Gov. Thomas Ford
History of Illinois
(Chicago: S. C. Griggs & Co. 1854)
return to page 165
After the Black Hawk war, nothing of importance occurred until the session of the legislature of 1832-'3; which was distinguished for the first efforts seriously made to construct railroads, and to impeach one of the judges. Several charters passed to incorporate railroad companies; and an effort was made to procure a charter for a railroad from Lake Michigan to the Illinois river, in place of a canal. The stock in none of these companies was ever taken. At this session also were first proposed in the Senate, surveys for a railroad across the State through Springfield; and the central railroad from Peru to Cairo. George Forquer proposed the first, and the last was proposed by Lieutenant Governor Jenkins, though the central railroad had before been suggested in a newspaper publication by Judge Breese, now Senator in Congress.
Numerously signed petitions from the people were sent up to this legislature, praying the impeachment of Theophilus W.
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Smith, one of the justices of the Supreme Court, for oppressive conduct and misdemeanors in office. Witnesses were sent for, and examined by the House of Representatives. Articles of impeachment were voted and sent up to the Senate, charging the judge with selling a clerk's office, of one of the circuit courts; with swearing out vexatious writs returnable before himself; for the purpose of oppressing innocent men by holding them to bail, and then continuing the suits for several terms in a court of which he was judge; with imprisoning a Quaker for not taking off his hat in court; and with suspending a lawyer from practice for advising his client to apply for a change of venue to some other circuit, where Judge Smith did not preside. A solemn trial was had before the Senate, which sat as a high court of impeachment, and which trial lasted for several weeks. The judge was prosecuted by a committee of managers from the House of Representatives, of which Benjamin Mills was chairman. This highly-gifted man shone forth with uncommon brilliancy, in three days summing up, by way of conclusion, on the side of the prosecution. At last the important day and hour came when a vote was to be taken, which was to be a sentence of doom to one of the magnates of the land, or was to restore him to his high office, and to the confidence of his friends. But during the progress of the trial, Judge Smith procured some one to go into the Senate chamber regularly after every adjournment and gather up the scraps of paper on the desks of the senators, upon which they had scribbled during the trial. From these, much information was obtained as to the feelings of senators, their doubts and difficulties; and this enabled him and his counsel to direct their evidence and arguments to better advantage. The whole country looked with anxious expectation for the result of this trial. The vote being taken, it appeared that twelve of the senators concurred in believing him guilty of some of the specifications; ten were in favor of acquitting him; and four were excused from voting. It appears
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from the journals, that fifteen senators, being a majority of two-thirds of the senators voting, had voted him guilty of one or the other of the specifications; but as twelve was the highest vote against him, on any one specification, he was acquitted. The House of Representatives, by a two-thirds vote, immediately passed a resolution to remove him by address, but the resolution failed in the Senate.
Afterwards, other efforts were made to impeach judges for misconduct, but without success. So that latterly the legislature has refused even to make an effort to bring a judge to trial; knowing that whether guilty or innocent, such an effort can have no other result, than to increase the length and expenses of the session. This conviction has been so general among intelligent men, that it has had a wonderful effect in creating a feeling in favor of limiting the term of service of the judges.
In August, 1834, another election came on for Governor, which resulted in the choice of Governor Duncan. Lieutenant Governor Kinney was again the opposition candidate. By this time Governor Duncan had become thoroughly estranged from the friends and administration of Gen. Jackson, But as he was absent in Congress when he became a candidate, and never returned until after the election, the rank and file of the Jackson party had no means of ascertaining his defection. It was known to the anti-Jackson men, and to the leading men of the Jackson party. These last had not credit enough with their party friends to make them believe if, nor would they believe it, until the publication of the new governor's inaugural message, which took bold and strong ground against the measures of Gen. Jackson's administration. About this time the anti-Jackson party began generally to take the name of Whigs; and attempted to base it, as did the whigs of the revolution, upon opposition to the executive power. It may be well here to give some further account of Governor Duncan. He was a native of Kentucky; and when quite young, obtained an ensign's commission during
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the war of 1812. He was with Col. Croughan and his handful of men, at the defence of Fort Stephenson, against ten times their number of British and Indians. This brilliant affair was the means of distinguishing all the inferior officers engaged in it, and immortalized their commander.
Governor Duncan was a man of genteel, affable, and manly deportment; with a person remarkably well adapted to win the esteem and affections of his fellow-citizens. He had not been long a citizen of this State, before he was elected major-general of the militia, and then a State Senator, where he distinguished himself in the session of 1824-'5, by being the author of the first common school law which was ever passed in this State. He was next elected to Congress, in which he continued as a member of the House of Representatives, until he was elected governor in 1834. He was a man of but Little education or knowledge, except what he had picked up during his public services, and he had profited to the utmost by these advantages. He had a sound judgment, a firm confidence in his own convictions of right, and a moral courage in adhering to his convictions, which is rarely met with.
A new legislature was elected at the same time with Governor Duncan, which met at Vandalia in Dec. 1834. At that time, the State was in a very flourishing and prosperous condition. Population and wealth were pouring into it from all the old States. The great speculation in lands and town lots, shortly afterwards so rife, had made only a beginning, and that at Chicago alone. The people were industrious, and contented with the usual profits of labor, skill, and capital. They were free from debt; and the treasury of the State, for once, had become solvent; paying all demands in cash. If the prevalent speculations, further east, had not commenced in Illinois, there were certainly very many persons who were anxious that they should begin; for at this session, the legislature undertook to better the condition of public and private affairs, by chartering
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a new State Bank with a capital of one million five hundred thousand dollars; and by reviving the charter of the bank at Shawneetown, with a capital of three hundred thousand dollars, which had once broke, and had ceased to do business for twelve years. This was the beginning of all the bad legislation which followed in a few years, and which, as is well known, resulted in general ruin. At the commencement of this session, no one could have anticipated the creation of a bank. The people, with one accord, ever since the failure of the old State Bank of 1821, had looked upon local banks with disfavor. And the whigs at that time, contending as they were, for a national bank; were thought to be hostile to banks of any other kind. But a large majority of them in both branches of the legislature, voted for these bank charters. The United States Bank, vetoed by Gen. Jackson, was about to go out of existence. Mr. Woodbury, the United States secretary of the treasury, had encouraged the State and local banks to discount liberally, with a view to supply the deficiency of currency, anticipated upon the discontinuance of the United States Bank. From this, very many democrats inferred it to be the wish of Gen. Jackson's administration, that State banks should be created where they did not exist; and with this view, these democrats were now in favor of the creation of banks. The intrigues practiced to pass these charters, are but imperfectly known to me. The charter for the State Bank was drawn, by Judge Smith, and presented in the Senate by Conrad Will, of Jackson county. It was in honor of him that the county of Will was subsequently named. He was not remarkable for anything except his good-humor, and for having been long a member of the legislature. One member of the Senate, who was bitterly hostile to all banks, and was opposed to the Shawneetown Bank bill on constitutional grounds, as he declared from his place in the Senate, gave both the bank charters his hearty support in consideration of assistance in passing a law to levy a tax on
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land in the military tract, for road purposes; and a member of the House supported them, because the bank men made him a State's attorney.
It may be thought strange, that an increase of taxes was so earnestly insisted on at that early day, as to be made the subject of log-rolling in the creation of a bank. But it is to be remembered, that the military lands were then owned principally by non-residents, who were unwilling to sell except at high prices. Every town built, farm made, road opened, bridge or school-house erected by the settlers in their vicinity, added to the value of these lands, at no expense to the non-resident. The people persuaded themselves that in improving their own farms, they mere putting money into the pockets of men who did nothing for the country, except to skin it as fast as any hide grew on it. This tax was called for, to make the non-resident owner contribute his share to the improvement of the country, and thus by burdening his land with taxes, render him more willing to sell it. A very bad state of feeling existed towards the non-resident land-owners; the timber on their land was considered free plunder, to be cut and swept away by every comer; the owners brought suits for damage, but where the witnesses and jurors were all on one side, justice was forced to go with them. The non-residents at last bethought themselves of employing and sending out ministers of the gospel, to preach to the people against the sin of stealing, or hooking timber, as it was called. These preachers each had a circuit, or district of country assigned them to preach in, and were paid by the sermon, but I have never learned that the non-resident land- owners succeeded any better in protecting their property by the gospel, than they did at law.
But to return to the banks. How many other converts were made in their favor, by similar means, must remain forever a secret. The State Bank charter was passed in the House of Representatives by a majority of one vote; so that it may be
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said that making of a State's attorney made a State Bank. The vote in the legislature was not a party vote; the banks were advocated and supported upon grounds of public utility and expediency; and like on the vote upon the internal improvement system, which followed at the next session, both whigs and democrats were earnestly invited to lay party feelings aside, and all go, at least once, for the good of the country. Whenever I have heard this cry since, I have always suspected that some great mischief was to be done, for which no party desired to be responsible to the people. As majorities have the power, so it is their duty to carry on the government. The majority, as long as parties are necessary in a free government, ought never to divide, and a portion of it join temporarily with the minority. It should always have the wisdom and courage to adopt all the measures necessary for good government. As a general thing, if the minority is anything more than a faction, if it has any principles, and is true to them, it will rally an opposition to all that is done by the majority; and even if it is convinced that the measures of the majority are right, it is safest for the minority to compel the majority to take the undivided responsibility of government. By this means there will always be a party to expose the faults and blunders of our rulers; and the majority will be more careful what they do. But if the minority mixes itself up with the majority in the support of great measures, which prove unfortunate for the country, neither party can expose the error without prostrating its own favorites. In this way, many persons now prominent as politicians in this State, have gone unwhipped of justice, who otherwise would have been consigned to an unfathomable oblivion. Certain it is, that if this course had been observed in the enactment of the disastrous measures of this and the succeeding session of the legislature, the dominant party would never have: dared, as it did not afterwards dare, to risk the continuance of popular favor, by supporting such a policy.
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These banks were brought into existence in violation of the plainest principles of political economy. The State was young. There was no social or business organization upon any settled principles. A large crowd of strangers, as it were, had met here for adventure. Our most sagacious citizens were of this sort. We had no cities, no trade, no manufactures, and no punctuality in the payment of debts. We exported little or nothing. We had no surplus capital, and consequently the capitol for banking must come from abroad. Some few then foresaw, what proved true, that it would be difficult to find directors and officers for two banks and numerous branches, who, from their known integrity and financial knowledge, would be entitled to the public confidence. The stockholders would (as they did) reside abroad, in other States. They could not supervise the conduct of the directory in person. It was probable that many improvident loans would be made, and that the banks would be greatly troubled in making their collections.
It appears to me that banking cannot be successful in any country where the capital comes necessarily from abroad. The stockholders will be imposed on. They cannot conveniently meet in proper person to examine the banks, but must from year to year trust everything to agents, who, the whole world says, never manage other people's business as well as their own, Banking cannot succeed except in a state of settled, organized society, where honesty, truth, and fidelity are paramount; where the merchants and business men have all received a regular commercial training; where they have been educated from their youth upwards in the principles and practice of commercial honor and punctuality; where a bank protest, by breaking a man and closing his business, is more terrible than imprisonment; where the laws favor the collection of debts, and the whole people are in the habit of prompt payment. In such a society, honest and capable men may be readily found to manage banks, and those who deal with them may be relied on
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for punctuality. I place great stress upon punctuality, as the vital principle of safe banking. Because if the debtors of the bank do not pay, the bank itself cannot.
Nor can banking succeed in a State where the great body of the people, or any considerable party of them, are opposed to banks. Some project to repeal their charter, or harass them, will be started at every session of the legislature, and they will be strongly tempted to extend their favors further than safety will warrant, for the purpose of silencing opposition. In a community like Illinois, there are scores of men in every county who, from their business, or rather want of business, and want of punctuality, cannot with safety be favored by a bank. Yet such men are not destitute of political importance and influence, and can give the banks great trouble if a loan is refused. Favor to such persons is a fraud upon the stockholders and the community which credits the circulation. Nevertheless, banks are driven to accommodate such persons, and, in fact, to absolute bribery, for the purpose of buying their peace.
I aver, without fear of contradiction, that when these banks were chartered, there was, in a manner, no surplus capital in the State; that the capital came mostly from abroad; that the stockholders resided at a distance, and never had a meeting, in proper person, in this State; that we had no cities, and but few large towns; that, in a manner, we exported nothing, but imported everything except meat and breadstuffs, and indeed much of these. We had no settled society. The business men were not generally men of commercial training and education. The laws did not favor the collection of debts, nor did the public sentiment frown upon a want of punctuality.
After the internal improvement system was adopted at a subsequent session, its friends increased the capital of these banks, by making the State a stockholder in each. The capital of the State Bank was increased two millions of dollars, and the Illinois Bank one million four hundred thousand dollars.
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The stock in the State Bank was readily and greedily taken, and the subscriptions greatly exceeded the amount allowed by the charter. Early in the spring of 1835, John Tillson, jr., then of Hillsboro; Thomas Mather, then of Kaskaskia; Godfrey Gilman & Co., then of Alton; Theophilus W. Smith, then one of the judges of the Supreme Court; and Samuel Wiggins, of Cincinnati, made arrangements to obtain large sums of money in the eastern cities, principally in New York and Connecticut, to be invested in this stock. The charter required the advance of five dollars on each share subscribed, and gave a preference to citizens of the State. It also provided against the undue influence of large stockholders, by reducing their (proportional) vote for directors. These provisions made it desirable, not only that all the stock should be subscribed by citizens of the State, but also, that all subscriptions should be small in amount. Accordingly, each of these gentlemen, with a view of monopolizing the stock and controlling the bank, employed men all over the country to obtain powers of attorney from any and all who were willing to execute them, authorizing one or the other of these persons to act as their agents in subscribing for stock, and to transfer and control it afterwards.
Many thousands of such subscriptions were made, in the names of as many thousands who never dreamed of being bankers, and who do not know to this day that they were ever, apparently, the owners of bank stock.
The contest for the control of the bank was between Judge Smith, on the one side, and the other gentlemen named, on the other. When the commissioners met to apportion the stock, a motion was made, that all subscriptions by or for the use of citizens of the State, should be preferred to subscriptions made for the use of persons residing abroad, and requiring all holders of proxies to make oath as to the fact of residence or non-residence. This resolution was advocated by Judge Smith, who stood ready, as it was said, to swear that all the stock subscribed
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by him, in his own name or by power of attorney, bona fide belonged to him, and had been paid for by his own money. The other great operators could not make such an oath, and consequently opposed the resolution, which was defeated. Tillson, Mather, Wiggins, and Godfrey Gilman & Co., combined against Smith. They obtained a controlling portion of the stock. Mather was made president, and a directory was elected, who were in the interest of the combination. The directors appointed were probably as good men for the trust as could have been found in the State.
As I have said, the stock in the State Bank having been taken, it went into operation under the control of Thomas Mather and his friends, in 1835. The Alton interest in it was very large. Godfrey Gilman & Co., merchants of Alton, had obtained control of a large part of the stock; enough, in case of division, to control the election of directors. To conciliate them, the bank undertook to lend its aid to build up Alton, in rivalry of St. Louis. At this time, a strong desire was felt by many to create a commercial emporium in our own State, and it was hoped that Alton could be made such a place. As yet, however, nearly the whole trade of Illinois, Wisconsin, and of the Upper Mississippi, was concentrated at St. Louis. The little pork, beef, wheat, flour, and such other articles as the country afforded for export, were sent to St. Louis to be shipped. All the lead of the upper and lower lead-mines was shipped from or on account of the merchants of St. Louis. Exchange on the east to any amount could only be purchased at St. Louis; and many of the smaller merchants all over the country went to St. Louis to purchase their assortments.
The State Bank undertook to break up this course of things, and divert these advantages to Illinois. Godfrey Gilman & Co. were supplied with about $800,000, to begin on the lead business. By their agents, they made heavy purchases of lead, and had it shipped to Alton. Stone, Manning & Co., another Alton
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firm, were furnished with several hundred thousand dollars, with which to operate in produce; and Sloo & Co. obtained large loans for the same purpose. The design of the parties, of course, was not accomplished. Instead of building up Alton, enriching its merchants, and giving the bank a monopoly of exchanges on the east, these measures resulted in crushing Alton, annihilating its merchants, and breaking the bank. This result ought to have been foreseen. The St. Louis merchants had more capital in business than ten such banks, and twenty such cities as Alton. They were intimately connected, either as owners or agents, in all the steamboats running on the Illinois and Upper Mississippi. These boats required an up-river as well as a down-river freight;. The up-river freight could only be got in St. Louis, and would not be furnished to boats known to be engaged in the Alton conspiracy. The merchants in Galena and throughout the Upper Mississippi and Illinois country, were connected in trade with the St. Louis merchants, many of them owing balances not convenient to be paid, and enjoying standing credits which could not be dispensed with.
The Alton merchants, however, commenced operations on the moneys furnished by the bank, and they were so anxious to obtain a monopoly of purchases, that prices rose immediately, The price of lead rose in a short time from $2.75 to $64.25 per hundred. This did not appear to be the best way of monopolizing the lead trade. Therefore, Godfrey Gilman & Co. furnished their agent in Galena some two or three hundred thousand dollars to purchase lead-mines and smelting establishments. This agent was a manly, frank, honorable, and honest man, but wild and reckless in the extreme. He bought all the mines and smelting establishments he could get, and some lots in Galena, He scattered money with a profuse and princely hand. The effect was apparent in a short time. Property in Galena rose in a few months more than two thousand per cent. While such great exertions were making to divert the lead trade to Alton,
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and while such lavish expenditures at Galena raised, its price there, they could not keep up the price in the eastern cities, its destined market. The lead was kept in store in New York a year or two, in hopes the prices would rise. The owners were at last compelled to sell at a great sacrifice, and the operation ruined all concerned. Stone, Manning & Co., and Sloo & Co., were equally unfortunate.
I think the bank must have lost by all its Alton operations near a million of dollars, and was nearly insolvent before the end of the second year of its existence, though the fact was unknown to the people. This is an example of the danger of endeavoring to force trade, wholly against nature, out of its accustomed channels. Let it be a warning also to all banks, not to engage, either by themselves or by their agents, in the ordinary business of trade and speculation.
The democrats helped to make the banks, but the whigs controlled the most money, which gave them the control of the banks. The president and a large majority of the directors and other officers were whigs; just enough of democrats had been appointed to avoid the appearance of proscription. Thus the democrats were defeated at least once in the contest for the "spoils,' and probably it will always be thus when long purses are to decide who are the "victors."
When the State Bank was created, its projectors, to make it popular, attached to it a provision for a real estate fund, to the amount of a million of dollars, to be lent out on mortgages of land. This was intended to conciliate the farmers, as thereby the bank would become a sort of farmers' bank, out of which the farmers could obtain money on a mortgage of their farms. But this was really the worst feature in the whole project. At this day it will be generally acknowledged that no farmer ought ever to borrow money to carry on his farm. The only mode in which a farmer can be benefited by a bank, is for Merchants and traders to borrow money and pay it out to farmers for their
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produce. But very many farmers did borrow, and very few of them were able to pay. Their farms were taken away from them; and so this popular lure to the farmers operated like setting out huge steel traps to catch their plantations.
The fact that the presidents and cashiers of the principal bank and branches, and a very great majority of the directors and other officers, were whigs, was sufficient to dub the bank a whig concern. It was viewed with great jealousy by the democrats. Judge Smith headed an opposition to it; and although he had written the charter, and urged its passage upon his friends in the legislature, he did not hesitate to declare it unconstitutional. He was joined by Judge McRoberfs, Receiver of public moneys at Danville, and many other leaders of the party. The bank made an effort to get the deposits of public money, but it had become so odious to the democrats, and such representations had been made at Washington, that the Secretary of the Treasury refused its application. The consequence was, that a continual run was made upon it for specie to enter Government land. To avoid this continual drain of specie, the bank adopted the expedient of sending its notes purporting to have been issued at one branch, to be loaned a another, and by this means keeping its circulation at a distance from the place of payment.
Here I will leave the subject of the bank for the present and notice another important matter acted upon by the legislature at the session of 1834-'5. This was the Illinois and Michigan canal. As early as 1821, the legislature appropriated $10,000 for a survey of the route of this canal. Judge Smith and others were appointed commissioners, and they again appointed Rene Paul, of St. Louis, and Justice Post, now of Alexander county, as engineers. A survey of the route was made. The work was reported eminently practicable, and the cost of construction was estimated at a sum near six or seven hundred thousand dollars. In 1826, Congress donated to the
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State about 300,000 acres of land on the route of the canal, in aid of the work In 1825, a law was passed incorporating a company to make the canal. The stock was never subscribed. And in 1828, another law was passed, providing for the sale of lots and lands, for the appointment of a board of canal commissioners, and for the commencement of the work. Nothing was done under this law, except the sale of some land and lots, and a new survey of the route and estimate of costs, by the new engineer, Mr. Bucklin. The estimate this time ran into millions instead of thousands, but was yet too low, as experience has subsequently demonstrated. After that time there were various projects of giving the work to a company, or of making a railroad instead of a canal. But nothing effectual was proposed to be done until the session of 1834-'5.
At this session of the legislature, George Forquer, a senator for Sangamon county, as chairman of the committee on internal improvements, proposed and made an elaborate report in favor of a loan of half a million of dollars, on the credit of the State, to begin with. I call the report an elaborate one, because it is so: perhaps more able than any similar document submitted to any of the western legislatures. It contains evidence of vast research, and abundance of facts and probable conjectures, and is expressed in language at once pleasing, brilliant, and attractive, The report was accompanied by a bill authorizing a loan on the credit of the State, which passed the Senate, and would certainly have passed the legislature, but for the fact that the governor, in his general message, and also in a special message, asserted with confidence that the money could be obtained upon a pledge of the canal lands alone, Amended in this particular, the bill passed, and has served as a model for all the subsequent laws on that subject. The report was justly liable to one criticism. The cost was estimated too low. The Senate ordered 5,000 copies of it to be published for the information of the people. This was the first efficient
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movement in favor of the canal. The loan under this law failed; but at a special session in 1835, a law was introduced by James M. Strode, then a senator representing all the country including and north of Peoria, authorizing a loan of half a million of dollars on the credit of the State. This loan was negotiated by Governor Duncan in 1836, and with this money a commencement was made on the canal in the month of June of that year. William F. Thornton, Gurdon S. Hubbard, and William B. Archer, all whigs, were appointed the first canal commissioners under this law.
In the spring and summer of 1836, the great land and town lot speculation of those times had fairly reached and spread over Illinois. It commenced in this State first at Chicago, and was the means of building up that place in a year or two from a village of a few houses, to be a city of several thousand inhabitants. The story of the sudden fortunes made there, excited at first wonder and amazement, next a gambling spirit of adventure, and lastly, an all-absorbing desire for sudden and splendid wealth. Chicago had been for some time only one great town market. The plats of towns, for a hundred miles around, were carried there to be disposed of at auction. The eastern people had caught the mania. Every vessel coming west was loaded with them, their money and means, bound for Chicago, the great fairy land of fortunes. But as enough did not come to satisfy the insatiable greediness of the Chicago sharpers and speculators, they frequently consigned their wares to eastern markets. Thus, a vessel would be freighted with land and town lots, for the New York and Boston markets, at less cost than a barrel of flour. In fact, lands and town lots were the staple of the country, and were the only articles of export.
The example of Chicago was contagious. It spread to all the towns and villages of the State. New towns were laid out in every direction. The number of towns multiplied so rapidly,
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that it was waggishly remarked by many people, that the whole country was likely to be laid out into towns; and that; no land would be left for farming purposes. The judgments of all our business men were unsettled, and their minds occupied only by the one idea, the all-absorbing desire of jumping into a fortune. As all had bought more town lots and lands than many of them could pay for, and more than any of them could sell, it was supposed that if the country could be rapidly settled, its resources developed, and wealth invited from abroad, that all the towns then of any note would soon become cities, and that the other towns, laid out only for speculation, and then without in habitants, would immediately become thriving and populous villages, the wealth of all would be increased, and the town lot market would be rendered stable and secure.
