Inaugural Address of Richard Yates, Governor of Illinois.
To the General Assembly of the State of Illinois:
The duty of making communications to the General Assembly, upon subjects requiring its action, more properly belongs to the outgoing executive, whose intimate connection with the administration, for a period of years, affords him the benefit of that observation and experience necessary to a true understanding of the condition and wants of the state, and of the character of legislation most needed to continue and advance its prosperity.
In the providence of God, the distinguished occupant of the Gubernatorial chair, who four years since was installed into office, was, on the 21st March, of the last year, called to his final account. The ready promptings of my own heart and the proprieties of the occasion admonish me not to omit to bear my testimony to the great ability, unshrinking fidelity and lofty patriotism with which, under the severest trials of bodily affliction, he discharged the duties of his position. Indeed, I may say that none can remember the lamented Bissell, except in association with the highest and noblest traits of our humanity, most happily blending in his character all the shining qualities of the christian citizen, the gallant soldier and the able statesman, and reflecting the highest credit, at home and abroad, upon the state to which, with unselfish devotion, he gave his talents, his energies and his life.
It is gratifying to know, however, that during the remnant of his term, the executive duties have devolved upon one of her distinguished citizens, who for many years had enjoyed the entire confidence of the people of the state, as possessing, in an eminent degree, that enlarged
2experience, practical knowledge and great integrity, which entitle his recommendations to the highest weight. The able message he has submitted to you, and in the suggestions of which I concur, relieves me from any elaborate presentation of the various measures which he has submitted to your consideration.
As a commonwealth, the favorable auspices under which her legislators have assembled: the health and prosperity which surrounds us on every hand: all the blessings of a high civil, social and religious civilization, demand unfeigned thanks to God, "who is the author of every good and perfect gift;" and as one of the states composing our highly favored nation, now threatened with dangers alarming to the patriot, we should humbly recognize our dependence upon that superintending Providence, which guided our fathers in their struggles for national existence, and in all our past illustrious career; and with whose continued favor we may ever remain a great and united people, in the full enjoyment of all the blessings of republican liberty and national happiness and prosperity.
The recent census of the United States reveals a degree of advancement in the population of the state of the most gratifying character. Her growth has not been by any ordinary process; but, setting all example at defiance, she has marched forward with a bound to the proud position of the fourth state in the Union; and now imperial wealth, power and position, beyond the possibility of recall or change, are her's, and her's forever! In the space of five years only, our population has advanced from 1,306,576 to 1,719,496. A commonwealth of fewer years than he who now addresses you, now numbers a population more than half as large as that of all the colonies when they entered upon the revolutionary struggle with Great Britain. She counts her wealth by the hundred millions; she counts among her citizens four hundred thousand who can bear arms, and more than double that number of children attend her free schools.
The state has had her embarrassments, but they have only served to teach the useful lesson of economy in the administration of the government, to demonstrate the sturdy integrity of her people and establish her character for good faith and credit throughout the world.
In 1842, one of my predecessors, in view of the embarrassments which visionary schemes of internal improvement and reckless private speculation had brought upon us, was forced to the humiliating admission that the state was in debt seventeen millions of dollars; the domestic treasury in arrears for the ordinary expenses of the government three hundred and thirteen thousand dollars; auditor's warrants selling
3at fifty cents to the dollar; and that "not one dollar was in the treasury, even to pay postage to and from the public offices." A sadder picture could scarce be drawn; and yet, to the honor of the state, in these darkest hours, when the dread alternative of taxation too intolerable to be borne on the one hand, or disgraceful repudiation on the other, stared them in the face, her people never faltered. The suggestions of timid councils, that increased taxation would drive our citizens from the state and prevent emigration to it, however well grounded they seemed to be, were ineffectual to deter a high-spirited people from the path of integrity and the policy of a true greatness. In 1848, the people, by their own vote, imposed upon themselves a tax of two mills to pay the principal, and one and a half mills to pay the interest on the public debt. With the resolution and energy of a young Hercules, the state put the load on her shoulders, and how gallantly she has borne it let her bonds, commanding a premium, and her credit, high throughout the world, answer. Instead of expelling our citizens from the state in great numbers, as was anticipated, it only riveted them more strongly to her fortunes; and instead of deterring the emigrant from seeking a home within her borders, it only inspired him with a desire and determination to cast his lot among a people, whom no temptations could corrupt and no clouds of financial gloom discourage. It is now a most pleasant retrospect for the people of the state — a signal example to attest the great truth that the public honor and a true greatness are compatible alone with public justice and integrity.
With regard to railroads, for which the state debt was principally incurred, individual enterprise and private capital have been so successfully applied, that even the dreams of 1837 have been more than realized. In 1852, the state had only ninety-five miles of railroad; now she has completed and in successful operation twenty-nine hundred miles: more than twice the lenghth of miles of that system which, in 1837, was ridiculed as the "mammoth system."
In the progress of railroad construction, the state has been peculiarly favored by her geographical position. It is a central power in the northwest, and the great highway of national travel. It has been the crossing ground over which the great commercial emporiums of the east, in sending out their iron arms to the four quarters of the continent, have found their way to the Mississippi, to Lake Michigan and the heart of the north-west. New York and Boston, establishing their pioneer routes along the shores of the lakes, found their way across our northern border. Philadelphia found her direct route upon the parallel of forty degrees through the interior of our state; and Baltimore, in her long
4reach to St. Louis, traverses our extreme southern border. And now, with almost numberless roads, traversing the state in every direction, developing the illimitable fertility of our immense area, and cloth our prairies with fair, cultivated fields, and gardens, and orchards, and rising cities and villages, who shall predict the future agricultural wealth or assign limits to the grand destiny of the state of Illinois? We may reasonably expect, that manufactories of all kinds will continue to spring up in our cities and villages to a good degree; but it is most emphatically here, upon these rich plains, ready for the plow, that agriculture shall have her millenium, and reap harvests such as the world never saw. And we may reasonably infer, that if, in the space of eight years, the state has grown to be the third railroad state in the Union, at the end of the next decade, she will take her rank as the first; and who, then, shall limit her aspirations not only to the first railroad state, but the empire state of the union.
