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Chapter 8

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 10

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p232 Chapter 9
The Convention Campaign

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.

When the movement for admission to statehood was inaugurated in Illinois, in November, 1817, it was "at first little thought of" and Cook himself says that his early remarks on the subject "were thought to be the effusions of visionary hopes." It is quite possible that this attitude, together with the suddenness with which the proposition was sprung upon them, explains the unanimity of the members of the legislature in voting for the memorial. As time passed, however, and favorable news began to arrive from Washington, the movement attracted more attention and, as will be seen, more opposition as well.

At first the prospect of statehood evoked some pleasurable anticipations. At the Washington's birthday celebration in Bennett's tavern at Kaskaskia, February 22, 1818, one of the toasts was to "The Territory of Illinois — May she rise refulgent from the shackles of a colonial government, and shine in the Federal Union." The Intelligencer, which gave an account of this dinner, noted in the usual reprint of the proceedings of Congress that the Illinois bill had been introduced in the House of Representatives. Commenting on this measure "so important to the citizens of this territory," the editors declared that it "will in all probability finally pass." One week later, March 4, the Intelligencer published Pope's letter of January 21, expressing "strong hopes" of the passage of the bill. "A moment of enjoyment is grateful to an anxious people," said the editors. "Let us therefore enjoy the pleasing intelligence which Mr. Pope's letter communicates relative to our obtaining a state government. His hopes that the bill will pass, which we find has been read a second time, certainly is cheering to us all who are friendly to a free government."1

On March 11, the bill itself was published in the paper, with p233the comment that it "will pass, we have no doubt." Six weeks later, April 29, the readers were informed that the measure had passed the House and that the elections for representatives in the convention were fixed for the first Monday in July and the two following days, while the convention itself was to meet the first Monday in August. The next issue of the paper announced the passage of the bill in the Senate, and the act as finally approved by the President was published in full in the issue of May 20. Commenting upon the measure in one of his letters, Pope wrote: "Its success will have a great influence on the emigration to that country. I cannot describe the interest Illinois awakens in the minds of the Atlantic people. I have no hesitation in hazarding the opinion that next season will add greatly to our population." The act attracted attention in a neighboring state also. The Kentucky Argus, in announcing its passage, said: "The agricultural and mercantile advantages of this state will render it a star of the first magnitude in our constellation of free states. . . . We hail thee, sister Illinois, and are ready to welcome thee into our happy Union." The editors of the Kaskaskia paper celebrated the passage of the enabling act by changing its name from The Western Intelligencer to The Illinois Intelligencer. "We have made this change," they wrote, "believing it to be a more appropriate name, in as much as it is the same establishment from which the first paper eminated [sic] in the territory, and more particularly as we shall soon go into a state under the name of Illinois."2

The same issue of the paper which contained information on the passage of the enabling bill by the Senate announced the candidacy of Elias K. Kane "for the Convention from the county of Randolph" and that of Daniel P. Cook "for Congress to represent us in the Lower House." The convention campaign began at least two months earlier, however, for the Intelligencer of March 11, in which the bill was first printed, contained an editorial on the importance of the election of members of the convention:

p234 In this election, party and private feeling should alike be suspended, and the public interest alone will be the polestar of every voter. . . . Let not a difference of opinion on one particular and unimportant point, influence you to reject men, whose reading, and whose experience, qualifies them for so arduous and important an undertaking; for although you may find men enough who will agree to support any measure to secure their election; yet it is not on any one measure alone, that the public interest will depend. No! it depend[s] on many. Then let us urge you to elect those men, who are best qualified to decide on all measures — and not suffer the ambitious, without merit, to use their flexibility, to the injury of intelligent men, and the public weal.3

The advice of the editors as to party feeling may have been heeded, for there is no evidence that political factions played even as slight a part in this election as they had in the territorial elections; but the "one particular and unimportant point," which was doubtless the slavery question, was the only real issue of the campaign. Because of the existing situation, however, this was not the clear-cut issue as to whether Illinois should be a free or a slave state. It involved also the questions of what to do with existing slavery, of the validity of the indentures based on the territorial law, and of the continuance of the indenture system. Congress, moreover, in the enabling act, directed that the constitution of the new state should not be repugnant to the Ordinance of 1787, and this enabled some of the leaders, ignoring all questions of interpretation, to claim that the matter was settled. As a result, no simple classification can cover the situation with reference to the slavery question. There were some who favored unrestricted slavery for the new state, there were some who would at once wipe out every vestige of the institution, but most of the politicians and voters appear to have occupied a variety of positions between these two extremes.

The campaign of the extreme proslavery men was a quiet one and took the form of urging delay, doubtless with the expectation that Congress could be induced to remove the restriction. Some, however, feeling that they could not be bound by an ordinance in the making of which they had had no part, would have p235ignored the slavery article. "The United States," wrote an Englishman familiar with the eastern part of the territory, ". . . has forbidden Slavery, according to its Ordinance for the Government of the North Western Territory. But the people here are utterly regardless of ordinances, and will take the subject into their own hands, and say they will make a treaty with Congress as an independent State."4 No communications openly advocating unrestricted slavery were published in the Intelligencer during the campaign, and arguments in favor of the institution put forth by this faction can only be inferred from the answers of those opposed to it.

The campaign over slavery really began, as has been seen, with the attempt to repeal the indenture law in the last session of the territorial legislature, but it was only as the passage of the enabling bill became a probability that the issue came to be connected with the selection of representatives to the convention. As early as April 1, Cook opened up the subject in the Intelligencer with a communication over the signature "A republican." "The certainty," he wrote,

of our obtaining leave to form a state government, in a short time, induces me to call the public attention to that question which some call the "great desideratum" with the people, I mean the question of slavery. This question, which is now convulsing the public mind, presents itself in different shapes, to different characters. . . . Our country is thinly settled, and the great desire is, to see it filled. The cry is, "admit slavery and the forests will immediately be converted into the cultivated habitations of men." The beast of prey will relinquish his abode to that of domestic utility. Such is the beguiling language of sophistry, and such the fanaticism of her followers. But where the calm voice of reason has reached the intellectual ear, sophistry has been invariably disarmed, and an opposition to slavery has been universally excited. And first, the assertion "that slavery would increase the tide of emigration," is flatly denied. We all know that the emigration from the Eastern and Northern states has been far greater to every part of the Western country, than from the Southern. We know that those states are possessed of a greater population, and will therefore admit of greater emigration; and our emigration has been mostly from the former. . . . Many are in favor of admitting slavery because it is already admitted in some of p236our sister states — they say that it will render them less dangerous if they are dispersed all over the nation. Such may be the fact for a moment. — But who can reason and deny that they will ultimately become more dangerous than if concentrated to narrow limits.

