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Illinois in 1818
Solon J. Buck​a

 p7  Preface

The state of Illinois is about to celebrate the centennial of its admission to the Union. If the observance of this anniversary is to be of any permanent value to the commonwealth, it should furnish the occasion for a survey of progress during the century that has passed in order that future development may be built upon a solid foundation. The full significance of 100 years of statehood cannot be understood without a knowledge of the Illinois of 1818, when the state had its beginnings. This work is an attempt to portray the social, economic, and political life of Illinois at the close of the territorial period, and, in addition, to tell the story of the transition from colonial dependence to the full dignity of a state in the Union. It opens with a description of certain elements, then dominant in the whole northern part of the state, which have long disappeared from its boundaries — the Indians and the fur trade. The next contains a discussion of the system by which the United States disposed of the soil to settlers and a survey of the extent to which such disposition had been effected by the close of 1818. An examination of the distribution of population, with an attempt to locate the extreme frontier of settlement in the year of admission, leads to a study of the settlers themselves — who and what manner of people they were and whence they came. The two succeeding chapters deal with economic, social, and intellectual conditions, which are depicted principally by means of extracts from contemporary newspapers and books of travel.

The first half of the book is primarily descriptive; the latter half, narrative. Chapter 7, which furnishes the transition, consists of a rapid sketch of political developments during the territorial period designed to bring out the political situation in 1818. The movement admission is then narrated from its inception under the influence of Daniel Pope Cook to the page of the enabling act by Congress. Chapter 9, dealing with the campaign for the election of members of the convention, contains extensive quotations from newspaper communications, and finds its principal significance in the slavery issue. The work of the convention in framing a constitution for the embryo state  p2 is then discussed on the basis of a careful study of its journal recently rescued from oblivion. The last chapter tells of the establishment to state government — the first election and the first session of the legislature — and finally of the passage by Congress of the act which made Illinois one of the United States of America.

When the work on this volume was begun, I was connected with the University of Illinois. My departure from the state and the assumption of obligations to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society delayed and made difficult the completion of the work; and that it has been accomplished at all is due largely to the assistance which I have received from others. I am especially indebted to Dr. Wayne E. Stevens and Mr. Ralph Linton, who furnished most of the material for the first chapter; to Dr. Frances Relf, who served as my assistant in the assembling of material and the drafting of the other chapters; and, above all, to Dr. Otto L. Schmidt, the Chairman of the Illinois Centennial Commission, whose personal support alone made much of the essential material available and enabled the work to go on during the interval between the two commissions. After the manuscript left my hands it received extensive revision at the hands of the editor, Professor Clarence W. Alvord, and his staff. Because of the illness of Professor Alvord, the work of seeing the book through the press has been supervised by Professor Evarts B. Greene, with the assistance of Dr. Theodore C. Pease. The selection of the illustrations and the compilation of the bibliography and index have been handled by the editorial staff.

Solon J. Buck

St. Paul, Minnesota

February, 1917

The Indians and the Fur Trade


The Public Lands


Extent of Settlement


The Pioneers


The Economic Situation


Social Conditions


The Political Situation


The Movement for Admission


The Convention Campaign


Framing the Constitution


A State in the Union


[decorative delimiter]

Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here is the sesquicentennial reprint, University of Illinois Press, 1967, minus the new introductory material written for that second edition (pages vii‑xiii), which is still copyright. The actual work, the text by Buck, dates to 1917 and is in the public domain: (details here on the copyright law involved).


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed was remarkably well proofread, with about one typographical error per hundred pages. I marked my few corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

Very occasionally also there appear to be other errors not marked "[sic]" by the author; they're probably in the sources themselves; I've marked them º. A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

. . . And Finally, about those Illustrations . . .

The 1967 edition reproduces not all, but some of the illustrations in the original of 1917. Of these nineteen illustrations, however, I in turn reproduce only six in my transcription: the three maps in Chapters 2 and 3, that are really essential to understanding the text, which refers to them; and woodcuts of three buildings that relate to the text to a certain extent. The other thirteen were strewn thru the book as decorations: they are nice woodcuts, showing us miscellaneous farm implements of the period — flax hackles and grain cradles and the like — but are pretty much irrelevant to the text. You can get an idea of them from one that I rescued, which now illustrates the article Lucerna (on ancient Roman oil lamps) of Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a small house, ground-floor, upper floor and a pair of chimneys.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a drawing of the house in Kaskaskia in which the Territorial Legislature of Illinois first met, from p296 of the book, although in this transcription I've moved it to a more appropriate place, in Chapter 7. The original is in black & white; I colorized it to match the colors on the Seal of the State of Illinois.

The Author

a Solon Justus Buck (1884‑1962); known to his friends as "Steve". His academic career, never straying very far from his interest in the history of agricultural communities, started with a brief appointment to Indiana University followed by two years at the University of Illinois, which he left for the University of Minnesota in 1914, becoming also superintendent of the Minnesota State Historical Society. During his long tenure in Minnesota he fought hard for the state's history, helping organize county historical societies, founding a quarterly periodical, and moving the Historical Society from a basement — even if it was that of the State Capitol — to its own building.

In 1931 he was appointed professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, and when the U. S. National Archives were established in 1935 he was tapped to be Assistant Director, then in 1941 the second Archivist of the United States. In 1948 he joined the Library of Congress as chief of the Manuscript Division, then as Assistant Librarian until his retirement in 1954.

As might be expected from such a career, his gifts lay in organization, with a particular talent for bibliography; he became an international authority in archival economy. His obituary in AHR 68:308‑309 says of him: "He was a perfectionist with an infinite mastery of detail. He held all his associates to his own high standards of perfection. He was merciless on incompetents, but held the respect of those who worked with him."

In addition to Illinois in 1818 — an introductory volume to the Illinois Centennial History series — he wrote The Granger Movement, Travel and Description 1765‑1865 (Ph. D. thesis, Harvard, 1911), which at his death was still considered the classic treatment of the subject; The Agrarian Crusade (1919), and, with his wife Elizabeth Hawthorne Buck, The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania (1939).

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