Upon the subject of dividing the state into senatorial and representative districts, and also into congressional districts, I most earnestly recommend that the same be done with the strictest reference to the convenience of the people and the natural geography of the state, consulting the contiguity and adaptation of counties so as most fairly to reflect the popular will, and without the slightest reference to the success of this or that party. A system aiming at mere party advantage is much to be deprecated, and moreover, would and ought to redound to the injury of any party aiming to secure such partial legislation.
The fostering hand of the legislature should be continued in behalf of a society, which observation and experience have shown to be one of the most effective agencies in developing the agricultural resources and the mechanical industry of the state. Especially should this be the case in a state, whose chief interest is in the cultivation of the soil. Agriculture is truly regarded as the foundation of all other callings; when it prospers, all must prosper, when it fails, all must fail. It affords employment to near four-fifths of our population; it is the parent of commerce; supplies its freights and exchanges; it builds and freights our railroads; it swells the sails of our ships on the ocean; sets the wheels of machinery in motion; reclaims the wilderness, and pushes forward the car of settlement and civilization. He is certainly no statesman who does not study the interests and bearings of labor upon the body politic, and hold
5out to it all reasonable stimulants, honors and emoluments. And as it is the object of this society and its auxiliaries to give greater profit and dignity to labor, to bring the agency of science and invention to its aid, to render the earth more productive, more beautiful and more convenient to man, to increase the revenue of the state itself by enhancing the amount and value of its taxable property, it is eminently worthy of liberal encouragement.
The officers of this society for the past years of its existence, and its present board, are men, who have displayed much self-sacrificing devotion in the discharge of their official duties, and are entitled to great credit for their magnanimous efforts to place Illinois in the front rank of all the agricultural states of the Union. The society is now directing its attention to the establishment of an Agricultural Museum, and the secretary is at this time, visiting the different portions of the state collecting specimens of grains, wool, coals, minerals, &c., ascertaining modes of cultivation, average yield, adaptations of soil and other useful statistics to be placed in enduring quarters of the capitol for the observation and improvement of all.
The visitor at the last state fair in Jacksonville, could not fail to be impressed with the usefulness of this association. He had before him evidence of the most gratifying advancement of the state in the superiority and variety of the products of the farm, the garden, the orchard and the dairy, in the improvement of stock, in the numberless models of machinery and labor-saving implements, adapted to almost every want of man, displaying ingenuity and skill highly creditable to the mechanical and inventive genius of the people, and showing how many minds are in ceaseless thought to promote the comforts of man.
The reports of the board of trustees for the benevolent institutions at Jacksonville, the insane hospital, the school for the blind, and the deaf and dumb asylum, will require your attention. It is gratifying to know that these institutions have, in all respects, answered the high ends of usefulness, for which they were established. It is true, that a wise and discriminating economy is necessary to the prosperity of every commonwealth, but still, a public policy having no reference to the unfortunate children of the state, would be immeasurably incomplete and unjust.
This is an era of progress, and we justly boast of our advancement in christian civilization, in science and the arts, but the crowning glory of the age is that true philanthropy, which aspires to the elevation of
6the unfortunate, the suffering and the indigent, to the highest state of social position and usefulness of which they are capable.
Therefore, placing the means of cure, relief and education, within the reach of these sad children of misfortune, is an object worthy the legislator's aim. This great commonwealth, as it moves majestically onward in all the elements of power and wealth may justly point to its temples of state endowment and benevolence as monuments of a wise legislation, and every tax-payer may rejoice that he has contributed something, be it ever so little, to objects so sacred, humane and just.
Of a kindred character to this subject, I desire to recommend a reasonable appropriation for the establishment of a school for the training of idiots. My predecessor, Gov. Bissell, in his two last messages, warmly commended this subject, but it has thus far failed to be acted upon to the disappointment, there is reason to believe, of citizens in all parts of the state, where persons of this class are to be found.
Of our American population it is estimated that one in a thousand is so deficient in physical and intellectual development, as to be unfit for training in our ordinary schools. Indeed, it has been supposed, until lately, that they were incapable of instruction altogether.
Well-tried experiments, however, in many of the states and in Europe, have demonstrated that a large portion of this class is capable of such development, as to make them orderly and self-supporting, instead of helpless and dependent.
It is estimated there are 1600 persons of this class in Illinois, and that one-third of that number are, at the present time, of such an age and condition as to be fit subjects for training, such as is especially adapted to improve their condition.
A very moderate appropriation is all that would be necessary until the usefulness of the enterprise was fully demonstrated, and believing that every child of the state has a claim upon it for the means of developing his faculties, so as to bring them into useful and healthy exercise, I recommend that the appropriation be made.
The state owns several tracts of land known as seminary lands. Several thousand acres of those lands are in Cook county, now in occupation of German families, who have been in possession for ten or fifteen years, and not knowing the exact position of the lands they have made extensive improvements upon the same. The lands, it is believed,
7ought to be brought into market, giving the occupants some kind of pre-emption right, providing, they pay a fair price for the same. I am informed that such a measure would greatly relieve a large number of worthy families, while the interest of the state, it is believed, would not suffer thereby.
