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energies, voting solidly upon the measures at every stage of their progress,
for or against. Governor Ford, in his history, sums up the conduct of the
"long nine" as follows:


"Among them were some dexterous juggrlers and managers in politics,
whose sole object was to obtain the seat of government for Springfield. This
delegation, from the beginning of the session, threw itself as a unit in sup-
port of , or opposition to, every local measure of interest, but never without
a bargain for votes in return on the seat of government question: and by
such means the 'long nine' rolled along like a snowball, gathering acces-
sions at every turn, until they swelled up a considerable party for Spring-
field, which they managed to take almost as a unit in favor of the internal
improvement system, in return for Springfield to be the seat of government;
and thus, by log-rolling on the canal measure, by multiplying railroads, by
terminating three railroads at Alton, that Alton might become a great city in
opposition to St. Louis, by distributing money to some of the counties, to be
wasted by the county commissioners, and by giving the seat of government
to Springfield, was the whole State bought up and bribed to approve the
most senseless and disastrous policy that ever crippled the energies of a
growing country."

The improvement bill did not meet with the approbation of the council of
revision, who held that "such works can only be made safely and economi-
cally in a free government by citizens or by independent corporations, aided
by or authorized by government"; and that such vast public works, with
their army of employes, would tend to exercise undue influence over legisla-
tion. But notwithstanding these valid objections, the bill was again passed
by the constitutional majority, and became a law Feb. 27, 1837.

Upon the final passage of the measure, the House gave itself up to noisy
demonstrations of hilarity — "horse play," as we call it. Books were hurled
over the chamber, papers scattered, desks upset and chairs broken, while
members shouted and shook hands, embraced or pushed and jogged each
other, amid rejoicing and groans, the singing of ribald songs and the clapping
of hands. A member of Irish birth, afterwards quite prominent, whose rich
native brogue was never laid aside, and full of rollicking fun, withal an ad-
mirable "mixer," in modern phrase, was gotten upon a table and sang Irish
ditties and market songs with great gusto, amid the cheers and encores of his

Little did that boisterous crowd appreciate, or perhaps care, what they had
done toward loading the necks of the people with the thrall of debt.

To fully comprehend the meaning of the stupendous liability which the
State had been placed under; a comparison between then and now may aid
us. The population in 1837 may be fairly estimated at 300,000. To-day it is
about 4,800,000, or sixteen times greater. The assessed wealth of the State
in 1837 was about $50,000,000. To-day it is $999,108,815, nearly a billion,
or twenty times greater. This is only the fifth part. If we take the full
assessed valuation it would be a hundred times greater. The liability of the
State under these acts of 1837 was $10,250,000 for the projected improve-
ments, $2,000,000 for subscription to the bank stock, $1,000,000 for endorsing
the canal loans, and say $150,000 for the new State House— total, $13,400,000
—not counting other debt? of the State at the time— at least $200,000 more.
If we multiply this $13,400,000 by 20 the result is $268,000,000, which, in
ratio to that of 1837, would be the present liability of the State. But great
as this sum looks it is not all. There are often other things in economics
than mere figures. If we consider that money in 1837 was much dearer or
had a gres^ter purchasing capacity than now; that it required double the labor
to earn a dollar it does now, that the products of the field and farm brought
scarce half they average now, that interest was about double or 10 to 12 per
cent., where it now commands 5 to 6. We see a condition that would make
a further difference equal to a 100 per cent in the burden of debt then and
now. In other words, a debt of half a billion now, resting on a population
of nearly 5,000,000 with taxable wealth of a billion would be a less burden
than one of $13,400,000. resting on a population of 300,000 with taxable wealth
jot $50,000,000 was in 1837, under the conditions named.

What would you do to a Legislature which should to-day saddle upon the
State a liability to that extent in a visionary venture? In 1837 the members


champioaiag this chimerical measure, oa returaing home were welcomed
with the plaudits of their constituents as public benefactors, while those who-
had opposed it were coldly looked upon as the enemies of progress.

