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17 Ibid., X, 303-304-

18 For the civil organization of Illinois see Boyd, "The County of
Illinois," Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 623 et seq.; English, op. cit., I, ch. IX.



ILLINOIS UNDER VIRGINIA. 8 1

one of the first settlers of Kentucky, and had represented
it as a county in the Virginia Assembly. The governor's
choice was wise, for Todd, though he did not know
French, 19 was acquainted with western life and conditions,
and probably possessed more education and knowledge of
the law than any other American frontiersman. 20 Henry's
letter of instructions to him, dated December 12, 1778, is
complete and judicious, and shows a realization by its
author of the truth proclaimed by Burke, that "the temper
of the people amongst whom he presides ought to be the
first study of a statesman." 21 Todd was urged to improve
upon the favorable condition existing in Illinois, and to
cultivate the friendship of the inhabitants and the Indians.
As he was "unacquainted in some degree with their genius,
usages and manners, as well as the geography of the
country," he was to consult and advise with the most
intelligent of the inhabitants. He was to cooperate when-
ever possible with Clark and to aid the military. "The
inhabitants of the Illinois," wrote Henry, "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." Hope was expressed that the French of
Detroit might be brought to cooperate with an expedition
against that place, but if this was found impracticable, the
new authorities in Illinois were to content themselves with
measures of defense only. One advantage hoped for from
the possession of Illinois was the cessation of Indian raids
south of the Ohio. A close attention to the disposition and
movements of the hostile tribes was therefore regarded as
necessary. "I know of no better general direction to give
than this," ran the instructions, "that you consider yourself at
the head of the civil department and as such having command
of the militia, who are not to be under the command of

19 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 287.

20 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, liv.

"For these instructions see English, op. cit., I, 249, et seq., or
Boyd, op. cit., Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 625 et seq., or Mason, Early Chic,
and III, 289 et seq.



82 TRANSITION IN ILLINOIS.

the military until ordered out by the civil authority and
to act in conjunction with them." The county-lieutenant was
instructed to impress upon the people the value of their
newly-acquired liberty. Hope was held out that in a short
time they might expect "a free and equal representation ....
together with all the improvements in jurisprudence and
police which the other parts of the state enjoy." .... "Let
it be your constant attention," urged Henry, "to see that
the inhabitants have justice administered to them for any
injury received from the troops, the omission of this may
be fatal. 22 .... You will embrace every opportunity to
manifest the high regard and friendly sentiments of this
commonwealth towards all the subjects of His Catholic
Majesty .... you will make a tender of the friendship
and services of your people to the Spanish commandant
near Kaskaskia and cultivate the strictest connection with

him and his people A general direction to act

according to the best of your judgment in cases where these
instructions are silent, and the laws have not otherwise
directed, 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.
.... The matters given you in charge are singular in their
nature and weighty in their consequences to the people
immediately concerned and to the whole state. They require
the fullest exertion of your abilities and unwearied
vigilance."

On the same day, the governor wrote an equally states-
manlike letter to Clark, directing him to retain command
of the troops already in Illinois, and to assume command
of the five new companies to be raised under the recent
act of the legislature. To prevent a continuation of
Indian depredations south of the Ohio, Clark was instructed
to establish such new posts as he saw fit. "I consider your
further success," wrote Henry, "as depending upon the
goodwill and friendship of the Frenchmen and Indians who

K In view of subsequent events this injunction seems almost
prophetic.



ILLINOIS UNDER VIRGINIA. 83

inhabit your part of the commonwealth. With their con-
currence great things may be accomplished. But their
animosity will spoil the fair prospects which your past
successes have opened. You will therefore spare no pains
to conciliate the affections of the French and Indians. Let
them see and feel the advantages of being fellow citizens and
freemen. Guard most carefully against every infringement
of their property, particularly with respect to land, as our
enemies have alarmed them as to that. Strict and even
severe discipline with your soldiers may be essential to
preserve from injury those whom they were sent to protect
and conciliate." Clark was instructed to cooperate with the
civil department when necessary. "Much will depend upon
the mutual assistances you may occasionally afford each
other in your respective departments, and I trust that a
sincere cordiality will subsist between you." The possi-
bility of attacking Detroit was dwelt upon. Clark was "to
push at any favorable occurrences which fortune may pre-
sent For our peace and safety are not secure while

the enemy are so near as Detroit." He was also to cultivate
the friendship of the Spaniards. Extensive discretionary
powers were given to him. 23

