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All Rights Reserved. 






The writing of this volume was undertaken as a mode 
of employing the author's leisure time, and when it shall 
be offered to the public, if it shall be found not to be of 
much value it is hoped it may nevertheless afford a few 
hours of pleasant entertainment to any one who may read 
it. No originality is claimed for the work. It is not much 
more than a re-writing of that which had before been 
written by others. All published histories of Illinois and 
all biographical sketches of prominent persons to which 
access could be obtained have been examined. Indebted- 
ness to such writings is acknowledged for all that is taken 
from them in this way rather than by citing separately 
each work consulted. 



The system of Courts provided for by the 
4th Article of the Constitution of 1818 was 
simple and quite well adapted to the condi- 
tion of the state as it was then being sparsely 
populated. Under that constitution the judicial 
power of the state was vested in one Supreme 
Court and such other inferior courts as the Gen- 
eral Assembly might from time to time ordain 
and establish. It was provided the sessions of 
the Supreme Court should be held at the seat 
of government wherever it might be. It was 
then at Kaskaskia. The Court was given ap- 
pellate jurisdiction in all cases in law or in 
equity, and original jurisdiction in cases relat- 
ing to the revenue, in case of mandamus, 
and in such cases of impeachment as the Gen- 

6 Judicial System of Illinois 

eral Assembly might require to be tried before 
it. It was provided the Supreme Court when 
organized should consist of one chief justice 
and three associate justices any two of whom 
should constitute a quorum. The General 
Assembly was given power in its discretion to 
increase the number of justices of the Supreme 
Court after the year 1824. Section 4, Article 
IV, provided that the justices of the Supreme 
Court and the judges of the inferior courts 
should be appointed by joint ballot of both 
branches of the General Assembly and be 
commissioned by the governor. The tenure 
of the offices of the first justices of the Su- 
preme Court was to be during good behavior 
or until the end of the first session of the 
General Assembly to be begun and held after 
the first day of January, 1824. It was made 
the duty of the first justices of the Supreme 
Court to hold circuit courts in the several 
counties in such manner and with such juris- 
diction as the General Assembly might provide 
by law. After the year 1824 the consti- 

Under the Constitution of 1818. 7 

tution did not impose upon the justices of the 
Supreme Court the duty of holding circuit 
courts unless required to do so by law. 
Judges of inferior courts were to hold their 
respective offices during good behavior. But 
of course the statute providing for their ap- 
pointment might be repealed, and that would 
oust them from office. The justices of the 
Supreme Court and all inferior judges were 
subject to be addressed out of office by a two- 
thirds vote of each branch of the General As- 
sembly for any reasonable cause, although it 
might not be sufficient cause for impeachment. 
A most wholesome provision in this connec- 
tion was that when any judge or justice might 
be addressed out of office, no member of either 
house of the General Assembly, nor any per- 
son connected with a member by consanguin- 
ity or affinity, should be appointed to fill the 
vacancy occasioned by such removal. The 
justices of the Supreme Court, during their 
temporary incumbency were given an annual 
salary of $ 1,000 payable out of the public 

8 Judicial System of Illinois 

treasury. After the end of the session of the 
General Assembly begun and held after the 
first day of January, 1824, the constitutional 
provision was, the justices of the Supreme and 
inferior courts who might be appointed there- 
after should have "adequate and competent" 
salaries, but which should not be diminished 
during their continuance in office. Power was 
given to the Supreme Court or to a majority 
of the justices, and to the circuit courts or the 
judges thereof, to appoint their respective 
clerks. It was provided that all process, 
writs, or other proceedings should run in the 
"name of the people of the State of Illinois," 
and that all prosecutions should be carried on 
in the ' 'name and by the authority of the peo- 
ple of the State of Illinois," and conclude, 
"against the peace and dignity of the same." 
A clause of the constitution required that a 
competent number of justices of the peace 
should be appointed in each county in such 
manner as the General Assembly might direct, 
whose time of service, powers, and duties 

Under the Constitution of 1818. 9 

should be regulated and defined by law. When 
appointed, all justices of the peace were to be 
commissioned by the governor. 

To further assist in the administration of 
the laws of the State, it was provided by a 
clause in the schedule to the constitution, that 
an "attorney general and such other officers 
for the State as should be thought to be 
necessary" might be appointed by the Gen- 
eral Assembly, whose duties should be regu- 
lated by law. Under that power, the General 
Assembly provided by law for the appointment 
of an attorney general and circuit attor- 
ney, or, as commonly known, "state's attor- 
ney," for each judicial circuit of the State. 
Later, it was provided, the circuit attorney 
residing in the circuit in which the capital 
was should act as attorney general for all 
the State, in addition to his duties in the 
circuit as prescribed by law. The attorney 
general and the circuit attorneys were ap- 
pointed by the General Assembly, and their 
duties and compensation for official services 

10 Judicial System of Illinois 

defined and fixed by statute. During the 
terrfi of the temporary appointment of the jus- 
tices of the Supreme Court, and until their 
successors were appointed in 1825, they held 
the circuit courts of the State in addition to 
their duties as judges of the Supreme Court. 

It will thus be seen the judicial system 
under the constitution of 1818 was a very sim- 
ple one and yet a very valuable one. It was 
inexpensive and was all the public exigency 
demanded at that early day for the govern- 
ment of a rural people without any considerable 
trade or commerce. The great corporations 
of today that require so much restraint, both 
by legislative enactments and judicial decis- 
ions, did not then exist. 

The first appointees to the supreme bench 
were Joseph Phillips, chief justice, and Thomas 
C. Browne, John Reynolds, and William P. 
Foster. The appointments were made on 
joint ballot by both branches of the General 
Assembly on the Qth day of October, 1818, 
but of course their appointments did not be- 

Under the Constitution of 1818. 11 

come effective until the State was admitted to 
the Union, on the 3rd day of December, 1818. 
It is hardly accurate to allude to William 
P. Foster as one of the first judges of the Su- 
preme Court of the State, or indeed to men- 
tion him at all as a "judge." He was not a 
lawyer even, and perhaps never studied law at 
all. Although he may have taken the oath of 
office, he never attempted to hold circuit court 
or to meet with the Supreme Court. It is 
probable he resigned before any session of 
the Supreme Court was held. It does not ap- 
pear from Breese's Reports that any term of 
the Supreme Court was held until December, 
1819, and before that time Foster had re- 
signed and William Wilson had been ap- 
pointed in his stead. So in fact it may be 
said William Wilson was one of the first four 
judges of the Supreme Court of the State. 
But inasmuch as William P. Foster was nomi- 
nally a member of the Supreme Court of the 
State for a brief term, a sketch of him may be 
given because his ill-advised and improvident 

12 Judicial Si/fifeni of 

appointment to that exalted position by the 
General Assembly teaches an important lesson 
the people of the State ought to keep always 
in mind. 

The first four judges of our State Supreme 
Court, viz : Phillips, Chief Justice, and Browne, 
Reynolds, and Wilson, associate justices, were 
the men who set the judicial machinery of the 
State in motion. Some of them were men of 
acknowledged learning and ability, and all of 
them were men of pure character and of the 
highest social worth. It was fortunate for the 
State, such men were selected to lay the foun- 
dations of our system of jurisprudence upon 
which has since been builded that splendid 
judicial system now so well and so ably ad- 
ministered in the interest of the people of the 
State. It is a desire common to all, when a 
magnificent structure is seen, to want to know 
as much of the builders as is possible to learn. 
It is thought it might be a subject of some in- 
terest to give brief sketches of the judges who 
formed the ground-work of our judicial system 

Under the Constitution of 1818. 13 

and of some of the lawyers who in a technical 
sense were officers of the court that co-ope- 
rated with them in that great and important 
work of administering for the first time the 
laws of the State. 

It would no doubt be profitable and inter- 
esting to extend these accounts farther and in- 
clude within them, notices of the judges of the 
Supreme Court since 1819 and prior to 1870, 
and of the lawyers of that time, but their lives 
were not cast within the period it is now pro- 
posed to consider. Many of them became 
prominent in the civil and military affairs of 
the nation. It was a glittering galaxy of great 
men, whose lives would be well worth study- 
ing. It would be a history of which Illinois 
might justly be proud. 

14 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 


His Election Neither Lawyer nor Judge. 

Among the first appointments to the office 
of associate justice of the Supreme Court of 
the State was William P. Foster. The ap- 
pointment was made on joint ballot of the 
Legislature on the Qth day of October, 1818. 
He was not a lawyer by profession and per- 
haps did not claim to be. It is said of 
him, he was a man of pleasing address, but 
artful and designing. How it happened that 
he succeeded in imposing himself upon the 
Legislature, or by what artifice he induced 
them to appoint him, one of the highest judi- 
cial officers of the State, no one familiar with 

Ms First Judges Foster. 15 

the history of that Legislature has ever ven- 
tured an explanation. Even Governor Rey- 
nolds, who was appointed by the same 
Legislature, at the same time an associate 
justice of the Supreme Court in his history of 
that period, gives no explanation whatever as 
to how his appointment was brought about or 

All personal sketches of Foster are very 
meagre. It was understood he was born in 
Virginia, but when and where no one seems to 
have known. He had only been in Illinois a 
brief time, perhaps a few weeks or months at 
most, before he was elected by the Legislature 
a member of the Supreme Court. It is not 
certainly known what his previous life or occu- 
pation had been. He was simply an advent- 
urer making the most out of whatever might 
come in his way. After holding his office 
until July 7, 1819, he drew his salary up to 
that time and then resigned. He never met 
with the Court and one reason for that may 
have been there was no session of the Supreme 

16 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Court until the December term, 1819, and 
that was subsequent to his resignation. A 
circuit was assigned to him but he did not 
hold courts in it. There may be another 
reason why he did not meet with the Court. 
He must have known he did not possess the 
legal learning to enable him to discharge the 
duties of the office, and, out of a sense of 
decency and common honesty, he may have 
declined to enter upon the work. If that is 
so it is something to his credit, entitling him 
to a measure of praise which ought not to be 
withheld. All writers concerning that period, 
that speak of him at all, say that his reputa- 
tion was that of a man of unworthy private 
character in addition to the fact he had no 
fitness for the office either on account of legal 
learning or other necessary qualifications. 

There has been some considerable discus- 
sion recently in bar associations and in current 
legal journals of the policy of an elective judi- 
ciary. It is most generally disapproved. The 
grounds of dissatisfaction with the system rests 

Its First Judges Foster. 17 

on the supposed incompetency of the people 
to make wise and suitable selections for judges. 
That is a grave mistake as will clearly appear 
in the history of an elective judiciary in this 
State. No stronger argument is needed in 
support of the elective system than the election 
of Foster by the Legislature. It shows most 
conclusively that of all systems or modes of 
electing judges of the higher courts, that by 
the Legislature is the most vicious. But if done 
by the Governor, by and with the consent of the 
Senate, or by the Governor alone, not much 
better selections would likely be made. Since 
1848 the people have elected the judges of the 
Supreme Court and of all inferior courts in 
this State, but no such grave mistake was ever 
made by the people as was done by the 
Legislature in the selection of Foster as one of 
the judges of the Supreme Court. The con- 
current testimony of every one that knew him 
is to the effect he had no sort of qualifications, 
either legal learning or moral fitness, for the 
position. The opinion is ventured such a man 

18 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

as Foster is represented to have been, never 
could have imposed himself upon the people, 
had he come before them for their suffrages. 
In some way his want of fitness for the office 
would have been detected. The discussion 
that would have taken place in the canvass 
would certainly and surely have developed his 
true character, and if it was as bad as it is 
said to have been he never would have been 
chosen for a judge of the highest court in the 
State. There is no matter connected with 
local government in which the people have so 
profound an interest as in the selection of 
judicial officers. If judicial elections were in- 
trusted to the good common sense of the 
people, without the intermeddling of partisan 
politicians, good and safe judges with rare 
exceptions would be elected. It is a mistake 
to believe that the common people do not 
know who is the best lawyer in their commu- 
nity, and who would be likely to make the best 
judge of any of their courts. A stranger in a 
city is quite as apt to obtain accurate informa- 

Its First Judges Foster. 19 

tion as to who is the best resident lawyer by 
inquiry of any common laborer whom he may 
chance to meet on the street, as if he had 
made inquiry of the highest officer of the city, 
or even a high state officer. The common 
people are not slow to take an accurate meas- 
ure of the capacity of public; men living 
amongst them. If any one is vain enough to 
disparage their capacity in that respect let 
him offer himself as a candidate for a judicial 
office and his experience will be quite likely to 
disclose to him his mistake. The experiment 
of an elective judiciary in this State on the 
whole has been satisfactory, and has certainly 
demonstrated its superiority over former sys- 
tems of electing judges by the Legislature or 
by appointment by the Governor by and with 
the consent of the Senate, or by the Governor 
alone. In the latter systems politicians are 
most generally chosen because they have 
influence with the appointing power. One 
reason in support of an elective judiciary is 
that the discussion developed by the canvass 

20 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

brings out and makes known the true character 
of aspirants for judicial positions. It would 
be difficult for any one possessing no qualifica- 
tions for the office of judge to stand the 
severe investigation consequent upon a can- 
vass and when his true character is made 
known in that way he would surely be rejected 
by the electors. As a general rule the people 
want judges best qualified by legal learning 
and of the highest social worth to administer 
their laws. The election of an unworthy 
judge by the people or otherwise is a calamity 
upon any people. A vicious and ignorant 
judge has it in his power to do more mischief 
in his official actions than perhaps any other 
State officer. It is for that reason people are 
always solicitous as to the selection of judges 
and, if left to themselves, they would reject all 
party political considerations in judicial elec- 
tions. The history of judicial elections since 
the elective system has been adopted in this 
State supports these views. Instances are 
very rare indeed where any very bad man has 

Its First Judges Foster. 21 

been elected by the people to the office of 
judge of any court of general jurisdiction. It 
is not denied that in some instances judges 
possessing no great legal learning have been 
elected to the office of judge of the highest 
courts, but uniformly they have been fair- 
minded men and men of moral worth. In 
this State the only judges against whom im- 
peachment proceedings were ever instituted 
have been judges appointed by the Legisla- 
ture. It can not be doubted by any one at all 
acquainted with our local history that the best 
judges of our courts the State ever had, have 
been judges elected by the people. It is not 
an objection to an elective judiciary the tenure 
of office is usually short which might result in 
frequent changes of judges. There need be 
no apprehension on that account. When a 
judge has once been elected, if he proves him- 
self worthy and competent to fill the position 
he is seldom rejected by the people for another 
term or more. If found to be unfit for the 
place, he will surely be defeated if he offers for 

22 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

re-election. But the good and capable judge is 
usually kept in office as long as he may wish 
to hold the place. This has been especially 
true in respect to the judges of the Supreme 
Court. Political considerations have heretofore 
been almost wholly disregarded and ought 
always to be in the election of judges of our high- 
est courts. Happily for the State, the people, 
irrespective of party affiliations with few ex- 
ceptions, have united in the support of the 
good judge. That is illustrated in an eminent 
degree in the case of Judge P. H. Walker, 
who was one of the very best judges of the 
Supreme Court the State ever had. He was 
re-elected (n the Central Grand Division under 
the Constitution of 1848 over his opponent, 
whose political views were in accord with the 
dominant party and who was an able and 
learned trial judge, when the political majority 
against Judge Walker was many thousands. 

It is now forty-six years since the system of 
an elective judiciary was adopted in this State, 
and during all that time only three judges of 

Its First Judges Foster. 23 

the Supreme Court failed of re-election who 
desired longer service. Two of them, C. 
Beckwith and D. G. Tunnicliff, had heen ap- 
pointed by the Governor to fill out the unex- 
pired terms of less than one year of the former 
incumbents. The Governor had no authority 
to appoint unless for a term less than one year 
in case of vacancy. Both men were excellent 
judges but their terms of service had been so 
short the people had not became acquainted 
with them sufficiently to appreciate them as 
their merits deserved. It is not improbable 
some little prejudice existed against them in 
the minds of the people because they had been 
appointed by the Governor. One of them, 
Beckwith, was not defeated by the popular 
vote but in a convention of lawyers assembled 
to select a candidate, and it may have been 
done by some adroit management on the part 
of the friends of the successful candidate. 
The other judge of the Supreme Court that 
failed of an election, C. B. Lawrence, had 
served nine years. His defeat may be directly 

24 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

attributed to an opinion written by him in the 
case of the People vs. Shuman and Wilson. 
A rule was laid upon defendants to appear and 
show cause why they should not be adjudged 
guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court. 
The offense consisted in a brief editorial pub- 
lished in the Chicago Evening Journal, of 
which one of respondents was the proprietor 
and the other was the managing editor. 
Neither of respondents wrote the objectionable 
article, and the proprietor, Wilson, never 
saw it until after it was in print. The paper in 
which the article appeared, upon which the 
proceeding was founded, was published in 
Chicago, eighty miles distant from the place 
where the Supreme Court was in session. 
The article was not seen by any member of 
the Court for more than a week, perhaps ten 
days, after its publication, and was then dis- 
covered by mere accident; one of the judges, 
who had a penchant for reading newspapers, 
old or new, happened to pick up in the clerk's 
office a much-torn copy of the paper contain- 

Its First Judges Foster. 25 

ing the offensive article, that had been thrown 
aside as waste. It was thought the opinion 
written by Chief Justice Lawrence announced 
doctrines dangerous to the liberty of the citizen 
and to the freedom of the public press. The 
doctrines declared were most distasteful to 
the people of the entire State. A futile at- 
tempt was made at the time by some of his 
friends to account for the defeat of Judge 
Lawrence because of an opinion written by him 
in the case of the People vs. The Chicago & 
Alton R. R., but the doctrines of that case 
were not in the least degree received with 
disfavor by the people. Every member of the 
court concurred in the opinion and every one 
of the concuring justices who desired to be, 
was re-elected and it was not made a ground 
of objection against any of them. During the 
canvass made by Judge Lawrence for re-elec- 
tion, nearly every newspaper in the State, 
excepting those published in the city where he 
resided and even many outside of the State, 
were full of the severest criticisms upon the 

26 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

opinion of the judge who wrote it. If the case 
of the People vs. The C. & A. R. R. was 
referred to at all it was simply as a make 
weight to increase the dissatisfaction with the 
doctrines of the objectionable case of the 
People vs. Shuman and Wilson. 

There is another consideration that may 
in some degree have contributed to the defeat 
of Judge Lawrence. He was not in sympathy 
or touch with the people, in thought or habit. 
He was called to be a candidate for re-election 
only by the lawyers of the division in which 
he ran, without any consultation with the 
people or without any opportunity being af- 
forded them to give expression to their wishes. 
Probably that was construed as a distrust of 
the people which they were easily persuaded to 
resent. His opponent in the contest was one 
of the people being at the time a farmer as 
well as a lawyer and came before the people 
confidently trusting to their good sense and 
capacity to rule themselves, and won. His 
election was not a mistake. Since then the 

Its First Judges Foster. 27 

people have continued him in his high office by 
repeated elections, notwithstanding the fact 
the political party with which he was and is 
connected has been constantly in the minority, 
and notwithstanding the further fact he has 
been opposed at every re-election by lawyers 
of eminent fitness for the place who were in 
sympathy with the dominant political party. 

It is now nearly a half of a century since 
the adoption of a system of an elective judi- 
ciary in this State. It has had a full and fair 
trial and there is no just reason to be dissatis- 
fied with its workings. No system that can 
be devised can in every instance secure the 
election or appointment of the best judges. 
That is not to be expected. It is high praise 
to our elective system that at no time 
since its adoption has it been possible for 
such a grave mistake to have been made as 
was the election of William P. Foster, by the 
General Assembly. Had he been a candidate 
for judge of the Supreme Court before the 
people, does any one believe he would have 

28 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

been elected? Another strong reason in sup- 
port of an elective judiciary is it is much more 
difficult to control the people by partisan poli- 
tical reasons than it would be the Governor or 
the General Assembly, in the selection of 
judicial officers. Again, the elective system 
affords better opportunities for the discussion 
of the merits of the several aspirants for the 
bench. There is no just reason why the fit- 
ness of a candidate for a judgeship in the high- 
est court in the State should not be the 
subject of thorough discussion in a canvass to 
be made. It is eminently proper it should be 
done. But that opportunity for an inquiry 
into the fitness of persons who seek judicial 
positions is rarely afforded where the appoint- 
ment is made by the Governor or the General 
Assembly. Too frequently political or mere 
personal consideration or persistent importun- 
ity control. It is that fact that made it 
possible for such a man as Foster is said to 
have been to procure his appointment to a 
position in the highest court of the State. 

Its First Judges Foster. 29 

Another suggestion coming perhaps from 
the same source with the one last mentioned is 
that it is on account of inadequate salaries 
that unworthy men like Foster get into high 
judicial positions that high salaries are in- 
dispensable to secure the best talent and 
learning on the bench and it is for that reason 
so many able lawyers decline to go upon the 
bench. The argument is not historically true, 
nor is it true as a matter of fact. It may be 
and is doubtless true that many able lawyers 
will not take a judgeship at the salary attached 
to it, but it is also true that many just as able 
lawyers will and do take the place at the 
salary fixed. Because one man may decline 
an official position at a certain salary and 
another may be willing to accept it at the 
same compensation it does not follow by any 
means that the one that declines is in any way 
the superior of the one that accepts the place. 
The constitution of 1818 contains a provision 
that judges should be given ' 'adequate and com- 
petent salaries. " That is just and right. All 

30 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

salaries of public officers and of officers of corpor- 
ations should be reasonable and no more. Some 
persons can not be induced to do certain kinds 
of work for any reasonable compensation. It 
is for some personal reasons. But when one 
undertakes to do official labor, judicial or 
other, he must do it for a reasonable compen- 
sation, or not at all. There are many persons 
just as competent who are willing to do the 
work for the same compensation another may 
decline for reasons of his own. It is a public 
wrong to give a man an extraordinary com- 
pensation or salary for doing a work that 
others equally competent would be willing to 
do for a much less sum. It is seldom done, 
however, except on grounds of favoritism. 
Nor is it true that extraordinary wages secure 
either better talent or better men for any 
public or private service. Illustrations abound 
and especially in judicial occupations. At the 
same time Foster was elected a judge of the 
Supreme Court there was also elected a 
member of the same court, a man of good legal 

Its First Judges Foster. 31 

learning and who was a classical scholar and 
a man of the highest social worth. No man 
in the State stood higher as a lawyer, a 
scholar, and a gentlemen, and his services were 
secured to the State for the same salary as 
was to be paid to Foster. Under the consti- 
tution of 1848, when the salaries of the judges 
of the Supreme Court were only $1,200 per 
annum, the State had some as able judges as 
it ever had when the salaries paid were very 
much higher. Had the salaries been ten 
thousand dollars per annum, the service of no 
abler judges could have been secured than 
when the Supreme Court had on its bench 
Judges Breese, Walker, and Beckwith. The 
reason is obvious, for there were neither then 
nor since any abler lawyers or better men for 
judges in the State. 

When Judge Beckwith went on the bench 
of the Supreme Court at an annual salary of 
$1,200, he was recognized as one of the ablest 
practicing lawyers in Chicago or elsewhere in 
the State. Had the salaries of the first judges 

32 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

of the Supreme Court been $5,000, instead of 
$1,000, it is quite as likely Foster would have 
been as readily elected. Indeed at that date 
a salary of $ i , ooo was equal to a salary of 
$5,000 at a later date. Under the constitu- 
tion of 1818 very low salaries were paid to the 
judges of the Supreme Court, yet that Court 
had on its bench some of the best lawyers the 
State ever contained among whom may be 
mentioned Wilson, Breese, Lockwood, Doug- 
las, Caton, Treat, and others equally distin- 
guished for their ability and legal learning. It 
was a brilliant galaxy of men of whom the 
State may be justly proud. It is thus seen the 
question of the amount of salary to be paid 
has but little to do with securing the best 
legal talent on the bench of the Supreme 
Court. It certainly had nothing to do with 
the election of Foster. His election is to be 
attributed solely to the vicious system of com- 
mitting the appointment of judges to the 
General Assembly. The fact some of those 
early judges were not among the best men for 

Its First Judges Foster. 33 

the places may be attributed, also, to the same 
unwise system. It was because political and 
personal considerations controlled, and not at 
all on account of the meagre salaries attached 
to the office that unfit persons obtain positions 
in the Supreme Court. When good men 
offered their services to the State, vastly in- 
ferior ones were sometimes chosen by the 
General Assembly judges for the highest court. 
That was exactly the case when Foster was 
elected. The people now have the matter of 
electing their judicial officers in their own 
hands, and it is hardly probable a man of the 
reputation Foster had will ever again succeed 
in obtaining a seat on the Supreme Bench of 
the State. 

It is said that after Foster left the State 
his private life was less praisworthy than 
it had been. If the major part of what is 
written of him or even if the minor portion is 
true, his name ought not to be mentioned in 
connection with the judges of that period. A 
title of such honorable distinction as judge 

34 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

should not be applied to him, and it has not 
been done in this sketch. He never had any- 
thing more than a mere nominal connection 
with the Court. His appointment is only 
mentioned as an historical fact to impress on 
the public mind the necessity for observing the 
utmost care and caution in choosing judges of 
the highest courts of the State a lesson that 
should never be forgotten. 

Its First Judges Wilson. 35 


His Election Judicial Services. 

William Wilson, in fact one of the four 
first judges of the Supreme Court of Illinois, 
was born in Loudoun county, Virginia, in 1795. 
It is said he was a man of good, though not 
of a collegiate, education, and of fair legal at- 
tainments. He came to Illinois in 1817, to 
make a new home for himself. The State 
Government was organized the next year after 
his coming to the Illinois Territory. When the 
General Assembly came to select officers for 
the new State soon to be admitted into the 
Union, he was a candidate for the office of judge 
of the Supreme Court. He was then a young 
man, not quite twenty-four years of age. For 
the position he sought, he received fifteen votes 

36 IJlinow Supreme Court 1818. 

out of a possible vote of forty. That was a 
very complimentary vote to a man so young 
and one who had lived among the people 
whose suffrages he asked, less than one year. 
On the occasion of the next opportunity that 
offered he was more successful, for on the yth 
day of August, 1819, he was elected by the 
General Assembly an associate justice of the 
Supreme Court to fill the vacancy caused by 
the resignation of William P. Foster. He im- 
mediately entered upon the discharge of the 
duties of -his office. It is said he was of a social 
disposition, and mingled so modestly with the 
people, he made friends of all with whom he 
chanced to meet. So highly appreciated were his 
official acts that he soon became the greatest fa- 
vorite with the people of all the judges of that 
high court. On the reorganization of the judici- 
ary in 1825, he was, by the General Assembly, 
elected chief justice of the Supreme Court, over 
its former chief justice, Thomas Reynolds, who 
was a candidate for re-election, and who was 
a man of high character and of very decided 

Its First Judge* Wilson. 37 

ability. It is said of him by his contempo- 
raries that Chief Justice Wilson presided with 
becoming dignity when holding the Supreme 
Court. He held the office of chief justice as 
long as the constitution of 1818 remained in 
force, and went out of office on the first Mon- 
day of December, 1848, when that instrument 
was superceded by the new constitution of the 
latter year. It will thus be seen he was chief 
justice of the Supreme Court of the State for 
a term of twenty-three years a longer term 
than any other person ever held that high 
office in the State. Under the constitution of 
1818, after the year 1824, the chief justice 
held his office during good behavior, but under 
the constitution of 1848 it was provided the 
justice having the shortest term to serve 
should be chief justice. Under that constitu- 
tion the Supreme Court consisted of three 
justices who held their offices for a period of 
nine years. All three were elected by the 
people at the first election for judges under the 
constitution of 1848, but they were required to 

38 Illinois Supreme Court 181X. 

cast lots so that one should go out in three 
years, one in six years, and the other should 
hold through the entire term for which he was 
elected. Every three years thereafter a suc- 
cessor to one of the judges would be elected 
under that system. That of course made the 
term of chief justice three years. By the con- 
stitution of 1870 it is provided the Supreme 
Court shall consist of seven judges, one of 
whom shall be chief justice. Under that 
provision the justices have since chosen one of 
their number to be the chief justice. But it 
was provided by that instrument the chief 
justice in office when it took effect should 
continue to serve in that capacity until the end 
of his term, which was nearly three years. In 
1873, and since then, the justices have chosen 
one of their number to be chief justice. By a 
rule of court the term of service is for one 
year each member of the court becoming chief 
justice in rotation according to seniority. Thus 
it is seen it was not possible under the consti- 
tution of 1848, nor is probable under the con- 

Its First Judges Wilson-. 39 

stitution of 1870, any one can or will serve 
continuously as chief justice of the Supreme 
Court for so long a term as did Chief Justice 

The life of a judge of any court is generally 
an uneventful one and especially is that true of 
Judge Wilson. He was a judge and nothing 
else. In no sense was he a politician. It is 
not said of him that he was enough of a 
military man to have ever trained in a militia 
company under the State laws as corporal or 
even as a private. It is therefore not strange 
that during a term of service of nearly thirty 
years there was nothing to call public attention 
to him unless it was the opinion delivered by 
him in the case of the People on the relation 
of M'Clernand vs. Field. The Court then 
consisted of four judges, viz. : Wilson, C. J. ; 
Browne, Lockwood, and Smith, associate jus- 
tices. The question in the case involved only 
a construction of the constitution in respect to 
the power of the Governor to remove a State 
officer appointed by the Governor, by and with 

40 Illinois Supreme C&urt 1818. 

the consent of the Senate, but the case took on 
a partisan political phase in its public discus- 
sion. When Governor Carlin came into office 
in 1838 he found Alexander P. Field filling the 
office of secretary of state, and had been since 
1829. Governor Carlin was a pronounced 
democrat and Secretary Field was equally as 
strong a whig. The secretary was obnoxious 
to the State administration and it was the 
desire, the office should be filled by a demo- 
crat one fully in sympathy with the State 
administration, which was intensely partisan. 
Accordingly Gov. Carlin appointed Hon. John 
A. M'Clernand since become a distinguished 
politician and was during the civil war an able 
and efficient officer in the federal army of high 
rank to the office of secretary of state. It 
was the intention by that act of the Governor 
to remove Field from the office of secretary of 
state, but the incumbent denied the existence 
of any rightful authority in the Governor to 
remove him, and therefore declined to sur- 
render the office when demand was made upon 

It* First Judges Wilson. 41 

him. Gen'l M'Clernand then commenced a 
proceeding in the nature of quo warranto to 
try the title to the office whether it was in him 
or in Field. The case attracted wide attention 
and was discussed with much bitterness by the 
public press. It was tried on the Circuit 
Judge Breese presiding. In that court the 
decision was in favor of the relator, but on 
the appeal of respondent, Field, to the Su- 
preme Court the decision of the Circuit Court 
was reversed. The decision of the Supreme 
Court gave very great dissatisfaction to the State 
administration and to the whole democratic 
party, because the question involved had 
become a party question. Much of the dis- 
satisfaction with the decision arose out of the 
fact a majority of the members of the court 
were whigs, viz. : Wilson, C. J. ; Browne and 
Lockwood, associate justices. Judge Smith 
was then the only democratic member of the 
Supreme Court, but he was an intense partisan 
politician, as will shortly be made to appear. 
The dissatisfaction of the democratic party 

42 -Ulinois Supreme Court 1818. 

with the court was further intensified and in- 
creased by the apprehension the court would 
when the question should be presented, decide 
another question in its nature political against 
the views held by that party. It was a 
question in relation to the rights of certain 
persons of foreign birth residing in the State to 
vote at all general elections to be held under 
the laws of the State. It was expected all 
that class of persons would vote the democratic 
ticket and that was the interest that political 
party had in the question. The excitement 
was increased to a great degree by a statement 
made public to the effect the court had in 
advance before any case involving the question 
was in fact ready to be considered, had passed 
upon the question adversely to the views of 
the democratic majority in the Legislature, and 
had an opinion already prepared to that effect. 
The accusation caused great indignation in the 
minds of the whig members of the Supreme 
Court and they demanded the name of the 
author of the report. When his name was 

Itti First Judges Wilson. 48 

made known it turned out it was Judge Smith, 
himself a member of the Court. The criticism 
upon the conduct of Judge Smith in that 
respect became so bitter, so intense, and so 
just he deemed it proper to join with 
the other members in a written statement 
that the report given out was untrue. The 
case of Spragins vs. Houghton, that had been 
pending so long in the Court was, however, 
finally decided, but the question concerning 
which a decision was most desired, was not 
passed upon by the Court. Judge Smith de- 
livered the most elaborate opinion and 
reached the conclusion, under the law every 
white male inhabitant having resided in the 
State six months immediately before any 
general election, and was above the age of 
twenty-one years, was entitled to vote, although 
he was neither a native nor a naturalized 
citizen of the United States. That was the 
view taken by the democratic party on that 
question. But as to that question and it was 
the only one involved the other judges, viz., 

44 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Wilson, C. J., Browne and Lockwood, JJ., 
expressed no opinion. They concurred in 
reversing the judgment of the trial court on 
the sole ground it did not appear defendant 
was guilty of the offense charged within the 
meaning of the statute under which the action 
was brought. Neither view taken of the case is 
well sustained. The constitutional provision is 
"in all elections all white male inhabitants 
above the age of twenty-one years having 
resided in the State six months next preceding 
the -election shall enjoy the right of an 
elector." The contention was the word "in- 
habitant" as used in the constitution did not 
mean he should be a native or a naturalized 
citizen of the United States. That the con- 
stitutional provision in this respect is bunglingly 
written may be admitted, but whatever the 
word "inhabitant" as therein used may mean 
it is certain it is not used in the sense it is else- 
where used in the constitution. The word 
"inhabitant" is used in the schedule to the 
constitution, but it is explained by the context 

Its First Judges Wilson. 45 

to mean persons who were "actual residents 
of the State at the signing of the constitution." 
That meant that all persons residents of the 
State for six months might vote on the ques- 
tion of the adoption of the constitution and 
nothing more. That imposed no condition 
other than, the "inhabitant" fyad been a resi- 
dent for the requisite length of time. But 
does the other provision where the word ' 'inhab- 
itant" is used mean the same thing? It will 
hardly admit of the same construction. If it 
would include an educated man from enlight- 
ened Germany, it would by the same construc- 
tion include a densely ignorant man from 
' 'Darkest Africa" if he happened to be white. 
It can hardly be the framers of the constitu- 
tion intended to use the word ' 'inhabitant" in 
that broad and extended sense that would 
make voters out of ignorant and vicious white 
men, no matter from what part of the earth 
they might come, after a short "actual" resi- 
dence in the State of six months. It could by 
no reasonable construction mean persons then 

4(5 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

living in foreign countries. It is a more nat- 
ural construction, it included only persons 
dwelling in our own country and in that 
sense it would mean citizens of the United 
States. Roget in his Thesaurus of English 
Words gives "citizen" as an equivalent of 
"inhabitant." What is a citizen? It is a 
resident of a commonwealth or municipality 
having civic privileges. The constitution does 
not say the elector must be an ' 'inhabitant" of 
the State. The term is used in another 
sense that is anv "inhabitant" of the United 
States not of Ireland nor yet of the far off 
Isles of the Sea. Understanding the word in 
that better sense the constitution means any 
"white male inhabitant" or "citizen" of the 
United States of the age of twenty-one years 
"having resided in the State six months pre- 
ceding the election shall enjoy the right 
of an elector. " 

Nor is the opinion of the other judges 
any more satisfactory. Defendant was sued 
in a qui (am action to recover the penalty im- 

Its First Judges Wilson.. 47 

posed upon a judge of an election who "shall 
knowingly admit any person to vote not quali- 
fied according to law." It was stipulated that 
when defendant received his vote he did not 
believe the voter was ' 'qualified according to 
law." That would seem to be conclusive 
against defendant. But the decision was 
rested on the further provision of the statute 
if a party offering to vote shall make an affi- 
davit of his qualifications, his vote shall be 
received unless other evidence is produced, 
the affidavit is false. But the voter in this 
case made no such affidavit and there was 
therefore no prima facie case made that 
would overcome the defendant's belief, he was 
not a qualified voter. The question of the 
guilt or innocence of defendant was not in- 
volved. It was agreed in the case submitted 
if the Court was of opinion the party whose 
vote was received was not a qualified voter 
according to the constitution and laws of this 
State "then judgment was to be entered 
against defendant, but if the Court was of opin- 

48 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ion the person whose vote was received "was 
a qualified voter according to the constitution 
and laws of the State, " then the suit was to be 
dismissed. That was really the only question 
in the case. The scienler was admitted so 
that the principal question only might come 
before the Court. Yet the three justices 
who made the decision, dodged, shun-piked, 
that question, which was the only point sub- 
mitted as a controverted question of law. 
Everything else was admitted, and there 
was absolutely nothing else to be decided. 
But all that did not satisfy the democratic 
majority of the Legislature. It was deter- 
mined to make it impossible for the Su- 
preme Court, as it was then organized, to 
decide any question in its nature political 
adversely to the views of the State adminis- 
tration. Accordingly, by the act of Febru- 
ary 10, 1841, the judiciary of the State 
was re-organized. The circuit judges were 
legislated out of office and five justices were 
added to the Supreme Court who were re- 

Its First Judges Wilson. 49 

quired, together with the other members of 
that court to hold the circuit courts as the 
circuit judges had done. All the new justices 
elected or appointed members of the Supreme 
Court by the Legislature under that act, were 
democrats and that, it was thought, would 
give that party control of the Court in the decis- 
ion of any disturbing questions that might there- 
after be presented for decision. The action of 
the Legislature in thus seeking to control the de- 
cisions of the Supreme Court for partisan po- 
litical reasons, was revolutionary in its charac- 
ter and made a most dangerous precedent in 
popular government. Such a measure now, 
with such a purpose in view, would doubtless 
produce great agitation, and in all probability 
would result in violence. It would not be toler- 
ated now by the people of any party, and 
ought not to be. Impolitic as this measure 
was, the odium attaching to it was greatly re- 
lieved by the fact that all of the justices added 
to the Supreme Court under that act of the 
Legislature were men of eminent ability and 

50 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

learning, and were all men of irreproachable 
private characters. Among them were Judge 
Sidney Breese, Judge Stephen A. Douglas, 
and Judge Samuel H. Treat, all of whom af- 
terwards became distinguished in the affairs 
of the State and Nation. Chief Justice Wil- 
son delivered the prevailing opinion of the 
Court in the People vs. Field in which Judge 
Lockwood concurred in a separate opinion. 
Judge Browne did not sit in the case on ac- 
count of some relationship to the relator. 
Judge Smith did not concur, and gave expres- 
sion to his views in a lengthy, dissenting 
opinion. Because Chief Justice Wilson wrote 
the principal opinion in the case, he was most 
unreasonably criticised by that part of the 
public press that sustained the action of the 
Govenor in his effort to remove the secretary of 
state. It is worthy of remark, however, that 
in all that bitter controversy there were no 
charges affecting the integrity of the members 
of the Court other than the alleged indiscreet 
conduct of Judge Smith in giving out informa- 

/&> First Judges Wilson. 51 

tion which he afterwards deemed proper to re- 
tract because it was not true to the extent re- 
ported. Intense as the excitement was for 
the time, caused by the decision of the Supreme 
Court of a question in its nature political, it 
was not long before it ceased to create any 
discussion. Thereafter there does not appear 
to have been anything to direct public atten- 
tion to the Supreme Court or its chief justice. 
Daring his long incumbency of his high office, 
Chief Justice Wilson seems to have discharged 
his duties with such faithfulness and ability as 
to secure public approval. There was perhaps 
no adverse criticism of his judicial or private 
character during the remainder of his extended 
term of service. It is evident he must have 
been a man of learning and ability and of the 
highest personal character, otherwise he could 
not have had and retained through his entire 
term of service as chief justice the confidence 
and respect of his associates, among whom 
were Douglas, Breese, Lockwood, Treat, 
Keomer, Caton, and others equally dis- 

52 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

tinguished for their legal learning. There is 
no place where the measure of a judge's men- 
tal strength can be more accurately taken 
than in the conference-room in daily contact 
with his associates through a series of years. 
Unless he is a man of legal learning, as well 
as of natural ability, he can not long sustain 
himself with any degree of credit in such a 
position. It is a high testimonial to his fitness 
for the position that Chief Justice Wilson had 
the esteem and confidence of his brother judges 
in so large a measure through nearly three 
decades of years. 

