescribed by the 
local legislatures." 

Lincoln replied to Douglas in behalf of the republicans on 
June 26, also at Springfield. Suggesting that the merits of the 
case lay with the dissenting opinions of McLean and Curtis 
rather than with thje decision of Chief Justice Taney, he de- 
clared that republicans had no intention of resisting the decision. 
They acknowledged that the decisions of the supreme court on 
constitutional questions, when fully settled, should control not 
only the particular cases decided but the general policy of the 

2 T. P. Cowen to Trumbull, May 26, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts. 
3 Ottawa Free Trader, March 14, April 18, 1858. 


country. More than this would be revolution. " But we think 
the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that 
made it, has often over-ruled its own decisions, and we shall do 
what we can to have it over-rule this. We offer no resistance 
to it." Lincoln, however, claimed the right for his party to 
treat this decision, made by a divided court with strong evidence 
of a partisan bias, as not having yet established a settled 
doctrine for the country. 4 

Douglas playing on the natural disgust in the minds of 
nearly all white people at the idea of an indiscriminate amal- 
gamation of the white and black races had championed white 
supremacy. Lincoln asserted that the guarantees of the Dec- 
laration of Independence were intended to include the Negro 
and met Douglas' specious reasoning squarely: "I think the 
authors of that notable instrument meant to include all men, 
but they did not declare all men equal in all respects. They 
did not mean to say that all were equal in color, size, intellect, 
moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with 
tolerable distinctness in what respects they did consider all men 
created equal equal with 'certain inalienable rights, among 
which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This 
they said, and this [they] meant." 

Senator Trumbull paid his respects to the Dred Scott de- 
cision in a speech which his supporters felt surpassed the efforts 
of Lincoln. Gustave Koerner regarded Lincoln's speech as 
"too much on the old conservative order;" Lincoln was "an 
excellent man, but no match to such impudent Jesuits & Sophists 
as Douglas." "Why D. nor the Democratic party ever sub- 
mitted to the principle decided by the Supreme court in the 
case of the national bank. He is a pretty fellow to talk about 
the sanctity of such decisions further than as regards the case 
decided." 5 

The summer of 1857 was one of great uncertainty for both 
political parties. It was, moreover, not a year for important 
elections, and party lines were normally weak in local contests. 
The situation was one which would try even the most adroit 
politician wha might be under the practical necessity of adjust- 

4 Illinois State Journal, July i, 1857. 

5 Koerner to Trumbull, July 4, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts. 


ing his position to the will of the sovereign people. Lincoln 
and the republicans stood pat in their hostility to the principle 
of the Dred Scott decision; unless they did so the new party 
had been organized in vain. Their attention was centered on 
holding existing strength and on adding recruits from the dem- 
ocratic and know nothing ranks. The support of know nothing 
voters was encouraged by the nomination of moderate mem- 
bers who had never been elected to office by that party. An 
organized campaign sought to get democratic readers and sub- 
scribers for republican papers. C. D. Hay was instrumental 
in securing a thousand subscriptions in upper Egypt for the 
Chicago Tribune and the St. Louis Democrat; John G. Nicolay 
and others also added hundreds of subscriptions to antislavery 
papers. 6 

Douglas, however, was in a quandary; the previous elec- 
tion had revealed a restlessness on the part of his democratic 
constituency which the existing uncertainty could scarcely allay. 
Could the voters swallow the Dred Scott diet without result- 
ing nausea? Were they ready to follow him in any course 
save opposition to the democratic administration at Washing- 
ton? These were questions to which Douglas sought to- find 
answers ; they meant a serious summer's task for the doughty 
senator and promised to determine his success or failure in the 
coming contest for his seat in congress. Quietly and unobtru- 
sively he set about feeling the public pulse. The support of 
central Illinois was especially important; he -sought to learn 
its will. In September he appeared at the state fair at Spring- 
field and jovially greeted all persons whom he met with a. shake 
of the hand or a slap on the shoulder; he joined groups con- 
versing on the topics of the day and soon became the 
center of the discussion. 7 The evidences of a growing 
antislavery sentiment in Illinois could not escape' so shrewd 
an observer. 

Interest in the situation in "bleeding Kansas" was unusu- 

6 O. C. Dake to Trumbull, September 14, 1857, C. D. Hay to Trumbull, 
October 4, November 7, 1857, John O. Johnson to Trumbull, October 9, 1857, 
John G. Nicolay to Trumbull, December 20, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts. 

7 See O. M. Hatch to Trumbull, September u, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts. 
The effect was to arouse the ire of zealous republicans, who resented having 
this " truckling politician turn the fair grounds into a political arena." 


ally keen and popular sympathy was generally with the free 
state party. Just after the November elections came the news 
of certain developments under democratic auspices in Kansas 
that threatened to be a source of embarrassment to Douglas 
and his followers in Illinois. 8 Under authorization of the 
territorial government, a constitution had just been drawn up 
at Lecompton authorizing slavery and providing for its con- 
tinuance in the future state ; the unique feature of the schedule 
was the arrangement for a popular referendum not on the 
entire document but merely on the slave state provision. 

Douglas, however, either on principle or out of political 
expediency, soon decided to oppose the Lecompton constitu- 
tion as a fraud against the doctrine of popular sovereignty. 
Brilliantly playing up the virtue of consistency, he was heralded 
by his henchmen and by his party organ as the champion of 
fair play, if not of freedom in Kansas. 9 At Washington he 
defied the authority of President Buchanan as a party 
leader by promptly announcing his anti-Lecompton position. 
Such a new and unexpected development tried the patience 
of the leaders in both political parties. What does he 
mean is Douglas sincere? was the question on every- 
one's lips. 

Republican leaders were suspicious of his move. They 
could but wonder whether it was not an act of self-preservation, 
a ruse to guarantee the senator's reelection. The conversion 
seemed too sudden to be sincere; to them it appeared merely 
a stand to attract support from the republican party. 10 By 
introducing an enabling bill into the new session of congress 
Douglas could assume the leadership in the fight against the 
proslavery forces on pure unadulterated popular sovereignty 
ground. But the " little giant " with an air of injured innocence 
undertook to inform republicans through various channels 
that they had unjustly accused him of selfish motives in his 
present position; was he not ready to combat the administra- 

8 Washington Union, November 17, 1857. 

9 Chicago Daily Times, November 10, 17, 18, 1857. 

10 " Let Republicans not be deceived by the treacherous ' little Joker ! ' ' 
warned the Urbana Union, December 17, 1857. "Douglas has seven reasons 
for disagreeing with the President five loaves and two fishes," explained the 
Garden State, clipped in Urbana Union, January 14, 1858. 


tion to the bitter end in order to carry out the principles of the 
Nebraska bill? 11 

Republicans who felt no responsibility for die integrity of 
the organization swallowed this sop and began to shout for 
Douglas; Saul has at length got among the prophets, they said. 
Party leaders anxiously contemplated the difficulty of prevent- 
ing former democrats from responding to Douglas' new appeal. 
A conference was called and held at Springfield in January, 
1858, but no decision was reached except to "keep cool for the 
present." 12 Though it seemed best that the party should keep 
clear of all alliances, it was obviously good tactics to use 
Douglas as long as he could be of any service to them; they 
accordingly encouraged him and the democratic schism, hoping 
to profit by the " treason " without embracing the " traitor." 1S 

It soon became evident that Douglas rather than the repub- 
licans had correctly judged the sweeping effect of his anti- 
Lecompton fight; not a split in the party but a mass transfer 
in democratic allegiance from the administration to the Doug- 
las camp seemed imminent. The democratic press almost with- 
out exception came out for Douglas, 14 while the voters re- 
sponded with enthusiasm to his bold leadership; only office- 
holders, office seekers, and ultra conservatives came out in 
support of the administration of President Buchanan. South- 
ern Illinoisians wavered somewhat in their choice, but demo- 
crats of the northern section decided immediately for Douglas. 

11 Lest Douglas by raising the standard of rebellion should be able to 
rally to his leadership an important following of republicans, Chicago and 
Springfield editors of republican papers felt that their party ought to steal 
Douglas' thunder by having their own representatives at Washington introduce 
the enabling bill. C. H. Ray to Trumbull, November 24, 1857, C. S. Wilson to 
Trumbull, November 26, 1857, E. L. Baker to Trumbull, December 18, 1857, 
Trumbull manuscripts ; see also Tracy, Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 
82, 83. 

12 Aurora Beacon, April i, 1858; O. M. Hatch to Trumbull, January 14, 
1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

13 They were ready, however, to welcome him as a full-blooded republican 
if he could quietly content himself with a back seat. This most republicans 
did not expect, although the Chicago Democrat, March 9, 1858, forecast Douglas' 
conversion to republicanism to the extent of withdrawing from the senatorial 
race in favor of Lincoln. It was proposed also that Douglas might be run as the 
republican candidate for congress from the Chicago district. Ebenezer Peck to 
Trumbull, April 15, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

14 In December 54 papers were anti-Lecompton ; the Joliet Signal, whose 
editor was the local postmaster, sustained the Lecompton constitution, th$ 
Menard Index was willing to acquiesce in iti 


A meeting of the Chicago democracy followed by a significant 
demonstration at Springfield on January 13, 1858, indorsed 
the anti-Lecompton position taken by Douglas in the senate. 15 
Similar meetings and formal conventions were held in nearly 
all the counties, all of which adopted resolutions disapproving 
the policy of admitting Kansas under the Lecompton con- 

The republicans seeking merely to apply the principle 
*' divide and conquer," had aided inadvertently in this transfer 
of allegiance. They had found it necessary to admit that re- 
gardless of Douglas' motives, his present position placed him 
on the side of right; admiration of the man even prepared the 
minds of many for support of his political aspirations. The 
evidence of republican conversions forced the leaders to a 
reconsideration of their recent policy. They now returned to 
their original position and directed energy toward creating a 
real split. "We want to make it wider and deeper hotter 
and more impassable," wrote W. H. Herndon. "Political 
hatred deep seated opposition is what is so much desired." 10 

This policy required the discovery of a Buchanan or na- 
tional democratic faction and its development into an effective 
organization. A nucleus for it could be found in the appointees 
of President Buchanan, all of whom had been active democratic 
politicians. It was obvious that the rebel Douglas would no 
longer be the dispenser of the administration patronage in the 
state; rumors began to circulate, moreover, that the political 
guillotine would shortly be set to work in earnest to lop off the 
heads of anti-Lecompton postmasters. Postmaster Price of 
Chicago was the first victim; others in fear and trembling 
awaited their turn. Republican leaders and journals labored 
industriously to bring democratic officeholders to a realization 
of the danger and office seekers to a sense of the rewards 
available for loyal administration men. 17 

Since the regular democratic journals were engaged in 

15 Illinois State Register, January 14, 1858; Ottawa Free Trader, January 
2, 1858. 

16 Herndon to Trumbull, February 19, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

17 Rock River Democrat, February 16, 1858; Rockford Republican, Febru- 
ary 25, 1858; Chicago Democrat, March 15, 1858; Chicago Daily Democratic 
Press, February 19, 1858. 


Douglas propaganda, the building up of an administration 
democratic press was essential to aggressive organization work. 
Federal officeholders were recruited as publishers and editors; 
during the spring the Chicago National Union, later replaced 
by the Chicago Herald, the Illinois State Democrat at Spring- 
field, and several other Buchanan organs, entered the field. 
Before long a real administration party arose to dispute 
Douglas' triumph. 18 

The leading republican journals, finding that a portion of 
their own party press had been led to espouse the cause of 
Douglas, next labored to show that there was no more reason 
for supporting Douglas than for supporting the administra- 
tion. The republican party has its distinct principles, they ar- 
gued; to these principles Douglas is as much opposed as is 
President Buchanan; the only point of policy held in common 
by Douglas' friends and the republicans is opposition to the 
attempted fraud in Kansas. Even on that point Douglas, in 
contrast to republican adherence to principle, is influenced by 
selfish motives; his aim is to gratify his pique against Buchanan 
and to forward his own ambitions. 19 

To the dismay and embarrassment of republican leaders 
in Illinois the eastern spokesmen of the party seemed to have 
been taken in by Douglas' strategy. At the very opening of 
congress eastern republican members had entered into confer- 
ence with Senator Douglas; he was given to understand that 
they would back him not only in his fight with Buchanan but 
even in his campaign for reelection. Next, Horace Greeley, 
the editor of the New York Tribune, went to Washington to 
consult with Douglas. Shortly afterwards the Tribune, filled 
with eulogies of the " little giant," intimated that republican 
support of his senatorial candidacy was merely the prelimi- 
nary step to Douglas' gradual identification with the republican 
party. Other eastern republican journals took up the idea, 
including even the National Era, the old free soil organ at 

18 Chicago Democrat, March 6, 1858; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, 
February 9, xx, 13, 1858; E. L. Baker to Trumbull, May i, 1858, Trumbull 

19 Urbana Union, February 25, March 25, 1858; Chicago Democrat, April 
15, 1858; Rockford Republican, April i, 1858; Rock River Democrat, January 
5, 1858. 


Washington. In view of the influence wielded by these papers 
in the state of Illinois, their position caused republican poli- 
ticians grave concern. 20 

Elihu B. Washburne, congressman from the Galena dis- 
trict, was sent to Springfield as a messenger from Greeley to 
propose that Lincoln be dropped in Douglas' favor. 21 Then 
came from Washington a proposition which was confidentially 
placed before leading republicans by Sheahan of the Chicago 
Daily Times, that in order to defeat the Lecompton legisla- 
tive candidates in the doubtful districts, Douglas and the re- 
publicans should cooperate to elect the anti-Lecompton demo- 
cratic congressmen, in return for which Douglas would retire 
in favor of the republican candidate for senator. Although 
this proposition was seriously considered by party leaders in 
Chicago and Springfield, it was finally agreed to call a state 
convention to reject the proposed bargain and to fight out those 
matters squarely with Douglas. 22 

The Douglas forces had been successful in setting the early 
date of April 2 1 for the democratic state convention at Spring- 
field; though both factions busied themselves with the selec- 
tion of delegates of the right stripe, everywhere the Douglas 
group succeeded in controlling the regular party organizations. 
In some places the only Buchanan democrat was the local post- 
master, though in other regions, especially in Egypt, the " simon 
pure " Buchanan democrats did show some strength and activ- 
ity. Challenging the regularity of the Douglas men, they 
undertook to read them out of the party and prepared to get 
up conventions of their own. An organization was established 
in Chicago, where the Irish led by Owen McCarthy and Philip 
Conley, inclined to stand by the administration; and meetings 
were held at Aurora, Springfield, and at various other places. 23 

20 Chicago Tribune clipped in Ottawa Weekly Republican, April 24, 1858. 
Thurlow Weed and William H. Seward were apparently party to these nego- 
tiations, while Henry Wilson and N. P. Banks of Massachusetts approved the 
indorsement of Douglas. N. B. Judd to Trumbull, March 7, 1858, C. H. Ray 
to Trumbull, March 9, 1858, John O. Johnson to Trumbull, May n, 1858, 
Trumbull manuscripts; Tracy, Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 83-84. 

21 McLean County Historical Society, Transactions, 3:123. 

22 J. K. Dubois to Trumbull, March 22, April 8, 1858, A. Jonas to Trumbull, 
April n, 1858, Herndon to Trumbull, April 12, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

23 Chicago Democrat, March 6, 1858; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, 
March n, 29, 30, 1858. 


The Douglasites appeared at Springfield in full strength. 
An aggressive anti-Lecompton platform was adopted, unani- 
mously approving the principle of the Cincinnati convention 
of 1856 as applied by Senator Douglas; and his recent course 
was given a hearty indorsement. The convention decided, 
however, not to antagonize the Buchanan men by taking an 
emphatic stand against the administration. Even a resolution 
mildly censuring Buchanan for turning Douglas men out of 
office for opinion's sake was voted down. Besides the all- 
important nomination for senator, the convention named Wil- 
liam B. Fondey as candidate for state treasurer and ex-Gov- 
ernor Augustus C. French as candidate for superintendent of 
public instruction. 24 

The national democrats had failed in their original scheme 
to send duplicate delegations to the convention to obstruct the 
work of the Douglasites. A squad of forty or fifty delegates 
was recruited, representing the formal organizations of five 
counties and informal representatives of twenty-three others; 
they were led by Isaac Cook, the postmaster of Chicago, who 
appealed to some with threats of removal from office and to 
others with promises of places. Since a preliminary caucus 
showed that they were hopelessly outnumbered, they presented 
no credentials to the convention, but assembled in a meeting 
of their own. A separate party organization was effected; 
after passing resolutions strongly indorsing the administra- 
tion, they agreed to postpone the nomination of candidates 
until the meeting of a state convention on the eighth of June. 
This nominating convention of about two hundred delegates 
from thirty or more counties discussed Sidney M. Breese as 
a candidate for the senatorship, but took no formal action; 
they did put up John Dougherty for treasurer and the " old 
ranger," John Reynolds, for school superintendent. 25 Strangely 
enough on the point of principle both of these candidates had 
been anti-Nebraska men only four years before. 

The indorsement of the traditional democratic faith by 
the Douglas convention made the duty of the republicans of 

24 Illinois State Register, April 22, 1858; Illinois State Journal, April 28, 

25 Illinois State Register, June 10, 1858; Illinois State Journal, June 9, 16, 


Illinois exceedingly plain. On the night of the convention about 
thirty prominent republicans held a caucus which expressed a 
firm conviction that they were relieved of every obligation to 
Douglas and ought to have nothing to do with him. In an 
atmosphere of harmony and brotherly love the mutual sus- 
picion of ex-whigs and of ex-democrats was allayed, while both 
elements acknowledged the moral obligation to support Lin- 
coln in return for his withdrawal in 1855 in favor of 
Trumbull. 26 

The call for a republican state convention which followed 
the next day met an immediate and enthusiastic response. 
County conventions, after denouncing the treatment applied to 
Kansas often expressed a sense of gratitude to Douglas as 
well as to the republican congressman for their opposition to 
the Lecompton proposition; this was usually followed, how- 
ever, by an announcement that Abraham Lincoln was the 
party's choice for United States senator. Ninety-five county 
meetings had given such an indorsement to Lincoln. 27 On June 
1 6 there gathered at Springfield one of the largest delegate 
conventions ever witnessed in the state: one thousand five 
hundred delegates were said to be on the ground, all full of 
" electric fire." They adopted a platform of principles breath- 
ing a broad, liberal nationalism; it was based on the doctrine 
that free labor is the only true support of republican institu- 
tions. Exception was taken to the policies of the administration 
and to the Dred Scott decision. 28 A state ticket with James 
Miller for treasurer and Newton Bateman for superintendent 
of public instruction was selected. A resolution indorsing 
Abraham Lincoln as the first and only choice of the republicans 
of Illinois for the United States senate was greeted with shouts 
of applause and unanimously adopted. 

Lincoln's nomination was so much a matter of course that 
he was prepared for the invitation which followed to address 

26 George T. Brown to Trumbull, April 25, 1858, E. L. Baker to. Trumbull, 
May i, 1858, Herndon to Trumbull, April 24, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

27 Rockford Republican, June 17, 1858. 

28 Herndon to Trumbull, June 24, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts; Tracy, 
Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 87-88. Support was promised to 
homestead legislation, to river and harbor improvement, and to a Pacific railroad 
by a central route. Illinois State Journal, June 23, 1858; Alton Courier, June 18, 


the convention in an adjourned session in the evening. In a 
carefully prepared speech delivered without manuscript or 
notes, he laid before the assembled delegates a prophecy of 
grave moral and political import a forecast of the logical 
result toward which events were hurrying the nation. "'A 
house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe that this 
government cannot endure permanently half slave and half 
free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved I do not 
expect the house to fall but I do expect it will cease to be 
divided." 29 

Was that undivided house to be all slave? The recent 
action of the supreme court in the case of Dred Scott was but 
one fragment of a mountain of evidence which revealed a de- 
sign to make slavery national. " Put this and that together," 
he reasoned, " and we have another nice little niche, which we 
may ere long see filled with another Supreme Court decision, 
declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not 

permit a State to exclude slavery from its limits 

We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Mis- 
souri are on the verge of making their State free, and we shall 
awake to the reality instead, that the Supreme Court has made 
Illinois a slave state." In the face of this danger many had 
turned expectantly to the leadership of Douglas; but could he 
lead a real opposition to the advance of slavery, he who did not 
care "whether slavery was voted down or voted up?" That 
danger must be met by those who in their hearts did care for 
the result. 

The senatorial canvass offered the republican party of 
Illinois an opportunity in the very crisis of its existence to 
establish itself politically in the state. Its weakness in 1856 had 
been concealed by the personal popularity of its gubernatorial 
candidate. Now with the discords of the opposition and with 
the feverish excitement that prevailed, it was hoped that Lin- 
coln could snatch a real victory and terminate democratic 
control. The contest also promised to serve as a test of what 
the future had in store for the clever Springfield lawyer-poli- 
tician whom political fortune had treated for twenty years with 

28 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, 1:240 ff. ; Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 
i ; Sturtevant, Autobiography, 291. 


all the fickleness of a courtesan. The senatorship was the prize 
which had dropped from his grasp in 1855 and which now 
promised to make or ruin his political career. 

Douglas' followers accepted Lincoln's nomination as a chal- 
lenge which made the issue of the campaign the question of 
Lincoln's or Douglas' election. The Buchanan movement 
they sought to ignore as of little importance though policy sug- 
gested that the administration democrats be pacified, since party 
differences over Kansas were held to be no longer important. 30 
The "national" democratic leaders, however, spurned all ad- 
vances. They reminded each other of the epithets applied 
to them ; they had been branded as hired minions, corruption- 
ists, as " Buchaneers," the " Buzzardi and Lazzaroni;" Doug- 
las himself had nicknamed them " Danites," whereas " stink 
fingers " was the coarse epithet applied to them by some Doug- 
lasites. All these terms rankled in their breasts. "We will 
not be insulted by them one minute and then embrace them the 
next;" said their organs, "they want to come into the Demo- 
cratic party to enjoy those spoils they have been so much dis- 
gusted at lately The arrant political traitors who 

sought to betray the Democracy must either go over to the 
Republicans, organize their new party, or retire to private 
life." 31 Let the bolters drop Douglas, and they would unite 
on any reliable democrat. Inasmuch as the Douglasites exhib- 
ited no willingness to accept this test, the " Buchaneers " brought 
out their own candidate for the United States senate; Judge 
Sidney Breese was carefully groomed by his followers in south- 
ern Illinois who claimed that Egypt was entitled to the next 
United States senator. Though Douglasites sought to induce 
Breese to leave the field, rumors of his withdrawal were author- 
itatively dispelled by him in a carefully prepared announce- 
ment. 32 Breese's aspirations were encouraged by the national 

30 The English bill had been passed allowing that territory a vote on the 
Lecompton constitution in full, with the offer of 500,000 acres of land in the 
event of favorable action. Douglas and the Illinois house delegation had 
voted with the republicans against the English bill as failing to provide 
open, free, and fair submission, but upon its passage the Douglasites acquiesced 
in the measure. Most Illinois democrats had preceded them in hurrying this 

31 Chicago National Union clipped in Illinois State Journal, May 19, 1858. 

32 Belleville Star of Egypt clipped in ibid., July 21, 1858 ; Breese to Reverend 
W. F. Boyakin, September 7, 1858, Belleville Advocate, September 15, 1858. 


administration at Washington, which continued to use its con- 
trol over the public patronage in Illinois to maintain the 
Buchanan organization. 

Republicans for a time concentrated their efforts on main- 
taining the democratic split. The puny " national " organiza- 
tion still required attention; it was considered good policy to 
nurse the infant until it became strong enough to stand up and 
fight not only the Douglasites but even the republicans, since 
the latter could in any event easily knock it down. Separate 
democratic tickets would mean easy republican victory; the 
hopes of the Lincolnites fed upon the bitterness toward Doug- 
las of prominent Buchanan men. Dr. Charles Leib of Chicago 
and even Colonel Dougherty lent aid and comfort in this direc- 
tion by their assurances to both Senator Trumbull and Lincoln 
that the national democracy would without fail remain in the 
field with separate candidates in every county and congressional 
district. 33 

At the same time certain radical " black republicans " found 
indorsement of Douglas to be a valuable expedient to prevent 
the Buchanan men from harmonizing with the Douglas wing. 
M. W. Delahay, an Alton radical who bitterly hated Douglas, 
went on the stump for the "little giant" with the understand- 
ing of Lincoln and the republicans; he remained in the field 
until the Buchanan convention nominated its state ticket; then, 
according to arrangement, he came out for Lincoln. 34 

In playing policy to both democratic wings the republicans 
incurred the danger of overshooting the mark. Their interest 
in the " Buchaneers " was so marked as to make it necessary 
to deny charges of an alliance between the two groups, while 
their Douglas-espousing tactics actually encouraged lukewarm 
party men of democratic antecedents to break for Douglas. 
Old-line whigs, whose political connections for the past four 
years had been very uncertain, were already prone to choose 
moderate antislavery ground over " negro-equality republican- 
ism," and welcomed such an opening, especially in view of 
recommendations in favor of Douglas coming from outside 

33 Joseph Medill to Trumbull, April 22, 1858, Herndon to Trumbull, July 8, 
1858, Charles Leib to Trumbull, July 20, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

34 M. W. Delahay to Trumbull, November 28, 1857, May 22, 1858, ibid. 


republicans. 35 These developments forced republican leaders 
to change their tactics; they decided to concentrate their oppo- 
sition on "the little dodger" as the real enemy to be met 
squarely and in the open. This was exactly to Douglas' liking; 
for the three-cornered fight practically ended with Douglas' 
return to Illinois to open his active canvass. 

On learning of Lincoln's nomination, Douglas acknowl- 
edged the worth of his opponent by declaring: "I shall have 
my hands full. He is the strong man of his party full of 
wit, facts, dates, and the best stump-speaker, with his droll 
ways and dry jokes, in the West. He is as honest as he is 
shrewd; and if I beat him, my victory will be hardly won." 36 
With this compliment, Douglas buckled on his armor for 
mortal combat in the political arena. On July 9, just after 
the adjournment of congress, he arrived in Chicago. Enthu- 
siastic supporters had met him in Michigan City to conduct 
him by special train to the splendid celebration of his home- 
coming. Chicago was in gala attire; cannon boomed, ban- 
ners waved, and fireworks flashed, until the crowd some 
said forty or fifty thousand people was delivered over to 
the eloquence of the fiery senator, speaking from the balcony 
of the Tremont House. 37 

Realizing that his rival, Lincoln, was an attentive listener 
within the hotel, the senator threw all his energies into his 
oratory. He pointed to the increased favor of his popular 
sovereignty principle, complimented the support that repub- 
lican members of congress had yielded to that doctrine in the 
recent anti-Lecompton fight, and concluded with the assertion 
that he was the only rightful champion of the principle of local 
self-government as applied to slavery. Taking up Lincoln's 
house-divided speech he sought to make his rival the spokes- 
man of a sectional abolition republicanism. He challenged 
Lincoln's plan to array section against section, to incite a war 
of extermination; he himself was not anxious for uniformity 

35 Tracy, Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 87; Chicago Democrat, 
March ri, 1858; Illinois State Register, April 24, 1858; N. B. Judd to Trum- 
bull, July 16, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

36 Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, 2:179. 

37 Opposition journals claimed that the money for the expenses $1,281 
had been advanced to Douglas himself. Chicago Press and Tribune, July 10, 
j8 5 8. 


in local institutions differences in soil, in products, and in 
interests required different domestic regulations in each locality. 
As to the rights of the Negro, in a government "made by the 
white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered 
by white men," anyone of inferior race should be allowed only 
such rights, privileges, and immunities as each state should 
judge consistent with the safety of society. 

Lincoln replied from the same rostrum on the next evening, 
after a series of demonstrations in imitation of the Douglas 
celebration. He challenged Douglas' attempt to transfigure 
himself with the mantle of popular sovereignty by showing that 
any distinctive popular sovereignty doctrine had fallen before 
the assaults of the supreme court and that no one had ever 
disputed the right of the people to frame a constitution. Placed 
upon the defensive by Douglas' assaults of the previous evening, 
he undertook to explain his house-divided proposition as an 
experiment in the realm of prophecy and not as a program for 
practical political endeavor. " I did not even say that I desired 
that slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do 
say so now, however." 38 

After a week's rest Douglas started for the capital by way 
of Bloomington. There on July 16 he again attacked Lincoln's 
arguments to show that they were not worthy of the support 
of moderate men. Whigs and Americans, even honorable 
republicans, had found the true issue in the anti-Lecompton 
fight, while republican politicians, in order to defeat him, had 
formed an alliance with Lecompton men and betrayed the cause. 
Lincoln was present in the audience and when Douglas had 
concluded loud calls were made for a reply from him. Lincoln 
was induced to come upon the stand, from which he explained, 
after three rousing cheers, that as the meeting had been called 
by the friends of Douglas it would be improper for him to 
address it. He found his opportunity on the next day at 
Springfield when he replied to Douglas in what proved to be 
the most "taking" speech of the first part of his campaign. 39 

In all these preliminaries Lincoln was campaigning at a 

38 Writings of Lincoln, 3:49; Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 18; Tracy, Uncol- 
lected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 86-87. 

39 Ibid., 92-93 ; Writings of Lincoln, 3 : 67 S. 


distinct disadvantage. The democratic machinery gave Doug- 
las' movements the atmosphere on a triumphal march: a train 
dedicated to the "champion of popular sovereignty" moved 
into a station heralding his arrival with the booming of a 
twelve-pounder mounted on a platform car, then came the 
flourish of trumpets, the roar of salutes, the music of bands, 
the parade formed with waving banners, until the festive 
crowd, forgetting the heat and dust of prairie midsummer, 
moved to the speech-making. This was good democratic enthu- 
siasm. The republicans, with their more limited campaign 
funds and with too much of the lethargic whig spirit in their 
ranks, at best could only try their hand at imitation. Lincoln, 
trailing into town on the heels of Douglas, was lost in the 
immense audience that assembled to hear the "little giant" 
an audience composed not only of loyal democrats but also of 
republicans, whigs, and know nothings drawn by the fame of 
the anti-Lecompton hero. Douglas usually succeeded in placing 
his rival on the defensive; seldom did he leave an opening 
which made possible an effective comeback. Lincoln's only 
chance came when, after the large holiday crowd had dispersed, 
the faithful of the faith rallied a handful of the populace to 
attend the lanky Springfield lawyer. 

The republicans, perceiving their disadvantage, were 
shrewd enough to propose a joint canvass in true western style. 
The challenge was promptly sent; 40 Douglas, who for some 
time feared that the administration candidate might ask admit- 
tance in order to wage common cause against his seat in the 
senate, reluctantly indicated a willingness to meet his opponent 
in each of the remaining congressional districts. He reserved 
the right to dictate the details: they were to meet at the 
towns of Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, 
Quincy, and Alton; the opening speeches were to last one hour, 
the replies, one and a half, with a half hour rebuttal by the 
first speaker; Douglas was to have four openings and closes 
to Lincoln's three. 

Meantime Douglas continued to meet his scheduled ap- 
pointments and Lincoln followed in his wake. Recognizing 
that it was in the doubtful central counties that the battle had 

* Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 59; Illinois State Journal, August 4, 1858. 


to be won or lost, the speech-making tours carried them to 
almost every town in that region. Douglas, with Lincoln 
dogging him persistently, addressed his constituents in 57 
counties, making 59 set speeches of from two to three hours 
in length, 17 responses of from 25 to 45 minutes to serenaders, 
and 37 replies of about equal length to addresses of welcome. 
Of these speeches all but two were made in the open air, and 
seven were made or continued during heavy rains. In this 
tour Douglas crossed, from end to end, every railroad line in 
the state, excepting three, besides making long journeys by 
means of horse conveyances and steamboats. His road travels 
amounted to more than 5,227 miles; by boat he made almost 
the entire western side of the state and all that portion of 
the Illinois river which was navigable by steamboats. 41 

The first joint debate took place at Ottawa on August 21. 
As was to be expected, the much heralded event attracted a 
large holiday crowd, the admirers of both contestants and 
the curious who were out for the excitement of the occasion. 
There was twice the noise and enthusiasm of previous meet- 
ings and after stirring preliminaries the debate began. This 
first encounter merely prepared the way for the contests that 
were to follow. 

One feature of the debate at Ottawa was significant; 
Douglas in catechizing Lincoln respecting certain resolutions 
which he felt showed the dangerously radical character of the 
republican party, furnished a precedent that gave Lincoln his 
opportunity. At the second debate at Freeport he in turn put 
a set of four questions to Douglas; in the second he asked: 
" Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful 
way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, 
exclude slavery from its limits, prior to the formation of a 
State Constitution?" 42 In this question, which demanded 
an affirmation or negative answer, Lincoln flashed before 
Douglas a two-edged sword; let Douglas seize it from either 
side to the destruction of his political ambidexterity! For him 
to deny the right would but confirm Lincoln's contention that 
popular sovereignty was as thin as broth made by boiling the 

41 New York Times clipped in Illinois State Register, November 23, 1858. 
* 2 Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 90. 


shadow of a dove that had starved to death; while to affirm the 
right would alienate proslavery democrats in the south and in 
Illinois, who clung to the doctrine of the Dred Scott decision. 

From previous statements made by Douglas, there could 
be little doubt that, with certain reservations to evade the lit- 
eral prohibition of the Dred Scott decision, his answer would 
be in the affirmative; he had already confronted and evaded 
the issue in his Springfield speech of June 12, 1857, and in his 
Bloomington speech of July 16, 1858, in both of which he 
had carefully elaborated the doctrine of local police regulations 
and of unfriendly legislation. Furthermore, since his imme- 
diate game was reelection to the senate, he had to retain the 
support of Illinois democrats who had been won by his demand 
for a virile popular sovereignty. Obvious as should have been 
Douglas' attitude, Lincoln wanted the satisfaction of compel- 
ling him to promulgate it in as conspicuous a fashion as pos- 
sible ; he wanted once and for all to cut him off from the asso- 
ciation and support of the proslavery democrats. 

In his eagerness to lay the trap Lincoln seems to have over- 
looked the fact that at Freeport the audience was one of strong 
antislavery convictions; the more conservative voters were 
likely to be attracted by Douglas' explanation as to how slavery 
might be excluded. Since probably none of the other appointed 
places for joint debate would have been less favorable, it 
would, perhaps, have been the part of wisdom to select an 
audience more representative of the prejudices of old-line whig 
and national democrats, likely to be alienated by rather than 
attracted to Douglas' answer. But the Freeport crowd 
15,000 persons, report said did furnish an opportunity to 
make Douglas expose his views to the light of pitiless pub- 
licity in a way that would make further evasion impossible. 43 

Douglas, without fear or hesitation, made a reply in terms 
of his doctrine of "unfriendly legislation" which became 
known immediately as the Freeport doctrine: "I answer em- 
phatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred 
times from every stump in Illinois, that in my opinion the 
people of a Territory can, by lawful means, exclude slavery 

43 Chicago Press and Tribune clipped in Illinois State Journal, September 
8, 1858. 


from their limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution. 
. The people have the lawful means to introduce it 
or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery can- 
not exist a day or hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local 
police 'regulations. These police regulations can only be 
established by the local legislature, and if the people are 
opposed to slavery they will elect representatives to that body 
who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the intro- 
duction of it into their midst. If, on the contrary, they are 
for it, their legislation will favor its extension. Hence, no 
matter what the decision of the Supreme Court may be on that 
abstract question, still the right of the people to make a slave 
Territory or a free Territory is perfect and complete under 
the Nebraska bill. I hope Mr. Lincoln deems my answer 
satisfactory on that point." 44 

No opportunity remained in that debate for Lincoln to 
present his refutation of this doctrine. His silence was inter- 
preted even by his friends as acknowledgment of his defeat 
before the logic of his rival. 45 At later meetings, however, he 
undertook to expose the fallacy of Douglas' reply: slavery did 
have the vigor to exist, had existed in the past without such 
local protective legislation as Douglas held to be necessary; 
was now, moreover, resistance to constitutional rights by un- 
friendly legislation a monstrous, anarchistic doctrine as for 
himself he was for revising the decision; he could not believe 
there existed a constitutional right to hold slaves in a territory 
of the United States. 

Over the map of Illinois, the struggle was waged. From 
the critical battle ground in the central counties they worked 
by slow stages down into Egypt as far as Jonesboro in Union 
county, where they faced the smallest audience of the joint 
debates. Then back they marched to Charleston in eastern 
Illinois; soon they were in the New England atmosphere of 
Knox county, which assembled in force at Galesburg. For 
pure oratory and logical synthesis the independent speeches 
often surpassed the joint debates : no debate was in itself a 

44 Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 95. 

45 Contrary to popular opinion neither Lincoln nor his friends and sup- 
porters at this time dreamed that the future had in store for him a presidential 


unit, there were charges and countercharges, sturdy defense 
was followed by bitter attack, the opening of one debate was 
the rebuttal of the concluding speech of the preceding. With 
the closing words at the Alton meeting, October 15, some seri- 
ous stock-taking could be attempted, but scarcely before that 
time. Then it seemed that there was neither victor nor van- 
quished; the two giants appeared only the stronger for the 
combat that had closed. 

Lincoln had a valuable ally in the person of Senator Trum- 
bull, whose analysis of Douglas' motives in opposing the 
Lecompton constitution was one of the most important features 
of the campaign. In speeches at Chicago, at Alton, at Jack- 
sonville, and at other points in Illinois he charged Douglas 
with having changed from ground which would have required 
him to support the Lecompton document to a position of 
opposition out of purely selfish political considerations. In 
June, 1856, Douglas, as chairman of the senate committee on 
territories, had, after consultation with Senator Toombs, struck 
out from Toombs' bill for the future admission of Kansas a 
clause providing for the submission of the constitution to the 
people for their ratification or rejection, and had substituted 
certain other clauses to prevent a popular vote. 46 Corrobo- 
rative evidence that such was formerly the devotion of Stephen 
A. Douglas to popular sovereignty was found in his speech at 
Springfield in June, 1857, and in the declaration of Douglas' 
personal organ, the Chicago Times, that there would be about 
as much propriety in submitting the Lecompton constitution 
to a vote of the inhabitants of the Fiji Islands as to the " free- 
state men" of Kansas. Eventually these facts were acknowl- 
edged by democratic organs but they were never satisfactorily 
explained by Douglas. 47 

The republican journals took up Trumbull's charges and 
pressed his point. Evidence was presented that suggested an 
original sympathy on Douglas' part with the Lecompton 
method of ratification. It was generally understood at Spring- 
field and at other points that John Calhoun, the chairman of the 

48 Congressional Globe, 35 congress, i session, 127, appendix, 799. 
* 7 Chicago Times clipped in Illinois State Journal, July 29, 1857; Chicago 
Daily Times, August 13, 1858. 


Lecompton convention, had written to Douglas in the month 
of September, 1857, asking the advice of his former chief 
as to the course to be pursued in the submission of the con- 
stitution. Representative Smith of Virginia made this charge 
on the floor of congress and declared that there was no evidence 
that Douglas had discouraged the Lecompton scheme. 48 

Why then had Douglas shifted to his aggressive anti- 
Lecompton ground? Republicans were prone to believe that 
he had planned the Kansas "fraud" so as to give himself an 
opportunity to win applause by opposing the abortion. They 
could make out a plausible case to show that the Buchanan 
administration had been seeking to destroy the "little giant," 
that his friends had been neglected in appointments, and the 
claims of Illinois overlooked; therefore, not intending to be 
crushed by the administration, Douglas was seeking a basis 
for new political popularity, that he might maintain his position 
and groom himself for the presidency. 49 Democratic critics, 
speaking with an air of authority of inside information, had 
added their testimony to confirm this explanation. Represen- 
tative Smith of Virginia and Representative Burnett of Ken- 
tucky had told of a conference of the Illinois democratic 
delegation at the opening of the session to mark out a course 
to pursue in order to secure the reelection of Douglas to the 
senate; in the conference it was determined that opposition to 
the Lecompton constitution was the only means by which 
Douglas could sustain himself at home. 50 Here, then, an- 
nounced Trumbull, was the record of the man who stood as 
the champion of the fundamental principles of free govern- 
ment, of bona fide popular sovereignty; these were the motives 

48 Illinois State Journal, May 19, 1858. Two years later came unquestioned 
testimony from members of the convention that the form of submission deter- 
mined upon was believed by them to have been suggested by Douglas and 
was known as the "Douglas plan; " they testified that Calhoun had repeatedly 
referred to a letter in his possession written by Douglas, which authorized a 
statement of his approval and of his willingness to advocate its passage through 
congress. Only one member, however, testified to having seen the letter ; he was 
the proposed candidate for lieutenant governor under the new constitution. 
New Orleans Delta, October 16, 1860, clipped in Canton Weekly Register, 
October 26, 1860; Aurora Beacon, October 18, 1860. 

49 M. W. Delahay to Trumbull, November 28, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Chicago Journal clipped in Illinois State Journal, October 14, 1857. 

50 Congressional Globe, 35 congress, i session, 1392; Illinois State Journal, 
April 7, September i, 1858. 


of the hero who was braving unpopularity to declare the 
Lecompton mode of submission a mockery and an insult, who 
had recorded his preferences for private life in order to pre- 
serve his own self-respect and manhood to abject and servile 
submission to executive will. 

While the romance of the campaign centered about the 
figures of Lincoln and Douglas, much of the real work had 
to be done by the journalists on both sides. Very inadequate 
reports of the debates and speeches were printed, but the more 
effective points made on the platform were sorted out and 
driven home to the rank and file through the medium of the 
editorial page. First, an analysis was made of the field of 
activity. Shrewd politicians on both sides recognized that the 
independent vote, of great strength in the central counties, 
where a slight shift would throw the majority to one side or 
the other, was certain to determine the outcome of the elec- 
tion. A circle of counties reaching not more than eighty miles 
from the capital including especially Sangamon, Morgan, 
Mason, Logan, and Madison constituted the real battle- 
ground; here lived many old-line whigs timid, shrinking, but 
able men, from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and from other 
southern states. 

Democratic editors expressed their confidence that old-line 
whigs were generally union men and opposed to sectional strife 
and the doctrine of Negro equality ; 51 they could have but little 
sympathy with " nigger-stealers," " abolitionists," and " incen- 
diaries." Whigs were assured that the republican machinery 
was under abolition control. Did not the nomination of Owen 
Lovejoy, the abolitionist, for congress over Judge Norton, 
Churchill Coffing, and T. L. Dickey prove it? Did not the 
revolt headed by Coffing and Dickey against the now abolition- 
ized republican party prove it? Nine-tenths of the old-line 
whigs were for Douglas and democracy: there were such men 
as Cyrus Edwards of Madison who had repeatedly been the 
whig candidate for governor and United States senator; Edwin 

51 They tried to leave no doubt that the latter was a cardinal doctrine of the 
republican party. " Keep it before the people of Illinois," they shouted, " that 
the Abolition-Republican party headed by Abraham Lincoln, are in favor of 
negro equality, and claim that the Declaration of Independence included the 
negroes as well as the whites." Illinois State Register, October 13, 1858. 


B. Webb, the last whig candidate for governor; Buckner S. 
Morris, the last American candidate for governor; John T. 
Stuart, once a whig representative in congress; and James W. 
Singleton, the confidential friend of Clay. 52 In Douglas they 
would find the true successor of Henry Clay; Lincoln was of 
the same stripe as William Lloyd Garrison, and believed in 
rooting out slavery from the union by fire and sword. 

For their part, republicans pointed out that all Lincoln's 
past political connections had been with whigs and that he 
had been an ardent friend and supporter of Henry Clay; in 
1844 he had stumped the state for Clay and traveled some 
four hundred miles on a speech-making tour in Indiana while 
Douglas was vociferating all over Illinois that Henry Clay 
had sold his country to Great Britain, that he was a drunkard, 
a liar, a gambler, and a grossly and notoriously licentious 
person. Lincoln had clung to that connection even after the 
anti-Nebraska revolt, down to the Bloomington convention 
itself. Identified all his life long with the old whig party, he 
now stood on true Henry Clay ground. He was not an imprac- 
ticable abolitionist as misrepresented by Douglas; he conceded 
the right of each state to regulate slavery itself and had never 
accepted the Negro equality doctrine. Old whig leaders recog- 
nized the logic of an affiliation with Lincoln and the republican 
party Joseph Gillespie, of Madison, had announced that 
the position of the republican party harmonized with that of 
old line whigs better than that of Douglas and the democracy; 
and W. W. Danenhower had written a strong letter urging 
Americans and whigs to vote against Douglas. 53 

Special appeals were made also to the remnants of the 
American party, for they together with the whigs had in 1856 
cast a vote of over 35,000 for Fillmore; the support of this 
body of voters was absolutely necessary to develop a winning 
side. Douglas interlarded his speeches with praise of that 

52 Our Constitution, October 23, 1858; Joliet Signal, October 20, 1850; 
Ottawa Free Trader, August 21, 1858. Senator J. J. Crittenden of Kentucky, 
the friend and associate of Clay, having cooperated with Douglas in the anti- 
Lecompton fight, was named as a supporter of Douglas' candidacy. T. Lyle 
Dickey to Crittenden, July 19, 1858, Herndon to Crittenden, November i, 1858, 
Crittenden manuscripts. 

53 Joseph Gillespie to Sidney Todd, August 20, 1858; Belleville Advocate, 
September 22, 1858; Rockford Register, October 30, 1858. 


" noble band of Americans in the late Congress that opposed 
Lecompton; " republicans replied by reminding Americans that 
Douglas had been an early and persistent foe of know nothing- 
ism. The tendency of these conservative voters was to hold 
aloof from republican radicalism, and the democrats pressed 
their advantage by placing former know nothings on their 
legislative tickets. The republicans in alarm also threw out 
political sops to attract American support, while they pointed 
to the Roman Catholic allies of Douglas as evidence of the old 
union between popery and the slavery propaganda. 

Meantime the foreign born voters were prepared for their 
part in the campaign. Most protestant Germans had by this 
time become thoroughly attached to the republican cause. They 
were still subject to appeals from the party of their former 
allegiance, but the eloquence of leaders like Koerner, Hecker, 
and Hoffman kept them from wavering. Carl Shurz, more- 
over, came to Illinois to take the stump and aroused consid- 
erable enthusiasm. Like most of their countrymen the French 
voters of Chicago, numbering about 400, were largely repub- 
licans; in Kankakee where they held the balance of power, 
their organ, the Journal de L'lllinois, insured for Lincoln the 
votes of the French population. The Scandinavians of Chicago 
were generally Lincoln supporters. Against all these, the 
democrats balanced the Irish vote which was a power in 
Chicago and in other centers. 

The closeness of the fight in the central counties furnished 
a serious temptation to party politicians. In the closing months 
of the campaign, both republican and administration demo- 
cratic journals detailed charges that the Douglas organization 
had made preparations to colonize doubtful counties with float- 
ing voters. Evidence was submitted that Irish laborers drawn 
from Chicago, northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and St. 
Louis were being shipped by the railroads, ostensibly as rail- 
road hands, to such points as Mattoon, Champaign, Peoria, 
Carlinville, Bloomington, and Virginia. 54 Governor Matteson, 
who was interested in the St. Louis and Alton railroad, was 
said to be party to these colonization schemes. Douglas was 
baldly characterized as the agent and tool of the Illinois Cen- 

54 Tracy, Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 93-94. 


tral, that giant monopoly whose interests would one day be 
found to be diametrically opposed to the best interests of the 
people of Illinois. It was extensively rumored that the agents 
of Douglas had appealed to the Tammany Society of New 
York for material aid and that this organization had set aside 
$50,000 for the Douglas campaign. 55 " Look out for fraudu- 
lent votes" was the warning cry sounded by republicans 

Douglas* chief problem, growing out of the split of the 
democracy, was to maintain control of Egypt, where there 
were numerous signs of administration strength. An eleventh 
hour attempt to play the role of peacemaker and to close the 
schism was undertaken by Alexander H. Stephens, the Georgia 
congressman, friend of Buchanan and of Douglas. When his 
mission failed, democratic leaders from the southern border 
states began to pour into Illinois; ex-Senator Jones of Tennes- 
see, an ex-whig, was one of a large number of slave state 
democrats who mounted the hustings in Illinois in behalf of 
Douglas; by the first of November it was stated that "no less 
than 41 slave holders" were campaigning for the "little 
giant." 56 

Lincoln was pictured by his opponents as a politician hav- 
ing little claim to the support of the people of Illinois. In 
twenty years of unlimited opportunities for public service he 
had never initiated or seriously influenced the enactment of 
any measure which had contributed in any substantial fashion 
to the welfare of the state, or even 'of the nation. His most 
conspicuous stand in congress was declared to have been his 
emphatic opposition to the Mexican War; he was falsely 
charged with having even voted against sending supplies to the 
American army in Mexico. 

Election day arrived November 2, cold, wet, and raw. The 
fair weather brigade, preferring the comforts of the fireside 
to a walk or ride of a mile or more in the rain, was with dif- 
ficulty induced to present itself at the polls in force. This was 
especially disastrous to the republican party which seemed to 

s $ Rockford Republican, September 16, 1858; Chicago Press and Tribvne-, 
September 10, 1858; New York Herald, September 15, 1858. 
56 Chicago Democrat, November j, 1858. 

D Administration -Democratic 
vote over 5% 


have inherited the old whig love of ease in bad weather; the 
loss of votes was reckoned at fully 10,000. As the election 
returns came in it became evident first that the republicans had 
carried Chicago, then that Douglas had been given a majority 
in both branches of the legislature, although the two republican 
candidates for state office were elected, indicating that Illinois 
had at length become a full-fledged republican state. 

An analysis of the vote for legislature, moreover, showed 
that the republican members of the new assembly represented 
a population larger than the democratic members. This was 
because an antique apportionment law based upon data that 
had ceased to be facts eight years before compelled the north- 
ern counties to produce 1,000 votes to offset 750 in the southern 
section; this had made the election a contest of Egypt against 
Canaan; Egypt was returned the victor. 

Douglas defeated the republicans for the right to take the 
lead in administering a rebuke to the proslavery position of the 
national administration. Republican leaders regretted that 
the profit to Douglas from the aid and comfort given him by 
their eastern associates had more than covered the loss of 
the " Buchaneers." 57 The latter indeed proved to be an impo- 
tent faction, strong in the post offices, but polling only two per 
cent of the total vote. The election of a democratic legislature 
did not absolutely guarantee the return of Douglas to the 
United States senate, for the "Danites" were determined to 
defeat Douglas and worked to tie up the legislature so that 
no choice of a senator could be made. Three holdover sen- 
ators were said to be national democrats; and also, it was 
claimed that, while the " Danites " had failed to elect any of 
their own legislative candidates, three or four representatives 
might be induced to see the danger of supporting the ambitious 
man whom the Buchanan administration considered the most 
dangerous enemy of the democratic party. Agents of the 
administration were said to have been sent to Springfield to 
influence members to shelve Douglas. 58 

Most democrats were too well aware, however, that the 

57 J. M. Palmer to Trumbull, December 9, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

58 Chicago Herald clipped in Illinois State Journal, November 17, 1858; 
Ottawa Free Trader, January 7, 1859. 


defeat of Douglas meant playing too much into the hands of 
the republicans; to the relief of Douglas' friends the joint bal- 
loting on January 6 revealed a rigid party line with all demo- 
cratic votes cast in his favor. " Glory to God and the Sucker 
Democracy, Douglas 54, Lincoln 41," was the word tele- 
graphed to Douglas. "Announcement followed by shouts of 
immense crowd present. Town wild with excitement. Demo- 
crats firing salute Guns, music and whisky 

rampant." 59 Back over the wires to Springfield flashed the 
laconic comment of the victor, "Let the voice of the people 

BS C. H. Lanphier to Douglas, January 5, 1859, Lanphier manuscripts. The 
official vote was 54 to 46, House Journal, 1859, p. 32-33. 


DEMOCRATIC enjoyment of the fruits of the victory of 
1858 was sharply interrupted by Governor Bissell's mes- 
sage of January 5, 1859. His review of the state's affairs 
concise, clear, and convincing revealed a sympathetic appre- 
ciation of all progressive movements at work in Illinois. 1 To 
the democrats it came as a painful reminder not only that the 
popular vote was now in the hands of the republicans but that 
as a result the control of the legislature might slip out of their 
hands and with it the choice of the next United States senator. 
The demand for a new apportionment law furnished them an 
opportunity to try to save themselves from this calamity; with- 
out consulting republican members of the committee, they at 
once constructed a gerrymandering apportionment bill that 
would sustain the ascendancy of their party and undertook to 
place it upon the statute books. Republican leaders fought it 
on the floor with every known filibustering device, 2 for the 
proposition was regarded as worse than the infamous old 
measure that had defeated Lincoln. Despite all opposition 
and protest, however, it passed both houses by strict party vote 
and was sent to Governor Bissell. After holding it in his hands 
for several days the governor returned it with a stinging veto 
message. 3 In order to leave the house without a quorum, 
most of the republican members had withdrawn so that the 
democrats were unable to pass the bill over the veto. This 
revolutionary action forced the adjournment of the session 
without action on various appropriation items and on several 
hundred proposed bills. 4 

1 House Journal, 1859, p. 20-29. 

2 Rockford Republican, February 3, 1859. 
8 Illinois State Journal, February 23, 1859. 

4 B. C. Cook to Trumbull, January 14, Trumbull to B. C. Cook, January 20, 
1859, Trumbull manuscripts; Alton Courier, February 25, 1859; Chicago Press 
and Tribune, March 3, 1859; Ottawa Free Trader, March 12, 1859. 


The summer of 1859, an off-year as far as elections were 
concerned, was devoid of any real political excitement. The 
municipal elections, which were held in the chief cities of the 
state during the spring months, resulted in significant republi- 
can victories in Chicago, Quincy, and Rockford. 5 These were 
all regions of normal democratic strength, and these victories 
were held to foreshadow unmistakably the success of the repub- 
lican ticket in 1860. County elections in November had little 
significance since personal considerations generally overbore 
political preferences and party rules. In Ottawa, however, 
excitement was aroused by an attempted fugitive slave rendition 
which ended in a famous rescue case and as a result the repub- 
licans rallied to the polls to reverse a normal democratic major- 
ity. 6 In the Springfield district a special congressional election 
resulted in a victory for John A. McClernand, democrat, 
over John M. Palmer, republican; in this as in the general 
political development the outcome was doubtless affected by 
the reaction that followed the John Brown raid on Harper's 
Ferry. 7 

Like wildfire the news of this astonishing attempt had 
spread over the country; John Brown, a fanatical abolitionist 
with some twenty men, black and white, had treasonably seized 
a United States arsenal, had raised the standard of revolt and 
liberation, had placed guns in the hands of Negroes of 
slaves and had sought to deal a blow at all the forces 
of law and order. Defeated in his mad purpose, he had 
fallen into the hands of the state authorities. What then 
did all this mean? Democrats, eager to exploit the inci- 
dent for political purposes, inquired peremptorily whether 
this revolutionary attempt could be construed as anything 
but the logical fruit of republicanism, of the " irrepressible 
conflict" doctrine of Abe Lincoln and Senator Seward! 
The republican party, they declared, means nothing -more 
nor less than open defiance of the laws and authority of 
the United States and in the end, as a natural consequence, 
revolution and anarchy. After all, is there any real distinc- 

5 Illinois State Journal, April 13, 27, May 18, 1859. 

6 Ottawa Free Trader, November, 1859; Rockford Register, November 19, 

7 Illinois State Journal, November 2, 16, 1859. 


tion between abolitionists and "black" republicans on the 
subject of slavery? 8 

All this was extremely embarrassing to Illinois republicans, 
who had generally regarded the raid as the product of a dis- 
ordered brain. Unable adequately to refute these charges, 
they involuntarily became admirers of the bravery and daring 
involved in the exploit; if it was not the result of an insanity, 
for which allowances should be made, it was a new brand of 
courage such as the country had rarely known. John Brown 
was pictured as a mild, inoffensive, peaceable citizen trans- 
formed by his sufferings in Kansas at the hands of proslavery 
cutthroats into a patriarchal, though misguided, champion of 
freedom who planned to wreak a bloody revenge upon the 
institution of slavery. When with Spartan courage the stern 
old Puritan paid with his life the penalty for his rashness, the 
reaction became even more marked. Solemn public meetings 
of protest were held in several northern Illinois cities on the 
day of the execution, prayers were offered up for his soul, and 
the church bells tolled in commemoration of the martyr to the 
" irrepressible conflict." 

As the campaign of 1860 drew near, Douglas made plans 
for his own presidential nomination and election. His political 
success since the Kansas-Nebraska act had been the result of 
a two-faced interpretation of his pet doctrine which gave him 
the advantage of appearing both to break down and to uphold 
the slave interest. His republican opponents realized, how- 
ever, that no ingenuity could long keep these antagonistic 
elements in harmony. 9 The Freeport doctrine had under- 
mined his popularity in the slave states. Southerners who 
accepted, as well as those who rejected his explanation, pointed 
out that it merely demonstrated the need of congress giving 
more adequate protection to slavery in the territories a 
tacit demand that Douglas accept the idea of congressional 
intervention to protect slavery. 10 

8 Ottawa Free Trader, October 22, 29, 1859; Rockford Republican, Octo- 
ber 27, 1859; Mound City Emporium, November 3, 1859; Belleville Democrat, 
November 5, 1859; Joliet Signal, December 6, 1859. 

8 Writings of Lincoln, 5: 18, 19. 

10 Richmond Enquirer, September 10, clipped in Illinois State Journal, 
September 29, 1858. 


Douglas was not prone to overlook the political necessity 
of courting the south. Promptly after his victory in Novem- 
ber, 1858, he had left for the southland, ostensibly on business 
and in pursuit of health, but in part to feel the pulse of the 
slave states. All his energies were bent toward making him- 
self agreeable to the hospitable planters who welcomed him; 
his references to the Dred Scott decision indicated unqualified 
acceptance, while the version of the Freeport doctrine which 
he presented was of innocuous innocence. He announced him- 
self in sympathy with the manifest destiny of the United States 
to acquire Mexico, Central America, and Cuba. 

When he found, however, that the south was so far ready 
to accept him at his word as to look to him for a champion of 
congressional intervention to protect slavery, Douglas made 
haste to backwater. Only on the matter of Cuban annexation, 
which he had always supported, could he stand squarely with 
the southern democrats. 11 For the rest he had hardly returned 
to Washington before he was breaking lances with Jefferson 
Davis and other southern democratic champions who argued 
in favor of protective legislation for the territories. 12 
Douglas declared himself unwilling to support any proposi- 
tion to interfere with territorial regulation of property rights, 
whether in horses, mules, or Negroes; he was even unwilling 
to indorse congressional intervention to prevent polygamy in 
Utah. Further, in the face of a growing demand in the south 
for the reopening of the African slave trade, he placed himself 
on record as opposed to the illicit traffic that was beginning to 
assume such large proportions. The fact that he was by such 
a course manifestly alienating political support was made more 
potent by President Buchanan's efforts to stir up the southern 
democrats against him. Douglas' leadership of the democratic 
party the president persistently challenged; upon his arrival 

11 His own party in Illinois backed him on this proposition. Joliet Signal, 
February i, March i, 1859. While republican leaders and journals naturally 
inclined to oppose, some felt that inasmuch as " acquisition is a trait of American 
character," it was good strategy to come out for territorial expansion and to 
lead off boldly for the spread of the free institutions of the country. Belleville 
Advocate, December 29, 1858, February 9, 1859; Alton Courier, January 21, 
J 8S9J J. M. Palmer to Trumbull, December 9, 1858; J. P. Cooper to Trumbull, 
December 14, 1858, Trumbull to B. C. Cook, January 20, 1859, Trumbull 

12 Congressional Globe, 35 congress, 2 session, 1243-1245, 1259. 


in Washington the Illinoisian found that the democratic con- 
gressional caucus at Buchanan's instigation had deposed him 
from the chairmanship of the committee on territories. 

Such a thrust must have rankled in the heart of the " little 
giant," especially since the practical issue before the country 
was the territorial question. To clear up his position on that 
subject Douglas wrote a labored exposition of his views for 
Harper's Magazine ; obviously facing northward, he sought to 
establish firmer constitutional foundation for the Freeport doc- 
trine. 13 Here at last, in Douglas' labors to maintain his 
strength north of Mason and Dixon's line, was a tacit admis- 
sion of the effect of the attacks of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, 
meanwhile, pressed the offensive; campaigning in Ohio in the 
fall of 1859, he made the point that Douglas' doctrine of 
unfriendly legislation was equivalent to saying that " a thing 
may be lawfully driven away from where it has the lawful right 
to be." 14 At Cincinnati he analyzed Douglas' record in a 
speech which was printed with the title, " Douglas an enemy 
to the North. Reasons why the North should oppose Judge 
Douglas. His duplicity exposed." So scathing was the indict- 
ment that it was later circulated by Douglas' supporters in the 
south in order to win popularity there. 

All these developments were bringing Lincoln into the 
limelight. Up to this time he had not been a prominent figure 
in national politics. To be sure, in the Philadelphia conven- 
tion of 1856 he had displayed strength in the race for vice 
presidential nomination, second only to the victor, William L. 
Dayton. Yet his name was not mentioned in connection with 
the presidency. As late as June, 1858, the republican delegates 
journeying to the state convention at Springfield had found 
from a straw vote that their preferences for the presidency 
were overwhelmingly for Seward; Lincoln received only a 
casual vote. 15 The Lincoln-Douglas campaign, however, 
worked a revolution in sentiment, in large part because of 
the resentment of the Illinois leaders at the advice of eastern 
republicans that Douglas be returned to the senate. In view 

13 Harper's Magazine, 19: 519-537. 

14 Chicago Press and Tribune, October 6, 1859. 

15 Missouri Republican, June 24, 1858, clipped in Sparks, Lincoln-Douglas 
Debates of 1858, 3 : 24. 


of the feeling that "Seward, Greeley & Co." had materially 
contributed to Lincoln's defeat, the decision was reached that 
Illinois ought to throw its strength to anyone rather than 
Seward. 16 Lincoln stock boomed immediately. After a few 
timid suggestions by party journals that Lincoln's name ought 
to have a place on the presidential ticket in 1860, the Olney 
Times, November 19, 1858, boldly printed "Abram Lincoln 
for President for 1860" at the head of its editorial columns. 
By the following summer Lincoln in the minds of Illinoisians 
had become first-rate presidential timber. 17 Impressed with 
this development by the little coterie of Springfield politicians, 
he allowed himself to be groomed for the coming race, though 
he modestly admitted that he did not consider himself " fit 
for the Presidency." 18 The radical edges were carefully 
smoothed off; he placed himself on record as opposed to the 
repeal of the fugitive slave law; in his Ohio speeches he sought 
to convince conservatives that his "house-divided" prophecy 
was neither novel nor sectional doctrine; he declared himself 
willing to support a national ticket in 1860 with the name of 
a southerner at either end. He assumed the role of peace- 
maker in the republican party. The German republicans were 
restless as a result of an amendment to the Massachusetts con- 
stitution, adopted, it was said, under republican auspices, which 
provided for political restrictions upon newly naturalized citi- 
zens. Lincoln therefore gave assurances that he was opposed 
to the Massachusetts provision; and the republican state com- 
mittee through its chairman, N. B. Judd, published a strong 
letter of repudiation. 19 The conviction grew that " Old Abe " 
was the man about whom to rally to full strength of the repub- 
lican party. The republican club of Springfield resolved itself 
into a "Lincoln club" to use all honorable means to secure 
the nomination of Abraham Lincoln. 20 The movement spread 
and Lincoln clubs appeared on every hand. 

16 E. Peck to Trumbull, November 22, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. 

17 Chicago Democrat, November n, 1858; Illinois State Journal, Novem- 
ber 17, 1858; Rockford Republican, December 9, 1858. 

18 Writings of Lincoln, 5: 31. 

19 Ibid., 5:26; Koerner, Memoirs, 2:75. 

20 Canton Weekly Register, November i, 1859; Aurora Beacon, Novem- 
ber 10, 1859; Central Illinois Gazette, December 7, 1859; Illinois State Journal, 
January 18, 1860. 


Chief attention in national politics was centering on the 
fate of Douglas at the hands of the democratic party; the 
family quarrel was steadily growing more bitter and the two 
wings voiced their open defiance of each other. Douglas, 
charged with apostasy from the party creed and with a desire 
for self-aggrandizement, was convinced that the proper method 
to clear himself was to secure the democratic nomination at 
Charleston upon such a platform as he could accept. Though 
he stood firmly against congressional intervention in the terri- 
tories, he admitted the need of some measure to protect the 
states and territories against acts of violence like the Harper's 
Ferry conspiracy. 21 

The party machinery in Illinois was set in motion to enable 
Douglas to put his full strength into the field; a list of every 
able supporter who could be present at Charleston in the 
capacity of delegate or alternate was made up and completed 
at the state democratic convention. 22 In order to outinaneuver 
the "nationals" the Douglas wing had fixed an early date of 
meeting, lest the latter might act first and set up an embar- 
rassing claim to speak for the Illinois democracy. On January 
4, 1860, therefore, the Douglasite convention adopted resolu- 
tions which reaffirmed the Cincinnati platform of 1856, objected 
to any attempt to force upon the party new issues and new tests, 
and referred all controverted questions to the adjudication of 
the supreme court; it also pledged the Illinois democracy to 
support any candidate nominated at Charleston. 23 

The "Danites" held their conclave six days later and, as 
the Douglasites feared, selected a delegation to claim admission 
to the seats at Charleston allotted to Illinois. Their platform 
contained a clear-cut repudiation of the Freeport doctrine, 
affirmed the Calhoun theory, and upheld the decision of the 
supreme court in the case of Dred Scott; the policy of the 
Buchanan administration, especially on the slavery question, 
was given unqualified approval. There was a platform without 
equivocation : there was none of the trimming practiced by the 

21 See his speech of January 23, 1860, Congressional Globe, 36 congress, i 
session, 553-555. 

Douglas to Lanphier, October i, 1859, January x, 1860, Lanphier manu- 

23 Illinois State Register, January 5, 1860. 


Douglasites, " ' here a streak of lean and there a streak of fat,' 
now 'a little turtle and now a little pork,'" as one critic put 
it; 24 but it was the work of an impotent and discontented 
minority destined to count for little in the active campaign. 

