Thayer's Note: When the various counties are mentioned, the boundaries of which changed constantly thruout the period covered by this book, it may be useful to you, as it was to me, to refer to Michael L. Hébert's excellent page of maps, Illinois County Boundaries 1790‑Present.
The first election of state and county officers in Illinois took place on September 17‑19, 1818, as provided for in the constitution. The campaign for state officers was necessarily a brief one, for not until the convention met was it known whether or not it could or would proceed to form a state government, and not until the convention had accomplished its work was it known just what officers were to be elected. The interest in the election, however, centered not in the choice of state and county officers but in that of a representative to Congress, and for this there had been a long campaign. The Intelligencer of April 22, 1818, announced for Mr. Pope "his determination to retire from public life." Two weeks later, May 6, the paper announced Daniel P. Cook "a candidate for Congress to represent us in the Lower House," and on May 20 it stated that John McLean of Shawneetown was "a Candidate for Congress to represent the people of this territory in the next Congress of the United States." The form of the announcements would indicate that these men were candidates for either territorial delegate or state representative as events might determine, and on June 10, when it was very doubtful if the requisite population for statehood could be found, the paper made an authorized statement that Cook would "cheerfully serve" in the capacity of delegate. The following week Shadrach Bond was announced as "a Candidate for Delegate to Congress from this territory."
Cook and McLean, although they had been in the territory but three or four years, were identified with the Edwards and anti-Edwards factions respectively. Both were young and clever lawyers. Bond, on the other hand, was at least 20 years older than either of his opponents and had been in Illinois for 24 years. He was a farmer, with only average education and ability, but from an early period he had been popular with the voters. p295 They had kept him in the Indiana legislature as long as Illinois was a part of that territory, and at the first election in Illinois they gave him the highest office in their power, that of delegate to Congress. Although identified with neither of the territorial factions, he was better known on both sides of the territory than either Cook or McLean and his chances for election were very good. Cook's address "to the electors of Illinois," written July 1, indicates that he considered Bond the most dangerous rival. In one place he says: "You are gravely told, fellow citizens, that I am too young to represent you . . . if men who have but just passed the age of 25, are better qualified than men of 45, the public interest is consulted and promoted by their election," and in another: "A distinction fellow citizens, is attempted to be made, between farmers and lawyers." A month later he wrote to Edwards from Golconda: "McLean it is said, will beat Bond four to one in Crawford, Edwards, White, and Gallatin."1 Evidently the wish was father to the thought and Cook preferred that the voters of the eastern counties, where he could expect little support, should cast their ballots for McLean rather than for Bond.
In the middle of August, when statehood was practically assured, election to Congress became much more desirable. Yet it was just at this time that Bond dropped out of the race. In the Intelligencer of August 19 he addressed "The Citizens of the Illinois Territory" as follows: "The formation of a constitution, and the organization of a state government, will put an end to the office of delegate to the Congress of the United States: I wish therefore, no longer to be considered a candidate for that appointment. Repeated and numerous applications have been made to be [sic] me, to become a candidate for the office of Governor of the new state. It is my pleasure and duty to yield to this expression of the public wish. Should my fellow-citizens, therefore, think proper to elect me to this important station, I promise them diligence and fidelity in the performance of the duties thereby enjoined." While no positive evidence is available p296 on the subject, it is fair to assume that the "repeated and numerous applications" came in part at least from friends of Cook and McLean who were anxious to get Bond out of the race for Congress. The failure of either of the factions to put up a candidate for governor against Bond would indicate that there was an understanding on the subject.
With Bond out of the race, the congressional campaign became not only a contest between the rival factions but also one between the east and west. This was due not so much to antagonism between the two sections as to the propensity of the voters to cast their ballots for the man they knew personally. Neither candidate was well known except on the side of the territory in which he resided.2
Earlier in the campaign the slavery question had played a p297 considerable part. Cook's opposition to slavery as an institution was made known by his communications in the Intelligencer of February 4 and April 1, over the recognized signature of "A republican," while McLean was at a later period an out-and‑out proslavery man and doubtless favored the institution at this time. In the Intelligencer of June 24, however, "A citizen" expressed a desire to know the "candid and impartial sentiments" of the candidates for Congress "as it respects the toleration of slavery." "On this important point," he continued, "it will be well for every man to inquire before he gives his vote — and to enquire of the candidate, in the presence of those of an opposite opinion to himself, so that he may not flinch, and act the camelion, as, I fear, some of our candidates are doing." Late in July Cook issued a statement over his own name, which begins: "In pursuance of a wish expressed by many who are opposed to slavery, and who wish for an expression of the public sentiment on that subject in the Congressional election, I beg leave to state through the medium of the Intelligencer, that I am decidedly opposed to the toleration of slavery in this territory." In his letter of August 3 from Golconda, already referred to, Cook wrote: "I made a speech and excited warm opposition from slavemen, but still warmer support from freemen."3
The action of the convention narrowed the slavery issue in the congressional campaign to the question of whether of not the candidates, if elected, would support the application for statehood under the constitution as adopted. The antislavery men, in their address to the "friends of freedom," published just as the convention was assembling, appealed to them to elect a delegate opposed to slavery and to use every possible means to prevent the ratification by Congress of a proslavery constitution. The more radical of these men undoubtedly considered the slavery article of the constitution unsatisfactory and would gladly p298 have voted for a candidate who would oppose ratification. On the day after the constitution was signed, Cook prepared a statement in which he said: "It is questioned by some, whether I will support the constitution of our state in congress if elected. When it is known that I was the first person in the state who urged the propriety of petitioning congress for leave to form a state government, by an address to the legislature thro' the public print; it can scarcely be supposed that I am unfriendly to a change of the government." He would, he declared, use his "best exertion to procure a ratification of the constitution."4
That the opposition of the Edwards men to the plan adopted by the convention for locating the state capital was being used against Cook is indicated by another part of the same statement. "It is insinuated," he wrote, "that I will not wish the seat of government to be fixed as the Convention has provided; to this insinuation I will remark that it can only have grown out of a wish to defeat my election. — I shall endeavor if elected, to procure the grant which it is made the duty of the legislature to petition for." In this connection it is interesting to note that when Edwards came up for re-election to the United States Senate in 1819, he was charged with being opposed to the donation of land for a capital site.