After presenting at some length the economic and social disadvantages of slavery, "for the purpose of attempting to prove the impolicy of wishing to have slavery in our state," the writer declared that

the friends of this measure must doubtless fail. By the compact between Virginia and Congress, it is provided expressly, that "there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the territory," and this provision is made "unalterable," except with the consent, both of congress and the people and this state. . . . After the expression of the policy, both of Congress and of Virginia, can we suppose that a change of that policy is likely to be affected? It seems improbable. Let us then drop the hobby — let us all unite in trying to obtain the best constitution we can, and put the question of slavery to rest.5

It is significant that the communication contains no reference to indentured servitude or to the slavery already existing in Illinois.

Commenting on this communication, the editors declared slavery to be

a subject which the people are greatly interested in — they should examine it deliberately and thoroughly before they form an opinion — Some would oppose it from popular motives, and others, doubtless, from principle. And on the other hand, we believe that the most of the advocates for the admission of slavery in this territory, are candidly of the opinion that it would tend very much to draw the tide of emigration hither. Whatever the people shall dispassionately say on the subject, we will acquiesce in without a murmur, and for that purpose, we invite investigation. Our columns will be open as well to the friends of the measure, as the opponents.6

Two weeks later appeared a communication signed "Caution" and dated at "Silver creek, St. Clair county, March 29th, 1818," before the appearance of Cook's article. This writer, though opposed to slavery, apparently differed with the other antislavery p237leaders as to the expediency of bringing on the contest at that time. Besides expressing doubts as to the sufficiency of men of talents and political experience to form a constitution" and as to the benefits of statehood in general under existing circumstances, he propounded the following query: "In equity ought not our constitution to be formed as well for the future emigrant, as for the present settler? And does not the influx begin to flow from a different channel than it did formerly? I mean from the northern states and of people opposed to a certain toleration, which will be the grand question at the election for members of the convention. . . . Whether would members chosen now, or members chosen in 1823 be most in favor of the toleration of slavery?" Answering his own question, he declared that:

Our future population will be principally from the northern states, and avowed enemies to slavery. The wealthy southern planter, will not part with the plantation Gods, which he worships, starves and whips, for the blessings of the western woods, while we are a territory, and doubtful as to the future toleration of slavery. To those that are uninterested, I need not say a word as to the horrors of slavery, and to those who are, they would be words thrown away. But I caution the enemies of this hellish system against the fascinating bate of "state government" at present, although, it might be doubtful if at this time a majority could be had in favor of the barter of human flesh, and placing a part of mankind on an equality with brutes; yet, a few years patience, in our present state, will certainly preponderate the scale in favor of humanity and freedom.7

The editors of the Intelligencer replied to "Caution" in the same number, and Cook answered in the issue of the following week. In both replies the advantages of statehood were set forth, stress being laid on the opportunity it offered for securing internal improvements and for putting an end to the judiciary troubles. Cook made no reference, however, to that part of the argument relating to slavery and the prospects of the increase of antislavery sentiment by immigration, while the editors merely said that, in spite of the disastrous results of the judiciary difficulties, "friend Caution would beseech us to wait five years, till p238his brothers of the north could come in with their notions and make a constitution for us. We like the northern emigration, but we don't think it proper to wait for them exclusively to frame our constitution."

A statement made by Cook in his reply to "Caution" throws light on the form which the campaign was taking:

The opposition which some are making to our going into a state government, is as I understand it, for the purpose of preventing the election of men to the convention, who are in favor of our now framing a constitution, but to promote the election of men who will decide in favor of postponing that work to a future period. It is as I remarked in the commencement to oppose this idea that I venture before the public. If we should have it in our power to elect a convention, we should certainly know beforehand what the elected will do on this subject. If the advantages of a state government are worth struggling for, I should certainly recommend the election of men who will favor such a decision when in convention. And if our bill do not pass, I should also recommend the election of a Delegate who will favor its passage at the next session of congress.

The advocates of delay whom Cook had in mind, as will appear later, were probably the proslavery rather than the antislavery men.

Another opponent of slavery from St. Clair County, writing under the signature of "Candor," in a communication dated April 25, took exception to Cook's theory that the slavery question was settled by the ordinance. This, he contended, would be a "sure plan to lull the people to sleep, and conteractº the principle for which he [Cook] would seem to contend." "Candor's" position was that

the Ordinance of Congress and cession of Virginia could only govern us whilst a territory. . . . The principle was never doubted in forming the constitutions for the states of Ohio and Indiana, that they might either tolerate or prohibit slavery; and that if the matter were passed over in silence, slaves might then be imported with impunity; for the ordinance for the government of the north western territory would no longer be binding, but merely a dead letter, supercededº by the constitution. In this manner it would be decided in a court of law or equity. The last named states made the exclusion of slaves, leading features of their constitutions: We doubt the framers of these were as wise and as capable of explaining our jurisprudence, as we could expect to find p239men in this territory. Yet here in this secluded corner, we find people start up and gravely tell us, that it would be unnecessary trouble; that these men did not understand the matter as well as they do.

A great majority of the people, he contended, were "opposed to the toleration of slavery; yet I fear this majority will be defeated, by the cunning of those who have a contrary interest; and where interest is opposed, the public good is too often forgotten. On people of this description, I would advise to be kept a scrutinizing eye." The writer was opposed, therefore, to dropping the hobby, for he considered it to be "the hobby by which we, and our posterity, are either to be happy or miserable. In electing men to form a constitution, we may find those as capable among the opposers, as among the friends of slavery."8

The best opportunity for those favorable to delay, whether for or against slavery, came in June, when the results of the census were made known. Governor Edwards appointed the first commissioners for the taking of the census on January 9, two days after the act was passed, and by the nineteenth they had been appointed in all but three counties. On March 11 and 13, appointments were made for Washington and Jackson, and on May 18 for Franklin, but the man selected for Franklin refused to serve, and the final appointment was not made until June 14, two weeks after the returns were due. The pay was small, and most of the men appointed were local politicians, men who had held nothing higher than county offices. The only one of greater prominence was Samuel Omelveny of Pope, a member of the house of representatives at the time of his appointment. Two were young men who had held no offices themselves but whose fathers were in politics — William Cullom of Crawford and William Moore of St. Clair. For them and a number of others the taking of the census was the beginning of a political career.