For a view of the practical workings of the common school law, and the past, present and prospective condition of our beneficient system of public instruction, I must refer you to the Biennial Report of the state superintendent. That report reveals the gratifying fact that amid all the hindrances incident to a system so recently inaugurated in this commonwealth, and to a period of great financial depression, the vast interests of popular education have kept steadily advancing, and the results thus far, have more than vindicated the wisdom, and justified the expectations of those humane and patriotic friends of the cause, who, less than six years ago, secured the adoption of the first free school system of Illinois.
The prudent and conservative policy recommended by the superintendent has my hearty approbation. While the workings of the law may, perhaps, be improved by slight modification in some particulars, it is not deemed expedient to disturb any of the cardinal features of the system at the present session of the general assembly. The suggestion of the report, that it is better to bear for a time with minor imperfections, until experience, that sure criterion of the wisdom and adequacy of any legislative policy, shall have demonstrated the necessity and character of fundamental changes, and prepared the public mind for them, than to unsettle the system, impair its efficiency and perplex its officers by frequent changes and hasty legislation, cannot be too earnestly commended to your consideration. The present system, as a whole, is working well, and since its principles and the duties of school officers, and the manner of performing them, have been explained and applied in the clear and practical expositions and instructions contained in the official circulars of the superintendent, complaints respecting the obscurities of the law, and dissatisfaction with its leading provisions, have, as I am informed, steadily and rapidly diminished. A spirit of general acquiesence in the practical operations of the system, prevails throughout the state, and the opinion is very generally expressed that, no radical changes in the act should be attempted at this time.
The Normal University, standing as it does, at the head of the free school system, and established to prepare, here at home, upon the soil of our own state, a corps of well-trained teachers for the common
8schools of the state, should continue to receive the fostering care of the legislature.
The relations of the university to the ultimate success of the whole scheme of education, must commend its interests to the favorable regard of those who look for the highest development of the latter. The special professional training of teachers is no longer an experiment; both its wisdom and necessity have been established by the educational history and experience of the most enlightened states of Europe, as well as of our own country. With the largest and most completely equipped normal school building in the United States, a corps of faithful, scientific and energetic teachers, and a philosophic and comprehensive course of study fully inaugurated, the university is prepared to enter upon a career of great and rapidly increasing usefulness. The views in the superintendent's report in relation to this institution have my entire approval, and are respectfully commended to your notice.
The wisdom of the policy which established the department of public instruction, as a co-ordinate branch of the State government, can no longer be questioned. The unparalleled development of the educational interest of the State, since the adoption of the present system, is abundant, demonstrating that every system of agencies must have a recognized head, to render its operations harmonious and efficient. In no department of the state, is this more needed than in the difficult and complicated duties connected with public instruction. It gives variety and strength to the whole frame-work of the system, while by his power of advice, interpretation and pacific intervention, the superintendent assists the local officers in their duties, harmonizes conflicting interests and opinions, avoids litigation, and thus saves the useless expenditure of a large amount of money. This view is confirmed by the concurrent testimonies of educational men from every part of the state. Considerations of economy and efficiency and an enlightened regard for the welfare of the educational interests of the state, which are second to none in importance, not only require the continuance of the department of public instruction, as now organized, but increased facilities for doing its appropriate work. The labors of the office are onerous, and must necessarily increase with the expansion of the system.
The present incumbent, finding himself compelled to choose between the neglect of some of his official duties and the use of his private means to enable him to perform them, has not hesitated to adopt the latter alternative. This is unworthy of the great state of Illinois. Provision should be made by law for clerk-hire and for necessary traveling expenses when engaged in strictly official business.
9The suggestion of the report relative to the expediency of adding to the effective force of the department, so as to reach and direct the public mind by educational addresses and afford useful aid in conducting a series of teachers' institutes, &c., seem to me to be prudent, practical, and economical, and are, therefore, commended to your favorable attention.
The subject of school architecture, the evils which exist and the remedy, are shown by the superintendent in a clear and convincing manner, and should command the consideration which their great importance demands.
Without entering more into details, I again commend the whole subject of popular education to your careful and enlightened regard. It is a subject which is apt to be lost sight of by the political economist, or overshadowed by the more imposing questions of material growth and progress. But it underlies our whole political system, far outweighing all ephemeral questions of commerce and finance, in its influence upon the ultimate greatness and glory of the country.
I cannot close my remarks upon the subject of this report without high commendation of the invaluable labors of the state superintendent. Those labors have been arduous and difficult, but he has discharged them faithfully and with great ability.
A kindred subject to that of education is that of collecting and preserving the materials for our past and future history. This has been so far done by the Chicago Historical Society, to which allusion was hitherto made by my predecessor, Governor Bissell. This society, by unparalleled industry, has already a large collection of works upon the earliest exploration and settlement of the west, and especially of our own state; with numerous files of newspapers, some of them dating back to the organization of the state government, and also many manuscripts, preserving the history of early events, obtained from our older cities. It contains, at this time, a collection of 30,000 volumes.
The public spirited men who conceived and have carried on this enterprize have rendered a service for which they deserve to be held in grateful remembrance by ourselves and our posterity. I respectfully suggest the enactment of a law requiring the secretary of state to furnish to this society one hundred copies of all documents printed by each general assembly, for the purpose of exchange with other societies for similar documents and other valuable works.
A work has recently been inaugurated by the leading naturalists of the state, which, if prospered, will doubtless prove to be of great advantage to our educational interests. I refer to the scientific survey now going on under the direction of the Illinois Natural History Society. Large collections in the various departments of natural history have been already made within our state limits. These specimens are now being deposited and carefully arranged in the museum of the State Normal University, where they will serve for purposes of instruction in that institution, and will also furnish, as the work goes on, new sources of useful knowledge to our citizens.