Among the currious features of the improvement scheme was one in con-
nection with the State entering government land along the proposed routes of
railroads, which inhibited officers and employes from giving away the secrets
of probable townsite locations, for fear that someone might get ahead of the
State, purchase the land, and by laying off the town enrich himself out of
what the State should have had.

Another provision, which, by the way, proved the most disastrous in re-
sults, and which was manifestly prompted by a jealous fear that some towns
might reap benefits ahead of others, was the one requiring work on railroads
to begin and be prosecuted both ways from important towns and crossings.
This most unbusinesslike requirement did more toward accomplishing nothing
lasting or permanent, and in causing the total loss of work done at many
points in the State, than any other provision of the act, and has been gener-
ally denounced as its crowning folly. Little did the zealous statesman who
framed this act think that to make the work done at so many different points
available the tracks there would have to be equipped with engines and cars,
involving great expense and little recompense. As it resulted, when the sys-
tem was abandoned, what work had been done at the many points went to
ruin, the State losing all.

Now, with the law enacted, the next thing in order was to start the grand
system into operation. The first requisite was, of course, money. A board
of fund commissioners, of "practical and experienced financiers," was pro-
vided for by the act, who were to negotiate all loans authorized, execute
bonds and stocks, receive the proceeds of their sales, and pay them out on .
proper orders. Charles Oakley, M. M. Rawlings and Thomas Mather were
elected fund commissioners. Another board provided for was that of public
works, to consist of seven members, one from each judicial district, who were
to locate, superintend and construct all the public works, except the canal.
The board chosen consisted of Wm. Kinney, Murray McConnel, Elijah Wil-
lard, Milton K. Alexander, Joel Wright, John Dixon and Ebenezer Peck.

The geographical distribution observed in the make-up of the latter board
again evinced the jealous care that no one section should get advantage in
the location and prosecution of the works— regardless of any effect that might
flow from the starting of many and finishing none. Besides, it may be ques-
tioned whether, in principle, it is good politics to relieve our Executive, with
usually a dominant party back of him, of all responsibility in important un-
dertakings by giving their entire control to independent boards.^; .,!,:;;. ; ..... .1

In the spring of 1837, a disastrous financial panic spread over the whole
land. Much doubt as to the solvency of many of the banks had gathered
force and found public expression, and the government had issued what is
known as the "specie circular," by which land officers were ordered not to
further receive payment for lands except in coin. This led up to the closing
of many banks, or causing them to suspend specie payments. Such suspen-
sion in this State would work a forfeiture of charters, unless legalized within
60 days. The Governor therefore convened the Legislature, and took occa-
sion also to advise a modification of the unwieldy internal improvement sys-
tem. The Legislature sanctioned the former, but ignored the latter.

In July, the fund commissioners went to New York to negotiate State se-
curities, and strange as it may seem, notwithstanding the disturbed financiaj
condition of the country, such was the credit of the State that they succeeded
in disposing of 4,869 $1,000 bonds, mostly at a premium ranging from 2 to 5
per cent — none below par.

With plenty of funds thus provided work was begun at many different
points in the State before the end of the year. Public expectation was
wrought to the highest pitch. Money on account of work and local expendi-
tures soon became abundant. Immigration also continued to flow into the
State, bringing more money. Credit became easy, and with advancing prices
a spirit of wild and reckless speculation seized the people. Lands were en-


tered, often with borrowed money, towns laid out, lots sold and houses built
largrely on promises. Merchants, confident that the era of good times and
prosperity had come to stay, bought excessively of goods on time and sold
them without stint, to the people on credit. Extravagance was engendered,
false hopes stimulated and debts contracted needlessly.

Meantime, the fund commissioners kept selling State securities, reaching
$5,668,000 in 1838, while the amount disbursed on bank stocks, payments for
work, iron purchased and distribution to counties, etc., reached $4,648,399.