The written opinions of Chief Justice 
Wilson evince good ability and learning. 
The early cases were of no very considerable 
importance and there was no necessity to 
elaborate the opinions in them. His opin- 
ions are concise, and are clear and accurate 
judicial statements. In that respect they are 
the equal of any that have since been delivered 
by that Court. 

During his temporary appointment, Judge 

Its First Judges Wilson, 53 

Wilson received a salary fixed by the constitu- 
tion, of $1,000 per annum, but it is probable 
that during the entire term of his service as 
chief justice he did not receive more than 
#1,000 per annum on an average. It was 
sometimes more and sometimes less. The 
act of January 18, 1825, did not purport to fix 
their salaries, but simply appropriated $600 
per annum, for the years 1825 and 1826 for 
the chief justice and each associate justice of 
the Supreme Court. The act of February 19, 
1827, did fix the salaries of the chief justice 
and associate justices each at $800 per annum, 
payable quarterly. That salary continued 
through a series of years. The constitutional 
provision, the salary of a judge of the Supreme 
Court should not be diminished during his con- 
tinuance in office, did not prohibit the Legisla- 
ture from increasing it. Accordingly their 
salaries were perhaps raised from $800 to 
#1,000 per annum. By the act of March 3, 
1845, the salaries of the chief justices and as- 
sociate justices were fixed at $ i , 500 per annum, 

54 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

excepting as to justices appointed subsequent to 
February 12, 1845, wno should each receive 
$1,000. That salary continued to the end of 
his service on the first Monday of December, 
1848 about three years and was the high- 
est salary he received at any time during his 
incumbency of his high office. It is therefore 
probable that for the entire term he served as 
associate justice and as chief justice, through 
that long period of nearly thirty years, he re- 
ceived a sum less than thirty thousand dollars 
for his life work in the Supreme Court of the 
State. And yet it is conceded as the truth 
is he was one of the best and ablest judges the 
State ever had in its Supreme Court. It is 
said he lived well and entertained his friends 
generously and hospitably at his home. How 
that could be done on the compensation he re- 
ceived it is difficult now to understand. 

Chief Justice Wilson discharged the duties 
of his high office so quietly and so unostenta- 
tiously, he was scarcely known outside of the 
county where he resided and of the adjoining 

Its First Judges Wilson. 55 

counties in which he held the Circuit Courts, 
except by the lawyers of the State. The re- 
mark is ventured that in the north part of the 
State there are now 1894 but few lawyers 
that ever knew where he lived or when he died. 
His name is .nowhere found in any state or 
national encyclopedia of biography, that the 
writer has had an opportunity to examine, and 
he believes it does not appear in any one. If 
written, his biography would be: He was born 
in Virginia, 1795, came to Illinois in 1817, was 
a judge of the Supreme Court of the State 
during the period intervening the years 1818 
and 1849, went out of office with the determi- 
nation of the first constitution of the State, and 
died at his home near the little city of Carmi 
in White county in the year 1857. That and 
nothing more. His name has now perished 
from all popular recollection less than forty 
years since his death and if it had not been re- 
corded in the judicial records and published in 
the reports of the Supreme Court it would have 
long since ceased to be known even to the legal 

5*5 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

profession. It is a singular fact that although 
he was a member of the Supreme Court for 
nearly three decades of years his name appears 
only in the nine first volumes of the reports of 
the decisions of the Supreme Court. Judge 
Walker's name, although a member of the 
Supreme Court for a shorter time, appears in 
ninety-three volumes of the reports as deliver- 
ing opinions of that Court. 

It is seen from what has been said of him 
that Judge Wilson's professional life consisted 
almost wholly of judicial labor. He had only 
been at the bar about one year when he be- 
came a member of the Supreme Court, and 
perhaps never after his election to that office 
did any labor outside of his official duties. It 
is not probable he ever managed a half dozen 
cases in the trial courts while he was at the 
bar. No mention is made of him by any of the 
earlier writers that he was ever a practicing 
lawyer. He left no literary work other than 
his judicial opinions, and, of course, they are 
never read by the common people, so there is 

It* First Judyes Wilson . 57 

nothing to keep his name in popular recollec- 
tion. Because of his judicial life, little is writ- 
ten of him by the earlier State historians. 
Even Gov. Reynolds who was a member of 
the Supreme Court with him scarcely does 
more than to state the fact that at a certain 
date he was elected or appointed by the Gen- 
eral Assembly an associate justice of the 
Supreme Court, and that at a later date he was 
elected chief justice of the same Court. The 
accounts given of him by other historians are not 
much more elaborated. Little else is written of 
him other than to record the date and place of 
his birth, to state the title of the official posi- 
tion he held it was in fact but one and to 
make a brief note of the time and place of his 
death. Brief and simple as is the biography 
of Chief Justice Wilson, his life and official la- 
bors have affected for good the affairs of State 
to as great an extent, perhaps, as the life and la- 
bors of any other man that ever lived in it. And 
yet how little is known concerning him even by 
the legal profession. But his life in that re- 

5H lllmuiti Supreme Court 1818. 

spect accords with an acknowledged truth in 
the history of the judiciary. It is that a judge 
however learned and eminent he may have 
been in his day has but little if any posthumous 
fame. The great jurist and the just magistrate 
toils and labors through a lifetime and dies 
and all personal recollection of him soon fails 
from the memory of all for whom he toiled 
and labored. A generation does not pass be- 
fore he is nearly or quite forgotten. It is known 
some one rendered valuable services to the State 
and builded a system of jurisprudence that 
prevails to -protect the rights of persons and 
property, but who it was and when it was the 
great mass of the people neither know nor 
care. The author of much that is good and 
valuable in the jurisprudence of the State, with- 
out which there can be no civilization or dwell- 
ing together in safety in communities or in 
municipalities, after the lapse of a few decades 
of years is as unknown as though he had never 
lived, although he may still be living in the 
shadows and dimness of old age. Later there 

//.s First Judges Wilson. 59 

will be in the public press a brief announce- 
ment that he is dead, and that is the end. 
So obscured by the failing memory of man 
have his life and works become, the historian 
will take but little notice of him or what he 
did. On the contrary the mere politician who 
had made much noise in his day, and who had 
perhaps accomplished but little of any worth 
to his state or nation, and the military chieftain 
who had led men to conflict and to death are 
accorded a fame that is endless in its duration. 
Historians record their achievements as though 
they constituted all that is worth the knowing 
or of sufficient importance in individual, or 
state, or national history to be written for the 
study of mankind. The name of him who 
silently accomplished most good for human- 
ity and the public welfare perishes from the 
memory of man. It is so with judicial fame. 
For what is judicial fame? "It is even a 
vapor that continueth for a little time and then 
vanisheth away." 

60 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 


His Election a Judge, a Politician, 

The first chief justice of the Supreme 
Court of Illinois was Joseph Phillips. He was 
appointed on the gth day of October, 1818, to 
that high office on joint ballot by the Legisla- 
ture then in session at Kaskaskia. That was 
before the State was admitted into the Union. 
Little was done at that session of the Legisla- 
ture beyond electing the State officers to serve 
when the State should be admitted into the 
Union. Kaskaskia had been the capital of the 
Illinois Territory since its organization in 1809, 
and was the capital of the new State for a 
brief time. There is much of romance in its 

Its First Judges Phillips. 61 

history. It was the seat of empire during the 
French and English occupation. Near by was 
situated the historic fort known as ' ' Fort 
Chartres. " When builded it was perhaps the 
strongest fortress on the continent. 

The capital house in Kaskaskia in which 
all the sessions of the Territorial Legislatures 
and some of the sessions of the new State 
Legislatures were held was one of some pre- 
tension, for that age. It was situated in a 
public square not far from the center of the 
village. It was builded of rough uncut lime- 
stone, with gables and roof enclosed with 
unpainted boards and shingles, and had dor- 
mer windows. It was rather an imposing 
structure for that age, builded as it was in the 
midst of the wilderness. The rather ad- 
vanced state of civilization at Kaskaskia at- 
tracted to that little village many noted men 
with their families. Rough builded as that 
old capital house was, it contained within its 
walls in the days of its splendor many brilliant 
gatherings of gallant men and fair ladies not 

ti2 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

surpassed in gallantry and beauty by any 
social assemblages elsewhere on the continent 
at that period of American history. It was in fact 
the "Centre of life and fashion in the West." 
The glory of that classic village in which the first 
capital of Illinois was located, and where the 
first sessions of the Supreme Court were held, 
has long since departed. Neither the capital 
building nor Fort Chartres remain and the 
village itself now 1894 consists of little more 
than a few time-worn and much decayed small 
houses. They, too, will soon perish and all 
that will remain of that once famous village, 
whose foundations were laid in the wild wilder- 
ness where the cruel Indian roamed and mur- 
dered where his savage will directed, will be, 
its more than two centuries of history. But 
that will be, when written, of most intense in- 
terest. It was in that village and amid those 
surroundings that Judge Phillips had his resi- 
dence after his coming to the Illinois country. 
He was always recognized as having that social 
worth that gave him a position among the best 

/^.s First Judges Phillips. 6tt 

and most refined people with whom he dwelt. 
There does not seem to be any very full bio- 
graphical account of Judge Phillips given by 
any of the earlier writers, some of whom were 
personally acquainted with him. It is said he 
was born in Tennessee. It is certain, however, 
he was a man of scholarly attainments per- 
haps had a classical education. His contem- 
poraries always spoke of him as a dignified 
and pleasant gentleman and as a man of the 
highest standing as a citizen. It is said he 
had been a captain in the regular army of the 
United States and was in the service during 
the war of 1812 perphaps in Illinois a part of 
the time. Later he was secretary of the Illi- 
nois Territory. No one whose writings have 
been examined mention his age nor anything 
concerning his family. . It is evident from his 
public services he must have been a man quite 
well advanced in life when he was appointed 
chief justice of the Supreme Court of the State. 
It is the uniform testimony of his contemporaries 
he was a man of talent, well educated, and of 

64 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

unexceptionable private character. It is to be 
regretted, more is not known of his personal 
history. The private life of anyone assists 
greatly in appreciating his public life and 

Chief Justice Phillips was not present at the 
December term, 1819, of the Supreme Court 
held at Kaskaskia, but he was present at the 
July term, 1820, held at the same place. But 
little business, however, was transacted at that 
term of Court. He was also present at the 
December term, 1820, of the Supreme Court 
held at Vandalia. So far as appears from the 
reports of cases determined in the Supreme 
Court that was the last term of that Court he 
attended. It is probable, however, he was 
present at the sessions held in 1821, but there 
is no report of cases during that year. No 
cases are reported in Breese's Reports or else- 
where where the opinions of the Court appear 
to have been written by Chief Justice Phillips 
during the entire time nearly fouY years he 
was a member of the Court. This may be 

Its First Judges Phillips. 65 

accounted for because of two facts: ist, It does 
not appear who wrote any of the opinions prior 
to the December term, 1822, and he had re- 
signed before that time; and 2nd, No cases are 
reported as having been decided between the 
December term, 1820, and the December 
term, 1822. Doubtless there were sessions 
of the Court during this time and cases decided 
in which opinions were written. It is known 
a term of Court was held in December, 1821, 
and one case was decided. It is said the opinions 
filed at that term of Court were consumed in the 
burning of the bank building at Vandalia where 
the records of the Supreme Court were kept. 
It is a matter of much regret, it does not ap- 
pear what opinions were written by Chief Jus- 
tice Phillips. They would aid in obtaining a 
better understanding of his legal knowledge 
and of his ability as a writer. All opinions 
written in cases during his term of service were 
by "The Court." Of course it can never be 
known which one of the judges wrote any par- 
ticular one of the published opinions of the 

66 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Court during the first four years of its exist- 
ence. But the opinions written during that 
time are a great credit to the Court as a body 
and to the judges of whom it was composed. 
Their opinions are brief and terse, and vigor- 
ous statements, and are remarkable for the 
accuracy of the propositions of law formulated. 
Indeed, they are not much more elaborate 
than are the agenda notes now made by the 
judges of the Supreme Court when the case is 
decided. A very large per cent of the opin- 
ions of the Court during the time of Chief Jus- 
tice Phillips are still recognized as sound law 
and very few of them have ever been over- 
ruled. Most of them are models of terse and 
accurate statement. No doubt Chief Justice 
Phillips wrote his full share of the opinions of 
the Court delivered when he was chief justice 
and if so they are highly creditable to him as 
a lawyer and as a judge. 

Judge Phillips was ambitious to become 
distinguished in politics. Indeed, he had more 
fondness for politics than for the law. In 1822 

Itti First Judges Phillips. 67 

he became a candidate for governor of the 
State. Before he commenced the canvass he 
had the good sense and decency to resign his 
office of judge which he did on the 4th day of 
July, 1822. Judge Phillips ran on what was 
then called the pro-slavery ticket. He was 
beaten by Gov. Edward Coles the anti-slav- 
ery candidate. It is more than probable Judge 
Phillips would have been elected had Judge 
Thomas C. Browne, of the Supreme Court, 
not been a candidate for governor at the same 
election. It was said Judge Browne was 
brought out as a candidate by the friends of 
Judge Phillips under the belief his candidacy 
would be of advantage to him. If so it was 
a grave mistake. Judge Browne was also an 
ultra pro-slavery man. He resided in Galla- 
tin county, in that part of the State where the 
pro-slavery sentiment was strongest. Judge 
Browne proved to be a very popular candidate 
and received a large per cent of the pro-slavery 
vote. Indeed he received within a few hun- 
dred votes of as many votes as Judge Phillips 

Illinois HujtrfiiH' Court 

himself. Gen. James B. Moore was also a 
candidate for governor at the same election. 
What the effect of his candidacy was, can 
hardly be ascertained at this late day, but it 
is believed it was injurious to Judge Phillips. 
All the anti-slavery vote was concentrated on 
Gov. Coles and of course the votes cast for 
Gen. Moore were in all probability so many 
votes taken from Judge Phillips, who was the 
leading candidate of the pro-slavery party and 
the one that party expected to elect. Not- 
withstanding all these adverse circumstances, 
Gov. Coles was only elected by a plurality of 
fifty votes over Judge Phillips. He was, in 
fact, elected by less than one-third of the whole 
vote cast at that election. The administration 
of Gov. Coles was and is noted for the great 
slavery agitation that occurred during his term 
of office. An effort was made to call a con- 
vention to amend the constitution that slavery 
might be introduced and made lawful in all the 
State as it had been in the old French villages. 
Before it ended the contest became an in- 

Itn Firxt Judges Phillips. 69 

tensely bitter one as all contentions are where 
human slavery is involved. Judge Phillips 
was an active and earnest advocate and sup- 
porter of the measure intended by its friends 
to make it possible to introduce slavery into 
the State. Although a native of Virginia Gov. 
Coles was a pronounced anti-slavery man both 
in sentiment and in every act of his life. He 
brought his slaves from Virginia to Illinois and 
not only gave them their freedom but he pro- 
vided homes for them. On account of his 
humane acts in this respect he was relentlessly 
persecuted and prosecuted at law by the pro- 
slavery propagandists. His opposition to call- 
ing a convention to amend the constitution to 
admit the introduction of slavery has made 
him famous in our State history and justly so 
for he was a pure patriot and a man of most 
resolute purpose for and in behalf of the right. 
His defense of freedom and free institutions 
was brave and heroic and worthy the highest 
statesmanship. But after all that fierce bat- 
tle of words and ballots, no matter what might 

70 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

have been its termination, could not have af- 
fected in any permanent degree the question 
of human slavery in the State. It was really 
a contest about nothing. Neither freedom nor 
slavery was in fact involved. Back of all con- 
stitutions of the States in the old Northwest was 
the famous Ordinance of 1787, that interdicted 
forever slavery in all the States to be carved out 
of that territory. No matter how the people 
of the State might vote nor how they might 
amend their constitution, that beneficent ordi- 
nance, having the sanction of an eternal compact 
with all the old States of the Union, its interdic- 
tion of slavery in all that broad domain, should 
not be removed or suspended without their con- 
sent, had before that time attached itself upon 
land covered by its provisions and consecrated 
it to freedom forever. It was not in the power 
of the people of Illinois then or at any other 
time to remove that impassible barrier to the 
introduction of slavery into the State. The 
benedictions of that sublime ordinance had 
fallen upon that beautiful land with its forests 

Its First Judges Phillips. 71 

and its rivers and its plains there to rest forever 
and made it a land fit for the homes of freemen. 
The only thing mentioned by the earlier 
writers to the discredit of Judge Phillips is an 
incident that occurred in connection with the 
slavery agitation during the administration of 
Gov. Coles and which was first related by Gov. 
Ford in his history of Illinois. It is said that 
on the night after the passage of what is known 
as the "Convention Resolution" he joined 
with the friends of that measure in a celebra- 
tion of their triumph a celebration that took 
on the form of a great carousal. A procession 
was formed consisting of the pro-slavery mem- 
bers of the Legislature and other sympathizers 
with the measure, that happened to be in Van- 
dalia at the time. Among that most disorderly 
crowd of noise-makers were Judge Phillips, 
Judge Smith, and Judge Thomas Reynolds 
the latter then chief justice of the Supreme 
Court of the State. They marched to the 
residence of Gov. Coles, blowing tin-horns and 
beating drums and tin-pans and by other wild 

72 Illinois Sa/>i^iin j Court 18 IX. 

and disgraceful conduct manifested their grat- 
ification at their triumph over Gov. Coles who 
had opposed the passage of the " Convention 
Resolution, " on grounds of public policy. Even 
Gov. John Reynolds who labored for and voted 
for Judge Phillips at the election when he was 
a candidate for governor and who was himself 
an ultra pro-slavery man down to the time of 
his death, condemns this disgraceful manifes- 
tation of disrespect to the governor of the 
State in unmeasured terms in his "Life and 
Times." The conduct of Judge Phillips on 
that occasion was ill-suited to his otherwise 
high and dignified character. Even his best 
friends could find no apology for his unworthy 
conduct unless it was to place it on the ground 
he was controlled by that intolerant spirit of 
slavery that sought to dominate all things in 
State and National affairs that offered opposi- 
tion to its progress. It is strange, but true, 
that in respect to slavery, men would always 
act and talk with less good sense than in re- 
spect to any other matters that affect the pub- 

Its First Judges Phillips. 73 

lie welfare. Happily for the peaceful order of 
this country when that intolerant spirit of slav- 
ery became most defiant and boastful of its 
power in all political matters and attempted 
to disrupt the Union of the States by a resort 
to armed force, it was itself overthrown and 
destroyed in that conflict when freedom as- 
serted its right to rule in the Nation, and said 
to the hateful spirit of slavery ' 'thy intolerance 
and oppressions shall perish from the face of 
the earth. " It is a matter of much regret that 
Judge Phillips so far forgot his dignity of char- 
acter as to take any part in that disgraceful 
celebration of the passage of the ' 'Convention 
Resolution. " It was all the more unbecoming 
in him, because Gov. Coles had been his op- 
ponent in the late election for governor. 

Judge Phillips was much disappointed and 
deeply chagrined at his defeat for governor. Mis- 
sing the object of his highest ambition by only a 
few votes produced great disappointment. It 
cast a shadow over his political life out of 
which he did not seem able to emerge. He 

74 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

had lost his place on the bench of the Su- 
preme Court of the State, which he could not 
recover as it had then been filled by another 
and that perhaps added much to his troubled 
life. Within a few years after his defeat for 
governor he left the State and went back to 
Tennessee. It has not been practicable to ob- 
tain any account of his subsequent history that 
would be of any public interest. There is no 
reason to doubt that his later life was as hon- 
orable as it had been in this State. Had Judge 
Phillips continued on the bench of the Su- 
preme Court of the State and eschewed poli- 
tics, his services would have been as valuable 
and he would have builded for himself a repu- 
tation equal to that of anyone that ever occu- 
pied a seat in that high tribunal. 

Its First Judges Browne. 75 


His Election Judicial Services. 

Thomas C. Browne was one of the justices 
of the Supreme Court of Illinois from the Qth 
day of October, 1818, until the first Monday 
of December, 1848. That period covered the 
entire time the constitution of 1818 was in 
force. It was an important epoch in the judi- 
cial history of the State. It was a time when 
our institutions were taking form and becom- 
ing established. It fell to the lot of Judge 
Browne, as it does to but few men, to be- 
come a pioneer in the work of construct- 
ing a judicial system for a new State. It 
was his great privilege to assist in creating 

7ti Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

that system of jurisprudence since become the 
pride and glory of the commonwealth. Back 
of his time there had been no State judicial 
system. It had to be created anew. No pre- 
cedents of our making existed to guide the 
judges in their determination of causes sub- 
mitted for decision. They had also to be cre- 
ated. The work of precedent-making in the 
new commonwealth was one of exceeding great 
importance. Nothing affects so profoundly 
the welfare of the State and to so great degree 
as its jurisprudence. It is that which is to es- 
tablish order and peace and give protection to 
organized society. In a measure it was creat- 
ing law for a new commonwealth. No grander 
work ever engaged the thoughts and labors of 
men. In that great work it may be said he 
did his full proportion of the labor necessary 
to establish precedents and rules of procedure 
and principles that will endure through the 
centuries, to assist in the pure and exact admin- 
istration of the law from which comes right 
and justice to the citizen. 

Its First Judges Brmvne. 77 

No data at hand exists from which the date 
of his birth can be ascertained with any degree 
of certainty. Gov. Reynolds, although a mem- 
ber of the Supreme Court with him, in the ac- 
count given of Judge Browne in his pioneer his- 
tory does not mention his age or date of birth. 
He was a native of Kentucky. But little is 
written of his ancestors or his early life and 
education not so much as it would be of in- 
terest to know. He came to Illinois in 1812 
and located at Shawneetown to make for him- 
self a new home in the country in which his 
life work was to be done. It is related of him 
that before leaving Kentucky he had studied 
law so that on his coming to this state he was 
prepared to and did perhaps soon enter upon 
the practice of his profession. All lawyers at 
that early day seem to have had quite as much 
if not more fondness for politics than for the 
law. Judge Browne was no exception to that 
general rule. Within two years after his coming 
to the Illinois Territory he entered upon the work 
of office seeking and office getting a work in 

78 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

which he was quite successful. He did not 
practice his profession for any great length of 
time. Office seeking seems to have been a 
mania of that period and became a mad pas- 
sion with all professional men lawyers, doc- 
tors, and even ministers of our holy religion 
and other professional teachers became at- 
tracted within the maelstrom of politics. Then, 
as now, political life was a checkered one. It 
was crowded full of successes and failures. 
Even success did not bring with it the satis- 
faction anticipated. And the one to whom 
failures came, most often went down in 
a sorrowful life. In 1814 Judge Browne was 
elected a member of the House of the Terri- 
torial Legislature as a representative from 
Gallatin county. In 1816 he was a member 
of the Legislative Council of the Territorial 
Legislature. That was the last Territorial 
Legislature before the State was admitted 
into the Union. He was appointed attorney 
for the district in which Gallatin county is sit- 
uated in 1815 and probably continued in that 

Its First Judges Browne. 79 

office, whatever it was, until the State govern- 
ment was organized. On the organization of 
the State government in 1818 he was on joint 
ballot of both Houses of the Legislature chosen 
one of the associate justices of the Supreme 
Court of the new State shortly to be admitted 
into the Union. He was re-elected in the 
same way a member of the same Court on the 
igth day of January, 1825, and thereafter held 
the office until the first Monday in December, 
1848, when the old constitution was superceded 
by the new one of the latter year. He then re- 
tired to private life and nothing more was heard 
of him. Later there was a brief announcement 
of his death and nothing more. That was the 
end of one whose life had been a benediction 
to the State. 

Writers concerning the period in which 
Judge Browne lived speak very favorably of 
him as a man of the highest personal integrity 
and as a worthy judge for the time in which 
he served in that capacity. On the circuit he 
was a most valuable judge and administered 

80 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

the law as he understood it, with the strictest 
impartiality to all alike that had business in the 
Court where he presided. In that respect his 
character is without the slightest smirch or re- 
proach. Of him a writer who knew him well 
Gov. Reynolds says, ' ' honor, integrity, 
and fidelity are prominent traits in his charac- 
ter. " His acts in private life and the discharge 
of his official duties in every position he held 
had the approval of the public in as large a 
measure as was accorded to the best men of 
the same period. It was never claimed for 
Judge Browne that he was a man of any very 
great literary attainments or that he was a 
very profound lawyer. But it is due to his 
memory to say as the truth is, he was a good 
judge on account of his integrity of character 
and his valuable practical sense in all matters 
of business. Good business sense in a judge 
is a quality much more to be desired than very 
great legal learning, and if either is to be left 
out in the make-up of a judge, the man pos- 
sessed of most common sense is always the 

Its First Judges Browne. 81 

better judge. But it must not be understood 
he was not a man of fair legal attainments. 
In that respect he was superior to many of the 
lawyers of his day then resident in the State. 
A futile attempt was made in 1843 to i m - 
peach Judge Browne ' 'for want of capacity to 
discharge the duties of his office" of judge of 
the Supreme Court. It is now and was then 
conceded, the institution of the impeachment 
proceedings had not the slightest support in 
fact. His prosecutors or more properly his 
persecutors were utterly confounded by the 
unanimity with which men of all political views 
rallied to his support. Judge Browne was a 
pronounced whig, but he found as many friends 
among the democratic members of the Legis- 
ture as among the members of his own politi- 
cal faith. The prompt and nearly unanimous 
concurrence of the members of the Legislature 
irrespective of party affiliations in dismissing 
the impeachment proceedings against him was 
a most complete vindication of the character 
of Judge Browne as a judge and as a citizen. 

82 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

It was a splendid triumph for the good judge 
and one of which he might well be proud. 

An impression has somehow become quite 
general that Judge Browne although a justice 
of the Supreme Court for nearly or quite 
thirty years, never, during all that time, 
wrote an opinion of the Court. How such a 
groundless accusation could ever have obtained 
currency it is impossible to even conjecture. 
Nothing can be farther from the truth. The 
story is now told as though it was fact well 
known. It has been so persistently and so 
often repeated it has found a place in most of 
the recent historical writings. The origin of 
the story is as unknown as is the origin of tra- 
dition and like tradition it comes out of the 
unknown and will run on until there shall 
cease to be any belief in the unascertainable. 
Had it been said of Chief Justice Phillips ' 'his 
opinions are not found in the reports" the 
statement would have had apparent support 
in the fact, no opinions do appear in his name 
in the official reports not one. But the sup- 

Its First Judges Browne, 83 

port is more apparent than real. The ability 
and legal learning of Chief Justice Phillips was 
acknowledged by the bar and no one doubts, 
he wrote his full share of the opinions ' ' Per 
Curiam" none others are reported during his 
term written while he was on the bench of 
the Supreme Court. It is to be regretted, so 
many eminent gentlemen who are known to 
be most familiar with the legal history of the 
State, should have given the sanction of their 
names to establish this idle story. It was 
done thoughtlessly, without any intention to 
disparage the reputation of Judge Browne. 
But it is time, however, to correct these in- 
accurate statements, inadvertently made, so 
hurtful to his reputation. In a brief address 
made at a banquet given by the "Illinois 
State Bar Association," Judge Trumbull who 
practiced in the Supreme Court when Judge 
Browne was on the bench and who was himself 
afterwards a member of that Court, in speaking 
of Judge Browne is reported to have said, "His 
opinions are not to be found in the reports, I be- 

84 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

lieve, and although he sat upon the Supreme 
Bench for thirty years I do not recollect of but 
one opinion of his appearing in the reports and 
that, I believe, on an investigation that took 
place in the Legislature, was proved to have 
been written by somebody else." If he is cor- 
rectly reported his utterance is a matter of sur- 
prise. The statement sounds very strangely 
to one at all acquainted with the earlier Illi- 
nois Supreme Court reports. It was not the 
intention of the speaker and no such motive 
is imputed to him to speak unkindly of Judge 
Browne. No such thought was in his mind 
for elsewhere in the same address he speaks 
beautiful words of highest commendation of 
him. It is singular that one so familiar with 
the early Illinois reports did not recall the fact 
without any previous reflection that Breese's 
Reports and also the first, second, and third 
volumes of Scammon's Reports, contained quite 
a considerable number of Judge Browne's 
opinions. The first volume of Scammon's Re- 
ports alone contains seventeen opinions written 

Its First Judges Browne. 85 

by Judge Browne at least the reporter so 
states. In the same address this great jurist 
unwittingly gave the weight of his reputation 
in support of another silly story in relation to 
Judge Browne, invented by some one with a 
liveliness of fancy, to show that his brethren 
regarded him as wanting in capacity to fitly 
discharge the duties of a justice of the high 
Court of which he was a member. The al- 
leged incident related is, that when the chief 
justice asked him his opinion touching a ques- 
tion involved in a case being considered con- 
cerning which the views of the members of the 
Court were not in harmony, Judge Browne, 
instead of giving his vote at once, picked up 
his hat and was about to leave the conference 
room, when the chief justice remarked to him, 
' 'You may as well guess now as ever, Judge. " 
It is hardly probable the remark was ever 
made, but if it was, it must have been in a 
playful sense and not intended to be either 
disrespectful or offensive to Judge Browne. 
There is no place where the amenities of life 

86 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

are better or more scrupulously observed than 
in the conference-room when the business of 
the Court is being transacted. It is incred- 
ible that either Chief Justice Wilson, or any 
other member of the Court, would have been 
guilty of such insolence as to have made the 
remark to Judge Browne in the sense it is now 
intended it should be understood. Chief Jus- 
tice Wilson is represented to have been a modest 
and rather diffident man and it is improbable 
in the highest degree that he would ever have 
assumed that superiority over Judge Browne, 
or anybody else, that is implied in the remark 
imputed to him. The story itself, as now 
told, is derogatory to the high character of the 
other members of the Court. It is doubtless 
a sheer fabrication without the semblance of 
truth in its support. In his work entitled the 
"Bench and Bar of Illinois," Judge Caton, 
who had himself been a member of the Su- 
preme Court with him, repeats the same story 
that Judge Browne never wrote an opinion of 
the Court. After he had been on the bench 

Its First Judges Browne. 87 

twenty-four years he says, ' ' During all that 
time I have reason to believe that he never 
wrote one opinion." The period to which he 
makes reference must have been that which 
intervened between his appointment in 1818 
and the institution of the impeachment pro- 
ceedings in 1843. It may be true Judge 
Browne did not write as many opinions as 
some other members of the Court during that 
period. No one of them wrote very many 
opinions for the obvious reason there were but 
few to write. As elsewhere stated there was 
a time when it did not appear from the reports 
of the cases determined in the Supreme Court 
who wrote the opinions. How many of the 
opinions Per Curiam, Judge Browne may have 
written of course can never be known. But it 
does appear from the official reports of causes 
decided and by whom the opinions were writ- 
ten that during that period of twenty-five 
years, Judge Browne is given credit for having 
written at least as many as forty-three opinions 
and the reporter in every case says "Browne, 

88 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

justice, delivered the opinion of the Court." 
That is some evidence though not conclusive 
that he wrote the opinions appearing in his 
name. In the absence of any contradictory 
evidence it ought to be regarded as sufficient 
proof of the fact. The opinions of Judge 
Browne first appear in Breese's Reports and 
are continued in the first, second, and third 
volumes of Scammon's Reports. There may 
have been satisfactory reasons why Judge 
Browne did not write more during the years 
to which reference is made. That he did not 
write more opinions is not the slightest evi- 
dence of want of capacity. Since his time 
there have been judges of the Supreme Court 
excellent and able judges who did not like 
to write opinions, and it is no doubt true they 
would have written but few opinions if they 
could have avoided the work. One of the 
best and most untiring workers in the confer- 
ence-room the Court ever had, was most re- 
luctant to do the labor of writing opinions. 
Further mention will be made to him later. 

Its First Judges Brmvne. 89 

It will be remembered that during the twenty- 
four years next succeeding the organization of 
the Supreme Court the number of cases sub- 
mitted for decisions were inconsiderable not 
averaging more than perhaps thirty cases in a 
year. The cases appear from the official reports 
with few exceptions, to have been of no con- 
siderable importance and no very difficult 
questions arose for discussion and no doubt 
any member of the Court who may have liked 
the work could have written in all of them, sub- 
mitted in any one year, in a brief time without 
being overworked. It is quite certain the labor 
of preparing all the opinions written by the 
members of the Court in any year could have 
been done by one man in the space of a month 
or six weeks at longest. At the September 
term, 1875, of the Supreme Court, there were 
submitted for decisions five hundred and thirty- 
two cases. In the agenda kept by Judge 
Breese at that term there are brief notes of 
the points decided in every case and with the 
exception of a few cases the notes are all in his 

yO Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

handwriting. Perhaps in three or four of the 
cases the notes are in the handwriting of the 
reporter and were doubtless written as dictated 
by Judge Breese. The opinion is ventured 
there was nearly as much labor, if not more, 
done on the cases submitted at that single 
term than upon all the cases submitted in any 
period of ten years of the existence of the 
Supreme Court prior to 1848. 