With a view to such a consummation, a system of internal improvements began to be agitated in the summer and fall of 1836. It was argued that Illinois had all the natural advantages which constitute a great State; a rich soil, variety of climate, and great extent of territory. It only wanted inhabitants and enterprise. These would be invited by a system of improvements; timber would be carried by railroad to fence the prairies; and the products of the prairies, by the same means, would be brought to market. The people began o hold public meetings and pass resolutions on the subject; and before the next winter, most of the counties had appointed delegates to an internal improvement convention, to be assembled at the seat of government. This body of delegates assembled at the same time with the legislature of 1836-'7. It devised and recommended to the legislature a system of internal improvements; the chief feature of which was, "that it should be commensurate with the wants of the people." Thus the general desire of sudden and unwarrantable gain; a dissatisfaction with the slow but sure profits of industry and lawful commerce, produced a general phrenzy. Speculation was the order of the day, and
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every possible means was, hastily and greedily adopted to give an artificial value to property. in accomplishing this object at to the manner and means, our people surrendered their judgments to the dictates of a wild imagination. No scheme was so extravagant as not to appear plausible to some. The most wild calculations were made of the advantages of a system of internal improvements; of the resources of the State to meet all expenditures; and of our final ability to pay all indebtedness without taxation. Mere possibilities appeared highly probable; and probability wore the livery of certainty itself.
I have said that our people were moved by these influences but only those are meant who attended these meetings, and aided in sending and instructing delegates to the internal improvement convention. It is not true that the whole people were thus moved or thus acted. These meetings were generally held in the towns, and mostly attended by the town people. The great body of the people in the country treated the subject with indifference. But this silence was taken for consent. The voice of these meetings was considered as the voice of the people, and the voice of the people as "the voice, of God," as many of the members of the legislature felt themselves instructed by it to vote for some system of internal improvements.
The legislature at this session took up the subject in full earnest; and in the course of the winter passed a system providing for railroads from Galena to the mouth of the Ohio; from Alton to Shawneetown; from Alton to Mount Carmel; from Alton to the eastern boundary of the State, in the direction of Terre Haute; from Quincy on the Mississippi, through Springfield to the Wabash; from Bloomington to Pekin; and from Peoria to Warsaw; including in the whole about 1,300 miles of road. It also provided for the improvement of the navigation of the Kaskaskia, Illinois, Great and Little Wabash and Rock rivers. And besides this, two hundred thousand
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dollars were to be distributed amongst those counties through which no roads or improvements were to be made. The legislature voted $8,000,000 to the system, which was to be raised by a loan.
As a part of the system also, the canal from Chicago to Peru was to be prosecuted to completion, and a further loan of four millions of dollars was authorized for that purpose. The legislature had already established a board of canal commissioners. They now established a board of fund commissioners to negotiate the new loans for the railroads; and a board of commissioners of public works, one for each judicial circuit, then seven in number, to superintend construction. And as a crowning act of folly, it was provided that the work should commence simultaneously on all the roads at each end, and from the crossings of all the rivers.
It is very obvious now that great errors were committed. It was utterly improbable that the great number of public officers and agents for the faithful prosecution of so extensive and cumbrous a system, could be found in the State; or if found, it was less likely that the best material would be selected. But the legislature went on to create a multitude of officers, for a multitude of men, who were all to be engaged in the expenditure of money, and superintending improvements, as if there were a hundred De Witt Clintons in the State; but there is no limit to the conceit of aspiring ignorance. Indeed, our past experience goes for to show that it has not yet been safe for Illinois, as a government, Do have any very complicated or extensive interests to manage, for the want of men to manage them; and for the want of an enlightened public will to sustain able and faithful public servants, and to hold the unfaithful to a just and strict account. The legislature were to elect the members of the board of public works, and these offices were very near being filled by the election of members of the legislature. It is true, that the constitution made them ineligible, by providing
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that no member should be appointed to an office created during the term for which he had been elected. Governor Duncan announced his determination not to commission members of the legislature, if elected, to these offices. A law was attempted to be passed dispensing with a commission from the governor, although the constitution provides that all civil officers shall be commissioned by him. It had been too much the case, in the Illinois legislature, that when a majority were set upon accomplishing their purpose, no constitutional barriers were sufficient to restrain them. Ingenious reasons were never wanting to satisfy the consciences of the more timid; so that many regretted that there was any constitution at all, by the violation of which, members were forced to commit perjury to accomplish their utilitarian views. A vigorous effort was made in the two houses to elect members to these offices; but not quite a majority could be obtained in favor of it. The joint meeting was adjourned for one day, and on the next, persons were elected who were not members of the legislature.
No previous survey or estimate had been made, either of the routes, the costs of the works, or the amount of business to be done on them. The arguments in favor of the system were of a character most difficult to refute, composed as they were partly of fact, but mostly of prediction. In this way I have heard it proved, to general satisfaction, by an ingenious orator in the lobby, that the State could well afford to borrow a hundred millions of dollars, and expend it in making internal improvements. The orators in favor of the system all aimed to argue their way logically, and the end has showed, that the counsels of a sound judgment, guided by common sense, jumping at conclusions, are to be preferred to ingenious speculation, Nothing is more delusive in public affairs than a series of ingenious reasonings. In this way John C. Calhoun, in his report on the Memorial of the Memphis Convention, proved conclusively that it is constitutional to build a single pier on the lakes, but it would
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be unconstitutional to, build two of them close together, and parallel, for then they would be a harbor. In the same manner he proved if to be constitutional to improve the channels of the great Western rivers, but utterly unconstitutional to improve them near shore, so that boats could have a landing; and in the same manner he proved that it was constitutional to improve the navigation of rivers common to three or more States, but unconstitutional to improve a river running through a single State, although it might be the channel of trade for half the nation.
The means used in the legislature to pass the system, deserve some notice for the instruction of posterity. First, a large portion of the people were interested in the success of the canal, which was threatened, if other sections of the State were denied the improvements demanded by them; and thus the friends of the canal were forced to log-roll for that work by supporting others which were to be ruinous to the country. Roads and improvements were proposed everywhere, to enlist every section of the State. Three or four efforts were made to pass a smaller system, and when defeated, the bill would be amended by the addition of other roads, until a majority was obtained for it. Those counties which could not be thus accommodated were to share in the fund of two hundred thousand dollars. Three roads were appointed to terminate at Alton, before the Alton interest would agree to the system. The seat of government was to be removed to Springfield. Sangamon county, in which Springfield is situated, was then represented by two senators and seven representatives, called" the long nine," all whigs but one. Amongst them were some dexterous jugglers and managers in politics, whose whole object was to obtain the seat of government for Springfield. This delegation, from the beginning of the session, threw itself as a unit in support of, or opposition to, every local measure of interest, but never without a bargain for votes in return on the seat of government question.
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Most of the other counties were small, having but one representative, and many of them with but one for a whole district; and this gave Sangamon county a decided preponderance in the log-rolling system of those days, It is worthy of examination whether any just and equal legislation can ever be sustained where some of the counties are great and powerful and others feeble. But by such means "the long nine" rolled along like a snow-ball, gathering accessions of strength at every turn, until they swelled up a considerable party for Springfield, which party they managed to take almost as an unit in favor of the internal improvement system, in return for which the active supporters of that system were to vote for Springfield to be the seat of government. Thus it was made to cost the State about six millions of dollars to remove the seat of government from Vandalia to Springfield, half which sum would have purchased all the real estate in that town at three prices; and thus by log-rolling on the canal measure, by multiplying railroads, by terminating three railroads at Alton, that Alton might become a great city in opposition to St. Louis, by distributing money to some of the counties, to be wasted by the county commissioners, and by giving the seat of government to Springfield, was the whole State bought up and bribed, to approve the most senseless and disastrous policy which ever crippled the energies of a growing country.
The examples of Pennsylvania and Indiana in adopting a similar system were powerfully urged by the deluded demagogues of this legislature, to delude their fellow members, and to quiet the fears of the people. Now was developed for the first time a principle of government, or rather a destiny for government to aim at, which was to keep pace with the grand ideas which had seized upon the people of other States, -- ideas having in view not the improvement of individual man, by increasing his knowledge and power of thought, but merely by enriching his pockets.
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It appears by a report of a committee of the House of Representatives, that it was believed that the people were expecting, and anxious for a system of internal improvements; that the system would be of great utility in multiplying population and wealth; that such a system was entirely practicable; that the cost of it could be easily guessed at without previous surveys; that even small sums could be profitably expended upon the rivers;that estimates for the railroads could be ascertained by analogy and comparison with similar works in other States; that the system would cause a great deal of land to be entered, and increase the land tax, apart of which could go to form a fund to pay interest; that the tolls on parts of the roads as fast as they were completed both ways from the crossings of rivers and from considerable towns, would yield the interest on their cost; that the water-power made by improvements on the rivers, would rent for a large sum; that. lands were to be entered along all the roads by the State, which were to be resold for a higher price; that eminent financiers were to be elected fund commissioners, whose high standing and eminent qualifications were to reflect credit upon the State, and add to its resources; and with all these resources at command, that no great financial skill would be required in any future legislature to provide for paying the interest on the loans and carry the system to completion, without burdening the people. Such were the ingenious devices of this legislature, in all of which they were totally mistaken, as experience afterwards proved. Not a solitary one of these propositions has borne the test of experiment; but all have resulted just contrary to what was predicted. I will mention also, that it was confidently believed, in and out of the legislature, that the State stock to be issued, would command a premium of 10 per cent., which would go to swell the interest fund; that the stock in the banks would yield enough to pay interest on the bank bonds and a surplus besides; and that in fact the system was to be self-acting and self-sustaining;
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to provide for its own liquidation and payment, and enrich the State treasury into the bargain.
I mention these calculations, all of which so signally failed; all of which were once so confidently believed, but which now appear so absurd and ridiculous, as a warning to all theoretical, visionary schemers in public affairs; and against the counsels of all impracticable, dreaming politicians. Let posterity remember it, and engrave it upon their hearts as a lesson of wisdom, that splendid abilities and the power of ingenious speculation are not statesmanship; but they may lead a country to the verge of ruin, unless guided by solid judgment and plain common sense; by which they are rarely accompanied.
As no system could be passed except by log-rolling, and without providing for a simultaneous expenditure of money all over the State, it followed that none of the roads were ever completed. Detached parcels of them were graded on every road, the excavations and embankments of which will long remain as a memorial of the blighting-scathe done by this legislature; but nothing was finished, except the road from the Illinois river to Springfield, which cost about $1,000,000, and which now is not worth one hundred thousand dollars.
I will here mention that this internal improvement law was returned by the Governor and council of revision, with their objections, but afterwards passed both houses by the constitutional majority. It is a singular fact, that all the foolish and ruinous measures which ever passed an Illinois legislature, would have been vetoed by the governor for the time being, if he had possessed the constitutional power. The old State Bank of 1821, which ruined the public finances and demoralized the people; and by which the State lost in various ways, more than its entire capital, would have been vetoed by Governor Bond. The laws creating the late banks and increasing their capital by making the State a stockholder to a large amount, and the internal improvement system, would have been vetoed
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by Governor Duncan. In all these cases the veto power would have been highly beneficial. I am aware that demagogues and flatterers of the people, have so far imitated the supple parasites in the courts of Monarchs, whose maxim is that the "king can do no wrong," as to steal the compliment and apply it to the people. They are contending everywhere that the people never err. Without disputing the infallibility of the people, we know that their representatives can and have erred; and do err most grievously. A qualified veto power in the executive, is a wholesome corrective. It can only operate to delay a good and popular measure; for if the people desire it with any unanimity, they will select representatives who will pass it, notwithstanding the veto.
As I have already said, the capital stock of the State Bank was increased this session, in the whole, to the amount of $3,100,000, by making the State a stockholder. The stock of the Shawneetown Bank was increased to $1,700,000 in all. The Fund Commissioners were authorized to subscribe for this increase of stock, amounting to $3,400,000, a portion of which was to be paid for from the surplus revenues of the United States, and the residue by a sale of State bonds. And although the State was to have the majority of stock in both banks, yet were the private stockholders to have a majority of the directors. The banks were made the fiscal agents of the canal and railroad funds; and, upon the whole, it was a mere chance that the State did not lose its entire capital thus invested. It was supposed that the State bonds would sell for a premium of about 10 per cent., which would go to swell the interest fund; and that the dividends upon stock would not only pay the interest on the bonds, but furnish a large surplus to be carried, likewise, to the interest fund. However, when these bonds were offered in market, they could not be sold, even at par. The banks were accommodating, and rather than the speculation should fail, they agreed to take the bonds at par,
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as cash, amounting to $2,665,000. The Bank of Illinois sold their lot of $900,000, but the $1,765,000 in bonds disposed of to the State Bank, it is alleged, were never sold. They were, however, used as bank capital, and the bank expanded its business accordingly.
In the spring of 1837, the banks throughout the United States suspended specie payments. The banks of Illinois followed the example of others. I will not dwell upon the causes of this movement, as they belong more to the history of the whole country than to that of a single State. The charter of the State Bank contained a provision, that if the institution refused specie payments for sixty days together, it should forfeit its charter. These banks were made the fiscal agents for the canal and the railroads. A large sum of public money was deposited in them, and if they went down, they would carry the canal and the internal improvement system in their train of ruin. Two of the canal commissioners visited Governor Duncan, and requested a call of the legislature to avert the evil. A special session was called in July. The governor's message made a statement of the matter, without any direct recommendation to legalize the suspension, and did recommend a repeal or classification of the internal improvement system. The legislature did legalize the suspension of specie payments, but refused to touch the subject of internal improvements. It was plain that nothing could be done to arrest the evil for near two years more. In the meantime all considerate persons hoped that the public insanity would subside, that the people would wake up to reflection, and see the utter absurdity of the public policy.
They were disappointed. Loan after loan was effected, both in Europe and America. The United States Bank, then dealing in stocks, by which it was ruined, gave important aid to our negotiations. This bank itself took some of the loans, and lent its great credit to effect others. The loans made in America were at par, but those in Europe were at 9 per cent. discount.
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The banker paid 90 cents on the dollar to the State, and, as is alleged, 1 per cent. to the Fund Commissioners, for brokerage. A large contract was made for railroad iron at an extravagant price. The work continued to be prosecuted upon all the improvements. A new governor and new legislature were to be elected in August, 1838, from whose second sober thoughts relief was to be expected, unless the State should be irretrievably ruined in the meantime.
At this election the question of the continuance of the railroad system was but feebly made. Cyrus Edwards, the whig candidate for governor, declared himself to be decidedly in favor of it. Thomas Carlin, the democratic candidate, was charged with secret hostility to it, but never so sufficiently explained his views, during the pendency of the election, that he could be charged with entertaining an opinion one way or the other. A large majority of the legislature was for the system. And although Mr. Carlin was elected governor, and most probably was opposed to it, yet, finding that nothing could be done with such a legislature, he was at the first session forced to keep silence.
This legislature not only refused to repeal or modify the system, but added other works to it, requiring an additional expenditure of about $800,000. Thus was presented the spectacle of a whole people becoming infatuated, adopting a most ruinous policy, and continuing it for three years; in fact, until the whole scheme tumbled about their ears, and brought down the State to that ruin which all cool, reflecting men, saw from the first was inevitable.
A special session was again called in 1938-'9. This session repealed the system, and provided for winding it up. By this time it became apparent that no more loans could be obtained at par. The Fund Commissioner, and those appointed to sell canal bonds, had adopted some ingenious expedients for raising
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money, all of which most signally failed. Upon the creation of the New York free banking system, a demand was at once created for State stocks, to set the swindling institutions under it in motion. The law required a deposit of State stocks of double the value of circulation and debt, together with a certain per centage in specie. Our commissioner enabled several of these swindling banks to start, by advancing Illinois bonds on a credit, in hopes that when the banks came into repute, they would receive payment in their notes. These banks all failed, I believe, in a short time, and the amount they received was nearly a total loss. Other State bonds, to a large amount, were left in various places on deposit, for sale, and others again freely sold on a credit, although the law required ready payment in cash at par. A large amount was left with Wright & Co. of London, for sale. Some half a million was sold, and then Wright & Co. failed, with the money and the residue of the bonds in their hands.
The residue of the bonds was returned, but the State was obliged to come in as a creditor and share with others in their estate, for the money received. The State received a few shillings on the pound.
I do not attempt to write a history of all the bungling, illegal and ill-advised negotiations of our commissioners. I mean to say enough to show that, at the special session in 1838-'9, the legislature was compelled by inevitable necessity to stop the system. And in fact that nearly the whole people obstinately shut their eyes to the perception of plain truths, until these truths burst upon them terrible as an army with banners.
It may be supposed that this revulsion, this disappointment of cherished hopes, came upon the people with a crushing effect. It did so. Nevertheless there was but little discontent. The people looked one way and another with surprise, and were astonished at their own folly. They looked about for some one
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to blame, but there was no one. All were equally to be condemned.
It was a maxim with many politicians, just to keep along even with the humor of the people, right or wrong. Any measure was to be considered right which was popular for the time being. The politician felt assured that if he supported a bad measure when it was popular, or opposed a good one when it was unpopular, he would never be called to account for it by the people. It was believed that the people never blame any one for misleading them; for it was thought that they had too good a conceit of themselves to suspect or admit that they could be misled. A misleader of the people, therefore, thought himself safe, if he could give present popularity to his measures. In fact it is true, that a public man will scarcely ever be forgiven for being right when the people are wrong. New contests, forever occurring, will make the people forget the cause of their resentment; but their resentment itself, or rather a prejudice which it sinks into, will be remembered and felt when the cause of it is forgotten. It is the perfect knowledge of this fact by politicians which makes so many of them ready to prostitute their better judgments to catch the popular breeze; and so it will always be, until the people have the capacity and the will to look into their affairs more carefully. Any reform in this particular must begin with the people themselves, and not with politicians. Reformation must work upwards from the people through the government, and not from the politicians down. For I still insist, that, as a general thing, the government will be a type of the people. The following are the ayes and nays on the passage of the internal improvement system in the House of Representatives. The names of prominent men are given in full. Those in favor of it were: Able, Aldrich, Atwater, Ball, Barnett, Charles, Courtright, Craig, John Crain, John Dougherly, John Dawson, Stephen A. Douglass, Dunbar, Edmonson, Ninian W. Edwards, William F. Elkin, Augustus C. French,
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Galbreath, Green of Clay, Green of St. Clair, Hankins, William W. Happy, Hinshaw, John Hogan, Lagow, Leary, Abram Lincoln, U. F. Linder; Logan, Lyons, McCormack, John A. McClerand, Madden, Morris, Minor, John Moore, Moore of St. Clair, Morton, Murphy of Perry, Murphy of Vermilion, Joseph Naper, James H. Ralston, Rawalt, Reddick, James Shields, Robert Sniith, Smith of Wabash, Dan Stone, Stuntz, Turley, Turney, Voris, Walker of Cook, Walker of Morgan, Watkins, Wilson, Wood, and James Semple, the Speaker. Those opposed to it were: Bently, Milton Carpenter, Cullom, Davis, Dairman, Dollins, Dubois, English, Enloe, John J. Hardin, John Harris, Lane, McGown, William McMurtry, William A. Minshall, Adam O'Neil, Pace, Paullen, William A. Richardson, Stuart, Thompson, Wheeler, Whitten, and Witt. And John Dement and William A. Minshall afterwards voted to concur in the amendments of the senate.
Of those who voted for the measure on the final passage, or by concurring with the senate, Messrs. Crain, Dougherty, Dawson, Edwards, Elkin, Happy, Hogan, Naper, and Minshall, have been since often elected or appointed to other offices, and are yet all of them popular men. Hogan was appointed Commissioner of the Board of Public Works, and run by his party for Congress; Moore was elected to the Senate, and to be Lieut. Governor, and afterwards Lieut.-Colonel in the Mexican war; Stone and Ralston were elected to be Circuit Judges -- Ralston afterwards to be a Senator, and then run by his party for Congress; Linder has been Attorney-General and Member of the Legislature; Dement has been twice appointed Receiver of Public Moneys; Semple, to be Charge des Affaires at New Grenada, Judge of the Supreme Court, and Senator in Congress; Shields, to be Auditor, Judge of the Supreme Court, Commissioner of the General Land office, and Brigadier-General in the Mexican war; French was elected Governor in August, 1846; Lincoln was several times elected to the Legislature,
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and finally to Congress; and Douglass, Smith, and McClernand have been three times elected to Congress, and Douglass to the United States Senate. Being all of them spared monuments of popular wrath, evincing how safe it is to a politician, but how disastrous it may be to the country, to keep along with the present fervor of the people. *
But the only hope now was that the State might not be able to borrow the money. This was soon taken away; for the fund commissioners succeeded in negotiating a loan in the summer of 1837; and before the end of the year the work had begun at many points on the railroads. The whole State was excited to the highest pitch of phrenzy and expectation. Money was as plenty as dirt. Industry instead of being stimulated, actually languished. We exported nothing; and everything from abroad was paid for by the borrowed money expended amongst us. And if our creditors have found us slow of payment, they have been justly punished for lending us the money. in doing so, they disappointed the only hope of the cool, reflecting men of the State.
At the same time the work was going on upon the canal. The board of canal commissioners, in pursuance of law, projected a most magnificent work, and completed portions of it in a manner most creditable to the engineers and contractors. But here again the spirit of over-calculation did infinite mischief. The United States in 1826, had donated about 300,000 acres of land to this work. This land was estimated at the most exaggerated price. It was thought that its value was illimitable. As the fund appeared to be so great, a very large and deep
* These gentlemen have been excused upon the ground that they were instructed to vote as they did, and that they had every right to believe that they were truly reflecting the will of their constituents. But it appears to me that members ought to resign such small offices, to sacrifice a petty ambition, rather than become the milling tools of a deluded people, to bring so much calamity upon the country.
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canal was projected, to be fed by the waters of Lake Michigan. Governor Duncan had recommended the commencement of a steamboat canal, which according to our present experience, would have cost some $20,000,000, as a means of improving the navigation of the Illinois river and rendering its shores more healthy; and confidently relied upon Congress for additional appropriations of money or land to complete it. Such a recommendation from a distinguished source, bewildered and depraved the public intellect, and contributed in no small degree to form the inflated and bombastic notions which led to the extravagances of the internal improvement system. The legislature refused to sanction a steamboat canal; but nevertheless projected the work after a style of grandeur far beyond the means of the State. Several magnificent canal basins, and a steamboat canal and basin at the termination on the Illinois, were provided for. To complete the whole about $9,000,000 would be required. This sum, however, was regarded as a mere nothing, when compared with the then inflated ideas of the value of the canal lands. At the session of 1837, there were already great complaints of mismanagement on the parts of the banks; committees were appointed to examine them, but the examination resulted in no discovery of any importance. The only thing worthy to be remembered concerning it, is that one of the committee to examine the Shawneetown Bank, after his return, being asked what discoveries he had made, verbally reported that he had seen plenty of good liquor in the bank, and sugar to sweeten it with.
But to return to the internal improvement system. The fund commissioners, by taking from the principal sums borrowed, managed to pay interest on the State debt until the meeting of the legislature in 1840. During the interim between the fall of the system and this meeting there was a terrible contest between the whigs and the democrats, for a President of the United States. Gen. Harrison was the candidate
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on one side, and Mr. Van Buren on the other. Nothing was heard in this contest but United States Bank, sub-treasury, tariff, free trade, patriots, friends of the country, spoilsmen, gold spoons, English carriages, extravagance, defalcations, petticoat-heroes, aristocrats, coons, log-cabins, and hard cider. Not one word of our local affairs. Thus was substituted in the public mind one species of insanity for another, which had worn out; and thus it was that both parties cheated themselves into a forgetfulness of the dreadful condition of the State. For previous to the explosion of the internal improvement system, a debt had been contracted for that and the canal of $14,237,348, not counting the debt to the school fund, or for deposits of surplus revenues; all of which was to be paid by a population of 478,929, according to the State census of 1840.