These were practically the lines upon which the Charleston 
convention later divided and rent the party in twain. The 
Douglas platform underwent no change; it was the work of 
the Illinois democratic delegation in congress under the direc- 
tion of Senator Douglas himself. It represented every con- 
cession that it was deemed possible to make to the south; the 
Illinois delegation, moreover, was selected so as to include 
the " men with the best political record on the Slavery question," 
men " especially favorably known at the South." 25 The plat- 
form supported by the southern wing at Charleston covered 
the ground of the " Danite " resolutions, with an additional 
plank incorporating Jefferson Davis' declaration of the duty 
of congress to provide adequate protection to slave property 
in the territories. The leader of the Illinois Douglas delega- 
tion at Charleston was Colonel William A. Richardson, whose 
abilities in political management and manipulation were suffi- 
ciently recognized to give him the larger role of leader of the 
Douglas forces in general. Fresh from Washington and from 
close contact with Douglas, he conducted an aggressive cam- 
paign to capture the machinery of organization. In the 
preliminary skirmishing the Douglas men drew first blood; 
technical points were decided in their favor, and the conven- 
tion refused to admit the contesting " Danite" delegation from 
Illinois headed by Isaac Cook. The real test came on the 
adoption of a platform. Douglas had instructed Richardson 
to be prepared to withdraw his name in the event of a victory 
for the Davis doctrine. When, however, the southern majority 
report was rejected for the Douglas minority resolutions, the 
southern hotspurs voiced their defiance and promptly seceded. 
Under the two-thirds rule, the " rump " convention balloted 
in vain; Douglas led with a large majority until it was voted 
to adjourn to meet June 18 at Baltimore. 

24 Illinois State Journal, January 18, 1860. 

25 Douglas to Lanphier, October i, December 31, 1859, January i, 1860, 
Lanphier manuscripts. 


In the interim Lincoln had his innings. A fortunate com- 
bination of forces in Illinois operated to bring his name to the 
fore. There had been for some time a growing fear of 
Seward's radicalism with a consequent decline in the stock 
of the New York leader. Old-line whigs in the central part of 
the state had never been reconciled to Seward's strength ; Egypt 
was beginning to break with the democracy, but any tendency 
to go over to the republicans would end if a candidate tainted 
with abolitionism headed the ticket. Conservative Illinois busi- 
ness men objected to Seward's analysis of "labor" states and 
" capital " or " slave " states, since there was more capital in 
good old New England than in the southern states combined; 26 
they inclined to favor Edward Bates of Missouri, but his name 
could not be considered if the votes of the Germans were to 
be obtained. The German vote preferred Seward or Fremont 
but would go enthusiastically for Lincoln. 27 In fact Lincoln's 
moderation appealed to all factions, and his zealous supporters 
were meeting undreamed-of success. County convention after 
county convention indorsed his candidacy as the choice of the 
republican party. Encouraged by this success, his Illinois sup- 
porters began a quiet but active campaign in a larger field. 
They won a preliminary victory when Chicago was selected 
as the place of meeting of the national nominating convention, 
although at the time this city was considered fairly neutral 
ground, since Illinois was not yet, in national councils, regarded 
as having any strong presidential candidate. By March, how- 
ever, not only Illinois but a steadily widening circle of states 
in the northwest were flying Lincoln's colors. " It seems as if 
the whole West was about to rise en masse in favor of the 
nomination of Abraham Lincoln by the Chicago Convention. 
Never did the proposal of any man's name elicit such an over- 
whelming testimonial to his fitness and the propriety of his 
nomination. Paper after paper throughout not only Illinois 
but the whole northwest, has put his name at the mast head, 
until the ones which have not done so are the marked 
exceptions." 28 

26 Russel Hinckley to Trumbull, March 28, 1860, Trumbull manuscripts. 

27 G. Koerner to Trumbull, March 15, April 16, 1860, ibid. 

28 Central Illinois Gazette, March 28, 1860. 


State politics temporarily attracted 'the attention of the 
republicans from the developments in the national canvass. 
The previous winter had witnessed a sharp struggle in repub- 
lican circles over the gubernatorial nomination. Norman B. 
Judd, for sixteen years senator from Cook county, was put 
forward as the representative of the old democratic element 
of the party; his rival was Leonard Swett, who was cham- 
pioned by republicans of whig antecedents who claimed that 
the principle of rotation ought to be recognized in the governor- 
ship. Judd was the stronger and abler candidate but suffered 
from a set of scathing articles against him in the Chicago 
Democrat, which voiced the feelings of John Wentworth, his 
rival in the republican as of yore in the democratic ranks. 29 
The preconvention contest furnished an excellent opportunity 
for a dark horse to enter the field; one appeared in the person 
of Richard Yates of Jacksonville, a devoted and capable repub- 
lican, who had been a member of congress as a whig at the 
time of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act. To the sur- 
prise of almost everyone, Judd was defeated when the repub- 
lican state convention was held at Decatur on May 9 ; and the 
nomination given to Yates. Francis H. Hoffman was nomi- 
nated for lieutenant governor by acclamation to honor the 
German vote that he represented. The rest of the state officers 
were renominated for their respective stations. The general 
platform reaffirmed the Bloomington and Springfield platforms 
of 1856 and 1858, declared against change in the naturaliza- 
tion laws and against discrimination between native born and 
naturalized citizens, commended the proposed homestead law, 
and demanded an economical administration of the state 
government. 30 

The state convention also completed the arrangements for 
participation in the Chicago convention. Resolutions were 
adopted which instructed the delegation to the Chicago con- 
vention to use all honorable means to secure Lincoln's nomina- 
tion. Thereupon, " for fifteen minutes, cheer upon cheer went 
up from the crowd." 31 Upon consultation with Lincoln, Gus- 

29 Chicago Democrat, November 7, 1859; Jollet Signal, December 13, 1859. 

30 Chicago Press and Tribune, May n, 1860; Illinois State Journal, May 
16, 1860. 

31 Arnold, Life of Abraham Lincoln, 162. 


tave Koerner, Norman B. Judd, Orville H. Browning, and 
Judge David Davis were selected as delegates-at-large. A week 
later they were in Chicago, the center of a noisy bustling crowd 
at the Lincoln headquarters, assisted by Yates, Jesse K. Dubois, 
Palmer, Judge Stephen T. Logan, and others. 

The metropolis of the northwest had enthusiastically 
accepted the obligations that accompanied the choice of that 
city for the national convention. A huge wooden structure, 
christened the " Great Wigwam," rose rapidly on Lake Street 
with a seating capacity of ten thousand persons. But even it 
was entirely inadequate for the accommodation of the tremen- 
dous crowds of hilarious holiday-makers that kept streaming 
in. The hotels, especially the Tremont House, where 1,500 
persons were stored away, were largely taken up by various 
state delegations and by campaign headquarters. Private 
hospitality made up for what the hostelries were unable to 
provide; the latchstrings were all out in true western style. 
Every now and then above the uproar of the crowds would be 
heard the din of martial music, a band would come in sight 
heading a procession of Seward or Cameron or Bates support- 
ers in uniform attire bearing banners and mottoes; there was 
marching and countermarching with friendly clashes between 
the rival paraders. The attitude of the convention crowd as 
a whole was that the republican party should wipe out a 
disgraceful reputation; neither the straight-laced puritanism 
of the antislavery movement nor the dignity and decorum of 
whig respectability should longer characterize it. On the con- 
trary, it was now to show a spirit, an abandon that had hereto- 
fore been the monopoly of the democrats. To that end 
"Captain Whisky" was enlisted as evidence that the repub- 
licans had imbibed " the spirit as well as the substance of the 
old Democratic party;" accordingly, midnight processions, 
serenades, and champagne suppers drove dull care away in 
the satanic style "that would do honor to Old Kaintuck on a 
bust." 32 

Behind the scenes party workers were busy preparing their 
campaigns; there was caucusing and speech-making; there was 
scheming, intriguing, and bargaining. The uninstructed dele- 

82 Halstead, National Political Conventions, 121, 140, 145. 


gates were courted on every side. When the convention opened, 
Edward Bates, Salmon P. Chase, Simon Cameron, and the 
others seemed to be getting nowhere, and current political 
gossip conceded but two important republican camps: the 
" irrepressibles " who backed the favorite, Seward, and the 
" conservatives " who talked of the unpopularity of Seward's 
ultraisms and gave their backing to "Old Abe." 

Seward was opposed by all the doubtful states Indiana, 
Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as well as Illinois; as yet, how- 
ever, they had given their united support to no one candidate. 
But the favorable Illinois atmosphere was beginning to count 
for Lincoln. During the preliminaries of the convention the 
uninstructed Indiana delegation was gradually induced, aided 
by the logic and eloquence of Koerner and Browning, to throw 
their support to Lincoln rather than to Bates, while Pennsyl- 
vania, though committed to Cameron, its favorite son, grad- 
ually became more favorably inclined toward Lincoln. "Old 
Abe," the representative of conservatism, respectability, and 
availability, went the current of talk, will win the race. 33 

In the tense atmosphere, the convention was organized 
and quickly disposed of the regular business. The platform 
was then drawn up and adopted. It was in various ways 
influenced by the Decatur resolutions which were presented by 
Koerner, the Illinois member of the committee; 34 but the 
general draft, especially the forcible indictment of the sins of 
the democratic party, was the work of Judge William Jessup 
of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the committee. The eastern- 
ers insisted on a tariff plank, but it was toned down into a very 
harmless declaration for incidental protection. 

Though there was no definite alignment over the platform, 
Seward seemed to be gaining strength in a very subtle way. 
His opponents had hoped to down him by forcing the adoption 
of a rule that a majority of the whole electoral college should 
be required to nominate candidates. This was almost equiva- 
lent to a two-thirds rule; but although the majority report 
recommended this method, it was rejected by the convention 

33 Halstead, National Political Conventions, 122; Koerner, Memoirs, 2: 88-89. 

34 With the aid of Carl Schurz he was able to secure the incorporation of a 
plank opposing any change in the naturalization laws and any legislation by the 
states to impair the rights of naturalized citizens. Ibid., 2: 87. 


for a simple majority rule. Although Seward's supporters 
were victorious in every preliminary skirmish, Lincoln's 
strength became immediately apparent when on the third day 
the convention began to ballot. The Wigwam was packed with 
a noisy Lincoln crowd, for the strategy of the Illinois workers 
had seen the emptiness of parades and of display on the city's 
streets; instead their time and energy had been utilized to 
provide Lincoln supporters with tickets before they were dis- 
tributed to others. The Lincolnites had taken little part in 
the general celebrations, but were saved for the convention- 
hall orgies of sound, and when the time came they were ready 
to overwhelm their opponents with the reverberating Lincoln 

After an irritating delay the nominating commenced; 
Seward was named and applause filled the hall. Judd, in a 
few highly impressive words, offered the name of "Honest 
Abe" Lincoln; and the Illinois stalwarts cut loose with a 
deafening shriek. Other candidates were brought out the 
crowd waited in expectancy. Caleb B. Smith of Indiana 
seconded the nomination of Lincoln and a deafening roar 
followed. Then Seward's candidacy was seconded, and his 
supporters shrieked their applause with an infernal intensity 
that surpassed their rivals; Lincoln's supporters were given 
another turn; and the hall became a riot of sound that defied 
description, while Henry S. Lane, republican candidate for 
governor in Indiana, leaped upon a table and madly performed 
with hat and cane. All this had its significance. The caucusing 
had continued during the whole night that preceded this session, 
and delegates had arrived but half convinced as to the nature 
of the first vote they should cast and without a program for 
the balloting that would follow. The shouting impressed even 
the most skeptical that the contest would resolve itself into a 
duel between Seward and Lincoln and that the westerner had 
a chance to win. The Indiana delegation became convinced 
that Henry S. Lane, their leader, was correct in his desperate 
insistence that their vote go as a unit to Lincoln, lest Seward 
be nominated and kill the hopes of the republican ticket in the 
hoosier state. The Cameron men were satisfied that their 
candidate had no chance and showed less uncertainty in their 


decision to throw their strength to Lincoln at the time when 
it would bring about his nomination by the convention. Assured 
by Lincolnites that their favorite would be rewarded with a 
cabinet appointment, the Pennsylvania delegation repeatedly 
retired for vote consultation and delayed the roll call much to 
the amusement and disgust of the convention throng. 35 

The first ballot was taken; Seward led with 173^, Lin- 
coln was in second place with 102, while Cameron, Chase, and 
Bates each received approximately 50 votes. Seward lacked 
sixty votes of the required majority. As the balloting pro- 
ceeded, Cameron's name was withdrawn and Lincoln gained 
79 votes, bringing him within 3^ votes of his rival. Here 
was impressive evidence of the strength of his candidacy. 
Amid intense excitement the roll was called for the third 
ballot; busy pencils tabulating the vote counted a total of 
23 1 Y-2 votes for Lincoln, within I y 2 of the nomination. 

A stuttered announcement of a change of front by the 
Ohio chairman turned the trick for Lincoln. The statement 
was made in a tense silence of expectancy; then again burst 
out the Lincoln "yawp," swelling into a wild hosanna of vic- 
tory. It was followed by a stampede for "Old Abe:" ten 
Maine votes, ten Massachusetts votes, and the whole of the 
Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky, and Minnesota votes were changed. 
Amid the pandemonium, a man posted on the roof to signal 
the results to the huge crowd of ten or twenty thousand waiting 
anxiously outside demanded the meaning of the demonstra- 
tion. One of the secretaries, tally sheet in hand, shouted, 
" Fire the salute ! Abe Lincoln is nominated ! " The message 
was relayed to the anxious mass of humanity below, which in 
turn took up the roar with insane energy, while the booming 
of the cannon scarcely made itself heard above the din. 36 

When the enthusiastic demonstration finally subsided, 
William M. Evarts, the Seward spokesman, moved that the 
nomination be made unanimous; this motion passed after the 
usual indorsements of the successful candidates, followed by 
a brief speech in behalf of Lincoln by Orville H. Browning. 
In concluding its work, the convention nominated Hannibal 

35 Halstead, National Political Conventions, 143. 

36 Ibid., 149-150; Illinois State Journal, May 23, 1860. 


Hamlin of remote Maine as Lincoln's running mate. The 
news of the nominations was telegraphed broadcast, and before 
many hours almost every town and village in Illinois was 
reproducing in miniature the scenes of the western metropolis. 
Lincoln enthusiasts rallied their resources to concoct cele- 
brations; processions formed of noisy youths bearing rails 
through the streets, tar barrels were heaped on blazing bon- 
fires, drums were beaten, old cannons were dragged out to rend 
the night air with their disturbing blasts. 37 Hoarse throats 
were quenched with torrents of liquor, and the excitement con- 
tinued until intoxication or exhaustion prostrated the joyous 

As a part of the Springfield festivities Lincoln was sere- 
naded at his home by a large crowd of enthusiasts, who went 
wild at the appearance of his tall gaunt form and at the well- 
chosen remarks he addressed to them. The following evening 
the state capital held a formal jubilee when a committee headed 
by George Ashmun, president of the republican convention, 
came down from Chicago to notify Lincoln of his nomination 
and to receive his acceptance. An elaborate dinner was served 
to the committee; and, after the notification ceremony, a vast 
assemblage gathered in a ratification meeting in the statehouse 
square to listen to the speech-making. Brass bands marched 
through the streets; exploding fireworks sent out their lurid 
light; parties gathered in the hotels to drink toast after toast 
to the American union, to the republican party, and to its 
presidential nominee. 

Republican enthusiasm continued undisturbed by the nomi- 
nation of rival candidates at Baltimore. Douglas' friends 
triumphed and secured his nomination from the adjourned 
meeting of the democratic convention; the southern democrats, 
however, put their own candidate in the field in the person of 
John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. Old conservative union 
men engineered a new movement which resulted in the forma- 
tion of the constitutional union or national union party, with 
John Bell of Tennessee and Edward Everett as its candi- 
dates. The scattering Illinois supporters of each of these 

37 In Springfield church bells were enlisted to the disgust of the democrats. 
Illinois State Register, May 19, 23, 1860. 


candidates hustled out their tickets for presidential electors 
and for state officers and entered the field with as much enthu- 
siasm as they could rally. 

The republicans of Illinois had the advantage of having 
harmonized on their state candidates and of having entered 
the field several weeks before their opponents. The Douglas 
candidates were not selected until June 13, when it was found 
impossible to agree on a state ticket of any real strength; 
James C. Allen of Crawford county was nominated for gov- 
ernor over Samuel A. Buckmaster and James L. D. Morrison; 
Lewis W. Ross for lieutenant governor, George H. Campbell 
for secretary of state, Bernard Arntzen for auditor, Hugh 
Maher for treasurer, and Dr. E. R. Roe for superintendent 
of public instruction completed the ticket. 38 The Breckinridge 
party was made up of the remnants of the Buchanan national 
democrats. It became more than ever a corporal's guard of 
officeholders. Its main strength lay in the southern counties 
where proslavery sentiment flourished. 

The Bell-Everett movement in Illinois had a subtle impor- 
tance in the campaign. It was the feeble successor of old-line 
whiggery and know nothingism ; but it had a certain strength 
in southern Illinois, where there was no effective rival of 
Douglas democracy, and in the central counties, where a slight 
shifting of the vote might change the outcome of the election. 
The national union state convention at Decatur, August n, 
nominated an electoral ticket and a full state ticket headed by 
John T. Stuart for governor; the most prominent delegate 
present was Judge Buckner S. Morris, a bitter opponent of 
republicanism; he had supported Douglas in 1858 and declared 
that Douglas had owed his election to American votes. 39 After 
declaring himself willing to support Douglas or any democrat 
in order to defeat Lincoln, Morris became a controlling force 
in the state central committee. This naturally confirmed repub- 
lican suspicions that the union movement was a ruse to help 
Douglas accomplish the defeat of Lincoln. 40 

The campaign was now in full swing driven on by the 

38 Illinois State Register, June 15, 1860. 

39 Illinois State Journal, August 22, 1860. 

40 Chicago Democrat, August 15, 1860; Belleville Advocate, July 27, August 
24, 1860. 


conviction that on the outcome in Illinois would to a large 
extent depend the result of the presidential contest. The gay 
holiday atmosphere of the canvass makes it stand out as one 
of the most picturesque of presidential elections; the prevailing 
enthusiasm duplicated that of the Lincoln-Douglas contest of 
1858 with the situation reversed in Lincoln's favor. This 
time he had the advantage of being identified with the typical 
western spirit. The "rail-splitter" became the idol of the 
people ; his early struggle in the wilderness carried more weight 
in the democratic west than the reputation of his rival. "Abe 
Lincoln; in Indiana he followed the plow and the path of 
rectitude; in Illinois he mauled rails and Stephen A. Douglas," 
was the eloquent motto on many a Lincoln banner. 41 Was he 
not too the representative of the party that stood for opening 
up the lands of the west to free settlement by the pioneer? 
In vain did his opponents point to the emptiness of his political 
career; it was more important that he embodied a spirit that 
the people of the frontier could understand. 

Early in June republican campaign preparations had 
begun to take form. The unique feature of the canvass was 
the "wide awake" organization. A company of enthusias- 
tic and "wide awake" Chicago republicans was organized to 
take a prominent place in the party parades and processions. 4 ? 
The idea was immediately taken up throughout the state until 
every village and hamlet had its "wide awakes," composed 
largely of young men, some under voting age. Shortly after 
nightfall one "hears the strains of martial music, and beholds 
a large body of men, bearing blazing torches, and marching 
in fine military order. Each man bears a thin rail, surmounted 
with a large swinging lamp and a small American flag, bearing 
the names of Lincoln and Hamlin. The uniform of the pri- 
vates is a black enamelled circular cape, quite full and of good 
length, and a glazed military fatigue cap, with a brass or silver 
eagle in front. Some companies are uniformed with blue, red, 
drab and silver gray caps and capes, and relieve the monotony 
of the darker uniforms. The captains and non-commissioned 
officers are distinguished by an Inverness over-coat, with black 

41 Illinois State Journal, July 24, 1860. 

42 Chicago Press and Tribune, June 8, 1860. 


cape and undress military caps. In some companies the cap- 
tain carries a red, the aids a tri-colored, and the lieutenants a 
blue or green lantern; in others, the captain merely carried 
a painted baton. The measured tread, steady front and un- 
broken lines speak of strict attention to drill and the effective 
manner in which the various bodies are managed by their 
officers shows conclusively that men of military experience 
control their movements." 43 

A half million young men constituted the "wide awake" 
army of the union. They were the nucleus of parades, supple- 
mented by marchers bearing banners and mottoes. Meetings 
of tremendous size brought together in impressive demonstra- 
tions the companies from neighboring towns. The great Spring- 
field meeting at the fair grounds attracted a crowd of over 
fifty thousand people. Lincoln was present but refused to 
respond to the clamor for a speech except to say a few words 
of acknowledgment of the honor conferred upon him. Four 
thousand "wide awakes" marched in a procession that passed 
for nearly two hours before the local "wigwam." The cele- 
bration on the occasion of Seward's speech in Chicago in 
October is said to have attracted over one hundred thousand 
strangers to the city; the Wigwam was the center of the 
festivities, and 10,000 "wide awakes" carried their torches in 
the procession. 44 " The prairies are on fire," was the announce- 
ment that went out from republican headquarters. 

Lincoln himself refused to take any direct part in the 
campaign. His record was subjected to careful scrutiny from 
every angle and old charges against him were revamped, but 
he was wise enough to recognize that he had capable friends 
campaigning in his behalf and that direct disavowal even of 
false charges would be playing into the hands of his oppo- 
nents. He maintained his headquarters at the statehouse at 
Springfield and conferred with some of the campaign speakers, 
but at the same time displayed a leisurely hospitality toward 
all visitors with whom he conversed, not so much on political 
matters as on personal experiences and interests. 

Effective work on the stump was done by Senator Trum- 

43 Chicago Democrat, September 24, 1860. 
"Ibid., October 3, 1860. 


bull, Judd, Yates, Gillespie, Palmer, Koerner, Wentworth, and 
others, with outside aid from Senator James R. Doolittle and 
Carl Schurz of Wisconsin and Francis P. Blair of Missouri. 
It is to be noted that most of these leaders were former demo- 
crats disgusted with the subserviency of the "dough-faces" to the 
southern slave power; the talent of the democratic party had 
to a large extent been transferred to the republican organiza- 
tion. They carried with them the old fighting spirit, far supe- 
rior to anything that old whiggery had been able to arouse in 
its ranks, and were always ready for the hard work necessary 
for the success of the new party. Jesse K. Dubois had frankly 
admitted : " My observation is that we old line whigs belonging 
to the Republican ranks are not worth a curse to carry on a 
campaign and its only life is in the Democratic part of the 
ranks." 45 

The democratic party started the canvass at a complete 
disadvantage. The republican campaign was well under way 
before Douglas' nomination was accomplished; then the news 
reached party members well-nigh nervously exhausted, by the 
long-drawn-out fight at Charleston and Baltimore. An attempt 
was made at developing enthusiasm ; much was accomplished 
but not enough to destroy the impression that whereas the 
democracy had occupied the position of vantage in 1858, it was 
now relegated to second place in the matter of popular favor. 

Political oratory on behalf of Douglas was of a decidedly 
inferior brand. Realizing this, the "little giant" broke all 
traditions and entered the hustings in person, much to the dis- 
gust of his republican opponents. 46 He was soon in the midst 
of a most extraordinary canvass which took him on a four 
through New England, into the southern seaboard states, and 
back to the region of the middle states, until, nearly exhausted 
by his strenuous efforts and convinced by the October elections 
that Lincoln's success was inevitable, he repaired to the south- 
ern states to labor in behalf of the union and the peace of the 

The Douglas leaders in Illinois, left largely to their own 

45 J. K. Dubois to Trumbull, July 17, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts; cf. 
Illinois State Journal, May 23, 1860. 

48 Belleville Advocate, July 27, August 24, 1860. 


resources, waged a spiritless campaign. The old charges as to 
Negro equality were rung against the republican party; the 
old wolf cry of abolitionism was shouted without effect. The 
German vote was courted on the strength of Arntzen's place 
on the state ticket; appeals were made to the Americans as 
union men. Since the legislative canvass which was to deter- 
mine the possibility of Trumbull's reelection to the senate was 
second in importance only to the presidential contest, there was 
a desire on the part of some of the more unscrupulous to save 
as much as possible from the ruins. In an effort to duplicate 
the victory of 1858 by capturing the middle counties the demo- 
crats colonized doubtful points with Irish laborers from 
Chicago. 47 

It proved, however, a losing fight. Election day on Novem- 
ber 6 bore out the forecast of the October elections in the 
pivotal states of Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio. Lincoln 
swept the north with a quarter of a million more votes than 
his doughty opponent. Illinois with a Lincoln plurality of 
1, 200 placed itself squarely in the republican column. Breckin- 
ridge and Bell each received only one per cent of the vote. 
Richard Yates and the entire republican state ticket were car- 
ried into office by 12,000 votes. Democratic control of the 
legislature was destroyed and the reelection of Senator Trum- 
bull was assured. 

One of the most remarkable features of the campaign and 
election was the increase of republican strength in Egypt. In 
the region below Alton the party made a fourfold increase 
over Fremont's vote in 1856. Republicanism had fought an 
uphill battle in the southern counties, and these important 
gains were made against great odds. John A. Logan, the 
champion of Egyptian democracy, contested every inch of 
ground that was lost, sometimes by methods hardly scrupulous 
in character. It was by such tactics that the determined con- 
gressman acquired the cognomen of "Dirty Work" Logan. 
By threats of mob violence he compelled the editors and pub- 

47 Amos C. Babcock to Trumbull, August 27, 1860, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Canton Weekly Register, October n, 30, 1860; Illinois State Journal, October 
10, 31, 1860. S. G. Ward of Elgin explained in a letter to Trumbull, January 14, 
1860 [1861], how he had colonized eleven Kane county republican voters in 
Peoria. Trumbull manuscripts. 

Presidential K 


Q(1 fX 





Less than 5S% 

Q Union (Bell) over 5% 

D Democratic (Breckin- 
ridge) over 5% 


lishers of the Franklin Democrat at Benton to sell out at a 
ruinous sacrifice, because they had hauled down the Douglas 
and Johnson banner and were about to raise the standard of 
Lincoln and Hamlin. 48 Voters of republican leanings were 
reminded that schoolmasters had been dismissed for voting for 
Fremont in 1856; clergymen, antislavery propagandists, were 
threatened with an investment in the martyr's garb tar and 
feathers; the Reverend Mr. Ferree of Lebanon was pelted 
with eggs on the streets of Cairo while making a republican 
speech. 49 In spite of everything, however, the conversion of 
a native occasionally took place, while an influx of intelligent 
immigration from the eastern states continued to carry the 
leaven of republican sentiment into "dough-faced" Egypt. 50 

48 See statement of A. Sellers, Jr., and G. Sellers, in Illinois State Journal, 
September 20, 1860. A number of new republican papers made their appear- 
ance in the southern portion of the state following Lincoln's nomination. Chicago 
Press and Tribune, June n, 1860. Thomas H. Dawson sold out the Louisville 
[Illinois] Democrat to undertake the publication of a republican paper and the 
Mi. Carmel Register took the Lincoln train. 

49 Golconda Herald, March 9, clipped in Chicago Press and Tribune, April 
16, 1860; Cairo Gazette, July 26, 1860. 

50 B. L. Wiley to Trumbull, January 10, 1860, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Chicago Press and Tribune, October 16, 1860. 


AN IMPERATIVE need in the development of Illinois 
was labor. Glowing words of welcome met the incoming 
settler or toiler; he was assured that "the product of labor is 
the only real wealth," and lecturers traveled about discussing 
" the dignity of labor." Yet the worker found himself allotted 
as a wage for eleven or twelve hours a day a sum which usually 
allowed him only to eke out a frugal existence and to prosper 
only barring misfortune or unemployment. The great mass of 
unskilled labor was paid at the rate of seventy-five cents a day 
in 1850, and this wage rose to a dollar and five cents average 
by the end of the decade. Immigrants from foreign countries 
sometimes found it difficult to find remuneration even at that 
rate, and in 1860 they constituted three-fourths of the paupers 
of the state. The more exclusive field of skilled labor, though 
it paid rather better than this, was closed to many youths by 
four and five year periods of apprenticeship. 1 

With uncertain periods of employment on works of internal 
improvement, with many engaged in seasonal occupations, the 
growing cities and towns of Illinois found themselves con- 
fronted with a new problem of poverty. Unemployment in a 
period of high prices brought the helpless, unorganized work- 
ers and their families to dire straits and there were many 
such periods. Even the ordinary winter involved a severe 
strain upon the workers' finances; the unorganized poor relief 
of that day was ill prepared to cope with these demands. The 
winter of 1854, with a financial depression following a bad 
drought that sent wheat up to $1.40 a bushel retail, compelled 
the "friends of the poor" in the cities to recognize the prob- 

1 Chicago Democrat, May 17, 1848, April 9, 1849. According to the 1848 
report of the commissioners of patents, wages of mechanics and laborers were 
$8 to $10 a week in central and southern Illinois and $15 to $20 in the northern 
section. Illinois State Register, March 10, 1848. At the same time serving 
maids received a dollar a week and, no longer content to possess a single 
calico dress, were reputed recklessly extravagant. Ibid., August 18, 1848. 



lem and devise alleviative measures. Meanwhile the editor of 
the Chicago Democrat acutely analyzed the cause : " Reduction 
of the Wages of Labor High Prices High Rents, &c, &c." 
In the next two winters there was only the normal problem of 
poverty; but 1857, the panic year, brought a general state 
of unemployment. In the midst of plenty, with barns and 
storehouses full of grains and foodstuffs held back because of 
the low prices, twenty thousand workers in Chicago were with- 
out the usual means of earning a livelihood and with their 
dependents faced actual starvation; the other cities of the state 
confronted a similar problem. Though municipal works were 
advocated, municipal bakeries and soup-houses suggested, and 
the sale of foodstuffs at cost by the city administration was 
urged, little effective relief was rendered; and the workers 
struggled through the winter as best they could. Unemploy- 
ment continued well into the spring. In June there was not 
nearly enough work on the streets of Chicago at seventy-five 
cents a day for two days a week to supply the demand; it was 
therefore decided to reduce the wage to fifty cents and put 
one-third more men into the city's service. 2 

Reformers who confronted these conditions usually found 
the explanation of poverty in the new difficulty of securing 
cheap or free land for the potential settler, who was there- 
fore driven to the cities to seek a livelihood. Land reform, 
accordingly, was the cure-all put forward for the eco- 
nomic ills of the day. 3 Protection from exploitation by 
ruthless capitalists would come, they held, only when free 
I _ homesteads were placed at the disposal of all would-be tillers 
of the soil. 

Simultaneously with the appearance of a serious problem 
of poverty, the newspapers chronicled a great wave of crime 
in the larger cities of the state. The old offenses of the fron- 
tier were easily separated from these new developments ; horse- 
stealing in the rural districts continued to arouse vigilance 

2 The tendency was to shift the responsibility for poor relief from the 
county to the town or township. Laws of 1851, p. 183-184, 194-195 ; Laws of 1852, 
p. 113; Laws of 1853, P- 261-262, 275-277, 464-465; Alton Weekly Courier, 
December 7, 1854; Alton Courier, December 12, 29, 1854, January n, 25, 1855; 
Belleville Advocate, February 21, 1855; Chicago Weekly Democrat, February 
10, 1855; Rockford Register, July 19, 1858. 

3 See pages 89-90. 


committees which often dispensed lynch law to the thief as 
fearlessly as they applied a coat of tar and feathers to the 
violator of the community standard of morality. 4 These were 
not the urban crimes, however, the steady increase of which 
had been noticed in the cities. Various explanations for such 
growth had been given: some held that it was not real but 
merely the apparent result of improved facilities for knowing 
the evil transactions of society; some attributed it to the moral 
laxity that prevailed as a result of the growing inclination 
toward extravagance and dissipation; but an occasional critic 
soberly commented: "At the commencement of winter, espe- 
cially in the large cities, there is the prospect of more suffering 
and poverty, and crime is more rife, than at other seasons of 
the year. And it is observable, that most of the criminal acts 
now-a-days are committed in the cities." 5 In the closing years 
of the decade the alarming increase of crime seemed to be 
accountable on no other basis. 

Even the humble sociological observer of that day was 
able to discern some connection between this disorderly atmos- 
phere of the cities and the " demon drink." Intemperance 
was a prevailing feature of community life. Grogshops and 
saloons were licensed as fast as applications were made; Belle- 
ville, a city of 4,000, had forty licensed retail liquor establish- 
ments with " probably as many more unlicensed." The danger 
of such conditions had already been realized in the more set- 
tled states of the east; a temperance movement swept over 
New England, producing the "Maine law" brand of temper- 
ance, a crusade for total legislative prohibition on alcoholic 
liquors. Appearing just when the objectivity of the frontier 
was yielding to the subjective analysis of more intensive civili- 
zation, it is not surprising that the movement now spread to 
the states of the Mississippi valley and had a profound sig- 

4 Horse-thief detecting societies were still common in certain parts of the 
state. See notice of a meeting in 1852 of the Brighton society in Printer's 
Scrap Book. 

5 Belleville Democrat, December n, 1858. See editorials on the increase 
of crime in the Rockford Register, May 16, 1857; Chicago Daily Times, August 
28, 1857; Belleville Democrat, January 23, 1858; Chicago Democrat, August 13, 
1859; Urbana Clarion, October 29, 1859. In the lists of crime, thefts of food 
and clothing were quite common; many were juvenile offenders especially 
in the cases of food stealing. 


nificance in Illinois life and politics. In 1849 J onn Hawkins, 
the father of the " Washingtonian " temperance movement, 
appeared in Chicago; in an address on the necessity of temper- 
ance effort in that city, he declared that after having carefully 
inspected the situation in the Illinois metropolis he could frankly 
state that in all his tours over the United States he had never 
seen a city or town which seemed so much like one universal 
grogshop as Chicago. A little later considerable interest was 
aroused by the temperance lectures of James E. Vinton of 
New York, known as the " Mohawk Dutchman." These men 
found a fertile field for their evangels and spread their propa- 
ganda throughout the state. 6 

Up to the year 1847 temperance agitation in Illinois had 
been feeble and unpopular. Small temperance groups, chiefly 
offshoots of the New England movement, had worked in 
obscurity in Chicago, Springfield, Jacksonville, and other 
points. In November, 1845, tne Sons of Temperance, a secret 
ritualistic organization pledging its members to the practice 
of temperance, entered the state. Two years later when a 
state organization was formed there were only six divisions 
in Illinois; but before another six months 91 units had been 
chartered with a membership of 3,000, with new divisions 
rapidly forming. Their processions in the regalia of the order 
and their public exercises became a feature of all legal holiday 
celebrations. It was not long before temperance became " the 
order of the day;" a temperance paper, the Illinois Organ, 
was established, subsidiary organizations were formed a 
"Temple of Honor" for the especially fervent Sons of Tem- 
perance, the Cadets of Temperance for the younger genera- 
tion; and for zealous sisters local "Ladies Temperance 
Unions" and "Daughters of Temperance." In the course 
of four years of activity in the state the Sons of Temperance 
recruited only four thousand members; in the year of 1849- 
1850, however, 6,626 were enrolled, while the number of 
divisions rose to over 270. Although this pace could not 

6 Belleville Advocate, June 13, 1850; Western Citizen, August 28, 1849. 
Chicago had at that time 275 authorized drinking establishments, one for every 
sixty inhabitants; see Chicago Democrat clipped in Illinois Journal, July 21, 
1849; Alton Telegraph, December 28, 1849; Ottawa Free Trader, October 19, 
1850, March 8, 1851; Illinois State Register, October 14, 1852. 


be maintained, steady progress continued in the years that 
followed. 7 

It is to be remembered that the temperance cause was not 
built up into a single organization; various societies carried 
on their respective lines of activity. The churches often under- 
took independent campaigns against intemperance; the Cath- 
olics had their Sons of Temperance order and total abstinence 
societies. A good deal of temperance activity was carried on 
without formal and permanent organization; mass meeting 
and temperance conventions were assembled with remarkable 
ease. General state temperance union meetings were held 
regularly each year and a national convention at Chicago on 
November 18, 1857. 

The goal of the Sons of Temperance and similar societies 
was too vague for the more aggressive temperance advocates. 
Moral suasion, the approved method, did not promise entire 
reform and was thus unsatisfactory to those who wanted a 
complete purification of society. Many urged, therefore, that 
some form of political action ought to be undertaken which 
would strike at the root of the evil. The relative desirability 
of a high license system, with its " respectable " grog aristoc- 
racy working behind cut glass and mahogany cases, and of a 
low rate, producing a democratic system of bunghole dispens- 
ing "doggeries," was discussed by certain temperance forces, 
while others argued for the entire prohibition of liquor selling. 
The license system itself was scrutinized and attacked; the 
reformers pointed out countless infractions of the license laws 
both by the licensed dealers and by their unauthorized com- 
petitors. A vigilance committee in Ottawa kept a careful eye 
on the grogshops in the hope that it might eventually expel 

''Gem of the Prairie, February 19, 1848; Quincy Whig, April 19, 1848; 
Illinois Organ, July i, 1848, September 21, 1850. The movement now attracted 
favorable attention. " This institution bids fair to become one of the most 
efficient engines of social improvement ever devised by man, and all such as 
desire the amelioration of the condition of the human race, will not long with- 
hold from it their aid and influence," was the commendation of the editor of 
the Illinois Slate Register, October 22, 1847. Its political rival, the Journal, 
also undertook to point out the advantages of the movement and commended 
the rescue work carried on by the Sons of Temperance. Illinois Journal, August 
7, 1850. List of the 272 divisions on June i, 1850, Printer's Scrap Book. Illinois 
State Register, October 22, November 19, 1847, February n, 1848, August i, 
1850; Ottawa Free Trader, May 3, 1851; Chicago Democrat, May 8, 1851; 
Beardstovun Gazette, March 31, 1852; Alton Courier, October 29, 1853. 

every rumseller from town. 8 The no-license forces finally 
gathered strength to carry the elections in Quincy, Rockford, 
and Springfield in the spring of 1850 and barely lost in Ottawa. 

Many, however, for various reasons desired general state 
wide action. A cry arose for the complete banishment of the 
liquor dealer from the state. So much strength was displayed 
by the temperance forces that the legislature in January, 1851 
abolished the existing license law and prohibited the selling 
or giving away of spirituous liquors in less quantity than one 
quart; this law was expected to pacify temperance advocates, 
while the liquor forces were shrewd enough to see the impos- 
sibility of enforcement. The law justified the forecast and 
became immediately an absolute nullity until its repeal and the 
substitution of the license system in February, i853- 9 

Disillusioned by this development, the temperance forces 
now took up Maine law prohibition, which was being vigorously 
agitated throughout the middle west. Hard-headed business 
men who had at first eyed it with suspicion as the propaganda 
of the traveling tract peddler and the would-be reformer, iden- 
tified with all the incipient isms of the day, now came to look 
upon it as a force that might work incalculable good. As the 
Maine law came to be regarded as a preventive scheme more 
desirable than legislative interference in the field of morals 
and religion, the temperance movement underwent rapid recon- 
struction. Its most aggressive expression was now found in 
a newly created system of Maine law alliances with township 
and county divisions and an active state organization. By the 
beginning of 1854 forecasts were made that two-thirds of the 
voters of the state would be members of the different alliances 
and the enactment of the Maine law was regarded as a settled 
fact. 10 

A more careful analysis revealed the fact that the strength 
of this movement lay in the northern counties in the old New 
England districts; neither Egypt where, according to its 

8 Ottawa Free Trader, June 8, 1850. 

9 Laws of 1851, p. 18-19; Laws of 1853, p. 91-92, 127; Belleville Advocate, 
January 30, 1851; Illinois Organ, February i, 1851; Western Citizen, February 
xi, 1851. 

10 Joliet Signal, March 9, 1852; Alton Courier, September 16, 1853; Peru 
Daily Chronicle, February 14, 1854. 

spokesman, " the use of intoxicating drinks seems more natu- 
ral than the use of water," ll nor the democratic strongholds 
in the north were effectively organized for the cause. Peti- 
tions, however, poured into the legislature from all sides 
requesting prohibition legislation. When a special committee 
in February, 1853, reported adversely upon a petition with 
twenty-six thousand signatures which had been referred to it, 
only greater activity was aroused among the Maine law forces. 
When in the session of 1854 the general assembly again 
ignored the demand that the Maine law question be submitted 
to the people, the temperance forces entered the field of state 
politics with a grim determination. Previous to this the most 
significant political action of the temperance forces was the 
canvass made by them in Chicago in the municipal election of 
1852. Placing a city ticket in the field, they conducted an active 
canvass and ran second in the field of four mayoralty candi- 
dates, in spite of the fact that their original candidate for 
mayor was induced to leave the field. The contest was again 
attempted in 1854 with even greater success. 12 

Up to this time the great political stumblingblock for the 
temperance forces had been the democratic party. The Spring- 
field machine was strongly opposed to the temperance propa- 
ganda and inclined to favor making it a party issue, inasmuch 
as nearly every whig paper in the state was out for temper- 
ance ; 13 the democratic party had thereby acquired the nick- 
name of "whisky party." There were democrats, however, 
who saw the evil consequences of the dictation that came from 
Springfield; they saw that the temperance issue had already 
counted subtly against them in county, legislative, and even 
congressional elections; this rebellious spirit helped to feed 
the anti-Nebraska revolt of 1854. In several districts, where 
the democratic party split over the temperance issue, inde- 
pendent temperance democratic candidates were placed in the 

11 Cairo Weekly Times and Delta, February 3, 1858. 

12 Aurora Guardian, January 19, February 23, 1853. The Illinois Central 
refused to transport spirituous liquors over any part of its seven hundred miles 
of railroad. Belleville Advocate, August 17, 1853; Chicago Democrat, February 
9 to March 3, 1852; Free West, February 9, March 9, 1854. 

13 Alton Courier, November 18, 1853. 


Temperance agitation at this time found an ally in the 
antislavery extension propaganda the enemy of slavery the 
natural foe of rum. Some even declared that the Nebraska 
question was of no greater importance than that of the Maine 
law; in the northern section, temperance conventions nomi- 
nated the congressional and legislative candidates put forward 
by the new republican movement. 14 

The anti-Nebraska victory of 1854 was, therefore, more 
than an anti-Nebraska victory, it was a reform triumph, a 
temperance victory. The new legislature was a strong anti- 
Nebraska temperance body, anxious to secure the enactment 
of the Maine law. The opponents of prohibition hoping to 
save themselves from certain defeat immediately suggested 
that any legislation ought to be submitted to the people for 
ratification. Finally, however, the temperance advocates were 
able to push to enactment a somewhat ambiguous measure for 
total prohibition; it provided for a popular referendum, at a 
special election on the first Monday in June, i855. 15 

Thereupon an exciting three months' contest began between 
the Maine law and anti-prohibition forces. Both sides put 
their full strength into the field. Temperance workers stumped 
the state, copies of their organs were strewn broadcast, their 
organizations conducted a systematic campaign with the sup- 
port of a majority of the regular newspapers. But the oppo- 
sition revealed strength that was scarcely in accordance with 
calculations. They used to advantage both the fact that the 
Maine law had not been successful in the New England states 
that had given it a trial and that real temperance did not 
involve prohibition. Morality on compulsion was decried and 
the revolutionary interference with personal liberty that the 
law involved, while the farmer was reminded that the law 
would have a tendency to destroy the market and lower the 
price of corn. These arguments were used with telling effect 
in Egypt, in the German stronghold around Belleville, and 

14 The Free West, the antislavery organ, was one of the strongest tem- 
perance journals in the state. Aurora Guardian, September 14, October 19, 
1854; Canton Weekly Register, October n, 1854; Free West, October 5, 1854. 

15 Alton Courier, November 20, 23, 1854. Thomas J. Turner, the new 
speaker, was a " fiery liquor prohibitionist " as well as an " uncompromising 
abolitionist." St. Clair Tribune, January 13, 1855; Laws of 1855, p. 3-30. 


among the Germans and Irish of Chicago, where some serious 
riots took place on April 21 and 22, 1855. Anti-prohibitionist 
papers were started in Chicago and Belleville, and the liquor 
dealers of Chicago subscribed a large fund with which to fight 
ratification. As a result the returns of the heaviest vote ever 
cast in the state shattered the hopes of the overconfident tem- 
perance forces. The northern counties lived up to expectations, 
but their "light" was smothered in what was called by them 
the "moral and intellectual darkness" of southern Illinois. 16 
This defeat, followed by the general shift of interest to the 
slavery controversy, took the wind out of the sails of the state 
wide temperance movement. Local eddies, however, made 
possible the adoption of prohibition ordinances in various towns 
and cities. Some victories had already been won in this field. 
Jacksonville, always a strong temperance center, passed a pro- 
hibition ordinance which was tested in the courts and resulted 
in a decision by the state supreme court in favor of local option 
without legislative authorization. Springfield had already en- 
acted a prohibition ordinance in 1854; Ottawa, Rockford, 
Aurora, Joliet, Canton, Macomb, Princeton, and other cities 
also gave it a trial. All Winnebago county became dry terri- 
tory. 17 But the general unwillingness to assume responsibility 
for law enforcement permitted first a stealthy evasion of these 
ordinances and later complete and open free trade in every- 
thing intoxicating with the result that public opinion fell back 
upon the old license system, under which the old evils continued 
unabated. Chicago, with some eight hundred liquor dealers 
organized to defend the traffic, never got any farther than a 
strict license ordinance. Gradually by the end of the decade, 
a reaction set in which relegated the cause of temperance into 
the dim background. Temperance societies were no longer 

16 Koerner, Memoirs, 1:622-623; Illinois Journal, April 22, 26, 1855; Aurora 
Beacon, April 26, 1855; Aurora Guardian, June 14, 1855. The majority against 
prohibition was 14,447, Illinois election statistics manuscripts ; cf. Ottawa Weekly 
Republican, July 7, 1855. The banner county was Winnebago with a vote of 
2,163 to 363 for prohibition. The Germans of Chicago held a procession and 
meeting in celebration of the defeat of the liquor law. Chicago Weekly Demo- 
crat, July 7, 1855. 

17 Aurora Guardian, May 4, 1854; Rockford Register, April 9, 1859. Even 
villages in southern Illinois, including Carlinville, Jonesboro, Carbondale, and 
Metropolis, caught the contagion and experimented with prohibition. See Central 
Illinois Gazette, June 22, 1859; Quincy Whig, July 17, 1854. 


heard of; even the "Sons" appeared to have left the field. 
The churches, formerly silent partners in. the temperance move- 
ment, found themselves unable to revive interest in the lost 
cause. 18 

Throughout the struggle by the temperance forces for 
effective legal action, the more fanatical agitators now and 
again had recourse to mob action. Many a cask of liquor was 
absorbed by the thirsty soil when a storehouse was quietly 
entered and holes were bored into the containers to drain them 
of their contents. In other instances the work was done boldly 
and openly; "liquor riots" repeatedly took place in which 
bands of leading citizens attacked the hated groggeries, de- 
stroyed the liquor found on the premises, and threatened the 
proprietors with personal violence if they did not choose a 
more honorable calling. Inasmuch as there was a disposition 
to deplore such fanaticism, however, this work was often left 
for enraged feminine victims of the liquor traffic. Many an 
unnamed Carrie Nation came forward to lead her band of 
followers in a destructive assault upon the offending whisky 
shops; armed with hatchets, rolling pins, broomsticks, kitchen 
knives, and fire shovels, they routed the enemy, leaving empty 
barrels and broken glasses and decanters to decorate the 
streets. 19 The temperance forces generally extended their 
approval to such raids regardless of whether havoc was done 
to the property of licensed dealers or to illicit violators of 
prohibitory ordinances. This aggressive work of the women 
attracted more attention than their active and valuable services 
in the regularly organized temperance movement. 

Up to this time the women's rights movement had found 
its strength largely in the east; Illinois as a western state had 
been somewhat slow to respond. Now, with the passing of the 

18 Father McGorrisk, the Catholic priest at Ottawa, was a prohibitionist 
until he made an investigation and found that the liquor sales increased con- 
siderably and the establishments increased from twenty to thirty licensed shops 
in 1855 to 143 illicit doggeries in 1857. Ottawa Free Trader, June 6, 1857. See 
also Ottawa Weekly Republican, July 26, 1856, June 13, 1857; Presbytery 
Reporter, 4: 89. 

19 Peru Daily Chronicle, April 27, 28, 1854. These nineteenth century 
amazons did effective work at one time or other in Milford, Lincoln, Farming- 
ton, Canton, Piano, Tonica, Towanda, Liberty, and Winnebago. Quincy Whig, 
March 27, 1854; Canton Weekly Register, March 20, 1856; Illinois State Journal, 
March 25, 1856; Urbana Union, March 27, 1856; Joliet Signal, June 8, 1858. 


frontier, there was an awakening. Men who represented other 
radical movements of the day had been the first to find courage 
to present this new propaganda before the public; the versatile 
H. Van Amringe of Chicago pleaded for woman's rights and 
listed the cause with land reform and abolition in his lecture 
repertoire. Next women propagandists took the stage, though 
at first limiting themselves to discourses to the members of 
their sex on anatomy and physiology. In 1853, however, Miss 
Olive Starr Wait, a native of Madison county, and niece of 
William S. Wait, the Illinois reformer, attracted widespread 
attention by her lectures on " Women's Rights " in southwestern 
Illinois. Two years later her lecture route included the state 
capital. Miss Wait had a happy faculty of presenting her 
subject in a manner which offended few and attracted many. 
" For chaste elocution, happy illustration, beauty of diction and 
depth of pathos, these lectures have been but seldom equaled," 
wrote a discriminating patron. 20 At the end of 1853 Lucy 
Stone visited Chicago and then started on a tour of the state 
on a feminist mission. In the discussion that followed, the 
removal of legal restrictions on women was advocated and 
even found supporters in the legislative halls at Spring- 
field. 21 

There was a good deal of confusion as to just what the 
women's rights movement covered. Few advocated the be- 
stowal of the franchise, and no one included political equality 
in the matter of officeholding. Admitting a distinct sphere for 
womankind, the women's rights forces insisted upon the injus- 
tice of contemporary legal discriminations as to property- 
holding, and in addition claimed those rights, the denial of 
which would defraud woman's very nature. Confined to the 
narrow training of the contemporary female seminary or col- 
lege, shut out of the high schools and colleges, many women 
labored to secure for their sex equality in education. " Let 
women be educated," urged one champion, "Tis her right, not 
the fashionable education of the boarding school, an education 
too often, of the head, at the expense of the heart! There 

20 N. M. McCurdy to Joseph Gillespie, December 15, 1855, Gillespie manu- 
scripts. Miss Wait later became the wife of Honorable Jehu Baker. 

21 Illinois Journal, January 24, 1853; Chicago Weekly Democrat, September 
17, 1853. 


are five kinds of education which every woman has a right to: 
intellectual, moral, social, physical, and industrial." 22 

Such advocacy began to have its effect; although Illinois 
Baptists, like the Reverend R. F. Ellis of Alton, were scandal- 
ized at the news that Miss Antoinette L. Brown had been 
ordained as Congregationalist pastor of South Butler, New 
York, "in a Baptist house." Yet within five years a Mrs. 
Hubbard, one of the earliest women preachers in Illinois, was 
preaching to a crowded house of "hardshell" Baptists in a 
small meeting house in Madison county. 23 

One off-shoot of the women's rights agitation was the 
attempt to establish a more sensible costume for women, since 
it was the feeling of many that woman's inequality grew out 
of the evils of dress which by ancient custom make " our women 
feeble when they might be strong," " stooping when they might 
be straight," and "helpless when they might be efficient." 
Feminine dress would not permit the vigorous physical exer- 
cise which develops superior intellects, and man, thus deprived 
of the society of women in many of his avocations and diver- 
sions, regarded her as his inferior. This was the argument of 
the dress reformers, whose adherents demonstrated their seri- 
ousness in 1851 and again in 1858, when wearers of the 
bloomer costume, designed by Mrs. Bloomer at New York, 
made their appearance on the streets of various Illinois cities. 
For the "Long dangling street sweeper" which had consti- 
tuted the female dress, there was substituted an abbreviated 
" skirt," reaching to the " courtesy benders." Bloomer parties 
were held to keep up the courage of the unterrified who braved 
the gaze of the curious and the sharp tongues of the town 
gossips. Many women, safe from the public gaze, enjoyed the 
convenience which the costume afforded for the performance 
of housework. 24 Soon, however, the number of conversions 

22 Alton Courier, January 27, 1854. 

23 In May, 1859, the first class graduated in the women's department of 
Sloan's Central Commercial College at Chicago, " the first class of ladies who 
have received a thorough commercial education in the West, if not in the 
United States," Chicago Press and Tribune, May 19, 1859. Alton Courier, 
October 13, 1853; Stahl, "Early Women Preachers in Illinois," Illinois State 
Historical Society, Journal, 9:484-485. 

24 See resolutions of dress reform meeting at Aurora, Aurora Beacon, April 
8, 1858. 


declined; and the traditions of centuries triumphed over the 
would-be reformers. 

With the passing of the frontier atmosphere, the church 
struggled to hold its monopoly of the sabbath against forces of 
progress which made it difficult to cease worldly affairs on the 
seventh day and against a popular tendency toward kinds of 
relaxation that could not adjust themselves to a puritanical sab- 
bath observance. Many stores and shops kept open doors 
on Sunday and seemed to take special pains to make as large 
a display as possible. 25 Sunday railroads, newspapers, and 
mail service had their beginning. Certain communities took 
on a gala atmosphere on Sundays; militia companies in uniform 
paraded to music while companies of young folk spent the day 
in merrymaking and the patrons of the liquor shops defied all 
attempts at Sunday closing. 

All this offended the upholders of a sturdy backwoods 
puritanism. An organized movement for sabbath observance 
had existed in the state for several years; a Southwestern Illi- 
nois Sabbath Convention was organized in 1846 and a similar 
organization existed in the northern part of the state. In May, 
1854, a sabbath convention for the entire northwest met in 
Chicago. These forces had secured the enactment of a state 
law for sabbath observance as well as many city ordinances 
prohibiting the sale of liquor on Sunday. They worked with 
zeal to stay the ever-alarming increase of sabbath desecration 
in all directions, but especially did they challenge the new 
encroachments of commercial enterprise. Attention was di- 
rected to the alarming desecration threatened by Sunday trains; 
a sabbath convention met at Chicago in May, 1854, and 
denounced this danger as more appalling than from any other 
source. 26 Objection was even made to the running of the 
Chicago horse railway or omnibus lines. Nevertheless, it 
became more and more evident that on this score the Sunday 

25 Rock River Democrat, July 5, 1853. 

26 " If business monopolies set the example, the effect of that example 
will be to demoralize the country, and destroy the influence of the Bible and its 
ordinances," declared the editor of the Alton Courier who was willing to place 
the ban on "telling the news, though from the latter good may indirectly result," 
Alton Courier, May 20, 1854; Free West, May 25, 1854. Many editors of polit- 
ical journals took the same stand; also Ottawa Free Trader, June 18, 1853. 


observance movement was an abstraction that could not stay 
the hands of the clock of time. 

The tendency toward democratic Sunday amusement gained 
headway in the towns and cities. This was especially true of 
the German element which in the summer months repaired to 
nearby picnic grounds or Sunday gardens and spent the day 
in merrymaking. To the Germans of Chicago, who associated 
with the sabbath not only the idea of religious worship but 
also the festive holiday atmosphere, the gayety of their Sunday 
gardens at Cottage Grove or of the Holstein picnic grounds 
three miles out on the Milwaukee road seemed an inalienable 
right. On the same principle the Belleville Germans assumed 
certain privileges in the parades of their military company and 
of their "gymnastic infidel company" that annoyed their fel- 
low-citizens. 27 The Northwestern Sabbath Convention of 
1854 therefore declared that "the vast influx of immigrants 
joining us from foreign and despotic countries, who have 
learned in their native land to hate the established religion and 
the Sabbath law as part of it, calls on us for special prayer 
and labor in behalf of this portion of our population, to 
reclaim them from this fatal error." 28 Such reclamation, 
however, made little progress; the socially-minded westerner, 
indeed, found an appeal in this new gospel of the joy of life 
that could not be offset by his own evangels. When, therefore, 
the German's right to his peculiar form of Sunday observance 
was threatened, sturdy champions among the native elements 
of the population came to his aid. 

All the efforts of the restrictionists, therefore, seemed to 
end in failure. With the city clergy clamoring for the rigid 
enforcement of state laws and local ordinances, 29 conditions in 
Chicago were described as follows : " Here in Chicago, we have 
fifty-six churches open on Sunday, during the forenoon and 
evening, but at the same time, there are no less than eighty 
ball rooms, in each of which a band plays from morning till 

^Chicago Daily Times, September 6, 1857; Chicago Press and Tribune, 
July 14, 1859. Protests were sent to Governor French by William H. Under- 
wood and others under date of September 20, 1851, July 8, 1852, French manu- 

28 Alton Courier, May 23, 1854. 

89 Chicago Press and Tribune, July 16, 1859. 


midnight, and waltzing goes on without intermission. In addi- 
tion to these festivities we have two theaters, each with its 
performers in tights and very short garments, rivaling Elsler 
in their graceful evolutions. Saloons have their front doors 
closed by proclamation, but do a thriving business through side 
entrances." 30 

Health conditions in this period reflected the survival of 
frontier optimism and neglect. Although the traditional ague 
and fever did not long trouble the pioneer, yet the new con- 
ditions of the more thickly settled towns and cities bred disease 
which spread in epidemics through the community. With back 
yards, alleys, and streets filled with filth and offal and giving 
forth a fetid odor, with the environs of the public buildings 
and stores especially offensive, with market houses strewn with 
" sheep feet, pieces of decayed meat and vegetables," immunity 
from disease could scarcely have been expected. Impure and 
contaminated water supply was the rule, while the children of 
Chicago and other cities were given the milk from cows " fed 
on whisky slops with their bodies covered with sores and tails 
all eat off." 31 Smallpox was a dread visitor liable to appear 
anywhere during the winter months; vaccination was possible 
only to a limited degree and was scarcely popular. Hydro- 
phobia was the natural consequence of the packs of dogs that 
ran at large in the streets for the city dweller of that day 
was not able to abandon in urban life the former guardian 
of the isolated farmhouse and the assistant of the shepherd. 

But the pestilence which left behind the widest path of 
destruction was the cholera, the product of the filth that was 
accepted as a matter of course in the frontier settlement. A 
year of special calamity was 1848 ; cholera, making its appear- 
ance in the early spring, came to prevail all over the country 
and in Illinois decimated the population of many a town and 
village. Chicago, Springfield, and some of the larger cities 
under the lead of the local health authorities had taken simple 
precautions which greatly reduced the fatalities. In the crowded 

30 Chicago Daily Times, clipped in Mound City Emporium, November 12, 
1857; cf. Chicago Democrat, May 13, 1858. 

31 Alton Weekly Courier, July 27, 1854. Editorial entitled "Why So Many 
Children Die in Chicago," Chicago Weekly Democrat, June 4, 1859. Nine out of 
every ten quarts of the milk drank in Chicago came from this source. 


portions of the smaller communities the victims were especially 
numerous. The mayor of Springfield appointed June 28 as a 
day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer in view of the probable 
advent of cholera in that city; by July death was so busy in 
their midst that a state of panic existed among the people of 
the city. West Belleville lost over fifty out of a population 
of 350. Where the disease raged at its worst a majority of 
the population left for the country, and most of the stores were 
closed, usually all the groceries. Almost everyone felt or 
affected to feel the unusual depression and other premonitory 
symptoms of the plague. 32 The streets were empty except for 
the doctors rushing from victim to victim and the coffin-makers 
and undertakers, following closely on their heels ready to carry 
the corpses to the cemeteries. Huge piles of wood were lighted 
to purify the atmosphere and the smoke hung low on the heavy 
oppressive air of the prairie midsummer. It was a never to 
be forgotten year for those who survived the long strain. 

In the autumn the dread disease disappeared. Winter 
seemed to clear the atmosphere; and much of the old careless- 
ness in sanitary matters returned, especially where the losses 
had not been heavy. As a result Chicago, Galena, and a few 
centers had serious visitations in the summer of 1850 with 
heavy mortalities. In 1851 the insidious disease reached into 
the interior towns of the state, many of which had been pre- 
viously immune. 33 It presently subsided, however, and in later 
years reappeared only in isolated cases. 

Medical service in the state improved steadily during these 
years. At the beginning of the decade Rush Medical College 
at Chicago with a full corps of instructors was turning out new 
physicians every year; Illinois College at Jacksonville for a 
brief period attempted medical education with a full medical 
faculty. In 1855 a Chicago homeopathic school, the Hahne- 
man Medical College, was given a charter; and arrangements 
were made to open in October, 1860. At the same time Lind 
University at Lake Forest was organizing a medical depart- 

32 Western Citizen, July 31, 1849; Koerner, Memoirs, 1:543-544. 

33 Western Citizen, July 30, August 6, 13, 20, 27, 1850; Chicago Daily 
Journal, August 23, September 3, 1850. Galena had fifty to sixty deaths in 
four days; the total of deaths by cholera in Chicago was 441. S. Sutherland 
to French, August 19, 1851, French manuscripts. 


ment at Chicago. At a meeting in Springfield a State Medical 
Society was organized in June, 1850. There was a fine spirit 
of public service in the profession which usually worked inces- 
santly largely on a credit basis. Chicago had a large city hos- 
pital under joint allopathic and homeopathic management. 
Meantime Dr. J. D. Freeman of Jerseyville had undertaken to 
propagate an eclectic movement throughout the state with an 
organ, the Eclectic Advertiser, " devoted to medical reform 
and foreign and domestic news" in which he vigorously at- 
tacked the " shocking barbarity " of old school medical practice. 
The meeting of the Western Dental Convention at Quincy in 
1858 also testified to the steady progress of the state away 
from pioneer conditions. 34 

Out of this vast ferment, in which the bacilli forming 
reactions of the frontier were furnishing the forces from which 
a twentieth century culture might develop, the abolition move- 
ment stood out most uncompromisingly. A sturdy band of 
idealists conducted their propaganda in utter disregard of the 
scorn and hostility of those who upheld the traditions of con- 
servatism and respectability. Ichabod Codding, Zebina East- 
man, Philo Carpenter and Charles V. Dyer of Chicago, C. W. 
Hunter of Alton, Shubal York of Edgar county, A. M. Good- 
ing of La Salle county, and President Jonathan Blanchard of 
Knox College were a few of the brave spirits who with a trans- 
planted New England idealism cooperated with Owen Lovejoy 
of Bureau county in maintaining the traditions of the movement 
of the thirties. Like Garrison and his followers they were 
thorough radicals, hospitable to every reform that came their 
way. They were enthusiastic believers in the brotherhood of 
man: they were champions of world peace and conscientious 
objectors to all war, they were staunch defenders of the rights 
of labor, they were advocates of land reform, of free soil as 
a check upon capitalists and monopolists, they were supporters 
of women's rights, and they took a leading part in the propa- 
ganda for educational reform. 35 

The popular free soil movement of 1848 tended to absorb 

34 Illinois Journal, June 5, 1850; Dr. E. N. Banks to French, July 2, 1851, 
French manuscripts; Chicago Press and Tribune, July 13, 1858. 

35 See their organs, Gem of the Prairie, Western Citizen, etc. 


and obscure the activities of these liberty party men and fur- 
ther to discredit those abolitionists who held aloof, as "bitter- 
enders." Dyer, running as the liberty party candidate for gov- 
ernor in 1 848, secured only 4,893 votes while Van Buren polled 
15,702. When the free soil movement collapsed in 1850, 
however, the abolitionists saw their opportunity to reorganize; 
taking advantage of the general hostility to the fugitive slave 
law, they framed the protestations of the various churches 
against that enactment on the basis of the fundamental sinful- 
ness of slaveholding; a preliminary meeting at Chicago on 
December 9, 1850, opened the way for the organization of the 
Illinois State Antislavery Society at a convention at Granville 
on January 8 and 9, i85i. 36 The new movement was launched 
under favorable auspices; its sponsors promulgated an elabo- 
rate constitution and a declaration of principles which asserted 
that slavery was " a heinous crime against the laws of God 
and man " and as such should be " immediately repented of and 
abolished/' Soon, however, the conservative reaction under 
the magic spell of the "compromise" brought about the col- 
lapse of the movement in so far as making a successful popular 
appeal was concerned. In the election of 1852 they found 
themselves compelled to make a common cause with the free 
soil remnants but polled slightly less than 10,000 votes. When 
the Kansas-Nebraska act revived the slavery agitation in 1854, 
the abolitionists were so discredited that the anti-Nebraska 
forces in Illinois refused to follow their lead for a new repub- 
lican party, and only gradually did they work their way into 
positions of importance in the party that raised Lincoln to the 
presidency. 37 

In spite of the popular odium which prevented abolitionists 
from securing political control, they did wield an indirect influ- 
ence upon the old parties by compelling them in northern 
Illinois districts to take more advanced antislavery ground. 
On account of the abolition leaven, too, the conservatives were 
never able to undermine the influence which their more liberal 
colleagues derived from this source. Indeed such shrewd poli- 
ticians as John Wentworth, Jesse O. Norton, E. B. Washburne, 

36 Western Citizen, December 17, 24, 1850, January 21, 1851. 

37 Eastman, History of the Anti-Slavery Agitation in Illinois, 


and others, who led boldly for freedom when the public mind 
was favorable but insisted on a strict party regularity until 
they definitely abandoned the old parties for the republican 
organization, openly advocated many propositions which were 
usually looked upon as the peculiar monopoly of the uncom- 
promising abolitionists. 38 

With the growing importance of the slavery issue and 
with the serious moral issue raised by the abolition forces, the 
religious organizations furnished one of the most effective 
fields for abolition propaganda. As the national organizations 
had wrestled with this question and found it the rock upon 
which they had split into northern and southern wings, so within 
the state the fight was taken up by contending factions in almost 
every denomination. The clergy in general came to be divided 
into an antislavery camp and into a party that abhorred the 
menace of abolitionism. 

