George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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tion and the accompanying memorial were presented to the house. Reso-
lutions were introduced by Stephen A. Douglas favoring state owner-
ship. The subject was referred to the committee on internal improve-
ment, the chairman ,of which was Edward Smith, of Wabash county.


The bill which had been kindly prepared by the convention and pre-
sented to the legislature for its endorsement and modification by the
house, provided for the following internal improvements, and set aside
the amounts opposite for the carrying out of the same :

Improvement of the Wabash, the Illinois, Rock river, Kas-

kaskia, and Little Wabash, and Western Mail Route $ 400,000

Railroad, Vincennes to St. Louis 250,000

Railroad, Cairo to Galena 3,500,000

Railroad, Alton to Mt. Carmel 1,600,000

Railroad, Quincy to Indiana line 1,800,000

Railroad, Shelbyville to Terre Haute 650,000

Railroad, Peoria to Warsaw 700,000

Railroad, Alton to Central Railroad 600,000

Railroad, Belleville to Mt. Carmel 150,000

Railroad, Bloomington to Pekin 350,000

To pacify disappointed counties 200,000

Total $10,200.000

This bill which provided for the construction of so many railroads,
was sent to the governor, who, together with the council of revision,
vetoed the measure. But when it came back to the general assembly it
was speedily passed over the veto. This bill which looked to the bur-
dening of the state to the amount of over ten millions of dollars was not
the only measure of importance before the legislature. There were at
least three other important matters that must be considered. They
were, a bill to increase the capital stock of the state bank $2,000,000,
and that of the Shawneetown bank $1,400,000 ; a proposition to re-locate
the state capital ; and also a proposition to enlarge the issue of bonds
for the completion of the Illinois and Michigan canal. These four
measures were fraught with grave consequences to the future of the


It can be readily seen that in this session of the legislature there
will be conflict of interest, and it will only be by considerable amount
of "swapping" of votes that the several measures can be carried. For


instance, the delegation from Sangamon county consisted of nine men,
two in the senate and seven in the house. They had been instructed to
vote for internal improvement, but more especially to secure the removal
of the state capital, and to secure its location in Springfield. This lat-
ter problem had been intrusted to Lincoln, who, it seems performed
his task with eminent success. When the vote was finally reached
Springfield, Jacksonville, Vandalia, Peoria, Alton, Illiopolis, besides
smaller towns, were candidates for the honor. Four ballots were taken
before the selection was finally made.

Springfield was selected and every one recognized the fine hand of
Abraham Lincoln in the result. In a later session of the legislature
charges were informally preferred against the "Long Nine" who, it
was claimed, had secured the removal of the capital to Springfield
through corrupt means. But probably nothing worse was done than to


"swap" votes with some of the members who were not getting out of
the internal improvement scheme as much as they thought they ought
to have. The names of the group of men known as the "Long Nine,"
were A. G. Herndon and Job Fletcher, in the senate ; in the house,
Abraham Lincoln, Ninian W. Edwards, John Dawson, Andrew McCor-
mick, Dan Stone, William F. Elkins, and Robert L. Wilson. Their total
height was fifty-four feet averaging exactly six feet each.

We have digressed from the improvement scheme in order to call
attention to the removal of the capital; and now let us return to the
main subject. The improvement bill as reported, amended, and passed,
contemplated the expenditure of considerably more than $10,000,000.

This money was to be raised by issuing bonds which it was confi-
dently expected would sell at a handsome premium. General Linder,
who, in later years, wrote reminiscences of this period, says: "The en-
thusiastic friends of the measure maintained that, instead of there
being any difficulty in obtaining a loan of fifteen or twenty millions
authorized to be borrowed, our bonds would go like hot cakes and be
sought after by the Rothschilds and Baring brothers, and others of
that stamp ; and that the premiums which we should obtain from them


would range from fifty to one hundred per cent and that the premium
itself would be sufficient to construct most of the important works,
leaving the principal sum to go into our treasury and leave the people
free from taxation for ages to come."