When the election was over, it was found that McLean had carried two western counties, Randolph and Washington. In the eastern counties, where Cook thought the McLean would beat Bond 4 to 1, he beat Cook himself 8 to 1. Yet so large was Cook's vote in the populous counties of the northwest that McLean's total majority was only 14.5 The man who more than any other is entitled to the credit for the achievement of statehood by Illinois in 1818 was obliged to content himself for the time being with a minor state office.
In the election of state and county officers there was no general issue and there is no evidence that the political factions played p299 any considerable part. The principal factor was doubtless the personal popularity of the respective candidates. An editorial in the Intelligencer of September 16 emphasized the importance of the election as
one which combines greater interest than any heretofore, or which may shortly follow. . . . Seven different grades of civil officers are to be elected — In this election, we are all vitally interested. The convention has left much for the legislature to do, and independent of the selections they have to make, of other officers, to fill highly responsible stations, their task will be no easy one. It will be such a one as will require the first talents in the state to perform; as it may be supposed, that they will not only go into the work of general legislation, but make a complete revision of our territorial laws. Who that possesses the smallest spark of public spirit can withhold his suffrage when so much is at stake?
As has been seen, Shadrach Bond had a clear field for the important post of governor. Only in Madison County so far as is known from the incomplete returns available, were any ballots cast against him. There 19 voters indicated their preference for Henry Reavis, of whom nothing is known except that his name appears in the census schedule for Madison County. It would seem as though their only object must have been to show opposition to Bond. It may be significant also that in St. Clair County the ballots cast for governor numbered 117 less than the total vote for sheriff.6
Governor Bond's Home in Kaskaskia
(Drawing owned by Chicago Historical Society)
For the office of lieutenant governor there were three candidates, Pierre Menard, William L. Reynolds, and Edward N. Cullom. Menard was a French-Canadian who had settled in Kaskaskia about 1791.a He had represented Randolph County in their legislature of Indiana Territory, and in every session of the Illinois territorial legislature he had presided over the council. It was natural that he should be chosen to fill a similar position under the state government, and, as has been seen, a section had been inserted in the schedule of the constitution for the sole purpose of making that possible. Reynolds was a physician from Kentucky p300 who located in Kaskaskia in 1809. In December, 1817, he gave up his practice on account of ill health, but the next July he announced his return to Kaskaskia and the resumption of his profession. He had never held any political office in the territory. Cullom was one of the foremost men of Crawford County. Coming from Kentucky, he had settled at Palestine in 1814 and had served in the territorial legislature and in the convention. Neither of these men had the slightest chance against Menard. Cullom carried his own county, Reynolds carried White and Pope, but both together received less than half the total vote. This result indicates what might have happened in the contest for representative to Congress had Bond remained in the race.
The number of candidates for seats in the legislature, judging from the counties for which returns are available, was generally about twice the number of positions to be filled.7 Conspicuous among these candidates were at least 13 members of the convention, 12 of whom were elected, 5 to the senate and 7 to the house. The thirteenth was Dr. Fisher of Randolph, who was defeated for the senatorship by McFerron, over whom he had been victorious in the convention election. Thomas Cox, an unsuccessful candidate for the convention in Union County, was elected to the senate, while the three representatives of the county in the convention were returned to the lower house. Similarly, in Madison County, George Cadwell, who had received only a light vote in the convention election, secured the senatorship. Green B. Field, elected to the house of representatives in Pope County, had also been an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the convention.
