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Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Illinois in 1818

by
Solon J. Buck

in the sesquicentennial edition,
University of Illinois Press
Urbana, Chicago, and London 1967

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 9
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p207 Chapter 8
The Movement for Admission

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 undemocratic features of the American territorial system have frequently proved unpalatable to the people of the territories. Thus the house of representatives of Indiana Territory on October 11, 1808, adopted resolutions requesting Congress to permit the delegate and members of the council to be elected by the people and to repeal "that part of the Ordinance which vests in the Governor of this Territory an absolute negative on all acts; and also that part which confers on him the power of proroguing and dissolving the General Assembly."1 As has been already noted Congress passed an act in 1809 granting the first plea of the petitioners, but leaving the powers of the governor unchanged.

The still more democratic form of government allowed to Illinois Territory by the act of 1812 was unsatisfactory to members of the legislature, and in 1814 a memorial was drawn up praying for the repeal of the clause in the ordinance which gave the governor an absolute veto. "To freemen," it reads, "this clause wears the aspect of slavery — vesting our Executive with a Despotism that can frustrate the most deliberate and well digested measures of our Council and House of Representatives. . . . The good people of this Territory have the privilege, the trouble and the vast expense of electing and sending Representatives in a Legislative Capacity to convene and to consult together for the public good but by their mutual and most elaborate exertions they become not law-makers but only recommenders of laws."2 Two years later, January 13, 1816, another memorial, much more moderate in tone but to the same effect, was sent to Congress. This asked not only that the executive veto be abolished, but also that the legislature might have a part p208in the appointive power. Congress denied the request, and the issue reappeared in the campaign of the following summer. A writer in the Intelligencer, who signed himself "Aristides," deplored "the colonial and degraded state of this country, under the government of the Ordinance, that accursed badge of despotism, which withholds from the people, the only true source of all power, a participation in those rights guaranteed by the constitutions of every state in the union." The voters of the territory were urged to see to it that the delegate to be elected should "advocate a redress of colonial grievances, and honestly exert his influence to obtain that change (so long withholden) which will place us on that proud eminence of freemen."3

Apparently "Aristides" had in mind merely a modification of the territorial government for the time being; but he went on to state that "the present rapid influx of population, that growing and prosperous state of the country, justifies the belief that it will not be more than 3 or 4 years before we will burst the chains of despotism, by which we are now bound, and stand a sovereign and independent state." The people were urged, therefore, "to begin to think and talk about that form of state government that so soon must take place."

The editors of the Intelligencer apparently considered that "a redress of colonial grievances" could come only with transition to statehood, for in their comment on the communication they declared that they considered "the question not very important at present, as the population of the territory will not in all propriety, within the time for which the present delegate is to be elected, entitle us to the redress alluded to. So soon as the population is sufficient we hope that those evils will be obviated by a state government."4 There is, however, no evidence that the question of statehood was an issue in the election of this year, when Nathaniel Pope was selected to represent the territory in Congress.

About a year and a half later, in November, 1817, a movement p209for immediate transition to statehood was suddenly inaugurated, and the man who was responsible was Daniel Pope Cook. Cook, who at this time was only 20 years old, had been appointed auditor of public accounts by the governor in January, 1816. About the same time he had purchased from Matthew Duncan the only newspaper then published in the territory, The Illinois Herald, and changed its name to The Western Intelligencer. Nominally he had continued as one of the editors of the paper until October, 1817, when it appeared under the names of Berry and Blackwell, each of whom in turn had been associated with Cook in its management.5 In February, 1817, Cook had gone to Washington, expecting to return in April, but while there he was offered an appointment to carry dispatches in the hopes that a sea voyage would improve his health.6 Returning to the United States in September, he had remained in Washington a few weeks on the lookout for a political opening. On September 25, he wrote to Governor Edwards: "As yet I do not know what I am to engage in. I can get a clerkship in the State department with a good salary, but I won't go into it; it is too confining. I shall know in a few days whether I go as Secretary of Alabama Territory or not. The President, it is feared, has made up his mind; if so, I shall fail; there is no situation vacant at present for me but that." Then in a postscript he added: "I am not yet well. May it not be better for me to return to Kaskaskia and wait for prospects in that country if I don't go to Alabama?"7

Failing to get the appointment desired, Cook returned to Illinois, arriving in Kaskaskia on November 18, 1817. There, instead of waiting for "prospects," he proceeded to make them. p210Two days after his arrival the following editorial appeared in the Intelligencer:

While we are laboring under so many of the grievances of a territorial, or semi-monarchial government, might not our claims to a state government be justly urged? That part of our territory which must ultimately form a state, will no doubt be willing to take the burthen of a state government upon themselves at this time, rather than submit any longer to those degredations [sic], which they have so long been compelled to put up with. We hope in our next to present to our readers, such a view of the subject as will induce our fellow citizens, as well as the legislature, to take such measures as will bring it before the national legislature, at their approaching season. We invite a discussion of the measure by such gentlemen as have, or will reflect on the subject.