When this bill for internal improvement reached the council of
revision, it was promptly disapproved and the bill was returned to the
house. The council stated that "such works can only be made safely
and economically in a free government, by citizens or by independent
corporations, aided or authorized by the government." But the bill
rejected by the council of revision was passed by both houses of the leg-
islature and there was nothing left for the governor to do but to carry
it into effect according to its own provision.

The act provided for the appointment of a board of three fund
commissioners, who should negotiate all loans, sign and deliver bonds,
and have charge of all moneys which should be received therefor. They
should also pay out this money upon the proper orders. The law pro-
vided that these fund commissioners should be "practical and experi-
enced financiers. ' ' The three men selected by the legislature to fill these
responsible places were Charles Oakley, M. M. Rawlings, and Thomas
Mather. There was another board created, known as the board of pub-
lic works, consisting of seven members, one from each judicial district.
It was the duty of this board to locate, superintend, and construct all
public works except the canal which was in the hands of a commission
of three. The first board of public works consisted of Murray McCon-
nell, William Kinney, Elijah Willard, Milton K. Alexander, Joel
Wright, James W. Stephenson, and Ebenezer Peck.

In the summer of 1837 the fund commissioners went to their task of
issuing bonds and offering them for sale. With the help of the old
United States Bank, which was at that time winding up its business,
they were able to place a considerable quantity of the bonds at par.
This money was now at the disposal of the board of public works and
the improvements were begun in many places. This was the beginning
of a very flourishing period.

Money became plentiful, work was abundant, and hopes were high.
Just at this time the financial crash which followed Jackson's term of
office, was coming on and the fund commissioners were not able to place
any more bonds in this country at par, and in London they could only
be placed at nine per cent discount. It is said that this coming finan-
cial crash was hopefully looked to by the opponents of the internal im-
provement plan as a means of stopping the wild schemes of the "sys-
tem. ' ' But in spite of the hard times which were approaching the fund
commissioners secured cash to the amount of $5,668,000 by December,

The legislature that had projected these vast schemes of improve-
ment had hardly adjourned in the early summer of 1837 when the mem-
bers were called in extra session to legalize the suspension of specie
payment by the State Bank. At the opening of this special session
which met July 10, 1837, the governor in his message very earnestly
recommended the repeal of the internal improvement legislation which
had just passed at the previous sitting of the legislature. He said that


the disasters which had already fallen upon the commercial world sug-
gested the necessity of escaping from the perils of a system which could
only be fraught with evil. But the legislature paid no heed to this
wholesome advice. All through the year 1837-8 the fund commissioners
were busy negotiating loans.



A very large share of the history of Illinois is inseparably con-
nected with the subject of slavery. It has already been shown that
slavery existed in what is now the state of Illinois, since the coming
of Phillip Renault in 1719. The French slaves were the negroes and
mulattoes whose ancestors were those Guinea negroes brought from
the West Indies, by Renault in the above mentioned year. In the
latter part of the eighteenth century and the first part of the nine-
teenth, slavery existed in Illinois, by what was known as the
indenture laws.


In 1818 in the constitutional convention, slavery was a subject
which engaged the most earnest and thoughtful attention of the dele-
gates. In 1820-3 the Missouri Compromise, although a national mat-
ter, came close to the political life of Illinois. The senators in con-
gress from Illinois did all they could to further the interests of slavery
in that great contest. From 1820 to 1824 the state was a seething
cauldron of bitterness and strife over the question of introducing
slavery into Illinois by constitutional enactment. Locally, the slavery
question was not prominent in Illinois for several years after the
great convention struggle in 1824. But from 1830 to 1840 the sub-
ject was constantly before the national congress and the public mind
was greatly agitated by the discussions in and out of the halls of
national legislation.