Episcopalians believing that the conservative spirit of their 
church was one of the great bonds that held together the union, 
steered a safe noncommittal course between the Scylla of 
slavery and the Charybdis of abolition. The Methodist church 
in Illinois prided itself on its solemn and earnest protest against 
the evil of slavery and pointed to its vigorous anti-fugitive slave 
law resolutions; nevertheless, at the same time it acquiesced 
in the sanction of the institution in the slaveholding states to 
such an extent that zealous antislavery members from the 
northern part of the state demanded a separation of the church 
" from its criminal connection with slavery." 30 Most Congre- 
gational, Baptist, and Unitarian churches were controlled by 
elements unequivocally committed to abhorrence of the institu- 
tion of slavery; they even formally adopted "higher law" 
ground in their denunciation of the fugitive slave law. The 
Western Unitarian Conference at Alton in May, 1857, almost 
unanimously adopted a strong antislavery report following 
the secession of the protesting St. Louis delegation. 40 

The old school Presbyterians continued along the lines of 

38 Eastman, History of the Anti-Slavery Agitation in Illinois. 

39 Illinois Journal, August i, 2, 1855; Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1860. 

40 Western Citizen, November 5, 12, December 3, 1850; Free West, May 25, 
1854; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, May 21, 1857. 


their traditional conservatism and refused to give consideration 
to any form of the slavery question. Within the new school 
group there were many who sought to proclaim the wickedness 
of slaveholding and, in view of the vacillating policy of the 
general assembly, to effect a general withdrawal or separation 
from that body. A free Presbyterian organization with a con- 
stitution declaring slavery a sin against God, had been formed 
in 1847 out f seceders from both the old and new school 
bodies; to it were attracted many earnest antislavery men in 
Illinois whose convictions of duty threw them out of sympathy 
with the religious groups to which they belonged. Two free 
Presbyterian churches existed in Illinois in 1851, at Paris and 
Bernadotte. 41 

Most Illinois new school Presbyterians deplored the work- 
ings of the whole system of slavery as it existed in this country; 
they were divided, however, on the proposition to refuse the 
hand of the fellowship to the slaveholder in order "to free 
the Presbyterian church from all participation and communion 
with slaveholding." 42 Conservatives within the group even 
suppressed in their official publication antislavery resolutions 
agreed upon as a result of the persistence of the radical anti- 
slavery members. This issue led the synod of Illinois in 1849 
to consider the expediency of withdrawing from the general 
assembly. The presbytery of Ottawa decided not to send 
commissioners until an unequivocal non-fellowship declaration 
was made. The presbytery of Illinois in session at Pisgah 
September 20, 1856, petitioned the general assembly to pro- 
claim slaveholding " as prima facie evidence of unfitness for 
church membership," and several other presbyteries took the 
same stand in the following year. 43 The abolition group in 
the Third Presbyterian church in Chicago precipitated this 
issue in the spring of 1851 and carried a resolution declar- 
ing that as long as the unsatisfactory policy of the general 
assembly on this issue continued, the church would " stand 
aloof from all meetings of Presbytery, Synod, and Assembly 

41 Western Citizen, December 17, 1850, January 28, 1851. 

42 Ibid., November 13, 1849. 

43 Reverend Lemuel Foster protested such suppression by the Alton pres- 
bytery in his little paper, The Truth Seeker, Alton, July, 1848; Western Citizen, 
January 8, 1850; Presbytery Reporter, 3:356, 504; 4:28. 


and thus .... free and relieve itself of all responsibil- 
ity." The pastor, a strong antislavery man but a stauncher Pres- 
byterian, appealed to the presbytery which declared that the 
members who voted for the resolutions had disqualified them- 
selves to act as members of the Presbyterian church and thus 
expelled a majority of the members of the church. The expelled 
members thereupon arranged to organize themselves into a Con- 
gregational church, the first to be organized in Chicago. 44 

An important figure in these church controversies over 
slavery was President Jonathan Blanchard of Knox College; 
convinced that "the heart of action in the Church" was the 
missions, he declared that from them " the foul spirit of Slavery 
must be dislodged before it will be cast out of the Church." 45 
Accordingly, beginning in 1847 he had led a fight at the annual 
meetings of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign 
Missions in favor of refusing to receive slaveholders into the 
mission churches. This fight he kept up until hope was aban- 
doned that the American board would relinquish its partnership 
with slaveholders. Then the Illinois Wesleyan Missionary 
conference commended the uncompromising opposition to 
slavery of the American Missionary Association and urged 
affiliation with it instead of the formation of rival missionary 
societies among antislavery Christians. President Blanchard 
showed, however, that the American Missionary Society and 
similar denominational organizations permitted the member- 
ship of slaveholders; antislavery Baptists even felt compelled 
to organize the American Baptist Free Mission Society. In 
July, 1852, therefore, a group of uncompromising opponents 
of slaveholding fellowship met at Chicago and formed the 
Free Mission Society for the Northwest. For the same reason 
the Western Tract Convention was organized in 1859 out of 
antislavery seceders from the conservative American Tract 
Society. 46 

This struggle tended to break down the denominational 
barriers that separated the Christian antislavery forces. With 

44 Western Citizen, February n, May 6, 20, 1851. 

45 Ibid., March 18, 1851; see also issues of August 21, 1849, July 29, 1851. 

46 Ibid., March 25, June 24, September 2, 1851, June i, July 20, 1852, 
Chicago Democrat, October 19, 1859. 


the prevailing " adoption of the doctrine of expediency as a 
substitute for the law of Christ," 47 churchmen could not but 
feel at times that the slavery issue was of more importance 
than sectarianism. A state convention to consider the union 
of the Illinois Congregationalist associations and new school 
presbyteries was called in 1850 with the approval of Dr. 
Blanchard and a number of prominent clergymen, including the 
Reverend Flavel Bascom, pastor of the First Presbyterian 
church of Chicago, and L. H. Loss of the Third church of 
that city. But this movement, intended to " deliver those of 
us who are Presbyterians from our ecclesiastical connection 
with slaveholders, through the General Assembly, and enable 
us to withdraw Christian fellowship from them without incur- 
ring the charge of violating ecclesiastical constitution by so 
doing," 48 brought results. 

Non-sectarian energy was in the end largely absorbed in the 
Christian Antislavery Convention which held a national meet- 
ing at Cincinnati in April, 1850. A Chicago meeting in prep- 
aration for the convention drew considerable support from 
prominent clergymen and laymen, and a large delegation was 
sent to Cincinnati. A Christian Antislavery Convention for 
northern Illinois met at Ottawa in May, with an adjourned 
session in September, to effect a permanent organization of all 
Illinois Christians who believed in non-fellowship as the only 
proper Christian position to assume toward slaveholders. The 
first regular semiannual meeting was held at Granville, Putnam 
county, in January, 1851. Dr. Blanchard and other Illinoisians 
on the general committee appointed by the Cincinnati conven- 
tion arranged for the next interstate meeting at Chicago, July 
3-5, 1851. Blanchard was chosen to preside over an enthu- 

47 Western Citizen, January 22, 1850. There were also direct apolo- 
gists for slavery in the religious groups. C. H. McCormick, the reaper manu- 
facturer, tried to counteract the antislavery tendencies in Chicago Presby- 
terianism. Rockford Register, October 3, 1857. The Chicago Prairie Herald, 
established in 1846 by J. B. Walker, a professed abolitionist, was taken over in 
1851 by a new editor who published articles to show that slaveholding of the 
worst description was practiced by members of the first Christian churches and 
that neither Christ nor his apostles denounced it. As a result many of the 
subscribers of the Prairie Herald shifted their support to the Christian Era, 
edited by Reverend Epaphras Goodman. Western Citizen, March 18, August 
12, 26, 1851. 

4 * Ibid., January 21, 1851; Moses and Kirkland, History of Chicago, 2: 


siastic session of 250 delegates which the regular papers passed 
over as a meeting of fanatics and enemies of the country. 
The Illinois delegation consisted of 130 persons, of whom 60 
were Congregationalists, 29 Baptists, and the rest scattered 
between a half dozen denominations. The only Chicago clergy- 
man who actively participated in this meeting was Reverend 
A. M. Stewart of the Scotch Presbyterian church. A western 
branch of a similar organization known as the League of 
Universal Brotherhood was founded in Illinois and during its 
brief existence seemed to find favor with the Methodists of 
the state. 49 

The Christian Antislavery Convention disappeared from 
existence during the conservative reaction after 1851; but in 
October, 1859, it was revived at a general meeting in Chicago 
as the Northwestern Christian Antislavery Convention. Again 
Blanchard was a leading figure, calling the convention to order 
and explaining his support of the republican cause as nearer the 
truth than any other. By this time the activities of antislavery 
leaders were no longer unpopular, and the convention was 
regarded with favor by the spokesman of the growing 
republican party. 

When the voice of protest came from the pulpit at the 
passage of the fugitive slave law and of the Nebraska bill, 
the democratic press and politicians began to deplore the 
tendency of the clergy to leave their sacred calling and enter 
into political strife. " When ministers enter the arena of pol- 
itics, and associate themselves with the corrupt and lying 
hypocrites who lead the black republican party, and utter sedi- 
tious harangues from the pulpit, they are no longer entitled 
to that respect which their sacred calling commands," declared 
the Joliet Signal, when four of the local clergy participated in 
a republican ratification meeting as vice presidents. Such a 
challenge did not, however, reduce the zeal of the antislavery 
clergymen for the republican cause. Many a radical abandoned 
altogether his aversion to mingling in politics. While the 
Covenanters of Coulterville were unable to enter politics or to 

49 Western Citizen, February 5, April 2, May 7, August 13, 20, 1850, March 
18, June 17, July 8, 15, 29, December 30, 1851; Ottawa Free Trader, June i, 
15, 1850. 


do more than lend their moral support to the cause of freedom, 
the Shakers of Lebanon held that when freedom was at stake, 
it became a duty to let their votes be given in its defense. 50 
It was thus that many a black-frocked emissary of freedom 
found courage to spread the gospel of republicanism even to 
the remotest corners of Egypt. 

Illinois of 1850 had a Negro population of 5,436, a perse- 
cuted group which increased to 7,628 by 1860. This increase 
was in large part the normal expansion of a fairly prolific race. 
Although the border slave states had a large free Negro popu- 
lation which they would gladly have seen transferred to Illinois, 
the state was after 1853 legally closed against Negro immigra- 
tion, whether free or slave. Although no additions were made 
to the " black laws " of the state in the way of imposing further 
disabilities upon the Negro population, yet in the constitutional 
convention of 1847 there had been adopted after a struggle 
a provision which instructed the legislature to pass laws pro- 
hibiting the immigration of colored persons. This section 
was separately submitted to the people for ratification and was 
adopted by a vote of 50,261 to 21,297, the opposition coming 
chiefly from the northern counties. The state legislature did 
not act, however, until the session of 1853 when a drastic act 
was passed which provided for a heavy fine for every Negro 
bond or free who entered the state; in default of payment the 
Negro was to be sold at public auction to the person bidding 
the shortest period of service in return for the payment of the 
fine. The antislavery forces in the legislature were outnum- 
bered nearly two to one and were impotent to do more than 
amend the bill to provide for jury trial. 51 

On the merits of this measure which the New Orleans 
Bee declared " an act of special and savage ruthlessness," 
public opinion in Illinois was divided. In spite of its defense 
by the Register, the central democratic organ, as just and neces- 
sary for the state to protect itself against the pauper, vagrant, 
and vagabond blacks who for twenty years had overrun the 

50 Joliet Signal, April 4, 1854, June 17, 1856; Cairo City Times, October 
24, 1855; Rushville Times, September 5, 1856; Illinois State Register, January 
7, 1857; William Edgar to Trumbull, January 27, 1857, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Illinois State Journal, October 13, 1856. 

61 Public Laws of 1853, p. 57-60. 


southern part of the state, many democrats vigorously joined 
the whig press in assailing the law. The Ottawa Free Trader, 
claiming that it would establish a peon system more heartless 
and cruel than southern slavery, declared: "We should like 
to see the man that would mount the auctioneer's block in this 
town and sell a freeman to the highest bidder, and we should 
like to see the bidder." Less than a half dozen journals openly 
and unequivocally indorsed the law. Asked the Jonesboro 
Gazette, a democratic sheet published within thirty-five miles 
of Cairo: "How long will the people of this hitherto 'Free 
State ' suffer this shameful enaction to disgrace their statute 
book?" 52 

There was a widespread feeling that the law was uncon- 
stitutional; some said that it could not be enforced against a 
hostile public opinion. The law was applied, however, to 
various cases; and Negroes seeking homes on the prairies of 
Illinois were put upon the block and sold to the highest bidder. 
In 1857 a free mulatto named Jackson Redman was arrested 
in St. Clair county and found guilty of violating the act of 
February 12, 1853; legal notices were accordingly posted up 
about the streets of Belleville offering Redman for sale at pub- 
lic auction. Only the interposition of Gustave Koerner, the 
German republican leader who advanced the sum of $62.50 to 
cover the fines and cost, saved the victim from the clutches of 
the black law. Such cases generally aroused widespread indig- 
nation, although apologists were to be found; D. J. Van Deren, 
the editor of the Mattoon Gazette, even advocated the reestab- 
lishment of slavery in the state as preferable to the possibility 
of extending to the Negroes political and social equality. 53 

Sympathy for the Negro, whether the southern slave or the 
northern victim of the black laws, was aroused by the publica- 
tion of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. Hundreds of copies of 
every edition were avariciously consumed by interested Illi- 
noisians. Proslavery sympathizers sneered at this "higher 

82 New Orleans Bee clipped in Morgan Journal, April 28, 1853; Illinois 
State Register, February 24, 1853; Illinois Journal, March i, 1853; Ottawa Free 
Trader, February 26, 1853. Cf. Galena Jeffersonian clipped in Qmncy Whig, 
April ii, 1853; Alton Courier, April 14, 1853. 

5S Joliet Signal, March i, 1852; St. Clair Tribune, April 17, 1857; Belleville 
Advocate, April 22, 1857; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, August 6, 14, 1857. 


revelation of an abolition prophetess," but the friends of the 
Negro in Illinois were inspired to undertake the work of secur- 
ing for them equal rights before the law. In spite of ill-suc- 
cess bills were constantly introduced into the legislature to 
allow Negroes to testify in the courts, to abolish the distinction 
between Negroes and whites in the public schools, to repeal all 
laws making distinctions between the races. None of these 
propositions, however, received the necessary support. Public 
men of the day, nevertheless, were timid about the Negro 
question; many members of the republican party even were 
frightened by the specter of "Negro equality" paraded by 
their opponents. When in 1857 the Joliet True Democrat 
came out in favor of extending the right of suffrage to the col- 
ored men of Illinois, many republican organs bolted for cover, 
while others refused to commit themselves. 

Northern Illinois was much more charitable to the Negro 
than Egypt. Race hatred often broke out in southern towns; 
in 1857 people of Mound City undertook to drive out all 
Negroes. Only in Chicago did the colored people display any 
aggressiveness in defense of their rights. There they held 
mass meetings and sent a delegate to the Colored National 
Convention at Cleveland in 1848; they urged that the black 
code be repealed to wipe out this injustice. In their Chicago 
Literary Society they openly condemned the fugitive slave law' 
and the black law of 1853, ur m g tne repeal of both. They 
even organized to protect each other from being borne back 
to bondage under the operation of the fugitive slave law, and 
in 1860 a colored military company was formed in Chicago. 
Although a state colonization society had an active existence 
in Illinois, receiving support from the leaders of all political 
parties, a colored people's convention at Chicago in 1853 
rejected the idea of colonization in all its forms; in the closing 
years of the decade, however, the proposition of emigration 
to Hayti received considerable support from them. 54 

The Negro population of the state dwelt in true humility 
in obscure corners of the towns and cities, with their own 

54 M ound City Emporium, August 6, 1857; Gem of the Prairie, September 
23, 1848; Chicago Democrat, October 9, 1850, June 20, 1851; Illinois State 
Register, November 6, 1853; Central Illinois Gazette, August 18, 1858; Chicago 
Press and Tribune, April 26, 1859. 


churches and sometimes separate schools maintained with the 
assistance of white patrons; only now and then were appeals 
made for aid in purchasing the freedom of relatives in the 
south. The tranquillity of the black men's domicile was dis- 
turbed by kidnappers and slave hunters. Cases of kidnap- 
ping and carrying off of free Negroes were fairly common in 
the southern part of the state, where organized bands of kid- 
nappers operated boldly under the knowledge that the Negroes 
would not be admitted to the witness stand. Matters became 
so bad in Cairo that the mayor called out the citizens to break 
up the operations of a local gang of armed kidnappers, who 
worked in league with a band of Missourians. 55 

In 1848 in the case of Illinois v. Sherman Thurston and 
Thomas Field, Judge H. T. Dickey of the seventh judicial cir- 
cuit had declared unconstitutional the section of the code defin- 
ing kidnapping as criminal. Fortified by the fugitive slave law 
of 1850 Missouri slave hunters made their appearance in 
Negro settlements in northern Illinois creating a panic among 
even the older colored residents, many of whom fled to Canada 
for protection; United States Marshal Benjamin Bond and his 
successors pursued various fugitives to Chicago only to find that 
their victims had been secreted or hurried off to safety in the 
Queen's dominion. While the law took its course in downstate 
'communities, it became generally recognized that in the hostile 
atmosphere of Chicago, the Illinois terminus of the under- 
ground railroad, execution of the fugitive slave law was im- 
possible except at the muzzle of the musket. When in June, 
1851, a Negro resident of Chicago was forcibly arrested and 
claimed as Moses Johnson, a fugitive slave belonging to 
a Missourian, the city was alive with excitement. Special con- 
stables were created, and five companies of militia called out. 
A surging tide of humanity surrounded the hall in which the 
trial was carried on, contemplating a rescue if the case went 
against the alleged fugitive. The commissioner who conducted 
the trial, however, discharged the prisoner, and the pent up 
energies of the crowd found a harmless safety valve in the 
celebration of his release. Cases of fugitives being snatched 
from the custody of the officers were rather frequent, Negroes 

55 Cairo Weekly Times and Delta, July 29, 1857. 


often constituting the rescuing parties ; republican city officials 
winked at these affairs and treated them as good jokes. Mean- 
while the conductors of the underground railroad were busily 
forwarding their human freight from the south on to Canada 
and freedom. Even consignments of fifteen and twenty pas- 
sengers were successfully dispatched to their destination. 56 

The most famous rescue of the period was the Ottawa case 
in which a group of leading citizens on October 20, 1859, par- 
ticipated in the rescue of a fugitive from the custody of the 
United States marshal. 57 Seven of the rescuers were promptly 
indicted by the federal grand jury; John Hossack, one of the 
most prominent of the group, was tried first and found guilty 
by the federal district court. In October, 1860, he and his 
associates were given small jail sentences as well as fines. Even 
the republicans acknowledged an obligation to the constitutional 
guarantee; it is interesting to note that "the jury who con- 
victed Hossack under the Fugitive Slave law, stood Eight 
Republicans and Four Democrats and were not over two hours 
in making their verdict." 58 The republican state central com- 
mittee refused to involve itself in the case financially; but 
Mayor Wentworth of Chicago assumed responsibility for the 
payment of the fines and directed a popular subscription for the 
payment of the costs of the case so as to hasten the day of the 
prisoners' release. The local democracy washed their hands 
of this instance of mob violence so that the case played an 
important part in the closing weeks of the campaign for 
Lincoln's election. 

56 Gem of the Prairie, October 7, 1848; Western Citizen, November 5, 1850, 
June 10, 1851; Chicago Democrat, June 4, 5, 6, 7, 1851, October 10, 1859, 
Chicago Daily Journal, June 7, 1851; Aurora Guardian, December 7, 14, 1854; 
Chicago Weekly Democrat, January 6, 1855; Chicago Democrat, October 10, 1859. 

57 Ottawa Free Trader, October 22, November 5, December 31, 1859. 

58 " i W as on the jury myself and know how hard it was to vote against 
my prejudices." Isaac R. Hitt to Trumbull, December 17, 1860, Trumbull 

X. CHURCH AND SCHOOL, 1850-1860 

DURING the fifties the foundations of a democratic educa- 
tional system were firmly laid in Illinois. At the beginning 
of this decade, although the state boasted eighty-one private 
schools, the public school was lacking in many towns and cities; 
and in none of the rural regions, not even the counties of north- 
ern Illinois into which New England settlers were transplant- 
ing their township system and their ideal of free common 
schools, were there adequate educational facilities. The 1848 
report of Secretary of State H. S. Cooley, ex officio superin- 
tendent of common schools, presented an incomplete list of 
2,002 schools with an enrollment of 5 1,447 pupils. 1 Several of 
these, however, were private or select schools; at that time 
Chicago alone had nineteen and two years later about thirty, 
although only four public schools existed to justify its claim 
for generous provision in this field. Springfield likewise sup- 
ported its quota of private schools, but nobody seemed disposed 
to push the matter of establishing a system of common schools. 

In 1850 the federal census takers encouraged the advocates 
of public schools with a list of 4,054 schools and an attendance 
of 125,790; at the same time they fostered a wholesome con- 
cern over the illiteracy returns: 41,283 persons over 20 years 
of age were found who could neither read nor write, seven- 
eighths of whom were native born Americans. These, it was 
noted, were mainly residents of southern districts, the counties 
south of Springfield having three-eighths of the schools and 
five-eighths of the illiteracy. Not a single school or academy 
was to be found in such older communities as Logan, St. Clair, 
and Wayne counties, where true Egyptian darkness prevailed. 

Public opinion was being prepared for the work of the 
coming decade. An "Illinois State Educational Society" was 

1 Superintendent of Public Instruction, Report, i6:clxvi; Aurora Beacon, 
May 31, 1849; Alton Telegraph, June 22, 1849. 



organized in a protracted series of meetings in the winter of 
1846 and 1847 m which resolutions were passed in favor of 
alteration of the school law and of the appointment of a super- 
intendent of public instruction. The editors of the state were 
requested to devote a portion of their columns to " the deeply 
interesting and important subject of common school educa- 
tion." 2 Thomas M. Killpatrick, president of the society, was 
authorized to act as its agent in imparting and receiving infor- 
mation on the subject of schools in the absence of a state 
superintendent. He went about the state lecturing on the needs 
of the state along educational lines; and the second annual 
meeting of the society at Springfield, January 15,1 849, attracted 
wide attention to its aggressive program. 3 Local and county 
meetings to promote interest in education came to be held in 
various parts of the state at which permanent educational 
associations or societies were organized. 

Some of the more prominent educators in the state, among 
them President Jonathan Blanchard of Knox College and the 
Reverend Francis Springer of Springfield, were brought out 
on the lecture platform. Professor Jonathan B. Turner of 
Jacksonville College, a minister and practical farmer, began 
to loom up as a prominent figure in this educational propaganda. 
He was already attracting state wide attention with a pet scheme 
for a state agricultural or industrial university, which received 
the support of the farmers and of many practical business men. 
The teachers, however, condemned this "wildcat" scheme as 
a "worse than Utopian dream," and centered their attention 
on a state normal school, at the same time trying to kill Tur- 
ner's hobby by having professorships of agriculture established 
in the colleges of the state. But either faction, it was argued, 
could build only upon an efficient common school system, toward 
which the first step should be the creation of the office of super- 
intendent of public instruction; the result was an agitation 
which bore fruit in the public school laws of 1854 and 1855. 
Matters came to a head in the winter of 1853 and 1854. At 

2 Sangamo Journal, April 29, 1847. 

3 Illinois Journal, September 29, 1848, January 26, 1849, July 25, 1850; Gem 
of the Prairie, October 14, 1848, January 6, 1849; Beardstoiun Gazette, Octo- 
ber 25, 1848; Rockford Forum, January 3, 1849; Illinois State Register, January 
23, 1849; Aurora Beacon, February 15, 1849; Prairie Farmer, March, 1849. 


a common school convention at Jerseyville, December 19, 1853, 
arranged by Turner and his followers, he, as chairman of the 
committee on resolutions, presented a program which, except 
for its mention of a state industrial university, was everything 
that the strongest supporters of educational facilities could 
desire. On December 26 the leaders of the school teachers 
assembled a convention at Bloomington; after a struggle 
between the normal school advocates and the industrial college 
minority the meeting adopted resolutions for the establish- 
ment of a state normal school, of a state educational journal, 
and for the appointment of a state superintendent of public 
instruction; after the adjournment of the convention, a 
state teachers institute was organized to meet in annual 
session. 4 

The pressure of public opinion was now sufficient to secure 
legislative 'action. In the constitutional convention of 1847 
the friends of educational reform had secured a favorable 
report from the committee on education, but the proposed 
article presented by John M. Palmer was finally defeated in 
the open convention. Since that time the assembly had enacted 
a few items on education, beginning with the act of April 13, 
1849; the general trend was to make it easier to secure by 
taxation the funds necessary for the establishment and main- 
tenance of public schools. 5 A bill to create the office of state 
superintendent passed the house in 1 849 but failed in the senate. 
Finally, however, in a proclamation calling the special session 
of February 9, 1854, Governor Matteson included the propo- 
sition " to amend the school law and provide a superintendent 
of common schools for the state." After various propositions 
for a general free school system supported by a public tax 
had been defeated, a law was passed providing for an elective 
superintendent to hold office for two years commencing in 
1856 a temporary appointee of the governor to serve until 
the election in November, 1855. Meantime, according to the 
law, this officer, Ninian W. Edwards, drew up a bill providing 

4 Peru Dally Chronicle, January 5, 6, 7, 1854; official proceedings in 
Alton Courier, January 3, 1854; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Report, 
1 6 : clxxvi-clxxix. 

5 Journal of Convention of 1847, p. 352-353; Laics of 1849, p. 153-179; 
Laws of 1851, p. 127-130. 


for a general system of free schools which was presented at 
the next session of the legislature. Edwards recommended the 
use of the township as the unit for school purposes, with the 
township directors to combine in a county convention to elect 
a county superintendent; the legislature, however, retained the 
district system. Important gains, however, were made in the 
provisions for a state school tax, for unlimited local taxation, 
and for a free school in every district for six months in the 
year. 6 

This law was passed by the representatives of northern 
Illinois in spite of opposition from most of Egypt. St. Clair 
county, however, unanimously supported the proposition be- 
cause of the popularity of education among the Germans there, 
led by men like George Bunsen, school commissioner of St. 
Clair county, who was later appointed a member of the first 
state school board. The wealthier northern counties of the 
state wanted education badly enough to pay more than their 
share for it; they proved this to the south by arranging the 
distribution of the two mill tax on the compound basis of 
population and territory two-thirds according to the school 
children and one-third according to the number of townships. 
Some of the northern counties received less than half what they 
contributed, while southern counties doubled their contribu- 
tions. This consideration, reenforced by the complaints from 
northern districts of the unfair distribution of the state funds, 
reconciled many parts of Egypt to the law, and the school fever 
began to carry all before it. 7 

The law, however, was criticized by Superintendent Ed- 
wards as containing many obscure and unjust features. On 
February 16, 1857, therefore, in the face of attempts to repeal 
the statute, an amendatory act was passed which cleared away 
many obscurities and added certain necessary details. In the 

6 Laws of 1854, p. 13-15; Laws of 1855, p. 51 ff. The supporters of J. B. 
Turner in a convention at Macoupin, February 24-25, recommended his appoint- 
ment as state superintendent; he was regarded by many, however, as too 
visionary and too destructive in his interests. Alton Courier, March 9, 1854. 

7 Orwell Sexton to Trumbull, June i, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts. In cer- 
tain particulars it worked hardships in southern Illinois, because of the difficulty 
of getting teachers and of continuing the schools for the six months period 
required. See P. Knowlton to William H. Powell, September 22, 1857, and 
reply, Illinois State Journal, October 14, 1857. 


same session provision was made for the establishment and 
maintenance of a state normal university, which was promptly 
located at Bloomington. 8 

Under this encouraging legislation, rapid strides were 
made. In 1850 poorly trained teachers conducted a large 
share of the few schools that existed, and the terms were often 
only three months. Two-thirds of the school buildings were 
log houses and only one-fifteenth brick or stone. Many of 
the rest were shanties or temporary shacks. The average 
worth of 21 school buildings in Stark county was $65. But 
in the two years of service of William H. Powell as superin- 
tendent for 1857 and 1858 three thousand schoolhouses were 
built, bringing the total well over 8,500, nearly two thousand 
school districts were organized with a total enrollment of 
440,339, making only i child of school age in 15 not in 
attendance; the average school term was now six and five- 
sixths months. 9 

Considerable improvement was also made in the caliber 
of the teaching staff. Before 1850 almost anyone with a super- 
ficial knowledge of the most common and necessary branches 
of education was accepted for service. Under the new laws, 
however, prospective teachers had to pass examinations show- 
ing qualifications for the teaching of all the seven branches 
named in the laws. County commissioners found this work of 
examining candidates especially burdensome because so few 
were able to come up to the requirements. "It is a common 
occurrence for persons to apply who have taught school for 
years, and cannot answer the simplest questions, such as chil- 
dren twelve years old ought to answer, and generally can 
answer readily," wrote a conscientious commissioner. 10 

There was at all times a dearth of available teachers in 
the west. A considerable percentage of those already engaged 
were New Englanders or easterners, and in view of the grow- 
ing demand the National Educational Society through their 

8 Illinois State Register, March 20, April 3, 1856; Superintendent of Public 
Instruction, Report, 2:52-68; i6:cxcii; Laws of 1857, p. 295 ff. 

9 Cook, Educational History of Illinois, 85-86; Superintendent of Public 
Instruction, Report, 2:8-9, 68-69. 

10 Ottawa Free Trader, May 3, 1851; N. H. Abbott to French, March n, 
1852, French manuscripts. 


agent, ex-Governor Slade of Vermont, sought to transfer to 
the west well-trained classes of eastern young women as mis- 
sionaries in the cause of education. In the period after 1847, 
when Slade secured the cooperation of the Illinois Education 
Society in the work of securing places for his proteges, he 
made regular visits to the state, bringing sixteen young women 
to Illinois in 1847 and eighteen in 1848, thirty per cent of 
the entire number sent west. The fourteenth class of teachers 
was sent west in September, 1853, and the work continued 
through the decade. The complaint of western advocates 
of education was that the young women were not brought on 
fast enough and that " instead of teaching other folk's 
children, [they] soon find employment in teaching their 
own." 11 

This importation of teachers naturally aroused objections 
from various quarters. Certain democratic politicians, includ- 
ing the great Douglas, who came to Illinois himself as a 
Vermont Yankee schoolmaster, pointed out the danger that 
these selected emissaries of abolitionism would try to convert 
the youth of Illinois into the likeness of "canting" "freedom- 
shrieking" New England demagogues. 12 Moreover, Secre- 
tary of State Cooley in his educational report of 1851 sug- 
gested that such teachers were bound to bring in a spirit of 
condescension growing out of their lack of sympathy with 
western habits, customs, and feelings. In both instances such 
ungenerous criticism proved unwarranted but furnished an 
argument for a local supply of teachers. The colleges of the 
state were heavily drawn upon but were never able to supply 
the demand, nor were their graduates specifically trained for 
the teaching profession. This situation finally led to the found- 
ing of a normal school at Bloomington, but the decade closed 
while its first classes were preparing for graduation. 

In spite of the limited supply, teachers continued to be 
entirely too meagerly compensated, although salaries nearly 

11 Illinois Journal, November 28, December i, 1848; Illinois State Register, 
December 2, 1851, August 4, 1853; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Report, 
i6:clv ff. It was found that they made excellent wives and mothers, two-thirds 
of them settling down to domestic life before a period of five years elapsed. 

12 Belleville Advocate, February 18, 1857; Ottawa Free Trader, March 15, 


doubled during the decade, averaging in the case of male 
teachers about $35 a month. For financial reasons the general 
prejudice against "female teachers" began to decline, as they 
never received much more than half what was given to men. 
With the increasing professional spirit among Illinois teachers, 
county institutes were organized and in some places were aided 
by county appropriations. The State Teachers' Institute was 
organized at Bloomington in December, 1853; in accordance 
with its decision an educational publication entitled the Illinois 
Teacher, edited by members of the institute, made its appear- 
ance in 1855. From the outset it exercised an important 
influence on educational thought. 

Higher education made some notable gains during the 
decade. Public high schools were established at Chicago, 
Ottawa, and Canton, though voted down as premature in 
Quincy; school associations undertook to provide similar facil- 
ities in Petersburg, Belleville, and other towns. A general 
act for the incorporation of academies and seminaries of 
learning became a law in February, 1851; academies and 
seminaries increased in number and improved in the facilities 
offered to their patrons. 13 The old established colleges of 
the state were in such a prosperous condition, especially the 
denominational schools, that many friends of education came 
to believe that the time when it was necessary for the state 
to foster a college had forever passed. Illinois College at 
Jacksonville suffered a $25,000 loss by fire in 1853, but the 
amount was replaced by local subscription and the institution 
continued out of debt with a generous endowment; $50,000 
was added to its resources as a result of a two years campaign 
started in 1858. Shurtleff and Knox colleges were the other 
more flourishing older institutions Knox with buildings and 
grounds worth $120,000 being " said to be the third institution 
of learning in point of wealth, in the United States." 14 

13 The Ottawa High School Journal was published by the schools of that 
community, Ottawa Free Trader, May 1 6, 1857. A gymnasium was provided 
for the boys of the Chicago high school. Chicago Press and Tribune, May 27, 
1859; Laws of 1851, p. 85-87. 

14 Alton Courier, January 19, 1853; Sturtevant, Autobiography, 274-276; 
Quincy Whig, January 17, 1853; Presbytery Reporter, 4:304; 5:284-285. 
See J. Blanchard to Turner, October 19, 1848, Turner manuscripts; Chicago 
Daily Democratic Press, July 14, 1857, 


No less than two dozen institutions of higher learning 
were incorporated in the period from 1848 to 1860, of which 
six or eight succeeded in becoming permanent colleges. Illinois 
State University was the ambitious name of a Lutheran insti- 
tution incorporated and located at Springfield in 1852, to 
replace the Lutheran college at Hillsboro; it started out 
inauspiciously, however, in spite of the able administration 
of its president, Reverend Francis Springer. Several other 
ambitious undertakings struggled along to final success. Illinois 
Wesleyan University, incorporated in 1853, began to get in 
running order by the close of the decade. Northwestern Uni- 
versity was incorporated on January 28, 1851, as a Methodist 
educational enterprise. A site was selected on the lake front 
eleven miles north of the city of Chicago, and a university was 
planned which they hoped would become the equal in every 
respect of Yale and of Harvard, with a law department and 
biblical institute. Efforts at the start were confined to the 
department of literature, science, and arts. This promising 
enterprise was slow in getting started; instruction opened on 
November 5, 1855, with a faculty of two and hardly more 
than a dozen students, and two years elapsed before Reverend 
R. S. Foster assumed charge as president. 15 On January 30, 
1857, the old University of Chicago was incorporated. Sena- 
tor Stephen A. Douglas was able to subserve his own interests 
in land speculation and at the same time to pose as a patron 
of learning by offering to contribute ten acres of his holdings 
in the suburb of Cottage Grove to the projected Baptist Uni- 
versity in Chicago on the condition that a fund of $100,000 
should be raised for the erection of a college building and the 
endowment of the institution. Douglas was just then under 
fire from the republicans for denouncing the opposition of the 
clergy to his position on slavery. On July 4, 1857, the corner 
stone of the main building was laid; Reverend J. E. Roy in 
his prayer sent up a petition " for our poor colored brethren 
in bondage, even though Judge Douglas himself is present 
among us ; " and I. N. Arnold, the orator of the day, a zealous 
republican leader, delivered an antislavery address taking 

15 Wilde, Northwestern University, 1:166-168. 


exception to the policies of Douglas, who was seated near him 
on the stand. But with his surrounding lots increased in value 
some $20,000 by the location of the new building, Douglas 
could afford to remain silent amid these evidences of ingrati- 
tude. 16 Born in this atmosphere of political controversy and 
delayed by the financial crash of 1857, the university opened 
in temporary quarters; but under the aggressive leadership of 
President William Jones a department of law was organized 
and went into operation in the fall of 1857, shortly after the 
dedication of the new buildings. For many years the univer-. 
sity led a precarious existence and did not find a place among 
the more important educational institutions of Illinois. 

Many of the traditional earmarks of college life began to 
appear as the increasing attendance at all institutions .brought 
together 1 larger groups of students. Rates of tuition and living 
expenses were generally very moderate ; a collegiate education 
could easily be acquired at from $80 to $100 a year. This was 
possible because the faculties were groups of patient, long- 
suffering, philanthropic enthusiasts serving for a bare living; 
McKendree College, the oldest institution in the state, paid 
to the instructors of eighty students, in house rent and in 
salaries, less than $1,500 a year. Other institutions made 
more generous compensation for teaching, but were frequently 
in arrears. Although the professors were said to be hard 
taskmasters, making excessive demands for intellectual work 
and turning out dyspeptic looking graduating classes, the stu- 
dents had the requisite physical energy for the traditional 
affrays with local town boys. 17 

The strong New England atmosphere of educational cir- 
cles and the idealism of the instructional staffs made the colleges 
of the state hotbeds of antislavery feeling. Reverend Howard 
Malcolm was elected president of Shurtleff College, the Bap- 
tist institution in Upper Alton, after he had been compelled 
to resign the presidency of the college at Georgetown, Ken- 
tucky, because of having voted in favor of the gradual abolition 
of slavery. President Blanchard of Knox was one of the most 

16 Our Constitution, July n, August 22, 1857; Ottawa Free Trader, July n, 
1857; Rock River Democrat, August n, 1857. 

17 Chicago Daily Journal, January n, 1850; Alton Courier clipped in 
Chicago Weekly Democrat, July 29, 1854; Alton Courier, February 21. 1854. 


active abolitionists in the state. In 1848 he took part in the 
campaign as elector on the free soil ticket and engaged in other 
antislavery activities that finally aroused one of the conserva- 
tive professors to organize a party in the board of trustees, of 
which he was himself a member, to oust Blanchard from the 
presidency. A stirring contest took place, with the board nearly 
evenly divided; but the fortuitous vacancy of six places in that 
body gave opportunity for adding six " good, honest, upright 
antislavery men" to safeguard Blanchard's position for the 
future. President J. M. Sturtevant of Jacksonville College 
took the stump in 1856 for Fremont and "bleeding Kansas;" 
the entire faculty there, notably Professor Jonathan B. Turner, 
were aggressive antislavery men. In 1857 they went so far 
as to expel a student who persisted against the advice of one 
of the professors in giving a political anti-republican address 
upon a public occasion. This, however, seemed too much like 
a sacrifice of that freedom of utterance that these educators 
claimed for themselves, too much like the prostitution of educa- 
tion to partisan politics. 18 

With the growing general interest in education, attention 
had turned to the rapidly accumulating "university and semi- 
nary fund " reserved out of the income from the federal land 
grant of 1818. By 1850 it had reached nearly $150,000, and 
there was a general demand that practical use be made of the 
money. The denominational colleges proposed that this fund 
be divided among them and that they be erected into a univer- 
sity subject to the visitation and control of a board of state 
regents, recommending honorary degrees " to be conferred by 

18 Alton Telegraph, September 21, 1849; Illinois State Register, April 8, u, 
1857; Sturtevant, Autobiography, 279-282; also Turner manuscripts. J. Blanch- 
ard to Salmon P. Chase, June 30, 1849, Chase manuscripts. The Illinois 
State Journal, April 15, 1859, undertook to justify the faculty declaring that 
" the tendency of the teachings of all our Colleges was to Republicanism," that 
almost all men of letters were republicans; "do you propose to fill the professor- 
ships with bogtrotters from Tipperary, in the same way that you fill the Police 
and the Post Offices?" it queried. Blanchard resigned in 1858 and after two 
years of pastoral work accepted the presidency of Wheaton College. This insti- 
tution founded by the Methodists was in 1860 transferred to Congregational 
control by the election of a majority of orthodox Congregational members of 
the board. " This was done," according to Blanchard, " on condition that their 
testimonies against slavery and secret societies should be kept good, which 
condition has been faithfully fulfilled by the present Board." Chicago Tribune, 
April 2, 1867. 


the University of Illinois in conclave assembled." 19 This 
arrangement, which would have a state as well as a collegiate 
dignity, was preferred to the placing of the fund at the dis- 
posal of any existing college or to the erection of a new com- 
peting institution. In furtherance of such an arrangement the 
college heads met at Springfield in the fall of 1849 an d 1850 
to influence legislation. President Blanchard of Knox College 
proposed that a common school professorship for the educa- 
tion of teachers, and perhaps an agricultural professorship, 
might be annexed to the various colleges out of their respective 
shares in the funds. 20 

The establishment of chairs of agriculture were proposed 
largely to offset the propaganda carried on by that exemplary 
democrat, Jonathan B. Turner of Jacksonville College, in favor 
of a state agricultural or industrial university. As a veteran 
student of the educational needs of Illinois, he claimed that 
the existing system of collegiate education was entirely un- 
adapted to the needs of the industrial classes who comprised 
over ninety-five per cent of the entire population of the state: 
the colleges virtually shut out the mass of the people and, like 
Oxford and Cambridge, confined the advantage of a liberal 
education to the few. Turner proposed that, in addition to 
the usual branches, the system of education should be adapted 
to the particular callings of the industrial classes, especially 
that of the agriculturists. In October, 1850, he brought his 
plan to the attention of Governor French and suggested that 
he be given an opportunity to address the legislature on the 
subject. 21 

Turner soon secured a favorable hearing from a large por- 
tion of the people of the state and organized an active propa- 
ganda to secure the authorization of his project. He was a 
prophet without honor in his home city of Jacksonville ; neither 
of the rival local papers gave him any real support. The 
Morgan Journal edited by Dr. E. R. Roe, later teacher in the 

19 See Richard M. Young to French, November 23, 1849, E. Wentworth to 
French, December 13, 1847, June 23, 1849, French manuscripts; see also Illinois 
State Register, April 14, 1848. 

20 J. Blanchard to French, December 23, 1850, French manuscripts; J. 
Blanchard to Turner, October 19, 1848, Turner manuscripts. 

21 Turner to French, October n, 1850, French manuscripts; French to 
Turner, January 29, 1851, Turner manuscripts. 


state normal university, vigorously attacked Turner while pro- 
fessing to approve of his main purpose of educating the masses 
in a thorough manner. Nothing daunted, he went about the 
state spreading his gospel through lectures, addresses, and 
contributions to the various newspapers and periodicals. His 
active campaign was opened November 18, 1851, in a conven- 
tion at Granville which urged the establishment of an indus- 
trial university. Turner's hand was plainly visible in this 
move: he was made chairman of the committee which reported 
the resolutions that were adopted, he unfolded at length his 
plan for the establishment of the proposed institution, and he 
was placed at the head of a central committee appointed to 
call a general state convention of the friends of such an 
institution. 22 

In spite of this propaganda Governor French, a friend and 
supporter of McKendree College, but a believer in agricultural 
education, recommended the division of the university funds 
among the several colleges in his message of 1852; but the 
house committee refused to report in favor of any specific 
disposition of the money. The second industrial convention 
met at Springfield June 8, 1852; some of the opponents of 
the scheme attended, notably Professor John Evans of Chicago, 
one of the founders of Northwestern University, Dr. E. R. 
Roe of Jacksonville, and Professor Cummings of Lebanon 
College ; but the aid of men like John A. Kennicott of Chicago, 
who was selected to preside over the convention, and Wil- 
liam H. Powell of La Salle, its secretary, had been enlisted in 
favor of the plan; and a resolution to memorialize the legis- 
lature for a state industrial university was successfully passed. 
But opponents appeared on all sides among the friends of 
existing collegiate institutions; John M. Peck pronounced 
Turner's theory a "wild project," "fascinating, but imprac- 
ticable and useless." The great need of the day, it was held, 
was more academies and common schools; enough colleges 
already existed; farmers, moreover, would not send their 
sons to one great central school; as to state schools, had 

22 Morgan Journal, January 10, 1852; Illinois Journal, February 12, Novem- 
ber 29, 1851, January 3, 1852; Prairie Farmer, February, 1852; Turner, Plan 
for an Industrial University for the State of Illinois. 


they not always proved wasteful and imbecile as to literary 
instruction? 23 

In November, 1852, another industrial university conven- 
tion assembled at Chicago, and again preparations were made 
to place Turner's plan before the legislature. A committee 
consisting of Turner, L. L. Bullock, and Ira L. Peck was 
appointed to address the citizens of the state in its favor, while 
a memorial to congress asking for a grant of public lands to 
aid in the establishment of an industrial institution was later 
prepared by a committee headed by ex-Governor French. The 
convention adjourned to meet at Springfield on January 4 
after the legislature convened. Meetings of farmers and 
mechanics were called at various points to be represented at 
this session; and delegates were present from Buel Institute, 
La Salle County Agricultural Society, the Northwestern Porno- 
logical Association, and other groups. An " Industrial League 
of the State of Illinois " was organized to disseminate infor- 
mation by lectures, articles, and other literature. 24 

The idea of federal aid by a land grant had been pro- 
mulgated by Turner in an article in the Prairie Farmer of 
March, 1852, and had been taken up by the Springfield con- 
vention three months later. It became thereafter the most 
unique feature of the Turner plan for industrial education. 
Indeed, the only immediate result of this agitation was the 
adoption of a resolution by the legislature asking congress to 
appropriate 500,000 acres of lands to each state to aid in the 
establishment of an industrial university. Turner and his asso- 
ciates in this enterprise, moreover, entered into extensive corre- 
spondence with leaders in other states with the view of securing 
their cooperation for united action on the part of the states 
to secure such a donation of public lands from the federal 
government. Representative Washburne presented the Illinois 
resolutions in congress in April, 1854. Representative Richard 
Yates from the Springfield district, who had in 1851 and 1852 
brought Turner's plan to the attention of the United States 
patent office and of the National Agricultural Society, now 

23 Prairie Farmer, April-August, 1852; Peck to French, June 7, 1852, French 
manuscripts. The Eclectic Journal of Education of Chicago opposed Turner's 

24 Incorporated February 10, 1853, Laws of 1853, p. 514; Turner manuscripts. 


prepared to secure congressional action and requested Turner 
to draft a bill. The industrial league, meantime, kept up an 
active propaganda; Dr. R. C. Rutherford was engaged to 
bring its proposition before the people of the northern coun- 
ties; and Turner was induced to give his energies entirely to 
the lecture field for several months, beginning December, 1853. 
An informal indorsement was secured from a mass meeting 
of the Illinois State Agricultural Society on October 6, 1854. 
Another convention was held at Springfield in January, 1855; 
its committee, in consultation with legislative committees, pre- 
pared a bill which gave every promise of adoption when it 
was discovered that as a result of defalcation the treasury was 
exhausted and the measure had to be postponed. 25 

The advocates of orthodox education and the supporters 
of the existing colleges continued to wage an unrelenting war 
on this proposition. . Many lukewarm advocates of educa- 
tional reform, moreover, were satisfied with the educational 
legislation of 1854 and 1855 and, with excitement increasing 
over slavery, shifted their interest to this new field. Some 
champions of the common people tellingly pointed out that the 
industrial league had a "monstrous scheme" which would 
stratify class lines and permit the favored few to be trained 
to do the thinking of the nation, while the masses, the " com- 
mon trash," would be trained for the performance of their 
drudgery. Many denominational school teachers argued that 
the state was " incompetent to control the subject of educa- 
tion," that this was the function of the church. 20 Others like 
State Superintendent Edwards ignored the federal land grant 
proposition and objected to the use of state funds as involving 
heavy taxation, since the college and seminary funds had 

25 Illinois Journal, June 9, 1852, February 18, 1853; Carriel, Life of Turner, 
104, iio-iu; Free West, November 2, 1854; Prairie Farmer, May, 1855. Bron- 
son Murray of Ottawa, who was president of the Third Industrial Convention at 
Chicago, had suggested the organization of the league and generously con- 
tributed to its support. Yates to Turner, June 25, 1852, April 14, 1854, Turner 
manuscripts. See Turner and Murray manuscripts. 

26 Macoupin Statesman clipped in Ottawa Weekly Republican, December 
30, 1854. The Joliet Signal, however, dropped its support of the industrial uni- 
versity because it feared that the advantages would be restricted to the wealthy 
as it could not accommodate more than four hundred or five hundred students, 
Illinois State Register, February 9, 1854. George Lumsden to Murray, February 
16, 1853, in Carriel, Life of Turner, 131-133. 


already been borrowed by the state and used for other pur- 
poses. Some opponents professed to be opposed not to the 
proposition per se but to the employment of state funds upon 
a mere experiment. The Chiccego Democrat was warmly inter- 
ested in agricultural education but urged a totally different 
scheme; it proposed an agricultural college supported by an 
endowment of scholarships given by farmers, in sums of one 
hundred or one hundred and fifty dollars ; two thousand scholar- 
ships would provide an annual income of $14,000, "a sum 
fully capable of sustaining an able and sufficient corps of pro- 
fessors in all the branches of science relating to agriculture, 
and of defraying existing expenses." 27 A Northern Illinois 
Agricultural College was chartered on February 12, 1853, by 
a group of Putnam county backers, but the proposition fell 

All these forces combined to make the local situation 
unfavorable for action by the state government. After 1856 
less popular discussion took place, although Turner and his 
friends continued their activities. The new republican governor, 
William Bissell, in his message of January, 1857, displayed a 
favorable attitude toward the future establishment of an agri- 
cultural university. Interest, however, was now transferred 
to the national government, where the effort was to secure 
federal aid. The aid of a large number of educators, journal- 
ists, and politicians throughout the country had been enlisted 
in support of the scheme; a definite league was now organized 
to bring pressure to bear upon congress. In order to avoid 
encountering the ill-feeling of easterners, who had already come 
to regard with dismay the large grants to western states for 
school and other purposes, it seemed wise to arrange for the 
introduction of the proposition by an eastern representative. 
For this reason Representative Morrill of Vermont was induced 
to father a land grant measure for the endowment of an agri- 
cultural college in every state in the union. Its advocates had 
the disappointment of seeing the bill pass both houses of con- 
gress, only to meet the veto of President Buchanan on Feb- 

27 Prairie farmer, January, 1855 ; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, January 
9, 15, 23, 1855; Chicago Weekly Democrat, July 15, September 16, 1854, July 28, 
1855; Private Laws of 1853, 407-410. 


ruary 26, 1859. Three years later, with the nation torn by 
civil discord, the measure was again carried through congress 
and became law with President Lincoln's signature on July 2, 
1862. So long a time had elapsed, however, since the project 
had first taken form that few of the participants in the legis- 
lation connected this important measure with the tireless activity 
of Jonathan B. Turner in the early fifties in behalf of an Illinois 
industrial university. Such, however, was the origin of a 
measure which has determined the nature of a large number 
of the higher educational institutions of this country; it was 
an " Illinois idea," or, as John A. Kennicott enthusiastically 
declared after its introduction in congress, " Illinois thunder." 28 

With this period of Illinois history came other refinements 
of modern civilization. Encouraging signs began to appear in 
the religious life in the state. The total number of churches 
had increased by 1850 to 1,223 an d in the next decade exactly 
doubled, although the value of church property increased more 
than fourfold. The Chicago of 1850, with twenty-six institu- 
tions representing almost every denomination from Catholic 
to Swedenborgian, freethinkers to orthodox Jews, was known 
as the " city of churches." At the end of another decade the 
city had 61 Protestant churches with an attendance of over 
ten thousand, besides 59 sabbath schools and 3 1 mission schools. 
Quincy, a city of seven thousand, had 16 churches with 2 others 
in contemplation. Galesburg with a population of about five 
thousand in 1855 had 9 churches; three Presbyterian, one 
Baptist, one Congregational, one Universalist, one Lutheran, 
one Methodist, and one Swedish Methodist. 29 

Every denomination had a proportionate share in this 
growth with the exception of the Baptists and Presbyterians, 
who, however, with sixty per cent increases were able to retain 
their respective second and third places. The Methodists, 

28 Turner to Trumbull, October 7, 1857, Kennicott to Trumbull, January 
25, 1858, Trumbull manuscripts; Trumbull to Turner, October 19, 1857, Turner 
manuscripts. It was first introduced December 14, 1857, Congressional Globe, 
35 congress, i session, 32, 36-37. 

29 Chicago Democrat, September 19, 1848, May 4, 1849; Chicago Daily 
Journal clipped in Illinois State Register, December 25, 1849; Presbytery 
Reporter, 5:128. Eight hundred and ten dollars was paid for a single pew in 
the Second Presbyterian church of Chicago, Western Citizen, December 31, 1850. 
See also Quincy Whig, March 9, 1852; Chicago Daily Democratic Press, April 15, 


increasing the number of their churches from 405 to 88 1 with 
a membership of nearly one hundred thousand in 1860, main- 
tained their lead. Methodism in the west, however, still 
suffered from the neglect of the central organization; not a 
bishop, newspaper, or book-room had been provided by the 
General Conference for the Mississippi valley. The Illinois 
Conference recovered, however, from the slump of the forties 
and with the younger Rock River Conference enjoyed an active 
existence. The denomination was still influenced by the untiring 
energy and uncompromising antislavery conviction of its great 
leader, Peter Cartwright. 30 

The Baptists of the state, doubling in number in the decade, 
continued to be the radical force they had been in previous 
decades, even though the new generation of leaders showed 
no names comparable to those of James Lemen and John 
Mason Peck. In spite of strong southern ties, the church 
showed a pronounced antislavery leaning, which, together with 
an aggressive part in the temperance agitation of the day, 
continued to make a strong appeal to the democratic yeoman 
of Illinois. The Baptist organ, the Western Christian, pub- 
lished at Elgin but removed to New York about 1850, had a 
wide influence; it was radical, reformative in spirit, and demo- 
cratic. The Christian churches, that most typical and at the 
same time most unique expression of the western pioneer spirit 
in religion, increased from 69 in 1850 to 148 in 1860; enthu- 
siasm was inspired by the western tour in 1853 of the Reverend 
Alexander Campbell, the founder of the denomination, who 
filled a large number of Illinois appointments. 31 

The Presbyterians by their divisions gained attention which 
offset the energy lost in dissension. The radical wings estab- 
lished their devotion to freedom without challenge, although 
at times small groups left the denomination entirely because 
of the bitterness of their reactions. The census of 1860 re- 
turned 43 Cumberland, 18 Reformed, and 27 United churches 
as against 272 in the main camp. The total membership of 
all groups was 15,810. 

30 Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
4:486-490, 524-529; 5:654-659; Free West, May 31, 1855. 

31 Alton Courier, October 31, November i, 1853; Moses, Illinois, 2: 1077-1078 


The heavy influx of the New England element brought 
numbers of Congregationalists into Illinois. In the thirties 
an agreement between eastern Congregationalists and the 
Presbyterians had arranged for the affiliation of Illinois Con- 
gregationalists with Presbyterian institutions; after a time, 
however, the Congregationalists abandoned this policy and 
began to establish congregations under their own name. The 
number of churches increased in a decade from 46 to 140; 
this registers the important growth in the northern tier of 
counties through which the membership more than doubled 
and reached the figure of 12,849. Not until April, 1851, was 
a Congregational church established in Chicago; then the first 
in the city was organized by the repudiated antislavery majority 
of the Third Presbyterian Church, most of whom had New 
England Congregational antecedents. Two other congrega- 
tions were organized in Chicago during the decade. The 
Illinois association remained a sturdy upholder of orthodoxy 
in religion, if not in politics, and in 1859 excommunicated 
Reverend J. Mason of Hamilton for denying the doctrine of 
the trinity and the eternity of future punishment. 32 Members 
of this denomination were reached by the Congregational 
Herald of Chicago. 

The strength of the Lutherans lay largely in the Germans 
and Scandinavians who settled in and around Chicago and 
Illinoistown. 33 Chicago added a Swedish Lutheran church 
in 1853 to the German and Norwegian congregations 
formed a half dozen years earlier. Some members of these 
Lutheran groups, however, withdrew to support Evangelical 

The Episcopal church maintained only a few dozen clergy- 
men in the state in 1850, under the supervision of the pio- 
neer Bishop Philander Chase; Chase died in 1852 at Jubilee 
College after having seen the parishes of his diocese increase 
from six to fifty-two. Five of the churches were located in 
the city of Chicago, one of them in a Scandinavian parish. 

32 Illinois State Register, January 6, 1860. Jonathan B. Turner in the 
same year accepted the challenge of the Reverend James C. Richmond of 
Milwaukee to defend Congregationalism against the doctrines of the Episcopal 
church. Chicago Press and Tribune, May 24, 1859. 

33 William H. Pickering to Gillespie, July 20, 1860, Gillespie manuscripts. 


Bishop Chase was succeeded by Henry J. Whitehouse, who had 
been assistant bishop for a year. About fifty-two clergymen 
were in active service in the state in 1860, with forty-six 
churches numbering 3,070 communicants. The church was not 
in a healthy condition; several parishes including Palestine, 
Grove, Beardstown, Peoria, and Edwardsville, had to be 
stricken from the roll as deficient; several large rural parishes 
were vacant; and a heated controversy was waging between 
Bishop Whitehouse and low church critics who attacked him 
as "teaching Tractarian and Semi Romish Errors." 34 In 
1858 the low church party set up an organ in Chicago, the 
Western Churchman, to combat the influence of the official 
publication, the Chicago Herald. 

The Catholic church was gaining steadily in the larger 
cities from the heavy immigration of Irish and foreign Cath- 
olics. The Right Reverend James Oliver Van de Velde was 
installed as successor to Bishop William Quarter as bishop of 
Chicago in 1848, but gave way five years later to Bishop 
Anthony O'Reagan; neither of these, however, aroused the 
enthusiastic cooperation of the clergy or laity. The see of 
Quincy was established in 1852, followed in 1857 by the erec- 
tion of the episcopate of Alton. At the close of the decade 
the Catholics established the Western Banner as their organ 
at Chicago. 

Contrary to expectations, the less orthodox and more liberal 
denominations were showing, especially in the Yankee settle- 
ments, some ability to move westward with the pioneer. Eight 
Unitarian groups with four churches existed in 1850 and seven 
Universalists; the New Covenant, a successful Universalist 
publication, was established at Chicago in 1848. By 1860 
liberal religion had spread in the cities to an extent that eleven 
Unitarian 35 and thirty Universalist churches were located by 
the census, enumerators. 

Religious activity, however, was largely confined to the 

34 Smith, Life of Philander Chase, 339-340; Aurora Beacon, October 25, 
1860; Illinois State Register, July 27, 1854; Chicago Record, November i, 1858; 
Church Record, January i, September 15, October i, 1859, August 15, Novem- 
ber i, 1860. 

35 Alton Courier, October 22, December 13, 1853; Illinois State Journal, 
July i, 1857. 


towns and cities. In the smaller communities there were often 
no church edifices and the various congregations alternated 
in the use of some public building. In Beardstown, the court- 
house was the common place of worship; the Episcopalians 
conducted their services in the morning, the Presbyterians wor- 
shipped in the afternoon, while the Methodists took their turn 
in the evening; it was noted that about the same constituency 
was present at each meeting. A church at Joliet was occupied 
alternately by the Universalists and the Baptists. In other 
places societies labored zealously to secure funds for their own 
nouses of worship. An occasional congregation was distin- 
guished by the possession of a parsonage. Regularly educated 
and well-trained ministers were very rare in the west; gener- 
ally speaking there was always a shortage of ministers, partly 
because of the expanding field of activity and partly because 
the rural congregations of the western states were almost con- 
tinually in arrears with the salaries of their pastors. Many 
congregations were wholly without provision for regular 
preaching; but the humble and zealous itinerant preacher, the 
pioneer in the work of evangelizing the frontier, reached a 
large constituency by going his round among the sparse popula- 
tion. Dr. Cartwright, the quaint and fearless pioneer clergy- 
man, was at the age of seventy years still stationed at Spring- 
field, duplicating some of the feats of his prime. On one occa- 
sion he rode through almost incessant rain for ninety-four miles, 
preached to numerous congregations, and " received as quar- 
terage 'fifteen cents,' and by way of table expenses, a dozen 
large apples." Since the great mass of the community were 
never seen inside of the churches, Chicago Methodists com- 
missioned a city missionary to return to apostolic usages; soon 
an extensive system of street preaching was organized. 36 

A more far-reaching remedy was the provision of facilities 
for the education of a supply of specially trained religious 

36 Illinois State Register, April 28, 1853 ; Illinois State Historical Society, 
Transactions, 1901, p. 61-62. The West Urbana Congregationalists granted the 
use of their new church to the Baptists on Sunday afternoon and later shared 
their minister with the new school Presbyterian congregation. Graff, The Record 
of Fifty Years, 9. Church Record, December i, 15, 1859; Illinois Journal, 
December 28, 1848; Christian Review clipped in Ottawa Free Trader, March 
22, 1851; Chicago Democrat, August 22, 1859; Autobiography of Peter 


leaders. The Northwestern Biblical Institute at Evanston, 
later the Garrett Institute, was inaugurated by the Methodists, 
January I, 1855 ; 37 an d after a few years it was attached to 
Northwestern University. The Chicago Theological Seminary 
was organized under Congregational auspices in 1854 and for- 
mally opened in October, 1858, while the Presbyterians in 
1857 incorporated and erected Blackburn Theological Semi- 
nary at Carlinville; in 1859 McCormick Theological Seminary 
was located at Chicago. New school Presbyterians of the 
northwestern states started a project for a theological seminary 
at Galena which, like a proposition for a Baptist theological 
seminary for the northwest, bore no immediate fruit. 

The Young Men's Christian Association made its way into 
Illinois during this period. The association was organized in 
Springfield in 1853 an d soon had desultory beginnings in 
Peoria, Chicago, Quincy, and Rockford. The Chicago Asso- 
ciation, permanently organized in 1858, provided a free read- 
ing room and arranged a series of lectures for each winter. 
This movement was greatly strengthened by taking advantage 
of a decided tendency upon the part of the young men of the 
cities to organize for their intellectual and moral improvement. 

The large field for missionary work in Illinois was recog- 
nized by all religious denominations, most of which had for- 
mally accredited representatives in this field. The American 
Home Missions Society and the American Missionary Asso- 
ciation had their agents in Illinois, but the positions were 
unattractive because of inadequate compensation. The mis- 
sionaries, moreover, worked almost entirely in communities 
of fair size and left the rural regions practically untouched. 38 
These were reached, however, by the agents of the American 
Bible Society and by the colporteurs sent out by the American 
Tract Society. 

Local Bible societies were formed in the cities in the period 
after 1840 when the Chicago society was organized; active 
work, however, came largely in the period after 1848, com- 
mencing in the northern portion of the state. Before 1860 

37 Chicago Weekly Democrat, January 6, 1855. 

38 Reverend Joseph Gordon, the Presbyterian missionary for the Alton 
presbytery in one year preached 136 sermons, converted 25 new members, and 
traveled, 5,574 miles. Presbytery Reporter, 3:503; cf. ibid., 4:74. 


one hundred and six county Bible societies and eight hundred 
branch societies had been organized under the direction of 
Amasa Lord, general agent for the state; they acted through 
about 5,000 agents who without pay made personal visits to 
every house in their respective districts carrying the Bible with 
them. 39 Illinois was the second or third state in the Bible 
cause. Remittances from Illinois to the central treasury of 
the society were nearly equal to the total remittances of the 
six surrounding states; over $40,000 per annum was raised in 
the state by donations and sales. 

In a somewhat different fashion the American Tract 
Society through its paid agents reached into the state from 
outside. The colporteurs dealt with precisely the same condi- 
tions as the agents of the Bible Society but attempted a some- 
what more intimate religious contact with the people, making 
what were in many cases practically pastoral visits, the time 
being occupied in religious exhortation often accompanied with 
prayer. A sincere effort was often made to check intemper- 
ance, sabbath breaking, and general tendencies toward immor- 
ality; Illinoisians, however, frequently resented the highly 
colored tales of prevailing immorality and religious indiffer- 
ence that colporteurs incorporated in their letters to eastern 
publications. 40 

Although violent religious emotionalism was becoming 
more and more rare, the camp meeting and revival continued; 
in the closing weeks of the dreary Illinois winter, revival 
meetings began to be held in almost every country meeting 
house to continue until the arrival of Easter. It was an annual 
event on the religious calendar of the state. In the early part 
of 1858, however, an unusual spiritual awakening was per- 
ceptible throughout the country. Revival meetings attracted 
an unusual community wide interest, and a remarkable number 
of conversions was reported. Large daily union prayer meet- 
ings were held at Springfield, at Canton, at Metropolitan Hall 
in Chicago, and in other places. The freedom from sectarian- 
ism and the perfect cordiality with which the preachers and 
laymen of the different churches labored seemed remarkable; 

39 Belleville Advocate, March 25, 1857; Rockford Register, March 10, 1860. 
40 Illinois State Register, May 12, 1853. 


another feature was the freedom from the extravagancies and 
the wild excitement that had usually attended such awakenings. 
Only in the little community of Avoca did the meetings produce 
the phenomenon known since the beginning of western revivals 
as the "jerks;" there about a hundred young persons were 
affected, producing the most ludicrous scenes. " Just imagine," 
said an eyewitness, " forty or fifty persons going through all 
the different postures, twistings, bendings, strikings, kickings, 
and other violent motions of which the human frame is capable, 
together with occasional barking and other unusual sounds, and 
you will have a faint idea of the scene exhibited here night 
after night." 41 When the general excitement was over and 
the statistics were calculated, it was found that Illinois with 
10,460 converts was second only to New York in its share in 
the great awakening. 

41 Chicago Daily Democratic Press, March 16, 1858; see Neiu York Courier 
and Enquirer clipped in Illinois State Journal, June 9, 1858. 


LINCOLN'S election was interpreted by southern fire eaters 
as a defiance of their threats to withdraw the planting 
states from the union in order to work out southern nationality 
in a separate confederacy. Disappointed democrats in Illinois 
could not forbear pointing out the phases of republican policy 
which seemed to justify an aggressive move from the south to 
protect its rights. " It is not worth while to conceal the fact, 
that the North is hopelessly abolitionized," declared the Belle- 
ville Democrat. " To submit then, or secede, is forced upon 

the South Thus far, they have justice and right 

on their side We cannot see how they will in- 

gloriously submit." 1 Even the State Register seemed to take 
the position set up by the southern disunionists that a state 
had the right to secede without infringing seriously any of the 
powers delegated in the constitution, while sympathy with the 
secession idea was especially strong in the southern counties. 
The Cairo Gazette sought to clear up all misunderstanding by 
announcing: "The statement that the inhabitants of Egypt are 
in favor of the perpetuation of the Union by force, is unauthor- 
ized. No such feeling exists. On the contrary, so far as our 
observations have extended, the sympathies of our people are 
mainly with the South." Since there was considerable evidence 
that the south was already putting into practice a non inter- 
course policy, the Gazette stopped to consider the effect of 
secession upon the future of Cairo and arrived at the conclu- 
sion that it would prosper whether the union was dissolved or 
not. 2 

Some republicans were prepared to support Greeley's rec- 
ommendation to "let the erring sisters depart in peace." To 

1 Belleville Democrat clipped in Belleville Weekly Advocate, November 16, 
1860; see also Ottawa Free Trader, December 8, 29, 1860. 