And here is a proper place for some further account of political parties. In their origin, such parties seem to be founded partly in the nature of man, and much upon artifice. There is undoubtedly a difference in the mental and physical constitution of men, inclining them one way or the other in political affairs. Some distrust the people, others confide in their capacity for self-government. Some prefer a quiet government, others a stormy turbulence. The condition of men, also, has much to do with party; some are poor and lowly as to property; but proud in their hearts; others rich and well-born, with a power to make their pride felt by others. Some are ignorant and feeble--minded, others shrewd and intelligent; some are rough and ill-bred, others polished and graceful. In a word, some have superior advantages, which create them into a caste of their own. That portion enjoying these superior advantages, are apt to look down upon their less-gifted fellow-citizens with contempt or indifference; and to feel that as they are superior in some respects, they ought to be in all. They can have but little patience with the idea that the rabble is to govern the country. The people in humble condition look up to them
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with resentment and detestation. These remarks are not invariably true of either side, but it will be accorded to me that almost every neighborhood has some one richer than the rest, who puts on airs of importance, and manifests such a want of sympathy with his fellows, as to disgust his humbler neighbors; amongst whom there are those who, full of ill-nature, look upon such pretensions with envious resentment. These little big men, on both sides, of the neighborhood sort, are apt to feel the most thorough hatred for each other; their malice often supplying the place of principle and patriotism. They think they are devoted to a cause, when they only hate an opponent; and the more thoroughly they hate, the more thoroughly are they partisans. Here, originates the hostility between democracy and aristocracy, as if is said to exist in this country; and here originates the feeling of proscription, which is more violent amongst mere neighborhood politicians, men who never expect an office, than among politicians who have risen to distinction. The eminent politicians on each side frequently feel a liberality, personally to an adversary, which cannot be manifested without losing the confidence of their humbler friends.
And this state of things are kept up by the party newspapers on each side, the editors of which well know that their most profitable harvest is during an excited contest. Newspapers are then more sought for and read; and then it is that an editor's funds best support him with money and patronage. It may be said with truth that a partisan editor is a continual candidate for the favor of his party; for which reason, it is his interest to make political contests interminable. The great mass of the people, who take newspapers at all, generally content themselves with one political paper of their own party. This and no other, except in the towns, they read from week to week, and from year to year, until they become thoroughly enlisted in all the quarrels of the editor, and imbued with all his malice and prejudice; and thus they become bound up in
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the most ill-natured, narrow-minded, pedantic conceits; fully convinced that their way, and no other, is right, and that all persons of the opposite party know it to be so. They feel assured that their political opponents, and particularly those of them who are elected to office, are a set of insufferable rogues, bent upon the enslavement of the people, or the ruin of the country. The rascality of the whigs, in the opinion of the democrats, is to end in enslaving the people, or to transfer the government to some foreign power; and the rascality of the democrats, in the opinion of the whigs, is to ruin the country. It is probably true that in something like this, is the natural difference, founded upon which parties will continue to be built, and that all efforts to get up third parties, not founded upon this difference, and all efforts to make new and merely temporary issues the permanent foundation of party, must be abortive.
Some men are attached to one, and some to the other party, from conviction, interest, or the prejudices of education. I have already said that there was no question of principle, such as now divides parties; involved in the first election of Gen. Jackson. I speak only of Illinois. But as the measures of Gen. Jackson's administration were unfolded, it was discovered that he favored the doctrines of the old republican party. His attack upon the United States Bank, his veto of its charter in 1832, removal of the deposits in 1833, the expunging resolutions, and the specie circular, rallied all to his pasty who were of a nature to be hostile to the power of wealth. This is not to say that all wealthy men were excluded from, or all poor ones included in the democratic party. Many wealthy persons still remained democrats from principle, interest, or ambition; and many poor men attached themselves to the opposite party for like reasons. There is a class of the poor, over whom it is natural for the wealthy to exercise an influence; this class most generally lack the boldness and vigor to think and feel for
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themselves. Some are attached to the "rich and well-born," on account of their accomplishments and virtues, and others find it their interest to adhere to them. And there is always at class of wealthy men, who from pure benevolence, or from the love of the importance their wealth gives them as leaders, attach themselves to the democracy. The Jackson party had long called themselves democrats; the other party called themselves democratic republicans. The democrats began to call their opponents federalists; and these opponents, in 1833 or '4, began to call themselves whigs, a popular name of the revolution. The whigs, to be even with the democrats for calling them federalists, which they greatly resented, about the year 1837 gave to the democrats the name of locofocos, which they have persisted in calling the democrats ever since. * The whigs, knowing the influence of mere words in all human affairs, gave this uncouth name to the democrats, in hopes thereby to make them ashamed of it, disavow it, and prefer the name of whig. it has had no effect whatever on elections; but the whigs still keep it up, as if it had a power in it to blister and destroy, and no consideration on earth can induce them to relinquish it. In all this, there are just two things which are remarkable. It is remarkable that the whigs, by the mere influence of the newspapers, without any open agreement, have from one end of the Union to the other, adopted this name for their opponents, and have adhered to it now for nine years as the only name by which their opponents shall be known; and it is remarkable that the democratic party should have no squeamish men in its ranks, to run away from, or be disgusted with a party having so uncouth a name.
Our old way of conducting elections required each aspirant for office to announce himself as a candidate. The more prudent, however, always first consulted a little caucus of select, influential friends. The candidates then travelled around the county or State, in proper person, making speeches, conversing
* (Note from 1945 Lakeside Press edition of this book): From about 1837 to 1860 the Democratic Party was called by its opponents the Locofoco Party. The name is supposed to have originated in New York City in 1835, when in a factional squabble at Tammany Hall a radical faction seized control of the city caucus, and when the opposition turned off the gas by which the room was lighted, produced candles and lighting them with locofoco matches continued the meeting.
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with the people, soliciting votes, whispering slanders against their opponents and defending themselves against the attacks of their adversaries. But it was not always best to defend against such attacks. A candidate, in a fair way to be elected, should never deny any charge made against him; for if he does, his adversaries will prove all they have said, and much more. As a candidate did not offer himself as the champion of any party, he usually agreed with all opinions, and promised everything demanded by the people; and most usually promised, either directly or indirectly, his support to all the other candidates for office at the same election. One of the arts was, to raise a quarrel with unpopular men, who were odious to the people; and thus try to be elected upon the unpopularity of others, as well as upon his own popularity. These modes of electioneering were not true of all the candidates, nor perhaps half of them, very many of them being gentlemen of first-rate integrity.
After party spirit arose so as to require candidates to come out on party grounds, there was for a time no mode of concentrating the action of a party. A number of candidates would come out for the same office, on the same side. Their party would be split up and divided between them. In such a case, the minority party was almost sure of success, this being the only case in which one is stronger than many. As party spirit increased more and more, the necessity of some mode of concentrating the party strength became more and more apparent. The large emigration from the old States, bringing with it the zeal and party organization in which it had been trained from infancy, gave a new impulse to the consolidation of the strength of party. An attempt at this was early made by the New England and New York people living in the north part of the State, by introducing the convention system of nominating candidates.
This system was first tried in counties and districts in the
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north; but, on account of the frauds and irregularities which first attended if, small progress was made in it from 1832, when its introduction was first attempted, until 1840, the people generally preferring the election of independent candidates. In 1837, Judge Douglass was nominated for Congress in the Peoria district, and in the winter of 1837, Col. James W. Stephenson was nominated by a State convention as a candidate for governor; and upon his inability to serve, on account of sickness, Thomas Carlin was nominated in the same way in the summer of 1838.
At first, the system encountered the furious opposition of the whigs, who, being in the minority, were vitally interested to prevent the concentration of the democratic strength. The western democrats looked upon it with a good deal of suspicion. It was considered a Yankee contrivance, intended to abridge the liberties of the people, by depriving individuals, on their own mere motion, of the privilege of becoming candidates, and depriving each man of the right to vote for a candidate of his own selection and choice. The idea of conventions was first brought into the middle and lower part of the State by Ebenezer Peck, Esq., a member of the bar at Chicago, a man of plausible talents, who had formerly resided in Canada. He had there been elected to the provincial parliament by the liberal party, in opposition to the ultra monarchy party. But he had not been long in parliament before the governor of Canada appointed him King's Counsel, in return for which favor Mr. Peck left his old friends, to support the ultra monarchists. His position was an uneasy one; so, before long, he resigned his offices and removed to Chicago. Here he attached himself to the democratic party, but, on account of his defection in Canada, anything coming from him was viewed with suspicion and prejudice by many.
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At a great meeting of the lobby, during the special session of 1835-'6, at Vandalia, Mr. Peck made the first speech ever made in the lower part of the State in favor of the convention system. He was answered by William Jefferson Gatewood, democratic senator from Gallatin county, and some considerable interest was awakened on the subject among politicians. From this time the system won its way slowly, and now all the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and members of Congress, are brought before the people by conventions, and it pervades two-thirds of the State in nominating candidates for the legislature.
The system has some advantages and disadvantages in this country. Those in favor of it say that it furnishes the only mode of concentrating the action of a party, and giving effect to the will of the majority. They justly urge, that since the organization of parties, the old system of electing from personal preference is carried into each party in the mere selection of candidates, which distracts the harmony of a party by introducing competition amongst distinguished men for the mere privilege of becoming candidates, without any means of deciding between them, except at the polls. Accordingly, it is strictly true that where two or more men of the same party are candidates, without a nomination, they are apt to hate each other tell times as intensely as they do the prominent men of the opposite party. A whig is to be elected by whigs, a democrat by democrats. The success of either depends upon the number and strength of their respective parties; but an aspiring whig or democrat has still to seek support in his own party, in opposition to his own prominent political friends, by a canvass of his merits as a man. Such being the case, it is not likely that the ambitious men of the same party, who are excited against each other by mere personal contests, will
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decline in favor of others, so as to have but a single candidate for the same office in the same party. Without a nomination, a party may be greatly in the majority, but by being divided on men, the minority may succeed in the elections, and actually govern the majority. To remedy this evil, it was proposed by conventions of delegates, previously elected by the people to provide but a single set of candidates for the same party. It was also urged by some, that these bodies would be composed of the best-informed and principal men of a party, and would be more competent than the people at large, to select good men for candidates. This body to the people, would be like a grand jury to a circuit court. As the court would have no power to try any one for crime without a previous indictment by the grand jury, so the people would have no right to elect any one to office without a nomination by a convention. In the one case innocent men could not be publicly accused and tried for crime, without a private examination of their guilt, and establishing a probability of its existence; so the people would be restrained from electing any one to office without a previous nomination of a body more fitted to judge of his qualifications. The convention system was said to be a salutary restraint upon universal suffrage, compelling the people to elect men of standing, who alone could be nominated by conventions.
On the other side, it was urged, that the whole, convention system was a fraud on the people; that it was a mere fungus growth engrafted upon the constitution; that conventions themselves were got up and packed by cunning, active, intriguing politicians, to suit the wishes of a few. The mode of getting them up, was for some active man to procure a few friends in each precinct of a county, to hold primary meetings, where delegates were elected to county conventions, who met at the county seats, and nominated candidates for the legislature and for county offices; and appointed other delegates to district and State conventions, to nominate candidates for Congress and for governor. The great
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difficulty was in the primary meetings in the precincts. in the Eastern States, where conventions originated, they had township governments, little democracies, where the whole people met in person at least once a year, to lay taxes for roads and for the support of schools and the poor. This called the whole people of a township together, enlightened their minds and accustomed them to take a lively interest in their government; and whilst assembled they could and did elect their delegates to conventions. In this mode a convention reflected the will of a part;y, as much as the legislature reflected the will of the whole people. But how is it in Illinois? We had no township governments, no occasions for a general meeting of the people, except at the elections themselves; the people did not attend the primary meetings; a few only assembled, who were nearest the places of meeting, and these were too often mere professional politicians, the loafers about the towns, who having but little business of their own, were ever ready to attend to the affairs of the public. This threw the political power out of the hands of the people, merely because they would not exercise it, into the hands of idlers -- of a few active men, who controlled them. If any one desired an office, he never thought of applying to the people for it; but passed them by, and applied himself to conciliate the managers and idlers about the towns, many of whom could only be conciliated at an immense sacrifice of the public interest. If is true that a party had the reserved right of rebellion against all this machinery; no one could be punished for treason in so doing, otherwise than by losing the favor of his party, and being denounced as a traitor; which was almost as efficacious in restraining the refractory as the pains and penalties of treason, the hanging and embowelling of former times.
My own opinion of the convention system is, that if can never be perfect in Illinois, without the organization of little township democracies, such as are found in New York and New England; that in a State where the people are highly intelligent, and not
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indifferent to public affairs, if will enable the people themselves to govern, by giving full effect to the will of the majority; but among a people who are either ignorant of or indifferent to the affairs of their government, the convention system is a most admirable contrivance to enable active leaders to govern without much responsibility to the people.
By means of the convention system, and many exciting contests, the two parties of whigs and democrats were thoroughly organized and disciplined by the year 1840. No regular army could have excelled them in discipline. They were organized upon the principles of national politics only, and not in any degree upon those of the State. The first effect of this seemed to be, that all ideas of State rights, State sovereignty, State policy and interests, as party questions, were abolished out of men's minds. Our ancestors had greatly relied upon the organization of State sovereignties, as checks to anti-republican tendencies, and national consolidation. For this purpose, all the State constitutions, Illinois amongst the rest, had declared, that no person holding an office under the United States should hold an office under the State government. The object of this was, to sever all dependence of the State upon the national government. If was not permitted the President to appoint the officers of the State governments, for this would at once lay the State governments at the feet of the President. But if the State officers were not appointed by the President, they were elected upon a principle which made them, if belonging to his political friends, as subservient to his will as if he had appointed them. The President was the leader of his party in the nation, and there was no principle of party in the State but this. Men were elected to office upon the popularity of the President, and upon the principles which the President put forth; and they were thus compelled, in self-defence, to support and defend him, through good and evil, right or wrong, as much as if they owed their offices to his gift. Besides this, their parties absolutely
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required them to do so. It may be remarked here as a curious fact, that the politicians all over the nation, pretending to be most in favor of State rights and State sovereignty, have contributed most to overthrow them, by forever insisting upon the organization of parties, purely upon national questions. This dependence of State upon national politics, and the exclusive devotion of State politicians to national questions, was the true cause why so little attention was paid to the policy of the State. These remarks are equally applicable to both political parties. But it is as necessary that the affairs of the United States should be attended to by the people as those of the State, and the misfortunes which a neglect of affairs at home has caused, may possibly have been the price of government in the nation.
A new legislature was elected in 1840, which, although they were chosen under the influence of the presidential election of that year, were obliged to think somewhat upon the public condition. The fund commissioners stated the difficulty of meeting the January interest of 1841. As yet the canal had not wholly stopped, and the canal men were interested to keep up the credit of the State; and something desperate must be done for that purpose.
The canal contractors had taken their jobs when all prices were high. By the fall of prices, they could make a large profit on their work, and lose twenty-five per cent. They, therefore, had agreed to take a million of State bonds at par, in payment of their estimates. Gen. Thornton was deputed to go to Europe with the bonds, and sell them for what they would bring, not less than seventy-five per cent.; the contractors suffering the loss. This they could well afford to do; and by this expedient the work on the canal had been continued, long after that on the railroads had been abandoned. The canal was not yet looked upon as dead, and a great effort was to be made to raise the means to keep if in life, and sustain the credit of the State,
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without which if was known that the canal would not live an hour.
The time was short, only six weeks until the interest would become due; and many expedients were proposed to raise the money; but the one which met most general favor, was a new issue of bonds to be hypothecated for whatever they would bring in market. This was a desperate remedy, and showed the zeal of the legislature in sustaining the public honor. It proposed a plan of raising money, which, if pursued as the settled policy of the State, must end in utter ruin. Nevertheless, it was but feebly opposed on this ground. The principal ground of opposition was an objection to paying interest at all; and particularly to paying interest upon bonds, for which the State had received nothing, or less than par. Now was heard for the first time, any very earnest complaints against the acts of the fund commissioners, in selling bonds on a credit, and for less than their face; and it was seriously and earnestly contended, first, that the State was hopelessly insolvent, that any effort to pay would be ridiculous and futile, and secondly, that the State was not bound to pay interest on more money than had been actually received. An amendment to this effect was offered, and strenuously insisted on.
On the other hand, it was insisted with reason, that the State was bound to do everything in its power to meet its engagements; that if bonds had been erroneously issued, it had been done by the State agents, selected and chosen by the State itself; for whose conduct the State must be responsible. It was admitted, that if such bonds remained in the hands of the original purchasers, as to them the State would be entitled to a deduction for money not actually received. But it was as earnestly contended, that if such bonds had passed into the hands of bona fide holders, who were no parties to the original deficiency of consideration, the State was liable in equity, as well as at law, to pay the face of the bond. There seems to be
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an obvious propriety in this view of the case. Because the bonds were issued by State agents, appointed by the State, not by its creditors. The constituted authorities of the State ought to have chosen better men for public trusts; and if they did not do so, the State is justly responsible for their blunders. It seems to be a principle of law, as well as of equity, that if the State selects bad men, or those who are incompetent to act as its agents, the State thus abusing its power, and not individuals who had no hand in their appointment, ought to suffer the consequences of its folly, or want of devotion to its own interests. This doctrine, if established, will be a lesson to the people, and teach them to be considerate and careful in electing their public servants.
These conflicting opinions were near preventing any action on the subject at this session. At last, Mr. Cavarly, a member from Greene, introduced a bill of two sections, authorizing the fund commissioner to hypothecate internal improvement bonds to the amount of $300,000, and which contained the remarkable provision, that the proceeds were to be applied by that officer to the payment of all interest legally due on the public debt. Thus shifting from the General Assembly, and devolving on the fund commissioner, the duty of deciding on the legality of the debt. And by this happy expedient conflicting opinions were reconciled, without direct action on the matter of controversy; and thus the two houses were enabled to agree upon a measure to provide temporarily for the payment of the interest on the public debt. The legislature further provided at this session for the issue of interest bonds, to be sold in the market for what they would bring; and an additional tax of ten cents on the hundred dollars worth of property was imposed and pledged to pay the interest on these bonds. By these contrivances the interest for January and July, 1841, was paid. The fund commissioner hypothecated internal improvement bonds for the money first due; and his successor in office, finding no
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sale for Illinois stocks, so much had the credit of the State fallen, was compelled to hypothecate $804,000 of interest bonds for the July interest; on this hypothecation he was to have received $321,600, but was never paid more than $261,500. These bonds have never been redeemed from the holders, though eighty of them were afterwards repurchased, and $315,000 of them were received from the Shawneetown Bank for State stock in that institution.
The people of the State, at the election of 1840, had sustained Mr. Van Buren, the democratic candidate for President, and both branches of the legislature were largely of the same party. The majority of the judges of the supreme court were whigs. Judge Smith was the only democratic member of the court, whilst Chief Justice Wilson, and his associates Lockwood and Brown, were the minority party. It is due to truth here to say, that Wilson and Lockwood were in every respect amiable and accomplished gentlemen in private life, and commanded the esteem and respect of all good men for the purity of their conduct and their probity in official station. Wilson was a Virginian of the old sort, a man of good education, sound judgment, and an elegant writer, as his published opinions will show.
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Chase, with the aid of contributions from the members of the Episcopal church and others, established Jubilee college in Peoria county; and the Methodists established a flourishing seminary at Mount Morris, in the county of Ogle. Beside these there were numerous academies and high schools in many parts of the State. Opportunities for education in the higher branches were good for all who were able and willing to profit by them. Common schools flourished in many places, more than could have been expected, when all efficient encouragement to them had been abandoned by the Government.
Chicago, Alton, Springfield, Quincy, Galena, and Nauvoo, had become cities before the year 1842. To these has since been added the city of Peoria. Most of the county seats had grown up to be towns of from five to fifteen hundred inhabitants; and there were many other villages in many of the counties containing a population of from one hundred to a thousand souls. The towns contained a good deal of intelligence, polish, and eloquence. It must not be thought that the people of this new country had just sprung up out of the ground, with no advantages of education and society. They were nearly all of them emigrants from the old States, being often the most intelligent and enterprising of their population. As such, they were just a slice off of the great loaf of the old States. But they were not apt to be so considered by the latest comers. These always imagined that they were come to a land of comparative ignorance, and that they must necessarily be superior to the people already here, until they were convinced to the contrary by finding out that their pretensions had made them ridiculous; and if their pretensions were noticed at all, it was only to be laughed at. It was no uncommon thing to find families of these last new comers scattered all over the country, forever complaining of the want of good society; and of the many privations they endured in a new country. These complaints were uttered, not so much because they were true, as to
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let people know that those who made them, were somebodies where they came from. The same kind of people to show themselves off as something superior to others, were forever uttering sarcasms and slighting remarks of the State and the people. If was no uncommon thing to find them in all the taverns, stages-coaches and steamboats, letting on, that although their destiny compelled them to live in the State, yet they knew how degraded the rest of the people were as well as he who resided in a city, or lived in a palace. Indeed, the bodies only of a great many people and not their minds lived in the State. It was difficult to forget the father-land. Most of the emigrants remembered New York, or New England, or their other places of nativity, with affection and lively interest. A man from Massachusetts took a newspaper from his native town, he watched the progress of politics, the success of men and parties, and the history of government there, with as much interest as if he had never removed. And so of the emigrants from other States. It was natural it should be so. But whilst it was so, it is to be feared that matters suffered at home. There was but little State pride for Illinois. Illinois could be abused anywhere with impunity. I hope yet to live to see the day in Illinois, as it is in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, New York, and New England, that no one will be suffered to abuse the State without being scorned and insulted. It is true that a State pride must be deserved before it can exist. The people must have something to be proud of. The State will never really prosper without this State pride. It is the greatest incentive to excellence in government, and in everything else, for the people to be proud of their country. *
* It seems to me that the people of Illinois may now justly be proud of their State. They have with great unanimity put down the hideous monster of repudiation; contrary to the instigations of numerous demagogues they have submitted cheerfully to be taxed to pay their just debts; they are about to see their canal, one of the greatest works in
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As new people came in they, brought with them their religion and literature, Churches now began to be rapidly established in the towns, and in many country places. Pastors were regularly settled and paid; church buildings were erected, divided off into pews; and the sound of the "church-going bell" began to be heard. It soon become fashionable to attend some church, and constant attendance induced many to join as members.
During the previous period of our history, our literature was principally confined to mere newspaper writing, which discussed mostly the mere affairs of party, or the claims of some man to an office; or the demerit of an opponent. John M. Peck, of Rock Spring, in St. Clair county, published a State Gazetteer, a work of considerable labor and well written; John Russell, of Bluff Dale, published some fugitive essays and tales in the newspapers, which marked him as a man of genius and a fine writer; and Judge James Hall early distinguished himself as a scholar and writer. He published at Vandalia, an Illinois monthly magazine of high merit; and an annual called "the Western Souvenir," a collection of original tales and poetry, written principally by himself, evincing such merit as to make him distinguished all over the United States, as an author. But there was not sufficient patronage in Illinois at that time for the pursuits of literature; so Judge Hall removed to Cincinnati,
America, completed. Their legislatures have improved in knowledge, public spirit and patriotism, ever since 1840; which was about the darkest time in public affairs. And when the services of her sons were called for in the Mexican war, 8,370 of them in a few weeks answered the call, though only 3,720 (four regiments) could be taken. Every one of these regiments afterwards distinguished themselves for unheard-of courage in the severest battles ever fought on this continent. Hardin, Bissell, Weatherford, Morrison, Trail, Warren, are proud names associated with the glorious victory of Buena Vista. Shields, Baker, Harris, Coffey, and others, will be remembered as long as the capture of Vera Cruz, or the storming of Cerro Gordo, are remembered. What did Kentucky ever do more than this?
