Ninian W. (Ninian Wirt) Edwards.

History of Illinois, from 1778-1833; and life and times of Ninian Edwards online

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Online LibraryNinian W. (Ninian Wirt) EdwardsHistory of Illinois, from 1778-1833; and life and times of Ninian Edwards → online text (page 1 of 73)
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1778 TO 1833;





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Entered according to act of Congress, in Uie year one thonsand eight hundred and seventy, by

NiNiAN W. Edwards,
In the offlce of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


When I commenced this work, it was to comply with the request of the
Chicago Historical Society to prepare, for publication, a memoir of the
late Governor Niniax Edwards. To this request was added a desire of
my brothers to have a copy of his speeches, messages, and his extensive
correspondence with many of the most eminent men of the country.
AVhilst T had no doubt that it would add much to the interest of the work,
as simply a memoir of Governor Edwards, to make him the corresponding
center, around which all the important historical facts may be grouped,
yet, as such a course would have been very difficult and embarrassing to
me, I have concluded to make it more comprehensive by including, also, a
history of the County, Territory and State of Illinois, from the year 1778
to the time of his death, in 1833. Satisfied that such a work would be of
great interest, and of the highest importance for the historical facts it
would contain, and that the character of the materials I had collected,
with the numerous papers in my possession, were accurate and of great
value, I submitted my manuscript to the Chicago Historical Society, for
their examination and approval, and expressed the desire that some one
more competent should take my materials and rewrite the work. It was
referred to a committee consisting of the Hon. M. Skinner and Hon. I. N.
Arnold, with the Secretary, and in their report (which explains the
character and object of the work) the following resolutions were, at a
regular meeting of the Society, unanimously adopted:

""Whereas Ninian W. Edwards, Esq., has submitted to this Society,
for their examination and approval, a manuscript memoir, entitled 'A
Memoir of the Life and Times of the Hon. Ninian Edwards, first Governor
of the Illinois Territory,' and the same has been examined with attention
and care by a committee duly appointed for that purpose ;


'^Eesolvi'd, That this Society express their corJial and high estimation of
the hiborious, faithful and judicious manner in which Mr. Edwards has
executed the work now submitted, and that, in their opinion — in the
importance of the particuhxr subjects treated by him, tlic full and authentic
character of the materials collected by him for their illustration, with the
numerous and extended details recovered by him and now first brought to
the public attention — the work, viewed as a Ilistorij of Illinois^ may be
regarded as in several respects the most important contribution yet made
to the history of this State.

'^Resolved, That the collected correspondence of the late Gov. Edwards,
accompanying the above named memoir — including numerous letters from
William Wirt, John C. Calhoun, J. McLean, and other statesmen of emi-
nent standing in the United States, hitherto unpublished — possess a high
national interest, as connected with important events and movements in the
history of our Federal Government, and arte well worthy of publication,
while adding in a material degree to the public estimation of Mr. Edwards'

'^Resolved, That the Society's thanks are due and be returned to Mr.
Edwards, for the patriotic zeal and filial devotion with which he has
engaged in this just tribute of honorable commemoration to the late Gov.
I'idwards, who, from his long-'contiuued public service of the State of Illi-
nois — both in the councils of the State and the Nation — merits an honored
place in the esteem and gratitude of the people of this State."

In communicating the above to me, the Secretary says he "has the
pleasure to state, that at the meeting at which the above was adopted, the
warmest interest was expressed by gentlemen in the progress and desired
success of the work — for whose satisfactory completion and successful issue
the most cordial wishes were indulged;" and adds, "I may be allowed to
state my individual impression of the very great value of the epitome of
our early legislation, which will have a high degree of interest to strangers
and be a desirable acquisition to our own citizens. Even as regards the
sketch of the early history of the Territory, from the time of its organiza-
tion by Virginia as a county, it appears to me a natural introduction to the
main work, viewed, as you regard it, in the light of a historical sketch oF
the Territory and State, rather than a personal memoir."

Another motive I have in its publication is, to correct the misrepresen-
tation of Gov. Edwards' real sentiments on the subjects of slavery, the
public lands, and other important measures.


SriiiiNUFiELu, Illinois, 1870.


Organizatiun of Illinois as a CoauUj of Viiyiniu — Letter of Instructions
from Governor Patrick Ilenrjj to John Todd — Cession to the General
Government — Action of Congress — Ordinance of 1787 : its ijeneral pro-

The territory of Illinois was organized into a county, by tlic Legislature
oi' Virginia, on tlic 12th of December, 1778, and John Todd was appointed
Lieutenant-Commandant thereof, by Patrick Ilcnry, then Governor of the
State of Virginia. The following is a literal copy of the letter of appoint-
ment and instructions to John Todd from Crovernor Henry:


To Mk. John Todd, Esq.