There were not enough returns in by June 10 for the Intelligencer to give an estimate of the territorial population. A week later, however, the paper published a statement supplied p240by the secretary, showing a total population, for all the counties except Franklin, of only 34,620. It was obvious that the returns from Franklin County would not bring the total up to 40,000. There was a chance, however, that the supplementary act might yet save the day, and the editors of the paper expressed hope that "the honest vigilance of the Commissioners author[i]sed to take the census will not be suffered to sleep so long as our population is found increasing." Four weeks later, July 15, the paper contained another communication from the secretary dated July 6, which indicates that the reliability of even these meager returns was open to question. "It appears," he wrote,

that we have not yet the population required to form a constitution and state government, which with the repeated reports of official abuse on the part of some of the commissioners employed in taking our territorial census, induces me to renew to them your just request, that they proceed in the discharge of their duties with honest vigilance, and make additional returns to my office on or before the first Monday in August next. We are told that some commissioners have neglected to take even the citizens of their respective counties; while others with a zeal unbecoming their situation, have taken some people two or three times, and have placed on their lists the mere passengers through their counties, and even the territory.

The secretary expressed disbelief in these reports, but a comparison of the returns with those of the United States census of 1820 bears out, to some extent, the charge of padding. The return for Gallatin County was 3,256, which is 101 more than the United States census figures for the same county. Undoubtedly the permanent population of the county increased during the two years, and, as Shawneetown was a port of entry for emigrants, it is probable that many were included in the census who were merely passing through. In Washington County also, a similar situation appears, the return of a population of 1,707 being 190 above the figures of the United States census of 1820. This county even more than Gallatin was attracting permanent settlers during the two years and there is ample reason for believing that many travelers along the Vincennes road, which passed through the county, were included in the p241census. The returns for Madison County were padded in a different way. To his regular report the commissioner added, by way of postscript, that "from good information" there were 680 souls at Fort Crawford, 70 at Fort Edwards, and 80 at Fort Clark, "making in the whole 5466 souls within the boundary of Madison County." Fort Crawford was located at the mouth of the Wisconsin River and thus north of the Illinois boundary.9 The enabling act had stipulated that there should be 40,000 inhabitants "within the proposed state"; yet these figures were included in the secretary's statement.

Even before the returns were published, a correspondent who wrote over the signature of "Anticipator" sent a communication to the Intelligencer in which he maintained "that it is the spirit of the law for the members of the body, to be the judges of the fact — that if we have not the population called for, it will be in the power of the convention, not only to form an ordinance, but a constitution for the consideration of the people." In the same issue in which the statement of population was published, the editors announced that

The fact that our population will not amount to 40,000, having become generally known, we understand that some doubts are entertained as to the propriety of electing members of the Convention. — The diversity of opinions which prevailed on this subject, was such, as to induce us to enquire of Mr. Pope, upon his already, as to what were his views on the subject; and he gives it as his opinion, that it will be proper to elect a convention, and for them to meet. And if it should appear from the returns made, that we have not 40,000, then for the Convention to pass an Ordinance, authorising an election for members of convention after the last returns shall be made, which are to be in the first week of December next. And if we then have 40,000 souls, that such Convention will have the right to frame a Constitution.10

Pope's opinion was not allowed to pass unchallenged. The next issue of the Intelligencer contained a communication from "A friend to enquiry" which maintained not only that no special weight should be attached to that opinion but "that his [Pope's] p242connexion with the law itself, however correct his opinions are in the general, would lead him more readily into false reasoning, than an individual less interested." The writer reached the conclusion, therefore, "that the people are in the present instance to enquire and judge for themselves in relation to their powers; and that their enquiries may enable them to know, and to act within the provisions of the law is my most earnest wish. For, I do consider it a matter of much doubt whether a constitution, not within the law established for our guide, would be anything more than a dead letter, though it should receive a subsequent ratification by congress." From the reply of the editors in the same issue and from a second communication from "A friend to enquiry," which was published after the elections had taken place, it appears that the points at issue in the controversy were: whether the enabling act required a population of 40,000 at the time of deciding the question of the expediency of forming a state government or merely when the constitution was framed; and whether or not any action contrary to the enabling act would be binding on the people of the state, even if accepted by Congress. A third article from the same correspondent, published on July 22, shows his opposition to the exclusion of slavery, which may explain his advocacy of delay.

Before taking up the arguments on slavery advanced by "A friend to enquiry" it will be well to consider those of another writer which appeared in the Intelligencer for June 17 and July 1. By far the ablest communications which appeared in this campaign were those sent in from Madison County under date of May, 1818, by a writer who signed himself "Agis."a The author was evidently a man of culture and of wide experience, not only in different parts of the United States but in England as well, and his point of view was clearly that of an outsider. All this establishes the probability that the writer was none other than Edward Coles, destined to be the second governor of the state and a leader of the antislavery forces in the struggle of 1824. Coles was a Virginian, an owner of slaves by inheritance, and yet an abolitionist of the extreme type. From 1809 to 1815 he served as private secretary to President Madison; when he p243resigned in the latter year, he intended to take his slaves to the northwest and set them free. In the following spring, however, he was selected by the President for a special mission to Russia; later he traveled in Germany, France, and England. On April 13, 1818, he received from Madison a letter of introduction to Governor Edwards and probably he set out for Illinois at once. If so he could easily have been in Edwardsville, his future home, by the middle of May. It is certain that he visited Kaskaskia in July, during the session of the convention, and interested himself in the contest over slavery at that time.

The first of the communications of "Agis" begins as follows:

Fellow Citizens — As the period cannot now be very distant when you will be called upon to form, by your representatives, a constitution of government for yourself and for your posterity, I trust you will not deem it premature or improper for me, whose interests are united with yours, and whose warmest wishes are for your welfare, to call your attention to a subject of the utmost importance to individual and national happiness — I mean the momentous question whether this shall be a free or a slave state. Already have the advocates of slavery taken the field; and one may frequently hear them descanting upon the advantages which would attend the admission of slavery, and murmuring because this territory is not permitted to enjoy this inestimable blessing as well as some other states and territories. "Were slavery admitted," say they, "the territory would be immediately settled; mills, manufactories and bridges, would be erected, and the whole country would wear a new appearance."11

Believing, however, that the question should be considered from the standpoint of right rather than from that of expediency, the writer maintains with cogent arguments the injustice of slavery. Moreover he declares himself to be "one of those who consider the present [l]aws of this territory, admitting slavery under certain restrictions & regulations, as not only unjust, but as plainly inconsistent with the law of Congress which declares that there shall be 'neither slavery nor involuntary servitude' in this territory." The arguments of Governor Edwards in favor of the p244validity of the indenture law are ably refuted. "It must be a subject of regret to every lover of liberty," the writer concludes, "that although our last legislature passed an act to repeal the odious law for the admission of slavery, yet the repealing act has been defeated by the veto of his excellency the governor. Let us hail the approach of that period when we shall be delivered from the trammels and shackles of territorial bondage — when it shall not be in the power of an individual, in whose appointment we have no voice, to set aside the will of the people, as expressed by their representatives."

