Illinois. Centennial Commission.

The centennial history of Illinois (Volume 6) online

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territory would be immediately settled; mills, manu-
factories and bridges, would be erected, and the whole
country would wear a new appearance."

Believing, however, that the question should be considered
from the standpoint of right rather than from that of expe-
diency, 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 Ed-
wards in favor of the validity of the indenture law, are ably
refuted. "It must be a subject of regret to every lover of lib-
erty," 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 repre-
sentatives."

In his second number, printed five days before the begin-
ning of the election,^^^ "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 cor-
ruption 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

"^Intelligencer, July i, 1818.



244 ILLINOIS IN 1818

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 peace-
ful 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 your-
selves, 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, can-
not be removed. To you it belongs to say, whether
this territory shal [^fc] 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.

As the love of liberty is dear to your hearts — as you
would preserve yourselves 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 you be cautious to what persons 3'ou con-
fide the important trust of framing your state consti-
tution. 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 intro-
ducing 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 con-
fidence who will not zealously advocate the entire



THE CONVENTION CAMPAIGN 245

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 int crests are blended with your own — who have
no aristocratical desires to gratify; and whose infor-
mation and talents enable them to act with benefit to
their constituents, and with honor to themselves.

The third communication of "A friend to enquiry," pub-
lished July 22, after the elections but before the meeting of
the convention, is an argument against the exclusion of slav-
ery 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 effec-
tual mode of remedying this just stain in the political institu-
tions 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 pre-
sume 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 sin-
gle slave" and advocates a plan "which in itself, by remunirat-
ing [sicl the owner, and preparing the slave, for the right exer-
cise 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 declar-
ing, notwithstanding the opposition I may receive from a host of
policy scriblers {sici, that under proper regulations, I would
sooner see limited slavery introduced into our territory, though
the limit should not take effect during the existence of the first
generation, than this exclusion policy so much spoken of at pres-
ent." 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,



246 ILLINOIS IN 1818

I say, provide by our political regulations, for his intro-
duction 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 this
particular, to say that we have never yet tolerated
slavery in our territory, and that the plan for its aboli-
tion 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
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 read-
ers the editors of the paper declared, "they are well worth, to
those who are opposed to the toleration of slavery in this ter-
ritory, an attentive perusal; and more especially, to those who
are in favor of it."^®^ 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 move-
ment 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 mean-
ing 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 unfor-
tunate beings It would reflect much to the honor and

humanity of the generous sons of Illinois, when the grand object
of universal emancipation shall be effected, to hear it sounded

*" Intelligencer, July i, 1818.



THE CONVENTION CAMPAIGN



247



from abroad, that this godHke and benevolent act of humanity
originated with them."^*^

Not all of the readers of the communications from "A friend
to enquiry" were so easily convinced that his motives were
purely philanthropic, 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 exclu-
sion of those more beneficial to society as well might




Grease Lamt

The lower receptacle was filled with grease, a wick was inserted through

the small opening, and it was the up-to-date lamp of l8i8.

[Original owned by Judge Perrin, Belleville]

we attempt to transplant all the vices and diseases of the east-
ern 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 resort 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

"^Intelligencer, July 22, 1818.



248 ILLINOIS IN 1818

wish that "the people in general, the convention, and the con-
vention's dictator, in particular," would "take 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 popula-
tion of forty thousand 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 ben-
efit 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 him-
self "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, ex-
cludes us forever, from being a slave state. Others, and men
of considerable investigation, think differently, and say that
this obnoxious feature, in our hill of rights, may be expunged

by our next delegate I am thus particular, because

I am one of those unbelieving fezv, 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 move-
ment for the time being may have hoped to discourage the
voters from attending the elections. A letter from Shawnee-
town, 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 forty thousand inhabitants must have been fully recog-
nized some time before the returns were published. "I have



THE CONVENTION CAMPAIGN 249

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 in-
habitants. 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 vig-
ilant, that our numbers will increase to forty thousand by the
first of August. We would therefore recommend to the com-
missioners to be industrious, and make returns of the addi-
tional settlers on the first Monday in August, that the conven-
tion 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 Intelli-
gencer 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, while the campaign was in progress, a second paper was
established, at Shawneetown, in which doubtless appeared simi-
lar communications affecting and reflecting the campaign in the
eastern part of the territory. Unfortunately no issues of this
paper earlier than October 17, 18 18, are known to have been
preserved.

The Intelligencer, in its editorial of March 11, urged the im-
portance of electing to the convention "men who are versed in
the science of government; men who have correct opinions of



250 ILLINOIS IN 1818

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 io frame
the constitution. Cook, as has been seen, urged the election of
men of talents regardless of their position on the slavery ques-
tion, 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 dis-
cover the practical operation of those things which may be en-
grafted into that important instrument." The tendency of un-
qualified candidates to come forward as volunteers was deplored
and they were advised to give way and solicit others more quali-
fied to accept the position.

In a second number, published May 13, the same writer de-
clared that some opposed sending men of talents to the conven-
tion because " '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 con-
ventioners would receive any pay! before they offered to volun-
teer their services. Men of narrow contracted minds, who will
be governed by the corrupting principle of self-interest, are the



THE CONVENTION CAMPAIGN 251

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 Eng-
lish 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 office holding, against a religious test for office-
holders, 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 modem
ring, although few advocates of women's suffrage today 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 elec-
tion either way. Why deprive them of acting 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



252



ILLINOIS IN 1818



the barbarous age of Edward IV," and to advocate the substitu-
tion of arbitration of disputes for trial by jury in all civil cases.'"
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 mus-
ter service, very oppressive to poor men and to young men. A
rich man with a thousand acres of valuable land paid only ten




A kind of vise that held barrel staves, axe
handles, etc., for the knife.

[Original owned by W. O. Converse, Springfield]



dollars 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 "ig-

^IntelUgencer, May 27, June 10, 1818.



THE CONVENTION CAMPAIGN 253

norant wealthy men" who would insist on a property qualifica-
tion for members of the legislature and thus ensure the contin-
uance 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 consid-
ered "to be a recommendation to the old men of the different
counties of the territory, farmers in particular, who had for-
merly 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, 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 Yankee fy 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
enlighted {sic'] farmers and others, who have the same object in
view, to simplify our 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.^'"

Still another writer, who used the name of "Erin," in the pa-
per 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

^'"Intelligencer, June 17, 1818.



254 ILLINOIS IN 1818

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 legis-
latures arising therefrom. Or whether men, who say often
themselves, they are called to the pulpit by the Almighty God,
ought to degrade themselves by entering into politics." Anothe^
"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 par-
take of Illinois plenty; and whether it would not be to the ad-
vantage of the new state to permit those unfortunate subjects
of the southern states a place in the 'land of promise:' and de-
vise 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 jus-
tice," he accused "An old farmer" of having written those signed
"Anticipator," and of having "commenced 'anticipating' a con-
stitution for 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."^ The character and value of
the common law, however, were much more a1)ly discussed in a



Online LibraryIllinois. Centennial CommissionThe centennial history of Illinois (Volume 6) → online text (page 24 of 35)