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where he now resides. But before he left Illinois he had acquired a high reputation as a writer.
The great plenty of money brought here by the work on the canal and the railroads, set up a great many merchants all over the country in business; it increased the stocks of goods brought to be sold; created unnatural competition amongst the merchants to sell; who were forced to sell on a credit or not at all. The people were encouraged to buy on credit, and when their debts became due, for want of money to pay them, they gave their notes to the merchants with twelve per cent. interest, which the reader will observe hereafter was the cause of some strange legislation on the collection of debts, and caused the reduction of the rate of interest to six per cent. Until the year 1833, there had been no legal limit to the rate of interest to be fixed by contract. But usury had been carried to such an unprecedented degree of extortion and oppression, as to cause the legislature to enact severe usury laws, by which all interest above twelve per cent. was condemned. It had been no uncommon thing before this, to charge one hundred and one hundred and fifty per cent., and sometimes two and three hundred per cent. But the common rate of interest by contract had been about fifty per cent.
In the year 1840, the people called Mormons came to this State, and settled in Hancock county, and as their residence amongst us led to a mobocratic spirit, which resulted in their expulsion, it is proper here to notice other incidents of this sort, in our previous history.
In 1816 and '17, in the towns of the territory, the country was overrun with horse-thieves and counterfeiters. They were so numerous, and so well combined together in many counties, as to set the laws at defiance. Many of the sheriffs, justices of the peace, and constables, were of their number; and even some of the judges of the county courts; and they had numerous friends to aid them and sympathize with them, even
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amongst those who were the least suspected. When any of them were arrested, they either escaped from the slight jails of those times, or procured some of their gang to be on the jury; and they never lacked witnesses to prove themselves innocent. The people formed themselves into revolutionary tribunals in many counties, under the name of "Regulators"' and the governor and judges of the territory, seeing the impossibility of executing the laws in the ordinary way, against an organized banditti, who set all law at defiance, winked at and encouraged the proceedings of the regulators.
These regulators in number generally constituted about a captain's company, to which they gave a military organization, by the election of officers. The company generally operated at night. When assembled for duty, they marched, armed and equipped as if for war, to the residence or lurking-place of a rogue, arrested, tried, and punished him by severe whipping and banishment from the territory. In this mode most of the rogues were expelled from the country; and it was the opinion of the best men at the time, that in the then divided and disorganized state of society, and the imperfect civilization which required such proceedings, were not only justifiable, but absolutely necessary for the existence of government. There yet remained, however, for many years afterwards, a noted gang of rogues in the counties of Pope and Massac, and other counties bordering on the Ohio river. This gang built a fort in Pope county, and set the government at open defiance. In the year 1831, the honest portion of the people in that region assembled under arms in great numbers, and attacked the fort with small arms and one piece of artillery. The fort was taken by storm, with the loss of one of the regulators and three of the rogues killed in the assault. The residue of the rogues were taken prisoners, tried for their crimes, but I believe were never convicted. At a later time, a number of rogues who had located themselves
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in the county of Edger, were broken up, whipped, and expelled by a company of regulators from the Wabash valley, the present Governor French being a distinguished member of the regulators.
In 1837 a series of mobs took place in Alton, which resulted in the destruction of an abolition press, and in the death of one of the rioters and one of the abolitionists. This affair has made a great noise in the world, and is deserving of a more extended notice. It appears that the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, of the Presbyterian church, had attempted to publish an abolition paper in St. Louis, but his press had there been destroyed by a mob, and he himself had been expelled from the city.
Mr. Lovejoy now determined to remove his establishment to Alton. The press for this purpose was landed on Sunday, but during that night was thrown into the river by the citizens. There was much excitement on the subject, and a public meeting was called on Monday evening to be held in the Presbyterian church, which was attended by an immense concourse of people.
Mr. Lovejoy first addressed the meeting. He said he came to Alton to establish a religious newspaper. He was pleased with the place, and wished to remain; there most of his subscribers resided in Illinois; and it would best suit his purposes and theirs that he should do so. He disliked St. Louis, and he disliked slavery. He regretted that he had met with such a reception at Alton; he presumed that the people had misconceived his object. He was no abolitionist; he believed the abolitionists were injuring the colored race; he had repeatedly denounced them, and had been himself denounced by Garrison and others, as being in favor of slavery, because he was unwilling to go with the abolitionists in favor of all their measures. He was opposed to slavery to be sure; he had ever been, and hoped he always would be opposed to it, and he wished to get away from the evil of it. Whilst at St. Louis, where slavery
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existed, he felt bound to oppose it. For so doing his press had been mobbed and himself insulted. He had resolved to come to a free State, and he thanked his God that he was now re moved from slavery. He could now publish a religious newspaper without meddling with the subject of slavery; he could entertain his opinions; but being removed from the evil, he would have no cause to express them. Indeed, said he, it would look like cowardice to flee from the place where the evil existed and come to a place where it did not exist, to oppose it.
The people understood this to be a pledge of Mr. Lovejoy, that he would not mingle the question of slavery with the discussions in his paper; and upon this condition he was permitted to set up the "Alton Observer" without opposition. Time rolled on: the paper extended its circulation, but solely as a religious paper, heralding the peaceful gospel of the blessed God, which is peace on earth and good-will to men. After some time, slavery was very moderately referred to, and then denounced. Soon after, the paper became moderately abolitionist. Next, some of the most respectable citizens were denounced as being in favor of slavery, and held up to public scorn because they dared to speak their opinions of the abolitionists; and ultimately, in the course of a year it became decidedly an abolition paper of the fiercest sort, and religion was pressed into its service as a mere incident and auxiliary to the main cause of abolitionism. The mob spirit of Alton became aroused. The people thought that they had nurtured a viper to bite them and destroy their peace. The pledge of Mr. Lovejoy was remembered. He was urged by his friends to desist from his course, but no consideration could shake his inflexible resolution. He only became more violent, and his denunciations more personal. A public meeting was called to induce him, by peaceable means if possible, to return to his original pledge. A committee was appointed to wait on him, and call his attention to his original
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promises. He denied making such promises, and contended for the freedom of the press, and his right to unbounded liberty as one of its conductors. He read to the committee a long homily on mobs; and appeared to think that the action of a mob, by creating sympathy for him, would spread his renown, and immortalize his labors. The positive denial of a minister of the gospel of what hundreds had heard him declare, increased the rage of the people, which was blown into a consuming fury by a letter which appeared in the "Plain Dealer," in which the leading men of Alton were denounced because they did not throw themselves into the breach, and protect Mr. Lovejoy at the risk of their lives in conducting a press employed to vilify themselves, and to support a cause which they believed to be fraught with injury to all concerned. The people assembled and quietly took the press and types and threw them into the Mississippi. It now became manifest to all rational men that the "Alton Observer" could no longer be published in Alton as an abolition paper. The more reasonable of the abolitionists themselves thought it would be useless to try it again. However, a few of them, who were most violent, seemed to think that the salvation of the black race depended upon continuing the publication at Alton. They celled a private meeting to consult, into which were admitted Messrs. Godfrey and Gilman, and the Rev. Mr. Hogan, who were not abolitionists. All expressed their opinions. Some were for re-establishing the press, and sustaining it at all hazards. Others thought it would be madness to make the attempt, and they believed that the efforts already made had come near destroying the religious feeling of the community, and breaking up the peace and harmony of the churches. Mr. Lovejoy complained that Mr. Godfrey, who was a leading Presbyterian, and the Rev. Mr. Hogan, had declared that if the "Observer" were again established they could do nothing to protect it from the mob; but he forgot to state that these gentlemen could not recognize as the cause of God
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that which had done so much evil. They had seen the effect of abolitionism in the slave Slates, where, instead of breaking the fetters of the slave, it had increased their strength and severity. They conscientiously believed that abolitionism was wrong -- they could not risk their lives in its defence.
The majority, however, determined to re-establish the "Observer" as an abolition paper; and as preparatory thereto, they put out a call for a convention, to be held in Upper Alton, on the 26th of October, 1837, of all such persons in Illinois as were opposed to slavery, and in favor of free discussion. The convention assembled; and although the call was for all persons opposed to slavery, yet an attempt was made to exclude all who would not avow themselves to be abolitionists, all others being set down as opposed to free discussion. The trustees of the Preshyterian church would not allow it to assemble in their place of worship, unless all were allowed to come who were opposed to slavery. This was finally acceded to, and many such took seats in the convention. A commiftee was appointed to prepare business, and in the afternoon the Rev. Mr. Beecher, then President of Illinois College, was to preach a sermon before the convention. The committee of two abolitionists and one opposed to them, made a majority and minority report, and President Beecher held forth in a violent harangue against slavery. Mr. Beecher was a man of great learning and decided talents; but he belonged to the class of reformers who disregard all considerations of policy and expediency. He believed slavery to be a sin and a great evil, and his indignant and impatient soul could not await God's own good time to overthrow it, by acts of his providence working continual change and revolution in the affairs of men. He contended that slavery was wrong, sinfully and morallywrong, and ought not to be borne with an instant. No Constitution could protect it. If the Constitution sanctioned iniquity, the Constitution was wrong in the sight of God, and could not be
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binding upon the people of this country. For his part, he did not sanction the Constitution. It was not binding on him; and whilst it tolerated slavery it could not be. Several other speeches of a like nature were made on the same side, which were answered by Usher F. Linder, the Attorney General, and by the Rev. Mr. Hogan.
The next day an abolition society was secretly formed at the house of the Rev. Mr. Hurlbut, in Upper Alton, believed to be the first ever formed in Illinois. Mr. Beecher was appointed to preach in the Upper Alton Presbyterian church on the following Sunday. Here his lectures against slavery were continued until Monday evening. No outbreak had taken place, and Upper Alton was looked upon as conquered. This encouraged a similar effort in the main city on the bank of the river. Accordingly, it was announced that on Tuesday Mr. Beecher would deliver the same lectures in Lower Alton which he had delivered in the upper town. On this day another abolition press was expected to arrive in a steamboat. The abolitionists announced that they were organized with a company of forty men, armed with muskets, fully determined and prepared to defend it at every hazard. The people, in a high state of excitement, flocked to the river in great numbers. The steamboat came, but no press was on board. The evening approached. Mr. Beecher was to deliver his address. The abolitionists assembled at the church under arms. Armed to the teeth with muskets and other deadly weapons, they were seen wending their way to the house of God; and at the close of the service, as the people returned to their homes, the moonlight was reflected from the swords and guns of fifteen members of the church, stationed in the vestibule, Such was religion, when made the mere ally and auxiliary of fanaticism. This was too much. Men could not endure such an outrage. I do not apologize for mobs, all of which I would crush forever, in every part of this free country. But no language can be loaded with sufficient
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severity for the fanatical leaders who, by their violence, by their utter disregard of honest prejudices, drove a peaceful community to a temporary insanity, and to the commission of enormous crimes.
On Wednesday was to be observed that peculiar calm which indicates an approaching storm. The sayings and doings of Tuesday were talked over. Many who before had taken no part, were now active on the side of the mob. Indignation blazed on every face. As no outbreak had yet occurred, the abolitionists believed that they had triumphed. In a secret meeting, they determined to re-establish the press at the point of the bayonet. The people could not bear such threatenings, and now the waves of excitement rolled to the height of mountains. The Rev. Mr. Hogan, in taking the side he did, retained considerable power with the populace. He was appealed to, to allay the threatening storm. He called twenty or thirty of the most moderate on each side, to a meeting at his counting-house. One party seemed willing to compromise matters and bring about an adjustment. Mr. Beecher, at the head of the other, was unwilling to make the slightest concession. He contended for all their abstract rights, and demanded all the guarantees of the government and the Constitution, at the same time that heard his friends were contending for their right to trample upon both. He invoked the Constitution for his protection. He wanted others to be bound by it, whilst he refused to render it obedience himself. He insisted that all that he claimed should be awarded, to the slightest particular. He would retract nothing, compromise nothing, and no consideration could induce him to accede to other terms. In all this Mr. Beecher displayed that heroic obstinacy, which, when accompanied by good sense and powerful talents, and working with the natural current of events, has overthrown governments and systems, and revolutionized the moral and almost the physical world. But here it was exerted in a cause which
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could not succeed, at least at that time. This meeting was about to adjourn, when it was proposed and resolved to appoint a committee to devise and report some means of adjustment to a meeting to be held next day at 2 o'clock.
The committee met, and it was stated to be impossible, after what had transpired, for Mr. Lovejoy to continue his paper. A resolution was passed proposing any other editor, and for Mr. Lovejoy to seek some other field of labor, which was reported to the meeting next day. It is believed that Lovejoy himself would have acceded to this arrangement, but not so with Mr. Beecher and his other friends. Pride and obstinacy were both aroused to demand a triumph, in which principle was less considered than victory. Had they made the least concession, the scene which followed, resulting in the death of two human beings, would probably never have taken place. The hour of two having arrived, the people assembled in the court-house, and the committee, by their chairman, made their report, one calculated to still the troubled elements. Mr. Linder made some remarks calculated to restore peace, and prepared the large meeting then assembled to calmly consider the exceedingly serious matters then before them.
Mr. Lovejoy now arose, and commenced his speech, which was very mild and affecting, in which he deprecated the action of the meeting and the report of the committee. He said he had thought of leaving Alton and going elsewhere, but a voice came to him from the east, urging him to remain; here he would stay; he could not leave his post, without being pursued by the Spirit of God to his destruction. The people might mob him, or do anything they pleased; he could not, and he would not be driven away; he would live there, and die there. The Spirit of God urged him to contend for his rights, and for a holy cause. He denied that he had ever given any pledges, and called on Mr. Hogan to sustain him in this denial. He never had yielded his rights (he had forgotten his flight from St. Louis), he
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never would yield them, and he would die contending for them.
Mr. Lovejoy closed his remarks in a state of great excitement, and the meeting was quite in an uproar, when Mr. Hogan rose, and endeavored to throw some oil on the troubled waters. He said that the meeting had been convened, not to consider each man's abstract rights, but to inquire into the doctrine of expediency, and how far we could relinquish the plea of right for the sake of peace. The great apostle had said, All things are lawful for me; but all things are not expedient. If Paul yielded to the law of expediency, would it be wrong for them, for Mr. Lovejoy also, following his example? The Spirit of God did not pursue Paul to his destruction for thus acting; but, on the contrary, had commended his course. Paul had never taken up arms to propagate the religion of his master, nor to defend himself against the attacks of his enemies. The people of Damascus were opposed to Paul, but did he argue with the populace the question of' his legal rights? Did he tell them that he was a Roman citizen, and would do and say what he pleased? Did he say, I am a minister of Christ, and must not leave the work of my master, to flee before the face of a mob? No; he quietly let himself down in a basket, outside of the wall, and departed for another field of labor. And God commended and blessed him for his wisdom and humility. Mr. Hogan expressed himself strongly in favor of peace, and hoped all present would yield something of their determinations to secure it.
The Rev. Mr. Graves next addressed the meeting. He wished to allude to the pledge of Mr. Lovejoy, so much spoken of. Mr. Lovejoy had never given such a pledge; he could not give it, and he appealed to Mr. Hogan to bear him out in the assertion. He commended Mr. Lovejoy for his firmness; he could make no compromise; it was in vain to propose one.
Mr. Hogan then repeated what Lovejoy had said at the first
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meeting. Mr. Graves admitted that Lovejoy had made such statements, but they mere not binding. Mr. Lovejoy was not an abolitionist at the time, nor was he himself one then. Since that time, God had opened their eyes to see the great wickedness of slavery. They now felt it a duty to oppose it. If they had given such a pledge, they had sinned against God, and ought to repent of it and forsake it. Their decision was unalterably made; they might die, but they could not compromise the performance of duty.
By such specious arguments, many good men frequently delude themselves. These men had worked themselves up to a most heroical resolution, and indeed a generous mind finds much to admire in their inflexible obstinacy. It was the self-sacrificing spirit of the martyr and the patriot; and although we may disagree with them, we cannot withhold our admiration front men who are nobly wrong, whilst we despise him who is meanly right.
The abolition press was expected to arrive next day after this meeting, but it did not come. An outbreak was now confidently looked for; all business was suspended; nothing was talked of among the populace but the efforts of the abolitionists. These last armed themselves, formed a military company, and elected their officers; and they mounted guard every night, in expectation of the arrival of the boat from below with the fatal press. This great matter of discord arrived on the next Monday night, and was removed on Tuesday morning to the stone warehouse of Godfrey Gilman & Co., where its friends were assembled with arms to guard it. On Tuesday every one knew of its arrival, and the citizens were goaded on to madness by the taunts and threats of the abolitionists. They were told that they dare not touch the press, that powder and lead were not mere playthings, that the abolitionists were now organized by authority, and were supplied with thirty rounds of cartridges, and that the mob should feel their virtue. These threatenings
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were doubtless made against the wishes of the leaders, but they served powerfully to augment the spirit of rebellion.
Towards evening, the excitement in the city had reached a pitch which made it evident to all that a violent struggle was soon to come, and blood be shed. The press was in the ware house; the abolitionists, and some others who were not abolitionists, were assembled with powder and ball to defend it unto death. Between nine and ten o'clock on Tuesday night, a mob assembled in front of the warehouse, and demanded the press to be given up to them. The night was clear and beautiful, the moon not quite risen, but so clear and bright was the sky, that both parties were distinctly visible during the parley. All creation seemed to smile, and everything seemed divine but man, who that beautiful night was converted by his raging and surging passions into a demon of obstinacy on the one side, and of destruction on the other. The assailed party returned for answer, that they were well provided with arms and ammunition, and would defend the press to the last extremity. The house was then assailed with a shower of stones, and the mob endeavored to carry it by storm. Some one in the building fired from the second story. This shot was fatal to a young man by the name of Bishop, producing almost instant death. Some of those in the house afterwards stated, that this first shot was fired by Lovejoy. Be this, however, as it may, the result was terrible; for, as the populace bore the young man away, loud and bitter were their imprecations, and the death of all in the house was boldly threatened by the mob.
Some went to the magazine for powder, to blow up the building; others procured ladders to set the roof on fire; but by far the greater number retired to the neighboring grog-shops, to re-enforce their courage; and then returned to the assault, with their hot blood made hotter still, by the power of intoxication. The bells of the city were loudly rung, and horns were blown, to assemble yet a greater multitude. Armed men everywhere
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came rushing to the scene of action. Some were urging on the mob and others sought to allay the tumult.
The ladders were placed on the vacant space, on the southern side of the building; one man mounted with a torch to fire the roof. There were no windows on this side, from which the party within could fire at him as he ascended. At this time Mr. Lovejoy came, from the door fronting the river, around the corner of the building, and fired at the crowd. His shot did not take effect, and he instantly retreated into the building, where he urged his companions on to an attack, and upbraided them for their cowardice in refusing. A young man by the name of West, seeing the building on fire, ascended the ladder with a bucket of water, and extinguished the flames. Whilst he was so engaged, Mr. Lovejoy again made his appearance from the same place, again fired without effect, and returned to the building. Meanwhile, several guns were fired by the mob and several by the party in the house through the windows, but all without effect on either side.
The mob still increased. The ferocity, grew upon it in proportion to the increase of its numbers and strength. Another attempt was made to fire the house, when Mr. Lovejoy and one of his companions made their appearance from the same door. The former shots from that quarter, had drawn attention to this door, and when the figures of two men were seen to emerge from it, one of them to raise his gun to fire again, they were fired upon by the mob with fatal precision; one of them being wounded in the leg, and the other, the Rev. Mr. Lovejoy, mortally; having only time to exclaim, "My God! I am shot!" before he expired. With the fall of the chief or master spirit, the sinking courage of his party seemed utterly to die away. A general firing was now kept up by the mob; the roof of the building was in flames, and the party within seemed to expect nothing less than utter destruction. In this extremity they were induced to surrender the obnoxious press. They were
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permitted to make a hurried escape down the river bank, their retreat being accelerated by several guns fired over their heads. The press was again thrown into the river.
After the violence of feeling had somewhat subsided, both parties were indicted for their crimes arising out of these transactions, and all were acquitted; making it a matter of record, that in fact the abolitionists had not provoked an assault; that there had been no mob; and that no one had been killed or wounded.
Previous to the year 1840, other mobs were rife in the northern part of the State. The people there had settled without title, upon the public lands of the United States, which were then neither surveyed nor in market, and they had made valuable improvements on these lands, by building mills worth ten thousand dollars, opening farms, frequently of four or five hundred acres, and whole villages of six or eight hundred inhabitants, were built on them. By a conventional law of each neighborhood, the settlers were all pledged to protect each other in the amount of their respective claims, But there were mean men, who disregarded these conventional arrangements. Such as these belonged to that very honest fraternity, who profess to regulate all their dealings by the law of the land. Such men had but little regard for public opinion or abstract right; and their consciences did not restrain them from "jumping" a neighbor's claim, if they could be sustained by law and protected against force. It soon became apparent to every one, that actual force was the only protection for this description of property. And although the most of the settlers were from the eastern States; from the land of steady habits, where mobs are regularly hated and denounced, and all unlawful fighting held in abhorrence; yet seeing themselves left without legal protection, and subject to the depredations of the dishonorable and unscrupulous, they resolved to protect themselves with force. Many were the riots and mobs in every county,
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arising from this state of things. Every neighborhood was signalised by some brawl of the kind. The old peaceful, staid, puritan Yankee, walked into a fight in defence of his claim, or that of his neighbor, just as if he had received a regular backwoods education in the olden times. It was curious to witness this change of character with the change of position, in emerging from a government of strict law to one of comparative anarchy. The readiness with which our puritan population from the East adopted the mobocratic spirit, is evidence that men are the same everywhere under the same circumstances. That which any man will do, depends more upon his position upon the laws and government, and upon the administration of the laws, than to mental or physical constitution, or any peculiar trait of character or previous training.
Then again the northern part of the State was not destitute of its organized bands of rogues, engaged in murders, robberies, horse-stealing, and in making and passing counterfeit money. These rogues were scattered all over the north; but the most of them were located in the counties of Ogle, Winnebago, Lee, and De Kalb. In the county of Ogle, they were so numerous, strong, and well-organized, that they could not be convicted for their crimes. By getting some of their numbers on the juries, by producing hosts of witnesses to sustain their defence by perjured evidence, and by changing the venue from one county to another, and by continuances from term to term, and by the inability of witnesses to attend from time to time at a distant; and foreign county, they most generally managed to be acquitted. At the spring term, 1841, seven of them were confined in the Ogle county jail for trial. The judge and the lawyers had assembled at the little village of Oregon, preparatory to holding the court. The county had just completed a new court-house, in which court was to be held for the first time the next day. The jail stood near it, in which were the prisoners. The rogues assembled in the night, and set the court-house on fire,
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in the hope that as the prisoners would have to be removed from the jail, they might in the hurry and confusion of the people in attending to the fire, make their escape. The whole population were awakened at a late hour of a dark and stormy night, to see the lurid flames bursting from the roof and windows of their newly-erected temple of justice. The building was entirely consumed, but none of the prisoners escaped.