In 1838, a Governor and Legislature were to be elected. Party lines were
generally observed on national questions. As to State affairs, the Whigs de-
manded a modification and curtailment of the internal improvement system,
while the Democrats declared in favor of its vigorous prosecution. Carlin,
Democrat, was elected over Edwards, Whig, as Governor, but both houses of
the Legislature were returned Whig. The outgoing Governor, Duncan, in
his message, restated his opposition to the system to the extent it was projected,
charging that it was being prosecuted without skill or experience, with innum-
erable mistakes and great waste of money. On the other hand, the incoming
Governor, Carlin, declared that the plan of the State carrying on the system,
instead of great joint stock companies, was based on correct principles; that
"the signal success which had attended our sister states in the construction
of their extensive systems of improvements could leave no doubt of the wise
policy and utility of such plan." The Legislature, notwithstanding its Whig
majority and the declaration of the Whig State convention against the huge
system, not only did not curtail or modify it, but added to it many minor
■works, such as improving the Big Muddy, the Embarras and other streams,
the building of a turnpike from Cahokia to Kaskaskia, a railroad from Rush-
ville to Erie, etc., the whole at an estimated cost of $800,000.

Thus did this Commonwealth seek to shower its benefits with no niggard
hand into every corner of the State. Whatever nook one Legislature over-
looked or passed by another would spy out and provide for. The State, how-
ever, also had an eye to business, and would tolerate no competition, as the
following incident illustrates. At this session, Albion, then an aspiring town
in Edwards county, was impatient for an outlet to navigable waters, and had
a bill introduced to incorporate the Albion and Grayville railroad, about ten
miles long. But the chairman of the committee on internal improvtments
made an adverse report upon the bill, saying that, "in the opinion of the
Bommittee, it was inexpedient to authorize corporations or individuals to
construct railroads or canals calculated to come in competition with similar
works by the State." The State should be the whole thing, as we now say —
It kind of trust, as it were. Nothing, perhaps, could more fully illustrate the
deep infatuation of the day with regard to the State improvement question
than this incident. ;;

The home market for the sale of State securities having tightened greatly,
and the Governor also wanting, perhaps, to subserve some partisan ends, ap-
pointed ex- Governor Reynolds and Senator Young as special fiscal agents to
Qegotiate canal securities — thus, in a measure, superceding the fund commis-
sioners, who had done remarkably well for the State. Neither of the gentle-
men appointed were "practical and experienced financiers," as the law re-
quired, nor possessed of the requisite knowledge and tact for so delicate a

Their bungling became manifest at once. In New York their first sale
consisted of 300 bonds of $1,000 each, to be paid for in installments, the last
jf which did not become due for nine months, the interest meanwhile going
^o the purchaser. Next they sold 100 $1,000 bonds to some banks wholly on
Jredit, the bonds to be used in the experiment of free banking, then just
iuthorized by New York. The banks failed before payment was made, and
;he State lost very heavily. The State agents meanwhile tried Philadelphia,
^here they sold 1,000 bonds of $1,000 each, payment to be made in install-
ments in tJnited States bank issues, and the bonds and interest thereon made
payable in London, in British coin. The United States bank notes gradually
lepreciated, reaching 10 per cent below par before the bonds were fully paid,

124 '

working another very great loss — the three transactions running well up to
$150,000. The agents next went to London, where they found money strin-
gent. After some time spent, they placed with Wright & Co. 1,000 bonds, to
be sold in British coin, at not less than 91 per cerat of their face value. The
brokers sold about half the bonds, when they failed, with the proceeds in
their hands. The unsold bonds were returned by the receivers, but the money
for the bonds sold was adjudged to be assets of the firm, and distributed pro
rata among the creditors, of whom the State was one, and received a few
shillings on the pound. In these several transactions, whereby $1,900,000 in
State securities were disposed of, the Governor's fiscal as'ents managed to
cause the State a loss of about $500,000.