This utterance, whether inspired by Cook or not, was the prelude to a discussion of the subject in which he took the leading part. In the next issue of the paper there appeared the expected p211"view of the subject," written by Cook over the signature "A republican."8 Asserting that the population of the territory had "increased to a sufficient number to enable us to take into our own hands the reins of self-government," he proceeded "to enquire into the policy of our doing so, as well as the practicability of obtaining the sanction of the general government, to such a measure." Possible objections were first considered, one of which was the additional expense to the people which statehood would involve. The national government was paying salaries for Illinois Territory to the amount of $6,200, a sum which in that day of small things was worthy of serious consideration. Cook could only hold out the forlorn hope that under state government, officials might be prevailed upon to accept smaller salaries at first. Another objection considered was the ignorance of the population, which, he maintained, was based on the assumption that a large proportion of the people were French. This assumption he controverted by the claim that nine-tenths of the voters were Americans who, previous to coming to Illinois, had taken part in state government.

Turning from negative to positive arguments, the writer dwelt upon the advantages of state government. Not only would the legislature be freed from the absolute veto of the governor but it would become supreme in the internal affairs of the state. The reference here was to the inability of the territorial government to enforce the judicial act, the results of which were painted in lurid colors. "Crimes of the blackest dye, (even murder itself,) have defied its feeble powers and laughed in guilty triumph, at their suffering victims. Honest labor has had its bread taken out of its mouth, and injuries of all kinds have implored relief in vain." As Cook professed, in the following April, the demoralized condition of the judiciary "was alone a sufficient reason for wishing for a state government."9

As to "the practicability of obtaining the sanction of the general p212government" for admission with a population less than the 60,000, which under the ordinance would have given a right to statehood for Illinois, Cook was very sanguine. Such admission would not, he maintained, "be inconsistent with the general interest of the confederacy." It would, moreover, have the positive advantage of relieving Congress of the burden of legislating for the local concerns of the territory, while "the strength and respectability of the nation would be greatly augmented" by the opening up of "a new field for the enlargement of the human understanding." This was merely an oratorical way of stating that the change would give an added impetus to immigration. This Cook believed to be true because "at present it is doubtful whether slavery will be tolerated when a state government is formed. And many on both sides of the question remaining in the anxiety of suspense, to know how it will be settled. It is therefore desirable to settle the question at as early a period as possible, for the purpose of giving relief to those who are wanting to emigrate to the territory."

Three days after this communication appeared in the Intelligencer, the legislature assembled in Kaskaskia; and on the following day, December 2, 1817, Governor Edwards delivered his message to the two houses.10 The members "and the citizens at large" were congratulated "upon the flattering prospects which our astonishingly rapid increase of population affords that our present temporary government must soon give place to one more congenial to the principles of natural liberty." The governor's recommendation "for the purpose of facilitating this desirable event, and as preparatory thereto" was "to provide by law for taking the census of all the inhabitants of this territory, so that it may be laid before the legislature at its next session."

This would have been the ordinary procedure, but it was altogether too leisurely for those who were eager for immediate statehood. Daniel Pope Cook, having been elected clerk of the house of representatives, was in a position to exert considerable influence; and on the same day upon which the governor's message p213was delivered, the house resolved, upon the motion of Bradsby of St. Clair, "that a committee be appointed to draft a memorial to Congress praying for this territory to be admitted into the union, with all the rights and privileges of a state government." Four days later, December 6, the memorial was adopted by the house, and on the tenth it received the approval of the council and was laid before the governor. The rapidity of its passage was possible only because of the lack of opposition, it being the "unanimous voice of our representatives from every part of the territory, that are desirous to enter into a state government."11

The memorial consists of two long paragraphs, of which the first has many points of similarity with the communication of "A republican" in the paper of November 27, and may well have been written by Cook. The territorial government is characterized as "a species of despotism in direct hostility with the principles of republican government" which "ought to exist no longer than absolute necessity may require it." The population is estimated at "not less than forty thousand souls" and the fitness for self-government of the citizens of the territory "mostly composed of those who have im[m]igrated hither from the atlantic and western states" is pointed. The second paragraph, probably the work of some mind more practical than Cook's, suggested a solution of the financial difficulty. Congress was asked

for a grant to the inhabitants of the state of the Lead Mines and Salt Springs; together with the lands adjoining, which have been reserved from sale within the limits of the state; also that section sixteen in each township reserved from sale, may be granted to the inhabitants of the township for the use of schools — also that a part of the net proceeds of the lands lying within the state, which may be sold by the authority of your honorable body may be appropriated to the laying out and making public roads; and finally for all such gifts and privileges as were made and given by the congress of the United States to the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Mississippi, and upon the like conditions.