The most surprising thing about the personnel of the first state legislature is the fact that only two of its members had served in the legislature of Illinois Territory, Willis Hargrave of White p301 and Risdon Moore of St. Clair. Among the unsuccessful candidates who had been members of the territorial legislature was John Grammar of Union County. Two of the men elected, John Messinger of St. Clair and George Cadwell of Madison, had been members of the Indiana legislature before the division. Another candidate who had served in the Indiana legislature was William Biggs of St. Clair County, who ran for the senate; he was defeated, however, by William Kinney, a Baptist minister, who had never held office in Illinois before.8 The election of Kinney and of another clergyman, Scott Riggs of Crawford County, is an interesting commentary on the action of the convention in rejecting the proposed section of the constitution which would have made ministers ineligible to seats in the legislature. Kinney was the only member of the senate who had not previously held some office of more or less importance, but there were 11 such men in the house. On the whole it would seem that the first state legislature was made up largely of men with little or no experience which would tend to fit them for the important work was to be done. Even Nathaniel Pope, who in spite of his announced determination to retire from public life had been a candidate in the house in Randolph County, was defeated by two men without political experience.9 It may be that the people believed in rotation in office, and this explanation would also serve to account for the fact that only 8 of the 28 members of this house of representatives were re-elected during the next ten years.
The first general assembly of the state of Illinois convened at Kaskaskia on Monday, October 5, 1818. The governor and lieutenant governor were qualified the following day and the governor then delivered his message. Before outlining the work to be done by the legislature he pleaded for an abatement of party p302 spirit. "If the minds of any of us," he said, "have heretofore been infected with a spirit of division which had not its foundation in a difference of principle; if the conduct of any has been hitherto influenced by unmerited partially [sic] or unjust resentment, let it be remembered that the period has now arrived when the public good and public justice imperiously require the extinguishment of that spirit, and the pursuance of a course of conduct that will do justice and do good."
On the same day, "the governor nominated and the senate confirmed the appointment of Elias Kent Kane, Esq. to the office of secretary of state."10 Although Kane was a leader of one of his political factions, his selection was probably due to a recognition of his qualifications for the office. In the convention Kane had demonstrated his ability to do the sort of work that would be required of him as secretary of state. He had been especially useful in proposing changes to bring the various sections of the constitution into harmony with each other and to improve the English of the document. Just such a man was needed by Governor Bond, who was, to quote an early writer, "to a considerable p303 degree, destitute of the advantages of education but, possessing a strong mind, and a popular address, was successful in the administration of the duties of his office. His State papers were usually attributed to his Secretary of State."11 Whatever may have been Bond's motive in choosing Kane for secretary, there can be little doubt about the result from a political point of view. Kane was soon in a position to dominate the administration. Although "Shadrach Bond was our first State Governor," wrote a contemporary, "I believe it was conceded that Mr. Kane was chief ruler at the opening of our history." Party feeling, instead of subsiding, increased, and the governor found it impossible to maintain a neutral position. "You believe Gov. Bond to be your friend —" wrote Cook to Edwards the following February, "I do not. The nets which float around him are all against you."12
The third day of the session was spent in electing the two United States senators. The candidates were Ninian Edwards, Jesse B. Thomas, Leonard White, Michael Jones of Kaskaskia, Joseph M. Street, and Robert Morrison. The last named was a Pennsylvanian who had lived in Kaskaskia since 1798 and who had been active in politics before the speculation from Indiana. After 1809 he was clerk of the general or supreme court at Kaskaskia.13 Edwards was elected on the first ballot, having received the vote of 32 of the 40 members present. White came second with 17 votes, Thomas third with 10. Jones had 10 while Street and Morrison received only 3 votes each and were dropped. On the second ballot White led with 16 votes, Thomas had 14, and Jones 10. Then the contest narrowed down to White and Thomas with the advantage with Thomas, for he could hope to win over more of the Jones supporters than could White. On the third ballot p304 White had 18 votes and Thomas 19. On the fourth ballot Thomas received 21 votes, barely the number necessary to elect. The difference in the attitude of the members of the legislature toward Edwards and toward the other candidates is especially significant, if contrasted with the vote of the same assembly in the following February, when Edwards, who had drawn the short term, was up for re-election. Then Edwards was selected over a single competitor, Michael Jones, by the narrow margin of 23 to 19 — a striking commentary on the height to which the events of four months had raised party feeling. The change was ascribed by Cook, in the letter already quoted, to the influence wielded by Kane.