The governor, also on the same day, wrote a letter of
instructions to Montgomery, who had been promoted to the
rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was to superintend and
hasten the recruiting of the five new companies. "Our
party at Illinois," wrote Henry, "may be lost, together
with the present favorable disposition of the French and
Indians there, unless every moment is improved for their
preservation." 24 As already explained, only a part of this
additional force ever reached Clark. 25 We shall see that it
was the very dangers which Henry feared that wrecked
Virginia's government in Illinois.

Todd arrived at Kaskaskia to take up the duties of
county-lieutenant and head of the civil department in the

** For the instructions to Clark see English, op. cit., I, 253, et seq.
44 For the instructions to Montgomery see Henry, op. cit., Ill,
216 et seq.
M Cf. supra, ch. V.

7



84 TRANSITION IN ILLINOIS.

first half of May, I779- 26 His appearance was welcomed
by the people and by Clark; the two men were already
acquainted, and Clark was glad to be rid of civil affairs. 27
Todd's first duty was to organize the militia under authority
of Virginia. Clark had confirmed the Creole militia officers
who had been serving during the period of British govern-
ment. They were now for the most part retained. Richard
Winston of Kaskaskia, a leading member of the eastern
merchant class, was indeed appointed commandant of militia
in that village. But Legras was retained in command of
the Vincennes militia, 28 and all others commissioned by
Todd bore French names. 29

For civil administration, the county was divided into
three districts : Kaskaskia, including Prairie du Rocher,
St. Philippe, and the little village around Fort Chartres;
Cahokia, including Prairie du Pont and Peoria; and Vin-
cennes, including the lower Wabash valley. 30

In Todd's instructions stress had been laid upon the
administration of justice, and the act creating the county
of Illinois had decreed that all civil officials to whom the
people had been accustomed should be chosen by a majority
of the citizens in their respective districts. 31 Under French
government there had been no clear distinction between
executive and judicial functions. 32 During most of the
period of British administration, the military commandant,
appointed, of course, from without, had acted as judge,
with the assistance of justices in the villages. 33 Under
neither regime had the inhabitants acquired any experience
in self-government. But Clark had established courts
elected by the people, which were in existence when Todd

28 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 287.

"Letter to Mason, English, op. cit., I, 449.

28 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10.

39 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 294 ; Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ivi.

30 Ibid., Ivii.

31 Cf. supra.

32 Alvord, Illinois in the Eighteenth Century, 16.

33 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ivii.



ILLINOIS UNDER VIRGINIA. 85

arrived. This model the county-lieutenant determined to
follow.

Civil government under authority of Virginia was
formally inaugurated on May 12, 1779. On that day the
people of Kaskaskia were called together in an assembly in
front of the church, always the meeting place and most
important edifice in the French colonial village. Clark pre-
sided. His address in French was written and read by an
interpreter. He praised the people for their efforts in the
Vincennes expedition, presented Todd as their governor,
and urged them to elect the best persons as judges of their
court. 34 A French speech by Todd, also read by an inter-
preter, followed. 35 He expressed thanks for his reception,
and declared that the State of Virginia was actuated only
by pure motives. Distance, he said, made it imprac-
ticable for the new county to send representatives to the
Virginia Assembly, but representation, if desired, would
be granted in the future. 36

The assembly then proceeded to the election of the judges.
Six men, all of them French, were chosen, headed by the
most distinguished inhabitant, Gabriel Cerre. All of those
elected had cordially accepted Clark's regime. A few
days later, representatives in the court were elected from
Prairie du Rocher and St. Philippe, bringing the number of
justices for the Kaskaskia district up to nine. 37 On May 21,
Todd commissioned these men, "justices of the peace for
the District of Kaskaskia and judges of the court of the
said district in cases both civil and criminal." Any four
or more of them were authorized to constitute a court,
before which should be cognizable all actions and cases of
which the courts of the other counties of Virginia had
cognizance. Their judgments were required to have the
concurrence of at least a majority, and to be entered with

34 Ibid., Ivii-lix.

85 His later proclamations were regularly issued in French. See
Todd's Record-Book, passim; Mason, Early Chic, and III., 289-316.