In his second number, printed five days before the beginning of the election,12 "Agis" proceeded "to show that no solid reason can be produced in favor of the expediency of slavery." His principal points were: the danger of insurrection, the corruption of public and private morals, and the discouragement of free labor.

But were slavery admitted, many emigrants, who now pass through our territory, on their way to Boon's lick, and other parts of the Missouri territory, followed by a long concourse of slaves, might settle in Illinois. Perhaps they might; and this is the most plausible argument which has been adduced in favor of the admission of slavery. Yet for my own part, I would rather see our rich meadows and fertile woodlands inhabited alone by the wild beasts and birds of the air, than that they should ever echo the sound of the slave driver's scourge, or resound with the cries of the oppressed African. I would rather that our citizens should live fearlessly and contentedly in their peaceful and modest cabins, than that, surrounded by a host of slaves, and inhabiting splendid palaces and gilded domes, they should live in constant apprehensions of an attack from those who are, and who ought to be, their mortal enemies.

People of Illinois! to you belongs the decision of the important question; important as it relates to yourself, but doubly so as it regards your posterity. Do not give them occasion to say, that through indolence, or through a mistaken zeal for public improvements, you have fixed upon them the curse of slavery — a curse which, when once fastened upon your land, cannot be removed. To you it belongs to say, whether this territory shal[l] be inhabited by freemen or by slaves — whether all its inhabitants shall live in simple and happy freedom, or one half of them shall be reduced to abject and cruel servitude to support the splendid misery and sickly pomp of the other half.

p245 As the love of liberty is dear to your hearts — as you would preserve yourself and your posterity from the miserable fate of the once opulent inhabitants of St. Domingo — as you would respect the commands of Heaven and the dictates of your own consciences, let me beseach [sic] you be cautious to what persons you confide the important trust of framing your state constitution. Let no friend to slavery, however great his talents, enjoy your confidence. In particular, beware of those who, while they pretend opposition to slavery, are still desirous to uphold the present method of introducing slaves by indenturing. This half-way measure is satisfactory neither to the advocates of slavery, nor to the friends of liberty. Let no one enjoy your confidence who will not zealously advocate the entire exclusion of slavery from the state. Disregard the clamor by which the friends of slavery hope to divert your attention from the great question of slavery or freedom. Place your confidence in men who are in practice, as well as in theory, friends to liberty — men whose interests are blended with your own — who have no aristocratical desires to gratify; and whose information and talents enable them to act with benefit to their constituents, and with honor to themselves.

The third communication of "A friend to enquiry," published July 22, after the elections but before the meeting of the convention, is an argument against the exclusion of slavery from Illinois as "a principle fraught with cruelty and injustice." Admitting "the abominable principles of slavery," the writer desires "to call the attention solely to the most effectual mode of remedying this just stain in the political institutions of our common country. That this is the end to which our enquiries should at present be directed, and not to the mere policy of excluding slavery from this territory, will not, I presume be denied, by a single friend to humanity." Replying to "a modern writer of some celebrity," probably "Agis," he points out that "the mere act of exclusion, will not emancipate a single slave" and advocates a plan

which in itself, by remunirating [sic] the owner, and preparing the slave, for the right exercise of his liberty, would give to the system appearance of perfect justice and equity? That a plan of gradual emancipation might be rendered subservient to this purpose, will not be questioned after a moment's enquiry. And I have no hesitation in declaring, notwithstanding the opposition I may receive from a host of policy scriblers [sic], that under proper regulations, I would sooner see limited slavery introduced into our territory, though the limit p246should not take effect during the existence of the first generation, that this exclusion policy so much spoken of at present.

After quoting Dr. James Beattie in favor of gradual emancipation, he concludes:

Let us then, instead of excluding the slave from our territory, for surely that cannot be good policy which is not in unison with religion and humanity — let us, I say, provide by our political regulations, for his introduction and emancipation, under some such plan as that proposed by Beattie. And let it be remembered that it is no excuse for a dereliction of duty in the particular, to say that we have never yet tolerated slavery in our territory, and that the plan for its abolition has not been adopted by the slave holding states. On the contrary, may we not hope, if we set the example, it will become general. And would it not be a proud triumph to our posterity, after the business of universal emancipation shall have been effected, in the tracing the effect to the cause, to find its origin in the benevolent policy of our territory?

In recommending the communication of "Agis" to their readers, the editors of the paper declared, "they are well worth, to those who are opposed to the toleration of slavery in this territory, an attentive perusal; and more especially, to those who are in favor of it."13 This impartial attitude which the paper had endeavored to hold on the slavery issue was lost, however, in the comment on the third number of "A friend to enquiry." The arguments of this writer in favor of delaying the movement for statehood had been vigorously controverted by the editors, but his plan for the toleration of slavery met with their entire approval. "Our readers," the editorial runs,

are respectfully solicited to give the foregoing essay written by "A friend to enquiry", an attentive and candid perusal. It breathes the language of philanthropy, and is fraught with much meaning and benevolence of soul, and must flash conviction upon the mind of every person who feels a disposition to palliate the condition of the oppressed African, with so little injury to those, who by the laws of our government, have unfortunately become the owners of slaves. He pleads not for an everlasting bondage of the blacks — he pleads not for the perpetual security of that property guaranteed to him by the laws of the Union. No — he pleads for justice, in the emancipation of those unfortunate beings. . . . It would reflect much to the honor and humanity p247of the generous sons of Illinois, when the grand object of universal emancipation shall be effected, to hear it sounded from abroad, that this godlike and benevolent act of humanity originated with them.14

Not all of the readers of the communications from "A friend to enquiry" were so easily convinced that his motives were purely p248philanthropic, and the next issue of the Intelligencer contains two replies. "Prudence" could see no good reason for bringing "among us this class of men [negroes], to the exclusion of those more beneficial to society . . . as well might we attempt to transplant all the vices and diseases of the eastern states, that we might have the credit of curing them — as to bring in these dusky sons of Africa, to where the citizens do not want them, and too where they are prohibited by the laws of the U. States." Especially significant is the statement that: "But few, I think who read the labored essay of 'A Friend to Enquiry' will think, him actuated alone by humanity. It is the dernier resortº of an expiring party, who finding that the naked hook of unconditional slavery, will not be swallowed by the people, have adroitly enough, gilded it over with the form of general humanity." In conclusion the writer expressed the wish that "the people in general, the convention, and the convention's dictator, in particular," would "think into view the serious evils arising from admitting among us a host of free negroes; and that with their schemes of humanity they would mix a little PRUDENCE."

