Newton Bateman.

Historical encyclopedia of Illinois online

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mutual concession, and among the points of
difference between the two classes of settlers
perhaps the most prominent was the divergence
in political creeds.

The first election of any real importance was
held in 1S3S. In that year Stephen A. Douglas
and John T. Stewart were opposing candidates
for Congress in a district which comprised
nearly all of the State north of the Illinois
River. Neither was known in Galesburg, but
the colonists from New York, who were chiefly
Whigs, voted solidly for Stewart, who won the
seat by a very narrow majority. It is said that
the first visit of Abraham Lincoln to Knox
County was in behalf of his friend Stewart, in
anticipation of a possible contest, seeking to
verify the unexpected vote. In 1S40 candidates
of the "Liberty" party secured a portion of the
suffrages of the Galesburg abolitionists, and
after that date the same political organization
captured the greater part of this vote. In one
word, Galesburg was politically isolated. It had
no party afliliation with any other town in the
county, and its influence in elections was only
felt when it happened to hold the balance of
power. Gradually, with the arrival of new-
comers and the maturing of a younger genera-
tion, there (.ame a shifting of political condi-
tions. The coalition of the abolitionists with
Van Buren's friends drew the allegiance of
democrats while repelling many of those who
were of whig antecedents, and a respectable
vote was given Taylor in 1848. When organized,
the republican party absorbed almost the entire
voting population, of Galesburg. The few demo-
crats who yet made party fealty an article of
faith found recruits only among new residents,
more especially among the Irish employed in
railroad construction; but In politics the city has
ever been and still is overwhelmingly republican.
The new alignment increased the political in-
fluence of Galesburg, and gave it a controlling
influence in the counsels of the dominant party
in the county. In local elections the lines have
been usually drawn very closely parallel to
those 'aid down in national issues, and no candi-
date running on a ticket supported by a dis-
sident minority has ever succeeded in securing
an election. During the sixteen years of village
organization the issues were chiefly personal.
"Aristocracy" and "workingmen" were terms
not infrequently employed as war cries, and
shortly before a municipal charter was secured
"Young America" was the slogan used against
"Old Fogies," those raising this cry claiming


KNOX (• U N T Y.

to represent the progressive, as against ttie
conservative, element. The leader of this party,
Richard H. Whiting, was the last President of
the village.

The temperance question had much to do with
the organization of the "Young America" party.
At the foundation of the colony an attempt was
made forever to prohibit the sale of liquor
within the limits of the village to be founded,
by the insertion of a provision forfeiting to the
college the title to any lot conveyed by the in-
stitution itself, on which liquor should be sold.
The character of the original population v as
such as to make whiskey selling as unprofitable
as it was likely to be unpopular, and no at-
tempt to introduce the liquor traffic was made
until the railroad introduced a new population,
of different training and diverse habits. With
that the struggle for enforced prohibition be-
gan, but the advocates of the movement lacked
organization at the outset, and the party in
control of the village affairs was too liberal to
take any effort toward advancing it.

The original draft of the city's charter vested
the right to license and control the liquor traffic
in the council. To this strong objection was
made, and a separate vote was taken on the
adoption of that clause, the majority against
license being large. Under the new government,
the "Young America" party retained its or-
ganization, and, calling itself the Liberal party,
appeared in nearly every election down to 1S97.
It has included the saloon interest, as well as
temperance men who do not favor extreme
measures. The line between it and the oppos-
ing party has been loosely drawn, and at all
times affected by other questions and personal
and local interests. A liberal Mayor was elected
in 1S59, and again in 1S64, 'C5 and '6G. Having
never, prior to the year last named, been in con-
trol of the council, the main object actually ac-
complished by the opposition was to hold in
check and counteract the efforts of the party in
the majority. The saloons continued to exist,
either by sufferance or successful resistance of
the intermittent efforts to drive them out. In
1867, Charles P. West being Mayor, a vigorous
effort was made for suppression, and a consider-
able sum expended for this end; but the result
was a disheartening disappointment to those
who had been most interested in the cause of
prohibition. For the next four years temper-
ance men controlled the administration, yet lit-
tle attempt was made to do more than preserve
order. For a portion of the time saloon keepers

were periodically arrested, and subjected to the
payment of a light fine. In 1872 it appeared that
no fines had been collected, and that there were
twenty-two open saloons, besides numerous
places in the outskirts of the city where the
traffic was carried on in a small way. The tem-
perance people seemed to have given up the
fight as hopeless. Mr. Field, then Mayor, pro-
posed the passage of an ordinance legalizing
the sale of liquor, but imposing a license fee so
high that few would care to pay it. With the
aid of these licensees, who v/ould have a peculiar
interest in driving out illegitimate dealers, the
traffic might be regulated and controlled. While
the want of special power in the charter to
grant license might tend to invalidate the pro-
tection from prosecutions under the State law
thus offered to dealers, the guarantee of exemp-
tion from attack by the city would, it was
thought, induce acceptance of it. An ordinance
was passed fixing the license fee at six hundred
dollars, a sum at that time considered an ex-
treme rate. The policy was approved by leading
citizens, who were strongly opposed to the traf-
fic, as likely to afford the best practicable meas-
ure of relief possible from an evil which it v/as
thought impossible wholly to eradicate. Yet
very soon there was developed a feeling of hos-
tility to the measure as immoral, and in 1874
the ordinance was repealed. In 1S75, on that
issue, the Liberals elected the Mayor but failed
to secure a majority of the council. In 1876 the
temperance party secured control of both the
legislative and executive branches of the city
government, and, with the whole force of the
city at command, a vigorous and unrelenting
war was made upon the sale of liquors. A stub-
born resistance was encountered and large sums
were expended by both sides to the controversy.
An intensely bitter feeling was engendered, dis-
turbng social and even domestic relations, and
ending in the practical defeat of the temper-
ance party, with heavy costs to be paid by the
city and county. In the middle of the year,
upon petition of the citizens, an election was
called on the proposition to adopt, in place of
the old special charter, the general law for the
government of cities. The proposition was car-
ried by a decisive majority and the announce-
ment of the result was followed by bonfires and
illuminations. In 1877 a Liberal Mayor was
elected, and thirteen of the fourteen aldermen
were of the same municipal party. A license
ordinance was passed, which, with amendments
made from time to time in the direction of more



Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 139 of 207)