This produced a great excitement in the country, three of the prisoners were tried, convicted, and sent to the penitentiary for a year. But they managed to get one of their confederates on the jury, who refused to agree to a verdict, until the eleven others had threatened to lynch him in the jury room. The other prisoners obtained changes of venue, and were never convicted. They all broke out of jail and made their escape. The honest and substantial portion of the people were now determined to take the law into their own hands; they were determined that delays, insufficient jails, changes of venue, hung juries, and perjured evidence, should no longer screen the rogue from punishment. And here it is to be remarked that the new counties, such as Ogle, were so poor in revenue, and so much in debt, their orders at so great a discount, that they were not able to build good jails; and the other counties which had them, refused to receive prisoners from the new counties unless the cost of their keeping were paid in advance. The people formed themselves into regulating companies, both in Ogle and Winnebago counties, and proceeding in a summary way, they whipped some of the most notorious rogues, and ordered others into banishment. Amongst those who had been ordered away, were the family of the Driscolls, -- the old man and several of his sons. The old man and some of his sons had been in the Ohio penitentiary, and made their escape from it. The old man was a stout, well-built, hardened, deliberate man, and his sons had more than common boldness in the commission of crime. This family were determined, not to be driven
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away, and to this end they and several of their confederates held a private meeting, in which they resolved to strike terror into the regulators, by threatening death to all the leading men in their ranks, and by assassinating their captain. Some of the Driscolls went to the house of Capt. Campbell, who was a captain of the regulators, just after dark, of a Sunday evening, just as the family had returned from church, and pretending to be strangers inquiring their way, they called Capt. Campbell out into his door-yard, and there deliberately shot him dead in the presence of his wife and children. Before day next morning, the news of the murder had run over the country like lightning. The people early assembled at the house of the murdered man, in White Rock Grove, in great numbers; and there seeing the dead victim of this secret assassination, his blood yet fresh upon the ground, his wife and children in frantic agony, they were thrown into a wild uproar of excitement and frenzy, somewhat like that which seizes upon a herd of cattle, upon seeing and scenting the blood of a slaughtered bullock. They spread out all over the country, in search of the murderers. The actual murderers who had done the deed had escaped, but they seized upon the old man Driscoll, and the people of Winnebago county, coming down next day afterwards, had seized upon two of his sons. The prisoners were taken to Washington Grove, in Ogle county, for trial. The old man and one of his sons were convicted as being accessories to the murder, and the other was acquitted. The trial occupied nearly a whole day before the whole band of regulators, composed of about three hundred men, many of them being magistrates, and some of them ministers of the gospel; and is described as having been conducted with much solemnity and seriousness. The condemned were sentenced to be shot within an hour; a minister of the gospel who was present, prayed with them and administered to them the consolations of religion; and then they were brought out for execution. They were placed in a kneeling position, with
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bandages over their eyes, and were fired upon by the whole company present, that there might be none who could be legal witnesses of the bloody deed. About one hundred of these men were afterwards tried for murder and acquitted. These terrible measures put an end to the ascendancy of rogues in Ogle county.
There can be no doubt but that the mobocratic spirit originates in two causes. First, the laws fail to provide remedies for great evils. The administration of the laws, owing to the checks and balances in the Constitution, intended for the protection of innocence and liberty against arbitrary power, is necessarily slow and uncertain. In framing our governments, it seemed to be the great object of our ancestors to secure the public liberty by depriving government of power. Attacks upon liberty were not anticipated from any considerable portion of the people themselves. It was not expected that one portion of the people would attempt to play the tyrant over another. And if such a thing had been thought of, the only mode of putting it down was to call out the militia, who are, nines times out of ten, partisans on one side or the other in the contest. The militia may be relied upon to do battle in a popular service, but if mobs are raised to drive out horse thieves, to put down claim-jumpers, to destroy an abolition press, or to act against odious sect, the militia cannot be brought to act against them efficiently. The people cannot be used to put down the people. The day may unfortunately come, when the States, as well as the nation, will be compelled to keep up a regular force.
In fact, the principal strength of government in free countries is, that the mass of the people do not need government at all. Each man governs himself, and, if need be, assists to govern his neighbor. Religious principles and feelings incline to justice. Industry inclines to peace. Early training begets submission to parents, and then to the magistrates and laws;
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making government quite possible, without much authority in the magistrate. With the assistance of the well-affected, honest citizens, who are supposed to make a large majority of the people, the magistrate is able to bring to punishment the lesser sort of rogues, who belong to no great combination, and sometimes succeeds in breaking up the strongest combinations. But if an association of bankers, of public officers who are charged with public affairs to disburse money, swindle the public, or if a number of rogues associate to depredate upon the community, we are apt to find the old Athenian definition of law still to be true, "that law is a cobweb to catch the small flies, but the great ones break through it," The true reason why the great offenders and combinations of criminals so frequently go unpunished is, that they are too strong for the ordinary machinery of government, single handed, without a vigorous support of that government by the orderly and well-disposed. The government is too frequently left without this support; The peaceable and orderly many are so engaged in separate and selfish, but lawful projects of their own, that it is hard to get them to take part in putting down the disorderly few, except when the disorders become intolerable and insufferable; and then the power of the many is exercised, as the limbs of the body are exercised in a spasm, which waits for neither law nor government.
The second cause of mobs is, that men engaged in unpopular projects expect more protection from the laws than the laws are able to furnish in the face of a popular excitement. They read in the Constitution the guaranty of their rights, and they insist upon the enjoyment of these rights to the fullest extent, no matter what may be the extent of popular opposition against them. In such a case, it may happen that the whole people may be on one side, and merely the public officers on the other. The public officers are appealed to for protection, when it is apparent that, being separated from the strength of the people,
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they form the mere dead skeleton of a government. The men engaged in projects which may be odious to the people, call upon government for that protection which it cannot give. For if government cannot suppress an unpopular band of horse thieves, associated to commit crime, how is it to suppress a popular combination which has the people on its side? I am willing enough to acknowledge that all this is wrong, but how is the evil to be avoided? The Alton mob was provoked by the abolitionists. They read in the Constitution that they had a right to print and publish whatever they pleased, being responsible to the laws for the abuse of that right; and they planted themselves here as firmly as if government was omnipotent, or as if they intended, by way of experiment, to test the power of government to put down the people, on whom alone it rests for support. The same may be said of the Mormons. Scattered through the country, they might have lived in peace, like ether religious sects, but they insisted upon their right to congregate in one great city. The people were determined that they should not exercise this right; and it will be seen in the sequel of this history, that in their case, as in every other where large bodies of the people are associated to accomplish with force an unlawful but popular object, the government is powerless against such combinations. This brings us to treat of the Mormons.
The people called Mormons, but who call themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, began to figure in the politics of this State in 1840 They were a religious sect, the followers of a man familiarly called Joe Smith, who was claimed by them to be a prophet. This man was born at Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, on the 23d of December, 1805. His parents were in humble circumstances, and gave their son but an indifferent education. When he first began to act the prophet he was ignorant of almost everything which belonged to science; but he made up in natural cunning and in power of
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invention and constructiveness for many deficiencies of education. When he was ten years old his parents removed to Palmyra, Wayne County, New York. Here his extreme youth was spent in an idle, vagabond life, roaming the woods, dreaming of buried treasures, and exerting himself to learn the art of finding them by the twisting of a forked stick in his hands or by looking through enchanted stones. He and his father before him were what are called "water witches," always ready to point out the ground where wells might be dug and water found, and many are the anecdotes of his early life, giving bright promise of future profligacy. Such was Joe Smith when he was found by Sidney Rigdon, who was a man of considerable talents and information. Rigdon had become possessed of a religious romance written by a Presbyterian clergyman in Ohio, then dead, which suggested to him the idea of starting a new religion. It was agreed that Joe Smith should be put forward as a prophet; and the two devised a story that golden plates had been found, buried in the earth, in the neighborhood of Palmyra, containing a record inscribed on them, in unknown characters, which, when decyphered by the power of inspiration, gave the history of the ten lost tribes of Israel, in their wanderings through Asia into America, where they had settled and flourished, and where, in due time, Christ came and preached his gospel to them, appointed his twelve apostles, and was crucified here, nearly in the same manner in which he was crucified in Jerusalem. The record then pretended to give the history of the American Christians, for a few hundred years, until the great wickedness of the people called down the judgments of God upon them, which resulted in their extermination. Several nations and people, from the Isthmus of Darien to the extremities of North America, were arrayed against each other in war. At last the great battle of Cumorah was fought in Palmyra, New York, between the Lamanites, who were the heathen of this continent, and the Nephites, who were
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the Christians, in which battle there was a prodigious slaughter -- hundreds of thousands being killed on each side. The nation of the Nephites was destroyed, except a few who had deserted, and a few who had escaped into the south country. Among this number were Mormon and his son Moroni, who were righteous men, and who, as was said, were directed by the Almighty to make a record of all these solemn and important events on plates of gold, and bury them in the earth, to be discovered in a future age, fourteen centuries afterwards. It is needless to add, that the pretended translation of the hieroglyphics said to be inscribed on these pretended plates, was no more nor less than the religious romance already spoken of, but which now appeared as the book of Mormon.
The prophet in after-life pretended that at an early age he became much concerned about the salvation of his soul. He went to the religious meetings of many sects to seek information of the way to heaven; and was everywhere told, "this is the way, walk ye in it." He reflected upon the multitude of doctrines and sects, and it occurred to him that God could be the author of but lone doctrine, and own but one church; he looked amongst all the sects to see which was this one true church of Christ, but he could not decide; and until he became satisfied, he could not be contented. His anxious desires leaf him diligently to search the scriptures, and he perused the sacred pages, believing the things that he read. He now saw that the true way was to enquire of God, and then there was a certainty of success. He therefore retired to a secret place in a grove near his father's house, and kneeling down, began to call upon the Lord; darkness gave way, and he prayed with fervency of spirit. Whilst he continued praying the light appeared to be gradually descending towards him; and as it drew nearer it increased in brightness and magnitude, so that by the time it reached the tops of the trees, the whole wilderness for quite a distance around, was illuminated in a glorious and brilliant.
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manner. He expected the leaves of the trees to be consumed, but seeing no such effect of the light, he was encouraged with the hope to endure its presence. It descended slowly until he was enveloped in the midst of it. Immediately he was caught away in a heavenly vision, and saw two glorious personages alike in their features; and he was now informed that his sins were forgiven. Here he learned that none of the churches then in being, was the church of God ; and received a promise at some future time of the fulness of the Gospel, and aknowledge of the true doctrine. After this, being still young, he was entangled in the vanities of the world, of which he sincerely and truly repented.
On the 23d of September, 1823, God again heard his prayers. His mind had been drawn out in fervent prayer for his acceptance with God; and for a knowledge of the doctrines of Christ, according to promise, in the former vision. While he was thus pouring out his desires, on a sudden a light burst into the room like the light of day, but purer and more glorious in appearance and brightness; the first sight of it was, as though the house had been filled with consuming fire; this occasioned a shock felt to the extremities of his body; and then was followed hy calmness of mind and overwhelming rapture of joy. when in a moment a personage stood before him, who, notwithstanding the light seemed to be surrounded by an additional glory, which shone with increased brilliancy. This personage was above the ordinary size of men, his raiment was perfectly white, and had the appearaace of being without seam. This glorious being declared himself to be an angel sent to announce the forgiveness of his sins, and to answer his prayers by bringing the glad tidingrs, that the covenant of God with ancient Israel concerning posterity, was at last about to be fulfilled; that preparation for the second coming of Christ, was speedily to commence; that the fulness of the Gospel was about to be preached in peace
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unto all nations, that a people might be prepared for the millennium of universal peace and joy.
At the same time he was informed that he had been called and chosen as an instrument in the hands of God, to bring about some of his marvelous purposes in this glorious dispensation. It was made known to him that the American Indians were a remnant of Israel; that when they first came here, they were an enlightened people, having a knowledge of the true God; that the prophets and inspired writers amongst them had been required to keep a true record of their history, which had been handed down for many generations, until the people fell into great wickedness; when nearly all of them were destroyed, and the records by command of God, were safely deposited to preserve them from the hands of the wicked, who sought to destroy them. If faithful, he was to be the highly-favored instrument in bringing these records to light.
The angel now disappeared, leaving him in a state of perfect peace, but visited him several times afterwards, instructing him concerning the great work of God about to commence on earth. He was instructed where these records were deposited, and required to go immediately to view them. They were found on the side of a hill, slightly buried in the earth, secured in a stone box, on the road from Palmyra to Canandaigua, in New York, about three miles from the village of Manchester. The records were said to be engraved on gold plates in Egyptian characters; the plates were of the thickness of tin, bound together like a book, fastened at one side by three rings which run through the whole and formed a volume about six inches in thickness. And in the same box with them were found two stones, transparent and clear as crystal, the Urim and Thummim, used by seers in ancient times, the instruments of revelations of things distant, past, or future.
When the prophet first saw these things, being filled with the Holy Ghost, and standing and admiring, the same angel of
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the Lord appeared in his presence and said, "look!" and he beheld the devil surrounded by a great train of his associates. He then, after receiving further directions from the angel, started home to his father's house where he was waylaid by two ruffians. One of them struck him with a club, but was repulsed; but they followed him nearly home when they fled for fear of detection. The news of his discovery got abroad; the new prophet was the sport of lies, slanders, and mobs, and vain attempts to rob him of his-plates. He removed to the northern part of Pennsylvania, where he commenced with the aid of inspiration and the Urim and Thummim, to translate the plates. He finished a part which is called the Book of Mormon. It is pretended that Mormon hid all the old records up in the hill of Cumorah; but had first made an abridgment of them, which was called the Book of Mormon, and which he gave to his son Moroni to finish. Moroni continued to serve his nation for a few years, and continued the writings of his father until after the great battle of Cumorah, when he kept himself hid; for the Lamanites sought to kill every Nephite who refused to deny Christ. The story is remarkably well gotten up, and may yet unhappily make the foundation of a religion which may roll back upon the world the barbarism of eighteen centuries passed away. Whilst there are fools and knaves, there is no telling what may be accomplished by such a religion.
And the prophet was not without his witnesses. Oliver Cowdrey, Martin Harris, and Daniel Whiteman, solemnly testify that we have seen the plates which contain the records; that they were translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us, wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true; and we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven and brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon." Eight other witnesses certify that "Joseph Smith, the translator, had shown them the plates spoken
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of, which had the appearance of gold; and as many of the plates as the said Smith had translated, they did handle with their hands, and they also saw the engravings thereon, all of which had the appearance of ancient work and curious workmanship."
The most probable account of these certificates is, that the witnesses were in the conspiracy, aiding the imposture; but I have been informed by men who were once in the confidence of the prophet, that he privately gave a different account of the matter. It is related that the prophet's early followers were anxious to see the plates; the prophet had always given out that they could not be seen by the carnal eye, but must be spiritually discerned; that the power to see them depended upon faith, and was the gift of God, to be obtained by fasting, prayer, mortification of the flesh, and exercises of the spirit; that so soon as he could see the evidences of a strong and lively faith in any of his followers, they should be gratified in their holy curiosity. He set them to continual prayer, and other spiritual exercises, to acquire this lively faith by means of which the hidden things of God could be spiritually discerned; and at last, when he could delay them no longer, he assembled them in a room, and produced a box, which he said contained the precious treasure. The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, "Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates." The prophet answered them, "O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation? Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven." The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates. I leave it to philosophers to determine whether the fumes of an enthusiastic and fanatical
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imagination are thus capable of blinding the mind and deceiving the senses by so absurd a delusion.
The Book of Mormon pretended to reveal the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as he delivered it to his people in America. It was to be brought forth by the power of God, and carried to the Gentiles, of whom many were to receive it; and after this the seed of Israel were to be brought into the fold also. It was pretended that pristine Christianity was to be restored, with the gift of prophecy, and the gift of tongues, with the laying on of hands to cure all manner of diseases. Many were the pretended prophets which this sect brought forth. Many of the disciples spoke an outlandish gibberish, which they called the unknown tongue; others again acted as interpreters of this jargon, for it rarely happened that he who was gifted to speak in the unknown tongue was able to understand his own communications; and many brilliant miracles were pretended to be wrought, in the cure of diseases, by the laying on of hands and the prayer of faith.
By the 6th of April, 1830, Joe Smith and his associates had made a considerable number of converts to the new religion, who were assembled on that day in the village of Manchester, and formed into a church. Their numbers now increased rapidly, and in 1833 they removed from New York to Jackson County, Missouri, where they began to build the town of "Independence." Here, by pretending that the Lord had given them all that country, and in fact the whole world, they being his saints, and by some petty offences, and by their general tone of arrogance, the neighboring people became much excited against them, Some of them were ducked in the river; some were tarred and feathered, and others killed; and the whole of them were compelled to remove to the County of Clay, on the opposite side of the Missouri river. They also had a place of gathering together at Kirtland, near Cleaveland, in the State of Ohio. At this last place of gathering, Joe Smith established himself;
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and in 1836 a solemn assembly was held there of several hundred Mormon elders, who, in their own language, " had an interesting time of it, as it appeared by the reports of the elders that the work of God had greatly increased in American England, Scotland, and Wales, and in the islands of the sea."
At this place Joe Smith got up a bank, called "The Kirtland Safety Bank," of which he was president; and the notes of which were made to resemble the notes of the safety fund banks of New York. The bank failed, for a large amount, for want of capital and integrity in its managers; and its failure was accompanied by more than ordinary depravity. The residence of the prophet at this place, after the failure of the bank, became irksome and dangerous. He determined to leave it, and accordingly, accompanied by his apostles and elders, for he had apostles and elders, and the great body of the "saints," he shook the dust off his feet, as a testimony against Ohio, where he was about to be prosecuted, and departed for Missouri. This time, the Mormons settled in Caldwell and Davis Counties in Missouri, far in the north-west part of the State. Here they purchased large tracts of land from the United States, and built the city of " Far West," and many smaller towns. Difficulties again attended them in their new place of residence. They did not fail to display here the usual arrogance of their pretensions, and were charged by the neighboring people with every kind of petty villainy. In a few years the quarrel between the "saints" and the Gentiles became utterly irreconcilable. The Mormon leaders declared that they would no longer submit to the government of Missouri. The clerk of the circuit court, being a Mormon, was ordered by the prophet to issue no more writs against the "saints" and about this time Sidney Rigdon preached before the prophet a Fourth of July sermon, called "The Salt Sermon," in which he held forth to the Mormons that the prophet had determined no longer to regard the laws and government of Missouri. The neighboring people of Missouri assembled
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under arms, to drive the Mormons from the State. Armed Mormon parties patrolled the country, robbing and plundering the inhabitants; all the plunder being deposited in one p]ace, called "the Lord's treasury." One of these plundering parties met a hostile party, commanded by Captain Bogart, who had formerly been a Methodist preacher in Illinois. He had run away from Illinois, directly after the Black Hawk war, and was the same Major Bogart heretofore mentioned as commanding a battalion of Rangers in the Black Hawk war, left to guard the frontiers. Bogart's party and the Mormons came to a battle, in which the Mormons were defeated. The Mormons, however, burnt and plundered two small towns belonging to their enemies, and plundered all the neighboring country. At last Gov. Boggs of Missouri called out a large body of militia, and ordered that the Mormons should be exterminated or driven from the State. A large force was marched to their country, under Major-Gen. Lucas and Brig-Gen. Doniphan, where the Mormons were all assembled under arms, with the declared intention of resisting to the last extremity. They were soon surrounded in their city of "Far West" by a much superior force, and compelled to surrender at discretion. Much plunder was re-captured, and delivered to its former owners. The great body of the Mormons, in fact all except the leaders, were dismissed under a promise to leave the State. The leaders, including the prophet, being arrested, were tried before a court-martial, and sentenced to be shot for treason. But Gen. Doniphan, being a sound lawyer and a man of sense, knowing that such a proceeding was utterly unconstitutional and illegal, by boldly denouncing and firmly remonstrating against this arbitrary mode of trial and punishment, saved the lives of the prisoners. *
* This is the same Gen. Doniphan who, as Colonel of a regiment of Missouri volunteers, afterwards conquered Chihuahua, and gained the splendid victories of Bracito and Sacramento. among all the officers of the Missouri militia, operating against the Mormons, Gen. Doniphan
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The leaders were then carried before a circuit judge, sitting as an examining. court, and were committed to jail for further trial, on various charges; such as treason, murder, robbery, arson, and larceny, but finally made their escape out of jail and out of the State, before they could be brought to trial. Those who wish to consult a more minute detail of the history of this people, are referred to a volume of printed evidence and documents published by order of the legislature of Missouri.
The whole body of the Missouri Mormons came to Illinois in the years 1839 and 1840; and many of the leaders who had escaped, came through perils of flood and field, which, according to their own account, if written, would equal a tale of romance. As they were the weaker party, much sympathy was felt and expressed for them by the people of Illinois. The Mormons represented that they had been persecuted in Missouri on account of their religion. The cry of persecution, if believed, is always sure to create sympathy for the sufferers. This was particularly so in Illinois, whose citizens, until some time after this period, were justly distinguished for feelings and principles of the most liberal and enlightened toleration in matters of religion. The Mormons were received as sufferers in the cause of their religion. Several counties and neighborhoods vied with each other in offers of hospitality, and in endeavors to get the strangers to settle among them. At last the Mormons selected a place on the Mississippi river, afterwards called Nauvoo, in the upper part of the county of Hancock, as the place of their future residence. On this spot they designed to build up a great city and temple, as the great place of gathering to Zion, and as the great central rendezvous of the sect; from whence was to originate and spread the most gigantic operations for the conversion of the world to the new
was the only one who boldly denounced the intended assassination of the prisoners under color of law. So true is it that the truly brave man is most apt to be merciful and just
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religion. However, in this history I have nothing to do with the religious, but only the political considerations connected with this people.
In the State of Missouri, the Mormons had always supported the democratic party, They had been driven out by a democratic governor of a democratic State; and when they appealed to Mr. Van Buren, the democratic President of the United States, for relief against the Missourians, he refused to recommend it, for want of constitutional power in the United States to coerce a sovereign State in the execution of its domestic polity. This soured and embittered the Mormons against the democrats. Mr. Clay, as a member of the United States Senate, and John T. Stuart, a member of the House of Representatives in Congress, from Illinois, both whigs, undertook their cause, and introduced and countenanced their memorials against Missouri; so that, when the Mormons came to this State, they attached themselves to the whig party. In August, 1840, they voted unanimously for the whig candidates for the Senate and Assembly. In the November following, they voted for the whig candidate for President; and in August, 1841, they voted for John J. Stuart, the whig candidate for Congress in their district.
At the legislature of 1840-41, it became a matter of great interest, with both parties, to conciliate these people. They were already numerous, and were fast increasing by emigration from all parts. It was evident that they were to possess much power in elections. They had already signified their intention of joining neither party, further than they could be supported by that party, but to vote for such persons as had done or were willing to do them most service. And the leaders of both parties believed that the Mormons would soon hold the balance of power, and exerted themselves on both sides, by professions, and kindness and devotion to their interest, to win their support.
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In this state of the case Dr. John C. Bennett presented himself at the seat of government as the agent of the Mormons. This Bennett was probably the greatest scamp in the western country. I have made particular enquiries concerning him, and have traced him in several places in which he had lived before he had joined the Mormons in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and he was everywhere accounted the same debauched, unprincipled and profligate character. He was a man of some little talent, and then had the confidence of the Mormons, and particularly that of their leaders. He came as the agent of that people, to solicit a city charter; a charter for a military legion; and for various other purposes. This person addressed himself to Mr. Little, the whig senator from Hancock, and to Mr. Douglass, the democratic secretary of State, who both catered heartily into his views and projects. Bennet managed matters well for his constituents. He flattered both sides with the hope of Mormon favor; and both sides expected to receive their votes. A city charter drawn up to suit the Mormons was presented to the Senate by Mr. Little. It was referred to the judiciary committee, of which Mr. Snyder, a democrat, was chairman, who reported it back recommending its passage. The vote was taken, the ayes and noes were not called for, no one opposed it, but all were busy and active in hurrying it through. In like manner it passed the House of Representatives, where it was never read except by its title; the ayes and noes were not called for, and the same universal zeal in its favor was manifested here which had been so conspicuously displayed in the Senate.