It is also true that after the third volume of 
Scammon's Reports and only three are found 
in that volume Judge Browne's opinions cease 
to appear and none others are thereafter re- 
ported during his time of service. But there 
is an excusable reason for his omission to write 
opinions at that time. The opinions in 3d 
Scammon's Reports are in cases decided in 
1841 and in 1842. Judge Browne had then 
been on the bench nearly twenty-four years 
and it is probable he had then become quite 
advanced in life. He had certainly reached 
that age when men do not perform either 
mental or physical labor with as much facility 

Its First Judges Browne. 91 

as do younger men. It will be recollected the 
Supreme Court was re-organized and five 
judges added under the act of February 10, 
1841. Most of the new judges added were 
men of unusual ability and learning and per- 
haps all of them were much younger than the 
judges then on the bench. It is no doubt true 
they were ambitious to write opinions and in 
that way bring themselves into public notice. 
At all events the new judges did write most of 
the opinions from that time on until the Court 
ceased to exist Even a mere casual examina- 
tion will disclose that Wilson and Lockwood 
wrote fewer opinions after the re-organization 
of the Court under the act of 1841. Judge 
Smith resigned about that time December 
26, 1842. It is traditional it was a struggle 
with the new judges appointed under the act 
of 1 84 1 as to who should get the cases to write 
the opinions. That fact explains why the 
older judges wrote so few opinions in the later 
years of the existence of the Court under the 
constitution of 1818. 

92 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

It is a regretful matter, the "reason" 
that induced the belief that "he" Judge 
Browne "never wrote an opinion" during 
the first twenty-four years he was on the Su- 
preme Bench is not stated. It is, however, 
said that Judge Breese testified before the 
Legislature, "he wrote an opinion that ap- 
pears in the reports to be credited to Judge 
Browne." It would be a matter of curious in- 
terest, at least, if it had been designated by name 
or otherwise the case wherein the opinion it is 
said, either ' 'Judge Breese" or ' ' somebody else " 
wrote for Judge Browne among the consider- 
able number that appear in his name. Who- 
ever may attempt to do that will find that he 
has undertaken a very difficult task. But who 
wrote the other opinions for him ? Nobody 
claims Judge Breese wrote all the opinions 
that are reported as having been delivered by 
Judge Browne and certainly there is not so 
marked a difference in the expression or style 
of composition as to induce the belief they are 
the work of more than one writer. But aside 

Its First Judges Browne. 93 

from that view, at the time it is said Judge 
Breese testified before the Legislature, if there 
had been the slightest suspicion that other 
persons had written opinions for Judge Browne 
the bitterness and malice of his accusers 
would have discovered and presented the evi- 
dence if any existed. It is known Judge Breese 
served with him on the Supreme Bench from 
February, 1841, until he resigned in 1842, and 
if others had written opinions for Judge Browne 
he would certainly have known it and the fact 
could have been proved by him when he was 
on the witness stand. But no such thing was 
done or offered to be done. After all it is not 
a matter that militates in any degree against 
the judicial capacity of Judge Browne that one 
opinion, credited to him by the reporter, may 
have been in fact written by a brother judge 
in the same Court with him. It has frequently 
occurred that an opinion written by one mem- 
ber of the Court appears in the reports in the 
name of another. Many instances might be 
cited in the Supreme Court of this State where 

94 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

the opinion appears in the name of a certain 
justice when in fact it was written by another 
member of the Court. It is not intended to 
intimate in the remotest degree, there was 
anything improper in the publication of an 
opinion in the name of one member of the 
Court when in fact it was written by another 
member of the same Court. Not at all. At 
most it is not a matter of much consequence. 
It is the opinion of the Court and it matters 
little to what member of the Court is given the 
credit of writing it. It is also known that in 
the reports of the Supreme Courts of other 
States opinions sometimes appear in the name 
of one judge which were in fact written by an- 
other. There have been members of the Su- 
preme Court of this State other than Judge 
Browne that did not like to write opinions. One 
judge who came to the bench of the Supreme 
Court late in life never seemed to acquire any 
taste for writing opinions and it is hardly 
probable he would have written any, if other 
members of the Court could have been induced 

Its First Judges Browne. 95 

to do his work for him. Another member of the 
Court is recalled who did not like to do any labor 
that had to be done in the solitude of the pri- 
vate study. He had a strange dislike to 
working alone or even being alone. In the 
conference room when his brethren were pres- 
ent he would write opinions or anything else 
to be written but so soon as they would leave 
he would also leave. If is singular what a 
difference there is in the mental peculiarities 
of judges. No two members of the Illinois 
Supreme Court were ever alike in their tastes 
or habits or mental endowments. One of them 
Judge Walker had a liking, amounting to 
a passion, for writing opinions and at the time 
of his death had written more opinions than 
any judge who, before that time, had been a 
member of the Court. Another one was re- 
luctant to write opinions at all, and did not in 
fact write many. Another never wanted an 
opinion reported in his name. An idiosyn- 
crasy that existed in the minds of some 
members of the Court often led them to omit 

96 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

their names and mark their opinions "Per 
Curiam" Why this was done, no judge who 
did it could rarely if ever assign any reason for 
so doing that would be even satisfactory to 
himself. An instance is, where Judge Schol- 
field, who was one of the ablest judges the 
Court ever had, wrote a most excellent opinion 
and instead of attaching his name to it, marked 
it "Per Curiam" and in that form it went into 
the reports. It turned out to be considered by 
the bar of this State and elsewhere to be one of 
the ablest opinions he ever wrote, and it was 
a matter he could never understand why he did 
not have it reported under his own name. 
As noted elsewhere, all of the first opinions 
of the Supreme Court, on its organization, 
were headed "Opinion by the Court." That 
practice continued until Hon. Thomas Rey- 
nolds became Chief Justice, on the resignation 
of Chief Justice Philips. Even then it seems 
to have been reluctantly abandoned by the 
other justices. It is said that Chancellor Kent, 
when he became a member of the Supreme 

Its First Judges Browne. 97 

Court, introduced the practice of reducing the 
opinions of the court to writing. Before that 
time they had been delivered orally. The plan 
did not meet with much favor. Some of the 
judges did not like to write opinions. It is 
said Chief Justice Kent wrote most of the 
opinions of one term, but headed them "Per 
Curiam" so that it might not appear to the 
public that he wrote more than a due propor- 
tion of the opinions of the court. It may be 
the same reluctance to writing opinions existed 
in the judicial habits of Judge Browne as in 
other judges, and if so he should not be too 
much disparaged on that account. 

With the exception of Governor Reynolds, 
who knew him best, state historians have not 
always been quite just to Judge Browne. 
Stories having no foundation in fact, told 
of him intended to show want of capacity for 
the judicial office he occupied through so long 
a series of years, have been given a place in 
their writings and much prominence has been 
given to criticisms of his official acts made by 

98 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

those unfriendly to him, without giving at the 
same time matters that would apologize for 
apparent blemishes in his judicial character. 
A recent writer, in speaking of some of the 
early judges of the State, in referring to him, 
says he was ' 'laughed at and despised by many 
lawyers." Among his contemporaries, Judge 
Browne seems to have been held in highest 
esteem for his personal worth. Such early 
writers as Judge Caton, Governor Reynolds, 
and others accord him highest praise as an 
upright and faithful magistrate. Their testi- 
mony in this respect is in pleasing contrast 
with the imputation of unworthiness implied 
in the conduct attributed ''to many lawyers." 
Even the best friends of Judge Browne will 
not insist his opinions show any great learning 
or ability. But that is not at all strange. The 
cases in which he wrote involved no questions 
of law that require any display either of ability 
or great learning to elaborate. His opinions 
are plain, common-sense statements, and that 
is all the cases demanded. Some of the prin- 

It* First Judges Browne. 99 

ciples stated by him and some of the rules of 
practice formulated by him remain the law to 
this day and have not been departed from by 
the Courts. Although Judge Browne wrote no 
opinions after those appearing in 3rd Scammon's 
Reports, yet on more than one occasion he ex- 
pressed very many judicious views in dissent- 
ing opinions. On reading the cases in the 
light of a better knowledge of the law his views 
are the better law than that expressed in the 
prevailing opinion of the Court. Of him Judge 
Caton said he ' ' had very distinct views of his 
own on questions that came before him for de- 
cision. " Especially when questions of equal 
civil rights before the law were involved, 
Judge Browne always maintained the rights of 
all persons whether white or black to the en- 
joyment of these inalienable privileges. His 
vote in the Court was always cast in favor of 
freedom, right, and justice. That was a 
crowning excellence in his character and one 
that will be appreciated when others who may 
have written more opinions than he did will 
have been forgotten. 

100 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 


A Student, a Lawyer, and a Judge. 

The only one of the four persons appointed 
to the office of judge of the Supreme Court of 
Illinois on the 9th day of October, 1818, that 
achieved any fame that is at all likely to be 
enduring, was John Reynolds. That, it will be 
seen, is not on account of his judicial labors, 
but in consequence of his connections with the 
civil and military affairs of the State and of 
his literary work. His service on the bench 
brought him no reputation either as a lawyer 
or as a judge. It was the minor portion of 
what he did. Had he done nothing more 
than he accomplished during his brief judicial 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 101 

career, his life work would have been a failure. 
But in other fields of labor he achieved a suc- 
cess that will make his name to be known and 
be held in popular remembrance by the com- 
ing generations. It is said of him, by one who 
knew him well, "he was a unique character 
and the most interesting figure in our State's 
early history." 

The subject of this sketch John Reynolds 
was born on the 26th day of February, 1788, 
in Montgomery county, in the State of Penn- 
sylvania. Afterwards his father moved his 
family to Tennessee and from that state he 
came to Illinois, perhaps in 1800. His father 
and mother were both born in Ireland, and 
after their marriage came to America in 1785. 
Their religious affiliations were with the prot- 
estants in their fatherland. It is most prob- 
able they were Scotch- Irish certainly his 
mother, whose maiden name was Margaret 
Moore, was of that race. His father Robert 
Reynolds made it a matter of boasting that 
his ancestors belonged to the ' ' Milesian race, " 

102 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

and that not a drop of English blood flowed 
in his veins. It was the opinion of the subject 
of this sketch that his father may have been 
mistaken and that in fact the Reynolds family 
was of English origin. Be that as it may, it 
seems certain his mother Margaret Moore 
was Scotch-Irish. It is said she was a woman 
of great mental vigor and was doubtless much 
superior to the familyof her husband. In per- 
sonal appearance Judge Reynolds much re- 
sembled the Scotch-Irish and the blood of 
that hardy and vigorous race that in all prob- 
ability flowed in his veins, in some degree 
dominated his whole character and gave it 
that force that enabled him to achieve suc- 
cess. He was tall, probably above six feet in 
height was stout and strong, and was what 
would be called a muscular man may be 
an athlete. His hair was never very heavy, 
yet there was no tendency to baldness, even 
in old age. In color his eyes were blue, 
rather restless, and wore a dreamy expression, 
seldom indicating any emotion. Socially he 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 103 

was always most interesting. A charm of his 
life was his conversation not so much on ac- 
count of what he said as the manner in which 
he said it. As an interesting conversationalist 
he excelled most men. In all social coming 
together and in all casual meetings he was the 
one that attracted most attention by his cheer- 
ful conversation and cordial and unaffected 
manners. Everyone gathered near him to 
hear him talk. And yet what he said and 
even what he did was a strange mixture of 
sense and nonsense. Perhaps, had his social 
conversations been literally reported what he 
said would have been regarded as little else other 
than mere jargon. He was fond of anecdote 
and related with greatest zest incidents con- 
nected with his own and others' personal his- 
tory. He liked a good story and relished it 
none the less because he might be the subject 
of its humor unless, however, the incident re- 
lated might seem to reflect upon the integrity 
of his character or upon his judicial conduct. 
He was always the central attraction in every 

104 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

group of friends in the midst of whom he 
might happen to be. In his casual meeting 
with persons on the street or elsewhere he al- 
ways had a pleasant word to say to them, and 
everyone seemed always glad to meet him. 
He knew most persons he met and often called 
them by their given names especially his cor- 
dial greetings of young people whom he might 
chance to meet were greatly appreciated by 
them. By persons of near his own age he was 
most generally spoken of as the ' ' Old Ranger. " 
That title he acquired while in the military or 
"ranging" service in the war of 1812. By 
younger persons he was always addressed as 
"Governor." It is not recalled, he was ever 
addressed by the title of ' ' Judge" in social in- 
tercourse if at all, it was seldom. Mingling 
much with all classes of people and indulging 
in pleasant fun-making with them, still he ever 
maintained a dignified bearing. It was not 
deemed necessary by him to be popular with 
the people, to dress in a ' 'shabby" manner, or 
to make a clown of himself. No one ever 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 105 

offered to approach him other than in a re- 
spectful manner. While uniformly friendly in 
his feelings, he had that stateliness of bearing 
that commanded consideration and forbade 
any undue familiarlity, in speech or otherwise. 
In his younger days he indulged in the 
amusements common to that period par- 
ticularly in foot-racing and horse-racing, in 
both of which sports he took a part with his 
neighbors. The passion strongest with him 
was for a fine horse and he took great delight 
in testing his speed. Few persons of his day 
were his equals in a foot-race. After he com- 
menced to study law at Knoxville, Tennessee, 
he ran a foot-race for a wager of one hundred 
dollars and won the purse. Most fortunately for 
young Reynolds, he was afforded better oppor- 
tunities to obtain an education than were pos- 
sessed by most other young men in the West 
at that early day. As Judge Gillespie ex- 
pressed it, his father did ' ' what is usual in 
Scotch-Irish families, robbing all the other 
members of the family in order to pile an edu- 


106 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

cation upon the 'gentleman' of the household. " 
It seems he began his school studies with a 
friend at his father's house. Shortly afterward 
he attended, perhaps, a very good school near 
the present city of Belleville. At this school, 
according to his own account of it, he must 
have devoted nearly his whole time to the 
study of mathematics, but upon a close anal- 
ysis of the account given, it was really nothing 
higher than common arithmetic. At a later 
time, perhaps at a school in the same neigh- 
borhood, he studied surveying, and may be 
surveyed some, for anyone who wished to have 
that kind of work done. Naturally he had an 
ambition to acquire an education and to the 
attainment of that end he bent all his energies. 
A favorite maxim with him one formulated 
by himself was, "Success or an ignominious 
grave. " Whenever he was depressed by what 
seemed to be the near approach of failure, he 
strengthened his purpose to succeed by refer- 
ence to this and other kindred maxims. On 
an invitation from an uncle, residing at or near 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 107 

Knoxville, Tennessee, he went there to attend 
a school in the near vicinity. Great prepara- 
tions were made to get him ready to depart to 
attend what they, with pardonable vanity, call 
a ' ' college. " The whole neighborhood assisted 
in the preparations and when all was ready, he 
set out to make the journey to Knoxville, on 
horse-back. It was a great undertaking at 
that day for a young man. Most of the way 
he had to travel alone through what was then 
little less, if any, than a wild wilderness. It was 
a bold and somewhat hazardous undertaking, 
and had in it much that was discouraging in 
the extreme, but he sustained his courage and 
purpose by frequent reference to his favorite 
maxims. He needed their courage - giving 
strength. This school to which he went to at- 
tend he dignifies by the name of a "college." 
It was situated a few miles out of the town of 
Knoxville. Really, it was nothing more than 
a small private school for boys or young men, 
kept by the Rev. Isaac Anderson. The teacher 
taught his school during the week and preached 

108 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

in the vicinity on the Sabbath. Some of the 
scholars boarded with the teacher in his home 
in which his school was kept. Why this school 
was called a ' 'college" is rather difficult to un- 
derstand. The proprietor and principal of the 
school was the only teacher or ' ' professor. " 
No doubt it was a very good school but it had 
none of the elements of a "college." Of what 
the "curriculum" of this "college" consisted is 
not discovered, but it seems young Reynolds 
devoted much of his time to the study of Latin. 
Evidently he read many of the text-books used 
in the schools and colleges of that day. Other 
studies were pursued and among them was 
"Euclid's Elements of Geometry. " The crown- 
ing achievement of his school days of which 
he was proudest was that he had demonstrated 
without much difficulty the fifth proposition 
in Euclid sometimes called "Pans assinorum." 
It is a simple proposition and presents no diffi- 
culty, but his demonstration of it was regarded 
by him as one of his ' 'college" triumphs. 

It is probable from his account of his school 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 109 

studies, that oratory was one of them. One 
week every scholar was required to prepare 
and read a composition on some subject prob- 
ably chosen by the teacher, and on every al- 
ternate week he was required to declaim a 
piece he had committed to memory. This lat- 
ter exercise was to young Reynolds a very 
great embarrassment on account of what he 
is pleased to term his " excessive modesty.'' 
He attended this school or ' 'college" two years 
or two terms of probably ten months each. 
Gen. Houston, afterwards of Texas, was at 
this school with him. After leaving this school 
for a time he again returned to it to review his 
studies but only remained for a brief time. 
Among other things he studied the ' ' sciences 
and literature, " also ' 'geography and history, " 
also "rhetoric and logic." He read "Blair's 
Lectures," and "Dr. Paley's Moral Philoso- 
phy. " He commenced the study of ' ' astron- 
omy, " but did not 'make much advancement 
and gave it up. What course of study he may 
have pursued after he left the schools can not 

110 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

now be definitely ascertained. His time was 
so occupied with other matters it is hardly 
probable he continued his school studies. But 
if that which is stated constituted his whole 
course of study it is evident his, was not more 
than what is usually termed a ' 'common school 
education." Many of his contemporaries, 
writing about him since his death, speak of 
Gov. Reynolds as a "classical scholar." Ex- 
actly what is meant by the phrase ' ' classical 
scholar, " may not be readily understood. One 
writer says of him he was an accomplished 
' 'Greek, Latin, and French scholar, " but fails 
to say he was ever an " English scholar." It 
is surpassingly strange that anyone at all ac- 
quainted with Gov. Reynolds would write 
such extravagant things concerning him. Had 
such eulogies been written of him in his life- 
time no doubt, he would have had much satis- 
faction in them. His vanity was extraordi- 
nary. Vain as he was of his learning he never 
claimed to have studied Greek and never knew 
one letter of the Greek alphabet from another. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. Ill 

He does say of himself that when he left 
college he "was a good Latin scholar." It was 
a matter of much vanity with him of which he 
frequently spoke that he was a ' ' good Latin 
scholar," but he never mentioned having 
studied Greek. That he was a fair Latin 
scholar when he left school may be true, but 
he never kept up his Latin readings and before 
he entered public life he had forgotten most if 
not all of the Latin he had learned at school. 
It is true he studied the French language and 
became so familiar with it that he was able to 
and did speak it fluently in common conver- 
sation and it may be he was able to write 
it. His first wife was a French woman and 
they spoke the French language in the 
family. That is the extent of his ' ' French" 
scholarship. It is simply absurd to assert, he 
was an ' ' accomplished" scholar at all, either in 
English or anything else. He claimed much 
for himself, but his neighbors never gave him 
credit for any great learning. The same writer 
just quoted further says ' ' strange to say he was 

112 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ashamed of his collegiate education." That 
excellent writer must have drawn largely on 
his imagination for this statement. In the 
first place he did not have a " collegiate edu- 
cation" to be ' 'ashamed" of, and in the second 
place he was boastfully proud of his scholastic 
attainments, such as they were. It is seldom 
writers of their own biography make so much 
mention of their studies in the schools as 
Gov. Reynolds did. Another writer that knew 
him well says of him ' ' with more than ordi- 
nary ability, considerable education, including 
a smattering of the classics, he assumed dense 
ignorance and courted the reputation of illiter- 
acy. He successfully masked his natural 
egotism and self-esteem in a disguise of hu- 
mility and was singularly modest in speaking 
or writing of himself. * * * * In later 
years when he saw that he had outlived further 
possibilities of political preferment and was 
financially independent, he threw off the self- 
imposed restraints of his previous active career 
and became arrogant in his pretensions to 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 113 

learning and literary attainments. " Again the 
distinguished writer, last but one quoted, is 
quite far out of the way in the remark, his 
' ' dislike to appear to be educated grew out of 
the contempt the early settlers had for 'book- 
larnin'. ' ' The accusation, the people of that 
epoch in the history of the State had a ' 'con- 
tempt" for "book-larnin', " a phrase some 
writers are fond of using as a synonym for 
' ' education, " is scandalously untrue in its ap- 
plication to the early settlers of Illinois. On 
the contrary they had the highest appreciation 
of education. In the beginning of their living 
together in communities, they made great per- 
sonal sacrifices to establish educational insti- 
tutions. Next after erecting church buildings 
for places of common worship they builded 
houses for school purposes at, to them, a very 
great and oppressive cost. 

It is quite common with a class of modern 
writers to impute to the ' 'early settlers" of the 
state great ignorance and opposition both ot 
education and religion. No greater libel was 

114 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ever written concerning the people who laid the 
foundations of our state institutions. Nor is it 
true, as a general rule, that persons of that 
day used such expressions as ' 'book-larnin" 
any more than they do now. It is quite time 
to protest against this manner of writing about 
that people. It may be, and doubtless is 
true, there were some persons among them 
that had been raised with and lived with slaves 
all their lives that use such language. It is 
absurd to suppose that was the language of 
the mass of the people. Most of the people 
spoke as good English then as they do now. 
The remark is ventured there were as many 
well educated persons in the Illinois country at 
that time in its history in proportion to the pop- 
ulation as there were in Massachusetts at that 
date. It may be confidently asserted there 
were then not more people in the Illinois that 
could neither read nor write in proportion to 
the population than in any of the older states. 
It is quite time this romancing about the igno- 
rance of the "early settlers" of Illinois and 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 115 

their contempt of education and religion should 
cease. Much of it is viciously untrue. No 
doubt Gov. Reynolds did effect to depreciate 
the technical learning of the law-books. It is 
said that he construed before the people, the 
maxim "caveat emptor" to mean to "flee from 
the wrath to come." That was done as a little 
bit of pleasant ad captandum fun-making. He 
had but little knowledge of the technical learn- 
ing of the law and indulged in this mode of talk- 
ing at the expense of the lawyers. He knew 
as well as anyone, the people much liked to 
hear the lawyers ridiculed and he affected that 
mode of speech to gratify that existing pas- 

After finishing his course at college, he 
commenced the study of the law with a prac- 
ticing lawyer at Knoxville. He entered upon 
his legal studies with unusual zeal and energy 
so much so that his health soon began to 
fail, and by the advice of his physician he 
gave up his studies for the time being and re- 
turned to the Illinois country that he might by 

116 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

field and out-door sports regain his health. It 
was at this discouraging period of his life that 
his favorite maxim, "Success or an ignomini- 
ous grave" stood him most in hand. He had 
other short phrases which were referred to 
when necessary to keep alive his ambition 
among them was one, "Do or die." It is prob- 
able at this crisis in his life he needed all the 
courage and strength he could get from his 
"maxims." Regaining his usual health after 
an absence of about a year, he returned to 
Knoxville to complete his law studies. That was 
in 1812. It is probable he spent but little 
time at Knoxville, ' 'completing" his law studies 
for it is seen he was back in Kaskaskia in the 
fall of the same year and after examina- 
tion by two federal judges he was awarded 
a license to practice law. It appears that in 
all he studied in the office of a practicing law- 
yer a little more than two years, but not con- 
tinuously. The events then transpiring in the 
country prevented him from entering upon the 
practice of the law. His time and attention 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 117 

was otherwise engaged so it was perhaps two 
or more years before he made any attempt to 
enter upon the practice of his profession. 

Upon his return to the Illinois all was ex- 
citement in regard to military affairs growing 
out of the war with England. Young Rey- 
nolds was soon aroused by the events transpir- 
ing and he enlisted in the military service. 
He joined a company raised and commanded 
by Capt. William B. Whiteside. It is not 
known how much fighting young Reynolds 
did in that war, but if there was any to be 
done, Capt. Whiteside would have had a hand 
in it. Being a member of the company com- 
manded by Capt. Whiteside it is fair to pre- 
sume Reynolds was in the most perilous and 
dangerous service of that war in the West. 
He was knightly in his personal courage. 
Most of the time of the war, he was in 
what was called the ' ' ranging service. " 
That was to protect the settlements from the 
depredations and murderous attacks of the In- 
dians. It was in that service he acquired the 

118 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

soubriquet of the ' ' Old Ranger " a title, it de- 
lighted him to be called. He was in the war 
and ranging service until 1814. In that year 
he located in Cahokia and opened a law and 
land office in company with his special friend, 
Joseph A. Beard. Cahokia was then the 
county seat of St. Clair county. It was the 
oldest village in the Northwest and was then 
regarded as one of the best business locations 
in the Illinois. As has been seen, after finish- 
ing his law studies at Knoxville, he had no 
opportunity to continue his law reading, and 
as a matter of course he was ill prepared to 
commence the practice of the law. It does 
not appear he had any business in the Courts 
until after the county seat was moved from 
Cahokia to Belleville, which was shortly after 
he commenced to practice law. It was in the 
latter place he made his first attempt to make 
an argument in Court Judge Jesse B.Thomas, 
a territorial judge, presiding. It was regarded 
by himself and his friends also as a very great 
failure. A second effort in Madison county 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 119 

was not more successful. But he applied one 
of his many maxims as antidote to prevent 
other failures in the future "A savage self will 
to succeed" and maybe it strengthened his 
purpose. He possessed an indomitable en- 
ergy and that was the secret of his success in 
after life. It is not probable he had much 
business in the Courts. His partner, Mr. 
Beard, was not a lawyer only a business man 
turning his hand to most anything that prom- 
ised to yield a profit. With his partner he did 
some business he called ' ' land commerce. " 
He had some knowledge of surveying and that 
enabled him to make selections of valuable 
lands for persons who wanted to buy the same 
from the government. In that way the firm 
did quite a good deal of business realizing 
therefrom considerable profits. That was prob- 
ably what he called "land commerce." In 
the years intervening, the opening of his office 
in Cahokia, in 1814, and his election as a judge 
of the Supreme Court of the State in 1818, he 
' ' speculated, sold lands, and bought two stores 

120 Illinois Supreme Cvurt 1818. 

of dry goods, amounting to ten thousand dol- 
lars." That would hardly be regarded as 
practicing law at this day. But after his elec- 
tion to the office of judge he ceased to trade in 
lands and never afterwards resumed that busi- 
ness. His law practice before his appointment 
to the bench of the Supreme Court was very 
little. It would now be considered none at all. 
There are two reasons for his limited practice : 
first, there was very little law business to be 
done in the years of his residence at Cahokia; 
and second, there were then in the county and 
elsewhere in the near vicinity a number of 
able lawyers that got all the legal business to 
be transacted in the Courts that was worth 
having. He advertised to give advice and at- 
tend to legal business for the poor for nothing. 
But that device brought him no clients. Peo- 
ple do not want a poor lawyer just because his 
services can be had for less than a good one 
can be retained. One in need of the services 
of a lawyer wants the best that can be had or 
none at all. After he had been located in Ca- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 121 

hokia about three years 1817 young Rey- 
nolds was first married. His wife was a Creole 
and a native of the village where he resided. 
A create is one born of European parents in a 
French or Spanish colonial possession. Her 
parents were French. Her maiden name was 
Catharine Dubuque. She was a daughter of 
Jean Baptiste and Susan Dubuque, once resi- 
dents of that old village. It was her second 
marriage. Her first husband was Michael La 
Croix, to whom she was married in 1805. 
With her first husband Mr. La Croix she 
resided for a time at Galena, then at Peoria, 
and finally returned to Cahokia. Mrs. Rey- 
nolds was a strict Roman Catholic was born 
and educated in that church and adhered to 
it as long as she lived, happy in the belief of 
its holy faith. As before remarked, the par- 
ents of Gov. Reynolds were protestants. It 
is not known he ever united with any church. 
It is most probable he did not. He contrib- 
uted, however, to sustain the church to which 
his wife belonged as liberally as he would have 

122 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

done had they both belonged to the same 
church. He had a high appreciation of the 
Christian religion and its ministers, and yet h.e 
would swear worse than our ' ' Army in Flan- 
ders. " He was very fond of his wife and 
treated her with the highest consideration and 
kindness. After her second marriage Mrs. 
Reynolds had no children. She had a son and 
daughter Rene La Croix and Mrs. S. B. 
Chandler by her first marriage, both of whom 
had their homes in Belleville. Rene LaCroix 
is not now 1894 living, but Mrs. Chandler 
is, and is now a venerable and much respected 

In the year 1818 events were transpiring 
that affected vitally the after life of Gov. Rey- 
nolds. New and more pretentious ambitions 
were created in him and his whole after life 
directed into new channels. It was a crisis in 
his life and he was not slow to make the most 
of it. The State government was being organ- 
ized at Kaskaskia preparatory to the admission 
of the State into the Union. The Legislature 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 123 

was in session in the autumn of 1818. The 
convening of that body had brought together 
the most prominent men from all the settled 
portions of the Illinois Territory, all strug- 
gling and contending for places and power 
under the new State government. Among 
others came the young lawyer Reynolds 
with new ambitions and with higher purposes 
in mind. Not less than others he was pos- 
sessed of an insane passion to become great in 
the new State and as the prospect for success 
seemed near at hand it created an excitement 
akin to intoxication itself. His home was still 
at Cahokia. He was then about thirty years 
of age and at his best estate both as to men- 
tal and physical strength. He affected not to 
have any desire for office or official position. 
That was akin to the old pretense of "sham- 
ming sober" when one was drunk. It did not 
then and does not now deceive any one. That 
fiction of politics "his friends" controlled 
him, and he was easily persuaded by them to 
visit the Legislature in session at Kaskaskia. 

124 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

The truth is he did not have friends enough to 
keep him away. Shortly after reaching Kas- 
kaskia he was inquired of whether he would 
accept a judgeship if elected. "This," he says 
in his biography, ' 'broke on me like a clap of 
thunder. " It was then as it is now not very 
difficult for one's "friends" to persuade a man 
to accept an office, especially when he wants 
it and is trying his best to get it. It was the 
opportunity of his life to gratify his ambition 
and of course he consented to allow his 
' 'friends" to use his name in that connection. 
There were men possessing eminent qualifica- 
tions for the bench of the Supreme Court that 
were candidates at the same time for the place. 
In some way, the history of which has never 
been and perhaps ought not to have been 
written, Reynolds triumphed over them and 
was by the Legislature elected an associate 
justice of the Supreme Court. The term for 
which he was elected was during good behav- 
ior or until the end of the session of the Legis- 
lature that should convene after the first of 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 125 

January, 1824. If it is true, as Gov. Reynolds 
says of himself, at first he had no desire for 
public office, it is also true, as the sequel will 
show, that after his first experience in public 
life he became one of the most inveterate and 
successful office seekers the State ever had. 

Judge Reynolds was now to enter upon a 
new field of labor a work wholly and alto- 
gether new to him and one for which he was 
ill prepared, either by habit of thought or edu- 
cation, legal or otherwise. That he succeeded 
as well as he did and that was none too well 
was perhaps a surprise to the people whose 
laws he undertook to administer. It will be 
recollected it was made the duty of the first 
judges of the Supreme Court, in addition to 
the other duties imposed upon them, also to 
hold the Circuit Courts of the State. The en- 
tire State was divided into four circuits, and one 
of the judges of the Supreme Court was assigned 
to each circuit. It fell to the lot of Judge Rey- 
nolds to have the circuit in which the county 

126 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

of St. Clair was situated, together with some of 
the next adjoining counties. No one, not even 
his most partial friends, will, or ever did, claim 
for him any very great qualifications for judi- 
cial work, either on account of his legal learn- 
ing, or executive ability, or bearing as a judge. 
His want of appreciation of the high office of a 
judge of a court of general jurisdiction, was 
conspicuously apparent at the opening of the 
first Court he held. It was at Covington, in 
Washington county, in the spring of 1819. 
That was shortly after his election. When he 
took his seat upon the bench, for the first time, 
he permitted the sheriff, sitting astride a bench 
without rising, to make proclamation of the 
opening of Court by announcing, "The Court 
is now opened, John is on the bench. " It 
would have been better for the judge's reputa- 
tion then and now had he administered to the 
sheriff a severe rebuke and imposed upon him 
a heavy fine as for contempt of Court. The 
people in the midst of whom the Court was 
held, would have entertained a much higher 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 127 

respect for the judge and the majesty of the 
law. A judge that permits any undue familiar- 
ity or other unbecoming conduct in the pres- 
ence of the Court when in session, soon be- 
comes an object of contempt by the common 
people. There is nothing that impresses them 
more favorably than the orderly and dignified 
transaction of the business of their Courts. 
That, was the first Court ever opened in the 
State of Illinois under the authority of its con- 
stitution and it would have been becoming had 
the judge observed that decorum that would 
have accorded with the dignity and importance 
of the occasion. That opening of the first 
Court in the State under its constitution pre- 
sents a painful contrast to the opening of the 
first Court in the Northwestern Territory, un- 
der the ordinance of 1787 at Marietta, Ohio. 
It was attended by the principal men of the 
territory, and fitting ceremonies simple but 
dignified were observed. Before the formal 
proclamation of the opening of the Court, the 
judges standing, the venerable Rev. Dr. Cutler 

128 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

envoked the divine blessing of Him whose 
throne is "justice and judgment" and then the 
high sheriff, standing erect holding an un- 
sheathed sword in his right hand, proclaimed 
that a Court was now open for the administra- 
tion of equal and impartial justice to all alike 
to the humblest as well as to the most ex- 
alted citizen. It was a simple, yet grand 
and imposing scene one that impressed all 
beholders with the majesty of the law. A dig- 
nified bearing on the part of a judge holding 
Court is consistent with the simplest and kind- 
est manners and is always becoming in a 
judge. There is, perhaps, nothing more dis- 
gustingly vulgar than a judge who respects 
neither himself nor the office of the great mag- 
istrate when he assumes to administer the 
laws of the commonwealth. For such a 
judge the people have no respect. Many im- 
portant criminal causes were tried before Judge 
Reynolds on the circuit. Some of them have 
become causes celebres in this State. In 1819, 
in St. Clair county, on a day when many per- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 129 

sons were assembled in Belleville, and were hav- 
ing a symposion, it was proposed to have a sham 
duel between Alonzo Stuart and William Ben- 
nett. Whether Bennett knew the proceeding 
was to be a mere sham is left somewhat in 
doubt, by the accounts written concerning it. 
It was well understood by all spectators and 
most probably by both principals, the guns 
were to be charged with powder only, but it 
turned out Bennett's gun contained a leaden 
ball, and on its discharge, the ball struck Stu- 
art in the breast, killing him instantly. The 
affair created a good deal of feeling in the 
community. The seconds of the respective 
parties Jacob Short and Nathan Fike were 
indicted for the murder of Stuart. The trial 
was had before Judge Reynolds in 1819. The 
accused were prosecuted by Daniel P. Cook 
and were defended by Thomas Hart Benton. 
On the trial both defendants were acquitted. 
Bennett, the principal in the duel, was also 
indicted for the murder of Stuart. He fled 
the country and was not captured until 1821. 

130 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

His capture is said to have been effected by 
disreputable trickery, unworthy of a people 
assuming to be enforcing the law. With the 
passing away of the years, there has come 
down a sorrowful sympathy for the unhappy 
fate of poor Bennett. His wrongful capture 
and bringing back to the state was never sat- 
isfactory to good people. It was treach- 
erously and cowardly done. He was tried 
before Judge Reynolds and a jury, was con- 
victed, and afterward suffered the death- 
penalty that then being the only mode of 
punishment for murder. The conviction of 
Bennett was secured on the theory, he had 
secretly put a bullet in his gun. That theory 
was not thought to be sustained by any sat- 
isfactory evidence at least, many people were 
of that belief. There were some who enter- 
tained a suspicion that Short had, in some 
way, for some reason, put the bullet in the 
gun without Bennett's knowledge. There was 
a tradition to the effect that when his gun was 
discharged and he saw Stuart fall, Bennett threw 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 131 

down his gun and exclaimed "D n it, Short, 
you put a bullet in that gun. " Short was Ben- 
nett's second. But it may be there was no 
truth in the tradition. It has long since ceased 
to be remembered or told, other than perhaps 
by a few of the oldest citizens of that locality. 
Had Bennett not fled the country and had he 
remained at home, and denied, as he after- 
wards did, all guilty knowledge of how the bul- 
let got into his gun, it is not probable he 
would have been convicted. As it was, public 
sentiment was much divided as to the justness 
of the sentence pronounced against him. 