The other reply, by "Independence," was devoted mainly to a rebuttal of the contention that the failure to show a population of 40,000 in June necessitated the abandonment of the movement for statehood. It contained one passage, however, significant of the motives of the opposition: "Who are the 'disinterested' so much spoken of in a former piece by 'a friend to enquiry?' Who have excited so much feeling in public as the advocates for the continuance of our territorial dependency? What is the object in abandoning the privileges of the act of Congress? Is it not for the purpose of delay? Will delay benefit the many or the few? — As for 'conclusive argument,' we have not heard any from the other side — Of declamation, we have heard considerable." Another writer, who signed himself "A citizen," makes a statement in the Intelligencer of June 24 which throws additional light on what was going on behind the scenes. "Some think," he declares, "that the ordinance of Congress, and the law for our admission into the union, excludes us forever, from being a slave state. Others, and men of considerable investigation, think differently, and say that p249this obnoxious feature, in our bill of rights, may be expunged by our next delegate. . . . I am thus particular, because I am one of those unbelieving few, who do not think that all, now, depends on the convention." Obviously "A citizen" was not in favor of the exclusion of slavery and was in favor of delay.

Some of those who advocated dropping the statehood movement for the time being may have hoped to discourage the voters from attending the elections. A letter from Shawneetown, dated June 17, indicates not only that this was the case and that the attempt met with little success, but also that the lack of 40,000 inhabitants must have been fully recognized some time before the returns were published. "I have made all the enquiry possible," the writer states, "as to the determination of the people on the subject of a convention; and from the best information I am able to get, the elections on this side will be general. The additional returns from some counties will be considerable — and a disposition is evinced by some, to form a constitution at all events." Two weeks after this letter was written and in the last issue before the elections, the Intelligencer announced a hopeful situation as concerned the census:

We are happy to learn from a respectable source, that the commissioner for taking the census in the county of Franklin, will probably return the number of two thousand inhabitants. We are also credibly informed, that the county of Gallatin contains one thousand inhabitants, not yet returned; and that the emigration to the eastern counties is astonishingly rapid. From the information we have received, it is probable, that if the commissioners for the several counties will be vigilant, that our numbers will increase to forty thousand by the first of August. We would therefore recommend to the commissioners to be industrious, and make returns of the additional settlers on the first Monday in August, that the convention may be enabled, if possible, to proceed to the formation of a constitution.

While slavery was without doubt the one great issue, it was by no means the only subject discussed in the convention campaign. These discussions as reflected in communications in the Intelligencer are of interest not only for the part which they played in the campaign, but also because of the effect which they may have had on the deliberations of the convention. Some time in May, p250while the campaign was in progress, a second paper was established, at Shawneetown, in which doubtless appeared similar communications affecting and reflecting the campaign in the eastern part of the territory. Unfortunately no issues of this paper earlier than October 17, 1818, are known to have been preserved.

The Intelligencer, in its editorial of March 11, urged the importance of electing to the convention "men who are versed in the science of government; men who have correct opinions of human nature, and who have an extensive acquaintance with the effects which the various forms of government have had upon the happiness of the human family." This opened up a long-drawn‑out discussion of the qualifications which candidates should have and of the sort of men who should be sent to frame the constitution. Cook, as has been seen, urged the election of men of talents regardless of their position on the slavery question, while "Caution" thought there were not enough such men in the territory to frame the constitution and hold the offices. The most persistent writer on this subject, however, was "One of the people," whose first communication appeared on May 6. Urging the importance of having a constitution so framed "that no one class of citizens could be burdened by a future legislature more than any other class of citizens," a constitution that "should provide for an equitable and just system of taxation, which would prevent the poor from being taxed or burdened more than the rich, as they are in fact at present in this territory," he pointed out the necessity, in order to secure such a constitution, of having it "framed by men of intelligence, whose minds are expanded, whose views are liberal and who will be able to discover the practical operation of those things which may be engrafted into that important instrument." The tendency of unqualified candidates to come forward as volunteers was deplored and they were advised to give way and solicit others more qualified to accept the position.

In a second number, published May 13, the same writer declared that some opposed sending men of talents to the convention because

p251 "they could not be trusted." . . . If they are not of the same calling, that is another objection. "Their interest," they say, "may be different from ours." Therefore, "let us send men of our own calling, who will be governed by interest." That is coming to the point at once. And here it might be said with propriety, that the pay appears to be an object with some of them; for some have been known to enquire, whether the conventioners would receive any pay! before they offered to volunteer their services. Men of narrow contracted minds, who will be governed by the corrupting principle of self-interest, are the last men in the world, who ought to be elected to form a happy constitution for a free people. Yet such it is believed, are many of the persons who claim the right to form for us a constitution. They claim it upon the ground that they are the oldest settlers. Many old settlers of the class of candidates, appear to consider all who have not been here quite so long as themselves, as aliens; who have no more rights here than aliens enjoy under the English Monarchy.

Still a third number, appearing the following week, presented a series of searching questions beginning with "Can I do anything more in a convention than to give my vote?" which each of the would‑be candidates was advised not only to answer but to submit to the "best informed men in the county" before deciding to stand for election.