This city charter and other charters passed in the same way by this legislature, incorporated Nauvoo, provided for the election of a Mayor, four Aldermen, and nine Counsellors; gave them power to pass all ordinances necessary for the peace, benefit, good order, regulation, convenience, or cleanliness of the city, and for the protection of property from fire, which
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were not repugnant to the Constitution of the United Stales, or this State. This seemed to give them power to pass ordinances in violation of the laws of the State, and to erect a system of government for themselves. This charter also established a mayor's court with exclusive jurisdiction of all cases arising under the city ordinances, subject to an appeal to the municipal court. It established a municipal court to be composed of the mayor as chief justice, and the four aldermen as his associates; which court was to have jurisdiction of appeals from the mayor or aldermen, subject to an appeal again to the circuit court of the county. The municipal court was also clothed with power to issue writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordinances of the city.
This charter also incorporated the militia of Nauvoo into a military legion, to be called "The Nauvoo Legion." It was made entirely independent of the military organization of the State, and not subject to the command of any officer of the State militia, except the Governor himself, as commander-in- chief. It was to be furnished with its due proportion of the State arms; and might enroll in its ranks any of the citizens of Hancock county who preferred to join it, whether they lived in the city or elsewhere. This last provision, I believe, was not in the original charter, but was afterwards passed as an amendment to a road law. The charter also established a court-martial for the legion, to be composed of the commissioned officers who were to make and execute all ordinances necessary for the benefit, government, and regulation of the legion; but in so doing, they were not bound to regard the laws of the State, but could do nothing repugnant to the constitution; and finally, the legion was to be at the disposal of the mayor in executing the laws and ordinances of the city. Another charter incorporated a great tavern to be called the Nauvoo House, in which the prophet Joe Smith, and his heirs, were to have a suite of rooms forever,
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Thus it was proposed to re-establish for the Mormons a government within a government, a legislature with power to pass ordinances at war with the laws of the State; courts to execute them with but little dependence upon the constitutional judiciary; and a military force at their own command, to be governed by its own by-laws and ordinances, and subject to no State authority but that of the Governor. It must be acknowledged that these charters were unheard-of, and anti-republican in many particulars; and capable of infinite abuse by a people disposed to abuse them. The powers conferred were expressed in language at once ambiguous and undefined; as if on purpose to allow of misconstruction. The great law of the separation of the powers of government was wholly disregarded. The mayor was at once the executive power, the judiciary, and part of the legislature. The common council, in passing ordinances, were restrained only by the constitution. One would have thought that these charters stood a poor chance of passing the legislature of a republican people jealous of their liberties. Nevertheless they did pass unanimously through both houses. Messrs. Little and Douglass managed with great dexterity with their respective parties. Each party was afraid to object to them for fear of losing the Mormon vote, and each believed that if had secured their favor. These, I believe, were the principal subjects acted on by the session of 1840-'41.
But we will continue a little farther the history of the Mormons. A city government under the charter was organized in 1841. Joe Smith was elected mayor. In this capacity he presided in the common council, and assisted in making the laws for the government of the city. And as mayor also he was to see these laws put into force. He was ex-officio judge of the mayor's court, and chief justice of the municipal court, and in these capacities he was to interpret the laws which he had assisted to make. The Nauvoo Legion was also organized, with a great multitude of high officers. It was divided into divisions, brigades,
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cohorts, regiments, battalions, and companies. Each division, brigade, and cohort had its general, and over the whole, as commander-in-chief, Joe Smith was appointed lieutenan- general. These offices, and particularly the last, were created by an ordinance of the court-martial, composed of the commissioned officers of the Legion.
The common council passed many ordinances for the punishment of crime. The punishments were generally different from, and vastly more severe than the punishments provided by the laws of the State.
In the fall of 1841, the governor of Missouri made a demand on Gov. Carlin for the arrest and delivery of Joe Smith and several other head Mormons, as fugitives from justice. An executive warrant was issued for that purpose. It was placed in the hands of an agent to be executed; but for some cause, unknown to me, was returned to Gov. Carlin without being executed. Soon afterwards the governor handed the same writ to his agent, who this time succeeded in arresting Joe Smith upon it. But before this time Mr. Douglass had been elected one of the judges of the supreme court, and was assigned to hold curcuit courts in Hancock and the neighboring counties. This had given the democratic party the advantage in securing the Mormon vote. Judge Douglass immediately appointed Dr. Bennett a master in chancery. Bennett was then an influential Mormon, and had, before he joined the Mormons, been appointed by Gov. Carlin adjutant-general of the State militia. He had also been elected an alderman of the city, and a major-general in the Legion. Upon his arrest, Joe Smith was carried before Judge Douglass, upon a writ of habeas corpus, and was discharged upon the ground that the writ upon which he had been arrested had been once returned, before it had been executed, and was functus officio. Whether the decision was right or wrong, Joe Smith was not lawyer enough to know, and was
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therefore the more inclined to esteem his discharge as a great favor from the democratic party.
The Mormons anticipated a further demand from Missouri, and a further writ from the governor of this State, for the arrest of their prophet, and leaders. They profssed to believe that the public mind in Missouri was so prejudiced against them, that a fair trial there was out of the question, and that if their leaders were taben to Missouri for trial, and not convicted upon evidence, they would be murdered by a mob before they could get out of the State. Some mode of permanent protection, therefore, against the demands of Missouri, became a matter of vital importance; and they set their ingenuity to work to devise a scheme of protection, by means of their own city ordinances, to be executed by their own municipal court. Gov. Carlin had issued his writ again in 1842. Joe Smith was arrested again, and was either rescued by his followers or discharged by the municipal court on a writ of habeas corpus. The common council passed an ordinance, declaring, in effect, that the municipal court should have jurisdiction in all cases of arrests made in the city by any process whatever. The charter intended to give the jurisdiction only in cases where imprisonment was a consequence of the breach of some ordinance. But it was interpreted by the Mormons to authorize the enlargement and extension of the jurisdiction of the court, by ordinance. This ordinance will figure very largely in the proceedings of the Mormons hereafter.
In December, 1841, State democratic convention assembled \at Springfield, and nominated Adam W. Snyder as the democratic candidate for governor, to be elected in August, 1842. Mr. Snyder was a native of Pennsylvania, and a distant relative of Gov. Snyder of that State. In his early youth, he learned the trade of a fuller and wool-carder. He came to Illinois when he was about eighteen years old; settled in the French village of Cahokia; followed his trade for several years; studied
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law; removed to the county seat, where he commenced his profession, in which he was successful in getting practice. In 1830 he was elected to the State Senate, and was afterwards elected to Congress, from his district; and was again elected to the State Senate in 1840. Mr. Snyder was avery showy, plausible and agreeable man in conversation, and was gifted with a popular eloquence, which was considerably effective. He was a member of the senate when the Mormon charters were passed, and had taken an active part in furthering their passage. In the spring of 1842, Joseph Duncan, former governor, became the candidate of the whig party for the same office.
In a very short time after the two parties had their candidates fairly in the field, Joe Smith published a proclamation to his followers in the Nauvoo papers, declaring Judge Douglass to be a master spirit, and exhorting them to vote for Mr. Snyder for governor. The whigs had considerable hope of the Mormon support until the appearance of this proclamation. The Mormons had voted for the whig candidate for Congress in August, 1841. But this proclamation left no doubt as to what they would do in the coming contest. It was plain that the whigs could expect their support no longer, and that the whig party in the legislature had swallowed the odious charters without prospect of reward.
The Mormons, however, were becoming unpopular, nay odious, to the great body of the people. As I have already said, their common council had passed some extraordinary ordinances calculated to set the State government at defiance. The Legion had been furnished with three pieces of cannon and about two hundred and fifty stand of small arms; which popular rumor increased to the number of thirty pieces of cannon and five or six thousand stand of muskets. The Mormons were rapidly increasing by emigration. The great office of Lieutenant General had been created for the commander of the Legion, of higher rank, as was said, than any office in the
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militia, and higher than any office in the regular army. A vast number of reports were circulated all over the country, to the prejudice of the Mormons They were charged with numerous thefts and robberies, and rogueries of all sorts; and it was believed by vast numbers of the people, that they entertained the treasonable design, when they got strong enough of overturning the government, driving out the old population, and taking possession of the country, as the children of Israel did in the land of Canaan.
The whigs, seeing that they had been out-generated by the democrats in securing the Mormon vote, became seriously alarmed, and sought to repair their disaster by raising a kind of crusade against that people. The whig newspapers teemed with accounts of the wonders and enormities of Nauvoo, and of the awful wickedness of a party which would consent to receive the support of such miscreants. Governor Duncan, who was really a brave, honest man, and who had nothing to do with getting the Mormon charters passed through the legislature, took the stump on this subject in good earnest, and expected to be elected governor almost on this question alone. There is no knowing how far he might have succeeded, if Mr. Snyder had lived to be his competitor.
However, Mr. Snyder departed this life, much lamented by numerous friends, in the month of May preceding the election. The democratic party had now to select another candidate for governor. The choice fell upon me. I hope to be excused from saying anything in these memoirs in relation to my own personal qualities and history. If it should ever be thought important that a knowledge of such humble matters should be perpetuated, I will trust the task of doing it to other hands. I will merely mention, that at the time I was nominated as a candidate for governor, I was one of the judges of the Supreme Court engaged in holding a circuit court on Fox river, in the north. So soon as I heard of my nomination, I
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hastened to the seat of government, resigned the office of judge, and became the candidate of my party. Here permit me to remark, I had never before been much concerned in the political conflicts of the day, and never at all on my own account. It is true that I had been much in office. I had been twice appointed to the office of State's Attorney, and four times elected, without opposition, to the office of judge by the legislature. I had never been a candidate for the legislature, for Congress, or for any office elective by the people, and had never wanted to be a candidate for such offices. I had never been an applicant for any office from the General Government, and had always avoided being a candidate for any office which was desired by any respectable political friend.
And here again I must be permitted to indulge in some further reflections upon the practical operation of republican government. The history of my administration but serves to illustrate what has already been demonstrated by two administrations of the federal government. I mean the administrations of Tyler and Polk. Neither of these gentlemen were placed in the office of president because they were leaders of their respective parties. Tyler was accidentally made vice-president by the whigs, and accidentally became president, by the death of Gen. Harrison. He had the position as to office to govern, but the moral power of government was in the hands of Henry Clay, the great leader of the whig party, and the embodiment of its principles. During all of Tyler's administration he exerted no moral force; government was kept in motion merely by its previous impulse, and by the patriotism of Congress, voluntarily subduing so much of its factious spirit as was absolutely necessary to keep government alive. Polk was accidentally nominated by the Baltimore convention, after it was ascertained that none of the great leaders of the democratic party could be nominated; and so far during his time the government has been carried on by the mere force of the democratic
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party, which has been in the majority in Congress, the great leaders, for fear of division in their ranks, uniting sometimes in his support and sometimes dictating to him the policy of his administration. Neither Tyler nor Polk had much distinguished themselves in their respective parties. They had neither of them fought their way in the party contests to the leadership, and to the moral power which the leadership alone can give. So it was with the humble person who was now to be elected governor of Illinois. Mr. Snyder had been nominated because he was a leader of the party. Mr. Snyder died, and I was nominated, not because I was a leader, for I was not, but because I was believed to have no more than a very ordinary share of ambition; because it was doubtful whether any of the leaders could be elected, and because it was thought I would stand more in need of support from leaders, than an actual leader would. To this cause, and perhaps there were others, I trace the fact which will hereafter appear, that I was never able to command the support of the entire party which elected me.
From such examples as these, I venture to assert, that the moral power belonging to the leadership of the dominant party, is greater than the legal power of office conferred by the Constitution and the laws. In fact it has appeared to me at times, that there is very little power of government in this country, except that which pertains to the leadership of the party in the majority. Gen. Jackson not only governed whilst he was president, but for eight years afterwards, and has since continued to govern, even after his death. *
* In forming a constitution it is almost impossible to anticipate how much power is delegated to the government, and particularly to the executive branch. The power of the executive branch depends somewhat upon the legal authority with which the office is clothed, but more upon his personal character and influence. To illustrate this, take the administrations of John Quincy Adams, Gen. Jackson, and
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When men who are not leaders are put into high office, it is generally done through the influence of leaders, who expect to govern through them. They are expected to need support more than if they were actual leaders; and are preferred sometimes to actual leaders, on account of being more available as candidates, and sometimes because those leaders who cannot get the office themselves, hope through them to help to be president or governor, as the case may be. Soon after my election, I ascertained that quite a number of such leaders imagined that they, instead of myself, had been elected; and could only be convinced to the contrary, on being referred to the returns of the election.
A pusillanimous man, willing to take office upon any terms, is ever disposed to submit to this kind of influence and dictation. He calls it consulting his party when he consults only a few leaders, and this he is obliged to do, or find himself without the power to govern. In a government where the democratic spirit is all-powerful, this power to govern consists in being able to unite a majority of opinions; but where the people are free, each man to choose for himself it is extremely difficult to
John Tyler. These presidents were all clothed with the same identical legal powers. John Quincy Adams, although a man of great abilities, acknowledged the feebleness of his administration, in consequence of not being elected by the people, but by the House of Representatives. Gen. Jackson exercised the power of an autocrat, because he was supported by the confidence and affections of the American people. And John Tyler, though a man of very respectable talents, converted the executive department into a kind of anarchy, because he had no party in his favor. The election, therefore, of a strong man or a weak one, to this office, is equivalent to an amendment of the Constitution, by which great powers are given or withheld, as the case may be. Or, rather, it is more like a revolution, by which a dictator is appointed at the time, and at another the authority of the executive office is so restricted as to convert the government into an anarchy. And yet during the whole time there has been really no change in the fundamental law.
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induce a majority to co-operate for the common benefit. Various reasons, and passions and prejudices will lead different ways; and very often all reason will be confounded, by a combination of clamor and prejudice. It is generally the work of a few leading minds to bring order out of this chaos and to get a majority to think and feel alike. These leaders, therefore, as effectually govern the country as if they were born to rule.
The best and purest mode in which leaders exercise their power, is by instruction and persuasion. This kind of government can exist only over a very intelligent and virtuous people. And as a government is always a type of the people over whom if is exercised, so it will be found that when the people are less enlightened and virtuous, the means of governing them will be less intellectual. If the people are indifferent to, and ignorant of what constitutes good government, the mode which leaders take to unite a majority of them is apt to be as follows: There is in every county, generally at the county seats, a little clique of county leaders, who aim to monopolize or dispose of the county offices. Some of them expect to be elected to the legislature, and in time, to higher offices. Others expect to be recipients of some county or State office; or to be appointed to some office by the President through the influence of members of Congress. These lesser leaders all look to some more considerable leader; who is a judge; member of Congress, United States Senator: or governor of the State. The State leaders again look to some more considerable man at Washington city, who is actually president, or who controls the president, or who is himself a prominent candidate for that office. The great leader at Washington dashes boldly out in favor of, or against some measure; the class of leaders whose influence as yet, is bounded by a single State, fall into line behind the great leader. These State leaders are kept together by a fear of the opposite party. For instance, if they are democratic leaders, they fear that a division amongst themselves will divide
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the party, and thereby cause its defeat and the success of the whigs. They therefore make sacrifices of opinion to keep up unity, the least influential leader having to make the greatest sacrifice. *
The State leaders, whether democrat or whig makes no difference, then give the word to the little cliques of leaders in each county; these county leaders convey it to the little big men in each neighborhood, and they do the talking to the rank-and-file of the people. In this way principles and men are put up and put down with amazing celerity. And gentle reader do not be astonished; THIS IS GOVERNMENT! and if there is in point
* The organization of men into political parties under the control of leaders as a means of government, necessarily destroys individuality of character and freedom of opinion. Government implies restraint, compulsion of either the body or mind, or both. The latest improvement to effect this restraint and compulsion is to use moral means, intellectual means operating on the mind instead of the old mode of using force such as standing armies, fire, sword and the gibbet, to control the mere bodies of men. It is therefore a very common thing for men of all parties to make very great sacrifices of opinion, so as to bring themselves into conformity with the bulk of their party. And yet there is nothing more common than for the race of newspaper statesmen to denounce all such of the opposite party as yield their own opinions to the opinions of the majority, as truckling and servile. They may possibly be right in this. But undoubtedly such submission is often necessary to the existence of majorities, entertaining the same opinion. A little further experience may develop the fact, that when this means of securing majorities shall fail, the government will fall into anarchy.
Either moral or physical force must be used for purposes of government, When a people are so gross that moral power cannot operate on them, physical force must be resorted to. Also, when the officers of government lack talents and moral power, physical force may thereby be made necessary; so that it may be said, that a People may stand in need of being governed by absolute violence, just in proportion to their want of a proper civilization; and sometimes also just in proportion to the want of moral power in the government.
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of fact any other sort, existence cannot be proved by me, and yet I have been governor of the State for four years.
It maybe thought that these leaders, of course, are men of great and magnanimous natures. But such is not always the fact. To make a leader nothing more is necessary than a pleasing address, added to zeal for a party, and unceasing activity and enterprise. The world is governed by industry more than by talents. True great men are leaders only in times of great trouble, when a nation is in peril. In quiet times, the active, talking, enterprising and cunning manager is apt to be the leader. This kind of leader always claims more than his just share in the benefits and advantages of government. When he has elected some man to high office, who is not a leader, he claims every service from him which he has it in his power to render. Many such must have offices which they are not fit for; others have a scheme to make money out of the public; others, invoke aid in procuring the enactment of laws for private advantage; and others again require a hundred things which an honest plan ought not to do. And if their unreasonable requests are refused; if the true interests of the people are consulted, and the man elected refuses to be a mere instrument in the hands of leaders, to make an unequal distribution of the advantages of government, they immediately denounce him, they send out all sorts of falsehoods against him, and, for being honest and devoted to the public interest, they get many people to believe that he is a greater rogue than he would really have been: if he had done all the villainous things they required him to do. I could relate some amusing instances of this sort in the course of my administration. *
* The condition of a modern governor in party times, is well described in Knickerbocker's history of New York: "He is an unhappy victim of popularity, who is in fact the most dependent, hen-pecked being in community; doomed to bear the secret goadings and corrections of his own party, and the sneers and revilings of the whole world beside.
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It is no part of my object to overthrow the power of leaders, if I could; for I am persuaded, that without it, a governing majority of the people would rarely be found. A government of leaders, however defective it may be, is better than no government, upon the same principle that despotism is better than anarchy. But reformation of this power is earnestly desired. For as long as the great body of the people do not investigate, and take so little interest in matters of government, as long as men of influence will endeavor to appropriate the benefits and advantages of government to themselves, and can and do control the people, making it necessary for men in office to lean upon leaders instead of the intelligence of the people for support, there will never be any good government, or if there is, the people will not think so. * Fortunate is that country which has great
side. Set up like geese at Christmas holidays, to be pelted and shot at by every whipster and vagabond in the land." From this condition nothing can save a governor but his personal insignificance, the idea that he is not worth making war on. As soon as a governor is elected, he receives the congratulations of his friends, and there are generally about ten of these, and sometimes more, in each county, each one of whom claiming to have elected him. Each one writes to the governor, or goes to see him, to tell him how well and cunningly he fought and managed, and how many sacrifices he made to carry the election. Each one is sure that he did it all himself, and claims to be rewarded accordingly. If the governor cannot do everything for every one as required, the disappointed ones are more earnest in their enmity than they were before in their friendship. Something of this kind has happened to me. I do not complain of it, but merely mention it but to show how difficult it is for a governor to have any policy of his own for the general advantage of the people, and pursue it steadily without incurring the censure of such politicians as have no public benefits in view, but merely their own selfish projects.
* Just now the public mind is in a great ferment concerning amendments of the constitution, as if amendments of the laws were a cure for every ill that flesh is heir to. Without undertaking to prove, I will venture to assert, that there may be a very bad government with very
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and good men for leaders of parties, upon whose measures a majority of the people can safely unite, and the greeter the majority the better. If the power of leaders is ever to be reformed, it will be by beginning with the people themselves. The people, whether good or bad, will have a government which, in the main, truly represents the state of civilization which they have attained to. The democratic party professes to be the party of process in matters of government; it has much to reform; but it is sincerely hoped that at no distant day its attention may be directed to the evils of this machinery, and correct them. At present, the people may be said to govern themselves only by being the depository of power, which they can exercise if they choose; but which, for most of the time, they choose to give into the hands of their leaders, to be exercised without much responsibility to them. The responsibility is all to attach to their leaders, and not to the people.
As soon as I was announced as a candidate for governor, the Mormon question was revived against me, as being the heir of the lamented Snyder. But it could not be made to work much against me. I had been as little concerned in the passage of the Mormon charters as my opponent. Of course, in a State so
good laws. The laws may be amended, but if human nature is vicious and selfish, it will find a may to pervert the best of laws to the worst, of purposes. I assert again, that if government is to be reformed, the work must begin with the people, who are, in a kind of way, the source of power. If it is once given up that the people can never be persuaded to vote wisely and judiciously, to sustain such of their servants as may be faithful, and put aside all selfish demagogues, who seek to live merely by the profits of office, then we may make up our minds to see government very imperfect in its practical operation, under any form of constitution whatever. The Utopians and Perfectionists then will have nothing to do but to lay aside their fine, sun-shiny theories, and live in the world the little time that is allotted to them, contented with the imperfections of government, as they are obliged to be with the imperfections of everything else,
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decidedly democratic, I was elected by a large majority. The banks, the State debt, the canal, and the Mormons, together with the general politics of the Union, were the principal topics of discussion during the canvass. Topics of local interest, however, had but little interest on the result of the election. The people of Illinois were so thoroughly partisan, upon the great question of the nation, that matters merely of local concern, though of vital importance to the people, were disregarded.
To sum up, then, this was the condition of the State when I came into office as governor. The domestic treasury of the State was indebted for the ordinary expenses of government to the amount of about $313,000. Auditor's warrants on the treasury were selling at fifty per cent discount, and there was no money in the treasury whatever; not even to pay postage on letters. The annual revenues applicable to the payment of ordinary expenses, amounted to about $130,000. The treasury was bankrupt; the revenues were insufficient; the people were unable and unwilling to pay high taxes; and the State had borrowed itself out of all credit. A debt of near fourteen millions of dollars been contracted for the canal, railroads, and other purposes. The currency of the State had been annihilated; there was not over two or three hundred thousand dollars in good money in the pockets of the whole people, which occasioned a general inability to pay taxes. The whole people were indebted to the merchants; nearly all of whom were indebted to the banks, or to foreign merchants; and the banks owed everybody; and none were able to pay.
To many persons it seemed impossible to devise any system of policy, out of this jumble and chaos of confusion, which would relieve the State. Every one had his plan, and the confusion of counsels among prominent men was equaled only by the confusion of public affairs.
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were such as were not able to own slaves in a slave State, and who came here to avoid slavery. A poor white man in a slave State, is of little more importance, in the eyes of the wealthy, than the negroes. The very negroes of the rich call such poor persons "poor white folks." The wealthy immigrant from the slave States rarely came here. He moved to some new slave State, to which he could take his negroes. The consequence was, that our southern settlements presented but few specimens of the more wealthy, enterprising, intellectual, and cultivated people from the slave States. Those who did come were a very good, honest, kind, hospitable people, unambitious of wealth, and great lovers of ease and social enjoyment.
The settlers from the North, not being debarred by our Constitution from bringing their property with them, were of a different class. The northern part of the State was settled in the first instance by wealthy farmers, enterprising merchants, millers, and manufacturers. They made farms, built mills, churches, school-houses, towns, and cities; and made roads and bridges as if by magic; so that although the settlements in the southern part of the State are twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years in advance, on the score of age, yet are they ten years behind in point of wealth, and all the appliances of a higher civilization.