In 1823, Eliphalet Green, in a quarrel with 
a man by the name of Abel Moore, shot and 
killed his antagonist. Green at first fled with 
a view to conceal himself but afterwards vol- 
untarily returned and surrendered himself to 
the officers of the law. He was indicted for 
the murder of Moore. On the trial before 
Judge Reynolds and a jury in Madison county, 
he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged. 
That sentence was afterwards executed and 

132 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

he suffered the extreme penalty of the law. 
It was concerning the remarks of Judge Rey- 
nolds in pronouncing the sentence of death 
against Green that so many silly and untruth- 
ful stories have been written to the effect that 
when the accused was brought up to receive 
sentence, the Judge told him that he wished 
him and his friends to know ' ' that it is not I 
who condemns you but the jury and the law," 
that he told him the law allowed him time for 
preparation to meet his sentence, and that the 
' ' Court wants to know what time you want to 
be hung," and that the judge inquired of the 
clerk of the Court whether "this day four 
weeks comes on Sunday." There is not the 
slightest doubt this whole story is a pure fab- 
rication from beginning to end, and one of the 
many apocryphical stories to be found in Ford's 
History of Illinois. Judge Reynolds never 
heard this story mentioned without manifesting 
great displeasure. He always denounced it 
as a vile slander on his judicial conduct. It is 
a matter of surprise, so many writers have 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 133 

continued to re-write this account of the sen- 
tencing of Green as veritable historical infor- 
mation, when upon the slightest inquiry, its 
untruthfulness could have been ascertained. 
But it will probably run through all future his- 
tories, because people always want to hear 
something ridiculous told of others. The story 
is most unjust to the memory of Judge Rey- 
nolds. It may be and is no doubt true he did 
not observe on all occasions that orderly man- 
ner of conducting the business of the Court, 
that is always appropriate, especially in crim- 
inal cases, but he was an honest magistrate 
and did what he best could to do justice be- 
tween the parties litigating before him. He 
was conscientiously opposed to capital punish- 
ment. The sentencing of Bennett and Green 
to be hanged was a most painful duty one 
that he would have too gladly avoided had not 
the statute imposed it upon him. It was re- 
regretfully done in the deepest sorrow and with 
profound sympathy for the persons to suffer 
that punishment. 

134 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Judge Reynolds was a member of the Su- 
preme Court of the State nearly or quite six 
years. His term of office expired by limita- 
tion with the adjournment of that session of 
the Legislature that convened late in the year 
1824. The judiciary of the State was re-or- 
ganized by that Legislature as it was permis- 
sible to do under the constitution. Although 
candidates before the General Assembly for 
re-election to the same positions they had held, 
both Chief Justice Thomas Reynolds and 
Associate Justice John Reynolds were defeated. 
It was a sore disappointment to them. Of 
Chief Justice Thomas Reynolds, persons that 
knew him, all bear the same testimony, he was 
a very able and learned lawyer and made a 
good judge. Many modern writers speak of 
him as a younger brother and others as a 
nephew of Judge John Reynolds. But neither 
statement is correct. The fact is the Chief 
Justice was in no way related tojusticejohn Rey- 
nolds. Some years after his defeat, Chief Justice 
Thomas Reynolds went to Missouri and perhaps 

RK First Judges Reynold*. 135 

remained there until his death. Judge John 
Reynolds had a brother Thomas Reynolds. 
In early life he was a farmer. Later he 
moved into Belleville, kept a livery stable for 
a time and afterwards had a store for the sale 
of dry goods. He died in that city. 

It appears from the official reports, Judge 
Reynolds was present at every session of the Su- 
preme Court during his term of service and took 
part in the proceedings of the Court. In that 
respect he was one of its most faithful members. 
During his entire term of six years, only 
ten opinions appear in his name as the jus- 
tice delivering the opinion of the Court. He 
also wrote dissenting opinions in two cases. 
In one case the opinion appears in the names 
of Chief Justice Reynolds and Justice John 
Reynolds. Of the opinions written in cases 
decided at the December term, 1821, he must 
have written his full share, for he was a labor- 
ious man and accounted himself able to do any 
kind of mental labor. Of the opinions "Per 
Curiam, " written before the December term, 

136 Jllinois Supreme Court 18J8. 

1822, it can not be known how many he wrote 
but it could not have been many for the obvious 
reason there are only sixteen reported. There 
were only thirty-two cases in which opinions 
were written by the several judges as appears 
from the official reports during his term on the 
bench, and in sixteen other cases the opinions 
are Per Curiam, or as the reporter has it ' 'Opin- 
ion of the Court, " making a total number of 
cases decided in that long term of service of 
which there is any report, forty-eight, exclusive 
of the cases decided at the December term, 1821. 
Only one case is mentioned as having been 
decided at that term. Conceding there may 
have been as many cases decided at the 
December term, 1821 and certainly there 
were not more as at other terms before and 
subsequent, it is not probable more than 
sixty if that many cases were heard and de- 
termined by the Supreme Court during the 
six years Judge Reynolds was a member of 
that Court. Only thirty-two opinions were 
written during that time in the names of the 

Its First Jadyeti Reynolds. 187 

judges. Of these opinions, eighteen were 
written by Chief Justice Reynolds, ten by Jus- 
tice John Reynolds, two by Justice Wilson, 
and two appear in the names of Chief Justice 
Reynolds and Justice John Reynolds. No 
opinions during that period appear in the 
name of Judge Browne. If he wrote any it 
must have been some of the opinions "Per 
Curiam. " Judge John Reynolds wrote two dis- 
senting opinions while he was on the bench. 
The cases decided by the Supreme Court prior 
to 1825, when the judiciary was re-organized, 
were of no considerable importance. The 
opinions written are very brief covering not 
more perhaps on an average than one-third of a 
printed page of the reports. The opinions writ- 
ten by Chief Justice Thomas Reynolds are most 
elaborated. Those written by Judge Wilson 
are the shortest. One of his opinions is a 
model of conciseness. All of the opinions by 
Justice John Reynolds would hardly make 
more than six or eight printed pages of the 
usual size in the reports. The work of doing 

138 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

all the writing done by all the judges during 
the time Judge John Reynolds was a mem- 
ber of that Court, as it appears in the official 
reports, could now be done by any good judge 
inside of a few months without subject- 
ing him to any great labor. It may be more 
cases were decided and more opinions were 
written than are reported, but at most the 
cases heard and determined could not have 
been any very great number. And yet it was 
then a matter of complaint, the labor of the four 
judges had been found to be "onerous" and 
' 'even oppressive. " The work done by them 
was insignificant in comparison with work 
done by the Supreme Court in the current 
year commencing in June, 1875. In that year 
there were eleven hundred and thirty-three 
cases on the docket. Of course all of them 
were not submitted for opinions. Many of the 
transcripts of the records in the cases submitted 
during that year were immense and the writing 
of the opinions in some of the cases involved 
much labor quite as much if not more than in 

It* First Jufk/es Reynolds. 139 

all the cases submitted in any decade of years of 
Judge Reynold's occupancy of the Supreme 

The same complaint of ' ' overwork " is 
still made by judges occupying the bench, and 
with as little reason or fact in its support as when 
made on behalf of the four first judges of the 
Supreme Court. It is a chronic infirmity in 
the character of many judges. It comes 
mostly from judges who believe their tenure of 
office is most secure and especially is it made by 
judg'es whose appointments are for life. Many 
of them in the larger cities hold Court but a 
few hours a day with from three to five months 
vacation in every year, during which time there 
is absolute freedom from all thought of their 
judicial duties and for which they continue 
to receive a large compensation whether em- 
ployed or not. Still this complaintful mur- 
muring on account of "overwork" will be heard 
as long as there are incumbents of official posi- 
tions. The man that toils for bread, works un- 
complainingly through ten hours of every work- 

140 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ing day of the year at a compensation of a few 
dollars a week, and when he returns home on 
Saturday night, weary and worn, kneeling 
around the family altar with those for whom 
he had toiled through the week, he thanks 
God he has bread enough to feed his wife and 
children until the morning of another week, 
when he will recommence his ceaseless round 
of toil. God pity the uncomplaining poor! 
This pretense of "over-work" on the part of 
official laborers, especially on the part of judi- 
cial officers, is a hollow sham. If they really 
believed, they were ' 'over-worked" they would 
quit the public service. But it was never 
known that one of those fault-finding judges- 
one that is ever croaking about being "over- 
worked" and the inadequate compensation he 
receives resigns on that account. Such men 
are most anxious to secure judicial office and 
are the last to give it up if possible to retain 
it. Let them quit the public service others 
will gladly do the work without such constant 
fault-finding. It is not now, and never was, 

//* First Judges Reynolds. 141 

true that judicial officers in this country are 
over-worked. As a general rule the compen- 
pensation paid for judicial services is entirely 
adequate and in many instances it is too high. 
Too much distinction is made in the compen- 
sation paid for professional or intellectual labor, 
than for skilled manual labor in mechanics or 
other departments of industry. Our economic 
system in this respect works grevious wrongs. 
It makes "hewers of wood and drawers of 
water" of a greater number of the people for the 
benefit of a lesser number who "toil not, 
neither do they spin" within any true defini- 
nition of the word labor. It is the toilers 
skilled and unskilled in the multiplied in- 
dustries that creates the wealth of a nation. 

A summary of Judge Reynolds judicial ca- 
reer is, while he was not a great judge, he was 
a good judge not learned in the law as writ- 
ten in the books, yet he was a fair lawyer. Un- 
dignified in his presiding on the bench and 
always saying foolish things, yet his purpose 
an honest one was to mete out equal and 

142 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

impartial justice to all persons without distinc- 
tion as to station in life, whether high or low, 
white or black, bond or free, litigating in the 
Courts held by him. That was the crowning 
excellence in his judicial character. His opin- 
ions in the Supreme Court are neither able nor 
much elaborated, but are always concise and 
usually accurate statements of the law. The 
cases determined by the Court while he was 
on the bench were so unimportant they ad- 
mitted of no elaborate argument in support of 
the conclusion reached by the Court. His 
opinions, although not learned or great, reflect 
no discredit upon him either as a judge or as a 
judicial writer. 

After Judge Reynolds left the bench early 
in 1825 he pretended to enter upon the prac- 
tice of the law. He attended Courts in his 
own and in the adjoining counties with very 
great regularity. In some of the counties he 
picked up a few cases, but none of any con- 
siderable importance. His ambition was now 
turned into another channel. His purpose 

Its First Judges Ileynolds. 143 

was to enter upon a political life one for 
which it will be seen later he was eminently 
fitted. It was, no doubt, for that reason he 
attended the Courts, more to become ac- 
quainted with people that he might in that 
way advance his political ambition rather 
than in any hope or even desire to obtain 
law business. After 1837 ne never had any 
law business that was at all remunerative. 
Of his practice in later life he says, "I prac- 
ticed law in some peculiar cases for my amuse- 
ment and recreation. " Those "peculiar cases" 
were cases that nobody else wanted or would 
have. Mostly they were for old friends who 
really had no cause of action but wanted a 
' 'lawsuit, " and he was willing to oblige them 
by bringing an action. For that kind of prac- 
tice it is not probable he either wanted or ex- 
pected fees. One of his latest cases was de- 
fended by Hon. David J. Baker. In that 
connection a short story is told. The case 
was an original one, and was brought in the 
Circuit Court of St. Clair county. It was a 

144 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

bill in chancery brought on behalf of one of his 
old friends. It was one of his "peculiar cases" 
and probably utterly devoid of merits. Hon. 
David J. Baker, who then resided at Alton, 
came down to Belleville to attend Court and 
became engaged in the defence of the case. 
Reynolds and Baker were about the same age 
and had been young men together in pioneer 
times. Both were politicians, as all lawyers 
were in those early days. They were in some 
measure rivals in law and in politics. That 
fact made them playfully spiteful towards each 
other. Neither was ever known to let an oppor- 
tunity pass to give the other what an old Scotch- 
Irishman would call a "good crack" and 
especially if it could be done before a public 
audience. Baker was a New England man 
and when he came to Illinois he brought with 
him quite a number of law books with which 
he made some parade, by reading from them 
in Court on all occasions. That was thought 
to be putting on "airs" over the Illinois law- 
yers and it was a great pleasure to the western 

ltd Fir tit Judges Reynolds. 145 

lawyers to make him the butt of their humor 
whenever occasion offered. In one of Baker's 
cases, Reynolds was defending, he filed a de- 
murrer to plaintiff's pleadings and that Baker 
affected to think was a great piece of impu- 
dence on the part of Reynolds. ' ' Though 
the mills of God grind slowly yet they 
grind exceeding small," and the judge's oppor- 
tunity to retaliate would certainly come sooner 
or later. Whoever undertook to run a tour- 
nament of little mean things not vicious 
just innocently mean little spats with Reynolds 
always in the end got the worst of it. Baker 
being a "Yankee" was not very popular with 
the people and that gave Reynolds the advan- 
tage in an encounter in any popular presence. 
There were but few Eastern people in the Illi- 
nois at that early date, while the great mass 
of the population were of Southern birth 
and most commonly intensely pro-slavery. 
With many of them and especially with 
those viciously opposed to abolitionists, a 
"Yankee" was not much esteemed certainly 

146 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

he was not very popular. That prejudice 
was wholly and altogether on account of 
their anti-slavery sentiments. Some flippant 
writers have undertaken to ascribe the local 
prejudice against Eastern people to the fact 
they were better educated than the peo- 
ple they found here from other sections of the 
country. As a matter of fact Eastern people 
were not better educated than those they 
found here. It is perhaps true Eastern 
people affected a superiority for some un- 
accountable reason over Western people. 
Other things as well as water will "find their 
level. " There was no place on the face of the 
earth where a vain and boastful man would get 
all undue conceit taken out of him quicker than 
in Illinois in pioneer times. Neither Baker nor 
Reynolds ever let pass an opportunity to dash 
his rowels into the other. They did not fight 
with "battle-axe and spear." But when 
"Greek joins Greek then is the tug of war." 
It was the first thing to be done by anyone 
employed to defend an action at law or in 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 147 

chancery brought by Reynolds to file a de- 
murrer. It always proved to be a "dynamite 
bomb" when interposed to any pleading by the 
judge. ' 'Gilderoy's kite" was not higher nor 
swifter his going up than would be one of 
the judges cases when a demurrer was inter- 
posed to any of his pleadings. It hardly 
waited on its kiting for the decision of the 
Court. When the judge's case in chancery 
was reached on call, Mr. Baker interposed the 
' 'usual defense" a demurrer. At an oppor- 
tune time, when the court-room contained most 
people, Mr. Baker commenced the argument 
of his case. This was one of the few instances 
when Judge Reynolds was not at all disturbed 
by the "usual defense" to his case and seemed 
really to enjoy the argument. Apparently he 
was confident in the justness of his cause and 
in his strength to maintain it at least he was 
calm and cool as though he was ready for the 
forensic battle. Of course the bill was obnox- 
ious to the demurrer which was apparent to 
anyone on a casual reading. But Mr. Baker 

148 .Illinois 8u-i>r<-mr Court 18J8. 

argued his case fully, elaborating every imagin- 
able question that could possibly arise on the 
bill, and sustained his contentions by citations 
from many of his best and favorite authorities. 
His argument was really a very good one and 
was well sustained both by sound reasoning 
and authority. Having finished his argument 
he sat down with that conscious pride of one 
who had placed his antagonist ' 'hors de combat. " 
That was the hour for which Reynolds had 
been waiting in which he might have his tri- 
umph. As soon as Mr. Baker took his seat 
the judge arose and said to the Court he had 
intended to dismiss his bill sooner but he dis- 
covered his friend Baker had only that one 
case in Court and as he knew he wanted to 
make a speech before the people, he thought he 
would afford him that opportunity. He then 
dismissed his bill. That look of triumph on the 
brow of Mr. Baker disappeared suddenly. The 
judge laughed heartily and the people with 
him. He had his victory at last and by the 
people present it was regarded as a great 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 149 

One obstacle more formidable than the 
lion Samson met in the "vineyards of Tim- 
nath" that stood in his way in the practice 
of the law, when he was for plaintiff, was 
a demurrer to his pleadings. It "roared 
against him." But if he could in any way 
get by the demurrer and get to the jury 
he felt he was out of all danger. It was, when 
engaged for the defense, he was most suc- 
cessful. There were then "no demurrers" 
between him and the jury. In the defense he 
was like the countryman's oxen a little story 
he was very fond of telling, and one that Judge 
Gillespie has since told and written, until now 
it has become quite well known. The man 
was trying to sell his oxen and represented 
them to be very strong. Some one standing 
by remarked ' 'you don't pretend your oxen 
are strong they are too little ?" "Yes, I do 
they are strong in light work." The judge 
was very strong on the defense of a case, es- 
pecially if it were ' 'light work. " 

The judge's later law practice brought him 

150 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

neither money nor reputation. It would have 
been better for his legal reputation had he 
never undertaken to resume the practice of the 
law. It made known his unfitness for the profes- 
sion, either on account of want of natural ability 
for forensic wrangling or the necessary legal 
learning. While a judge is on the bench he 
is comparatively free from undue criticism, but 
as soon as he is off, and resumes the practice 
of the law, he is mercilessly assailed by the 
profession and especially by the younger mem- 
bers. And the more publicly it is done, the 
more it is relished by the one by whom it is 
done. It is thought to be a great achievement 
if a young lawyer can rowel a judge just from 
the bench. No judge, if it can be avoided, 
after leaving the bench should subject himself 
to such indignity as will be too often cast upon 
him if he seeks to enter upon the practice 
again by young and flippant lawyers. Law- 
yers of standing and character will always ob- 
serve a respectful bearing towards their oppo- 
nents it is because it becomes them to do so. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 151 

It is only the low bred, that omit the amen- 
ities of the profession. Entering a second 
time upon the practice of the law seldom adds 
anything to the reputation of a judge and 
especially if he had been long on the bench. 
But after all traveling with the Courts was not 
unprofitable to Judge Reynolds. It was the 
beginning of a successful political life and one 
that was crowned with many splendid triumphs. 
It was the school in which he was educated 
for his later life work. 

152 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 


In the Service of the State. 

Now that the events of his life are all polit- 
ical it will be most appropriate to refer to him 
as "Gov. Reynolds." The title of "Judge" 
never did seem quite appropriate to him nor 
did it attach to him for any great length of 
time. As soon as he began to be called the 
' ' Old Ranger " a soubriquet he liked much 
or "Governor," the title of judge was ever 
thereafter omitted. Indeed, many young peo- 
ple, even among his close acquaintances, did 
not seem to know that he had ever been a judge. 

However modest the governor may have 
been- or affected to be when young, and 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 153 

however little desire he may have had or 
affected to have for public office, he got over 
both infirmities during his occupancy of the 
bench. Later he became one of the most 
persistent office-seekers the State ever had. 
As has been seen his traveling with the Courts, 
from county to county, under the pretense of 
practicing law, was simply a mode well adapted 
to become acquainted with the people. It was 
the school in which he was fitted to become a 
politician. It is not believed by any one ac- 
quainted with him, his law business on the 
circuit paid his expenses. He had made up 
his mind to become a politician and he took 
that mode of introducing himself to the people 
and in that way advance his chances of success 
when he should come before them for their 
suffrages. It was not long before an oppor- 
tunity presented itself to make a venture in 
political life. Only two years intervened his 
leaving the bench and his election as a mem- 
ber of the Legislature. His success increased 
his political ambition and after that, he had an 

154 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

insane passion for office. That passion never 
left him so long as he could get anything to 
gratify it. During the time Gov. Reynolds was 
in politics the State contained many politicians 
some of them of considerable ability. There 
was then much rivalry and jealousy among 
them. It was as true then as it is now, poli- 
ticians had not much love for each other. 
Under a shallow pretense of friendship on a 
casual meeting there was a deep seated hatred, 
envy, and jealousy. At the beginning of his 
public life the prominent politicians resided in 
the southern part of the State and most of 
them at Kaskaskia, Shawneetown, Belleville, 
Edwardsville, and in the near vicinity of these 
towns. Among them may be mentioned 
Shadrach Bond the first governor of the 
State Ninian Edwards, a Territorial gover- 
nor; David J. Baker, Adam W. Snyder, Jesse 
B. Thomas, Elias Kent Kane, John McLean, 
Daniel P. Cook, William Kinney, Thomas 
Ford, Samuel D. Lockwood, Thomas C. 
Browne, Edward Coles, Sidney Breese, Joseph 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 155 

Duncan, and others. Later there were Abra- 
ham Lincoln the man of the century, if not 
of all centuries Stephen A. Douglas polit- 
ically and intellectually great William H. 
Bissell, James L. D. Morrison, John J. Har- 
den, Robert Smith, and many others, all of 
whom except Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas, 
later in life, lived south of Springfield. Being 
intensely pro-slavery, he did not regard men 
like Mr. Lincoln, who were intensely anti- 
slavery, as being at all in his way, and he was 
politically friendly with them for that reason. 
It was only for those that stood in the way of 
his success for whom he had a dislike. It was 
among this group of able men and perhaps 
others that Gov. Reynolds commenced his 
political life. It took ability to win in any 
contest with such men. Many of them were men 
of acknowledged ability. Personal sketches 
of many of them have been perhaps a little 
overdrawn. One, a stranger to their real his- 
tory on reading the accounts given of them by 
the earlier and later historians would be led 

156 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

to the belief, the Roman Senate in the time of 
its greatest splendor contained no such states- 
men and orators. Omitting Lincoln and 
Douglas the history of the men of that time, 
like the history of men in all past eras is too 
eulogistic, and in many instances fabulously 
so. The men of the time with Gov. Reynolds, 
were of average ability with the men back in 
the older States whence they emigrated and 
nothing more. But ascribing to them such 
greatness as is often done, is sheer nonsense. 
There is no disposition and ought not to be to 
detract from them anything that was great 
and good in them, but all candid persons will 
concede they were not greater in any respect 
than men of the present day occupying similar 
stations in life. Overdrawing characters back 
in the dimness of the past is a fault altogether 
too common with historians. For instance, if 
the account given by Gov. Reynolds in his 
"Pioneer History" of the "early settlers" in 
the south part of the State prior to 1818, is 
literally accurate it will be admitted there 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 157 

never was such an aggregation of good people 
in any country since the dawn of civilization. 
But everybody knows his account of that peo- 
ple was in part at least mere extravagant 
panegyric. An instance of extravagant praise 
is the account he gives of a pioneer whom he 
says was a very ' 'honest and moral" man, be- 
sides having many other excellent virtues, but 
adds, when he left Connecticut to come to 
Illinois he brought another man's wife with him. 
That conduct in this precious pioneer, with 
perfect nonchalance, he speaks of as " causing 
somebody in Connecticut to feel bad, " and that 
is all the criticism he makes on his conduct. 
As good as that people really were as a body 
it must be confessed they were not all good 
and that among them were worthless charac- 
ters no better than when they left the States 
w r hence they emigrated. Transplanting them 
to a new country made them no better than 
they were before. On the other hand there 
are writers that go to the other extreme and 
represent them as a densely ignorant people. 

158 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

These latter writers are farther from the truth 
than is Gov. Reynolds in his extravagant eu- 
logies upon them. There are good and bad 
among all peoples and the worth of a commu- 
nity is to be estimated by its value in the ag- 
gregate as a body. 

It was in the midst of the slavery agitation 
which occurred in the time of Gov. Cole's ad- 
ministration in the years intervening 1822 and 
1825 when Gov. Reynolds first became pos- 
sessed of a passion to be a politician. Although 
still on the bench, he could not keep out of 
politics, and he began to prepare for the great 
work which engaged his thoughts more than all 
things else. Parties were then divided mainly 
on the question of so amending the State con- 
stitution as to permit the introduction of slavery. 
To do that it was necessary to call a convention 
to frame an amendment or a new constitution 
omitting the slavery restriction. It seems it 
was necessary to submit the resolution, calling 
a convention, to the people for approval. Gov. 
Reynolds was a pronounced convention man 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 159 

and his influence was given in favor of calling 
of the convention. He had no political liking 
for anyone not in favor of the introduction of 
slavery into the State. Personally he was as 
friendly with them as with others. But there 
were quite a good many others for whom he 
had no political respect, who, like himself, 
were in favor of the convention measure not 
because of their slavery views, but because he 
thought they obstructed the realization of his 
ambition. It was a singular contradiction in 
his character that while in active political life 
he hated all politicians who did not favor his 
political aspirations, yet after that struggle was 
over and his ambition satiated with more than 
the usual success, in his historical writings he 
speaks in terms of eulogy of most, if not quite 
all of them. But that was a habit akin to a 
trait inwrought in his character. In conversa- 
tion he would say all manner of ill natured 
things about persons whom he did not like 
but if he wrote about them in the next mo- 
ment, he would write nothing of them but 

160 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

what was good. It must not, however, be sup- 
posed he entertained no hatred to certain per- 
sons that had incurred his displeasure. Even 
then it was difficult to write ill-natured things 
about them. He never liked Gov. Ford, but in 
his "Pioneer History" he spoke in terms of 
highest praise of him and of the expected 
worth of his history of Illinois, then in manu- 
script. It had not then been published. His 
information was obtained from persons that had 
seen it. After Gov. Ford's death his history 
was published and was edited by his personal 
friend, Gen. James Shields. It was not until 
after its publication Gov. Reynolds wrote his 
"Own Times." His comments in his later 
work were very different from what he had 
said about Gov. Ford in his "Pioneer His- 
tory. " That which gave him most dissatisfac- 
tion was the story told by Gov. Ford in respect 
to what he said in pronouncing sentence upon 
Green. That was thought to be a reflection 
upon his capacity for judicial office, at which 
he took serious offense. His latest account of 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 161 

Gov. Ford's history is not so favorable as his 
first mention of it. He had now become sat- 
isfied, all history is not true or accurate. It 
is probable he never had a very high appre- 
ciation of Gov. Ford's life and public services 
after the publication of his history. 

In the years covered by the slavery agitation, 
1 822- 1824, the state abounded in politicians at 
least with men that aspired to be politicians. 
Among them were some men of marked ability 
and personal worth others of mediocre tal- 
ents and of very much less personal worth. 
Conspicuous among them for his learning and 
ability and his great worth as a citizen, was 
Elias Kent Kane. He was a near relative of 
Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, of Arctic expedition 
fame. Elias Kent Kane was one of the purest 
and best men in the Convention party. While 
he was not so noisy as many others, he was 
really the most effective worker that party had. 
It was because of his high character as a man 
and as a citizen. There were two other mem- 
bers of the Convention party that deserve 

162 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

special mention on account of their ability and 
social worth John McLean and Jesse B. 
Thomas both of whom would take high rank 
in any state wherever their lots might have been 
cast. More violent and less influential, that 
party numbered among its members Judge 
Theophilus W. Smith, Samuel McRoberts, 
Ex-Governor Bond, Alex P. Field, and oth- 
ers still more noisy and less influential. Many 
of these men were most unreasonable in their 
advocating the propriety of calling a conven- 
tion to amend the constitution so as to per- 
mit the introduction of slavery into the State. 
Most extreme and defiant in the advocacy of 
that measure were Judge Smith and Judge 
McRoberts both of whom were ultra pro- 
slavery. There was no reason in the posi- 
tion taken by them on that question. Judge 
Smith was a native of New York, and 
Judge McRoberts was born in Illinois neither 
of them had ever lived under the direct 
influence of slavery other than that limited 
system that prevailed in Illinois. The- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 163 

ophilus W. Smith was a state senator during 
the discussion of the convention measure and 
was one of its violent supporters. Even after 
he was elevated to the Supreme bench he was 
not restrained by the proprieties of his exalted 
position from plunging in the dirty pool of par- 
tisan politics. Judge McRoberts was perhaps 
the most extreme in his views and most defiant 
in advocating the calling of the convention 
indeed, it was thought by many he allowed 
some of his judicial decisions to be controlled 
by his extreme notions in regard to slavery. 
But for the violence with which he expressed 
his thoughts on the questions of the times, he 
would have been regarded as least in the con- 
vention party. Gov. Reynolds was as pro- 
nounced a pro-slavery man as any one of the 
most extreme advocates of the convention, 
but he was more politic for the time being in 
the expression of his opinions he was learn- 
ing to be a politician. 

The cause of freedom and free-soil was 
defended by men equal in ability to the ablest 

164 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

men in the convention party. They had one 
advantage over their antagonists, that is they 
stood for the right and were more intensely in 
earnest as its defenders always are. The ac- 
knowledged leader of the opposition to the 
measure to introduce slavery into the State 
was Edward Coles, then governor of the State. 
His birthplace was Virginia where he had 
grown up in the midst of slavery and had him- 
self been an owner of slaves whom he had, 
from motives worthy of the highest humanity, 
manumitted and furnished them with homes. 
He was brave, bold, and heroic in the defense 
of equal civil rights to all persons under the law 
whether white or black. It was fortunate 
for the people so good and so brave a man 
ruled in the affairs of State through that storm 
of passion and prejudice that prevailed in all 
the borders of the State. Next, perhaps, in 
prominence in the anti-convention party was 
Daniel P. Cook a man of ability and of great 
purity of character and personal worth. Morris 
Birbeck, an English colonist residing in Ed- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 165 

wards county, rendered valuable services in 
the cause of equal civil rights to all men under 
the law. His opposition to human slavery 
was inwrought in his very nature. He was a 
worthy man and loved right and justice. Sam- 
uel D. Lockwood, afterwards a justice of the 
Supreme Court, was outspoken and fearless 
in opposition to the calling of the conven- 
tion. Sidney Breese, who became a most dis- 
tinguished citizen of the State and held high 
judicial and political offices, was in fact op- 
posed to the convention, but as most of his polit- 
ical friends favored that measure, he deemed 
it wise to take no active part in the canvass. 
Gov. Ninian Edwards also occupied nearly a 
neutral position in those exciting times. It is 
most probable he was opposed to calling the 
convention a measure that engaged public 
attention to the exclusion of all other State 
interests for the time being. 

It was the opportunity for the clergy to 
take part in a wrangle, in its nature political, 
and they were not slow to avail of it. Both 

166 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

parties had clergymen in the field doing ser- 
vice for the causes they respectively espoused. 
Considerations of humanity were involved in 
the issues, of which their holy calling gave 
them the right to speak. They were among 
the most earnest advocates of the opposing 
policies each respectively favored. Prominent 
among the anti-convention clergymen was Dr. 
John Mason Peck a Baptist minister. At an 
early day he was a missionary resident in the 
State. His occupation made it necessary for 
him to visit nearly every part of the State and 
whether necessary or not he did visit every 
important locality in all the settled portions of 
the State. Although his legitimate work, to 
which he was loyal, was preaching and dis- 
tributing religious literature, he lost no oppor- 
tunity to distribute among the people anti- 
slavery pamphlets. One of the modes of 
conducting a canvass at that day was by the 
distribution of written papers in the nature of 
pamphlets and handbills. Dr. Peck bravely 
and earnestly uttered his views ' 'in season and 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 167 

out of season" upon the evil effects of the in- 
stitution of slavery to the white man himself, 
and to the best interests of society. But while 
he was opposed to human slavery in the ab- 
stract he did not favor the views of abolition- 
ists. Their purpose was the destruction of 
slavery wherever it might exist under the 
American flag, but Dr. Peck was more con- 
servative. It was his belief, American slaves 
were better off and even happier in many 
cases, in a condition of servitude than they 
would be if given their freedom. When in the 
South he witnessed a scene that filled him ' 'with 
indescribable emotions. " It was that of a slave 
boy on the auction block being sold. As the 
boy stood by the auctioneer he was "crying 
and sobbing, his countenance a picture of woe. " 
Even in the presence of that awful scene his 
views of slavery did not seem to undergo any 
marked change. He still adhered to his belief, 
there are conditions "where the slaves are 
truly better off than if they were set free." 
Perhaps the most noted clergyman sup- 

168 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

porting the convention measure was William 
Kinney afterwards lieutenant - governor of 
the State. He was also a Baptist minister. 
Gov. Kinney was a man of more natural abil- 
ity than Dr. Peck, but was not so well edu- 
cated. Few men in the State, in the pulpit 
or at the bar, possessed more natural ability 
than did Gov. Kinney. He was regarded as 
a man of great wealth at one time and was 
then recognized as a politician of as much in- 
fluence as any in the State. He was one of 
the most ultra pro-slavery advocates belong- 
ing to the convention party. Until nearly or 
quite as late at 1845, ne owned slaves and 
kept them on his farm as field-hands and 
house servants. Gov. Kinney was one of the 
pro-slavery men that Gov. Reynolds did not 
like, and figuratively speaking, he would have 
been quite well satisfied if Kinney had been 
ground to powder between the "upper and 
nether mill-stone" in that fierce slavery con- 
test. Kinney was very much in his way. 
That was the secret of his dislike. It would 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 169 

have been a satisfaction, no doubt, to Gov. 
Reynolds had many of the politicians promi- 
nent in that contest been relegated by its re- 
sults to less prominent positions in public life. 
But in that -hope, -if he indulged such an 
one, he was fated to be disappointed. Al- 
though the convention party was overwhelmed 
with defeat at the election in 1824, it did not 
affect the popularity of any of the supporters 
of that measure in any great degree. Gen. 
Jackson was then the rising national favorite 
in politics. The convention men cast in their 
lot with the friends of Gen. Jackson in that 
way kept in touch and sympathy with that 
party which soon became the dominant polit- 
ical party in the State. Gov. Reynolds was 
observant enough to ally himself with the 
friends of Gen. Jackson. That he knew would 
be the only road to success. Ever after that 
he was always an intense and bitter democrat. 
After it was seen the convention men were 
not rendered unpopular by the result of the 
election on that question, it is believed Gov. 

170 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Reynolds regretted he had not taken a more 
prominent part in the canvass. Later and all 
along the line others, and younger men, were 
springing up and were obstructing his way to 
political success. There were so many that 
wanted the same offices he did, it made his 
life a constant struggle for the supremacy. But 
nothing gave him more delight than to over- 
come one of his rivals in a political tourna- 
ment. He regarded everybody that was not 
for him as being against .him and, therefore, 
his enemies not personal, but political ene- 
mies. Later Adam W. Snyder incurred his 
political dislike by his continued and persist- 
ent opposition. But Snyder did not like Rey- 
nolds because he would not get out of his way , 
when he wanted an office the governor would 
not willingly give up. Had Snyder had more 
vigorous health and had he lived he would 
have been one of the most prominent men in 
the state. He died during his canvass for 
governor of the State. Having received the 
nomination of his party for the place he would 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 171 

surely have been elected governor of the State 
had he lived. 

Another one of the younger politicians that 
was troublesome to Gov. Reynolds was Robert 
Smith, of Alton. He was in the same Con- 
gressional district with the Governor. In some 
way Smith had got into Congress when it was 
the intention of the party managers, Reynolds 
should have the place. That which annoyed 
him most was that Smith would not get out of 
the way at the end of his first term in Con- 
gress that he might have the position. Judge 
Douglas was not in the same Congressional 
district with Gov. Reynolds and most prob- 
ably there was not much antagonism between 
them. In their politics there existed but lit- 
tle, if any, sympathy. In later life Gov. Rey- 
nolds had no appreciation of anyone in public 
life who was not as ultra pro-slavery as he was 
himself. Judge Douglas was more conserva- 
tive on that disquieting subject. He was, in 
fact, opposed to slavery in the abstract and 
was opposed to its introduction into new ter- 

172 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ritory, but he believed its existence in certain 
states had the sanction of constitutional guar- 
antees and for that reason he was unwilling to 
interfere with -it. When Judge Douglas was 
a candidate for the presidency in 1860, Rey- 
nolds bitterly opposed him. He was then 
what was called a "Danite" in politics and 
supported John C. Breckenridge for the pres- 
idency. It was among these men both great 
and small Gov. Reynolds had to fight his 
way to success. It was to be the crowning 
achievement of his life if he won and if he lost 
all would be lost. No doubt his favorite 
maxim, so often recalled in earlier life, "Suc- 
cess or an ignominious grave" stood him well 
in hand. The political arena was crowded 
with political gladiators and the fight was as 
earnest as the prize to be won was coveted. 
Most of the men that antagonized him were 
possessed of more ability and learning, but 
Reynolds was the better educated in party 
politics and the more adroit demagogue. His 
specialty was as a "Friend of the People." In 

Its First Judges Reynold's. 173 

the matter of playing the demagogue before the 
people he was great. He had no equal in that re- 
spect. Some of his opponents had equal dispo- 
sition to play the demagogue, but they had not 
the ability to make it a success. In the hands of 
Gov. Reynolds it had a charm that made it a 
splendid agency in the aid of his political aspi- 
rations. It had such a fascination when em- 
ployed by him, it became respectable in the 
eyes of many who held it in detestation when 
attempted to be practiced by others. With 
him demagogism was a natural endowment 
equivalent to genius of a high order and by it 
and through it he " achieved greatness. " 

Gov. Reynolds was now at his best es- 
tate. Physically he was a strong, athletic 
man, and mentally, he had many rare gifts that 
fitted him to become a successful politician 
among a rural people. As before remarked 
the pretense of again resuming the practice of 
law was a mere sham. He knew as well as 
any one, he had no gifts that would enable 
him to become successful in the legal profes- 

174 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

sion. He had no ability as an advocate and 
without the gift of oratory in some considerable 
degree there is no such thing as any very great 
achievements at the bar. There are no doubt 
many good lawyers who have few if any of the 
strange gifts of the advocate. Such lawyers 
make good office lawyers and quite often make 
the best judges. But when a lawyer is given 
the reputation among the common people of 
being a "powerful good judge of law but no 
pleader" by which they mean is not an advo- 
cate there is then no hope for his success at 
the bar. If such an one can not secure a po- 
sition as a "judge" he may as well abandon 
the profession, save as to office work. 