p214 Two points of special interest present themselves in connection with this memorial. Would Congress accept the unsupported statement that the territory had a population of 40,000 souls? Was the step contemplated really desired by the people of the territory? In answer to the first of these questions, Cook wrote in the Intelligencer of December 11: "The census not having been taken certainly can make no difference, when, the representatives of the people from each county agree that there are 40,000 inhabitants — their information is the best except that which would be derived from actual enumeration. — The willingness of the people, with this strong evidence of their numbers, ought to secure the privilege prayed for." This tone of confidence in the young man just from Washington and high in the esteem of officials there was probably an important factor in securing the immediate adoption of the memorial. On the second question, the memorial itself states that among the whole people "there is an unusual coincidence of sentiment as to the propriety of forming a state government," while the editors of the Intelligencer declared it to be "the first wish of the people." Yet the initiative certainly did not come from the people. The members of the legislature had all been elected in 1816, when the question of statehood was not an issue; and in 1817 the subject was not broached in time for any adequate public discussion. Three weeks from the time of Cook's return to Kaskaskia and the first intimation of the movement in the newspaper, the memorial was ready to be sent to Washington.

The usual procedure would have been for this legislature to have provided for a census to be laid before the next legislative session, as recommended by the governor. The question of statehood would then have been an issue in the election of 1818, and the members of the next legislature could have acted on the subject with adequate knowledge of the population of the territory and of the wishes of their constituents. Was there any reason for the haste with which the movement was put through other than the feverish energy of its youthful promoter and the desire for a "redress of colonial grievances"? The answer to this question may be sought in a study of the attempt made during p215this session to brand the system of indentured servitude in force in the territory as a violation of the Ordinance of 1787.

The indenture act of Indiana as revised in 1807 had continued in effect in Illinois by virtue of the resolution adopted by the governor and judges of Illinois Territory in 1809, that "the laws of Indiana Territory of a general nature . . . are still in force in this Territory."12 Although in Indiana the act had been repealed shortly after the separation, no attempt seems to have been made to repeal it in Illinois prior to the legislative session of 1817‑18. During the territorial period, however, especially as the northwestern counties filled up in the years after 1815, there was certainly a growing sentiment against the institution as it existed in the territory.13

To the men who represented that sentiment it may well have seemed in 1817 that the time had come to strike for freedom. A month or two before the inauguration of the movement for statehood in Illinois, petitions asking for admission to the Union began to be circulated in Missouri. There was every reason to believe that Missouri would come in as a slave state, and if that should happen before Illinois was admitted, the existence of slavery there would be the strongest argument for allowing it in Illinois also. The passage of the slaveholding immigrants across Illinois to locate in Missouri was always galling to the people of Illinois, anxious as they were for the rapid development of the country. The opponents of slavery maintained, however, that its exclusion did not retard the development of the state, and it is quite possible that they felt that if Illinois could achieve statehood before her rival across the river, it would strengthen their argument. It was important, therefore, from the point of view of the antislavery men, that Illinois should become a state with a free constitution as provided by the ordinance before the constitution of Missouri should become a subject for discussion.

But these men could not be content with merely the opportunity p216for Illinois to frame a constitution in accord with the ordinance as it was then interpreted. That would permit the continuance indefinitely of such slavery as existed prior to the adoption of the ordinance and especially of the system of indentured servitude. This, it is believed, is the explanation of the introduction in the house of representatives on December 10, the day before the final passage by the council of the memorial asking for statehood, of a bill, not only for the repeal of the law establishing the indenture system, but containing also a preamble declaring that law to be in contravention to the paramount law of the land. Apparently the intention was to establish the invalidity of the law in such a way and at such a time as to make it impossible for the constitutional convention to ignore the action. The bill, when introduced by Matheny, "gave rise to some warmth and animation of argument on both sides." Bradsby and Matheny, both of whom had been members of the committee of four which framed the statehood memorial, defended it, and Dr. Fisher, the speaker, opposed it.

Bradsby was careful to ask that the question be considered as "envolving the enquiry, whether the legislature which passed the law which it is the object of this bill to repeal, exercised its legislative power within constitutional limits." The argument was, of course, that the action of a slave in indenturing himself to his master could not be considered as voluntary and consequently the whole system was "involuntary servitude" and a violation of the ordinance. Emphasis was laid also upon the fact that this provision of the ordinance was one of the articles of compact "intended 'to fix and establish those principles as the basis of all laws, constitutions, and governments which forever hereafter shall be formed in this Territory.' " Fisher in reply contended that it was outside the province of the legislature to pass upon the constitutionality of a law. "If it be unconstitutional there is no necessity of our repealing it, it is of itself void, and requires no annulling act of the legislature. . . . The law was passed by a former legislature, and whether it is constitutional or not is for the judiciary to determine, and even if we believe it so, it is no violation of our oaths, to leave it to a tribunal p217having the power and authority to determine upon it. As it has stood so long I see no impropriety in leaving it to be settled by the convention who shall frame our constitution, which will not be long hence." Matheny in his reply to Fisher took the curious position that the bill if passed, although it declared the indenture act a violation of the ordinance, would "have no influence on contracts that have been heretofore made, if such were its intended operation, it would be an expost facto law, and therefore unconstitutional."