The subject of the currency, so deeply affecting all the channels of business and trade, is perhaps as difficult of solution as any which will come before you. A large majority of the people are unfamiliar with the system and details of banking, and they place their confidence in the paper of banks from a reliance upon the wisdom and integrity of their representatives in surrounding it with such safe-guards as will insure its prompt redemption. All classes have a deep interest in this question. What is it they are to receive for the products of their skill and industry? The question is not now whether it were better to resort to silver and gold than to use representative values. The currency is in circulation. Can any measures be adopted by this assembly which will directly or indirectly ward off these financial embarrassments or at least mitigate their influences?
I am aware that it is a troublous question, and one which has perplexed the ablest minds, and is doubtless fraught with difficulty in the minds of the most skillful financiers of your body. That we are at the mercy of speculators, stock brokers, and panic makers, and subject to great losses by reason of fluctuations in the value of our circulation, the past and present experience of the country fully confirms.
I can only suggest some measures which appear to my mind worthy of your consideration, and trust that the whole subject will engage your attention, and that, after a discussion of its merits, you may wisely adopt such a course as will correct the evils from which we suffer.
I recommend, as an amendment to the law, that banks should redeem their circulation at some central point — Springfield, for instance, at such rate as will remunerate them for the necessary expense incurred by this
11plan. What that rate should be, I am not prepared to say. That this amendment might temporarily disturb the value of the circulation will readily be seen, inasmuch as the practical effects would be to bring all upon equal terms, and those that could not nor would not comply, would he necessarily discarded, and put in liquidation. The apprehension of the forced sale of securities would, for a time, disturb their value; but I apprehend that it would be a system of purification, and if it should reduce our twelve millions of circulation very materially, would not, in the end, be an objection. Loss might, and probably would, be incurred by bill-holders to some extent; but the question naturally arises, whether they shall lose something now, and hereafter gain, or be constantly losing?
I recommend, also, that securities hereafter to be deposited in trust for issues be restricted to Illinois and United States bonds. At an earlier date, many objections might have been urged against this provision; but now that our circulation is twelve millions, few, I presume, will be disposed to complain should this sum total receive no increase for years to come. As the value of United States securities has depreciated very materially for the past few weeks, it might not be unwise to restrict to Illinois bonds exclusively; but we may reasonably hope that a new administration will place the government debt upon such a basis as will command the confidence of capital at home and abroad.
By this policy, the bonds of our state would be absorbed for banking purposes, and thus withdrawn from market to a considerable extent, and would consequently be less subject to rapid fluctuations of value.
For additional protection to the public and bankers, as well as for the satisfaction of our state officers, I would suggest the propriety of instituting a quarterly or semi-annual examination of their bonds, which are deposited as securities for their issue.
As no one will question the integrity of our present excellent auditor and treasurer, and I feel assured that such examination would be cordially approved by them, justice to all demand that no precaution should be neglected to preserve intact these securities.
I would also recommend that provision be made against illegal transfers or removals of bonds from the custody of the state treasurer, by the use of a stamp or seal, or other identification, which would prevent their being negotiated.
Any imperfection in the law which prevents creditors of banks, whether bill-holders or creditors in any form, from recovering their just claims from the stockholders, should be remedied, and the intent of the
12law with regard to the personal liability of stockholders should be made explicit and unequivocal.
With regard to the matter of redemption, inasmuch as all representative money is more or less valuable, in proportion to the expense of its convertibility, it becomes a question of some importance how much latitude should be allowed for liberal dealing with the banks.
I am not prepared to suggest any additional measure upon this point. But should the legislature, after a full investigation, find no constitutional objection to such a change in the existing law, as would compel redemption at some designated point, the measure proposed would, in my judgment, tend to relief from many of our embarrassments.
Any measure that can be adopted, improving the present law, will be appreciated by the people. Many radical changes might be made, even to the adoption of an entirely new system, though I question the propriety of such measures now. Too much legislation upon our banking laws would, perhaps, be as injurious as none; and in view of the fact, that but a small loss has as yet been sustained by the liquidation of Illinois banks, I am not disposed to suggest too stringent measures, being well assured that no legislation will effectually prevent the evil effects of financial panics originating in purely political excitement.
I readily confess to only a partial investigation of this subject, as well as to little familiarity with the business of banking, and therefore turn the whole subject over to the General Assembly, composed as it is of a fair representation of the business talent of the state, trusting that your united wisdom may prove successful in providing in some degree against the heavy sacrifice to which our citizens are exposed.
The particular attention of the legislature is invited to the importance of an immediate organization of our militia, and the repeal of the present law is recommended. Under the present system, all the arms issued to this state by the general government, representing a value of over three hundred thousand dollars, have been lost beyond recovery, and we have not to day in the state, two hundred serviceable muskets; and the entire uniformed militia of the state will not muster eight hundred men.
The wisdom and experience gained in the past has demonstrated the importance of an efficient force at the disposal of the government, and while the spirit of our institutions is justly hostile to a large standing army, yet it contemplates the latent existence of this force in the people, organized and effective as a militia. The days have passed away when
13almost every man was accustomed to the rifle, and forced to depend upon it for protection against savages and wild beasts, and when it was necessary that every cabin should be a fortress, and every man, yea, every woman a soldier. Almost every citizen then was armed. But what was then the rule, is now the exception, and where once, in case of attack, a sort of guerilla warfare was resorted to from necessity, we should now be compelled to act in large bodies against disciplined troops, experienced officers, and all the improved science and machines of war.