Neither his education legal or otherwise 
nor his natural endowments fitted Gov. 
Reynolds for logical and clear statements of 
either, the facts of a case or of the arguments 
in support of legal propositions. But he was 
conscious he possessed faculties that would 
render him conspicuous in political life. He 
had studied the arts that make success in pol- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 175 

itics a certainty, and he was a master of such 
arts. He was now the crown prince of his 
party and was destined to succeed to power 
and to fame. In 1826, within less than two 
years after leaving the bench of the Supreme 
Court, he was elected a member of the House 
of the fifth General Assembly. Again in 1828 
he was elected a member of the sixth General 
Assembly and as in the former Legislature it 
was to the House. There was not much in his 
career at any session of the Legislature of the 
State, of which he was a member, that is 
worthy of special mention. During his term 
of service in the latter Legislature he was ap- 
pointed on a committee to complete a revision 
of the laws that had been commenced at the 
previous session of the Legislature. It is 
hardly probable the governor did much of 
the work himself, but it is certain he took a 
hand in it. He let no such opportunity pass 
to make suggestions and to have as many of 
his notions engrafted into the work as it was 
practicable to secure. The committee, how- 

176 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ever, employed men "learned in the law" to 
do most of the work and it was a happy thing 
they did otherwise the work might not have 
been so well done. That revision of the stat- 
utes was a very valuable one,* and it has con- 
tinued to be the basis of many laws since 

One purpose he always kept in view, 
that was greatly to his credit that is during 
his whole term of service in the Legislature he 
was the friend of and a promoter, of all measures 
for establishing public schools. It was the one 
subject always on his mind and was to him a 
' ' pillar of cloud by day " and a ' ' pillar of 
fire by night, " which he ever closely followed. 
He was a pioneer in the great work of educa- 
tion in Illinois. Another thing for which he 
had an abnormal disposition, was to be always 
tinkering with the laws in respect to the 
Courts. Some of his measures were quite 
valuable and others equally worthless. In the 
session of 1827 he favored the repeal of the 
act of 1824 under which the State had been 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 177 

divided into circuits and a judge had been ap- 
pointed in each one to hold the Circuit Courts. 
The bill had his earnest support and it became 
a law. By this repealing act the judges of the 
Supreme Court were again required to hold 
the Circuit Courts as they had done prior to 
the act of 1824. He was the author of that 
clause of the practice act of 1827 which pro- 
vided, Circuit Courts in charging a jury should 
only instruct upon the law of the case. This 
act did not require instructions, even upon 
questions of law, should be in writing. Prior 
to this act it had been the practice for 
judges of the Circuit or Trial Courts to in- 
struct the jury orally both as to the facts 
of the case and as to the law which should con- 
trol. It seems he had a great aversion to per- 
mitting Circuit Courts to instruct the jury 
either as to the facts or the law in a common 
law action. It was a wise measure, and a 
much-needed reform. It was a vicious prac- 
tice to allow a circuit judge to instruct upon 
the facts involved in a trial. It was little less, 

178 Illinois Supreme Court IS 18. 

than denying to the citizen his constitutional 
right, to a trial by jury. On account of his 
services in establishing that wise rule of prac- 
tice he is entitled to a full measure of praise. 
At a session of the Legislature in 1847, of 
which he wa,s a member, he supported and 
aided in the passage of a bill, that inhibited 
judges of trial Courts from charging the jury 
at all, unless in writing. In his "Own Times" 
he expressed the opinion that under that act 
February 25, 1847 judges of Circuit Courts 
had no power to "qualify, modify, or explain" 
instructions as asked by counsel to be given to 
the jury, and all the Court could do, was to 
mark all instructions asked by counsel either 
"given" or "refused." It is understood he 
thought the Court had no authority of its own 
motion even to write an instruction to be given 
to the jury, but had to leave that to be done 
by the respective counsel. In all that matter, 
he was clearly mistaken. The effect of that 
act was simply-to provide that after the Court, 
had "given" an instruction, it could not, there- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 179 

after, orally qualify, modify, or in any manner 
explain the same to the jury." That was the 
first statute of this state that inhibited judges 
of the Circuit Court from instructing the jury 
otherwise than in writing. It established a 
wise and salutory rule of practice. Under the 
act of 1827, it was permissible for the Court 
to charge the jury orally as to the law of a 
case but not in relation to the facts. The act 
of 1847 established a different and better rule 
which has remained in force ever since. 

Gov.- Reynolds never regarded being a 
member of the Legislature as a "great affair." 
His explanation why he accepted the place is, 
it was as much to ' 'gratify" his ' 'friends" and 
the "people as himself." It was seen Gen. 
Jackson was soon to become a national favor- 
ite and Gov. Reynolds early espoused his 
cause perhaps in 1824. It was in 1828 par- 
ties became known as "Whig" and "Demo- 
crat" and ever after that he regarded himself 
as an "humble member of the Democratic 
party." His position in the Legislature had 

180 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

enabled him to take a broader and more accu- 
rate view of the political field. It had also 
afforded him an opportunity to become ac- 
quainted with the principal men of the State, 
whose influence he wished to secure. All this 
served to increase and intensify his ambition. 
He had now gone through the curriculum of 
the school of partisan politics and it must be 
admitted he was an accomplished scholar in 
that branch of learning. Looking out over the 
field, soon to be occupied he made up his mind 
to aspire to the high office of governor of the 
State. It was during the session of the Legisla- 
ture of 1828-29, he made up his mind to enter 
the field against all competitors and make the 
race for that office. As usual with him, it was 
his "friends" that urged him to come out for 
the office. The truth is otherwise. He hardly 
had enough of "friends" anywhere in the 
whole State, to keep him back. This matter of 
one's "friends" compelling him to become a 
candidate for public office is a supreme delu- 
sion. Anyone who has ever been a candidate 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 181 

for office, if he has a modicum of candor, will 
admit he always had much difficulty to get his 
friends to assist him in his canvass, after he 
had brought himself out. The idea of the 
' 'office seeking the man and not the man seek- 
ing the office," is a fiction. It is not now, and 
never was true. It is barely possible such 
may have been the case in rare instances, but 
it would be quite difficult to find the exact 

The canvass for governor upon which he 
was about to enter proved to be one of the 
most extraordinary that has ever occurred in 
the State especially in its duration. It con- 
tinued through a period of well nigh eighteen 
months. It was as earnest as its duration was 
extended. The rival candidate for the same 
office was William Kinney. In mere natural 
endowments Kinney was the superior, but in 
the art of electioneering Reynolds had no su- 
perior, and hardly an equal in the State. 
Both had talents of a high order but as vari- 
ant, as were their personal characteristics. 

182 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Their habits and tastes bore no analogy to 
each other. Their very natures were variant.' 
Physically they resembled each other in no 
respect. Kinney was a short, thickset man, 
with a restless energy. Reynolds was tall and 
muscular, with dreamy eyes and moved slowly 
as with deliberation. Reynolds was the bet- 
ter educated. Kinney knew more by intui- 
tion. Both were Jackson democrats and both 
were intensely pro-slavery. Kinney was a 
Baptist clergyman. Reynolds professed no 
religious belief. Kinney was not in principle 
opposed to the use of social beverages and it 
is a matter of profound regret, he indulged too 
freely in the use of them. Reynolds was in 
principle opposed to their use and perhaps 
never tasted intoxicating liquors in his life. 
Kinney was thought to be a man of consider- 
able wealth. Reynolds was comparatively 
poor in worldly riches. Both were ambitious 
and both were fond of political life. The 
whigs were so much in the minority they put 
no candidate in the field for governor. The 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 183 

battle was alone between these political gladi- 
ators and was one of physical as well as men- 
tal strength. From the time of the opening 
of the canvass, eighteen months before the day 
of the election, it was ' ' war to the knife and 
the knife to the hilt." It was a knightly bat- 
tle, and was gallantly fought. Both were in 
the saddle from the opening until the last day 
of the canvass. Both travelled the settled 
portions of the State many times over. Elec- 
tioneering was then mostly done by personal 
meeting with the electors and by the use of 
pamphlets stating briefly the claims of the re- 
spective candidates. Both candidates availed 
of these modes of conducting the canvass. 
Finally both of them took to the stump, and 
each one made speeches all over the State. 
Kinney had more strength to endure the 
fatigue of the campaign, and had it continued 
much longer Reynolds would have been com- 
pelled to succumb through mere exhaustion. 
In the main the canvass was honorably con- 
ducted but it is said both candidates resorted 

384 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

to some practices, that were unworthy. Kin- 
ney would treat his friends to intoxicating 
liquors, and would himself drink with them. 
Reynolds would also treat his friends in the 
same way, but would not drink with them. 
The canvass had its humorous as well as its 
serious phases. Sometimes it became a 
" Comedy of Errors." Both candidates em- 
ployed persons to distribute their handbills. 
In this connection a story is told that one of 
Kinney's distributors stopped over night at a 
hotel where one of Reynolds's distributors was 
staying. Reynolds's man on the sly removed 
the handbills from the saddle-bags of Kinney's 
man and in their stead put in a lot of Rey- 
nolds's handbills. It is said Kinney's man 
went on several days before he discovered, he 
was giving out Reynolds's handbills instead of 
Kinney's. It is related of Reynolds as he was 
passing along the highway late in the evening, 
he saw in an adjoining field a "scarecrow"- 
a stuffed man and called out to it "How are 
you, my friend ? Can I get you to distribute 

irt Judge* Reyn-oldx. 185 

some of my handbills ?" It may be both 
stories are apocryphal history. 

The canvass grew in interest as the 
weary days, weeks, and months came and 
went. The friends of the respective candi- 
dates became intensely anxious for the success 
of their favorite. Kinney was most popular 
with the ultra Jackson men. Reynolds was 
also a Jackson man, but affected to be of a 
milder type not from principle, but through 
mere policy and was therefore less objection- 
able to the "Whigs," who had no favorable 
opinion of Jackson. It was for that reason 
Reynolds got more of the whig vote than 
Kinney did. When it was seen the end of the 
canvass was near at hand, others were in- 
volved in its struggles. Gallant men and fair 
ladies took a part and that increased manifold 
the anxiety of the contest. The efforts of the 
respective candidates continued to the day of 
the election with unabated energy. It was 
not until the sun went down on that long-com- 
ing day and until the last vote had been given 

186 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

and recorded that either candidate or their 
friends ceased to struggle for the victory. 
Large sums of money had been wagered on the 
result, and as the pecuniary considerations in- 
creased, the interest in the out-come of the 
election grew more earnest and still more in- 
tense. The end came and the vote had all 
been cast. Many weeks passed before the 
result of the election was certainly known. It 
was finally ascertained Reynolds was elected 
by a decided majority. An emotion tinged 
with deepest sorrow is experienced in record- 
ing the fact of the defeat of Gov. Kinney 
not because his opponent was elected but for 
the sad reason it was the end of his political 
career. He was a man of many rare intellec- 
tual gifts and high social qualities. He had 
then reached his greatest strength, and it was 
thought, he was far advanced toward an endur- 
ing fame. But from that time on his prospects 
and prosperity began to wane, both politically 
and financially. It is true he was afterward an 
unsuccessful candidate for governor against 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 187 

Gov. Duncan, but he had then lost the fire 
and vigor of his former days. At last when 
his life went out, instead of being in the midst 
of a beautiful and resplendent golden twilight 
of a bright old age, it was under the deep 
shadows of a darkened cloud arising out of a 
troubled life. There was then rest peaceful 
rest, for a weary and much disappointed man. 
It will be seen Gov. Reynolds came into 
the office of governor of the State, during an 
important epoch in its history. Institutions 
and policies, had to be formed and adopted, 
that would make for the best interests of the 
State, in all coming time. It must be recog- 
nized as a fact that accords with the history of 
that period, his influence as governor was with 
that which would promote the best interests 
of the young commonwealth. With unusual 
ken he seems to have forecast the future of 
the State and beheld in the mirage of its there- 
after history its wonderful increase in popula- 
tion, and in all that constitutes the wealth and 
grandeur of a commonwealth. But its pros- 

188 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

perity came apace in advance of anything he 
or anyone else ever imagined or anticipated in 
their dreams of its coming greatness. Not 
three-quarters of a century has elapsed, since 
his induction into the office of governor, and 
Illinois is now the third in population of the 
States of the Union, and has within its borders 
the second largest city on the American conti- 
nent. If time is measured by the calendar it 
is a short interval since he was governor of the 
State, but brief as that space of time is, within 
it the commonwealth has become great. In 
its institutions eleemosynary, educational, 
and civil it stands abreast with the greatest 
States of the Union and acknowledges no 
superior. In railroads, in mechanics, in man- 
ufactures, and all other material interests of 
the age her advancement has been swifter and 
more sudden than anything not touched with 
the imaginary wand of the magician. Free 
schools for the people and colleges richly en- 
dowed by the State or by private munificent 
gifts of the charitable citizen, have been estab- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 189 

lished in the State in which is taught political 
economy, law, theology, the sciences, and 
everything else embraced in the education of 
the best cultured peoples of the world. Hor- 
ticulture and farm cultivation have advanced 
to a degree that make them splendid indus- 
tries the greatness of which has astonished all 
to whom the knowledge of it has come. The 
land is full of plenty and much to spare 
that comes from the multiplied industries of 
the State. But this is not all. Behold the 
history of the commonwealth ! It is a history 
of which every Illinoisan is, and has a right to 
be -proud. It is a record of splendid achieve- 
ments and unexampled prosperity. It is the 
history of a people heroic in their struggles in 
the pioneer times of the State and great in 
their achievements of a people who have 
builded great cities that are the marvel of the 
age that have planted villages in all its bor- 
ders that make known the wealth and pros- 
perity of the commonwealth that have estab- 
lished institutions of learning and bestowed on 

190 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

them endowments that have been a surprise 
to the old world and to the older States. It is 
not mere panegyric nor an over-statement of 
the truth of history to say that in all the events 
of his day, that developed the resources of the 
State and advanced it towards its present 
greatness, with such extraordinary rapidity, 
Gov. Reynolds bore an honorable part. No 
man loved his State and country with a more 
intense devotion than he did. He believed 
himself to be and was in fact ' ' a friend of the 
people." His faithfulness to their interests 
was never doubted. The State has had no 
public officer that advocated with more earnest 
zeal, temperance, education, and all things 
else that would best promote the happiness of 
the people and the material prosperity of the 
State, than did Gov. Reynolds during the years 
of his State administration. Many of his ab- 
surdities and foolish measures advocated by 
him on the stump were put aside when he 
came to administer the affairs of the State. 
A man becomes greatest when opportunity 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 191 

comes to him to control great events transpir- 
ing around him. Transplanting him to a 
higher plane of thought and activity he sud- 
denly becomes great. It is then he rises su- 
perior to his former environments and 
establishes measures and policies that affect 
the welfare of peoples a work for which it 
was not known before he had any fitness. 

As the responsibilities of the affairs of 
State increased upon him, he seemed to grow 
in capacity to discharge them. Many of Gov. 
Reynolds's friends were surprised at the ad- 
ministrative ability he developed during his in- 
cumbency of the office of governor. Better 
notions of government and better measures of 
policy that should control came to have the 
approval of his judgment. On the stump, 
during his canvass for governor, he advocated 
from the beginning to the end the impracti- 
cable doctrines of "free trade" at least under 
the present federal constitution. Yet, in his 
first message to the Legislature in 1830, he 
maintained the policy of a protective tariff, 

192 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

internal improvements, and other cardinal 
doctrines of the whig party. In respect to 
the tariff he said in that first message, "all 
articles which are necessary for our own use 
and which we can raise and manufacture 
within ourselves should be protected from for- 
eign competition by adequate duties. A sys- 
tem of protective duties on these principles 
ought never to be abandoned. For laying out of 
view the advantages of a home market created 
thereby it will render us in fact, what we are 
by right, an independent nation." About that 
time the democratic party, not only in this 
State, but in all the other States, were much di- 
vided on the question of a protective tariff. 
The first national democratic platform indeed 
the first national platform of any party, in 
American politics was adopted after the 
nomination of Gen. Jackson for a second term 
in 1832, by his friends at Washington and was 
the one, on which the canvass was made. It 
declared "that adequate protection to Amer- 
ican industry is indispensable to the prosperity 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 193 

of the country and that an abandonment of 
the policy at this period would be attended 
with consequences ruinous to the best interests 
of the nation." The "Spectre of impossible 
free trade" has been an apparition of ill omen 
to the democratic party since that party was 
first organized. It appears as often and is as 
troublesome as the "ghost of Banquo" itself. 
What affrights them most is it will not ' 'down" 
at their bidding. As Mr. Webster phrased it 
in one respect it is not like "Banquo's ghost" 
that only annoyed its "enemies," but this 
apparition vexed most its "friends" as well. It 
is not to be wondered at that Gov. Reynolds 
was troubled by this apparition of "frightful 
mien," to most democratic politicians. In re- 
spect to measures of national policy as well as 
some relating to state policy he was utterly 
and strangely inconsistent. Indeed his whole 
life was a curious admixture of good sense 
and absurd non-sense. One who knew him 
well has said of him, "He was a living para- 
dox a most consummate actor." In early 

194 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

life he was an unwavering friend of the Fed- 
eral Union. Among his speeches of that time 
none are recalled especially in his political 
speeches that did not abound in denunciation 
of federalists. His argument ran, all federal- 
ists are traitors, all whigs are federalists and, 
therefore, all whigs are traitors and ought to 
be hanged. About the time of the annexa- 
tion of Texas and the war with Mexico, it is 
probable he made no speech, whether on 
political subjects or any other, in which he did 
not publicly denounce whigs as federalists and 
hence traitors. It was the warp and woof of 
all his speeches. On the subject of the Fed- 
eral Union he wrote grand words in his second 
message to the Legislature words expressive 
of the highest and purest patriotism when 
he said "No dangerous doctrine of nullifica- 
tion tending to dismember this happy con- 
federacy ought to be countenanced or tolerated 
by public opinion. This happy Union ought, 
and I hope in God will, be sustained at all 
hazards." It would have been better for his 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 195 

fame had he maintained to the end of his life, 
that high patriotic devotion to his country. 
But it is to be regretted that in the evening of 
his life he suffered a change in his patriotic de- 
votion to the Federal Union. In the hour of 
its greatest peril, his sympathies were all with 
the enemies of that government for which he had 
once expressed such devotion. It is said that 
among the papers of the Southern Confederacy 
there was found a letter from him to Jefferson 
Davis, advising a resort to arms for resistance 
to and for the dismemberment of the Union. 
In all the darkest hours of the civil war, 
when it was not known whether our govern- 
ment could be sustained, or whether it would 
at last go down, under the assaults of its ene- 
mies, at home and abroad, he was a most vio- 
lent and offensive disunionist. No doubt the 
change in his patriotic Views in regard for the 
Federal Union, arose out of his intense devo- 
tion to slavery and his bitter hatred of abo- 
litionists. Had it been practicable to have 
saved the Union with slavery as one of its in- 

196 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

stitutions having an eternal sanction in the or- 
ganic law of the federal government, he would 
no doubt have been satisfied, and would still 
have regarded the Union as he expressed it in 
his first message to the Legislature as the 
' ' palladium of our political safety. " He was 
insanely pro-slavery. That which would have 
been a beautiful twilight in the evening of his 
life, was obscured by the dark shadow of dis- 
loyalty to his country that fell across his way 
in his last days. It ought, perhaps, to be al- 
lowed for the enfeebled powers of mind in old 
age to extenuate in his behalf in this regard. 
He had loved his country and had given the 
service of the best years of his life to her in- 

Turning away from this darkest phase of 
his life, it is a more agreeable task to consider 
his public official acts. It will be seen on an 
examination, his messages to the Legislature 
are of curious rather than instructive interest. 
They are very brief and for most part, con- 
sist of a jumble of independent sentences hav- 

Ms- First Judye* Reynolds. 

ing no necessary connection with each other 
and are ill expressed. Much contained in them 
is very sensible, other matters are frivolous 
and some things are untrue. In his first mes- 
sage he congratulated the people of the State 
on the fact they lived under a "Constitution 
which secures to each citizen all his rights." 
Whatever may have been the constitutional 
provision in respect to equal civil rights, 
the statutory law was otherwise. At that 
time there existed an infamous statute which 
had his unqualified approval that declared 
"No Negro, Mulatto, or Indian" should give 
testimony in any cause in which a white man 
was interested. That security under the con- 
stitution for all civil rights of which he was so 
boastful was, in his opinion, intended only for 
white men. He never regarded a negro as 
having any civil rights. 

In one of his messages he called attention 
to an important matter one in which the 
people of the State were much concerned. 
He informed the General Assembly the com- 

198 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

mission to establish the northern boundary 
of the State had made satisfactory progress. 
Among other things he said they had made 
many "celestial observations" to ascertain the 
correct degree of latitude, so they might estab- 
lish a monument ' 'to mark the true boundary 
line," and which they did at a point on the 
Mississippi River. The line then established 
has ever since been recognized as the true 
boundary line marking the division between 
the adjacent States, although Wisconsin is 
not now, and never was, entirely satisfied with 
it. The insistence of that State was, the true 
line is to the south of Chicago. 

It is curious to note, he says, the receipts 
into the State Treasury during the two years 
ending November 30, 1833, amounted in even 
numbers to $102,000 and the expenses within 
the same period amounted to $91,000. The 
latter sum included appropriations for the pen- 
itentiary and internal improvements. Yet he 
expressed his belief, the taxes levied upon the 
people were oppressive and burdensome and 

ft-8 First Judge* 

advised the adoption of measures that would 
afford relief in that respect. Had he lived at 
this day when multiplied millions of dollars are 
collected every year by the imposition of taxes 
upon the property of the citizen over and 
above special assessments constantly being 
made by municipal corporations for alleged 
local improvements, which aggregate an enor- 
mous sum, it would have vexed his soul and 
given him much trouble. It is to his credit he 
always opposed the levying of taxes that would 
be burdensome upon the people of whom he 
believed himself to be one of the most oppressed, 
by unreasonable taxation. 

A favorite measure with him was the build- 
ing of the State penitentiary at Alton now 
long since ceased to be used. In one of his 
messages perhaps the last one he reported 
to the Legislature its near completion. It then 
had twenty-four cells nearly ready for use a 
number that would now be hardly sufficient for 
a common jail in any larger county of the State. 
That, was only a little more than sixty years ago. 

200 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

But the event of most note that transpired 
in the time of his administration was the 
" Black-Hawk " war. In his message to the 
Legislature of 1832-1833, he says not much 
more than to state, the war had been brought 
to a close. He gave no considerable account 
of it stating as a reason for such omission 
it was not necessary at that time to discuss 
the conduct of the war. By virtue of his 
office of governor he was commander-in-chief 
of the State militia. He was in the field most 
of the time until the war was over. After the 
militia had been called out by him they were 
mustered into the service of the United States 
and thereafter they were commanded by gen- 
eral officers of the federal army among whom 
were Gen. Scott and Gen. Atkinson and per- 
haps some others. It was always conceded, 
that so far as the management of the war de- 
volved on the governor of the State, he displayed 
excellent executive ability and good judgment. 
After the expiration of his term of office as 
governor he became a member of the fifteenth 

Its Firxf Judge* Reynolds. 201 

General Assembly which convened in Spring- 
field in December in 1846. All he did at that 
term of the Legislature, worthy of mention, 
has been remarked upon. He was also a 
member of the eighteenth General Assembly. 
By that time he had become quite advanced 
in life and out of compliment to him on ac- 
count of his eminent public services he was 
elected speaker of the House. As a presiding 
officer over a deliberative body he possessed 
.no abilities that fitted him for the position. 
Electing him speaker of the House at that 
session of the Legislature was a mere compli- 
ment to one, that had been long in public ser- 
vice of the State. It was a fitting thing to do 
and in that act of courtesy the Legislature 
showed its appreciation of his public services. 
That, was the last public office he held under 
the State government. 

The Legislature of 1838-1839 authorized 
the governor of the State to secure a loan of 
four millions of dollars with which to prosecute 
the work on the canal. Gov. Carlin appointed 

202 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Gov. Reynolds one of the agents of the State 
to secure such loan. The duties of the agency 
involved a journey to England. He affected 
not to want to go. This appointment like all 
positions he received, came to him as a ' 'great 
surprise. " Yet while insisting he did not want 
the place, he was much gratified on obtaining 
it. He was a warm personal friend of Gov. 
Carlin. They had been in the ' ' ranging ser- 
vice " together and perhaps in the same com- 
pany. That was a tie that bound them closely 
together. On account of his appointment he 
was very grateful to Gov. Carlin. In his 
' ' Own Times" he speaks of him very favorably 
both as to his executive ability and his natural 
good sense. In his eulogy of him, which is in- 
tended to be highly complimentary, he says 
Gov. Carlin ' 'retired to private life with the de- 
cided approbation of the people." Gov. Carlin 
was a man of excellent good sense. He was 
of Scotch -Irish extraction and was as brave as 
any one of that noted race. In his younger 
days he had no objection to a ' 'hand to hand" 

Its First Judge* Reynolrlx. 203 

fight if anyone, in the slang phrase of that day, 
"was a needin' of a dressing down." Indeed, 
later in life it was not safe for anyone to offer 
an affront to him. On his personal courage 
there never was any discredit. It was a qual- 
ity that rendered him very popular in that 
early day and especially with the ' ' Old Ran- 
gers" with whom he was in the service. 

Hon. Richard M. Young, then a member 
of the Senate of the United States, was 
also appointed by Gov. Carlin an agent on be- 
half of the State to aid in securing the loan 
then so urgently needed. Gov. Reynolds at 
once entered upon the business of his agency. 
There was an immediate necessity for funds 
to prevent a stoppage of the work being done 
on the canal. At Philadelphia he met Gen. 
Rawlings and Col. Oakley, fund commission- 
ers for the State, and with their assistance he 
effected a loan of a million of dollars from the 
United States Bank of Pennsylvania. That 
sum enabled the State to go on with the work 
on the canal and perhaps other public works 

204 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

that had been projected, and tided over the 
impending difficulties in the prosecution of the 
public improvements in process of construction. 
Accompanied by his. wife, Gov. Reynolds pre- 
ceded Judge Young to England and afterwards 
met him in London. Exactly what he Rey- 
nolds did in London, or elsewhere, in and 
about securing a loan for the State, is a diffi- 
cult matter to ascertain. His own account of 
his transactions in his agency is very meagre. 
Shortly after meeting with Judge Young in Lon- 
don, Gov. Reynolds and his wife crossed over to 
the continent and made quite a tour through the 
country. Judge Young remained in London 
and effected an arrangement for the desired 
loan, at the time it was thought would be sat- 
isfactory, but it eventually proved to be a par- 
tial failure. Perhaps neither party adhered 
strictly to the loan contract. 

It seems whatever was done in and 
about securing the loan for the State was 
principally done by Judge Young aided 
doubtless by Gen. Rawlings and Col. Oakley, 

ft* First Judges Reynolds. 205 

both of whom were in London at the time. 
It is probable, Gov. Reynolds was on the 
continent most of the time, negotiations were 
pending in London in respect to the loan, 
it was so necessary to obtain. He and his 
wife visited and made quite a stay in Paris. 
They traveled elsewhere on the continent with 
a view to see everything of special interest. 
After their return they visited the principal 
localities of most note in England. All ex- 
penses of his journey across the sea were paid 
by the State except the sum of two hundred 
dollars of his own funds which he used to de- 
fray expenses. It was a matter of complaint 
on his part, he never received one cent of the 
two hundred dollars expended or anything for 
his services from the State. It was the opin- 
ion of many familiar with the history of his 
agency, he received from the State all his serv- 
ices were worth. Yet if it were agreed more 
should be paid, it ought to have been done. 
Shortly after he returned to Illinois he made 
a report of his acts and doings in respect to 

206 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

his agency, which was approved by Gov. Car- 
lin. That was the last of his connection with 
that particular branch of the public service. 

One thing in connection with his service in 
the State, ought to be mentioned. It is that 
no office, he ever held under the State govern- 
ment, had any considerable emoluments at- 
tached to it. So that whatever estate he may 
have acquired, it can not be said, it came from 
taxation on the people as compensation for 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 207 


His Congressional Career. 

After the expiration of his term of office as 
governor of the State, he still pursued, with 
unabated zeal, the object of his highest am- 
bition political promotion. It had now be- 
come a controlling passion with him. He 
thought himself to be better qualified for poli- 
tics than for any other profession or occupation 
and for the remainder of his public life he 
chose politics as his principal business. It was 
his.own opinion, he was ' 'tolerably well informed 
in the science of electioneering the masses. " Of 
that, no one had the slightest doubt. In ca- 
pacity for that work, he towered above all 

208 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

others. It can hardly be said he had a peer 
in the State in such a work. In 1834, he be- 
came a candidate for Congress in the district 
in which he resided. It was, in its territory, 
a very large district extending from the Ohio 
River north to include Macoupin county and 
east from the Mississippi River so as to include 
within its bounds with other counties further to 
the south, Washington, Clinton, and Bond coun- 
ties. There were then but three congressional 
districts in the State. One of them extended 
from the extreme south part of the State north 
to a line, if extended east, just north of Ma- 
coupin county.and embraced, all counties lying 
between the Wabash River and the congres- 
sional district, in which Gov. Reynolds resided. 
The other district comprised all the remaining 
portion of the State to the north, extending to 
its extreme northern boundary. Many of the 
most prominent men of the State then resided 
in the district in which Gov. Reynolds became 
a candidate. It perhaps contained more prom- 
inent politicians than either of the other dis- 

7/.s Fit-Ht Jmlffen Reynolds. 209 

tricts. His opponents in that canvass, were 
Adam W. Snyder and Edward Humphries 
both pronounced democrats. The whigs being 
in a hopeless minority, put forward no candi- 
date for Congress in that year, so that all the 
candidates belonged to the same political party. 
It was all in the "family" and like all "family" 
contentions, the canvass finally took on much 
ill-natured strife. Of Adam W. Snyder, per- 
sonal mention has been made earlier in 
this sketch. He was a man of sprightly tal- 
ents, a very pleasant speaker, and an adroit 
politician. He was really the principal oppo- 
nent of Gov. Reynolds in that contest. Mr. 
Snyder conducted an able and vigorous cam- 
paign not always, however, devoid of some 
bitterness. He was too honorable and dignified 
in his bearing, to cope successfully with Gov. 
Reynolds in the low arts of the mere politician. 
Of Col. Humphries not much is known. It is 
said he was an ultra Jackson democrat. Presi- 
dent Jackson was still the national favorite, and 
if one would be popular with the people, it was 

210 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

not only necessary for him, to favor every 
measure the president did, but he should love 
everybody he did and hate everybody he did. 
Not to do so, was to render him less a demo- 
crat. Col. Humphries was at one time an 
officer in the land office at Kaskaskia, but if 
he held any other office, it is not now recalled. 
No canvass ever made by Gov. Reynolds was 
more enjoyed by him, than his first race for 
Congress. It was more pleasure to him to 
defeat Snyder than it would have been to de- 
feat any other man in the State. Gov. Rey- 
nolds was then at his best as a politician he 
rejoiced "as a strong man to run a race." He 
was in excellent health and was full of that 
hope that gives strength to do battle for suc- 
cess. He was confident and went before the 
people, with no other expectation than that he 
would surely be elected. That confident expec- 
tation was a strong and valuable element in his 
character. It is always coupled with success in 
life. His speeches in that canvass and also his 
later ones bear a striking likeness to each other. 

It a First Judge* Reynolds. 211 

Had they been literally reported it would have 
been difficult by the closest reading to fix the 
date or the occasion when delivered. His, was 
what might be called a "rattling oratory." In 
none of his speeches on the ' 'stump, "was there 
any continuity of thought. Brief as they were 
never long his speeches contained some- 
thing in regard to every question involved in 
the canvass. He discussed no particular sub- 
ject separately or singly, but discussed all at 
one and the same time that is, he made 
"hash" of them. And such an intermixture 
of truth and error, of piety and profanity, and 
of seriousness and levity, was seldom if ever 
heard on this continent either before or since 
his time. But it must be admitted his "polit- 
ical hash" was much relished by the people 
for whom it was prepared, for he was elected 
over his competitors one of whom, Snyder, 
was a man of decided ability and of most fas- 
cinating address. 

Gov. Reynolds was a candidate for re-elec- 
tion to Congress in 1836 but he was defeated 

212 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

by his implacable opponent, Adam W. Snyder. 
That was a sore disappointment to him. He 
attributed his discomfiture to the fact he re- 
mained in Washington until shortly before the 
election and did not on that account, have an 
opportunity to mingle with the people in the 
canvass. There is doubtless much truth in 
the reason assigned for his defeat. Had he 
been among his constituents, the result in all 
probability would have been different. But 
Snyder was to him a veritable nemesis, fol- 
lowing him always in his political life, that 
boded no good. There was much satisfac- 
tion to Snyder, in the fact he had inflicted 
a little vengeance on his opponent, on account 
of his former defeat, but for the further 
reason the governor was always in his way. 
It was thought his defeat would be an over- 
throw to the governor, from which he would 
hardly recover. But it was a grave mistake. 
Politically he seemed to have as many "lives" 
as "a cat" is said to have, and quite as tena- 
cious of life. It was not easy to kill him off. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 213 

At the next congressional election, in 1838, he 
was a candidate, and his opponent, as usual, 
was Hon. A. W. Snyder. He was then among 
his people and was invincible. It was useless to 
oppose him when he was in the saddle, riding 
his district over and making his own canvass. 
At that election he was elected a member of 
the twenty-sixth Congress, 18391841. He 
was also elected a member of the twenty- 
seventh Congress. That was his last term in 
Congress. There was some dissatisfaction 
with many, that wanted themselves to go to 
Congress, with the governor's continuous can- 
didacy. It was not the intention to defeat 
him for re-election in 1843, but it was the in- 
tention to set him back a little. It was thought 
he had become so strong with the people he 
would be a perpetual candidate. It is said, it 
was the opinion of Snyder, the governor would 
live forever, at least that he would outlive any 
one then on the earth even longer than "any 
record" that was ever made. The convention 
system or assembly of friends a most vicious 

214 Illinois Supreme Court 1S1S. 

invention had then been adopted as a mode of 
bringing before the people candidates for the 
various offices. Before that time the race had 
been ' 'free to all. " No more ill-advised plan of 
getting a candidate on a ticket to be voted for 
was ever invented than the present one, called 
the "Australian ballot or system." It is a 
snare and a delusion. The old " free to all " 
race was much preferable because less com- 
plicated and more readily understood by the 
people. On the coming together of the poli- 
ticians not the people to select a candidate 
for Congress, Robert Smith received the nom- 
ination. How it happened that Smith was 
selected as the candidate was not well under- 
stood certainly not by Gov. Reynolds and 
his friends. Only politicians were present 
and they were not all friends of the governor. 
Had his friends the people been there, no 
doubt the result would have been different. 
A nomination was equivalent to an election 
and Smith became a member of the twenty- 
eighth Congress. Although it may not be cer- 

Its First Judf/cs Reynolfa. 

tainly known how Smith obtained his first 
nomination for Congress, it is known how he 
succeeded in being twice re-elected to Con- 
gress, to the great annoyance of the governor, 
who was all the time anxious to get back to 
Congress. It was done by the skillful use of 
the appliances of party management in which 
Smith excelled most of his contemporaries. 

Before that time Gov. Reynolds had be- 
lieved himself to have been without a rival in 
"electioneering the masses." But Smith 
proved himself to be most adroit and skillful, 
as a political manipulator of the "masses" a 
work in which he was no mean competitor for 
the governor himself as will appear later. It 
was not the intention of the politicians, Smith 
should go to Congress at all. For some reason 
it was proposed to give him a complimentary 
vote, but he proved to be a stronger candidate 
than was anticipated. But having once allowed 
him to get into Congress, there was no way by 
which he could be got out. He managed to 
become popular with the people. Prior to his 

216 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

first candidacy, Smith was a business man in 
Alton, and was not regarded otherwise than as 
a mere local politician. The recollection still 
retained of him, is he was a man of slight build, 
rather short in stature, of pleasing address- 
not gifted with any great powers of oratory, 
but a man of respectable talent, and of fair 
scholarship. But after his first candidacy he 
grew with extraordinary rapidity into a "ma- 
chine politician." It was not long before he 
became formidable to the older politicians, who 
wanted to go to Congress, particularly to Gov. 
Reynolds who had now become so advanced in 
life he could not wait much longer for Smith to 
get out of his way. It is said he promised the 
governor if he could have one term in Congress, 
he would leave the field thereafter open to 
him so far as he -was concerned. However 
that may be, he continued to offer for re-elec- 
tion until the governor began to think there 
would be no opportunity for him to have 
another term in Congress. It was to illustrate 
the governor's chagrin at Smith's conduct in 

f(# First Judges Reynold*. 217 

this regard, Judge Gillespie often told a little 
incident. It is that Smith was at a Court 
where Gov. Reynolds happened to be and he 
became very much annoyed at Smith's man- 
ner of mingling with the people. He reminded 
Smith of his promise to be satisfied with one 
term in Congress, to which Smith replied he 
was "Just around returning thanks." But the 
governor knew better and retorted by saying, 
"Your maneuvering looks to me a devilish 
sight more like grace before meats than thanks 
afterwards." But finally Smith overcome the 
governor and so tired him out, he had to give 
up forever his cherished hope to get back into 
Congress. Unworthy as the feeling was, it 
was some satisfaction to the politicians, both 
old and young, to see the "Old Ranger" dis- 
placed from the line of succession in Congres- 
sional offices. In his discomfit they thought 
there would be a sooner opportunity for them 
to get to Congress. But it was also a satis- 
faction to the governor that some of them, did 
not get there. Although out of the fight on 

218 Illinois Supreme Court J8J8. 

his own behalf, he let pass no opportunity to 
deal severe blows to such of them as had been 
particularly active against him. 