2 Illinois State Journal, November 21, 1860; Cairo Gazette, December 6, 
20, 1860. 



certain admirers of fundamental democracy, the south seemed 
to be claiming the rights of small nations to self-government; 
coercion, therefore, whether of the state or of individuals 
involved an offense to the conscience of the American people, 
which, according to the Rockford Register, " would be found 
to be as much opposed to the exercise of arbitrary power over 
a subjugated province, as they are to the transformation of this 
government into a slave-holding despotism. If a separation 
must come, let it be a peaceful one. Let all states that delib- 
erately desire to go out of the Union, be permitted to do so in 
peace." 3 Such a radical antislavery man as the Reverend 
G. W. Bassett of Ottawa, issued a pamphlet entitled " A North- 
ern plea for the right of secession " in which he maintained the 
" absolute and unqualified right of the people of any State of 
this Union to dissolve their political connections with the Gen- 
eral Government whenever they chose." The Belleville 
Advocate would have been willing to relieve the union of 
the petulance of South Carolina and of the financial encum- 
brance of Florida, but, "believing it unwise and dangerous 
to admit in practice what we deny in theory," the best policy 
seemed to be to require those states to obey the will of the 
nation. 4 

The general body of Lincoln's supporters rallied to the 
task of preserving the union from the storm that was gathering 
upon the horizon. It devolved upon them to prove that the 
republican party was the party of the union. They reminded 
each other of the wisdom of restraint in the flush of victory, 
in order to convince the people of the south by their words 
and acts that they were not half so fierce and ravenous as 
represented, that they could be gracefully generous to a van- 
quished foe. The enforcement of the fugitive slave law was 
conceded as one of the rights to the enjoyment of which the 
south was justly entitled. At the same time they insisted on 
being "true to the North true to themselves true to the 

3 Rockford Register, December 8, 1860, March 16, 1861; A. W. Metcalf 
to Trumbull, December 18, 1860, Trumbull manuscripts. 

4 Belleville Weekly Advocate, December 14, 1860; Ottawa Free Trader, 
March 2, 1861. After the outbreak of the war Bassett delivered a sermon 
in the courthouse at Ottawa, which was later published, in which he again 
advocated the right of secession, and declared that " our country is at present 
engaged in an unjust and unholy war." Ibid,, September 28, 1861. 


great interest of free labor true to Republican principles." 5 
If, then, the southern states insisted upon a disruption of the 
union in violation of the fundamental laws upon which the con- 
stitutional superstructure of the nation had been built, repub- 
licans would plant themselves upon Andrew Jackson ground 
and exhaust every resource for the enforcement of the laws. 
They made it clear that they understood that the constitution 
did not and could not operate directly upon the states; " it has 
to do with the people with individuals." 6 "The Union, ^ 
it must be preserved execute the laws," was the republican 
rally cry. 

In their rejection of compromise and concession these 
republicans were prepared for a test of arms. " I am in favor 
of 20 years of war," wrote one of Trumbull's correspondents, 
" rather than the loss of one inch of territory or the surrender 
of any principal \_sic\ that concedes the right of secession, 
which is the disruption of the government." " Petitions are 
circulating rapidly for a reorganization of the militia and 
everybody is signing them " announced Horace White. " We 
live in revolutionary times, and I say God bless the revolu- 
tion!" 7 

Republican leaders held council as to the course of action 
required of them by the crisis. President-elect Lincoln took up 
quarters at the governor's office in the statehouse and held 
conferences in which were shaped the policy of constitutional 
rights for the south without compromise. The Illinois delega- 
tion at Washington promptly after the opening of the session 
assembled and unanimously resolved that " the Union must and 
shall be preserved." 8 Governor Yates, knowing that, as the 
governor of Lincoln's state, his views would have a special 
significance in the public mind, took counsel with men of wider 
political experiences as to the content of the inaugural address. 

5 Illinois State Journal, December 15, 1860; Chicago Tribune, November 
8, 1860. 

6 Ibid., December 20, 22, 29, 31, 1860. Gustave Koerner drew up an elabo- 
rate article to prove that there could be no constitutional right of secession; 
this was sent to the Missouri Democrat and widely circulated in the Illinois 
press and in pamphlet form. Koerner, Memoirs, 2:108; Koerner to Trumbull, 
December 10, 1860, Trumbull manuscripts. 

7 W. H. Hanna to Trumbull, December 19, 1860, Horace White to Trumbull, 
December 30, 1860, ibid. 

6 Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1860. 


Entering on his duties as governor January 14, 1861, he 
insisted in a lengthy address upon the perpetuity of the union 
and declared that " the whole material of the government, 
moral, political, and physical, if need be must be employed 
to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United 
States." Democrats and republicans, alike could not but believe 
that the document, produced under the nose of the president- 
elect, had a special significance in forecasting the policy that 
would obtain with Lincoln's inauguration. 9 

Compromise and concession found so few supporters in 
republican circles that the ranks of the party were thrown 
into consternation when news came from Washington that 
early in January William Kellogg, member of congress from 
the Peoria district, had introduced a compromise measure, 
involving amendment of the constitution. Kellogg's lead was 
bitterly denounced in public and in private by the controlling 
element in the republican ranks ; and his followers, indignantly 
repudiating the proposition, assembled in convention to read 
him out of the party. To such republicans the word "com- 
promise " soon became an " accursed " term which they re- 
gretted had never been eliminated from the English language. 10 

Although democrats were naturally more hospitable to the 
idea of preserving the union by compromise, yet on January 16, 
when a state convention met at Springfield to settle upon a 
policy for the party to pursue, it was revealed that party leaders 
were divided between advocates of strong union ground, fol- 
lowers of Congressmen John A. McClernand and Isaac N. 
Morris, and secession sympathizers like General James W. 
Singleton. Six of the latter were given places on the resolutions 
committee; the convention, however, agreed upon a platform 
advocating any plan of conciliation and compromise by which 
harmony might be restored, denying the constitutional right of 

9 Yates to Trumbull, December 21, 1860, Trumbull manuscripts; House 
Journal, 1861, p. 102; Joliet Signal, January 22, 1861. 

10 Peoria Transcript, February 9, 1861; Joliet Signal, February 26, 1861; 
Aurora Beacon, February 7, 1861; Illinois State Journal, June 24, 1861; J. H. 
Smith to Trumbull, January 7, 1861; A. P. Bartlett to Trumbull, February 9, 
1861, J. H. Gallatin to Trumbull, February n, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 
President Sturtevant of Illinois College held that rather than sacrifice principle 
to the union, it would be better that " the Union should be dissolved than made 
such a Union as the South intends to make it." J. M. Sturtevant to Trumbull 
January 30, 1861, ibid. 

TFrom photograph in possession of Mr. Richard Yates, Springfield, Illinois] 


secession, and urging the limitation of military authority to 
the assistance of the civil authorities in the execution of the 
law. Republicans interpreted this as " an echo of the false 
and detestable position of southern traitors." Democrats, 
however, declared that it followed their illustrious leader, 
Stephen A. Douglas, in offering to concede and sacrifice 
everything to save the union. 11 

Senator Douglas, who had promptly joined the ranks of 
the union men after the news of Lincoln's success and his 
defeat, was laboring energetically to end the national crisis 
by an appeal to the spirit of compromise; he urged all loyal 
Americans to discard party lines and unite to save the country 
from impending disasters. As member of the joint committee 
of thirteen appointed to prepare measures of adjustment, he 
not only supported the Crittenden compromise and all other 
propositions based on the principle of mutual concession but 
submitted a plan of his own applying the doctrine of non- 
intervention and popular sovereignty. The republicans, on 
the one hand, however, persisted in their firm adherence to 
the Chicago platform while the secessionists, on the other, 
showed a disposition to reject even the opportunity to dictate 
all the terms that would enable them to continue within the 

A mass of secession problems came before the general 
assembly when it convened on January 7. The state of Vir- 
ginia had proposed the appointment of commissioners by the 
several states to meet in convention at Washington to consult 
about a peaceable settlement of the difficulties between the 
states. Leading republicans held a series of caucuses to delib- 
erate on this matter; Lincoln, who stood firm against any con- 
cessions to the south, advised against any action by Illinois 
which would suggest that the state desired any constitutional 
changes. Even after Governor Yates was asked by the gover- 
nors of Ohio and Indiana whether Illinois would appoint com- 
missioners, Lincoln urged no action. " Lincoln said that he 
would rather be hung by the neck till he was dead on the steps 

11 Illinois State Register, January 17, 1861; Chicago Tribune, January 19, 
1861 ; Rockford Register, January 26, 1861; Joliet Signal, January 22, 1861; 
Koerner to Trumbull, January 21, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

of the Capitol before he would beg or buy a peaceful inaugura- 
tion." 12 Finally it became evident that provision for sending 
commissioners was a matter of political necessity "because if 
we had not united to do so, some of our knock kneed brethren 
would have united with the democracy, and would have given 
them sufficient strength to have carried the resolutions appoint- 
ing by the General Assembly." Lincoln and Yates both 
opposed the step but, once taken, Yates gave the appoint- 
ments, mostly of persons named by Lincoln, to ex-Gov- 
ernor John Wood of Quincy, Judge Stephen T. Logan 
of Springfield, Gustave Koerner of Belleville, and Congress- 
man B. C. Cook of Ottawa and Thomas Turner of Free- 
port. 13 

Another proposition growing out of the disunion crisis was 
the organization of the state militia. Governor Wood, the 
successor to the unexpired term of Governor Bissell who had 
died in office in March of 1860, called attention to this need 
before turning the reins of office over to Governor Yates. The 
state could not then boast any efficient militia organization; a 
people loaded with the bounties and blessings of long continued 
peace had seen no occasion for diverting energy into either 
martial spirit or organization. Not more than thirty com- 
panies existed with any regular organization under the state 
law for the supply of arms to militia companies. Their occa- 
sional drills were "held more for exercise and amusement 
than from any sense of duty to the State." The young men 
who, during the campaign of 1860, had swelled the ranks of 
the Wide Awakes, the Douglas Invincibles, and other organi- 
* zations of a political character had received a more valuable 
training than the military companies. 14 

In the face of a general demand that now arose for the 
reorganization of the militia and the full arming of the state, 
many democrats assumed a hostile attitude. "As Democrats, 

12 W. Jayne to Trumbull, January 21, 28, 31, 1861 ; W. H. Herndon to 
Trumbull, January 27, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

13 E. Peck to Trumbull, February 2, 1861, W. Jayne to Trumbull, February 
i, 1861, ibid. Joseph Gillespie of Edwardsville led the fight for compromise 
within the republican ranks. N. B. Judd to Trumbull, January 17, 1861, ibid.; 
Ottawa Free Trader, January 26, 1861 ; Koerner, Memoirs, 2: 113. 

14 "Annual Report of the Adjutant General, January i, 1863," Reports 
General Assembly, 1863, 1:467; Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1861. 


we claim exemption from service in this Black Republican 
war," declared the Joliet Signal, January 15, 1861. "Let the 
Black Republicans of Illinois do the training, and fighting if 
necessary, for it was their party that brought the calamity 
upon the country. We trust that the Democratic members of 
our Legislature will vote against arming and drilling our people 
to prepare for murdering and butchering their Southern breth- 
ren." As a result of this democratic opposition, combined with 
the prevailing uncertainty, no effective legislative action was 
taken by the general assembly. 

The legislature set to work upon arrangements for the 
constitutional convention ordered by the people at the last 
election and for the reapportionment of legislative districts 
which also required attention. The republicans hoped to per- 
petuate through reapportionment the supremacy won in the 
legislative victory of 1860 but were not nearly as enthusiastic 
as the democrats about a new constitution which might disturb 
the fruits of that victory. The two propositions, therefore, 
went through together as mutually counteractive, the democrats 
choosing to believe, after protracted filibustering, that, how- 
ever infamous the apportionment bill might be, there would 
never be an election under it. 15 The assembly also formally 
ratified the decision of the people in favor of the reelection 
of Trumbull to his seat in the United States senate, and the 
docket was cleared for the new problems that might arise when 
the republican president-elect should take his seat. 

On a brisk bright day, March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, 
the first Illinoisian to enter the White House at Washington, 
was inducted into the presidential office. Lincoln's inaugural 
address was an emphatic declaration of the duty of the presi- 
dent to maintain the supremacy of the laws against all resis- 
tance, in the same spirit in which "Old Hickory" had met 
the nullifiers in 1832. Douglas promptly designated it as a 
declaration of war and prepared to lead a factious opposition 
to the new administration. 16 Less than six weeks later, how- 
ever, the secessionists at Charleston challenged the federal mili- 
tary authority at Fort Sumter and, in compelling the garrison 

15 Ottawa Free Trader, January 26, 1861. 

16 Koerner, Memoirs, 2: 118. 


to haul down the flag, precipitated the bloody civil struggle 
which had been so long impending. 

The day of compromise was now clearly over; here was 
evidence that all the labors of the peacemakers had gone for 
nought. President Lincoln sent out a clarion call for defenders 
of the union that ended much of the futile discussion and wran- 
gling between the leaders of the two parties in the north. 
Senator Douglas was one of the first to respond to the leader- 
ship of his lifelong rival; with Lincoln's call for seventy-five 
thousand troops came the announcement that Douglas had for- 
mally agreed " to sustain the President in the exercise of all his 
Constitutional functions, to preserve the Union, maintain the 
government, and defend the Federal capital." 17 Personal pol- 
icy was subordinated to the public safety; with obligations to 
his country paramount to those of his party, the partisan had 
been sunk in the patriot. Having rallied a large band of 
prominent "war democrats" around the administration, he 
confronted a serious defection in the southern counties of his 
own state and hurried off with Lincoln's blessing to secure the 
loyalty of this stronghold of democracy. 

Early in February signs had pointed to the danger that 
traitors might become numerous in southern Illinois. Republi- 
can leaders, therefore, advised against the establishment of a 
federal court at Cairo, where the union forces would not have 
sufficient strength and influence to convict the most flagrant* 
disloyalist. 18 The governor was informed of the growing 
strength of the disunion feeling. Secret meetings were held 
at various points; Pope county held an open mass meeting and 
declared the right of secession, while a meeting at Marion, 
Williamson county, on April 15, pledged itself to perform the 
task of effecting a division of the state and to attach Egypt 
to the southern confederacy. These resolutions were under- 
stood to have received the approval of Congressman John 
A. Logan, who was opposed to the coercion of the southern 
states; a speech in which he compared the secessionists with 
our forefathers struggling for liberty, was widely circulated. 
It was generally believed in Egypt that W. H. Green, A. J. 

17 Arnold, Life of Abraham Lincoln, 200-201. 

18 James C. Conklin to Trumbull, February 12, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 


Kuykendall, and other leading democrats were advocating 
a secession of Egypt if matters developed as they predicted. 
Ex-Governor John Reynolds sympathized strongly with the 
confederate cause and was willing to pronounce before " God 
and man, that the revolution in the South is the greatest demon- 
stration of human greatness and grandeur that was ever 
performed on the globe." 19 

To end this situation Douglas directed all his energies. 
Arriving at Springfield on April 25 he poured forth an elo- 
quence which swept not only the assembled audience but pene- 
trated to the farthest confines of the state. Frankly confessing 
that his own mistakes had been made " in leaning too far to 
the Southern section of the Union," he was in a position to 
warn his old following against continuing to commit the same 
errors. 20 Thus was he arousing the people of Illinois to the 
defense of the government and of the flag, when a fatal illness 
seized him and permanently silenced his eloquent pleas for the 
union on the third of June, 1861. 

By this time the response of the people evidenced itself in 
the military preparations that were under way. Mass assem- 
blages received with applause Lincoln's call for troops. A 
countless number of recruits immediately offered their services 
to the government, so that within a fortnight the governor 
became " greatly embarrassed by the number of volunteers." 21 
Governor Yates had replied to the fall of Sumter by issuing a 
proclamation convening the legislature in special session. This 
began on April 23 and in the following ten days its work was 
rushed through. The drafts of new legislation had been pre- 

19 Illinois State Journal, June 10, u, 18, 20, 1861; Cairo Democrat, Sep- 
tember 25, October 2, 1866; Sha-wneetown Mercury and Harrisburg Chronicle 
clipped in Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1861; ibid., September 18, 1861; Central 
Illinois Gazette, June 19, 1861; Illinois State Register, June 19, iS6i. Logan 
wrote to the editor of the Register, June 18, 1861, branding as a "lie" the 
charge that he had brought forward and openly advocated a plan " to effect 
the separation of southern Illinois from the remainder of the state and attach it 
to the southern confederacy;" ibid., June 21, 1861. See also Jonesboro Gazette, 
March 14, 1863 ; Congressional Globe, 36 congress, 2 session, 178-181 ; S. E. 
Flannigan to Trumbull, April 9, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts; Belleville 
Advocate, August 28, 1863. 

20 Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas, 483-485. 

21 Trumbull to J. R. Doolittle, April 27, 1861, Illinois State Historical 
Society, Journal, 2:44. "Three regiments too many have already assembled 
and thirteen regiments are pressing to get into service." 


pared in the executive office with the advice of republican 
leaders like Gustave Koerner and Senator Trumbull, the latter 
having hurried home from Washington. A bond issue of two 
millions was authorized to provide a war fund; the old obsolete 
militia system was replaced by a new militia law which provided 
for an elaborate organization; additional regiments were 
authorized for state defense. 

The forces raised in the state were distributed between the 
district opposite St. Louis, with encampments at Alton and 
Caseyville outside Illinoistown, and at Camp Defiance at Cairo. 
A main purpose was to curb the spread of secession activities 
throughout Egypt. Recruits from the southern counties were 
joining the confederate forces and in some instances receiving 
encouragement from democratic leaders who considered the 
possibility of taking part in person in the raising of com- 
panies. 22 The name of John A. Logan, who bitterly denounced 
Douglas for the betrayal of the democracy, was used in the 
interest of southern recruiting as late as June, 1861 ; but, finally 
confronted by the alternative of committing political suicide 
or of clearing up his position, he proceeded to Camp Yates to 
discourse eloquently on "the duty of all patriots to sustain 
the Government in its efforts to vindicate the Constitution." 23 
Logan followed this up by joining the volunteer army; and 
though secession activity continued in Egypt, the effect of his 
leadership and that of McClernand, who had been a union 
democrat from the start, was seen in the heavy enlistments 
that in the summer of 1861 began through the southern 

From the military point of view, the chief danger lay in 
the uncertainty of the situation at St. Louis. Cairo, to be sure, 
was the one point directly exposed to attack by the secession 
forces; but a strong military force was stationed there under 
Brigadier General Prentiss. 24 The secessionists, on the other 
hand, were organizing in St. Louis and the danger was that 

22 Joseph Medill to Trumbull, April 16, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 
James D. Pulley, a member of the legislature was arrested on the charge of 
enlisting men for the southern army. Illinois State Journal, June 5, 1861. 

23 Ibid., June 18, 20, 1861 ; Illinois State Register, June 19, 1861; Koerner, 
Memoirs, 2: 124, 134. 

24 Trumbull to J. R. Doolittle, May 10, 16, 1861, Illinois State Historical 
Society, Journal, 2:45-48. 


Missouri would be forced into secession by their armed 
strength; with that state out of the union the problem of 
defending- Illinois would be doubled. Illinois was almost 
devoid of military equipment; but the federal arsenal at St. 
Louis had an extensive supply, liable on account of inadequate 
protection to fall into rebel hands. For that reason 21,000 
stands of arms and supplies were stealthily transferred 
one night to the possession of the state authorities of Illi- 
nois. 25 

Illinois cooperated in the western governors conference at 
Cleveland early in May which memorialized the president to 
create a department of the west, to establish rules for the stop- 
ping of supplies to the south, and to emphasize military oper- 
ations on the Ohio and Mississippi. Soon after the creation 
of the western department, it was enlarged to include Illinois, 
Indiana, and a part of Kentucky; as a result Illinois troops 
were soon scattered over Missouri fighting to control that 
state for the union. The Illinois authorities were next success- 
ful in having General Harney, who though a union man was 
a Virginia slaveholder, replaced in the command of the federal 
forces at St. Louis by General Fremont. 

By the summer of 1861 Illinois had a powerful force of 
20,000 men in the field in addition to its heavy German enlist- 
ment in Missouri regiments; with the Iowa, Minnesota, and 
Wisconsin regiments drawn off for service in the east and those 
of Indiana and Ohio in West Virginia, Illinois troops promised 
to be the dominating factor in the reconquest of the Mississippi 
valley. 26 This situation stimulated the ambitions of various 
Illinoisians to secure commands over the state troops. Lincoln 
had been so busy dispensing patronage to party leaders in gen- 
eral that his own state had received little consideration. The 
state administration, therefore, brought pressure to bear upon 
Washington as a result of which John Pope, Grant, Hurlbut, 
Prentiss, and McClernand received brigadier generalships. 
The name of John M. Palmer was at first passed over, al- 
though he received the recommendations of the state officials 

25 Koerner to Trumbull, May 31, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts; Koerner 
Memoirs, 2: 130-133. 

26 John Pope to Trumbull, July 6, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 


and of the congressional delegation; Senator Trumbull con- 
sidered Palmer " one of the bravest & in my opinion the cool- 
est, most sagacious & ablest of them, all." 27 

From the start there was a good deal of the impatience for 
results in the republican ranks, which as time went on made 
for a serious misunderstanding between Illinois republican 
leaders and President Lincoln. In particular there was sharp 
criticism of the administration of the war department under 
Secretary of War Cameron. Cameron, a Pennsylvania repub- 
lican politician who had been a rival of Lincoln for the 
republican presidential nomination, had been appointed to the 
cabinet much against Lincoln's best judgment; Illinois leaders 
had resented the appointment of Cameron as " a man who 
could not obtain the votes of ten decent, sober, moral Repub- 
licans for any office whatever." 28 The supposed inactivity of 
the war department caused great disgust especially in view 
of the situation in Missouri. The State Journal voicing this 
impatience declared: "Our people venerate LAW next to 
GOD, but they are restive under the restraining operations of 
red tape. The idea of waiting for orders from Washington 
to defend ourselves or protect our outraged Union brothers 
in Missouri may not much longer be brooked." 29 Even the 
disaster at Bull Run, resulting from the general popular 
demand for action, did little to cool this ardor. 

Another source of republican dissatisfaction in Illinois grew 
out of the treatment received by General Fremont from the 
national administration. Illinois was concentrating its atten- 
tion upon the situation in the Mississippi valley and in par- 
ticular upon Missouri where General Fremont had set to work 
to organize an efficient army. Fremont, however, from the 
outset was not given proper support by the administration ; and, 
with limitations in the shape of a strong personal ambition and 
a tendency to make important assignments to irresponsible and 
dishonest subordinates, he rapidly widened the gap between 

27 John Pope to Trumbull, June 16, 1861, John M. Palmer to Trumbull, 
July 8, 1861, Trumbull to Lincoln, October i, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

28 Koerner, Memoirs, 2:114; William H. Herndon to Trumbull, January 
27, 1861, William Butler to Trumbull, February 7, 1861, W. B. Plato to 
Trumbull, March 29, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

29 Illinois State Journal, May 17, 30, 1861 ; Canton Weekly Register, May 
14, July 23, 1861. 


himself and the Washington authorities. 30 When in the late 
summer Fremont issued a proclamation declaring martial law 
in Missouri and authorizing the confiscation of the property 
of the rebels and the emancipation of their slaves, Lincoln 
instructed Fremont to withdraw the proclamation and upon 
the latter's refusal, the president as commander-in-chief for- 
mally annulled Fremont's action. Illinoisians, however, gen- 
erally felt that Fremont had shown himself equal to the 
emergency. Lincoln's disallowing order was roundly de- 
nounced. Many did not hesitate to declare Fremont right 
and Lincoln wrong. 31 

It was obvious that a serious breach had developed between 
the president and the western commander ; yet republican sym- 
pathies were with the latter rather than with the Illinois states- 
man in the White House. In September the report gained 
currency that General Fremont had been superseded. The 
editor of the Rock River Democrat described his feelings with 
utter frankness: "We felt like ripping and tearing things gen- 
erally; in fact, we felt like saying, let the government go to 

smash if it has done so foolish a thing It is the 

settled conviction of the people of the West that Gen. Fremont is 
just the right man in the right place, and is promptly and rightly 
doing his duty, and if the Administration desires to outrage 
that sentiment it can find no surer way to do it than by super- 
seding Gen. Fremont." 32 When finally early in November 
the government did act to remove Fremont on the ground of 
incompetence, recklessness, and extravagance, a howl of indig- 
nation went up from the republican camp. Senator Trumbull 
had protested to Lincoln against the failure of the administra- 
tion to give Fremont a proper support. Gustave Koerner, the 
German republican leader, claimed that there was universal 
satisfaction with General Fremont at St. Louis and that the 
policy of the administration was "outrageous;" "the admin- 
istration has lost immensely in the Northwest," he declared. 

30 Trumbull to J. R. Doolittle, August 31, 1861, Illinois State Historical 
Society, Journal, 2:48-49; Trumbull to Lincoln, October i, 1861, Trumbull manu- 
scripts; E. B. Washburne to S. P. Chase, October 31, 1861, Chase manuscripts. 

31 Joliet Signal, September 3, 10, 1861 ; W. Kitchell to Trumbull, December 
10, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

32 Rock Riiter Democrat, September 17, 1861; Rockford Republican, October 
17, November 7, 1861. 


Only from the democrats did the president receive a warm 
indorsement of his course; from the rankest copperhead sheets, 
even, came the assertion that the president deserved the praise 
of every honest union man. 33 

The first winter of the war came on with the deepest gloom 
prevailing among the staunchest union men of the west. Grant 
had led the Twenty-first Illinois into Missouri to participate 
in the expulsion of the rebels from that state and soon won 
promotion to the rank of brigadier general. He had next 
been assigned to the command of all the troops of southeastern 
Missouri and southern Illinois which included the management 
of the great depot recently established at Cairo, his headquar- 
ters. On November 7, 1861, in order to make a diversion to 
prevent a junction of two confederate forces, he led 3,000 men 
into the jaws of death at the battle of Belmont. Grant suc- 
ceeded in effecting his main purpose but, after carrying the 
strong confederate position against great odds he was com- 
pelled to withdraw his raw troops among whom he maintained 
order with great difficulty. The withdrawal seemed an igno- 
minious flight to many disappointed union critics upon whom the 
heavy union losses in dead, wounded, and prisoners had a most 
depressing effect. 

Coincident with the news of the battle of Belmont came 
the returns of the November election. As in the case of the 
municipal elections in the spring, the telegraph told of demo- 
cratic victories. This, too, was in spite of the appeal made 
by administration backers during the summer months to sink 
partyism in patriotism. " If we understand the matter rightly," 
declared the State Journal, " there are no parties. We are all 
for the Union, for the preservation of the government and for 
the speedy suppression of the rebellion." It had been argued 
that the amendment of the state constitution was an important 
work to be delegated only to leaders " able to rise superior to 
the excitements of feeling and exacerbations of passion that 
govern the labors of weak men." The democratic press re- 
sented such appeals, pointed to the instances where the repub- 

33 Trumbull to Lincoln, October i, 1861, Koerner to Trumbull, November 18, 
1861, Trumbull manuscripts; Cairo Gazette, November 7, 1861; Jonesboro 
Gazette, November 9, 1861 ; Ottawa Free Trader, December 28, 1861. 


licans failed to carry these principles into practice, and rallied 
all democrats to their party candidates. The election, in which 
democratic candidates won out not only in the southern counties 
but also in Cook, Will, La Salle, Peoria, and other northern 
districts, was interpreted as proof that the people were opposed 
to the formation of a new union party. " If anything has been 
revealed by the election," declared the State Register, " it is the 
fact the people are beginning to discover that the democratic 
party is the only true Union party;" at any rate the election 
seemed to insure the framing of " a sound Democratic 
Constitution." 34 

Did the election indicate that the citizens of Illinois, pro- 
tected in their private opinions by the secrecy of the ballot box, 
were unwilling to set their seal of approval upon the attempt 
to hold the southern states in the union by force? This was a 
question that no one dared to raise. It could not be denied 
that the convention movement had been taken up by the people 
in 1860 under republican auspices and that a year later repub- 
lican leadership had been rejected. Nor was there indisputable 
evidence either of the republican claim that their strength had 
been undermined by heavy enlistments or of the democratic 
charge that "the corruption, usurpation, and villainy" of 
republican officials had caused the revolution in political senti- 
ment. 35 Forty-five democrats, twenty-one republicans, seven 
" fusionists," and two members classed as doubtful composed 
the body which, according to republican comment, was con- 
trolled by the rebel elements in Illinois politics. " Secession 
is deeper and stronger here than you have any idea," reported 
Governor Yates after the body had assembled at Springfield 
on January 7, 1862. " Its advocates are numerous and power- 
ful, and respectable." 36 

The convention was organized under uncompromising 
democratic officials, not one of whom hailed from the region 

34 Illinois State Journal, August 2, 1861 ; Chicago Tribune, August 14, Sep- 
tember 25, 1861; Illinois State Register, July 20, 27, November 15, 1861; Ottawa 
Free Trader, August 24, 1861 ; Joliet Signal, September 17, 1861 ; Cairo Gazette, 
November 14, 1861. 

35 Illinois State Register, March 17, 1862. 

36 He felt that the situation required the stationing of a regiment of well- 
armed soldiers at Springfield. Yates to Trumbull, February 14, 1862, Koerner 
to Trumbull, December 12, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 


north of Springfield. This led many to suspect that Egypt 
would attempt secession; to their surprise, however, the leaders 
lacked courage to take any open anti-war stand. Judge H. K. 
S. Omelveny's resolutions aggressively defining state rights 
and a definite denial of the right of secession was adopted as 
an item of the bill of rights. 37 They took pains also to make 
provision for taking the vote of the soldiers in the camps on 
the adoption or rejection of the constitution. 

Not being committed to any very sweeping changes in the 
constitution, the democrats saw in the convention an opportu- 
nity to manipulate matters in the interest of party politics. 
They canvassed the conduct of the republican administration 
in war expenditures and showed that contracts had been let 
without legal warrant and at rates much higher than the federal 
government was paying for the same commodities. 38 An 
investigation of the treatment of Illinois troops in the field 
was authorized, but General James W. Singleton of the com- 
mittee on military affairs returned a report vindicating Gov- 
ernor Yates and Quartermaster Wood. The convention framed 
an anti-bank provision and adopted a resolution instructing the 
auditor not to issue in the meantime circulating paper to any 
but specie-paying banks. A section was adopted, incorporating 
into the organic law the Negro immigration prohibition of 
1853. A partisan apportionment arrangement gave equal rep- 
resentation to the smaller southern counties and attached small 
republican counties to large democratic districts. The articles 
on banks, admission of Negroes, and congressional apportion- 
ment were to be submitted separately. A special election was 
provided for to be held on the seventeenth of June so that in 
the event of the adoption of the constitution an election of all 
state officers could take place the following November. 39 

All these propositions aroused the ire of the republicans. 
They attacked the convention as an illegally organized body; 

37 In a speech on April 19, 1861, Omelveny had advocated permission 
for seceding states to retire peacefully. Illinois State Register, January 27, 
1862; Illinois State Journal, March 3, 1862; Ottawa Weekly Republican, Jan- 
uary ii, 1862; Chicago Tribune, January 10, 1862; Journal of the Constitu- 
tional Convention, 1862, p. 72, 1076. 

38 Illinois State Register, January 27, 1862. 

39 See the proposed constitution in full, Journal of the Constitutional Con- 
vention. 1862, p. 1072-1114. 


had it not, instead of accepting the oath to support the state 
constitution as prescribed by the law providing for its call, 
substituted the one taken by the convention of 1847? But the 
democrats replied that the substitution had grown out of the 
suggestion of Elliott Anthony, a republican member from Cook 
county, because the body could not without absurdity support 
that which it was its duty to amend, if not to wipe out alto- 
gether. The effort was made to get the convention to adjourn 
to a later date, if possible until January, 1863. The alleged 
reason was that the people were too deeply engrossed in the 
rebellion to give a proper consideration to the question of the 
revision of the constitution. 40 The real motive was doubtless 
fear lest the republican state administration might be ousted 
in November, 1862. With the failure of these devices the 
republicans allowed the convention to drag out its work under 
protest, assuming that the people would dispose of the product 
as it deserved. When, therefore, the convention adjourned on 
March 24, the real fight began. 

The republican press immediately assaulted the proposed 
constitution as a partisan work, " the new democratic bantling." 
It was grudgingly admitted by some that it contained provisions 
of merit but it was declared that in general they had not 
improved upon the document under which the state had pros- 
pered for nearly fifteen years and which was in reality "good 
enough;" 41 moreover, the transactions of the constitutional 
convention "were ungrateful, unpatriotic and treacherous." 
To the republicans the most dangerous feature of the consti- 
tution was the apportionment of the legislature; should the 
Egyptian minority rule the majority? " Shall the manufactur- 
ing, agricultural and commercial interests of northern Illinois 
be put into Egyptian bondage?" queried the Aurora Beacon.* 2 

The new constitution with its provisions for increased sal- 
aries and for new offices was charged with extravagantly 
imposing new burdens on the taxpayers at a time when 

40 Illinois State Register, February i, 17, March 3, 1862; Illinois State 
Journal, February 18, 1862; Chicago Tribune, January 29, 1862; Rockford Reg- 
ister, February i, 1862. 

41 Ibid., March 29, 1862; Illinois State Journal, March 27, 1862; Ottawa 
Weekly Republican, March 29, 1862. 

42 Ibid., April 5, 1862; Aurora Beacon, April 24, 1862. 


retrenchment was the order of the day. The bank and Negro 
articles were roundly denounced. The document was sub- 
mitted to a general overhauling: "the new constitution 

. . . changes the entire order of things, and sets every- 
thing afloat. We are satisfied under the present order of 
things," was a typical republican criticism. 43 They called upon 
the people "to reject the Constitution entirely, without regard 
to its merits or demerits, as a rebuke to the Convention for its 
officious intermeddling with the war, and its attempt to cast 
odium upon the administration of Gov. Yates." 44 

Almost all the corporations in the state joined the repub- 
licans in this war on the new constitution. Not only did the 
document openly defy the banking interests but also the Illinois 
Central railroad, which was forever bound by article IV to 
the payment to the state of the seven per cent of its earnings 
agreed upon in its charter. Associated capital in general was 
aroused by the provision that " all laws enacted after the 
adoption of this Constitution, which create corporations, amend 
existing charters, or grant special or exclusive privileges to indi- 
viduals, shall be subject to alteration, amendment or repeal." 45 

The democrats tried to rally voters to the support of the 
constitution as a document in the interests of the people rather 
than of corporate privilege. They charged its opponents with 
having been "bought up" by the corporations, particularly 
the Illinois Central. John Wentworth, the Chicago republican 
leader, "the friend of the laboring people" and the opponent 
of banks, corporations, and special privileges, took the stump 
in favor of the new constitution. 46 Other republicans announced 
that they intended to support the document as a whole, while 
rejecting certain of the articles submitted separately. 

The state officials from Governor Yates down set busily 
at work in a rousing campaign against the new constitution; 
speakers of both party antecedents were put into the field, 
from Owen Lovejoy representing the strongest antislavery 

43 Aurora Beacon, May 8, 1862. 

44 Havana Battle Axe clipped in Illinois State Journal, April 4, 1862. 

45 Journal of the Constitutional Convention, 1862, p. 1082 ; St. Louis Re- 
publican clipped in Belleville Democrat, April 5, 1862. 

46 Joliet Signal, May 6, 13, 1862; Illinois State Register, May 8, 1862. Went- 
worth had become estranged from the " state house clique " at Springfield, see 
Trumbull manuscripts. 


republicanism to John Reynolds, the incarnation of old demo- 
cratic conservatism. They effectively played up in Egypt the 
bugaboo of increased taxes; and as the contest neared its close, 
they dragged out the bloody head and raw bones of treason in 
a sentimental appeal to the partiotism of the voters of the state. 
Every band of traitors in the state, they said, was working 
for this humbug constitution, this Vallandigham document. 
"Why is it that every rebel sympathizer in Illinois is open 
mouthed for the adoption of the new Constitution?" asked the 
Illinois State Journal on the day before election. " Down 
with the Secession Constitution," was the caption of the edito- 
rial in which the Chicago Tribune gave a final warning on 
election day. 47 

The commissioners appointed to take the vote of the 
Illinois troops outside of Illinois began their work early in 
April. With two regiments in Virginia, others on the remotest 
borders of Arkansas, besides the forces stationed in Missouri, 
Kentucky, and Tennessee, this was no small task. Early reports 
that the soldiers were going for the constitution caused con- 
siderable alarm; shortly, however, the returns went heavily 
against adoption. Sentiment throughout the state became in- 
creasingly hostile. Election day brought out a heavy vote 
except in Egypt where the fear of increased taxes and the 
charge of disloyalty rendered many democrats indifferent. 48 
With a majority of 16,051 against ratification the work of the 
constitutional convention was rejected. The taking of the 
soldiers' vote was not completed until well into the summer 
but added substantially to this majority. The articles pro- 
hibiting banking and the congressional apportionment were 
rejected by much smaller majorities while the sections pro- 
hibiting the settlement of Negroes and mulattoes in the state 
and prohibiting them from voting were carried by the over- 
whelming majorities of 107, 650 and 176,271 respectively. The 
section requiring the legislature to pass laws carrying the pro- 
visions of the last two sections into effect was ratified with a 
majority of 154,524. On the basis of the returns Governor 

"Illinois State Journal, June 16, 1862; Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1862. 

48 Jonesboro Gazette, June 28, 1862. In eleven of the strongest demo- 
cratic counties in Egypt the vote reflected a loss of nearly six thousand. Can- 
ton Weekly Register, June 24, 1862; Chicago Tribune, July n, 1862. 


Yates in August issued a proclamation announcing the rejection 
of the constitution. 49 This defeat was to prove but the begin- 
ning of a growing democratic discomfiture in state politics. 

49 Election returns from the secretary of state's office; Illinois State Journal, 
August 5, 1 6, 1862. 


TO THE call to arms Illinois responded with an enthusiasm 
that suggested the important part she was to play in fight- 
ing the battles of the union. Early in 1861 attempts had been 
made by the legislature to prepare the state for the civil strife 
that was impending. Governor Yates then called attention 
to the collapse of the militia system and to the failure of uni- 
versal conscriptive enrollment which other states had discarded 
for voluntary organizations. In spite of a theoretical enroll- 
ment of all able-bodied males, the state could marshal less 
than 800 uniformed militia, with less than 200 serviceable 
muskets to represent the $300,000 outlay that the federal gov- 
ernment had issued to the state. 1 Yet the legislature hesitated 
to raise the issue of militia reconstruction at a time when it was 
hoped that the south might be pacified if its tender feelings 
about coercion should not be offended. Democratic assembly- 
men from the southern counties called attention to the serious- 
ness of the situation. William H. Green of Massac county 
suggested that his constituents " like a wall of fire " would 
oppose any attempt to invade the north; but "if the North 
were marched upon the South, her forces would be met on the 
prairies and made to march over the dead bodies of the men 
who people them." The senate, therefore, held up the bill 
for the reorganization of the militia Richard J. Oglesby, 
chairman of the committee in charge, remarking that when the 
necessity should arise " the whole country, having the love of 
the Union at heart, would rise en masse, and, disregarding 
the hindrances of a militia law, volunteer their services 
to the proper authority of the State speedily and without 
delay." 2 

1 Reports General Assembly, 1861, 1:10-11; 1865, 1:21; cf. Senate Journal, 
1861, p. 26. 

2 See debate in Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1861; cf. repoit in Illinois 
State Register, January 14, 1861. 



When the news from Sumter was received on April 15 
Governor Yates promptly issued a proclamation calling for 
six thousand troops to fill the government requisition. In less 
than five days volunteers in excess of the quota had reported 
for duty, sixty-two companies having been offered to the 
governor. Mass meetings were called in many communities; 
the need of defending the union was eloquently placed before 
the assembled populace; and, after the speaking, volunteers 
for a local company were enrolled and the officers elected. 
Competition was keen between rival communities and com- 
peting officers, and the rush to recruiting stations was general. 
The first call, therefore, resulted in the organization of 
six regiments. The legislature summoned in special session 
responded to the further recommendations of the governor 
by appropriating $3,500,000 $1,000,000 for organizing 
and equipping ten new regiments, $500,000 for purchasing 
arms and building a powder magazine, and $2,000,000 for 
general purposes of state defense while an extra regiment 
of cavalry and four companies of artillery were also provided 
for. By June all ten regiments had been accepted by the 
national government, together with an additional regiment of 
infantry (commanded by Colonel Hecker), a battalion of light 
artillery, and one regiment of cavalry making nineteen regi- 
ments in all. 3 Four other cavalry regiments were raised before 
the disaster of Bull Run in July which spurred the state to 
offer sixteen more regiments. Countless thousands of the lusty 
sons of Illinois only awaited further recruiting, and dozens 
o^ companies were tendered in anticipation of further requisi- 
tions upon the state, while most of the three months men 
reenlisted upon their return in August. So powerful was the 
flood of recruits that for a time, in spite of strong pressure 
on the war department, only one-fourth of the companies raised 
could be accepted; several companies, besides numerous indi- 
vidual recruits, therefore offered themselves to Missouri and 
other states. 4 By the first of October forty-three regiments 
were already in actual service, more than the state of New 

3 Illinois State Register, April 20, 1861 ; Grant, Personal Memoirs, 1:230- 
231; Illinois State Journal, May i, 8, 1861; Reports General Assembly, 1861, 
i : 17-21. 

4 Ottawa Free Trader, August 17, 1861. 


York had contributed, while enough men were enrolled in 
regiments in process of formation to give the state a total of 
nearly 70,000 troops. Before the end of the year Governor 
Yates was able to report in service fifty-eight regiments of 
infantry, eleven of cavalry, and eighteen companies of artillery, 
enrolling a total of 60,000 men. 5 Two artillery regiments 
supplied with James' rifled cannon were also accepted after 
Governor Yates obtained an order from the war department 
authorizing regimental organization. Although by the summer 
of 1862 the secretary of war had refused to accept any more 
batteries from Illinois, since it had more artillery companies in 
the field than any other state, yet when the call came for addi- 
tional regiments of infantry the response was not only prompt 
but heavily in excess of the calculations of the war department. 
During the summer of 1862 sixty-one regiments of infantry 
were furnished together with two regiments of cavalry and 
six batteries, in all sixty-five thousand men. This made a 
total enlistment since the commencement of the war of nearly 
135,000 men, divided between 125 regiments of infantry, 16 
of cavalry, and 30 batteries. 6 

The heavy enlistments of the late summer of 1862 may 
be accounted for largely on the basis of the choice that was 
to be offered between volunteering or being conscripted. In 
the weeks following August 23, an enrollment of the entire 
militia force of the state was made in case a draft to fill up 
old regiments should be required. Meantime the republicans 
of Illinois stoutly supported the stand taken by Senator Trum- 
bull in favor of federal conscription. He pressed the bill in 
congress against the opposition of the more timid and was 
rewarded by witnessing its enactment on March 3, 1863. The 
provost marshals and their assistants were soon at work pre- 
paring the rolls and making arrangements for the drawing. It 
was generally expected that the process of drafting would 
commence promptly, but hundreds of companies were sworn 
into service, and Illinois with volunteers far in excess of its 
quota was relieved from the operation of the draft. 

5 Illinois State Journal, December 14, 1861. 

6 Ibid., September 13, 1862. The number on the muster rolls was 135,440. 
Adjutant General of Illinois, Report, 1861-1866, 1:22. 


The same goal of keeping ahead of her quota was adopted 
by Illinois in the succeeding years of the war. Enlistment, with 
reenlistment of veteran regiments, was sufficiently heavy to 
delay the necessity of conscription. With a surplus of 8,151 
under the draft quota, with an additional credit of 10,947 for 
volunteers discovered in a reexamination of the rolls, and a 
net credit of 4,373 from the 6,032 Illinois citizens enrolled in 
Missouri regiments, recruiting placed Illinois on January I, 
1 864, far in excess of the total quota under all calls of 145, ioo. 7 

Preparations were again made in 1864 for heavy drafts. 
The people of Illinois, flattered by previous reports, imme- 
diately set out to maintain this record, spurred on at times by 
warnings of the danger of conscription. In this way enlist- 
ments kept well ahead of quotas, reaching an excess of nearly 
35,000 in the summer of 1864. This was a noble record; 
Governor Yates took just pride in the response to his energetic 
efforts to have Illinois take her full part in fighting the battles 
of the union. 8 When finally the south was crushed and the 
war record of Illinois was surveyed, it was found that the state 
had furnished under various periods of service over one-quarter 
of a million men. 9 

Great credit for the proud record which Illinois made dur- 

7 Adjutant General of Illinois, Report, 1861-1866, 1:30. Eight hundred and 
forty-eight Illinoisians were found in the Eleventh Missouri infantry and 670 in 
the First Missouri cavalry, Illinois State Journal, January 6, 1864; Chicago Times, 
January 6, 1864. Proclamation of Governor Yates, February i, and report of 
Adjutant General Allen C. Fuller, February i, Illinois State Journal, February 
10, 17, 1864; Adjutant General of Illinois, Report, 1861-1866, 1:29-32. In the 
closing months of 1863 Adjutant General Allen C. Fuller thought he detected a 
disposition to hold back recruiting and incite the draft " as a good thing to have 
in this state." 

8 This excess, though large, was not sufficiently large to prevent some con- 
scription under later calls. Only occasionally did a carping critic interpret the 
excess as involving a neglect of the welfare of the people, " a wanton waste 
of the lives and energies of the people of Illinois." Cairo Democrat, July 3, 1864. 

9 Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1864, October 20, 1866. Two hundred and 
twenty-five thousand and three hundred troops were enrolled in 150 infantry 
regiments, 17 cavalry regiments, and 33 batteries. This did not include 
Illinoisians enlisted in or recruited for the regular army, or in other organi- 
zations without the state, nor did it include colored troops. Provost Marshal 
General Fry of the war department on September 2, 1865, reported a total of 
256,297 men furnished by Illinois without reference to periods of service, which 
varied from three months to three years. The total credit for the state on 
December 31, 1865, was 226,592 as against a total quota of 231,448. Adjutant 
General of Illinois, Report, 1861-1866, 1:157, 216; 8:777 & War department 
statistics published in the newspapers in 1866 placed the total figures at 258,277 
and 279,006. Chicago Tribune, October 20, November 20, 1866. 


ing this great national crisis is due to the aggressive leadership 
of her zealous and industrious commander-in-chief, Governor 
Richard Yates. His face was grimly set against the southern 
threats of disunion and when the test came he summoned forth 
with his eloquence the resources of the state of Illinois. Anxious 
to crush out the dread specter of disunion, he chafed under the 
caution exercised by the central government " If I were Lin- 
coln," he impatiently stated in February, 1862, "I would lead 
enough of the Potomac army to take Richmond and this 
though Washington could not be saved I would march to 
victory or death Washington is nothing, if we remain an 
unconquered people with our institutions safe." 10 He was 
inclined to feel that, while he asked no credit from Lincoln 
for having gotten up the great Illinois army, the state did not 
receive full justice from the Washington authorities. Accord- 
ingly, on July 1 1 of that year, simultaneous with his response 
to Lincoln's new call for three hundred thousand, Yates sent 
an open letter to Lincoln demanding " the adoption of more 
decisive measures," the end of mild and conciliatory means to 
recall the rebels to their allegiance, and " greater vigor and 
earnestness" in military movements. "In any event," he 
declared, " Illinois, already alive with beat of drum and 
resounding with the tramp of new recruits, will respond to 
your call. Adopt this policy and she will leap like a flaming 
giant into the fight." ll 

So martial was the spirit instilled in the souls of peace- 
loving Illinoisians by stirring appeals to rally to the colors! 
War mass meetings were held in every village and town to 
encourage enlistments; subscriptions were taken to aid pros- 
pective recruits in making the decision; funds were raised to 
contribute to the relief of the families of volunteers; boards 
of supervisors and city authorities were called upon to offer 
bounties in addition to those held out by the general govern- 
ment. Recruits held back to see what bounties would be offered 
and where they would be most generously rewarded for enlist- 
ment. After a succession of increases Rockford volunteers in 

10 Yates to Trumbull, February 14, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 

11 Reports General Assembly, 1865, 1:15-16; Eddy, Patriotism of Illinois, 
i : 124. 


1864 received a bounty of $400 from the city and county 
authorities. Sixty-nine counties alone had an expenditure of 
$15,307,074 for bounties in aid of raising troops. 12 The pos- 
sibility of a state bonus even came up for discussion. In the 
closing months of the war taxpayers began to groan under 
the burden caused by these bounties. Special prizes were 
offered by local merchants and manufacturers, and draftees 
who were men of means were induced to pay the $300 fee, 
by which they could purchase exemption, to substitutes who 
would enlist in their behalf. 13 Funds were also raised to 
contribute to the relief of the families of volunteers. 

The great spur to enlistment, however, was the desire to 
avoid the enforcement of the draft. This whip was held over 
the able-bodied men of the state, and arrangements were made 
repeatedly for the application of the law. In the summer of 
1862 the draft seemed so near at hand that a rush for Canada 
was only checked by the requirement that traveling could be 
done only under passes issued by deputy marshals. 14 The 
democrats condemned the conscription law and challenged its 
constitutionality; they found special fault with the provision 
making possible exemption for those paying a fee of $300. 
The Chicago Tribune, which had originally defended this sec- 
tion as one essentially making for democracy, came to admit 
that " if the $300 clause is the poor man's fund we don't think 
they see it." 15 From the winter of 18631864 to the end of 
the war it seemed that the lottery of life and death would be 
drawn at almost any time; draft protection associations were 
organized in almost every community to raise funds to procure 
substitutes for members who might be drafted. The draft was 
actually ordered and the wheel set in motion in the fourth and 

12 Rockford Democrat, August 24, 29, 1864; Ottawa Free Trader, July 26, 
1862; Adjutant General of Illinois, Report, 1861-1866, 1:137. 

13 The Chicago Board of Trade in July, 1863, raised $15,000 bounty money 
and recruited a full company of artillery in forty-eight hours; besides this Board 
of Trade battery, two Board of Trade regiments, the Seventy-second and the 
Eighty-eighth, were recruited. The Chicago Mercantile Association organized 
the Chicago Mercantile battery. Ibid., 1861-1866, 4:553, 5:259, 8:732. 

14 Aurora Beacon, August 7, 1862; Ottawa Weekly Republican, August 23, 

15 Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1862, December 25, 1863. Three hundred 
thousand names were drawn in one instance and all but twenty-five thousand 
escaped, mainly under this clause. 


tenth districts in October, 1864, and in most districts in March, 
1865, when the order arrived in April to stop the draft and 
recruiting in Illinois. 16 Thus it happened that recruiting in 
Illinois involved a quota of only 3,538 draft men. 

Strangely enough, the most satisfactory response to appeals 
for enlistment came from the democratic counties in southern 
Illinois. True, there had at first prevailed a disposition to 
regard the contest as an aggressive war on the part of a new 
president and therefore a corresponding reluctance to take up 
arms ; but, the war having become a reality, the feeling grew 
among the people of Egypt that they had to " see the thing 
through." Even under the first call, the Cairo district in the 
extreme southern end of the state offered more companies than 
could be received. When in the summer of 1861 John A. 
Logan, "the little Egyptian giant," tendered his services to 
the stars and stripes, following the lead of John A. McCIer- 
nand, who had already become a brigadier general, the tide 
was turned in favor of the union; the response to Logan's call 
for a regiment to follow him was immediate. Henceforth, 
Egypt, following the advice of the lamented Douglas, was 
tendering troops not by companies but by regiments; it not 
only filled its quotas but usually piled up a surplus. On the 
first of October, 1863, the ten extreme southern counties 
were officially credited with an excess of nearly fifty per cent. 
Old democratic strongholds charged with copperheadism, 
offered recruits with a generosity that shamed their oppo- 
nents. 17 

Among the Illinois regiments were many representing select 
groups; they reflected the fact that the responsibility for early 
recruiting was assumed by individuals civilians who rallied 
about them, fellow-workers, friends, and neighbors. Certain 
regiments consisted almost entirely of countrymen and farmers; 

16 Rockford Register, January 28, 1865; Ottawa Free Trader, February 4, 
1865; Cairo Democrat, February 22, 1865; Illinois State Journal, April 15, 1865. 

17 Ibid., May 15, 1861; Illinois State Register, August 19, 1861; Jonesboro 
Gazette, August 31, 1861, October n, 1862; Belleville Democrat, August 30, 
1862, January 23, 1864; Cairo Democrat, February 12, 1864. Within four months 
Alexander county, with a voting population of 1,047, including only a hundred 
(106) republicans, furnished seven companies; Union county in eighteen months 
furnished nineteen companies out of a voting population of 2,030, including but 
157 republicans. At the same time Massac county had contributed five-sixths of 
its voting population. 


the State Agricultural Society undertook in 1862 the organi- 
zation of an entire brigade. 18 Railroad men at the same time 
took up the work of organizing another brigade; the Chicago 
railway battalion was part of the response in 1862 to the 
president's call for three hundred thousand more men. Early 
in the war Colonel C. E. Hovey, president of Illinois State 
Normal University, raised the "Normal regiment," to a very 
large degree composed of school teachers and advanced stu- 
dents, and he was soon seeking authority to expand it into a 
brigade. "The high intelligence and social cultivation which 
prevails among the privates makes discipline an easy task, 
while the pride of character & esprit du corps which is a matter 
of course among such men, will make them a very superior 
and effective regiment," wrote one of his captains. 19 Reverend 
B. C. Ward, the congregational pastor at Geneseo, raised a 
company of one hundred young ministers of the gospel " not 
for Chaplains, but to stand up for Christ on the field of 
battle ;" it was incorporated, however, in a Missouri regiment. 
A project for a temperance regiment was set on foot with the 
idea of eliminating the demoralizing influences to which soldiers 
were exposed in camp. 20 

The adopted citizens in Illinois made an important con- 
tribution toward winning the battles of the Civil War. The 
Germans around Belleville responded enthusiastically from 
the start; a company was immediately organized by Augustus 
Mersy, a veteran officer of the Baden army of the German 
revolution of 1848, who promptly became lieutenant colonel. 
Friedrich Hecker, who had at first enlisted in Franz Sigel's 
Missouri regiment as a private, was given authority to raise 
an independent regiment, so that the Twenty-fourth Illinois 
infantry became known as the " Hecker regiment." 21 With the 
return of the three months men in July, Koerner offered to raise 

18 Illinois State Journal, August 16, 22, 1862 ; K. K. Jones to Trumbull, 
May 22, 1861, Trumbull to Governor Yates, September 27, 1861, Trumbull 

19 C. E. Lippincott to Trumbull, December 22, 1861, January 8, 1862, ibid.; 
Belleville Democrat, August 17, 1861. 

20 Rockford Register, September 28, 1861 ; Joliet Signal, October 8, 1861; 
Illinois State Journal, August 2, 1862. 

21 Koerner, Memoirs, 2: 150-151. A second " Hecker's regiment," the Eighty- 
second, was recruited later in the war. 


two German regiments, officered by men of experience. After 
considerable delay Governor Yates gave Koerner the neces- 
sary authority to raise one independent regiment, which was 
recruited in a few weeks and placed under the command of 
Colonel Julius Raith. This was the Forty-third infantry, or 
" Koerner regiment." 22 Many German recruits of that region 
joined Missouri German regiments, because of the failure of 
their leaders to secure prompt organization for exclusive Ger- 
man regiments. Companies were also organized in Springfield, 
Ottawa, and elsewhere, while the Chicago Jaegers, the Turner 
Cadets, and the Lincoln Rifles were ready from the start for 
incorporation in the union army. The Thirteenth cavalry 
regiment was the "German guides," organized at Chicago in 
December, 1861. Within a sixmonth, it was estimated that 
6,000 Germans from Illinois were in the federal army. 23 This 
stream kept up during the war; it was possible as late as 1864 
to recruit a German regiment in Chicago and vicinity. The 
Irish were not to be outdone. In a week's time they organized 
in Chicago the Twenty-third Illinois, otherwise called the Irish 
brigade, which was accepted as an independent regiment under 
Colonel James A. Mulligan. Irish companies from Springfield 
and Rockford also tendered their services. The following 
year the "Cameron guards" were recruited at the capital, 
while the " Ryan guards " from Galena and other companies 
were being organized for a Chicago regiment. The " Irish 
Legion," the Nineteenth infantry, was mustered into service at 
Chicago in the late summer of 1862. During the first two 
years of the war two so-called " Scotch regiments," the Twelfth 
and Sixty-fifth, were organized. 24 Even the Israelites of Chi- 
cago were aroused; in 1862 within forty-eight hours they 
raised a company together with a fund of several thousand 
dollars to put it in the field. The Portuguese in Springfield 
and in Morgan county enrolled large numbers in the companies 
recruited in those regions. 

The idea of using Negro troops had long been urged upon 

22 Koerner to Trumbull, July 24, 29, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts; Koerner, 
Memoirs, 2: 161-165. 

23 Rockford Republican, October 10, 1861. 

24 The synonyms comprising the local names of military organizations are 
listed in Adjutant General of Illinois, Report, 1861-1866, 1:217-223. 


the national administration by Governor Yates and Senator 
Trumbull, and in the fall of 1863 the first Illinois regiment of 
Negro soldiers was finally authorized by the war department. 
Before this a colored company had been started in Galesburg, 
and recruits had been secured from Illinois for Rhode Island 
and Massachusetts organizations; a state wide canvass was 
now inaugurated which brought together five hundred recruits 
at Quincy in February, 1864. But failure to give them the 
same pay and bounty that was paid to white soldiers prevented 
Negro enthusiasm from developing; as a result less than 
two thousand colored troops were mustered into service and 
these naturally played little part in the fighting of this 
war. 25 

Back of the serried battalions that marched forth from 
Illinois there rallied legions of loyal women to minister to 
the physical and moral well-being of the fighters in the field. 
Nimble hands were set to work manufacturing the flags and 
uniforms with which the volunteer companies were outfitted. 
The scraping of lint and making of bandages was started at a 
rate that promised an oversupply; energies were thereupon 
partially transferred to the making of flannel shirts, drawers, 
socks, and other articles of clothing. The needs of the sick 
and wounded soldiers and of families left without support in 
nearly every community were met by local soldiers aid socie- 
ties; an Illinois Soldiers' Relief Association was even organized 
at Washington by the Illinois colony in that city. Sociables 
and benefit concerts and performances were arranged as means 
of raising funds for supplies; sanitary stores were collected, 
funds were solicited from merchants, and farmers were induced 
to bring in their surplus of fruits and vegetables in the summer 
and wood in winter for the benefit of soldiers' families. In 
1863 ladies union leagues began to spread all over the state. 
Members of these organizations often ventured into new fields 
of service, acting as substitutes for clerks who enlisted into 
service, and in certain instances turning out in a body to plant 
gardens and small farms in order to send the produce to the 

25 Chicago Times, October 6, 1863; Rockford Register, November 7, 1863; 
Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1866; Adjutant General of Illinois, Report, 1861- 
1866, 8:777-810. The records at Washington list 1,811 colored troops from 


soldiers. 26 A soldiers' home at Chicago was maintained during 
the later years of the war by the Ladies' War Committee; 
46,284 arrivals were served during its first year. 27 

Other agencies also responded to the heavy demands for 
relief. Wealthy citizens and men in the workshops subscribed 
to funds for the support of the families of volunteers; the 
physicians of Decatur pledged their services without compen- 
sation. 28 County boards of supervisors and common councils in 
the cities designated certain funds for this work. Toward the 
end of 1863 the relief movement came to be organized more 
systematically: the Freemen's Aid Society changed its field 
of operations to that of supplying the wants of soldiers' fami- 
lies, while a movement was started to raise a fund for the 
maintenance and education of the children made orphans by 
the war. 29 There were various projects for orphans' homes 
which in 1867 culminated in the establishment near Blooming- 
ton of the Illinois Soldiers' Orphans' Home. 

Illinoisians also cooperated in the support of two nation 
wide organizations which made substantial contributions to 
the physical and moral health of the soldiers. These were the 
United States Sanitary Commission and the United States 
Christian Commission. The latter sought to provide every 
soldier with a testament; it had stations in the army camps 
and at Cairo, where it maintained reading and writing rooms 
to counteract the contaminating and debasing tendencies of 
camp life. 30 The Sanitary Commission was extremely efficient 
in caring for the physical welfare of the soldiers. Governor 
Yates urged the formation of sanitary associations in each 
county to supply systematically such articles and funds as were 
necessary for hospital work. In order to replenish the ex- 
chequer of the Sanitary Commission, a great Northwestern 
Fair was held on October 27, 1863, at Chicago, the receipts of 

26 Illinois State Journal, May xi, 1861, July 18, 1862; Rockford Register, 
May 21, October i, 1864; Rockford Democrat, December 15, 1864; Carthage 
Republican, January 14, 21, 1864. A grand wood procession was arranged at 
Carthage, which brought in eighty-eight loads of wood. 

27 Chicago Times, June 18, 1864. 

28 Illinois State Journal, April 19, 20, 23, 1861. 

29 Ottawa Weekly Republican, December 5, 1863. 

30 Cairo Democrat, February 9, May 8, 1864; United States Sanitary Com- 
mission, Statement of the Objects and Methods of the Sanitary Commission, 


which were about $60,000; a year later a State Sanitary Fair 
was held at Decatur, and another Northwestern Fair arranged 
for May i, i865. 31 

The long casualty lists for Illinois created heavy demands 
for hospital facilities. This problem, however, was handled 
entirely without efficiency. Accommodations were provided 
only when heavy losses on the battlefield called attention to 
the need; this was especially true after the bloody battles of 
Fort Donelson and Pittsburg Landing, after the struggle for 
Vicksburg, and the battles about Chattanooga. Upon the 
receipt of the news of the capture of Fort Donelson, the 
constitutional convention assumed the unique responsibility 
for appropriating a half million dollars for the relief of the 
wounded; 32 and a year later the legislature set aside another 
fund of $10,000. Governor Yates, however, in his zeal for 
administering relief did not wait long for appropriations but 
rushed aid to the battlefields. In the fall of 1864, when the 
fighting in the Mississippi valley had practically come to an 
end, 700 Illinois soldiers lay in the hospitals about Louisville, 
1,000 in Nashville, 1,500 in Chattanooga, and 3,400 below 
Chattanooga. In fallen heroes Illinois paid its toll to Mars: 
5,857 were killed on the field of battle, 3,051 died of their 
wounds, and 19,934 died from the ravages of disease. 33 

With her vast levies of troops, Illinois was cast to play an 
important role in the work of suppressing the southern con- 
federacy; their logical and self-appointed task was first to 
protect the state and then to carry out an offensive that would 
drive the rebels from the Mississippi valley. Early in the 
first summer Governor Yates secured for Illinois a fair repre- 
sentation in the Grand Army of the East, but the general body 
of troops remained in the department of the west. 

Thirteen regiments, at first with no general officer in com- 

31 Ottawa Weekly Republican, September 6, 1862; Chicago Tribune, January 
16, October 28, 1863; Chicago Morning Post, October 30, 1863; Illinois State 
Register, September 21, 1864; United States Sanitary Commission, Financial 
Report from June, 1861, to October I, 1865; also What the Sanitary Commission 
Is Doing in the Valley of the Mississippi. 

32 Illinois State Journal, February 17, 1862; Illinois State Register, Feb- 
ruary 19, 1862; Jonesboro Gazette, February 22, 1862. 

33 Illinois State Journal, October 5, 1864; Chicago Tribune, October 20, 
1866; Eddy, Patriotism of Illinois, 2:690. Higher figures are given in Bost, 
Slavery and Secession in Illinois, 79; Moses, Illinois, 2:731. 


mand, were sent into Missouri to rid it of confederate troops. 
When finally Grant, Hurlbut, Prentiss, McClernand, and later 
Palmer were given their commissionjs as brigadier generals, 
decisive operations in Missouri as elsewhere were long re- 
strained by superior officers and frequent changes in commands. 
General Fremont had been superseded in the department of 
the west early in November by General Hunter, who in turn 
ten days later yielded to General Halleck. In July, however, 
Illinois troops under Colonel Franz Sigel had fought valiantly 
against great odds at Carthage, and under General Lyons at 
Wilson's Creek; a little later, after Grant relieved General 
Prentiss at Cairo, his command faced the murderous confed- 
erate fire at Belmont, suffered heavy losses, but thereby pre- 
vented the junction of the confederate forces in Kentucky and 
Missouri. But for most of this period the western army lay 
idle, guarding railroad bridges, depots, engine-houses chafing 
under their inactivity and reflecting the growing clamor at 
home for a movement "on to Memphis and New Orleans." 
General Palmer, complaining of the lack of progress, frankly 
assigned the blame to the constant change of commanders and 
to the prevalence in all armies of " Feather bed Generals, who 
run the machine by Telegraph and trifle away time." 34 

In the spring of 1862, however, more satisfactory results 
were evidenced when the work of saving Missouri to the union 
was completed, and the federal offensive began against the first 
confederate line. On January 27, 1862, Lincoln as commander- 
in-chief ordered the army and flotilla of armed river craft at 
Cairo to advance a part of a general movement of the fed- 
eral forces against the insurgents. The result was the capture 
first of Fort Henry on the Tennessee, and later of Fort Donel- 
son on the Cumberland river. The latter feat brought glory to 
the Illinois troops who constituted a majority of the army 
of 30,000 men led by General Grant. Back of this victory, 
however, was the courage and heroism of any army that for 
three days and nights fought on in the midst of rain and snow 
and frost, without shelter and almost without food. Far-off 
Maine could not restrain her admiration for the work of these 

34 J. M. Palmer to Trumbull, February 3, 1862, Koerner to Trumbull, 
January 2, 26, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 


brave volunteers; the governor and legislature of that state 
formally extended their congratulations to the victors, singling 
out the Illinois troops for special mention for their heroic 
conduct. 35 

This victory brought to Grant his first significant military 
laurels. A West Pointer who had seen service in the Mexican 
War and in the west, he had reentered civilian life and in the 
crisis of 1860 was adjusting himself to the obscurity of a clerk- 
ship in his father's leather business in Galena. Then, as a 
Douglas democrat, he took the lead in the raising of a volun- 
teer company at Galena and accompanied it to Springfield. 
His appearance on that occasion was not "very prepossess- 
ing;" "hardly of medium height, broad-shouldered and rather 
short-necked, his features did not indicate any very high grade 
of intellectuality." 36 His friends brought him to the notice 
of Governor Yates and secured an appointment as assistant 
quartermaster-general at two dollars a day. Soon his abilities 
as a military commander began to evidence themselves and led 
Governor Yates to assign him to the command of cantonments 
at Springfield, at Mattoon, and at Anna. Later he in all 
modesty accepted the colonelcy of the Twenty-first regiment; 
on August 23, after two months of efficient service in the field, 
he was promoted brigadier general with a commission dated 
May 17. Now following the capture of Fort Donelson, Grant 
received the rank of major general, his commission fitly dated 
February 16, the date of the surrender of the fort. Already 
his courage, his clearness of judgment, his knowledge of mili- 
tary science and of men, his ability to command the confidence 
of his subordinates had been demonstrated in a way that pre- 
pared the minds of Illinoisians for his future achievements. 37 

Simultaneously with Grant's movement against Fort Donel- 
son, an expedition under General Pope moved down the Mis- 
sissippi and captured the confederate positions of Island 
Number 10. A general advance was then made on the next 
confederate line from Memphis to Chattanooga; moving up 
the Tennessee, Grant's army was suddenly attacked at Pitts- 

35 Rockford Republican, February 20, 1862; see resolutions and letters of 
Governor Washburne, Illinois State Journal, April 8, 1862. 
38 Koerner, Memoirs, 2: 126. 
3 7 Eddy, Patriotism of Illinois, i : 178-189. 


burg Landing, and the battle of Shiloh took place on April 6 
and 7. Only the arrival of reinforcements saved the hard- 
pressed union army, many officers of which charged General 
Grant and General Sherman with negligence. " Good general- 
ship would have saved us thousands- of valuable lives and have 
carried our army in triumph into Corinth," declared one Illinois 
officer. 38 John M. Palmer cursed the fates which brought the 
calamitous losses to the union army: "No sadder day will I 
hope ever come for Illinois than that sad Sunday when the 
flower of her soldiers were decimated at Pittsburg unless the 
day Grant was made a Brigadier General or that upon which 
he was promoted may be regarded as more unfortunate." 39 
Grant was in a measure superseded by General Halleck, who 
assumed chief command for a time. Tales of Grant's addiction 
to drink began to circulate in camp, but seemed to be founded 
on small talk; 40 at any rate, the advance was successfully con- 
tinued until Corinth was occupied, after which Memphis fell 
into the hands of the union forces. The federal army followed 
the retreating confederates, but operations were uneventful 
until they pressed hard upon the defenses of Vicksburg. Illinois 
troops to the number of about 20,000 accompanied Grant on 
this expedition against Vicksburg, and 25,000 more were with 
Rosecrans when he attacked Bragg at Murfreesboro on the 
last day of 1862. In both expeditions the Illinoisians acquitted 
themselves creditably and were in instances conspicuous for 
their gallant behavior. 