Immediately after these articles were published, another writer, who called himself "Anticipator," appeared on the scene with a number of concrete suggestions as to articles which should be included in the constitution. Among these were provisions against plural officeholding, against a religious test for officeholders, for the punishment of bribery or the soliciting of votes, and for allowing "all widows and unmarried females over the age of 21 years . . . to vote at popular elections." The argument in favor of this latter provision has quite a modern ring, although few advocates of women's suffrage todayb would confine it to "widows and unmarried females." "We frequently see widows," he wrote, "administering on estates and having charge of large families. It is reasonable to suppose that they are some times interested in the passage of particular laws, which affect themselves, their children, or their property. They know before an election, who will and who will not advocate particular measures. — A single vote may preponderate the election either way. Why deprive them of p252acting in this case, where they are particularly interested, when their peculiar circumstances had made it necessary for them to act in others, which arbitrary habit, has made the province of men?" In a second number "Anticipator" took occasion to condemn "the old ritual of the English common law, handed down with little variation, from the barbarous age of Edward IV," and to advocate the substitution of arbitration of disputes for trial by jury in all civil cases.15

p253 About the same time appeared two communications from "A friend to equal justice," who considered the existing system of taxation, together with the requirements of road work and muster service, very oppressive to poor men and to young men. A rich man with 1,000 acres of valuable land paid only $10 in taxes a year, he claimed, while the poor man was obliged to contribute the equivalent of $28.50 in money or service. This he believed to be due to the fact that the wealthy farmers "have heretofore been our law makers," and now they "are offering to go and adopt a constitution for us." Congress having given the vote to all without regard to property qualifications, the young men and the poor men were urged to improve the opportunity by sending "enlightened men" to the convention instead of "ignorant wealthy men" who would insist on a property qualification for members of the legislature and thus ensure the continuance of the "oppressive system of taxation."

The arguments of "One of the people" and "A friend to equal justice" called out a reply from "An old farmer," who believed that the articles over these signatures were written by the same hand. The protest against "unqualified candidates" he considered

to be a recommendation to the old men of the different counties of the territory, farmers in particular, who had formerly been representatives, "to stay at home, and let the young ones (who are always the wisest) go and make a constitution for them." Much as I admire the modesty of this young stranger, I cannot, altogether, come into his measures. — I presume he means that it is lawyers who ought to represent us. — I agree that the avocations of the bar, and a classical education, [in] particular the latter, (which some of them may have,) contribute greatly to store the mind with extraneous knowledge; but that the continual practice of chicanery, will qualify a man for forming laws, I deny. Certainly, the constant habit of public speaking, will give the muscles of his mouth more elasticity, and he can learn to associate his ideas with more ease. But, at the same time, the little, dirty quarrels, and disputes, which his profession impels him continually to take part in, or starve, will have a tendency to contract and Yankeefy a mind that might be otherwise liberal and generous.

The complicated system of the law was then attacked and the writer declared himself "for trusting to the enlight[en]ed farmers and others, who have the same object in view, to simplify p254our laws, and lop off from them that load of technicalities which make pack horses of our memories." To the "two lamentable tales about taxation" he replied only with ridicule.16

Still another writer, who used the name of "Erin," in the paper of June 24, called upon "One of the people" to cease harping on the self-evident proposition that able men should be sent to the convention and instead to discuss the principles which should be incorporated into the constitution; "then let the people find men enough learned in those principles to adopt them into being." One of the subjects which he wanted discussed was "whether the preachers of the gospel of Christ ought to have a seat in the convention or not. Whether in all respects, good men, merely for their entering on that most interesting business to mankind, should be excluded from a seat in the convention, and the legislatures arising therefrom. Or whether men, who often themselves, they are called to the pulpit by the Almighty God, ought to degrade themselves by entering into politics." Another "subject of much concern to the territory" was that of slavery: "whether it would not be most consonant to true religion and freedom, to allow the half starved blacks of the south to partake of Illinois plenty; and whether it would not be to the advantage of the new state to permit those unfortunate subjects of the southern states a place in the 'land of promise:' and devise some mode of their gradual emancipation; or whether it would not be better for the negroes of the United States, and our new state to stay as they are."

"One of the people" decided to ignore the challenge of "Erin" because it was "too late to reply, in time to answer any of those purposes which he appears to have had in view," the elections then being over. To "An old farmer," however, he replied with vigor, accusing him of being no farmer at all but a doctor who had "been in the territory about six or eight weeks." Denying that he had written the articles signed "A friend to equal justice," he accused "An old farmer" of having written those signed "Anticipator" and of having commenced 'anticipating' a constitution p255for us" two weeks after he came to Illinois. So much of this reply as was not devoted to ridicule and personalities was a defense of the law and lawyers.17 The character and value of the common law, however, were much more ably discussed in a communication signed "Common Sense," which appeared in the previous issue of the paper:

Let us enquire what this law is, so much detested by the learned Anticipator. It is in the words of an able judge the perfection of reason; it has for its foundation the general customs of the kingdom, the law of nature and the law of God; it is founded upon reason and is said to be the perfection of reason acquired by long study, observation, and experience, and refined by learned men in all ages. . . . Its continuance, therefore, the warmth with which it has always been supported, and its general adoption throughout the U. States is the best evidence of its utility and excellence; it is the birthright of every citizen, the only safeguard he hath for the protection, not only of his property but his family.18

All these various communications, considered together, would indicate that there were in Illinois in 1818 two sorts of politicians. One type consisted of young ambitious lawyers, with a fair amount of education, many of whom had come to the territory only a few years before in the hope of finding there a road to wealth and political preferment. The other class, more numerous, was made up of those among the old established citizens who, having come in the front ranks of the pioneers, had acquired a competence by land operations or business enterprises and had become the social and political leaders of their fellows. Lacking the advantages of education and wide experience, the men of this letter class were provincial in their views and ignorant of the science of government, but they were in no hurry to withdraw in favor of the more competent newcomers.