It has been said that the Missouri Compromise greatly pacified the
public mind on the slavery question. It may have done so for a short
space of time, but the pacification was in no sense a permanent one.
In fact public sentiment in neither north nor south was crystallized
as early as 1830. In the year 1826, it is said more than a hundred
anti-slavery societies existed in the slave states, and this number is
said to have been three times as many as existed in the north.

The agitation of the slavery question by such publications as those
by Lundy, Birney, and Garrison, resulted in the formation of the Na-
tional Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833. This society be-



gan an active campaign for the abolition of slavery. They sent
pamphlets, hand bills, and newspapers broadcast into slave territory.
This greatly incensed the slave holders and their friends. In New
York the postmaster took from the mail, anti-slavery matter and de-
stroyed it. So also did the postmaster at Charleston, South Carolina.
This conduct was reported to the postmaster general, Amos Kendall,
and he approved of this open violation of the law. Andrew Jackson,
in his message to congress, asked that congress might pass a law
which would prevent the passage "through the mails of incendiary
publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection." Anti-
slavery meetings were broken up in many northern cities by those
who bitterly opposed any agitation of the abolition question.

Earnest appeals from the south came to the north to suppress the
abolitionists. But those in authority could do no more than to stand
by the first amendment to the Constitution which says, "Congress
shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press."
Public assemblies and free speech are thus guaranteed and no legis-
lation can in any way abridge them. From these anti-slavery societies
and other organizations there poured into congress hundreds of peti-
tions praying for some legislation looking to the relief of the slave.
All means which the friends of slavery in the north had tried in the
early days of the conflict to check the growing anti-slavery sentiment,
had failed. They thought there was at least one means which would
annihilate the abolitionists. This last resort was violence. "Violence
was the essential element in slavery violence was the law of its be-
ing. " This violence was directed against individuals, assemblies and
the press.

There was a lack of unity, as to the means existing among the
anti-slavery people of the north, and men upon whose souls lay the
great burden which the nation itself ought to have cheerfully lifted,
were in no sense fully agreed upon the final end and aim of their
struggle. "It was fashionable to stigmatize them as ultra pragmatic,
and angular, and to hold up their differences and divisions as a foil
and shield against the arguments and appeals. Thousands consoled
and defended themselves in their inaction because anti-slavery men
were not agreed among themselves." But while there was a lack of
unity in method, there was at least a line of cleavage which separated
the anti-slavery people into two great classes. In one class were those
who believed that the end whatever it might be was to be reached
through constitutional legislation. These men might be called con-
servatives. They were fully persuaded that their friends in the other
class were not safe in their counsel. These men were found in the
two parties then recognized or soon to be recognized the Whig and
the Democratic. They hoped to reach the end they cherished by
faithful effort within their respective political party organizations.
This class of public men who held to the idea of political action as
the cure for the ills of slavery eventually made up the "Liberty


In the other classes were those men who were not willing to wait
for the long deferred day when the curse of slavery should be de-


stroyed by the slow process of legislation. For they knew that any
legislation not the outgrowth of public sentiment would be a dead
letter upon the statute books. Legislation must follow public senti-
ment, not create it. And to the men of the Garrison cast there was
no sign of the growth of a sentiment in the south, by 1835 or there-
abouts, that had any ray of hope as to the final extinction of slavery.
The fact was that by 1835 the public men of the south who had for-
merly favored some form of abolition were now bitterly opposed to
any effort along that line. This restless class was known as the ' ' Gar-
rison Abolitionists." They were the radicals. Their fundamental
doctrines were "no union with slave holders," and "the United States
Constitution is a covenant with death and an agreement with hell!"
There never was any doubt as to the sincerity of purpose of these
"Garrison Abolitionists." Nor must we imagine that they were
fanatics. They were men of great power and consecration. They
belonged to that class to whom the world pays homage. They are the
men for whom we erect monuments. They are the men and women
whose birthplaces we search out and whose homes, though humble,
we mark with tablets of bronze and marble. They are they whose
lives are a benediction and whose death is a national calamity. True
these men were iconoclasts, they were revolutionists, they would not
be limited by any law constitutional or legislative which was antago-
nistic to the law of conscience. They openly preached disunion. They
did not hesitate to state their "unalterable purpose and determina-
tion to live and labor for the dissolution of the present union by all
lawful and just, though bloodless and pacific means, and for the for-
mation of a new republic, that shall be such not in name only, but in
full living reality and truth."

