Pictures and Illustrations.
The request of the Illinois State Historical Society, in 1919, for a sketch of Governor Joseph Duncan led me to search through the papers preserved by the family to see if there was any new material that would throw light on the life of one of the pioneers of Illinois. The sketch prepared at that time for the annual meeting has since grown, by the acquisition of new material found in the Library of Congress and other libraries, into the present more extended life.
His daughter, Mrs. Julia Duncan Kirby, wrote a biographical sketch of Joseph Duncan for the Jacksonville Historical Society in 1885, containing many reminiscences of Mrs. Duncanand of her friends and, quoting; nearly in full, the interesting diary kept by Mr. Duncan while he was in congress.
Aside from these two sketches, there has been no life written of Governor Duncan. Most of the histories of Illinois are influenced in their estimation of him by the opinion given by Thomas Ford in his history of Illinois written in 1847. As Ford was a political opponent of Governor Duncan and party feeling ran high at that time, he naturally wrote from a prejudiced point of view. Unfortunately Mr. Duncan's papers have suffered irreparable loss, as the most important ones were burned in the Chicago fire of 1871 and others in our home fire in Davenport in 1887.
There are still preserved
I have consulted the Journals of the House of Representatives and the Senate of Illinois and the Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States for the records of his political life and the newspapers
108of the time for contemporary opinion. Use has been made of Mrs. Duncan's reminiscences and diaries to give an account of a journey west in 1828 and a picture of their life later in Jacksonville.
Many traditions have come down in the family but I have only used those that seem to help in drawing the portrait from out of the shadows of a century ago of this pioneer of Illinois, a strong man of action, of independent opinion, with a keen sense of law and right, modest and unassuming. Tradition says that he had great social charm, which is borne out by the letters that describe the cordial reception he received whenever he went east. The same Scotch honesty and allegiance to duty and principle which was shown as a boy of eighteen in his providing for his widowed mother and younger brothers and sister before he left home in the war of 1812, dominated his ideals and public acts in his later career as soldier, state senator, congressman and governor.
I am indebted to Prof. A. M. Schlesinger and to Prof. Theodore Calvin Pease for valuable suggestions, to Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber of the Illinois State Historical Society and to Miss Caroline McIlvaine of the Chicago Historical Society for assistance in obtaining material, and to Miss Ruth Putnam for criticism and encouragement. My brother Edward K. Putnam has aided me in the arrangement of the materials and the review of the political speeches of Governor Duncan.
Davenport, Iowa. January 15, 1921.
Chapter I. — Early Life: War of 1812: Removal to Illinois.
Joseph Duncan was descended on both sides from Scotch and Scotch-Irish ancestry. The family first settled in Virginia, from there Major Joseph Duncan went to Kentucky in the early days but returned to Virginia to marry Anna Maria McLaughlin of Cumberland Valley, and in 1790 the family moved to Paris, Bourbon. County, Kentucky. Here Joseph was born on February 22, 1794, the third son.
The Duncan house is still standing in Paris, a substantial stone house, with an interesting entrance doorway and panelling in the rooms. A lease of 1815 describes it as "the old stone house on the square with kitchen, billiard-room, smoke house, lower stables, etc., and two partitions to be run across the ball room."
In 1806 Major Duncan died. There was apparently a great deal of property but much confusion in affairs. Mrs. Duncan married in 1809 Captain Benjamin Moore, of the regular army. He lived but two years, dying in 1811. One son, Duncan Moore, was born of this marriage.
Joseph was but twelve years old when his own father died. The two older sons had been sent, Matthew to Yale and James to Transylvania College, Lexington, Kentucky, but there was probably no ready money to send Joseph to college. He assumed the responsibilities of the family, paying bills and arranging financially for his mother. He was appointed guardian to his two younger brothers and sister and later paid for at least part of their education. All through his life he manifested an interest in education, probably intensified by the lack of college training
109in his own life. In his informal correspondence he was a poor speller, as were many of the men of his time.
From his father and step-father Joseph naturally was interested in military affairs. War with England was not declared until June 18th, 1812, but a month beforehand, on May 12th, we find Joseph Duncan had paid to P. Loring, Paris, Kentucky:
|To making undress coat||$10.00|
|To 5Ë yards of silver braid||2.75|
|To making a Cockade||75|
|To making 2 pair pantaloons and 2 vests||1.00|
|To finding pading and thread||50|
|To 1 hank of white silk||12Ë|
He entered the army as an Ensign in the 17th U. S. Infantry and remained in service throughout the wax.
He at once began securing recruits. As he was leaving to join the northern army in 1813, he gives the following note, — "The above bill of eight pounds and eleven shillings, I am bound to pay unless my mother pays it. Kelly and Brant may deduct it out of the money I now leave in their hands, and should she apply for any other articles in their store they will let her have them and charge them to her account." It is worth note that the credit and word of an eighteen year old boy carried sufficient weight to take care of the family.
There is no record where Joseph Duncan was the first year of the war. On June 13th, 1813, he passed Kaskaskia on the Mississippi, with the 17th Regiment of U. S. Infantry, on his way to St. Louis, Missouri Territory, as is shown by the letter from his brother, Matthew Duncan, who tried to overtake the boats at Little Rock Ferry. On August 2nd, 1813, Duncan was at the defence of Fort Stephenson, near Sandusky, Ohio. A copy of a letter written by Joseph Duncan and describing the attack has been preserved. It was written many years later in response to inquiries from Gen. C. F. Mercer, but it gives a graphic and detailed description of the battle.
WASHINGTON CITY, March 25, 1834.
Your letter of the 20th has been received and I most cheerfully comply with your request in giving such an account of the transactions at Sandusky as my memory at this late period and my time will enable me to do.
About the 20th of July, 1813, General Harrison, then at Lower Sandusky, hearing that the British Army had crossed Lake Erie to Fort Meigs, being about five thousand strong, immediately changed his headquarters to Seneca, seven or eight miles up the Sandusky River, where he assembled his forces, leaving Major Croghan with about 150 men to defend Fort Stephenson, with an understanding or an order, as it was understood by me at the time, that the Fort then in a weak and wretched condition, was to be abandoned should the enemy advance with artillery, but if not, to be defended to the last extremity.
Harrison with his force, then small, had scarcely left us before Croghan commenced putting the fort, which was only a stockading of small round logs and a few log storehouses, in a proper state of defence, in which he evinced great judgment and the most untiring perseverance.
During the ten or twelve days that intervened between the time that General Harrison left us and the appearance of the enemy, a ditch was dug four feet deep and six feet wide entirely around the Fort outside of the stockading — the ground for two hundred yards round the fort was cleared of timber and brush and many other preparations made for the enemy.
About this time General Harrison received information that the enemy had raised the siege of Fort Meigs and had started in the direction of Sandusky and Camp Seneca. On receiving this intelligence he determined to retreat from his position, and immediately sent an express to Fort Stephenson, which arrived about sunrise, ordering Major Croghan to burn the fort with all the munitions and stores and retreat without delay to Headquarters, giving also some precautionary instructions about the route, etc.
On receiving this order, Croghan instantly placed it in the hands of the officers, who were all present, and required them to consider it and express an opinion as to the propriety of obeying or disobeying it. The Board was formed and on putting the question, beginning as is usual with the youngest officer, [Duncan] it was ascertained that a majority of us was for disobeying the order. Croghan returned to the room and being informed of our decision remarked, "I am glad of it, I had resolved to disobey it at all hazards," and immediately dispatched an express to General Harrison giving him that information. Immediately on the arrival of this express General Harrison dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Ball with his squadron of Dragoons, with orders to arrest Croghan, bring him to Headquarters (which was done) and sent another officer to take his command. By this time, in consequence of our not arriving agreeably to his expectations and orders, the General abandoned all idea of a retreat, although his munitions and stores were all piled up ready to be set on fire as soon as Croghan should reach Seneca and it is doubted that if Croghan had arrived according to orders, General Harrison would have retreated instantly, leaving the whole Frontier, our fleet at Erie and the boats and stores at Cleveland, (the destruction of which was the object of the invasion and movement down the Lake) at the mercy of the enemy.
After being detained one night, Croghan was returned to Sandusky and reinstated in his command — an occasion which gave indescriable joy to the officers and soldiers in the Fort, and which could only be equaled in intensity of feeling by the chagrin and mortification felt at his arrest. Especially was this event pleasing to those officers who had sustained him in disobeying the order, resolved as they were, when he was arrested, to share his fate, be it good or evil.
Soon after his return, the enemy, so long expected, made his appearance and demanded a surrender. Croghan answered by directing Ensign Ship to assure General Proctor that he would be blown to Hell first.
I need hardly say after what has been related that their appearance, relieving us from our long suspense, was hailed with seeming joy by the Major, and most, if not by all, of his command.
The excitement produced by what had occurred, and his return just in time to meet the enemy, inspired his command with an enthusiasm rarely, if ever, surpassed, and which alone renders man invincible.
The Fort was forthwith besieged, cannonaded and bombarded from the Gun Boats, and the batteries on land for nearly forty hours, without cessation — during all which time every officer and soldier appeared to be animated by the cool and manly bearing of their commander.
I well remember his expression at the first sound of the bugle given by the enemy as a signal for the charge upon the works. We were sitting together — he sprang upon his feet, saying — "Duncan, every man to his post, for in ten minutes they will attempt to take us by storm. Recollect, when you hear my voice crying relief come to me with all the men that can be spared from your part of the line." He instantly passed up the line repeating the order to every officer, and had scarcely got the men in place, before the whole British Army, divided into three columns marched upon the Fort, and made a desperate assault, continuing it for near an hour, when they were repulsed with a loss of killed and wounded, estimated at the time to near double the number in the Fort, and is stated by the English writers to be about ninety.
During the engagement I saw Croghan often and witnessed with delight his intrepid and gallant conduct, which I firmly believe has never been surpassed at any time or on any occasion.
The sagacity displayed in arranging the cannon so as to open a masked embrasure to rake the enemy in the ditch at the point evidently selected by them for the breach, in placing logs on pins near the top of the pickets which could be tilted off by one man, and being from 20 to 30 feet long, of heavy timber, swept everything before them, his tact in placing bags of sand against the pickets wherever the enemy attempted to make a breach with their cannon, by which means each point of attack grew stronger from the moment it was assailed, — are worthy of any General of any age.
You are right, Sir, in my judgment, in saying that the Government has not done justice to Colonel Croghan for his conduct in that affair, which is without parallel in the Military annals of our Country.
As to myself, having acted but a very subordinate part, I never did, and do not now, set up for any claim for distinction. To know that I did my duty to my Country, though not hardened into manhood, was then and is now, enough for me. But of him I feel no delicacy in saying that great injustice has been done to him, in being overlooked by the Government, and by the erroneous statements of historians.
McAfee, the historian of the late War, and Dawson, the Biographer of General Harrison, have studiously kept out of view that the object of the invasion was the destruction of our ships under Commodore Perry at Presque Isle, and the boats and stores at Cleveland. These were looked upon with great solicitude by the British — were reconnoitred, and on one or two occasions were attempted to be destroyed by landing the small force on board of their fleet. They have also failed to account for the movement of the whole British forces down the Lake in the direcion of Cleveland and Brie, before their defeat, at Sandusky, which was attacked to gratify their Indian allies who demanded the scalps and plunder of the place. They have kept out of view the fact that General Harrison had determined to retreat to the interior after having burnt all the supplies which he had collected — that he ordered Major Croghan to abandon and burn Fort Stephenson — that his refusal to obey, and failure to arrive at Headquarters, prevented this retreat and consequent destruction of our Fleet, millions of public stores, and exposure of five hundred miles of frontier to the combined enemy.
Both have stated that General Harrison never doubted that Major Croghan would be able to repulse an enmy of near two thousand, with one hundred and twenty men (his effective force on the day of battle), one six pounder, with ammunition for only seven shots and about forty rounds for the small arms; when the fact was notorious that General Harrison was heard to say during the siege, when the firing could be heard in his camp, speaking of Croghan, "the blood be on his own head. I wash my hands of it," not doubting for a moment, nor did any one with him, that the Garrison would be cut off.
With great respect,
Your obdt. Servant,
Gen. C. F. Mercer.
Congress passed a resolution on June 18, 1834 "Presenting a gold medal to George Croghan and a sword to each of the officers under his command for their gallantry and good conduct in the Defence of Port Stephenson in 1813."
The young Kentuckian remained in the army throughout the war. August 10, 1814, there is an order from "Colonel Tod from Chillicothe to Lieutenant Duncan for recruiting service, for the 17th Infantry, at Lexington, Kentucky."
The following winter however, he was in the north, apparently on scouting duty. By an order dated Port Shelby, November 4th, 1814, signed Harrison H. Hickman, Captain 17th Infantry, Lieutenant Duncan was placed in command of a detachment consisting of three sergeants, three corporals and forty privates. This detachment seems to have been
112sent up close to the enemy in Canada. On January 7, 1815, Lieutenant Duncan was ordered to cross the river and eight days later, January 15, Captain Hickman sent this express letter from Detroit to "Lt. Jos. Duncan, Commanding Detachment, Fort Thrasher."
"I have this moment received yours of the 10th by express. Detain the two men until you bring them or have an opportunity of sending them down. I need not request you to use every exertion to procure information of the positions and movements of the enemy. When you write again be so good as to give me what information you can collect in regard too the quantity of wheat and flour there may remain in the river and the prospect of its transportation to this place. Our papers by the last mail brought no news of importance, otherwise I would have sent you some. My respects to Mr. Stewart.
Should any of your men meet with eight Indians who will show them my name written on a piece of paper — they will let them pass without any questions. Breath not a whisper of this to a living mortal, except to the leader of such scouting parties as you may send out and let that leader be such a man as will keep the secret."
The Treaty of Peace was signed at Ghent on December 14th, 1814, and the last battle of the war was fought at New Orleans on 8th of January, 1815, and still this letter says "there was no news of importance" at Detroit on January 15th, 1815!
There are traditions of other feats in the wilderness — of crossing Lake Erie in an open yawl during a winter storm — of being the bearer of dispatches — of swimming his horse across a swollen river where the Indian guide refused to follow — of coming upon a block house late at night and instead of finding friends, to be greeted with a savage yell — of his presence of mind in throwing coin upon the hearth and while the Indians were scrambling for it, making his escape.
In August, 1815, Joseph was appointed guardian for his younger brothers and sister and on September 13, 1815, the court approved a division of the estate of the father, Major Joseph Duncan. There is mention of slaves but none in Joseph's portion. Checks show that the son was at Paris then, as he was in the summer of 1816, when his report as guardian to his younger brothers and sister was recorded. There are on record other documents showing that he acted as "attorney" for his older brothers as well as "guardian" for the younger children, in whose education he took a special interest.
There is among the family papers a curious old statement of "Mr. Joseph Duncan in acct. with Allen & Thomas, drs.," running from Aug. 14, 1815, to June 28, 1816, which shows that Joseph was looking after the needs of his mother, brothers and sister. For his mother there is the purchase, among other things, of 6 yards of calico for 9 shillings. There is 5 yards cotton cloth and a "Posam hat" for Thomas, the latter costing f1.10.0. For John there is 5Ë yards "long cloth," and pumps. For James a vest and leather gloves. There are many entries "per sister." She had 5 yards of "long cloth, a "beaver hat draped" (f3), several pairs of shoes, stockings, gloves, "ribbans" on frequent occasions, a pencil, letter paper, a "bowl for holding paints," etc. There are not many items for Joseph himself, but he purchases a pair of beaver gloves, a pen knife, powder flask, Ë pound of powder, padlock, and wafers. The only items of food are such things as were not grown in Kentucky — an occasional Åº pound of tea or 2 lbs. of sugar, once Ëlb. of ginger, and once
1133 shillings for raisins. Soap was probably made at home but one cake was bought for 9d. There is one entry for Ë doz. Sigars per Thomas, 9 shillings." There are several entries for buttons, needles, pins and thread. Cash was sometimes paid on account and sometimes advanced by Allen and Thomas to members of the family, as: "Cash for Miss Polly Anne 1/6, ditto for John, 6/— " or "Cash per John for Mother $5.00, Å1.10.0." Under March 11, 1816, are the following entries:
|Mch 11, Cash lent you $100.00 in Feby||30. 0.0|
|" Cash paid Bayler for your Taxes $8.19||2. 9.1Ë|
|" Cash pd. ditto for your Mother's Taxes $22.4||4.12.3|
These last items were taken care of in April when Joseph Duncan gave a check for $130.23.
January 19th, 1817, he was at Detroit, Michigan Territory, and again in the summer of 1817 was at Paris, seeing a brother off to school as the following letter from his brother Thomas shows. It was written from Washington, D. C.
* * * "I paid my tuition with the money you gave me when I left Kentucky. I have read the Odes of Horace and made some progress in Greek, Witherspoon on Moral Philosophy, etc. Sold my horse for $20, $15 of which I have not, nor do I expect to get at least for sometime, as the student to whom I sold him, has since been expelled and is, I believe, destitute of money at present." * * *
There has come to light a curious U. S. government bond that proves that Joseph was at this time a real Kentuckian, as on May 10, 1817, "Joseph Duncan and Tandy Allen and Ann Duncan" gave a $50 bond to the United States to pay "on the 24th of May next to the collector of revenue for the 4th collection district of Kentucky the sum of twenty dollars and fifty-two cents, on a still of the capacity of 114 gallons * * * to be employed in distilling spirits from domestic materials." It was later in life, when living in Illinois, that he became an ardent supporter of the temperance cause, giving to it half his salary, $500, when governor.
Joseph Duncan, with the same pioneer spirit as his ancestors, moved from Kentucky to Illinois in 1818. He had seen the prairies of Illinois while in the army in the war of 1812 and no doubt had been attracted by their future possibilities.
His eldest brother Matthew Duncan had moved from Russelville, Kentucky, where he had edited a paper, "The Mirror," to Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River in Illinois. Through Ninian Edwards, formerly a lawyer in Russelville, Matthew secured the printing of the first edition of the Illinois Territorial Laws in 1813. He moved his press to Kaskaskia in 1814 and began the Illinois Herald, the first newspaper published in Illinois. In December, 1814, he issued the first pamphlet published in Illinois and in June, 1815, the first book, Volume I Pope's Digest.
On November 19th, 1819, there is a note from Joseph to Matthew Duncan for the sum of ten thousand dollars. "I have this day purchased from Matthew Duncan an equal interest in the mill upon the outlet of the big lake, together with an equal interest in 209 acres [in Jackson County, Illinois]." In September, 1820, he was able to pay
114$1,822 on this note and eventually the note was receipted in full but with no date. This is among the first records of his purchases of property. He began to buy land in many counties of the State. The family connections were around Kaskaskia but later he owned land in the northern part of the State, including a tract in what is now Chicago.
The family moved from Paris, Kentucky, to Brownsville, called Fountain Bluffs, Jackson County, Illinois, sometime before 1820. About this time Joseph began an interesting note book
There is an interesting letter from his younger brother Thomas, written on November 28, 1820, from Russelville, Kentucky, to his mother, "care of Maj. Jo. Duncan" in Brownsville, Illinois, defending Joseph from an unjust attack.
"I have this moment heard that Joseph has been charged with defrauding my father's estate and with reducing the family to penury. I regret the occasion but I glory in the opportunity of doing justice to a man, whose unbending integrity, no temptation could seduce and whose disinterested generosity to yourself and every member of our family imposes claims not to be forgotten, bare remembrance of which excites feelings which I cannot express. At the tender age of 15 or 16 he attracted the notice and admiration of all who knew him by the correctness of his deportment and the skill and assiduity he displayed in the management of an estate, which by the premature death of my father, was left in a state of confusion and complexity. At the commencement of the war he took his station among the defenders of his country's rights. But his patriotism did not make him forgetful of his widowed mother and his little orphan brothers and sister; without funds in his hands belonging to the estate, he had even at this early period of his life, acquired a reputation which enabled him upon his own responsibility to obtain such conveniences as were necessary for the comfort of the family in his absence. To trace him through the variety of scenes that were exhibited from that to the present period — and in which he has uniformily acted the same magnanimous part, would greatly exceed the limits of a letter. But there is one observation which I would make because it not only acquits him of taking any advantage but shows beyond the power of contradiction that he acted disinterestedly. In 1814 the estate was divided by persons appointed by the court for that purpose — Joseph was selected by each of the infant heirs as their guardian. The rent of my part of the estate was nothing like enough to defray my expenses at school even in Kentucky, yet he sent me to Pennsylvania to college and defrayed my expenses while there. The part of the estate alloted me is still mine and never was of any benefit to him, but to the contrary has been a trouble and I believe an expense to him. His high standing in this state cannot be affected by the foul aspertions of those from another quarter."
I have been interested in the Journeys of Joseph Duncan and finally made as complete a record as addresses to letters, old bills, military orders, etc., could give. Considering that all these journeys were made on horseback or boat, it shows indefatigable energy. We are apt to think
115of the picturesqueness of this period, forgetting the hardships entailed. The majority of the pioneers died young. My mother was born in 1832 but even in her youth, she said the prevalence of chills and fever and the almost daily dose of quinine were taken as a matter of course. Out of their family of ten children but three survived to maturity.
Joseph Duncan had spent most of his life on the frontier and knew the hardships of the pioneer. Later when in Congress Mr. Duncan constantly plead the cause of the settler of small means. The pioneers were "brave, hardy, enterprising" men "possessing an ardent love of liberty, freedom and independence," who "endured privations and hardships" giving up "all the comforts of society," overcoming "difficulties which most gentlemen in Congress know nothing about," and with "no other view in settling than to secure an independent home for their families." We feel he was speaking of a subject of which he knew first hand.
During these years Duncan was studying the state and the people and unconsciously laying the foundations for the popularity that over and over again elected him to office. At this period it was the man, and not the party, that was elected.
He must have taken an active part in the militia as in October 1822 his uncle, Robert T. McLaughlin, asks him to appoint Colonel Ewing of Vandalia "to the place you held previous to your election as Major General of Militia."
Apparently he entered politics early. We know that he was Justice of the Peace in Jackson County from 1821 till 1823.
Chapter II. — Member of the Illinois State Senate.
On November 15, 1824, the Illinois State Legislature convened at Vandalia. A year before the town was the scene of an intoxicated pro-slavery mob, who had rioted through the village, with their cries of "Convention or death." Their insults to Governor Coles, the quiet, determined Virginian, who had come to Illinois to free his slaves, and to his valiant band of anti-slavery men, had turned the tide of public opinion.
116Ford says, "The people had been so long under the influence of an intense excitement that they required rest."
The recent election of August, 1824, had brought many new men, with new views to the Legislature. We can picture the primitive village — the burnt State House repaired by the citizens, the members arriving on horseback, with their saddle bags, bringing the news from the north and from the south. Among them was Joseph Duncan, from "the county of Jackson." He was thirty years old at this time. He had won distinction in the war of 1812; had settled in Illinois from Kentucky, in 1818; Justice of the Peace in Jackson County from 1821 till 1823; Major General of Militia, and elected to the State Senate in August, 1824.
Judging from the portrait, painted some years later, he must have been a striking man in his youth. Erect, with dark eyes, that look directly at you out of the old portrait, high cheek bones and exceedingly sweet expression on the firm lips, the resourceful face of a man of affairs, who had lived all his life in the open; independent and fearless in his views. These Scotch characteristics were tempered by a genial expression and an optimistic point of view. "He was a man of genteel, affable and manly deportment; with a person remarkably well adapted to win the esteem and affection of his fellow citizens. * * * He had a sound judgment, a firm confidence in his own convictions of right, and a moral courage in adhering to his convictions, which is rarely met with."
The brief anonymous life of the Governor written in 1840 gives this sketch of his appearance and character:
Governor Duncan in person is a large man, considerable above the ordinary size, his features are strong, and manly, crowned by a high intellectual forehead, and large black eyes, expressive and penetrating, speaking the language of the heart. To a person thus prepossessing is united a mind imbued with rich and practical knowledge. As a speaker he is perspicuous, plain and forcible, fixing the attention more by his knowledge of the subject than by any attention to the graces of oratory. His conversation is interesting and replete [with] apt and characteristic anecdotes.
Mr. Duncan at once took an active part in the business of the Senate. One of his first votes was for Birkbeck as Secretary of State. This vote indicates his independence and belief in the best man for the place irrespective of party, a policy he carried consistently through life. Birkbeck was a strong anti-convention and anti-slavery man, a warm friend of Governor Coles. In the Senate on January 14, 1825, Duncan moved that the nomination of Morris Birkbeck be confirmed and, undiscouraged by defeat, the following day offered a resolution "that Morris Birkbeck, Esq., late Secretary of State, has discharged all the duties of that office with ability and strict fidelity." He ranged himself on the side of the man, who, next to Governor Coles, did more than any one else to save Illinois from becoming a slave State.
Mr. Duncan was made Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, "to draft, arrange and compile a complete militia law,"
This recommendation led to the introduction and enactment of a public school bill remarkable for its time. Mr. Francis G. Blair, Superintendent Department of Public Instruction, State of Illinois, has described the passage:
"This recommendation fell upon more willing and intelligent ears. Fortunately for the cause of public education and for the purpose of Governor Coles there had come to the Senate a man from Jackson County by the name of Duncan. He proved himself to be a patriot and a broadminded statesman in his attitude toward all the large questions which came before the General Assembly. He was chairman of the Committee on Seminary Lands, the only committee which had to do with educational questions.