Unfortunately the vote by which this bill passed the house is not available. On December 13, the bill was sent to the council, where it was twice debated in committee of the whole; and, on the seventeenth that body concurred without amendment. Those voting in favor of the measure were Amos of St. Clair, Grammar of Johnson, and Lofton of Madison; against it were Browne of Gallatin and Menard of Randolph.14

Whatever may have been the attitude of Governor Edwards toward the institution of slavery, he was unwilling to approve the measure in the form which it had taken; and on January 1, 1818, he returned the bill to the house in which it had originated, accompanied by his objections:

passing over minor objections to the preamble of the bill, and considering that the law, which I suppose it was intended to repeal, was enacted first, by the legislature of the Indiana Territory — that it was subsequently modified by the Governor and Judges of this Territory — that being so modified, it was re-enacted unanimously, by our general assembly, at its first session and has been acquiesced in, and sanctioned at every subsequent session: I cannot think it either proper, or necessary, to impute to our predecessors, a total disregard of their oaths, and an intentional violation of their duty; which I think is done by the preamble in question, and which also implies a great reproach and censure upon ourselves for having neglected to act upon the subject at our last session; for if we then entertained such sentiments, how can we answer it to our country? to our consciences? to our God, before whom we solemnly swore to endeavor to fulfil our duties? for not having attempted at least, to arrest an evil, which under insidious pretences, p218it was intended," to fix upon our territory, to its great detriment, "contrary to the ordinance, and to the feelings and wishes of our fellow citizens."

After declaring that questions of the validity of laws "ought rather to be left to the decision of the judiciary, to whose province it more peculiarly belongs," he proceeded to a long disquisition intended to prove that the indenture law in question was not a violation of the ordinance. In conclusion he pointed out that his remarks were "intended to apply to the question of legislative power, and not to the propriety, or expediency of its exercise, in the particular instance alluded to"; and finally, he declared himself "no advocate for slavery, and if it depended upon my vote alone, it should never be admitted in any state or Territory, not already cursed with so great an evil. I have no objection to the repeal which I suppose was intended."

Two weeks later, in his speech proroguing the legislature, the governor felt it necessary, "for the purpose of preventing all possible misapprehension," to discuss the subject again. After stating that he had not desired to "defeat the measure, that was intended to be adopted," he pointed out that the "particular friends of the measure" might after his veto "have introduced and passed a bill less objectionable, and better calculated to effect the object that seemed to be so greatly desired." Or, he continued, "the object could have been completely effected by the passage of a bill to amend the law alluded to, by limiting the period of service to one year only."15 Such a measure would have confirmed the validity of the indenture system, and the failure of the legislature to take any further action after the veto indicates clearly that it was the preamble of the bill, the very part to which the governor objected, that the antislavery men had at heart.

The result of this antislavery movement in the last territorial legislative session, and of its failure, was the establishment of slavery as the dominant issue in the forthcoming campaign for delegates to the constitutional convention. In this the p219proslavery men had the advantage, for the extreme antislavery men, by declaring themselves so positively at the very beginning, left the whole of the middle ground to their opponents. They made it necessary for those who sought only to keep conditions as they were to work together with advocates of unrestricted slavery. The line of argument to be followed was already indicated by Fisher in his speech against the repeal of the indenture law. Referring to the constitutional convention, he said: "We then perhaps may do something which will lead to a gradual emancipation of slavery in a partial degree, and so ultimately benefit them [the slaves] in their condition. For although I am opposed to slavery upon principle, yet I think if we can better their condition and gradually emancipate them, by bringing them to our Territory, we are doing a laudable thing."16

Although the legislature had decided in favor of an appeal to Congress for admission to the Union without waiting for a census, some doubts were entertained apparently as to the willingness of Congress to allow the movement to proceed without positive evidence as to the population of the territory. Toward the close of the session a law was enacted providing for a census of all the inhabitants. The enumeration was to begin April 1 and the returns, instead of being laid before the next legislature, as the governor had suggested, were to be deposited in the office of the secretary on or before June 1. The commissioners were instructed "to take a list of all citizens, of all ages, sexes and colour, within their respective counties, particularly noting whether white or black, and also noting particularly free male inhabitants above the age of twenty-one years."17

Realizing apparently that its optimistic predictions as to population might not be fulfilled at so early a date as June 1, the legislature enacted a supplementary law, the preamble of which suggested that "a great increase of population may be expected between the first day of next June and December following." p220In accordance with this preamble the act directed the commissioners to "continue to take the census of all persons who may remove into their respective counties between the first day of June and the first day of December next, succeeding; of which additional returns shall be made to the secretary's office, within the first week in December next." In order to prevent unnecessary expenditure, a provision was added "that no such additional service shall be performed if congress should authorize the citizens of this territory to form a state government without it."18

One other action of this legislature is of interest in connection with the movement for statehood. Between 1812 and 1818, seven counties, Edwards, White, Jackson, Pope, Monroe, Crawford, and Bond had been added by the legislature to the five existing when the second stage of territorial government was adopted. By acts of January 2, 1818, three new counties, Washington, Franklin, and Union, were established, making a total of 15 counties in Illinois in the year of admission. The significance of the establishment of new counties in 1818 lies in its bearing on the question of apportionment of delegates to the convention, for the practice had grown up in Illinois Territory of ignoring population to a considerable extent in the apportionment of members of the legislature. About the same time that bills for the new counties were passed by the two houses, a joint resolution was adopted authorizing representatives to be apportioned for a convention to form a permanent constitution. No copy of this resolution has been found, but it is probable that the apportionment section of the enabling act embodied its provisions.