Illinois troops under able leadership were winning fame 
everywhere. John A. Logan had a brilliant military career 
and won promotion to a brigadier generalship. Even his old 
republican antagonists supported the proposition to have him 
advanced to the rank of major general; and, since Grant and 
McClernand were rivals for the laurels of the Vicksburg cam- 
paign, the military leadership of the Illinois troops was thus, 
strangely enough, committed to democrats. 41 Party-minded 

38 George T. Allen to Trumbull, April 25, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 

3 9 John M. Palmer to Trumbull, April 24, 1862, ibid.; Koerner, Memoirs, 

40 George T. Allen to Trumbull, May n, June 7, 1862, Trumbull manu- 

41 H. McPike to Trumbull, February 23, 1863, ibid.; Koerner, Memoirs, 
2 : 205-206. 


republicans challenged their devotion to the cause and doubted 
whether they possessed the stuff of which heroes are made, but 
were not willing to claim altogether superior endowments for 
their own leaders like gallant "Dick" Oglesby and General 

The surrender of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863, after it had 
been invested for months and repeatedly stormed with shot 
and shell, opened the Mississippi throughout its entire length. 
The capture was an undisputed victory for Grant; John A. 
McClernand had been eliminated during the campaign, for 
Grant, after severely criticizing his generalship, had relieved 
him of his command. McClernand never admitted any culpa- 
bility on his part and claimed that a grave injustice had been 
done him ; restored by order of President Lincoln and assigned 
to operations in Louisiana and Texas, he remained in the field 
until the early part of 1864, when he resigned his commission, 
claiming that he had been discriminated against in promotions. 42 

Illinois troops had taken their full part in the task, assumed 
at the outset of the war, of severing the confederacy along 
the line of the Mississippi river; but their services did not 
end there. Illinois regiments were an important factor in 
the capture of Chattanooga by Rosecrans in September, 1863; 
others marched with Grant a few weeks later to relieve the 
beleaguered union army there and to establish federal control 
in that region. Over seventy regiments then came under the 
immediate command of General Grant, only to be transferred 
to General Sherman when Grant was called to Washington to 
assume, under the military title of lieutenant general, the com- 
mand of all the armies of the United States. 

Nor had the volunteer soldiers of Illinois been idle else- 
where. Illinois regiments had participated in the Peninsular 
campaign ; and they had met the enemy in the bloody battles 
of Antietam, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellors- 
ville. Illinois cavalry had taken conspicuous parts in the fight- 
ing in the west and in Virginia, especially in April and May, 
1863. The brilliant raid of the Sixth Illinois cavalry under 

42 John A. McClernand to Trumbull, January 14, 1864, Trumbull manu- 
scripts; see correspondence in War of the Rebellion, Official Records, series i, 
volume 17, part 2, p. 555, volume 24, part i, p. 6, 169-186. 


Colonel Grierson from Tennessee through the states of Mis- 
sissippi and Louisiana as far as Baton Rouge astounded the 
rebel leaders, who saw the heart of the confederacy penetrated 
for the first time. The Eighth and Twelfth cavalry regiments 
tried to equal this exploit when in Stoneman's expedition they 
dashed into the rear of Lee's army, within a few miles of Rich- 
mond. 43 Illinoisians marched with Sherman " from Atlanta 
to the sea " and northward through the seaboard states. They 
backed up Grant in his "Wilderness campaign," steadily cut- 
ting down the distance to Richmond. By land and sea they 
operated in the department of the gulf under the command 
of Major General Hurlbut to complete the conquest of the 
lower Mississippi valley. 

In the early months of 1865 they saw their efforts crowned 
with success on every hand. The battle-scarred veterans of 
the gulf poured into New Orleans with the well-earned laurels 
of their campaign; Sherman's forces pressed on toward the 
rear defenses of Richmond; while two regiments, the Thirty- 
ninth infantry, or "Yates Phalanx," and the Twenty-third, or 
" Irish Brigade," followed Grant into the streets of the con- 
federate capital and were present at Lee's surrender at Appo- 
mattox. When the shouts of victory began to subside, Illinois 
was thrilled to learn that it was the silk flag of the Thirteenth 
Illinois regiment, a rebel trophy rescued and hoisted by a 
Massachusetts soldier, that was the first to proclaim the union 
occupation of Richmond. 44 

It was not long then before the regiments of war-weary 
boys in blue, their flags emblazoned with deeds of glory on 
scores of battlefields, began to return to their homes and peace- 
ful callings. Glorious was the welcome which they received 
from friends and loved ones whom they had left to serve their 
country. Proudly did they recount exploits that brought honor 
to their state. Yet no more eloquent testimony to devotion to 
the union could have been offered than that which came from 
silent battlefields consecrated by the blood of fallen heroes. 45 

43 Rock River Democrat, May 13, 1863. 

44 Illinois State Journal, May 23, 1865. 

45 The Eighty-fifth regiment of Peoria, which had started out in 1862 nine 
hundred strong to fight its way to Savannah and up to Richmond, returned with 
three hundred and fifty men in the ranks. Ibid., June 17, 1865. 


FROM the time the first call went out for volunteers through 
the years of fighting in the field President Lincoln wrestled 
with the colossal task of preserving the federal union. With 
unquestionable sincerity he grappled with the worst tangle of 
problems ever confronted by an American executive and with 
persistence, energy, self-control, and a high degree of tact, 
prepared to carry the nation through its greatest crisis. It 
was impossible, however, for his former associates in Illinois 
to gauge the difficulty of his position; as they impatiently 
awaited results which they felt ought to reveal themselves at 
once, they turned to each other with the question: " Is it pos- 
sible that Mr. Lincoln is getting scared?" 1 

Within Illinois, as throughout the nation, the atmosphere 
of war had generated a passion for freedom quite novel to 
the sectional controversy; even before the clash of arms Wil- 
liam H. Herndon had demanded that slavery be met boldly 
and extinguished. "Liberty & Slavery," he declared, "are 
absolute antagonisms; and all human experience all human 
philosophy says 'Clear the ring & let these natural foes 
these eternal enemies now fight it out To separate them now 
is murderous to the men women & children of the future.' " 2 
Another Illinois republican had urged that the southern states 
be warned that in seceding and relinquishing their equality in 
the union, they would fall back " into territorial pupillage 
again," subject to the right of congress to prohibit or abolish 
slavery in the territories a state suicide theory older than 
the war itself. 3 This suggestion furnished a way of striking 
directly at the institution of slavery; many who had been 

1 William Butler to Trumbull, March 14, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 
2 W. H. Herndon to Trumbull, December 21, 1860, ibid. 
8 W. B. Slaughter to Trumbull, February 15, 1861, ibid. 



extremely conservative on the question of slavery had come 
to feel that, while the point in dispute was union v. rebellion, 
slavery was at the bottom of the whole situation and that its 
continued existence must become the real issue. 

A line of cleavage appeared between the new abolitionists 
and the conservative defenders of the union. Congress, under 
conservative leadership, adopted the position presented by 
John J. Crittenden of Kentucky that the war involved the 
preservation of the union and not an interference with the 
domestic institutions of any of the states; and Lincoln and 
the Illinois congressional delegation excepting Senator Trum- 
bull cooperated in giving the loyal slaveholders of the border 
states this assurance. At the same time, however, " radical 
republicans" in Illinois set up a plea for emancipation; they 
demanded that the real issue be dragged into the light that 
the battle cry of freedom be proclaimed. 

The belief spread that the war would have to continue 
until all the causes which produced it had been removed 
slavery must be put in process of extinction. The Chicago 
Tribune was busy preparing the public mind for the first step, 
pointing out that, " every day the rebellion lasts increases the 
probabilities that slavery will receive its death wound before 
the struggle is ended." 4 When, however, democratic papers 
protested against making the object of the war the extermi- 
nation of slavery, the very journals that were working toward 
emancipation denied categorically the existence of any such 
danger; it was* shortly after such a denial that the Central 
Illinois. Gazette, edited by a veteran abolitionist, urged that 
" freedom should be proclaimed to all the sons* of Africa that 
would fight on the side of the Government." 5 

Just at this stage came the report of Fremont's proclama- 
tion providing for the confiscation and emancipation of the 
slaves of rebel planters in his military district. The news of 
this action met with an outburst of applause on the part of 
thousands of republicans, who welcomed it as an assault upon 
the institution of slavery; even independent papers were able 

4 Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1861; Central Illinois Gazette, June 26, 1861. 

5 Ibid., July 24, August 28, 1861 ; Jonesboro Gazette, September 21, 1861; 
Rock River Democrat, October 8, 1861 ; Ottawa Free Trader, October 19, 1861. 


to indorse it, on the principle that a slave owner forfeited all 
rights to protection of property when found in arms against 
the government. 6 When the news of President Lincoln's dis- 
allowing order followed, it brought bitter disappointment to 
those who had thought that a long step forward had been 

Although some Illinois republicans approved the presi- 
dent's decision, the. great preponderance gave their support to 
General Fremont's proclamation. The Rock River Democrat, 
an opponent of a general emancipation policy, declared that 
" the Proclamation had received the endorsement of the free 
people of the West it was just the thing needed, and Fre- 
mont was just the man to execute it. ... We believe 
the principle enunciated in the Proclamation will yet have to 
be adopted by the Government it is right, the magnitude of 
the stake for which we are playing demands it, and we say 
God speed the day." 7 John Russell, the Bluffdale educator, 
in his disappointment, expressed the opinion that " the repudia- 
tion by Mr. Lincoln of the clause of Fremont's Proclamation, 
manumitting the slaves of Missouri rebels, gave more 'aid 
and comfort to the enemy' in that state than if he had made 
the rebel commander, Sterling Price, a present of fifty pieces 
of rifled cannon." 8 The Germans of Chicago and of the 
Belleville district, who had become noted for their zeal for 
liberty and fundamental democracy, were especially strong in 
their admiration for Fremont. 

It seemed clear that Lincoln's policy was to preserve 
slavery intact. This was extremely vexatious. William H. 
Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, grew restive to the point of 
declaring: "Good God! if I were Lincoln .... I 
would declare that all slaves should be free. . . . What 
does Lincoln suppose he can squelch out this rebellion while 
he and the North in common are fighting for the status of 
slavery? Good Heavens. What say you?" 9 Many felt con- 
vinced that the government had " a higher and holier mission 
to perform, than to lavish hundreds of millions of Treasure, 

6 Ottawa Free Trader, October 19, 1861. 

7 Rock River Democrat, September 24, October 8, 1861. 

8 John Russell to Trumbull, December 17, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

9 W. H. Herndon to Trumbull, November 20, 1861, ibid. 


and to sacrifice tens of thousands of the lives of our noblest 
young men, to see how strong it can hold a Traitor's negro 
with one hand and how successfully it can fight his master with 
the other." 10 More and more was the argument brought 
forward that the abolition of slavery, a cancer which must 
be cut out and cauterized, was the only remedy that could save 
the union. "The South has made Slavery the issue," declared 
the Central Illinois Gazette, November 27, 1861, "and Con- 
gress must enable the people to throttle rebellion and break 
its head with this ' bone of contention.' ' 

Lincoln, however, again placed himself in the way of fur- 
ther progress. His first annual message to congress, on Decem- 
ber 3, 1 86 1, took no advanced ground on the question of 
emancipation; he contented himself with the suggestion that 
the states might be allowed to confiscate the property of rebel 
citizens and that congress might secure the forfeited slaves by 
crediting their value against their tax quotas. 11 To the root 
and branch abolitionist, which many republicans were fast 
becoming, this seemed " one of the most unjust, & humiliating 
propositions that could be conceived." 12 Disappointed Lin- 
coln supporters voiced their sentiments in varied expressions 
of regret, disgust, and even anger. The editors of the Chicago 
Tribune condemned it as a piece of cowardice, "a horrible 
fiasco" 13 The radicals, becoming more and more violent in 
their hatred of the rebels and their cause, charged their bitter- 
ness to the extreme mildness with which the "giant crime" 
had been treated. 14 

Better things, however, were expected of congress. There 
Senator Trumbull, the author of the first confiscation act, led 
the fight for another measure which would drastically extend 

10 Shubal York to Trumbull, December 5, iS6i, W. Kitchell to Trumbull, 
December 10, 1861, ibid. The Rockford Republican, June 24, 1862, objected to 
this " playing war s " " with a tract in one hand and a rifle in the other," " for 
the purpose of giving the black-hearted cut-throats and scoundrels of the 
barbarous South a chance to repent." 

11 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 6 : 54. 

12 Grant Goodrich to Trumbull, December 5, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 

13 C. D. Ray to Trumbull, December 6, 1861, ibid. 

14 See Cole, " President Lincoln and the Illinois Radical Republicans," 
Mississippi Palley Historical Review, 4:422-423. One aggressive critic called 
it " a tame, timid, time serving common place sort of an abortion of a Message, 
cold enough with one breath to freeze h 11 over." Shubal York to Trumbull, 
December 5, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts. 


freedom to slaves of all persons resisting the union. The repub- 
lican voters of Illinois rallied to Trumbull's support in spite 
of the efforts of the democratic journals to arouse conservative 
republicans to their duty of resisting "the plot of Trumbull, 
Sumner, and Co." 15 Lincoln, in setting himself in opposition 
to the step advocated by Trumbull, aroused the impatience of 
those who felt that the administration was neglecting the very 
means best calculated to hasten the suppression of the rebellion. 
J. M. Sturtevant of Illinois College could not understand 
Lincoln's position, while John Russell of Bluffdale boldly 
denounced "the imbecility of President Lincoln," whom he 
accused of having "done more to aid Secessia than Jefferson 
Davis." 16 

Oblivious to these criticisms, Lincoln continued his efforts 
to attach the border slave states more securely to the union. 
In a special message to congress on March 6, he recommended 
the compensated emancipation of the slaves in the border 
states and was able to secure from that body a joint resolu- 
tion favorable to that policy. This almost unexpected recom- 
mendation recognizing slavery as the cause of the rebellion 
was as warmly welcomed by the republicans as it was deplored 
by the democrats ; and when next Lincoln agreed to the aboli- 
tion of slavery both in the District of Columbia and in the terri- 
tories, he won more golden opinions. Those, however, more 
thoroughly cognizant of his position on slavery found cause 
for impatience; they chafed at his persistence in pressing till 
midsummer the proposition for compensated emancipation and 
were nettled at his reluctance, on account of certain " objection- 
able " emancipation provisions, over signing the second con- 
fiscation act. 17 

Meantime, the pressure upon Lincoln in favor of some 
general emancipation scheme began to have its influence. His 
mind was already at work on this most serious problem of the 

15 Illinois State Register, September n, 14, 21, December 15, 1861; Ottawa 
Free Trader, January 25, 1861. 

16 J. M. Sturtevant to Trumbull, December 28, 1861, John Russell to 
Trumbull, February 4, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 

17 Joliet Signal, March u, 1862; Chicago Tribune, March n, 1862; Writings 
of Abraham Lincoln, 6:87-90, 94-99. He submitted his objections in the form 
of a proposed veto message which he had originally intended to submit to hold 
up this act. 



[From photograph in possession of Mr. L. C. Handy, Washington, D. C.] 


war. Inclining more and more to the position recommended 
by the radicals, he refused them the satisfaction of even a 
hint as to the new policy he was considering. He gave them 
no comfort when Governor Yates on July 1 1 formally 
addressed him to urge that sterner measures be used against 
the rebels. His reply to Greeley's plea for emancipation as 
the prayer of twenty millions was a mere equivocal union- 
saving pronunciamento. When, as late as September 13, 1862, 
a delegation in behalf of a large meeting in Chicago presented 
an address in favor of an emancipation proclamation, he replied 
that, while the subject lay very near his heart, a decision was 
difficult on account of the practical difficulties involved and 
on account of the uncertainty as to the value of such a course 
when entered upon. 18 

The desire of certain republicans to see slavery put in 
process of extinction was reenforced by practical political con- 
siderations; they felt, indeed, that were emancipation post- 
poned indefinitely, it would be fatal to the party. Discontent 
raged within the union ranks; the radicals criticized the Lin- 
coln administration for its caution, and the conservatives looked 
askance at the steps leading toward emancipation. In the 
intimacy of republican counsels, charges were passed of mis- 
management of army contracts and incompetence in military 
leadership. Members of the state administration complained 
of being " tired of traitors from West Point." 19 Even General 
Grant came in for his share of complaint. He was charged 
by republican army officers with being intemperately devoted 
to intoxicants. His abilities as a military leader were seriously 
called into question. With so much uncertainty as to the 
prowess of the federal armies and as to the political future 
of the republican party, republican leaders regarded an eman- 
cipation policy as the one clarifying agency; yet they con- 
fronted the unanswered enigma : why did not Lincoln see this 
and strike boldly? 

It was probably only the irony of fate that during this 
summer so full of disappointment and uncertainty for the rad- 

18 Ibid., 6:123-124, 135-139; Illinois State Journal, September 17, 1862. 

19 D. L. Phillips to Trumbull, March 22, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. They 
wanted to compel the democrats to " go before the people on the issue of 
reenslaveme.nt." Joseph Medill to Trumbull, June 5, 1862, ibid. 


icals Lincoln was developing his plan for the inauguration of 
the very policy so insistently demanded by them. When, there- 
fore, the battle of Antietam made possible the promulgation 
of the preliminary emancipation proclamation on Septem- 
ber 22, 1862, it was received with mingled feelings of surprise, 
satisfaction, and relief. To some it came as a great act of 
justice, wisdom, and mercy which would immortalize the name 
of Abraham Lincoln and save the nation from destruction; 
others regarded the delay as so serious that, while they rejoiced 
at the actual course taken, only continued evidence of firmness, 
self-assertion, and energy on the part of the president could 
wipe out the disgrace of his protracted inaction. 

It was Lincoln's expectation that in the congressional elec- 
tions of 1862 the results of the emancipation proclamation 
might reveal themselves as favorable to his general policy. 
In Illinois, however, republicans had relaxed their efforts after 
the defeat of the new constitution and looked with favor upon 
the advice of prominent war democrats like John A. Logan, 
I. N. Morris, John E. Detrich, A. J. Kuykendall, Washington 
Cockle, and others that "party lines and partizan feelings 
should be swallowed up in patriotism." 20 Republican leaders, 
thereupon, arranged for the cooperation of all administration 
backers in a union fusion party. They agreed that an extra 
session of the legislature would be suicidal for the party, and 
there was much reluctance about holding a state convention. 
When finally a union convention did meet, Eben C. Ingersoll, 
a war democrat from Peoria, was given the nomination for 
congressman-at-large; and candidates representing both old 
party affiliations were put in the field in the various districts. 

The impression prevailed that the democratic party, as 
such, was discredited. Old liners, like Richardson, James C. 
Robinson, and Anthony L. Knapp, who had not joined the war 
following, were consorting with Vallandigham, the notorious 
Ohio copperhead; and the democratic state convention of Sep- 
tember 10 brought out a scant attendance with one-third of 
the counties entirely unrepresented. Yet in May, John A. 

20 Illinois State Journal, August 20, 22, 23, September n, 24, October 13, 
1862; Robert Smith to Gillespie, October 16, 1862, Gillespie manuscripts; Joseph 
Medill to Trumbull, June 25, August 25, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 


Logan's vacant seat in congress was filled by William Joshua 
Allen, a peace democrat, who was elected over both another 
peace advocate and Colonel Isham N. Haynie, a war demo- 
crat. 21 The November election, moreover, resulted in a sweep- 
ing democratic victory: the state ticket netted a majority of 
14^000, the state legislature came completely under democratic 
control, while James C. Allen, the democratic candidate for 
congressman-at-large, was returned victor with eight of the 
other thirteen members of the delegation. This triumph 
assured the election of a democratic United States senator 
to take the place of Senator O. H. Browning in Douglas' 

The democrats waxed jubilant over these glad tidings. 
"The party which triumphed two years ago in every Northern 
State," proclaimed the Joliet Signed, November n, "and by 
sectionalism and slavery agitation provoked secession in the 
Southern States, and hurried us into a dreadful civil war, and 
caused our land to be drenched with the blood of its citizens, 
has been ignobly vanquished." More than this, the winners 
interpreted it as the rout of abolitionism and as a proper 
rebuke to the party that was trying to Africanize the north. 
The voter had registered his reaction to the democratic charge 
that the federal government was " seeking to inaugurate a 
reign of terror in the loyal states by military arrests and trans- 
portation to prisons out of the limits of these states, of citi- 
zens, without a trial, to browbeat all opposition by villainous 
and false charges of disloyalty against whole classes of patri- 
otic citizens, to destroy all constitutional guaranties of free 
speech, a free press, and the writ of 'habeas corpus.' " 22 

Even the republican vote was not to be interpreted as an 
indorsement of Lincoln's policies, for the main body of the 
republicans was following the radical leadership of Senator 
Trumbull and Governor Yates. Governor Yates had thrown 
himself wholeheartedly into the struggle; and, disappointed 
with the president's reluctance to adopt more radical policies, 
he was inclined to question Lincoln's ability to lead the country 
on to victory. Lyman Trumbull even publicly proclaimed the 

21 Illinois State Journal, May 28, 1862. 

?~ Illinois State Register, September 9, 1862, 


incompetency of the administration. 23 This thoroughgoing 
champion of freedom, to whom Lincoln had in 1855 graciously 
yielded the senatorial laurels as a more conservative champion 
of the antislavery cause, had now been transformed into a 
leader of the radical republican following in congress. Trum- 
bull was a man whose austere talents had little of that warmth 
that attracts a large circle of friends, yet his intellectual leader- 
ship and honesty, backed by a puritan conscience, won for him 
a political following that was a silent but effective tribute to his 
genius. As the author of the first confiscation act and as a 
leading figure in every movement for the effective prosecution 
of the war, every suggestion of his carried weight with those 
who were shouting the battle cry of freedom. 

Trumbull's correspondents unburdened to him their dis- 
gust with the national administration. Lincoln seemed to place 
too. much trust in conservative generals out of sympathy with 
the methods best calculated to bring the rebellion to a speedy 
close ; in his cabinet he listened too much to timid, incompetent, 
and conservative advisors, like " Seward and proslavery Blair 
and Bates." 24 Even after the definitive emancipation procla- 
mation of January I, 1863, this dissatisfaction continued 
though checked slightly by the July victories at Vicksburg and 

Meantime the democrats proceeded to enjoy the logical 
fruits of their victory. These were garnered in the legislative 
session of 1863. First, Congressman William A. Richardson, 
who had developed into a bitter opponent of the administra- 
tion, was selected for the vacated seat in the United States 
senate over Governor Yates, who had been given the compli- 
mentary republican nomination. The democrats then devoted 
their attention to their legislative program. Resolutions de- 
nouncing the policy of the federal administration, urging an 
armistice and a national convention at Louisville, in which 
Stephen T. Logan, Samuel S. Marshall, H. K. S. Omelveny, 

23 Chicago Times clipped in Illinois State Register, June 6, 1862; Yates to 
Trumbull, February 14, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 

24 T. Maple to Trumbull, December 28, 1862, Grant Goodrich to Trumbull, 
January 31, 1863, ibid. Senator Browning was the only prominent repub- 
lican to support the conservative middle ground taken by Lincoln, but he 
was treated by republican organs as a renegade. Chicago Tribune, July 2, 
18, 1862. 

O 0000 O 

O O o OO O 
O O O O 

O o O O O O 

PIKE o o q scorr o ooooooo * ? ej>o 




o o o oo f t ? SHELBY 
eooo oo <> ! 

oo o 001 

Vote for 




< > o o oo o* 

CLAY **Ji 


William C. Goudy, Anthony Thornton, John D. Caton were 
named as commissioners, were pressed through the house and 
were blocked in the senate only by the withdrawal of the repub- 
lican minority. 25 This filibustering ended only after assur- 
ances that the regular business of the legislature would be taken 
up until disposed of; after the apportionment and appropria- 
tion bills had been passed a recess was taken until June. Since 
Governor Yates had vetoed the apportionment bill, the demo- 
crats made their plans to pass it over his veto. A habeas corpus 
bill to prevent illegal arrests, a bill to prevent the immigration 
of Negroes, and resolutions reported by a joint committee on 
federal relations were also to be taken up. Irritated beyond 
endurance by his obstreperous opponents, Governor Yates 
interposed to end the session by proroguing the legislature 
the first time in the history of the state that a governor had 
exercised this power. A vigorous protest against this action 
was drawn up and signed by the democratic members, who 
refused to recognize his authority; the house formally remained 
in session for a fortnight. 26 

While the democratic majority of the legislature was pro- 
testing at its prorogation, there was held at Springfield, June 
17, 1863, a democratic mass convention which, it was esti- 
mated, brought together forty thousand enthusiastic anti- 
administration democrats and their most influential leaders. 
Following addresses by Senator Richardson, Congressmen S. 
S. Marshall, James C. Robinson, J. R. Eden, J. C. Allen, 
and other responsible democrats, resolutions were adopted 
affirming the supremacy of the constitution in time of war as 
well as of peace; condemning the violations of the bill of rights 
by the national administration; pronouncing the action of Gov- 
ernor Yates in proroguing the legislature an act of usurpation; 
then, in the famous "twenty-third resolution" declaring that 
as the " further offensive prosecution of this war tends to sub- 

25 These resolutions also denounced " the ruinous heresy of secession " 
and opposed recognition of the independence of the southern confederacy as 
inconsistent with the interests of the great northwest. House Journal, 1863, 

P- 373-375- 

26 The question of the legality of Governor Yates' act was taken to the state 
supreme court which, however, sustained the governor. Illinois Slate Journal, 
June n, 1863; Illinois State Register, June u, 1863; Joliet Signal, June 30, 1863; 
Chicago Times, October 30, November 7, 14, December 16, 25, 1863. 


vert the constitution and the government, and entail upon this 
Nation all the disastrous consequences of misrule and anarchy" 
the convention was " in favor of peace upon the basis of a res- 
toration of the Union " for the accomplishment of which it pro- 
posed a national convention to settle upon the terms of peace. 27 

This was the forerunner of a series of meetings in which 
the democrats of Illinois voiced their desire for the restoration 
of peace, and such meetings afforded republican leaders an 
opportunity to exaggerate the animus of the democratic forces 
in the state. It was easy enough to construe specific items in 
the democratic indictment of administration policies as incon- 
trovertible evidences of disloyalty. Lincoln's proclamation 
was denounced in an imposing popular demonstration at Spring- 
field as "unwarrantable in military as in civil law; a gigantic 
usurpation, at once converting the war, professedly commenced 
by the administration for the vindication of the authority of 
the constitution, into a crusade for the sudden, unconditional 
and violent liberation of three million slaves." 28 Democratic 
journals insisted that the proclamation, in giving the south 
something definite to fight for in place of an abstraction, had 
caused the prolongation of the war; the Chicago Times sug- 
gested that it was properly called a "war measure" as one 
which would "protract the war indefinitely." 29 The conscrip- 
tion bill of 1863 was vigorously opposed under the leadership 
of Senator Richardson; in its enactment the democrats of Illi- 
nois acquiesced mainly because their state had furnished 
thousands of volunteers in excess of its quota. 

Democrats, moreover, were unsparing in their denunciation 
of the complete disregard of personal liberty evidenced in the 
arbitrary arrest of critics of the administration, and in the 

27 Moses, Illinois, 2:687-688; Illinois State Register, May 27, 29, 30, June 
2, 4, 5, 18, 1863; Illinois State Journal, June 18, 1863; Ottawa Republican, June 
18, 20, 1863; Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1863; Joliet Signal, June 23, 1863. 
A resolution denied that the democratic party was wanting in sympathy for 
the soldiers in the field; the evidence of the sincerity of this declaration, $47,400 
was raised at the meeting by subscriptio'ns and pledges which Colonel W. R. 
Morrison was directed to distribute in aid of sick and wounded Illinois 

28 Illinois State Register, January 6, 1863 ; Illinois State Journal, January 
7, 16, 1863; Jonesboro Gazette, January 10, 1863. 

29 Chicago Times, September 24, 1863; Joliet Signal, March 24, 1863; Cairo 
Democrat, September 20, 1863. 


denial of freedom of speech and of the press. In the late 
summer of 1863 there took place a wide suspension under 
executive order of the writ of habeas corpus, the one remain- 
ing guarantee of personal liberty. 30 All administration sup- 
porters, even, could not agree with the Illinois Staats-Zeitung 
when it declared on April 19, 1862, that "Those who, in time 
like the present talk of the right of habeas corpus, sympathize 
with the rebels." The Chicago Times, October i, 1863, there- 
fore assailed the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus as 
" an act so bold, so flagrant, so unprecedented, and involving 
to so great an extent the rights, the liberties, and even the lives 
of the people, that its legality and propriety cannot be too thor- 
oughly discussed." The Belleville Democrat, September 26, 
1863, called it "the death of liberty;" it "makes the will of 
Abraham Lincoln the supreme law of the land, and the people, 
who have made him what he is, the mere slaves of his caprice." 
Claiming that President Lincoln had finally surrendered him- 
self to the radicals and that the subjugation of the south to 
these radical policies was a practical impossibility, many began 
to urge the termination of the war if necessary by a compro- 
mise. The proposition for a peace conference at Louisville 
received wide support; it was suggested as a necessary prelim- 
inary that President Lincoln "with draw his unconstitutional 
emancipation proclamation." 31 

It was the task of administration officials to drive this oppo- 
sition underground; but, since official action could not be thor- 
ough, the leaders of public opinion took it upon themselves to 
crush it by a skillful appeal to the patriotism of the masses. 
In favorable locations champions were easily found to admin- 
ister severe thrashings as a rebuke to the anti-war spokesman. 
Neighbors who more quietly shared the same views left many 
a loose-tongued critic of the government to his own defense 
when some band of union regulators brought him to silence 
by threats and intimidation, if not by physical violence. Vigi- 
lance committees to hunt out and punish secession sympathizers 
were organized against the advice of the more levelheaded; 32 

30 Chicago Times, September 17, 19, 25, 1863. 

31 Joliet Signal, April 14, 1863. 

32 Chicago Tribune, April 24, 1861. 


they soon made free speech a byword, so far as criticism of 
governmental policy was concerned, and freedom of public 
assembly an obsolete right. It was generally believed that only 
such methods could hold back a flood of "copperheadism" 
that threatened to engulf the union cause in Illinois. 

Every democrat who did not openly and actively support 
the administration and the war was labelled a venomous " cop- 
perhead," at once a southern sympathizer and a traitor to the 
union. At the beginning of the war, indeed, sympathy for the 
south was very widespread; democratic papers in southern 
Illinois had placed the blame for secession on the abolitionist 
rather than the slavocrat. This feeling continued and was 
often translated into action, varying from cheers for Jefferson 
Davis to active aid for the rebel cause; military companies were 
recruited to aid the south and prominent public men encour- 
aged enlistment. A half dozen prominent democratic journals 
boldly suggested the division of the state so that Egypt might 
consider the possibility of joining the southern confederacy 
William J. Allen, member of congress after 1862, openly pro- 
posed this to John A. Logan, at the same time advising men 
to go south to fight. 33 

The most outspoken opposition to the government was 
finally driven underground. By a system of wholesale arbi- 
trary arrests, so offensive as to bring out protests from radical 
republican legislators, like Senator Trumbull, and army officers 
like General Palmer, the work of intimidating persons sus- 
pected of disloyalty had been given a good start. Among the 
victims of arbitrary arrests for disloyal practices were to be 
found many persons who in the previous decade had taken a 
prominent part in state politics. In September, 1862, Benja- 
min Bond, United States marshal under Fillmore and a promi- 
nent conservative, was arrested by Lincoln's appointee to the 
same office. In the course of time other state prisoners were 
rounded up, including W. J. Allen, member of congress, Judge 
John H. Mulkey, Judge Andrew D. Duff, Judge C. H. Con- 
stable, state senator William H. Green of Massac county, Levi 

33 Canton Weekly Register, January 29, April 9, 1861 ; Central Illinois 
Gazette, October 21, 1864; Illinois State Journal, July 30, 1862; J. H. Brown and 
8. M. Thrift to Trumbull, May z6, 1862, Trumbull rnanuscripts, 


D. Boon, an old democratic wheel horse, and M. Y. Johnson 
and David Sheean, lawyers of Galena. 34 Several of these were 
"honorably discharged" after weeks of confinement, not, how- 
ever, without the taint in reputation that in the public mind 
follows such treatment. 

The suppression of opposition journals was attempted to 
check unrestrained defiance of governmental policies; few 
democratic editors followed the lead of James W. Sheahan 
of the Chicago Morning Post in supporting the war policy of 
the government without giving up the democratic point of view. 
Certain vigorous critics like the Peoria Demokrat were denied 
the privilege of the mails early in the war. 35 In July, 1862, 
the circulation of the Quincy Herald in Missouri was forbidden 
by military order on the assumption that it encouraged the 
rebel bushwhackers. In the same summer the arrests of the 
editor and publishers caused the temporary suspension of the 
Paris Democratic Standard while the Bloomington Times office 
was destroyed by a union mob. In December, John C. Doble- 
bower, editor of the Jerseyville Democratic Union, fled to 
escape arrest. 

Early in 1863 the Chicago Board of Trade and Y. M. 
C. A. started a boycott of the Chicago Times, and the Chicago 
and Galena railroad for a time prohibited its sale on the com- 
pany's trains. In February, General Hurlbut at Memphis, 
and other post commanders forbade the circulation of the 
Times within their respective districts. On June I, without 
waiting to confer with the war department, General A. E. Burn- 
side, in command of the department of the northwest, issued 
general order number 84 which proclaimed the suppression of 

34 J. M. Palmer to Trumbull, January 3, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Koerner, Memoirs, 2:173; Senate Journal, 37 congress, i session, 40; White, 
Life of Trumbull, 191-200. Both Sheean and Johnson, however, successfully 
sued the federal marshal for arrest and false imprisonment, and Sheean was 
soon elected mayor of Galena. Johnson's case was carried in 1867 to the 
federal supreme court; the judges applied the principle of ex parte Milligan 
and pronounced decisively against arbitrary arrests; the court referred the case 
to jury trial in Jo Daviess county, where Johnson was awarded a judgment of 
one thousand dollars and costs. Illinois State Register, January 28, 1863, July 
15, 1867; Chicago Evening Journal, November 15, 1865; Chicago Tribune, July 
9, 1867; Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties, 
192-193, 206-211. 

35 Rockford Register, October 19, 1861; Canton Weekly Register, October 
22, 1861. 


the Chicago Times and of the Jonesboro Gazette, " on account 
of the repeated expression of disloyal and incendiary state- 
ments." Before daybreak on June 3, a military detachment 
from Camp Douglas took possession of the Times printing 
establishment. Within a few hours a meeting of prominent 
citizens of both political parties presided over by the mayor 
unanimously agreed to request the president by telegraph to 
rescind Burnside's order a request which was reenforced 
by the personal solicitation of Senator Trumbull and Repre- 
sentative I. N. Arnold of the Chicago district. The lower 
house at Springfield simultaneously passed a resolution con- 
demning the Burnside order. In Chicago that evening a mass 
meeting of twenty thousand representative voters gathered and 
enthusiastically resolved that the freedom of speech and of the 
press should be upheld by the subordination of the military 
power to the civil authority. The next day, while sixteen 
carloads of soldiers from Springfield were on their way to 
Chicago to handle the crisis there, President Lincoln responded 
to the pressure of public opinion in Chicago by revoking the 
order suppressing the Times. At Urbana the troops were 
stopped by telegraph and informed of Lincoln's action, where- 
upon General Burnside wisely recalled the whole order. 36 

With that date official interference with freedom of the 
press came to an end, and public opinion was left to do the 
work of discouraging carping and disloyal criticism. One of 
the most irritating critics of the administration was the Chester 
Picket Guard, only a short distance from the military depot at 
Cairo; in July, 1864, just after it had been refitted and fur- 
nished with new presses, a mob of soldiers and civilians sacked 
and completely destroyed the whole equipment. 37 

The contemporary judgment of these cases of interference 
with freedom of press may be found in the silent disapproval 
voiced by subscribers to the persecuted journals; after its ill- 
treatment the circulation of the Chicago Times increased 

36 War of the Rebellion, Official Records, series i, volume 23, part 2, p. 381 ; 
Illinois State Journal, February 14, 18, June 3, 6, 8, 1863 ; Illinois State Register, 
June 3, 5, 10, 1863; Chicago Times, June 30, 1863; Writings of Lincoln, 6:306. 
The Belleville Democrat, June 13, 1863, suggested that Lincoln's action alone 
prevented civil war. 

37 Cairo Democrat, April 9, July 30, 1864; Jonesboro Gazette, July 30, 1864; 
Belleville Democrat, July 30, 1864; Chester Picket Guard, November 29, 1865. 


materially among the common people. Both war and peace 
democrats, moreover, challenged the gross usurpation of power 
by the military authorities and decried the recourse to mob 
violence. Other champions of civil rights came from among 
that body of spirited radicals who, while dissatisfied with the 
slow progress that was being made against the south and 
slavery, heartily disapproved interference. The State Journal 
had in anticipation undertaken to declare as early as June 25, 
1 86 1 : " Public men are, to a certain extent, public property, and 
the people and the Press are free to praise or censure their 
actions. We would never see this right abridged." 38 

The justification for drastic action by individuals or by 
government authorities was found in the so-called "crimes 
of the copperheads," which terrorized not only individuals but 
whole communities. They were so numerous and varied that 
there was a fearful uncertainty as to when and how the cop- 
perheads might next strike. Many carried on an active and 
open propaganda to discourage enlistments and to obstruct the 
operation of the conscription law the enrollment in prepara- 
tion for the draft arousing widespread opposition. Fulton 
county and vicinity had more than their share of draft troubles; 
in June, 1863, the enrolling officers in certain districts were 
driven off forcibly by armed mobs, and after repetitions of this 
experience a military force was sent to protect the provost 
marshal and his deputies. In spite of such protection, how- 
ever, the draft resisters attacked the officers and in two 
instances at least there were fatal shootings. Olney was for 
three days besieged by a mob of 500 men, who threatened to 
burn the town unless the enrollment lists were given up. 39 

Another serious offense charged against the copperheads 
was that of influencing desertion, which in the spring of 1863 
became especially serious. Desertions were, indeed, the result 
either of the advice and aid of relatives and friends, or of any 
anti-war agency that stressed the view that this was an unholy 
and anti-democratic war an attempt on the part of the " abo- 

38 Illinois Slate Journal, June 25, 1861; Jonesboro Gazette, January 31, 1863. 

39 Canton Weekly Register, June 29, 1863, October 31, 1864; Rushville 
Times, May 13, 20, 1869; Evansville (Indiana) Journal clipped in Rockford 
Register, August i. 1863; Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, 
Clay, and Marion Counties, 422-423. 


litionists " to break down the democratic party. From June I 
to October 10, 1863, 2,001 arrests were made in Illinois, and 
in the three following months 800 deserters were apprehended. 
By the end of the war there were 13,046 desertions of enlisted 
men from Illinois. In January, 1863, following wholesale 
desertions and fraternization with the rebels that assumed the 
proportions of a mutiny the One hundred and ninth regiment, 
recruited largely from the heart of Egypt, was arrested, dis- 
armed, and placed under guard at Holly Springs, Mississippi. 
The One hundred and twenty-eighth regiment at Cairo suf- 
fered so heavily from desertions that there remained in March, 
1863, only thirty-five men in the ranks. 40 Federal troops 
detailed to arrest the numerous deserters in southern Illinois 
counties often found themselves thwarted not only by the con- 
cealment of the renegades but by the armed opposition of mobs 
formed to prevent their arrest. In some instances backsliders 
were rescued from the custody of officers; in other instances 
they failed with a heavy loss in killed and wounded. 

Armed resistance on the part of the anti-war forces was a 
constant fear in the minds of union men. A heavy demand 
for Colts' revolvers, guns, and ammunition was noticed by 
storekeepers whose supplies were drained by buyers from cop- 
perhead districts. Guerrilla bands, formed in the rural regions 
of southern Illinois, conducted demonstrations in places as large 
as Charleston, Jacksonville, and Vandalia; a band operating in 
Union county destroyed property of loyal men and assaulted 
unionists who fell in its hands. Armed rebel sympathizers 
often met in numbers for military organization and drill. 
Union men were seized and whipped and sometimes driven 
from their homes; in numerous instances they were shot down, 
even in their own homes, by rebel sympathizers. 41 

40 Chicago Tribune, March 18, October 19, 1863, October 20, 1866; Belleville 
Advocate, January i, 1864; Cairo Democrat, March 9, 1864; Halleck to Grant, 
August n, 1864, War of the Rebellion, Official Records, series i, volume 42, part 
2, p. 112; Illinois State Journal, January 12, 13, 15, 28, 29, February 3, 1863. 

41 See list of murders in Illinois State Journal, February 8, 1864. General 
Wright issued an order prohibiting the traffic in arms and ammunition in the 
department of the Ohio. Ibid., March 31, 1863. Jacksonville Journal, March 
19, September 17, 1863; Chicago Tribune, August 3, 1862, April 18, May 5, 1863. 
Finally Jonesboro, the residence of a number of the marauders, and a town 
with only three union men, was seized by federal troops who made a large 
number of arrests. 


Many of these acts, it must be remembered, were done in a 
spirit of retaliation for the lynch law visited upon more or less 
harmless peace advocates. The latter, indeed, had at the start 
the more ground for complaint against the outrages perpetrated 
on them by the super-patriots of the day. The democrats com- 
plained that Governor Yates had repeatedly condoned such 
acts of violence; and as "the arch-criminal who has 'sowed 
the wind'" they hoped for the sake of justice that he might 
" reap the whirlwind." They invoked the law of reprisals 
in their defense : having in vain counseled obedience to law 
and an appeal to it for redress in all cases of lawlessness, they 
felt that responsibility for having to organize for their own 
protection and to make reprisals in kind, rested upon their 
opponents. 42 

In the closing years of the war this organized retaliation 
became extremely serious. Gangs of bushwhackers from Mis- 
souri, horse thieves and deserters from both armies swelled the 
ranks of the copperhead desperadoes in the river counties and 
for a long time threw all central and southern Illinois into a 
panic. 43 Under the daring leader named Clingman one band 
of armed guerrillas, largely clad in butternut clothing or in 
gray rebel uniforms with white ribbons on their hats, did espe- 
cial damage in the vicinity of Montgomery county until it was 
broken up in the summer of 1864. 

Edgar and Coles counties were the seats of especial dis- 
turbances. On the outskirts of Paris a band of several hundred 
insurgents had its rendezvous and terrorized the neighborhood. 
In February, 1864, the town was threatened by attack until 
federal forces came to its relief; even then armed clashes be- 
tween the copperheads and the soldiers took place. 44 On 
March 28, the storm broke loose in Charleston when a bloody 
affray occurred between armed backers of Congressman J. R. 
Eden and soldiers under Major York who were then on a fur- 
lough; Major York and two union men were killed while two 
copperheads met their death. The Fifty-fourth Illinois regi- 

42 Chicago Times, March n, April 28, 1864. 

43 Illinois State Register, May 31, 1863; Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1864; 
Illinois State Journal, August 3, 1864; Cairo Morning News, January 12, 1865. 

44 Chicago Tribune, February 7, 1864; Illinois State Journal, March 2, 5, 


ment was promptly dispatched from Mattoon, and the 
Forty-first Illinois and Forty-seventh Indiana followed as re- 
enforcements. Although before their arrival the rioters had 
disbanded, numerous arrests were made and the city and county 
placed under martial law. For several days rumors circulated 
that a force of ten hundred to twelve hundred insurgents had 
collected outside the town, threatening to attack either Charles- 
ton or Mattoon; Sheriff John O'Hair of Coles county and the 
sheriff of Edgar county were said to be the ringleaders of the 
conspiracy. The unionists of Charleston organized to prevent 
a repetition of this experience, and little difficulty was expe- 
rienced in this region for the remainder of the war. The 
Charleston " riots," however, loom up as the worst example 
of copperhead "outrages" in Illinois. 45 

A secret political society known as the Knights of the 
Golden Circle furnished the basis for unity of action by those 
anti-war forces that preferred to work under cover. This was 
originally an organization of young southern filibusters who 
had purposed to invade Mexico in order finally to American- 
ize and annex that republic; when first brought to the attention 
of Illinoisians in the spring of 1860, the newspapers warned 
adventuresome spirits against the "humbug." With the out- 
break of the rebellion, however, it became the stronghold of 
secession sympathizers; it found a foothold in Egypt where 
conditions were most favorable and spread rapidly over the 
state. 46 Chicago was said to have established a lodge in the 
spring of 1861; the organization became a formidable factor 
in the political life of every section of Illinois. The activities 
of the various lodges remain obscured by the secrecy of meet- 

45 Illinois State Journal, March 30, April i, 2, 4, 1864; Charleston Plain- 
dealer, March 28, clipped in ibid., April 16, 1864; Chicago Tribune, March 29, 30, 
31, 1864. The brother of Sheriff O'Hair and the son of the sheriff of Shelby county 
were included in the list of prisoners arrested by the military. O'Hair was later 
murdered in retaliation for the " Charleston murders." The Coles County 
Ledger, a democratic paper, vigorously condemned the "votaries of Jeff Davis 
and slavery," but the opposition papers throughout the state treated the incident 
as a row between drunken citizens and drunken soldiers, which the union 
men used for political capital. Chicago Times, April i, 1864; Joliet Signal, 
April 5, 1864; Ottawa Free Trader, April 2, 1864; Carthage Republican, May 5, 
1864; Cairo Democrat, June 26, 1864; Coles County Ledger clipped in Belleville 
Advocate, April 15, 1864. 

46 Cairo Gazette, April 5, 1860; the ritual may be found in The (Columbus, 
Ohio) Crisis, December 30, 1863; Canton Weekly Register, May 21, 1861. 


ings protected by signs and passwords; evidence points, how- 
ever, to an organization which covered anything from a dark 
lantern democratic reorganization as an anti-war party to 
actual constructive treason. In 1861, a number of persons in 
southern Illinois arrested as Knights of the Golden Circle were 
investigated before a commission appointed by Judge Samuel 
H. Treat of the federal district court; the commission reported, 
however, that membership in these organizations did not 
involve treason to the United States. A further investigation 
of the order followed the arrest of Congressman W. J. Allen 
and Judges Duff and Mulkey in the summer of 1862. The 
existence of the order and even the object of effecting the 
reorganization of the democratic party could easily be proved; 
but the charge that it was organized along military lines for 
armed opposition to the government and its policies could not 
be substantiated. A state convention or Grand Castle was held 
in Chicago, August 4, 1863, with seventy-one counties repre- 
sented but its secrecy was not penetrated; another state con- 
vention met on March 4-8, 1864, after which the Chicago 
Tribune published what purported to be the newly adopted 
ritual of the order, but this, whatever its other points 
of vulnerability, furnished no proof of treasonable inten- 
tions. 47 

In order to combat the anti-war propaganda of the Knights 
of the Golden Circle, the unionists organized a secret oath- 
bound political society of their own, known as the Union 
League. The first Illinois council was formed at Pekin, Taze- 
well county, on June 25, 1862; and the order was well under 
way by the end of the summer when the first state convention 
was held. In the following year the goal of a league in every 
township was set up. Lists of names and residences of "cop- 
perheads " were drawn up and sent to the league headquarters 
at Springfield, and the order went forth that " the council must 
be put on a war footing;" just what this meant was extremely 
indefinite, although their opponents thought they found in 

47 In December, 1861, ten thousand members were said to have been enrolled. 
Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1861, August 26, 1862, March 27, 28, 1864; 
Cairo Gazette, November 14, 1861 ; Belleville Advocate, September 5, 1862; 
Illinois State Journal, August 27, 1862; Carbondale Times clipped in ibid., 
December 7, 1861. 


shipments of government arms and equipment from Springfield 
to local leagues an answer of civil war. 48 

The Union Leaguers pointed ominously to a new danger 
on the horizon, the danger of a revolt to effect the establishment 
of a northwestern confederacy. This more dangerous venture 
had apparently become the undertaking of the reorganized 
Knights of the Golden Circle who had adopted the name of 
Ancient Order of American Knights or Sons of Liberty. This 
order, obviously political in its aims, was charged with arming 
and organizing its members for a revolt to detach the north- 
western states. How far this purpose was accepted in Illinois 
is obscured by the secrecy of the methods of the day and by 
the lapse of time; many democratic leaders undoubtedly did 
believe in the desirability and inevitability of the detachment of 
the west from its New England connections, but they were not 
always prepared to secure this end through the work of secret 
political orders. 49 In August, 1864, however, a band of alleged 
conspirators was arrested; and when the trial was held at 
Indianapolis, evidence was submitted that a conference had 
been held at Chicago by a council of sixteen representing the 
states of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky and, in 
order to clear the way for an uprising, had formulated the 
plan of overturning the governments of those states and releas- 
ing the rebel prisoners at the prison camps. 50 These plans, 
however, were not communicated to the body of the society; 
and the wild rumors that, out of a membership of 100,000 in 
Illinois, 40,000 or 50,000 armed knights stood ready to cooper- 
ate with the confederate forces to overthrow federal control, 
seem to have had little foundation in fact. When, moreover, 
on November 8, during the excitement of election day, 
copperhead leaders and confederate agents from Canada 
attempted to release the nine thousand rebel prisoners at Camp 
Douglas, they were thwarted and the so-called "rebel inva- 
sion" or "Chicago conspiracy" ended with the arrest of a 

48 Canton Weekly Register, April 20, 1863 ; the league ritual was published 
in the March 23, 1863 issue. Belleville Democrat, February 20, 1864; Carthage 
Republican, April 14, October 27, 1864. 

49 Chicago Times, July 30, August i, 1864; St. Louis Democrat clipped in 
Illinois State Journal, August 6, 1864; Jonesboro Gazette, January 3, 1863. 

50 Illinois State Journal, November 2, 4, 8, 1864; Pitman, Indiana Treason 
Trials; Ayer, The Great Treason Plot, 56 ff. 


half dozen alleged ringleaders. In the conspiracy trials at 
Cincinnati the following spring, two of these, Buckner S. Mor- 
ris and Vincent Marmaduke, were acquitted but the others, 
including an English soldier, were convicted. 51 In this atmos- 
phere of plot and counterplot, Illinois wrestled with the 
nightmare of civil strife. 

81 Chicago Tribune, November 8, 9, 1864, April 25, 1864; Chicago Times, 
November 8, 9, 1864; Cairo Weekly Democrat, April 27, 1865; Atlantic Monthly, 
16:108-120; Ayer, The Great Treason Plot, 163-171; Rhodes, History of the 
United States, 5:324 ff. 


time was rapidly drawing near when it was necessary 
X to prepare for the elections of 1864. The heavy repub- 
lican reverses of 1862 made the national political situation 
extremely uncertain, while in Illinois the democratic victories 
had been so sweeping that the republicans displayed consider- 
able anxiety over the coming popular decision. The election 
was to be a test of the success of the Lincoln administration; 
yet, although it was logical for the republicans to name Lincoln 
as their standard bearer, it was by no means certain that he 
could lead their hosts to victory. While his success with diffi- 
cult feats of political balancing compelled the admiration of 
many who chose to travel along middle ground, there were 
others who scorned his dispassionate efforts to maintain his 
political equilibrium. Democratic obstructionists on the one 
side and radical republicans on the other were convinced that 
Lincoln possessed " neither consistency, statesmanship or reso- 
lution; " the latter, however, could not subscribe to the partisan 
charge that " even the claim set up for his honesty was abso- 
lutely unfounded and that the country has never before been 
afflicted with a ruler so absolutely destitute of integrity and 
principles." 1 

In handling the problems of civil war, President Lincoln 
had assumed certain powers which made his role quite as sig- 
nificant as that of a dictator in the days of Rome's glory. 
Without legislative warrant and without precedent in American 
history, he had suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas 
corpus, one of the dearest of civil rights in the minds of the 
American freeman. He had given at least indirect approval 
to most arbitrary arrests at the direction of the secretaries of 
state and war. Even Senator Trumbull, the radical, openly 
condemned the imprisonment of citizens upon lettres de cachet 

1 Illinois State Register, February 28, 1864, cf. February 13, 1864. 



while General John M. Palmer declared that it would mean 
the conversion of "this Constitutional Republic into a des- 
potism." 2 There had been also arbitrary interference with 
freedom of speech and of the press even outside the zone of 
actual fighting, the responsibility of which Lincoln had to share. 
By executive order he had undertaken to strike the shackles 
from thousands of slaves and thus to destroy property rights 
to the amount of millions of dollars, though slavery was recog- 
nized, if not protected, under the constitution. He had recom- 
mended and officially approved, March 3, 1863, a conscription 
act which provided for compulsory military service by citizens 
selected at the turn of a wheel. These were only the principal 
features of a situation which made it possible for James Bryce 
to say: "Abraham Lincoln wielded more authority than any 
single Englishman has done since Oliver Cromwell." 

These acts of the executive seemed indeed to involve infrac- 
tions of the constitution, unless the war powers of the president 
could be interpreted to cover them even their supporters 
could justify them only under the plea of military necessity. 
Here clearly was ground for wholesome and legitimate oppo- 
sition on the part of the opponents of the administration, and 
the democrats sought on this ground to rally round their stand- 
ards the defenders of personal liberty. "There is hardly a 
provision of the constitution which the President has not vio- 
lated or treated with contempt," was the campaign slogan 
announced by the Chicago Times. 3 

The Cairo Democrat, July 14, 1864, took up the hue and 
cry with less restraint: "When a President will thus put aside 
the will of Congress, what are the people to expect from him? 
The freedom of the press and the habeas corpus, the two great 
bulwarks of our liberty, ruthlessly invaded. And last of all 
the voice of the ballot box has been crushed, and 'military 
necessity,' that bloody and envenomed queen, has seized upon 
its holy precincts. Great Heavens ! how much more iniquity 
will the freemen of America stand from the usurper and tyrant 

2 John M. Palmer to Trumbull, January, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 
See also Illinois State Register, June 6, 1863. 

3 Chicago Times, February 22, 1864; Illinois State Register, February 28, 


who is only fit to split rails." Democrats claimed that Lincoln 
had taken these steps because, ambitious of reelection, he had 
allowed himself to be coerced and had surrendered to the guid- 
ance of the radicals. " Oh, Abraham," queried the tantalizing 
critic, "why do you let the radical tribe always badger you 
from three to five months, before they get you up to the 
good work?" 4 

While the democrats, on the one hand, were worrying 
Lincoln with complaints of executive usurpation, he confronted 
on the other the even greater problem of satisfying those of 
his party who, without the responsibilities of his office, sought 
to hurry things more rapidly along antislavery lines; chafing 
at his slowness of action, they were not certain as to their 
influence with the president and bitterly complained of the lack 
of real aggressiveness in his endeavor to conquer the south. 
Among the disgruntled in Illinois were leading republicans, 
influential party organs, the state administration from Gover- 
nor Yates down, together with Senator Trumbull and members 
of the congressional delegation. Lincoln's friend Herndon 
charged him with trying to put down the rebellion by squirting 
rosewater at it, while Jonathan B. Turner, the Jacksonville 
educator, condemned Lincoln for too much reading of the New 
Testament instead of using the sword after the fashion of that 
Old Testament saint, Andrew Jackson. 5 

Other evidences of the republican party's lack of homo- 
geneity were added to this clash between the antislavery element 
and the conservatives ; survivals of the old alignment between 
whig and democrat revealed themselves in mutual mistrust and 
jealousy. Lincoln was charged with being too generous toward 
his former whig associates; disappointed ex-democrats ques- 
tioned the honesty and sincerity of their colleagues of whig 

4 " We have a President, but he is merely a clerk for registering the decrees 
of Secretary Chase," bewailed the Chicago Times, December n, 1863. "He is 
as good an Abolitionist as the best of them, but the great trouble is, ' he is always 
six months behind in acting the thing out.'" Cairo Democrat, January 3, 1864. 

5 The editors of the Chicago Tribune were ready for a break with the 
president if developments should require it. Browning was the only conserva- 
tive Lincolnite and Joseph Medill claimed that he represented " only the secesh 
of Illinois." See Medill to Trumbull, July 4, 1864, and other letters in Trum- 
bull manuscripts; Cole, "Lincoln and the Illinois Radical Republicans," Mis- 
sissippi Palley Historical Review, 4:430-431. 


origin. There was also the problem of the foreign vote ; could 
concessions be made to it without stirring up opposition from 
persons of nativist prejudices? To make matters even worse, 
Lincoln's cabinet was a hotbed of bickering, suspicion, jealousy, 
and rivalry; he could not secure the hearty support of a 
majority of it on any fundamental proposition or policy. 6 

Illinois republican leaders were baffled by the intricacies of 
the whole situation. They recognized that Lincoln had secured 
a strong claim to consideration by issuing his emancipation 
proclamation. The Chicago Tribune, cautiously presented his 
claims to reelection with the warning: "Just so surely as their 
[the radicals] policy is abandoned by one who has been com- 
mitted to it, . . . . just so sure will that one, thus guilty 
and thus foolish, be trodden under their feet." 7 In general, 
sentiment grew that the party could ill afford to refuse Lincoln 
the nomination, although the radicals were loath to acquiesce 
in the expediency of taking the lesser of two evils that 
Lincoln might not win, but anyone else was even less likely to 

There was, however, little real enthusiasm for Lincoln. 
Even in Washington, Senator Trumbull found that there was 
" a distrust & fear that he is too undecided & inefficient to put 
down the rebellion;" party leaders felt that if possible, some 
other man "supposed to possess more energy" than Lincoln 
ought to be nominated. 8 General Fremont had a considerable 
following of ultra radicals; Chase was eagerly seeking sup- 
porters to back his claims; other persons like Trumbull were 
frequently mentioned as available. A group of prominent 
republican senators and congressmen issued a pronunciamento 
charging the responsibility for the failure to suppress the 
rebellion on the president in whose ability to restore the union 
it was declared "the people have lost all confidence." 9 "A 

6 Secretary of the Treasury Chase became more and more independent and 
having presidential aspirations of his own, finally left the cabinet. Diary of 
Gideon Welles, 2:102, 106-107, 166. 

7 Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1863. The Tribune concluded: "It is a 
great historical fact that in revolutions the radical party always wins." 

8 Trumbull to H. G. McPike, February 6, 1864, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Washington correspondence of Chicago Times, January 13, 1864. 

9 See Senator Pomeroy's circular in behalf of Chase, Chicago Times, Feb- 
ruary 26, 1864; Illinois State Register, February 28, 1864. 


secret movement against Mr. Lincoln's renomination is ex- 
tended all over the North," announced the Chicago Journal. 
" We hear of its workings in New England, New York, Illinois, 
Michigan, and Wisconsin. It has male and female traveling 
agents, correspondents, popular lecturers and newspapers, 
employed to promote its object." 10 

German republican voters, many of whom were radicals 
of the deepest dye, enthusiastically supported the claims of 
Fremont, an old favorite. They grew steadily bolder in their 
opposition to Lincoln and were encouraged by such papers as 
the Missouri Democrat and the Chicago Telegraph. They 
announced their inability to support Lincoln's reelection and 
busied themselves with the organization of Fremont clubs. The 
Illinois Staats-Zeitung, to be sure, did urge an indorsement of 
Lincoln, but this was explained by the Fremont following as 
accomplished by flattery and official favors. Through the col- 
umns of the Mississippi Blatter many Germans announced their 
loss of faith in Lincoln and declared their unwillingness to be 
led or coaxed in the Lincoln camp. 11 The Highland Union, a. 
German republican paper, hoisted the Fremont banner. The 
Blatter, March 4, 1864, indorsed the sentiment of the Indiana 
Freie Presse: "We cannot and dare not vote for Lincoln, 
unless we are willing to participate in the betrayal of the repub- 
lic, unless we are willing to remain for all future the most 
despicable step-children of the nation." 

This radical German opposition came to a focus in the 
state convention on May 25, 1864. There Friedrich Hecker 
led a futile fight against the instructions to support Lincoln. 
The convention was divided into determined factions of Lin- 
coln and Fremont men, although paradoxically called the union 
state convention. The fact that it was far from a homogeneous 
body was seized upon with relish by democratic opponents. 
"It was literally what it purported to be a 'Union conven- 
tion' an assemblage of incongruities," reported the State 
Register. "United on no principle, but brought together by 
the cohesive attraction of public plunder There 

10 Chicago Journal clipped in Jacksonville Journal, March 10, 1864. 

11 Chicago Times, February i, 13, March 28, May 3, 1864; Mississippi 
Blatter, February 14, 1863, March 13, 20, April 10, 1864. 


was Jack Kuykendall and Jack Grimshaw Deacon Bross and 
Deacon Haynie the life-time abolitionist and the quondam 
Nebraska man disciples of Calhoun and followers of Garri- 
son preachers and profanity The millenium is 

coming, for we have seen the lion lie down with the lamb." 12 
Even in this assemblage, however, the feeling grew that they 
could not afford to refuse Lincoln the nomination; and, when 
the committee on resolutions sought middle ground by com- 
mending Lincoln's administration without, however, indors- 
ing him for reelection, the resolutions were tabled and a new 
committee appointed. Granting Lincoln's inavailability, yet 
who offers greater ? was a question no one could answer. When, 
therefore, resolutions damning Lincoln with faint praise and 
instructing delegates to vote for him were finally presented, 
they were, after a hot debate, adopted. 13 

The disappointed radicals then took up the movement for 
an independent nominating convention at Cleveland, a week 
before the regular meeting at Baltimore; there John C. Fre- 
mont and General John Cochrane were nominated as the true 
champions of freedom and of the union. The Illinois delega- 
tion largely represented the Germans; Ernest Pruessing was 
honored by being made one of the vice presidents, while Caspar 
Butz was a member of both the committee on permanent 
organization and of the committee on resolutions. 14 

The Cleveland convention cleared the republican ranks of 
a large group of obstructionists. The situation was thereby 
rendered more favorable for Lincoln's nomination at the regu- 
lar republican, or union, convention at Baltimore on June 7. 
Chase still canvassed his chances, and his followers did not give 
up the field until an examination of the political situation at 
Washington on the eve of the convention indicated the hope- 
lessness of the contest 15 The delegates, catching the political 

12 Illinois State Register, May 26, 1864; cf. Illinois State Journal, May 26, 

13 See Joseph MedilPs personal explanation, Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1868. 

14 Illinois State Journal, June i, 1864. Butz, who was leader of the rad- 
ical Fremont forces in Illinois, had been publishing at Chicago the Deutsch- 
Amerikanische Monatschefte, a journal on the plan of the Atlantic Monthly, 
with anti-Lincoln editorial policy. Joliet Signal, March 15, 1864. Ernest Schmidt 
as well as Butz and Pruessing signed one of the calls for the Cleveland conven- 
tion. McPherson, Political History of the Rebellion, 410-411. 

15 Diary of Gideon Welles, 2:44, 45. 


drift at Washington, passed on to Baltimore where, acting out 
of a sense of duty, they nominated Lincoln by acclamation but 
without any display of real enthusiasm. 

The Fremont-Lincoln imbroglio rent the membership of 
the party. Lincoln's renomination was explained as the work 
of the spoilsmen: officeholders and contractors. In vain did 
the moderators praise the president and plead for union 
and harmony. The democratic papers fanned the fires of 
republican discontent by generous publicity for the Fremont 
movement. 16 

The republicans thus entered upon the campaign of 1864 
under divided leadership. Nothing seemed to go satisfactorily 
during the summer months. With blunders on the sea, with 
failures in the land operations which in spite of a ruthless sacri- 
fice of blood and treasure in Grant's attempted offensive, 
exposed Washington to capture by a small hostile force, more 
and more was said of the incompetency of the republican 
administration. Congress even went so far as to ask the 
president to set apart a day for fasting, humiliation, and 
prayer; when the appointed day arrived, August 4, Secretary 
of the Navy Welles soberly commented: "There is much 
wretchedness and great humiliation in the land, and need of 
earnest prayer." 17 

The break between Lincoln and the radicals was widened 
by conflicting views on the question of reconstruction. Repub- 
lican leaders like Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Sumner held 
that secession had destroyed the statehood of the southern 
states which would have to accept the drastic jurisdiction which 
congress was authorized to exercise over territories. The 
" state suicide " theory found its advocates in Illinois, while 
others believed that the south would have to be subjected to the 
fate of conquered provinces. 18 

18 Cairo Democrat, August 7, 9, 1864; cf. Chicago Times, June 6, 7, 9, 1864. 

17 Diary of Gideon Welles, 2:93; Chicago Times, June 29, 1864. 

18 See ante, 290; Chicago Tribune, October 3, 1863. One zealot proposed 
that " South Carolina be confiscated entire and become a territory to belong to 
the United States & be governed by the laws of Congress as the District of 
Columbia & let the whole state be appropriated to the blacks where they can 
cultivate the soil enjoy the benefit of schools and the institutions of the gospel 
preparatory to their carrying' the same blessings to their fatherland and to the 
colonies they may form elsewhere." [no signature] to Trumbull, April n, 1862, 
TrumbuJl manuscripts. 