This recommendation of the Governor was referred to that committee and on the first day of December a bill that provided for the establishment of a wide flung system of free common schools was reported out of that committee with the recommendation that it pass. Evidently some of the more conservative members of the Senate were alarmed by the provisions of this bill for the Senate resolved itself into a committee of the whole to discuss its provisions. Several amendments were offered some of them weakening and some of them strengthening the general purpose of the bill. When the committee arose and reported the bill with amendments back to the Senate, Senator Duncan moved that the bill with amendments be re-referred to his committee in order that the amendments might be written into the bill so as to make it harmonious.
Within forty-eight hours the bill was reported back to the Senate with the amendments so incorporated as to strengthen in every instance the main purpose of the bill. On the 14th day of December, just two days less than a month after the recommendation, the bill passed the Senate. It moved a little more slowly through the House but on the 25th day of January, 1825, just a little over two months after Governor Coles had made his recommendation, the bill passed the House, was signed by the Governor and became a law.
And that law providing for the establishment of free common schools throughout the State was from twenty-five to fifty years in advance of any school enactment in any of the commonwealths of the Union. It not only provided that these districts when formed should levy a tax for the maintenance of the school, a thing which was resisted bitterly in every commonwealth, but it went still farther and provided that out of every $100 which came into the State treasury two dollars, should be set aside for a fund to encourage the establishment and maintenance of these common free schools throughout the State."
The preamble of this bill as introduced by Mr. Duncan reads as follows:
"To enjoy our rights and liberties, we must understand them; their security and protection ought to be the first object of a free people; and it is a well established fact that no nation has ever continued long in the enjoyment of civil and political freedom, which was not both virtuous and enlightened; and believing that the advancement of literature always has been, and ever will be the means of developing more fully the rights of man, that the
mind of every citizen in a republic, is the common property of society, and constitutes the basis of its strength and happiness; it is therefore considered the peculiar duty of a free government, like ours, to encourage and extend the improvement and cultivation of the intellectual energies of the whole."
The preamble reflects the general type of the famous Ordinance of the Northwest Territory, of 1787:
"Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
Mr. Blair, in the article quoted from, suggests that there are "strong suggestions" that Governor Coles "had much to do" with the writing of the law, adding that its preamble "bears internal evidence of the magic touch of his pen." If Coles was the author, he allowed it to pass with a discrimination against the blacks. But is there any reason why Duncan should not have written the bill? Throughout his whole life, as a youth in Kentucky, as a young man in Illinois, as State Senator, Congressman and Governor, he was always interested in the question of education.
Mr. Duncan came of a family who appreciated the advantages of education but on account of his father's death, the war of 1812, and later assuming the responsibilities of the family, he missed the education at Yale and Transylvania that his elder brothers had received and, which through his personal sacrifices, his younger brothers later attained.
There are several quotations in the Note Book started in 1818 about education: one of special interest: "It is the want of equal education that makes the great difference between man and man: and the bar that divides the vulgar man from the gentleman is not so much a sense of superior birth, as a feeling of difference, a consciousness of different habits, ways of thinking and manners, the result of opposite situations."
In 1829, the Illinois Intelligencer mentions a meeting in New York "for the purpose of devising means to aid Illinois College. It seems that our representative in Congress General Duncan and the Rev. Mr. Ellis were able to hold out such inducements as have enlisted the feelings of some of the wealthiest citizens of New York in favor of the best interests of our State. A proposition was made to the non-resident proprietors of land in Illinois."
Hon. Joseph Gillespie writes of knowing Mr. Duncan personally: "He was a staunch friend of education and gave that subject his constant support. He believed it was better to govern the country through the schools than the courthouses, the jails and the penitentiaries."
Rev. Dr. Edward Beecher of Illinois College, of which Mr. Duncan was trustee, wrote of his interest in education: "I regarded with deep interest his life and influence as a stateman, and in all the relations of social life my feelings toward him were those of absolute confidence in his integrity and in his wisdom as a counsellor in every good work, as well as in his energy as a worker in the great cause of education in all its departments."
While in Congress, Mr. Duncan, in his speeches on the public lands question, constantly referred to the benefits of education and of the public school system, especially in the pioneer states.
And there is contemporaneous evidence that Duncan wrote the law. In the anonymous life, written in 1840 and printed in the Illinoian January 19, 1844, occurs this passage:
"He will be regarded by many of the rising generation of Illinois as a benefactor and as an instrument in the hands of Providence in improving their morality and intelligence — for he was the author of the first law for a public school ever enacted in the State, to which he wrote the following preamble, to wit: — " (here follows the preamble).
This early life calls attention to the unpopularity of the law among certain classes who objected to the tax feature. Duncan is reported to have closed one defense with: "If it was wrong for a free government sustained by the intelligence of the people to take care that all are educated, then he confessed he had done wrong and labored under a delusion. If so he could only pray as Cicero did in relation to the immortality of the soul that all mankind might labor under the same delusion."
The most important evidence that Mr. Duncan wrote the bill is that he quotes its preamble as his own in his passage as Governor in 1836:
"In all ages, and under every circumstance, education has decided the relative greatness of men and nations. Placed beyond its genial influence, man becomes a savage, and a nation a wandering band of lawless depredators. Education, under all forms of government, constitutes the first principle of human happiness; and especially it is important in a country where the sovereignty is vested in the people. Entertaining such views in 1825, while a member of the Senate, I submitted, (in a preamble, to a bill, for the establishment of free schools) a sentiment, and still considering it sound and just, I beg leave to quote the following extract: [Here follows the preamble as above.]
"Since then I have reflected much on the subject, and am more fully convinced that such a policy is perfectly consistent with the rights and interest of every citizen, and that it is the only one calculated to sustain our democratic republican institutions; in fact, general education is the only means by which the rich and the poor can be placed on the same level, and by which intelligence and virtue can be made to assume its proper elevation over ignorance and vice."
It is inconceivable from a general knowledge of the character of Mr. Duncan that he should claim credit for something in which he had no part.
It is much more likely that the enthusiastic, energetic, young Senator took the suggestion of the highly educated, reserved Governor and worked up the law to the honor of Illinois. There was a long friendship between Governor Coles and Mr. Duncan, even through an election in which Coles had been defeated for Congress by Duncan. As late as April 10, 1836, Mr. Duncan in a letter describes stopping to see Governor Coles in Philadelphia where he had removed.
Ford gives an explanation of why this law was not continued that is a curious illustration of the point of view of the pioneer — quite different from a century later:
"Both of these laws worked admirably well. [The other was a road tax]. The roads were never, before or since, in such good repair, and schools flourished in almost every neighborhood. But it appears that these valuable laws were in advance of the civilization of the times. They were the subject of much clamourous opposition. The very idea of a tax, though to be paid
in labor as before, was so hateful, that even the poorest men preferred to work five days in the year on the roads rather than to pay a tax of twenty-five cents, or even no tax at all. For the same reason they preferred to pay all that was necessary for the tuition of their children, or to keep them in ignorance, rather than to submit to the mere name of a tax by which their wealthier neighbors bore the blunt of the expense of their education."
The Committee on Military affairs, with Mr. Duncan as chairman, which had been called upon to draw up a militia law, reported "an act for the organization and government of the militia." This was finally passed January 19, 1827, was agreed to by the House, and ordered printed with the rules of inspection and review, and the articles of war.
The State Senate in those days consisted of only eighteen men and in a new state they had to pass on a great variety of subjects. Duncan, although a young man and new member, took an active part in all the proceedings of both sessions of the Legislature during his term as Senator. The Public School and Military bills were only two of many. He also had opportunity to act on the repairs of the State House, on the incorporation of the Illinois & Michigan Canal Company, on appropriations, on drawing up a digest of "the most important laws of the state" (for which the committee was allowed legal talent), on the leasing of seminary lands, on an act to establish "the Northern, Western, Southern, Eastern and Central Academies of Illinois," on compelling the contractors to cause the cornice or water spouts of the State House "to be finished as to conduct water off the walls," on the naming of Jo Daviess County "to perpetuate the memory of Colonel Joseph Hamilton Daviess, who fell in the battle of Tippecanoe," and on the question of the survey of the Northern boundary of the state.
After the close of the first session of the Senate which lasted from November, 1824, to January, 1825, Duncan apparently made a trip to the East as his diary while in Congress refers to his having been in Washington at the time of the inauguration of President John Quincy Adams, (Mar. 4, 1825). His eyes may have already been turned toward the halls of Congress.
During this summer he also made a trip, at his own expense, to the northern part of Illinois to obtain first-hand information on the question of the Illinois-Michigan canal,
The Fourth of July, 1825, was celebrated in Vandalia by a dinner at the hotel of "Messrs. Thomas and Dickerson," at which Governor Coles presided as President, assisted by E. K. McLaughlin. Governor
121Coles responded to the toast "Our Free Institutions," and General Duncan to "Washington and Bolivar the Patriots of two Centuries, may the finale of the latter be as glorious as that of the former." Two of the thirteen toasts were to Henry Clay. Some of the others were: "The Cross must triumph over the Cresent and Liberty over Despotism," "To the memory of George Rogers Clarke," "The Will of the People, Let the Servant who Disobeys Tremble," "General Jackson, May he be our next President, Daniel P. Cook to the contrary, notwithstanding."
The following month Duncan was to announce himself as a candidate for Congress. When the second session of the Legislature met, December, 1826, Duncan had already been elected to Congress but he continued to do his full share of the business of the Senate, resigning February 19, 1827, at the close of the session.
Chapter III. — Member of Congress from Illinois. 1827-1834.
In August, 1826, Daniel P. Cook was a candidate for re-election to Congress. He had been first elected in 1819, when he was only about 25 years old and he had continued to be the sole representative of Illinois in Congress for four terms, while his father-in-law, Ninian Edwards, had been one of the two United States Senators from Illinois during the same period. Together, with their friends, they had dominated Illinois politics. Cook was a young man of pleasing personality, with the confidence of politicians and statesmen, both in Washington and Illinois, and with the promise of a brilliant future. As early as 1817, President Monroe had sent him to London, on a special mission inviting John Quincy Adams, then minister to England, to become Secretary of State, this leading to a friendship with Mr. Adams. In Congress, Cook had served on the Committee on Public Lands and later on the Ways and Means Committee. He had secured a grant of government lands in aid of the proposed Illinois-Michigan Canal. Several of his acts in Congress, however, had been criticized in Illinois. At the time of the Presidential contest in 1824, he had as sole congressman cast the vote of the state for Adams, this practically deciding the election. The state had, in regular election, given two electoral votes for Jackson and one for Adams. Cook had said he would follow the clearly expressed desire of the voters, but as there were four candidates and Adams, Jackson and Clay ran close on the popular vote, no one receiving a majority, Cook defended himself by declaring that there was no clear expression. On the land question Cook and his father-in-law, Senator Edwards, were both accused of opposing the reduction in the price of land, a matter of vital interest in a pioneer state. The old price was $2 an acre, 50 cents cash and the balance in five years. Cook and Edwards opposed the bill making the price $1.25, all cash, on the ground that it did away with the credit feature.
122"Mr. Clay told me that the President wanted to send me abroad. This I shall prefer but would not like to do anything until I am elected again and I wish a large majority, if it can be had."
All these things were preparing the way for a new figure to enter into national politics. The old opponents of Cook apparently felt that it was useless to oppose him. He had previously beaten McLean, Kane and Bond, powerful factors in Illinois life. The election of 1826 was in danger of going by default, when, according to William H. Brown,
Of Mr. Duncan's canvass it was said: "His [Duncan's] speeches, devoid of ornament, though short, were full of good sense. He made a diligent canvass of the State, Mr. Cook being much hindered by the state of his health."
Probably Duncan's "unassuming manner" alluded to at the time of his death by his fellow citizens, united with his independent spirit which held him aloof from alliance with any faction or political party, were the real reasons why he had not been considered a formidable opponent.
On the other side, Duncan had been steadily growing in favor with the people of Illinois. According to Governor Ford, his political opponent in later years, Duncan's character was such as "to win the esteem and affections of his fellow-citizens. He had not been long a citizen of this State, before he was elected major-general of the militia, and then a State Senator, where he distinguished himself * * * by being the author of the first common school law which was ever passed in this State." He had a brilliant record in the War of 1812. He was moreover at this time, before the development of Jackson's later policies, a
123"thorough Jackson man," being "attached to General Jackson from an admiration of his character and the glory of his military achievements."
Joseph Duncan had announced himself a candidate for Congress in August, 1835, a year before the election.
Duncan received 6,322 votes to Cook's 5,619, with 824 votes going to a third candidate, James Turney. The result was received with surprise and amazement by Cook's friends who had difficulty in picturing" another man occupying his seat in Congress. A contemporary letter expresses this feeling: "What will the old members of Congress say when D. [Duncan] is seen to rise (if he ever should be so unfortunate) in the place of C. [Cook]. They must believe us madmen and fools."
When Mr. Duncan took his seat in Congress in 1827, John Quincy Adams was President. The young Illinoisan had been present at Adam's inauguration in 1825 and in his diary later he contrasts the military parade of that inauguration with the simplicity of Jackson's to the advantage of the latter. There was an unusual group of men at the Capital at the time — Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Benton and others.
Duncan, being the sole representative from Illinois in Congress from 1827 to 1833, was especially interested in the matters that concerned the west. The Congressional Debates show that all his speeches directly or indirectly deal with policies that affected the new and growing part of the country — land, internal improvements, protection of settlers, etc. Even his speech on the United States Bank dwelt largely on its usefulness in developing the west. The land question was his special interest and he became an active member of the Committee on Public Lands, a position he held during his four terms in Congress. It must be remembered that many of the great questions to be solved involved the development of the territory west of the Alleghenies and little knowledge of this region could be expected from eastern congressmen. In 1855, Senator McLean writes: "I heard Webster observe better than a year ago that King had no idea that the country west of the Alleghany formed any part of the United States. * * * There was much truth in the remark."
124men had to be most active in representing the interest of his section of the country — the Debates of Congress show that Duncan performed his duty.
His first motion was on February 18, 1828, in connection with the pay of the Illinois and Michigan Militia on account of the recent Indian disturbances.
Coming fresh from the frontier, Mr. Duncan made his first real speech April 1, 1828, in introducing a resolution for mounted volunteers for the better protection of western settlers. The resolution read as follows:
"Resolved, That the Committee on Military Affairs be instructed to inquire into the expedience of attaching to the Army of the United States, eight companies of mounted volunteer gun-men, to be stationed on the Western frontier of the United States, and of disbanding from the present peace establishment, one regiment of infantry."
On the resolution he spoke as follows:
"Mr. Duncan said he considered the change in the army which was contemplated by the resolution he had submitted, was one of very great importance, and especially so to the settlers on the Western frontier of the United States, who had so often suffered for want of a more efficient protection from the armies of the United States. He said it was a fact well known, that the Indians do not dread an army of foot soldiers, or any number of troops stationed in the forts on the line; that small parties of Indians were frequently known to pass by those forts with impunity, and commit the most shocking outrages upon the defenceless citizens, and make their escape unhurt.
He said he was aware that the House would receive with reluctance, any proposition to make a material change in an important branch of the Government, without the most conclusive proof of the necessity or propriety of such a change, in consequence of which, he had written to General Games and Governor Cass upon the subject, knowing them both to be intimately acquainted with every thing which relates to the defence of our Western frontier. He said he had received their answers; and moved that the correspondence with them be printed; which was agreed to."
The resolution was adopted, but as Mr. Duncan had to bring up the same subject at several later sessions of Congress, it appears to have taken time to secure action.
On May 13, 1828, Mr. Duncan married Elizabeth Caldwell Smith of New York City. She was a granddaughter of Rev. James Caldwell of New Jersey, Chaplain in the Revolutionary Army who was killed shortly after his wife, Hannah Ogden, had been deliberately shot by the Hessians under the command of the British. Their daughter, Hannah Ogden Caldwell, married James R. Smith, of New York City. Mr. Smith had come to this country as a lad from Kirkcudbright, Scotland, and by energy and ability had become a successful merchant in New York City. He evinced his shrewd business ability by buying property along Broadway up to and beyond Thirty-fourth Street. He lived in Pearl Street and had a summer home in Greenwich near what is now Washington Square. He drew up a remarkable will trying to entail the property till the youngest grandchild (which would have been Mrs. Julia Duncan Kirby of Jacksonville) should be of age.
Miss Smith, after the death of her mother made her home in Washington, D. C, with her sister Mrs. Matthew St. Clair Clarke, whose husband
125was for many years clerk of the House of Representatives and their home was a popular social center.
In her reminiscences
Mrs. Duncan's reminiscences continue:
"I was invited to President John Q. Adams to dinner, when I wore a crimson silk [dress], hair in three puffs on the top and three puffs on each side of the head — High tortoise shell comb. I tell this to show the fashion of the day. Embroidered silk stockings and black satin slippers. I was introduced to General Duncan from Kaskaskia, Illinois, by William Carroll of Carrollton. Henry Clay at dinner told me of his [Duncan's] goodness to his mother — said he was not only a good looking fellow but was a good son and brother, having taken care of his mother and educated his sister and two brothers. * * *
* * * "My sister, Mrs. Clarke, gave me a select wedding. Two weeks after we came out to Kaskaskia to visit his sister, Mrs. Linn. His mother, Mrs. Moore, lived with her. His brother Mat and his wife lived at Fountain Bluff where my husband owned a saw mill. Mrs. Colonel Mather lived there at that time. Mrs. Conn lived near there.
"My husband and I rode on horseback to the river to take the boat to go and visit General Jackson at the Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee. But just as we got in sight, the boat pushed off and left us. As my husband was electioneering and was limited as to time, we were never able to make the promised visit.
"We crossed the mountains in a stage. Steamboat at Wheeling to Cairo, from Cairo to St. Louis in company with Mr. and Mrs. James K. Polk of Tennessee, little thinking he would ever fill the President's chair, such a common place man. In St. Louis, Mrs. General Ashley invited us to her house. We spent a delightful week there. * * * St. Louis was settled by the French. At that time they owned most of the business part of the city and the streets were narrow and dirty and the weather was warm and I was glad to take a boat to Kaskaskia. We went to Fountain Bluff on horseback, Mr. Duncan's sister, Polly Ann, going by boat with the provisions. The boat was delayed and we reached there to find no one in the house but an old colored man servant, who my husband left me in charge of and rode away to the landing with the horses to meet his sister. It grew, dark before they returned and I asked for a candle. Found to my dismay there was not one in the house. He said Missus would bring the tallow and he would soon dip some. That evening was as dark and frightful to me as the Dark Day was to our Fathers, and from that night I was never caught without both candles
and matches with me. And although a troublesome thing to always think of once it saved the lives of a whole party in crossing the mountains (which by the way I did 8 times in a stage or private carriage), the driver got off the road. When he called out he wished that nervous woman whom he had scolded for carrying a candle would hand it out that he might see where he was. When I did so he found he was within an inch of a frightful precipice. Another step of the horses would have plunged us hundreds of feet below."
Mrs. Duncan stayed with her husband's relatives at Fountain Bluff and at Vandalia while Mr. Duncan electioneered throughout the State. Ninian Edwards speaks in a handbill of August 1 "that General Duncan posted through Belleville with much haste."
During the summer he visited the lead mines about Galena near which there had been trouble with the Indians the year before. It was supposed that these mines were in Illinois but as the official government surveys had not been extended that far there was some doubt as to whether the mines were in Illinois or Michigan Territory. On July 10, 1828, Mr. Duncan writes to his wife from the "Steam Boat Indiana" of the Fourth of July celebration when a party of
"42 ladies and 53 gentlemen from Galena visited an Indian village, near what is called Labukes [Dubuque?] mines where we saw a large number of Indians spent a few hours made them some presents and returned. I never have witnessed a celebration of the Fourth of July with as much pleasure as I did this, everything conspired to make it interesting except your absence. The fact alone of witnessing more than forty intelligent and accomplished ladies chiefly married, who had followed the fortunes of their husbands five hundred miles in the wilderness and in an Indian country was enough of itself to create feelings of the warmest admiration. * * * The people in the mining country are generally intelligent and enterprising and appear to have assembled from the four quarters of the globe and as each depends upon his own industry for success there is no rivalry amongst them of course more than usual cordiality.
"I left Mr. Davidson our Greencastle friend at the mines. We ascended the river in the same boat. I shall send this letter to St. Louis and may write you again from Alton when I land, should nothing interfere I will be at Vandalia about the 16 of this month and shall pass through Greene, Morgan, Sangamon and Mt. Gomery counties on my way."
Later in the summer, 1828, after a few days at Jacksonville, which was to become their future home, Mr. and Mrs. Duncan returned to Washington for the Second Session of Congress. Mrs. Duncan's papers continue:
"Mrs. Mather took us in their carriage to Carlyle several days journey two nights and two days. We stopped for the night at a log cabin but one room, so four of us slept in one room, not an unusual occurrence in those days. At Carlyle we took the stage, went through the State to Indiana over cordoroy roads through Ohio and Michigan to Cleveland. The lake was so rough and the boat so poor we coasted the lake in a covered wagon to Buffalo. Through New York State in a stage to Albany. In a steamboat from there to New York then stages to Washington City. We were three weeks in reaching my sister's house. My husband was re-elected to Congress was the reason for our return.
In November the weather was beautiful. It was a rough journey. I felt I was going home. I never liked the west and was so glad to get back."
In this session the only speech of Mr. Duncan recorded in the Congressional Debates was on the question of the survey of the northern boundary of Illinois, involving the lead mines he had visited the preceding summer. There were two bills, one appointing a commissioner to run the boundary, the other assigning the work to the U. S. Engineer Corps. Mr. Duncan urged prompt action, saying:
"Much interest was felt on the subject in Illinois, particularly in the northern part of that State, where more than 20,000 people were now settled in the vicinity of the lead mines. Great inconvenience was continually sustained, for want of having this line definitely settled. A portion of these lead mines was claimed by Michigan and by Illinois, and it was all-important that the controversy as to jurisdiction should be brought to an end as speedily as possible."
Mr. Duncan said he understood that "Colonel McCrea, surveyor general now designated in the bill, was a most competent engineer, very scientific, and a practical man, who enjoyed, and he believed justly, a high reputation." However, the bill was laid on the table. Mr. Duncan through his Congressional career watched the interests of the lead mines. In March, 1829, for instance, his diary shows he opposed a purely political appointment as superintendent.
In 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected President. Duncan was evidently an ardent supporter of him at this election. Though Jackson was nearly thirty years older there is a curious similarity in the public careers of the two westerners; both had fought and distinguished themselves in the war of 1812; both had been Major General of Militia in their respective states; both had served in Congress. While Jackson was in the United State Senate, Duncan was in the State Senate. They evidently knew each other from the mention in Mrs. Duncan's diary of the intended visit to the Hermitage.
From Mr. Duncan's diary begun just before Jackson's inauguration it is apparent he looked forward with anticipation to Jackson's presidency. The diary gives a contemporaneous view of this important period and is published entire in the appendix. From the first entry it is evident that Duncan disapproved of the men surrounding the General and evidently felt he was liable to be unduly influenced.
Various applications for me to support D. Green for Public Printer. Could not consent to do so, knew too much of him. Believed and told his friends that they would soon get tired of him, he was arrogant, dictatorial and possessed no fixed principles. General Jackson arrived in Washington City. Major Eaton met him on the road and escorted him in."
Mr. Duncan called on the President several times, and on February 21st called again to introduce a friend.
"Saw Mr. Tazewell with the President, the only suitable companion I had met. Saw Capt. Taylor of the U. S. Army. Says he heard Genl. Jackson was to call that day upon President A........ that he met Genl. D. G. and told him that he understood that Genl. J. was to call on Mr. A. that day. Genl. D. G. said that he would not believe the report and that he would go and see, if it was so he would very soon put a stop to it. Arrogance enough.
Disgusted to see W. M. L. Genl. D. G., J. P. V., etc., constantly with Genl. J. to the exclusion of his or the countries friends.
"Feby. 23rd. From the persons who surround the Genl. I fear he is to be improperly influenced in his first appointments. The Central Committee appear to consider him their own game. Some of them are constantly with him or about the doors, so I am informed for I do not know them all by sight. I called to see Genl. J. at 7 o'clock in the evening with two friends, M. S. C.
and Lt. Johnson. The president expressed much pleasure at seeing us. Said he was more gratified to see us at that hour, as Duff, as he called him, had presumed to set his hours for him to receive his visitors, but he said that would all be right as he had ordered Green to correct the statement in his paper regulating his hours for receiving visitors. What excessive presumption was the first feeling I had, but it is all right, as it must very soon place this character in his proper hole."
There are rumors about the cabinet and the various appointments. Then comes another interview with the President in which "he says he will remove no officer on account of his political opinions unless he has used his office for the purpose of electioneering. He appears liberal and I agree perfectly with his views."
We can imagine Mr. Duncan's rejoicing over this assurance as through life he believed in an efficient civil service. Unfortunately Jackson did not maintain the high standard expressed in this remark but soon inaugurated sweeping removals from office.