It soon became patent that no more State securities could be sold except at
heavy discount, and public opinion would not further tolerate the violation of
the law in this respect on the part of the State fiscal agents. The money
market generally was growing more stringent every day. The United States
Bank, which had been refused an extension of its charter had finally closed
its doors, the Government deposits had been removed from local banks all
over the country and tied up in the sub-treasuries, many banks had failed or
suspended specie payment, and the times were constantly hardening. Pro-
duce and all other property declined greatly in value, credits were maturing
and no money with which to discharge them. Funds were lacking witB
which to carry forward the public works and the people began to indulge!
some sober reflections. They began to see the folly of attempting to prose-
cute the work simultaneously at many different points and finishing nothing;;
and to feel a conviction that the cost iof the unwieldly system had beenyi
greatly underestimated. They observed too that partizan preferments wer«
gradually creeping into the management ^and that some official employ eeat
were dallying with the soft berths, and under the sting of the great disap^
pointment this engendered, they began to express themselves in no uncer^aii^
tones through the press and at numerous indignation meetings in many?

The Governor did not escape criticism and censure on account of the losses
caused by his appointees in negotiating canal bonds. He, however, was a
man of the people, ever willing to serve them, and while he had no control
of the public works or was in any way responsible for their conduct, he now,
under the growing public clamor, made a thorough examination of their
status and found, to his astonishment, that, with nothing completed, the lia-
bility of the State already exceeded $14,000,000, burdening a people of lesi(
than half million souls; and he calculated further from incontestaible datajl
that the cost of the works must soon reach nearly $22,000,000 or double the<
original estimates, the annual interest on which sum would be over $1,300,000,
or six times the ordinary revenue of the State, which the people found hara
to raise as it was. The Governor's ideas of only a year before about the
State's undertaking such improvements underwent a total revolution, and
with him action ever waited closely upon conviction. Convinced that nothing
but dismal failure of the "grand system" was in prospect, with a vast deb
and widespread ruin, and being without power himself to stop or change th
work, he convened the Legislature in extraordinary session, December 9th
1839. This was the first session of the Legislature held at Springfield, th
new Capital.

The Governor now placed before that body the embarrassing situation iw
its naked proportion, and with touching words invoked them to the rescue,
counselling wisdom, harmony and dispatch in their action, in order to save'
the credit and honor of the State and the people from impending ruin. j|

It was plain that the only effective way to deal with the threatening situa-*
tion was to immediately stay the wasting hand of the cause of the trouble,
but the Legislature was largely composed of the same members who had
originally passed the public improvement measure, who had, hardly a yeaf
ago, supplemented it with a number of projected works, and who had stamped^
it as the exclusive policy of the State by denying all competition from prH


vate enterprise, and now to deliberately abandon it, and let what work had
been done, costing millions of dollars, go to decay and ruin, was a grievous
step to contemplate, and they hesitated.

A fierce struge'le ensued, lasting several weeks. Finally a sufficient num-
ber were won over to the performance of an imperative demand and duty,
and by appropriate acts they abolished the boards of fund commissioners and
of public works. One fiscal agent was appointed to audit and settle the ac-
counts of the former board, demand and receive back all State bonds not ne-
gotiated or paid for, pay duties and freight and take charge of all material
purchased abroad, etc. No farther sales of State securities were, of course,
to be made. Three commissipners of public works, instead of seven, were
now authorized to settle for work done, and to cancel unperformed contracts.
All employes not necessary to operate such parts of roads as were in process
of completion, or to aid in adjusting the State's liability under contracts not
performed, were discharged.

Work on the canal was not arrested; and $100,000 of its fund was diverted
to finish and equip the Northern Cross railroad, from Meredosia to Spring-
field, which had been vigorously pushed from the start, and which was ap-
proaching completion. It was finished in 1842, but the income from it proved
insufficient to keep it in repair. In the course of a year or so its one locomo-
tive was ditched, and thereafter the road was leased and operated by mule
power for several years. In 1847, it was authorized to be sold, and the im-
provement which had cost the State $1,000,000 brought only $100,000, which
was paid in State securities which had previously been bought at 21 cents on
the dollar.

Nothing further was ever done toward completing any of the rest of the
works, which were scattered in detached parcels over the State, where exca-
vations and embankments were in evidence for many years as monuments of
a costly legislative folly.