On October 8, the legislature again met in joint session, this time for the election of justices of the supreme court. The Intelligencer of the preceding day contained an open letter to the general assembly from "A friend to an able judiciary," in which the importance of "the selection of proper Judges" was emphasized. Unfortunately, however, the salaries fixed by the constitution were not such as to attract "the best talents of the state," which this writer thought "should be called into the service." According to Reynolds, "the material for the bench was not as good as it might be. Human nature is easier persuaded to mount upwards than to remain on the common level." The candidates for supreme judge were Joseph Phillips, secretary under the territorial government, Thomas Browne, a Shawneetown lawyer belonging to the Edwards party, and Henry S. Dodge, a Kaskaskia lawyer and real estate dealer. Phillips received 34 of the 41 votes cast. The assembly then proceeded to elect three associate judges. There were nine candidates. John Reynolds, at that time a young lawyer, gives this account of how he happened to become one of them:
At the time of the session of the first legislature I resided in Cahokia, and had not the least intention to visit the seat of Government at all. I cared very little who was elected to any office — one thing was certain, I courted nothing myself. My friends urged me to visit, with them, the General Assembly in session at Kaskaskia, and I did so. When we reached the legislature, there was great excitement and turmoil in relation to the election of officers by the General Assembly. I had p305 not been in Kaskaskia only a few days, when it was urged on me to know if I would accept a judgeship, if I was elected. This broke in on me like a clap of thunder. I was in truth persuaded to become a candidate for the office. I had a great many personal friends both in and out of the legislature who urged me much to consent to offer.
The other candidates were Thomas C. Browne; William P. Foster, a man "of winning, polished manners" who had been in the state about two months;14 Henry S. Dodge; William Wilson, clerk and recorder of Jackson County; C. R. Matheny, the antislavery advocate of the last territorial legislature, and circuit attorney of the first district; Joseph Kitchell, senator from Crawford County; John Warnock, whom Edwards had appointed in June as judge of the western circuit in place of Cook; and J. W. Whitney, of whom nothing is known except that he lived in St. Clair County. Browne and Foster were elected on the first ballot, Reynolds on the third. The choice of Foster proved an unfortunate one. The following May, A. F. Hubbard wrote to Kane, "I have just been in the upper Country of Fosters Circuit [White, Edwards, and Crawford counties]. He did not hold any Court. The people are much enranged [sic] at him indeed and every man all most has made it his own case and have joined in complaint. I saw Judge Foster in Vincennes he told me the water was too high that he was too unwell to get to Palestine on time, and that his Son was toº unwell to stay from him till after Edwards Court[?]." This confirms what Ford wrote of him: "he was no lawyer, never having either studied or practiced law; but . . . withal a very gentlemanly swindler. . . . He was believed to be a clever fellow, in the American sense of the phrase, and a good-hearted soul. He was assigned to hold courts in the circuit on the Wabash; but being fearful of exposing his utter incompetency, he never went near any of them. In the course of one year he resigned his high office, but took care first to pocket his salary, and then removed out of the State."15
p306 On the following day, October 9, the general assembly completed the elections by choosing Daniel P. Cook, attorney general; E. C. Berry, auditor; John Thomas, treasurer, and Blackwell and Berry, public printers. With the exception of Cook, it was but the reappointment of territorial officers and in no case were there more than five votes cast against the successful candidate.
When, the elections over, the general assembly turned to law-making, there appeared to be some doubt as to its power to legislate before Congress had ratified the constitution. Was Illinois a state? The enabling act had conferred the power "to form a constitution and State government"; the people, through their representatives in the convention, had adopted a constitution; and by the election and installation of officers a state government had been formed. Congress, however, had not yet accepted the constitution and admitted the state to the Union. There is every indication that, when the legislature assembled, an extensive program of legislation was contemplated. The governor's message recommended a thorough revision of the territorial code and the enactment of law relating to education, the salines, the courts, and the militia. The house appointed committees on military affairs and on schools, both of which were directed to report "by bill." On October 9, however, the same day the elections were completed, the senate adopted a resolution "that a committee of two be appointed by the senate to confer with such committee as may be appointed by the house of representatives, to enquire into the expediency of an adjournment of the general assembly until a time sufficient for information to be received of the ratification of the constitution by the congress of the United States; and if an adjournment is expedient, to enquire what particular important business is necessary for the general assembly to provide for before such an adjournment." In this resolution the house concurred after changing it to direct the committees to confer with the governor on the subject, an amendment which was accepted by the senate.
On the following day a report of "the committee appointed to confer with the governor on the expediency of an adjournment" p307 was adopted by the house in the form of a resolution that the general assembly
will not, at this present session, proceed to the enaction of any laws of a public or private nature. — but it being in the opinion of this legislature, necessary that a special meeting thereof ought to be held as soon as possible after this state has been regularly admitted into the union.
Be it therefore, and it is further resolved, that the governor of the state be, and he is hereby requested, as soon as he shall ascertain that this state has been so admitted into the union, to issue his proclamation for calling a special meeting of the general assembly of the state, at a convenient time thereafter.