His congressional career was quite honor- 
able and useful although marked by no great 
achievements in legislation. It is to his credit 
his life and conduct in Congress left no stain 
upon his personal or official character. He 
was a most industrious member of Congress 
and did what he could to advance the interests 
of the people of the State whom he, in part, 
represented. Early in the first session of 
Congress he attended, he introduced a resolu- 
tion to the effect that in all elections by 
the House, for officers, the vote should be 
taken viva voce. Among the prominent mem- 
bers of the house that opposed his measure 
was Millard Filmore, of New York. Upon 
that resolution he made his first speech in 
Congress. It was much more elaborate than 
the importance of the subject demanded. It 
was much like his speeches at home devoted 
largely to the interests of the people. The 

It ft First Jwtyes Reynold.*. iMi 

rule he advocated was finally adopted and 
since then that practice has controlled in all 
elections in the House of Representatives. 
Although it was a matter of no special impor- 
tance, he regarded the passage of his resolution 
as quite a triumph because it was the first 
measure he had introduced and advocated. 

A bill of grave importance received his 
watchful attention. It was the bill introduced to 
fix the boundaries and establish a government 
for the territory of Wisconsin. It did not fix the 
southern boundary with sufficient definiteness 
to be satisfactory to him. There was then and 
has ever since been some disagreement in re- 
gard to the true line between Wisconsin and Illi- 
nois. There are few questions that occasion 
more disquieting and vexatious-disputes than 
division lines whether between private persons 
or states or nations. It was a question from 
which future difficulty might well be appre- 
hended and it was thoughtful on his part to 
have it settled at once and forever if it were 
practicable to do so. Accordingly he moved 

220 Tirnwis Supreme Court 1818. 

an amendment to the bill to the effect, the 
southern boundary of the territory should be the 
line in 42 30'. That is the same line established 
by the commission during the time of his ad- 
ministration as governor, of which mention has 
been made. His amendment was opposed 
by John Quincy Adams, of Massachusetts, but 
it had strong support in the .favorable advo- 
cacy of Mr. Pinney, of Pennsylvania; Mr. 
Harden, of Kentucky, and Mr. Vinton and 
others, of Ohio. It was on this amendment 
he made his second speech in Congress. The 
amendment was adopted and with the bill, it 
became the law. Gov. Reynolds is entitled 
to much credit for procuring the settling of that 
most disquieting question before it could become 
a matter of ill contention between the ad- 
jacent States. At the time Gov. Reynolds was in 
Congress there were many distinguished mem- 
bers both in the House and the Senate. In 
his "Own Times" he gives interesting personal 
sketches of a number of them. Among them 
was Tristram Burgess, of Rhode Island. Mr. 

Its First Judges Reynold*. 221 

Burgess was then quite advanced in life but it 
is said of him he still possessed all the fire and 
force of young manhood. Especially he was 
noted for his powers of invective and denunci- 
ation. His speeches were short but the gov- 
ernor adds, ' 'he used most chaste and classical 
language as if he desired the death of his ad- 
versary to be caused by a golden ball." In 
comparing Mr. Burgess with Lord Brougham 
whom he often heard in the House of Lords 
when he was in England, he said, ' ' Burgess 
seemed to mix honey with his language, but 
Brougham kneaded his with brick-bats and 
macadamized stones." 

Other than what is before mentioned, but 
little else occurred in his congressional career 
that is worthy of being specially remarked 
upon. It need hardly be said and especially 
to anyone who was ever personally acquainted 
with him, during all the time he was in Con- 
gress he was a consistent and persistent demo- 
crat and upon all political measures he voted 
with that party. As before noted he was an 

222 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ultra pro-slavery democrat and whenever and 
wherever the institution of slavery was in any 
way involved he was one of its strongest sup- 
porters in Congress either from the South or 
the North. His whole term of service in Con- 
gress covered a period of seven years that 
is three full terms and the unexpired term of 
Hon. Charles Slade that remained after his 
death. At his first election to Congress he was 
not only elected for a full term, but for a short 
term, to fill out the unexpired part of Mr. 
Slade's term. That explains why his term in 
Congress was seven years. His office of gov- 
ernor had not quite expired when the time ar- 
rived for him to take his seat in Congress as 
the successor to Mr. Slade. He therefore re- 
signed his office of governor that he might at 
once enter upon his congressional duties. On 
his resignation Hon. William L. D. Ewing, 
president of the Senate and acting lieutenant- 
governor became governor for a brief time- 
about sixteen days until the inauguration of 
Gov. Joseph Duncan. It is a curious fact, Gov. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 223 

Duncan was the only whig governor the State 
ever had, and he had only become a whig shortly 
before his election. Had the fact been known, 
he had become a whig, it is hardly probable he 
could have been elected. Since then there have 
been governors that had been whigs in the 
time of that party, but before either of them 
became governor that grand old party had dis- 

Gov. Reynolds desired and was anxious 
for longer service in Congress but he could not 
secure a re-election. It was a matter of griev- 
ous disappointment to him. His retirement 
from Congress was a detriment to the public 
service. Political life, of which he was very 
fond, was better suited to him than any other 
occupation in which he ever engaged, and he 
had better qualifications for politics than for any- 
thing else. No man in Congress from this State 
either before or since his time was ever more 
constant in his attendance on the sessions of 
Congress. It is said he rarely, if ever, missed 
attending for a single day in any session of 

224 JWnf>i* Supreme Court 1818. 

Congress, either on account of sickness or 
other cause. On the whole, he was a respect- 
able and most valuable member of Congress. 
At all times he was watchful of the interests 
of the State. And more than that, he was 
very efficient in securing favorable legislation 
for his State and for his constituents. Regret- 
ful as it was, Gov. Reynolds was retired so 
early from useful public and political life, it had 
its compensation in another field of labor. It 
enabled him to do an historical work that will 
be of the greatest value to the people of the 
State in all the coming centuries. Long after 
his political labors valuable as they were 
shall have been forgotten by all the living and 
shall have ceased to be even mentioned in 
history, his writings of the history of the State 
and of the people among whom he lived, will 
yet endure to make known what a grand 
people did, in building a great commonwealth 
in a new country where there had before been 
neither civilization nor government. In that 
work he achieved a success that will make him 
famous in history. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 225 


His Literary Work. 

When it became apparent to him his pub- 
lic life and official labors had about come to a 
close, Gov. Reynolds began to cast around 
for something upon which to employ his time. 
Up to that time his life had been a most active 
one and it would not have been agreeable to 
him to retire into a life of mere idleness. The 
shadows of the evening of life were beginning 
to fall across his path and it was necessary to 
select a work suitable to his advancing age and 
yet a profitable work. It was his desire 
always to do something that would be of 
advantage to the age in which he lived. From 

226 Tllinoi* Supreme Court 1818. 

his enforced retirement from public life he 
came forth only once and that was to become 
a member of the State Legislature in which 
he served as Speaker of the House, 1852-1854. 
At first after his return to private life he de- 
voted most of his time to study in his library. 
He made some pretense of practicing law but 
it was only in that character of business to 
which reference has been made. Occasionally 
he may have tried an unimportant case for an 
old friend who was unable to employ a lawyer but 
that was all. He had quite a good private li- 
brary for that early day, and to it he had re- 
course to occupy his time. Near the central 
part of the city of Belleville, on Illinois street, 
was situated his home place. In one corner 
of the lot where his dwelling house was, he had 
a little office. Some of his books were kept in 
that office, and in it he spent much of his 
time in thought and study preparatory for the 
literary work he was yet to do. He also 
had in that office a small hand printing press 
and some much worn type. It is probable 

7ts First Judges Reynolds. 227 

he sometimes set up articles he had written 
using that old type and then printing them 
on that old press doing all the work him- 
self. It was only done by way of a pleasant 

It is a singular fact, but a general truth, 
when a man becomes advanced in life and 
gives up all active labors that once engaged 
his attention, he becomes reflective and natur- 
ally turns back to reconsider the past. Often 
he becomes impressed with a desire to 
write concerning what he recollects that had 
transpired in the years through which he had 
passed. Writing the "Recollections of a Life- 
time," is the normal work of an old man. It 
is well it is so otherwise much that is valu- 
able in history would fail with the death of 
him who writes it. It is a source of profound 
regret, many of the old pioneers did not record 
more of the passing events of their times. Had 
they done so, what a charm it would have had 
for the generations how living and yet to come. 
A symposium of such papers would be of the 

228 niinoi* Supreme Court 1818. 

greatest interest. No epic poem would sur- 
pass it, in entertaining reading. It would pre- 
sent pioneer life in all its reality, with all it 
was and with all that was fascinating in that 
strange life in the wilderness, as truly as 
the mirage presents the beautiful landscape 
it lifts to the view of the beholder. It 
was that work of the ' 'old man, " Gov. Rey- 
nolds now began to think about and soon 
began to write concerning. The "Pioneer 
History" of Illinois was his first and is his 
greatest work. It was written before his last 
term in the State Legislature and was pub- 
lished in 1852. It is a work of unusual merit 
and every page has a strange and even weird 
interest. It is inartificially written. There is 
neither system in its arrangement nor order in 
its make-up. Many sentences it may be 
most of them are inaccurately expressed. 
Events are noted on the same page where a 
century intervened their happening. Poli- 
tical matters of grave State importance and 
the biography of an obscure pioneer are noted 

Its First Judges Reynold*. 229 

and written in the same chapter. Descriptions 
of a fearful Indian massacre and of a French 
fliorrmrtare given in close connection. It would 
seem, he wrote on separate sheets of paper and 
when he had finished one it was thrown aside 
to mingle in an unassorted mass and when the 
printer wanted ' 'copy" he was told to help him- 
self. It would be difficult to account for the 
confusion in the recitals of incidents and events 
he brought together on any other hypothesis. 
It matters little how inartifically the work is 
written, or how ill-assorted his materials may 
be, or how much disorder there may be in 
putting them together, nothing of all that is 
seen on its first reading. These blemishes 
if they are blemishes detract nothing from 
the value and interest of the work. To one who 
had ever been personally acquainted with the 
author, it is one of its charms. It was so 
natural with him and is so much like his con- 
versation it brings the reader into his very 
presence and he seems to hear his simple and 
unadorned story of persons and events of his 

230 lUinniK Suj>rcine Court 1818. 

times as it falls from his lips. No re-writing 
of the text by the most scholarly historian 
would improve it. It would rather detract 
from it. Even a new edition lacks much of 
the charm of the "old volume." A feature 
of his pioneer history that makes it so delight- 
ful to all older readers is, it is so like the author 
and they like it most because it is like him. 
One thought will impress even the casual 
reader, and that is, after excluding the sketch 
of the French and the French occupancy of 
the Mississippi Valley, the materials gathered 
are original and are the author's own. It is 
idle and even absurd for any one to claim, he 
obtained the facts for his history of the pioneers 
of Illinois from any one's library, for the obvi- 
ous reason they were not to be found in any 
book, in any library. The truth is they are not 
now found anywhere else other than in his own 
work except as they have been transcribed by 
recent writers. The facts recorded are the 
original materials out of which history is woven. 
He found them where the gatherer searches 

It* Firxt Judges Reynolds. 231 

for the purest diamonds, in the field where 
they had their origin. Where no one had 
ever prospected before him, he looked for and 
found the facts he recorded as history. The 
best was obtained because it was there for his 
use. In his historical researches he left so 
little ungathered, no one has since thought it 
would be profitable to glean after him. In his 
chosen field of historical labor he was and is a 
solitary toiler. The work he did was under- 
taken at a most opportune time. It could not 
have been done much sooner and certainly at no 
later period. The knowledge of the facts he 
has preserved would soon have failed from the 
memory of the living, and would soon have been 
lost by the death of those possessed of the in- 
formation so important to be secured. The 
original source of knowledge of that singular 
people would soon have been closed forever to 
all searchers after their unwritten history. 
Most fortunate it is that Gov. Reynolds was 
pre-eminently fitted for the work -he undertook 
and to him a debt of gratitude is due for what 

23:2 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

he accomplished. Few writers, if any, ever 
possessed the fitness for such a work as he 
did. It is in pioneer biography what Boswell's 
life of Johnson is in individual biography. 
His biographer, Boswell, and other writers 
introduce us to Dr. Johnson when he is yet 
a young man, and from thence on to the 
close of his life, we are permitted to be in his 
company in the privacy of his home and with 
him in the midst of his friends. He seldom 
uttered a word, we are not permitted to hear, 
whether serious or playful. We are given the 
opportunity to see him as he was. We see his 
great unusual head, his large eyes, his smooth- 
shaven face, and his short, rotund body. We 
are permitted to hear even the tones of his 
voice, louder and stronger than that of any of 
his friends, and when he spake others were 
made to hear whether they would or not. 
Nothing he said or did but seems to be in our 
presence until we become as familiar with him 
as was Boswell himself. We are in his com- 
pany with his friends when he is as cross as a 

/to First Judges Reynold*. 238 

Scotch- Irish school master with his scholars, 
slapping one and boxing another, and among 
others the good and gentle Goldsmith whose 
heart was sometimes nearly broken with his 
rudeness. At other times we are given the 
privilege to be with him and see him when he 
is as gentle as a lamb by the side of the little 
streamlet in a summer pasture. Often we are 
astounded by the utterances of his ponderous 
sentences as they fall from his lips, containing 
thoughts and wisdom that thrill all hearers. 
Again we hear him talk with as little sense as 
anybody else. We are made to know his life 
as well as he knew it himself. At one time in 
the stillness of his private chamber we see 
him indicting most devout prayers. At another 
time we see him as he gets up and is off at 3 
o'clock in the morning for a "frisk" with his 
young and rather wild friends, Beauclerc and 
Langton. We are taken to meet him at the 
' 'tavern" with his friends, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
Oliver Goldsmith, Beauclerc, Langton, David 
Garrick, and others, and best of all, we are 

Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

permitted to hear his and their conversation. 
As the story of his life is traced to its end 
every incident that happened, whether great 
or small or whether of momentous interest or 
of no interest at all, has become as familiar to us 
as if we had lived with him and in his presence 
all our lives. That is biography in its best 

With less literary ability but with equally as 
much vividness, Gov. Reynolds has written the 
biography of a people among whom he lived. It 
is the biography of the pioneers of Southern Illi- 
nois prior to the close of the year 1818. It is 
the story of the pioneers, French, English, and 
American in their discovery and early settle- 
ment of that country that is told. And a 
strange story it is. If we go with him he will 
introduce us to them as a people and as individ- 
uals. We will see them as he saw them and 
know them as he knew them. We will know 
their names and where and how they lived and 
we will become as well acquainted with them 
as if we had lived among them from the be- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 235 

ginning. What an intense interest it gives to 
live over again with them their pioneer life. 
We will learn who they were and from whence 
they came. The author makes us to mingle 
with them in their social gathering and rela- 
tionships. We are told how they dressed and 
of what their clothing was made and who made 
it. We are permitted to sit at their hospit- 
able tables and hear what passes in the sacred 
relations of the family to learn what they ate 
and under what difficulties it was obtained, 
until we come to know the household as well 
as the child did, who was born in it. We are 
permitted to witness their sports and joy-mak- 
ing in the field and in the home. We are 
gathered with all the families of the settlement 
in the block house when assailed by the red 
warrior of the forests and we see brave men 
go forth to do battle with them. We see 
yet braver women defend their homes and 
children when attacked by those merciless foes 
of the pioneers. We are given the privilege 
to mingle with that pioneer people, to hear the 

236 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

expression of their thoughts on every subject 
that concerned them, relating to home and 
country, religion and politics, and all else that 
interested them in their mode of living to- 
gether. We are made acquainted with every 
effort of that heroic people to establish schools 
and churches and all else that is indispensable to 
the growth of the commonwealth, they had come 
to build in the wilderness. We attend with him 
their weddings and their funerals and we re- 
joice with them when they are glad and weep 
with them when they are sorrowful. He takes 
us to their religious meetings and so real is the 
scene reproduced, we almost hear their songs 
of praise and their prayers for the blessing of 
our common Father to rest upon them. He 
makes us to know the good things they did 
and he shows us all that is wrongful in their 
conduct as well. Finally he portrays to us 
with a vividness that makes the whole scene 
pass before us, their progress from the rude 
beginning onward and upward to a splendid 
civilization. The wish is to dwell longer with 

Its First Judyes Reynolds. 237 

that people and the regret is the story of what 
they were, of their hopes and fears, of their 
joys and sorrows, of their grand purposes and 
heroic achievements, is so soon ended. Unpre- 
tending as this little volume is, it will yet make 
the name of its author John Reynolds im- 
mortal as a writer of pioneer biography. 

Perhaps the next writing that engaged his 
attention was a work of fiction. It is a little 
story entitled "John Kelly." It has no plot 
and is ill-executed in details. It was in- 
tended to teach lessons of morality and tem- 
perance. The public did not appreciate it, so it 
had neither sale nor any considerable reading. 
The author thought more of it himself than 
any one else did. It would be difficult now to 
find a copy of it elsewhere than in some unused 
closet or garret where rubbish is stored away 
in the home of an old pioneer to whom he had 
presented it with his compliments. 

Descriptive of a brief journey to the east 
in our own country is, a little pamphlet he 
wrote and had printed. It was written and 

238 flUn-aift Supreme Court 1818. 

printed more for his own entertainment than 
for the public. It is probable he set up the 
type and printed it himself. 

The next work he undertook was the 
writing of his "Own Times" or as it is 
expressed on the title page, ' ' My Own 
Times, Embracing also the History of My 
Life." This work comes down in its nar- 
rative of events to a period later than that 
covered by his Pioneer History. Still it con- 
tains much that is embraced in the same 
period over which the latter work extends. 
Read as a supplement to his "Pioneer His 
tory" it is a most valuable and interesting 
work. In some respects it is a continuation of 
his history of the pioneers of Illinois prior 
to 1818. Without his "Own Times" his first 
history would not be entirely complete. The 
two works read together give a most graphic 
and fascinating account of that early period 
a history nowhere else to be found. Indeed, 
his writings in these two volumes furnish the 
principal facts in the biography and other his- 

l/x Fiffif Judges- Reynolds. 239 

tory of the pioneers referred to by most later 
writers. But his ' 'Own Times" is itself a most 
valuable contribution to Illinois history and as 
the years come and go its value will be more and 
more appreciated. The literary merit of this 
later work is not much greater than that of his 
Pioneer History. It is nearly as ill put to- 
gether. There is the same mingling of 
sketches of grave matters and of things of 
trifling importance. Events that had occurred 
at times far apart are recorded in close proxim- 
ity. No order in arrangement of his materials 
is observed everything seems to have come 
together without respect to the time of the oc- 
curring of the events mentioned or their con- 
nection with each other. But after all, as is 
the case with his Pioneer History, this want 
of system and this confusion of matter do not 
detract from the interest of his work. 

Later he wrote and published a brief sketch 
of the life of Rev. Dr. John Mason Peck. It 
is a small volume, not much larger than the 
usual pamphlet, but is divided into twenty-five 

240 Tllinoifi Supreme Court 1818. 

chapters. In diction and style of composition 
it is very little improvement on any of his 
other writings. That same confusion of sub- 
jects found in his other writings is also seen in 
this little volume. Dr. Peck and the author 
were very fond of each other. ' 'Damon" and 
' 'Pythias" were not much better friends. Yet 
in most respects they were wholly unlike. 
One was a very religious man, and the other 
was just as irreligious one would swear and 
the other would pray one devoted the best 
years of his life to the work of establishing 
Sunday-schools, and the other was, perhaps, 
never in a Sunday-school in his life one was 
anti-slavery in principle and the other was 
intensely pro-slavery one was a whig and the 
other was a democrat one was a minister of 
the gospel and preached its holy teachings and 
the other was a politician and rarely ever heard 
a sermon one was a typical Western man 
and the other was a typical New England man. 
There were, however, a few things in which 
they were in accord. Both were in favor of 

7/.s Firxt Judges Re-i/)i<iM*. ' 241 

establishing and maintaining common schools 
and also seminaries and colleges both were 
out-spoken temperance men both abstained 
from the use of intoxicating liquors and per- 
haps neither one of them ever tasted whisky, 
unless taken as medicine both were opposed 
to the emancipation of the slaves in the South 
both thought colored people were better off in 
slavery than in freedom both were quite well 
satisfied with their natural endowments and 
their attainments both were exceedingly fond 
of what they were pleased to call literary labor 
and both indulged their tastes for writing 
Dr. Peck wrote his "Journal" and also letters 
and Gov. Reynolds wrote history and pioneer 
biography Dr. Peck's conversation was phil- 
osophical and logical and Gov. Reynolds was 
rattling and incoherent. Clashing as they 
were in sentiment and thought and even in 
action, they were strangely fond of the society 
and conversation of each other, although 
neither rarely ever entertained the other or 
any one else, at their respective homes. The 

242 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

author calls his little book "Friendship's Of- 
fering" and that is about all it is. It is so 
fulsome, it was unpleasant to many of his 
most partial friends. It is in no sense a biog- 
raphy of Dr. Peck, nor is it a just analysis of 
his character, except in a few particulars. 
The character drawn of him in many aspects 
would hardly be recognized by his oldest and 
nearest neighbors. Two phases of his charac- 
ter as presented are recognized as correct by 
the common understanding of his near friends: 
ist, his lack of care for his family and home af- 
fairs ; and 2d, his passion for engaging in the ser- 
vice of the public in all religious matters. The 
author says of him "he was only a small 
fraction of the time at home, and when he was 
there he was so absorbed in the study of liter- 
ature, theology, and the distribution of the 
bible, and such labors that he had no time to 
attend to the farm or domestic concerns. On 
account of his want of attention to the educa- 
tion of his family, the best friends of Dr. Peck 
complained." Dr. Peck, as the author repre- 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 243 

sents him, was a man of ability and learning, 
although he never had much advantage from 
the schools. The honorary degree of doctor 
of divinity was conferred upon him by Har- 
vard College. His character was unique, and 
in many respects, most singular. His life 
was a useful one not especially to his 
family or to his immediate neighborhood, 
but to the country at large particularly to 
the West and Northwest. A singular feature 
of his character was a penchant for doing 
something to better the condition of any 
people dwelling far away and the farther 
away they were, the more solicitous he be- 
came for their education and conversion 
to Christianity. He had little or no concern 
about anything near at hand. Whatever en- 
gaged his greatest solicitude was neither at his 
home nor in his neighborhood. As the author 
expresses it, "he seemed to give himself to 
the public and almost to forget that he had a 
wife and family," and he adds, "but remiss- 
ness of the education of his own children when 

244 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

he was so active and energetic in the educa- 
tion of all the other children 'of the rest of 
mankind' is a problem difficult of solution." 
It must not be inferred from what the author 
says, Dr. Peck was wanting in natural affec- 
tion for his wife and children. Such was not 
the case. The peculiar traits of character 
mentioned by the author arose out of mental 
idiosyncrasies that gave rise to many eccen- 
tricities in his life and conduct, some of which 
could not be accounted for in any other way. 
He was a religious enthusiast. No Jesuit ever 
had more zeal for the evangelization of the 
"Great Northwest" than did Dr. Peck. He 
seems to have thought of nothing else. His 
soul was on fire with zeal for that great work 
the evangelization of the heathen in all 
countries to which he had devoted his life. 
He was oblivious to everything else around or 
about him. In Babcock's biography of Dr. 
Peck, is given an incident on the authority of 
Dr. Jeter, it is thought illustrates this phase of 
his character. Dr. Peck lived near the great 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 245 

thoroughfare leading from the East to St. Louis 
and over which the stage coach of that day 
passed, carrying passengers from the East 
to St. Louis. After Dr. Peck had been in 
Philadelphia many months as the secretary of 
the "American Baptist Publication Society," 
he returned by this stage route and was deliv- 
ered at his home by the way-side. On alight- 
ing he entered his house unobserved by any 
member of his family or anybody else. That 
was early in the forenoon. He immediately 
went to his study and finding there a great 
number of letters and papers that required his 
attention, he commenced at once to examine 
them. It was not until late in the afternoon 
one of his children by mere accident discovered 
him in his study. Dr. Jeter does not vouch 
for the entire accuracy of this story, but he 
added, that of all men he ever knew it was 
most likely to be true of Dr. Peck. Exam- 
ples of men and women who give no sort of 
attention to home and neighborhood charities 
and yet who are over zealous for the educa- 

246 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

tion and christianization of cannibals and 
heathen in the isles of the sea and in "Darkest 
Africa" have been seen in all countries and in 
all ages. Our own country is to-day full of 
"Jellybys" who can discover no subjects for 
their Christian and charitable offices "nearer 
than Africa." Notwithstanding the criticisms 
the author makes upon the character of Dr. 
Peck, his little biographical sketch was intended 
to be, and is, very eulogistic indeed it was 
written for no purpose other than to exalt his 
character and to make known to all who might 
read it, his reputation for ability, learning, and 
piety. The little book had no sale. Nobody 
wanted either to buy it or read it. He could 
hardly give it away. 

The last work he prepared was a little book 
entitled, "An Inquiry Into the Right of Ameri- 
can Slavery. " On account of some reason not 
understood, he printed the legend, "The Balm 
of Gilead" above the title of his work. It was 
written in 1860 during the presidential canvass 
of that year when slavery as it then existed in 

Its First Judges Jteynvlils. 247 

the United States was the all absorbing topic 
of the campaign. It was written in the midst 
of the exciting scenes of that canvass which 
culminated in abolishing slavery in the United 
States the ultimate effect of which was to 
change the organic law of the land in regard 
to slavery. It was not a time for the calm and 
thoughtful consideration of that question, which 
at all times is a most exciting one. Evidently 
the author partook largely of the prevailing 
excitement and wrote under its influence. The 
author was always an unreasonable pro-slavery 
man and the public discussion and denuncia- 
tion of his favorite institution, so freely in- 
dulged in by all political speakers, was more 
than he could patiently tolerate. It was to 
him a "red-flag" that caused him to become 
suddenly defiant and fierce to enter the strife 
of battle. This little book is better written 
than any of his other works, but the subject 
matter is positively ill natured. His other 
writings are all kindly in spirit and are 
calculated to leave a pleasant and gentle 

248 ////'// o/.s- Sujireiite Court 1818. 

influence upon the reader. In all his previous 
writings there is scarcely a single unkind 
thought or word. But a malevolent spirit per- 
vades this entire little book. One familiar 
with his kindly and even gentle mode of writ 1 
ing about everything people as well as polit- 
ical matters, are reluctant to believe he is its 
author. At most it is an impotent effort to 
justify human slavery on the ground it is abso- 
solutely right under both human and divine 
law. His proposition is "America slavery is 
founded on virtue, justice, and morality." The 
argument in support of this absurd proposi- 
tion, so far as there can be said to be any ar- 
gument in his manner of treating the subject, 
is that as the negro is mentally inferior to the 
white man, therefore the latter race may of 
right reduce the former race to slavery and may 
rightfully buy and sell them as they would 
stock and chattels in the open market. But 
the question discussed has lost all its interest 
other than that which is historic, since the in- 
stitution itself perished amid the appaling 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 249 

events of the civil war. That which is to be 
most regretted is the author's willingness 
perhaps his desire that is apparent in the 
entire little book is, the government itself 
should be destroyed 'unless slavery could be 
maintained. In the proem to his book he 
utters a fervent prayer for the preservation of 
the constitution and the maintenance of the 
Union but it sounds like a hollow mockery 
when read in connection with the text. The 
line of thought pursued, ill accords with his 
views 'expressed in earlier life as to the value 
of the American Union. In all his speeches no 
matter upon what subject he exalted patriot- 
ism and magnified the worth of the Union under 
the constitution. That he might emphasize 
his own love of the Union he let pass no occa- 
sion to denounce federalists and whigs as trait- 
ors to our common country. It is a matter of 
regretful sorrow with all who loved Gov. Rey- 
nolds personally and who value his writings, 
and there are untold numbers of them, this 
little book was ever written. It is the only 

250 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

thing that obscures the brightness of a good 
and useful life. Happily, since slavery has 
now no existence in the land, it will soon be 
forgotten by his friends and it will not be re- 
membered he ever wrote it. The subject of 
human slavery was the only one about which 
he could neither talk nor write fairly or kindly. 
But concerning slavery he had a prejudice akin 
to insanity itself. It is hardly probable this 
little volume was published for sale. It was 
doubtless intended for gratuitous distribution 
a mode adopted to get his views on that 
question before the people in the pending pres- 
dential canvass. But whatever may have 
been his purpose, his book produced no more 
impression than the falling of a leaf in autumn. 
Great events were transpiring that were lead- 
ing on to momentous results. John Brown, of 
Osawatomie, a friend of the slave, had been 
hanged in Virginia and all Americans had 
reached an unalterable conclusion. No one 
wanted to read anything in support of the 
"right of American slavery." The time for 
action not reading had come. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 251 

Other than the books noticed, he wrote 
nothing worthy of special mention. His other 
writings consisted only of a few little stories 
fiction of no value, and perhaps a few mono- 
graphs. But he had now become more than 
three score and ten years of age and the even- 
ing of life had come to him, when he could do 
no literary or other labor. His life work, was 

252 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 


"As a Tale That is Told." 

The life of even a great man is often as 
soon forgotten as is ' 'a tale that is told. " Build 
high as can be done, a monument of stone to 
perpetuate the name and fame of one that is 
dead, the time will come when that pretentious 
column, will tell to the curious enquirer passing 
that way, nothing of him whose grave it marks. 
Its crumbling ruins will mock at the vain ef- 
forts of man to make anything endure forever. 
Should the name of the great dead be written in 
history, a time will come when even that record 
will become illegible, and thus will perish all, it 
was intended should render his name immortal. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 253 

The life of Gov. Reynolds, in the years 
in which he lived, abounded in much that 
was good and true. Its worth to his State 
and country in his day can hardly be over- 
stated. It had its achievements and its 
triumphs. Yet it was not all a benediction, 
even unto himself. There was light on his 
heart and there was shadow also. Such is 
life at its best. Painfully sad it is, his last 
days were rendered inexpressibly unhappy by 
a dread disease, it was evident from the begin- 
ning would be a mortal sickness. After many 
weary months, the ' 'angel of death" came to that 
chamber of suffering and the end of a journey 
of near four-score years was reached. 

"Tired, he sleeps, and life's poor play is o'er." 

Affectionate in private life he loved his 
home and all that was in it and around it. He 
was twice married, and with each wife he lived 
happily because both were kind, loving, and 
true. As elsewhere stated, his first wife was 
a widow when he married her. Her name was 
Catherine Dubuque LaCroix a native of Ca- 

254 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

hokia and a French Creole. She died in Belle- 
ville in 1834. She was buried in the ' 'church 
yard" at Cahokia, near that old church 1765 
where she had worshiped in her youth, and 
around which all her best and holiest affections 
clustered. Over her grave there was erected 
a tomb not much adorned by architectural 
work, but in its day a rather pretentious mon- 
ument. As originally built it was oblong and 
constructed of a gray colored stone taken 
from the "bluffs" not far away. Its support- 
ing columns were square pillars about two feet 
in hight, with smooth panels between them, 
and upon which a large stone covering the en- 
tire structure, was placed. It was underneath 
that monument, the body of Mrs. Reynolds 
was deposited, there to remain until the morn- 
ing of the resurrection when all burial places 
will give up their dead. It was sacred then 
and is sacred now because of its contents. 
The history of a life when written on stone is 
simple and always brief. It consists of a few 
lines stating name, date of birth, and date of 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 255 

death of him or her that once lived, and some- 
times is added a sentence expressing tenderest 
hope. That is all and that endures not many 
decades of years at longest not many cen- 
turies. Such is the brief history of a life as 
written on the great stone that covers her 
grave : 






BORN IN CAHOKIA, 18 SEP., 1789, 

BELLEVILLE, 5 NOV., 1834. 


i " 

In the representation given of the original 
on the tomb, the oval as seen above the 

256 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

inscription was countersunk, leaving the cross 
in cameo. It was a fit place in which 
to lay away the beloved dead, and the 
tomb erected, when done, was worthy of the 
affection, her husband bore to her. But 
like all structures reared by man it is falling 
away some of the words carved upon it 
are now so worn as to be almost illegible 
and unless soon repaired, the whole tomb 
will be much despoiled by the ceaseless action 
of the elements upon it. 

He was again married in 1836, during his 
first term in Congress. His second wife was 
Sarah E. Wilson a native of Maryland. It 
is probable they were married either in Wash- 
ington or Georgetown in the District of Co- 
lumbia. He became acquainted with her in 
Washington. He never had any children by 
either wife. A step-daughter, Mrs. Samuel 
B. Chandler a daughter of his first wife, Mrs. 
LaCroix is the only member of the family 
now 1 894 living. 

Its First Judges Reynolds. 257 

On a plain but substantial monument in 
the cemetery near the city of Belleville there 
are simple inscriptions to the memory of Gov. 
Reynolds and his wife. On one side are 
carved on the stone, letters it is hoped 
may endure through the coming centuries : 
"Gov. John Reynolds, born Feb'y 28, 1788, 
in Pennsylvania, and died May 8, A.D. 1865." 
On the opposite side appears written on the 
stone the name of his last wife "Sarah E. 
Wilson, of Maryland, born Feb'y the 1 4th, A.D. 
1811 ; died July 17, 1865." On the base of the 
monument is the following affectionate inscrip- 
tion, "An offering of an only sister." The 
"only sister" who erected this monument of 
stone to perpetuate the memory of her beloved 
dead, was a sister of the last Mrs. Reynolds. 
It will be seen only a brief time intervened 
the death of Gov. Reynolds and the death of 
his wife. They walked close to each other in 
life and rest near each other since their death. 
As a lifelong friend who loved them has ex- 
pressed it, they now lie in that old cemetery 

258 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

"side by side taking their final sleep." But 
Gov. Reynolds needed no inscription upon a 
monument of stone to perpetuate his name 
and fame. In his works and in his writings he 
has a monument that will outlast any that 
could be wrought of stone or bronze. 

Its First Lawyers Jones. 259 


The early lawyers of Illinois may, with most 
convenience, be considered in two groups: 
First, the lawyers practicing in the territorial 
court, and second the lawyers practicing in 
the state court, during the temporary incum- 
bency of the first four judges of the Supreme 
Court a period of about six years. It will 
not be practical to do more than to make brief 
mention of only a few of the most prominent 
lawyers constituting either group. 

The distinction of being the first practicing 
lawyer in the Illinois Territory belongs to John 
Rice Jones. He came to Kaskaskia in 1790 

260 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

and after remaining for a brief time, he went 
to Vincennes. Afterwards he became a citizen 
of Missouri and was at one time a member of 
the Supreme Court of that State. All writers 
that knew him when he resided in the Illinois 
Territory, speak rather favorably of him as 
a citizen, as a scholar, and as a lawyer. 
It seems he was born in Wales, in 1750, 
and was therefore forty years of age when 
he arrived at Kaskaskia. He was educated 
in England before coming to this country. 
Highest praise is bestowed on him by many 
early writers much of it no doubt is mere ex- 
travagant eulogy. It seems to have been a fault 
with most writers of that period to read, both 
the history and the biography, they recorded, 
through strongly magnifying lenses certainly 
the tendency was to discover a very unusual 
number of giants in those days. A portrait of 
Mr. Jones at least one that purports to be of 
him has been preserved and is printed in some 
of the later histories of Illinois. The expression 
it bears, does not confirm very many of the com- 

Its First Lawyers Jones. 261 

plimentary things written of him. It gives the 
idea of a man small in stature, with small dark 
eyes and thin lips closely pressed together. It 
shows his hair very black and parted in the 
middle a style rarely seen in his day. It is 
said as a speaker ' 'his capacity for invective 
under excitement was extraordinary." One 
would get that notion from looking on his por- 
trait. It may not be a correct likeness and 
may not do him justice. But as given, his por- 
trait shows a rather pinched up face not 
giving many indications of either gentleness 
or charity in his character. In that lawless 
plundering of the Spanish traders residing 
in the Indiana Territory when they were de- 
spoiled of their goods and whatever else they 
had, contemporary writers represent him 
as a leader among the most active spoliators. 
It is said he was a good lawyer and a 
successful advocate. Doubtless, he was a 
vigorous and defiant antagonist in any forensic 
contest, with a purpose to overcome all op- 
position. Unless the indications from his por- 

262 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

trait are misleading, he evidently had a dis- 
position to crush all opposition that stood in 
his way to success at the bar or elsewhere. 
He seems to have been a man of most deter- 
mined and positive character. 