In spite of the importance of the issue of slavery in the election of members of the convention, it seems probable that personal popularity played a very large part in determining the outcome, just as had been the case with territorial elections. p256Relying on this popularity, some of the candidates evidently tried to evade the issue. In the Intelligencer of May 27, a writer who signed himself "The people" declared: "The object which most interests the public mind, with regard to the approaching election, for members to the convention, is to know whether they are in favor of the toleration or the prohibition of slavery. Several have offered, in different parts of the territory, who have made their sentiments known on that head, and pledge themselves to one or other of the parties to support their favorite measure: — Others again conceal their real opinions, and measurably give both parties hopes of being successful through their means." Still more objectionable to this writer were those who claimed to be ready to obey the instructions of their constituents regardless of their own views and thus made "so light of their opinions as to barter them for an office." This communication was probably from an opponent of the toleration of slavery, but a month later "A citizen," who seems to have been on the other side, called for the "candid and impartial sentiments" of the candidates on the subject. "On this important point," he wrote, "it will be well for every man to inquireº before he gives his vote — and to enquireº 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."19

The complicated nature of the slavery question doubtless enabled many of the candidates to evade the vital issues of existing slavery and the indenture system by merely declaring themselves opposed to the admission of slavery. In Madison County, according to a contemporary writer many years later, the "candidates all professed to be opposed to slavery. One of them said he was opposed to it because he believed it would be a disadvantage to the State, — if he had thought it an advantage, he would have been in favor of it." One of the successful candidates in this county was Benjamin Stephenson, who in the convention voted for all the proslavery clauses. Probably he had declared himself opposed to the introduction of slavery but did not feel p257under any obligation to aid in wiping out existing slavery or the indenture system. For the attitude of candidates in the other counties little evidence is available except the votes in the convention of those who were successful. The representatives of three counties, Union, Johnson, and Edwards, all voted on the antislavery side at every opportunity, and it is quite likely that the slavery issue played a considerable part in their elections. Of the four unsuccessful candidates in Union County, two held slaves. In Johnson, the only known candidate who was not elected was a slaveholder and an active advocate of the toleration of slavery in Illinois. He is said to have been defeated by only a few votes.20 In Edwards it is possible that Birkbeckc may have exerted an influence against slavery even as early as this election.

All the representatives from Gallatin, Randolph, and Jackson counties voted consistently for the recognition of the indenture system and existing slavery. The importance of the saline, the operation of which depended upon slave labor, is sufficient to explain the situation in Gallatin. In Randolph, Kane is said to have declared that "if Doctor Fisher should be elected as his colleague, he, Mr. Kane, would consider himself instructed to vote for the introduction of slavery, but if Mr. McFerron was elected as his colleague, then he would consider himself instructed to vote against slavery."21

From this it would seem that Kane expected to be elected himself, regardless of the issue, because of his prominence in the county. The situation was somewhat similar in Jackson County, where it was only a question of whom the voters should "select as the other delegate to accompany Conrad Will; for the doctor's ability and prominence made him pre-eminent in all their public affairs. Their choice fell upon James Hall, Jr., an intelligent and enterprising citizen, though having but moderate education." p258R. E. Heacock, a lawyer who in 1816 ran against Pope for the position of delegate, was the only one of the five known candidates in this county who was not a slaveholder. Here again the salt works were an influential factor. The election in the other counties of men who opposed each other on the slavery issue indicates that the question was not the determining factor in these cases.

The methods of campaigning adopted by the candidates in this election were those customary on the frontier at the time. The two newspapers must have reached only a small proportion of the voters, but it is probable that handbills were circulated and these may have been more specific in their discussion of the merits of the respective candidates than were the articles in the Intelligencer. To a large extent, however, the campaign probably took the form of a house-to‑house canvass, the character of which is admirably delineated in a poem entitled "Candidates" which was published in the Intelligencer of July 1, five days before the elections began:

In dreary woods, remote from social walks

I dwell. From year to year, no friendly steps

Approach my cot, save near election days,d

When throngs of busy, bustling candidates

Cheer me with their conversation so soft and sweet —

I list' with patience to their charming tales,

Whilst gingerbread and whisky they disperse,

To me, my wife, and all the children round.

Some bring a store of little penny books

And trinkets rare for all my infants young.—

My health and crops appear their utmost care,

Fraternal squeezes from their hands I get —

As tho' they lov'd me from their very souls:—

Then — "Will you vote for me my dearest friend?

Your laws I'll alter, and lop taxes off;—

'Tis for the public weal I stand the test,

And leave my home, sorely against my will:

But knowing that the people's good require

An old substantial hand — I quit my farm

For patriotism's sake, and public good;"

Then fresh embraces close the friendly scene,

With protestations firm, of how they love.

But what most rarely does my good wife pleate,º

p259 Is that the snot nos'd baby gets a buss!!

O that conventions ev'ry day were call'd,

That social converse might forever reign.

It would seem that those candidates who most diligently followed this method of house-to‑house canvass were the most likely to be elected. No one had a better opportunity for such a canvass than the commissioners who took the census, and five of them, or one-third of their number, were elected to the convention. Among the other successful candidates were the father of one and the brother of another of the commissioners. Doubtless the latter had availed themselves of the opportunity to speak a good word for their relatives while collecting the census data.

In such a campaign it is probable that personalities played a large part. One of the candidates in Monroe County was Andey Kinney, an early settler in the country. His opponents first charged him with "offering to purchase votes on such and such terms" and then dug up an old charge that he had once rebelled against his country "and had taken a captain's commission under a French officer." They specified, moreover, that he "had been tried by a court of justice, fined in a sum of forty dollars, and never to hold a commission in the territory afterwards."

Kinney denied the charge in the Intelligencer of June 10, and presented several certificates to prove that he had been acquitted at the trial. He also pointed to the fact that he had "valiently [sic] assisted in defending my country . . . in an engagement above Cahokia, under the Bluff . . . where we killed seven men, and wounded some more, in the year 1794." The sole cause of his "embarking in this important case of the convention, was for the express purpose of being an advocate for our inherent rights which naturally belong to a free and independent people. — Slavery is an abomination which we ought to guard against in every sense of the word. High salaries which are oppressive to the people, ought never to be sanctioned. So I shall conclude, stating that if I should be elected, that according to the best of my abilities, I will use every exertion in my power, to promote the general interest of the people." Kinney was not elected.

The elections took place on July 6, 7, and 8. The only polls p260in each county were held at the county seat and the voting was viva voce. The vote of each elector was recorded and proclaimed aloud by the sheriff. This system, which was used in several of the southern states, had been substituted for election by ballot by a law passed by the territorial legislature on December 8, 1813. The preamble of this act declared:

Whereas voters have hitherto been obliged to vote by ballot, and the ignorant as well as those in embarrassed circumstances are thereby subject to be imposed upon by electioneering zealots.

And whereas it is inconsistent with the spirit of a representative republican government since the opening for bribery and corruption is so manifest, which should ever be opposed and suppressed in such a government, for remedy whereof.