This resolution was at once sent in a message to the senate, which amended it by inserting after the word "nature" the words "except such as may be recommended by the joint committee appointed to confer with the governor." The house accepted the amendment. Later in the day, however, when the joint committee presented its second report, a majority in both houses was found to be opposed to any legislation whatever. The report in question recommended the enactment of a law "to organize the supreme court" but considered it "advisable to fix the first terms of the courts at a period so far distant as to give time for the ratification of the constitution to be made known." A law to continue in force the territorial laws and another "to authorize the secretary of this state to receive into his possession the books, papers and records appertaining to the office of the late secretary of the Illinois territory" were also considered necessary. The senate refused to concur in this report, by a vote of 6 to 8, while in the house it was laid on the table. On Monday, October 12, the house adopted by a vote of 16 to 10 a resolution for immediate adjournment until the first Monday in January, 1819. The unsuccessful attempts were made the next day to take the report of the joint committee from the table, but the senate adopted the resolution for adjournment after amending it by striking out the date for reassembling. The house concurred in the amendment and on Tuesday, October 13, at 4 P.M., the first general assembly stood adjourned to await the call of the governor.
While there seems to have been little or no opposition to postponing the program of general legislation to a later session, there p308 was clearly a difference of opinion among the members of the general assembly as to the advisability of enacting the special laws thought necessary by the joint committee. A large minority in both houses appears to have favored such legislation but the general assembly adjourned without enacting a single law. This whole proceeding is probably to be explained by the existence of a fear that Congress might not consider the constitution with its article on slavery in accord with the ordinance and the enabling act and might therefore refuse to admit the state to the Union; there seems to have been no serious doubts as to the legality of passing laws before Congress acted, if only its action should prove to be favorable.16
Although the general assembly placed no laws upon the statute books at this first session, it did transact some other business of importance besides the election of officers. Of special interest is the action concerning the seat of government. The opponents of the plan adopted by the convention had by no means given up hope. The proprietors of Carlyle declared in their advertisement which appeared in the Intelligencer during September that they felt "assured notwithstanding the late decision of the Convention, that so soon as the lower counties can reconcile it to themselves to part with the legislature from the town of Kaskaskia, the seat of government will be fixed at this place, they having been creditably informed that there is no place above, that has the advantage of navigation, and a site sufficiently eligible for a town; for in every instance where a bluff puts in, an extensive bottom is opposite." Just across the Kaskaskia from the site of Carlyle, William and Robert Morrison had laid out on paper the town of Donaldson, and in an advertisement dated October 3, 1818 they declared: "The site is high, dry and commanding, and from its central position to the population, and its manifest advantages, holds out as fair a promise of its becoming p309 the future capital of the state, as any other that can be mentioned."17
The legislature, however, obeyed the instructions of the convention and drew up a petition asking Congress
to grant and give gratuitously to this state the said four sections. . . . The said General Assembly do further present; that all the Land near the Above four Sections of Land belong to the United States, And that by establishing a seat of Government on the Land so granted it would enhance the Value of the Adjoining Unsold Lands of the United States — that the United States would not be injured by such donation; but should the congress of the United States be of a contrary Opinion from the General Assembly of this state, in making the Above donation: the said General Assembly do petition the congress of the United States, to give to this state the preemption in the purchase at two dollars per Acre of the said four sections of Land.
From the phraseology of the petition, it would seem that it represented not merely a formal compliance with the directions of the convention but also the real wishes of the legislature.18
The petition was presented to the House of Representatives in Washington on December 7, 1818, and was referred to the Committee on Public Lands. Two days later a remonstrance counter to this petition was received and referred to the same committee. The document bore the signatures of 53 "inhabitants of the state of Illinois" and protested against the granting of the petition on the ground that "the location of the seat of government upon the Kaskaskia river, was not the act of a majority of the People." In the first place, it was maintained, "the members of the Convention were apportioned among the several counties, without any regard to the actual population of the same," with the result that the 6 members from Madison and St. Clair represented a larger population than 14 members from seven other counties. Second, the provisions for fixing the seat of government "passed the Convention by the votes of only sixteen members out of thirty-three members elected — one member having deceased, and p310 another refusing to vote." Especial emphasis was laid upon the fact that should the petition be granted, the location of the capital could not be changed for 20 years, except by the "intricate, expensive, and inconvenient" process of amending the constitution. "By rejecting the said petition," it was asserted, "your honorable body will leave in the hands of the people of this state a power of which they never ought to be divested — that of locating their seat of government where it shall be most convenient to them, and of removing it, when the public interests shall require its removal." A majority of the signers of this remonstrance were residents or owners of lots in the town of Upper Alton, a fact which raises a suspicion that that place also was in the race for the capital.
When the general assembly came together for its second session in January, 1819, Congress had not acted on the petition for a land grant for the capital. On February 25 Senator Thomas introduced a bill for the grant, and just before the close of the session of Congress it passed both houses, receiving the approval of the President on March 3. News of this action was several weeks in reaching Illinois, however, and some of the members of the state senate were becoming impatient. On March 16 they passed, by the casting vote of the lieutenant governor, a resolution to receive proposals for gifts to the state of land and money in return for the location of the capital "on the Kaskaskia river, at some point at or above Carlyle." The house refused to consider the resolution before hearing of the action of Congress, and the receipt of information from Washington put an end to the fight. An act for the location of the grant and the removal of the capital thereto passed both houses and was passed by the governor on March 30, 1819.