Believing in free speech and in a free press, they made use of both
to spread their ideas and win many to their cause. True, in those days
the newspaper was an infant compared with the great newspapers of
today. Not only were the papers small in size, but their influence was
very much limited by the very small numbers reached by their circula-
tion. All the papers which plead the cause of the ' ' Garrison Abolition-
ists" were poorly supported financially.

Among these newspapers the reading public is quite familiar with
Lundy's Genius of Universal Emancipation, Garrison's Liberator, The
Philanthropist, the Emancipator, and the Alton Observer.

The spirit of violence above referred to which Mr. Henry Wilson in
his "Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America," calls the funda-
mental idea in slavery, began now to spend its fury on these news-
papers, presses, and their editors. We are now in a position to under-
stand the life-work and the martyrdom of the editor of the Alton Ob-


Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born in Albion, Kennebec county, Maine,
November 8, 1802. He was the oldest of a family of nine, seven sons
and two daughters. His father, the Rev. Daniel Lovejoy, was a Congre-
gational minister, and his mother was a Miss Elizabeth Pattee, a lady
of excellent standing in that section.

There is nothing to record of this young New England scion that


may not be said of another Yankee boy, unless it may be that he was un-
usually precocious. He could read the Bible fluently at the age of four
years. He spent his early years on the farm, and all the time that could
be spared from the work was diligently applied upon his books. The fact
that his father was a scholarly gentleman and his mother a lady of cult-
ure explains why young Lovejoy made very rapid progress in his edu-

His preparatory courses were taken in two academies near his home,
and later he entered Waterville College. From this institution he grad-
uated with the honors of his class in 1826. He was somewhat given to
athletic sports and was greatly admired by his fellow students, for his
manly bearing and his gentlemanly deportment. While in college he
produced quite a little poetry and one production was of considerable
merit, the ' ' Inspiration of the Muse. ' ' In later years while in St. Louis
he penned a short poem which was published in the St. Louis Times of
which he was assistant editor. This seems to prophesy his sad taking
off. One stanza read as follows :

My Mother, I am far away

Prom home and love and thee,
And stranger hands may heap the clay

That soon may cover me.

After graduation from college he taught school in his native state
and then catching the fever of immigration, he left his home, his people,
and his native haunts and turned his course westward whence were
coming such thrilling stories of adventures, opportunity, and sacrifice.
Whether or not he purposed coming to the growing city of St. Louis
when he started is not stated, suffice it to say he reached that place in
the fall of 1827. He engaged in the business of teaching, and during
his leisure hours he studied, wrote letters back to his home, and fur-
nished articles for the Missouri Republican. Some time in 1828 he be-
came connected with the St. Louis Times as contributor or possibly as
staff correspondent. This was a Whig paper and supported Henry
Clay for the presidency, and Mr. Lovejoy was regarded as one who had
vigorously championed the cause of the great Whig leader.

In the great revival in St. Louis in the winter of 1831-2, Mr. Love-
joy united with the Presbyterian church of that city, the pastor at that
time being the Rev. Dr. W. S. Potts. Being naturally seriously minded,
he felt he ought to give his life to the ministry, and he was therefore
more easily prevailed upon by his pastor to enter the theological semi-
nary at Princeton, New Jersey, in the spring of 1832. Here he re-
mained one year, after which he was licensed to preach by the Second
Presbyterian church of Philadelphia. He spent the summer of 1832 in
New York and other eastern cities and in the fall of that year he re-
turned to St. Louis.