This of itself was cause enough for discord between the two ends of the State. The people of the south entertained a most despicable opinion of their northern neighbors. They had never seen the genuine Yankee. They had seen a skinning, trafficking, and tricky race of pedlers from New England, who much infested the West and South with tin ware, small assortments of merchandise, and wooden clocks; and they supposed that the whole of the New England people were like these specimens. They formed the opinion that a genuine Yankee was a close, miserly, dishonest, selfish getter of money, void of generosity, hospitality, or any of the kindlier feelings of human nature. The northern people formed equally as unfavorable
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an opinion of their southern neighbors. The northern man believed the southerner to be a long, lank, lean, lazy, and ignorant animal, but little in advance of the savage state; one who was content to squat in a log-cabin, with a large family of ill-fed and ill-clothed, idle, ignorant children. The truth was, both parties were wrong. There is much natural shrewdness and sagacity in the most ignorant of the southern people; and they are generally accumulating property as fast as any people can who had so little to begin with. The parties are about equal in point of generosity and liberality, though these virtues show themselves in each people in a different way. The southerner is perhaps the most hospitable and generous to individuals. He is lavish of his victuals, his liquors, and other personal favors. But the northern man is the most liberal in contributing to whatever is for the public benefit. Is a school-house, a bridge, or a church to be built; a road to be made, a school or a minister to be maintained, or taxes to be paid for the honor or support of government, the northern man is never found wanting.
This misconception of character was the cause of a good deal of misunderstanding. The great canal itself, from Lake Michigan to the Illinois river, was opposed by some at an early day, for fear it would open a way for flooding the State with Yankees. Even as popular a man as the late Lieutenant-Governor Kinney, opposed it in a speech in the Senate on this ground. He said the Yankees spread everywhere. He was looking daily for them to overrun this State. They could be found in every country on the globe; and one strong proof to him that John Cleves Symmes was wrong in his theory of the earth, was, that if such an opening at the north pole as that theory supposed really existed, the Yankees would have had a big wagon road to it long before its discovery by Mr. Symmes. This want of concord in the two races of people was unfavorable to the adoption of the wisest means for public relief.
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In framing a wise policy for the future, the success of the canal in the north was one indispensable item. But because if was in the north, and for no other reason that I can discover, it was liable to objection in other quarters.
Another obstacle of a like character was to be found in the motives, aims, and designs of politicians. As yet the people rarely elected members of the legislature with reference to any well-defined notions of State policy. As I have said before, both parties were so thoroughly partisan upon the great contests upon national questions, that local affairs were but little considered. Sometimes some question about the removal of a county seat, or the division of a county, might influence an election. As between the different parties it seemed to be more important to know whether a candidate for the legislature was for or against a United States Bank, a protective tariff, internal improvements by the federal government, or distributing the proceeds of the public lands; in fine, to know whether he was a whig or a democrat, than to know his opinions of State politics. Of all the local questions calculated to influence elections, that of the banks, I believe, was the only one which was generally considered.
But the great prevailing principle upon which each party acted in selecting candidates for office was, to get popular men. Men who had made themselves agreeable to the people by a continual show of friendship and condescension; men who were loved for their gaiety, cheerfulness, apparent goodness of heart, and agreeable manners. Surly and stubborn wisdom stood no chance for office. The proud and haughty were proscribed. The scripture proverb, "Be humble that ye may be exalted," was understood altogether in a political sense.
One would think that nature herself had fitted out and indicated those who were to be the governors of this country; that in making some men mild, humble, amiable, obliging, and condescending, in other words, in fitting some men to be popular
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and others to be unpopular, Providence itself had selected our rulers. This, however, would be a mistake. There are hundreds of popular men who have none of these gifts by nature. I have known numbers who in spite of nature could be kind, humble, friendly, and agreeable, as the best. These are talents which can be acquired by a diligent practice. A friend of mine once informed me that he intended to be a candidate for the legislature, but would not declare himself until within a few days of the election, and assigned as a reason, "that it was so very hard to be 'clever' for a long time at once." This same man by dint of practice afterwards acquired the art of being "clever" all the time. Of all the talents which most recommends a man to his friends is that of being merry, and of laughing agreeably. Even this may be acquired. I have seen hundreds of men who were morose, serious, sour, and even sulky by nature, commence by forcing themselves into merriment and laughter, and so go on that in process of time it takes the nicest discernment to determine whether their cachinations are genuine or counterfeit.
Politicians generally knew better how to get an office than how to perform its duties. Statesmanship was but little studied; and indeed there is this difference all the world over, between a statesman and a mere politician, that the true statesman looks to his whole country; he devises a system of measures, he sees the connection of one measure with another, and he makes them all work together for the common good; whilst the mere politician busies himself altogether in selfish projects to get office without caring; much for the policy or measures he advocates after he gets into power. If he dabbles in measures at all he confines himself to something local or temporary, or to measures of mere party; he is a one-idea man, for the view of his mind can never take in the whole field of public interest. Hitherto in Illinois the race of politicians has been more numerous and more popular with the people,
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than the race of statesmen. The main reason of this has been, that too many people vote to elect men as a favor to the officer, not with a view to require service from them. The elections have been made upon the principle that the officer is to be served, not the people.
Many of these politicians in the legislature made it a rule to vote against all new measures, about which the opinions of the people were unknown; shrewdly calculating that if such a measure passed and became popular, no one would inquire who had opposed it; but if it turned out to be unpopular, then they could show by the journals that they had voted against it. And if the measure failed of success and became popular, the members who opposed it excused themselves to the people by pretending ignorance of the will of their constituents, and by promising to be in its favor if again elected.
This kind of policy is said to have originated with John Grammar, long a representative or senator from Union county. He was elected to the territorial legislature about the year 1816, and was continued in the legislature most of the time for twenty years. It is said that when he was first elected, lacking the apparel necessary for a member, he and his sons gathered a large quantity of hazle-nuts, which were taken to the Ohio Saline and sold for cloth to make a coat and pantaloons. The cloth was the blue strouding used by the Indians for breech-cloths. When if was brought home the neighboring women were assembled to make up the garments of the new member. The cloth was measured every way, cross, lengthwise, and from corner to corner, but still the puzzling truth appeared that the pattern was scant. The women concluded to make of it a very short bob-tailed coat, and a long pair of leggins, which being finished, and Mr. Grammar arrayed in them, he started for Kaskaskia, the seat of government. Here he continued to wear his leggins over an old tattered garment until the poetry bill (a partial appropriation) passed, when he provided himself with
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a pair of breeches. Mr. Grammar was a man who could neither read nor write, and yet he had the honor to originate a practice which has been much followed by men of more pretensions.
Such demagoguism could not succeed in any very enlightened country. The Valley of the Mississippi had so constantly increased in numbers, so far beyond the means of education, that it is doing ourselves no injustice to admit that there is some ignorance amongst us. But this evil must be corrected; education must be more encouraged; knowledge must be made more abundant; more of the people must be taught the power of thinking. An elevated, numerous democracy must be created, which shall destroy the power of the few who monopolize intellect. Intellectual power is power of the most fearful kind; and if is folly to talk of "equal rights and equal laws" where some few have it and the many have it not. Where this is the case, it is folly to talk of self-government. An ignorant people who attempt self-government, are, by a fixed law of nature, obliged to fail in the attempt; they may think that they govern themselves, when they are only led by the nose by their demagogues. A government of demagogues is only better than anarchy.
The members of the legislature, after having been elected, feeling victorious and triumphant over their adversaries at home, come up to the seat of government in a happy state of exultation of mind and self-complacency, which make the compliments and flattery with which they are received most soothing and agreeable. The whole world of aspirants for office comes with them. A speaker of the lower house, and officers of the two houses, are to be elected, the first thing. For these offices there are many candidates. I have known more than a hundred candidates for door-keepers of the two houses. Besides these, there are numerous candidates for secretaryships and clerkships. The members exhibit themselves in public places, where they
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can be approached, complimented, flattered, supplicated, and teased by the several aspirants for office, who fly round from one member to another, with great glee and activity, making themselves agreeable, until after the election. After these elections are over, there is, in two sessions out of three, an United States Senator to be elected; and every session the legislature elects an auditor of public accounts, State treasurer, public printer, attorney-general, and States' attorneys for the several circuits; and fills vacancies on the bench of judges. These elections are not all brought on at once, but a few of them at a time only, so as to keep a number of aspirants at the seat of government during the whole session, and husband the importance of the members of the legislature, which in a great measure would be expended and gone by more prompt action in disposing of the seekers for office.
It is during a session of the legislature that all political arrangements are made for the next campaign. Here it is decided who are to be the next candidates for governor and United States Senator, and who to go to Congress from the various districts. It is true that conventions are afterwards held to make the nominations in conformity to what is here agreed; and here too if is determined who are to be recommended for office to the general government. However much the members of the legislature may lack in learning, they are generally shrewd, sensible men, who, from their knowledge of human nature, and tact in managing the masses, are amongst the master spirits of their several counties. They are such generally as have cultivated the arts of popularity; know how to shake hands with the appearance of cordiality and friendship; are good-natured and social; possess a talent for smiling and laughing in a pleasing way; and of saying agreeable things in conversation. The great majority of them are fired with an ambition, either to get back to the legislature, or to be elected or appointed to some other office. This puts them upon the alert to preserve their
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popularity. New measures are considered more with reference to the reception they may meet with at home than to their utility or wisdom. The question in such a case is, how will such a measure take with the people? how can an adversary, in his own or the opposite party, build an objection on it to the member who has voted for or against it? and how is it to affect his next election, or his party standing? Many members thus guess their way through a whole session; and experience has proved that they have oftener guessed wrong than right; for a fifth part of them never get back to the legislature, and those who do are such as consider the wisdom and soundness of measures, such as have the courage, the ability, and go home with the determination, to defend their acts, by an appeal to the judgments of their fellow citizens.
Very many public men, for the sake of present popularity, do wrong knowingly, to secure future power, which they may never get. If it were the practice for no one ever "to seek or decline office," to be contented without it, and to accept it as a mere duty, then there would be no motive to do wrong, but every motive to do good, during a short continuance of power. But this I fear can never be carried out in practice. The office-seeking propensity is wonderful indeed; there seems to be no sufficient reason for it. Office is not clothed with the profit, power, or honor to make it desirable for either. We every day see private men who are more honored and wealthy than any who are in office. In our government, the jealousy of liberty disarms all offices of power; the popular notions of economy will not allow them to be profitable; nearly one half the people in party times, so far from honoring a public officer, take a pleasure in despising him; and the leaders among his own political friends, unless he is the great leader of a party, will take care that he shall not have much credit.
The out-door politicians, who are called "lobby members," and who come up to the seat of government for office, are much
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like the members themselves, except that they are more talented and cunning. They are men who take to politics as a trade, and business, and means of living. They seek to control the legislature in the disposal of offices, and are themselves divided into a hundred little cliques and factions, working with or against each other, as concurrence or opposition may be most advantageous.
A popular member of the lobby is apt to be some lawyer who practices in several counties. He gets acquainted with the leading men of his party in each county. He aids in getting popular men nominated as candidates for the legislature. He makes speeches for the cause, and aids his friends to be elected. As he is naturally superior to them, it is no wonder if they look to him for advice and assistance in performing their arduous duties. By such means he will contrive to control four or five members of the legislature. This he will make known to all the world but the members themselves. He is then looked to as a man of importance. He has so many transferable votes in the legislature. He is courted, caressed, and promised support in his own views, in return for his countenance to the projects of others. A lobby member will make but a poor figure without some such capital; and as he comes to the seat of government only as a seeker of office, he never troubles himself about measures, unless they are strictly of a party character. Other great measures which may make or ruin the country, he takes no interest in, unless they can be made helpers to office. In and out of the legislature, the machinery of government is more considered than the measures of government. The frequent legislative elections; the running to and fro of the various cliques and factions before each election; the anxiety of members for their popularity at home; the settlement of plans to control future elections, to sustain the party in power, on the one side, and to overthrow it, on the part of the minority, absorb nearly the whole attention of the legislature, and leave but
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little disposition or time to be devoted to legitimate legislation. So much is this the case, that the most important measures, such as may have the greatest influence upon the well-being of the present and all future generations, pass through the two houses, or are rejected, almost without debate, and frequently without notice. Of the many common-school laws which have passed our legislature, I have never known but one which called forth any general interest.
There are two kinds of professional politicians; though they both aim at the same thing, the acquisition of office. The one sort are clever, timid, moderate, and accommodating; the other kind are bold, sanguine, and decided. The first sort will agree for the time being, to anything;, and with anybody. These men aim to be affable, pleasant, facetious, and agreeable. They make it a matter of calculation never to contradict, to advocate no opinion, to give no offence, to make no enemies, and to be amiable and agreeable to all. They are called by the others "milk and water men," and are much despised by the bold, decided, ultraist. Sometimes the "milk and water" man has the advantage; for as he swims and slides easily and smoothly along, never contradicting, accommodating to all, and friendly to all, he has frequently to be taken up in party contests, as the "most available candidate." The other sort of professed politicians are the men of energy and action. They are the foremost in the fight with the common enemy. They are the orators for the people; the writers for the newspapers; the organizers and disciplinarians of party; the denouncers of treachery and defection; and work night and day for victory in the party contests. They are always much despised by the opposite party in politics; and are always selected as especial objects of abuse and detraction. The minority party frequently have credit enough to destroy the popularity of a champion of the enemy, even with his own party. He is hated among the best men of his opponents. These opponents may have no direct
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political influence out of their own ranks; but many of them are credited as gentlemen of veracity; their statements in relation to mere persons are believed even by political opponents. These statements, though often prompted by political hatred, are uttered boldly, and with an appearance of candor, by men who are fair dealers, good neighbors, and known to speak the truth in all matters of neighborhood concernment. The popularity of the champion is destroyed. He cannot get all the votes of his own party, and not one from amongst his opponents. He is no longer considered to be an available candidate, and has to give place, in all doubtful contests, to his inoffensive "milk and water" compatriot. For it is a rule with all parties to select only such candidates as can get the largest vote.
A politician, however, of the decided, sanguine kind, if he is a man of sense and tact, if he knows how far to go in the advocacy of his own party, and when to stop; if he knows how to abuse the opposite party, without giving personal offence; is in the surest road to advancement. This kind of politician is most usually for extreme measures. Nothing moderate will suit him. He must be in advance of everybody else. He aims to be a leader; and to be one he thinks he must be ahead in everything. In the democratic party he is an ultraist; he can hardly find measures sufficiently democratic to suit him. He is a tactician, a disciplinarian; ever belongs to some organization; never bolts a nomination, and never votes against his own party. In the whig party, he is an old federalist; he has no confidence in the people for self-government; he is in favor of a property qualification for electors, and is always against the democrats, right or wrong, and against everything democratic, and firmly believes all the time that the country is just going to be ruined. But in whatever party he may be, whenever that party is dominant, he aims to be considered a better party man, to work truer in the party harness than any one
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else, and if he can so distinguish himself, he mounts at once to the leadership. All the active office-seeking tribe are first his allies, and afterwards his followers. It is a fact well known, that one party is governed by the office-holders, and the other by the office-hunters.
Under such circumstances it would be strange indeed if there had been much disposition anywhere to make the future prosperity of the State a consideration paramount to all others. *
Before I came into office, the public mind was settled on nothing as the future policy of the State. The people of Bond county, as soon as the internal improvement system passed, had declared in a public meeting, that the system must lead to taxation and utter ruin; that the people were not bound to pay any of the debt to be contracted for it; and that Bond county would never assist in paying a cent of if. Accordingly, they refused to pay taxes for several years. When the system went down, and had left the State in the ruinous condition predicted by the Bond county meeting, many people remembered that there might be a question raised as to the obligation of payment. Public men everywhere, of all parties, stood in awe of this question; there was a kind of general silence as to what should be done. No one could foresee what would be popular or unpopular. The two great political parties were watching each other with eagle eyes, to see that one should not get the advantage of the other. The whigs, driven to desperation by repeated ill success in elections, were many of them in favor of repudiation as a means of bettering their party. The Sangamon Journal and the Alton Telegraph, the two leading whig
* When Galena was first settled, it is said that the only question asked concerning a new comer was, whether he would steal or not? If it was answered that he would not steal, he was considered a very honest man. So in elections it was now asked only whether a candidate was a whig or a democrat? If the answer to this was satisfactory, the candidate was considered to be safe and a great statesman.
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newspapers of the State, boldly took ground that the debt never could and never would be paid, and that if was of no use to say anything more about it. Very many democrats were in favor of the same course, for fear of losing the power the democratic party already possessed. It was thought to be a very dangerous subject to meddle with. At a democratic convention which nominated Mr. Snyder for governor, a resolution against repudiation, offered by Mr. Arnold of Chicago, was laid on the table by an overwhelming vote of the convention, so as not to commit the party one way or the other. It was evident that this was to be a troublesome question; and a great many of the politicians on both sides were as ready to take one side of it as the other; and their choice depended upon which might finally appear to he most popular. The whigs were afraid if they advocated the debt-paying policy, the democrats would take the other side, and leave the whigs no chance of ever coming into a majority. And the democrats feared that if they advocated a correct policy, the other side might be more popular, and might be taken by the whigs. I speak only of the leaders of parties, amongst whom, on all sides there was a strong suspicion that repudiation might be more popular than taxation.
It is my solemn belief that when I came into office, I had the power to make Illinois a repudiating State. It is true I was not the leader of any party; but my position as governor would have given me leadership enough to have carried the democratic party, except in a few counties in the north, in favor of repudiation. If I had merely stood still and done nothing, the result would have been the same. In that case a majority of both parties would have led to either active or passive repudiation. The politicians on neither side, without a bold lead to the contrary, by some one high in office, would never have dared to risk their popularity by being the first to advocate an increase of taxes to be paid by a tax-hating people.
Such were the people and such were the great mass of politicians
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of the State of Illinois in 1842. In general, the legislature meant to do right, and to do the best; for the country; but here, as everywhere else, there were serious obstacles to contend with before the policy of the country, in reference to the deplorable state of public affairs, could be settled upon the best footing. I have already said that every one had a plan of his own to restore the State to prosperity; and it may not be improper to devote a page or two to some of them.
All parties proposed some mode of putting the banks into liquidation, except a few whigs and a very few democrats, who would have been willing to compel them to a resumption of specie payments, and continue their business. Of those who were in favor of winding them up, a small portion declared in favor of repealing their charters; of the appointment of commissioners on the part of the State, who were to take charge of their specie and other effects; pay their debts, and collect what was due to them. But much the larger portion finally favored a compromise, by means of which the State would at once be paid for its stock, or nearly so; and the banks would settle their business and go out of existence under the direction of their own officers. The State Bank held $1,750,000 of State bonds, and $294,000 in Auditor's warrants, together with scrip amounting in the whole to $2,100,000, which it was willing to surrender at once, and dissolve all further connection with the State. The bank at Shawneetown was willing to surrenders a half-million immediately, and to engage to pay the residue on a short credit. This bank held $469,998 in Auditor's warrants, which were to be surrendered as a part of the first payment.
There was no party in the legislature of 1842-'3, in favor of an immediate increase of taxation to pay interest on the public debt. Many there were who wanted to do nothing for five or ten years; and to trust to luck and accident for the means of improvement. There were a very few who were in favor of repudiating the whole debt of the State, who denied the
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power of the legislature to bind the people by contracting it; and who were in favor of giving up to the public creditor all the property purchased with the borrowed money, and all the public works constructed by it, as all that ever could or ought to be done in the way of payment. But the great majority of the legislature held different opinions. Resolutions were passed which clearly stated the inability of the State to meet its engagements, and fully recognized our moral and legal obligation to provide for ultimate payment. The pay immediately was out of the question. Heavy taxation then would have depopulated the country, and the debt would never be paid.
The State had purchased 42,000 acres of land under the internal improvement system; the United States had given us 210,000 acres more under the distribution law of 1841; we owned 230,467 acres of canal lands, and 3,491 town lots in Chicago and other towns on the canal; we owned what work had been done on the canal itself; and various pieces of unfinished railroad in all parts of the State. And we also owned a large quantity of railroad iron, and the stock in the banks. This property was our only resource, short of taxation to pay the whole debt, and it became us to apply it to the best advantage.
One party proposed that an offer to the public creditors should be made of this property upon condition that they would finish the canal, and as many of the railroads as they might choose to finish, and grant an acquittance of the whole debt by a surrender of public securities. It was evident that this plan could not succeed. Many of the State bonds were held in trust for orphans and for charitable purposes. The holders of such could not consent to, and if they did, they could not comply with such an arrangement. But the larger portion of our debt was owned by heavy capitalists, whose business it was to lend money to States and nations, on a mere pledge of the public faith. It was clear that this class could better afford to lose all we owed them than to set the example of such a compromise
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to the borrowing world. If they made such an arrangement with Illinois, they must soon expect similar propositions from all other indebted States. Such an example would be contagious, and would put an end to their business of lending by destroying the only security a nation can give -- an unsullied public faith.
There were some few persons who were in favor of repudiating the whole debt, of setting the moral sense of mankind at defiance, and of absolutely doing nothing, and worse than nothing; for they proposed, that in winding up the banks, by a total repeal of their charters, the public securities held by these institutions, and which they were willing to surrender to the State, in payment of its stock, should be put into the market and sold as assets; and that if, after payment of the debts of the banks, anything should be left, to be divided among the stockholders, the share coming to the State should be used to purchase an equal sum in bonds.
During the summer of 1842, Justin Butterfield, an eminent lawyer of Chicago, had conversed with Arthur Bronson, * one
* Extract of a letter from George R. Babcock, Esq., of the city of Buffalo, N. Y., to Justin Butterfield, Esq., of Chicago, Illinois: ....I have a distinct remembrance that Mr. Bronson spoke to you in the summer of 1842 at Chicago, on the subject of the unfinished canal; and asked if anything to render available the large expenditure which had been made upon; and to rescue the credit of the State from the abyss in which it was plunged. You replied, in substance, that the work would sooner or later be resumed; that a State so large and containing such elements of future greatness as Illinois, would at some day not distant complete a work so essential to its prosperity, and that the canal and the canal lands would reimburse the cost of its construction. Mr. Bronson seemed gratified to find you so sanguine in your expectations, and invited you to meet him at the Lake House that evening, to confer farther on the subject of its details. In the evening there was a long discussion, mainly between Mr. Bronson and yourself, of the project, which, as I understand it, has been subsequently carried out by the State and its creditors. The leading feature of the plan, so
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of the great capitalists of New York, who was interested in our State stocks and a large land-holder in the northern part of the State. Mr. Bronson was said to be a man of fine talents, deeply skilled in finance, and to possess the confidence of capitalists both in Europe and America. Mr. Butterfield suggested to Mr. Bronson that if the canal property could be conveyed in trust, to secure a new advance of money, and if the State creditors could be assured that the State intended to do something by way of taxation or otherwise, to sustain its credit, something might be done to obtain money to complete the canal; which was agreed to by Mr. Bronson. Mr. Butterfield repeated this conversation to Mr. Michael Ryan; and Mr. Ryan, being afterwards at New York, became acquainted with Mr. Bronson, Mr. Leavitt, and other wealthy persons of the eastern cities, and of London. A plan was then devised, and approved by them, in pursuance of the suggestions of Mr. Butterfield, to the effect
I recollect it, was to induce the bond-holders to advance the funds necessary to complete the canal, by a pledge of the canal, its lands, and revenues for the payment of the advance, and a stipulated priority of the payment of the stocks then held by the persons so making the advance; while those creditors who refused to contribute were to be postponed until the preferred debt should be discharged. I cannot say who suggested this plan, as I was not in the room when the conversation commenced. Mr. Bronson frequently expressed fears that the foreign bond-holders would regard the offered priority as a lure to obtain more cash, as well as a fraud on those of their fellow sufferers who should not make the required advance. For this reason, I am of opinion that the plan was not suggested by Mr. Bronson.
"GEORGE R. BABCOCK."