"4th March: Attended the President's inauguration. He walked from Gadsbies Hotel with his hat off, in a great crowd. Having a fine view from the west room in the clerk's office in the Capitol, I could see him & the vast crowd at every point until they ascended the great steps which enter the Capitol. Saw nothing that I disliked but the conspicuous station and part acted by the Central Committee. Stood near the President when he read his address. "Was struck with the profound attention of the multitude while he read, especially as I am convinced that three-fourths of all present could not have heard the sound of his voice at least so as to distinguish one word. The expression of the people on his first appearance was very fine and showed that he has a strong hold on their affections. The number present is variously estimated, opinions of intelligent persons vary from 15 to 30 thousand. No parade of the military present except one or two companies and they were very far off. I think they were from Alexandria as I saw one of them coming from that direction. "With this I was much pleased. I am opposed to great parades and especially military parades on such an occasion. Had rather see the honors done after the service is performed, but in this District where most of the people are servants or connected with the government [it] is natural they should worship the rising sun. I was forcibly struck with the contrast between Mr. Adams entering on and closing his official duties as President. I was present in 1825 when his inauguration took place. It was a fine day and from the moment I first looked into the street on the 4th of March until dark, I saw nothing but a bustle [of] people moving in all directions and many of them by sunrise in full military dress, and by 10 o'clock the Avenue was crowded with armed soldiers which I took to be a mixture of marines, infantry and artillery of the U. S. and militia of the District. It was certainly the finest display I ever witnessed. "Was informed that many of the coats had been bought to honor Genl. Lafayette. I was glad to hear it for the idea of their having been bought for this occasion was too ridiculous. In 1829 Mr. Adams was not seen on the 4th of March and I suppose would not have been thought of but for a coffin hand bill that was circulated in the crowd announcing his death in the most digusting manner. It produced general disgust. Did not go to the Palace to see the President receive his friends after the inauguration. Understood that the crowd was
very great, all sorts of folks, some on fine satin chairs and Sofas, mahogany tables, &c, with their feet. A report was circulated that the gold & silver spoons were stolen on this occasion. I believe it was not true.
The city is filled with office seekers. There is general disappointment in the appointment of the cabinet. Clay says that they charged Mr. A. with making a bargain, that he thinks Genl. J. had better have made one."
The State appointments came up for discussion between the two Senators and the one Representative. McLean and Duncan "opposed removals except for some good cause other than political. * * * Kane rather differed in opinion about removals."
The question of removals from office for political purpose was the cause of the first strain on Duncan's allegiance to Jackson. From the time in the State Senate when he had voted for Birkbeck on account of his efficiency — consistently through life he refused to concur in what became a political tenet of the Democratic party of that period. The ruling passion of Duncan's political career seems to have been an efficient civil service. It has not been possible to find a trace of inconsistency in the career of Joseph Duncan in the stand he then took on the question of removals from office for other than inefficiency and which he held till the day of his death. It was the chief charge he held against Van Buren in his joint debate with Douglas in 1840 in Springfield. He had refused offers of the Jackson administration to appoint relatives if he would recommend them. "This I cannot consistently do as I am unwilling to ask or receive a favor which would place me under obligations to the executive power of the government while I am a representative of the people."
His cousin, James Finley, writes on January 24th, 1824: "In speaking of the appointment of your brother you say that it was made in opposition to your recommendation. This, all who are acquainted with your uniform policy will readily believe."
At this time Congressman Duncan was active in connection with the Illinois and Michigan Canal:
"March, 1829. * * * Called to see the President & Secretary of War about getting the Illinois & Lake Michigan Canal located & the route from the Illinois River to Lake Erie examined. Saw Genl. Gratiott, got him to go with me to the War Dept, find him very friendly to my views and to the West. Secretary thinks the law does not authorize him to send engineers to locate. Refer to the case in Indiana under the same law: He appears disposed to do right and says if the favor has been done to Indiana it should also be extended to Illinois, promises it shall be ordered.
Later in his congressional career considering this as more than a State affair, he spoke on January 4, 1831, on the National government assisting in financing the improvement. From the vantage ground of 90 years, we can see that the advocates of the canal were optimistic about its cost and importance.
130no railroads in Illinois at this time and the travel was largely by water. The canal system was an important element in the transportation facilities of the east and was steadily spreading west. The importance of connecting the different parts of Illinois both for commercial and for future political reasons cannot be lost sight of. The south was mostly settled from Kentucky and the slave states while the settlers of the north were from New England. The records of Congress show that Mr. Duncan was a strong advocate of the canal connecting Lake Michigan and the Mississippi and also of a National road for the free use of the east and the west, and again on June 4, 1832, he urged the improvement of the harbors on the Great Lakes: "Commerce upon the lakes had increased beyond all calculation, yet it was exposed to innumerable dangers for the want of better harbors. For the want of these improvements much property and many lives had been lost. On Lake Michigan a valuable engineer had unhappily perished."
On May 26, 1829, Congressman Duncan left Washington for Illinois, and early in July went to Kentucky, visiting relatives and attending to family business. He went on to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit his brother Thomas. At Nashville he met Colonel Wilson, an editor, who had just returned from Washington, and entered in his diary:
"I asked him if he had seen much of Genl. Jackson while in Washington. He had. I inquired if he had observed any changes in his intellect. He replied that he visited Washington in consequence of having observed that the Genl's. mind had sunk about the death of his wife and he regretted to find that it was still sinking. He dreaded the news by every mail for he and the Genl's. friends generally fear his total [incompetence(?)]
In Paris, Kentucky, he spent the time from July 30th to August 12th "rather unpleasantly owing" to the political controversies among many of my old friends." He sold certain lots, including "the stone house & attached ground for six hundred dollars in cotton at 15 cents per doz." He closed up most of the accounts, including one that recalls how he had helped his brothers secure an education:
"The money or cotton received for stone house I expect to sell to pay my checks as I owed the debts to Garrard & Hickman on account of money borrowed out of bank to send my brother Thos. A. Duncan to school which with the interest amounts to much more than the price received for said house, but I never expect to make further claim for this and other monies I have advanced to and for my brothers."
In 1830, Thomas Duncan, a brother, was killed in Louisiana. It was probably accidental, but the following letter, written by Joseph Duncan from Washington to his brother, Gen. James M. Duncan who went south to investigate the circumstances, shows his respect for law and justice. Considering that he was a Kentuck'ian and had lived most of his life on the frontier where people acted impulsively, it seems to be indicative of an unusual character.
"Feb. 21, 1830. * * * In any event I hope you will indulge no feelings of revenge. If the law acquits him, leave him with his God, who has said, ‘Vengeance is mine.’ I hope you will see that he has strict justice done him, and will employ such council as will insure him a fair trial and if it shall be a punishable offence, I sincerely hope that the law may be satisfied, but avoid anything like persecution, and indulge no malace. * * * Even though this wretch has murdered our brother, I would not for the world do him injustice. — * * * but at the same time I hold it a duty that we owe ourselves; and to society, and to the memory of our beloved brother
to see that the law shall be fairly and fully administered, and when this is done we should leave the rest with Providence."
On August first, 1830, Mr. and Mrs. Duncan returned to Jacksonville which then became their permanent home. Mr. Duncan was re-elected to Congress by a large majority, receiving 13,052 votes to 4,652 for Breese, and to 3,307 for Coles. Leaving his wife and children in Jacksonville he returned to Washington alone.
On December 18, 1830, he writes from Washington City to Mrs. Duncan:
"How I would delight to be restored to our fire-side, surrounded by our little family. * * * All the gayety and splendid entertainments of this city, have no charms compared with the pleasure of such a scene, but the time is rapidly passing and I hope soon to meet you all in good health. * * * I write too often to tell you much news at a time and indeed I have too little intercourse and take too little interest in this city to know much about it."
"Dec. 22. I dined yesterday at Mr. Wm. T. Carroll's.
They live in fine style, he has a great many fine things in his house, you might know that however, from your knowledge of him, his wife appears to be very amiable. I dine again tomorrow with the President after which I may write you some news as I hope something may occur worth telling you."
Unfortunately the letter alluded to is not with this collection. It was probably with the papers of political importance burned in the Chicago fire.
"December 25. I dined yesterday with Mr. G. Dyson, in company with your two sisters, Mrs. Black, Mr. C. etc; that aunt of theirs is too fulsom for my taste altogether, she talks of nothing but learned authors, critics, ministers of state and her humble self.* * Tomorrow I dine with the Post Master General, the day before yesterday, I dined with the President and last night I supped with Mr. Ingham. So you [see] I am in no danger of starving and as Capt. Jack Nichols of the Navy would say, I have the run of all the kitchens in the city, more indeed than I would wish, but I do not let it interfere in the least with my business."
"December 31. I have been so engaged the last two days that I have not written to you. * * * I find my business increasing rapidly and it may be that I will write less frequently in future but if I do Sister Janet and Anna Maria C. [Caldwell] will make up for me. * * * It is now just after daylight and I am writing by candle light. I am uneasy about the horses, etc., at home. I fear Mr. Guin will not feed and water them well, you must get Mariah to look to them and see that they are regularly attended to. I expect to go to the British Minister's tonight. I will send you the invitation as you are invited. O how I would delight to have the pleasure of your company even to go to a heartless levee for a single night but how much greater would be the happiness of being restored to the bosom of my dear little family at our own fireside. * * * Tomorrow is the great day at the President's so of course I must make my appearance."
Trouble that could not be overlooked began with the Indians, under Blackhawk in 1831. They returned to their old village in Rock River Valley near the present city of Rock Island, where it is said they drove off the settlers, killed the cattle and threatened the people with death if they remained. The land had been previously ceded to the government and the settlers protested to Governor Reynolds. He referred the matter to General Gaines, in command of the U. S. troops at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, offering the aid of the State troops. General Gaines asked for 600. On May 27, 1831 the Governor issued a call for volunteers to assemble at Beardstown on June 10. The response was enthusiastic, it
132was a busy time on the farms but 1,500 men, mostly on horseback, presented themselves eager to defend the frontier. As they hoped to intimidate the Indians and avoid bloodshed, the entire force was taken. "The whole brigade was put under the command of Major General Duncan of the State Militia. This was the largest military force which had ever been assembled in the State and made an imposing appearance as it traversed the then unbroken wilderness of prairie. * * * Much credit is undoubtedly due to Governor Reynolds and General Duncan for the unprecedented quickness with which the brigade was called out and organized and marched to the seat of war.
Under date of 18th June, 1831, Governor Reynolds writes from Beardstown to Governor Edwards at Belleville:
"We will have about fourteen hundred men ready to move against the Indians. There are so many that we must have a Brigade. I called Gen. Duncan to act as Brigadier-General. There will be an election for 2 Colonels and 4 Majors. I think we start about Monday next. The companies are divided to make about 50 or 60 men each.
I received another letter from Gen. Gaines of the 13th inst. He advises to be ‘vigilant’ and to go ‘soon.’
I have no news to inform you of. A great spirit of harmony prevails. * * *"
A junction was made with the U. S. troops under the command of General Gaines near the mouth of Rock River, on the Mississippi.
The Indian village was destroyed by fire. Blackhawk and his chiefs signed an agreement on June 30, 1831, at Fort Armstrong "to reside and hunt upon their own lands, west of the Mississippi River." "The enemy being apparently humbled and quiet restored, the army was disbanded and returned home in the best of spirits, not a single person, by disease, accident, or otherwise, having lost his life."
The Chicago American of July 18, 1842, has an interesting quotation from the Alton Telegraph:
"Governor Duncan was at this time, [Black Hawk War] a candidate for election to Congress which rendered his position one of great delicacy. Under such circumstances men are too apt to expect indulgences. But never was an army commanded with more sternness. He performed his whole duty himself, and compelled every office and soldier to do the same. * * *
This campaign was in the spring of the year at a rainy, disagreeable season, over an uninhabited portion of the country, full of streams, which the army was frequently compelled to cross in the prairies, with mud banks and bottoms, which would have retarded its movements for many days but
for the invention of a grass bridge to cross them, which Governor Duncan made by tying mowed grass in large bundles or fagots and causing a company of men to carry a bundle and in quick succession throw them into the stream until it was filled; at the same moment the army commenced crossing rapidly so as to keep the grass pressed to the bottom. In this way he usually crossed his whole force over in about thirty minutes, which otherwise would not have been passed in twenty-four hours.
When General Gaines was informed of the invention of these bridges, which had enabled Duncan to come to his relief ten or fifteen days sooner than he expected him, he declared, "If one of Napoleon's officers had displayed such tact, it would immediately have raised him to the highest honors of the nation.' It was owing to the use of these grass bridges that our army was enabled to overtake and capture the same band of Indians when they invaded the country again in 1832." [From Alton Telegraph.]
Mr. Duncan in a speech in Congress on June 9, 1832, when the second Blackhawk war was in progress in Illinois, reverted to his early and forceful plea for mounted troops to defend the settlers on the frontier. He submitted "a letter giving some very shocking details of the massacres committed by the Indians upon the defenceless inhabitants,"* and advocated a mounted force for defending the frontier. He "firmly believed that all the distress and bloodshed that had just been heard of in Illinois would have been avoided if Congress had adopted the plan he then (1828) and now suggested. The government had the power and it was proper that it should protect everyone of its citizens while engaged in their usual pursuits. On great occasions, he thought the militia should be relied on for the National defence but it was ruinous to any people engaged in civil pursuits to be compelled to defend their own firesides or to be required to march in defense of their neighbors, on every invasion of an enemy, however small their force. The militia on the frontier had always given the highest evidence of patriotism, by turning out at a moment's warning to defend the country, even though it deprived them of raising a crop for the support of their families, which was the case last year and he did not doubt it would be so again this season."
The bill, embodying principles which Mr. Duncan had been urging since his first entry into Congress, was finally passed after being amended by the Senate.
Mr. Duncan appears to be always interested in reward of bravery. On February 5, 1831, he supported the granting of a pension to a mail carrier wounded while carrying mail through the Indian pountry.
On March 26, 1832, in a discussion of a bill to organize the Ordinance Department
On June 1, 1832, Mr. Duncan spoke in favor of appropriating subsistence to friendly Indians who may seek refuge during the present Indian disturbance. "One act of hostility committeed on one of these friendly tribes would be sufficient to involve the whole frontier in trouble for years."
On March 13, 1834, on the military appropriation bill, he approved the policy of establishing "a line of posts with suitable stables" from the Arkansas River to the Northern Lakes for the accommodation of the dragoons or mounted troops. He favored "displaying a force on the whole frontier at least once a year."
The opening of the west was making immediately necessary the extension of the government survey. Speaking January 12th, 1831, on a bill for the survey of public land, the Congressman from Illinois said:
"A very large portion of the State of Illinois was yet to be surveyed — only twenty-seven out of forty odd millions had been surveyed. Mr. D. spoke of the quality of the soil and beauty of the country in the northern section of Illinois, and north of it, and the prospect of its immediate settlement when surveyed and brought into market. He said there was now, and had been for several years, a large number of citizens, estimated at near ten thousand, residing in the northern part of Illinois, far beyond the present surveys; that an equal or greater number resided north of the State, in the Northwest territory, where there was not an acre of public land surveyed. He hoped that a statement of these facts would sufficiently show the necessity of extending the surveys in Illinois and Michigan."
Mr. D. proceeded, and said, "that the whole argument of the gentleman (in opposition) was in favor of keeping up the price of public land, by keeping the public land out of market; which he said was a policy peculiarly favorable to the land speculator, and oppressive to the poor, who has his home yet to purchase. He said that a farmer, who wanted his land for his own use, cared but little whether it was estimated at a high or low price; nor did such men generally care at how low a rate their poor neighbors purchased their homes, it was only those, he said, who had land to sell, that felt much interest about the price it bears."
"Mr. D. believed it to be the true policy of the Government to survey all the lands within the States and Territories as soon as possible, and bring them into market. He thought it quite probable that there were enough settlers at this moment on the unsurveyed land, who are prepared to purchase their homes, to pay enough at once to defray the expense of surveying all the public lands yet to be surveyed in the States. He thought it was too late for gentlemen to succeed in an attempt to arrest the emigration to the West. People, he remarked, are now settled, in large or small bodies, in nearly every district of the public lands where the Indian title has been extinguished; and he held it to be the duty, as well as the best policy of the Government, to afford them an opportunity of purchasing their homes as soon as possible, and on the most favorable terms."
On February 23, 1832, Mr. Duncan spoke in a debate on surveys of public lands.
"It was the settled policy of the Government to survey the public lands as fast as possible. The enterprising emigrants alluded to by the gentleman from New York (Mr. Root) were continually making farms beyond the surveys. It was good policy to enable them to become free holders of the soil and enable them to commence improvements."
The Illinois Representative, realizing as he did, the importance of waterway transportation wherever available, spoke on May 3, 1832 in
135reference to a dangerous shoal in the Mississippi River, and proposed an amendment to the act of 1824 providing for the removal of obstructions in the channel of the Upper Mississippi between St. Louis and Galena, This would include rocks and shoals as well as snags.
In the midst of this busy session of Congress Mr. Duncan was selected to attend the Baltimore Convention. He regretted anything that would take him away from his duties as representative, as shown by the following letter:
House of Representatives.
April 18, 1832.
T. W. Smith.
DEAR SIR: You wish to know whether I will attend the Baltimore Convention and intimate that your attendance will depend upon my answer. Being the only representative in this house from the State, I have always thought the selection of myself as one of the representatives to that convention was ill-advised. This convention meets about the close of this session of Congress, which is the time that most of the bills are usually passed, and as there are many now before both houses of great interest to our State, it may be out of my power to attend.
I therefore would by all means advise you to attend this convention. You say that more than seventy counties have met and approved my appointment and that it is the general wish that I should attend. These facts impose a strong obligation upon me to go and if at all compatible with my other duties, and there should be a necessity for it, I intend to do so.
With great respect,
Your obedient servant,
The Baltimore Republican of May 25, 1832, gives the names of the delegates from Illinois at the Convention as Elias K. Kane and John M. Robinson. Apparently Mr. Duncan did not attend.
Mr. Duncan was a member of the Committee on Public Lands during his entire service in Congress. Benton, in the Senate, was urging the reduction in the price of lands to make it possible for the poorest settler to own land. "In this agitation lay the germs of the later homestead system, as well as of the propositions to relinquish the Federal public lands to the states wherein they lay."
In the house Mr. Duncan spoke frequently on the land question. As this is part of the history of the State, his speeches are worth preserving. His first one was on December 29, 1829.
He pointed out that the grants, or donations, of land by the government to the new states, consisting chiefly of the sixteenth sections in each township given for the use of schools to be established in the township, were more "justly considered as a part of the consideration and an inducement to the purchase of all the remaining lands in the township." Moreover these grants "were made upon the express condition that those states would never tax the public lands within their limits, nor those sold by the General Government within five years after the sale. Surely this is no donation, it is a fair bargain, and the new states have the worst part of it, as they have given up a right which would be worth more to them now than a hundred times the quantity of land they have received." Replying to the objections that land had in some cases
136been given to certain new states to assist them in making internal improvements, such as roads and canals, he said:
"That it was a fact well known to every man of common observation, that every valuable improvement in a country, such as a road or a canal, is calculated to increase the value of the lands through or near which they are constructed; and as the general Government owned much the largest part of the land in the new States, and especially where some of those improvements are to be made, he thought he should hazard nothing in saying that, in every instance where the improvement is made, the increased value of the public lands occasioned exclusively by the improvement will amount to ten times the value of the donation. He said that a policy which would be wise in an individual owning large quantities of wild land, would also be wise in a Government; and he appealed to any gentleman to say whether he would not consider a portion of this land well appropriated in this way, when there was a certainty of its hastening the sale, and increasing the value of the residue.
"He said that about eighteen-twentieths of all the lands in the State he represented belonged to the General Government, and that his constituents were burdened with a heavy tax to construct roads and bridges, which, though necessary to their own convenience, had a direct and certain tendency to raise the value of all the lands over which they are made. He said he knew the States had no power to compel the General Government to contribute its part to these improvements; but he hoped that a sense of justice would prevent its receiving such advantage without contributing its full portion towards it.
He said he believed his constituents would be satisfied with having their just and reasonable claims satisfied, which were, that the price should be reduced, and the sales so regulated as to enable all the settlers to obtain their homes on reasonable terms."
In the debate on the Illinois canal January 4th, 1831, he spoke on the public land question and the fact that no encouragement was held out to settlers to improve the land belonging to the United States. No one would venture to settle on or improve land without a hope of ever owning it. He continued, according to the record, in defense of the pioneers and "squatters":
"Gentlemen in this House appeared to think that all lands of equal quality and situation ought to sell for the same price, but in this they were greatly mistaken. He said that improvements and good society gave value to land; if that was not the case, he asked, why were not all the wild lands already sold? Mr. D. said he had heard much said against squatters, as they are called, on the public land, but he did not hesitate in affirming that they had been the means of selling nine-tenths of all the land that had been sold by the government. He said that, it was the hardy, enterprising, poor man that first ventured into the wilderness, and suffered all the privations and dangers incident to such an enterprise, who, acting as pioneers, were followed by the more fortunate or wealthy, and too often deprived by them of their homes, and driven further and further into the woods."
In the first session of the Twenty-second Congress, on December 27, 1831, the Illinois representative again brought up the public land question especially in reference to the use of the proceeds of sales of land for internal improvements and for education. He asked that the Committee on Public Lands be instructed to inquire into the expediency of appropriating one-third of the proceeds of the future sales of public lands to objects of internal improvements within the states in which said lands are sold; one-third for the construction of roads and canals from the Mississippi,
137the Ohio, the lakes and the St. Lawrence to the commercial cities of the Atlantic, the remaining one-third for purposes of education.
His idea was that the proceeds from the sale of lands should be spent in the states in which the land is located. He objected to the present manner of disposing of the proceeds which operated "oppressively to the citizens of the new states, by exacting from them the highest prices for their lands, and spending nearly every cent of the money on the seaboard, in building ships, harbors, etc. It was difficult to impoverish a people by a tax, however high, if the same money was expended among them; but that it was equally difficult to stand for a very long time a perpetual drain, however small, without return of it." The people of Illinois were taxed five days work or five dollars per annum for making roads. The State made appropriations for roads and bridges, the counties had often done the same. All these improvements, however necessary to the convenience and prosperity of the State, were calculated to benefit and give value to the public lands six or eight times as much as it did that of the citizens. The United States owned about six-eighths of all the land in the State. Every principle of justice would require the government to contribute its full share of every expenditure which went directly to increase the value of the public lands, and make them sell. He said that gentlemen both in and out of Congress are greatly mistaken about the real value of the public land in its present wild condition. "How does it sell for one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre," he asked, "unless it receives its value from the improvements made by the money and labor of the settlers?"
Mr. Duncan remarked that Congress had bargained the new states out of any right to tax the public land, and had even gone further by compelling them not to tax for five years land sold by the United States. It was perhaps too late to correct this error, but he hoped it was not too late to do justice.
"He said that the first branch of his proposition was to give one-third of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands for works of the improvement in the States in which they are sold, which would create a fund sufficient to adorn and beautify the country, and would ensure such an increased value to the remaining portions of the land, as to render, through all time, an inexhaustible fund for the accomplishment of the other objects contemplated in his amendment.
He said the second branch of his proposition was to appropriate one-third of the proceeds arising from the sale of those lands to the construction of roads and canals, so equally throughout the Union as to connect this expansive valley with every seaport on the Atlantic, which, he said, independent of the great commercial and military importance to the Government, would do more to unite and harmonize the States than any thing that had been done since the revolution.
As to the third branch of his proposition, which was to appropriate a third of this fund for purposes of education in all the States, he thought it enough to say (as was universally admitted) that the freedom and independence of the Government and the happiness of all depend upon the intelligence and virtue of the people."
It is especially significant to note in this plea for the support of education a repetition of the sentiments he had expressed in the Illinois Senate when he introduced the first public school bill and which later he expressed as Governor of the State.
It is also a pleasure to note in connection with improvements the use of the words "adorn and beautify," an idea to which he recurs in his first message as Governor.
Public lands being again up for discussion on March 27, 1832, Mr. Duncan modestly assured the House "he always felt reluctant to consume a moment of the time of the House" but as it is a question of public lands he continued speaking! The report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office filled him "with feelings of indignation." It had furnished the arguments for the opposition of his colleague on the committee, Mr. Hunt of Vermont, and had convinced him that the officer who made it was unfit to fill the station he held. That officer had used his official station to unjustly injure and insult the very persons over whose particular interests he was appointed to preside. He replied especially to a charge that the privilege of pre-emption to settlers had been abused and had led to speculation by "intruders and trespassers. The charge, if true at all, was so in only a few individual cases and it was unfair to make it against a whole community.
"Most of his life had been spent on the frontier. He knew it to be a fact that all the new States had been settled first by enterprising men, who had gone ahead of the land sales, often of the surveys of them. He had never before heard them denounced as trespassers and intruders; they had never been so regarded in that country, or by this Government. It was true that there had been an old resolution of Congress, near fifty years ago, forbidding such settlements, which had never been regarded, except as a gross absurdity. And, so far from prohibiting, the Government had always encouraged those settlements, by making liberal donations, and grants of the right of preemption. From the passage of that resolution up to the present time, many of the most respectable citizens in all the new States had been settlers on the public land. Most of them had commenced poor; they were generally a brave, hardy, and enterprising people, possessing an ardent love of liberty, freedom, and independence; who, so far from speculating upon the bounties of the Government, had on all occasions evinced the most disinterested patriotism and ardent love of country, by encountering every danger, hardship, and fatigue, in defending the frontier during the late war, and the savage invasions and attacks which have always retarded and embarrassed the settlement of that country.