Lovejoy was now prevailed upon to begin the publication of a
weekly religious newspaper. Friends furnished the necessary means,
and the first number of the St. Louis' Observer was issued November 22,
1832. The editorial and business management of the paper occupied
his time quite fully, yet he found time to preach often in adjoining lo-


calities. As early as 1834 he began to discuss editorially the subject
of slavery. From these editorials we gather that he was not an aboli-
tionist. In one issue of his paper he says: "Gradual emancipation is
the remedy we propose. ... In the meantime the rights of all
classes of our citizens should be respected." In a later issue he pro-
poses this question: "How and by whom is emancipation to be ef-
fected ? by the masters themselves and no others can effect it ; nor is it
desirable that they should even if they could. Emancipation, to be of
any value to the slaves, must be the free, voluntary act of the master,
performed from a conviction of its propriety." From these extracts it
would not appear that Lovejoy was a writer whose pen poisoned the ink
into which he dipped it. On the other hand it seems to us at this time
that such expressions were very mild, to say the least.

But these expressions were distasteful to many of his readers, and
to many more they evidently appeared ill-timed ; for on October 5, 1835,
nine prominent men, among whom was his former pastor, the Rev. Dr.
Potts, presented Lovejoy a written statement in which they begged
him to cease the slavery agitation. They warned him that many threats
of violence were heard and they greatly feared for his personal safety
and for that of his property. Lovejoy appears not to have returned a
written reply to this letter, but he seems to have taken pains to pre-
serve it, for on October 24, 1837, more than two years later and just
shortly before his death, he endorsed this letter as follows: "I did not
yield to the wishes here expressed, and in consequence have been per-
secuted ever since. But I have kept a good conscience, and that repays
me for all I have suffered, or can suffer. I have sworn eternal opposi-
tion to slavery, and by the blessings of God, I will never go back."


While it is probable that Lovejoy did not formally reply to his nine
friends, in an issue of the Observer shortly following the receipt of the
admonition, he presented his views on the question of slavery, and
claimed protection in the utterance of his position on the subject, since
the constitution of Missouri says: "That the free communication of
thoughts and opinions is one of the invaluable rights of man, and that
every person may freely speak, write, and print on any subject being
responsible for the abuse of that liberty." He closed this appeal to
the people with the following declaration :

I do, therefore, as an American citizen and Christian patriot, and
in the name of liberty, law and religion, solemnly protest against all
these attempts, howsoever and by whomsoever made, to frown down
the liberty of the press and forbid the free expression of opinion. Un-
der a deep sense of obligation to my country, the church, and my God,
I declare it to be my fixed purpose to submit to no such dictation. And
I am prepared to abide by consequences. I have appealed to the con-
stitution and laws of my country. If they fail to protect me, I appeal
to God and with Him I cheerfully rest my cause.


The public mind became more and more disturbed and the proprie-
tors of the Observer asked Lovejoy to resign as editor and business


manager. This he cheerfully did. The plant had not been a paying in-
vestment and it was turned over to a Mr. Moore who seemed to be finan-
cially responsible for a debt soon to fall due. Mr. Moore, who was now
owner, asked Mr. Lovejoy to assume again control of the paper with the
understanding that it should be moved to Alton.

Mr. Lovejoy found the Alton people quite pleased at the idea of the
removal of the paper to their town. In the meantime Mr. Moore and his
friends changed their minds and decided to continue the publication of
the paper in St. Louis. Accordingly everything ran smoothly till an
unfortunate occurrence in that city in April, 1836. This was the burning
alive of a negro by a mob. The negro had, without any provocation,
fatally stabbed the deputy sheriff who had the negro under arrest. The
Observer, of course, took note of the double crime, dwelling upon the

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 28 of 65)