Another petition to Congress drawn up by the general assembly at its first session urged certain extensions in the right of pre-emption. A resolution further instructed the Illinois senators to endeavor to procure the passage of laws establishing the office of surveyor of the public lands in the state and authorizing the sale of land in 80‑acre lots. On the last day of the session reports were received from the territorial auditor and treasurer which show the financial status of the state of Illinois at the beginning p311 of its career. In his message the governor announced that "the treasury will be found in a state of present embarrassment," and the house refused to consider a report "from the committee to procure stationary . . . till a committee of ways and means be appointed to enquire into the state of the finances." The treasurer's report showed that from December 2, 1817, to October 1, 1818, the receipts were $3,979.72, the expenditures $4,039.25, leaving a deficit of $59.53. The auditor reported that the income expected up to December from various sources amounted to $8,771.20, from which were to be paid outstanding warrants for $7,588. This would leave a possible $183.20 with which to meet the deficit and start the new government. That an important source of revenue would be available when the state was admitted, however, is indicated in a report presented to the house on October 10 from a joint committee appointed to confer with the lessees of the salines. From this it appears that the lessees of the Ohio saline were willing to pay the state $10,000 a year if allowed to sell salt at $1.50 a bushel, and $8,000 if the maximum price were fixed at $1.25. The committee favored the latter proposition but no action was taken on the report.19
Shortly after the convention adjourned, the constitution was printed at Kaskaskia, and on September 11, 1818, Greenup, the secretary, forwarded a copy to Henry Clay, speaker of the national House of Representatives. Congress met on November 16, more than a month after the adjournment of the first legislative session, and on the first day Speaker Clay laidº the Illinois constitution before the House, where it was tabled. Three days later McLean appeared in the House and asked to be sworn in, but the p312 speaker, in doubt about "the propriety of administering the oath to him, in consequence of Congress not having concluded the act of admission," submitted the question to the House. Poindexter of Mississippi thought it necessary "to see, first, whether the requisitions of the act of last session were complied with; and, secondly, whether the form of government established was republican," while Pitkin of Connecticut insisted that the presence in the territory of the population required by the enabling act should first "be officially established . . . and the resolution of admission passed." Harrison of Ohio claimed that there was precedent for immediate admission, but "it was decided apparently by a large majority that the Speaker should not at this time administer the oath of office." This event probably hastened matters, however, for the constitution was at once referred to a select committee consisting of Anderson of Kentucky, Poindexter of Mississippi, and Hendricks of Indiana, all western men.
On the following day, November 20, the committee reported a resolution for the admission of Illinois "on an equal footing with the original States." The preamble declared the constitution and state government framed by the convention to be republican and "in conformity to the principles of the articles of compact" of the Ordinance of 1787. After the resolution had been read twice, the question of population was again raised, this time by Spencer of New York, who wished to know if any documentary evidence on the subject had been transmitted. Anderson replied for the committee that the preamble of the constitution stated "that the requisitions of the act of Congress had been complied with . . . the committee," he said, "had considered that evidence sufficient; and he had, in addition, himself seen, in the newspapers, evidence sufficient to satisfy him of the fact, that the population did amount of the forty thousand souls, the number required." The resolution "was then ordered to be engrossed for a third reading."20
p313 The principal debate took place in the House on November 23, when the resolution came up for final action. As a prelude to the controversy over the admission of Missouri, which opened a few months later, this debate and the vote which followed have an importance even greater for national history than for the history of Illinois — an importance which has not, as a rule, been recognized by historians.
The discussion was opened by Tallmadge of New York, the same man who was to lead the fight against the admission of Missouri with a constitution permitting slavery. Although he was inclined to demand further evidence that Illinois had the requisite population, he preferred to rest his opposition upon another point. "The principle of slavery, if not adopted in the constitution, was at least not sufficiently prohibited." After citing the provision against slavery in the Ordinance of 1787, he declared that:
The sixth article of the constitution of the new State of Illinois, in each of its three sections . . . contravened this stipulation, either in the letter or the spirit. These sections he separately examined, as to their construction and bearing, and felt himself constrained to come to the conclusion that they embraced a complete recognition of existing slavery, if not provisions for its future introduction and toleration; particularly in the passage wherein they permit the hiring of slaves, the property of non-residents, for any number of years consecutively. If Congress would observe in good faith the terms of the convention, he said, they were bound, under this circumstance, to reject the constitution of Illinois, or at least this feature of it.