Mr. D. thought it a great mistake to suppose that it was a gracious bounty to allow a man to purchase a tract of public land to include his improvements, at one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. He said, if a tract of land was given to such settlers, it would scarcely compensate them for the privations and hardships they must necessarily encounter, who give up all the comforts of society to settle a new country. These settlers had to overcome difficulties which most gentlemen in Congress knew nothing about."
"And if it was true that settlers who were unable to pay for the land had sold these improvements, was it a fit subject for the taunt and attack made by the commissioner, and so earnestly and warmly urged by the gentleman from Vermont? Certainly not. Is it possible that any officer of this Government, or any member of Congress, will seriously urge that the poor man who penetrates the forest, subdues it by his labor, reduces it to cultivation, and builds a house on the public land, shall have nothing for it? What other public officer ever staked his reputation by recommending that the house and improvements of a poor man should be sold to the highest bidder, and the Government pocket the money obtained by the profits of his labor? Yet such is the effect of the commissioner's recommendation. And this is not all. After recommending the sale of the lands, and opposing the grant of pre-emption, he tauntingly and insultingly recommends that these "intruders and trespassers be left to the local tribunals of justice." Sir, said Mr. D., what man acquainted with the brave and enterprising men who have
settled all of our frontier States, can read this report without feelings of indignation?"
Mr. Duncan replied to certain detailed objections that had been raised and made a special plea for making possible the sale of land in forty acre tracts, a provision which "will, as it is mainly intended, benefit the poor, by, enabling every man who could raise fifty dollars to secure a home for his family."
The bill finally passed, 119 to 44.
In the next session the old discussion as to pre-emption was revived by a proposal to extend the act of 1807 to prevent settling on public lands until authorized by law. Mr. Duncan on February 20, 1833, spoke as follows:
"He objected to reviving a law which had remained near forty years a dead letter on the statue books; an act which had never and could never be enforced. Public opinion had long since fixed the seal of reprobation upon any attempt to punish individuals for settling or trespassing as it is called, upon the public lands. Suits had often been brought under this act and the result had universally been, that the Government paid the cost. He was in favor of extending the power of the President to lease the mines west of the Mississippi on the same terms that those east of that river are now leased. Such a policy would receive the sanction of the people; would produce a large revenue; and be the means of preserving the timber, and of husbanding the resources of the country.
He was opposed to the bill on account of the impossibility of enforcing it, the principles it contained, and the vexation and violence which he thought would certainly ensue if an attempt should be made to enforce it, under the policy now pursued in relation to the mines east of the river. He said it was in the power of the Government agent to protect the timber and mines from waste; and when that country is offered for sale, which must soon be done, it would command a high price, after having paid, in rents received from the mines, largely more than the original cost of the whole country. He was not very favorable to the leasing system; it would be much better to sell these mines as soon as possible; and the Committee on the Public Lands agreed with him on that subject, and had reported a bill for selling all the mineral lands east of the Mississippi. But one thing is certain, that the enterprising citizens of that country cannot be kept out of this newly acquired territory; and it was a question now to be settled, whether we should admit every good citizen, or by attempting to exclude all, only admit those who are independent of, and will disregard all laws."
The lead mines around Galena were authorized to be sold by the President in a bill introduced June 5, 1834. On this subject Duncan said:
"The people of Illinois felt a desire that the country should be permanently settled, rather than leased out as it now was. Under the present system, the expense of leasing was said to be nearly equal to the avails from the leases; and, in the meanwhile, the lands were ruined by the operation. Those who leased them, trenched the country in all directions and threw out the clay over the soil, so that, when they gave it up, it was in many places rendered wholly useless for agricultural purposes. Whereas, were the lands sold instead of being leased, they would bring a high price, both on account of the mineral riches they were known to contain, and on account of the fertility of the soil. But after the land was spoiled by the diggings, that covered it like the tracks of so many moles in a garden, it would bring little or nothing. As property of the United States, it was becoming less and less valuable every day."
In the closing days of his eight years of service in Congress Mr. Duncan spoke again on June 13, 1834 on the land issue, his favorite subject. There is something inspiring in the picture of the representative from Illinois in Congress defending consistently all these years the rights of the sturdy settlers in Illinois. It should entitle him to recognition in the histories of his State. His last speech on this subject is similar to others but, as the dust and oblivion of years have rested on this epoch of his life in Congress and as it gives more details of the picture of the early settlers of Illinois, we will quote a part of it:
"He said * * * his constituents were no speculators; those who settled on the public land were generally poor men, or men in moderate circumstances, who live by their honest labor, and had no other view of settling than to secure an independent home for their families. They were no trespassers. They had been encouraged, to go on and improve the public lands by the repeated acts and settled policy of the government — a policy well known to be as favorable to the sale of the lands and the public interest as it is just to the settler. It was owing to this wise policy of inducing the hardy sons of the west to encounter all the privations and hardships incident to such an enterprise, that the seven new states in this Union owe their unexampled prosperity. Who, he asked, ever heard of a wealthy man leaving ease, luxury, and society, and going into the forest, as our enterprising settlers had often done, at every sacrifice, encountering the wild beasts and savages, and depending for the first year or two upon the rifle for a precarious subsistence? He never knew an instance; and he believed if the vast valley of the Mississippi had never been settled until those able to purchase the land should become the pioneers, that it would not have reached its present state of improvement in a century to come. He considered it the interest of the whole Union to adopt a liberal policy in disposing of the public domain. To build up great and prosperous communities, he said was, infinitely more important than all the gain that ever had or would be received into the treasury from the sale of these lands. But, he said, his friend from Alabama (Mr. Clay) had plainly shown that nothing had been gained for many years by selling the lands at auction; it had added nothing to the treasury, though it had some times been the means of oppression to the settlers. He said he considered the present as a question whether this government is willing to sell the poor man's improvement to the highest bidder, and put the profits of his labor into the public treasury, which is now full to over-flowing. He could not believe honorable gentlemen, understanding the subject, could ever consent to such gross injustice. Much objection, he said, had been made to this bill on account of an idea which had been suggested, that some persons might make speculations by taking up mill-seats, ferries, etc. He had no doubt some instances of the kind might occur; but in all probability, if this advantage was not secured to the settler, it would be reaped by a combination of speculators, who generally contrived to pay no more than $1.25 per acre to the government. Mills and ferries, he said, are necessary to the settlement of the country, and those who first establish them are entitled to great favor; and no improvements could be of more benefit to the public."
He believed it would be found to the best interests of the government and permanent improvement of the country, to allow the settlers to select their homes as soon as the land was surveyed.
On June 14, 1834, Mr. Duncan writes to the Alton Spectator
"The pre-emption bill has just passed and only waits the President's signature to become a law. This bill is more favorable to our settlers than any ever passed. It revives the act of 1830 and continues in force for two years
from this time which will give the settlers, virtually, 2 years to pay for their lands, both on lands now subject to entry at private sale and those which have not been offered at public auction unless they shall sooner be sold by the proclamation of the President.
This act gives the right of pre-emption to all who are settlers at its passage and extends the act to those persons who were settlers on the public land in 1829 and who were deprived of their right by the construction placed on the law by the Secretary of the Treasury. We had a warm debate in the House of Representatives which lasted six hours but it passed by a large majority.
The question of internal improvements was constantly to the fore during Jackson's administration. To the representative of a sparsely settled frontier State like Illinois, knowing the isolation of the communities, the difficulties of travel and of bringing the produce of the farms to market, the importance of a National road connecting the different parts of the country was almost a necessity. The taxes of the State, with the government owning eight-tenths of the land and not allowing the land to be taxed for five years after it was sold, would be inadequate to build the necessary roads for many years. Mr. Duncan does not seem to have gone the lengths of some of the politicians of the day in advocating government assistance, but he asks for a liberal interpretation of the law.
We find a few speeches on this subject in the Congressional Debates.
March 1, 1831, Mr. Duncan spoke against the toll taxes of the National road in Ohio, which would exempt her own citizens and throw all the cost of keeping the road in repair upon the people residing in the states west of Ohio:
"It would drive the constituents, and all the people west of the Ohio, from this road as they could not and would not pay so unjust a tax especially as the road was made by compact and out of the funds of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri as well as those of Ohio. He could see no hope for his constituents except to tax the citizens of Missouri traveling to the Atlantic cities. This tax would make it impossible for his constituents to drive their stock on this road."
The bill passed and toll gates were permitted.
On June 17, 1834 the question of the Cumberland road came up and Mr. Duncan said:
"It was a high, a vital object to connect this almost unbounded country by roads and public highways and especially was it the duty of the government to overcome great natural obstructions — such as separate the west from the eastern section of the country. Such improvement would make us a united, prosperous and happy people."
The last speech of Mr. Duncan recorded in the Congressional Debates was on June 24, 1834, an amendment proposed by him to continue the act incorporating the present bank of the United States for twenty years with certain limitations and regulations. "He rose to support his amendment with great reluctance at a moment when members were preparing for their journeys home."
"He was governed by no feelings either favorable or unfavorable to the present bank or its directors, in bringing forward his bill; he had no personal acquaintance with any of them; he did not owe the bank; he had not one cent of interest in it; nor was any one of his friends, so far as he knew,
in the slightest degree interested in it. He could not be charged with having any political object in view in introducing his amendment; he believed every member of the House would acquit him of such a charge; he was governed by no such, motives; his object was now, as it had been on all occasions, when called upon to act in that House, to do the best for his constituents and country, according to his judgment, without reference to party. He had taken part, it was true, in some of the political struggles in the country, and would probably do so again, but his conduct, as a Representative, never had been, and never should be, governed by any such considerations. He cared less for who was in power than for the manner in which it was used by those in whose hands it was placed, he had never asked or received a favor of the government, and never would while he was honored with a seat in Congress.
"He was opposed to any plan making the State or local banks the treasury of the nation; it could answer no good purpose. The million and a half of dollars of broken local bank notes now lying useless in the treasury, with the numerous banks which are daily breaking or stopping payment, had taught him they were wholly incompetent to answer the purposes of government as fiscal agents, but admitting them to be safe, who does not know that they cannot furnish a sound and uniform currency? He was alarmed at the array of local banks springing into existence in several of the states last winter, after the removal of the deposits, and when the downfall of the United States Bank was considered probable. It reminded him of the host of spurious banks which rose up, like mushrooms, in a night, after the winding up of the old bank of the United States. From 1812 to 1818, he said, the country was literally inundated with their paper, until the best judges of that day could not tell a good note from a bad one, or whether the bank had a location in fact or only in the imagination, as very many of them were the production of speculators on the public credulity. Hundreds, nay thousands of poor men were swindled and suffered much then from the dreadful derangement of the currency, and he was greatly surprised, after so much experience, and with such an example before us, to see so large a party in this country, and in that House, disposed to place the currency in the same fearful situation. He knew the evils too well to give such a measure any support.
But sir, said Mr. D., if the United States Bank is put down, the embarrasment to the west will be two fold. Their sales of produce are made in the south, at New Orleans, where specie, which is too cumbersome to carry, or the local currency, must be taken in payment, and their purchases are made in the north. Thus subjected to a double discount upon their money, it must fall heavily upon the products of the country. But this is not all. The large cities contain all or nearly all the capital employed in carrying on commerce, and they will receive no note of the west except at a very heavy discount. This was the case in the days of unsound currency previously mentioned, and would certainly be the case again. But, sir, said Mr. D., the evil does not stop here. While there is no uniformity or confidence in the currency, people can neither travel nor emigrate to the west. No man will venture to sell his property in one of the old States for local bank notes, and start to the west, uncertain how soon the bank would break, or being certain, as he would be, that he must change his money with a broker at the line of each State through which he was to pass. Such a condition of affairs must retard the settlement and improvement of all the new States again, as it did from 1819 to 1826, a period of the greatest embarrassment he ever knew, and which was occasioned by the previous deranged state of the currency. The general confusion which, in his opinion, would certainly grow out of the proposed destruction of the United States Bank, presented to his mind a fearful picture of the future condition of the country.
"He said some such measure as his was necessary to give relief to the country from the pressure now felt, and which must, in his opinion, inevitably increase, if the present bank should be compelled to wind up and collect in its fifty-four millions of dollars of outstanding debts. No new bank, he
said, can be created until after March, 1836, and, of course, more than two years must elapse before a substitute can be put into operation. This was one of the reasons why he preferred to recharter, under proper restrictions, the present bank; but this was far from being the only one: his bill proposed to distribute nearly two-thirds of the stock among the states, and he knew, by observation, that the high credit of this bank would secure to the stockholders a larger dividend and more certain profit upon their capital, than any new bank, with a prudent charter, could possibly do; and, by making the States interested, additional stability and character would be given to this institution.
"He was of opinion that Congress should have the most unlimited power to investigate all the books, accounts, and official acts of the bank and its officers, and had endeavored, by a provision in his amendment, to secure that right in the fullest extent, and punish any officer or director of the bank who should oppose such an investigation. But, sir, said Mr. D., suppose all the dangers to exist, and the abuses, as alleged, to be true, was this an argument against the value and importance of the bank? What created being or institution, he asked, had ever existed, that was capable of doing much good, that was not also capable of doing great harm? Was it not the persons selected for the management of the bank, and not the bank itself, that had given such offence? If its officers had acted improperly they could be displaced; it was to his mind no argument against any institution, and especially to one that had performed so many important services for the government — an institution which was in fact the treasury, and the best possible treasury that could be established — an institution, which kept the public money safely, paid it out on the order of the Treasurer, without risk or charge, at any point required; which had paid a bonus to the United States of one million five hundred thousand dollars, and by his bill was to pay two millions more for the use of the public deposites and the benefits of the charter. He asked, has it not done more than all this for the country, in furnishing the best currency in the world, better than gold or silver, for all commercial purposes, its notes being preferred in most cases, and especially in large sums, to either? Had it not extended the commerce of the country beyond all conception, by furnishing the means of carrying on and enlarging trade? Built our steamboats, which, in proportion as they gave facility and cheapness of transportation, had increased the value of the products in the west? He would not say that all of the prosperity which had recently spread over and blessed every portion of the great valley of the west was owing to the means furnished by this bank for the improvement of the country and carrying on commerce, or to the uniform and sound currency it had supplied; but much, very much, of it was.
Mr. Duncan suggested that if the alleged misconduct of some few of the officers were a sound argument against the bank itself, the same might apply to other departments of government, but no one would seriously think of abolishing the Post Office Department in consequence of the abuses charged to exist there.
"It is the duty of wise legislators, he said, to preserve the government pure in all its parts, and, as experience pointed out defects or abuses, to rectify them, and guard, by timely checks and limitations, against their recurrence, and by every possible means to keep the political and moneyed institutions as distinct as possible.
He regarded the bank or a bank of the United States as intimately connected with, and in fact a branch of the government; though but remotely Tinder its control, it was almost as valuable, in the performance of its peculiar functions, as any other department, and more intimately connected with all the wants and interests of society. But being an institution that required the jealous care and support of the National Legislature, it should have nothing to do with politics or political partisans; nor should they, under any circumstances, be permitted to control or molest it while acting within its proper sphere. The political wheel, he said, was in motion, and
no one could tell what party might be placed in power by its next revolution. If the party favorable to the present bank shall succeed, they, like most parties elected on a particular question, may recharter without those wholesome guards and checks which experience has shown to be necessary. On the other hand, if another party rises into power, much is to be feared from the establishment of a political bank, managed by and subservient to the ambitious views of government officers — a power more to be dreaded than the brandished sword of a tyrant. The one warns you of danger to come, while the other embraces but to corrupt and subdue.
The present he thought a most auspicious moment for settling this great question. The parties were nearly balanced, and nothing could be done by, either except by the consent of the other, on the principles of a compromise. He appealed to the patriotism of both parties to settle this important question of the currency without reference to former prejudices. It should have nothing to do, he said, with politics; and now, before the candidates for the presidency were brought out, he thought a bank might be established on such a basis as to secure the confidence and good will of every party and every citizen in the country.
He had carefully reviewed all the opinions of the President, and believed his bill or amendment met and obviated all of his objections to the present bank charter, and could not doubt, should the amendment pass, it would meet with his approval. This, however, was to him a secondary consideration; he had discharged his duty according to his best judgment, and would leave other public servants to do the same."
With his vote in favor of re-chartering the United States Bank, the independence of Mr. Duncan's views and actions led to a practical withdrawal of his adherence to the Jackson party as then constituted. After the adjournment of Congress in July 1834, Mr. Duncan was detained in the east by illness in his family. The election for Governor occurring in August he allowed his name to be used as a candidate and received 17,349 votes to 10,229 votes for William Kinney and 4,320 for Robert K. McLaughlin, Duncan's uncle. He was the only Governor of Illinois elected without electioneering or the making of speeches. Mr. Duncan resigned from Congress and returned to Jacksonville with his family in the fall of 1834. Up to the last year of his service he had been, the sole Congressman from Illinois. In the last Congress he was one of the three representatives from Illinois, being elected from the northern district.
Chapter IV. — Governour of Illinois, 1834-1838.
After an absence of eight years in Congress, Mr. Duncan returned to Illinois in the fall of 1834 to take up his duties as governor. Some old letters and notes make clearer his relation with state politics and the gradual growth of his dissatisfaction as to Jackson's policies and the final severance of his relationship with the Jackson party.
The year 1834 was a confused period in Illinois politics, as previous to this time, factions had formed around leaders or groups of leaders. A contemporary notes: "It is difficult to catch the hang of parties here for although there is considerable party feeling there is very little party organization."
145views. There was a small but strong minority who from the ardent admiration of General Jackson, the man who "was to reform all abuses," came a disappointment in his acts as President especially when he came under the influence of his "kitchen cabinet" and Van Buren.
Before the inauguration of President Jackson, Mr. Duncan notes in his diary "Called to see the President, He says he will remove no officer on account of his political opinions, unless he has used his office for the purpose of electioneering. He appears liberal and I agree perfectly with his views." In his note book Duncan writes:
"Policy of the Jackson party up till 1830 and —
1. One Presidential term.
4. Reform of all abuses.
5. Prevent officers interfering in elections.
6. Hold officers to strict accountability."
When Jackson announced his candidacy for a second term and more so when he selected his successor, Van Buren, it was self evident, from previous knowledge of the man, that Duncan would never accept, against his judgement and conscience, the dictates of the Jackson party as it had now become.
In a letter published in the Western Observer, June 14th, 1831, he explains his views:
"Many complain that I have not sufficiently supported the party in my votes in Congress. To such I would say, I have investigated every subject upon which I have been called upon to act, with a sincere desire of obtaining correct information. My votes have been governed by my best judgment, and an ardent wish to promote the true interest and honor of the country, without regard to what either party supported or opposed. Having been led to observe in early life that a man who had firmness and independence enough to do right in high party times though condemned by the ambitious and selfish demagogue is certain to be sustained by the patriotic and honorable men of all parties. I was at no loss what course to pursue when I entered Congress.
That man who is so weak or so wicked as to vote under the influence of party feelings, or party discipline, will be compelled almost every day to abandon his principles if he has ever assumed any — the interests of his constituents — his own honor — and his independence — and I envy them not the praise they may receive from any party."
Mr. Duncan "had maintained a policy of independence towards Jackson's measures for which in 1831 he had been criticised at home. He voted to pass the Mayville turnpike bill over Jackson's veto."
The debates of the last session of Congress that Mr. Duncan attended, are interesting as showing the trend of his votes irrespective of party lines. On February, 1834, he voted with Adams and the Whigs for the extension of pensions to revolutionary soldiers. In March he voted with the administration to "appoint a Committee of Ways and
146Means to inquire into the expediency of a plan accompanied by a bill to reduce the revenue to the necessary expenses of the government." In June he voted for the re-chartering of the Bank of the United States. Here came his final break with the Democratic party.
Later great capital was made by the Jackson men of this "defection" of Duncan's and he is spoken of as a "traitor," etc., to his party. He was simply an independent thinker with the courage of his convictions, a man who refused to follow blindly party leadership.
Ford has written of this period more graphically than any contemporary man and as he was a political opponent of Duncan his views of the hitter's change of party cannot be accused of flattery, or partiality.
"A public man has a perfect right to his own opinions and predilections. Governor Duncan was a brave, honest man, a gentleman in his intercourse with society, and possessed a rare talent for conciliating affection and inspiring confidence. But his great error was in becoming attached to a party and a cause, in the first instance, without knowing the principles by which he was governed. Thousands of others were in the same predicament, many of whom, both before and after Governor Duncan, left as he did, when the Jackson party began to be developed. * * * Without asserting that Governor Duncan was right in his change, for such would mot be my opinion, yet it would seem from his example and many others that it would be better for politicians, if they could reverse the order of their existence, come into the world in their old age and go out when young. He is to take a party name and, however, much he may afterwards become enlightened, or parties shift ground, he is never to change, under penalty of being branded as a traitor to his party. But perhaps this is one of the means appointed by providence and implanted in man's nature to keep the opinion of the governing party united and give some stability to the councils of Republican government."
The gradual affiliation with the Whig party as more nearly representing his views offered a target to his political opponents that continued during future campaigns till his death in 1844 and that has affected his reputation to an astonishingly important degree in the history of Illinois. The long life of service to the State and a marked integrity of character, is lost sight of in view of this change of party affiliations, or rather the chance it gave his political opponents to warp the acts of Duncan's life, both public and private.
The four following letters give an interesting, gossipy picture of life in Illinois and especially of the political situation before the election of Governor in 1834. They were written by a cousin, James C. Finley, who had come from the east to take charge of Mr. Duncan's affairs in Jacksonville while he was in Congress. He speaks of himself as a mere observer, asking no political favors.
The letters begin with the building of the Duncan house in Jacksonville which was started in the fall of 1833. The house known as Elm Grove is still standing in the midst of the half circle of stately elm trees, planted by Mr. Duncan.
On November 9, 1833, the masons were going on very well with the foundations.
"I send you by mail the last number of the Illinois Patriot, in which you will find a very ungenerous and insidious attack upon you about the United States Bank and the Patriotic money. I remonstrated with Edwards, [Editor of a paper in Jacksonville] upon the propriety and injustice of
associating the two but his hands appear to be tied by a small faction here who are very bitter against you and who are probably urged on by men who would like to preserve some terms with you. The report has been very industriously circulated here that you announced yourself hostile to the bank a few days before you left Jacksonville. Judge Evans asserts that, last winter, while you were holding out to your friends here that you were in favor of the bank, he heard you say to President Jackson, that you concurred with him in his objections to the bank. He and Bredan are very noisy upon your inconsistency about the bank. Coddington says he saw a roll of the Patriotic notes in Wilkinson's store as large as his arm, and Edwards says he is told that you pay your agents 6 per cent for passing them off. The idea they are trying to pass upon the people is this: That you say you see so much corruption in the politics of the country, that you consider the cause of the Republic desperate and they think you are disposed to come in for your share of the spoils: they say further, that the Patriotic bank will lend you a large amount of money, say perhaps $100,000 at a very low interest — 3 per cent — perhaps for nothing, for the sake of getting their notes in circulation, and that you, for the sake of producing a scarcity of money and compelling the people to take them, will use your influence to put down the U. S. Bank and that you have put out the present small amount as a feeler to see how the thing will take. Hardin has taken the matter up warmly in your behalf and written a reply."
On November 30, 1833, Dr. Finley writes:
"* * * Crawled up to the post office to hear the news and as the mail has not closed I will take time to add a few more lines to a letter I have already put in the office. I there found a pretty considerable crowd of people and among them Evans and Edwards. The former was very polite and affiable and the subject of the bank being introduced he expressed his regret that his name had been dragged into the controversy and gave such a version of the conversation and controversy as at once cleared you from every suspicion of duplicity in relation to the bank business. When I told Edwards of his version and reminded him of the caution I had given him about giving credit to so improbable a tale, he blushed like a damsel of 18 when her sweetheart first popped the question. He affected a great deal of candor, however, and promised to retract everything that cannot be sustained. * * * There is nothing kept secret here and men appear to take a pride in revealing both their own secrets and the secrets of their friends."
On December 27, 1833, Dr. Finley writes:
"Cassels saw the man today with whom he contracted for the hewed timber and says that they are all ready for delivery and will be on the ground by the first of January. The additional timbers requisite for the new plan will delay them but a few days. I am very much afraid that delay will arise from Johnson's disposition to procrastinate. He now promises to commence on Monday and run the mill night and day until your bill is complete.
"As regards your reply to Edwards I am at a loss to know whether to publish it or not. The attack was evidently gotten up by one or the other of the two parties here — the Prosser or the Lockwood party — for the purpose of intimidating you on the bank question or forcing you to take sides. Poor Edwards of whom it is difficult to say whether he is most the object of compassion or contempt, has been evidently a mere automaton in the affair; and now that his advisers are disposed to shrink from the position of principals, feels himself in a most unpleasant attitude. He now wishes to say that the publication was intended as an act of kindness to you in order that surmises and insinuations which were secretly circulating much to your injury might be brought before the public in an attitude that would give you a fair opportunity of meeting them. An office of charity, so unthankful, as I intimated to him today, that a prudent man would very willingly leave the conferring of it to others. Mrs. Edwards says that she
opposed his having anything to do with it until she made herself sick about it.
