Pictures and Illustrations.
Recollections of Early Illinois and Her Noted Men.
MR. CHAIRMAN, LADIES, AND GENTLEMEN:
Through your kindness I am permitted to appear before you this evening, and, in my homely way, state my experiences, observations, and reflections, during a period of upwards of sixty years, in our grand State of Illinois. I have been spared a world of labor through the admirable address of my young friend, E. G. Mason, on the history of Kaskaskia. So thoroughly did he treat that question, that nothing further could be done, or even desired. So that I may very properly begin where he left off.
The first circumstance to be considered in the early history of Illinois, is that its population consisted of two distinct nationalities — the French and the Americans. How and why the former class settled here, Mr. Mason has vividly, and with critical historical accuracy, portrayed. I shall endeavor to point out the difference between the two classes of population.
In colonizing, the French people will first have an allotment of land set off, a portion of which will be laid out into narrow strips, for agriculture; another for timber, for building purposes, and for fuel; another portion for pasture-land. The last two will be enjoyed by all the settlers in common. The strips will be occupied, in severalty, by the persons to whom they are assigned. All these people will reside in a village built upon the large survey, which will be most convenient to the majority of families. The Priest prepares books in which marriages, births, and deaths are regularly entered, as also all transfers of land. Besides officiating as their religious teacher, he decides all the controversies and disputes which may arise amongst the people.
These decisions were (as I have understood) so eminently fair and proper as to satisfy even the disputants. These clerical functionaries were, in the main, men of highly cultivated minds, with no object whatever in view except to do justice, and preserve harmony between the members of their flocks.
While cultivating these narrow strips of land the men would be in close proximity to each other, ready at a moment's notice to assemble for mutual protection or assistance. This arrangement gave the French people, likewise, an opportunity to gratify their strong social tastes and feelings.
On the other hand, there is nothing gregarious or social in the disposition of the American pioneer. He takes his family out into the wilds, and "squats" down wherever he finds water, timber, and game abundant. He builds a cabin, breaks up a few acres of ground, which he puts in corn, keeping in mind all the time that he is as far away from neighbors as is consistent with safety from Indians. He claims the whole country as belonging to him and his class. He has not the slightest conception of the rights of the aboriginal inhabitants. He regards it as his mission to drive them off, or what is preferable, to exterminate them. The minds of these men seem to have been so peculiarly constructed or perverted as to render it impossible for them to comprehend the fact that Indians have rights. They are the manifest destiny — men par excellence. The time in which they are not occupied in the corn-patch is spent in the deepest forest solitudes, then-only companions their dog and gun. Day in and day out, he creeps stealthily through the woods watching for game; be it a buck or an Indian, the instant he perceives it his unerring rifle lays it dead at his feet. The savages in his front, and the wave of population coming after, equally annoy him. It is said that if your genuine pioneer hears his neighbor's chickens crow, he is off into the more profound depths of the wilderness, and gives up his cabin and his clearing, and goes off muttering his curses against the Indians and the "Yankees."
The first of the permanent settlers partakes largely of the prejudices of the class of whom I have been speaking. He hates equally the Indians, and the man who belongs to an advanced civilization.
For many years, the "Yankees" were the objects of the deepest animosity to the settlers in Southern Illinois, Indiana, and the South western States. A story is told illustrative of this feeling: An old "hard-shell-Baptist" preacher called "Daddy" Briggs, was once holding forth on the richness of God's grace. He said, "It tuck in the isles of the sea and the uttermost parts of the ‘yeth.’ It embraced the Esquimaux and the Hottentots, and some, my dear brithering, go so fur as to suppose that it takes in these poor benighted Yankees; but I don't go that fur." He allowed
7genuine editions of the Bible, but always contended that its being there was an infernal Yankee trick.
In consequence of the different characteristics of which I have spoken, the settlements of the French were small in area, and confined to a few localities, while those of the Americans spread far and wide. The French settled around Kaskaskia, Prairie-Du-Rocher, Cahokia, and Peoria. These were all contiguous to the water-courses, while those of the Americans extended into the interior.
The French maintained amicable relations with the Indians, while no Indians were permitted to live in the neighborhood of these Americans. The Frenchman had more humanity, greater sense of justice, and stronger social feeling, than the American; but he was not so self-reliant. He had either lost his individuality, or never had any, whilst that of the American became overweening; and to the lack of this quality may be attributed the comparative incapacity of the French for successful colonization. While, on the other hand, the Americans thrive and grow beyond anything the world has ever known. They swallow up and assimilate everything that comes within the sphere of their influence. Anybody but the Indian and the Chinese may come in, but he must "Americanize;" that is, things must go on "American fashion." Our laws, our language, and our institutions must prevail. We will not tolerate any class within our sphere who is not of us in all these respects. Those who try to adopt our customs, learn our language, and profess to reverence our Constitution and form of Government, and become naturalized, we receive with open arms; but woe betide the luckless wight who wears a "pig-tail" and blouse, and professes to take no interest in our Government, and arranges to have his bones transferred to the land of his birth for burial.
These French settlements remain in nearly the same condition they were when first established, and the mass of their people have never displayed much energy. While this may be said of the bulk of that population, there are some remarkable exceptions. Certain of these old French families have displayed a vigor and energy which cannot be surpassed. Take for instance the Choteaus, the Valles, the Pratts, the Gratiots, old Pierre Menard, and Nicholas Jarrot and his son Vital, were men whose lives were given to almost romantic business adventure. They were the first to develope the Missouri and Galena lead mines. The "fur-trade" was, by some of them, carried to a distance of thousands of miles. They had their trading-posts all along the foot of the Rocky Mountains. They explored every river that runs into the Mississippi to its source in their trading excursions,
8and even took in New Mexico when it was a province of Spain. I know of none who have been so instrumental in bringing to light the inexhaustible resources of Missouri, and developing the iron industry of St. Louis, as Choteau, Harrison, and Valle.
The "Mound City" would never have been what she is but for the enterprise, judgment, and daring of these old French families.
The old French inhabitants treated their slaves with great kindness; slavery, with them, was a kind of patriarchal institution. With our South-westerners, slaves were used as machines with which to make money. If it was found to be more profitable to work a slave to death in a few years than to prolong his life, it was often done. No appeal, no argument against slavery, could find a response in the breasts of many of these people. The old settlers were convinced that negro slavery was the normal condition of all civilized life, and they believed that it existed here as well as in "Old Kaintuck." They were, however, afraid that an influx of Yankees might interfere with their sacred rights, and hence they hated the "Down-Easters" with the most intense feelings. It was no uncommon thing to hear some of them declare that it would have been a God's blessing if the May Flower had gone to the bottom of the ocean with all her crew and passengers.
They opposed the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal, because "it would open up a way for the Yankees to get here." They were the genuine "anti-carpet-baggers." The same prejudice is played upon, down South, at this time by artful and designing demagogues. The first thing that was done, after we formed a State-Constitution, was to adopt the laws of the slave States in respect to negro bondage, notwithstanding they were directly in the teeth of the Ordinance of 1787, and of the State-Constitution, and of the act admitting Illinois into the Union.
By these enactments, taken in connection with the territorial laws of Indiana, negroes were rendered incapable of being witnesses against a white man, and it embraced all those who had one-quarter negro-blood in their veins. A white scoundrel might murder a man in the presence of twenty negroes (whose word would have been implicitly believed in the ordinary transactions of life), and he would go "scot-free" because no white man witnessed the transaction. A jury of white men was not to be trusted to even consider the testimony of a man unless he had more than three-quarters white blood coursing through his veins. For the purpose of making "assurance doubly sure," and to prevent interference with the sacred rights of the master, an artful dodge was contrived, called the "Indenturing process," and laws were enacted, first in Indiana and then reinforced here, authorizing the master to take his slave before a county-clerk, and have
9him bind himself to serve the master, (generally for the period of ninety-nine years), for which the master was to requite him, at the end of each year, with a coat, waist-coat, pair of breeches, pair of shoes, two pairs of stockings, two shirts, a hat, and blanket. It was in the contemplation of these "solons" that these slaves might themselves, while in that condition, purchase others of their own complexion for servants. I presume that, under the statute, a quarteroon might buy a mulatto or full-blooded Nubian, but a gentleman of the full African persuasion could not purchase any one who had a dip of white in him; and if he should presume to buy a white person, such person would become immediately free. (See 17th sec. of the act of 1819, concerning negroes and mulattoes, for the correctness of what I state.) The same act provides that no person shall buy, sell, or receive from any servant, any coin or commodity; without the consent of his master. The 19th section provides that where white men shall be condemned to punishment, by fine, servants shall receive twenty lashes for every eight dollars. The 21st section provides, that if any servant shall be found ten miles from his place of residence, without a pass, any justice of the peace, before whom he may be taken, may order him to be whipped, not exceeding thirty-five lashes. The next section provides, that if any such servant shall be upon the plantation, or in the dwelling-house of any person, without leave or lawful business, the owner of such plantation or dwelling-house may order such servant to receive ten lashes,
This discloses the spirit of the legislation of the early days, and it was in harmony with the public opinion of the epoch. Since then, and not very long ago, laws disgraced the Statute book of Illinois, which, under the pretense of keeping negroes out the State, provided that if a negro came into Illinois, he should be fined; and if he did not pay the fine, he should be sold to the one who would pay his fine for the shortest term of service; and the negro was compelled to remain here, and serve the purchaser until the end of the period. This was a very curious way of keeping negroes out of the State, by compelling them to remain in it.
The excitement on the slavery question as the Yankees came in intensified, and, as a "dernier resort," it was proposed to attempt the adoption of a new constitution which would admit slavery. A more exciting contest than then ensued was never known. Every county, neighborhood, and household was more or less divided upon the question of slavery, and the feeling between those who opposed and those who favored the institution was rancorous to the utmost degree. A fight was sure, to follow a disputation. Just about this time, the emigration of slave holders from Kentucky to Missouri was at its height. The roads
10were lined with wealthy men, followed by large droves of slaves; and these men never failed to assure our people that, if they could only hold their slaves, they would settle amongst us; and this had a powerful influence against the "free-state" party. Even the poor emigrant would talk in the same way, and say he would settle here if he could hold slaves.