In an amnesty proclamation dated December 8, 1863, Lin- 
coln had alarmed the radical republicans by assuming the 
restoration of the southern states under executive direction; 
but these advocates of congressional jurisdiction were pacified 
by his expressed willingness to abandon his own matured plan 
for one which might better " accomplish the great end of sav- 
ing the Union, and redeeming the land from the curse of 
slavery." 19 When, however, in the early summer of 1864 the 
radicals in congress brought forward their own scheme in the 
Wade-Davis bill Lincoln, who considered it too drastic, de- 
feated it with a pocket veto. This forced the issue ; the radicals 
replied with a manifesto, crying out their defiance in a note that 
echoed over the prairies of Illinois. 20 

With all these elements of weakness in the administration 
party, it seemed to be doomed. Prominent supporters of Lin- 
coln in Illinois, like Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, agreed 
with their associates elsewhere that they were fighting a losing 
battle. The republican national executive committee notified 
Lincoln of his probable defeat. Lincoln resigned himself 
to his fate and prepared "to so cooperate with the Presi- 
dent-elect as to save the Union between the election and the 
inauguration." 21 

Out of the gloom of those depressing months of 1864 there 
rose before the American people a dread vision of the human 
lives destroyed by confederate bullets and camp disease, of 
widows and orphans, of more suffering and anguish and de- 
spair. The faith of many in "war to the finish" was shaken. 
" Peace ! Peace ! " was the cry that rose on every hand. Many 
distinguished and patriotic Americans believed and said that 
the war was a failure. Wendell Phillips undertook to remind 
himself and the nation that all civil wars are ended by com- 
promises. Horace Greeley voiced the growing demand for 
a move to bring about an understanding with the south; so 
discouraged was he with the military situation that he was 
ready for peace at almost any price. Declaring that nine- 

19 Chicago Tribune, December u, 1863; Chicago Morning Post, December 
17, 1863. 

20 Cairo Democrat, August 13, 1864. 

21 Writings of Abraham Lincoln, 7:196-197. Lincoln informed Gustave 
Koerner of his fears of defeat Koerner, Memoirs, 2:432. 


tenths of the people were equally anxious for an end to the 
war, he brought such pressure to bear upon Lincoln that the 
latter was compelled to sanction informal conferences with 
confederate agents at Niagara and Richmond. President Lin- 
coln, however, submitted such an extreme ultimatum that, as 
he expected, it was straightway rejected; he was therefore 
denounced as an intolerant opponent of fair peace terms. 22 
In Illinois the democrats found rich political capital in this 
situation. The administration party, declared the Chicago 
Times, July 25, 1864, "has been offered peace and Union, and 
has rejected the offer. It demands the wealth and lives of our 
people to prosecute a crusade against an institution whose 
rights are guaranteed by the law investing them with temporary 
power, and which they have sworn to defend and support." 
"The unceasing and still-recurring demands of Mr. Lincoln 
for more human lives is absolutely appalling. Where are the 
million and a half of human beings which the war has already 
swallowed up?" 23 "We are told," declared the Cairo Daily 
Democrat, July 31, "that we must fight on, fight ever, for the 
Union ! We want the Union ! None in the Lincoln army 
whether fanatic or Democrat wants the old Union more than 
we do. We would fight for it, die for it. But we must have 

The Chicago Times was explicit as to "how democrats 
would end the war : " " In detail, the policy of the democracy, 
after gaining possession of the government, and thus remov- 
ing the cause of the secession of the South, would be to remedy 
one by one the grievances inaugurated by the republican admin- 
istration, and against which the South is fighting. They would 
offer the South the constitution, and with it the guarantee that 
for all time the rights of the States under that constitution 
should be preserved inviolate. This would be a victory over 
the rebellion more potent than the taking of a dozen Richmonds 
or the slaughter of an hundred thousand rebels in arms." 24 

The organization of this peace propaganda the democrats 

22 This in Greeley's opinion was sufficient in itself to involve his defeat. 
Rhodes, History of the United States, 4:513-514, 517; Cairo Weekly Democrat, 
January 3, 1864; Cairo Morning Ne-ivs, July 23, 1864. 

23 Chicago Times, February 5, 1864. 

24 Ibid., July 2, 1864; cf. Cairo Democrat, July 29, 1864. 


of Illinois had started openly in the late spring of 1863 ; under 
the lead of General Singleton, a series of democratic peace 
conventions had declared that peace was the creed of the demo- 
cratic party. Conservative leaders sought to hold the party 
to this course; John Reynolds in "An appeal to the Democratic 
party of Illinois" urged peace, declaring that "Abolitionism 
is, and always was, the cause of the war." " The slave States," 
he stated, "have not now, and never had, any intention to 
dismember the Union, until Abolitionism forced them to defend 
their property." 25 

In line with this movement leading democrats made pro- 
vision for an expression of opinion at a mass "democratic 
convention" at Peoria early in August, 1864. The meeting 
was arranged by the Illinois Order of American Knights and 
the list of 146 signers of the call included such peace advocates 
as James W. Singleton, Amos Green, Madison Y. Johnson, and 
David Sheean. Several thousand persons responded to the call 
the Chicago Times said ten to twenty thousand, while the 
Tribune estimated the attendance as seven or eight thousand. 26 
The convention adopted resolutions that declared the coercion 
and subjugation of sovereign states impossible as well as un- 
authorized by the constitution and urged an armistice, a conven- 
tion of the states, and the repeal of all unconstitutional edicts 
and pretended laws as a preliminary to a final and honorable 
peace. The meeting resolved to reassemble at Springfield on 
August 1 8. Again the pilgrims of peace gathered in multi- 

25 Belleville Democrat, January 9, 1864. On November 25, 1863, a conven- 
tion of war democrats from all parts of the union met at Chicago to establish 
a war democracy; on December 3, 1863, a "consulting convention of peace 
democrats " from the northwestern states met there for special organization. 
The Chicago Post and the Chicago Times frowned on both of these abortive 
movements as unnecessary and harmful to the democratic cause. Chicago Morn- 
ing Post, November 8, December 15, 1863; Chicago Times, November 26, Decem- 
ber 12, 1863. 

26 Illinois State Journal, July n, 21, August 6, 1864; the Chicago Times, 
July 8, 1864, protested the call of a democratic mass convention without refer- 
ence to the regularly constituted authority of the party. Cf. Canton Weekly 
Register, July 18, 1864. The Chicago Morning Post (democratic) protested 
against the peace party's use of the name of the democratic party; it suggested 
that "love for Peoria whiskey" helped to explain the participation of at least 
certain politicians. The Peoria Mail said there were from twenty-five thou- 
sand to forty thousand people at the meeting, the Illinois State Register, August 
6, said fifteen to twenty-five thousand, while the Peoria Transcript said less 
than two thousand. 


rudes, arriving on horseback and in wagons bearing white ban- 
ners with peace devices and mottoes; silver-tongued orators 
from neighboring states and from the different sections of Illi- 
nois charmed the large audience which was, adorned with white 
rosettes and peace badges emblematic of the role of a triumph- 
ant democratic party. 27 

The democrats, without their having turned a hand, seemed 
to have victory within grasp. Posing as the watchful guard- 
ians of the constitution, they quietly enjoyed their steady gains 
and waited to organize their campaign. Yet within their ranks 
were all shades of opinion on war and peace, so that it was no 
easy task to figure out the strategy of their position. They 
finally held a state convention in June to select delegates to 
the national convention and to place an electoral ticket in the 
field ; but postponed nominations for state offices to a later date. 
The state convention was clever enough to declare inexpedient 
the adoption of a platform since the national convention would 
make the necessary declaration of principles; 28 in this way it 
avoided a split over the issue of the desirability of a "war" 
platform or a "peace platform." 

The date of the democratic national convention was post- 
poned from July 4 until August 29. The party leader had 
carefully canvassed the field of presidential candidates; Gen- 
eral Grant had been favored by many because of his avail- 
ability as a military hero; though his democracy was dormant, 
it was sufficiently sound for the situation. Grant, however, 
repudiated the idea of presidential aspirations and a new candi- 
date had to be found. 29 Governor Horatio Seymour of New 
York was the favorite candidate of many moderate democrats, 
while Pendleton of Ohio was supported by certain ultra peace 
advocates. General George B. McClellan was supported as 
having an availability similar to Grant's; he was a favorite 
with the army of the Potomac personally liked and admired 

27 Illinois State Journal, August 19, 1864; Illinois State Register, August 19, 

28 Ibid., January 25, June 16, 1864; Chicago Morning Post, January 29, 
1864; Jacksonville Journal, June 16, 1864; Chicago Times, June 18, 1864. 

29 Grant to T. N. Morris, January 20, 1864, Illinois State Historical Society, 
Journal, 8:592; cf. Chicago Times, January 6, 1864; Ottawa Weekly Repub- 
lican, January 30, 1864; Chicago Morning Post, April 12, 1864. 


by the soldiers. McClellan steadily gained strength through- 
out Illinois, although state democratic journals frowned upon 
this development. The Chicago Tribune claimed that McClel- 
lan's support came from the "bloated aristocrats of the demo- 
cratic party," " the*money-brokers of Wall street and the great 
railroad corporations of New York and New England," on 
the one hand, and from the " great unwashed of the Celtic 
persuasion," on the other; nevertheless, McClellan stock con- 
tinued to climb. 30 

Inasmuch as General McClellan could not be charged with 
responsibility for any recent losses, the failure of the war was 
in August the most likely democratic rallying point. Accord- 
ingly, when the national convention met at Chicago, August 
29, under the eye of fifteen thousand enthusiastic spectators, 
it nominated McClellan but permitted Vallandigham to draft 
a platform which declared the failure of the war and the need 
of peace. The immediate reaction was an outburst of enthusi- 
asm that boded ill for Lincoln's hopes of reelection. 31 

Republican leadership nearly collapsed at the signs of dem- 
ocratic unity and enthusiasm at Chicago. The withdrawal of 
both Fremont and Lincoln was suggested as a necessary pre- 
liminary to an effective reorganization of the republican cam- 
paign. Fremont's chances were known to be hopeless ; Lincoln's 
apparent strength when nominated was declared fictitious. " I 
write you to have you use your influence to have Lincoln's 
name withdrawn," an Illinois constituent appealed to Trum- 
bull. " Lincoln's course has not only dissatisfied but embittered 
many thousands of Republicans, particularly Germans, against 
him ; the Fremont party, and the Chase and Wade-Davis move- 
ment, and the anti-slavery dissatisfaction in New England, 
weakens him greatly; there is no enthusiasm for him, and can- 
not be." 32 Many, though tried by Lincoln's course, continued 

30 Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1864; Chicago Times, August 18, 1864; 
Jonesboro Gazette, June 18, 1864; Cairo Democrat, August 17, 1864; John M. 
Palmer to Trumbull, January 24, 1864, Trumbull manuscripts; cf. Rhodes, 
History of the United States, 4:507^ 

31 Illinois State Register, September i, 3, 1864; Chicago Times, September 
i, 1864; Gershom Martin to Trumbull, September 3, 1864, Trumbull manu- 
scripts. Even ex-Senator O. H. Browning, an old conservative supporter of 
Lincoln, commended the nomination of McClellan and declared that he should 
not feel at all distressed if he should be elected. 

32 Gershom Martin to Trumbull, September 3, 1864, ibid. 


to feel that the country could not at such a time risk the up- 
heaval entailed by change of presidents so supported him 
without enthusiasm. 33 

Just at this crisis news arrived of Farragut's success at 
Mobile and, after a hard long struggle* continued through 
weary months, of the capture of Atlanta by General Sherman. 34 
The republicans became wild with sheer joy and spread the 
good tidings with enthusiasm. Then followed the report of a 
succession of victories by Sheridan in the valley of the Shenan- 
doah. Republicans became still more jubilant; enthusiasts 
began in the same breath to predict the prompt suppression of 
the rebellion and the election of Lincoln. President Lincoln 
capitalized these developments politically by proclaiming a 
special day of thanksgiving to be celebrated in the churches, 
navy yards, and arsenals. 

The democrats had just declared the war a failure; 
here was proof that they were in the wrong. The platform 
became impracticable and untenable; republicans called it 
" unpatriotic, almost treasonable to the Union." 35 So 
McClellan in his letter of acceptance repudiated the peace 
article in the platform, declaring himself unconditionally 
for the union, even to coercion. All democratic planning for 
the campaign was upset and gloom settled down upon their 

Even now it was evident that victory could come only to a 
united republican party; and Fremont was still in the field. 
His withdrawal, however, was arranged as a result of a 
bargain, to which Lincoln was at least indirectly a party; Post- 
master-General Blair, a moderate, was sacrificed by the admin- 
istration and asked to resign. Fremont in withdrawing took 
occasion to declare : " In respect to Mr. Lincoln, I continue 
to hold exactly the sentiments contained in my letter of accept- 
ance. I consider that his administration has been politically, 
militarily, and financially a failure, and that its necessary con- 
tinuance is a cause of regret for the country." 36 Republican 

33 G. T. Allen to Trumbull, October 4, 1864, Trumbull manuscripts. 

34 Diary of Gideon Welles, 2: 135-140. 

35 Ibid., 135; Cairo Democrat, September 13, 1864. 

36 Fremont to George L. Stearns et al., a committee, September 21, 1864, 
McPherson, Political History of the Rebellion, 426-427. 


workers chose to forget the sting of this declaration and con- 
centrated attention on the canvass. 

It is hard to find a single constructive forward-looking 
issue in this campaign. The question of reconstruction, includ- 
ing the possibility of a thirteenth amendment abolishing slav- 
ery, might have been such an issue; indeed, some democrats, 
because of the troubles reconstruction had already caused the 
administration, did urge that it be made the momentous issue. 
Another possible issue, though not essentially constructive, was 
the question of the approval or disapproval of the Lincoln 
administration. For this the democrats were more ready than 
the republicans. The latter did not dare to indorse everything 
Lincoln had done they could select certain features only and 
for the rest rely on his generally good intentions. The impor- 
tance of the labor vote suggested another available issue, for 
it was in the Civil War period that modern labor problems had 
their beginning. Many republicans, therefore, wanted the 
president "to make the issue before the country distinctly per- 
ceptible to all as democratic and aristocratic;" 37 the whole 
purpose of the rebels, said they, was the establishment of an 
aristocracy of blood and of wealth. The administration, how- 
ever, after its delay in assuming the same ground in dealing 
with the property of rebel leaders, was in no position to press 
this point. Besides, the republican party of 1864 was not that 
democratic force it had been in 1856: the fiscal needs and 
financial transactions of the government had not only drawn 
to its support but thrust into a prominent place in the party 
the representatives of another aristocracy of wealth bank- 
ers, manufacturers, and government contractors. The demo- 
crats, moreover, as an opposition party, were able to make 
considerable progress with the argument that the industrial 
and laboring classes had been compelled to pay the greater 
portion of the taxes. 38 Legislation, they said, had been 
enacted on the old aristocratic policy that makes the rich 
richer and poor poorer. But the republicans in reply 
charged the democratic party with being an aristocracy 

37 Diary of Gideon Welles, 2:43, 141-142; Jonesboro Gazette, July 16, 
October i, 1864; Champaign County Union and Gazette, October 14, 1864. 
38 Joliet Signal, July 19, 1864. 


which had no place for "tailors, rail-splitters, mechanics, and 

No republican argument on any topic, however, was com- 
plete without the illogical but effective declaration that under 
the best of circumstances democrats were copperheads if not 
traitors. 39 The Chicago platform was proclaimed unpatriotic 
almost treasonable to the union. The issue was whether or 
not a war shall be made against Lincoln to get peace with Jeff 
Davis. A vote for McClellan would be a vote for slavery at 
a time when that crime had plunged the country into the sor- 
rows and waste of war. It would be a vote for the rebellion at 
a moment when the rebellion was about to fail. It would be 
a vote for disunion at a moment when the union was about to 
be restored. All the south was hoping and praying for the 
success of the peace candidates. Had not the democrats im- 
ported as their leading campaign speaker the notorious Ohio 
disloyalist, Clement L. Vallandigham? 40 

Some of the democrats answered invective with invective. 
Could there be any real enthusiasm for the "widow-maker," 
for the "man of drafts," they asked. The American people, 
insisted the State Register, would never again commit the great 
blunder of placing " an abolitionist and a buffoon " in the presi- 
dential chair. Lincoln's three greatest generals were general 
taxation, general conscription, and general corruption. Evi- 
dence was offered that the republican campaign committee was 
collecting a large " corruption fund " by assessments upon office- 
holders; the formal demand for a quota of $67.44 from Cap- 
tain Melancthon Smith, provost marshal for the second con- 
gressional district, was published with the news of Captain 
Smith's refusal. The authorities were charged with preparing 
to use the troops and returned soldiers to intimidate voters in 
the democratic strongholds ; the warning was issued that union 
leagues were arming and organizing along military lines and 
that the free elective franchise was thereby threatened. 41 

The more levelheaded democrats concentrated on the argu- 

39 Koerner, Memoirs, 2:434-435. Koerner enlisted as a campaign speaker 
but found his audiences entirely unwilling to listen to sober political analysis. 

40 Chicago Tribune, October 22, 31, 1864; Aurora Beacon, November 3, 1864. 

41 Illinois State Register, September 4, 8, 25, October 6, 9, 15, 1864; Cairo 
Democrat, August 16, 1864. 


ment that " our liberties are in danger through the action of 
the government in its efforts to put down the rebellion." They 
talked of martial law, of arbitrary arrests, of suppression of 
the press. They held that they, more truly than the repub- 
licans, were the real champions of "the Constitution as it is, 
the Union as it was." 

The democrats were demoralized by the defection of prom- 
inent members of their party who as war democrats had sup- 
ported the Lincoln administration and who now urged his 
reelection. General John A. Logan, at the suggestion of the 
administration, returned from the front to participate in the 
canvass on the republican side. He was welcomed to Spring- 
field by his former political opponents with a salvo of artillery 
and the music of a band; he and Governor Yates then made 
addresses at the statehouse in support of Lincoln. 42 Logan 
took the stump actively against William Joshua Allen, who 
was seeking reelection to Logan's old seat in congress, and 
denounced him as the traitor.who had tried to carry the south- 
ern half of Illinois into the southern confederacy. 43 General 
James D. Morgan, a lifelong democrat, was cited as having 
refused to indorse McClellan's candidacy because its chief 
strength lay among traitors. General John A. McClernand's 
name was often published as a supporter of Lincoln, but Mc- 
Clernand because of his disgust at the treatment he had received 
from the administration finally cleared up his position in a 
letter unequivocally in favor of McClellan. 44 

The wild enthusiasm inspired by the victories of Farragut, 
Sherman, Sheridan, and Grant had turned the political tide 
against the democracy. The army news discredited all proph- 
ets who proclaimed that the war was a failure. This was the 
undoing of the democrats; it was also a potent force to heal 
republican divisions. Radicals who had sworn never to repeat 
their 1 860 votes for Lincoln buried their oaths in the republican 
celebrations; the German-American voters marched to the polls 

42 Illinois State Register, October 5, 1864; Dawson, Life of Logan, 86-87. 

43 Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1864; Illinois State Journal, October 29, 
November i, 1864. 

44 Illinois State Register, October 7, 1864; Chicago Times, October u, 1864. 
The republicans received another shock when Judge J. D. Caton of the state 
supreme court entered the campaign on the democratic side. Aurora Beacon, 
October 13, 1864; Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1864. 


an almost solid Lincoln phalanx. 45 It was no wonder then that 
Lincoln swept all before him and that McClellan was buried in 
this famous landslide of November, 1864, when Illinois con- 
tributed 30,736 to the heavy popular majority piled up for her 
favorite son. 

What, then, was the meaning of Lincoln's reelection? It 
was the inevitable triumph of right, of the union, announced 
his supporters. Democrats, however, took a different view. 
"This result," declared the State Register, "is the heaviest 
calamity that ever befell this nation; .... [it is] the 
farewell to civil liberty, to a republican form of government, 
and to the unity of these States." " Lincoln re-elected himself 
in spite of the people," insisted the Joliet Signal.^ 

The republicans considered it a splendid victory, for the 
party, if not for the administration. They had thrown their 
entire strength into the national campaign knowing that upon 
it would depend the outcome of the state election and of the 
congressional contests. Thus it was that Lincoln carried the 
republican ticket for state offices to victory together with eleven 
out of the fourteen republican candidates for congress, while 
both houses of the legislature went strongly republican. Major 
General Richard J. Oglesby, of Decatur, was accordingly 
elected governor to succeed Governor Yates over James C. 
Robinson, the democratic candidate. The veteran " Long 
John " Wentworth was again sent to congress from the Chicago 
district, where he defeated Cyrus H. McCormick, the reaper 
manufacturer. Another notable republican congressional tri- 
umph took place in the heart of Egypt, where A. J. Kuykendall, 
aided by the work of John A. Logan, unseated Logan's former 
law partner, William Joshua Allen, the anti-war democrat. 
The logical fruits of the republican legislative victory were 
gathered in the election of Richard Yates to the United States 
senate to succeed William A. Richardson ; this was the reward 

45 The Chicago Tribune, November n, 1864, assigned an important share 
in the union victory to the German vote which finally lined up with the Illinois 
Staats-Zeitung, a consistent supporter of the Lincoln administration. Many 
Germans, however, like the editors of the Springfield Illinois Staats Anzeiger 
went so far as to support McClellan and Pendleton. Chicago Times, October 
6,8, 1864. 

46 Illinois State Register, November 10, 1864; Joliet Signal, December 6, 


for four years of patriotic service as the war governor of the 
great prairie state. 

The republican landslide of 1864 wiped out the troublous 
memories of democratic success in the two previous years, when 
the only real bond to the federal administration was to be found 
in republican control of the state executive offices. It was, 
indeed, at the very time, when the democratic party threatened 
to sweep the republicans from this last point of vantage, that 
the tide of war had turned and played havoc with the prog- 
nostications of the political prophets. Then the despaired of 
victory proved so sweeping that it laid the foundations for con- 
tinued republican control of this old democratic stronghold and 
the traditions of the eighteen fifties and the early sixties yielded 
to a new order of things. 


THE high water mark of the tide of humanity that swept 
out to the Illinois prairies was reached on the eve of the 
Civil War. Then came that upheaval that absorbed all the 
energies of the American people and repelled the stream of 
immigration that had been flowing across the Atlantic. Amer- 
ica still continued to be symbolic of that large allowance of 
liberty for which so many Europeans longed ; but, in view of 
the forecasts of the ruling class of Europe, they were fearful 
that it would be swept away in the torrent of blood in which 
the institution of slavery had deluged the American nation. 

The traditions of northern freedom, however, still had a 
charm for certain Americans; from the slaveholding states 
there now poured a fresh stream of immigrants for whom the 
atmosphere of human slavery became as suffocatingly intoler- 
able as any economic and political oppression in the old world. 
The lands along the Illinois Central had already become a 
lodestone for ambitious agriculturists from Tennessee and Ala- 
bama, even from far off Georgia all eager to absorb the 
spirit that was transforming the prairies of Illinois into a gar- 
den state. With the first clash of arms the stream became a 
swollen torrent, bearing with it political refugees who refused 
to remain in a slaveholding republic founded upon the ruins 
of the old American union. The railroads developed a large 
business transporting families, with their furniture and agri- 
cultural implements, to points in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin ; 
steamers made their way up the Mississippi crowded with 
refugee pilgrims to the land of freedom; swarms of Missouri- 
ans driven from their homes by secessionists crossed the river 
to Illinois bringing their teams, cattle, and remaining worldly 
goods 1 though some of these exiles returned to their homes 

1 Roc kford Register February 16, 1861; Rockford Republican, April n, 
1861 ; Jonesboro Gazette, August 10, 1861 ; Quincy Whig clipped in Rockford 


Population of Illinois 

per Square Mile in 


More than SO 

40 to SO 

30 to 40 

20 to 30 

Less than 20 


in Missouri when the state was swept clear of secession and 
order was restored there. Victories of the union armies re- 
leased new streams from all the border states; this was par- 
ticularly noticeable in the spring of 1863, when the Illinois 
Central distributed hundreds of families from Virginia, Ten- 
nessee, Kentucky, and Missouri as candidates for the charity 
of the different communities. Friends and relatives in those 
parts of southern and central Illinois that had been settled by 
recent immigrants from the border states welcomed the new 
arrivals. 2 

Many of these refugees were women and children who 
represented the bone and sinew of the upper south; the men 
were usually in the southern or union armies, although some 
fled north to escape conscription. Many, too, belonged to the 
uneducated, non-slaveholding poor white class and presented 
a sorry appearance; even the women were usually snuff dippers 
or tobacco chewers and " a considerable sum of the money given 
to them, was immediately invested in snuff and tobacco." 3 All 
were received kindly, however, and treated charitably. The 
mayor of Centralia protested when General Buford " forced" 
one hundred and twenty paupers upon the city; but the union 
men welcomed them and the school directors placed at their 
disposal a large seminary building, the only vacant building in 
the city. 4 

Cairo was the Ellis Island for this immigration. Steamer 
after steamer arrived with cargoes of human freight and the 
nearby towns of Anna and Jonesboro received refugees until 
the people protested their inability to provide for more. Ac- 
commodations at Cairo were extremely inadequate and as the 
government did not assume complete responsibility for their 
welfare, great destitution and suffering often developed among 
the refugees. Families were sometimes left a good part of the 
night on the cold and muddy levee without shelter or even 
blankets, and even after aid had been dispensed in securing 

Republican, October 17, 1861; Illinois State Journal, December 6, 1861; Rock 
River Democrat, March n, 1862; Mississippi Blatter, June 8, 1862. 

2 Illinois State Journal, April 2, May 20, June 9, September n, 1863; Canton 
Weekly Register, April 6, 1863; Belleville Advocate, April 17, 1863; Cairo 
Weekly Democrat, March 6, 1864. 

3 Cairo Morning News, June 25, 1863. 
* Cairo Gazette, July 2, 1863. 


quarters, the immigrants were often lost sight of in the end- 
less stream that poured in; a relief committee found forty-two 
crowded into a single room of an abandoned barracks. Over 
three thousand, not including children, were given money 
contributions, clothing, and food by the local agent of the 
United States Sanitary Commission in the last six months of 
1863. Some of these refugees were transported to Chicago 
and upper Illinois, where the adjustment to their new homes 
was often made under difficulties. One shipment of one hun- 
dred and fifty persons reached Springfield in January, 1865, 
after trying experiences; at Cairo they had been kept five days 
on an overloaded boat, without places to sleep, and with scarcely 
any food; the Illinois Central railroad agents then placed them 
in hog cars, which had not been cleaned since used, and they 
were transported in a severe midwinter temperature to Deca- 
tur, covering the two hundred miles in seventy-two hours, and 
thence they were brought to Springfield. 5 Although relief 
work was organized by the refugee relief committee in Chicago 
and in other parts of the state, yet it was always inadequate 
to the demand and numerous deaths among these poor 
folk resulted from the neglect and exposure which they under- 

The problem of union refugees was complicated by bands 
of Missouri ruffians who came into Illinois representing them- 
selves as expelled unionists; they were soon, however, under 
suspicion as akin to those bushwhackers who came over to 
carry on their depredations in copperhead districts. Again it 
appeared that the Missouri military authorities were often 
banishing convicted rebels to Illinois whose citizens protested 
against the " making of Illinois a ' Botany Bay ' for the traitors 
of Missouri." 6 Moreover, the new Missouri constitution dis- 
franchised certain classes as a result of which a number of noted 

5 Chicago Times, January 12, 1864; Cairo Weekly Democrat, January 13, 
1864; Rockford Register, January 16, 1864; Cairo Democrat, February 3, 
June i, 1864; Cairo Morning News, July 30, 1864; Rockford Democrat, Jan- 
uary 5, 1865; Chicago Tribune, January 16, iS6j. These refugees were expected 
to relieve the labor shortage. See Mississippi Blatter, March 6, 1864; Cairo 
Democrat, February 9, 1865. In 1865 an industrial home for refugees was 
established at Chicago. Chicago Times, February 23, June 27, 1865. 

8 Jonesboro Gazette, August 10, 1861 ; Illinois State Journal, February 17, 
March 28, 1864; Chicago Tribune, July 6, 1865. 


bushwhackers, guerrillas, and rebel soldiers moved over into 
the southern counties of Illinois. 

Another species of immigrants came from southern climes 
to this new Canaan at the north. These were the Negro free- 
men, an element which the state in all its traditions had pre- 
viously refused to welcome. At the outbreak of the war it 
was even a crime for a Negro to set his foot upon Illinois soil; 
a year later another constitutional provision to renew the man- 
date in the fundamental law was submitted to the people of the 
state by the constitutional convention of 1862; and the voters 
of both parties declared with a majority of over 150,000, out 
of an aggregate vote of 240,000, that they were still opposed 
to letting down the barriers to Negro immigration. 

If Illinois was hostile to the free Negro, there could be no 
question as to its stand in regard to the fugitive slave, and it is 
not to be wondered that, in spite of southern prophecies, the 
inauguration of President Lincoln did nothing to open a haven 
of refuge for the fugitive slave in Illinois. Certain Illinois 
democrats were desirous that new guarantees to the south be 
furnished by state legislation in aid of the fugitive slave law, 
but Lincoln and the republicans were content with a faithful 
execution of the law and with preventing obstructions to its 
enforcement by northern legislation. 7 Lincoln's newly appointed 
federal marshals did not shirk their obligations; Marshal J. 
Russell Jones of the northern district was soon assisting the 
man hunters in recovering their property in Chicago; and, 
within a month of Lincoln's inauguration, considerable excite- 
ment was aroused when the family of Onesimus Harris was 
sent back to bondage in Missouri. Marshal Jones seemed in 
this case to surpass all his predecessors in office in his zealous 
enforcement of the law. As a result the colored population of 
the city, no longer regarding it as a place of safety, began to 
leave for her Majesty's dominions; within a week the exodus 
from the panic-stricken colored quarters became a veritable 
stampede. 8 

Under the federal confiscation laws, however, and under the 

7 'Belleville Advocate, January 25, February i, 1861. 

8 Chicago Tribune, April 4, 6, 1861 ; Illinois State Journal, April 4, 5, 1861 ; 
Rockford Register, April 6, 1861 ; Prairie Farmer, April n, 1861. 


policies of commanders in the field, slaves of rebel planters 
who were captured by the federal armies or had fled to the 
union lines were given a status as " contrabands " and their 
masters' claims were declared forfeited. Thereupon, large 
numbers of contrabands made their appearance at Cairo and 
began to distribute themselves over the state. This influx 
began just as the new constitution of 1862 was submitted to 
the voters of the state, and they spoke decisively. Yet in mid- 
summer by arrangement between the secretary of war and 
the military commander at Cairo under the second confiscation 
act, the contrabands continued to pour into Cairo until the 
levees were " so dark with negroes that pedestrians found it 
difficult to peregrinate without lanterns." 9 From Cairo, which 
was under martial law and legally amenable to such a policy, 
the Illinois Central carried one to four carloads northward 
daily and distributed them in various parts of the state. Al- 
though republicans urged the farmers to welcome this source 
of cheap help, the democrats set up a howl about an impending 
reduction of wages and consequent distress among the laboring 
classes. When General Tuttle, commander at Cairo, formally 
invited the mayor of Chicago to cooperate in securing employ- 
ment for Negro immigrants in that city, Mayor Francis C. 
Sherman, a democrat, with the approval of the city council, 
refused to act in violation of the state law " to the great injus- 
tice of our laboring population;" yet, refugees soon began to 
arrive in daily shipments of from eighty to one hundred and 
sixty. 10 Quincy and other Mississippi river ports were also 
receiving heavy consignments, and the people of Rock Island 
county therefore held a public meeting to consider the best 
mode of staying the influx. 

Republicans were fast learning, to their sorrow, however, 
that race prejudice was no respecter of parties; they were 
greatly weakened, if not defeated, by this new issue in the 
election of 1862. Leonard Swett of Bloomington, republican 
candidate for congress, tried to stem the tide that was turning 

9 Cairo Gazette, August 19, 1862. 

l Joliet Signal, September 23, 30, 1862; Illinois State Register, September 30, 
October 7, 8, 1862; Champaign County Democrat, October 9, 1862; Jonesboro 
Gazette, October u, 18, 1862; Rockjord Register, October n, 1862; Carbondale 
Times clipped in Belleville Advocate, October 24, 1862. 


against him by publicly announcing his belief that the importa- 
tion of colored persons into Illinois would degrade white labor 
and demoralize the people. The republican press was indeed 
glad when it was able to announce, though already too late, 
that the war department had forbidden the sending of any 
more "contrabands" to Illinois; a few months later General 
Hurlbut transferred the contraband camp at Cairo to Island 
Number IO. 11 

With Lincoln's emancipation proclamation Congressman 
J. C. Allen rigorously attacked republican policy and declared 
his fears that the state would now be overrun with freedmen; 
and although the Chicago Tribune optimistically prophesied 
that the Negro would "shape his bearings and route by the 
Southern Cross instead of the North Star," 12 only the proroga- 
tion of the legislature of 1863 prevented the enactment of new 
and more drastic guarantees against the impending immigra- 
tion. The democrats, meantime, used the courts to enforce 
existing legislation; in February, 1863, six Negroes were con- 
victed at Carthage of living within the state contrary to the 
black laws and were thereupon sold for their fines to the high- 
est bidders. In July a Negro who returned with Dr. L. D. 
Kellogg, surgeon in the Seventeenth Illinois regiment, was sen- 
tenced and sold in like manner. The following month, Annie 
Long, a young colored woman who claimed that she had come 
into Edgar county merely to visit, was fined $50 and costs for 
violation of the law and advertised for sale until the funds 
were advanced by republican sympathizers. 13 Such action, to- 
gether with the cooperation of the federal authorities at Cairo, 
for the time practically ended the influx of freedmen through 
southern Illinois. 

In 1865 the repeal of the black laws after a campaign by 

11 Illinois State Journal, October 15, 22, 1862; Cairo Gazette, April 2, 16, 
1863. William Yocum, superintendent of contrabands at Cairo, was later con- 
victed of selling contrabands back into slavery in Kentucky; a Reverend Mr. 
Rodgers, chaplain of contrabands and General N. B. Buford were also accused 
of sharing in the profits of such illegal sales. Cairo Democrat, December 13, 
1863; Illinois State Journal, June 25, 1864. 

12 Belleville Democrat, November i, 1862; Chicago Tribune, December 6, 

13 Rockford Register, March 7, 1863 ; Canton Weekly Register, August 3, 
1863; Paris Beacon clipped in Illinois State Journal, August 19, 1863; Chicago 
Tribune, August 21, 1863. 


the radical republicans provided an open door to prospective 
Negro immigrants to Illinois. 14 Immediately they began to 
settle in various parts of the state, although new opportunities 
for the freedman in the south checked the northward flow. The 
new immigrants were distributed over the state by agents of 
the Northwestern Freedman's Aid Commission, which had 
been organized in 1863, for the relief of the colored popula- 
tion in the south. 15 The Negro population of the state in- 
creased more than threefold, reaching a total of 28,762. Of 
this population over four thousand out of sheer inertia re- 
mained behind in Cairo and its vicinity, where the ante-bellum 
population had been only fifty-five; in the main Negroes, how- 
ever, sought the more hospitable atmosphere of Chicago and 
other antislavery centers like Quincy, Galesburg, Jacksonville, 
and Springfield. They thus became an urban population the 
hewers of wood and drawers of water for their more pros- 
perous white neighbors. 

The war spirit served to break down some of the barriers 
against the Negro. Illinoisians were among the earliest advo- 
cates of Negro soldiers and hundreds of colored troops were 
recruited in the state as volunteers or as substitutes under the 
draft. In civil life, too, the Negro was given increased oppor- 
tunities. Colored women were admitted to the Chicago Ladies 
Loyal League; Negro graduates appeared in the commence- 
ment exercises of Knox and Lombard colleges, while the doors 
of Shurtleff College and of the state normal school were opened 
to colored students. 16 The passage of the civil rights bill in 
1866 guaranteed the Negroes against legal discrimination; the 
colored residents of Chicago and Cairo celebrated this event 
in a large meeting. In practice, however, the word "white" 

14 The author of the black laws of 1855 was John A. Logan, who introduced 
them in the lower house in 1853 ; they were presented in the senate by A. J. 
Kuykendall. These two men and S. W. Moulton, a prominent supporter, were 
then democrats, but in 1865 were prominent members of the union party, the last 
two having just been elected to congress. Chicago Tribune, January 16, 1865. 

^Carthage Republican, July 27, August 24, 1865; Central Illinois Gazette, 
October 13, 1865; Illinois State Register, April 8, 1865; Cairo Bulletin clipped in 
ibid., March 26, 1870. In 1864 the Quincy branch had a department at the local 
Sanitary Fair to raise funds to provide for the Negro refugees in that city in 
violation of the black laws. Rockford Republican, August 20, 1864, April 8, 1865. 

16 Chicago Times, July i, 1864; Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1868; Illinois 
Democrat, March 28, 1868; Belleville Democrat, March 19, 1868. 


remained in the school laws of Illinois; and although in some 
instances the Negroes were provided with segregated public 
schools, most communities excluded colored children from the 
schools with the provision that upon application the school 
taxes would be refunded to colored taxpayers. 17 These ostra- 
cized residents, already accustomed to religious worship in 
their own Methodist or Baptist churches, often raised funds 
for their own schools. 

Much of the atmosphere of persecution began to disappear. 
There were still outbursts of negrophobia, but the maltreat- 
ment of inoffensive Negroes came pretty much to an end when 
civil rights were conferred upon that race. The regalia of 
colored secret societies, "white muslin belts and scarfs, embel- 
lished with blue, pink, black, yellow and white ribbons; large 
rosettes, sprigs of cedar, brass buttons, vari-colored tassels," 
began to appear on the streets on Sundays and holidays. 18 
Negro military companies began to parade in uniform. Mid- 
summer became a season of the festive picnicking and merry- 
making, so compelling for the members of the race. 

In the course of the decade the colored population of the 
state became more aggressive in the assertion of its rights. A 
mass convention at Springfield in January, 1865, petitioned the 
legislature to repeal "the laws now in force against us on ac- 
count of our complexion;" a state delegate convention eight 
months later initiated their annual plea for impartial suffrage. 
The republicans not only agitated for Negro franchise but 
courted the prospective Negro vote by suggestions of future 
officeholding. In 1868 a group of local republican merchants 
urged the nomination of Captain James W. Brockway, of the 
Twentieth United States colored infantry, for the office of 
collector of South Chicago; a year later Governor Palmer 
explained to the colored residents of Springfield that they were 
eligible for any office under the constitution. The news of the 
ratification of the fifteenth amendment on March 30, 1870, 
resulted in grand demonstrations by the colored residents of 
the chief cities of the state; and on April 5, under the new dis- 

17 Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1866; Cairo Times clipped in Belleville Advo- 
cate, May 18, 1866; Canton Weekly Register, April 17, November 13, 1868. The 
annual taxes paid by colored residents of Cairo were about twenty dollars. 

18 Cairo Democrat, November 13, 1867. 


pensation, they participated for the first time in Illinois 
elections. 19 

The war interrupted the westward movement of the native 
American population just at a time when the Illinois prairies 
were receiving a large share of hardy settlers. With the return 
of peace there came a renewed immigration from the eastern 
states, and Illinois had a special welcome for the Yankees who 
came to swell the New England towns and villages of northern 
Illinois. "You may know them by their neat churches and 
school-houses, and by the trees and flowers in their fenced 
yards," was the proud boast of a Massachusetts editor. 20 
Theodore Tilton, editor of the New York Independent, travel- 
ing over the plains of Illinois on a lecture tour, was impressed 
with the thrift, energy, growth, and civil progress of the west- 
ern communities; he came to feel that " the beauty of the New 
England character is not seen at its best till it ripens a while 
in the West True, there is more wealth, more cul- 
ture, more social refinement in the Eastern towns; but in the 
Western there is more of that indefinable quality which (for 
want of a better name) we call character. That is to say, 
there is more individuality, more freedom from conventional 
restraint, more independence in manners and opinions, more 
flavor of native originality." 21 

Peace removed the obstacles to foreign immigration to the 
United States; and of the throngs that came Illinois received 
more than her quota its salubrious climate and rich and 
extensive prairies attracting the best of the home-seekers from 
the old world. In 1866 the tide was running strong, but the 
next year brought almost flood conditions; of the 25,000 
immigrants' landing at New York during each of the summer 
months of 1867, one-tenth indicated Illinois as their destina- 
tion more foreign emigrants sought homes in Illinois than 

19 Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1868, September 24, 1869. A few weeks 
later he appointed John Jones of Chicago the first colored notary public in 
Illinois. Rockford Gazette, November 25, 1869; Illinois State Register, March 31, 
April 4, 5, 6, 13, 1870. 

^Springfield Republican clipped in Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1867. 

21 Belleville Democrat, January 4, 1867. It was still suggestive of the youth 
of the state, however, that the legislature did not show a single native Illinpisian 
in the senate and only eleven out of eighty-five in the house. Chicago Tribune, 
February 3, 1865; The (Columbus, Ohio) Crisis, February 15, 1865. 


in any of the other states except New York. 22 After 1867 the 
flow of immigration to the United States was less spectacular, 
but the strong advantage for Illinois continued. In 1868, 
34,625 immigrants arriving at New York gave Illinois as their 
destination, while at the same time 3,852 set out for Indiana. 
By 1 870 there were in Illinois 515,198 foreign born residents. 23 
The attractions of the soil and climate, the natural resources 
of the state, and the relief from heavy taxation that Illinois 
promised, were now more systematically brought to the atten- 
tion of prospective emigrants. Even during the years of the 
war, a Chicago Emigrant Agency prosecuted its activities, 
promising cheap passage from Ireland and England. With 
the return of peace an American Emigrant Company, with 
agencies in Europe and throughout America, appeared in 
Chicago; it imported skilled labor from Europe and supplied 
it at reasonable rates to manufacturers, railroad companies, 
and other employers of labor. 24 The Illinois exhibit at the 
Paris exposition in 1867 called the attention of Europe to the 
resources of the state, as did the European advertisements of 
the Illinois Central railroad. The bureau of immigration at 
Washington, recognizing the popularity of Illinois, secured 
data from Governor Oglesby for the benefit of the people of 
Europe. The German Emigrant Aid Society at Chicago con- 
tinued its work but found its resources so strained by the 
heavy demand upon its good offices that it urged the state to 
make provision for direct assistance. Southern Illinois real- 
ized little or nothing from the immense tide of immigration 
until zealous citizens of Cairo formed an Emigrant Aid 
Society to attract settlers to that region. 25 

22 Chicago Tribune, May 8, July 26, 1867; Illinois State Journal, Aug. 5, 1867. 

23 Ibid., February 3, 1869. The decade of the sixties converted Illinois into 
a populous commonwealth of over two million and a half persons, a gain of 
nearly fifty per cent. The ratio of increase was lowest for the native American 
population. The natural increase within the state, however, was slightly above 
the general average, although there were in 1870 only 1,181,101 native born 
Jllinoisians. The state failed to receive, however, a proportionate share of 
immigrants from other parts of the United States. 

24 Chicago Morning Post, April i, 1864; Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1865. 

25 Illinois State Journal, February 3, 1869; Chicago Tribune, July n, 1867, 
July 29, 1869; Cairo Democrat, November 16, 1866; Cairo Evening Bulletin, 
December 22, 23, 1868, January 9, March 30, July i, 1869. The Irish of Chicago 
also moved to establish an organization to provide for newcomers from the 
Emerald Isle. Chicago Tribune, April 2, 1869. 


In the decade the German born population of Illinois 
reached the number of 203,750, exceeding the Irish by over 
sixty-six per cent. The new German settlers, in contrast with 
the south German exodus after 1848, came largely from 
northern Germany. It was the old German centers in Illinois, 
however, that in large part received this accretion; they con- 
tinued to be industrious, frugal, and peaceful communities. 
A new German center developed at Cairo, where a German 
theater, a school, and a German newspaper were established. 
The German residents of La Salle increased significantly and 
included the owners and most of the operatives of the local 
zinc factory. Their influence was expressed in furthering the 
cause of education in 1869 when they elected a school director 
and carried a bond issue of $20,000 for a new schoolhouse. 26 

The majority of the Norwegians who formed part of a 
heavy Scandinavian immigration passed through Illinois to 
either Wisconsin, Iowa, or Minnesota. Chicago and a Nor- 
wegian settlement nine miles out of Ottawa, however, received 
several significant increments during the closing years of the 
Civil War. 27 A Scandinavian Aid Society in Chicago was 
organized in 1866 to give assistance to bewildered immigrants. 
The Swedes, numbering 36,000 in 1870, were scattered all 
over the state, with a sprinkling in the southern counties and 
a considerable settlement at Paxton; but Rockford was the 
main objective of those who sought the atmosphere of old 
Sweden. At that place the Swedish Methodists undertook to 
publish the Ambassador, a religious paper; at Chicago in 1866 
were launched Den Svenska Amerikanaren, a newspaper for 
the Swedish element of the northwest, and the Skandinaven, 
a Norwegian-Danish daily. Yet, while they sought papers in 
their own language, the Swedes of Rockford organized a 
literary society through which they proposed to acquire a 
fundamental knowledge of the uses of the English language 
an action typical of this hardy, industrious class of settlers who 
longed to understand their new surroundings. 28 

26 Cairo Democrat, December 10, 1863, June 14, 17, 1864, March 30, May 25, 
1865, November 16, 1866; Ottawa Weekly Republican, August 19, 1869. 

27 Ottawa Free Trader, July 2, 1864; Ottawa Weekly Republican, July 2, 

28 Rockford Gazette, January 21, 1869. The Swedish residents of Galesburg 


Practically every foreign born element received increases 
during this decade. The Irish increased some 32,000, reach- 
ing the total of 120,162, but no longer competed very seriously 
with the Germans for the lead among the foreign born elements. 
The English immigration was light but included a colony of 
over three hundred families organized as the Durham and 
Northumberland Farmers' Club of England; their agent, Dr. 
A. R. Oliver, negotiated in behalf of this group for several 
thousand acres in Alexander and Pulaski counties. There was 
a hearty welcome for all; communities even competed with 
each other in trying to attract foreign settlers. The effort was 
even made in 1865 to attract to Illinois Polish political refugees 
from Russian autocracy; the newest contribution, however, to 
the cosmopolitan life of the state was a colony of six hundred 
Italian families who in 18661867 located a few miles from 
Pana. 29 

The foreign vote continued a formidable factor in the 
politics of the state. The different foreign elements went to 
the polls more or less as units and were often a decisive factor 
in an election; it was alleged that a half dozen canny Scots 
backed by only 75 to 100 Scotch voters controlled the repub- 
lican vote of Will county, which numbered 3,000. In local 
contests a foreign group often put one of its nationality into 
the field and worked harmoniously for his election. The Ger- 
mans, Scandinavians, French, Scotch, and Portuguese were 
mainly affiliated with republicans, the Irish adhered to the 
democratic party, while the Jewish vote seemed to be evenly 
divided. 30 

The German vote of Illinois and neighboring states was 
so powerful in 1860 that without its assistance Lincoln and 

averaged $4,000 a month in remittances to the old country. Rushville Times, 
September 30, 1869. 

29 Cairo Democrat, November 26, 1867; Illinois State Journal, January 22, 

s Joliet Signal, April 14, 1868. The French speaking population of Illinois 
organized a benevolent society which declared itself " in favor of a political 
union of all our elements to affirm our right and privileges " under the consti- 
tution; in 1867 they brought out Francis Pasedeloup for alderman of the seventh 
ward of Chicago. Chicago Evening Post, April 8, 1867. In 1868 the Swedes of 
Henry county nominated an independent candidate for sheriff. Illinois State 
Journal, June 24, 1868. Many Jews had not abandoned their democratic con- 
nections; with democratic aid, others remembered General Grant's order dis- 
criminating against them. 


his party would have been decisively defeated; its support in 
the years that followed made it possible to carry the war to its 
logical conclusion. Yet the Germans were modest in their 
claims for a share of the spoils; for several weeks after appli- 
cations for office began pouring in upon Lincoln not a single 
German office-seeker presented his claims. The services of 
even the most prominent Illinois leaders received only slight 
acknowledgment; Koerner, who had strongly nourished the 
hope of securing the Berlin mission, was given no recognition 
at all until he was sent as minister to Spain to succeed Carl 
Schurz, who preferred active service. 31 Theodore Canisius, 
editor of the Illinois Staats Anzeiger, was sent as consul to 
Vienna, while George Schneider was appointed consul at Elsi- 
nore, Denmark. 

The German republican voters and their press were from 
the first firmly opposed to concession or compromise to pre- 
vent war; when the struggle came they were equally prompt 
to insist that it bring about the extinction of slavery. They 
were enthusiastic backers of Fremont's attack upon slavery; 
in a meeting in Chicago to sustain his proclamation they 
denounced the administration's attempt " to shirk the true issue 
of the contest." 32 This was the beginning of an estrange- 
ment from Lincoln that came to a climax in the campaign of 
1864. Fremont had been one of their favorites in 1860, and 
after the events of the following year they continued to pre- 
sent his claims until his formal withdrawal in 1864. On the 
reconstruction issues they stood firmly for thoroughgoing 
southern adjustment to the consequences of secession and civil 
war; they, therefore, without hesitation, repudiated President 
Johnson and followed the radical leadership until the end of 
the decade. 

A growing restiveness on the part of the German repub- 

81 Dodd, "Fight for the Northwest," American Historical Review, 16:786, 
787, 788 ; White, Life of Lyman Trumbull, 103 ; Schneider, " Lincoln and the 
Anti-Know Nothing Resolutions," McLean County Historical Society, Trans- 
actions, 3:90; Selby, "Lincoln and German Patriotism," Deutsch-Amerikanischen 
Historischen Gesellschaft von Illinois, Jakrbuch, 12:523; Illinois State Journal, 
January 7, 1861; Koerner to Trumbull, January 21, February 22, March 13, 19, 
1861, Trumbull manuscripts; Koerner, Memoirs, 2: 114, 212 ff. 

82 Theodore Canisius to Trumbull, February 8, 1861, Trumbull manuscripts; 
Moore, Rebellion Record, volume 3, document number 142, p. 344-345. 


licans appeared as the slavery issue began to wane. As local 
elections revived local issues, association in " the party of great 
moral ideas" with colleagues whose narrow vision precluded 
a sympathetic understanding of German social customs became 
distinctly embarrassing. The Puritanism of the Yankee now 
expended itself on a revival of the old demand for prohibitory 
liquor regulations and a strict sabbath observance. To the 
German, the seventh day brought the simple human joys of 
a jolly procession to the woods where the rifle club might 
have a shooting match, the singing club a Gesangfest echoed 
by the children in their frolic, and all a health to cherished 
memories and to the land of their adoption. To sip a casual 
social glass or to include in his meal one of the beverages of 
the fatherland seemed to the German a fundamental personal 
liberty which a free America could not deny him. To the scan- 
dalized Yankee the German's bottle of beer meant a drunken 
debauch and Sunday festivities meant a willingness " to sacri- 
fice every principle or conviction in politics or morals" .... 
" for the precious privilege of getting drunk and carousing on 
the Sabbath." 33 

German leaders took counsel over this "adulteration" of 
the republican program by New England sectionalism. The 
democratic party had in its early days shown an ability to 
appreciate their distinctive traits; now again their old asso- 
ciates welcomed them with understanding: the Germans "are 
Liberals in the true sense, in religion, society, and politics. 
In this respect they are the exact antithesis of what is denomi- 
nated the puritannical element in our country. The Germans 
believe in the largest liberty of conscience, of speech and social 
enjoyment." 34 Henceforward the word " republicanism" lost 
its magic; that the Teutonic allies did not desert en masse to 
the democracy was largely due to the strategy of the repub- 
lican leaders: the policy was adopted of stressing the slavery 
issue in national and state elections and of answering republican 

83 Cairo Democrat, September 19, 1867. 

34 Belleville Democrat, September 26, November 7, December 12, 1867. On 
this crisis see ibid., June 20, August i, 29, October 3, December 12, 1867; Cairo 
Democrat, September 26, 1867; Illinois Staats-Zeitung clipped in Carthage 
Republican, November 21, 1867; Joliet Signal, September 24, 1867; Ottawa Free 
Trader, September 28, 1867; Illinois State Journal, October 3, 1867. 


temperance crusaders with independent voting in the municipal 
contests. 35 

The Irish numbered forty thousand voters in Illinois in 
1860. They controlled the elections in Cairo, Joliet, and other 
democratic cities and were largely responsible for democratic 
victories in Chicago. Because the republicans raised the anti- 
Irish shibboleth in order to enlist the prejudices of the Amer- 
icans and Germans, the Irish in the main continued contentedly 
in the democratic fold. 36 

Most of the Irish were drawn into the ranks of the Fenian 
movement, probably the most significant national expression 
of the foreign born in American history. The Fenian brother- 
hood was a society of freedom-loving Irishmen passionately 
devoted to the mission of creating a sentiment of nationality 
among their countrymen, with a view ultimately of redeeming 
Ireland from English rule. In this brotherhood the most 
prominent and wealthy Irish citizens joined the laboring masses. 
Local societies called "circles" under officers designated as 
"centres" were formed in every Irish community, while the 
society was knit together by state conventions under "head 
centres" and by a national organization. In November, 1863, 
when the first national Fenian convention was held at Chicago, 
Illinois contained forty circles, and others were rapidly formed 
under the direction of organizers like A. L. Morrison and 
Michael Scanlan of Chicago; within a few months an Irish 
National Fair was held at Chicago, at which generous subscrip- 
tions to the cause were made by the friends of the Irish of 
every origin. By 1865, when the national organization had 
enrolled several hundred thousand members, Chicago had 
become the life and soul of the movement, regularly forward- 
ing thousand dollar remittances to the New York office. 87 

35 Bruncken, "Political Activity of Wisconsin Germans," Wisconsin His- 
torical Society, Proceedings, 1901-1902, p. 200. In the election of members of 
the constitutional convention of 1870 German meetings adopted the policy of 
refusing to support any candidate who would not pledge himself to work against 
the introduction of prohibitory liquor regulations. Joliet Signal, February 2, 
June 15, July 27, 1869. 

36 Ibid., April 14, 1868; Joliet Republican, March 7, 1868. Republicans 
claimed that one Irish republican in fifty was a high estimate. Illinois State 
Journal, September 15, 1868. 

37 P. W. Dunne of Peoria subscribed more money to the Fenian cause than 
any other man in America. Chicago Tribune, November 2, 1866; Chicago Times, 
November 4, 1863; Chicago Post, December 20, 1865. 


The Fenian brotherhood came to encompass all the activi- 
ties of the Hibernian population of Illinois. Their social life 
was shaped by the banquets, balls, and picnics arranged by the 
organization. Military drill was one of the objects of the 
society, and early in 1866 this motive became evident when 
the invasion of Canada under General Thomas W. Sweeney 
was attempted. A motley Fenian army including many veter- 
ans of the Civil War was raised, to which Illinois contributed 
generous quotas. Chicago had the finest regiment in the Fenian 
army one thousand strong and nearly all veterans. In a 
few hours the Irish of the city raised $40,000 for their mobili- 
zation. Companies from all parts of the state were concen- 
trated in Chicago, from which they moved eastward without 
any attempt at interference. Oddly enough there was little 
criticism of this attempt to accomplish by force, in spite of 
American neutrality regulations, what might more lawfully 
have been attempted by political methods. General Sweeney 

I marshaled his forces in the neighborhood of Buffalo and gave 
orders to strike into Canada. A foray across the international 
boundary caught the Canadians unprepared and struck terror 
into the peaceful population. A company of Canadian volun- 
teers from Chicago was raised by the Canadian society of that 
city and hurried across the border to assist in repelling the 
invasion. 38 The problem, however, had taken on an inter- 
national aspect and forced the intervention of the American 
government. At this stage the Fenian movement collapsed 
and the would-be heroes were taken into the custody of the 
federal authorities. 

After the fiasco certain republican papers were ready to 
confess their "infinite disgust and contempt for this whole 
Fenian business;" but before the attempted invasion, the only 
clear-cut opponent of the Fenian brotherhood was Bishop 
James Duggan of the diocese of Chicago, who placed it under 
the ban of the church against secret societies. 39 So formidable 
had been this Irish movement that no attempt was made within 

38 Finerty, People's History of Ireland, 2:878; Chicago Evening Journal, 
June 4, 22, 1866; Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1866. 

30 Rockford Register, March 16, 1867; Chicago Evening Post, February 23, 
March n, 1867; Rockford Gazette, September 19, 1867; Chicago Times, Feb- 
ruary 3, 8, 19, March 2, 1864. 


the state to check it. The democrats commended the zeal for 
liberty displayed by the Fenians and heaped encomiums upon 
the Irish, while the republicans saw no propriety in opposing it. 
Governor Yates and the state officers graced with their pres- 
ence Fenian entertainments in Springfield and noticed invita- 
tions to other celebrations with letters of regret commending 
the principles of the organization. 

The Fenians had early "disclaimed all notion of identifying 
themselves with any and all political organizations outside of 
the objects of the Fenian brotherhood;" 40 yet it was known 
that the organization served as a powerful auxiliary to the 
democratic party. A misstep by the Chicago Times in 1865 
threatened this unquestioning allegiance; when that journal 
inadvertently published an article criticizing and ridiculing the 
types of Irish "squatters" in Chicago, the "United Sons of 
Erin" under the lead of John Comiskey and various Fenian 
circles denounced it as "an English spy sheet" "no longer 
worthy of the patronage of any Irishman." 41 Many Irish- 
men doubted whether they could go to the ballot box at the 
next election and vote the "Times' ticket." The republicans 
eagerly availed themselves of this opening and, with a view 
of widening the rift, pointed out that by every principle of 
logic the Fenian advocates of freedom for Ireland ought to 
rally to the cause of freedom in this country. A recruiting 
agent for the republican party was found in John Pope Hod- 
nett, a talented young Irish orator, who had participated in 
establishing the Irish Republic in Chicago to further both the 
Fenian cause and the republican party. The anti-democratic 
reaction became evident in July, 1866, when a meeting of a 
number of Chicago "centres" declared that thereafter on all 
occasions they would vote " for that party which finds no 
excuse in musty laws, in vested rights, and ancient prejudices 
for degrading and enslaving men." 42 A certain branch of 
Hibernian voters conceived a strong hatred for President 
Andrew Johnson, and when he stopped at Chicago on his 
famous " swing around the circle," Governor Oglesby and other 

40 Illinois State Register, April 4, 1865. 

41 Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1865; Illinois State Journal, August 21, 
24, 1865. 

42 Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1866; Jollet Signal, July 17, 1866. 


republican moguls made bitter anti-Johnson speeches at a great 
Fenian picnic at Haas' Park outside the city. 43 These latent 
forces of discontent found expression in an Irish republican 
vote in 1866, the harbinger of a larger republican following 
in later years. 

Shortly before the election of 1868 came the first significant 
break in the democratic solidarity of the Irish voters. The 
continued harping of the republican press upon the "tyranny" 
to which the Irish tamely submitted in the democratic party 
the clever insinuation that a small and corrupt native minority 
blandly exploited them to get into office fanned into a blaze 
the smoldering discontent of the more restive Irishmen. They 
beheld certain attractions in the republican party with its fetish 
of freedom for the oppressed and with its anti-British tariff 
policy. In July, 1868, Hodnett, assisted by Alderman Arthur 
Dixon and J. F. Scanlan, organized an Irish republican club 
in Chicago to support the republican national ticket. Such a 
change in political alignment called forth a vigorous protest 
from standpat Irish democrats. The hall engaged by the 
republicans was invaded by members of Irish democratic clubs 
led by Aldermen Rafferty and Comiskey and a battle royal 
took place; in the melee stones, clubs, torchlights, and sling- 
shots were freely used and several persons were seriously 
wounded. When similar republican clubs were organized in 
other cities they encountered the same hostility from the old- 
guard Irish. Nevertheless, the rebel movement could not be 
stayed until a significant minority was detached ; on election day 
in Chicago nearly two thousand Irish voters marched to the 
polls and broke the chains that held them to the democratic 
party. 44 

These Irish republicans were jubilant in their new-found 
freedom; on July 5 and 6, 1869, an Irish national republican 
convention was held at Chicago, a nucleus which was expected 
to grow into a powerful party. It was evident that these Irish 
republicans looked at all questions from an anti-English stand- 
point; their platform of principles, though expressing a general 

43 Chicago Tribune, August 16, 17, 1866. The Irish republican leaders 
included L. O. O'Connor, J. F. Scanlan, and others. 

44 Illinois State Journal, August n, September 12, October 30, 1868; Chicago 
Tribune, July 27, August 28, 1868. 


sympathy for the downtrodden of all lands, specifically urged an 
anti-British foreign policy, denounced free trade, and insisted 
on the principle of protection. When they declared that free 
trade was " a cunning and selfish device of the enslavers of 
mankind," it was clear that they regarded a high tariff as 
injurious to British industry and commerce. This was too 
much even for the Chicago Tribune, which was insisting that 
tariff rates were already too high and should be reduced; it, 
therefore, advised the Irish republican politicians to temper 
their missionary zeal with political discretion, to drop the 
issues which tend to divide, and to " allow the Irish republican 
party to grow a little larger by being less vigorous in the 
restrictions and less crotchetty in the principles required as a 
test of membership." 45 

While Illinois was welcoming to its prairies the incoming 
emigrant, it was in turn making contributions to the western 
movement. Attracted by the gold mines of Idaho, the equable 
climate of Oregon and California, and by the new free lands 
of Kansas and Minnesota, Illinoisians of both native and for- 
eign birth bundled their Lares and Penates into a prairie 
schooner to seek their fortunes on the frontier. In another 
very different way Illinois felt the influence of the western 
march of the pioneer; it lay directly across the highways that 
led to all parts of the northwest. These paths crossed the state 
at a half dozen places. Jacksonville citizens, for instance, 
could claim that " a constant tide of movers passed through 
our streets, going West." 46 Chicago, however, was the usual 
way station for this human traffic from the east. Hundreds of 
emigrants arrived daily and as they changed cars stopped to 
inspect the great metropolis of the west. They found Chicago's 
ninety-four hotels continually crowded in spite of extortionate 
rates. 47 Many took up residence in " the great Babylon of the 
West" who had originally sought a destination far beyond. 
So the city collected tolls in human lives as well as in the trade 
of a great entrepot. 

In the sixties Chicago nearly tripled in population, with an 

45 Chicago Tribune, July 7, 9, 1869. 
48 Illinois State Journal, October 15, 1868. 

47 Chicago Times, November 23, 1863, June 29, 1865; Chicago Tribune, 
May 28, 1867. 


increase of 298,977, nearly one-half of which was of foreign 
birth. In spite of the fact that after 1866 business conditions 
were very discouraging in the other large cities of the country, 
Chicago prospered mightily. Buildings to the value of seven 
million dollars were erected in 1865, and the following years 
building was prosecuted with even more vigor; by the end of 
the decade, Chicago was running wild in real estate specu- 
lation. 48 

With its fine public buildings and private dwellings the 
city began to take on the true metropolitan atmosphere. A 
park was developed from Twelfth to Thirty-first street and 
the present Lincoln park system on the north side was started; 
at the same time the people of the western and southern divi- 
sions prepared to press their claims for civic improvement 
for it became an accepted argument that without parks "no 
city is respectable or decent or fit to be the dwelling-place of 
men and women." Concrete sidewalks made their appear- 
ance, a wonderful improvement over the plank walks. Wabash 
and Michigan avenues were widened into fine drives lined with 
elegant residences, though the business district at the same 
time began, to work eastward and to threaten, encroachment 
upon these aristocratic boulevards. The streets were lighted 
by 2,500 gas street lamps, making it one of the best lighted 
cities of the country; this involved an annual expense of 
$75,000, however, which aroused an active movement in 'favor 
of the municipalization of this utility. The city was networked 
by an elaborate system of horse railway lines that ran along 
the chief thoroughfares; in 1865 they secured a ninety-nine 
year lease from the state legislature in spite of the veto of 
Governor Oglesby and the opposition of the Chicago Tribune 
to "the gigantic swindle." A few years later service was so 
inadequate that an. elevated or "second-story" railway was 
advocated similar to the one then being experimented upon in 
New York. 49 

48 Chicago Tribune, August 21, November 10, 1866, July 20, August 3, 1869; 
Chicago Evening Journal, November 25, 1865; Aurora Beacon, March 4, 1869. 
This included the new depot of the Michigan Southern and Rock Island railroads. 

49 Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1866, January 8, 9, u, 16, February 19, 21, 
1867, February 26, March 21, 1869; Chicago Times, May 7, 1864; Chicago 
Evening Journal, March 8, 186$, 


Squalor and filth continued to litter the streets and com- 
bined with slaughterhouses to poison the air. "Everybody 
understands," insisted the Chicago Tribune, "that we have 
the foulest streets, the dirtiest river, the most inefficient police, 
the most nauseous water, the most fogyish Board of Public 
Works and Board of Health in the world, unless we look for 
their equal in Turkey, China, and Dahomey." 50 Finally, in 
October, 1866, after intermittent cases during the summer, 
cholera assailed the city in such a serious epidemic that a 
reorganization of the board of health under state legislative 
authority was made imperative. In 1866, too, a supply of 
fresh water was guaranteed by the completion of a. tunnel 
running out two miles under Lake Michigan. 