Thus fell by the hands of its originator the grand system of public improve-
ments of this State, leaving behind a colossal debt aggregating $14,237,348,
impairing the credit of the State and retarding its progress for a number of

It may seem strange that the members of the Legislature prominently con-
nected with the enactment of these disastrous measures which caused so much
disappointment and distress among the people, were not pursued and crushed
with their displeasure when seeking political preferment thereafter. But
they were not. We have seen that many obtained exalted positions and high
honors. One reason of this was, perhaps, that the people felt that they had
urged their representatives on in this course to an inordinate degree and that
they, therefore, had only obeyed their behests; and perhaps they had no very
clear conception of thejduty of their representatives that in devising ways and
means they had no right to imperil the interests of the people. Another
reason was, no doubt, that whatever questionable means were resorted to, to
effect the passage of the measures, or however reprehensible the zeal and con-
duct of the members, it was all solely to advantage their constituents or the
committees they represented and in no instance for personal gain or benefit.
"Boodling" is a modern "graft," and Governor Ford, in scoring the "long
nine," was hardly warranted in using the word "bribed" as he does.


By Frank Moore.

There being a number of trails leading from Kaskaskia through the south-
ern part of the State, some to the Ohio and Wabash rivers on the eastern
boundary of the State, others leading from Kaskaskia to points north ending
in St. Clair, Washington and other counties. There are several roads sur-
veyed and on file in the County Clerk's office, at Chester, Randolph County,


that are of early surveys, namely: From Kaskaskia to Cahokia, from Kaskas-
kia to Vandalia, from Kaskaskia to Covingrton, from Kaskaskia to Murphys-
boro, from Kaskaskia to Shawneetown, from Kaskaskia to Belleville and
French Village, from Kaskaskia to Belleville on the west side of the Kas-
kaskia river, from Chester to Waterloo; these being the earliest trails and
surveyed roads known from the records and best information at present ob-
tainable. Taken up in their order, as they appear from history and their
records, as follows: As to the Kaskaskia and Cahokia road and that part of
the Kaskaskia and Belleville road west of the Kaskaskia river following the
Kaskaskia and Cahokia road to the foot of the bluffs, the greater part of
these roadsjfrom Kaskaskia to the bluffs are now in the Mississippi river and
also a cedar post mentioned in the description of the Kaskaskia and Cahokia
road is also washed out and gone by the cutting of the Mississippi river. The
Mississippi river in the year 1882 cutting through into the Kaskaskia river
washed away those roads and the greater part of the town of Kaskaskia.

The above mentioned roads leading from Kaskaskia to the seyeral points in
the southern part of the State were prominent landmarks in the times of
Kaskaskia's better days. In those days Kaskaskia was the metropolis of the


In concluding this short prelude upon the trails and roads of the early
days, in existence at the present time, as well as those which have gone out
into the eternal past, we are very largely indebted to the good graces and
exceeding gentlemanly public spiritedness of our very efficient present
County Surveyor, Mr. James Thompson Douglas.


This trail is shown on the plats and field notes of Randolph county and
marked at the intersections of the township lines and running in an easterly
direction across the state to Lusk's ferry. This ferry from the appearance
and direction of this trial, must be at or near the town of Shawneetown.
This evidently, from the location of it on the government plats, must be what
is known in later days as the Kaskaskia and Shawneetown road, and was
surveyed and platted and is on file in the County Clerks's office as the Kas-
kaskia and Shawneetown road.

In early days there was a mail route over this road from Kaskaskia to
Shawneetown, the mail being carried on horse back. This mail was carried
part of the time by Col. J. L. D. Morrison in his boyhood days. This road
was surveyed and plated through Randolph county by one Darius Greenup in
the year 1819. We have no record or knowledge of the survey beyond the
limits of Randolph county.


This trail, leaving Fergerson's ferry, running in a northwesterly direction,

Online LibraryIllinois State Historical Society. 1nPapers in Illinois history and transactions (Volume yr. 1902) → online text (page 20 of 40)