A right amusing incident occurred in this connection: A great "six-footed" fellow, with one eye gouged out, bare-footed, nothing in the way of a wardrobe but a pair of tow trowsers and a shirt, a rifle on his shoulder, his "old woman mounted on an old gray horse," the bones of which were ready to cut the skin; she was seated on an old straw bed, with a skillet and a "big wheel" tied on behind her, and a frowsy, tow-headed youngster in her lap, came passing along through our town. Some one inquired of him where he was from. He answered, "Hiwassee purchase, McMinn County, State of Tennesee, off the roaring fork of ‘Grindstone.’" He was asked where he was going. He replied, "Gwing to Missouri." "Well," said his interlocuter, "why don't you stay in Illinois? Don't you like the country?" The old fellow spoke up in an angry mood, and said, "Well, sir, your sile is mighty fartil, but a man can't own niggers here, God-durn you."
Some of the conventionites were not very scrupulous about the means they employed to accomplish their ends, either in or out of the Legislature. Hanson and Shaw were opposing candidates, from Calhoun County, for a seat in the Legislature that called the convention, and there was a contest between them. The majority of the House were for McLain (I think that was the name) for United States Senator. Hanson was for him, and Shaw against him. Shaw was in favor of a convention and Hanson against it. The election for U. S. Senator was to come off before the vote on the convention, and the majority secretly concluded that they would admit Hanson to the seat until after the election was had, and then they would reconsider the vote admitting him, and admit Shaw, and thus they would have Hanson's vote for Senator and Shaw's vote for the convention, all of which was very nicely carried out.
This is a specimen brick of our early legislation. These pro-slavery men always stood ready to pour forth constitutional reasons for the faith that was in them. On one occasion, an audacious Yankee (no doubt of the "carpet-bag" stripe) had wormed himself into the Legislature, and took occasion to submit a proposition questioning the validity to the titles of the indentured slaves. Instantly an old fellow rose to his feet and remarked, that "fittener men" than he was "mout have been found to defend the masters agin the sneaking ways of these infernal abolitioners;
11but, having rights on my side, I don't fear, sir. I will show that ar proposition is unconstitutionable, inlegal, and fornenst the compact. Don't every one know, or least wise had ought to know, that the Congress that sot at Visann garnisheed to the old French inhabitants the right to their niggers, and hain't I got as much rights as any Frenchman in this State? Answer me that, sir."
This raised a storm of applause, and was regarded as an extinguisher. These people were, generally, opposed to "book larnin'," "pay-preachers," written "sarmonts," Bible societies, missionary efforts, Sunday-schools, and, last but not least, temperance movements. The general argument against common-schools was, that inasmuch as they had got along very well without "larnin'," their children could do so likewise. Besides, if they had "larnin'," they would get into trouble by signing notes, and they would become too cute and tricky like the Yankees. The only innovation upon the old order of things which, I imagine, they would approve, would be Petroleum V. Nasby's rendering of the text — "Bring unto me little white children, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."
These people have nearly all been gathered to their fathers, and scarcely a vestige has been left of their peculiar ideas. Their whims and oddities are now only a subject of merriment among their descendants. The people of Illinois are almost homogeneous in character and ideas.
Slavery has disappeared from the land. The great principle of the Declaration of Independence, "That all men are created equal, and endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is becoming almost universal throughout the land. The Indians and Chinese are, it is true, considered outside of its pale in some sections. How long that will continue, God only knows. There may be more difficulty on this question than we imagine. The Indian is the personification o-individuality, and is incapable of civilization. The Chinee has a civilization of his own which he will not exchange for any other. The Negro has no fixed characteristics. He is a "tabula rosa," upon which any impression can be made. He is amiable and imitative, and adopts readily the usages of any higher caste race into which he is thrown. In his attempts at imitation, he often becomes grotesque. Among the Musselmen, he is a stronger and fiercer Mohammedan than his master. With us, he is a greater zealot than any one else. But it is in the department of foppery that he shines; there he "ont-Herods Herd." No Broadway dandy can exhibit his trumpery or flourish his "rattan" with the "gusto" or self-satisfaction of the stylish darkey. He
12has no individuality, and therefore clings for support to the more sturdy and self-reliant races. He submitted to be the slave, not only of the white man, but also of the semi-barbarous Creek, Choctaw, and Cherokee Indians. The whole power of this Nation was unequal to the task of inducing him to colonize, in the land from whence his fathers were brought.
I shall not trouble you with any attempt to delineate the character of the people of the northern section of the State. Their views of social order, political economy, and human rights, have supplanted the old-time notions throughout this State, and are rapidly spreading over the Nation.
I have been asked to give my recollections of the Governors of Illinois, since it became a State.
I had no personal acquaintance with Shadrack Bond, its first governor, nor have I heard of any incidents in his career that were particularly noteworthy. He was generally esteemed as being a plain, honest man, who administered our affairs creditably and acceptably to the people. He was, I think, a "Conventionist," and after that measure was so signally defeated he was not much heard of.
With Edward Coles I had an acquaintance. He resided in the town in which I live when he was elected, and during his term of office. He was born and raised in Virginia, and when he emigrated to Illinois he brought his slaves with him and emancipated them all, and gave them land to live on and support themselves. I knew them well. They were settled on farms within a few miles of Edwardsville. He took a very bold and decided stand against the introduction of slavery into this state. He used his money in establishing papers and circulating documents, against the call of the Convention, without stint. He denounced the wrong and evils of slavery, in season and out of-season. He defended freedom through evil as well as good report. It I were called upon to name the most earnest opponent to the introduction of slavery into this State, I believe I would name Edward Coles. It was thought that the signal defeat of the "Convention" party, in 1824, would consign its leaders to the shades of private life, but such was not the case. The "Jackson" party was then beginning to show great strength, and nearly all of those leaders entered into and advanced with it. Gov. Coles, who was an "Adams" man, soon became the object of their revenge, and was persecuted in every possible way. A suit was instituted against him in the circuit court of Madison county, Illinois, I think, in the latter part of 1825, to recover a penalty prescribed by the law of 1819, to which I have referred, for setting free ten slaves without giving the bond required. The
13jury returned a verdict against him. He had pleaded the statue of limitations, but the court overruled the plea. A motion was made for a new trial, which the court took under advisement, pending which the legislature passed an act releasing all penalties under that act, including those in litigation. Coles' motion for a new trial was overruled, and he pleaded this act of the legislature — puis darrien continuance. A demurrer was sustained to this plea, upon the ground that the act of the legislature, remitting the penalty, was ex-post facto. Judgment was given against him for $2000, which the supreme court reversed and held the act valid, and Coles was discharged from liability (see Breese's reports, p. 154) for his great iniquity in setting free ten of his slaves, and providing them with the means of supporting themselves. There is no doubt but the whole proceeding was the result of a political intrigue. The leaders of the "Jackson" party were incensed against him on account of the statement he made to the effect that Mr. Jefferson said that Gen. Jackson had no greater qualifications for president than a cock had for an admiral. Gov. Coles had been private secretary for Mr. Madison while the latter was president, and his (Coles') statements carried with them great weight. Gov. Coles, after his term of office expired, removed to Philadelphia, where he married and lived during the remainder of his life. There was this peculiarity about Gov. Coles: although he was a highly educated and accomplished gentleman, yet his talk on common subjects, when he was not on his guard, was exactly that of an old Virginia negro. Such was the force of early habits and association.
Ninian Edwards was the successor of Gov. Coles. He had previously been territorial governor of Illinois, and during that time he conducted the "Peoria campaign" against the Indians, (for an account of which see his life, written by his Son, a work containing a vast amount of information touching our early history.) He had been eminent as a judge of the court of appeals of Kentucky, and bid fair to be a very prominent politician in the United States.
I knew him well. He resided in Edwardsville, which was named in his honor. He was a magnificent specimen of a man, physically, and his intellect corresponded with his appearance. He was, after his term of governor of the State expired, elected to the Senate of the United States, and was appointed from that position to that of Minister to Mexico.
Previous to this latter appointment, and while he was senator, the Bank of Edwardsville was selected as a place of deposit for the Government funds collected at the land office in that town. The governor had undertaken to keep the treasurer of the United
14States, who at that time was Wm. H. Crawford, posted as to the situation and solvency of the bank, which turned out to be a defaulter for some $40,000. A controversy arose between Edwards and Crawford, as to whether the former had notified the latter of the shaky condition of the bank in time to have enabled the treasurer to prevent the loss. Gov. Edwards asserted that he had done so, and Crawford denied it. After the governor had started on his mission, he published a letter which threw the blame upon Crawford, who, I believe, called the attention of Congress to the charge, and a committee was appointed to investigate it. This made it necessary that Edwards should return to Washington, where he was taken sick, in which condition he was, if I remember rightly, while the investigation was going on. The result of the whole thing was that the committee reported that Edwards had not fully sustained his charge. I have not examined the proof before the committee, but I know of some circumstances which would incline me strongly to the belief that Edwards was right. I know personally that before the defalcation of the bank, Gov. Edwards and the controlling officer of that institution were at "dagger's-draw" and that a street encounter took place between them. I know enough of Edwards to satisfy me that he was not the man to allow Goverment funds to remain in the hands of his violent enemy if he could prevent it. Both his sense of duty and his inclination would have prompted him to make known the condition of the bank. This controversy laid Edwards, as well as Crawford, on the shelf, politically.