His judicial opinions appearing in the re- 
ports of the Supreme Court of Missouri, are 
well written and evince learning and ability. 
Perhaps they are elaborated to a greater 
extent than the importance of the questions 
discussed required. His positive character 
and belligerent nature found expression in very 
many dissenting opinions during the time he 
was a member of that court. He was then past 
seventy years of age a time of life when most 
men cease contention, both personally and 
intellectually. It seems, he wrote more dis- 
senting opinions than opinions of the court 
certainly during the first years of his incum- 
bency of the bench. Only two opinions of the 
Court appear in his name at the March term, 
1821. No opinions of his, are reported after 
November term, 1823. It is probable his 
death occurred early in 1824. 

Its First Judges Darneille, Edivards, McLean. 263 

The second lawyer in the Illinois Territory 
prior to 1800, was Isaac Darneille. It is said 
of him he was a man well educated in litera- 
ture and in the law, and of most fascinating 
address, but had no fitness for the practice of 
the law. He came to Cahokia in 1794, and 
lived there for a time. He was quite a char- 
acter in early Illinois history, but not as a 
lawyer. It is said he dwelt too much in the 
"wilderness of sin." 

Gov. Ninian Edwards was one of the early 
territorial lawyers, but it is hardly probable 
he practiced law in the courts of that time. 
He had been chief justice of the Supreme 
Court of Kentucky. After coming to Illinois 
to become Governor of the Territory, his 
later life was nearly or quite altogether de- 
voted to politics and to business, and in the 
latter he was quite successful and amassed 
a considerable fortune. 

Perhaps quite as prominent as any of the 
lawyers of territorial times was John McLean, of 
Shawneetown. He had very few superiors at the 

264 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

early bar. Not only an educated lawyer, but 
he was a man of unusual natural endowments 
and of the highest and purest private character. 
No man in territorial times, nor since, sus- 
tained a higher character for integrity and 
honorable conduct than did John McLean. 
Gifted with rare eloquence, he was a man of 
great force and influence, both at the bar and 
on the hustings. As a token of the regard in 
which he was held by the people of the State, 
the county of McLean was named after him. 
In the later years of his life he was much more 
of a politician than a lawyer. At the session 
of the Legislature in 1824-5, ne was elected 
United States senator to fill out the unex- 
pired term of Senator Edwards, who had 
resigned. Afterwards he was elected senator 
for a full term but died before the expiration of 
his term. He was held in high esteem by the 
people of the State, without regard to party 

Distinguished much more than most other 
territorial lawyers was Nathaniel Pope. He 

Its First Lawyers Pope. 20") 

was a native of Kentucky, but came to Illinois 
from Missouri, and perhaps practiced law in 
the Territorial courts of Illinois, while yet a 
resident of St. Genevieve. He was a very 
plain man in his appearance and was not very 
tidy in his dress. Gov. Reynolds, in speaking 
of him in connection with John Scott, also of 
St. Genevieve, said "these two young men 
were the choice fruits of nature, possessing 
great strength of intellect and much energy." 
Not much is known about Mr. Scott as he 
never lived in Illinois, but the eulogy so far as 
it applied to Judge Pope, was well bestowed. 
He was a good lawyer and a man of uncommon 
good sense. He studied law in the schools 
and learned it as something applicable to the 
affairs of the State. Strictly a lawyer and 
eschewing politics in the main, he became em- 
inent in his profession. Perhaps the only 
political offices he ever held, were secretary of 
Illinois Territory, and afterward a delegate to 
Congress. On the admission of the State in- 
to the Union he was appointed a federal judge 

266 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

for the district of Illinois, which office he held 
until his death which occured in 1850. The 
character of Judge Pope is worthy to be 
studied by all young lawyers that are ambiti- 
ous to succeed in their profession. He was a 
scholar and not a pedant, a judge and not a 
politician, and a faithful and uncomplaining 
toiler in all that fell to his lot to do. He had 
that learning and mental strength, it was not 
difficult for him to discharge the duties of his 
office, and for that reason he was not like one 
of those less vigorous judges that is always 
complaining of being overworked. Another 
quality added much to his worth that is, 
he was a modest judge. For more than three 
decades of years, he not only administered the 
laws of the people among whom he lived, but 
what was of infinitely more value to them, he 
administered "right and justice." 

Another territorial lawyer that will always 
have a favorable mention in the history of the 
Northwest was Jesse Burgess Thomas. He 
was born at Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1777. 

Its First Lawyers Thomas. 267 

The claim is made on his behalf and perhaps 
correctly, he was a lineal descendant from Lord 
Baltimore. Be that as it may, he certainly 
came from one of the oldest and most respect- 
able families of Maryland. It matters little 
who his ancestors may have been, nor what 
their station in life may have been, he made 
an honorable name for himself in the age and 
among the people with whom he lived. At an 
early age perhaps when a mere child he 
was taken to Kentucky. It was there he was 
educated and grew to manhood. Recent 
writers of biography and even many historians 
have adopted, a most excellent plan of giving 
portraits of distinguished persons whose history 
is written. It is a valuable part of biography 
and aids the student very much in obtaining a 
more exact idea of the men of the period, 
than he could otherwise get. It brings the 
student in the very presence as it were, of the 
person whose character he is studying and in 
that way, he seems in a measure to become 
personally acquainted with him. A portrait 

268 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

presumably a correct one of Judge Thomas, 
has been preserved and has been published in 
some recent histories and biographical sketches. 
It gives the idea of a stalwart man in fact he 
was more than six feet high and weighed over 
two hundred pounds. It shows a large head 
with pleasant features, but not at all striking 
smooth shaven as the style was in those 
days and dark eyes without any notable ex- 
pression. Looking upon his portrait one gets a 
most accurate idea of the man as he really was 
and with it an impression of him that lingers 
upon the mind. That impression is of a man 
of solid worth, rather than of any great bril- 
liancy in thought or otherwise. Such was 
really his character. It is said he studied law 
in Kentucky. On the organization of the 
Indiana Territory he located in Lawrence- 
burgh and commenced the practice of the law. 
It was not long before he became prominent 
in all public affairs of the territory. After- 
wards he was a resident of Vincennes for a 
short time. He was twice married, but died 

Its First Lawyers Thomas. 269 

childless. Personally and politically he was a 
warm friend of Gen. Harrison, and was one of 
his earnest supporters for the Presidency in 
1840. In politics he was a Whig, and in 
religion he was an Episcopalian. Both in 
public and private life his character was with- 
out reproach. Patriotic in his devotion to his 
country he served it in all official stations to 
the best of his abilities. He was a delegate 
from the Indiana Territory in Congress and 
assisted in setting apart and in establishing the 
Illinois Territory in 1809. In the appointment 
of officers for the latter territory he was named 
one of its judges, which office he held until the 
State was admitted into the Union. After his 
appointment as Territorial judge for Illinois he 
changed his residence to Kaskaskia, and later 
to Cahokia. In 1818 he was chosen by the 
electors of St. Clair county a member of the 
convention to frame a constitution for the State 
and became president of that convention. By 
the first Legislature, assembled under the 
Constitution of 1818 he was elected United 

270 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

States Senator for the term of five years and 
in 1823 he was elected his own successor for a 
full term of six years. That was perhaps the 
last official position held by him under any ap- 
pointment from this State. After his election 
to the United States Senate, he changed his 
residence to Edwardsville, and after the expir- 
ation of his term in the Senate he moved to 
Mt. Vernon, Ohio, where he died in 1853, at 
the age of seventy-five years. The services 
rendered by him in the Senate of the United 
States not only affected the welfare of the 
State of Illinois, but in a degree the nation 
at large. One measure with which his name is 
connected has become famous in the history of 
this country. It is said he was the author of that 
measure known as the "Missouri Compro- 
mise" of 1820. In that way he connected his 
name with an act, predestined from the begin- 
ing to be one of the most momentous events in 
the history of the American nation. It was not 
intended for he was not especially a friend of 
the negro to be a benediction to the slave race 

Its First Lawyers Thomas. 271 

whose unhappy condition it would affect, but 
rather to continue yet longer upon them their 
chains of oppression. But "God reigneth" and 
rules among the nations. Its sequence com- 
ing in the fullness of time, was a measure of 
which another Illinois Senator Douglas 
was the author, to repeal that famous ' 'compro- 
mise" once thought to have had the pledged 
faith of the nation to its perpetual duration. 
But that, too, was an event in the providence 
of God that must need come within the ap- 
pointed time. That repealing act was one of 
the causes that hastened the coming of the 
civil war in which perished that system of 
human slavery that through the centuries had 
cursed the land with blood and tears, shed 
through scourgings, most cruel. Had these great 
Illinois Senators done nothing else other than 
to have been the promoters of these acts of 
Congress, it would have secured the mention 
of their names in all histories of their country 
yet to be written. With the expiration of his 
term as senator, came also the end of his 

272 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

official relations with the State. It was a 
relative of his, of the exact name Jesse Bur- 
gess Thomas that was afterwards a judge of 
the Supreme Court of the State for a short 
time. Few, if any, among that group of ter- 
ritorial lawyers rendered more valuable services 
to the State than did Judge Thomas. It is not 
written of him, he was a great scholar either in 
law or literature, nor an orator, but he was 
a man of exalted private and official worth. 
Upon the State and its institutions he left the 
impress of his character. It was for good. 

As the space allotted to sketches of territor- 
ial lawyers is limited, it will not admit of 
personal accounts of all that properly belong 
to that period. Nothing more can be done 
than to give the names of a few of the most 
noteworthy. Hon. John J. Crittenden later 
a senator from Kentucky was for a short time 
attorney general for the territory, but did not 
remain long enough to be regarded as a perma- 
nent resident. It is a matter of surprise there 
were so many lawyers in the Illinois Territory 

Its First Lawyers Doyle and Others. 273 

prior to 1818. Even a partial list of the terri- 
torial lawyers will show a surprisingly large 
number in proportion to the population. Other 
than those already spoken of, there were among 
them, Benjamin Doyle, John Rector, William 
Hears, John Eddy, A. P. Field, R. A. Mc- 
Laughlin, P. H. Winchester, Thomas Rey- 
nolds, A. T. Hubbard, James H. Whitney, 
Charles S. Hempstead, Ralph P. Day, Elias 
Kent Kane, Daniel P. Cook, Richard M. Young, 
William H. Brown, Robert P. Karris, and 
many others. Most of these lawyers had their 
residences either at Kaskaskia, Shawneetown, 
or Edwardsville. It is hardly probable such a 
great number of lawyers among a sparse rural 
population where no considerable commercial 
business was transacted could have made a 
living by exclusive professional labor. It is 
written "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou 
eat bread." But it is not probable there was 
enough legal business in the country to have 
enabled that number of lawyers to have earned 
much in that way. A short account of how 

274 Illinois Territory before 1818. 

they did in fact make their living will be given 
in a later chapter. Afterwards quite a number 
of these territorial lawyers became distinguished 
men, both as lawyers and as politicians. Some 
of them-will be noticed in the group composing 
the lawyers of the first Supreme Court. 

Its First Lawyers Number and Character, 275 


It has been seen there were an unusual 
number of lawyers in Illinois when the Supreme 
Court was organized in 1818-1819. The notion 
of coming west had before that time prevailed 
as much as it has since, with young lawyers that 
wished to become great with the country, and 
especially with such as had a desire to become 
politicians. Some of them were well edu- 
cated and were of unusual ability, and others 
were illiterate with no fitness for the profession. 
This latter class soon fell out of the ranks of 
the profession, and have since been lost to 
public view. It was not found to be so easy to 

276 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

make a living by practicing law in the west as 
they had expected to find it. Many of them 
that professed to be lawyers were mere pre- 
tenders imposters. It did not take long then 
or at any time since for the people of the west 
to take a pretty accurate measurement of a 
man that offered them his professional services. 
When "weighed in the balances and found 
wanting" they were cast aside as worthless. It 
was possible for an unworthy person to impose 
himself upon the people in some instances, but 
the same one never did it a second time. It 
ought not to be claimed, all persons aspiring to 
be lawyers in that early time were either men 
of ability or learning, in the law. Such was not 
the case. There were shysters then and there 
are shysters now. It may be thought, too 
much eulogy is indulged in these sketches of 
lawyers of that period. A sufficient explana- 
tion exists in the fact, only worthy lawyers are 
mentioned, while no notice is taken of the ig- 
norant and unworthy. It is historically true, 
there were lawyers even at that early day in 

Its First Lawyers What They Did. 277 

Illinois that were the equals in professional 
ability with the best lawyers at any bar else- 
where in the United States. And why should 
there not have been? They were young men 
of the best abilities and had been educated in 
the best colleges and law schools before com- 
ing west. It is certain, coming to the west 
where the greatest activities prevailed and 
where there was conflict and friction, de- 
tracted nothing from them. It is a matter of 
curious inquiry how so many lawyers managed 
to sustain themselves among that rural people 
having very little commercial or other business. 
The fact is they did not and could not do it 
by strictly professional labor. There could 
have been but little legal business in the courts 
at that time. What there was consisted of 
matters of no grave importance, for which, 
clients could not pay much. Most important 
of all litigation in the courts, was the criminal 
business. But there was not much of that and 
if one Jawyer had gotten all of it, not much 
would have been added to his exchequer by way 

278 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

of fees, but when divided among so many it was 
a mere trifle. But with the law they connected 
always the vocation of politics and quite often 
a general business in trading, otherwise they 
would have had a scanty support. All lawyers 
of that day seem to have had quite as much 
liking for politics as for the law. Every one that 
could, secured some office from which emolu- 
ments might be derived. But a very large per 
cent of them combined with the law and poli- 
tics, also a general trade in anything that 
promised any profit. Gov. Edwards, during 
the time he was territorial governor, devoted 
much time to business from which he realized 
quite considerable wealth. Judge Thomas 
built at Prairie Du Pont the first "Carding 
Machine" in the territory. It was a mill simply 
for making wool into rolls. Before that time it 
had been done by hand on "cards." It was 
not called a "wool mill" because wool was 
neither spun nor wove in it. Like other lawyers 
he speculated in anything from which profit 
might be realized. George Forquer purchased 

Its First Lawyers What They Did. 279 

a piece of ground within the limits of what is 
now Monroe county and afterwards he and 
Hon. Daniel P. Cook laid out the town of 
Waterloo upon the same tract of land. Gov. 
Reynolds amassed what was in those days re- 
garded as a considerable fortune in trading in 
dry-goods and speculating in lands. Later he 
lost much of it in an ill advised undertaking to 
build a railroad from Illinoistown now East 
St. Louis across the American Bottom to a 
point at the "Bluffs" called Pittsburg. The 
purpose was to carry coal to supply the St. 
Louis market. The road turned out to be a 
failure and occasioned heavy losses to the pro- 
jectors. David Blackwell and Robert Black- 
well both engaged in the printing business, and 
David Blackwell was at one time State printer. 
Judge Breese published the first volume of 
Illinois Reports, and perhaps did some work in 
setting the type for it. Many lawyers became 
interested in publishing newspapers. In that 
work there was a two-fold purpose, one was for 
the money that might be realized and the other 

280 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

was the political influence that might come 
from the publication of the paper in their 
interests. The press was then as it is now a 
powerful agency in advancing the cause of a 
politician. Many of the profession developed 
great aptness in the doing of anything "to turn 
an honest penny" into their coffers. It was a 
matter of necessity with some of them. The 
group of lawyers it is now proposed to notice 
may be sub-divided and classified as those 
whose names appear in the official reports as 
practicing in the Supreme Court, and other 
lawyers whose names do not appear but who 
were prominent in the courts during the tem- 
porary incumbency of the first judges of the 
Supreme Court in the years intervening 1818 
and 1825 period of about six years. That 
was really the first Supreme Court of the State. 
Much of the legal history of that period has 
been lost or perished because- never written, 
when it could have been done. It is now very 
difficult to gather much of it together and 
weave it into any form that will be at all 

Its First Lawyers What They Did. 281 

interesting. It is a work that ought to have 
been done many years ago, and had it been 
done it would have been a profitable and most 
interesting history. A fact that may account for 
the barrenness of the legal history of that period 
is that out of that great multitude of lawyers so 
few achieved such distinction as made it neces- 
sary for early writers to say much concerning 
them. But such history as the bar as a body 
made, ought to have been put in such form it 
would have endured. 

It is known Judge Breese was the reporter 
of the first volume of the decisions of the Su- 
preme Court. That was in 1831. He had 
then been among the lawyers of that period, 
certainly as much as thirteen years, and in all 
probability had become personally acquainted 
with every lawyer that had any distinction at all 
at the bar. It is a matter of regret, he did not 
give in his report of cases, the names of more of 
the lawyers appearing in the Supreme Court at 
that early day. Prior to 1822 very few of the 
names of lawyers trying cases in the Supreme 

282 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Court are given, and when given only the sur- 
name is stated, so it can not always be known 
what lawyer was meant. In the first case re- 
ported in which the names of counsel appear- 
ing in the Supreme Court are recorded it is 
simply said ' 'Kane for Appellant" and ' 'Win- 
chester for Appellee. " That was at the Decem- 
ber term, 1819. Counsel for appellant was Hon. 
Elias Kent Kane. Elsewhere in these sketches 
mention is made of him as a prominent sup- 
porter of the "Convention Measure" to so 
amend the constitution as to admit of the intro- 
duction of slavery into the State. He came from 
a distinguished family in New York, closely 
connected with the great Chancellor of that 
State James Kent. But he was not indebted 
to any ancestry, however distinguished, for his 
great name and reputation. By his own un- 
aided efforts he wrought a name and reputa- 
tion for himself. It is said of him he was ' 'tall, 
florid, and of kindly expression. " It is probable 
he was slender certainly he was not robust. 
There was probably a tinge of melancholly in 

Its First Lawyers Kane 283 

his temperment. The same thing in other 
members of the family was called "Kane mo- 
ments," by which was meant periods of de- 
pression. It was that in his temperment that 
made him seek to avoid all large assemblies of 
people. He said of himself, when everybody 
was going to hear the President deliver his in- 
augural address, he remained in the Senate 
chamber. He was a thoughtful student and 
his retiring habits may have arisen in a meas- 
ure from a wish to be apart from others that 
he might commune much with himself. All 
sensitive minds are given to much reflection 
in the study away from all observation. This 
trait in his character, however, may have come 
in part at least from that strange desire that ex- 
ists in some delicate mental organizations to 
dwell much in solitude for its own consolations. 
What that mysterious feeling is or what its na- 
ture is, no one knows unless it is a part of his own 
being. It admits of no definition. A graduate 
of Yale college he was a scholar in literature 
and later become learned in the law and able in 

284 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

statesmanship. At the bar in the trial of a 
cause he was successful because he had prac- 
tical common sense and had an understanding 
of human nature. In his advocating either 
before the court or a jury he was logical, forci- 
ble, and often eloquent. Among the many 
official positions held by him in territorial times 
probably the most important was as a member 
of the convention to frame a constitution for 
the State, in 1818. It is understood he framed 
that instrument together after its several parts 
had been selected and approved by the com- 
mittees having in charge the several divisions. 
The work done was much more one of selec- 
tions from other constitutions than of original 
construction. Many of its provisions were taken 
from the constitution of Kentucky Doubtless 
other constitutions were examined and may 
have been used so far as it was practicable to 
be done. After the State was admitted into 
the Union he continued to practice law in the 
State courts. It appears from the official re- 
ports he had more cases in the Supreme Court 

Its First Lawyers Winchester. 285 

than perhaps any other lawyer practicing at 
that time in that court, unless it was Henry 
Starr. Had he remained at the bar no doubt 
he would have become one of its most dis- 
tinguished members. It is probable he would 
have lived longer had he confined his labors to 
the law. In addition to his legal engagements 
it was too great a tax on his physical strength 
to enter upon the wrangling of a political life. 
That, often puts to the test, the strongest 
constitutions and especially when the candidate 
is expected to make his canvass on the ' 'stump. " 
But he had a strong inclination for political life, 
he could not overcome. In 1825 he was elected 
to the senate of the United States from Illinois 
for a full term of six years. Afterwards, in 1 83 1 , 
he was elected his own successor for another 
term in the United States Senate, but died in 
1835, before the expiration of his second term. 
That was the end of a useful and valuable life. 
' 'Winchester" named as counsel for appel- 
lee in the same case was evidently P. H. 
Winchester a territorial lawyer. It has not 

286 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

been practicable to find any account of him 
other than the mere mention of his name as 
one of the lawyers of that time. That seems 
to have been his first and his last appearance 
in the Supreme Court so far as the official re- 
ports show. It is the last historical mention 
of him. It seems he was unfortunate with 
his case in the Supreme Court. In the trial 
court the judgment was in favor of his client, 
but on appeal Judge Reynolds, who heard the 
case on the circuit, did not sit with the other 
justices. The judgment of the trial court was 
reversed by the Supreme Court by a palpably 
erroneous decision but it was three against 
one and the majority controlled. It was num- 
bers and not legal learning that prevailed that 
perhaps is not very unusual in legal history. 

In the next case reported, a new name ap- 
pears as counsel for appellant it is that of 
Henry Starr, one who had been a member of 
the territorial bar. Of him not much is written 
indeed nothing that gives any satisfactory 
account of him and yet he was by far the 

Its First Lawyers Starr, Smith. 287 

ablest and most brilliant lawyer then at the 
bar of the Supreme Court. His home was at 
Edwardsville. He was a close personal friend 
of Gov. Coles and appeared for him as his 
counsel in the Supreme Court in one of the 
cases brought against the Governor by the 
county of Madison, for the violation of a stat- 
ute, inhibiting the bringing of negroes into the 
State, unless under certain conditions. The 
fact, Mr. Starr was the trusted personal friend 
of Gov. Coles and had his confidence, is a high 
testimonial to his character as a lawyer and as 
a citizen. His name appears in the Supreme 
Court Reports as counsel for one party or the 
other more frequently than that of any other 
lawyer of his time. Indeed after the Supreme 
Court was re-organized in 1825, he appeared 
in that court very often and in many of the 
most important cases. Later he changed his 
residence to Cincinnati, where he became 
known as a very able lawyer. 

Another lawyer whose name is given as 
appearing as counsel in the Supreme Court at 

288 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

that date was "Smith." It was Theophilus 
W. Smith afterwards himself a member of 
that court. Mention has been made of him in 
connection with the slavery agitation of 1822- 
1824. It is the testimony of all his contempo- 
raries, he was a good lawyer and made an able 
judge, but he was so much a partisan politician, 
it depreciated his usefulness as a lawyer and 
as a judge. It is conceded by his friends and 
his enemies and he had many of both he 
was a man of learning and ability. 

The names of but few lawyers are given 
who appeared as counsel for the respective 
parties in the cases reported prior to the No- 
vember term, 1823. At that term, however, a 
number were present to argue causes whose 
names had not before been mentioned. Promi- 
nent among them and perhaps greatest of all 
was Samuel Drake Lockwood. He was born in 
1789, in the State of New York. It is said he 
studied law and practiced in that State before 
coming to Illinois. On his way to this State 
he fell in with Judge Breese at a point on the 

Its First Lawyers Lockwood. 289 

Ohio river, perhaps at Shawneetown. That 
was in the autumn of 1818. Both were endeav- 
oring to reach Kaskaskia overland. They 
started together or may be joined each other 
on their journey, but before reaching their 
destination they parted company. It is not 
quite certain they ever did at any time there- 
after come very near each other in social 
relations. Judge Lockwood was the senior of 
Judge Breese by eleven years and made his 
way to the front in politics and in law much 
in advance of him. That may or may not 
have been the cause of a slight unfriendly feel- 
ing that is said to have existed between them. 
But one who knew him many years makes 
the statement, he never heard Judge Breese 
say an unkind word concerning Judge Lock- 
wood, although he did not recall, he had 
ever heard him say anything complimentary 
of him. Judge Lockwood at an early day 
turned his attention to office seeking and office 
getting. But that as has been seen was a 
mania with all lawyers at that day. He was 

290 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

quite successful. In 1822 he was appointed 
attorney general of the State. Afterwards he 
was secretary of State for a short time. He 
was a warm political and personal friend of 
Gov. Coles. Thoroughly anti-slavery in prin- 
ciple, he was an anti "convention" man and 
supported the policy of the administration 
of Gov. Coles with zeal and ability. No one 
rendered a stronger or more helpful support to 
Gov. Coles through the troublous times of his 
administration. Ever after coming to the 
State, Judge Lockwood was constantly engaged 
in some way in the public service. Finally on 
the re-organization of the Judiciary in 1825, he 
was elected by the General Assembly one of 
the associate justices of the Supreme Court. 
The tenure of the office of judge of the Su- 
preme Court after 1825, under the constitution, 
was for life or during good behavior, so that he 
held the office of judge until 1848, when the 
constitution of 1 8 1 8 was superseded by the new 
constitution just then adopted. After his elec- 
tion as judge of the Supreme Court, he aban- 

Its First Lawyers Lockivood. 291 

doned politics and his lifework thereafter, was 
judicial labor except so as it was proper for him 
to engage in the charitable work of the State. 
As trustee for some of the State charitable in- 
stitutions he rendered the State valuable 
services. Shortly after his election as judge of 
the Supreme Court he changed his residence 
to Jacksonville and resided there during his 
entire judicial term. In his capacity as circuit 
judge he was regarded as an excellent judge as 
well as upon the Supreme bench. It is said 
he was the author of the first criminal code 
adopted in the State. That is not true in the 
sense, he drafted it as an original instrument. 
Doubtless he had much to do with putting it 
together for which he is entitled to much credit, 
but the code itself when done was in no sense 
original in its definitions and provisions. It 
was copied in a large part from a Kentucky 
statute on the same subject which had itself 
been taken from the criminal codes of Virginia, 
North Carolina, and Tennessee. It is also true, 
he assisted in preparing other important stat- 

292 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

utes and in that way rendered valuable services 
to the commonwealth. It is seldom, if ever, 
the State had as one of its officers a better or 
purer man than Judge Lockwood. His private 
character was of the highest worth. Although 
on the bench of the Supreme Court for more 
than twenty-three years, there never was dur- 
ing all that time, any criticism on his official 
conduct that called in question his integrity of 
character or his personal honor. Opportuni- 
ties came to him that come to few judges to 
assist in establishing as an original creation 
a judicial system for a great commonwealth. 
When he came to the bench our system of 
jurisprudence was still imperfect it was in 
its infancy. It required much legal learning 
and intelligent labor to bring it up to the high 
standard, it has since attained. In that great 
work Judge Lockwood bore an honorable part. 
His opinions delivered from the bench of the 
Supreme Court are accurate expressions of the 
best principles of the law, and will aid through 
all coming time in the administration of the 

Its First Lawyers Blackwells. 293 

law in its highest and best sense. It is a 
graceful tribute the historian Judge Moses 
pays to the worth of Judge Lockwood, that 
' 'among all those who served under the first 
constitution the name of Judge Lockwood 
stands out conspicuously as that of the beau ideal 
jurist. Tall and spare in form, graceful in 
bearing, with hair turned nearly white before 
he was fifty, although he lived to be eighty- 
five, with high forehead and features strongly 
marked with lines of thought, care, and feel- 
ing, his aspect was at once benevolent, vener- 
able, and intellectual. His appearance on the 
bench was the very personification of dignity, 
learning, and judicial acumen." 

There was also present at the same term of 
the Supreme Court a Mr. Blackwell, who was 
associated with fudge Lockwood in the argu- 
ment of a cause. It is probable it was Robert 
Blackwell. There were two lawyers by the 
name of Blackwell Robert and David both 
of whom were rather prominent in public af- 
fairs of the State. Both of them were con- 

294 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

nected with the printing business, and David: 
Blackwell was at one time State printer. JRob-- 
ert Blackwell was perhaps most prominent as 
a lawyer and it is for that reason it is supposed 
he was the Qije that appeared at that term of 
the court. David Blackwell was a lawyer but 
not of so much prominence. He was also a min- 
ister in the Methodist Episcopal church. But 
his principal occupation was that of a printer 
and publisher. Robert S. Blackwell who was 
later, a lawyer of some note in the State was a 
son of David Blackwell. There was one thing 
that contributed very greatly to give the 
younger Blackwell the reputation, he had as a 
lawyer it was his habit of citing an unusual 
number of authorities to sustain every imagin- 
able proposition he could suggest as likely to 
arise in the case. It was thought by many it 
showed great familiarity with the adjudged law, 
but that is not always the fact. It rather shows 
diligence in looking into the digest of cases. 
It is not a practice to be commended. In a 
case in the Supreme Court, counsel cited an 

Its First Lawyers Blackwells, Me Roberts. 295 

unusual number of cases in support of his con- 
tention. On examining the cases cited it was 
seen, only two or three of them had the slight- 
est application and they were authorities 
against his position. 

Another lawyer of some note that appeared 
at that term of court as counsel for defendant 
in a cause pending, was simply mentioned by 
the reporter as "McRoberts. " It was Samuel 
McRoberts born, February, 1799, in what is 
now Monroe then Randolph county. He 
was of Scotch perhaps Scotch-Irish extrac- 
tion. After receiving instruction in the local 
schools he was at an early age sent to a college 
at Lexington, Kentucky, where he was gradu- 
ated in the literary and law departments of that 
school. On leaving the school he was still a 
very young man, but he at once entered upon 
the practice of the law with a measure of suc- 
cess. Public offices either came to him or they 
were thrust upon him in rapid succession. In 
that day it seems the lawyers had pretty much 
all the public offices, worth the having, but if 

296 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

there were any, no lawyer wanted, they were 
given to non-professional men. In 1821, Mc- 
Koberts was elected clerk of the Circuit Court 
of Monroe county and from that time on he 
held some official position resigning one office 
that he might take another and better one. 
Under the act of 1825, he was appointed one 
of the circuit judges of the State. But of course 
he did not hold that office very long, for the 
act under which he was appointed was soon 
repealed and that put an end to his office. In 
1828 he was elected State senator. Shortly 
later he was appointed, by President Jackson, 
United States district attorney for Illinois. 
That office he resigned to accept the appoint- 
ment of receiver of public moneys at the land 
office at Danville, tendered to him by Presi- 
dent Van Buren. In 1839 he was appointed 
by President Van Buren solicitor of the gen- 
eral land office at Washington. This position 
he also resigned and shortly thereafter he was 
elected by the General Assembly of this State 
a member of the United States Senate. That 

Its First Lawyers McRoberts. 297 

was in 1841. He only served through the 2/th 
Congress. He died at Cincinnati in March, 
1843, from the effects of a cold contracted while 
coming over the mountains on his way home 
after the adjournment of Congress. It is thus 
seen, he constantly occupied some official posi- 
tion from a time soon after he quit the schools 
up to the day of his death. He was a man of 
scrupulous integrity in all financial matters. It 
is said when he settled his accounts as receiver of 
public moneys, the government owed him $1.65, 
which was afterwards paid to him. Governor 
Reynolds in speaking of Judge McRoberts be- 
stowed upon him extravagant praise. But the 
governor did so much of that in respect to so 
many persons it came finally not to mean much. 
It is just, however, to say of Judge McRoberts, 
he was a man of fair ability but nothing more. 
He had an iron will, that would brook no 
opposition and that enabled him to achieve 
such phenomenal success in office getting. As 
a citizen he was much respected. But he 
would have been held in much higher esteem 

298 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

when living and his memory much more hon- 
ored since his death, had it not been for his 
extreme views in respect to slavery. On that 
subject he could neither talk nor act with any 
fairness or with any toleration for the views of 
others who did not agree with him or his no- 
tions. About other matters he was a reason- 
able and fair man. No "fire eater" in the 
South was ever more indiscreet and even fool- 
ish in his advocacy of slavery than was Judge 
McRoberts. He was one of the most blatant 
advocates of the "convention measure," in- 
tended to make it possible to introduce slavery 
into this State. 

While Judge McRoberts was on the circuit 
bench he tried two cases, that have since be- 
come causes celebres in legal history. One of 
them was the People vs. Solomon H. Winches- 
ter, in the circuit court of Madison county. 
Defendant was charged with the murder of 
Daniel Smith. The trial created a good deal 
of local excitement. Defendant belonged to a 
highly respectable family and had many influ- 

Its First Lawyers Me Roberts. 299 

ential friends. The case was ably prosecuted, 
and was defended by Felix Grundy, of Ten- 
nessee. It was a fierce struggle, but de- 
fendant was acquitted. The other case was 
the County of Madison vs. Edward Coles. The 
action was to recover the penalty imposed by 
an old and cruel statute, to prevent persons 
from bringing slaves into the State for the 
purpose of emancipating them without first 
giving bonds, they should never become a 
charge on the county. The prosecution and 
the trial were a travesty on justice and reflected 
no credit on the judges trying the case. It 
was first tried on the circuit before Judge John 
Reynolds and a jury, when a judgment was 
rendered for two thousand dollars against de- 
fendant. The motion for a new trial went 
over to the next March term, 1825, of the 
Court. Judge Reynolds was then out of office 
and Judge McRoberts had come to the bench. 
On coming to hold the circuit court in which 
the case had been tried he found the motion 
for a new trial still pending and at once over- 

300 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

ruled it. In the meantime the legislature had 
passed an act releasing Governor Coles from 
the judgment on his complying with certain 
conditions. To enable defendant to avail of 
the act, the Court was asked to vacate the ver- 
dict and judgment that he might plead it puis 
dartien continuance, but Judge McRoberts de- 
nied the motion and refused to allow the plea 
to be filed. On an appeal to the Supreme 
Court, the judgment was reversed and the Cir- 
cuit Court directed to allow the plea to be filed, 
which was done and the judgment set aside as 
to defendant. The trial was never thought to 
be creditable either to Judge Reynolds or to 
Judge McRoberts. It was common belief 
their rulings were in a measure at least con- 
trolled by their extreme views in regard to 
slavery. In a publication, Governor Coles made 
some criticism upon the rulings of Judge Mc- 
Roberts, and it is said the judge so far forgot 
the dignity of his office as to go in person be- 
fore the grand jury of the court in which he 
presided and procured an indictment against 

Its First Lawyers Baker 301 

Governor Coles for libel and afterwards brought 
a personal action against him for damages. 
Neither case was ever tried. It is a matter of 
some interest, Judge McRoberts was the first 
native Illinoisan that represented the State in 
the United States Senate. Since then only 
one other native Illinoisan General John A. 
Logan has represented the State in that 
branch of the national government. It is a singu- 
lar fact also, no citizen born in it has ever yet 
been governor of the State. Prior to 1870 no 
citizen born in the State had ever been a mem- 
ber of its Supreme Court. In that year one 
was elected and since then three others have 
been elected and that court now has only two 
members who were born in the State. It is 
quite time the State was raising its own United 
States senators, governors, and judges of its 
Supreme Court. 

Another lawyer appearing at that term of 
court as counsel in a cause pending was Hon. 
David Jewett Baker. He was born at East 
Haddam, Conn., in 1792. At first he made 

302 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

his home at Kaskaskia, but subsequently 
changed his residence to Alton, where he died 
in 1869. Attending the best schools he be- 
came a fine scholar in all the branches of a 
liberal education. He was admitted to the bar 
in 1819, and commenced the practice of his 
profession at Kaskaskia. Thoroughly anti- 
slavery, he opposed the ' 'Convention Measure" 
of 1822-4 with great earnestness and zeal. 
Parties at that time were sharply divided on 
the slavery question which gave rise to much 
bitter strife and sometimes resulted in un- 
friendly relations. Judge Baker maintained 
his views on that disturbing question with great 
courage and ability. In the defense of equal 
civil rights before the law for all whether white 
or black he rendered services to the State 
worthy the highest statesmanship. No one had 
any doubt as to his position in that crisis. He 
stood for all that was best for both races. For 
a brief time he was a member of the United 
States Senate from this State. It is said he 
made a most useful senator during his short 

Its First Lawyers Baker. 303 

term of service and proposed a land reform 
that was valuable to all western people. For 
quite a number of years he was United States 
District Attorney for Illinois and made a good 
officer. It is not recalled he ever held any 
official position after going out of the office of 
district attorney. He practiced law some after 
he retired from public life, but perhaps no 
great deal. Judge Baker came to Illinois 
when he was a young man and cast his lot with 
her people. He lived among them a pure and 
upright life. Neither upon his private character 
nor upon his official conduct was there ever 
the slightest touch of smirch. Through his 
long and useful life he had in a full measure 
the confidence and respect of all good people. 
At the November term, 1 824, of the Supreme 
Court, which was the last term held by the 
first judges, no lawyers other than those of 
whom short sketches have been given, were 
present so far as the official reports of that 
court show. In a literal sense, those men- 
tioned were the lawyers of the first Supreme 

304 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

Court. It was a body of able men, some of 
whom would be recognized as lawyers of 
acknowledged ability and learning at any bar 
in the United States at that period in the 
history of our country. 