The legislative memorial praying for statehood was doubtless dispatched to Washington immediately after its adoption by the council on December 10, 1817. Once there, its fate depended upon the exertions of Nathaniel Pope, the delegate from the territory in the House of Representatives. Pope must have left Illinois p221before the return of Cook to Kaskaskia,19 and it is quite improbable, therefore, that he had any part in the inception of the movement for statehood. During the campaign for the election of members of the convention the editor of the Intelligencer said of Pope: "It is well known that he had no agency in putting on foot the application to congress for a state government."20 However that may have been, he must have been in complete sympathy with it; and the rapidity with which matters were pushed along would indicate that he, too, realized the importance of getting in ahead of Missouri.

The Illinois memorial was laid before the House by Pope on January 16, 1818, and was immediately referred to a select committee of which the Illinois delegate was chairman. Claiborne of Tennessee, Johnson of Kentucky, Spencer of New York, and Whitman of Massachusetts were the other members of the committee. Five days later Pope wrote a letter to the editors of the Intelligencer which throws light on the attitude of the committee: "The only difficulty I have to overcome is, whether we have the population supposed by the Legislature; no enumeration of the inhabitants having lately been taken. In order to evade that objection the bill contains a proviso, that the census shall be taken previously to the meeting of the Convention — I hope however to have that feature of the bill struck out before its final passage, if it passes at all, of which I have strong hopes. . . . If it were certain that we had even thirty-five thousand inhabitants, no objection I think would be made to our admission."21 Thirty-five thousand inhabitants was the ratio of congressional apportionment at that time, and it would appear that some member of the committee — possibly Spencer, who made a similar point the following November — felt that p222positive evidence of at least that many should be insisted upon.

Pope's letter of January 21, just referred to, states his intention of reporting the bill that day; but it was not brought in until the twenty-third, one week after the committee was appointed. For this bill "To enable the people of Illinois Territory, to form a Constitution and state government, and for the admission of such state into the union, on an equal footing with the original states," the Indiana enabling act of 1816 served as a model.22 After authorizing the inhabitants of the territory "to form for themselves, a constitution and state government, and to assume such name as they shall deem proper," the boundaries of the proposed state were fixed as they are at present with the exception that the northern boundary was to be "an east and west line drawn through a point ten miles north of the southern extreme of Lake Michigan." This was not the line proposed by the Ordinance of 1787, but the same was true of Indiana's northern boundary, which had been fixed in the same way, the obvious purpose in both cases being to give the state an outlet on Lake Michigan. Possibly to obviate any difficulties over the validity of a change in the ordinance, the convention was required to "ratify the boundaries, aforesaid; otherwise they shall be, and remain as now prescribed, by the ordinance."

Section three of the bill authorized "all white male citizens of the U. States, who shall have arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and have resided in said territory, six months previous to the day of election, and all persons having in other respects the legal qualifications to vote for representatives in the general assembly of the said territory . . . to choose representatives to form a convention." This was a change from the Indiana act, which required a year's residence in the territory for voting at the election, and from the rule of Illinois Territory, in which a similar qualification for voters prevailed. The general sentiment in the west, however, was in favor of allowing immigrants to vote as soon as possible, and the six months' qualification p223was incorporated in the state constitution. In the enabling acts for Missouri and Alabama, the time was further reduced to three months. This section concluded with a list of the 12 counties formed before 1818, with blanks opposite each for the apportionment of delegates to the convention. In sending the bill to the Intelligencer, Pope wrote: "It will also be observed that I have provided for a representation but for twelve counties. The simple reason is this, I have not heard whether any other counties have been created by the legislature at the last session."23

The delegates thus to be elected were authorized by section four of the bill to convene on a date which was left to be filled in later. They were first to "determine by a majority of the whole number elected, whether it be, or be not expedient at that time to form a constitution and state government for the people within the said territory; and if it be expedient, the convention shall be, and hereby is authorized to form a constitution and state government." Should the convention prefer, however, it might adopt an ordinance providing for another convention to form the constitution and state government. This feature, which was common in enabling acts, appears to have been designed to enable the people through the first convention to determine the apportionment, manner of choice, and time of sitting of the constitutional convention; but the territories rarely, if ever, took advantage of it, and the possibility of following this alternative procedure does not appear to have been considered in Illinois.