Notwithstanding the ardent hopes of the lovers of peace, that the progress of christian civilization would dispel the desolating scourge, yet even now, civilized Europe is the theater of continual war, and the most enlightened nations are liable to contingencies, in which the appeal to the sword is the only reliance for the defence of the lives and property of the people, the maintenance of order, and the execution of the laws.
Several of the states have adopted the plan of an active militia, consisting of volunteer companies, which have their annual encampments in divisions, brigades, or regiments, to be brought occasionally into one grand state encampment. On these occasions, the troops receive the benefit of extended marches, of thorough drill and discipline, training in the habits of physical endurance, prompt movements, manly bearing, and mutual reliance, and in the cultivation of that esprit de corps which results from military association. Massachusetts to-day has a citizen soldiery of 6000 volunteers, ready at the beat of drum, to oppose itself as a wall of fire against foreign aggression, or in the enforcement of the power and authority of the government.
Therefore, I commend such a law as shall secure an efficient organization as well as instruction, armament, equipment, and uniform of our citizen soldiery. Some organization based upon the system of volunteers, it is believed, will be of benefit to the state, aside from any purposes of war, because it would encourage a system of physical training and the cultivation of a manly, independent spirit among our youth, and raise up in our midst a generation of men taught to reverence the law, accustomed to obedience, and disciplined and qualified for service in all emergencies.
In the present crisis of national affairs, there would be little practical utility in arguing the question whether this party or that is most to be blamed and held responsible for the dangers which threaten the country.
14Whether the trouble be attributable to the aggressions of slavery, to the ravings of fanaticism, or other provoking causes, are questions, the discussion of which would only tend to increase and aggravate party differences, without allaying the public disquiet, and would be neither patriotic or prudent. Yet it is a truth of solemn import, that in the midst of prosperity unparalleled, and on the very occasion when the President of the people's choice is about to be placed in the chair, to which he has been constitutionally elected, the loyal citizens of the United States are startled by treasonable out-cries of secession and disunion, and find themselves compelled to consider new difficulties, resulting, perhaps indirectly from the old, but more directly traceable to an avowed hostility to any union to the people of the United States that is not pledged to extend and perpetuate the institution of slavery.
However, it may be true of the disaffected masses, we may safely say of their leaders, that their object is disunion, and that while there is a hope of effecting it, nothing less will be likely to content the men who have conspired to raise the storm that is around us. It is lamentable that such seditionists should have been as successful as they have been in persuading their constituencies to a course of hostile demonstration towards the government of the nation; and it will be among the most difficult and delicate tasks of that government to deal with the disorder and prevent its mischiefs. The fraternal relation of the states never should be forgotten, and while the supreme authority of the Union in all matters committed to it by the constitution, can never be yielded to any pressure, we may cherish the hope that measures of coercion will not become necessary to restore the disaffected to obedience.
I forbear to refer to much that has been said and done by refractory leaders to inflame the differences between the populations of the slave and free labor states, convinced as I am, that if the people of the South could be truly informed of the character of that northern opinion, which has been so misrepresented to them by designing demagogues, they could not be induced to assail the Union, which their fathers established. Finding that all their interests would still be protected, and their rights maintained, they would disdain to clamor, because the outside territories of the Union were not to be surrendered to a policy that would retard their settlement and postpone the era when they might be admitted to the galaxy of States.
It is not true that the result of the late election establishes any new relation or principle in the administration of the government, exposing them and their interests to new hazards and dangers. It is true that
15they have declared themselves politically, morally and socially opposed to the extension of slavery into territory now free, but they have not made this declaration in a spirit of hostility to the people of the South. The principle is older than the Constitution, has subsisted under and conjointly with the Constitution in every period of its history, bearing with it the sanction of Washington and Jefferson and their successors in the executive office, and the late election has only brought out its successful re-affirmance by a majority of the voters of the Union. The declaration by no means discriminates against the southern people.
It is doubtless very true, that amidst the vast prosperity, which in common with the citizens of the other States, our southern brethren have enjoyed, the rewards to them of the labor of their slaves have greatly increased, and we should not perhaps be surprised that their attachment to institutions which foster such labor, has become so strong and partial as to influence their conduct in all political relations. Instead of regarding slavery as it was regarded in the early periods of their history, as an evil to be tolerated from the necessity of the case, with the hope of its ultimate extinction, they now commend it as a blessing, a good to the slave and the master, to government and to society, a perfect form of civilization, that is to endure forever. On the other hand, the people of the free States are impressed with the belief that slavery is wrong and is destructive of the highest progress in religion, morals, industry and refinement. But this conflict of antagonistic opinions is not inconsistent with the permanent and prosperous union of the States, because each State is free to cherish its preference, while the Federal Government cannot interfere or intrude upon the institutions peculiar to the States. It is the striking feature of our political union, that while each member of the confederacy may exercise the sovereign right of deciding for itself what its domestic institutions shall be, it may also have the sure protection which the united power of all can give, against enemies at home or abroad; thus forming a sisterhood of States, differing as the flowers of their various climates differ in beauty and fragrance, but all instinct with one sentiment of rising greatness, and forever united under one Constitution, the bulwark of their safety, strength and glory.