Edwards was not outspoken on the subject of a Convention to frame a new Constitution to admit slavery, but it was generally believed that he sympathized with his son-in-law, Daniel P. Cook, who took an open and very decided stand against slavery. He put his political prospects which were then more brilliant than those of any man in the State into the scale, and went down under the furore for Jackson, under whose banner the pro-slavery men all flocked. He was beaten at the next election for Congress, by Joseph Duncan, the "Jackson" candidate. Cook cast the vote of this State, in the house, for Adams, in 1824. He had pledged himself that he would go with his State, in the event of the election going into the house, and he always contended that he fulfilled his pledge. At that time, Illinois elected, by districts, three electors. Adams carried one and Jackson two, but Cook contended that the opposition to Jackson had a majority of the popular vote. Cook, during the last session he was in Congress, was chairman of the committee of ways and means, upon whom was devolved immense labor, and it was the unanimous voice of the country that no man ever discharged the arduous duties of that position with greater ability than he did.
His defeat hastened his death. He died soon after from consumption. Illinois never had his superior on the floor of Congress. Gov. Edwards was placed in rather a dilemma. His relations with Gen. Jackson were of the most cordial character. On the other hand, he wished to sustain his son-in-law, and so he rather halted between two opinions; but he was a very great and conspicuous man, even in those days, "when there were giants in the land."
Adolphus Hubbard used to relate a rather amusing incident in connection with the governor. Hubbard was annoying him for a letter of recommendation, which he said the governor had promised to give, so the letter was handed to him. "But," said Hubbard, in his lisping way, "contrary to the uthage amongst gentlemen, he thealed it up; and, contrary to the uthage amongst gentlemen, I broke it open. And what do you think? Instheaa of being a letter of recommendation, the old rathscal abuthsec me like a pickpocket." I don't vouch for the authenticity of Hubbard's story, but it was considered a good joke, whether true or not.
Gov. Edwards was born in Maryland, and emigrated, when he was very young, to Kentucky, where he rose rapidly into public notice and attained a National reputation. He soon became a distinguished member of the court of appeals of that State, and his opinions were characterised by profound research and ability. Owing to the great amount of land litigation in Kentucky, and the zeal and ambition of the lawyers, her courts and bar, soon stood confessedly at the front for learning and accuracy in the law concerning real estate. Edwards was soon appointed governor of the Territory of Illinois, and vested with the power and patronage appertaining to that important and responsible trust. The late Judge Nathaniel Pope — one of the ablest men of the nation, and father of the present Gen. John Pope — and a member of the distinguished Pope family, of Kentucky, was appointed his secretary. While Edwards was Territorial governor, the laws were revised, and military operations carried on, which, to a great extent, protected our infant settlements from Indian depredations. Edwards would have been considered a great man in any age or country.
John Reynolds, who next appears upon the stage, was a native of Pennsylvania. His parents were born, raised, and married in County Monahan, Ireland, and, immediately after their marriage, emigrated to the United States, where they raised a large family of children. Upon John, a good collegiate education was bestowed; his father, doing what is usual in Scotch-Irish families, robbing all the other members of the family, in order to pile an
16education upon the "gentleman" of the household. I suppose this is an offshot of primogeniture. Gov. Reynolds was an accomplished Greek, Latin, and French scholar, and yet, strange to say, he was ashamed of his collegiate education. His father settled in Illinois, a few miles south of Edwardsville, under the bluff.
John soon went to Cahokia, which was the business center of the country at that early day, to practice his profession — that of the law. While there he married a very estimable French lady, a widow, with whom he lived very happily many years. The governor's dislike to appear to be educated, grew out of the contempt the early settlers had for "book larnin'." The great aim of his life seemed to be in unison with the multitude. With him the voice of the people was the voice of God. If he could be on the popular side, that was enough. He never lost sight of this object. It was his guiding-star. He always catered to the popular clamor, and indeed went beyond it, in most cases. He at one time introduced a bill into the legislature to constitute every man a justice of the peace. He consulted Justin Butterfield, who was a great wag, about it, and he said it was a capital measure, only he did not know where the governor would get his constables. He was a very inaccurate man, and paid little attention to forms and precedents, so that it was a common remark with him, that when he filed a declaration, "in would come a demurrer, and out t would go your humble servant."
David J. Baker, of Kaskaskia, who was remarkably accurate as a special pleader, once filed a declaration in court, at Kaskaskia, to which Gov. Reynolds interposed a demurrer. We were all amazed at the step taken by the governor and none half so much as Mr. Baker. After he had appeared to recover from his astonishment, he said that he had read law with care, and had made special pleadings his principal study, but so abundantly cautious had he been, that, even now, when he had the forms at his tongue's-end, he would not venture to frame a declaration without consulting the precedents.
He "could say, without boasting, that no demurrer had been sustained to his pleadings for the last twenty years, but now comes forward, at this late day, one who had ventured upon the task of assailing the accuracy of his pleadings. But who," he said, "is this man? It is no other than Gov. Reynolds, one, who, of all men on earth, ought to have the least to say about accuracy. We have all known him as member of the legislature. We have know him as judge of the circuit and supreme courts; as member of Congress, and as governor of the State; and God Almighty only knows how long we shall be afflicted with him hereafter,
17but in every position that he has held he has been conspicuous only as a bundle of informalities." Mr. Baker gave him a dreadful castigation, which the governor felt acutely, but he never "let on." Soon after Mr. Baker said to the governor, in the goodness of his heart, "Well, governor, I am afraid I was a little too severe upon you the other day."
"Why, Mr. Baker, have you been saying anything about me? I was not aware of it. I guess your speech did not amount to very much, or I would have noticed it. There is no need of apologies, Mr. Baker."
Another instance of how readily the governor would extricate himself from a dilemma is the following: the governor was a candidate for reflection to congress on the democratic side, and was making as usual with men of that party, a "free-trade" speech at Sparta, where they were interested in the "castor-bean" business. An Englishman, named Brashaw, who was a whig, made a bet with some of the governor's friends that the governor did not know whether castor-beans were protected or not; and he asked the governor whether castor-beans were among the "h'enumer-ated h'articles" or not. The governor did not seem to comprehend what he meant, and made some evasive and unsatisfactory reply, to which Brashaw triumphantly cried out, "I told you that 'e did not know whether castor-beans were h'among the h'enumerated h'articles or not." The governor, by this time, discovered what was going on, and said: "Stop. I am like the boy who was offering a horse for sale, and someone asked him if the horse had the ‘splint’." The boy scratched his head, and said, "I don't know exactly what the splint is, but I do know that if it is good for the horse, he has got it, and if it is not good for him he is devilish clear of It. And that is the way with the castor-beans; if it is good for them to be among the enumerated articles, they are there; and, if it is not, they are devilish clear of it," The governor could make the most rambling and incoherent remarks imaginable. On one occasion, he was prosecuting some Covenanters, who were indicted at Kaskaskia for a riot, committed in Sparta, in tearing down a grocery belonging to an old fellow named Turk. Judge Breese was off the bench at the time, and defending the rioters, and he referred in severe terms to the fact that the governor was found prosecuting his old friends and supporters. This touched the governor in a very tender place. He denied that his prosecution of these men was any evidence of his want of friendship for them. "For," said he, "gentlemen of the jury, if I should meet any of these men in heaven or in hell, I would run to greet and shake hands with them. But," said he, "they were not following in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessor
18cessor, Jesus Christ, when they were tearing down old Turk's grocery. They say they were afraid old Turk would raise a mob and tear down their churches if they did not destroy his grocery. Why, sir, so far from poor old Turk raising a mob, he can not raise anything. I am very much afraid he can not raise the $10 fee he promised to pay me in this case."
Gov. Reynolds was remarkably good in illustrating by an anecdote. He did not like Douglas, and never would admit that he was a great man. Douglas was not pro-slavery enough for him. I asked him on one occasion if he did not consider Douglas a strong man. He said he regarded him in the same light the boy did the oxen. He said a boy was once trying to sell a yoke of small steers, and was bragging desperately upon them, and telling what big loads they had hauled. A man said to him: "Now, my son, do you pretend to say that those little fellows are strong" "Yes," said the boy, "I pretend to say that they are devilish strong — in light work."
The governor was the most thorough-paced politician I ever knew. He kept a newspaper for his own use. It was the Belleville Advocate, in early days. He had a "standing" chairman of all his meetings; an old gentleman named McLemore, who always decided as the governor desired.
The governor was never without a "hobby." He was for the Mexican war; the acquisition of Texas; "Fifty-four Forty, or Fight"; as well as the conquest of Cuba. Whenever one of these "hobbies" was to be set going, the governor would announce, through his paper, that a meeting would take place at "such and such" a time, in Belleville, to consider the measure. At the appointed time, the governor would nominate McLemore, as chairman, and would make his speech, and then call upon those present to address the meeting; and it was a great breach of political etiquette not to "chime in" with his opening remarks. Sometimes, however, the meeting would be refractory, and the governor would prorogue them. I remember a case in which the old gentleman was unable to control his meeting. He had called one to consider the propriety of taking possession of Texas. It was during the Texas revolution. The assemblage was large, and the governor, at the outset, was in "high feather". McLemore took the chair, and the governor opened out in grand style, and insisted that Texas was ours, inasmuch as Spain had gotten the best of the bargain, when we traded Texas to her for Florida, which, he said, she could not have held. He contended that we needed it, and, therefore, had a valid right to take it.
He wound up by offering a resolution, setting forth that, "Our title to Texas is indisputable!"
A few of us, who wanted some fun, offered an amendment to the effect, that "this meeting is eminently qualified to decide the question of title to Texas;" which the governor violently opposed, and denounced us as traitors, and as having come there to interfere with and breaking up his meeting. We assumed that the meeting was composed of the wisest and best men of the world; that parliamentary and diplomatic bodies were composed of ignoramuses, as compared with us; that every American citizen, and especially every citizen of Belleville, was endowed with wisdom from "on high", in reference to all political measures; and whoever denied that palpable truth was a traitor to his country, and an enemy to mankind; and that the fiery vengeance of the present and future generations would be poured out upon their devoted heads. We drove the governor ignominiously from his own sacred ground, for the "infallibility of the people" was his "stock in trade", generally. We had nineteen-twentieths of the meeting with us, and carried our amendment; but McLemore paid no attention to the proceeding. The governor moved to adjourn. Three or four feeble "ayes" were heard. When the "noes" were called for, they made the welkin ring; but McLemore said: "Weel men, the meetin's adjourned, anyhow."