By virtue of the act of General Assembly which establishes the county of Illinois,
you are appointed County Lieutenant-Commandant there, and for the general tenor
of your conduct I refer you to the law.

Tlie grand objects which arc disclosed to your countrymen will prove beneficial, or
otherwise, according to the nature and abilities of those who are called to direct the
alfairs of tliat remote country. The present crisis, rendered so favourable by the good
disposition of the French and Indians, may be improved to great purposes; but if,
unhappily, it should bo lost, a return of the same attachment to us may never happen.
Considering, therefore, that costly prejudices are so hard to wear out, you will take
care to cultivate and conciliate tlio atfections of the French and Indians.

Although great reliance is placed on your prudence in managing the people you are
to reside among, yet, considering you as unacquainted in some degree with their
genius, usages and manners, as well as the geography of the country, I reconnnend it
to you to advise with the most intelligent and upright persons who may fall in your
way, and to give particular attention to Col. Clark and his corps, to whom tlie State
has great obligations. You arc to cooperate with iiim on any military undertaking,
when necessary, aiul to give the military every aid which the circumstances of the
people will admit of The inhabitants of Illinois must not expect settled peace and
safety while their and our enemies have footing at Detroit and can intercept or stop
the trade of the Mississippi. If the English have not the strength or courage to come
to war against us themselves, their practice has been and will be to have the savages
connnit murder and depredations. Illinois nnist expect to pay these a large price for
her freedom, unless the Englisli can be expelled from Detroit. The means for effect-
ing this will not perhaps be in your or Col. Clark's power, but the French inhabiting
the neighbourhood of that place, it is presumed, may be brought to see it done with
indifference, or perhaps johi in the enterprise with pleasure. This is but conjecture.


When you are on the spot, you and Col. Clark may discover tlie fallacy or reality of
the former appearances. Defense, only, is to be the object of the latter, or a good
prospect of it I hope the French and Indians at your dis[)osal will show a zeal for
the affairs equal to the bcnclit to be derived from establishing liberty and permanent

One great good expected IVoni holding the Illinois is to ovcrau- the Indians from
warring on the settlers on this side of tlic Oliio. A close attention to the disposition,
character and movement of the hostile tribes is therefore necessary. The French and
militia of Illinois, by being placed on the back of them, may uiflict timely chastise-
ment on tliose enemies whose towns are an easy prey in absence of their warriors.
You perceive, by these hints, that something in the military line Avill be expecled
from you. So far as the occasion calls for the assistance of the people composing tlie
militia, it will be necessary to cooperate with the troops sent from here, and I know
of no better general directions to give than this: that you consider yourself as the
head of the civil department, and as such having command of the military until ordered
out by the civil authority, and to act in conjunction with them.

You are, on all occasions, to inculcate on the people the value of liberty, and the
difference between the state of free citizens of this Commonwealth and that slavery
to which the Illinois was destined. A free and equal representation may be expected
by them in a little time, together with all the improvement in jurisprudence and police
which the other parts of the State enjoy.

It is necessary, for the happiness, increase and prosperity of that country, that tlie
o-rievanccs that obstruct those blessings be known, in order to their removal. Let it
thcrelbrc be your care to obtain information on that subject, that proper plans may be
formed for the general utility. Let it be your constant attention to see that the in-
habitants have justice administered to them for any injury received from the troops.
The omission of this may be fiital. Col. Clark has instructions on this head, and will,
I doubt not, exert himself to quell all licentious practice of the soldiers, which, if
unrestrained, will produce the most baneful effect. You will also discountenance and
punish every attempt to violate the property of the Indians, particularly on their
land. Our enemies have alarmed them nmch on that score, but I hope from your
prudence and justice that there will be no grounds of complaint on that subject.
You will embrace every opportunity to manifest the high regard and friendly senti-
ments of tliis Commonwealth towards all the subjects of his Catholic Majesty, for whose
safety, prosperity and advantage you will give every possible advantage. You will
make a tender of the friendship and services of your people to the Spanish Command-
ant near Kaskaskia, and cultivate the strictest connection with him and his people.
The detail of your duty in the civil department I need not give; its best direction
will be found in your innate love of justice, and zeal to be useful to your fellow-men.
Act according to the best of your judgment in cases Avhere these instructions are
silent and the laws have not otherwise directed. Discretion is given to you from
the necessity of the case, for your great distance from Government will not permit
you to wait for orders in many cases of great importance. In your negotiations with
the Indians confine the stipulation, as much as possible, to the single object of obtain.
ing peace from them. Touch not the subject of lands or boundaries till particular
orders are received. When necessity requires it presents may be made, but be as
frugal in that matter as possible, and let them know that goods at present is scarce
with us, but we expect soon to trade freely with all the world, and tbcy shall not want
whoa wo can get them.