The institutions of the free labor States are institutions of choice and hearty preference. The people of those States believe, and I unhesitatingly adopt the sentiment, that there is ever between freedom and slavery an "irrepressible conflict," in which slavery must decline and ultimately yield. I believe it cannot exist forever. Die it must, sooner or later; die, that the philosophy of history may be demonstrated; die,
16that man's most cherished hopes may not wither; die, that God's eternal justice may be vindicated; but it by no means follows, that slave States and free States may not be associated in the same confederacy, and united under such a wise Constitution as ours, with every right secure and every institution safe. It is in the State where slavery exists that this irrepressible conflict is going on, and where freedom is finally to triumph; not, it is hoped and believed by the insurrection of the slave and the blood of the master, but by the voluntary act of the people of the slave States, at the behest of an advancing civilization. Such was the conflict in those States of the Old Thirteen which became free by their own voluntary emancipation.
Believing this, we are conscious of no unkind feeling towards our brethren in the slave States. Our faith is strong as ever that the present discord once settled, the utmost kindness and fraternity may exist between the people of the slave and free States, and the era of good feeling be restored; the nation may continue its triumphant march to her grand destiny — the free States under the energizing force of free labor, to advance to the most perfect civilization the world has ever seen, while the border States first, and finally the cotton States, will be induced by their own convictions of its advantages, to commence the work of emancipation, until the slaves shall be transferred to tropical climes more congenial to their nature, and every cause of discord be forever removed. In view of such, or some other peaceful solution of the question of African slavery in the United States, likely to occur, it is certainly no dangerous fanaticism to say that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction, and that the States are not destined permanently to remain half slave and half free.
Whatever may have been the divisions of parties hitherto, the people of Illinois will with one accord give their assent and firm support to two propositions:
First — That obedience to the constitution and the laws must be insisted upon, and enforced as necessary to the existence of the government.
Second — That the election of a chief magistrate of the nation in strict conformity with the constitution, is no sufficient cause for the release of any State from any of its obligations to the Union.
A minority of the people may be persuaded that a great error has been committed by such election, but for relief in such a contingency, the constitution looks to the efficacy of frequent elections, and has placed it in the power of the people to remove their agents and servants at will. The working of our government is based upon the principles of the indisputable rights of majorities. To deny the right of those, who have
17constitutionally succeeded by ballot to stations only to be so occupied, is not merely unfair and unjust, but revolutionary; and for a party which has constitutionally triumphed to surrender the powers it has won, would be an ignoble submission, a degradation of manhood, a base desertion of the people's service, which should inevitably consign it to the scorn of Christendom and the infamy of history.
The American people need no assurance that the Republican party, valuing as it ought the triumph it has won, will never be disposed to yield its honors, or avoid its duties. They not only claim, but intend to have the administration for the period of time allotted to them by the constitution.
To give shape and form to their purpose of resistance, the dissatisfied leaders of the South Carolina movement, have revived the doctrine, long since exploded, that a State may nullify a law of Congress and secede from the Union at pleasure. Such a doctrine can never for a moment be permitted. Its admission would be fatal to the existence of government, would dissolve all the relations which bind the people together, and reduce to anarchy the order of the Republic.
This is a government entered into by the people of the whole country in their sovereign capacity, and although it have the sanction also, of a compact between sovereign States, does not receive its chief support from that circumstance, but from the original and higher action of the people themselves.
This Union cannot be dissolved by one State, nor by the people of one State or of a dozen States. This government was designed to be perpetual and can be dissolved only by revolution.
Secession is disunion. Concede to South Carolina the right to release her people from the duties and obligations belonging to their citizenship and you annihilate the sovereignty of the Union by prostrating its ability to secure allegiance. Could a government which could not vindicate itself, and which had exhibited such a sign of weakness, command respect or long maintain itself? If that State secede, why may not California and Oregon, and with better reason, because they are remote from the capital, and separated by uninhabited wildernesses and vast mountain ranges, and may have an independent commerce with the shores and islands of the Pacific and the marts of the Indies? Why may not Pennsylvania secede and dispute our passage to the seaboard through her territory? Why may not Louisiana constitute herself an independent nation, and dictate to the people of the great north-west the onerous terms upon which her millions of agricultural and industrial
18products might find a transit through the Mississippi and be delivered to the commerce of the world.
It will be admitted that the TERRITORY of Louisiana, acquired in 1803, for the purpose of securing to the people of the United States the free navigation of the Mississippi, could never have seceded; jet it is pretended, that when that territory has so perfected its municipal organization as to be admitted into the Union as a state, with the powers and privileges equal to the other states, she may at pleasure repudiate the union, and forbid to the other states the free navigation which was purchased, at the cost of all, not for Louisiana, but for all the people of the United States. A claim so presumptuous and absurd could never be acquiesced in. The blood of the gallant sons of Kentucky and Tennessee was freely shed to defend New Orleans and the Mississippi river from a foreign foe; and it is memorable that the chieftain who rescued that city from sack and siege, was the same who, at a later date, by his stern and patriotic rebuke, dispersed the ranks of disunionists in the borders of South Carolina.
Can be it for a moment supposed, that the people of the valley of the Mississippi will ever consent that the great river shall flow for hundreds of miles through a foreign jurisdiction, and they be compelled, if not to fight their way in the face of the forts frowning upon its banks, to submit to the imposition and annoyance of arbitrary taxes and exorbitant duties to be levied upon their commerce? I believe that before that day shall come, either shore of the "father of waters" will be a continuous sepulchre of the slain, and, with all its cities in ruins, and the cultivated fields upon its sloping sides laid waste, it shall roll its foaming tide in solitary grandeur, as at the dawn of creation. I know I speak for Illinois, and I believe for the north-west, when I declare them a unit, in the unalterable determination of her millions, occupying the great basin drained by the Mississippi, to permit no portion of that stream to be controlled by a foreign jurisdiction.