He had no desire, the speaker said, "to invade the rights of the slaveholding States, or to assail their prerogatives, he believed they were equally sensible with him of the evils of slavery, and did what they could to control and regulate them." After referring to the excellent provisions of the Indiana constitution relative to slavery, he declared: "Our interest and our honor . . . calls on us rigidly to insist on the observance of good faith under the article of the ordinance I have referred to, so far as that no involuntary service be permitted to be recognised in the constitution of any State to be formed out of that territory."21
p314 In replying to Tallmadge, Poindexter (whether deliberately or not it is impossible to say) misrepresented the facts. After expressing his concurrence in the "solicitude to expel from our country, whenever practicable, anything like slavery," he declared
that the article on the subject of slaves was almost literally copied from the constitution of Ohio into that of Illinois. The third section of the article in question, in the latter, was the only variation, and the necessity of that additional provision would be obvious to any gentleman who would examine and reflect upon the subject. By an antecedent law of the Territorial government, all persons, slaves or under indenture, in the Territory, were required to be registered, as the only way in which they could be discriminated from fugitives, &c. The constitution directs that their children also shall be registered, that they may be secure of enjoying their freedom, when by the constitution they become entitled. From their color (being prima facie slaves in other States,) was it not more secure to the freedom of the people of color, that their births, parentage, &c., should be recorded in the new State, than otherwise? So far from constituting an objection to it, Mr. P. said, he considered this a valuable part of the constitution of Illinois.
The speaker also maintained, with more truth, that "it would be found impracticable, after admitting the independence of a State, to prevent it from framing or shaping its constitution as it thought proper. As to a constitution like that of Indiana, prohibiting the introduction of an amendment to it, of whatever nature, if the people were to form a convention to‑morrow, that provision would be of no force: the whole power would be with the people, whom, in their sovereign capacity, no provision of that nature can control. Nor would Congress prevent them."
Anderson, another member of the committee, not only agreed with Poindexter, but maintained that there was nothing binding about the so‑called articles of compact in the ordinance, since "the people of the Northwestern Territory" were not "represented at all, nor consulted on the occasion." In his opinion "there was nothing unconstitutional, in any view, in Congress accepting what the people of Illinois have done, if they thought proper; since the consent of the two contracting parties (supposing the ordinance to be a compact) would thus be given." "Are we," asked Tallmadge in reply, "to be drawn into a discussion of slavery, its merits and demerits, on abstract principles? p315 He would not enter into such a discussion; but must persist in stating it as his opinion, that the interest, honor, and faith of the nation, required it scrupulously to guard against slavery's passing into a territory where they have power to prevent its entrance." Nor would he admit that a state could change its constitution at will. He believed that it would "cease, by the very act, to be a component part of the Union" should it "violate the condition on which it was admitted."
William Henry Harrison, "as a Representative of Ohio," protested against this doctrine. The "people of that State," he said, "were fully aware of their privileges, and would never come to this House, or to the State of New York, for permission so to alter their constitution as to admit the introduction of slavery, the object of the gentleman's abhorrence, as, said Mr. H., it is of mine. They had entered into no compact which had shorn the people of their sovereign authority . . . he sincerely wished that Illinois had either emancipated its slaves, or followed the example of Indiana," and left "the question relating to this description of property . . . for the decision of the courts of justice. . . . In regard to the supposed compact, however, and its efficacy, Mr. H. said, he had always considered it a dead letter."
The yeas and nays having been requested by Livermore of New Hampshire, who was opposed to the resolution, the vote was taken and the resolution carried 117 to 34. The followers of Tallmadge in this vote were few as compared to those who supported him in the Missouri contest three months later, due probably to the fact that the issue was not so clear. It is significant, however, that only one of the 34, Reed of Maryland, voted against the Tallmadge amendment to the enabling act for Missouri. With the exception of Reed, all of those who opposed the Illinois resolution were from the five New England states, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. They included a majority of the representatives from New England. Clearly the opposition to the admission of Illinois was due to the provisions relative to slavery in the constitution and clearly, also, the extension of slavery was already a sectional issue in the United States in November, 1818.
p316 The resolution for the admission of Illinois was received in the Senate on November 25 and was referred to the Committee on Public Lands. The following day the committee "reported the same without amendment." It was considered in committee of the whole on November 28 and 30, but if there was any debate, it was not reported. On December 1 the resolution passed the Senate without a division, and on the third it received the approval of the President. Illinois was now a state in the Union. The next day "Ninian Edwards and Jesse B. Thomas, respectively appointed Senators by the Legislature of the State of Illinois . . . took their seats in the Senate." In the House, "Mr. John McLean . . . took his seat as the Representative of the State of Illinois."22
By December 16, news of the action taken in the House had been received in Illinois. That news allayed any fear there had been that the state might not be admitted. In announcing it, the editors of the Intelligencer commented: "As the senate will act speedily on this subject, we may expect early information of our complete emancipation from territorial government." That information arrived in time for the governor to issue on December 22 the following proclamation:
Whereas information has been received that by a resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in congress Assembled the State of Illinois has been declared to be one of the United States of America and has been admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever
Therefore I Shadrach Bond Governor of the said State, by virtue of the power vested in me by the constitution do appoint the third monday in the month of January next for a meeting of the General Assembly of said state and I do hereby require all the members of each branch thereof to convene on said day at Kaskaskia the seat of Government.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and private seal (there being no State seal provided) this twenty second day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighteen and of the Independence of the United States of America the forty-third.