Next morning, the governor's paper came out with a flaming account of the meeting, and representing the resolution, offered by the governor, as having passed unanimously; and saying nothing about the amendment and other proceedings. I met the old gentleman, and said to him that the account of the meeting did not square very well with the actual proceedings. He replied: "No; you damned fellows beat me in the meeting, but I can beat you in the papers."
Adam W. Snyder and Gov. Reynolds were rivals and antagonists. It would not be going too far to say that they were in a state of chronic hostility to each other. Their warfare never proceeded so far as to become violent. They were, in some respects, in the condition that Kentucky was, according to the account the "Governor" used to give. He used to tell of a Ken-tuckian who was "calaboosed" in New Orleans for fighting. He said to one of his friends, who had called one day to condole with him, that he had made up his mind that if he ever got out of that infernal place, he would go back to Kentucky where he could fight in peace.
Snyder and Reynolds never broke the peace, but they were continually fighting, politically (although they were both "Jackson men," and professedly Democrats.) They were generally aspirants for the same place — always in each other's way. Each one looked upon the other as being his "evil genius," and neither
20would have regarded the removal of the other to some other country as a very great evil. A man named Coonce once called upon Snyder, to take the necessary steps to obtain some testimony with a view to its perpetuation. Snyder never liked the drudgery of the profession, or the office business. He loved to try a case and address a jury, which he could do with great ease to himself, and splendid effect. He endeavored to get rid of the task upon various pretexts; but Coonce was very importunate, and finally Snyder sat down to writing, and asked Coonce whose testimony he wished to take. The latter said, "That of Gov. Reynolds." Snyder looked up in amazement, and broke out with an exclamation, that he never heard of such folly as to go to the expense and trouble to perpetuate old Reynold's testimony. "Why, damn him," said he, "he will never die. I have been waiting for him to ‘kick the bucket’ for more than a quarter of a century, and his hold upon life seems now to be stronger than it was when I first knew him; he will live forever, sir. I will not make a damned fool of myself by seeking to perpetuate the testimony of a man who will outlive any record in existence."
A specimen of the governor's style of quoting is rather amusing. He was attempting to quote from Shakespeare the passage about McDuff, and he said — as Shakespeare says — "Come on, McDougall, and be damned to you." His rendering of the maxim caveat emptor, was that it meant "Flee from the wrath to come." During his term as governor, a man named Wakefield wrote and published a history of the Black-Hawk War, in which Judge Breese was made to figure as the hero. Breese was ashamed of the production, as in one place the author was trying to describe one of the movements of the army. He said, that in its march it came to a certain point, at which one portion turned off at a right angle, and the other turned off at a left angle. Wakefield solicited some favor from Breese, thinking the latter was under great obligations to him. But he got the cold shoulder. He became indignant, and said: "Sir; I shall re-write the history of the Black-Hawk War, and I will make you figure in a very different light."
The governor was a wonderfully inconsistent man in his politics. He stoutly maintained that he was a Democrat; but, at the same time, vindicated doctrines and a policy, the opposite of that which was contended for by that party. In his message, as governor, to the legislature, of Dec. 8, 1830, he most explicitly advocated the constitutionality and propriety of a protective tariff; of internal improvements by the General Government, the latter of which was distinctly repudiated by Gen. Jackson, in his veto of the "Maysville road bill;" but the most startling discrepancy, in his
21views, is in reference to the preservation of the Union. At the close of his message, he uses this language: "The Union of the people of the several States forming the National Government, is the palladium of our political safety, and should be preserved at all hazards. Every attempt toward its dismemberment will be resisted by every good man." In the archives of the "Southern Confederacy" was found a letter from Gov. Reynolds to Jefferson Davis, advising a resort to arms for the destruction of the Union. Reynolds was elected governor in August, 1830.
Joseph Duncan succeeded Gov. Reynolds as the executive head of the government of Illinois. He was born in Paris, Bourbon County, Ky., in February,1794; was early left fatherless, and upon him, together with his mother, rested the responsibility of rearing the family. In that relation his conduct was all that could be desired. At the age of 16, he was commissioned in the regular army of the United States, and greatly distinguished himself for courage, fidelity, and good conduct, in so far as to attract the attention and command the approval of his superiors. He was engaged in the bloody battle of Sandusky, in which the American forces repulsed a vastly superior force of British and Indians, with terrible loss to the enemy. In 1818, he removed to Illinois, and settled in Jackson county, where he engaged in the milling business.
It was in reference to his mill that the passage, d'armes between David J. Baker and Adolphus Hubbard took place. The story illustrates the "clap-trap" employed in early times to humbug the juries by a certain class of lawyers. "Reports" of the decisions of the courts were a new thing in our temples of justice. David J. Baker had recently arrived from New England, and located in Kaskaskia, to practice law. He brought with him a fine library, containing many of the reports of the decisions of the courts of the eastern States. In the case referred to, he cited a decision found in Johnson's New-York Reports, which was squarely in point against Hubbard, who warded off its effects by telling the jury that the Johnson whose Reports were quoted by Mr. Baker in support of his views was a Yankee clock-peddler, who has been perambulating the country gathering up rumors and floating stories against the people of the west, and had them published in a book entitled "Johnson's Reports." Hubbard indignantly repudiated them as authority in Illinois, and said: "Gentlemen of the jury, I am sure you will not believe anything that comes from such a source; and, besides, what did Johnson know about Joe Duncan's mills?" Of course, this was conclusive with the jury, and Hubbard gained his case.
In 1823, Duncan was elected to the State Senate from Jackson
22County, and served with great credit to himself, until he defeated Daniel P. Cook for representative in Congress, in 1826. The latter was a man of transcendent ability, and had acquired a national reputation, but he went down during the Jackson "furor," as described in the sketch of Gov. Edwards.
Duncan left the "Jackson Party" on account of the finance question, after the old General removed the deposits from the United States Bank. Duncan considered that the struggle, at that time, was really between the New York "safety-fund system" of banks and the Philadelphia system of a bank chartered by Congress, with power to establish branches in the States. He thought that VanBuren had adroitly managed to enlist the immense popularity of Gen, Jackson on the side of the New York banks, or rather against the United States bank. The old general was, doubtless, actuated by the doctrine of "State-rights", which was becoming, then, the prevailing "dogma" at the South. He regarded it as an act of usurpation on the part of Congress, to charter a bank with power to locate branches in the States. Although the Jackson party was in a large majority in Illinois, yet Duncan, owing to his popularity, was elected governor in 1833; and in his inaugural message, he lays down his views on that question with great precision, and they were the views of the Whig party, to which he had attached himself.
His immediate predecessor in the gubernatorial chair was William I, D. Ewing, who held the office for fifteen days. Reynolds, the governor, and Zadock Casey, lieutenant-governor, had both been elected to congress, which vacated their offices about fifteen days before their successors could qualify, and so the office of governor of the State was devolved upon Ewing, who had been elected president of the senate. He delivered a message to the legislature at the beginning of his fifteen days' term, in which he lays down the democratic views on the question of banks. From a comparison of these two documents, the exact status of the two great parties of that day can be distinctly ascertained on that question. It will be there learned that the whig party was in favor of a "National" bank, and the "Democratic" party was for "State" banks. Neither party was, at that time, for exclusively hard-money currency. After the overthrow of the National bank, State banks sprang up, which were supported or acquiesced in by both parties. Most of them broke down, and then a party, of which Thomas H. Benton might be considered the head, arose, whose leading dogma was an "exclusively metallic currency."
Gov. Duncan commanded the Illinois troops on the expedition against Black Hawk, in 1831. It may be said of him that in all the relations of life he was up to the requirements of the occasion.
He was a man of fine presence, and dressed with great neatness and circumspection. 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. Gov. Duncan was a man of respectable talents and the highest moral attributes. I was personally acquainted with him, and was profoundly impressed with a conviction that he was an ornament to the State.
Thomas Carlin succeeded Duncan as governor, and was elected in 1838. His opponent was the Hon. Cyrus Edwards, of Madison County, and, for the purpose of vindicating the truth of history, I take this occasion to say that an error has crept into our annals as to the views of these two gentlemen on the internal improvement question of that day.