"The active movers have been Gillett, Gorden, Hedenburgh, Bredan and Forsyth and Dr. Jones, the most insolent, self-conceited and contemptable — that ever passed current in decent society. Gillett, a strange fellow. He appears to be, and I believe is, your personal friend and would be happy to do anything to serve you, but he probably thinks that he has a large pecuniary interest in the rechartering of the bank and that he has reason to complain of you for disappointing your constituents on the subject of the bank. Forsyth is "the respectable merchant" referred to in the Banner who said you offered them money if they would circulate it in the country but not to pay debts at Pittsburgh. Besides the clamor raised by the politicians, the merchants have pretty generally taken a stand against the money, principally because they supposed it had been placed in the hands of other merchants to whom it would give facilities for transacting business that they would not possess. Commercial jealousy therefore may reasonably be placed to the account of much that has been said.
"All persons here are prodigiously anxious to ascertain the political course you mean to adopt. Some from one motive, some from another and some from no motive at all. It appears to be the intention of all to let you run for Governor without opposition. If you side with them they are willing to receive you with open arms but they intend to hold themselves as loosely connected with you in order that if you take sides against them they may take advantage of the difficulties which surround the Gubernatorial office in this State to break you down and deprive you of what they suppose to be the ultimate object of your ambition — a seat in the United States Senate.
"As we are now on the subject of your political relations, I will remark: that intimations have been made to me that an attempt is being made to injure you by secretly circulating a report about the Meridosia lots which is represented as being very much to your discredit. It is said that you gave no consideration for these lots and therefore your taking them can be considered in no other light than as a bribe to do that which you were already bound to do by the relation between you and your constituents. The individual who related this to me (as an act of friendship to you to put you on your guard) named Hackett as one of his authorities, who told him if he would call at his house he would exhibit to him the most satisfactory evidence of the fact. This is one of the things Edwards alluded to in his publication as something much more prejudicial to you than anything which had yet appeared. As an evidence that the purchase of the lots on your part was not bona fide, it is alleged, that the contract was to be null and void if the preemption right was not obtained within a certain time. I declined making any inquiries about it, as my informant wished, because I saw nothing to be gained by doing so, but I mention it to you because I know that great pains have been taken to obtain certificates to........ [torn] when the time comes. I saw Hackett a few days ago and inquired about the deeds. He had neither received them nor knew why they were not made out.
"We have had Mills here lately electioneering, Williams, too, a member of the Senate from the Military District, called here on his way from Vandalia and was very anxious to organize an Anti-Van Buren party upon the principals of the bank, the Land Bill, etc. Jones and he have written to Casey upon the subject and would have liked to have written to you upon the subject, if they could have taken the liberty. They promise to build you lip a party and establish you a popularity that will last as long as you live.
"But I have so much to say about politics that I am forgetting what I doubt not will be much more interesting to you — your private business. How high do you want the windows of the first story from the floor — I saw Hawkins yesterday going after some of your cattle which had been strayed since you left here. * * * The scarcity of money in this country is unexampled."
January 24th, 1834, Dr. Finley writes:
"As Hackett was disposed to be very surly and Hardin was absent in Kentucky I got Walter Jones to inquire into the cause of the delay in the acknowledgements of those deeds. He caught Hackett at Brochenborough's discussing the matter in full Divan. He told him that there was no consideration paid for the lots and that Mrs. A. T. C. was unwilling to convey their dower. Furthermore he stated that a fellow by the name of Stetes, who claimed the right of preemption, is making arrangements to commence suit against the whole of you for the whole of the land."
"* * * I told Hawkins nothing about your being willing to give him additional wages. He is very attentive to your interests and anxious to secure your approbation. His labors, it is true, were very great for a few weeks while he was gathering in the corn. * * * Your cattle, horses and mules are in very fine order. Your Kentucky stud that you bought of Price departed this life very suddenly a few days ago. We have inquired everywhere for stock hogs but have only been able to find ten.
The Springfield papers have sent some a proof sheet of your letter in advance of their paper. The whole thing has so perfectly died away that I thought it perfectly unnecessary to publish your letter to me. Jones is a fool, so perfectly made up in every joint, and the public consider it unnecessary to answer him. Poor Edwards has suffered a thousand deaths, and is so humble and penitent that I am glad you touched him lightly. He has a hundred times requested me to explain his feelings to you and tell you that all he published was intended as a pure act of friendship — merely to appraise you of the rumors that were afloat. If the opinion of the leading politicians can be relied upon you are very certain to get three-fourths of the votes of this country, although the scullions of the Kitchen Cabinet will all influence against you. * * * I could tell you of other things equally curious, but you have seen too much of this business for it to have aught of interest to you. It is fortunate for this part of Illinois that there are too many aspirants for office for the present state of things to continue. Prossen and Turney and a host of men of their level are aspiring to Congress, and, because May has pre-empted the ground as the Van Buren candidate, are determined to come out against the whole concern.
By the way why has your name never been formally announced as Governor?
The Editors say that your name has mot been announced and some of your enemies are very industrious in conveying the impression that it is your intention to withdraw from the field in favor of your uncle. Edwards and Jones are both anxious to come out for you. Will you permit them to announce you? * * * The pressure on the money market has been very severe and I regret to say that I have not been able to collect any for you although I have made considerable effort to do so.
The Sangamon Journal has taken a very scurrilous notice of your letter and published an article, also, intimating that you will not be a candidate in opposition to your uncle, and that Kinney and McLaughlin would be the only candidates for Governor. This article is signed "A friend to McLaughlin" but it doubtless comes from a friend of May's who wishes either to make you occupy such a position as will remove him from all apprehension that you may oppose him or to injure your popularity, by leading the people to suppose you mean to play a double game upon them. Evans of this county, is to be the candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
"In speaking of the appointment of your brother you say that it was made in opposition to your recommendation. This, all who are acquainted with your uniform policy will readily believe, but some color is given to a different statement by an assertion that you told Weatherfleld you were authorized to make the appointment and had the commission with you. It may never be used against you, but if W. is hostile to your election it will perhaps be prudent to be on your guard.
Mr. Duncan's reply to the attack of the two editors, to which Dr. Finley refers, is dated Washington City, Dec. 16, 1833. He explains the circumstances under which he had borrowed a small sum from the Patriotic Bank, and to settle the question as to whether or not he had misled Jackson on his position on the U. S. Bank, Duncan went directly to the President: "* * * In addition to my own clear knowledge that it is false I called on the President a few days since and asked him, in presence of General John Carr, a member of Congress from Indiana, how he had always understood my opinions to he on the question of re-chartering of the United States Bank — to which he replied that so far as was known to him, they had always been in favor of rechartering it, and said, though we had differed, he always regarded it as an honest difference of opinion, etc."
February 15, 1834, Dr. Finley writes:
"Great efforts are being made to bring General Henry out in opposition to you for Governor. Other instruments are said to be at work to bring him out in opposition to May for Congress. Who are the movers in these things I know not."
The latter part of the following letter is important as a contemporaneous view of the confused state of politics.
On May 27, 1834, Dr. Finley asks:
"Have you any idea when Congress will adjourn or when you will be home? Dunlap has two fine young mules, a year old that he offers for thirty dollars a piece. Do you want any more?
In politics we have a perfect calm. Every man is going for himself (with the exception of one or two who go for their party) and avoiding excitement as far as possible. It appears to be a very general opinion here that you will not receive less than three-fourths of the votes both of this and of Sangamon and so strong is this impression said to be that although the friends of Kinney were sometime back pretty tolerably noisy, not a candidate for any office ventured to electioneer for him openly.
Mills is here very confident of success and May is expected here daily. The latter trying to ride Jackson and the former trying to saddle him with Van Buren. With what success I know not. It is difficult to catch the hang of parties here, for although there is considerable party feeling there is very little party organization. The Clay party go for you very universally. Of the Jackson candidates Henry and Cloud go for you. Wy.......... [rest of name torn], Weatherford profess to be neutral and May complains bitterly that his opponents try to sew him up with Van Buren. So much for politics.
I will be very much obliged to you to send me the African Repository, commencing with the present volume, and the last annual report."
Into the midst of this political upheaval and to a state greatly increased in population, rapidly losing its pioneer spirit and becoming identified in political and commercial interests with the East, the newly elected Governor returned after eight years in Congress.
The Legislature convened in Vandalia December 1, 1834.
A contemporary describes the scene, "Yesterday, last night, all night nearly this town has been a scene of busy, buzzing bargaining, etc. It is said 150 persons, some from the most distant parts of the State [are seeking] for the appointments of Sergeant at Arms of the Senate and Doorkeeper of the House of Representatives.
Another contemporary writes on December 20, 1834:
"The political character of the Legislature of Illinois may properly be estimated to be about 60 for the administration and 21 against it."
In his first message Governor Duncan speaks of being absent from the State "a greater part of the last seven or eight years on public duties."
Like most messages the recommendations are general but they show his continued interested in land questions and education. He speaks of Illinois as being among the first states to abolish imprisonment for debt, and feels "that the time has now arrived to continue this policy still further" and to exempt the homestead from execution "so as to secure the families of the unfortunate against those casualties and misfortunes to which we are all liable."
Most fitting for the man who introduced the first bill to provide for public schools in Illinois, his first message should discuss education, recommending that the fund of over one hundred thousand dollars which the State then possessed for education should be divided up, by a system to be devised, and applied to the purposes of education leaving "to those who come after the rich revenues to be derived from the lands, canals and other improvements, to form a permanent fund for the purposes of education." He also urges the establishment of colleges. He advocates the "setting apart the entire revenue arising from it [the canal] for the promotion of education."
The distinction he draws between the general government allowing pre-emption right on public lands, which he advocated during his service in Congress, and the State, "under a mistaken view of the object and condition of the grant and of what was due the public and the nation who gave them" granting pre-emption claims to the settlers on seminary lands, shows his regard for law. "It should be the duty of the Legislature on the contrary faithfully to execute the trust confided to them and to sell those lands which were given for the common benefit of our citizens, for the full value which their quality or location may impart to them."
One of his arguments in favor of the beginning of a general system of internal improvements seems to have shown foresight. The State was at present so sparsely settled that the "road, trackways, railroads and canals, can be made straight between most of the important points with very little expense and difficulty, compared with what will result, if their location is postponed until lands increase in value and settlements are formed."
My attention was caught by the use of a word in this message and also in other speeches, which in the pioneer days is unusual. There was much said of "virtue, enlightenment, liberty," but here our eye is caught by the simple word "beauty." Improvements for "the convenience, beauty and commerce of our country." It is a thought to which we are but just awakening in recent years — to preserve the beauty of the land along with the utilitarian improvements. The idea was evidently a definite one in Governor Duncan's mind as he had used it three years before
152in a speech in Congress on internal improvements, reference to which has already been made.
It makes one realize the distance we have travelled in inventions to read that the Governor in 1834 considered canals as more useful than railroads, which "are kept in repair at a very heavy expense and will last but about fifteen years." This was written in the year New York was about to construct her first railroad from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. On November 8, 1838, just before Governor Duncan retired to private life, he rode on "the first locomotive that ever turned a wheel in the Mississippi Valley" a distance of eight miles from Meredosia on the "Northern Cross Line" which was to connect the Illinois River with Springfield via Jacksonville.
The next subject Governor Duncan took up in his message, was one that he knew from actual experience, "The ease with which our prairies may be brought under cultivation." "The fertility of the soil which yields a rich product, its lightness renders it easy of cultivation, while its depth almost certainly secures the prudent and industrious farmer against those vicissitudes of the season which so frequently destroy the crops in other countries." The canal connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi was to provide an outlet for the farm produce raised in Illinois. He advocated a steamboat canal, a plan which the engineers of today regard as the only practical one.
He warns that the "utility and success, as well as its expense [of the canal work] will depend upon the kind of improvement that the Legislature shall adopt and upon the plan of its construction."
With a realization of the troubles ahead he closes his message with:
"That we should be divided in opinion on these great questions of power and public policy, which have recently divided, and which are agitating the whole nation, and threaten to shake its center, is no more than is to be expected.
In conclusion permit me again to urge that no party spirit shall be permitted to distract and interrupt our councils, or to interfere with our duties and obligations to those we represent."
From this distance of time, one cannot help but admire the imagination of these men who built for the future of Illinois, a future that exceeds their dreams. I quote from the Nicolay-Hay Life of Lincoln:
"They addressed themselves at once to the work required of them and soon devised, with reckless and unreasoning haste, a scheme of railroads covering the vast uninhabited prairies as with a gridiron. The scheme also provided for the improvement of every stream in the State on which a child's shingle-boat could sail; and to the end that all objections should be stifled on the part of those neighborhoods which had neither railroads nor rivers, a gift of two hundred thousand dollars was voted for them, and with this sop they were fain to tie content and not trouble the general joy. To accomplish this stupendous scheme, the Legislature voted eight million dollars, to be raised by loan. Four millions were also voted to complete the canal. These sums, montrous as they were, were still ridiculously inadequate to the purpose in view. But while the frenzy lasted there was no consideration of cost or possibilities. These vast works were voted without
estimates, without surveys, without any rational consideration of their necessity."
The State was without debt and with these visions of the future "the great plenty of money had made every one morally drunk."
Governor Duncan's first nominations were confirmed by the Senate, but when on February 12, 1835, he followed the nomination of Edward Coles as President of the Board of Canal Commissioners with that of John H. Hardin as Commissioner and Treasurer, the latter was defeated by a vote of 11 to 12. Later William Linn was confirmed for the office 10 to 9.
Only a few family letters of this period have been saved and unfortunately they tell of the meeting with relatives, and old friends instead of the business and political side of the journey. For instance he writes from Philadelphia, April 10, 1838; "I saw Governor Coles last evening and went with him to a literary club where I met many of the first citizens and spent a delightful evening." Here met the two men who had framed the first law creating public schools in Illinois in 1825, who had been rival candidates for Congress in 1830, and now were both interested in the canal project. If the historian could but have heard their reminiscences and their views on the questions of the day!
Governor Duncan went on to New York where a few items in his letters show that domestic troubles existed then as now: April 20, 1836, "I will do all I can to send you some servants. E. Dyson expects 500 emigrants in one of his ships and thinks I can get some to suit."
April 23; "I have partly sold some of my land and am in great hopes something can be done with the Railroad. If money was more plenty there would be no doubt. I dine at home today, the second time since I came. Yesterday I had three invitations and am engaged several days next week, so you see I am likely to be well fed." The servants did not materialize but he is not deterred from extending western hospitality, as he writes a few days later, May 8; "Mr. Alexander Hamilton and his wife start to Illinois in their own carriage in a few days on a trip of pleasure. I have invited them to visit you and remain in our house while they stay in Jacksonville. As they are the first people here I know you will be pleased to entertain them. I have dined with them twice since I have been here. They live on Broadway in very fine style."
May 29, 1836: "I hope to start tomorrow — I have taken a seat in the stage at Albany for Tuesday morning and have a stateroom on the
154steamboat Michigan which leaves Buffalo on the 4th of June for Chicago. I was never so heartily tired of New York. Nothing is so much talked of as a scarcity of money and as I came to raise money, it is of course a disagreeable subject to me."
On July 4, 1836, work on the canal was begun with a great celebration at Canalport on the Chicago River. Before the close of Governor Duncan's administration the entire line of canal was under contract except 23 miles between Dresden and Marseilles. Financial difficulties augmented by unwise extension of other internal improvements in the State, also by the financial panic of 1837 and the failure of the State Bank in 1842 delayed its completion till 1848. "Itself the cause of more than one-third of the enormous debt that threatened to drive Illinois into bankruptcy, the canal furnished the means of escape from impending ruin. The canal played an important part as a commercial route before the use of railroad transportation. Its influence on economic development of the region was even more marked as attested in growth of population, industry and commerce in that portion of the State from 1835 to 1855. It not only transformed a wilderness into a settled and prosperous community but it made Chicago the metropolis of the Mississippi Valley. For half a century the influence of the canal was felt as a transportation route and as a freight regulator."
"During the Civil War the canal was a great factor in meeting the transportation demands of that period. From 1860 to 1880 the records show this canal not only handled a large tonnage but its revenues were sufficient to more than pay its cost of construction and operating expenses."
In his message to the Tenth Annual Assembly of Illinois December 5th, 1836, Governor Duncan tells of his efforts to negotiate the loan in the east for the Illinois and Michigan Canal. He took a loan of $100,000 at 5 per cent advance, but did not consider the terms favorable for a larger loan. He calls attention to the act of Congress directing the deposit with the states of the surplus revenue of the United States and suggests that this be placed in a fund for internal improvements. He again urges the establishment of "a general and uniform system of internal improvement in the State," and again urges a general law providing that the State may take a certain amount of the capital stock in all canals and railroads. He reports that contracts have been let for the construction of several sections of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and from these it appeared the cost would exceed the estimates, but adds, "The work is of the highest importance both to this State and the United States and no ordinary difficulty or expense, should for a moment deter us from its vigorous prosecution."
In this message the Governor called attention to the educational needs of the State in a passage already quoted in connection with his school bill when State Senator in 1825.
Governor Duncan then takes up certain questions of vital national interest, the chief of them being the "spoils" system of President Jackson
155and what he considered the dangerous assumption of power by the National executive. On this point, he says:
"Under our liberal, free and happy form of government the people possess all power, elect and cause all officers to be elected or appointed, and as a matter of convenience alone it is made the duty of the President of the United States, who is not the government, nor the "fountain of honor, and who may do no wrong," to nominate, and by and with advice of the Senate (which is made a check upon his appointing power) to appoint all public officers. It is a principle of our declaration of rights, that all governments should be instituted for the good of the governed, and for the public officers, or the party who happens to be called by the people, to administer its affairs. If these axioms be true, then the claim set up of late by a political party in this country, that the appointment of public officers and patronage of the government is given to the President of the United States for the purpose of sustaining his authority and extending his power and influence, is unjust and fallacious. To sanction the power of the President to remove men from office for an independent expression of opinion, or an honorable opposition to his measures, is a species of oppression and proscription wholly incompatible with the spirit of our government. When the public officer is appointed for his support of the party in power, he knows that his retention in office does not depend so much upon his qualifications and fidelity, as on the zeal and ability he displays at elections, in supporting his party. If the President may thus fortify himself, who does not see the influence he can exercise over the people, either to extend his own power, or to build up and establish that of his favorite. Should this new principle obtain, and it be acknowledged that the executive branch of the government is to exercise such unlimited power over the destiny and liberties of the public officers, and they become at once a trained band, backed by all the influence of place and the money of the country, to corrupt, manage, and plunder the people; such principles are not more novel in our country than they are dangerous to its liberties."
He objects to the principles involved in the President's protest against the authority of Congress to question his official conduct.
He objects "to the chief executive putting himself in possession of the public revenue so completely that a man by the name of Whitney, a private individual bound by no bond or oath of office, and whose character would seem to disqualify him from holding any public trust, has had the acknowledged direction of the whole public money for several years, which amounts to near $40,000,000." The reference is to Reuben M. Whitney who in 1836 became agent for the deposit banks which received the deposits removed from the United States Bank.
Keeping in mind the contrast between Jackson, the hero, and Jackson, the autocrat, Governor Duncan continued:
"It is immaterial whether the President in assuming this power was actuated by a desire to break down the restraints that the Constitution imposed upon his authority, or by those high and patriotic principles which influenced him to set at nought the law and Constitution in 1815 at New Orleans when the safety of the country called for all his energies. The question now to be settled is, whether this power does or does not belong to the executive branch of our government."
The Governor objects further to the President's abuse of the power of removal, due to the building up of the system of patronage which has encouraged men "who make politics a trade for the purpose of managing the voters at elections and procuring an office by which they may subsist without work."
"Indeed such are the temptations that this patronage holds out to allure our industrious and virtuous citizens from their honest occupations that the inordinate love of office is rapidly becoming one of the prominent vices of our country. The long cherished principle that offices in a republic should never be accepted unless freely given, and never declined when freely offered, is only remembered as the phantom of an idle dream."
This power can also be used to "influence and dictate" the official conduct of officers, thus putting into jeopardy "the life, liberty and property of every citizen."
The Governor looked with alarm on the improper influence over the freedom of the press by the appointment of so many public printers in the states, and the appointment to other offices of "a long list of violent party editors."
He calls attention to the President's frequent appointment of members of Congress to high positions, thus directly reversing the position he held before his election as chief executive.
In closing the Governor emphasizes his policy of placing the good of the country above party:
"In presenting these subjects to your consideration, gentlemen, I have discharged what I consider a solemn duty, and should the manner or the substance be unpleasant to any individual, I shall regret it much, and can only say that nothing is further from my wish or intention than to excite any party feelings (which I consider the bane of our government), or to wound the feelings of the most sensitive. They are grave and important subjects, and however unpleasant the task, we must meet them fearlessly and frown them down, if we would not have them considered precedents for the conduct of future administrations.
Now that this election is over, and all party strife, it is hoped, has ceased, and a new administration is just coming into office, appears to be the most auspicious moment for a calm investigation and safe decision of these objects. They can only be decided by public sentiment expressed by the Legislatures of the several states, and by the people in their primary assemblies and upon that decision in my opinion, depends the fate and future destiny of our Free Republican Government.
In bringing these subjects before you I have been influenced by no ambitious views. The principles are intended to apply without distinction. Actuated by a sincere desire to sustain and perpetuate our free institutions, I leave the subject with you, gentlemen, praying that patriotism, virtue and harmony may guide your deliberations."
In the House, that part of the Governor's message that related to the general government was referred to a committee. The report, presented December 23, 1836, concurred with Governor Duncan in his "broad and republican principles," but was convinced never-the-less that the President had the right of removal. Hardin led in the defense of the Governor, but the report was adopted, 57 to 24.
A few letters written to Mrs. Duncan, who remained in Jacksonville during the winter of 1836-7, indicate that Governors, even in those days, had their troubles.
December 7, 1836. Vandalia.
"I have had my message printed and will send you a copy but it is uncertain when I will deliver it to the Legislature as they have not been able to elect a President of the Senate. Davison and Hacher are tied.
"I want it understood by all the hands on the place when they have nothing else to do that they are to cut down the underbrush in the grove
and pile it up. Mr. Linn and Dr. Blackmail have gone to the State House to attend an Internal Improvement meeting."
"I hope Mr. Barber will find time to set out trees all round the yard this winter and in every place round and through the front lot also."
December 18, 1836. Vandalia.
"I would come for you if I could, now the snow is so fine for sleighing. But I cannot leave here until the appropriation bill passes which will not be much before 20th or 25th. * * * Polly Ann [Mrs. Linn] wants me to tell Anna Maria [Caldwell] to bring some of the girls with her, for company, as there are no young ladies in Vandalia."
January 22, 1837.
"I was truly disappointed that Judge Lockwood came in the stage last night without St. Clair. * * * I most sincerely regret that there is so much difficulty in organizing the new church. I feel determined to go forward. As to the numbers with which we begin it is less than no objection. God has promised that where two or three are gathered together in His Name, He will be in the midst of them. I have always thought there were too many Christians influenced by fashion, so if we have but few and these unpretending Christians to begin our church, we may feel our weakness and thereby be taught humility. I assure you I would prefer organizing our church with Mr. Gowdy as the only elder than with ten rich influential men to fill such offices. For my part I like small beginnings.
February 16, 1837.
"Anna, Mrs. Hardin, and Lucy were to have gone in the stage but we have had a violent snow storm and the stage driver says that they cannot go, indeed I very much doubt if they get away from here before March.
If you get word of the blue grass seed being at Meridosia I want a team sent for it immediately as it should be sowed as soon as possible. There is some little hopes of the Legislature adjourning on the 6th of March, though they have fixed no day and it is quite uncertain. This is my own opinion only.
The next letter should be a sufficient refutation of the political charges brought against him by some of his political opponents that he planned the railroads so as to increase the value of his own land.
February 23, 1837. Vandalia.
"The Legislature is progressing better with their business and will probably adjourn by the 6th of March. You want to know if I cannot hurry them, certainly not, as they have generally made it a point to oppose all my wishes and recommendations. They have passed a bill to construct several railroads which will add greatly to the value of some of my property, but as I think it was bad policy, I intend to vote against it today, in the council of revision.
I suppose the girls are at home safely. Tell Lucy that Mr. — has been here twice. Anna's beau has not looked towards the house since she left it, that I know of, but is still in Vandalia. You may tell them also that I have slept quietly ever since they left. Not even a door shutting or a loud laugh to interrupt me."
The Council of Revision on February 25, 1837, returned the bill entitled, "An Act to establish and maintain a general system of Internal Improvements." To the objections of the other members of the Council, Governor Duncan added "The under signed concur in returning the bill, for the reasons given by Judges Brown and Lockwood and in addition objects to the bill on the ground of expediency. He is of the opinion that such works can only be made safely and economically in a free government by citizens and by independent corporations aided or authorized by the government." The Internal Improvement bill became a law February 27, 1837. In reviewing this period Ford writes, "It is a singular fact, that all the foolish and ruinous measures which have ever passed an
158Illinois Legislature, would have been vetoed by the Governor for the time being, if he had possessed the power. The laws creating the late banks and increasing their capital by making the State a stockholder to a large amount and the Internal Improvement system, would have been vetoed by Governor Duncan. In all these cases the veto power would have been highly beneficial. The Democrats helped to make the banks, but the Whigs controlled the most money which gave them the control of the banks."
"Governor Duncan took a conservative attitude on the question of Internal Improvements. He favored the construction of the Illinois Canal but urged that other improvements be left to private initiative. He joined with the Council of Revision in their unsuccessful attempt to prevent the adoption of the so-called "system" of 1837 and on the State banking system took a similar position. He opposed the chartering of the State Bank but was again overruled and his administration closed in the shadow of a great financial depression which began with the panic of 1837."