The prosperity of Chicago was the outgrowth of its supe- 
rior transportation facilities. The city, now fifth among Amer- 
ican cities in the volume of business, was not only the greatest 
grain, beef, and pork market in the country but the greatest 
lumber market as well; 51 asthmatic sawmills in Michigan and 
Wisconsin laboriously coughed out the cargoes of boards which 
were brought to Chicago by the three hundred lumber carriers 
that plied Lake Michigan. All the old advantages derived 
from lake navigation were enlarged by important additions 
to the harbor facilities along the lake front. When with the 
increase of railroad freight tariffs, St. Louis, with the natural 
advantages of its location on the Mississippi and with railroad 
connections of its own, threatened to draw more heavily upon 
the trade of the northwest, Chicago awoke to the importance 
of a navigable watercourse to the Mississippi river; through- 
out the decade its citizens- urged the project of a ship canal 
which would guarantee its hegemony. The Pacific railroad 
also promised much for the future of the city; in order to be 
independent of tribute to the jobbers of San Francisco and 
New York, a bill was pressed upon congress to make Chicago 
a formal port of entry. 52 

50 Chicago Tribune, July 4, 1865, January 10, August 28, 1867; Chicago 
Evening Journal, November 15, 1865, February 10, 1866. 

^Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, 54:376-384; The Lumber Industry of 
Chicago, 7-8; Howe, Yearbook of Chicago, 1885, p. 241-243; Chicago Times, 
March 19, 1866, October 9, 1872; Chicago Evening Journal, November 17, 1865. 

58 Chicago Tribune, July i, December 25, 1868, 


Life in the other cities of the state began to quicken under 
the influence of the prosperity of Chicago. Peoria, with a 
population of 22,849, lost its place as second city and Quincy 
with 24,052 inhabitants succeeded to this position. Springfield 
nearly doubled in the decade to reach the figure of 17,364, 
while Aurora, Galesburg, and Jacksonville trailed some dis- 
tance behind. Galena was the only important community of 
1860 to experience a decline it suffered a net loss of over 
one thousand. One important development was the rise of 
East St. Louis, incorporated in 1865; the atmosphere of old 
Illinoistown with " its disreputable floating population and its 
sink holes of iniquity where the moral filth of St. Louis could 
take refuge, to plan its deeds of crime " gave way to a thrifty 
and enterprising young town of 5,644- 53 In general, all these 
communities were prosperous and enlightened and were pass- 
ing through a process of refinement which bespoke a steady 
modernization. This was especially true of Springfield, which 
awakened to its responsibilities when the demand for a removal 
of the capital was renewed by rivals like Peoria, Decatur, and 

The Civil War gave to Cairo the opportunity to realize 
on the promises brought by the building of the Illinois Central; 
inasmuch as it would be a feeder for Chicago, all Illinoisians 
had insisted that it was the most convenient depot for the 
distribution of the supplies for the army in the west. The 
advantages of this base became obvious in the winter of 1863 
1864, when ice and low water closed the river below St. Louis 
and made Cairo the head of navigation on the Father of 
Waters. Business became brisk immediately: "Every house, 
cellar and shed on the levee, from one extreme of the town 
to the other, is occupied as a place of business and every occu- 
pant .... is doing well." 54 At times buildings were 
almost unobtainable; "little shanties that people would not 
look at anywhere else, bring three or four hundred dollars 
per year, paying as much per cent, on their actual cost." 55 
Five thousand steamers arrived each year to land and discharged 

53 Belleville Advocate, January 12, 1866. 

54 Cairo Gazette, August 20, 1864; Cairo Democrat, January 8, 1864; Mark 
Skinner to Trumbull, May 31, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 

55 Cairo Democrat, September 6, 1863. 


their freight and passengers at Cairo and probably a million 
or more soldiers passed through the city during the war. The 
first fear of a prostration of business upon the withdrawal of 
government patronage after the war was succeeded by a lofty 
idealism which pointed to the geographical advantages in loca- 
tion and forecast a continuous position as the natural depot 
of exchange between the north and south an emporium 
rivaling the great metropolis of the lakes. The last two years 
of the decade, however, showed the futility of this hope; the 
city had increased from 2,188 to ten or twelve thousand in 
1867, but two years later the census enumerators could locate 
only 6,267 persons, and Cairo did not pass the 10,000 mark 
again until well toward the close of the century. 

Why did Cairo fail to realize the expectations of the 
latter day prophets? Cairo was a house built upon mud; 
when the storms came and rain fell and the wind blew, por- 
tions of the city joined the murky waters of the Mississippi. 
True, the work of raising and widening the levee to save the 
bustling city, went on, so that in the flood years of 1862 and 
1867 the levees held back the tide, while all the surrounding 
country was one vast expanse of water spread out like a sea. 
Yet flood conditions produced a menacing fear which endan- 
gered the future growth of the city. Rival communities chose 
to play upon this fear and coupled with it the general belief 
in the unhealthiness of Cairo. It availed little in meeting this 
impression that Dr. G. T. Allen, federal medical inspector, 
was able to report that " with filth enough in many of its streets 
to poison all the population of New York City, during the 
summer solstice, it is even then, in my opinion, as healthy as 
any place in the Union." With water everywhere, Cairo had 
at times literally not a drop to drink, except as it was hauled 
into the city in barrels to be retailed at from ten to twenty 
cents a pint. 56 

Chicago, the fulfillment of prophecy, the great city on the 

58 Cairo Democrat, February 17, 1864. See also Cairo Daily News, August 
20, 1864: "Our streets, highways and byways abound, at the present writing, 
with a profusion of a slippery, sticky substance known to those who are familiar 
with its qualities as Cairo mud. It is found on the sidewalks and off the side- 
walks, inside the house and outside the house in the kitchen, parlor and bed 
chamber. No place is sacred from its intrusive visits, and it succumbs only to 
the sun and wind." 


lakes, and Cairo, the city of blasted hopes, were the opposite 
poles of this great magnet in the middle west which was 
attracting the restive population of all parts of the globe. 


MODERN industry in Illinois is built upon the foundations 
laid in the tumultuous era of civil strife. The transpor- 
tation phase was marked by the extension to a point of greater 
adequacy of rail and water communication. During the war 
water transportation again became the great hope of all Illi- 
noisians; they expected to revolutionize transportation facili- 
ties by improving the navigation of the Mississippi, Illinois, 
and Rock rivers and by building a ship canal to the Mississippi. 
They urged federal aid for the accomplishment of their ends 
and justified it as necessary to the efficient transportation of 
supplies and to the triumph of the federal arms. All projects 
found only local support, however, except as they connected 
themselves with the proposed ship canal. At first this meant 
merely the enlarging of the Illinois and Michigan canal so 
as to end the prevailing low water problems and permit the 
passage of ships of large draught between the Great Lakes 
and the Mississippi. The disunion crisis further emphasized 
the need, in order to reverse the course of trade and direct the 
products of the upper Mississippi eastward instead of toward 
the gulf. When war closed the Mississippi below Cairo the 
need became more definite. In the legislative session of 1861 
the general assembly authorized an investigation of the possi- 
bility of an enlarged canal; when a favorable report was made 
appeals were sent to congress for federal aid. 1 The consti- 
tutional convention of 1862 unanimously adopted a formal 
memorial to congress; other memorials were sent in, including 
one from the Chicago Board of Trade. 

In February, 1862, Colonel F. P. Blair, Jr., of the com- 

1 1 Laws of 1861, p. 277-278; R. P. Mori to Trumbull, June 6, 1861, Trum- 
bull manuscripts; Prairie Farmer, November 24, 1861 ; Joliet Signal, November 
19, 1861 ; Ottawa Free Trader, November 23, 1861 ; Ottawa Weekly Repub- 
lican, November 30, 1861. In November, 1861, public meetings were held to 
call attention to the importance of this project. 



mittee on military affairs of the house, reported a bill for the 
enlargement of the canal so that gunboats and other vessels 
drawing six feet of water might pass from the Mississippi to 
the lakes. 2 By this time the matter was squarely before con- 
gress. Representative Arnold from the Chicago district, a 
member of the committee on roads and canals, assumed the 
leadership of the Illinois delegation and made a favorable 
report to the house. In July, however, the project was killed 
on a test vote in which the eastern members lined up against 
the representatives of the west. Governor Yates, not to be thus 
silenced, then pressed the matter upon the attention of the 
president; in November he went to Washington for a joint 
interview in the company of Congressman Arnold. The war 
department was directed to examine into the practicability of 
the undertaking; meantime, the canal project was again pressed 
upon the attention of congress. 3 

Eastern selfishness, the canal advocates claimed, was giving 
force to the movement for the separation of the western from 
the eastern states and the formation of a northwestern con- 
federacy. Even republican leaders declared that governmental 
policy was destroying the value of the agricultural products of 
the west, while manufactured articles from the east doubled 
and quadrupled in price. This discrimination could be removed 
by a restoration of the natural exchange of commodities by 
easy channels of commerce; and the canal was, therefore, a 
political as well as a military necessity. Governor Yates at 
the suggestion of western business and farming interests went 
so far as to send a commission to Canada to arrange for a 
Canadian route to the seaboard. 4 

While congress was wrestling with this problem, Arnold 
and other ship canal advocates arranged for a great national 
canal convention at Chicago to express the interests of the 
west. This body met on June 2 and 3, 1863, with Vice Presi- 
dent Hamlin in the chair; it set out to secure the right of the 

2 Congressional Globe, 37 congress, 2 session, 902-903. 

3 Illinois State Journal, September 17, November 22, 1862. 

4 Ibid., January 15, March 10, 31, April 20, 1863; Aurora Beacon, Novem- 
ber 13, 1861 ; Chicago Tribune, November 27, December 23, 1862, June 2, 1863. 
Eastern transportation interests were said to be conspiring to prevent either 
waterways in the northwest or an aggressive policy to accomplish the reopening 
of the Mississippi. 


states of the Mississippi valley to " national recognition as 
coequal sovereignties of the Great Republic." 5 It did not 
confine itself to the Illinois canal plan but adopted resolutions 
in favor of constructing different ship canals to connect the 
lakes with the Mississippi and the Atlantic. Although this 
was not exactly what Illinoisians wanted, yet, as the measure 
in congress had been given this larger scope, they welcomed 
the indorsement as a forward step. Again, however, congress 
took no action: not until January, 1865, was Arnold able to 
secure favorable action on the bill by the lower house; then 
the senate refused to lend its assistance, and with the close of 
the war one of the strongest arguments for federal aid came 
to an end. A survey was made, however, by the war depart- 
ment in 1867, and, though the engineers recommended the 
project, no action was taken. 6 Although traffic on the canal 
was declining rapidly, later efforts to secure federal action also 
failed to bear fruit. 

The ship canal fever included a number of projects of more 
daring scope. In 1866 a widespread movement took place 
for the extension of the Illinois and Michigan canal to the 
Mississippi river at a point near Rock Island, 7 and a local 
following boomed a scheme for a ship canal from the Rock 
river to Lake Michigan. A series of conventions at Sterling, 
Geneseo, Dixon, Rock Island, Morris, and other points enthu- 
siastically urged ship canals and river improvement. Some 
even advocated a canal under federal auspices around Niagara 
Falls to open up a more satisfactory route to Europe. 
The only tangible result that followed from all this activity 
was the act of the Illinois legislature of February 28, 1867, 
under which the state inaugurated the work of improving the 
canal and the Illinois river channel. As a sop to the advocates 
of other water routes the act referred to but made no provi- 
sion for an extension of the canal to the Mississippi at Rock 
Island and the improvement of the Rock and other rivers. 

5 " The West," declared the Chicago Tribune, June 2, 1863, "will hence- 
forth be a partner in the Union, entitled to all the immunities and privileges of 
her place." 

8 Ibid., June 3, 4, 1863, July 20, 1867; Putnam, Illinois and Michigan Canal, 
135; House Executive Documents, 40 congress, i session, number 16. 

7 Chicago Tribune, January 6, 8, 10, 17, 23, 1866; Chicago Evening Journal, 
January 8, 1866. 


The strength of the agitation for water transportation 
reflected not so much the absence of rail communication as the 
dissatisfaction with the service which the railroads were fur- 
nishing. Some of the canal and river meetings were held as 
anti-monopoly conventions under the auspices of the movement 
which the farmers launched against the enormous freight tariffs 
of the railroads. The agriculturists claimed that they were 
at the mercy of the railroads, while Chicagoans held that these 
rates were "damaging Chicago to a degree that it is difficult to 
compute." 8 

There was a strong survival in Illinois of the sixties of 
the old frontier fear and hatred of monopoly; the railroad 
symbolized this hydra headed monster whose inroads had been 
dreaded since the days of Andrew Jackson. When the rail- 
roads, deprived of the competition of the Mississippi water 
route and encouraged by general economic and monetary con- 
ditions, steadily increased their passenger and freight rates to a 
point that seemed extortionate, a note of alarm and protest was 
sounded which showed the crystallization of widespread dis- 
satisfaction; the year 1865 saw the crest of a high rate wave 
with a corresponding amount of complaint and indignation. 9 
Transportation charges on shipments from Minnesota, Wis- 
consin, and Iowa, it was said, were retarding the development 
of the state and threatening the prosperity of the lake cities. 
The railroads were flourishing on tariffs like twenty-five cents 
on a bushel of wheat from Winona to Chicago ; indeed, rates 
sometimes amounted virtually to an embargo upon the ship- 
ment of cereals by this route and forced trade to go through 
St. Louis and down the Mississippi river. Through freight, 
moreover, was often handled more reasonably than freight 
between two intermediary points. 

A rumor began to spread of a great upper Mississippi 
railroad and steamboat combination; thereupon, two hundred 
and twenty of the leading mercantile houses of Chicago ad- 
dressed a questionnaire to the railroad companies to learn 
whether they were in partnership with the elevators of the city, 

6 Ibid., November 27, 1865. 

9 Ibid., December 18, 1865; Cairo Weekly Democrat, January 19, 1865; 
Paxton Record, June 22, 1865; Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1865. 


with express and transportation companies, or steamboat lines 
upon routes leading to Chicago, in such a way as to involve 
restraint of trade. The failure of the railroads to reply was 
interpreted as an admission of the combination; complaints 
became even more general and were summarized in February, 
1866, in a report of a joint committee of the Chicago Board 
of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Association. 10 

The result was a state wide revolt against the railway 
and warehouses "monopolies." In northern Illinois, farmers' 
mass meetings and commercial conventions urged that provi- 
sion be made for new waterways and that the railway lines of 
the state be subjected to careful legislative regulation. As 
early as 1864, rate regulation had been proposed by farmers' 
organizations and in January, 1865, William Brown of Win- 
nebago had proposed in the legislature a resolution subjecting 
all new railroads to a general law regulating freight and pas- 
senger rates. Within a year the demand for rate regulation 
became general; the supervisors of Winnebago county passed 
resolutions declaring that they would support no man for office 
who was not pledged to use his influence for the correction of 
this abuse. 11 

In January, 1867, the anti-monopoly forces came together 
at Springfield and formed a league which demanded of the 
legislature restrictions on railroad combinations, uniformity 
of freight rates, a three-cent passenger fare, and an annual 
report of expenditures and receipts of each road. Bills were 
promptly introduced into the legislature; but the railroad inter- 
ests, aided by the unwillingness of downstate rail advocates 
to place any obstacles in the way of their own ambitions, 
blocked all attempts at legislation. In 1869 the cudgel was 
again taken up against the railroads. The blow was tempered, 
however, by a challenge at the constitutionality of such rate- 
fixing legislation. Southern Illinois spokesmen also pointed 
out that, since it would apply only to roads thereafter incor- 

10 Chi cag o Tribune, December 15, 26, 1865; January n, 12, 1866; Central 
Illinois Gazette, January 19, 1866; Illinois State Register, January 12, 1866; 
Chicago Evening Journal, February 14, 1866. 

11 Prairie Farmer, December 24, 1864; Rockford Register, January 28, 1865; 
Ottawa Weekly Republican, January 28, 1865; Chicago Tribune, February 10, 
1865; Illinois State Register, January 3, 1866. 


porated, its sole effect would be to prevent the construction of 
new lines. A maximum rate bill introduced into the senate 
by General A. C. Fuller passed both houses but was vetoed 
by Governor Palmer; thereupon Senator Fuller introduced a 
new measure limiting all roads in the state to a "just, reason- 
able, and uniform" rate; this became law and went into force 
on March 10, 1869. The war between the people and the 
railroad ring continued and a point for the people was 
scored in the restrictions imposed by the new constitution of 
iSyo. 12 

The remedy most strongly favored by the anti-monopolists 
was additional transportation facilities. Besides waterways 
new railway lines were welcomed to open up competition with 
those that were charged with indiscriminate pillage. Little, 
however, could be done in northern Illinois, which was domi- 
nated by the Chicago and Northwestern railway; this com- 
pany, chartered in 1854 under the Illinois and Wisconsin laws, 
had first taken up the rights and franchises of the Chicago, St. 
Paul, and Fond du Lac railway company, then in 1864, after 
unsuccessful attempts to force out the Galena and Chicago 
Union railroad by competition, a consolidation of the two sys- 
tems as arranged. A little later under the control of Henry 
Keep of New York and his associates, the Northwestern line 
absorbed the Chicago and Milwaukee railroad and with a mile- 
age of 1,152 became the largest railway corporation in the 
United States; in 1868 evidence was published of a scheme 
to consolidate the Chicago and Northwestern, the Chicago and 
Rock Island, and the Milwaukee and St. Paul under one man- 
agement; this, said the Chicago Tribune, "would practically 
deliver the whole territory north and west of Chicago over 
to the tender mercies of a Wall street ring." 13 Simultaneous 
with the election of three of the managers of the Milwaukee 
and St. Paul to the directorate of the Northwestern road, the 
Northwestern corporation tried to secure a majority of the 

12 Chicago Tribune, January 14, February 12, 19, March 13, December 6, 
1869; Illinois State Journal, January 15, 1869; Cairo Evening Bulletin, January 
16, 1869; Ottawa Free Trader, January 15, 1870; Ottawa Weekly Republican, 
June 30, December i, 1870; Laws of 1869, p. 309-312. 

13 Chicago Tribune, March 6, June 4, 5, 1868, June 10, 1869; Chicago Times, 
June 2, 1864. 


stock of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific. It was no 
wonder that the people clamored for competing waterways, 
the only competition possible. 

Southern Illinois, meanwhile, had been passing through 
another attack of the periodic railroad fever, and was now 
able to gratify some of its cravings for more railroads. In- 
numerable schemes were afloat many of which secured legis- 
lative sanction; work was commenced on twelve distinct roads, 
but only the more stable and conservative ventures were suc- 
cessfully executed; 14 through these, however, the railroad 
mileage of the southern third of the state was nearly doubled. 
The old St. Louis and Terre Haute project, revived and char- 
tered in 1865 as the St. Louis, Vandalia, and Terre Haute 
railroad, was completed and opened in 1870. The Springfield 
and Illinois Southeastern was chartered in 1867; and the con- 
nection between the state capital and Shawneetown, except for 
the short link between Pana and Edgewood, was completed 
within the decade. The extension of the Belleville and Illinois- 
town toward Du Quoin produced the Belleville and Southern 
Illinois road which was not ready for use, however, until 1873. 
Plans were also well under way for a road between Cairo and 
Vincennes which was finished in 1872. 

The central part of the state was almost equally fortunate 
in its new connections. The Toledo, Wabash, and Western 
was extended across Pike county to Hannibal, Missouri; and 
the St. Louis, Jacksonville, and Chicago between Blooming- 
ton and St. Louis, was opened for business in January, 1868, 
under a lease to the Chicago and Alton railroad. In 1869 the 
Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Western opened between Pekin 
and Danville. The western part of the state was traversed 
lengthwise by the Rockford, Rock Island, and St. Louis rail- 
road which was finished in 1869 and soon became part of the 
Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy, a vast railroad combina- 
tion which was steadily absorbing the roads of western Illinois. 
These larger systems built many branch lines most of which 
fell within the central tiers of counties. In many instances 
local connections were incorporated in the larger systems. 

14 Cairo Evening Bulletin, June 23, 1869; Ottawa Weekly Republican, July 
8, 1869; Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1869. 


By 1869 the mileage of Illinois roads had increased to 
4,031 and Illinois remained the second railroad state in the 
union. 15 

One of the most significant developments of the decade was 
the building of the Pacific railroad. Illinoisians had always 
had a special interest in a trans-Atlantic rail line, especially a 
central route. This had been a leading factor in Douglas' 
eagerness to secure the organization of the territory of Ne- 
braska in 1854; his opponents, moreover, had used a strong 
Pacific railroad plank in constructing the platform of the new 
republican party. When the Civil War created a new military 
demand, congress gave its approval to the undertaking and 
the president decided in favor of a Chicago connection. The 
effect upon such lines as the Chicago and Rock Island and the 
Galena and Chicago was immediate; the stock of the former 
rose twenty points in a few weeks. The Northwestern rail- 
way company, using the old Galena and Chicago air line to the 
Iowa boundary, was the first to complete an Omaha connec- 
tion. In 1868, the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific under- 
took to build an extension of its line to Council Bluffs. At 
once Chicago began to tap the trade of the far west and in 
1869, when the trans-Atlantic route was completed, an excur- 
sion of business men left Chicago for San Francisco to examine 
into the possibilities of commercial relations with the Pacific 
coast and the orient. 16 

Banking and currency problems divided with transportation 
the responsibility for clearing the way for the industrial pros- 
perity of Illinois. The banks had just completed their recov- 
ery from the panic of 1857 when the sectional crisis precipi- 
tated by Lincoln's election brought the threat of financial 
chaos. Since the circulation of the state banks was mainly 
predicated upon southern securities, the banking interests at 
first reacted very conservatively and even recommended sacri- 
fices of principle to pacify the south. The free banking system 

15 Poor's Manual, xliv-xlv. The Rushville Times, June 4, 1870, estimated 
the Illinois mileage at 5,200. 

18 Ottawa Free Trader, January 9, 1863, June 26, 1866; Chicago Tribune, 
October n, 1866, July i, 1869; James H. Bowen et al. to Trumbull, June 14, 
1869, Trumbull manuscripts. The Chicago Board of Trade formally indorsed 
a Northern Pacific railroad from Lake Superior to Puget Sound. Chicago 
Evening Journal, April 23, 1866. 


had created a machine for the issue of a circulating medium 
which was now endangered by the decline of southern securities. 
The banking commissioners in November, 1860, called for 
more securities from twenty-two banks, but before they were 
due the rapid drop of southern stocks had involved all but the 
fourteen or fifteen banks that had deposited northern state 
bonds. 17 Only the notes of these banks remained in circula- 
tion; the other paper was driven out and the auditor retired 
and destroyed the issues presented for redemption. Some 
specie, too, was forced out of its hiding places, and some for- 
eign issues remained in the field, although their circulation 
was attacked. 

The general assembly attempted to adjust the banking 
system to the new conditions under the banking amendment 
of February 14, 1861. This law provided for a central re- 
demption system and quarterly reports, and restricted securities 
for deposits to United States and Illinois stocks. In conse- 
quence by the end of the year, Illinois bonds constituted the 
vast bulk of the holdings of the auditor. On the whole, how- 
ever, this law failed to receive a fair trial. The large volume 
of federal greenbacks together with the later issues of national 
bank notes came to monopolize the field. By 1865 the office 
of bank commissioner was abolished and only $200,000 in 
state bank paper was circulated by twenty-three banks. On 
August i, 1866, the federal tax on state bank notes succeeded 
in driving from circulation most of what remained. In 1869 
the auditor's report showed only $531 in outstanding bank 
notes. 18 

In this way a system designed during the fifties to furnish 
Illinois with a supply of local bank notes collapsed under the 
double strain of the break with the south and of the compe- 
tition with the new currency issues of the federal government. 
The national banking system received a hearty welcome from 
the business men of the state, and state banks learned to adjust 
themselves to the necessity of confining their operations to the 

17 Illinois State Register, November 16, 1860; Chicago Tribune, November 
20, 1860; Rockford Republican, November 22, 1860; Joliet Signal, November 27, 
1860; Central Illinois Gazette, November 28, 1860. 

18 Reports General Assembly, 1867, 1:115; l86 9 * : 324; f Laws of 1861, 
p. 39 ff. 


receiving and transmitting of money and to a loan and discount 

In the spring of 1862 the stream of greenbacks or federal 
legal tender notes began to flow into Illinois. There was little 
realization, however, on the part of citizens as to the signifi- 
cance of this influx. The previous winter had been extremely 
dull, the bottom had dropped out of the market. . Now prices 
pushed up, trade became brisk, and prosperity seemed to pre- 
vail. A heavy demand was current for small change to which 
the government responded by authorizing the issue of a " frac- 
tional postage currency." Its distribution was managed ineffi- 
ciently, however, and bankers found it necessary to secure 
consignments through senatorial intervention. 19 The govern- 
ment outlawed the use of tokens and checks which business 
houses issued to furnish a currency of small denominations. 
With the steady depreciation of the greenback, gold and silver 
disappeared from circulation and high prices began to prevail. 
For a time, however, the farmer complained of the great dis- 
parity between the price of his produce and the manufactured 
articles that he had to secure by purchase; the eastern money 
changers seemed to be deriving the peculiar advantages from 
these developments. Two years later, however, wheat was 
well over $2.00 with other agricultural products in proportion, 
a partial compensation for the fact that gold was approaching 
the 250 mark. 20 With the victories that closed the war the 
greenback recovered considerably in value, but prices remained 
ruinously high. The advocates of contraction placed the blame 
on the superabundance of money; yet in 1867 dull times and 
lower prices set in again without any explanation in a reduced 
supply of money. When contraction was suggested dozens 
of Chicago business men were found to oppose it. An outcry 
went up against heavy taxes. " The honest white men of the 
country are taxed and retaxed over and over again from the 
cradle to the grave, and are then taxed one dollar for dying," 

19 E. March to Trumbull, November 28, December 6, 1862, J. Young Scam- 
mon to Trumbull, December 5, 15, 1862, R. Hinckley to Trumbull, December 13, 
1862, Edward Abend to Trumbull, December 24, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 

20 Ottawa Free Trader, July 2, 1864; Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1864; 
Joliet Signal, December 16, 1862. The general increase in the cost of living 
was between two hundred and three hundred per cent. 


complained the Carthage Republican.^ Discrimination against 
the western agricultural states in internal revenue assessments 
was claimed at an early day; later when a tax of two dollars 
on a gallon of whisky threatened to decrease the consumption 
of grain, a general protest went up. A large body of repub- 
licans also agreed with the democrats that on the tariff the 
west was being " consumed by the good of New England & 
Pennsylvania" and a readjustment seemed essential. 22 

Then, however, the eastern creditors called up the cur- 
rency issue in a new form by insisting on the payment of the 
interest on the federal debt in gold rather than in the legal 
tender paper. Illinois agriculturalists opposed the idea of 
special favors for "bloated bond-holders." The democratic 
party gained strength in 1868 when it seemed that George H. 
Pendleton would be nominated on his western greenback policy. 
When, however, he was rejected at New York for a hard 
money candidate, the issue was postponed to a later period 
in national politics. 

Industrially, Illinois on the eve of the Civil War showed 
many frontier survivals; another decade, however, worked 
out a revolution that brought the state to the threshold of 
modern industrialism. The extended transportation system 
was one of the greatest factors in stimulating this progress; 
the other factors proceeded from the war itself. The war, 
in bringing high prices for grain and livestock, in bestowing 
protective duties that far surpassed the rosiest dreams of infant 
industry, gave a remarkable impetus to manufacturing indus- 
tries. Cook county in 1860 had only 469 manufactories; an- 
other decade and this number had more than tripled. 23 In the 
same period the manufacturing establishments of the state 
had increased from 4,268 to 12,597 with the value of manu- 

21 Carthage Republican, June 27, 1867; E. W. Blatchford to Trumbull, 
February 27, 1867, Trumbull manuscripts; Aurora Beacon, February 7, 1867; 
Cairo Democrat, May 25, 1865, May 23, August 9, 1867; Illinois Democrat, 
December 21, 1867; Chicago Times, June 24, 1865; Illinois State Journal, July 
24, 1865. Board in Chicago was ten to fifteen dollars per week. 

22 Chicago Times, April 23, 1864; Illinois State Register, April 28, 1866; 
Chicago Tribune, August i, 1867, March 27, June n, 1868; E. Peck to Trum- 
bull, April 24, 1866, C. H. Ray to Trumbull, February 2, 1866, Trumbull 

23 Schoff, Industrial Interests of Chicago; Chamberlin, Chicago and Its 
Suburbs, 136-137, 


factured products rising from $57,580,886 to $205,620,672. 
The number of operatives employed in the state increased from 
5>593 to 82,979. These figures tell the story of a revolution 
which, after having broken out in England a century before, 
had irrepressibly swept on and on until it reached the prairies 
of Illinois. 

The focusing point of the manufactures as well as of the 
railroads was Cook county. In 1870, although it contained 
just one-ninth of the establishments in the state, it listed about 
one-half of the employees; the industries, therefore, were not 
only more numerous but were organized on a larger scale. 
Chicago became a center for the manufacture of iron products, 
which received special protection under the tariff schedules; 
in 1860 there were 26 iron works in the city which increased 
in the decade to over a hundred, including about one-quarter 
of the capital invested in manufacturing. The large output 
of farm implements and machinery reflected the demand of the 
agricultural population of the northwest; Peter Schuttler's 
wagon manufactory, established in 1843, was known from 
Texas to Oregon, and McCormick's reaper works which were 
moved to Chicago in 1847 supplied a wide demand among west- 
ern farmers. A factory started by Furst and Bradley in 1851 
for the production of plows and other farm machinery was 
doing a thriving business before i86o. 24 Wood works to 
supply the building trades were second in importance followed 
by combined wood and iron establishments. Brick, stone, 
metal, and terra cotta works, together with leather plants, and 
textile factories were important in the industrial development 
of the city. 

The milling of flour and grist was one manufacturing field 
that Chicago was gradually yielding to the smaller cities and 
towns of the state. In this field as well as in some of the other 
fundamental needs of farming communities, no serious attempt 
was made at large scale production; but the smaller centers 
were left both to supply the local demand and to export the 

Every population center was ambitious to share in the new 
prosperity. Illinois claimed certain peculiar advantages for 

44 Western Manufacturer, May supplement, 1874. 


manufacturing nearness to the supply of foodstuffs, of raw 
material for the factories, and of coal for steam power; the 
cheapness of these commodities tended to offset the lower rates 
for capital and labor that prevailed in the east. Every city 
talked of its available coal deposits, its water power, or other 
advantages; in Peoria and elsewhere business organizations 
to promote their respective communities soon began to appear. 
A committee of Bloomington citizens studied the manufactur- 
ing towns of Ohio and pointed out ways and means to 
secure the same advantages to their own town; communi- 
ties competed with each other in offers to secure new in- 
dustries. 25 

Quincy, the second city in the state, specialized in stove 
foundries ; during the war an important tobacco industry devel- 
oped there by transfer from Missouri. 26 Peoria's prosperity 
was well grounded upon the distillery business; it had four 
distilleries in 1856, six in 1859, an< ^ nme ^ n I ^73- By 1871, 
moreover, it had two corn planter factories, two plow and 
cultivator establishments, and one starch factory. 27 Rockford 
claimed to have a manufacturing output of $3,000,000 per 
year. The other towns of 5,000 or over usually had grist and 
saw mills, a foundry and machine shop, a woolen factory, a 
wagon or plow factory, and certain more highly specialized 
establishments. 28 Certain communities boasted of rather 
unique manufacturing lines. The National Watch Company 
established its factory at Elgin in 1864; five years later the 
first watch factory at Springfield was established. La Salle had 
a flourishing zinc works and in 1866 the manufacture of glass 
was revived there in the only glass factory in the west; soon 
Ottawa promoters, headed by J. D. Caton, started to raise the 

25 At the beginning of the decade republicans advocated a protective tariff 
to foster manufactures; soon there was a surfeit and even the democrats urged 
the people to " quit raising corn and go to manufacturing " as " the true remedy 
for New England robbery." Ottawa Free Trader, October 14, 1865; Carthage 
Republican, January 18, May 3, 1866; Paxton Record, December u, 1869; 
Ottawa Republican, December 15, 1870. 

28 Western Agriculturist, 11:6, 10; The City of Quincy, Illinois, 18-19. 

27 Western Manufacturer, 9:4; Board of Trade of Peoria, Report, 1873, p. 
31; Dwyer, "Manufactures in Illinois," Department of Agriculture of Illinois, 
Transactions, 9 : 87. 

28 Over a dozen firms manufactured plows on a large scale. Prairie Farmer, 
December 10, 1864. 


stock for a rival glass factory at that place. 29 Bloomington was 
unique in the possession of a melodeon factory. 

Under the stimulus of war prices every town of any size 
made an effort to secure a woolen factory; at the end of the 
decade the census enumerators found twenty-four wool carding 
and cloth dressing establishments and eighty-five woolen mills 
in Illinois, many at obscure points like Dayton, Lacon, Augusta, 
and Fairbury. They represented an investment of $3,600,000 
and employed 3,460 operators, one-fourth of whom were 
women. 30 This incursion into a new field met with limited 
success: almost all the new establishments were erected after 
the close of the war, yet before the seventies some of these 
were compelled to shut down. Cotton manufacturing, another 
venture that seemed equally promising, collapsed even morel 
promptly; Henry W. Fuller of Chicago headed a concern to 
erect a factory in that city; in 1865, after two years of 
preparation, the Chicago Cotton Manufacturing Company 
secured an act of incorporation only to die a lingering death. 
The first cotton factory ever set in operation in Illinois was 
completed at Rockford in the summer of i867; 31 Rockford 
had the only two establishments of the kind at the, end of the 

Even these unsuccessful ventures into new fields testified 
to the industrial revolution. By the method of trial and failure 
the commonwealth that had in five decades risen from the wil- 
derness ranked first among the states in its flour and gristmills 
and in its sirup and molasses factories, second in its manufac 
tories of agricultural implements, and fourth in the number 
of establishments for the manufacture of carriages and wagons, 

29 Ottawa Free Trader, October 21, 1865, November 2, 1869; La Salle Press 
clipped in Central Illinois Gazette, December 22, 1865; Illinois State Journal, 
March 7, 1866. 

30 Ibid., March 2, 1866; Central Illinois Gazette, March 3, 1866; Champaign 
County Union and Gazette, July 21, 1869; Illinois State Agricultural Society, 
Transactions, 8:180. The woolgrowers, anxious to maintain the price of their 
product urged a protective tariff on the raw wool, but at the Cleveland wool 
tariff convention of 1866 the Illinois delegation recommended that the Illinois 
legislature pass a bill exempting from taxation all capital invested in woolen 
and cotton mills. Chicago Tribune, November 16, 27, 1866; Jacksonville Journal, 
November 19, 1866. 

^Prairie Farmer, January 24, 1863; Chicago Tribune, January 16, 
1866; Chicago Evening Journal, February 5, 1866; Rockford Gazette, Decem- 
ber 31, 1868. 


of saddlery and harness, of tin, copper, and sheet iron, of 
cooperage, of furniture, and even of millinery. 

The Civil War decade also opened up some of the more 
important mineral wealth of the state in 1861 the general 
assembly had passed an act to encourage mining in Illinois. 32 
The use of coal in locomotives and manufacturing establish- 
ments caused a new stir in the coal fields. Informed by the 
state geological survey of 1860 that coal might be had for 
the digging anywhere in the state from Kane county to Cairo, 
prospectors appeared in every community to estimate the com- 
mercial value of the deposits. As a result the number of coal 
mines increased from 73 to 322 while the coal output of the 
state increased from 728,400 tons in 1860 to 2,624,163 
in 1870. 

The most thrilling event in the industrial world was the 
discovery of petroleum. In the early months of 1865, after 
important oil strikes at points between Knox, Jackson, and 
Lawrence counties, the excitement rose to such a pitch that it 
infected all parts of the state. " Petroleum is a fever, an itch, 
a mania, a madness with some," declared the Chicago Journal. 
" The very air is full of oil, the very pavement is slippery with 
it, as it were. All a man's five senses are assailed, conquered, 
carried by it. We cannot help seeing it, nor hearing it, nor 
feeling it, nor tasting, nor smelling it." 33 Little was accom- 
plished, however, in the way of utilizing commercially this new 

One of the difficulties in the way of industrial development 
was the labor problem. The war had drawn off a large portion 
of the working population of the state and created a shortage 
of labor that not only raised wages everywhere but made 
skilled labor unobtainable for new enterprises. Yet increased 
wages could not keep pace with the rapidly increased cost of 
living. By 1864 living expenses had increased from 50 to 300 
per cent, while wages had risen only 15 to 100 per cent. The 
burdens of war, therefore, fell more heavily upon the workers 
than upon any other class. An effort was made to solve this 
difficulty by introducing the principle of cooperative buying on 

82 / Lavs of 1861, p. 146. 

83 Clipped in Belleville Advocate, February 24, 1865 


the English plan ; since there was no opportunity, however, to 
carry it beyond the experimental stage, it could not relieve 
the general situation. 34 

The result was a stimulus to organization such as never 
existed in the history of the state. Before the war organized 
labor had been represented almost exclusively by German 
workingmen's associations. German tailors, carpenters, and 
wagoners associations had been in existence in Chicago for 
some time and in 1857 the Chicago Arbeiter Verein was organ- 
ized. 35 During that period, however, proximity to cheap lands 
offered a solution of the economic problem to many a hard 
pressed worker; this remedy still existed to a limited degree 
but the worker in a more complex society began to sense his 
own strength with a growing class consciousness a conscious- 
ness that gave birth to the labor movement in Illinois. 

In December, 1863, a mass meeting of Chicago working- 
men representing nearly every field sent resolutions to the 
striking laborers of New York. Within a few months, in 
view of increased living expenses, Chicago workers were organ- 
izing into some twenty trade-unions with a " general trades 
union" to harmonize their relations. 36 With the same process 
going on in Springfield and the other cities of the state, strikes 
began to make their appearance in Illinois; March i, 1864, was 
significant for the general railroad strike on roads entering 
Chicago in which the locomotive engineers sought, after having 
secured a $3.50 wage, to define their week's work in terms of 
a run of a specified mileage as against six ten-hour work days. 
The railroads stood their ground, backed by the newspapers, 
and the engineers one after another returned to their duty. 
In the same year short strikes took place among the coopers, 
carpenters, waiters, bakers, and other labor groups. The 

34 For cooperative stores and societies see Prairie Farmer, June 20, 1863, 
Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1863; Chicago Evening Journal, November 23, 
1865; Chicago Post, January 3, 1866. 

35 The miners about Belleville were organized in 1860 under their leader, 
John Hinchcliffe, with the German element sufficiently numerous to^warrant a 
separate issue of the Belleville Miner and Workman's Advocate in German 
shortly after its institution. Belleville Democrat, February 2, 16, 1861 ; January 
16, 1864. 

39 Chicago Times, December 29, 1863, April 25, May 6, 1864; Chicago Morn- 
ing Post, December 30, 1863; Chicago Tribune, April 27, August 21, 23, 1864. 


strike had taken its place as the favorite weapon by which 
the workers sought to secure their " rights." 

With the growing class consciousness of the workers they 
began to recognize the influence they exercised in political life 
and soon launched a movement whereby labor definitely en- 
tered politics. In 1864 when many workers were alienated 
from Lincoln by his war policies, a Chicago mass meeting of 
workingmen proposed an independent "labor party." The 
republicans tried to head it off by references to their rail-splitter 
and tailor candidates while the democrats posed as the pro- 
tectors of the laboring poor from the tyranny of capital and 
of the national administration. Cyrus H. McCormick, demo- 
cratic candidate for congress, made a direct appeal to the 
workers through the columns of the W or king man' s Advocated 
With such bids from the professional politician old party con- 
nections proved in every sense too strong for a new alignment. 
Indeed, politicians displayed unlimited zeal in trying to placate 
labor. In 1866, when the workers launched a widespread 
movement for an eight-hour law and organized an eight-hour 
league to support only eight-hour men, all candidates took up 
the idea. A legislature was elected which enacted the eight- 
hour law of 1867 providing that, in the absence of any contract, 
eight hours except in farm labor should be a legal day's work. 

It was not to be expected that the employers would acqui- 
esce without a fight in this new-found power of the working- 
men. Indeed, they had not been sitting idly by; suddenly they 
showed their hand. Upon agreement they notified their em- 
ployees that such as were unwilling to work ten hours might 
consider themselves discharged. The workers, in angry reply, 
organized themselves through the Illinois Labor Convention 
to secure the advantages of the eight-hour system. The law 
was to go into effect May I ; for that day they planned a grand 
demonstration in Chicago followed by a general strike. The 
newspapers, sensing a shift in public opinion in response to the 
uncompromising attitude of the employers, immediately at- 
tacked the program of the workers and aroused public opinion 
against them ; nevertheless, on May Day the strikes broke out 
all over the state and soon work was generally suspended. 

37 Chicago Times, August 22, 1864; Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1864. 


Chicago was the seat of special disturbances which at times 
went as far as serious rioting between thje strikers and those 
who remained at work. Governor Oglesby, who had pre- 
viously indicated his desire to see the state law enforced, was 
silent during the struggle; Mayor John B. Rice of Chicago, 
however, took advantage of the growing reaction against the 
law to issue on May 3 a proclamation calling attention to a 
statute which forbade preventing any person from working at 
any lawful business and combining to deprive the owner of 
property of its lawful use and management. 38 Under this policy 
the loosely organized workers were gradually compelled to 
resume employment; in only a few cases were they permitted 
to labor eight hours for eight hours pay. By the first week in 
June the struggle had pretty well come to an end and the law 
became a dead letter. 

The eight-hour law and its failure stimulated experiments 
with the principle of cooperative labor. In some instances 
this meant the association of workers on a purely cooperative 
basis; in other cases old established firms, like Dillman and 
Company of Joliet, or newly organized joint stock companies, 
like the Northwestern Manufacturing Company of Chicago, 
introduced the new system into their plants. 39 

Deserted by the old party politicians, the more independent 
minded labor leaders began to consider an independent political 
activity to wield the influence to which their numbers entitled 
them. For them the blandishments of the old parties had 
come to an end; in the fall of 1867 preparations were made 
in various parts of the state for the launching of a labor party 
as a nation wide movement. 40 In the spring of 1868 plans 
were pushed aggressively. The republican leaders tried to 
check them by directing a labor movement within their party; 
a republican farmers' and laboring men's state convention at 
Decatur in April recommended Harrison Noble as the workers* 
candidate for the republican nomination as governor. When 

38 Chicago Evening Post, May 3, 1867; Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1867. 

39 Ibid., April 29, May 7, 14, 27, 1867; Joliet Signal, June u, 15, 1867; 
Illinois State Journal, September 3, 1867. 

40 Ottawa and Alton were centers of activity and in the latter a mayor was 
elected on the workingmen's ticket. Ottawa Free Trader, August 3, September 
7, 21, 1867; Ottawa Weekly Republican, September 19, 26, October 10, 1867; 
Illinois State Journal, September 14, 1867. 


this recommendation was ignored the movement became even 
more independent. Independent workingmen's candidates for 
congress were nominated, including Alexander Campbell of 
La Salle; possibilities of a presidential ticket were even dis- 
cussed. The trade-unions of Chicago placed in nomination 
full legislative, county, and city tickets. 41 All these move- 
ments were abortive but they did not entirely discourage 
further efforts along these lines in succeeding years. 

Some gains were made by the workers through political 
pressure. In 1869 an aggressive mechanics lien law was se- 
cured by the managers of the labor forces at Chicago which 
gave the workers a lien upon all buildings upon which they 
labored and also upon the lots upon which the buildings were 
erected. A bill requiring safety devices for the protection of 
coal miners in their hazardous occupation passed the lower 
house at Springfield in 1869 but, failing to become law, the 
proposition was passed on to the consideration of the constitu- 
tional convention of iSyo. 42 Thus in a growing class conscious- 
ness and in an increasing sense of their power the labor forces 
of Illinois gave further testimony to the industrial revolution. 

41 Illinois State Journal, August 19, 1868; Chicago Tribune, April 8, 15, 
September 14, 1868; Ottawa Free Trader, August 15, 1868; Ottawa Weekly 
Republican, August 20, 1868. 

42 Chicago Tribune, January 27, February 8, April 12, 1869; Illinois State 
Register, January 26, 1870; Du Quoin Tribune, March 30, 1870; Laws of 1869, 
p. 255-259. 


ILLINOIS had become by 1 860 the center of the agricultural 
life of the nation. The Civil War brought with it an 
unique opportunity to place her resources at the disposal of the 
union cause and to develop a prosperity which made possible 
an important contribution to the sinews of war. As a result 
the agricultural life of the state was quickened; and, in 
spite of various handicaps, Illinois not only continued but 
strengthened her agricultural leadership of the northwestern 

Much of this development was merely greater expansion 
along the well-established lines of wheat and corn production. 
Illinois profited from the new demand for foodstuffs to feed 
the union armies and, as a result of poor European harvests in 
1860, 1 86 1, and 1862, from the increased purchases by for- 
eign countries. Despite the steady drain on farm labor with 
an army of over a quarter of a million men summoned to the 
colors, the acreage was increased and good crops were har- 
vested. Corn production, with a harvest of 129,921,395 
bushels in 1869, rose twenty per cent over the figures for 
the bumper crop of 1859, an< ^ Champaign, McLean, and 
La Salle counties took their place as the heart of the corn belt. 
They were more fortunate in their accessibility to markets 
than the counties along the Mississippi river, which had pre- 
viously sent their corn crop to the slave states; these regions 
now converted their unprecedented corn harvests into the more 
marketable form of fat hogs, although at times local market 
prices dropped so low that large quantities were burned as 
fuel. 1 After the war, an important corn market was greatly 
weakened by the excise of two dollars per gallon on whisky, 
an article worth only thirty or forty cents; this was a factor 
sufficiently serious to cause considerable discontent among the 

1 Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, 48 : 400 ; Galena Gazette clipped in The 
(Columbus, Ohio) Crisis, January 10, 1866. 



farmers. By strenuous activity in the wheat fields Illinois con- 
tinued with an output of 30,128,405 bushels in 1869 to main- 
tain her position as the first wheat raising as well as corn grow- 
ing state. The price of wheat rose steadily and averaged over 
a dollar a bushel for the Civil War period. The high water 
mark was reached in 1867 when wheat sold for $3.50 and 
flour at $18.00 per barrel in the city of Springfield. 2 

A somewhat similar development took place in the produc- 
tion of the minor cereals. The output of oats leaped forward 
with an increase of over 180 per cent with the result that 
Illinois exchanged fourth place for ranking position in oats 

The Civil War period brought to maturity the promise 
of the fifties for a wonderful horticultural development in 
southern Illinois. A region of less than one hundred miles 
along the Illinois Central railroad, centering in the district be- 
tween Jonesboro and Carbondale, developed into an impor- 
tant fruit belt, containing over one hundred thousand bearing 
fruit trees in 1865 and three times that number in 1866; in 
that same year 716,375 apple, pear, and peach trees were set 
out. Willard C. Flagg of Madison county, secretary of the 
Illinois State Horticultural Society, had a 1,100 acre farm with 
80 acres in orchard. A fruit farm near Cobden in Union 
county owned by J. L. and S. S. Sawyer, included 5,000 grape 
vines, 20,000 peach, and 7,000 apple trees, 7 acres of straw- 
berries, 3,000 gooseberry plants, besides small fruits and veg- 
etables. 3 In the summer of 1862 the Illinois Central was 
induced to inaugurate a special fruit express to avoid what 
was termed the rapacity of the regular express companies in 
bringing the fruit to the Chicago market. In the succeeding 
years at the demand of the Southern Illinois Fruit Growers' 
Association, a fruit train to St. Louis as well as Chicago became 
a regular arrangement; in the closing days of May a train of 
from ten to fifty cars transported the strawberry crop; in late 
July the peach trade began, followed shortly by pear and apple 

2 Illinois State Journal, April 26, 1867. 

3 Illinois State Register, August 10, 1866; Flagg's orchard included 4,500 
apple trees, 150 pears, 1,200 peaches, 60 plums, and many others. Belleville 
Advocate, July 28, 1865; Illinois State Agricultural Society, Transactions, 


shipments. In August, 1867, the Illinois Central cleared 
$40,000 on peach shipments alone; in that season it carried 
8,692,200 pounds of fruit from twenty stations in southern 
Illinois. 4 

Egypt far surpassed northern Illinois both in the quality 
and quantity of its fruit harvests. The region about Quincy, 
however, was a good apple country in 1867 shipping nearly 
fifty thousand bushels. The most successful grape culture of 
the state was carried on about Nauvoo, Peoria, and Bloom- 
ington; Dr. H. Schroder, the well-known horticulturalist of 
Bloomington, planted the first grape vines there in 1858 and 
soon had extensive vineyards; his exhibits were usually prize 
winners at the state fair. 5 By 1869 Illinois had nine local hor- 
ticultural societies and four county associations, in addition to 
the societies based on larger territorial units. 

The modern dairy industry of northern Illinois had its 
beginning in the Civil War era. Even during the fifties Chi- 
cago had come more and more to draw upon outlying towns 
for its supply of milk; in 1859 Elgin, with about twenty export 
dairymen, shipped 227,047 gallons of milk to Chicago. Eight 
years later though, with competition from Kane and neighbor- 
ing counties, the shipment from Elgin had increased only to 
296,197 gallons, yet its value had risen from nine to sixteen 
cents a gallon. 6 

Meantime, the dairy industry had become far more com- 
plex. A heavy butter trade developed : the little town of Wil- 
mington in 1866 in addition to freight shipments sent out by 
express 16,912 pounds of butter in a single week. Butter sold 
at twenty-five to thirty-five cents a pound and was often in 
such demand as to leave unsupplied the local trade. In 1865 
the Gail Borden and Company condensed milk factory was 
established at Elgin; at the end of the decade it was condensing 
daily from twelve to eighteen hundred gallons, or three to four 
thousand cans. In 1864 the first cheese factory in the west was 
established at Bloomingdale, Illinois; and within a few years 

4 Illinois State Register, September 18, November 14, 1867; Cairo Democrat, 
December 19, 1867. 

5 Prairie Farmer, January 30, May 14, October i, 1864, January 12, 1867. 

8 Chicago Press and Tribune, February 8, 1859; Illinois State Journal, 
January 30, 1867. 


there were such establishments in ten northern Illinois counties. 
McHenry county in particular promptly became a great 
cheesemaking center; in 1866 it contained no cheese factories; 
in 1867 eight factories in operation for a season of four to six 
months consumed 5,500,000 pounds of milk and produced 600,- 
ooo pounds of cheese. Two years later eleven factories made 
about 1,600,000 pounds. In 1870 nine counties in northeastern 
Illinois produced nearly sixteen million pounds of cheese with 
a capital investment of $1,667,500; cheese was then worth 
twelve and one-half cents a pound. 7 

What was probably the first dairyman's convention west 
of Ohio met at Rockford in March, 1867, for an interchange 
of ideas and comparison of experiences; this resulted in the 
organization of the Illinois and Wisconsin Dairymen's Asso- 
ciation. Three months later a similar meeting at Elgin 
arranged for the organization of the Fox River Dairy Club. 8 

By doubling the value of all livestock Illinois rose in a 
decade from third to first rank as a stock raising state. The 
biggest gains were in the northern division of the state. In beef 
cattle production the increase for the state was only 8.7 per 
cent, since a 26.6 per cent loss in the southern division neu- 
tralized the heavy 38 per cent gain registered in the central 
counties. Though second to Texas in cattle production, Illinois 
beef began to take a leading place in the New York market; 
nearly one-half of the 165,000,000 pounds received in New 
York in 1862 was raised in Illinois. 9 This same record was 
maintained in the succeeding years with Illinois cattle often 
outnumbering those from all other states. Champaign county 
furnished large quotas; but Morgan county, with three of the 
largest cattle dealers in the country, held the palm. Jacob 
Strawn, until his death in 1865, had continued to be one of the 
leading Illinois stockgrowers, while John T. Alexander, the 
Jacksonville cattle king, sometimes sold single lots of 3,000 

7 Illinois State Register, December 5, 1865; Ottawa Weekly Republican, 
January 30, 1868, June 17, November 4, 1869, August n, 1870; Aurora Beacon, 
January 30, 1868, October 9, 1869; Ottawa Free Trader, May 27, 1865; Joliet 
Signal, June 5, 1866; Prairie Farmer, February 22, 1868. 

8 Rockford Gazette, February 7, 1867; Ottawa Weekly Republican, Febru- 
ary 6, 1868; Prairie Farmer, March 2, 23, August 10, 1867, February i, 1868. 

9 Rockford Register, February 14, 1863. 


head of cattle; he, together with William M. Cassell and 
George D. Alexander, in twelve months shipped over 65,000 
head of cattle which at six dollars a hundredweight were valued 
at $5,ooo,ooo. 10 

The driving of cattle from Texas to Illinois for prepara- 
tion for market revived with the close of the Civil War. The 
imported cattle often arrived in, a sickly and exhausted con- 
dition, with their longhorned, shark-like carcasses resembling 
walking corn cribs. John T. Alexander after several trials 
finally found the business of fattening them for market de- 
cidedly unprofitable. Nevertheless, the shipping of longhorns 
to take advantage of the grazing and feeding facilities of Illi- 
nois continued by the thousands. One company in 1867 con- 
tracted for the shipment #f over 70,000 Texas cattle. In 1868 
the firm of Gregory and Hastings of Chicago grazed a herd 
of nearly 35,000 at Tolono. In that year sixty or seventy 
thousand came into the state by way of Cairo alone. 11 

These importations often brought with them a dread cattle 
murrain, the " Spanish fever," a disease that not only took a 
heavy toll from the longhorns but also infected fine herds of 
native cattle. In 1866 it caused so much complaint that in 
February of the following year a law was enacted "to prevent 
the importation of Texas or Cherokee cattle." Since, how- 
ever, the law was ignored, with the result that in 1868 the 
disease again raged in Iroquois, Vermilion, Ford, and Cham- 
paign counties, vigilance committees were appointed at differ- 
ent stations to prevent the unloading of further importations. 
At the same time meetings were held and other movements 
initiated in favor of an effective state law against the impor- 
tation of Texas cattle; a cattle convention at Springfield on 
the first of December advised a law the passage of which 
Governor Oglesby recommended in his message to the legis- 
lature. The result was legislative restriction on the importation 
of Texas cattle except between the first of November and the 
first of March. 12 

10 Illinois State Journal, May 4, 1864; Chicago Tribune, August 2, 20, 1869. 

11 Cairo Democrat, September 17, 1867, July 14, 27, 1868; Champaign County 
Union and Gazette, August 5, 1868; Illinois State Journal, February 23, 1870; 
Illinois State Register, July i, 1868, March 3, 1869. 

12 Ibid., November 19, 1866, July 30, August 17, September 2, December 


The war greatly stimulated the demand for pork, and 
prices continued steady between $5 and $6.50 per hundred- 
weight. Illinois' output so increased as to place it in second 
place. At times the hog cholera prevailed in various parts 
of the state but never became epidemic. In 1867 an Illinois 
swine breeders' association came into existence. 13 

With the new demand for uniforms and with the wide- 
spread substitution of wool for the now unavailable southern 
cotton, the war offered a remarkable stimulus to the produc- 
tion of wool. In the five years ending in 1865 the number 
of sheep in the state more than doubled, 14 with Sangamon 
county as the center of the wool raising district. Although 
in 1 86 1 wool was worth only twenty-five cents a pound, within 
a few years its value increased to eighty cents. As the demand 
from the government fell off with the close of the war and the 
price dropped to forty cents, sheep shearing exhibitions, fairs, 
or festivals were held to increase interest in the industry. In 
1863 at the state fair at Decatur the Wool Growers' Associa- 
tion of the State of Illinois had been organized, and this body 
now undertook to secure a new stimulus to their industry by 
agitation in favor of a protective tariff against "inferior im- 
ported wool;" in 1866 and 1867 resolutions strongly urging 
protection were adopted. 15 Illinoisians also took a prominent 
part in the Wool Tariff Convention at Cleveland in 1866. In 
spite of the concessions they were able to secure, the price 
continued to drop; and the last five years of the decade brought 
a considerable decline in sheep raising. 

The war cut off the normal supply of southern staples, and 
Illinois was one of the few states able to step in and take 
advantage of the situation. This was particularly true of cot- 

I, 3, 1868; Illinois State Journal, February 23, 1867; Prairie Farmer, March 
9, 1867; Champaign County Union and Gazette, August 5, 1868; Canton Weekly 
Register, September 4, 1868; Chicago Tribune, January 5, 1869; / Laws of 1867, 
p. 169; Laws of 1869, p. 237. 

13 Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, 54:376-384; Ottawa Free Trader, Decem- 
ber 18, 1869. 

14 See the contradictory figures in Cairo Democrat, February 16, 1864; Ot- 
tawa Weekly Republican, July 29, 1865; Canton Weekly Register, February 5, 
1866; Aurora Beacon, May 31, 1866; Jacksonville Journal, February 7, 1867. 

15 Chicago Tribune, October 6, 1863, January 9, 1867; Chicago Times, 
October 7, 1863; Chicago Post, February 22, 1866; Aurora Beacon, January 17, 
1867; Prairie Farmer, January 19, 1867. 


ton after the Mississippi river was closed. Previous to the war 
a considerable amount of cotton was raised in the southern 
counties but mainly by farmers' wives to add to their "pin 
money." 16 In the fall of 1861, after reports of successful 
experiments by certain individuals during the previous summer, 
preparations were made for extensive cotton growing in the 
following season. Although critics began to deplore the wide- 
spread " cotton mania," they were swamped by the " pro-cot- 
tonists." Immediately a seed problem arose; the federal 
government, however, undertook to secure seed and to dis- 
tribute it in Illinois through John P. Reynolds, the correspond- 
ing secretary of the State Agricultural Society. As a result a 
crop estimated at twenty thousand bales was raised, when 
cotton was selling in the east at sixty cents a pound. 17 In the 
spring of 1863 the price had risen to eighty-seven and one-half 
cents, and the farmers of southern Illinois responded by secur- 
ing cotton seed by the carload. Cotton culture on a large scale 
followed, and the 1864 crop was marketed when the eastern 
price was $1.50 per pound. 

Many southern exiles and some Negro freedmen were 
drawn upon to aid in this new development. One of the for- 
mer, Archie J. Elyutt, established the Southerner and Cotton 
Planter at Cairo in 1865 to attract southern emigrants and 
others to the possibility of cotton culture in southern Illinois. 18 
The next harvest showed an unprecedented yield; Jonesboro 
and Carbondale with cotton in the air and on the streets seemed 
like southern cities. In season ten gins ran continuously in 
Carbondale, which shipped 4,000 bales. A region of southern 
Illinois which had produced only 1,416 pounds in 1862 three 
years later harvested over one and a half million pounds, mar- 
keted at the western price of forty-five cents a pound. 19 A 
high production cost, however, was involved in the raising of 

19 Rockford Republican, February 21, 1861. 

17 Belleville Advocate, February 14, March 21, November 21, 1862; Illinois 
State Register, February n, 1862; Illinois State Journal, March 29, May 12, 
1862; Lewis Ellsworth to Trumbull, February 19, 1862, Caleb Smith to Trum- 
bull, February 20, 1862, Trumbull manuscripts; Champaign County Patriot, 
November 6, 1862. 

18 Cairo Weekly Democrat, March 23, 1865. 

19 Chicago Tribune, November 14, December 26, 1865; Cairo Times clipped 
in Chicago Post, March 14, 1866; Illinois State Agricultural Society, Transac- 
tions, 6: 191-194. 


these crops; when, therefore, with the return of peace and 
competition with southern cotton a heavy 1866 harvest had 
to be marketed at one-half the 1865 price, the enthusiasm for 
cotton culture was promptly demolished; and by 1869 the 
production was only one-tenth that of 1865. 

The scarcity of cotton during the early years of the war 
also stimulated the cultivation of flax. This was the oppor- 
tunity of the northern district, and in 1863 it was seized upon 
with such keenness that a flax belt appeared centering in 
De Kalb county. Developments were less spectacular than in 
the case of cotton ; but during the decade Illinois multiplied its 
output nearly fifty times, reaching a crop of 2,204,606 pounds 
in 1 869. Factories for cleaning the flax fiber and for the manu- 
facture of linen goods were established at Batavia, Ottawa, 
Sycamore, Mendota, and other points. 20 

Illinois also made wonderful progress in the field of raising 
saccharose crops to take the place of Louisiana cane sugar. 
The output of maple sugar had begun to fall off in the forties; 
but Civil War conditions stimulated a slight increase, while 
sorghum culture made great gains. Secession came just at the 
height of the enthusiasm over Chinese sugar cane, and during 
the first two years of the decade the output was almost doubled; 
such heavy sowings were made in southern Illinois that for a 
considerable time it was difficult to secure seed. Reduced prices 
after the war resulted in merely nominal increases so that the 
census of 1870 showed an output of only 1,900,000 gallons of 
sirup; the 1869 harvest had doubtless fallen off as a result of 
advice to force up prices by curtailed planting. Repeated 
efforts to produce a satisfactory granulated sugar from the 
Chinese sugar cane ended in failure; even such large scale 
ventures as the Northwestern Chinese Sugar Manufacturing 
Company which was incorporated in 1 863 collapsed promptly. 21 

Interest in the possibility of beet sugar production was 

20 Ottawa Weekly Republican, February 21, 1863, December 16, 1869; 
Illinois State Journal, February 23, March 7, April 27, 1863; Cairo Democrat, 
October 8, 1863; Aurora Beacon, March 17, July 21, 1864. 

21 Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, 1862, p. 140-147; Jacksonville 
Journal, November 13, 1862; Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1862; Champaign 
County Union and Gazette, April i, 1868; Ottawa Free Trader, March 20, 
1869; Cairo Gazette, April 2, 1863; D. C. Martin to Trumbull, February i, 
1862, Trumbull manuscripts. 


aroused by the dissemination of information as to conditions 
in France and Germany ; soon ventures were launched into this 
field. In 1862 an unsuccessful experiment was made by H. 
Belcher, a Chicago refiner; three years later nothing significant 
had been accomplished, though many people, including John P. 
Reynolds, the secretary of the State Agricultural Society, were 
convinced that the manufacture of sugar from sugar beets 
could be made to pay. Then a group of Chicagoans consti- 
tuting the Illinois Beet Sugar Company undertook to investi- 
gate conditions in Germany and France through one of their 
number, C. E. Olmstead, whom Governor Oglesby appointed 
a special honorary agent for the state; but this brought no 
immediate results. 22 At the same time a beet sugar manufac- 
tory was being built at Chatsworth, in Livingston county, for 
the Germania Beet Sugar Company of which Theodore Gen- 
nert was superintendent. Gennert went to Germany where he 
secured the necessary machinery and three hundred mechanics 
and laborers. In 1867 this company manufactured and mar- 
keted one hundred thousand pounds of sugar and the following 
season was shipping a carload a week. This was the first 
successful beet sugar venture in Illinois. 23 

One of the most significant aspects of Illinois' marvelous 
agricultural contributions during the years of the war was the 
withdrawal of an army of a quarter million workers, a majority 
of whom went from the farms of the state ; from certain agri- 
cultural districts over nine-tenths of the young and able-bodied 
men liable to the draft promptly went into service. 24 The 
shortage of farm laborers was soon reflected in increased 
wages and in appeals for help. Wages rose to $1.25, to $2.00, 
and were then forced still higher by the depreciation of paper 
money; in some instances farmers turned their cattle into their 
grain fields rather than pay the rates required to harvest. The 
revival of foreign immigration relieved the problem of upstate 

22 Illinois State Journal, June 21, 1865; Illinois State Register, September 
25, 1865; J. D. Ward to Trumbull, September 19, 1865, Trumbull manuscripts. 

23 Illinois State Register, July 6, October 4, November 17, 1865; Chicago 
Evening Journal, December 18, 1865, March 8, 1866; Prairie Farmer, April 27, 
1867; Ottawa Free Trader, January 4, 1868; Champaign County Union and 
Gazette, November 24, 1869. 

24 Fite, Social and Industrial Conditions in the North during the Civil 


farmers, while southern Illinois sent the Negro " contrabands " 
into the harvest fields. At an early day, too, women and chil- 
dren took their places as farm hands, and a grown man at 
work in the fields came to be pronounced " a rare sight." 25 

Invisible labor units were added by the installation of agri- 
cultural machinery, which saved many of the western crops; 26 
even conservative farmers were forced to replace and supple- 
ment man power by machines. Oxen were found to be too 
slow for the hauling of expensive farm implements; and, in 
spite of the scarcity and high price of horses, the former were 
steadily discarded. The reduction of the number of oxen in 
the state in 1870 to about one-fifth of the 1860 figure offers 
peculiar testimony to the extensive introduction of farm 
machinery in the Civil War decade. 

Illinois had prepared in the previous decade for this devel- 
opment in the use of farm machinery. In 1 8 6 1 Illinoisians took 
out eighty patents, or over one-seventh of the patents for 
such machines granted by the government; seventeen for cul- 
tivators, fifteen for harvester machines, eleven for ploughs, 
and ten for corn planters. 27 In the decade the value of farm 
implements doubled, giving the state third instead of fifth rank 
among the states of the union. The prairie regions particu- 
larly came to be exploited by farm machinery: the value of 
farm machinery in Champaign county, for instance, increased 
from $25,000 in 1850 to more than $600,000 in 1870. 

In 1860 the size of the average Illinois farm was 158 acres; 
in 1870 it had dropped to 127 acres, although there was still 
a gain in the amount of improved land. Against this general 
tendency on the part of farm units to decrease in size, many 
large farms held their own. Farms of several thousand acres 
were scattered over the state. M. L. Sullivant, who lived on 
an inclosed estate of twenty-three thousand acres called 
" Broadlands," eight miles south of Homer in Champaign 
county, was reputed to own " the largest farm in the United 

25 Carthage Republican, June 9, 1864. 

26 Scientific American, 9:9. 

27 U. S. Patent Office, Report, 1861, p. 637-648. In 1867 the first patent for a 
disc plow was granted to M. A. and J. M. Cravath of Bloomington. Hales, His- 
tory of Agriculture, July i, 1915, p. 47. Gang-plows had already begun to come 
into use as an important labor saving device. Prairie Farmer, June 4, 1864. 