Mr. Edwards was a warm friend of internal improvements, but he disapproved of so stupendous a system as was adopted in our State, and he still more opposed a system which was to be carried on by State management. He preferred that railroads should be built and operated by private effort, and when he failed in this he wished to combine the two methods; and when this could not be accomplished he made up his mind to oppose the whole scheme, and I remember distinctly that he was authoritatively instructed to vote for the measure, which instructions he obeyed most reluctantly. He always predicted the downfall of the system. Gov. Carlin, on the other hand, in his inaugural message urged its prosecution. He was born in Kentucky, July 18, 1789, and was of Irish extraction. He possessed great physical powers, and was as courageous as a lion. He was accounted hard to handle in a rough-and-tumble fight, in which he would engage at the drop of a hat. The late Gen. McConnell told me that the-first glimpse he got of Gov. Carlin, he was springing from the back. of a horse, upon a man named Van Arsdale. This occurred at Milton, in the upper end of the American bottom. They had made arrangements for a race, and Carlin suspected that Van Arsdale had tampered with his rider, so he stripped and did the riding himself. As soon as he reached the outcome, some one informed him that Van Arsdale had said something derogatory of him, and he instantly sprang from his horse upon his antagonist, who was a man after Carlin's fashion, and they had a terrible contest. This was not considered disreputable in those times. Indeed, a man who would not fight was scorned, and held to be unfit to live in the country. Carlin was in high repute as a ranger and Indian-fighter. He was a fine horseman, woodsman, and marksman, and brimful of fight, and, of course, was an invaluable member of pioneer society, always ready for a raid after the
24Indians. His education was extremely limited, so much so that it may be said that he was wholly uneducated in early life, but being a man of great natural endowments, he endeavored, as soon as society changed, to retrieve his losses, and made amends by diligent application, but he was never entirely able to burst the bonds which early life had thrown around him. He was always intensely pro-slavery, or rather negro-hating. I always regarded him as being perfectly honest and as liberal in his views as it was possible for a man, raised as he was, to be. He hated banks and was suspicious of Yankees unless they were Democrats. At the same time, he was perfectly conscious that Yankee intelligence and enterprise was desirable, even in the West. He had overcome the prejudices of such men as Gov. Kinnev, who opposed the construction of the canal because it would encourage the immigration of Yankees to our State. He adored Gen. Jackson, for two reasons. First, because the General, like himself, was of Irish extraction, and, secondly, because he would have his own way. I don't know that Gov. Carlin was hostile to Catholicism. I think he was indifferent on that subject, but he said to me on one occasion that if he had his life to live over again he would never have his children educated in an institution where there should be the slightest sectarian bias exercised over them. Gov. Carlin was a seeker after what was right, but he had so many prejudices, acquired in early life, that it was almost impossible for him to stand on modernized and enlightened ground. If he had been born forty years later, and had reasonable opportunities, he would have been a distinguished man for capacity and liberality of sentiment. As it was, he was an honest, plain, well-intentioned man. During his administration an incident occurred deserving explanation. It has been frequently stated that Mr. Lincoln jumped out of the window to avoid voting, while he was a member of the legislature. It happened as follows, according to my recollection:
The banks throughout the country became crippled during the panic of 1837, and they were, throughout the West, allowed to suspend specie payments. At the session of 1837-8, an act was passed authorizing the State Hank of Illinois to suspend "until the end of the next general assembly." Gov. Carlin convened the next session two weeks earlier than the time prescribed for its meeting by the Constitution. A quarrel occurred between some of the members of the dominant party and the bank, and it was secretly determined to adjourn the legislature sine die, at the end of the first two weeks of the next session. That would be the next session after the act allowing the bank to suspend, and it would be compelled to resume, while the banks in the other States
25were suspended, and they would drain the specie from our bank and pay out none themselves. The Whigs regarded this move as being unjust to the bank and detrimental to the welfare of the people. They got wind of the thing on the morning of the day when the adjournment was to take place, and they instantly resolved that they would absent themselves, and thus break up a quorum, but, as the Constitution of 1818 would allow such a vote to be taken without a call of the ayes and noes, it was necessary that two Whigs should be in the house to call for them, so that it should appear that a quorum was not voting, in which case, the legislature could only adjourn from day to day, and the following Monday they would be convened by the Constitution. Lincoln and I were selected to call the ayes and noes, and the Whigs promised to keep out of the way. When the motion was put we called for the ayes and noes, and there was no quorum voting. A call of the house was ordered, and the sergeant-at-arms was sent for the absentees, many of whom, we discovered, allowed themselves to be caught and brought in. Lincoln and I began to suspect that they had a quorum. Finding that the Whigs who had been brought in would not withdraw, we got them to agree to call for the ayes and noes, and we concluded to leave, but, ascertaining that the doors were locked, we raised the windows of the church, in which the session was held, and jumped out. The sergeant-at-arms, William Murphy, reported that he had commanded Cyrus Edwards to attend in his place. "What did he say?" inquired the speaker of the house. "He said he would not." "What did you say?" "I told him I would take him by force." "What did he do?" "He raised his cane and said: ‘Touch me at your peril.’" "What did you do?" "I stoped, sir."
Thomas Ford succeeded Carlin as governor of the State, in 1842. He was elected over Joseph Duncan, who was the Whig candidate, by a majority of 8317. Ford was born at Uniontown, Pa., in 1800, and was the half-brother of George Forquer, who was six years the senior. The mother of these men was reputed to be a woman of heroic character. She emigrated from Pennsylvania where her husband, Robert Ford, was killed by the Indians to the Spanish country, west of the Mississippi river, the government of which donated the land to actual settlers. Soon after that country passed under the dominion of the United States, she removed to Monroe County, Illinois.
I was very well acquainted with a daughter of Mrs. Ford, who had married a man named David Ditch, who kept a public house at Waterloo for many years after I began to travel the circuit. Mrs. Ditch was an enterprising and industrious old lady when I
26knew her, and was considered the best house-keeper, and set the best table, in all that region, considering her opportunities and surroundings. Thomas Ford was, from the first, extremely ambitious, and struggled hard to obtain an education. He, with the aid of his half-brother, Forquer, and the patronage of Daniel P. Cook, under whom he studied law very thoroughly, entered the practice, and was soon elevated to the bench, where he signalized himself by the correctness and impartiality of his decisions, and the strong hand with which he maintained the supremacy of the laws in opposition to those self-constituted bulwarks of society, the "regulators." If Gov. Ford could have peered twenty years into the future, his wrath against mobs would have been greatly intensified.
I learn that one of his sons, a very promising young man, was overtaken by a band of men in Kansas, who were in pursuit of a horse-thief, and, without giving him a moment for explanation, they hung him up. Very soon after, they discovered their mistake, but it was too late to restore the life they had so ruthlessly taken. This should be a solemn warning to those miscreants, who, under the guise of administrating justice without the delays of the law, hang a man first and try him afterward. Ford settled in Edwardsville, at an early day, and there married a Miss Fannie Hambaugh, a young lady from Kentucky, who was very attractive in person and manners, and amiable in her disposition. Gov. Ford was quite low in stature and slender in person, but firm and decided in character, and rather belligerent in disposition. He professed to be of the Democratic faith, but, in delineating the characters of his contemporaries, he laid the heaviest blows upon men of his own party. He administered the State government with firmness, and for the promotion of the highest interests of the people, according to his best judgment. During his administration, the Mormons were expelled from the State. Undesirable as this class of persons were, I never could perceive how we could legitimately drive them away. We had, unquestionably, the power to enact laws to compel them to shape their institutions and observances according to the views of civilized men, but we had no right to dump our offal into other communities. We deny the right of European nations to send the scum of their society to this land, and the principle is the same.
While on this subject it may not be inappropriate to allude to the remark of Justin Butterfield, an eminent lawyer of Chicago, in a case in which the Mormon prophet, Joe Smith, was concerned. An attempt had been made to assassinate Gov. Boggs, of Missouri, and Joe Smith was indicted for being party to a
27conspiracy to compass the death of Boggs, and a requisition was made upon the Governor of Illinois to deliver him up as a fugitive from justice. The requisition was granted and Smith taken into custody. Butterfield sued out a writ of habeas corpus before Judge Pope, U. S. district judge, of Illinois. On the day set for hearing, Smith was brought to Springfield, and in his company were his apostles. The judge had the platform, on which he was seated, supplied with chairs for the ladies of Springfield, who appeared in great numbers beside him, elegantly bedizened. When Butterfield arose, he began his remarks by saying, in his most quizzical manner, that he supposed no member of the legal profession had ever been similarly situated with himself. He said that he "was standing here defending the prophet of the Lord, before the Pope, surrounded by angels." Judge Pope very properly held that a "fugitive from justice," in the meaning of the Constitution, was one who had committed a crime in one State and fled to another. It was not pretended that the offense charged against Smith had been committed in Missouri, or that he had been out of Illinois for some years, and the court held that he was not a fugitive from justice, and, consequently, could not be taken on a requisition to Missouri; and he was therefore discharged.
Gov. Ford left the office of governor bankrupt. He had spent all his means in the economical support of his family, but he had made nothing but his salary of $1200 per annum. He died soon after his retirement, and his children were compelled to be bound out to avoid being sent to the poor house.
Gov. Bissell, as well Gov. Ford, was financially ruined by holding the office of governor. He went in with means enough to have supported himself and family in comfort during the evening of his life; but the absolutely necessary expenses of the position so far exceeded his salary as to exhaust his other means.
The effect of these inadequate salaries will be to prevent poor men from aspiring to or holding offices; and I see no difference between a law providing that no poor man shall hold office and one that prescribes that no poor man can hold office. The masses of the people labor under the delusion that slim salaries are to their advantage, when the reverse is the case. Adequate compensation should be provided for all public trusts, so that the poor man can afford to accept them as well as the rich. A poor man who accepts a place, the salary of which is inadequate to reasonably support himself and family, must either starve or steal. A Roman Proconsul or Persian Satrap could well afford to dispense with a salary when he had a rich province which he could plunder placed under his power.
I hope I shall not be understood as favoring extravagant salaries. My only purpose is to contribute my mite towards counteracting a political heresy into which, I think, the public mind is drifting, and that is cheap public services. I shall do nothing more than enumerate the other governors, as they are of the present time, and have been your contemporaries, except Gov. Bissell, respecting whom something might be profitably said out of the ordinary course.
Augustus C. French succeeded Gov. Ford in 1846.
Joel A. Mattison succeeded Gov. French in 1853, and Gov Mattison was followed by Wm. H. Bissell, in 1857. Bissell was born in New York, in 1811, where he studied the medical profession, and removed to Monroe County, Illinois, where he married a Miss James, a very beautiful, amiable, and accomplished lady, by whom he had two daughters, now living in Belleville, Ill., who are worthy, in every respect, of their illustrious father. Bissell had no fondness for his profession, although he had the reputation of being successful. He inclined to politics,- where he displayed marked abilities. He was elected, as a Democrat, from Monroe County, to the Legislature of 1840, and was soon recognized as one of the best speakers in the House of Representatives. He was characterized by the elegance of his style and diction, and a quaint sort of satire, which was very cutting and effective. I recollect a passage at arms during that session, in which he got the better of one of our ablest Whig speakers. The Democrats made arrangements for celebrating the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, from which they desired to exclude the Whigs, who insisted upon their right to participate. One of our Whig speakers who had been in the battle, said (among other things) that many of those who were claiming the exclusive right of celebrating the day would not have been willing to place their heads where his had been, where a quart of bullets had been flying around it. We Wigs thought this was very good. When Bissell came to reply to this part of the speech, he said, in his clear, ringing voice, that he "would give the gentleman credit for sincerity in the statement that at least a quart of bullets had been flying around his head, but," said he, "it would have removed every vestige of doubt of the truth of the statement if he had gone farther and admitted that at least one pint thereof had lodged therein."