86 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, lix-lx.

87 Ibid., Ixi.



86 TRANSITION IN ILLINOIS.

the proceedings previous and subsequent, and recorded in
books provided for the purpose. 38 The court chose a clerk,
and Winston was appointed sheriff. 39 A prosecuting officer,
or state's attorney, was appointed by Todd.

The court for the district of Cahokia was soon established
and was in session early in June. 40 Most of the justices
who had served under Clark's authority were reflected. 41
The Cahokia court appears to have numbered seven, four
of whom were necessary for a quorum. 42

In June, a similar court was established for the Vin-
cennes district. 43 It consisted of nine justices, six of whom
were elected from the village of Vincennes and the rest
from the neighboring posts. 44 It resembled the other
courts in essential features.

In these courts, monthly sessions were the rule, though
occasional special sessions were held. 45 The records were
naturally kept in French. 46 Individual justices had juris-
diction in civil cases up to twenty-five shillings, as elsewhere
in Virginia. The law was French, the "coutume de Paris,"
somewhat modified by the laws of Virginia. Attempts were
made to imitate English forms; but on the whole, as was
to be expected in courts composed of French Creoles, French
practice was followed. Juries, though employed in criminal
cases 47 , were not popular. In civil cases litigants usually
preferred to have the court decide. To the French it seemed

38 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixi.
89 Ibid.
40 Ibid., 13.
"Ibid., Ixii.

42 Ibid., \vii.

43 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10.

44 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ivii, Ixii.

45 Ibid., Ixii.

48 Cf. "Cahokia Court Records," Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II,
22-447, passim. Records in the courts established by Clark seem to
have been kept in English, ibid., 4 ft seq.

47 Ibid., 12-21. For a jury trial in the Cahokia court see ibid., 70.
The statement that juries were not introduced till after the Ordi-
nance of 1787 (Boyd, op. cit., Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 632) is wrong.



ILLINOIS UNDER VIRGINIA. 87

juster than submission of facts to a jury. 48 Prosecutions
were brought by the state's attorney. 49 The opinion that
these courts did very little work 50 is disposed of by the care-
ful records of the Cahokia court. 51 The scarcity of com-
petent persons in Illinois accounts, no doubt, for the fact
that the names of men holding militia commissions are
encountered as judges.

The problem confronting Todd was exceedingly difficult.
He was called upon to preside over French Creoles and
American merchants, traders and pioneers, a truly hetero-
geneous population. The knowledge of the French-Ameri-
can alliance and the enthusiasm felt for Clark and the
United States had almost brought the French and the
Americans together. But it was a temporary union. They
differed not more in race, language and religion, than in
temperament, taste and tradition. But other and more fatal
difficulties were not slow in making their appearance.

The paper money in which the Creoles had been paid for
supplies furnished to Clark's men was a cause of endless
trouble. As stated above, it was greatly depreciated, but
was for a time accepted at par. The possibility of making
profits out of it proved attractive to "Yankee" speculators,
who arrived in Illinois in the spring of 1779, while Clark
was on the Vincennes expedition. They outbid one another,
offering fabulous prices, and the people woke up to the fact
that they had been swindled and refused to accept the
money. Clark would have been in a pitiable position,
indeed, had not some of the merchants supplied him with
necessaries. 52 The natural result was an enormous rise of
prices, which was enhanced by the fact that the American
occupation of Vincennes, blocking the most important com-
mercial route between Illinois and Canada, caused a

48 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixiii.

49 Ibid., Ixi, 1 8 et seq.

60 Boyd, op. cit., Am. Hist. Rev., IV, 632. When this was written,
however, the Kaskaskia and Cahokia records had not yet been
brought to light.

51 See Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, 22 et seq.

62 English, op. cit., I, 400-401.



88 TRANSITION IN ILLINOIS.

scarcity of commodities. 53 The people of Illinois felt and
continued to feel that they had been deceived and cheated
by the Virginians.