Tlic matters given you in cliarge being singular in tlieir nature and weighty in tiicir
consequences to the people immediately concerned, and to the wliole State, they require
the fullest exertion of your ability and unwearied diligence.

From matters of general concern you must turn, occasionally, to others of less con-
sequence. Mr. Roseblovo's wife and family must not suffer for want of that property
of which they were bereft by our troops. It is to be restored to them, if possible ; if
this can not be done, the public must support them.

I think it proper for you to send me an express once in the month, with a general
account of affairs with you and any particulars you wish to communicate.

It is in contemplation to appoint an agent to manage trade on public accounts, to
supply Illinois and the Indians with goods. If such an appointment takes place, you
will give it any possible aid. The people with you should not intermit their endeavors
to procure supplies on the expectation of this, and you may act accordingly.

(Signed) P. HENRY.

Illinois continued to form a part of the State of Virginia until the year
1784, when the country, being a part of the Northwestern Territory, was
ceded by the State of Virginia to the United States. Immediately on the
execution of the deed of cession the General Government proceeded to
establish a form of government for the settlers in the territories thus ceded.
The whole subject was referred to a committee, of which Mr. Jefferson
was chairman. The report of the committee, after being somewhat modi-
fied, was finally adopted by the passage of resolutions and ordinances for
the "-overnment of the territories that had been or might be ceded to the
United States, for the establishment of both temporary and permanent
governments by the settlers, and for the admission of the new states thus
formed into the Union. It was provided, among other things, that the
settlers, either on their own petition or by act of Congress, should receive
authority to create a temporary form of government, and that when there
should be twenty thousand free inhabitants within the limits of any terri-
tory, they should have authority to call a convention to establish a perma-
nent constitution and government for themselves, without any otlier limi-
tation except the following :

1st. That they should forever remain a part of the confederacy of the
United States of America.

2d. That they should be subject to the articles of confederation and the
acts and ordinances of Congress like the original States.

3d. That they should not interfere with the disposal of the soil by Con-


4th. That they should be subject to pay their proportion of the Federal
debt, present and prospective.

5th. That they should impose no tax upon lands the property of (he
United States.

6th. That their respective governments should be republican.


7th. That the lands of iinn-rcsidents shouhl not be taxed higher than
those of residents.

8th. That any State, having adopted a constitution and having as many
free inliabitants as the least numerous of the thirteen original States, might
be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States.

The report of the committee contained the following clause : "That after
the year 1800, of the Christian era, there shall be neither slavery nor in-
voluntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise than in the punish-
ment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have
been personally guilty." But, on a motion by Mr. Spaight of North Caro-
lina, which was seconded by Mr. Read of South Carolina, it was decided
that the above clause should not stand as a part of the report of the com-
mittee, and it was struck out because it failed to receive the support of a
majority of all the States. The following States voted for retaining the
clause : New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New
York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Maryland, Virginia and South Caro-
lina voted to strike it out ; North Carolina was divided ; one State lost its
vote by having only one delegate present ; Delaware and Georgia were not
represented. Mr. Jeiferson voted in favor of the clause, and his two col-
lea";ues voted against it.

This proviso was renewed by Rufus King, in 1785, as a condition upon
which the State of Massachusetts would cede her territory. It was referred
to a committee by a vote of eight States, but it does not appear that the
committee reported it back, and Massachusetts ceded her territory without
such condition.

The government of this country, as thus established, continued until the
passage of the ordinance of 1787, for the government of the Northwestern
Territory, of which Illinois formed a part. After the division of the North-
west Territory, Illinois became one of the counties of the Territory of Indi-
ana, from which it was .separated by an act of Congress in the year 1809.
At the time of its separation from the Territory of Indiana, it was divided
into two counties — the counties of St. Clair and Randolph.

That the resolutions of 178-1 were considered in force and gave authority
to the people to organize a government under them, is evident from the fact
that they were recognized by the ordinance of 1787 in the following words •
"Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, that the resolutions of the 23d
of April, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four, relative to the sub-
ject of this ordinance, be and the same is hereby repealed and declared null
and void."