One of the communicates of "Agis," published July 1, 1818, was a protest against the viva voce system of voting and against the regulation requiring "all the electors of a county to give their votes in one place." The writer showed that voting by ballot, instead of giving opportunity for corruption and undue influence, was the best means of preventing it. "These hints," he concluded, "are suggested at this time in order that, when the all-important selection of members of the convention for framing your state constitution,º your choice may be directed to such men as will support the equal rights of the people."22

No statistics are available regarding the number of ballots cast in any of the counties except Madison. The census shows 1,012 men of voting age in that county, and there were 517 votes cast in the election.23 Taking into consideration the fact that only those who had been in the territory since the first of the year were qualified to vote and the long distances which many of the voters must have had to travel, this indicates a very active interest on the part of the electorate.

News of the result of the election was slow in coming in. On July 15, the Intelligencer printed the names of the successful candidates in Randolph and the nearby counties of Monroe, St. Clair, Madison, and Jackson. The next week the list was completed p261for all except Bond, Edwards, and Crawford counties, but the names of the representatives from these counties were not printed until August 5, two days after the convention assembled.

The issue of the Intelligencer in which were printed the first proceedings of the convention contained the following address:

The undersigned happening to meet at the St. Clair Circuit Court have united in submitting the following address to the friends of Freedom in the state of Illinois:

Feeling it a duty in those who are sincere in their opposition to the toleration of slavery in this territory, to use all fair and laudable means to effect that subject, we therefore, beg leave to present to our fellow-citizens at large, the sentiments which prevail in this section of our country on that subject. In the counties of Madison and St. Clair, the most populous counties in the territory, a sentiment approaching that of unanimity against it seems to prevail. In the counties of Bond, Washington and Monroe, a similar sentiment also prevails. We are informed that strong exertions will be made in the Convention to give sanction to that deplorable evil in our state; and least such should be the result at too late a period for any thing like concert to take place among the friends of freedom in trying to defeat it; we therefore, earnestly solicit all true friends to freedom in every section of the territory, to unite in opposing it, both by the election of, a Delegate to Congress who will oppose it, and by forming meetings and preparing remonstrances to Congress against it. Indeed, so important is this question considered, that no exertion of a fair character should be omitted to defeat the plan of those who either wish a temporary or unlimited slavery. Let us also select men to the Legislature who will unite in remonstrating to the general government against ratifying such a constitution. At a crisis like this, thinking will not do, acting is necessary.24

In this address, the leaders of the extreme antislavery party acknowledged their defeat.


The Author's Notes:

1 Intelligencer, February 25, March 4, April 22, 1818.

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2 Intelligencer, April 22 to May 27, 1818.

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3 Intelligencer, May 6, March 11, 1818.

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4 Ogg, Fordham's Personal Narrative, 221.

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5 Cook evidently confused the Ordinance of 1787 with the Virginia act of cession. See above, pp180, 182.

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6 Intelligencer, April 1, 1818.

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7 Intelligencer, April 15, 1818.

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8 Intelligencer, April 22, May 6, 1818.

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9 The original schedules are found in the secretary of state's office, but see appendix, pp317, 319. See James, Territorial Records, 54‑58.

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10 Intelligencer, June 10, June 17, 1818.

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11 Intelligencer, June 17, 1818. See also Washburne, Edward Coles, 13‑45; extract from a letter from Coles to Lippincott about 1860, copied as a manuscript note in the latter's set of clippings of his "Conflict of the Century."

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12 Intelligencer, July 1, 1818.

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13 Intelligencer, July 1, 1818.

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14 Intelligencer, July 22, 1818.

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15 Intelligencer, May 27, June 10, 1818.

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16 Intelligencer, June 17, 1818.

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17 Intelligencer, July 8, 1818.

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18 Intelligencer, July 1, 1818.

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19 Intelligencer, May 27, June 24, 1818.

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20 His name was John Copeland. See Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, 354; Churchill, "Annotations," no. 7.

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21 Churchill, "Annotations," no. 7; see also pp199‑200. For the situation in Jackson County see Illinois State Historical Society, Transactions, 1905, pp358‑359; Patterson, "Early Society in Southern Illinois," in Fergus Historical Series, no. 14:122.

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22 Pope's Digest, 1:154‑155; Intelligencer, July 1, 1818.

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23 Churchill, "Annotations," no. 7.

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24 Intelligencer, August 5, 1818. The address was signed by Risdon Moore, Benjamin Watts, Jacob Ogle, Joshua Oglesby, William Scott, Sr., William Biggs, George Blair, Charles Matheny, James Garretson, and William Kinney from St. Clair County; William Whiteside from Madison; James Lemen from Monroe; and William Bradsby from Washington.


Thayer's Notes:

a Agis was a Spartan king who brought about land reforms and the forgiveness of debt, in the interest of strengthening the state by increasing the number of citizens participating in it; he is the subject of a biography by Plutarch, an author particularly esteemed in the 16th thru the 18th centuries. It was a very apt pseudonym for someone who sided with the average people against the rich (see for example Plut. Agis 8, etc.).

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b When Buck wrote, the topic was one of actuality: American women did not yet have the vote. 1917 was the first year of mass arrests of demonstrating suffragists, and only about a dozen states, most of them in the West, allowed women the (sometimes only partial) right to vote: Illinois was not one of them.

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c The name will mean nothing to those dropping onto this page from a search engine. Morris Birkbeck is an important figure, though, in the early history of the state of Illinois: for an introduction, see Chapter 4.

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d As a resident of Illinois nearly two hundred years later, I can tell you absolutely nothing has changed, although the technique has been perfected. A few weeks before the biennial elections, thru my mail slot there suddenly pops up a slick little brochure with a grossly misleading title like "Weekly News from your Representative in Congress", informing me of the wonderful things that congressperson has done for me, and usually including a "questionnaire", check yes or no only please, that is so transparently biased as to be preposterous to any thinking person: 'Would you vote for God as a Democratic candidate, or would you prefer to watch the arch-fiend George W. Bush beat his wife for another four years?'; I exaggerate only slightly. Needless to say, such "weekly reports" are unknown the other 103 weeks of my congresswoman's term; and — a refinement that does not seem to have been thought of in 1818 — the bill for the concoction, printing and mailing of this one-time scattershot propaganda leaflet (presented as an informational newsletter, part of an ongoing discourse between legislator and citizen) falls squarely on me as a taxpayer, courtesy of Congressional franking privileges and the like. It is informational, if not quite in the way cynically hoped for by its perpetrator; and the cost to me is probably only about 50¢, the price of a chocolate bar: but I'd rather have the chocolate bar — hell, I'd even take the whisky my fortunate 19c fellow-citizen got. I hope I remember to attach a copy here of one of these outrageous little broadsheets next time I get one.


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