Before his arrival in Illinois, Todd learned that Congress
had ordered the issues of Continental money dated May 20,
1777, and April n, 1778, to be paid into the Continental
loan offices by June i, 1779. Otherwise they would be
worthless. 54 The hardship and injustice which this measure
would work in Illinois can readily be imagined. Todd
thought that a time extension should be given to the people,
who had not only accepted the money, but had taken it at
face value. He accordingly ordered all the paper of the
called-in emissions to be removed from circulation and
sealed up. 55

For this he was blamed by some, on the ground that
it was injurious, and even fatal to Virginia's credit. 56
The people of Kaskaskia received certificates from Todd in
exchange for the paper money. At Vincennes, Legras was
instructed to see that all the money of the called-in emis-
sions was sealed up, and to give the holders certificates.
These Todd hoped Congress would some day redeem. 57
About $15,000 of greatly depreciated paper was thus
removed from circulation in and about Kaskaskia, but a
great many notes of these issues remained in possession of
the inhabitants and became worthless. 58 By the summer
of 1779 it became almost impossible to purchase supplies
for the troops. 59 Hence animosity was engendered between
the military and civil authorities. The former seem
to have thought Todd was responsible for the growing
difficulty of procuring provisions and accused him of

63 Col. Va. St. Papers, III, 501.

64 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxi. For this resolution of Congress
(2 Jan., 1779) see Pennsylvania Archives, VII, 156.

55 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 317.
00 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxiii.

57 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 320-321.

58 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxi.
Ibid., 614-615.



ILLINOIS UNDER VIRGINIA. 89

championing the French. 60 This was not true, for Todd,
in trying to bolster up Virginia's credit, ordered the people
to receive Continental money at a par with Spanish
piasters. 61 In Vincennes several persons were imprisoned
for refusing. 62 Todd's policy was, of course, equivalent to
a system of forced loans. The legislature of Virginia
finally committed itself to this policy by passing an act in
March, 1781, ordering that all bills of credit emitted by
Congress and the state of Virginia, as well as all bills of
credit issued by the governor, should "to all intents and
purposes" be considered as legal tender. 63 The unfortunate
Creoles were also subjected to the evils of counterfeit
money. 6 *

Some of the acquisitive Easterners who reached Illinois
in the summer of 1779 engaged in land speculation. 65 On
June 14, Todd issued a proclamation relating to this
subject. To protect just claims, every inhabitant was
required to lay before persons chosen in each district for
the purpose a memorandum of his land, with vouchers,
depositions, or certificates to support his claim. The mem-
orandum was to prove the title. New settlements on the
"flat lands" of the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois and Wabash
rivers, or "within one league of said lands," unless in the
French form of settlement, were forbidden until further
orders. 66 It was the policy of Virginia to confirm and protect
the titles and property rights of her new citizens and to pre-
vent private purchase of land from the Indians. 67 In May,
1779, the Virginia Assembly passed an act declaring that the
commonwealth had the exclusive right of purchasing lands

80 For evidence of the breach between Todd and the military see
ibid., 615-616.

61 See a memorial of the people of Vincennes to the governor of
Virginia, 30 June, 1781, English, op. cit., II, 738.

82 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 328-329.

"Hening, op. cit., X, 398.

84 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 328-329.

85 Ibid., 318-319-

86 Proclamation relating to land, by Todd, 14 June, 1779, ibid., 301.
67 Hening, op. cit., X, 161-162.



90 TRANSITION IN ILLINOIS.

from the Indians within its chartered limits. Private pur-
chases both past and future, were declared void. 68 The
assembly also forbade new settlements northwest of the
Ohio. 69 Sometimes, if nobody could successfully claim it,
land was adjudged to the state. 70 Todd believed that
purchases by individuals from the Indians should be pre-
vented under fine, and also that new settlements should be
made only under certain regulations. 71 After his departure
from Illinois, however, no attention was paid either to his
proclamation or to the Virginia law. 72 The Vincennes
court, with the concurrence of Legras, assumed authority
to grant land, and kept on doing so for several years. They
later sought to justify their course by saying that former
commandants at Vincennes had exercised this power, and
that they had done it with Legras' permission. 73