To this section were added two important provisos: first, that the constitution, "whenever formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the ordinance" except as concerns boundaries; and second, "that it shall appear from the enumeration hereinafter directed to be made, that there are within the proposed state, not less than [image ALT: an underscored blank] thousand inhabitants." With this second proviso should be considered section twelve, which directed the United States marshal of the territory to take a census and make his returns to the convention. This was the feature of the bill that Pope hoped to have eliminated.

p224 Section five provided for one representative from the state in the lower house of Congress, and section six contained the usual set of propositions offered to the convention "for their free acceptance or rejection." These included section sixteen of each township of land for the use of schools; all salt springs and lead mines "and the land reserved for the use of the same"; "five per cent. of the net proceeds of the lands lying within the said territory" for roads; and "thirty-six sections or one entire township, which shall be designated by the President of the United States, together with the one heretofore reserved for that purpose," for "a seminary of learning." These grants were made on condition that all lands sold by the United States should remain exempt from taxation for six years after date of sale. They differed from the grants to Indiana only in the inclusion of lead mines, as requested by the Illinois memorial, and the exclusion of a grant of four sections of land "for the purpose of fixing their seat of government thereon." The failure to ask for land for a capital site was probably an oversight on the part of the men who drew up the memorial. Had it been included among the grants in the enabling act, the question of the location of the capital would doubtless have been an issue in the pre-convention campaign, as it was later in the convention itself.

This completes the enumeration of the provisions finally comprised in the enabling act. The remaining sections of the bill, numbered seven to eleven inclusive, provided for the establishment of a United States court for the Illinois district, with all its attendant officials. Nothing comparable to these sections is to be found in the enabling act of any other state, and they were dropped from the bill before it was passed. The objection to them doubtless was that they were out of place in the bill, for at the next session of Congress they were enacted word for word as "An Act to provide for the due execution of the laws of the United States within the state of Illinois."24

p225 This enabling bill, introduced by Pope for the committee on Friday, January 23, "was read twice, and committed to a Committee of the Whole, on Monday next." Not until April 4, however, was it taken up for consideration, "in consequence of the great number of bills which were introduced before and claimed a prior[i]ty."25

When the bill finally came up in the House, Pope at once introduced an amendment to fix the northern boundary on the line 42°30′º north latitude — about 41 miles north of the line fixed in the bill and 51 miles north of the dividing line proposed in the ordinance.a As early as January 27, four days after the bill was introduced, Pope had reached the conclusion that such a change was desirable, for in his letter of that date forwarding a copy of the bill to the Intelligencer he wrote: "You will remark that the northern line is ten miles north of the southernlyº extremity of Lake Michigan — Indiana goes as far north. When the bill is taken up, I will endeavour to procure twenty or thirty miles farther north, and make Lake Michigan a part of our eastern boundary. I shall not attempt to explain the importance of such an accession of territory; it is too obvious to every man who looks to the prospective weight and influence of the state of Illinois." In support of the amendment, Pope said that its object

was to gain, for the proposed State, a coast on Lake Michigan. This would afford additional security to the perpetuity of the Union, inasmuch as the State would thereby be connected with the States of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, through the Lakes. The facility of opening a canal between Lake Michigan and the Illinois river, said Mr. P., is acknowledged by every one who has visited the place. Giving to the proposed State the port of Chicago, (embraced in the proposed limits,) will draw its attention to the opening of the communication between the Illinois river and that place, and the improvement of that harbor.

Since the line proposed by the ordinance had not been adopted in the case of Indiana nor in the bill itself to which this amendment p226was proposed, it was difficult to object to the change on the grounds of a violation of that document, and the motion to amend "was agreed to without a division."26

The advantages of this change, from the point of view of those who desired that Illinois should ultimately be a free instead of a slave state, are obvious; and Pope's argument might be taken as an indication that he had those advantages in mind.27 Whatever may have been the real motives back of the amendment, and however it may have originated, it appears to have aroused little interest in Illinois at the time. It was mentioned without comment in an article in the Intelligencer of April 29, based on a letter from Pope dated April 6; while an editorial on the enabling act as finally passed, in the issue of May 20, recounts many of its advantageous features and expresses deep appreciation of Pope's services but makes no mention of the change in boundary. The important consequences which have flowed from this change, not only for Illinois but for the country as a whole, have often been pointed out and need not be dwelt upon here.28 It added to Illinois a region of over 8,000 square miles in which lie the greater part of 14 counties containing, with the city of Chicago, over half the population of the state.

A second amendment proposed by Pope on April 4 provided that 3 of the 5 per cent29 of the proceeds of federal land sales in Illinois should be used not for roads and canals in the state as provided in the bill and in previous enabling acts, but "for the encouragement of learning, of which one[-sixth] part shall be exclusively bestowed on a college or university." In explaining p227this amendment Pope pointed out that the application of this fund to roads in the other states had "not been productive of the good anticipated; on the contrary, it had been exhausted on local and neighborhood objects, by its distribution among the counties." The statement that "nature had left little to be done in the proposed State of Illinois, in order to have the finest roads in the world" would hardly be concurred in by one familiar with the roads in the central part of the state nearly a century later; but no exception need be taken to the emphasis upon the "importance of education in a Republic." Moreover, "that no immediate aid could be derived in new count[r]ies from waste lands was not less obvious; and that no active fund would be provided in a new State, the history of the Western States too clearly proved." This amendment too was accepted without a division.