An ungovernable passion soon seized him to abandon his profession and betake himself to the law. He attended the sessions of the courts as diligently as any of the lawyers; his mind seemed to be engrossed with all that was going on. His friends, perceiving the bent of his inclination, advised him to procure "Blackstone's
29Commentaries," and go to work. In an incredibly short space of time he was admitted to practice, and was soon appointed prosecuting-attorney, and was in his element. He stood at once in the front rank as a prosecutor. He never failed to convict. It shortly came to be considered a hopeless task to defend where he was prosecuting. He was equal to any emergency.
Bissell prosecuted, for murder, a man named Raney, who lived in Washington County, but was tried at Carlyle, Clinton County, and was defended by Judge Breese, in his own county, where he had boundless influence. Raney was a respectable man, and leading politician in the dominant party: there was great room to doubt his guilt, and the court instructed strongly in his favor. He had an interesting wife and family. Breese defended him with great zeal and ability. He left no stone unturned; but after presenting the facts and law of the case with remarkable clearness and force, he ventured upon an appeal to the sympathies of the jury in behalf of the wife and little children of his client. It was a most powerful effort, and the by-standers all believed that he had saved his man. But not so; by his efforts to work upon the sympathies of the jury, he had opened a door which let Bissell in to play upon their feelings. This was his forte. The scene was at night; the room was dimly lighted, and wore a sepulchral air; and such word-painting I shall never hear again as Bissell employed on that occasion. He turned the picture over and portrayed the murdered man in his grave, his winding-sheet around him, his hair matted with clay, and his shroud clotted with blood, streams of crimson gore trickling still from his gaping wounds. He drew the mother and little children to the edge ot the grave, where they could take a last look at the cold and clammy remains of their beloved husband and father. He depicted their agony in such heart-rending terms as to scarcely leave a dry eye in the house. He turned the tide of sympathy, and it became an irresistible torrent in behalf of the bereaved widow and offspring of the dead. The effects of the splendid efforts of Breese were all swept away.
I realized then, to its fullest extent, the power of language in the mouth of a master over the feelings of mankind. The picture drawn by Bissell on that occasion has stamped itself indelibly in my mind. I see it in the visions of the night. I hear his burning eloquence, to this day, ringing in my ears. He triumphed, and poor Raney was found guilty. If that effort had been taken down, and could be read by us — of itself — it would have made the name of Wm. H. Bissell immortal.
The Mexican war broke out. Bissell embarked in it, and commanded
30the 2d Illinois regiment with great ability and gallantry, and, together with the late lamented Hardin, Clay, of Kentucky, and Jeff. Davis, of Mississippi, was highly instrumental in saving the day at the perilous battle of Buena Vista. On his return from the war, he was extremely popular. He was engaging in his manners, eminent as a speaker, and brought with him a glorious record from the war. He was immediately elected to Congress, where he promptly became conspicuous. An event soon occurred which still more endeared him to the people of his district.
In 1850, a Mr. Brown, of Mississippi, indulging in the delusion — then so prevalent in the South — that one Southern man was equal, in battle, to a host of Northerners, in a speech claimed all the credit of our victory at Buena Vista for the Southern regiments. Bissell replied to him with so much firmness, severity, and effect, that it was determined, in solemn conclave, that speeches of such boldness and ability on the Northern side of the House could not be longer tolerated, and that Bissell's mouth must be closed, and the best way to reform him would be to disgrace or exterminate him.
Jeff. Davis was selected as the minister to carry this laudable purpose into effect, and he chose to consider that claiming a share of the honor of the victory for Northern troops was a reflection upon the gallantry of his regiment. Bissell had been in the highest degree complimentary to Davis's command, as well as to the rest of the Southern regiments. No man, who had the slightest conception of fairness, could take umbrage at Bissell's remarks in reference to the conduct of the Southern troops in that engagement. But Davis affected to regard it otherwise, and challenged Bissell to mortal combat. He knew the latter to be as brave as Caesar, but thought that the effect of early education and popular opinion in the North would influence him to decline its acceptance, and then they could hector and domineer over him ad libitum. Contrary to the expectations, Bissell accepted to fight with muskets, loaded with ball and buckshot, at ten paces. This, it was known, would be certain death to Davis, and that result was not in the programme.
The next question was, how to extricate Davis from this dilemma. It was done in this wise: Mrs. Dr. Linn, of Missouri, a very intimate friend of Mrs. Davis, went, the night before the affair was to come off, to the White House and waked Gen. Taylor, President of the United States, informing him of what was pending. The President hurriedly notified the mayor of the city, and the belligerents were placed under immediate arrest, and thus the affair ended; but no attempts were made after that to "bull-doze" Bissell. He was afterwards (in 1856) elected governor as a freesoiler,
31and died, soon after the close of his term, from the effects of an injury to his spine, occasioned by the falling of the seat of a wagon on which he was riding, which threw him with his back across the side of the wagon-bed. This paralyzed his lower limbs, and from it he subsequently died. Although he was unable to walk, yet his glorious intellect was bright and vigorous to the last. He conducted a campaign for congress and one for governor, both successfully, while he was unable to walk a step.
A somewhat singular incident occurred while he was governor. The Democrats obtained a majority in the legislature, and passed two bills — an appropriation bill, and an apportionment bill. Bissell intended to veto the latter and approve the former. In external appearance, the bills resembled each other, and were both placed on the governor's table at the same time, and Bissell, through inadvertance, approved of the wrong bill — the one he intended to veto. It was communicated to the house that the governor had approved the apportionment bill. This occasioned a great stir, as his purposes had been generally well known. As soon as he discovered his blunder, he called in his friends to consult as to what should be done. Mr. Lincoln, and N. B. Judd, of this city, were called in and I was also invited. We advised the governor to get hold of the bill and strike his approval off, which he did, and upon the case coming up before the Supreme Court, on writ of mandamus, they held that he had the right do so.
I venture the opinion that Illinois had, at one time, in the persons of Edward D. Baker — who was killed at Ball's Bluff — and William H. Bissell, the two best extemporaneous speakers in the United States. Baker's speeches appear best in the reading, Bissell's in the delivery. Baker seldom gained his point, Bissell never lost his. Baker had the more poetical imagination, Bissell the best appreciation of facts. Baker could best tickle the fancy, Bissell could the more effectuatly rouse the passions. Baker could entrance an audience, Bissell could carry them with him. Baker spoke for fame, Bissell for effect. Neither Baker nor Bissell needed any time for preparation. Their ideas seemed to come to them by intuition. Baker had the most culture, Bissell the most sense. Baker was sometimes too profuse in his decorations of his subject, which was occasionally thereby hidden from view. Bissell never over-adorned his topic. I could refer to many more incidents in the career of Baker and Bissell, with whom I was well acquainted, but time and space forbid. I will close, as to them, by remarking that neither of them had a particle of "money-sense."
Richard Yates followed Bissell, as governor, in 1860.
Richard J. Oglesby came after Governor Yates, in 1864.
John M. Palmer succeeded Governor Oglesby, in 1868.
John L. Beveridge came after Governor Palmer, in 1873.
And last, but not least, Shelby M. Cullum, in 1876.
I should like, if time permitted, to say something of Yates, who is dead and gone. He was one of the "noblest Romans of them all;" but he lived in our own day, and I could say nothing concerning him that you do not know as well as I do.
Of the "latter-day saints," Oglesby, Palmer, Beveridge, and Cullum, they are still "monuments of God's mercy," and are still spared to us. It is not becoming on this occasion to speak of the living, and I hope it will be a long time before it will be fitting to speak of them as the departed. When that time comes, no man will be justified in saying aught of them, except in terms of the highest commendation.
I have discussed the governors, now I will turn back and take up a few names, here and there, which I consider deserve particular mention.
Peter Menard is one. He was born in 1767, in Quebec, and emigrated to this country prior to 1786, and contributed to the conquest of Kaskaskia and Vincennes by George Rogers Clarke. He was opposed to the British rule, and was American in all his sympathies. He was extremely enterprising and adventurous, and soon obtained a great influence over the Indians with whom he traded, which he turned to good account in our war of 1812.
He was the first lieutenant-governor of the State. Honesty, energy, and benevolence were the predominant traits in his character. It is related of him, in proof of his benevolence, that at one time there was a great scarcity of salt in the settlements, and as it was an indispensable article, the people, in the early part of of the season, called upon Menard, who had the only supply there was outside of St. Louis, to engage it from him. He would not tell them whether they could get it or not, but directed them to come to his house on a certain day and he would let them know. They came, at the appointed time, and were seated. Menard passed around, and would ask each one, "You got money?" Some said they had, and some said they had not, but would pay as soon as they killed their hogs. Those who had money he directed to range themselves on one side of the room, and those who had none were to take the other. Of course, those who had money expected to get the salt, and the others were crestfallen. Menard soon spoke up, in his brusque way, and said: "You men who got de money can go to St. Louis for your salt. Dese poor men, who got no money, shall have my salt, by gar!"
This was not an ostentatious display on his part, it was perfectly
33in character. He did not know much about parliamentary proceedings, and he was presiding over the deliberations of the State Senate. He thought if he was opposed to a measure, he was not bound to put it to a vote. A proposition came up to memorialize the treasurer of the United States to receive bills of the Bank of Edwardsville in payment for lands, which he believed would be the means of defrauding the Government, and he refused to put it to a vote. His friends explained to him that it was his duty to put it to vote, and he said: "Gentlemen, if I mus', I mus'. You who are in favor of this resolution, will signify the same by saying ‘aye;’ but I bet ten thousand dollar Congre' never make him land-office money; you who are opposed will say ‘no.’" Menard was wrong in one of his conjectures. Congress did make it "land-office money." But he was right in the other; the bank did defraud the Government Out of some $40,000. Menard's hospitality was boundless. He entertained every comer, Indians as well as the whites, who called on him. He provided for the comfort of all his superannuated slaves, and did the same with the last remnant of the Kaskaskia tribe of Indians. He contended that the Indians were the best physiognomists he ever knew. He told me that some wild Indians called upon him once, and were sitting in his parlor, on the walls of which were hung several portraits of distinguished men, among which was one of the great Napoleon. He observed the Indians eyeing it, and he inquired if they had ever seen it before. They said, "no." Said he, "What do you think of him?" "Very great brave."