The Legislature adjourned March 6, 1837, but the condition of the country was such as to require a special session during the summer. The tide of immigration had been flowing into the State by road, river and canal, and had been overtaken by the panic which followed the fever of reckless speculation.
A vivid contemporaneous description of the scenes in Chicago when the speculative boom was rising to its height, was written by Harriet Martineau, who visited Chicago in 183G and drove out as far as Joliet to see the "prairies." A negro, dressed in scarlet and mounted on a white horse, announced the sales to the crowds in the streets. "The immediate occasion of the bustle which prevailed, the week we were in Chicago, was the sale of lots, to the value of two millions of dollars, along the course of a projected canal." She was struck with wild land along a canal not even marked out, selling for more than rich improved land along the Erie canal in the Mohawk Valley. She calls the rage for speculation a "prevalent mania" and said the bursting of the bubble must come soon. She mentions one lot bought for $150 in the morning selling for $5,000 in the afternoon. She does not worry over the speculators, but she is sorry for the young men and the simple settlers.
The panic of 1837 caused the banks throughout the United States to suspend specie payments and in May the banks in Illinois were in difficulties. Governor Duncan called a special session of the Legislature in July, 1837. From his point of view these disasters were to be attributed to the evils resulting from the removal of the government funds from the bank of the United States. In his message of July 10, 1837, he contrasts the former prosperity of the country with the present "almost universal bankruptcy, in prostrating alike its business, its energies and confidence." He traces the causes of the evils to find out the remedy for them. "The inquiry, however, is important and useful, as the discovery of the cause not unfrequently suggests the remedy."
"In the midst of the disasters which have already fallen on the commercial world and which are still threatening us on all sides, a favorable opportunity occurs to escape from the perils of that system of Internal Improvements adopted last winter, which to my apprehension, is so fraught with evils, and for the reason assigned when I refused my assent to the enactment passed in its favor, as well as from existing pecuniary troubles and derangements, I now recommend its repeal. Let the present pernicious system be rescinded, and in its stead adopt the safer, the more generous, more economical, more expeditious, and in every respect the preferable plan of encouraging private individuals and corporations by suitable aid from the State."
"The Public Treasury must again be firmly placed in the custody of the law, and all power and control over it by the Executive of the United States must be repudiated, a violation of law to collect the revenue in one quarter of the country in specie only, and in another to collect in bank paper. The patronage of the Executive must be reduced, and his power to remove public officers modified so as to prevent his displacing a faithful and competent man, either to gratify party malice or to intimidate him in the free and independent exercise of the elective franchise.
"Party spirit in its mildest form has ever been found an enemy to Liberty and sound legislation but when it is the offspring of ambition and avarice, directed by designing bad men in high places, it begets a blind devotion and infuriated zeal which shuts the door against all reason, justice and patriotism. No power must be allowed to exist in this country superior to that of the people, or that does not acknowledge the supreme and inflexible authority of the laws as the rule of action both for the President and every other functionary of the government."
The House by a vote of 52 to 31 and the Senate by 19 to 11 laid on the table the bills for the repeal of the Internal Improvement Law. "So here ends we hope forever the opposition to our noble system of improvements, the Governor to the contrary."
By a vote of 42 to 24 the House passed resolutions disavowing the "truth of the charges of Governor Duncan in his late message that the present calamity in the moneyed concerns of this country is the result of the General Government upon its currency." Among the men who sustained the Governor were Lincoln, Stuart and other prominent Whigs.
There is a relief in the midst of the general depression to find a record that Governor Duncan was following his favorite hobby about political appointments. He informs the House that they violated the 19 Section of the 2 Article of the Constitution by two appointments to positions in the State of men who were members of the Legislature and also increased their salary contrary to law.
This respect for the authority of the law runs all through his private as well as his public papers — as we have seen in 1830 he wanted the man who shot his brother in Louisiana "to have strict justice done him and to employ such council as will insure a fair trial." In the exciting times of the anti-slavery agitation Governor Duncan wanted the law respected by both sides.
The Alton riots occurred in the fall of 1837, resulting in the death of Elijah Parrish Lovejoy. The Governor was not called upon to exercise his authority.
He writes to an abolitionist, Rev. Gideon Blackburn, on December 12, 1837:
"The outrage at Alton must be disapproved and regretted by all good citizens, and nothing has happened within our peaceful State that has filled me with so much regret as this event. The restless spirit of the people of the United States, so frequently developed of late in mobs, has made a deep impression on my mind and is evidence that all is not right with us.
I hold that no power in this country is superior to the law, and that a violation of it with impunity is impossible without giving a serious wound to the liberties of the people and impairing the strength and value of our free institutions; but little, however, you must know, is left to the executive branch of this State government in such cases, as all offenders are to be tried by the courts and juries of the country, which is the only safe tribunal to entrust with such power. * * *
While thus condemning mobs and all sorts of lawless violence, which I do from the bottom of my soul, for I believe they are never necessary and generally judge and execute their judgements improperly, to say nothing of the violence done the law and the Constitution which is an attack on the rights and liberties of every citizen and especially the poor and the weak part of them, yet I must at the same time express my decided disapprobation, of any attempt while the public mind is in such a state of excitement, to agitate the question of abolishing slavery in this country, for it can never be broached without producing violence and discord, whether it be in a free or slave state. I confess I am one of those who believe it will neither be consistent with sound policy or humanity by a single effort to free all the slaves in the Union, ignorant, vicious and degraded as they are known to be, and then turn them loose upon the world without their possessing the least qualification for civil government, or knowledge of the value of property, or the use of liberty. * * *
Mr. Lovejoy's death was caused by a lawless mob and whether he killed the first man or not, they were aggressors and must stand condemned in the eyes of every virtuous and peaceful citizen. I am bound in candor to say that I disapprove of Lovejoy's determination to persist in the publication of sentiments that had driven him from St. Louis and twice before had caused the destruction of his own press in Alton; * * * I cannot, however, from my knowledge of the man, for a moment doubt the purity of his motives.
You call Mr. Lovejoy a martyr. I consider no man entitled to the distinction of martyrdom who is the first to shed blood and who dies with arms in his hands."
Later, Governor Duncan wrote a letter to the president of Illinois College, on a report that abolition principles were being taught in that institution:
"Believing that it is wrong, morally and politically, for any citizen or public institution to teach or advocate doctrines or principles in this country which can not be carried into practice peaceably without violating the Constitution of the United States, or forcibly, without civil war, the risk of disunion, and the destruction of our free and happy government, I can not, with my present convictions of the course pursued by its faculty, consistently hold any connection with this institution."
As the report was disproved this letter was not sent.
Governor Duncan disapproved of slavery as "a great moral and political evil." Like many other Kentuckians in Illinois, Hardin, Browning, Mather, etc., he hoped a peaceful solution could be found to end slavery. It was while Mr. Duncan was Governor that Abraham Lincoln, on March 3, 1837, just before the adjournment of the Legislature, introduced into the lower house his famous protest, stating that "the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy" and
161continuing: "The promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils."
Mr. Duncan did not run for Governor in 1838. Thomas Carlin was elected.
On December 4th, 1838, on retiring from office, Governor Duncan addressed the Legislature again on the Internal Improvement policy — the same as before — recommending "the Illinois and Michigan Canal as a national highway to he kept as free as the waters of the Mississippi or the St. Lawrence;" admitting that many mistakes had been made, as "in a country almost entirely destitute of skill and experience in such works, was to have been expected," objecting to public officers being used by politicians for purpose of influencing the elections, urging a sound money system, and closing with:
"In taking leave of you, gentlemen, allow me to offer the assurance of my sincere good wishes and friendly feeling for every one of you. The violence with which I have been assailed, by my political opponents, during the whole time I have been in office has caused no rankling in my bosom. The plain manner in which I have felt it my duty to speak of what I sincerely believed to be errors, and abuses, of the party now in power, I knew well would bring their vengeance with all its force upon me, and had I loved ease and office more than my duty, I should have chosen a different course. But I owe too strong a debt of gratitude, to the people of Illinois and hold the Constitution and freedom of our country, in too much esteem ever to shrink from the discharge of my duty."
Thus ends his public career of fourteen years.
Chapter V. — Retirement to Private Life.
The Christmas of 1838 found Mr. Duncan at home in Jacksonville, a private citizen after fourteen years of continuous public service. The friendship and respect of his fellow citizens, a beautiful home which was the centre of hospitality and which today maintains its dignity of structure, a large and growing family of children, lands, farms and cattle, all promised a future of quiet and ease.
Mrs. Duncan's reminiscences give a vivid picture of their early life in Jacksonville whither she had gone in 1832, dressed "in white India muslin dress and long sky blue sash." No wonder people asked
"what brought you so far from the city out into the wild country. I said, ‘my husband, I followed him.’ People were kind but they appeared very rough in their home spun clothes but I learned to love and appreciate them after living among them. Wherever I went they turned my trunk inside out, tried on all my clothes and admired them generally. It was funny and often annoying to have them cut patterns of every thing they could, often ruining them past use.
* * * In two days we came into town and there being a small hotel and court in session we slept in Murray McConnel's office. The next morning the office was filled with men before I got out of bed and it was with difficulty I got a chance to dress. Next, move was Mrs.
Matthew Stacey's garret where it was so low I could not stand up to dress. I am only 4 feet 5 inches so you can imagine the height of the ceiling. After that we removed to the country three miles east of town, Mrs. James Kerr. We lived a good deal on peaches. Maria (the nurse) used to drive for me and we took old Tom and the two boys and came in for my husband every night while he built me a small frame house one mile west of the square. It was completed in four weeks from the day it was commenced. Three rooms and an entry. It was beautifully situated. It was opposite the college which was only the south wing. * * * 1830 was the winter of the deep snow. In the morning when I looked out of my cottage window it was above the sill. Mr. Duncan was in Congress. His mother was with me. Eunice Conn was with me that night and she cried, thinking she would be buried alive in the snow.
"The next fall I went to Washington with Mr. Duncan. James was 2 years 7 months old. He died at Wheeling, Virginia and we buried him on the hill in sight of the river. I was very ill at the time. * * * When I arrived in Washington they were all grieved that James was not with us — none more so than Peggy who had his little chair sitting in the window for him."
The summer of 1832 was spent in the east and on account of the cholera in Washington City, they went to Mrs. Anne McLaughlin Myers, Mr. Duncan's aunt in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, where their daughter Mary Louisa, my mother, was born. The following summer they came west, finding the cholera in Jacksonville. Mrs. Duncan writes:
"We entertained. Mr. T. M. Post, nephew of my beloved pastor, Rev. Reuben Post, the same that united us in marriage, the same that found me a girl very fond of dancing and gay society and that led me to give it all up and be a Christian it being one of the requirements of the Presbyterian Church. Though I felt sure in regard to simple dancing, my father's views on that subject were correct, for in my childhoods home after we had our dance, at ten o'clock the piano was closed, the servants called in, the family bible opened and although we used Rouse's version of the Psalms, singing of the dolorous music, never affected unpleasantly our dreams, after kissing our parents goodnight, we retired refreshed in body and mind.
"Mr. Post came to us the day Mr. Duncan had a barn raising. About twelve or fifteen men were to have their dinner. Mr. Duncan constructed a table out of planks nailed to the trees back in the grove and the men stood around it. I sat on a chair placed on a box to bring me up on a level with the rest of them. Maria, was a good cook and gave them a good meal. Mr. Post enjoyed our little home after the long journey from the east. He spoke of waking in the night and passing his hands over the linen pillow cases and sheets and feeling as if he was in heaven."
It is interesting to read Dr. Post's description of this same scene, written in 1884 when he was a noted preacher in St. Louis. He had intended to follow the profession of a lawyer and was tempted to settle in Richmond, Virginia, "attracted by its social culture, and advantageous inducements offered me by Senator Rivers but through the influence and representations of your father I was induced to determine I would visit him in Illinois before permanently settling elsewhere. In view of this
163fact I have ever regarded your father as one through whose influence Providence has permanently touched the history of my life, turning its course toward a new world and fixing its field in the then far west.
"In pursuance of this plan, in May, 1833, I visited Jacksonville, Illinois, then an extreme out-settlement toward the Northwest. In this region I found your father at his home, not far from where the family residence now stands, about one mile from the town, which was then a crowded village of log cabins. His home, a small initial pioneer structure, quite shanty-like compared with those which afterward arose in its place. It was the only attempt at a wooden frame dwelling I can now recollect in that vicinity. I remember as I approached it I was much struck with the contrast it presented to your mother's former luxurious surroundings and delicate culture, and to your father's reputation and reality of proprietorship of great wealth; and I saw I was looking upon the beginning of a new world.
"I found your father and mother under the shade of large trees in front of their house, surrounded by a company mainly of crude, rough, stalwart men with manner, garb and speech of plain and quite primitive type, with bronzed strongly marked, shrewd faces, the backwoodsmen political leaders of the newly emerging commonwealth. It was near the dinner hour and rough tables were set in the shadow of the lofty trees. Then, as we gathered around them, I shall never forget how your mother, a little delicate brave woman, solitary amid that company of men, arose and as your father was not at that time a communicant of the church, offered thanks and asked the divine blessing on our repast. The scene and the incident give us a glimpse of the life of those times and are also characteristic of the Christian heroism of your mother. I shall never forget it. It affected me permanently in various ways, besides impressing me ever with a high admiration for her Christian principle and bravery."
Mr. and Mrs. Duncan returned to Washington for the winter session of Congress. Mrs. Duncan was ill during the summer of 1834. She writes,
"In the fall without any electioneering my husband being elected Governor of Illinois we came west to remain.
He brought me on a spring bed in a close carriage, another carriage followed with my three children, Cousin Anna Caldwell, an English wet nurse for Nannie, John McClusky, an Irishman came as driver and remained with us 14 years — a more faithful man never lived. We came to the cottage till the large house was completed. James Finley we had got to superintend the building. He changed the plans of the size of the windows and doors, which I always regretted. We moved into the house in the summer of 1835.
"Daniel Webster made us a visit in 1837. My husband gave a barbecue in our grove in his honor. They roasted a steer whole. Webster made a speech which was as eloquent as his always were, calling out cheer after cheer, from his delighted audience."
Dr. T. N. Post of St. Louis describes this occasion in a letter written Dec. 23, 1884:
"* * * One evening of unique and memorable interest I distinctly recall spent by myself and my wife with your father and mother and Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Webster and their daughter, at your father's house. Mr. Webster had changed somewhat since I had seen him in Washington, in the pride of his strength in the great constitutional battle of the Titans, wrestling with Calhoun and those of his school. Time, with its work and wear and worriment, was telling somewhat on him, yet still his stalwart strength was on him, and perhaps his manhood, as well as his ambition, was never greater. I shall never forget his conversation with me on the "Book of Job" that evening, by your father's fireside, and he will ever continue as one of the grand historic figures I met with in those years in your father's home of princely hospitalities."
The hospitality of the house was unbounded; and Mrs. Duncan's diary shows no surprise at relatives and friends "dropping in" for a visit of several weeks though there are occasioned requests for Christian patience and fortitude to cope with the difficulties of housekeeping. The tradition of an old colored cook who said "Massa Joe, all this here house needs to be an hotel, is the hanging out de sign," is verified by an entry in the diary of 1841.
"For the first time in 6 months we ate breakfast and dinner alone. In the evening Mr. Norris the gentleman who is to deliver the lecture on the orphan asylum, accompanied by Mr. Wilkinson came to remain a week with us * * * both very agreeable gentlemen," and a few days later — "Had the pleasure of 3 friends coming unexpectedly to spend the day with me, had the meat of a bear for dinner but cannot say that I would prefer it.
"January 14, 1841. Took a ride with my husband in the sleigh with an unbroken colt and all the children," and a few days later, "attended a maternal meeting with my four eldest children. Was pleased with Mary and Ann Elizabeth answering so promptly their text in relation to keeping the Sabbath day. * * * The dear children
were asked if they would like to educate a Heathen child and call him Edward Beecher they showed their spirit by holding up their right hands.
"February 5, 1841. Snowing all day. * * * spent the evening in reading the lives of General Jackson and Daniel Webster as comparisons are odious I will not make any.
The next day "the sun shone brightly, rose at 6 o'clock."
"February 22, 1841. "Washington's birthday, felt a little better and rode down town and saw a procession going to church a new society by the name of the Washingtonians who appear to do a great deal of good. My husband also appears much engaged about it. It was also his birthday, being 48 years old."
"March 11. * * * In the evening prepared to go down to meeting and found the horses cutting up and remained at home. I fear I should not be able to give my body to be burned if it was necessary. Lord enable me to search myself and see what manner of spirit I am."
"May 19, 1841. Took my usual ride of a mile on horseback.
"July 20. Great excitement in town concerning the robbery of the Illinois Bank. Satan appears to be walking up and down on the earth."
There were lectures by the abolitionists, meetings of the Colonization Society and on March 29 — "attended a meeting to do something for the education of females." This was the beginning of the Ladies Educational Society which still is doing good work in enabling girls to obtain an education and then repay the money advanced. Scattered through the pages are little human touches, as when on March 15 she writes, "Judge Robbins the temperance agent staid with us the Sabbath and Monday he related many interesting anecdotes in relation to it. I still however feel a degree of foolish feeling in regard to it that if I join it I shall then feel inclined to drink it when I never did," and a few days later "an old countryman came in at tea time and was a [illegible] on my pleasure as all vulgar people are. Lord forbid that I should indulge improper pride."
Intermingled with the serious affairs of life is mention of calls, teas and great neighborly kindness.
Mr. Duncan went east in 1840 and again in 1841 — and there are a few letters of that period written to Mrs. Duncan in Jacksonville.
New York, June 3, 1840.
"You will hardly believe how anxious I am to leave this place — but I am resolved not to leave here until my business is satisfactorily arranged and from present appearances it may take all this month for I never found men here so reluctant to do anything. * * * General Thornton went out in the British Anna. It is nothing now to go to Europe. The vessels all go out full of cabin passengers and return crowded to overflowing with all kinds; thousands of emigrants are coming here from Europe every week. * * *
Everything in this city is very dull. There is a dutch girl here, Fanny Elssler, a dancer that is turning the brains (if that be possible), of all the fashionable and the soap locks of this city. It is said she is no better than she should be, yet she is worshipped here as a being from another world, so much for taste and fashion.
Mr. Page the artist who painted my portrait three years ago thinks he has improved since and as he does not like the likeness he has offered to
paint another for nothing so I am now sitting for it and may possibly bring it home with me."
June 16, 1840.
"I forgot whether I had written you that I have had a splendid portrait painted of me. It is said to be very fine."
A few of his letters home in 1841 are quoted:
Washington City, November 27, 1841.
"Nothing has occurred since my arrival worthy of note. I have however called on the President and several of the heads of departments. Mr. Webster enquired particularly for you. They all look unhappy indeed. I think they have no great reason to be otherwise. I have done nothing with my business here and I begin to fear it will be out of my power to effect any arrangements though I am very glad I came on as I shall have to provide for defending the suit."
New York, 18th December, 1841.
"You see I am still here and for my life I cannot tell when I shall get off. My patience is almost exhausted with the Dysons and if they do not settle with me very soon I shall put my claim into the lawyers' hands. I am also trying to arrange to get something for Janet and that has already been and may still be a cause of detention.
I have not had time to visit but intend to see all of our friends the day before I leave as it would be impossible to go out much to dine and that is the only way to avoid it. * * *
I have not bought you a thing yet, as I have collected no money and unless I do it is going to be scarce times with me."
19th, Sunday night.
I went to hear Dr. Haux, the celebrated Episcopalian. There I met Colonel and Mrs. Hamilton and also old Mrs. Hamilton, widow of Gen. Alex. Hamilton, of the Revolution and went home with her and took dinner and never was more delightfully entertained by any young lady, though she is now 84 years old. She is as active and her mind as clear as that of any lady I have seen in the city. Indeed she is more animated and intelligent than any I have seen. She is very much interested in several benevolent societies, one of which she founded 40 years ago. She said to me with great animation, Sir, our accounts never get confused and our treasury is never empty — I keep them myself."
Washington City, 7th January, 1842.
"I assure you that nothing shall detain me that I can avoid after my suit is decided and I hope that may be done next week as the Supreme Court meets on Monday next but it would be madness to leave before it is settled. If the court tried this case soon after it sits as I hope it may, I shall start home next week and if not, I shall have to wait their own time.
There is nothing going, on here worth relating to you. I am staying with your sister and spend my time as pleasantly as I could anywhere out of my own home. I take but little part in politics as the Whigs are split into factions, on some questions about which sometimes one, and sometimes both are wrong but I believe all will in the main come right. Therefore I take no active part with either.
Finding that I have a large space left, I will fill it with an account of my visits for want of something better to write about.
On the first of January I went with the crowd to pay my respects to the President. It was a lovely day and I never saw so great a crowd at the White House. There was nothing like it even in General Jackson's day. Whether it was the President's popularity, the fine day or the facilities of getting to the city by railroads that brought such a multitude together I cannot tell. On the 3rd I went to the Buchanan levee and it was crowded as well, a splendid affair. I have dined out by invitation only four times and am to dine with the President today. Yesterday I dined with Mr. Gales and met Mrs. Madison there. She looks exceedingly well and is now, as she ever has been a very great favorite.
Mr. Webster has paid me no attention. I met his wife with him in the street. She made particular enquiries about you. I cannot suppose his neglect is intentional for he is said to be very much depressed by the abuse his old friends are giving him and I suppose he thinks I feel as every one else acts towards him. I forgot that I dined also with W. T. Carroll, it was given to Miss Taylor and was a splendid entertainment."
The charm of the old Jacksonville still lingers about its spacious homes with the atmosphere of generous hospitality reminiscent of the South, and along the elm-lined streets which remind one of a New England town. For into the life of Jacksonville have gone these two elements. From New England came the Yale Band to found Illinois College on "The Hill" — with Sturtevant, Turner, Kirby, Adams and the others. From New England came also Dr. Hiram K. Jones, the platonic philosopher carrying on the Emerson-Alcott tradition.
Chapter VI. — Last Political Campaign: Business Affairs.
In 1840 Governor Duncan took an active part in the campaign against VanBuren for re-election as President. His note book contains material he gathered for speeches, a hand bill announcing one of the meetings, and numerous newspaper clippings.
The hand bill reads:
"GOVERNOR DUNCAN, Will make a speech to the original supporters of General Jackson, and all who may please to come and hear him in CARROLLTON, ON MONDAY, OCTOBER 26,
HE WILL ENDEAVOR TO PROVE,
1st. — That the present administration does not now, and that it never has, since 1830, acted upon the principles avowed by General Jackson and his friends, previous to his election in 1828.
2d. — That Mr. VanBuren's policy has generally been anti-Republican, has a tendency to the destruction of public liberty, and that his professions of Democracy and love for the people, are false and hypocritical.
3d. — That Mr. VanBuren has, in violation of General Jackson's pledge, increased the standing army — Is seeking to establish a large standing army; and that his late denial of having recommended the plan submitted by the Secretary of War, for recruiting and keeping in the service of government 200,000 troops, under the pretext of organizing the militia, is a gross misrepresentation of facts, for the purpose of deceiving the people, and avoiding responsibility.
As truth is the only object, and that can be best known by hearing both sides, he invites any friend or supporter of Mr. VanBuren to answer his speech, and to discuss those charges with him.
October 24, 1840."
Governor Duncan criticised "VanBuren for his opposition to the War of 1812, for his opposition to the original Jackson policy of 1824-1829,
168for his lack of true democracy, for his extravagance, for advocating what was considered a standing army, and for his abuse of patronage.
At Governor Duncan's speech in Springfield September 25th, 1840, Stephen A. Douglas accepted the challenge to answer, the result being a joint debate interesting as anticipating the joint debates between Lincoln and Douglas.
In 1841 Governor Duncan went to Washington in connection with his personal business.
There has been preserved a copy of a letter to the President, interesting as giving his views on the political questions of the hour:
WASHINGTON, 26th November, 1841.
DEAR SIR: It was my intention, had an opportunity offered, when 1 called to see you yesterday evening, to have suggested verbally, what I am now [doing] upon reflection the better way, as your time must be much occupied at present with your official duties. I shall offer no apology for this letter, or for the suggestions I am about to make, as it is the duty of every citizen to do everything in his power to secure the peace and prosperity of our country. My object then, sir, is to call your attention, (in hopes you may notice it in the message you are about to submit to Congress), the following proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States, viz:
1st. — To render the President of the United States ineligible for a re-election to the same office.
2nd. — To limit the Executive control over the public moneys, until after they may have been appointed by law.
3rd. — To restrict the President's power to remove all public officers (except members of his Cabinet and diplomatic agents) to causes of incompetency, infidelity, or want of usefulness, the evidence of which, to be submitted to the Senate for their approval.
4th. — To prohibit members of Congress from accepting appointments from the Executive.
The last twelve years of this country shows the great importance of these amendments. With such guards thrown around our free institutions we may reasonably hope that they would be perpetual. Without them, should the administration ever again get into the hands of an ambitious man at the head of a great organized party, we may expect again to witness the same scenes of corruption, and the same violent action of the government on our elections and on all the institutions of the country, which have so recently agitated and convulsed every portion of it.
"The correction of these abuses was the great subject that occupied the public mind in our late struggle, and in my opinion this limitation of Executive power, is the first reform that the people expected this administration to recommend and Congress to carry out."
With great respect, your friend,
To the President of the United States.