"Some further amendments" were then agreed to, including one moved by Taylor of New York adding a proviso "that the bounty-lands granted, or hereafter to be granted, for military services during the late war, shall, while they continue to be held by the patentees, or their heirs, remain exempt, as aforesaid, from all taxes, for the term of three years, from and after the date of the patents respectively; and that all the lands belonging to the citizens of the United States, residing without the said State, shall never be taxed higher than lands belonging to persons residing therein."30 Pope does not appear to have opposed this amendment although it must have been unpalatable to him. Early in the session a resolution had been introduced to exempt the bounty lands from taxation for five years, a proposition which Pope believed "would enable speculators to hold up their lands from market, and prevent the territory from taxing three and a half millions of acres of land, and most of that belonging to individuals, who obtained it at less than fifty cents per acre." On January 21, he wrote that he had no fears that the measure p228would succeed, "so that we may calculate upon a handsome revenue from that quarter." The provision introduced in the enabling act was less objectionable because it was restricted to three years and then applied only if the land was retained by the patentees or their heirs. "We shall not," the editors of the Intelligencer consoled the people, "lose much by that, because most of it will pass into the hands of others."31

It must have been at this time that the grant of lead mines was stricken out and the provision relative to the census changed. Pope did not succeed in getting the census feature eliminated from the bill; but section twelve, which provided that the count should be made by the marshal, was stricken out and section four modified to allow the convention to rely upon "the enumeration directed to be made by the legislature of the said Territory."

The blank for the population to be required was filled in as 40,000, the number claimed in the memorial from the legislature. The apportionment of delegates in the convention was set at three each to Madison, St. Clair, and Gallatin counties and two each to the others, including the three counties established in January, 1818. No statistics as to the population of the counties were at hand, of course, and it is probable that the legislative resolution on the subject was followed.32 A fair apportionment of the same number of representatives — 33 — on the basis of the census of 1818 would have given five to Madison County; four to St. Clair; three each to Randolph, Gallatin, and White; two each to Washington, Union, Pope, Edwards, and Crawford; and one each to Bond, Monroe, Jackson, Johnson, and Franklin.

Some of the amendments were adopted in the House itself after the committee rose and reported the bill. It was then "ordered to be engrossed, as amended, and read a third time, nemine contradicente." The third reading and final passage of the bill in the House took place on April 6, also, apparently, p229without opposition; and it was transmitted to the Senate the following day. There the bill was given its first and second readings at once and then referred to the Committee on Public Lands.

The Senate committee reported the bill with amendments the day after it was received, and on the thirteenth it was taken up in Committee of the Whole. Here the measure met with opposition from Tait of Georgia, who moved "to postpone the further consideration thereof until the fourth day of July next." His objection, he explained, was not due to any opposition to "the admission of this State into the Union, but on the ground that there was not sufficiently authentic information that its population was forty thousand, as stated from conjecture, or even that its population was sufficient to entitle it to a representative in Congress." Morrow of Ohio, Talbot of Kentucky, and Barbour of Virginia "replied, and opposed to the postponement, believing the evidence on this head to be so strong as to admit of no doubt." This motion produced the only record vote on the bill in either house, but only four senators, Daggett of Connecticut, King and Sanford of New York, and Tait voted in favor of postponement.

According to Pope, "the application of the three per cent to schools instead of roads, was violently opposed in the Senate, as being altogether for the benefit of the state, and not for that of the United States. That it gave to Illinois greater advantages than was ever allowed to any other state admitted into the Union. It was urged that we had no claims to such preference, that that fund was granted to the other states with a view of raising the price of the public lands." These objections were answered by the Kentucky senators, Crittenden and Talbot, by Burrill of Rhode Island, and by Morrow, their arguments being along lines similar to those followed by Pope in his support of this feature in the House. The "one great objection to emigrating to new countries," they contended, "was the want of the means of education. Apply this money to schools and that objection p230will be removed, and then thousands will go who would otherwise stay. In this manner they proved that the United States would gain rather than lose." The provision in question, Pope wrote, "passed by a great majority, and has given a character to Illinois that nothing else could have effected. Almost every man agrees that it will greatly promote our prosperity."33

The question of the northern boundary was also raised in the Senate apparently, for Pope wrote that "some jealousy was felt against our gaining so much territory north, say sixty miles." This opposition could not have been very extensive, however, for there is no record of a vote on the question. Just which of the differences between the final act and the original bill were embodied in the Senate amendments cannot be determined, but Pope wrote that these amendments were unimportant. Possibly it was at this time that a section was added providing that the part of Illinois Territory not included in the boundaries of the proposed state should be attached to the territory of Michigan. At the close of the discussion the committee rose and reported the bill with the amendments, and on the following day, April 14, it was read the third time and passed without division. In the House, the Senate amendments were referred to a select committee headed by Pope which on the fifteenth "reported the agreement of the committee to the said amendments, and the amendments were then concurred in by the House." The bill then went to the President, who approved it on April 18, 1818.