But the support of the troops was probably Todd's most
difficult problem. They required food and clothing. The
people would no longer sell supplies for paper money, and
many drafts on Virginia and on Oliver Pollock were pro-
tested. 74 Unauthorized drafts seem to have been made on
other sources. 75 On June 15, 1779, while the expedition
against Detroit 76 was under discussion, Todd, anticipating
an absence from Kaskaskia, instructed Winston to consult
the members of the court regarding supplies which Clark
might want. If the people, having it in their power, refused
to dispose of their goods, Winston was authorized to impress
provisions "valuing the property by two men upon oath."
On no account was he to give the troops a pretext for
"forcing" property. 77 On August n, Todd, by proclama-

88 Hening, op. cit., X, 97-98.

69 Ibid., 557, and Rowland, op. cit., I, 364-365.

70 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 308.

71 Ibid., 318.

72 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixx.

73 Am. St. Papers, "Public Lands," I, 10, 16, 71.

74 Colls. Ill, St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxv.

75 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 322.

76 See supra, ch. V.

77 Mason, Early Chic, and III, 302.



ILLINOIS UNDER VIRGINIA. 91

tion, invited the people of Kaskaskia to contract with com-
missaries appointed to procure provisions for the troops.
"I hope," he said, "they'll use properly the indulgence of
a mild government. If I shall be obliged to give the military
permission to press, it will be a disadvantage, and what
ought more to influence freemen, it will be a dishonor to
the people." 78 On August 20, Colonel Montgomery pro-
posed that one of the citizens of Kaskaskia be appointed
to assess the inhabitants for the support of the troops. 79
Evidently the former enthusiasm and self-denial of the
people were now things of the past.

On August 22, the county-lieutenant issued another
proclamation enjoining the inhabitants of the county from
exporting provisions for a period of sixty days, "unless I
shall have assurances before that time that a sufficient stock
is laid up for the troops, or sufficient security is given to
the contractors for its delivery whenever required." Vio-
lations of this order were to be punished by imprisonment
for one month. 80 Measures were taken to put this proc-
lamation in execution in the other villages as well as in
Kaskaskia. 81 The Kaskaskia court levied assessments on
the inhabitants and a considerable amount of supplies was
thus secured for the time, with the natural result of widen-
ing the breach between the people and the government.

This breach was made irreparable by Todd's policy of
supporting the troops on Virginia's credit, when her
treasury was empty and her credit gone. Pollock at New
Orleans found it increasingly difficult to borrow on the
state's credit for the piirpose of negotiating bills drawn
against himself. 82 Perhaps it would have been impossible
for any man in Todd's position to have succeeded. In his
instructions he had been told to aid the military and defend
the rights and liberties of the people. These two injunc-

78 Ibid., 305-

79 Colls. III. St. Hist. Lib., II, Ixxvi-lxxvii.

80 Mason, Early Chic, and III., 306.

., 321.



92 TRANSITION IN ILLINOIS.

tions, with the development of circumstances, were incom-
patible. The support of the troops, with conditions as they
were, meant injustice to the people. Todd tried to do his
duty, but his position was an impossible one. He soon
became convinced of the hopelessness of it. As early as
August 1 8, 1779, in a letter to the governor of Virginia, he
asked permission to attend the legislature the following
spring, and "get a discharge from an office which an
unwholesome air, a distance from my connections, a lan-
guage not familiar to me, and an impossibility of procuring
many of the conveniences of life suitable, all tend to render
uncomfortable." 83 In November of that year, he left Kas-
kaskia for Kentucky, and arrived at the Falls of the Ohio
in December. 84 He did not, however, resign his position
as county-lieutenant, and returned for a short time in
I78o. 85 Correspondence was continued between him and
the people and officials in Illinois, and as long as he lived 86
he took a lively interest in the affairs of the county. 87
Before leaving, he appears to have abandoned his earlier
opposition to "forcing" supplies, 88 for he gave a general
consent to impressment by the troops of the property of the
people. 89 After his departure Winston served as his
deputy. 90

Very early in the life of the court established by Todd
at Kaskaskia we find the Creole judges championing the
interests of the inhabitants against the troops. Probably
the very qualities which had fitted Clark's men for the work
they had accomplished unfitted them for dwelling peace-


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Online LibraryRobert Livingston SchuylerThe transition in Illinois from British to American government → online text (page 8 of 13)