I regret that I am compelled to forbear any farther consideration of the life and character of these eminent old French and Swiss pioneers. Without them, this country would not have been discovered so soon. Without them, we should have had greater difficulties to encounter from the Indians. They could penetrate farther into the Western wilds than the Americans. They were better acquainted with the Indian character than we were. To some of these we are largely indebted for services in more recent times. It may not be generally known, but it is nevertheless true, that one of the finest military engineers in the world was Gen. Gratiot, who designed and constructed Fortress Monroe, and who, for a long time, was at the head of the engineering department of the United States. He was a man of the strictest integrity added to great professional ability. If that fortress had not been so formidable, and had fallen into the hands of the rebels, it might have cost greater efforts, and loss of life and treasure, to have maintained the supremacy of the laws and the integrity of the Union.
Gen. Gratiot belonged to one of those French families. I can
34say that, after devoting all his energies to the promotion of the welfare of his country, Gen. Gratiot was poorly requited.
Nicholas Jarrott, and his son Vital, also deserve favorable mention in this connection. The father was born in Rochelle, in France, and emigrated to this country at an early day, and settled in Cahokia, where his son was born. The old gentleman was ardently devoted to the institutions of our country. He directed his attention principally to business, in which he was highly successful, and died leaving a large estate to his numerous offspring.
His widow departed this life a year or so ago, at a very advanced age. She was uncommonly intelligent and interesting in conversation. She could have shed a flood of light upon the early history of Illinois, and particularly upon the French settlements; and I have heard that she left very valuable papers upon that subject, which it would be well for those interested in antiquarian research to secure. I would advise the secretary of this Society to correspond with George L. Brackett, of East St. Louis (her grandson); in reference to this matter. Like her husband, she was extremely kind-hearted and benevolent.
Vital Jarrott was a very enterprising, intelligent, and public-spirited citizen. Late in life, he sunk a large fortune in endeavoring to sustain the East St. Louis rolling-mill, whereby he was reduced from affluence to poverty after he was seventy years of age. So punctiliously honest was he, that he paid out the last cent of his private means before one of the employes should suffer. His energy was so great, however, that he pushed out, at the age of seventy-three, to try to retrieve his fortunes in the Black Hills, where he died from toil and exposure not long ago.
Mr. Lincoln was a warm friend and great admirer of Vital Jarrott, and almost forced upon him the office of Indian Agent. No better selection could have been made. He was honest, enlightened, and humane, and discharged the arduous duties of the position with remarkable ability and fidelity. He soon gained the confidence and respect of the Indians, and I feel sure that if he had been retained, and his policy adopted, the relations between the whites and the aborigines would have been much more satisfactory than they are. He was intimately acquainted with the Indian character, having spent a good deal of time trading with them in the mountains, and he had just and humane views respecting the treatment they should receive. He did not adopt the prevalent dogma, that "the red man had no rights that the white man was bound to respect." He felt that the finger of destiny pointed unerringly to the speedy annihilation of the race, but he was for smoothing their pathway as much as possible.
I wish to make a remark here about the unreliability of history
35in its minor aspects. About 1820, a man named James D. Henry settled in Edwardsville. He was a shoemaker, and a very remarkable man. He was the most magnificent specimen I ever saw. His courage was that of a lion, his gentleness that of a lamb. It was learned after a while that he was the illegitimate offspring of a Major Henry, of the United States army. His mother's name was Dougherty. He was raised in indigence and obscurity, but he inwardly felt the irresistible aspirations belonging to his nature. He felt that he possessed the highest qualities of manhood and greatness, and yet was doomed, by the accident of birth, to ignominy. He was extremely unhappy, and yet he was extremely ambitious. He knew that he was greatly admired; still, he would never go into society. He found himself, at maturity, illiterate, and he resolved to supply this defect. He became almost frantic at the thought of his deficiency in this respect. His circumstances would not permit him to neglect his business in the daytime, and so he attended a "night-school," kept by a man named Wm. Barrett. I attended along with him. He was the most earnest student I ever knew. He would beg me to come to his shop and read to him, while he was at work, which I often did. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable. History was his favorite study, and next to that, "Brown's Dictionary of the Bible." He studied history on account of the light it shed on military affairs, in which direction his ambition tended, and his perception of his aptitudes led him. His theological opinions were of the Calvinist stripe. He was a thorough fatalist. He studied everything appertaining to military affairs, with the most intense application. He idolized Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Caesar, and Napoleon. He was familiar with every evolution of those great masters of the art of war, in their battles and campaigns. His taste led him to the organization of a military company, in Edwardsville, which he trained and disciplined. About 1826, he was established in the business of merchandizing at Springfield, by Joshua Atwater. His predilection continued, and, in the summer of 1827, he appeared at the head of a battalion of volunteers in the lead-mines, to quell the Winnebago disturbance. I met with him, and found him in his element, until he discovered there would be no war. Then he was despondent, and regarded the "fates" as using their malign influence against him.
In 1831, he was again in the field to drive back the Sacs and Foxes, and again he was disappointed and driven almost to distraction by the retreat of the Indians, without a battle. In 1832, on the renewal of the invasion by Black Hawk, he again appeared on his favorite theatre; and this time, his aspirations were, to
36some extent, gratified. He fought nearly all the battles and gained all the victories of the campaign, contrary to the orders of his military superiors. He was truly and emphatically the Alpha and Omego of the war, and yet I am informed that his name does not appear in the archives of the Government, as connected with its military affairs. He is as completely ignored as if he had never been born.
Such is history in the full blaze of the enlightenment of the nineteenth century. Henry was fully the equal of Cromwell, of Lord Clive, and of Gen. Jackson, as a natural-born hero; but the goddess of fortune was inauspicious, and he died unwept, unhon-ored, and his glories comparatively unsung. I refer my hearers, for all that remains of the fame of James D. Henry, to the brief sketches, in the histories of Illinois, by ex-governor John Reynolds and Thomas Ford, who have endeavored to rescue his name from complete oblivion. He was nominated, at the close of the Black-Hawk war, for governor, by universal acclaim, and would have been elected but for his untimely death in New Orleans, whither he had gone to retrieve his health, which he had lost by exposures in the campaign. His character was a singular compound; when he was unexcited, he was as mild as a May-morning; when aroused to anger, he was terrible as a tornado, and his voice and manner would strike terror into the stoutest hearts. He was as ambitious in his aspirations as Lucifer; and as humble in Ins pretentious as Lazarus. He was wonderfully reticent as to what he was, but extremely communicative as to what he would like to be.
Another instance of the unjust partiality of history, or rather the stuff of which it is made, is the case of John J. Hardin, who was a worthy scion of an illustrious Kentucky family, conspicuous for talents, virtues, and prestige. Like most Kentucky lawyers, he was thoroughly educated in his profession. He emigrated to Illinois at an early day — prior to 1830, I think — and settled in Jacksonville, then the most growing town in the State. By dint of his diligence, ability, and integrity, he soon took a position in the front ranks, at the bar, and obtained a lucrative practice. His capacity, and the confidence he inspired, brought him into the political arena. He first served the people of Morgan County, in the legislature, and he did it with great ability and effect. I remember that he was greatly annoyed with measures looking to dividing or taking off slices from his county. At that day, the country was overrun with a class of men whose sole business consisted in buying tracts of land, and laying them off into town-lots, and then set to work to have a new county formed, of which their location was to be the county-seat. They were invariably
37shrewd, managing fellows, and there were so many of them hanging around, and their combinations were so extensive and artfully contrived, and could be made to subserve the interests of so many members, that it was almost impossible to defeat their schemes. Hardin, however, went at those who were menacing his county, with all his ardor and energy, and he never failed to defeat them; and no change could be made in the boundaries of his county to which he did not assent. He soon became prominent for a seat in Congress, to which he was elected, and occupied a conspicuous position. He was a thorough-paced Whig and had such men to compete with, in his own party, as E. D. Baker and Abraham Lincoln, and in the opposite ranks, John Calhoun and Stephen A. Douglas: but he was universally admitted to be the equal of any of his antagonists in either party. I consider him the strongest of any that I have named among the people. He was an indomitable worker, and absolutely fearless in the expressions of his opinions, and he attached his friends to him with "hooks of steel." While Lincoln, Baker, and Hardin were rivals, there were no unkind feelings between them, but the people, holding them as having equal pretensions, gave them a seat in Congress, by turns. Hardin had one quality which endeared him to the public, he was considered as having aptitudes for military affairs. He was adjutant for Duncan, in 1831, in the first Black-Hawk campaign, and made himself immensely popular with the men; but as Black Hawk retreated, and there was no engagement, Hardin had no opportunity of distinguishing himself. When the Mexican war broke out, he immediately raised a regiment and entered that service, where he perished. I went to see him embark from Alton, and, when bidding him farewell, I had a presentiment that he would never return, and remarked, when I went home, that I felt satisfied that I would never see John J. Hardin again. I knew that he possessed uncommon gallantry, and would at all hazards distinguish himself, and I suppose that led me to think that he would be killed in battle; something like this is the foundation of what is called a presentiment.