If, wearied by the persistent clamors and panics accompanying these ceaseless threats of secession, any good citizen has suffered himself to entertain a thought that the peace and unity of the nation might be promoted by the withdrawal of the dissatisfied state or states, let him remember that this Union is an inheritance from our fathers, to be transmitted by us to our posterity, and that the great hope of downtrodden humanity throughout the world is in its permanence. Let us never forget the solemn warnings of the Father of his Country, that "we should accustom ourselves to think and speak of the Union as the palladium of our political safety and prosperity, discountenancing whatever
19may suggest even a suspicion that it can, in any event, be abandoned."
So deeply impressed were Jackson, Webster and Clay, with the conviction that the durability and efficiency of our free institutions depended upon a perpetual, unbroken union, that they have left, upon many a page of the national history, most eloquent warnings that the thought, even, that the Union could be dissolved, was never to be entertained. The veteran Cass has said that the man "who believed this Union could be broken up without bloodshed, has read history to little purpose." As we love our common country in all its parts, and with all its blessings of climates and cultures, its mountains, valleys and streams; as we cherish its history, and the memory of the world's only Washington; as we love the grand old flag, "sign of the free heart's only home," that is cheered and hailed on every sea and haven of the world, let us swear that its glories shall never be dimmed — that there shall be no secession, no disunion — and that the American people shall be one and united, now and forever.
I believe and trust it is to be the mission of those to whom the people have lately committed, for a period, the interests of this nation, to administer public affairs upon the theory of THE PERPETUITY OF THE CONSTITUTION, AND THE GOVERNMENT ORGANIZED UNDER IT.
No matter how vociferously South Carolina may declare that the Union is dissolved, and that she and other states are out of the confederacy, no recognition whatever is due to her self-assumed independence in this regard. It took seven years to establish our independence. The precious boon purchased by patriot blood and treasure was committed to us for enjoyment, and to be transmitted to our posterity, with the most solemn injunctions that man has the power to lay on man. By the grace of God, we will be faithful to the trust. For seven years yet to come, at least, will we struggle to maintain a perfect union — a government of one people, in one nation, under one constitution.
As to compromise, if it means that we must outrage the sentiment of the civilized world by conceding that slavery is a blessing — that we must love and praise it — that we may not hope for its ultimate extinction — that it may go into the free territories, under the protection of the constitution — if these are the grounds upon which the difficulties are to be settled, then they never will be settled. Plainness and truth require us to say that the only pacification to which the people of this state could accede, would be upon the principles upon which Mr. Lincoln
20was elected: that the constitution must be obeyed, as it is; all its provisions enforced, according to a fair and honest interpretation of its meaning; and that slavery is a local and state institution, and nothing else.
It is time we had a better understanding with our southern brethren. If there are aggressions by the northern states, let them be shown, and we pledge the faithful endeavors of the people of this state to redress past wrongs, and prevent their repetition in future. But such grievances should be pointed out and proved, before we can redress them. It also must be acknowledged, that such complaints come with a bad grace from those states, where it is notorious that citizens of the free states are almost daily exposed to insult, imprisonment, and often death, from the violence of irresponsible individuals. That clause of our constitution granting "to the citizens of each state all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states," is just as sacred and binding as is the clause for the rendition of fugitive slaves, and the same obligations rest upon Congress to enforce the one, as the other. American citizenship affords to him who possesses the boon, efficient protection in every civilized foreign nation in the world, and even among barbarians. The faintest cry of even an adopted citizen, on the most distant sea, as in the case of Martin Kosta, is the talisman of protection, and Austrian myrmidons shrink back in terror before the flutter of the ever-glorious stars and stripes. And in these states, shall the life of a man be unsafe, who entertains the opinions of Washington and Jefferson on the subject of slavery?
If it shall be said, in extenuation of this intolerable grievance, that the states in which it exists are peculiarly situated — that their peculiar institutions render it unsafe to tolerate freedom of speech, or the presence of suspicious persons among them — we reply that we have no right or desire to disturb their peculiar institutions, but that we cannot and will not relinquish our right to the protection of the laws, under the constitution of our common country; and that, if their peculiar institutions are such as render such violations of individual right necessary and unavoidable, then certainly we may be excused from favoring any such line of policy as will have a tendency to extend them to any spot on earth where it does not already exist.
We should resolve, in the spirit of fraternal kindness, to discharge every duty that belongs to us. I am not aware that the people of Illinois are justly chargeable with delinquency in their relations to the people of any other state of the Union; and with respect to the enforcement of the fugitive slave law, about which, accusations, in
21vague and general terms, are so often made against us, I am not able to find that we have failed in duty. It has been as faithfully administered in Illinois as our own statutes have been. Very many believe that the law might be more humane, without being less efficient, in its provisions; but none have or will connive at disobedience to it, while it is the law of the land. It becomes every patriot to exert himself to the utmost to disabuse the popular mind of errors, and to establish that enlightened mutual appreciation, which alone is wanted to realize the cordial and friendly relations necessary to the peace of the country. Therefore, it is to be hoped that all the legislatures of the free states will at once repeal all laws, which, upon examination, may be found in conflict with the letter or spirit of the constitution, so that they may stand blameless in the eyes of the world, and have cause to hope for a retaliation of magnanimity. Above all, as a most melancholy misapprehension of the sentiments of the north, lies at the bottom of most of the mischiefs and dangers which beset us, and as the alienation is founded more upon delusions than facts, let all parties cordially unite to remove those misapprehensions, and assure the south that the north have no design or purpose to interfere with slavery in the states, and entertain no hostility to the people of the slave states.