Its First Lawyers Some Were Great. 305 


It is not to be understood, the lawyers no- 
ticed in the preceding chapter constitute the 
entire group that were at the bar during the 
time of the first Supreme Court, although 
the names of no others appear in the official 
reports of the decisions of that court. There 
were other prominent lawyers and it is a matter 
of surprise the names of some of them at least 
do not appear as practicing in the Supreme 
Court. Judge Breese was the reporter and 
had he had cases in the Court during that time 
it is strange he did not report his own cases. 
It will now be the purpose to become better 

306 Illinois Supreme Court ISIS. 

acquainted with the other members of the bar 
of the first Supreme Court. It is not over- 
stating historical truth to say that some of 
them were great men, and surely it will be 
both pleasant and profitable to learn all that 
can be concerning them. Judge Breese was 
the last survivor of that body of lawyers. 
There are yet living, persons who had a close 
acquaintance with some of them and such per- 
sons wish always to recount everything con- 
nected with them in the doing of which there 
comes to them, who are themselves far ad- 
vanced in life, many recollections that bring 
thoughtfulness with them. The wish is, to 
dwell with them again, but as that can not be, 
all that can be done is to repeat some of their 
history and in that way, live over with them a 
portion of their lives. It will be the purpose 
also to give younger people a better knowledge 
of a few of the men who were most prominent 
in public affairs during that period of our State 
history. A half hour spent in the study of 
their lives and characters ought to be both at- 
tractive and profitable. 

Its First Lawyers Hall. 307 

Among the names of territorial lawyers, 
Gov. Reynolds gives the name of James Hall. 
That is not correct. He did not come to the 
State until 1820. With little fondness for the 
law, he exhibited only fair ability in the prac- 
tice of the profession. At the earliest oppor- 
tunity he sought official position. The legis- 
lature at that time was the hot-bed of the 
State for the producing of office-holders. He 
made friends with that body and procured 
himself to be appointed a judge of the circuit 
court under the act of 1825. After he was 
legislated out of office by the repeal of the 
act under which he had been appointed, he 
devoted most of his time to literature. He 
became much better known as a writer of liter- 
ature than as a lawyer or as a judge. He wrote 
what he called the "Romance of Western 
History," "Legends of the West," and other 
works descriptive of pioneer life and times. 
Some of his writings are valuable and quite 
interesting. At the time of their first publica- 
tion, they were very popular but they are not 

308 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

now much read. The present money-getting 
generation is not very greatly interested in that 
class of literature. The transition from the dim 
"early candle light" civilization to a brighter 
and higher state of civilization is not the en- 
chanting story it once was. Before another 
century shall have passed, it will have still 
fewer readers. It will hardly have the charm 
of a legend. Judge Hall changed his residence 
to Cincinnati and perhaps thereafter devoted 
his time exclusively to literary labor and earned 
for himself quite a reputation. 

One of the greatest lawyers of the period 
being considered was Daniel P. Cook. Re- 
cent writers give very full personal descriptions 
of him, which read in connection with his por- 
traits recently published give a very accurate 
idea of him. He was small in stature and frail 
in health, but mentally he was among the 
strongest men of his day. Yet withal he was 
a modest and diffident man. There is an ex- 
pression in his portrait that gives the idea of a 
refined and elegant gentleman. His style of 

Its First Lawyers Cook. 309 

dress was faultless and charmingly neat. On 
his face there was an expression of gentleness 
with a slight tinge of sadness that attracted 
every one to him. Clean shaved, with large 
dark eyes, expressive of thought and purity 
a man more attractive in person was rarely ever 
seen. Intellectually he was greatest and most 
admired. His educational advantages were 
limited, but he made a scholar of himself both 
in law and in literature. He was a Kentuckian 
by birth born in that State in 1793, but had 
rather the appearance of an eastern man. In 
the locality where he lived, his name is never 
spoken even at this day with other than the 
highest respect. He was one of the few men 
in public life against whom nothing unkind was 
ever said. On coming to the west then only 
eighteen years of age he located at St. Gene- 
vieve, on the Missouri side of the Mississippi 
river, nearly opposite Kaskaskia. While there 
he was employed in a store. He was poor in 
purse, but rich in intellectual resources. Un- 
aided by influential friends or the power that 

310 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

comes from wealth, he forced his way by mere 
personal effort up to a position in law and poli- 
tics not inferior to that of any man of his time. 
A youth, infirm in health, an employe in a 
store, in an obscure village far off in the west, 
among a strange people, most of whom spake 
only creole French a patois he did not under- 
stand, he made his way up from that humble 
station to the honorable position of a member 
of the American Congress, where he was recog- 
nized as an equal among that body of dis- 
tinguished statesmen. No character in all 
western history illustrates better the possibili- 
ties that await the American young man who 
has an ambition to make a name and fame for 
himself. His life and achievements are worthy 
of being made a study. He was gentle, he was 
honest and he was true in all the relations of 
life. Although his life was a short span, only cov- 
ering thirty-six years, yet it was crowded with 
events, it usually requires three score and ten 
years to accomplish. He came from St. Gene- 
vieve across the river to Kaskaskia and studied 

Its First Lawyers Cook. 311 

law with Judge Pope. That was in 1813. 
Shortly afterwards he was admitted to the bar, 
and from that time his career was one of rapid 
successes. At the bar his progress was phe- 
nomenal, soon surpassing most older lawyers 
of that locality. In 1817 he went to Washing- 
ton and was appointed bearer of dispatches to 
Minister John Quincy Adams at the court of 
St. James. Ever after that Mr. Adams was 
his warm personal friend. Early in 1818 he 
was appointed a territorial judge for the west- 
ern circuit of Illinois the duties of which 
office he discharged with marked ability. The 
same year he was an unsuccessful candidate 
for Congress, but his canvass was a brilliant one 
and won him many friends. At the next elec- 
tion he was elected a member of Congress over 
John McLean, who was acknowledged to be 
one of the greatest men in the State and one 
of the most effective orators on the hustings. 
He was several times re-elected to Congress, 
and was a member at the time of his death, 
which occurred on the i6th of October, 1827. 

312 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

During the last session he was in Congress he 
was chairman of the committee of ' 'ways and 
means." The State never had a better or 
purer man in its service than John P. Cook. 
The people honored him by electing him to 
official positions, and he honored the people by 
his valuable public services. The impress of 
his worthy character will remain upon the- 
State forever. 

His wife was a daughter of Gov. Edwards. 
She made for him a beautiful home and put in 
it all that makes a home sacred. A touching 
incident is related of him in connection with 
the last days of his pure life. His health was 
fast failing. After his return to Illinois from 
Cuba, where he had gone under a mistaken 
expectation, it might benefit his health, he re- 
mained a short time with his family, and when 
it became evident the end of his life was nigh 
at hand, he went back to his native State to 
the place of his birth. In his old home, where 
his mother had so often rocked him in his 
cradle into restful sleep, he was laid in his coffin 

Its First Lawyers Field. 313 

to take a yet longer sleep. His death teaches, 
the impressive lesson that the "cradle and the 
coffin" stand nearer each other than the bright 
anticipations of youth will admit. It shows 
how vain and of little moment are all our am- 
bitions and struggles for place and power, so 
soon are they to come to an end. Life is a 
short span. 

Prominent as a lawyer and as a politician 
in territorial times and also during the term of 
the first Supreme Court, was Alexander P. 
Field He was a man that would attract much 
attention on account of his splendid physique. 
Tall, well proportioned, with expressive feat- 
ures, he made a splendid appearance when 
speaking at the bar or on the platform. In the 
legal profession he was most distinguished as a 
criminal lawyer, in which capacity he had no 
superior at the early Illinois bar. That which 
obscured the brightness of his life was follow- 
ing the phantom of politics. Others as great 
as he was, came to the end of life under dark 
shadows of sorrows, as he did. Had he let 

314 Illinois Supreme Court 1818, 

politics alone and confined himself exclusively 
to the practice of the law, he would have be- 
come much more noted in his profession. Po- 
litical life had a fascination for him that nothing 
else had, and he followed its delusions to the 
end of his life. It brought him neither wealth 
nor fame. His last years were spent in Louis- 
iana, and there as elsewhere he was in politics. 
During the slavery agitation in Illinois in 
1822-4 ne was an extreme pro-slavery man and 
supported the ' 'convention measure" with great 
zeal and ability. But it is recorded as an im- 
perishable honor to his memory that in the 
hour of its greatest peril he was outspoken and 
bravely loyal to our government, and that, too, 
in the midst of a people madly intent on its 
destruction. He was a whig and always a 
loyal man, even when the avowal of his patri- 
otic devotion to his government put his life in 
peril. The few now remaining that knew him 
personally, remember him with a respect akin 
to affection. 

Its First Lawyers Snyder. 315 

Adam Wilson Snyder was one of the law- 
yers of recognized ability and worth that con- 
stituted the early bar of the Supreme Court. 
Of German extraction, he was born October 
6, 1799, in Pennsylvania. It is not probable 
his early environments were at all favorable to 
the development of his natural abilities. That 
was done by his own energies with not much 
aid from the schools certainly with very little 
patronage from persons of influence in high 
places. It is probable he had more encour- 
agement from Judge Jesse B. Thomas than 
from any one else, He trod the walks of 
penury alone. Yet unassisted as he was, he 
achieved distinction at the bar in law and in 
advocacy. On his arrival at Cahokia in April, 
1818 not then nineteen years of age his 
first employment was as tender to the stone 
masons engaged in building a wool "carding 
machine" at Prairie Du Pont for Judge Jesse 
B. Thomas carrying mortar and other ma- 
terials as a common laborer. After it was 
completed he operated the mill for a while, 

316 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

but perhaps for no great length of time. Later 
he studied law with Judge Thomas, and it is said 
by his son, he was ' 'shortly afterwards admitted 
to the bar. " It must have been in 1 8 1 9 he com- 
menced his law studies, for Judge Thomas did 
not long reside at Cahokia after he was elected 
United States Senator he changed his resi- 
dence to Edwardsville. Mr. Snyder, as he was 
then called, was married in 1824, and it seems 
certain he was admitted to the bar quite a while 
before that time, but the date of his admission 
does not seem to be definitely known. His 
wife was Adelaide, daughter of Jean Francois 
Perry. She was born in Prairie Du Pont. 
On her mother's side, Mrs. Snyder was con- 
nected with one of the oldest and most respect- 
able families living in the French villages in 
the American Bottom. After their marriage 
Mr. and Mrs. Snyder moved to Belleville and 
that city was thereafter their home until their 
death. It was a better location for Mr. Sny- 
der in which to practice law and to engage 
in politics for which he had a liking. Of 

Its First Lawyers Snyder. 317 

all the prominent men of his time no one was 
more active in public affairs than Adam W. 
Snyder. As early as 1830 he was elected to 
the State Senate. When the ' 'Black-Hawk" 
war broke out he volunteered in the military 
service of the State, as a private in Capt. Win- 
stanley's company. Afterwards he was ap- 
pointed adjutant of his regiment. Near the 
close of his term of service he was made captain 
of a company organized from soldiers then in the 
field, to serve only a short time in a special serv- 
ice. In the company commanded by him were 
many of the prominent persons of the State, 
among whom was Gen. Samuel Whiteside one 
of the most noted Indian fighters of the west. 
He was Scotch-Irish, and wherever there was 
any Indian fighting to be done, Gen. Whiteside 
was always ready to take a brave part in it. He 
was as courageous a man as ever lived. The 
company commanded by Capt. Snyder was en- 
gaged in one skirmish with the Indians near 
Dixon. Some members of the company going 
to hunt for water for a disabled soldier were 

318 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

fired upon by a small body of Indians in am- 
bush, and that brought on the engagement. It 
did not last long. The Indians fled as soon as 
resisted probably without loss. After the 
war, he was usually called Capt. Snyder 
sometimes colonel, but that was probably a 
courtesy by brevet. Capt. Snyder had many 
qualities that fitted him for politics. Perhaps 
he had more fondness for politics than for the 
law. In 1834 he was a candidate for Congress, 
but he was defeated by Gov. Reynolds. Be- 
tween the two there was a constant rivalry. 
The contest was renewed in 1836, when he 
overcome Reynolds and was elected a member 
of Congress. But Gov. Reynolds did not give 
up the battle, and at the next election he de- 
feated Snyder, who was a candidate for re- 
election. That was perhaps their last political 
contest. In 1841 Mr. Snyder was nominated 
by the democratic convention for Governor of 
the State, and would without doubt have been 
elected had he lived till the time of election. 
Notwithstanding he was so much engaged in 

Its First Lawyers Snyder. 319 

political and business affairs, he still practiced 
law with a good measure of success. Perhaps 
the last legal argument he ever made was 
made in the old court-house in Belleville, ren- 
dered notably famous by the description of its 
location given by Mr. Dickens in his American 
Notes which, by the way, is as meanly untrue 
as anything he ever wrote barring what he 
said as to the local pronunciation of the word 
prairie. There never was any one in that 
part of the country, so densely stupid as to 
pronounce it "paroarer." The remark, that 
"mode of pronunciation" was '-the most in 
favour," was unpardonable in Mr. Dickens. 
The only excusable reason that can be sug- 
gested is, some one had been guying him. 
When Mr. Snyder was making his last argu- 
ment in that old court-house, that had been 
the scene of many of his triumphs, his very 
appearance is still remembered by a few con- 
temporaries that yet survive. It was not 
long before his death. Ill-health had before 
that time so impaired his strength, he had 

320 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

given up the general practice of the law. 
Much attention was attracted by his personal 
appearance. Standing in the presence of the 
Court, much debilitated by long sickness, it 
was evident to every one who heard him, he 
was making his last legal argument and that 
fact, coupled with a high personal regard, 
caused him to be heard with unusual interest. 
The end of his life came soon. He was not 
perhaps regarded as an eloquent advocate, but 
his arguing before a Court or to a jury was 
logical, concise, and forceful and that gave him 
a measure of success at the bar. 

Gov. Thomas Ford and his half brother, 
George Forquer, were members of the bar 
of 1818-24. Both of them were born in Penn- 
sylvania. Neither of them had any advan- 
tages from the schools other than from the 
local or common schools of the country, and 
yet both of them became good lawyers and 
prominent in State affairs. Each was en- 
dowed with strong natural abilities. Gov. 
Ford was born in 1800, and was brought to 

Its First Lawyers Fwrd. 321 

Illinois when he was about four years old. 
Although he died at the early age of fifty years, 
he lived long enough to make a name and fame 
among the people with whom he lived. The 
photogravure portrait, recently published, gives 
the student of history a very exact idea of him. 
It shows very kindly features, and his face bears 
an honest expression. In stature he was below 
the medium size. He was slender in person, 
and is described by a writer as having "thin 
features, deep-set gray eyes, with an aquiline 
nose," but in fact his portrait shows a very 
comely face, with rather full eyes, regular feat- 
ures, and with a pleasing expression. That is 
a correct idea of him. Looking upon his face 
as it appears in the photogravure, that is seen 
which commands respect and admiratiofi. It 
is intelligence, courage, honesty, and an iron 
will all of which elements entered into the 
make-up of his character. With limited edu- 
cation, he began the study of the law with 
Hon. Daniel P. Cook, who was ever his faithful 
friend. It is probable he commenced to study 

322 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

law in 1823. Not endowed with the gift of 
oratory, he was never a successful advocate at 
the bar. It was in his judicial life, he had his 
greatest success. For a judge he had rare and 
unusual qualities. The State seldom ever had 
a better nisi prius judge. Upon the bench of 
the Supreme Court his services were very val- 
uable to the State. It -is to be regretted he 
did not remain in the Supreme Court. Emi- 
nently adapted to judicial labor, he had few if 
any elements of a successful politician. On 
the death of Hon. Adam W. Snyder he was 
given the nomination of the democratic party 
for governor of the State. That was a strange 
nemesis, under the spell of which he came after 
accepting the nomination for Governor. Be- 
fore that time he had known a good degree of 
prosperity. He was elected Governor, but from 
that day his fortunes began to fail, until at last 
his life went out in a sorrowful ruin of all that was 
expected to make him comfortable in his last 
years. When he came into the office of Gov- 
ernor the affairs of the State were in a disturbed 

Its First Lawyers Ford. 323 

and most unsatisfactory condition. The State 
not only had a large bond indebtedness, ag- 
gregating many millions of dollars, but it was 
in arrears for current expenses, perhaps to the 
extent of several hundred thousand dollars. The 
people were restive under the burden of taxa- 
tion. Even how to raise funds for the ordinary 
expenses of the State was a problem, difficult 
of solution. Auditor's warrants on the State 
treasury were not worth more than fifty cents 
on the dollar. Everything that was annoying 
and unpleasant seems to have arisen at the 
very beginning of his administration. Many 
in his own political party openly and boldly 
advocated repudiation of all State indebted- 
ness. A resolution to that effect was intro- 
duced into the convention that had nominated 
Mr. Snyder, whom Gov. Ford succeeded. 
That resolution was not even voted down, but 
was laid on the table, so that the convention 
might express no opinion on the question. But 
most troublesome of all questions that arose to 
vex him, were the Mormon difficulties cul- 

324 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

minating in the murder by assassination of 
Joseph Smith the Mormon prophet and his 
brother, Hyrum Smith. Disturbing events 
thickened in his way, and he was worried be- 
yond measure by them. Even a politician of 
large experience would have found difficulty in 
controlling them. Ever before that time he 
had been accustomed to the calm order of 
judicial labor, and when the storm of political 
events gathered about him he was powerless to 
control it. It was then he needed most the 
support of friends. But those who had pro- 
fessed to be his friends proved faithless and 
even treacherous when their support would 
have been most valuable to him. Not only as- 
sailed by the press of his own party as well as 
by the press never friendly to his political views, 
he was denounced by those that owed him 
much and who ought to have sustained him in 
his hour of trial. That hurt him most of all. 
It was wounding him in the house of his 
friends, where he had a right to expect kind 
treatment. Later, however, he had a meas- 

Its First Lawyers Ford. 325 

ure of satisfaction in that he wrote in history 
words that will burn in the reputations of 
some of them, through all the years to come. 
The end of his administration came none 
too soon for him. It was an honest adminis- 
tration, yet it was not altogether satisfactory 
to his party friends. The result of the Mor- 
mon difficulties was far from being satisfac- 
tory even to himself. When relieved from 
the cares of State matters, a great burden was 
lifted off his weary mind. The office of Gov- 
ernor was the last official position he ever 
held. He was only forty-seven years of age 
when he retired to private life, never to come 
forth again. In the seclusion of his retirement 
from the active duties of life he began to think 
upon the past, and soon began to write. The 
work he did was writing the history of Illinois 
from 1 8 1 8 to 1 847. That period comprised his 
active public life. He had lived in the midst 
of the transpiring events of that time, and was 
certainly as familiar with them as any man in 
the State. But the writing of his history was 

326 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

commenced at a most inopportune time at a 
time when he was broken in health, broken in 
fortune, and broken in spirit. Besides that he 
had just come out of a period of bitter political 
wrangling, with many intense prejudices against 
a great number of his contemporaries about 
whom he was to write. He wrote much, as 
unkindly as he felt towards some persons-who 
had, as he thought, betrayed his confidence. It 
was his opportunity to be avenged on his ene- 
mies, and he availed himself of it. His work 
is, however, in many respects, a very valuable 
contribution to State history. It was no doubt 
written, in part at least, to justify his admin- 
istration of the State government. But that 
does not detract from its worth. He gathered 
many things in reference to the recent history 
of the events and men of his time that would 
otherwise have been lost. If re written it would 
be a most valuable history of the period it 
covers. Even a review of it in the light of a 
better understanding of the events of that time 
would be a fascinating and most interesting 

Its First Lawyers F&rd. 327 

work. Later it will be authority for many 
things in Illinois history when it shall come to 
be rewritten by other historians. 

Personally, Judge Ford was highly esteemed. 
He ought not to have been Governor of the 
State, and his friends always regretted he came 
to that position. He possessed in a large meas- 
ure those sterling qualities that make up the 
best character honesty, courage, and fidelity. 
No man in the State ever had a higher repu- 
tation for honorable conduct than did Judge 
Ford. But he was a judge and nothing else. He 
was not even an advocate at the bar. He could 
do nothing from which money could be earned 
other than as salary. He could neither spec- 
ulate nor trade, and he accumulated little or 
nothing from his life work. Not a dollar ever 
come to him that he did not earn he obtained 
nothing dishonestly. When he left public 
office for the last time he had very little salary 
or other estate left. His last years were full of 
disquiet, because he had so little with which to 
secure the comforts of home for himself and his 

328 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

family. Solicitous even in his last days for his 
family, he laid upon his true and faithful friend, 
Gen. Shields, the obligation to have his history, 
then in manuscript, published for their benefit. 
His needs became pressing, and charity, to 
conceal the idea of alms-giving, came to him 
acknowledging the indebtedness of the people 
on account of his public services, and made not 
gifts but payments to him. What beautiful 
forms charity takes on when it ministers to the 
soul. It conceals all it does, even when be- 
stowing most. Only the recording angel is 
permitted to note it. 

Of the lawyers of 1818-1824 the one that 
in after years became most distinguished as a 
jurist and as a politician, was Sidney Breese. 
He was born in New York in 1800. Closely 
connected, were the families of Livingston, 
Morse and Breese families of the highest re- 
spectability in New York. Young Breese 
graduated at Union College with high honors 
then only eighteen years of age. Perhaps 
he began the study of the law before he left 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 329 

New York. In the autumn of 1818, on the in- 
vitation of his personal friend, Hon. Elias K. 
Kane, he came west and made his home at 
Kaskaskia, where he completed his law studies 
with his friend on whose solicitation he had 
come to Illinois. He was admitted to the bar 
when he was only twenty years of age, and 
from that time for a period of nearly three score 
years he was prominent in both the legal and 
political history of the State. Writing his 
biography would be the history of the State 
during his active life. That is not now the 
purpose. Only the historian can do that work. 
Nothing more will be attempted, other than to 
state a few of the most distinctive features of 
his character and to note some of the incidents 
of his life. A few of his contemporaries are 
still living, and they most like to remember 
him as he appeared to them when he was at 
his greatest strength after the full development 
of his physical and mental powers. The por- 
traits of him, and from which the public now 
get their impression of his personal appearance, 

330 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

seem to have been taken late in life. None 
have been published that give any idea of his 
appearance when he first became prominent in 
public affairs. It was then he looked best and 
most like a great man, as he really was. There 
is always a desire to know, how persons who 
are regarded as great men looked and what 
were their habits and manner of life in the pri- 
vacy of home. It gives the idea of a personal 
acquaintance and gives the privilege to meet 
them in social relations. All men, whether 
great or otherwise, are most natural in the 
family, and the truest idea of what they really 
are, is obtained from learning how they act and 
what they do when they are in the privacy of 
their homes. It is to be regretted more of his 
private life cannot be known. Judge Breese 
was great in intellectual endowments, in learn- 
ing, in the office of judge, and in the Senate of 
the United States. The writer of his complete 
biography will give an account of his public 
services. But that is not all it is desired to 
know of him. The wish is to become person- 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 331 

ally acquainted with him so far as that can be, 
to see him as he really appeared, and to learn 
his conduct in friendly social gatherings. It is 
now many years since his death, but the recol- 
lection of him is, he was in stature rather short, 
being somewhat below the medium height, of 
stout build, with large head, and with an un- 
usually large and deep chest. His eyes were 
neither very large nor very small, but always 
had a pleasant expression. Of a bronze com- 
plexion, his features were bright and clear. 
Being near-sighted, he always wore glasses 
set in bows, never the small frames for wearing 
on the nose except when reading. Early in 
life he was clean-shaven, and his hair, which 
was dark, was cut short. That style became 
him very much. This view of him has not 
been preserved in any portrait seen of him. 
After he had become quite advanced in life he 
wore a long, full beard, which was rather heavy, 
and suffered his hair, which was also rather 
heavy, to grow to a great length, falling down 
over his shoulders, giving him a venerable 

332 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

appearance, and perhaps causing him to look 
older than he really was. It is this view that 
is observed in all recent photographs of him. 
He dressed as became one in his station, and 
with the utmost care and neatness. In this 
respect, it may be said, he had a good deal of 
vanity. It is by no means true women have 
more vanity in regard to dress than men. It 
was seldom known, Judge Breese ever went 
from the conference room to the bench without 
first going to the looking-glass to observe 
whether his hair and wardrobe were well ar- 
ranged. On the bench he always wore 
black, and it was a matter of some annoy- 
ance to him if any brother judge went on the 
bench when court was in session, no matter 
how hot the weather might be, wearing light 
colored clothing. No judge ever observed the 
proprieties of the bench with more exactness 
than he did. 

But no one ever knew the full social worth 
of Judge Breese who did not have the op- 
portunity to hear his private conversation. 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 333 

In that respect he excelled most of his con- 
temporaries. He had the rare gift of en- 
gaging his friends in conversation with him, 
and he possessed in a high degree that civility 
that afforded them an opportunity to do so. It 
is not believed, he was ever guilty of that most 
offensive and vulgar habit of interrupting with 
his own conversation, another when essaying to 
speak. In regard to persons and incidents of 
the early history of the State, his conversation 
was most entertaining and profitable. But care 
had to be observed, not to suggest matters of 
the long ago, as a topic of conversation. His 
answers would be as brief as civility would 
permit not an extra word would he add. Ex- 
tremely sensitive as to his age, any inquiries 
concerning early happenings in the State 
seemed to him to imply, he knew something 
that had occurred so long before, no one else 
knew it. A statue, if interrogated, would 
hardly be less communicative. It was only 
when he commenced the conversation on such 
long-past subjects of his own motion, he would 

334 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

talk freely, and it was then, he was most in- 
tensely interesting. A romance wrought into 
story would not be more delightfully entertain- 
ing. Of a highly social nature, he was fond of a 
story if it were well told and free from vulgarity. 
But for one with a repertoire of stale stories, 
from which he selects a number for telling on all 
occasions, he had a very great dislike. It was 
a rare thing he ever undertook to relate an inci- 
dent for the wit there might be in it. He had 
a liking for some of Mr. Lincoln's for whom 
he had an exalted opinion stories, and would 
sometimes try to tell one of them, but he would 
quite as likely leave out the only point in it 
that would make it mirth-provoking. His 
memory was phenomenal, and what is strange, 
it suffered no perceptible failure in his last days. 
It was seldom he forgot anything he had ever 
read. In the last years of his life he could re- 
peat, when he chose to do it, choice speci- 
mens of the classic both in Latin and in 
English, which he had not read in the books 
in a score of years. He had a penchant for 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 335 

reading newspapers, and that habit enabled 
him to become well acquainted with the current 
events of the times. It seems he knew some- 
thing interesting of everybody and everything. 
That was an element in his conversation that 
made it so fascinating. 

Of his literary labors not much remains 
other than his judicial opinions, a few speeches 
in Congress and elsewhere, and what has since 
his death been published as the ' -Early History 
of Illinois." It is hardly probable the latter 
work was written for publication. What he 
said about it to his friends warrants the belief, 
it was never his intention it should be given to 
the public under the pretentious title of an 
"Early History of Illinois." It was prepared 
for a lecture upon the French occupancy of the 
country in that period intervening their first 
settlements and 1763. There was then no 
State, and it could hardly be said it was a 
"history of Illinois." The fact is, he never 
called it a history, and it is not believed 
he ever expected it would be so designated. 

336 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

It was written with a graceful and ornate 
rhetoric that made it pleasing to a popular 
audience, but it lacks that stately impressive- 
ness that belongs to historical writings. It is 
an entertaining account of the French people 
in that epoch prior to 1763, but it is in no 
just sense a history of "early Illinois." It 
was due to his memory an explanation of 
the true purpose in its writing, should have 
been given with its publication. It was a 
matter of some surprise to the public, no other 
writings were found among his papers after his 
death. But those best acquainted with him 
did not expect any would be found. On a 
little slip of paper found in his library in his 
own handwriting he mentioned three distinct 
and important epochs in Illinois history, and 
stated concisely what each one embraced. 
That would perhaps indicate he may have had 
it in mind to enter upon the work of writing a 
history of the State, but it is much regretted 
he never commenced even to gather the ma- 
terial for such a work. 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 337 

Judge Breese was eminent in the political 
as well as the judicial history of the State. It 
is not generally so understood, but it is a fact, 
he had much more liking for politics than 
for the law. His political career was short, 
but it was brilliant and abounded in results 
that come only from the highest statesman- 
ship. It is more than probable, if opportunity 
had offered to gratify his political aspirations, 
he would at any time have given up his judi- 
cial office for that, to him, more agreeable field 
of labor in politics. His ambition led him to 
hope for high positions even in national poli- 
tics, and nothing gave him more pleasure than 
to see his name mentioned in the public press 
for a high office. A little incident occurred 
when an old friend visited him at his private 
room in the Supreme Court building, that illus- 
trates this phase of his character. It was at a 
time when the democratic party, to which he 
belonged, was casting about for a presidential 
candidate, and finally selected Mr. Greeley. 
About that time there had been quite frequent 

338 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

mention of the judge's name in the newspapers 
as a possible candidate of his party for President. 
It was very gratifying to him. His friend was 
from the same part of the State with the judge 
and knew him so well he made free to speak to 
him on any subject. After the interview was 
about over, on rising to leave, his old friend re- 
marked to him, he had seen his name mentioned 
as a candidate for President. Evidently much 
pleased by the allusion to the fact, the judge 
replied with apparent indifference, it did not or 
would not amount to much. But his friend 
replied, "I don't know about that, Judge, the 
democratic party is mighty hard up for timber 
just now for a candidate for President." It was 
thought the Judge would not like the remark, 
but it was otherwise. He joined heartily in the 
laugh at the simplicity and candor of his farmer 
friend. That which relieved the incident of any- 
thing offensive was the connecting of his name 
with the presidency. It is an error to suppose 
the gentler sex are more sensitively affected by 
delicate compliment, than are most men. 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 339 

Notwithstanding his fondness for politics, 
Judge Breese had very little ability for con- 
ducting a canvass. His style of speaking was 
ill adapted to the "stump" it was not popular 
with the people. He was too stiff and dignified 
in his bearing. He was too honorable to go 
down into the unbecoming work of the partisan 
politician. An obscure writer, in his ' 'reminis- 
cences of the bench and bar of Illinois," in the 
mention he makes of him, revives the stale story, 
Judge Breese circulated what were known as 
"Jackson Coffin Hand-Bills." But nothing 
can be farther from the truth. The story had 
been discredited more than a half a century 
before as unworthy of belief. He was incapa- 
ble of such conduct. While he contended 
vigorously with his opponent, he was honorable 
in his mode of attack and would stoop to 
nothing unworthy of a gentleman. He was a 
member of the General Assembly of the State, 
but that position afforded him no opportunity 
to give any evidence of his ability as a legis- 
lator in the higher sense of the term. During 

340 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

his one term in the United States Senate he 
took high rank among the distinguished men 
of that body. The remark is ventured, no 
other senator from this State unless it was 
Senator Douglas ever originated more meas- 
ures so important and so far-reaching in their 
effect, not only upon the State, but upon the 
whole country. He was the primary author of 
the scheme to build the Illinois Central rail- 
road a work that did more than any other one 
thing to develop the resources of the State. It 
may be, Senator Douglas framed the bill that 
finally became a law, but the honor belongs to 
Judge Breese of originating the great enterprise 
of constructing the Illinois Central railroad, and 
it was his agitation of the subject that led up to 
its adoption by Congress. But that is not all 
that is worthy of high statesmanship in his 
senatorial services. His report on a petition 
presented for a grant of public lands to aid in 
the construction of a railroad from Lake Mich- 
igan to the Pacific ocean was the first argument 
in support of that stupendous undertaking. It 

Its First Lawyers Breese. 341 

was elaborate and written with remarkable 
ability indeed it became the source of all the 
best suggestions in favor of the adoption of the 
measure by Congress, as was afterwards done. 
Judge Breese never had the credit, it is his due 
for his promotion of the building of that grand 
highway across the continent. A statue point- 
ing to the way west over the plains and over 
the mountains to the Pacific coast ought to be 
erected to Senator Breese of Illinois, rather 
than to any other American Senator. Few 
men in the United States Senate at any time 
spake or wrote with a more graceful diction than 
did Judge Breese. His reply to Senator Cal- 
houn on one phase of the Mexican war, is an 
ornate and splendid specimen of political litera- 
ture. It has a classical finish not often seen in 
the best writings of the schoolmen. 

But it was in the legal profession, Judge 
Breese had his greatest success. In the prac- 
tice of law he was not specially eminent. He 
did not have the gift of popular oratory that 
was necessary to make him successful in advo- 

342 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

cacy at the bar. Yet his services as a trial 
lawyer were engaged in many important cases 
arising in his time when practicing at the bar. 
It was because of his learning and ability. He 
was the leading counsel for the defense of 
Judge Smith when on trial before the Senate 
on articles of impeachment. It is, however, 
from his services on the bench of the Supreme 
Court of the State that will come his longest 
enduring fame. His term in the Supreme 
Court comprised a period of nearly or quite 
twenty-three years. Few jurists ever im- 
pressed so much of their learning and ability 
upon the jurisprudence of the State as did 
Judge Breese. No one did more to perfect 
our judicial system. He came into the Court 
when our jurisprudence was not yet matured 
into a perfect system. He built well on the 
foundations others had laid. As specimens of 
elegant judicial statements his opinions deliv- 
ered in the Supreme Court will lose nothing in 
comparison with the best opinions of the most 
distinguished jurists of this country and Eng- 

Its First Laivyers Breese. 343 

land. The work done by him during the 
years, he was on the supreme bench was simply 
enormous. Its magnitude seems greatest when 
contrasted with that done by others. Chief 
Justice Marshall was on the bench of the Su- 
preme Court of the United States thirty-four 
years. His opinions, with those of the other 
members of that Court, are contained in thirty 
volumes. Judge Breese was a member of our 
Supreme Court a little less than twenty-three 
years, yet his opinions, with those of the other 
judges of the Court, fill seventy volumes. As 
a judge of the Supreme Court he wrote on 
almost every conceivable question that could 
affect the welfare of the commonwealth, and 
his opinions will be leading authority on the 
principles discussed through all coming time. 
Long after his political history shall have failed 
and ceased to be read, his judicial opinions will 
remain as precedents by which all future 
magistrates may be guided in the administra- 
tion of the law of the land. 

344 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

In his last days, the sunshine of his char- 
acter made beautiful everything on which it 
fell. All shadows, if any ever rested on it, 
had passed off, and nothing but light remained. 
A cheerfulness unusual made social relations 
with him pleasant to all who were close to him 
in his affections or in his respect. There never 
was at any time in his life the slightest trace 
of asperity in his character. Asperity has in 
it elements of sourness of temper, or morose- 
ness, as in one disappointed in his ambitions. 
In earlier years, and perhaps in the days of his 
greatest strength, he was proudly imperious, 
often rigidly exacting, sometimes dogmatic, and 
always positive. Yet there was neither rough- 
ness nor harshness in manifesting such quali- 
ties. These severities that had been seen in 
his character gave way before the end of life 
came, and in their stead came those "beauti- 
ful graces that make old age so lovely. " With 
an attractive venerableness, full of honors and 
crowned with a measure of success that comes 
to but few, it came "to pass in that day, the 

Its First Judges Other Epochs. 345 

light shall not be clear nor dark" it was then 
he fell asleep. 

There were other contemporary lawyers 
worthy of special mention, but the space set 
apart in which to notice that group of lawyers 
is now full, and it is a matter of regret no 
sketches can be given of them. It may be 
noted, there were two other epochs in the legal 
history of the State, it would be of the greatest 
interest to study. One extended from the re- 
organization of the Supreme Court in 1825 to 
1848, during the time the constitution of 1818 
was in force, and the other covered that period 
intervening 1848, when the Supreme Court was 
a second time reorganized under the constitu- 
tion of that year, to 1870, when the Supreme 
Court was a third time reorganized under the 
constitution of the latter year. No one has 
written the legal history of either period. If 
done it would be a work of surpassing interest 
and value. In both epochs lawyers distin- 
guished for their learning and ability were at 
the bar and on the bench. They were devel- 

346 Illinois Supreme Court 1818. 

oping our system of jurisprudence. It is a 
splendid work they did. But some of the 
toilers in that field of labor were themselves 
great. In the time of the first epoch Abraham 
Lincoln was at the bar and Stephen A. Douglas 
was on the bench names that will ever be 
great in State and national history. There 
were other able lawyers in both epochs. It 
was the bench and bar of these later periods 
that completed the system of jurisprudence 
projected by the bench and bar of the first 
Supreme Court, and builded on the founda- 
tions laid by them a splendid temple of justice, 
massive and grand, and all beautiful in its pro- 
portions, in which the laws of the State shall 
be administered with equal and impartial ex- 
actness, and in which "no right shall be sold 
or delayed or denied" to the citizen. 


923.4SC08S C001