It is due to Mr. Butterfield to say, that he mentioned this plan of getting money for the canal, and of the foregoing conversation with Mr. Bronson, some considerable time before Ryan's visit to New York in the fall of 1842. Mr. Butterfield also is entitled to the credit of drawing the canal bill of 1842-'3, which was much more perfect; when it came from his hands than after it had passed the legislature.
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that the holders of canal bonds would advance $1,600,000 (the sum reported to be necessary by the chief engineer) to complete the canal. In return for which, the State was to convey the canal property in trust, to secure the new loan, as well as for the ultimate payment of the whole canal debt; and was to lay some moderate tax to pay some portion of the accruing interest on the whole debt.
Intimately connected with the success of this plan was the legislation we might adopt on the subject of the banks. If we proceeded with an insane violence, by repealing their charters, at the very moment that we were chartering a company and inviting the investment of money to complete the canal, we could expect no less than to frighten capitalists away from the undertaking. We would show them at once that we professed to have the power, and in all probability would exercise it, to repeal the new one as well as the old. But there were a part of the democrats who believed in the right of the legislature to repeal all acts of incorporation, as well private as public. They had been fighting on this question for years, and now was a good opportunity for putting it in force. The banks were odious to the people for long-continued and repeated delinquencies. If was certain to be popular to be in favor of the most extreme measures against them; so that when it became a question whether they should be strangled to death by slow degree, or delivered over to be scalped and tomahawked with barbarian ferocity, many of the professional politicians decided for the most ultra course. This course was indeed the best for the politician, but it was the worst for the country. The politician might increase his reputation in his party, he might earn the name of a smashing democrat, but the canal would never be made, and nothing would be done to restore the public credit.
Gov. Carlin, my immediate predecessor, though confessedly an honest man in his private dealings, recommended repeal in his valedictory message. When he first came to the seat of government,
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he showed me his message, recommending wise, just, honorable measures to the banks. He also showed me what he had prepared on the subject of repeal, assuring me that he had decided not to put, it in. But shortly afterwards some of the ultraists got hold of him, and induced him to alter his message, by recommending repeal. This recommendation embarrassed me then, and has embarrassed me ever since. Here was a respectable recommendation of something more ultra than I thought was warranted by the best interests of the State. It gave countenance to the ultraists; they could rally round it, -- win a character for stern and inflexible democrats. It at once put them ahead of the new governor and his friends. By the way, I will here remark, that it is the constant trick of he wily, artful politician, to affect ultraism. Many of them are without talents or merits of any other sort; and if they were not a little ahead of everybody else in espousing extreme measures, there would be nothing of them at all. Gov. Carlin also, in his last message, despaired of the canal. He had not the genius to see how money might be raised to complete it, except by petitioning Congress for an increased donation of land, then certain never to be granted.
There was quite a party out of the legislature expectants of office, and others who hoped that if the banks were repealed out of existence and put into forcible liquidation, some of them might be appointed commissioners, and put in charge of their specie and effects. It was known that if the bank debts were paid pro rata, a large amount of specie would remain on hand for a year or more; the use of which could be made profitable in the meantime. Then there were to be bank attorneys and agents in collecting and securing debts; and the whole would furnish a handsome picking for the buzzards and vultures who hang about lobbies and surround legislatures.
As for myself, I decided at once in favor of a compromise; and I gave notice to all these greedy expectants of office who
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were hanging around with eyes straining to devour their substance, that if the banks were repealed, and the appointment of commissioners were vested in me, none of them could expect an appointment. This I know cooled some of them.
This was the most important subject which came before the legislature of 1842. State stock to the amount of $3,100,000 was at stake; the canal depended upon it; and it may be worth while to give a short statement of this argument on each side of the question.
It was said in favor of repeal that the banks had so many times baffled the legislature, the most decisive steps ought to be taken with them, so as to put them to an end at once. The legislature ought to make sure work of it once, now that they were assembled and had the power. The fact that they had violated their charters was notorious; the decision of which ought not to be left to the doubtful chance of a suit at law in the courts. That the charters ought to be repealed totally, so as forever to prevent the chance of their revival or resurrection by any future legislature. The bonds held by the banks ought to be sold to help pay their debts. The State as a stockholder, had no more right than another to be paid for its stock and retire from the concern before the bank debts were paid. The specie would never be paid out pro rata; the circulation had been purchased and was now held by private stockholders, who would refuse to present it for payment, in hopes that another legislature would renew their charters. The most stringent laws might be passed for the government of the banks, yet experience had shown that as long as they had life they would set all laws at defiance as soon as the Assembly adjourned; and the legislature would have to do at the next session what they had omitted to do now. The compromise proposed was a bad bargain for the State. The stock was worth more than the bonds; the assets of the banks were amply sufficient to pay all
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their debts, and a dividend to the State as a stockholder, which would greatly exceed the value of these bonds.
On the side of a compromise it was argued that if the banks had ever baffled the legislature, it was in the day of their power when their bills were in credit, and they had money to lend to individuals and to pay the legislature. In the day of their power they had friends, many of whoin were the first to desert them in their troubles and weakness. They were shorn of their strength. There were none so poor now as to do them reverence. It was folly to talk of the power of a broken bank in universal discredit with the people. They were too deeply and generally despised for any legislature of any party to revive them. It was just as likely that the internal improvement system would be revived. It would be the height of folly to suffer the bonds held by the banks to be sold. At present they were selling for only fourteen cents on the dollar. If $2,500, 000 were added to those already in the market, the price must be greatly reduced. If we rejected an offer to get them up at once on such favorable terms, and depended on a doubtful dividend to repurchase them at a discount, if we declared it our policy to go into the market like a common swindler to purchase our own paper at less than its face, the whole world would know that we never intended to pay one cent of the public debt. A sale under such circumstances would be of but little use to the banks or their creditors, but would subject the State to certain loss or disgrace.
The advocates of repeal say that the banks are insolvent, and cannot pay their debts if the bonds are not sold; in the next breath they say that the State is making a bad bargain; that the stock is worth more than the bonds, when it is plain that the stock is worth nothing, unless the banks pay every dollar of their debt. But the truth is, the banks can pay their debts, and will have something left for the stockholders. The creditors are in no danger of eventual loss. But if repeal is to succeed;
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if their specie and other effects are to be given in charge to public officers; neither creditors nor stockholders may ever get anything. Who are these public officers to be? Are they to be the public officers who mismanaged the old Sate Bank of 1821, and lost to the State more than its entire capital? Are they to be some of the late fund commissioners, whose blunders saddled the State with a million and a half of dollars in debt, for which the first cent was never received? Are they to be the commissioners of the board of public works, whose reckless squandering of the public moneys will be memorable while time lasts? Or are they to be any of the same description of persons? And more particularly, are they to be taken from the hangers-on about the seat of government? We have had enough in our history of the management of money matters by public officers.
The legislature might repeal, but they were not clothed with all the power of this government. The banks were determined to contest their right to repeal. The Supreme Court of the United States had already declared against it in the Dartmouth College case. They would get an injunction from the federal court against our commissioners. The case would be litigated for years at home; it would then be carried to the Supreme Court of the United States. It would be years again before a final decision, and then it was as likely to be against us as for us. In the meantime, if the bank officers were so little to be trusted, what security had we that their assets would not be devoured by the expenses of litigation, or squandered by dishonesty.
More than all this, repeal was a violent measure. It was calculated to alarm capitalists. We were about to incorporate a company to complete the canal. We were not able to do it ourselves; our only hope was in a company. Capitalists, from whom alone the money to do it could be expected, would reasonably conclude that such a government could not be trusted.
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They might subscribe to the stock, expend their money, make the canal and then some hurra of a popular excitement would result in repealing them out of their rights.
It seemed to me that the arguments in favor of a compromise were conclusive on every point. The villainies charged upon the new owners of the Shawneetown Bank, before the compromise bill passed, were no worse than what could have been committed before any law whatever could have been passed by this legislature. No such law can be passed in less than six weeks, and before the end of such a period, a roguish directory could have committed much worse villainies than any which have been charged, and such would most probably have been committed, and no repealing act or after legislation could, as it did not, reach the mischief. But what availed argument or reason against the rapacity of hungry buzzards hunting profitable office, or against the low ambition of the professed politician, whoever stands ready to sacrifice the best interest of his country, so that he may be reckoned a first-rate party man; one of your "whole hog" fellows; and by such means stand on vantage ground as a candidate for office. Thank God, there were but few such patriots in the legislature.
A bill was brought into the House of Representatives in favor of a compromise with the State Bank, and this important measure passed that body by a vote of 107 in the affirmative, and 4 against it, on the ayes and noes as follows: Those who voted in the affirmative, were Messrs. Adams, Aldrich, Andrus, Amold, Bailhache, Bibbons, Bishop, Blair, Blakeman, Bone, Bradley, Brown of Pike, Brown of Sangamon, Browning, Bryant, Burklow, Busey, Caldwell, Canady, Cloud, Cochran, Collins, Compton, Cartwright, Davis of Bond, Davis of Williamson, Dickinson, Dollins, Dougherty, Douglass, Dubois, Edwards, Epler, Ervin, Ewing, Ficklin, Flanders, Fowler, Garrett, Glass, Gobble, Graves, Gregg, Green of Clay, Green of Greene, Haley, Hambaugh, Hannaford, Hanson, Harper, Hatch, Hick,
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Hicks, Hinton, Horney, Howard, Hunsaker, Jackson of M'Henry, Jackson of Whiteside, Jonas, Kendall; Koerner, Kuykendall, Longworthy, Lawler, Lockhard, Logan, M'Bride, M'Clernand, M'Donald of Calhoun, M'Donald of Joe Davies's, M'Millan, Manning, Miller, Mitchell, Murphy, Nesbit, Norris, Owen, Penn, Pickering, Pratt, Scott, Sharp, Shirley, Simms, Smith of Crawford, Smith of Hancock, Spicer, Starne, Starr, Stewart, Stockton, Tackerberry, Thompson, Vance, Vandeveer, Vinyard, West, Weatherford, Wheat, Whitcomb, White, Whitten, Woodworth, Yates, and Mr. Speaker --107.
Those who voted in the negative were: Messrs. Ames, Bell, Brinkley, and Loy -- 4.
This bill was drawn up by myself, and agreed to by the bank. It was then shown to Mr. McClernand, the chairman of the finance committee of the lower house. The chairman called a meeting of the democratic members of his committee. Gen. Shields, Judge Douglass, and myself, were invited to be present at their meeting. I was desirous of having the measure introduced as a democratic measure, and for this reason the whigs of the committee were not invited to be present. The project was stated to the committee, and all the members agreed to it but one, and he was soon argued out of his objections by Judge Douglass. The next day it was introduced into the lower house as a report from the finance committee. This circumstance put Mr. McClernand in the position of being its principal advocate; and it was soon known to be a favorite measure of the new administration. It at once met the approbation of all men of sense in the house; and in saying this, I say only the truth of those four gentlemen who opposed it, none of whom, though respectable in other matters, to my certain knowledge, were capable of entertaining two ideas about public affairs at the same time, of tracing the connection between them, or of conceiving the bare idea of a comprehensive system of State policy. The opposition to the bill as yet was confined to the out-door
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hangers-on about the seat of government, many of whom expected, if the banks were repealed and put into forcible liquidation to get some profitable jobs as commissioners and attorneys, Lyman Trumbull, Secretary of State, put himself at the head of this opposition. In taking this ground, Mr. Trumbull was probably less influenced by a hope of pecuniary advantage to himself, than by a desire to serve his friends, to be considered a thorough-going party man, and by a hatred of McClernand and Shields, who both favored the measure. His quarrel with McClernand sprung out of his appointment to the office of .Secretary of State two years before.
McClernand was a member of the legislature in 1840, but not being an applicant then, Judge Douglass was appointed at the beginning of the session without opposition. But when Douglass was elected a judge of the supreme court towards the end of the session, McClernand incited his friends to get up in his favor a strong recommendation from the members of the legislature for the vacant office. It had been much the practice heretofore for the legislature to dictate to the governor by recommendation. A popular men in former times would be an applicant for an office. He got his friends in the legislature to sign a request that he might have the appointment. The governor was feeble, and clothed with but little authority. The legislature came fresh from the people, and were clothed with almost the entire power of government. They were soon to return again to their constituents. If the governor refused to oblige them, they calumniated and denounced him, and endeavored to render him odious to the people after their return home. Besides this, the legislature possessed most of the appointing power themselves. The governor might want some office himself in future, and he always had a number of friends for whose sake he desired an influence with the assembly. In this view, the governor, for the time being, himself was usually obliged to be a kind of lobby member; and not unfrequently might be
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classed as one of the hangers-on about the seat of government, seeking to control the legislature in the bestowment of offices. He dreaded the anger of the members, and would' do everything to please them, or to avoid their displeasure. In this mode the independence of the executive government was subverted, the two houses were tampered with and controlled, and the two branches of government, intended to be kept separate in their action, were blended and almost amalgamated into one. This will be looked upon as an evil. But as there are three distinct wills to be consulted in all matters of legislation, it is perhaps, in the present state of imperfection of human nature, necessary that they should thus mutually operate on each other, in order to produce that harmony of action which leads to concurrence in one direction. It is true that the executive and legislative powers are intended to be kept separate, and although they are in point of fact frequently blended into one, yet, on great occasions, when the public liberties might be endangered by their union, the power of resistance is still capable of being exerted by each department.
But to go back to the quarrel between McClernand and Trumbull. Governor Carlin had already allowed the members of the legislature and his political friends to dictate to him the appointment of McClernand on a former occasion. He had lately yielded to similar dictation in the appointment of Douglass, in opposition to his own wishes; for he had previously promised the office to Isaac N. Morris, of Quincy. He had in fact invited Morris to Springfield to receive the appointment. But on the arrival of the governor at the seat of government he was saluted with a legislative recommendation in favor of Douglass, which at that time, the beginning of the session, he was unwilling to refuse. Douglass was appointed; and the governor in his turn subsequently used his influence with the legislature to get Morris elected to the office of president of the board of canal commissioners.
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But this contest between McClernand and Trumbull took place at the close of the session, when the governor had nothing more to hope or to fear from that legislature, or any other during the balance of his term. This made him more independent, and he now resolved to resist legislative dictation.
Trumbull was nominated to the Senate; and McClernand and Shields as immediately went to work in that body to procure the rejection of his appointment. They came within a vote or two of defeating his nomination.
Ever since this there had been no good feeling between McClernand and Trumbull. As soon as McClernand took his position on the bank question, Trumbull arrayed himself in opposition. He pretended that McClernand's measure was not sufficiently democratic; in fact, that nothing could be democratic in relation to the banks, but to tear them up and destroy them root and branch; and he hoped to fasten upon McClernand the imputation of being a "milk and water democrat," and thus lower him in the estimation of the party. At the instance of Ebenezer Peck, the clerk of the supreme court, and some others, he put up a notice that he would address the lobby on the subject in the evening after the legislature had adjourned. Most of the members attended to hear his discourse. In this speech he put forth many of the common arguments against banks; and most of the objections heretofore stated to the compromise
The next day McClernand, who possessed a kind of bold and denunciatory eloquence, came down upon Trumbull and his confederates in a speech in the House; which for argument, eloquence, and statesmanship, was far superior to Trumbull's. This speech silenced all opposition thereafter to the bill in the House of Representatives.
The out-door opposition after this, foreseeing a signal defeat in the House, turned their attention to the Senate. This body was composed of fewer members, and it was; hoped would be
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more easily managed than a more numerous assembly like the lower House. One of the Senators was put at, the head of it, who was a man of but a poor education and narrow capacity, and had adopted the profession of the law. His first schooling in the practice was as a justice of the peace, in the course of which he learned more of the captious pettifogging arts of his profession than of the science of jurisprudence. He was afterwards elected to the legislature, and here he supported the railroad system. He had been one of the most zealous supporters of that disastrous measure; but he was yet impudently confident in the infallibility of his own judgment, just as though be had never so greatly erred. Be was next elected by the legislature to be a judge of the circuit court. As a judge, he knew just enough of law, and had practiced enough in its quibbles, to obliterate from his heart the instinct in favor of natural justice, without supplying its place by the lights of science. In this capacity he seemed to think that the great secret of judicature consisted in giving full effect to quibbles and technical objections, so much so that it was a rare thing for substantial justice to be done in any case before him. An unlearned lawyer or judge with a cramped understanding like his, is almost sure to take up the idea that the true way to win a reputation is to show a superior dexterity in finding and giving effect to learned quibbles and trifles, to the total neglect of the great principles of law and justice. He forgets that courts were established to do right between man and man, and only remembers the forms of proceeding. These forms he looks upon as something sacred and holy, and are not to be jostled aside by the demands of natural right. A more enlightened judge places his glory in showing that he is not ignorant of the little sort of learning, and in finding good legal reasons for making it all bend to the great object of all judicature, the administration of substantial justice.
This man was also one of those small-minded men, who, as speakers, are always equal on every subject. If he spoke upon
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a small subject, he would raise it and magnify it; if upon a large one, he would reduce it and belittle it to suit his capacity. If he spoke upon a great subject, involving the discussion of great principles, and the expression of great ideas, his mode would make them look small. Any one seeing such things through the medium of one of his speeches, would think he saw a large object, through a telescope with the little end foremost, which makes objects that are large and near at hand appear to be very far off and very little. He was elected to the senate in 1840. At that session he voted under executive influence for the bank suspension of that year, and for the State Bank to have the privilege of issuing one dollar notes. In 1841 he was a candidate for Congress, and found himself very unpopular with the democratic party in consequence of this vote, so that he was beaten in his election by a very large majority. In 1842 he undertook to recover the confidence of the party by more than ordinary violence against banks. He must have persuaded himself that as he had lost the confidence of his friends by too much servility to banks, the way to recover it, and wipe out the memory of former delinquency, was to err as far on the other side by a senseless opposition, now that they had lost their power; and the interests of the State required that they should be dealt with upon principles of sound wisdom. His effort, however, did not succeed, for he has never had the confidence of any party since.
In the Senate, the whole out-door opposition was let loose upon the bill. Trumbull took his stand in the lobby, and sent in amendments of every sort to be proposed by Crain of Washington, Catlin of St. Clair, and others. The mode of attack was to load if down with obnoxious amendments, so as to make if odious to its authors; and Trumbull openly boasted that the bill would be so altered and amended in the Senate, that its framers in the house would not know their own bantling when it came back to them, From this moment I determined to remove
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Trumbull from the office of Secretary of State. From the nature of his office, he ought to have been my confidential helper and adviser; and when he found that my course was against his principles, if really it was against them, he ought to have resigned. If he did not do so, I was bound, in duty to my self and to the public, to remove him and get some other person who would be willing to render this assistance. This was the principle established by the democratic party in the memorable contest between Field and McClernand.
The obnoxious amendments were rejected, and the bill passed by a large majority, and was approved by the council of revision. Judge Douglass, notwithstanding he had advised the measure before the finance committee, voted against it in the council. A bill somewhat similar passed in relation to the Shawneetown Bank. By these two bills the domestic treasury of the, State was at once relieved, and another debt of $2,306,000 was extinguished immediately.
The legislature at this session also passed laws for the sale of State lands and property; for the reception of the distributive share of the State in the proceeds of the sales of the public lands; for the redemption of interest bonds hypothecated to Macalister and Stebbins; and for a loan of $1,600,000 to complete the Illinois and Michigan canal. By these various laws provision was made for the reduction of the State debt to the amount of eight or nine millions of dollars. This was the best that could be done, and it is wonderful, under the circumstances, that so much could be accomplished.
From this moment the affairs of the State began to brighten and improve. Auditors' warrants rose to 85 and 90 per cent. State bonds rose from 14 to 20, 30, and 40 per cent. The banks began to pay out their specie, and within three months time the currency was restored, confidence was increased in the prospects of the State, and the tide of emigration was once more directed to Illinois.
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These were all measures of intrinsic wisdom; but it is amusing to read over the high-sounding titles of the laws which were passed to carry them into effect, as if it were absolutely necessary to humbug the people into the support of the wisest measures of public policy. Accordingly, we read in the statutes of "An act to diminish the State debt, and to put the State Bank into liquidation." "An act to diminish the State debt one million of dollars, and to put the Bank of Illinois into liquidation." "An act to provide for the completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal, and for the payment of the canal debt." "An act to provide for the sale of the public property, and for the payment of the public debt;" and "An act to provide for a settlement with Macallister and Stebbins, and further to diminish the State debt." These high-sounding titles were given to these several laws with a view to set off the strong and anxious desire of the people for the reduction of the State debt, against the popular prejudice against the defunct banks, which it was foreseen would be invoked to humbug the people into an opposition to these acts, and those who supported them, and to build up the reckless men who had opposed them. It was probably a fair game of humbug against humbug.
The legislature at this session passed a very important law on the subject of the collection of private debts. During the inflation of the bank currency and the credit system, so called, every one had got into debt. The merchants had purchased on a credit, and they had again sold on a credit. This system brought a great many goods into the State; more than the people, according to their means, ought to have consumed. But the merchants were anxious to sell, and freely credited the people up to about the value of their property. The destruction of the currency made payment impossible. Such a calamity had fallen on the people only about twenty years before; and if a capacity had existed of being profited by experience, it ought now to have been avoided. But if is lamentably true
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that communities in the aggregate scarcely ever profit by the lessons of experience. The same evils and calamities, and from the same causes, occur again and again, and find the people as little expecting them, every time they are repeated, as they were before; and they are every time just as blind about the remedy.
The people in 1820 had brought the same evils on themselves. They then sought a remedy in a State bank with stays of execution. The bank policy was now too odious to be thought of; but the legislature this time adopted a novel expedient, which had not been thought of by any former legislature in the world. They passed a law providing that when an execution was levied upon property, the property should be appraised by three house holders under oath, to its value in "ordinary times;" and no such property could be sold for less than two-thirds-of its value thus ascertained. The Supreme Court of the United States afterwards pronounced this law to be unconstitutional and void. In the meantime it had some good effects. A vast number of debts were paid by arrangements and trades of property, voluntarily made between debtor and creditor. It destroyed and checked up unwarrantable credit, by alarming the creditor part of the community, and has made them more careful in extending credit in future.
It has appeared to me that there are two modes in which a sound credit may be established. One mode may be to let loose the full vigor and severity of law, as in England, upon the debtor, and thus make mankind afraid to go in debt beyond their ability to pay with ease. The other may be to take away all efficient remedies from the creditor to recover his debt, and make him rely upon the honor and integrity of his debtor for payment. In this mode no one would get credit on account of being rich. Credit would be no longer given to the mere possession of property. Because such an one might be a rogue and deny his debt; but if honest, he would never contract for
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more than he was able to pay; and he would make extraordinary exertions to meet his engagements. In this mode the advantages of credit would be a reward for integrity and punctuality.
The system for the collection of debts by law in Illinois, has never been one thing or the other. A kind of inefficient remedy has been held out to the creditor, which might succeed in making a debt from an honest man, but never from a rogue. The ease with which it could be evaded, put the debtor part of the community under strong temptation to dishonesty. If a creditor, no longer to be put off by fair promises, sued for his debt at law, the debtor leaves him to his remedy thus chosen. He satisfies his conscience by a train of reasoning of this sort: "If I had not been sued I would have paid as soon as I possibly could. My creditor is not disposed to rely on my honor, he has sued me at law, and thereby chosen mere legal means to recover his debt. He does not rely upon me any longer. Now let him get his money as soon as the law will give it to him. I feel absolved in conscience from making any further efforts to pay and will be justified in throwing all the obstacles in his way which the forms and delays of the law can furnish." He immediately goes to work to continue the cause from term to term, to appeal the judgment, when obtained, from court to court; and, as a last resort, he has a favorite mode of defeating his creditor in legal proceedings, as it is generally called, by beating him on the execution. This mode of defence supposes the debtor to make fraudulent sales of his property, or to run it out of the country. All such delusive remedies ought to be abolished immediately. It were better to have none, They can only serve to make rogues and demoralize the people.
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