Mr. Duncan had for four years been attending to his private interests, although, as has been shown, he took a keen interest in the changing political conditions.
In 1842, he was again induced to run for Governor. He made his campaign on his record in public life, in his speeches paying special attention to a sane policy of internal improvements and banking. The Mormon question was also an issue. His opponent Adam W. Snyder died during the campaign and Thomas Ford became the rival, and successful candidate. Probably no better man could have been elected in this crisis in the financial affairs of the State than Thomas Ford.
This was Governor Duncan's last political campaign. He was a statesman of the frontier and pioneer days, the days of blazing trails in government as in the western wilderness. There was soon to come a time when the vision, daring and vigor of the pioneer was not so much needed as the more systematic and business-like building up of the new states, and this work, important but perhaps not so fascinating, was to be done by other men.
This last campaign was clouded by the references to Mr. Duncan's private business affairs — complicated by a lawsuit of the government against the sureties of William Linn who had defaulted as receiver of public monies in Vandalia. Mr. Linn had married Polly Ann Duncan, Joseph Duncan's sister. Mr. Duncan was one of these sureties and apparently took the burden of the suit on his shoulders.
Linn on February 12, 1835, was re-appointed receiver of public moneys at the land office of the district of Vandalia for the term of four years from January 12, 1835, it becoming publicly known later that his record at the time had not been clear. Over a year later, on April 1, 1836, Joseph Duncan, with eight others, became his sureties, a new bond being apparently signed August 1, 1836. Linn appears to have used the money in his hands for land speculation and became a defaulter. The government made a demand for an accounting November 22, 1837, and again April 2, 1838. Suit was brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Illinois against Linn and his sureties. There were several technical points introduced, one of these the fact that the first instrument was not properly sealed, and another that the instrument was executed over a year after Linn had been in charge of the monies. Logan & Brown are mentioned as the attorneys for Joseph Duncan. The case was carried up to the United States Supreme Court in the January term of 1841 and the January term of 1843. The Supreme Court by a divided opinion reversed the decision of the lower court which had favored the defendants. Joseph Duncan appears to have been the only one of the nine sureties who was solvent and the government proceeded to collect the whole debt from him.
"Thousands of acres of the best and most carefully selected lands in Illinois were sold at ten cents an acre; some of the handsomest residence properties in Jacksonville at three and four dollars a lot and nearly forty acres comprising Duncan's Addition to Chicago, now in the heart of the city, were sold from five to seven dollars a lot."
As a result of the ruthless and unbusiness-like method by which the execution was carried out all of Governor Duncan's fortune and part of his wife's was swept away. The amount realized was less than half the amount of the judgment. Had it been handled differently the judgment could have been paid in full and something saved for other creditors and for the family.
In an endeavor to clear up this complicated case I have recently consulted Mr. Stuart Brown, of Springfield, Illinois, as to the records of this case and at his suggestion include the correspondence between Mr. Duncan and Solicitor of the Treasury in which the former states his case in a straightforward manner and the reply of the Solicitor
170indicates his appreciation of the strength of the claim but that his office has no legal authority to take action.
Four law suits were brought in the District Court and two in the Supreme Court of the United States. The records of the District Court of: the United States of Illinois, when the District of Illinois was separated into two districts, called the Northern and the Southern Districts of Illinois, were removed to Chicago in 1855 and were destroyed by the Chicago Fire in 1871. Because of this loss of the files and records an accurate statement of all the points in controversy cannot now be made.
It appears from the Records of the United States Supreme Court that in the first case there was a division of opinion on the question whether an instrument not a bond was yet a binding contract at Common Law.
The United States then took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States on Writ of Error, which court reversed the case and sent it back to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District for Illinois for further proceedings."
It must be assumed that in such "further proceedings" the Government obtained judgements against all the sureties. It is regrettable that the destruction of the records in the Chicago Fire prevents us from analyzing the proceedings or finding out who were the judges and the lawyers acting.
It is thought advisable to reprint the correspondence of Mr. Duncan with the Solicitor of the Treasury. This was printed in the Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review, Alton, Ill., Saturday, June 11, 1842.
Charles B. Penrose, Esq.
Solicitor of the Treasury:
SIR: You are apprised that three judgments were obtained against A. M. Jenkins, J. Griggs, C. Will, J. M. Duncan, Wm. L. D. Ewing, R. J. Hamilton, M. Duncan, J. Whitlock, L. F. Watwood, John Echols, J. Allen, H. Foster, John Fleming, J. Long, S. Alphin, B. W, Brooks, Wm. M'Connel, A. P. Field, J. Under, L. Lee, J. Hall, A. Lee, D. B. Watterman, Wm. C. Greenup, and myself, at the June Term, 1841, of the District Court of the United States, for the State of Illinois, for several sums, amounting to $28,597.20, as securities, on part, or on all, the official Bonds of Wm. Linn, late Receiver of Public Moneys at Vandalia, in said State.
The Marshal has now an Execution in his hands against us, and will be compelled, of course, to make the money out of our property, which must prove ruinous, if carried out with all the rigors of the law, to several of our most valued citizens. Under these circumstances, I have voluntarily come to Washington, for the purpose, if possible, of making some arrangement for the payment of this large and most unjust claim, by which that rum may be obviated which usually follows the sale of property under execution, for cash; and especially in such times as these.
I propose, therefore, to pay the above debt in real estate, to be valued under oath, by two persons chosen by the United States and one by the securities; by which arrangement the whole claim will be secured to the Government, and as they can afford to wait for some time, the whole would be realized. Thus relieving the securities from debts which can not be paid otherwise; and which, being a lien upon their property, must, to a great extent, paralyze their energies, and usefulness as citizens, so long as those judgments hang over them.
I have said that it is an unjust debt; and believing it to be so, I should not hesitate to appeal to a just Executive, if it were in his power, to relieve us from its payment; but, as that is impossible, I confidently anticipate the most favorable arrangement that can be made, consistent with law and justice. All these transactions, except the judgments and executions, transpired under the VanBuren administration; and I shall refer to them as briefly as possible, for the purpose of showing that this debt is unjust, and such as a virtuous people, could it be submitted to them, would never allow to be collected and put into the public Treasury.
You are aware of the requirements of the laws of Congress, that deposits shall be made every three months, whether the sum in the hands of a Receiver be large or small; and that the Treasury regulations are explicit and positive, that, whenever the sums received shall amount to Ten Thousand Dollars, the Receiver shall forthwith make a deposit of it.
Relying upon the Executive to see that these laws were faithfully executed, as he was sworn to do, I felt confident, and so must all concerned have felt, that the risk could not be very great, in signing his first bond: much less could any of us have anticipated that the Receiver would have been appointed a second and third times, and we again and again induced to sign his bonds, when he was known to the Executive, as they now say, to have been a defaulter all the time. Who could possibly have supposed that the chief officer of Government, having so high a trust, could be either so careless or corrupt as to have retained him in office, without warning his securities that they were holden, under his previous bonds, for a defalcation. None of his securities were so warned; his default was studiously concealed from us all, except from one gentleman, a prominent supporter of the party, who had been security on the two first bonds, who may have had notice, as he did not renew his security on the third, or the collateral bond; and that he was thus warned and protected by Executive favor, is strongly to be inferred, from the fact that he has not been sued on the two bonds that he did sign.
It will be seen, from the Records of the Treasury Department, that Linn was first appointed a Receiver on the 11th of June, 1830. He was reappointed on the 2d of May, 1831. At this time he is found to have been a defaulter, on the trial of the suit, in the small sum of $621.99. As it is possible his accounts may not have been adjusted at this time, I am not disposed to attach any importance to it. But he was again appointed in 1835, for which no excuse can be given; as Mr. Woodbury and the President both knew that he was a large defaulter at the time; which they studiously concealed from the public, thereby bringing this ruin upon his unsuspecting securities. At the date of this appointment, it will be seen from the correspondence, that Linn was a large defaulter. He was then considered a man of substance; and, if his securities had been notified of his default, they would not only have compelled him to pay up, but would have declined signing the bond then taken, on which the United States have recovered a judgment for the full amount, say $20,000.
On the 20th October, 1834, (Doc. No. 297, 2d session 25th Congress) Mr. Woodbury writes to Mr. Linn:
"Observing from your monthly return of the 30th September, 1834, that notwithstanding the positive injunction contained in a letter from the Department, dated 23d June last, (of which a copy is here enclosed) the public moneys have been permitted to accumulate in your hands, in violation of law, and the instructions of the Department; and that it amounted, on the 30th ultimo, to the sum of $10,936.39."
Under date of the 4th December, 1834, (same Doc, page 37), Mr. Woodbury again writes to Mr. Linn:
"Sir, allow me to inquire why it is, that your letter, of the 16th ultimo, is entirely silent as to your neglect to comply with the positive instructions in a letter from the Department, dated 23d June last; and that you still neglect to pay over the public moneys in your hands."
Thus he stood a public defaulter for a large sum, when Mr. VanBuren reappointed him in 1835, as will be seen by reference to the same Document, page 41. Mr. Woodbury writes, under date of 12th February, 1835 —
"To William Linn:
"Sir, although it has pleased the President, under the explanation given, notwithstanding your past neglect in some cases, to deposit the public moneys as required by law and the instructions of the Department, to renominate you for the office of Receiver of Public Moneys at Vandalia, Illinois, and your nomination has been confirmed, yet it is not to be inferred from this evidence of his regard, that any farther omission in this respect can be overlooked."
From the above it will be Seen that Linn's default was known and connived at by the Government; and I leave you to judge of the motive for concealing the fact from the Senate, when he was renominated for its approval, and of the measure of justice to his securities, who had no means of knowing that he had been using the public money from the first, in violation of law, with the full knowledge of the President, as is shown conclusively by Mr. Woodbury's correspondence above referred to. I call your attention also to the fact, that Mr. Woodbury's letter of the 12th February, 1835, disguises the truth, when he says, "Your past neglect, in some cases, to deposit;" when the whole correspondence, and result of the suits, show him to have been a continued defaulter from the beginning; and if all the correspondence be examined, it will show that he did not only neglect or refuse to deposit the money in his hands up to the time referred to, but continued to withhold them up to the time of his resignation in 1838.
What would a faithful and honest Executive have done in such a case? You will doubtless answer — He would have promptly dismissed the officer, and given immediate notice to his securities. Was there any honorable reason why this was not done? I venture to say, the President himself will not venture to offer one. No, it is impossible that any one can suppose that he was kept in office for the public good, or that he was not retained to be used, and made a scape-goat of, by the Government party. If you should doubt this, I refer you to a letter from Wm. J. Brown, one of the traveling political agents of the late Administration. [See same Document No. 279, page 199.] He writes to Hayward of Linn thus:
"The general character of the Receiver, so far as I could learn, was that of a gentleman of honor and probity. In the transactions of his official business as a public officer, he seems to be polite and accomodating. Of his fidelity to the Government I have no doubt."
That this meant "fidelity" to the party, who can doubt? When it is seen that Linn could not even then, with every aid, show the amount of public money he acknowledged to be in his hands, and that a very large portion of the money for which Linn's securities are now held responsible, was expended in supporting the Executive party, there can be no doubt. I have recently ascertained, to a certainty, that large sums of money were advanced by him to support the VanBuren party; and that, in addition to considerable sums actually given by him to import into Illinois two Editors and presses, he advanced to one of them, (who was taken from this city) the Editor of the State Register, the sum of $1,200,, which he has never since
been able to recover, although he is still the PRINCIPAL VanBuren EDITOR in the State.
From these and other facts, I am perfectly satisfied that this large default was mainly owing to the exactions of an unprincipled band of political gamblers, who, knowing his good nature and pliant disposition, and being apprised of his default and consequent servile dependence upon the Executive, did not hesitate to tax him freely to support the party; especially as there was a prospect of saddling his whole default upon their political opponents.
The Secretary's correspondence and the records, show that Linn continued to be a defaulter, after the third bond was given; and instead of dismissing him and warning [his sureties, he resorted to the] dishonorable and unjust expedient of requiring him to give a collateral, or as Mr. Woodbury calls it, a strengthening bond, in the penalty of $100,000; a sum large enough to save them any further trouble of looking after his accounts; and from this time he appears to have been allowed full latitude to use the public money as he pleased, which he no doubt did to the entire satisfaction of the Government party, as his previous default had called forth such regards for him by the President as are contained in Mr. Woodbury's letter, notifying him of his third appointment in 1835. Under this and the third bond, his default nose in about three years to a sum, over $50,000; and if he had not then voluntarily resigned, there is no doubt it would have been permitted to increase to $100,000, the full penalty of the bond. His resignation took place in 1838; and I solemnly aver, that I never knew or heard of his default until after that time, nor do I believe that any of his securities ever did, unless the individual heretofore alluded to may have received warning, as I have reason to suppose he did. My residence is ninety miles from Vandalia; and I could only judge of Linn's solvency by public report and external appearances, which were all very much in his favor, — The public, and that portion of the securities residing at Vandalia, were equally deceived as to his integrity as a public officer, by the extravagant encomiums passed upon his punctuality and official conduct by General Spicer, and W. J. Brown, two government agents sent there under pretext, as I now believe, to examine his accounts, when the real object was to ascertain, whether there was any doubt of his fidelity to the party; and if he was found to be true, his default was to be concealed, by praising his official conduct, as they did publicly in the village.
Now, sir, I beg leave to assure you, that I am not disposed to ask or receive any favor from this or any Administration, that is not warranted by law and strict regard to the public interest. I am here without consultation with my co-securities. Knowing the situation of most of them, I came with as anxious a desire to shield them from ruin, as to relieve myself from debt and suspense; and although I may ever regret to see money so unjustly obtained put into the Treasury of the nation, I do not, and I am sure they would not, wish to evade the payment of one cent, that we are legally bound for. My only request now is, after having been prosecuted by the VanBuren Administration for two or three years, with the expense and vexation of defending four law suits in the District Court, and two in the Supreme Court, of the United States, that I may be allowed to pay the debt without ruinous sacrifice of our property in times like the present.
Your obedient servant,
Washington City, 1st Dec, 1841.
NEW YORK, 11 Dec., 1841.
DEAR SIR: Not having received an answer to my letter, bearing date about the last of last month, I beg leave to call your attention to my proposal for paying the judgments against myself and other securities of the late Receiver of public moneys at Vandalia, Illinois. Since the date of that letter, I have received satisfactory information THAT MR. WOODBURY WROTE A CONFIDENTIAL LETTER TO THE HON. LEWIS F. LINN, ONE OF THE SECURITIES OF WM. LINN, informing him, that said Wm. Linn was a defaulter to Government for a large amount. This confidential letter was
inclosed to Wm. Linn by Dr. Linn, just before his third appointment; at which time he urged him strongly, by a letter from himself, to pay over the Government money in his hands. These facts establish beyond a doubt that Mr. Woodbury did not only connive at Linn's default, but that he used secret and dishonorable means to relieve his partisans and to entrap and if possible sacrifice his political opponents. No one can now doubt, that Dr. Linn, the near relation and intimate friend of the Receiver, would have signed his third bond for $20,000, and his strengthening bond taken soon after for $100,000, but for the secret warning thus given him by the Secretary of the Treasury. I learn by a letter from home, that the Marshal has again been at my house to levy on more property to satisfy these executions, as what I gave up in the first instance falls very far short of satisfying them. I also learn that he has received instructions from the Government to select a person to purchase the property of Linn's securities in, for the Government, at two-thirds of its value. Although I frankly confess, so far as I am individually concerned, that I should even prefer this sacrifice of my property, rather than to have every thing I own incumbered by judgments, which prevent the disposal of any portion of it to satisfy just demands against me, yet I am unable to perceive the justice or the propriety of the Government's claiming such an advantage of individuals who have evidently been circumvented by the official misconduct of unworthy and designing public officers.
I should despise myself, if I could, under any circumstances, be tempted to solicit or receive a favor at your hands, or from any other officer of Government; and I could not fail to condemn any public officer, who would, from feelings of friendship or from party relations, swerve from an independent, honorable and just discharge of his official duties. With these views, I submit with confidence to your sense of right and wrong, and of justice to all the parties (under the circumstances) whether the Government should not protect those securities from sacrifice by buying in their property at a fair cash valuation; which at present, when every kind of property is depreciated so much, must (under our law which requires the appraisement to be made on oath with reference to its cash value) cause great sacrifice of property, even if it should sell for its full appraisement.
In conclusion, I would beg leave to inquire whether justice to the other securities, does not require, that suits should now be instituted, or other means resorted to, to compel the Hon. Lewis F. Linn and the Hon. Charles Dunn, who were securities on Linn's two first bonds, to pay their portions of the judgments obtained on those bonds. Mr. Dunn is a United States Judge in Wisconsin, and Dr. Linn, you know, is Senator from Missouri. Hoping to hear from you soon, and to have this business brought to a speedy close.
I remain your obedient servant,
To the Solicitor of the Treasury.
21st Dec, 1841. Office of the Solicitor of the Treasury.
SIR: I have to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the first, and eleventh instant, on the same subject; and to say that I regret that the demands upon my time of more pressing official business have delayed the consideration of the proposition submitted by you, which its nature and importance demanded, and a reply to it.
You propose on behalf of yourself and others, sureties of William Linn, late Receiver of public moneys at Vandalia, in Illinois, against whom judgment was rendered at June term of the District Court of the United States, on the official bonds of Mr. Linn, for several sums amounting to $28,597,21, "to pay the above debt in real estate to be valued under oath by two persons chosen by the United States, and one by the sureties."
The ground upon which you urge this proposition is, that "the laws of Congress" require "that deposits shall be made every three months, whether the sum in the hands of a Receiver be large or small; and that the Treasury regulations are explicit and positive, that whenever the sums received shall amount to ten thousand dollars, the Receiver shall forthwith make a deposit
of it;" and that these laws and regulations were disregarded by Mr. Linn, who was a defaulter at each successive period of his re-appointment. And you allege that this fact was well known to the President of the United States, Mr. VanBuren, and the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Woobury, who, as you say, "studiously concealed it from the public," and from all the sureties "except one gentleman, a prominent supporter of the party," who you say was secretly informed by the Secretary that Mr. Linn was a defaulter, and that in consequence of it he did not become his surety on his last bond.
You declare that this conduct of these high officers was a fraud upon the sureties; and that the default of Linn "was connived at by the Government," because he freely applied large sums of money to import into Illinois two Editors and presses, and to support the VanBuren party. And all this and the evidence to which you refer in support of it is presented as a ground for the just interposition of this office, so far to protect those sureties, as to permit the payment of the judgments obtained against them in lands at a fair valuation.
However reprehensible may have been the conduct of the officers referred to by you, you will readily perceive that if it did not constitute a defense to the bonds in favor of the sureties — and that I take to be the settled law in such cases — it cannot be made the ground of action by this office, or by the Executive government, in any way not warrented by law. However it might form a strong inducement to treat with lenity within the competency of the Government those unfortunate sureties, who have been made to suffer by the concealment complained of, there is no power here to relieve them. Congress, in my apprehension, alone possess this power.
What can be done to make the payment of the judgment recovered as easy to them as possible, and which may be compatible with my duty, I shall be prepared to do. But you well remark, that, however it may comport with the just policy of a benevolent government such as ours, to avoid as far as practicable, harshness towards those, who, as sureties, have become liable to pay a debt, the power in regard to the collection of debts, is vested, and regulated by law, which only admits of the exercise of this spirit within prescribed limits. Indeed, I do not understand you as asking that anything should be done not strictly warranted by law, but on the contrary, you very properly disclaim any intention to do so; and I should not have made any remarks on this point; but from the fact that the case you present IS CERTAINLY A STRONG ONE FOR RELIEF, AND I CONSIDER IT DUE TO YOU TO SAY, THAT IT IS ONLY BECAUSE NO AUTHORITY, IN MY JUDGMENT, IS GIVEN TO THE OFFICE TO ACCEPT YOUR PROPOSITION, THAT I AM CONSTRAINED TO SAY I CANNOT ACCEDE TO IT. I am not authorized to permit real estate to be taken upon any terms in satisfaction of a debt, with the collection of which this office is charged. Power is given by express enactment to the Solicitor, to appoint an agent to purchase for the United States, lands of its debtors, sold under execution in their favor. The express and specific power so given excludes the idea of any other power to be inferred from the general duties enjoined upon the office.
You are misinformed in regard to the appointment of an agent to purchase in the lands of Mr. Linn for the United States — The Marshal has reported the name, as he is required to do by the general instructions of this office, of a suitable person to be appointed; but he at the same time informed me that he waited for a report of the District Attorney as to the titles. I have instructed him not to proceed with the sale until I have this report. When it comes in, the appointment of an agent will be made. The law of your State requires that lands sold on execution shall sell for two-thirds of their appraised value; and it has been the practice of this office to instruct agents to purchase only when lands sold, sell for less than that. Your information, no doubt, is in consequence of this practice. My letter of instructions to your Marshall was written a few days since.
CHAS. B. PENROSE,
Solicitor of the Treasury.
Joseph Duncan, Esq.
The Linn affair is referred to by Mrs. Duncan in her diary. On the 19th of March, 1841, Mrs. Duncan writes * * * "felt somewhat depressed from hearing of some persons taking advantage of my husband and they professing Christians. My pride wounded in regard to some things. The case has gone against Mr. Linn and I presume my dear husband will have to pay for it. He feels now as if every cent would go. I trust we shall be able to keep our home but if God sees best to take that from us I trust we shall be enabled to say thy will be done. I have been trying for some time to be enabled to be passive in the hands of God but oh how difficult." * * * There is frequent mention in her diary at this time of Mr. Duncan being absent in Springfield, going back and forth by stage.
The shadow of the anxiety of this affair is seen in the few remaining letters of Mr. Duncan. They are mostly concerned with business and trying to clear his property. In the last letter, written on the way to Washington, he emphasizes that his children must never, never go security for any one, and longs to be free. "If it takes all I possess" and then with fine courage the man of forty-nine is ready to begin over again and says, "I can easily provide a living."
On a trip to Washington a few months before his death Mr. Duncan writes home the following characteristic letter:
STEAMBOAT OHIO MAIL, 7th September, 1843.
"We are in hopes to reach Wheeling tomorrow evening though the river is very low. My time is spent in reading and sleeping.
I forgot to leave any money to pay the men 25 cents for bringing in the cattle from the springs. I hope they were paid. About the 15th of this month I expect a man to have 4 mule colts for me. Tell King to turn them with the other colts in some place where they can get plenty of water and plenty to eat. * * *
We are now within a half days journey of Wheeling and the river is rising so I hope to have plenty of water on my return. If we get off in the morning, I hope and nothing happens I expect to be in Washington City on the 10th inst, and I sincerely hope to see you again within this month and to bring the glad tidings of having settled with the government and thrown off one of the greatest burdens that has been borne. Even if if, takes all I possess to get rid of it, it will be a blessing. I shall at least be free and when so I can easily provide a living. I pray if I never see my children again that you will inculcate it upon them, as never to be forgotten, never to go any ones security. It has bound me in fetters for the last four or five years which have caused evils and losses that I can see, but which no one else would believe, if I were to tell them. Tell them that I never have gone security in my life, for great or small sums, without having had reason to repent of it and for them, never, never, under any consideration. Poverty is not to be dreaded, but the slavery of a debtor is abhorrent, and should be guarded against with as much care as they would preserve virtue and honor, for it drags them but too often in its drains.
I hope King will see that my hogs are properly fed and all kept in the proper place. I hope to make them pay off Wm. Brown's claim so as to free the Morgan House but if not he will be able to collect his pay or I can raise the balance somehow and when he, Wightman and Hughes are paid, you and our dear children will have enough secured to support you and educate them, a thing I have greatly at heart, as I should not die happy if I were to neglect to apply the funds left by your father for that purpose."
The Linn case was a severe blow to Governor Duncan and clouded the later years of his life up to his death in 1844. Hon. Wm. Thomas was appointed administrator of the estate and did his best to effect a
177compromise but without result. Mrs. Duncan did not claim her third of her husband's estate and would have been reduced to complete poverty if it had not been for the trust fund left her by her father, which was not to be divided till her youngest child was of age. For this trust fund Mr. Duncan had set aside land in her name, of which Dr. Sturtevant was trustee. She was forced, from time to time, to get an order of court, to sell pieces of land to maintain the family and educate the children. My mother told of Colonel Hardin coming to the house on horseback one day, and protesting that General Duncan's children must be educated. The family kept the old home but the life for many years was reduced to the barest necessities. Mrs. Duncan, however, strove to give the children what opportunities she could. When Jenny Lind sang in St. Louis, Mrs. Duncan sold a cow so that her daughter Mary could hear the great singer, paying $25 for a seat. The incident illustrates the spirit with which she rose above her misfortunes.
Mrs. Duncan survived her husband many years, dying at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Julia Duncan Kirby, in Jacksonville, May 23, 1876. I remember her as a delicate, kindly little lady, always dressed in black silk and lace, and always expecting to be waited on.
Chapter VII. — Death January 15, 1844.
Governor Duncan returned to Jacksonville late in the fall of 1843 and died January 15, 1844, after a few days illness. Surrounded by his wife and seven children,
"MY FRIEND: Let me beseech you to drop everything until you have made your peace with God. There is nothing in the wealth, in the pleasures or honors of the world, to compare with the love of the Saviour shed abroad in the human heart."
Mrs. Duncan's diary has an unusual account of his last journey and subsequent illness.