If the hypothesis be correct that those behind the movement were trying to outrun Missouri in the race for statehood, they had won the first heat. The first petitions from Missouri asking for statehood were received in the House on January 8, eight days before Pope presented the Illinois memorial. These, with a petition presented February 2, were laid on the table; but when still more petitions were received on March 6, they were all referred to a select committee of which Scott, the Missouri delegate, was chairman. Not until April 3 did this committee p231report a bill for an enabling act and it was then too late to hope for its passage at that session. If the proponents of statehood in Illinois were to keep the lead, however, it was necessary that the census returns show a population of 40,000. Furthermore, if the antislavery men were to obtain a constitution such as they wished, they had next to secure a majority of delegates to the convention who would be favorable to their views. Illinois had a lively campaign in prospect.


The Author's Notes:

1 House Files, October 19, 1808.

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2 Miscellaneous Assembly Papers, December 19, 1814, secretary of state's office.

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3 Intelligencer, August 21, 1816.

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4 Intelligencer, August 21, 1816.

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5 James, Territorial Records, 40; Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals, 211‑212; Intelligencer, October 23, 1817.

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6 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 128; Cook to Edwards, March 6, 1817, in Chicago Historical Society Manuscripts, 49:303. On April 5, Cook's partner, Robert Blackwell, was appointed auditor in his place. James, Territorial Records, 47.

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7 Washburne, Edwards Papers, 135‑141.

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8 Intelligencer, November 27, 1817. For evidence of authorship see editorial in ibid., April 15, 1818.

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9 Intelligencer, April 22, 1818.

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10 Intelligencer, December 4, 1817.

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11 Intelligencer, December 4, 11, 1817; manuscript journal of the legislative council, 1817‑18, secretary of state's office.

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12 Alvord, Laws of the Territory, 1. See above, pp186‑187.

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13 See appendix, pp317‑318.

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14 This whole discussion may be followed in the Intelligencer for December, 1817, and January, 1818, and in the manuscript journal of the legislative council, 1817‑18, secretary of state's office.

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15 Intelligencer, January 1, 13, 1818.

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16 Intelligencer, December 18, 1817.

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17 Laws of Illinois Territory, 1817‑18, pp42‑44.

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18 Laws of Illinois Territory, 1817‑18, pp44‑45.

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19 He arrived in Washington on December 6; see Intelligencer, January 21, 1818. For action of the Illinois legislative council, see Laws of Illinois Territory, 1817‑18, pp11‑17, 39‑41; manuscript journal of the legislative council, 1817‑18, secretary of state's office.

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20 Intelligencer, June 24, 1818.

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21 Intelligencer, March 4, 1818.

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22 The bill as introduced can be found in the Intelligencer, March 11, 1818. The act as finally passed is in Thorpe, Constitutions, 2:967‑970. The Indiana enabling act is in ibid., 1053‑56.

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23 Intelligencer, March 11, 1818.

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24 Statutes at Large, 3:502. It might be noted in passing that Nathaniel Pope was the first United States judge appointed under this act.

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25 Annals of Congress, 15 Congress, 1 Session, 1:814; 2:1677; Intelligencer, April 15, 1818.

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26 Intelligencer, March 11, 1818; Annals of Congress, 15 Congress, 1 Session, 2:1677.

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27 See appendix, pp317‑318.

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28 For a discussion of this subject and an account of the attempts made later in the region affected, and in Wisconsin to restore the ordinance boundary, see Moses, Illinois, 1:278‑282.

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29 The other 2 per cent was to be used "under the direction of Congress, in making roads leading to the State."

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30 Annals of Congress, 15 Congress, 1 Session, 2:1677; Thorpe, Constitutions, 2:969‑970.

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31 Intelligencer, January 21, March 4, April 29, 1818.

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32 Thorpe, Constitutions, 2:968. See also above, p220.

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33 Intelligencer, May 6, 1818.


Thayer's Note:

a Actually, a footnote submitted by alert reader Ken Huizenga of Stockbridge, Wisconsin; he is right:

Buck has made an error here. The orginal bill did place the northern border of Illinois at the same latitude as Indiana's — 10 miles north of the southern extremity of Lake Michigan and the later amendment did in fact move the final border to 42°30′ north latitude. However, the amendment resulted in moving the border by 51 miles north of Indiana's border, or "the line fixed in the bill", not 41 miles as Buck states. So, the final Illinois border is approximately 61 miles north of the "dividing line proposed in the Ordinance of 1787", not 51 miles north as Buck states.


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