Under the ordinance of 1787 the Governor and Judges, or a majority of
them, had power to adopt and publisli in the district such laws of the origi-
nal States as were necessary, and best suited to the circumstances of the


Territory, subject to be disapproved by Congress; but when the General
Assembly was organized, the Legislature had authority to alter them as
they should think fit. The Governor had the power to appoint and com-
mission all the militia officers below the rank of General officers, and, pre-
vious to the oriranization of the General Assembly, the Governor had the
appointment of such magistrates and other civil officers, in each county and
township, as he might think necessary for the preservation of the peace and
good order in the same. After the organization of the General Assembly
the powers and duties of the magistrates and other civil officers were to be
regulated and defined by the Assembly; but all magistrates and other civil
officers whose appointments were not provided for by Congress, were to be
appointed by the Governor even after the organization of the General
Assembly. The Governor had also the power to lay out parts of the Terri-
tory, in which the Indian title was extinguished, into townships and

Another article of the ordinance provided that so soon as there should
be five thousand free male inhabitants of full age, upon giving proof thereof
to the Governor they should have authority to elect representatives to the
General Assembly.

To be eligible as representative, the ordinance required that a person
should have been a citizen of the United States for three years and a resi-
dent of the district, or a resident of the district for three years; and, in either
case, that he should hold in his right, in fee simple, two hundred acres of
land within his district.

To qualify a person to vote, it was necessary for him to hold fifty acres
of land in the district and to have been a citizen of one of the States and
a resident in the district, or the like freehold and two years residence in
the district.

The General Assembly consisted of a Council, House of Representatives
and the Governor, but no law could be passed without the approval of the
Governor. The right to elect a delegate in Congress devolved on the
Council and House of Representatives, in joint session.

The above are some of the leading provisions of the ordinance of 1787.

On the 2d of May, 1812, Congress passed a law authorizing the admis-
sion of the Territory into the second grade of territorial government. This
act extended the right of sufi'rage so as to authorize any free white male
person of twenty-one years of age, and who shall have paid a territorial or
county tax previous to any general election, and be at the time of the elec-
tion a resident of the district, and who shall have resided one year in the
Territory previous to the election, to vote for representatives and members
of the Council and a delegate in Congress.



So much of the ordinance of 1787 as had required that there should be
five thousand free white male inhabitants in the Territory, had also been

I find the draft of the memorial to Congress, praying ibr.the admission
of the Territory into the second grade, and the extension of the right of
suffrage, among the papers of Crov. Edwards, and in his hand-writing.

By an examination of the ordinance of 1787 it appears, from the follow-
ing provision, that under the second grade of government the Legislature
had unlimited power of legislation, unless restrained in the exercise thereof
by the articles in the ordinance : " The Governor and Judges, or a majority
of them, shall adopt and publish in the district such laws of the original
States, criminal and civil, as may be necessary, and best suited to the cir-
cumstances of the district, and report them to Congress from time to time;
which laws shall be in force in the district until the organization of the
Grcneral Assembly therein, unless disapproved by Congress; hut ofter-
wards the Legislature shall have authorifi/ to alter them as they shall think
Jit." From this provision it appears that only the laws which might be
adopted by the Grovernor and Judges were subject to the disapprobation of
Congress ; that such laws were required to be reported to Congress not, as
has generally been supposed, for their approbation, but they were to be in
force until they were "disapproved" by Congress. 2d. That after the
organization of the General Assembly, the Legislature should "have au-
thority to alter the laws as they shall think fit," without being required to
report them to Congress.

On the 8th of May, 1792, Congress passed another law "respecting the
government of the territories of the United States, northwest and south of
the River Ohio."

The first section of this law provided that the laws of the territory north-
west of the Ohio, that had been or hereafter may be enacted by the Gov-
ernor and Judges, shall be printed, under the direction of the Secretary of
State, and that two hundred copies thereof, together with ten sets of the
laws of the United States, shall be distributed among the inhabitants for
their information; and that a like number of the laws of the United States
shall be delivered to the Governor and Judges of the territory southwest of
the Ohio River.

Section two authorized the Governor and Judges of the territory north-
west of the River Ohio to repeal the "laws by them made whenever the
same may be found improper. "-

Online LibraryNinian W. (Ninian Wirt) EdwardsHistory of Illinois, from 1778-1833; and life and times of Ninian Edwards → online text (page 1 of 73)