Christmas (1843) was a day not to be forgotten. * * * He said in the morning before he arose, I must go to St. Louis today. I expostulated with him and remarked Mr. Duncan you are not well enough. Oh yes I am. As he had been obliged from cold to stay from Church the day before and the weather so unpleasant, I could not bear the thought. * * * he feared the river being closed so after breakfast he sat off in the stage. * * *.
He returned 2nd of January with a heavy cold — a few days later he complained of "taking my Death Chill" — I tried to persuade him to retire. No he would take the old Kentucky plan of lying down in front of the fire and he lay there till 6 o'clock. [When the doctor was finally sent for] Mr. Duncan said, "Dr. I am afraid I shall be like some man who never was sick but once in his life and then died."
On 15th January * * * the last remedy was used to no purpose [he had been bled a quart of blood]. * * * "Dr. Pierson," said he, "I die at peace with all the world. I wish to have the sacrament administered to me. I wish to commune with your Church. I bear malice to no one. Don't leave me Dr. till I die." To Dr. Jones he said the same. The Doctor remarked, "Gov. I have a lecture at three o'clock." "Leave that today." "I will Gov." he said. To Dr. Todd [of Springfield] he said, "I understand you do not belong to any Church. Lay aside your business till you find the pearl of great price. What avail is anything in comparison with the interest of the soul." * * * [to the children] Speak the truth * * *. His mind was clear to the last.
Sabbath — [Jan.] 21, . Dr. Pierson met me at the Church door and handed me to my pew with my little family of 7 — the eldest 11 and the youngest 13 months. Mr. Eddy preached from Collossians 3rd Chap. 2nd verse. In the afternoon went to the Congregational Church and heard Dr. Post.
Dr. Truman N. Post of St. Louis wrote of this scene in a letter to Mrs. Kirby in 1884 —
I was with him as he died and I received the confession of his dying moments. I shall never forget that night nor the figures and the grouping around that bed of death. The night winds were out and there was a stir in the elements, as seemingly in sympathy with the hour when a great and strong soul was departing. * * * The sword given him by an admiring and grateful country hanging on the wainscoting over the bed. * * * That form of grandest manhood, strongest and noblest of all its physical types that were grouped around him in that chamber and seemingly assuring its possessor of the longest life, was in the wrestle with death. * * * Just as the pale, silent seal was set, I asked him: "Governor Duncan, is Christ precious to you at this hour?" Brokenly, but to our hearing distinctly came the response, the last words spoken by him, till the earth and sea give up their dead: "Ever precious, ever precious" — and so the soul of our prince and brother passed to his Father and God.
Governor Duncan's last thoughts lay stress upon religion and the education of his children. Education had always appealed strongly to him both in its large aspects and in reference to his own family. For fourteen years he was a trustee of Illinois College and gave $10,000 in land to the institution. He was one of the first trustees of the State Deaf and Dumb Institution at Jacksonville. He took great interest in the temperance question and gave $500, half of his salary as Governor,
He was very democratic and the views he impressed upon the mind of his daughter, Mary, (my mother), who was but 11 years old when he died, went with her through life. One of the stories she told was of coming home from school and laughing at a girl so poor, that she wore a linsey woolsey dress. Mr. Duncan said nothing, but the next day appeared with a bolt of linsey woolsey material which was made up and worn by his daughters for many a long day. Mary was trained to be an expert rider, going with her father when he hunted. She drove "Dancing Feather" while her father shot quail between the horse's ears. His word to control the horse must be carried out. The children were
179trained in a most spartan manner in obedience and to endure hardship. He was adored by his children and family.
Thus died at the age of forty-nine Joseph Duncan, one of the pioneer builders of the State of Illinois. Independent and fearless in his views, honest and with respect for the law uncommon among the frontier men of his day, beloved by family and friends. He had traveled the untrodden prairies and forests and seen the Indians disappear and dreamed of the improvements "for convenience, beauty and commerce of our country," and. had lived to see many of his dreams come true. He had defended the rights of the frontier settlers in all public land discussions in Congress during his entire service from 1827 to 1834, believing that the pioneers who endured hardships to open up a wilderness deserved justice and encouragement.
He appreciated the value of education, which he helped other members of his family to attain. He had introduced and secured the passage of the first public school law of Illinois. Throughout his public and private career he kept in mind the interests of education, and showed an appreciation for the higher things of life, all the more remarkable in a man coming from a pioneer state.
He believed in wise constructive internal improvements as essential for the development of the new western states, but when Governor from 1834 to 1838 he endeavored in vain to restrain and keep within bounds the lavish expenditure of the peoples' resources.
He consistently held to his ideals of law and justice through all his life. Every question that came up was considered from the point of view of law and order. In Congress he did not join in the claim of certain western states to the public lands within their bounds because this was contrary to the acts creating the states but he advocated a liberal interpretation of the law. While Governor he went east to negotiate a loan for the State for the canal and paid all his own expenses, "refusing to receive compensation therefor, because he believed in so doing he would be virtually offering violence to the Constitution of the State." He vetoed a railroad bill while Governor that would have greatly increased the value of his property because he thought it against the best policy for the State. In the Alton riots he felt both sides had done wrong in their lack of observance of the processes of law. In the same spirit he wanted counsel to be procured to defend the man who shot his brother in order that justice should be done him.
He maintained throughout his life his insistence on an efficient public service, insisting on no removals from office except for just cause and appointments made for fitness for service rather than for patronage. He refused to use his influence to procure offices for relatives. He placed the welfare of the State or nation above party interests. This independent view was shown as State Senator and continued throughout life. Parties might change their platforms and party leaders their views but he continued his way regardless of attacks of enemies and sometimes the loss of friends.
The records of his service in the Legislature, in Congress and as Governor prove his consistency in steadfastly maintaining these high principles in public life.
At a mass meeting held in Jacksonville the day after his death his fellow citizens adopted resolutions using these simple words:
"In the walks of both private and public life, a modest and unassuming spirit was his peculiar characteristic. As a private citizen or as a public officer, he was a man of uncommon decision of character. He had private interests, as other men, but, if circumstances required, these were ever the victims of principle. He indeed dared to be honest in the worst of times. This is no flattering portrait — it is strictly true."
Diary. Joseph Duncan. Washington, 1829.
Feby. [ — ] 1829. Various applications for me to support D. Green for public printer. Could not consent to do so. Knew too much of him. Believed, and told his friend that they would soon get tired of him, he was arrogant dictatoral & possessed no fixed principals, believed he would use all of his influence to bring Govr. Edwards into favor with Genl. J. and his administration. G. threatened a member from Va. with his power for not voting for him.
Bearded a Senator from Pennsylvania made a false communication to the Senate about Blake of Boston the Senators generally disgusted with him but appear to be afraid to oppose him. B. K. McK. B. of Pa., K. of A. and several others say they dislike him and will vote for any other J. man in preference.
February, 1829. Genl. Jackson arrived in Washington City Majr. Eaton met him on the road and escorted him in. On the 17th I called to see him. 20th caled again found him engaged in another room, as I was informed by Capt. D. with the corps of Editors, after waiting a while Genl. Jackson entered the room followed by D. Green, Noah Karole Hill and several other persons that I did not know.
21st called again to introduce a friend saw Mr. Tazewell with the President. The only suitable companion I had met — sailed again a few days after Mr. Badwin was present from his kind reception supposed he had come by request. Saw Capt. Taylor of U. S. Army says he heard that Gen. J......, was going to call that day uppon President A...... that he met Genl. D. G. and told him that he understood that Genl. J. was to call on Mr. A. that day Genl. D. G. said he did not believe the report but that he would go and see, and if it was so, he would very soon put a stop to it. Arrogance enough, Disgusted to see W. M. L. Genl. D. G. I. P. V. &c. &c. constantly with Genl. J. to the exclusion of his or the countries friends. This brings to my mind McKee of A. when he parted with The President at The Hermitage he took a very impressave leave of Genl. J. The Genl. observing something unusual, remarked whe Wl. [?] I hope we shall soon meet again, McKee replyed yes Genl. we shall both soon be in Washington but there is no certainty that we shall meet, for I expect your new friends will be so zealous that all the old ones will be crowded into the back grounds McKee told me this ancedote before the Genl. arrived in the city.
Feby. 23. From the persons who surround the Genl. I fear he is to be improperly influenced in his first appointments.
The central committee appear to consider him as there own game some of them are constantly with him or about the doors so I am informed for I do not know them all by sight.
I called to see Genl. J. at 7 o'clock in the evening with two friends Mr. S. C. & Johnson, the president expressed much pleasure at seeing us. Said he was more graitfyed to see us at that hour as Duff as he called him, had presumed to set his hours for him to receive his visitors but he said that would all be right, as he had ordered Green to correct the statement in his paper regulating his hours for receiving visitors. What excessive presumption, was the first feeling I had, but it is all right, as it must very soon place this character on his proper hole.Duncan Letter
Various rumors about the appointment of the cabinett Tazewell to be secretary of State Hayne Navy, McLean War Baldwin Treasury, Ingham P. M. G. all agree that the cabinet will be composed of five of the following persons Tazewill Vanburen McLean Baldwin Hayne Hamilton (Ingham P. M. G.) & Chevis. My own choice T. of Va. S. S. McL. S. T. B. of Pa., War, I. of Pa. P. M. G.
Genl. Ogle arived in the city came into the H. of E. his red vest attracts great notice every one whispers to his neighbour to know who he is.
Several new Senators have arived McLeane of Illinois, letters have been received stating that he obtained his election by a union with the E. & A. party, hope it is not so, have a better opinion of him.
Called to see the President he says he will remove no officer on account of his political opinions, unless he has used his office for the purpose of electionering he appears liberal, and I agree perfectly with his views.
Herd various rumors about appointments in the cabinett wrote the following letter to the President
[Page in diary not filled]
4th March. Attended the President inaugeration, he walked from Gadsbies Hotell with his hat off, in a great crowd, having a fine view from the west room in the clerks office in the Capitol I could see him and the vast crowd at every point untill they assended the great steps which enters the Capitol, saw nothing that I disliked but the conspicuous station, and part acted by The Central Committee, Stood near the President when he read his address, was struck with the profound attention of the multitude while he read especially as I am convinced that three fourths of all present could not have heard the sound of his voice at least so as to distinguish one word. The expression of the people on his first appearance was very fine and showed that he had a strong hold on their affections the number present is variously estimated opinions of intelligent persons vary from 15 to 30 thousand. No perade of the Military present except one or two companies and they were very far off. I think they were from Alexandria as I saw one of them coming from that direction with this I was much pleased. I am opposed to great perades and especially Military perades on such an occasion, had rather see the honors
182done after the service is performed, but in this District where most of the people are servants or connected with the Government is natural they would worship the rising Sun. I was forcably struck with the contrast between Mr. Addams entering on and closing his official duties as President. I was present in 1825 when his inaugeration took place it was a fine day and from the moment I first looked into the street on the 4th of March untill dark I saw nothing but a bustle people moving in all directions and many of them by sunrise in full military dress and by 10 oclock the avenue was crowded with armed soldiers, which I took to be a mixture of Marienes Infantry & Artilary of The U. S. and Militia of the district it was certainly the finest display I ever witnessed was informed that many of the fine coats had been bought to honor Genl. Lafayatt. I was glat to hear it for the ideah of there having been bought for this occasion was two ridiculous, in 1829, Mr. Adams was not seen on the 4th of March and I suppose would not have been thought of, but for a coffin hand bill that was circulated in the crowd anouncing his death in a most disgusting manner it produced general disgust did not go to the Palace to see the President receive his friends after the inaugeration understood that the crowd was very great all sorts of folks some on the fine satin chairs and sofas mehogna tables &c. with their feet a report was circulated that the gold and silver spoons were stolen on this occasion. I believe it was not true.
5th. The City is said to be filled with office hunters. There is general disappointment in the appointment of the cabinett Clay says that they charge Mr. A. with making a bargain that he thinks Genl. J. had better have made one. Genl. H. at the request of the T. deligation went to see the P. to oppose E....s appointment, Says it was not well received & that he will be appointed McL. of O. told me that he had agreed to accept the W. D. Learn since that E. wont take G. P. O. Strang things going on.
March, 1829. Governor Kinney & E. J. W. wish me to request the removal of certain officers from office which I decline as I am opposed to removing competent and worthey men on account of a mere difference of opinion. They appear to be dissatisfyed but that will make no difference in my conduct as such a course would be averse to all of my notions of propriety.
Went with Govr. K. to see the President, recommended West for Secretary of Legation to G. P. M. Minister to Columbia Genl. J. says he will try and provide for him.
Went to see Secretary of the Treasury, in favour of G. T. Pell he thinks he will appoint him examiner, the senators join in this recommendation, he is recommended by many members of the Legislature of Ills.
March, 1829. Kane McLeane & Myself met in McLeans room to consult about appointments in the event of any removals or vacancies. McLeane and myself opposed removals except for some good cause other than political (I had recommended the removal of James Mason for having speculated in the purchase of script while a public officer in possession of public moneys & possessing the records & law so as to give him an advantage over the poor people of the country for whos
183benefit the script was granted.) K. rather differed in opinion about removals We agreed to recommend C. Slade for Marshall in the event of Conners removal as charges had been made against him. we did not all agree upon any one else nor can I say that we disagreed very much although several were named.
March, 1829. Still in Washington waiting on my wifes health called to see the President & Secretary of War about getting the Illinois & Lake Michigan Canal located and the rout from the Ills. River to Lake Erie examined. Saw Genl. Gratiott got him to go with me to the War Dept. find him very friendly to my views and to the west Secretary thinks the law does not authorize him, to send Engineers to locate, refer to the case in Indiana under the same law. he appears disposed to do right & says if the favour has been done to Indiana it should also be extended to Ills, promices it shall be ordered.
March, 1829. Met Majr. Campbell of Tennessee near the Treasury Dept. he told me that the President & Secretary of War had given him the appointment of Superintendent of the lead mines on the Upper Mississippi River in Illinois & Michigan. I resolved to remonstrate against this appointment and informed Mr. Campbell of my intention. I went immediately to the President and told him that the appointment of a man from Tennessee to hold an office in Illinois would be treating his friends in that State very badly and that it could not help exciting much displeasure, he assured me that he would do nothing that would displease his friends any where if he knew it that Mr. Campbell was the only applicant. That he was not acquainted with the fact that so large a portion of those mines was in Illinois he wrote a note to the Secretary of War uppon the subject, and assured me that it should be satisfactorily arranged. I called the same day to see Majr. Eaton he appeared anxious to appoint Campbell I assured him that it would be resented by every Citizen of Illinois if he was appointed. I knew and so did all concerned know that C. was bankrupt for a large sum I urged the necessity if a change was made of their compelling the Superintendent to give bond and security as contemplated by my bill upon the subject of governing the mines, left the Secretary without much satisfaction, but convinced that he would insist on Campbells appointment.
Confined for several days on account of my wifes situation Saw John Reaves formerly of Ills, he told me that he saw Campbell the day before and that he told him of my opposition to his appointment, but that it had not availed as he was told to return home and the appointment should follow him. I immediately wrote the following letter to the President as I was determined that I would clear my self of the responsibility of transporting a man from another state who was notoriously insolvent in to Illinois to hold an office which placed in his hands $40,000 per annum of public property without check or security to protect the interest of the government (Note, cannot lay my hand on the letter) Got a letter from J. M. D. he wants to be appointed Indian agent in place of Graham or Hamtramock who he says Genl. Smith of Missouri informs him are to be removed he requests me to use my influence this I cannot consistently do as I am unwilling to ask or receive a favour which would place me under obligations to the executive power of the government while I am a representative of the people as the appointment
184of my brother upon my request would have that tendency and I think every person applying for an office should have the recommendation of the people with whom he resides, or with whom he is to serve. This I do not doubt my brother could obtain if he pleased, he requests me to mention his wishes to the two Senators from Illinois which I have done and they both say they intend to recommend him.
Dined at the Presidents a splendid entertainment all the Secretaries W. E. Davis Genl. Varnum & myself of congress, Genl. McComb, Jessup Gibson & Gratio, Col. Gowson, and all the foreign Minesters in full dress were present with several other auditors &c. Majr. Eaton informed me that he had concluded not to change the nature of the agency at the mines that he had or would detail another officer of the U. S. A. to succeed Lt. Thomas and that he would have several assistants to appoint and invited me to recommend some persons to fill them I agree to see him the next day.
Went to War Office met D. Green coming out wondered if he had any person for one of those places & was told that he wanted Dr. Green of St. Louis appointed. I recommended the retention of McNight also recommended Col. Wight E. W. C. — Col. S. A. & E. B. L. — could receive no answer, he spoke of others out of the State for some of the places to which I objected.
Called again at the W. D. saw Com. Warrington go in while I was waiting in the ante chamber understood from Secretary that he was urging the appointment of his brother in law Capt. for one of the appointments at the mines, and felt satisfyed that he had received a promice, also learned that Campbell of Tennessee was to the best situation, not well satisfyed but must submit.
Understand that J. M. D. is sick in Boston.
Wrote to Genl Gratiott about sending Engineers to Locate Ills. & Lake Michigan Canal &c.
April, 1819. E. J. W. returned to the City Left K......in Baltimore he has a strong recommendation from Merchants and other persons of distinction in the City of New York recommending for Charge De affairs to
I went with him to see the P. and V. they say they would appoint him but the appropriation for that purpose is exhausted.
Govr. Kinney arived very anxious for Wests appointment delighted with his trip to the North says he left Jas. M. D. in Boston getting better to come on with Capt. S. D. Richardson went with K. to see the president he tells the Pr. that his appointments in Boston gave genl. Satisfaction says the people expects the Adams men to be returned out. The P. expressed pleasure at hearing his appointments gave such satisfaction K. urges the necessity of removals says the republicans had fought hard and had gained a great victory but if the old Federalists were left in office the same battle will have to be fought over again, he said if it was left to him he would drive them all out as he would a parcle of dogs out of a meat house.
The P. laughs hartily at this remark but made no reply returning we met Handy of Indiana at Wiliamsons K. asked him if he had been here ever since he saw him — he said he had. K. advised him to go home or some one would administer on his estate. The little fellow bore the
185joke very well & replyed that they would be poorly paid for their trouble if they did There is many others in the city who were running the same risque.
Kinney came to see me said that Eaton would appoint a citizen of Ills, to one of the offices at Galena if I would recommend one which I rather declined as felt indignant at the appointment of citizens of Tennessee & Va. to hold offices in Illinois K. wants May appointed I could not join him as I had promised Col. A. G. S. W. to recommend him for a place at the mines.
Went with K. to W. D. and recommended A. G. S. W. never done any thing with more reluctance as I feared that it might be considered as a surrender of the ground I had taken agains the other appointments. E. asked me if I had heard from my brother, who was sick in Boston expressed a wish to see him &c. Ky. said something about his appointment of I. A. Eaton said that he had come to no conclusion but thought he would appoint him & requested me to recommend him which I declined by saying that my brothers must rely upon others to recommend them. dont like the proposition believe it was intended to get me so committeed so that if I complained of the other appts. it might be attributed to disappointment in this.
Kinney informs me that he has Wights commission that the salery is less than the rest and less than was promised.
24th May, 1828. Received a letter from S. B. Munn to J. M. Duncan which informed me of his having left N. York for Washington.
26th. Left Washington for Illinois in company with 2 Indian agents Govr. Kinney & E. I. West West has some hopes of an appointment of charge De affairs next winter.
About the 1st of July, 1829, left Illinois for Hopkinsvill in Ky. Arived at My aunts on the 3d.
4th of July was invited to a public barbacue by the citizens of Hopkinsville, was tosted and made a speech.
5th. Mrs. Morehead died very sudently,
6th. Court commenced.
7th. Settled my business and agreed to pay the Executor of J. McLaughlin one thousand dollars one half on the 15th of Feby. 1830 and one half on the 15th of Feby. 1831 for which I gave checks on the U. S. Bank at Washington City in full of all claim.
[Note: — written across page] — Have paid those checks and owe the estate of Jas. H. McLaughlin nothing.
8th. started for Nashville & lodged at Ben Kellies.
9th. Stayed .............. 10th stayed at Tirees or White Creek Springs.
11th. Went to Nashville found Thos. family from home, dined at Edmonsons & went to Mc Stothartt.
12th. Thomas returned from an electionering tour.
15th. Pursuaded him to decline running for the Senate Dined with J. Bell.
16th. Went to theatre with Col. Foster & Family Returning from J. Bells rode in with Col. Wilson Editor of a paper published in Nashville
186he had just returned from Washington City. I asked him if he had seen much of Genl. Jackson while at Washington he had, I enquired if he had observed any changes in his intelect he replied that he visited Washington in consequence of having observed that the Genls. mind had sunk about the death of his wife and that he regreted to find that it was sinking he dreaded the news by every mail for he and the Genls. friends generally feared his total incompitelly [word not distinct. Incompetency?]
Received a letter from James M. D. after his return to Illinois, he says that Majr. T. P. M. was informed by Majr. W. B. Louis that he would not be appointed Indian agent owing to my being opposed to the measures of Genl. Jacksons administration, that Majr. Eaton talked about the duty of men to make sacrifices about patriotism &c. &c.
In answer I wrote the following letter:
[Page in diary blank]
July 25th arived at Glasgow. Sold my horse for $50, and went to see Jo. Duncan.
July 26th. Sold Jo. Duncan two hundred acres of land belonging to the heirs of my father at one dollar & fifty cents per acre amounting to three hundred dollars at a credit of two and three years.
July 28th. Arrived at Harrodsburgh Springs in company with bishop Ravenscroft of N. Carolina found him very agreeable and inteligent Saw H. Clay just starting to Danville to attend a dinner [?] Eat breakfast and went to Lexington same night.
July 29. Sunday went to hear the Bishop preach to to hear Mr. J. Young at night, got at Harrodsburgh a handbill of Kinkade charging M. V. B. W. T. B. & others with writing letters to influence the election.
1829. July 30. Arived in Paris visited many of my old friends the next day, remained in Paris untill the 12th of August Spent my time rather unpleasantly owing to the political controversies among many of my old friends Advertised lots for sale had an auction but effected but little, sold pond lot for fifty two dollars to Pike This was all I sold at auction Sold one other lot of my sisters to Pike for one hundred and fifty Dollars sold brother Johns lot to Wm. Alexander for one hundred and ninety dollars in cotton sold him the stone house & attached ground for six hundred dollars in cotten at 15 cents per doz Sold H. Brent my lot on public square for one hundred and fifty 2 dollars gave checks to Garrard Hickman Bain Moreland McElvain & Ingles & Burr and closed all of my accounts and liabilities in Paris except a small balance to Garrard & Hickman which will remain after the checks are paid Sold one of Jo. Duncans notes for one hundred and fifty dollars to Wm. Alex.r for $145. in cotten at 15 cts per Doz transfered the other to Thos. & Will Kelley of Paris to pay brother Johns debt for same amount $150 the money or cotten received for Stone house I expect to sell to pay my checks as I owed the debts to Garrard & Hickman on account of money borrowed out of Bank to send my brother Thos. A. Duncan to school which with the interest amounts to much more than the price received for said House but I never expect to
187make further claim for this and other monies I have advanced to & for my brother. The one hundred and fifty dollars is to be paid my sister for the lot I sold to Pike for that amt. only, having sent cotten for the one sold for fifty two to her at Illinois.
20th March 1830 Handed Mr. Kane by request two recommendations to the Secretary of War in favour of James M. Duncan for Indian agent The 1st signed by James Hall, Charles Prentice, R. K. McLaughlin, James Black, E. C. Berry, Wm. H. Brown & James Whitlock (30th Nov 1829) The 2nd was signed by T. W. Smith, J. D. Lockwood, Wm. Wilson and Thomas C. Brown dated Dec 8th 1829
E. K. K. senator told H. H. Maxwell & myself that he had dined twice & had the 3d invitation to dine with the president 18th of March. This is to my mind another conclusive proof that the President does not rely upon the propriety of his acts or appointments for the support of the senate as I have heard of no member of the H of R being invited more than once but this is only one of many instances that I have observed of an effort to conciliate the senate to use no worse term.
Introduction; ** "I have thought it would not be without interest some day to my little niece (Bessie Duncan Putnam) to read what I shall be able to write for her of her Grand Mother's life.*** Your Grand Mother says, I was born in Pearl Street, N. Y. City March 28, 1808," etc.
There is a small square mahogany piano, an unusual piece of furniture to have in those days, and, with other articles shows a love of the fine arts. In this connection it is of interest to mention a large mahogany French magnifying glass with colored lithographs of Versailles, St. Cloud and curiously enough one of Kirkcudbright, Scotland (the home of Mrs. Duncan's father) a collection of eight French lithographs by Grevedon: a large mahogany centre table and book case with, columns which tradition says were the work of a local cabinet maker, certainly a good one: the glass in the small panes is primitive. Unfortunately all the books were stored and lost.
There are beautiful pieces of furniture, silver and glass, belonging to Mrs. Duncan's father and the bills of lading show they either went by ship from New York to New Orleans and up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Meredosia and then by wagon to Jacksonville, or "avoiding the dangers of the seas" as one bill states, came by canal, across the mountains and down the Ohio River.
With the exception of a short time when it was rented, the old house was occupied by the family from the time it was built in 1833 until it was sold in 1920. For many years it was the home of Judge and Mrs. Edward P. Kirby. Mrs. Kirby died there in 1906. Seldom in the west does it happen that a person is born, marries and dies in the same house.