1 Intelligencer, July 8, 1818; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 145.
2 On June 12, John Law of Vincennes wrote Kane: "Is there a probability of McLeans election . . . he is considered as a popular candidate on this side of the Territory." Chicago Historical Society Manuscripts, 54:57.
3 Intelligencer, June 24, July 29, 1818; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 145. Lippincott, in his "Early Days in Madison County," no. 13, says: "All I knew or heard of the candidates in their first canvas was that Mr. McLean was in favor of slavery and Mr. Cook opposed to it." See also Churchill, "Annotations," no. 3.
4 Intelligencer, August 5, September 2, 1818.
5 Intelligencer, September 23, October 7, 1818; Illinois Emigrant, October 17, 1818; Niles' Register, 15:192. The Intelligencer of October 14 gives McLean's majority as 6. Compare Washburne, Edwards Papers, 155.
6 Churchill, "Annotations," no. 7; History of St. Clair County, 72.
7 For Menard, Reynolds and Cullom, see Mason, Early Chicago and Illinois, 142‑151; Reynolds, Pioneer History, 291, 368; Intelligencer, January 1, July 15, 1818; Perrin, History of Crawford and Clark Counties, 32. For announcements of candidates and election returns, see Intelligencer, July 15, August 12, August 19, August 26, September 9, September 23, October 7, 1818; Churchill, "Annotations," no. 7; History of St. Clair County, 72.
Thayer's Note: Pierre Menard's house in Kaskaskia still stands, and (2007) may be visited; it is one of the principal attractions of Kaskaskia State Park. For a description and history of the house, and some details about Menard's family life, see John Drury, Old Illinois Houses, pp7‑9.
8 Kinney took a prominent part in politics thereafter and was a candidate for governor against John Reynolds in 1830.
9 Two months later, Pope was appointed register of the land office at Edwardsville by the President, and in March, 1819, he was appointed United States judge for the district of Illinois, a position which he held until his death in 1850. Intelligencer, December 9, 1818; Moses, Illinois, 1:237.
10 Intelligencer, October 7, 1818.
11 Brown, "Early History of Illinois," in Fergus Historical Series, no. 14:88.
12 Lippincott, "Early Days in Madison County," no. 13; Washburne, Edwards Papers, 150.
13 Reynolds, Pioneer History, 165; James, Territorial Records, 7, 35. The following account of elections by the legislature is based on Senate Journal, 1 General Assembly, 1 Session, 17, 18, 28; House Journal, 1 General Assembly, 2 Session, 48; Intelligencer, October 14, 1818; Illinois Emigrant, October 17, 1818.
14 Reynolds, My Own Times, 212; Ford, History of Illinois, 29. Ford states that he had been in Illinois about two weeks, but he registered a slave in Randolph County on August 14, 1818.
15 Chicago Historical Society Manuscripts, 52:185; Ford, History of Illinois, 29.
16 Churchill, "Annotations," no. 7. The foregoing account of the proceedings of the legislature is based on Senate Journal, 1 General Assembly, 1 Session, 23, 25, 29, 31, 35, 39, 40, 41; House Journal, 1 General Assembly, 1 Session, 7‑10, 21, 23, 25‑28, 32‑36; Intelligencer, October 14, 21, 1818.
17 Intelligencer, September 9, October 14, 1818.
18 Intelligencer, October 21, 1818; original petition in House Files, December 7, 1818.
19 House Journal, 1 General Assembly, 1 Session, 7, 14, 32‑36; Intelligencer, October 14, 21, 1818. That one of the counties at least was also in an embarrassed financial condition is seen from a note which the census enumerator for Johnson County appended to his returns. After showing that the annual revenue from taxes on taverns, slaves and horses would be $138.50, for which must be deducted $80 for sheriff's and clerk's fees, he continued: "Johnson County oweth at present $2000 — which at an Average will take some more than thirty-six years to Discharge the old Debt — Poor Little Johnson But is not yet on the Parish — the territorial tax in Johnson County this year is near about 48 or 50 Dollars from the Lands Returned to me for tax as will be seen more correct when I Draw off my Book in alpabetacle [sic] order."
20 Annals of Congress, 15 Congress, 2 Session, 1:296‑298. The resolution is printed in the appendix to the Annals of Congress, 1 Congress, 2 Session, 2:2548. Senator Edwards had asked Governor Bond for a statement of the population as returned to the convention. Washburne, Edwards Papers, 146.
21 The debate is reported in the Annals of Congress, 15 Congress, 2 Session, 1:305‑311. It is summarized in the Intelligencer, December 23, 1818.
22 Annals of Congress, 15 Congress, 2 Session, 1:23, 26, 31, 32, 38, 342. The proclamation was printed in the Intelligencer, December 23, 1818. It is here copied from the manuscript Executive Register, secretary of state's office.
a A few years after his arrival he built himself a house which still stands, one of the oldest in Illinois, and a U. S. National Historic Landmark: see Drury, Old Illinois Houses, pp7‑9 and the further links there.
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