To the malcontents, who would destroy the fair fabric of our Union, we owe only the punishment due to the outraged laws of the country; but to our friends among them, who have endeavored thus far in vain to stem the torrent of disunion and lawless violence, we owe every encouragement and assistance that can be rendered with a due regard to honor and justice, and without the sacrifice of essential principle, and especially should the evidences of loyalty of the border states to the Union challenge our admiration; and while we show men every where that we cannot recognize intimidation as a proper element of political action, we ought to display the magnanimity of victors, and go to the furtherest verge of conciliation in the patriotic effort to restore peace and quiet to our distracted country.
At all events, it is hoped, that less will need to be done than many apprehend. There is hope that the sober second thought of the people of South Carolina, and of other disaffected States, may yet thwart the artifices of the ambitious men, who would alienate us forever. South Carolina already finds great perplexity in this hour of her belligerent wrath in the fact, that she has found no enemy to fight and no burden to cast off. The National Government is only felt by her citizens in the blessings it confers. They have no laws they themselves do not approve, and no rulers they have not assisted to elect. They arm themselves when
22there is no enemy to assail, and manifest the greatest rage when a fort is evacuated which they were intending to take by violence from the brave and sagacious Anderson and his sixty devoted soldiers. One day they declare the constitution has no binding force upon them, and they cast it to the wind as so much worthless paper; and the next day, recommend the same constitution as a basis for a provisional government for the new confederacy they are seeking to inaugurate.
Now no one will propose coercing South Carolina into sending representatives into congress, but she is always to have the privilege of doing so if she will. Her people are not to be coerced into receiving the mails at the expense mainly of the other states as heretofore; if they deprive themselves of these blessings, who shall complain but herself? If they discard the courts of the United States, with judges selected from their own people, paid by the General Government, they damage themselves most seriously, and it may be wise to indulge them for awhile in this self-inflicted punishment for their disloyalty.
South Carolina, however, claims the right to the forts of the United States, and to collect revenue from imports. Now to open the ports of Charleston to free trade, is to open the whole country to free trade. Merchandise once in the Union, can be transported to any part of the Republic. If South Carolina can open one port, she can all, and she is not only sovereign at home, but throughout the nation, a position not soon to be conceded to a state, which has not so many white inhabitants as one of the Congressional Districts in the state of Illinois. Now if South Carolina disunionists shall be guilty of the stupendous madness of resisting the United States officers in the collection of the revenue, can there be any doubt that the government will have to use as much force as is necessary to enforce these laws. If General Washington, at the head of the United States army in '96, put down the Pennsylvania whisky rebellion; if General Jackson, in '32, quelled resistance to law by his proclamation of force; if Mr. Fillmore executed the fugitive slave law at the point of the bayonet in the streets of Boston; if Mr. Buchanan, in 1859, called out the U. S. army to put down the seizure of the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, what shall be done with those who defiantly obstruct the execution of the laws at Charleston? If the laws are not executed then the government is a failure.
I know not what the exigencies of the future may be, nor what remedies it may be necessary to use, but the administration of the incoming President, I have no doubt, will be characterized by wisdom as well as firmness. He certainly will not forget that the people of all the United States whether loyal or not, are citizens of the same Republic, component
23parts of the same integral Union. He never will forget, so long as he remembers his official oath, that the whole material of the Government, moral, political, and physical if need be, must be employed to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. In such an event as this I hesitate not to say, that the General Assembly, without a dissenting voice, and the people of Illinois, would unanimously pledge the men and means of the state to uphold the Constitution and preserve the Union. To those, who would distrust the loyalty of the American people to the Union, let the spontaneous response of the national heart borne upon ten thousand streams of lightning to the heroic Anderson, answer.
It is perhaps impossible to tell what may be the exact result of this South Carolina nullification, but do what she will, conspire with many or few, I am confident that this Union of our fathers — a Union of inteligence, of freedom, of justice, of industry, of religion, of science and art, will in the end be stronger and richer and more glorious, renowned and free, than it has ever been heretofore, by the necessary reaction of the crisis through which we are passing.
As to our own state, we are closely allied in origin, in kindred, in sympathy, in interest, in civilization and in destiny, with many of the best of both the slave and the free states, and though young in years we have learned to be proud of our origin, and of our neighbors, and of our sister states. No state has entered into the recent political campaign with more intense partisan prejudices and zeal than our own. Each opposing party nominated for the Presidency the favorite son not only of the state, but of the north-west. We fought the canvass through to the hilt; but the moment the contest was decided, the world was at a loss to know which most to admire, the exuberant joy of the victors, or the admirable gallantry, grace and dignity of the unsuccessful party. We have put one of our champions into the Presidency, the other still stands in the senate, places almost equal for usefulness; which will achieve most honor to himself and good to his country and the world, time will decide. We will believe that neither will prove coward in the fight, or traitor to the cause. On the question of the union of these states they and all our people will be a unit. The foot of the traitor has never yet blasted the green sward of the State of Illinois. All the running waters of the north-west are waters of freedom and union, and come what will, as they glide to the great gulf, they will ever, by the ordinance of '87, and by the higher ordinance of Almighty God, bear only free men and free trade upon their bosoms, or their channels will be filled with the commingled blood of traitors, cowards and slaves.
Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives: Never has a General Assembly convened in this state when both the state and the nation had more at stake. You will nerve yourselves to the work before you, from the reflection that when the storm beats on the ship the skill of the pilot is displayed. It shall be my desire to co-operate in all measures for the public good, and trusting that each of you will return to your constituencies crowned with well-deserved honors, and with the consciousness of your own hearts that t+he public service has been promoted, I close by thanking you for your attention.
SPRINGFIELD, January 14,1861.