States, and probably in the world." He had an aggregate of 
80,000 acres of land; one piece in Piatt county was a tract of 
45,000 acres. At the same time John T. Alexander, a mil- 
lionaire farmer of Morgan county, was said to own a tract of 
80,000 acres without an acre of waste or poor land; 32,000 
head of cattle fed in his pastures and 16,000 acres were put in 
corn for the 15,000 head of hogs that he was raising. In 1866 
Alexander purchased " Broadlands " and established himself 
in Champaign county. 28 

In the Civil War era a new sense of professional pride 
in agricultural pursuits evidenced itself in a tendency toward 
more extensive organization. Farmers' clubs began to appear 
in all parts of the state for weekly neighborhood meetings 
and informal discussions, especially during the winter months. 
The county and state agricultural societies continued along 
established lines, although war conditions interfered consider- 
ably with their fairs and caused the omission of the 1862 state 
fair. The fairs and horse shows were assuming a more prac- 
tical bearing; and important steps were taken toward the 
introduction of new breeds and the improvement of livestock 
in general. Moreover, the state society found new opportu- 
nities for practical service, in directing the adjustments in farm 
economy to war conditions and in conducting the discussion of 
problems connected with the establishment of an industrial 
university under the Morrill land grant act. In 1867 a very 
successful Illinois exhibit was made at the Paris exposition 
under the direction of John P. Reynolds, who was selected by 
the State Agricultural Society and commissioned by the gov- 
ernor to represent the state ; in the awards the Illinois collection 
received several medals. 29 

The return of peace in 1865 terminated the advantage that 
the farmer had derived from war conditions. As war time 
markets were closed and prices on agricultural products 
dropped, although manufactured goods held their own, a rest- 

28 Homer Journal clipped in Central Illinois Gazette, June 22, 1866; ibid., 
February 2, 1866; Canton Weekly Register, May 7, 1866; Homer Journal clipped 
in Illinois^ State Register, November 8, 1866. 

29 Illinois State Agricultural Society, Transactions, 7:616-708; Ottawa 
Weekly Republican, July 18, 1867; Chicago Tribune, July 29, August i, 1867; 
Illinois State Journal, February 3, 1869. 


lessness developed among the producing classes that threatened 
to break out into a serious farmers' revolt. The farmer had 
certain grievances growing directly out of the marketing of 
his products. First of all he confronted the difficulty of secur- 
ing a fair price for his crops; then, with a growing dependence 
upon the railroads, he wrestled with the transportation prob- 
lem. High rail rates and elevator charges conspired to rob 
him of what he regarded as a fair return upon his labor. The 
news of railroad consolidations and rumors of combinations 
between the railroad interests and the warehouses, followed 
by advanced rates of storage and transportation, acquired a 
new significance when it was found by that heavy stock sub- 
scriptions the railroads were controlling the grain elevators. 30 
Something of a crisis came in the winter of 18651866 
when in parts of Illinois the price of corn fell to 1 ten cents a 
bushel and was cheaper than wood for fuel purposes. At the 
same time railroad rates were so exorbitant as to cause cattle 
raisers to consider it more economical to drive their cattle to the 
Chicago market. Complaint became widespread among the pro- 
ducing classes; the cry of "monopoly" arose, "the people hav- 
ing become alarmed at the designs and usurpations of the East- 
ern oligarchs, who now own and control Congress" 31 the 
issue was regarded by many as " eastern capital v. western 
labor." Then began a struggle between the agriculturist's 
and the "monopolists" preliminary to the granger movement 
of the seventies. In 1862 an Industrial League had been 
formed by the farmers of La Salle county as the preliminary 
to this farmers' movement. 32 On October 22, 1865, a con- 
vention of over two thousand farmers of the sixth congressional 
district met at Grundy in the interest of cheap transportation; 
among other things it requested the executive board of the State 
Agricultural Society to call together a state farmers' mass 
convention at Bloomington on December 15. This was done; 
when the convention assembled it recommended an elaborate 

80 Prairie Farmer, April 2, May 7, August 13, 1864. 

31 Galena Gazette and Monmouth Review clipped in The (Columbus, Ohio) 
Crisis, January 10, 17, 1866; Whiteside Sentinel clipped in Chicago Evening 
Journal, November 20, 1865. 

32 Illinois State Journal, December 18, 1862; Ottawa Weekly Republican, 
January 24, 1863. 


scheme of internal waterways and adopted a resolution "That 
it is expedient at this time to form a League of Illinois, with 
branch associations throughout the State, whose object it shall 
be, by legislative action, or, if necessary by constitutional pro- 
vision, to restrict railroad, express, and warehouse charges 
within reasonable limits." 33 A similar mass convention was 
held at Bloomington June 29, 1866. 

At the same time sentiment was developing against the 
so-called "live stock 'ring'" of Chicago. In the legislature 
of 1865 the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company had been 
incorporated with authority to manage a cattle yard, a series 
of branch railroads, a bank, and a hotel; many leading stock 
men had opposed it as a monopoly without knowing that $925,- 
ooo out of the capital of $1,000,000 was subscribed to by nine 
of the principal western railroads. In 1866 a group of com- 
mission men, calling themselves "The Board of Live Stock 
Commission Men," undertook to convert this largest and most 
important livestock market in the world into a secret exchange 
by suppressing the reports of sales of cattle in the daily news- 
papers. Though blocked by the local press, they were able at 
times to buy hogs at five or six cents live weight and sell pork, 
ham, and lard at more than double that price. In 1868 after 
wheat had been " cornered " three times, corn and barley twice, 
and rye and oats once, a corner on pork forced up the price 
of pork products to prices that aroused the wrath of the 
deluded farmer. 34 

Here was a hydra headed monster that must be slain. The 
people of the northwest were gradually awakened to the 
importance of legislative action to prevent these "moneyed 
monopolies from swallowing up the entire earnings of the 
producing classes, and reducing the country to poverty, that 
they may declare large dividends." 35 When new elevator 
companies found themselves unable to compete with estab- 

33 Aurora Beacon, November 20, 1865; Chicago Evening Journal, November 
23, 27, 1865; Illinois State Register, November 29, December 23, 1865; Jackson- 
ville Journal, June i, 1866. 

34 Illinois State Register, January 29, 1865; Chicago Post, December 27, 
1865; National Live Stock Journal, September, 1870, p. 29; Chicago Tribune, 
October 31, November 5, 1866; December 19, 1868; Canton Weekly Register, 
November 26, 1866; Illinois Democrat, September n, 1868. 

35 Paxton Record, December 16, 1865. 


lished concerns on account of railroad discrimination, the ware- 
house act of 1867 was passed in spite of the opposition of the 
warehouse men backed by the railroad lobbyists. This law 
established a set of regulations for warehouses, opened them 
to public inspection, fixed a penalty for " gambling contracts," 
and required the railroads to deliver grain to the warehouses to 
which it was consigned. 36 Members of the Chicago Board of 
Trade were arrested shortly for violating the clause prohibit- 
ing "gambling contracts;" their prosecution, however, was 
held up and the provision languished in innocuous desuetude 
until the next legislature restored trading in " futures." Re- 
peated efforts at railway legislation resulted in the railroad 
law of 1869. Although no results followed the farmers' attack 
upon " the slaughter-house and cattle yard monopoly," repeated 
efforts at railway legislation bore fruit in the railroad law of 

Thus did the farmers without adequate organization or 
direction show their strength in the politics of the state. But 
already the missionaries of a new order were preparing the 
soil for a more aggressive program of self-defense ; in another 
decade under the more efficient organization of the Patrons 
of Husbandry Illinois agriculturalists were to take their part 
in a great revolt by the farmers of the northwest. 37 

86 I Laws of 1867, p. 177-182; Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1867, February 
13, 1868; Ottawa Weekly Republican, August 22, 1867. 

3T Prairie Farmer, November 13, 1869, March 26, April 30, 1870; Kelley, 
Patrons of Husbandry, 245 ff. 



THE brilliant military exploits of the autumn of 1864 were 
continued into the winter months. First General Sher- 
man presented Savannah as a Christmas gift to the union and 
then, with scarcely enough opposition to relieve the tedium of 
the march, moved his unconquerable forces northward through 
the heart of Dixie; meanwhile Grant hammered away at the 
defenses of Richmond. This combination against the confed- 
eracy was enough to forecast its prompt suppression. 

In January, 1865, General Richard J. Oglesby, the distin- 
guished veteran of Donelson and Corinth, was called to the 
gubernatorial chair from the field of battle. His election and 
inauguration, therefore, forecast the transition that the na- 
tion was soon to experience when camp and battlefield were 
giving up their hosts and yielding to the constructive tasks of 
civil life. Governor Yates made his farewell in a message 
surveying the history of his administration and the war record 
of Illinois at such length as to break all records for state execu- 
tive documents; Oglesby in his inaugural devoted himself 
largely to the national outlook to problems which were in 
the large to assume greater importance than state politics dur- 
ing his administration. Like his predecessor he recommended 
the repeal of all laws bearing unequally upon Negroes and 
declared them entitled to the rights and privileges of the whites. 
The time was indeed ripe for reaping the harvest that republic- 
anism had for a decade been preparing. 

While awaiting the complete triumph of the federal arms 
the republicans undertook to make a final disposition of the 
slavery question by adopting a constitutional provision for 
abolition. Governor Yates had formally petitioned congress 
to take this step in January, 1864. An attempt was made 



early in the following June, but the proposition failed in the 
house of representatives where the Illinois democratic delega- 
tion voted solidly for its defeat. 1 The republicans, however, 
now interpreted their sweeping victory of 1864 as a mandate 
for abolition and insisted that five of the Illinois democratic 
congressmen had been instructed by the votes of their constit- 
uents to support the proposed amendment. The new legisla- 
ture undertook to make these instructions formal in a set of 
joint resolutions, but before this action could be completed 
news reached Springfield of the passage of the amendment. 2 
The Illinois congressional delegation, however, had again di- 
vided along party lines and voted against the amendment. 
On February I, 1865, immediately upon the arrival of the 
news of congressional action, the Illinois legislature adopted 
a resolution of ratification, thereby winning the honor of being 
the first state to ratify the thirteenth amendment. 3 

As a very proper corollary to this signal step toward free- 
dom for the Negro the Illinois legislature acted to repeal the 
"black laws" by which a free state had placed serious limita- 
tions upon the freedom of the Negroes within its limits. The 
republican assembly of 1861, to the disappointment of all rad- 
ical antislavery leaders, had failed to eliminate these laws on 
account of the sectional crisis; then, having been driven from 
control by the democrats, the republicans had found their hands 
tied until the victory of 1864. Now, however, on February 7, 
1865, the " infamous" legislation which the champions of free- 
dom had so bitterly attacked but which had survived under 
democratic rule was wiped from the statute books. Next, con- 
firming the prophecies of democratic critics, the " Negro equal- 
ity" party began a discussion of the logic of Negro suffrage; 

1 The Illinois vote was five (all union men) for the measure and eight 
(all democrats) against it, with Anthony L. Knapp not voting; Rockford Regis- 
ter, July 2, 9, 1864; Congressional Globe, 38 congress, i session, 145, 522, 694, 
2995; Illinois State Register, February 4, 1864. 

2 Chicago Tribune, November 20, 1864, January 24, 26, February 3, 1865; 
Illinois State Journal, February i, 2, 1865; Rockford Democrat, February 2, 
1865; House Journal, 38 congress, 2 session, 264-265. The most surprising vote 
against the amendment was that of John T. Stuart of the Springfield district, 
President Lincoln's former instructor and partner in law; Stuart like Lincoln 
had previously been a whig of the Henry Clay school, but while he now indig- 
nantly rejected any imputation of proslavery views, he could not reconcile 
himself to the political consequences of emancipation. 

3 Laws of 1865, p. 135. 


inasmuch as this suggested a new source of continued power, 
republicans promptly organized a campaign to attain that goal. 
To the end of reenforcing republican ascendancy in state poli- 
tics the legislature enacted a voters' registration law and a 
soldiers' voting law, and considered a new congressional appor- 
tionment measure; although each had its merits in a nonparti- 
san sense, they all involved some peculiar party advantage, 
represented most clearly in the gerrymandering provision of 
the apportionment bill which sliced out the fifth ward of Chi- 
cago to attach it to a group of republican counties south of the 
city. 4 

Under the constitutional provision limiting the session to 
twenty-five days the last hours were characterized by hurry, 
confusion, and carelessness. Members of "the third house" 
or "lobbyists" busily plied their trade, especially the repre- 
sentatives of insurance companies of which seventy-one were 
incorporated. Party newspapers on both sides delicately hinted 
and then boldly charged fraud, bribery, and other corrupt prac- 
tices, amid which 899 bills were passed, often without any 
knowledge of their provisions. These were mostly private or 
local bills, many of which were enacted as parts of omnibus 
measures which were jammed through by logrolling tactics. 
Everyone seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when the announce- 
ment of adjournment was made. 5 

On April 3, shortly after the legislative excitement sub- 
sided, the tidings reached Illinois of the occupation of Rich- 
mond by the union forces. The appearance of this dispatch 
in " extras " upon the streets caused the citizens to gather in 
wildest enthusiasm; flags were raised, church and fire bells 
began to ring, and cannon salutes reverberated upon the air. 
That night, brass bands and rockets summoned the people to 
further celebration; bonfires lit the sky with their glare and 
the intoxication of victory continued to a late hour. 6 Grant's 
and Lincoln's names were on everyone's lips. Citizens proudly 

4 Chicago Times, January 23, 1865. 

5 The Tribune considered it as welcome as the coincident announcement 
of the victory of an American horse on the French turf. Chicago Tribune, 
February 17, 24, 28, 1865; Chicago Times, February 18, March 4, 14, 1865; 
Joltet Signal, February 21, 28, 1865. 

6 Illinois State Journal, April 4, 1865; Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1865; 
Carthage Republican, April 6, 1865. 


rejoiced that Illinois had contributed not only the largest 
quotas of men but two loyal sons who as civil magistate 
and as military leader had conducted the union cause to 

A week later public rejoicing was renewed upon the an- 
nouncement of the surrender of General Lee's army. The 
people were happy in the belief that peace, with the beneficent 
blessings that follow in its train, was about to return to the 
republic. "There was a smile on every face happiness in 
every heart. Booming guns, clanging bells, streaming banners, 
and the tumultuous cheers of a happy populace told the public 
joy and proclaimed it to the world. But in a few short hours 
all this was changed. The peo.ple went about the streets mourn- 
fully, the bells tolled, the flag of the Republic was hung at half 
mast, and the hope of immediate Peace, which made the coun- 
try glad, vanished like a beautiful vision of the night for 
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, who in the days of his triumph had 
become the champion of the pacification of the South by con- 
ciliation, had fallen under the hand of an assassin, just as he 
was about to accomplish the grandest and most solemn problem 
of statesmanship in the history of the world." 7 

Abraham Lincoln had been accorded a martyr's crown; 
friend and foe alike bore their tribute to his feet. " The great 
stateman, the pure man, the humane adversary of a wicked 
rebellion, the true Christian, is assassinated," sorrowed the 
Paxton Record. 9 . " A man upon whom, through four years of 
diversified: hopes and fears, of doubtings and prayers, had at 
last centered the confidence and love of a nation, was stricken 
down in the hour of his triumph and vindication," eulogized the 
editor of the Carthage Republican, a political antagonist. 9 
The Chicago Times, convinced that the presidential mantle had 
fallen upon the shoulders of a man in whom nobody felt confi- 
dence, proclaimed the sincere sorrow of all northern democrats : 
"Widely as they have differed with Mr. Lincoln, greatly as 
their confidence in him has been shaken, they yet saw in the 
indications of the last few days of his life that he might com- 

7 Cairo Morning Nevis, April 20, 1865. 

8 Paxton Record, April 20, 1865. 

9 Carthage Republican, April 20, 1865. 


mand their support in the close of the war, as he did in the 
beginning. 10 

No finer homage, perhaps, can be found than that paid by 
the Cairo Democrat which within a twelvemonth had pro- 
claimed Lincoln as a "usurper and tyrant who is only fit to 
split rails;" it now commented: "Illinois claims Abraham 
Lincoln as her gift to the nation; and receives back his lifeless 
body, marred by traitors, weeping, like Niobe, and refusing to 
be comforted. Many of us have been active opponents of his 
administration have warred against him with the determina- 
tion of earnest enemies In the past, we believed 

him to be pursuing the wrong path of public policy, and. we 
told the world so, using language the strength of which was 
prompted by the passions of the passing moment; but when 
the end drew nigh, .... we saw this man whom we 
had condemned, rise above party, and disregarding his private 
anger, if he had any, become the great conciliator." 11 

The sincerity of democratic mourning was attested by the 
approval which had just been extended to Lincoln's policy in 
the matter of reconstruction. Indeed, the conciliatory meas- 
ures projected by him for the restoration of the insurgent states 
received a warmer welcome from the opposition press than 
they were accorded by a large number of vindictive repub- 
lican organs. In the last few weeks of his life his clemency 
and magnanimity toward the vanquished south had, in the 
minds of many democrats, absolved him from the trammels 
of party; with his martyrdom he attained an indisputable title 
to nationality. 12 

Democrats and republicans alike were skeptical of the qual- 
ifications of Andrew Johnson for the chief magistracy. The 
rumor had spread broadcast that on the occasion of his inau- 
guration as vice president he had taken his oath of office and 
made his inaugural address in a state of intoxication; the Chi- 
cago Tribune undertook to verify the report and proclaimed 
Johnson's conduct a national disgrace. It demanded his- resig- 
nation, declaring: " In the event of the President's death the 

10 Chicago Times, April 17, 1865. 

11 Cairo Weekly Democrat, May n, 1865; cf. ibid., July 14, 1864. 

12 Chicago Times, April 18, 22, 26, 1865; Joliet Signal, April 25, 1865. 


Vice-President succeeds to his place. Who can measure the 
calamities that would befall the country if the Presidential 
chair were filled by a person who becomes grossly intoxicated 
on the gravest public occasion? Such a contingency may well 
appall us." 13 This opinion was shared by other republican 
journals of Illinois, while the democrats took pleasure in tracing 
Johnson's condition to "the license and corruption of his 
party." 14 

When, however, Johnson did become Lincoln's successor, 
his position was studied from a new angle. In him democrats 
saw an advocate of vindictive reconstruction who, from impo- 
tence as presiding officer of the senate, had. advanced to the 
nation's highest seat of authority. Their horror at this turn 
of events was matched only by the 1 satisfaction of radicals 
who had grown disgusted with the increasing soft-heartedness 
of Abraham Lincoln. From them came an outburst of applause 
at the very first announcement of the new president that he 
would be careful " not to- pursue any policy which would pre- 
vent the government from visiting punishment on the guilty 
leaders who caused the rebellion." The Chicago Tribune 
opened its arms to Andrew Johnson. "That's the talk," it 
declared. " Johnson's little finger will prove thicker than were 
Abraham Lincoln's loins. While he whipped them gently with 
cords, his successor will scourge them with a whip of scorpions. 
He knows who they are and what they are. He hates slavery 
and has little affection for its high priests. There will be 
thorough work made of those who hatched and led the rebel- 
lion." 15 " The loyal heart of the people," explained the Rock- 
ford Register, April 22, 1865, "since the surrender and parol- 
ing of Lee's army, has been fearful that our late President was 
too full of the 'milk of human kindness' to enable him to 
deal justly with traitors. However this might have been, all 
the evidence we can gather as to Andrew Johnson's sentiments, 
points to the assurance that no such fears need be entertained 
regarding him." 

13 Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1865; Rockford Democrat, March 16, 1865; 
Rockford Register, March 18, 1865. 

14 Chicago Times, March 15, 1865. 

15 Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1865; Aurora Beacon, April 20, 1865; Rock- 
ford Register, April 22, 1865. 


The democrats, however, reminded themselves that John- 
son's political training had been in the democratic school; they 
hoped that, as a straightforward states rights democrat right 
up to the time of secession, he would administer the govern- 
ment in accordance with those principles. " He must rise above 
party and factions and act only for the people," they urged. 
" He must not be a hangman but a statesman." Then swift 
came the confirmation of their hopes; when Johnson took 
an early occasion to put his foot upon the state suicide doctrine, 
the democrats rejoiced that a point had been scored in their 
favor, and when in an amnesty and a reconstruction proclama- 
tion, both under date of May 29, he adopted and extended 
Lincoln's reconstruction policy, democrats exultingly pro- 
claimed that he was taking " true democratic ground." 16 u May 
it not have been in God's providence," asked the Cairo Demo- 
crat in an editorial entitled " Radicalism Rampant," " that An- 
drew Johnson was raised from the level of the people to the 
high eminence which alone could check the before resistless 
flood?" 17 

The republicans were taken decidedly aback. For a time 
they held off open criticism, putting their energies into ridicule 
of the new born democratic faith in and Quixotic defense of 
Andrew Johnson. By July, however, they were ready to 
prophesy shame and disaster as the logical fruits of the presi- 
dent's policy. "We do not believe that he has 'Tylerized' 
gone over to the enemy that only three months ago would 
have gladly hung him," was the dubious assurance of the Chi- 
cago Tribune. By September certain republicans were pre- 
paring to read Johnson out of the party, although Dr. C. H. 
Ray of the Chicago Tribune protested against this lack of 
patience. 19 Democrats were also divided as to how much reli- 
ance they could place on Johnson; many opened their arms 
to welcome him to their ranks a democratic meeting at 
Springfield called by prominent members of the party enthusi- 

16 Chicago Times, April 21, 25, 1865; Jollet Signal, April 25, 1865; Cairo 
Democrat, May 3, 1865; Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1865; Carthage Republican, 
May 11, 1865. 

17 Cairo Democrat, June 15, 1865; Joliet Signal, June 6, 27, 1865. 

18 Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1865; Aurora Beacon, July 27, 1865. 

19 C. H. Ray to Trumbull, September 29, 1865, Trumull manuscripts. 


astically indorsed Johnson's policies; others, however, held 
aloof, agreeing with the Cairo Democrat that " President 
Johnson is like the Irishman's flea, when you put your 
finger on him he is not there. One day he is held up as a 
model democrat, opposed to negro suffrage and all that, 
and the next day he is reported as an advocate of negro 
suffrage." 20 

Developments continued along these lines until the end of 
the year. The Chicago Tribune, seeking advantage from the 
situation, tried to disarm the democrats by proclaiming an era 
of good feeling: "The Copperheads vie with the Republicans 
of the North in fealty to a Republican and abolition adminis- 
tration, and denounce even friendly criticism as insidious trea- 
son." 21 The Cairo Democrat in alarm became more cautious 
and issued a warning that " the Democracy should be careful 
to not praise him [Johnson] beyond his merits." 22 Yet John- 
son's first annual message, which has since been discovered to 
have been the work of George Bancroft, the historian, proved 
such a temperate and conciliatory document that it met with 
the formal approval of democratic as well as republican jour- 
nals. The republicans, satisfied with the ferment at work among 
their opponents, again turned to consider the growing distrust 
of President Johnson in their own ranks. The problem of 
concealing it was becoming increasingly difficult; within a few 
weeks came the opening breach between Andrew Johnson 
and the radical republican majority in congress, and there- 
after the democrats began to rally more and more to his 
support. 23 

Republican leaders continued to wrestle with the problem 
of their relations to Andrew Johnson. A band of radicals, 
including many German republicans, were in favor of throw- 
ing him overboard on the ground that he had "Tylerized" 
the government and gone over to the enemy. There were 

20 Cairo Democrat clipped in Illinois State Journal, September 15, 1865; 
Cairo Democrat, September 16, 1865; Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1865. 

21 Ibid., October 26, 1865; Rockford Register, October 28, 1865. 

22 Cairo Democrat, October 30, 1865. 

28 Illinois State Journal, December 6, 1865; Chicago Tribune, December 6, 
1865; Rockford Register, December 9, 1865; Belleville Democrat, December 9, 
30, 1865; Carthage Republican, December 14, 1865; Central Illinois Gazette, 
December 15, 1865; Canton Weekly Register, December 18, 1865. 


many, however, who still retained " faith in the enlightened 
patriotism of 'Andy Johnson" 1 and hoped that moderate 
counsels might prevail and save the party and the president 
;from becoming involved in unnecessary and fatal antagonisms; 
this group included such notables as Senator Trumbull, Dr. 
C. H. Ray, and Newton Bateman, as well as General Allen C. 
Fuller, speaker of the house in the session of 1865, an ^ D. L. 
Phillips, part proprietor of the State Journal and United States 
marshal for the southern district of Illinois. 24 Feeling that a 
break with the president would involve the overthrow of the 
party and leave Andrew Johnson cock-of-the-walk, they were 
for accepting the principles of his annual message and for 
avoiding the " consummate Folly " of "splitting hairs on the 
proposition, whether the rebel states are in or out of the 
Union." 25 

All republicans who took this view, however, were stout 
supporters of two bills that Senator Trumbull introduced on 
January 5, 1866, a freedman's bureau bill and a civil rights 
bill. These measures sought to secure to the freedmen pro- 
vision for food, clothing, and shelter on the one hand and on 
the other the civil rights that were regarded as the corollary 
of the trumpet call of freedom. It was generally expected 
that the president would approve of the freedman's bureau 
bill and it was promptly pushed to passage; when on February 
19 it was returned with the executive veto, Andrew Johnson 
lost the support of practically every wing of the republican 
party in Illinois; his veto of the civil rights bill on 
March 27 widened the breach and unified the republican 

While the republicans in congress rallied to enact these 
measures over the president's veto, Illinois leaders marshaled 
their forces to defeat Johnson in the coming elections. In the 
contests of 1865, involving merely the local and county offices, 
republican politicians had been scandalized at the general tend- 

24 H. Schroder to Trumbull, December 23, 1865, Trumbull manuscripts; see 
letters from these and others to Trumbull in December, 1865, and January, 1866. 
"There is a strong disposition to make an issue with the President on the part 
of some, but for one I do not sympathise with it." Trumbull to Phillips, Decem- 
ber 21, 1865, Phillips manuscripts. 

25 C. H. Ray to Trumbull, February 7, 1866, Jason Marsh to Trumbull, 
January 8, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts. 


ency of the returned soldiers to criticize the union nominations 
as drawing too heavily upon civilians. In many counties rival 
"soldiers tickets" or republican "bolters" had been placed 
in the field and had received assistance from the democrats 
who often either made no nominations or fused with the sol- 
diers. At the polls the independent tickets had usually been 
defeated; the republican leaders, after reading a sermon to the 
bolters rebuking them for attempting minority rule and for 
giving comfort to the common enemy in a way that would 
undermine the unity, harmony, and organization of the re- 
publican party, had promised to bestow a proper attention upon 
the soldiers in the future. 26 

The republicans redeemed these pledges in the elections 
of 1866, when the veterans of the Civil War came into their 
own. General John A. Logan, who had now taken up his 
residence in Chicago, was nominated by acclamation by the 
republican or "union" state convention for congressman-at- 
large. Logan was the idol of the soldiers, although many 
republican leaders were unwilling to believe that with his 
entrance into the republican ranks he had recovered complete 
respectability. 27 General G. W. Smith was nominated for 
state treasurer, to make the race as a teammate of Newton 
Bateman, candidate for state superintendent of public instruc- 
tion. General Charles E. Lippincott and General Green B. 
Raum were named to lead the forlorn republican hope in Egyp- 
tian districts; but in general the old political leaders held to 
their berths in congress; on the other hand, in the contests for 
seats in the state legislature, the soldiers were given a generous 
share of the nominations. 

The strength of the soldier wing was doubtless increased 
by the organization of the Grand Army of the Republic. This 
association like the Union League originated in the state of 

26 Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1865; Joliet Signal, November 14, 1865; 
Central Illinois Gazette, November 17, 24, 1865. In the spring of 1866 the 
Illinois Soldiers' College and Military Academy was incorporated and organized 
at Fulton, Whiteside county, to educate as many as possible of the 5,000 disabled 
soldiers in the state to earn a living by intellectual rather than physical labor. 
Rockford Register, December 15, 1866, July 6, 1867; D. S. Covet to Trumbull, 
May 7, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts. 

27 D. L. Phillips to Trumbull, December 26, 1865, George T. Brown to 
Trumbull, August 16, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts. 


Illinois; after its beginnings in April, 1866, at Decatur, it rap- 
idly spread over all the northern states. Its founder, Dr. B. 
F. Stephenson, surgeon in the Fourteenth Illinois infantry, 
served as provisional Illinois department commander for a few 
months until General John M. Palmer won out over General 
Logan for the post of regular head of the organization in the 
state. Illinois contributed in General Stephen A. Hurlbut, the 
first G. A. R. commander-in-chief. This association, though 
organized for fraternal, charitable, and patriotic purposes, ex- 
ercised a formidable political influence. 28 

While the soldiers and republican politicians were busy- 
ing themselves with campaign preparations, the democrats 
were arranging to take advantage of Johnson's apostasy. John- 
son clubs were organized in Illinois communities from Chicago 
to Cairo; 29 in certain cities, moreover, the corporal's guard 
of republicans still clinging to Johnson were recruited into 
republican Johnson clubs which busily pointed out that the 
president's reconstruction policy was the same as that inaugu- 
rated by Abraham Lincoln the only policy that could give 
peace and permanence to the divided and distracted country. 
The Johnson supporters, as "conservatives," appealed to all 
true union men to rally with them to oppose the machinations 
of the " radicals." A few prominent republicans led the exodus 
into the "conservative" camp. Congressman A. J. Kuyken- 
dall of the Cairo district, the only republican member of the 
Illinois delegation who sympathized with Johnson, who had 
voted against the freedman's bureau bill and whose absence 
alone had prevented a negative vote on the civil rights bill, 
yielded his claims to political preferment at the hands of the 
republicans. 30 Thomas J. Turner, chairman of the republican 
state central committee, supported "the president's plan of 
restoration" as against the congressional plan of reconstruc- 
tion and on that account submitted his resignation, while the 
appointment of Orville H. Browning as secretary of the inte- 

28 D. L. Phillips to Trumbull, June 10, 17, 24, 1866, G. T. Allen to Trumbull, 
June 14, 28, 1866, George T. Brown to Trumbull, August 16, 1866, Trumbull 

29 Chicago Tribune, March 31, May 24, 1866; Cairo Democrat, April 13, 
1866; Jacksonville Journal, July 2, 17, 28, 1866. 

30 John Olney to Trumbull, April 19, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts; Chicago 
Tribune, May 8, 1866; Cairo Democrat, January 9, November 22, 1867. 


rior, as a reward for his support of Johnson was a distinct 
blow to the " radical" cause. 31 

Democratic preparations for the campaign were completed 
August 28 at Springfield at a state convention presided over 
by General John A. McClernand. This gathering of "con- 
servatives," attended by Johnson republicans like T. J. Turner, 
selected a ticket of war democrats: for congressman-at-large 
Colonel T. Lyle Dickey, an old-time whig of Ottawa, 32 Colonel 
Jesse J. Phillips of Montgomery county for state treasurer, 
and, as a distinct " debt of gratitude " to the soldiers, Colonel 
John M. Crebs of White county for superintendent of public 
instruction. The convention approved the policy of President 
Johnson and rebuked the radical majority of congress for its 
ruthless disregard of the constitution; in order to secure the 
advantage of the republican rejection of an eight-hour reso- 
lution, it supported the claims of labor for a reduced working 
schedule; it urged the taxation of plutocratic bondholders and 
declared the greenbacks a safer and better currency than 
national bank notes; and, finally, proclaimed a sympathy for 
the people of Ireland and for the oppressed of every nation- 
ality. This platform anticipated many of the issues that were 
appearing on the political horizon. 

One feature of the campaign was the visit of President 
Johnson, who, in the company of such notables as Secretary 
of State Seward, Secretary of Navy Welles, Admiral Farragut, 
and General Grant, came to assist in dedicating the Douglas 
monument at Chicago, and who, after an excursion of the presi- 
dential cortege to Bloomington, paid a visit to the grave of 
Lincoln at Springfield. This pilgrimage to the homes of the 
two foremost Illinoisians Johnson converted into an election- 
eering tour characterized by few formal addresses and numer- 
ous unmannerly stump speeches. Although this visit served to 
arouse the enthusiasm of the democrats and attached them 
more closely to their new standard bearer, yet Johnson's fre- 
quent passionate denunciation of his opponents and breaches of 

31 T. T. Turner to James R. Root, May 22, 1866 (ms. copy), Trumbull manu- 
scripts; Illinois State Register, August 7, 1866; Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1866. 

32 Illinois State Register, August 29, 1866; Ottawa Weekly Republican, 
August 30, 1866; Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1866; Cairo Democrat, Septem- 
ber 2, 1866; Joliet Signal, October 23, 1866. 


the traditions of presidential dignity only confirmed the rad- 
icals in their opposition and made reluctant moderate repub- 
licans decide to repudiate the president whose administration 
they had sincerely desired to support. The city council of 
Springfield, while extending a formal invitation to General 
Grant and Admiral Farragut, went as far as to reject a pro- 
posal to give the president a public reception. 33 

If the democrats gained advantage from the presidential 
visit, the republicans had their turn when in October a group 
of southern union men from a convention at Philadelphia 
journeyed to Illinois to visit the grave of the martyred Lin- 
coln ; they followed the same route as that taken by President 
Johnson, whose "swing around the circle" they were intended 
to offset. Elaborate arrangements were made for their recep- 
tion, in which the Grand Army of the Republic was marshaled 
in full strength. After a welcoming ovation in Chicago, Octo- 
ber i, they scattered over the state for a few days to contribute 
to the republican campaign. On the tenth, after visits to Kan- 
kakee, Peoria, Du Quoin, Mattoon, Cairo, Canton, Pana, and 
Alton, they came together for a grand celebration at Spring- 
field, where they thrilled Illinois republicans with their testi- 
monials of devotion to the simon-pure union cause. 34 

The visitors served to distract some attention from the 
interesting race between General Logan and Colonel Dickey 
for the privilege of representing the state in congress. Dickey's 
supporters made a feeble appeal to the soldier vote, which was 
reminded of his heroic deeds at Vicksburg. Logan, on the 
other hand, was the favorite of thousands of Illinois veterans 
who with him had bared their bosoms to the storm of war 
from Belmont to the victory of 1865. So strong was his polit- 
ical position that many had looked upon him as the logical 
successor to Trumbull's seat in the United States senate; 
indeed, Logan's nomination to congress was in part a device 
to eliminate him from the senatorial field, although he still 
continued to worry the friends of Trumbull. 35 

33 Jacksonville Journal, September 6, 1866; Cairo Democrat, September 12, 
1866; Joliet Signal, September 18, 1866. 

34 Chicago Tribune, October i, 12, 1866; Du Quoin Recorder, October 5, 
1866; Canton Weekly Register, October 8, 1866. 

35 George T. Brown to Trumbull, November 7, 1865, Trumbull manuscripts. 


The democrats soon decided that the skeleton of Logan's 
past was one which they might well cause to stalk forth among 
his admirers. Although they found it impossible advanta- 
geously to play up the charges of cowardice made by Colonel 
Reynolds and others, they insisted that " Black Jack," the 
" renegade from the Democracy," had been selected to do " the 
dirty work for the radical party, as he used to do it for the 
democratic party." 36 When the "warrior orator" in a whirl- 
wind campaign began drawing out by thousands the voters in 
every part of Illinois, his erstwhile associates brought out their 
heavy artillery in an attempt to shatter the bulwarks of his 
strength. Logan "would like to make treason odious," they 
said, "Well, so do we, and would suggest .... that 
Logan himself is a fit subject to commence on." 37 They 
charged him as a secessionist in 1861, having denounced the 
war as " a d d abolition crusade " and with having drummed 
up an "Egyptian corps" of recruits to the southern army. 
Said the Chicago Times'. "Almost every prominent journal 
in the state (the Chicago Tribune among the number) de- 
nounced him as a traitor and a rebel." 38 

Then "chapters from Logan's record" were published in 
the democratic press. He was charged with having made 
numerous speeches in the spring of 1861, denouncing the doc- 
trine of coercion and declaring that he could never give aid, 
comfort, or countenance to an attempt at conquering the rebel- 
lion by force ; he was pointed out as the sponsor for the reso- 
lutions adopted by a meeting in Marion, Williamson county 
on April 15, 1861, which demanded in the event of continued 
coercive policy, a division of the state to detach southern Illi- 
nois; he was charged with having denounced William J. Allen, 
his law partner, as a "dirt-eater" for having taken a leading 
part in movements to counteract the Marion resolutions; it was 
declared that, in June, 1861, on account of a general belief that 
he would be arrested for disloyalty, William J. Allen and 

36 The Chicago Tribune had before 1860 bestowed upon him the title of 
"Dirty-work Logan." Illinois State Register, August 14, 15, 1866; Chicago 
Evening Journal, November 4, 1865; Joliet Signal, October 24, November 7, 1865. 

37 Mt. Vernon Free Press clipped in Jonesboro Gazette, July 28, 1866; 
Illinois State Register, August n, 1866. 

38 Chicago Times clipped in ibid., August 14, 1866. 


others advised him to wait upon General Prentiss with assur- 
ance that thereafter his conduct would be unobjectionable; 
that in purchasing a revolver from Thomas Wilson, who was 
mayor of Cairo in 1866, he had explained: "I am going to 
attend the extra session of Congress and make a speech, telling 
what I think about this d d Abolition war, and I intend to 
blow out the brains of the first d d scoundrel who questions 
my right to do so;" that it was generally believed in Egypt 
that Logan was raising his regiment to fight in behalf of the 
confederacy; that in June, 1861, after the arrest of Colonel 
James D. Pulley, Logan raised an armed force to drive off 
union soldiers who might come to assail the rights of the people 
of Marion; and that Logan bitterly denounced Douglas for 
his historic war speech before the Illinois legislature as no 
better than an abolitionist. 39 

'The nine counts of this indictment were represented in 
every issue of the Cairo Democrat for October, 1866, and 
taken up by other democratic papers. Logan entered the war, 
they declared, for the same reason that he entered politics 
to get office. " His love was for the ultra fanatics of seces- 
sion, whose tool he had so long been whose ' dirty work' he 

had so willingly performed It was not till he 

found that the patriotic Democracy of Southern Illinois would 
not follow him into the ranks of the rebel army that he dis- 
covered that he was on the weather side. Thereupon, true to 
his office-seeking instinct, he turned a complete somersault, 
and entered the Union Army;" 40 now "in the desperate hope 
of seducing 'Egypt' into supporting the hellish schemes of the 
disunion Congress the Radicals placed the apostate Logan at 
the head of their ticket." 41 

The devoted wife of General Logan rose nobly to his de- 
fense. She journeyed to Marion and secured a statement signed 
by political opponents of Logan, some of whom had served 
in the southern army, which pronounced all the charges against 
Logan untrue. At the same time also his brother-in-law, Hibert 
B. Cunningham, wrote from Mississippi absolving Logan from 

39 Cairo Democrat, September 28, October 2, 1866. 

40 Chicago Times clipped in Illinois State Register, August 14, 1866; Belle- 
ville Democrat, September i, 1866. 

41 Chester Picket Guard, September 5, 1866. 


any responsibility for his going south to fight as a member of 
Captain Thorndike Brooks' company. Logan's opponents 
replied with a formal affidavit from one William M. Davis, 
who claimed that he had gone with Brooks' company "by and 
under the advice and influence of John A. Logan and his 
brother-in-law, H. B. Cunningham, who told me that Logan 
would join. us in two or three months." Next a statement ap- 
peared over the signatures of six of the eight "signers" of 
Mrs. Logan's certificate, which declared that their names had 
been used " without our consent, for we are satisfied the charges 
are substantially true, as published in the Cairo Democrat, 
Chicago Times, and other journals. Any amount of additional 
testimony in reference to Gen. Logan's anti-war action and 
speeches here in 1861, can be had from the best citizens of all 
parties." 42 

These charges were taken up by various democratic stump 
speakers, while Dickey, Logan's opponent, conducted a clean 
campaign, concentrating mainly on the reconstruction issue. 
The two rivals met in joint debate at Carbondale and Decatur. 
General Logan displayed a good deal of fire and at times 
venom. "He abused the Democracy in most insulting lan- 
guage; blustered, talked loud, slapped his hands frantically, 
and shook his finger provokingly at the Colonel .... 
[he] bellowed invectives, and earned the reputation of being 
Brownlow's rival in t^ie use of 'low-down' language." 43 
According to an account of the Carbondale debate, when 
Dickey touched upon Logan's secessionist record, Logan de- 
clared that whoever made these charges were liars; thereupon 
his own sister, Mrs. Blanchard, rose and declared that he had 
furnished his brother-in-law with financial aid to- assist the 
rebellion. 44 

It was in reply to the Carbondale denial by Logan that the 
editors of the Cairo Democrat drew up the nine specifications 
which they held themselves ready to prove. Whatever Colonel 
Dickey lacked in venom was more than counterbalanced by 
some of his supporters. The Chester Picket Guard hoped to 

42 Cairo Democrat, October 21, 27, 1866. 

43 Ibid., September 30, 1866; Chicago Tribune, October i, 2, 17, 1866; 
Du Quoin Recorder, October 5, 1866. 

** Salem Advocate clipped in Belleville Democrat, October 6, 1866. 


deliver the state already disgraced by " such a dishonest, rad- 
ical, lecherous, blasphemous and drunken, dirty, beastly thing 
as Dick Oglesby" from "that low vulgar, dirty and hypo- 
critical Logan. Maggots would sicken on him." 45 

The democrats capitalized to the full the desertion of 
Johnson republicans who joined the "conservative" forces. 
Besides T. J. Turner of Freeport and ex-Senator Browning, 
who was said to control the executive patronage in Illinois, 
a long list of converts was claimed, including Judge J. O. 
Norton, Judge G. D. A. Parks of Joliet, State Senator Green 
of Centralia, and T. L. Breckinridge, who in the union state 
convention had nominated Logan for congressman-at-large. 
The party sought to cement the attachment of the Irish to the 
democratic ranks by extending their approval to the Fenian 
brotherhood, which was now taking by storm the Celtic popu- 
lation of the state. The republicans at the same time made a 
strong bid for the Irish vote with a huge Fenian picnic near 
Chicago in August; although they made some converts, they 
were handicapped by the prevailing traditional allegiance of 
the Irish. 46 

In the fiercely contested canvass, the advantage lay with 
the republicans who had set out to win. From Senator Trum- 
bull and Yates down the best campaigners entered the field. 
The full influence of the Union League organization was 
wielded for their candidates; the G. A. R. posts were sources 
of additional strength. When the democrats hurled at them 
the epithets of "nigger-equality party" and "miscegens," they 
replied with salvos against the "treason party" and "copper- 
heads." When the bitter contest came to an end in November 
it was found that the republicans had won a sweeping victory, 
involving over fifty thousand majority for Logan, ten out of 
the other thirteen congressmen, and a two-thirds majority of 
the legislature. Illinois, an old stronghold of the democracy, 
became a citadel of republican power. 

45 Chester Picket Guard, September 12, 1866. 

46 Aurora Beacon, August 16, 23, 1866; Joliet Signal, August 7, Septem- 
ber 18, 25, 1866; Illinois State Register, September 27, 1866; Rockford Register, 
August 18, 1866; Chicago Tribune, October 16, November 6, 1866. 


DURING the Civil War the people of Illinois had given 
themselves over entirely to national political issues ; after 
the election of 1866, however, they wearily yielded to a reaction 
which reflected their satisfaction that the sectional issue had 
passed the crisis. The political majority came to feel that, 
with no effective opposition at home, they would do well to 
intrust Andrew Johnson and the tedious reconstruction prob- 
lems to the care of the overwhelming republican majority in 
congress; the successive steps in the controversy between the 
president and the legislative department were mere journal- 
istic details which they could follow in the newspapers. It 
was becoming high time, they realized, that problems vital to 
the future of the state too long neglected and sidetracked 
should receive full and earnest consideration. 

When the general assembly convened on January 7, 1867, 
the legislators first cleared the way for their new role by dis- 
posing of the election of the United States senator. The claim 
of Trumbull's supporters that the republican victory was a 
verdict in favor of his reelection was subtly challenged by rival 
candidates. The senator was criticized for " his lack of social 
qualities, his austerity of manners, his aristocratic sympathies 
and his natural tendencies toward conservatism." 1 For, 
strangely enough, Trumbull, the leader of the radical forces 
of Illinois during the Civil War, was a true conservative; and 
he had now to encounter the censure of certain "radical" 
critics. 2 General Logan, Governor Oglesby, and General 
Palmer, leagued together in common cause against Trumbull, 
were all ready to contest his claims. Palmer lay low for a 
time; but when Logan and Oglesby, in order to hold their 

1 Jacksonville Journal, January 8, 1867. 

2 Trumbull might not have broken with Johnson had not the issue become 
so direct and personal. Chicago Post, March 9, 1866. 



own offices, transferred their claims to him he stepped out 
into the open. He fast gained strength for his election through 
the labors of the Grand Army of the Republic. Palmer's 
friends insisted that their favorite, and not Trumbull, had 
originated the civil rights act; Trumbull, however, succeeded 
in refuting this claim indeed, as the people looked back upon 
his record in congress, they could not gainsay his title to reelec- 
tion. The factional contest came to an end in the republican 
legislative caucus on the test vote to proceed to the nomination 
of a candidate by viva voce vote, for Palmer's followers failed 
decisively in their plans to secure a secret ballot; thereupon 
Trumbull was nominated by acclamation. 3 The formal ballot- 
ing in joint session gave the veteran statesman his credentials 
for another six years in the senate. 

Governor Oglesby in his message to the legislature recog- 
nized that the day had passed when it sufficed to drag civil 
war issues across the political arena; indeed, he bespoke the 
needs of the state in a way that even secured the approval of 
many political opponents. "War, with all its scourges, has 
fled from our land, and gentle peace returns to heal its wounds," 
he pointed out. "A new career now opens to our State .... 
It is our duty to hold constantly in view every interest of the 
commonwealth; to bravely meet every requirement necessary 
to the full development of our natural advantages ; to cherish 
the arts and sciences; to foster education, the soul of the State; 
and, with charitable hands, to meet and lift up the unfortu- 
nate." 4 

Before the assembly could consider the recommendations 
of the governor it found itself engulfed by demands for pri- 
vate legislation; lobbyists and logrolling forces were so active 
that just to meet their insistent demands would have more than 
consumed the forty-two days allotted by the constitution to 
the normal session. Batches of questionable private bills were 
forced through both houses without an adequate investigation 
of their contents; into one omnibus three hundred and twelve 
such items were bundled. A wave of criticism rose from 

3 Illinois State Journal, January 14, 15, 1867; Chicago Tribune, January 12, 
14, 15, 1867; Belleville Democrat, February 14, 1867; Cairo Democrat, Septem- 
ber 10, 1867. 

4 Reports General Assembly, 1867, 1:3, 46?.; Joliet Signal, January 15, 1867. 


voters throughout the state and from the organs of both par- 
ties, together with a demand for a revision of the constitution 
to secure a longer session and to prohibit the creation of pri- 
vate corporations by legislative enactment. "About ten or 
twelve millions of dollars [have been] voted into the pockets 
of corporations, contractors, and speculators," announced the 
Carthage Republican, March 7, 1867. Charges of corrupt 
rings and bargains and of direct bribery began to circulate to 
such a degree that finally a special senate committee was 
appointed to make an investigation. 5 

Public legislation had to be scrambled through in the closing 
days of the session. Proposals for railroad legislation and for 
a constitutional amendment establishing "impartial suffrage" 
in the state died of sheer neglect. Before dispersing the legis- 
lature passed bills for the erection of a new penitentiary in 
the southern part of the state, for the construction of a new 
statehouse at an estimated cost of three million dollars, and 
for the location of the industrial university; provision was 
made for the regulation of warehouses and for the inaugura- 
tion of a scheme of canal and river improvements, besides 
action submitting to the people the question of a constitutional 

Never had the adjournment of the general assembly met 
with such a widespread feeling of relief; democrats and repub- 
licans alike hailed the "blessed day" when "the most dis- 
graceful Legislative body that ever convened in the State" 
came to an end. Not only were the legislators lacking in dig- 
nity even the senate being the scene of frequent disorder 
with members shying books and paper wads at each other and 
at the speaker; but, more important, they seemed lacking in 
that essential virtue of honesty. 6 The shortcomings of the 
majority were admitted on both sides, by the democrats out 

6 Chicago Post, February 25, 28, 1867; Ottawa Weekly Republican, Janu- 
ary 31, 1867; Chicago Tribune, February 18, 19, 1867; Joliet Signal, February 
19, 1867; Cairo Democrat, February 26, 1867. 

6 Ibid., March i, 1867. In such a scene, with the clerks vainly attempting 
to read the bills then passing, the speaker, wielding the gavel with the grace of 
a stone-cutter, declared the senate adjourned sine die. Chicago Tribune, March 
i, i%6-j;Aurora Beacon, March 21, 1867. The Carthage Republican, March 7, 
declared it " the most corrupt and imbecile legislature which ever disgraced the 
commonwealth of Illinois." 


of partisanism, and by the republicans because in the contest 
for the spoils the party became divided into sectional groups 
and into " rings." Critics of both parties in Chicago and 
northern Illinois declared the statehouse and southern peni- 
tentiary legislation a "direct and open steal" engineered by 
an "industrial university-statehouse-penitentiary ring" which 
secured to Champaign the location of the agricultural college. 7 
Reenforced by the disappointed ambitions of other cities like 
Decatur, which had looked to a transfer of the capital, they 
launched an especially aggressive attack against the " swindle " 
of the new statehouse law. The constitutionality of the legis- 
lation was brought before the courts; and although for a six- 
month the odds seemed to favor its rejection, the supreme 
court ended the controversy by upholding the law. 8 Spring- 
field forces, regardless of party withstanding the opposition 
tLat came from every corner of the state, launched a counter 
attack against "the canal swindle" enacted by a "corrupt 
squadron " of northern Illinois interests. " A bigger steal upon 
the people of the State than is contemplated by its pet measure, 
the canal bill, can hardly be conceived," declared the State 
Journal. " What interests have the people of Central Illinois 
in widening the Michigan canal at an expense of twenty or 
thirty million dollars so as to make it navigable for boats? 
What interest have the people of Southern Illinois in such a 
project? Not one cent's worth. Their business and commer- 
cial relations all lead in another direction." 9 

In the midst of this confusing squabble Governor Oglesby 
whipped up the general assembly in two special sessions on 
June ii and June 14 to adjust certain minor matters and to 
amend the assessment laws of the state so as to make the shares 
of national bank stock liable for taxes. The confirmation of 
his nominees for canal commissioners and southern penitentiary 
commissioners the senate recalcitrantly voted to postpone until 

7 Chicago Post, February 28, 1867; Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1867; St. 
Louis Democrat clipped in Cairo Democrat, March 3, 1867; Aurora Beacon, 
March 21, 1867. 

8 Chicago Post, February 25, March 15, 1867; Chicago Tribune, July i, 8, 
ii, 13, 16, 18, 19, 1867; Rockford Register, February 23, 1867; Illinois State 
Register, October 29, 1867; Jonesboro Gazette, February 23, 1867; Jacksonville 
Journal, February 12, 27, March 2, 1867. 

9 Illinois State Journal, May 4, 14, 18, 1867. 


the next session. 10 As a result two of the most important 
pieces of legislation practically became a dead letter. The 
statehouse appropriation was finally saved from destruction, 
and the location of the university at Urbana survived the 
opposition; a warehouse regulation act was the only import- 
ant measure which was put through without a barrage of 

These legislative developments are indicative of a period 
of serious party disintegration, especially in the ranks of the 
republican majority in Illinois. Side issues crept into the local 
and county elections of the year and often enabled the demo- 
crats to make important gains; republican majorities were 
reversed in Peoria, Fulton, Mason, and certain other counties. 
Illinois republicans, surveying these losses in the light of the 
approaching presidential campaign, promptly connected them- 
selves with the movement for Grant's nomination, which they 
expected would draw out the full strength of the party. The 
democrats, alarmed at the republican enthusiasm for a man 
who had always been considered a democrat, now pointed out 
that Grant's candidacy was an indication of the fears of their 
opponents, who were willing to sacrifice principle for the sake 
of success. Sophisticated republican politicians, indeed, while 
conceding Grant's strength with the people and the Grand 
Army of the Republic, often had " serious doubts as to his 
fitness for a civil administration." n But as a fellow citizen, 
as a man with slight interest in partisan politics, and as a mod- 
erate on reconstruction, General Grant seemed on the score of 
availability to possess the formidable strength now imperative 
to the party. 

Grant was not, moreover, a figure who would accentuate a 
line of cleavage in the republican ranks that had appeared 
during the impeachment proceeding against President John- 
son; for, although the hatred of the president had reached 
such proportions as to suggest the desirability of his removal, 
all could not concede the honesty of such a course. Many 
Illinois republicans had been loud in their demand for impeach- 

10 Aurora Beacon, June 27, 1867; Champaign County Union and Gazette, 
July 10, 1867. 

11 Koerner, Memoirs, 2:480; Ottawa Free Trader, November 2, 1867. 


ment, and Governor Oglesby had sent a formal demand to 
Washington for action. 12 When finally proceedings were 
instituted, John A. Logan took an active part as one of the 
managers in the prosecution. Some republicans, however, 
agreed with the democrats who characterized the impeach- 
ment as a partisan attack and the trial a farce; not many 
republicans were willing to acknowledge this, but the Jackson- 
ville Journal admitted that it was a case of " the bluffer 
bluffed." "The impeachment trial of the president is a neces- 
sity, because he cannot be removed in any other way, but it 
must necessarily be, in some measure, a farce." 13 The Chicago 
Tribune, which admitted that the indictment was in part a 
political attack, insisted that Johnson be convicted only if 
found guilty as charged; 14 on the other hand, certain repub- 
licans flatly demanded a conviction. The Tribune received 
advance information of the probable acquittal of the presi- 
dent, which was borne out when Senator Trumbull and six 
other republicans, including erstwhile radicals, voted with the 
democrats to defeat conviction. Although Trumbull's vote 
was in line with his entire course on reconstruction, it fell like 
a blow upon many of his constituents, and a bitter attack was 
launched upon him. 

Certain republicans reconciled themselves to the failure of 
the impeachment trial on the score that it would save the 
party in the midst of the presidential contest from another 
internecine war on the tariff question a serious question for 
the Illinois branch of the party. They had yielded the prin- 
ciple of protection in 1860, but under the heavy demand for 
revenue the Civil War tariffs had carried the duties to a point 
where they threatened to strangle the agricultural and produc- 
ing interests of the Mississippi valley. "We are being con- 
sumed by the good of New England and Pennsylvania," 
announced Dr. C. H. Ray. " If matters are not regulated 
and on a fairer and juster principle, the west will be badly 
injured before five years have elapsed. When will men see 
that legislative interference in trade as in religion or morals 

12 Illinois State Journal, January 8, 29, 1867; Belleville Democrat, Decem- 
ber 12, 1867, March 12, 1868. 

13 Jacksonville Journal, March 5, 1868. 

14 Chicago Tribune, March 3, May 15, 1868. 


is always mischievous?" 15 Early in 1866 a group of Chicago 
republicans, including the publishers of the Chicago Tribune, 
had organized a league for the protection to home labor as 
against foreign trade which bent its energies toward prevent- 
ing increased duties. Joseph Medill, " the oracle of the Pro- 
tectionists in the West," together with Horace White and 
other friends, threw their strength against such increases in 
1866 and in 1867; they condemned the "gang of greedy 
speculators [who] seem to have got hold of the House of 
Representatives and are running the whole protection question 
into the ground." 16 

The party decided to bury its family quarrels in the love 
feasts of the Chicago convention, for Illinois was again hon- 
ored by the republicans in the selection of the lake city. There 
on May 20 and 21 it was agreed that, in view of the general 
situation and in view of the demand that the party be held 
together for an approval of the votes of the thirty-five repub- 
lican senators who held Johnson guilty as charged, no tariff 
plank should be inserted in the national platform. 17 There, 
too, General Grant was proposed by John A. Logan and unan- 
imously nominated for the presidency, while Schuyler Colfax 
was selected as the party's other standard bearer. Grant was 
strong in the availability of a military hero, which more than 
covered his shortcomings as a partisan. 

Illinois democrats had at first offered Sidney Breese, chief 
justice of the supreme court of Illinois, as their candidate for 
the presidency, but it became evident that this was largely a 
compliment to a favorite son; in the closing weeks of the pre- 
convention campaign they generally took up George H. Pen- 
dleton of Ohio as the western candidate, and the state con- 
vention formally instructed the Illinois delegates to support 
Pendleton. The national convention at New York, first mak- 
ing concessions to the western section of the party in the 
platform that was adopted, ran up the names of Horatio 

15 C. H. Ray to Trumbull, January 15, 1866, Joseph Medill et al. to Trum- 
bull, February 7, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts; Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1868. 

16 Joseph Medill to Trumbull, July i, 1866, C. H. Ray to Trumbull, Feb- 
ruary 2, 1866, E. C. Lamed to Trumbull, July 2, 1866, Horace White to Trumbull, 
July 5, 1866, Trumbull manuscripts; Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1867. 

17 Proceedings of the National Union Republican Convention, 1868, p. 84-85 
et seq. 


Seymour of New York and Francis P. Blair of Missouri. 
Illinois democrats were decidedly disappointed with the nomi- 
nation of Seymour, who represented the eastern point of view 
on the currency question, which was coming to have so much 
significance in the politics of the day. Illinois as a western 
state was strongly in favor of inflation; it looked with suspicion 
upon the eastern demand for the withdrawal of greenbacks 
from circulation in order to hasten the resumption of specie 
payments. Pendleton's strength in the west had in large part 
grown out of his pet scheme for the payment of bonds in 
greenbacks on an inflation policy, which was known as the 
" Ohio idea." W. J. Allen and the Illinois delegation had 
contended vigorously at the national convention in favor of 
Pendleton's position, and since the convention had incorpo- 
rated a greenback clause in its platform, the democrats decided 
to interpret the nomination of Seymour, though a hard-money 
man, in this light. 18 

In state politics the old democratic leaders seem to have 
become so discouraged as to refuse the use of their names; 
the democrats, therefore, selected John R.' Eden of Moultrie 
county to head their ticket against John M. Palmer, the almost 
unanimous choice of the republicans; and their candidate to 
oppose Logan for congressman-at-large was an unknown, 
W. W. O'Brien of Peoria. Most of the republican nominees 
were military men: besides Palmer and Logan, they named 
General C. E. Lippincott for auditor, General E. N. Bates 
for treasurer, Brevet General Bushnell for attorney-general, 
and Colonel Dougherty for lieutenant governor, an old 
Breckinridge democrat in 1860 and an early opponent of the 
war. Here was a dish entirely to the liking of all brands of 
Civil War veterans. 19 In the campaign that followed the 
advantage lay decidedly with the republicans. In addition to 
their disappointment at the national outlook, the democrats 
were disheartened at their failure to secure a stronger state 

18 Cairo Democrat, July 13, 1867, February 8, March 5, July 9, 16, 1868; 
Illinois State Register, July 12, 1867, February n, 1868; Joliet Signal, July 16, 
1867, February 8, 25, March 10, 1868; Belleville Democrat, July 25, 1867, July 
16, 1868; Paxton Record, July 12, 1868; Carthage Republican, July 16, 1868. 

19 Cairo Democrat, May 12, 1868; Champaign County Union and Gazette, 
May 13, 1868; Ottawa Free Trader, May 30, 1868. 


ticket. On most issues the democrats had to take the offensive, 
while the republicans could contentedly trust to past accom- 
plishments. With little ardor the democrats took up the task, 
but duty drove them on. They began a campaign "to end 
the reign of the bond holders .... by paying off these 
bonds in the same kind of money which the law compels the 
farmer, the mechanic and the laborer to take for the proceeds 
of their honest toil;" 20 they asked the people of the state if 
they were willing "to swallow the negro-suffrage pill prepared 
for them" by the Chicago convention and asserted that it 
was "the holy mission of Democracy .... to restore 
political power exclusively to the Caucasian race." 21 The 
people were called upon to behold the " radical platform " 
with its "praises of the negro and promises to him but not a 
word from which the overburdened white toiler can derive 
any comfort;" it was the work of "a gathering of selfish and 
corrupt politicians, whose only object is to scheme for office 
and to devise means whereby they may be enabled to filch 
from the National Treasury the money which is wrung from 
the sweat and toil of the laboring white men of the nation." 22 
The real issue, they proclaimed, was aristocracy versus democ- 
racy: "We have also an aristocratic class of citizens endowed 
with peculiar privileges, a bonded aristocracy, whose wealth is 
exempt from taxation for the support of Government, and who 
demand the interest due on their bonds paid in gold, while the 
laborer and the mechanic must take a depreciated currency for 
his labor." The new regime which would push on radical 
reconstruction at a terrific expense to the already overburdened 
taxpayer of the west would be " a regime of force, .... 
introduced by a shoulder-strapped President, to culminate in 
the long cherished hope of an empire." 23 

Seymour, on the other hand, would reduce the expenses of 
the government; would redeem the bonds in currency; would 
simplify the revenue laws, and cut down taxation; would 
modify the tariff laws, with a view to revenue, and not with a 
view to protection; and would make capital instead of labor 

20 Carthage Republican, July 23, 1868. 

21 Rushville Times, July 2, 1868. 

22 Belleville Democrat, June 25, 1868. 

23 Rushville Times, July 30, 1868; Illinois State Register, July 29, 1868. 


bear the burdens of taxation. He would cut down the army 
and navy to a peace standard and put honest and efficient men 
in office. 24 

All these pleas fell on deaf ears. The republicans knew 
their strength and proceeded to consolidate it, taking their 
stand on past achievements. The Chicago Tribune of August 4 
acknowledged that there were shortcomings within their party 
but proclaimed the policy: " In the present contest, the Repub- 
licans unite in demanding peace upon the basis of accomplished 
facts, and in consonance with lawfully-enacted statutes, and in 
requiring the payment of the public debt with ' the utmost good 
faith' to all: while the Democracy sound the tocsin of insurrec- 
tion and threaten repudiation in one form or another. He who 
prefers a pacific and an honorable national policy will vote for 
Grant and Coif ax: he who prefers internecine war and bank- 
ruptcy will vote for Seymour and Blair." 

On this ground the republicans stood like adamant; they 
continued the canvass calmly and confidently, though some 
attempt was made to give the campaign the ecfat which usually 
attached to a military hero candidate. Grant clubs were formed 
and uniformed companies of "tanners," recalling the former 
occupation of the general, and the torchlight processions of 
1860 were repeated. These were popular movements which 
in bringing recruits further aroused the spite of the opposition. 
Democratic journals declared that Grant and his father had 
carried on another business during the war that of trading 
in cotton; why not, they suggested, a cotton club with mem- 
bers clothed in cotton batting? Moreover, they asked was a 
man with " Grant's fondness for fast-horses, pup dogs, Havana 
cigars and Bourbon whiskey" a fit candidate for the chief 
magistracy? 25 

The republicans met these aspersions by pointing out that 
former members of the democratic party had forsaken their 
old associates to support Grant; not only did Thomas J. 
Turner of Freeport, whom the democrats had run for congress 
two years ago, return to his old allegiance, but such lifelong 

24 Carthage Republican, July 30, 1868. 

25 Ibid., June u, 1868; Illinois State Register, July 30, August 10, 13, 1868; 
Chicago Tribune, September 8, October 31, 1868. 


democrats as Colonel I. N. Morris and Adolph Moses of 
Quincy, O. Pool of Shawneetown, Judge Quimby of Monmouth 
were listed as new republican recruits. 26 It was not strange, 
therefore, that the republicans not only swept the state for 
Grant with over fifty thousand majority but also turned the 
state government over to General Palmer and their state ticket 
to cooperate with a strongly republican legislature. 

In January, 1869, Governor Oglesby turned the reins of 
government over to his successor, John M. Palmer, who 
brought to the gubernatorial office a reputation for calm, tem- 
perate, broadminded statesmanship which augured well for a 
clean administration. He had always been a moderate parti- 
san, he had not forgotten his early democratic associations, 
and conditions generally were favorable to the maintenance 
of that popularity he had won as a military leader during the 
Civil War. His inaugural address, conceived in the spirit of 
nonpartisanship and progressivism, defined a sphere of state 
rights that made the republicans hold their breath in consterna- 
tion, while the democrats hailed it as a model state paper. 27 In 
considering the general demand for corporation control and for 
regulatory railroad legislation, Governor Palmer called atten- 
tion to proposals to enlist the national government in the crea- 
tion of corporations for the construction of railroads in Illinois 
and adjacent states. Pointing out the confusion produced by 
the Civil War as to the relative powers and duties of the 
national and state governments, he declared: "Now that the 
war is ended, and all proper objects attained, the public welfare 
demands a recurrence to the true principles that underlie our 
system of governments, and one of the best established and 
most distinctly recognized of these is, that the federal govern- 
ment is one of enumerated powers The state 

governments are a part of the American system of govern- 
ment. They fill a well defined place, and their just authority 
must be respected by the federal government." 

26 Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1868; Joliet Republican, June 13, 1868; Illinois 
State Journal, June 17, August 28, September 9, 12, 17, October 12, 1868; Rock- 
ford Gazette, June 18, 1868. 

2T Ibid., January 28, 1869; Illinois State Register, January 12, 20, 1869; 
Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1869; Cairo Evening Bulletin, January 14, 1869; 
Joliet Signal, January 19, 1869; Rushville Times, January 21, 1869. 

oo o o 

o S2 00 

99 OO Of* 

000o0|o 00 CCEAW 



Palmer pointed to the appearance after each session of 
the general assembly of ponderous volumes "filled with acts 
creating corporations for almost every purpose, clothed with 
powers of the most extraordinary extent," and diplomatically 
suggested the problems growing out of this situation. In clos- 
ing he emphasized the duty of the legislators: "The people 
of the State have confided to the General Assembly a great 
trust. They expect a your hands the most careful scrutiny of 
the operation of every department of the government. That 
abuses, if any are found to exist, shall be corrected. They 
demand the most rigid economy in the expenditures of the 
public money. I have no doubt your efforts to promote their 
happiness will meet their approval." 28 

The legislature, however, cared little for the advice handed 
out to it. Although Governor Oglesby upon retiring had left 
an excellent message stressing public needs, and Governor 
Palmer now added his suggestions for necessary legislation, 
the assembly callously set out to duplicate the orgy of 1868. 
Legislative "rings" and logrolling appropriation bills were 
prepared before the session formally opened; and rumors of 
"big steals" began to circulate, while the lobby, or "third 
house," assembled in force. 29 Special legislation of all sorts 
was jammed through; about seven hundred acts of incorpora- 
tion were passed despite the constitutional provision which had 
sought to prohibit that class of legislation. Again talk of cor- 
ruption and bribery filled the atmosphere until the legislature 
itself felt moved to order an investigation; this was a safe 
enough proceeding, according to the Chicago Tribune, because 
"the men who have 'money bills' in the Legislature are not 
so green as to pay anything beyond liquor, cigars and board 
until one day after adjournment never in any case until the 
bill passes." When the legislature finally adjourned, opinions 
differed as to the amount of its political jobbery: the Carthage 
Republican, a democratic journal, was content to believe that 
"compared with the former, the legislature is a model of all 
virtues," although its dishonesty had been limited only "by 

28 House Journal, 1869, i : 202-208. 

29 Bloomington Pantograph clipped in Illinois Stale Journal, January 7, 
1869; Joliet Republica