Hardin was a man of clear head, strong will, and sound judgment; just and honorable in his purposes; faithful to his friends, but not disposed to yield in the slightest degree to his enemies until he had obtained the mastery over them. Napoleon is said to have asserted that if Hoche had lived, he would not have cut the figure he did. He did not regard Hoche as his superior, but he did believe there was enough of him to divide the honors with him, and make it doubtful which would have been in the ascendant. I think the death of Hardin was not detrimental to Lincoln. Hardin had high aspirations, strong convictions, and
38resolute purposes, and, had he survived the Mexican war, he would have added to his other elements of popularity great military renown. He loved to hunt, and while on one of his excursions, one of his eyes was blown out by the explosion of the gun at the breech. Such, however, was his indomitable will, that he walked home — several miles — suffering the most intense pain and agony, which would have unnerved any other person. He was a man of medium height, erect figure, square build, with a pair of highly expressive hazel eyes. His step was firm and elastic, with a striking military bearing. His physique was in perfect harmony with his mind. Taken altogether, John J. Hardin contained the elements out of which very great men are made.
I shall next speak of a remarkable personage, who figured here in early times, named Benjamin Mills. Ben emigrated to this country in 1819, I think, and settled at Greenville, Bond County, and afterwards removed to Galena. He was the son of an eminent Presbyterian divine in Massachusetts, where Ben was born and raised. He was a lawyer by profession, and had a wonderful faculty of remembering everything he had written. Ben had been required to copy all his father's sermons, and consequently knew them all "by heart." His father started him out West with a reasonable outfit. Ben fell in with a man named Wait, who was a wonderful singer. They got on a spree, and on reaching Richmond, Virginia, found themselves strapped, and in order to "raise the wind," Ben "gave out" that he was going West on missionary service. He was invited to preach, which he did with wonderful unction. His rehearsal of some of his father's sermons in his inimitable manner, coupled with Wait's magnificent singing, carried Richmond by storm. The enthusiastic Virginians would not tolerate the idea of allowing such splendid apostles to go empty-handed to the work of converting the heathen, and their exchequer was filled to overflowing.
The "missionaries" went on their way rejoicing, and in due time reached Illinois, where Mills hung out his shingle in the profane calling of a lawyer. He soon started on the circuit, and won renown. His eloquence and wit were unequaled, and he had no drawback except that he was a Yankee. He was soon appointed justice of the peace in Greenville, which was a sort of Athens in Illinois, where talent and culture were estimated above birthplace. At that time, the law made it the duty of a justice of the peace to impose a fine of one dollar upon every person who should utter an oath in his (the justice of the peace's) hearing; but it was understood by some to give him the liberty of remitting it upon discovering proper symptoms of contrition.
Ben and an old gentleman named Enloe, who was alsoa Justice
39of the peace, were walking together one day, when Ben uttered an oath. In a few minutes he had occasion to go to his office, and immediately rejoined Enloe. When they were about parting, Enloe said: "Brother Mills, I suppose you know that it is made my duty to impose a fine upon you for profane swearing?" Mills replied: "Brother Enloe, you are a little too late. I have just been to my office where I have entered a fine against myself, and, having discovered signs of proper contrition, I am now considering the propriety of remitting it." This was satisfactory to Brother Enloe, a good old Presbyterian, who gave Mills a large share of credit on account of the piety of his father. Mills was an accomplished scholar, a genuine wit, and a finished lawyer. He, in conjunction with Alfred Cowles, prosecuted Winchester for the killing of Daniel D. Smith, in Edwardsville, about 1823. Felix Grundy, the unequaled criminal lawyer of the West and South, defended. I heard them, and it was difficult to determine which was the ablest man. Mills was decidedly the most eloquent, Grundy, the most adroit; but he was driven to make use of the prejudice against Yankees in order to save his client, who was a Western man, while Smith was from the East. The jury, with the exception of a Mr. Bennet (who afterwards removed to and died at Galena), were Western men, and Grundy appealed to their prejudices incessantly. He said he had never encountered such a competitor as Mills, and that he considered it inhuman to employ a man of such ability in the prosecution; that it was not giving the accused a fair chance.
Mills was a member of the legislature from Jo Daviess County during the proceedings for the impeachment of Judge Smith, and he was appointed one of the managers. On that occasion he distinguished himself. His effort was looked upon as transcendently great. I have heard the Hon. Cyrus Edwards. (who was a master of elocution and a severe critic in that realm, and who was familiar with the efforts of all the famous orators of Kentucky) declare that he never heard a more finished, scholarly, or eloquent oration, and that it could not be surpassed. Brilliant passages from his address were quoted on the streets at Vandalia for a long time afterwards, and they were truly gems of thought set in the most brilliant language.
Mills was afterwards a candidate for Congress in the Galena district, on the Whig side, against William L. May. He made a splendid canvass, but was defeated in consequence of the popularity of Gen. Jackson, and the zeal of his partisans. Ben died soon after. His forte, however, was his quickness in repartee, of which I shall endeavor to give a few instances. On one occasion, A. W. Caverly demurred generally to one of Ben's pleadings.
40The defect insisted on could only be taken advantage of by a special demurrer, which, when Caverly discovered, he insisted that his demurrer was special, because he had "underscored" parts of it. The court, of course, decided against Caverly. Afterwards, at dinner, Caverly sent his plate to Mills to be helped to a slice of what he supposed to be venison. Mills supplied him. Caverly said: "Brother Mills, I sent for venison and you helped me to beef." Mills replied: "Underscore it, Brother Caverly, and that will make it venison."
Mills was bald-headed; Caverly had bushy hair. Caverly said to him one day: "Brother Mills, you have a prairie on your head." Mills said to him: "Caverly, the difference between us is, that while I have a prairie on my head, you have a prairie in yours."
Mills joined a temperance society once; and, while he was a member, the style of drinking-vessels changed from tumblers to wineglasses. He relapsed, and was found, by David Prickett, in a grocery flourishing a wineglass in his hand. Prickett said to him: "Mills, I thought you had quit drinking." "So I have," said Mills, holding up his little glass, "in a great measure."
He was engaged in a lawsuit in Galena, before Judge Young, and had a colored man for a client; the other party was a white man. They compromised the case out of court, and Mills told the parties to follow him and he would get the judge to enter the terms of the compromise upon his minutes. But the judge said: "Mr. Mills, the court will pay no attention to your agreements unless they are reduced to writing." Mills, pointing to the parties, said: "If your Honor please, here it is, in black and white."
These are a few of the innumerable instances of his quickness at repartee. Mills' conversational powers could not be surpassed; and he was the soul of every convivial party. The only man I have ever known, or read of, to whom he bore a striking resemblance, was the celebrated Irish orator, Curran. He was not ambitious for office, and only ran at the solicitation of his friends. I regret that time will not permit me to speak of other conspicuous men of early days in Illinois. I have been requested to allude to the early times in the Galena lead-mines, which may not be amiss, although I do not know that I can say anything respecting them which is not as well, if not better, known by others now living than myself.
My brother, Matthew, and I left Edwardsville on the 22nd of February, 1827, to seek our fortunes at the mines. The winter had been very "open" one, more so, I think, than the one through which we have just passed, but had been very wet. The whole: country was covered with water, and as there were but few
41bridges, we were compelled to swim nearly every stream between Edwardsville and Galena, and "camp out" every night. After passing Springfield, where we rested the third night, we ferried the Illinois River at Fort dark (now Peoria), and Rock River where Dixon now stands. It was occupied by a band of Winnebago Indians, with whom we bivouaced and bargained for ferriage the next morning. During the night it turned very cold, and in the morning the Indians either would not or could not take us over, and so we took their canoes and crossed, ourselves. This, was the first bitter cold weather we had experienced. We arrived at Vinegar Hill on the night of the 19th day out. Soon after, I went to the neighborhood of Gratiot's Grove. This grove, which was one of the most beautiful spots on earth, was occupied by Henry Gratiot, who was engaged in the smelting business. Of Mr. Gratiot I must say a few words. He was one of the noblest of God's creation. He was enterprising, energetic, honest, and honorable in the highest degree. He was benevolent to a fault. I had the pleasure of being better acquainted with him than generally falls to the lot of an obscure young man with one of his position and character.
In the fall of 1830, he traveled on horseback from the mines to St. Louis. He stopped at my father's house on the road, and left his horse (which was very much jaded) with us to recruit. I
42took him to St. Louis, and on the way I remember he gave me the most graphic and entertaining description of French life and society (before the advent of the Americans) I had ever heard. He died at an early age, in the midst of his usefulness, universally regretted by all who had known or heard of him. I never think of him without recalling his virtues.
I spent three summers and one winter at the mines. There were estimated to be 10,000 adventurers there during the summer of 1827, some from Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri, but much the-greater portion from Illinois. The Missourians were chiefly from the lower mines (as they were called), and were old miners. There were some "voyageurs" from Canada and the "Red-River Country." Also, some Swiss from the "Selkirk Settlement," who brought their families with them. The. Canadians and Swiss settled about Gratiot's Grove. There were, also, a few Cornish miners from England. The Irish were there in large force. Neither the Irish, Swiss, Canadians, or those from the lower mines in Missouri, were called "Suckers," nor was any one called a "Sucker" after he had "wintered" in the mining country. The term was exclusively applicable to lllinoisans, who went up in the spring and returned in the fall. They were so-called because, in their roving habits, they resembled the fish known as the sucker, which went up the streams in the spring and came down in the
43fall. The "Suckers," by way of retaliation, dubbed the Missourians "Pukes," as they said Missouri had taken a puke when her contribution to the population of the mines left that State. They styled the Ohioans "Red Horse," the name of a fish of little value. The Michiganders were called "Wolverines." The ingenuity of the miners was exercised in giving each other names after insignificant objects. I have no doubt the Wisconsinites got the name of "Badgers" from the large numbers of that animal which must have occupied the country before the whites penetrated it. "Badger-diggings" were found everywhere in the clay. They sunk their holes to a great depth in the ground. I have found where they penetrated twelve or fifteen feet. Where a badger had dug a hole, if it were hundreds of years ago, the dirt found in it would be of a different color and solidity from the surrounding earth. They did not seem to have dug these holes to live in, as I never found any enlargement of them at the bottom as a receptacle for their food or their young. They were nearly perpendicular, and I never could understand why they were formed. It may have been to find "grubs," or the succulent roots of vegetation that penetrated the earth to a great depth in that country. I have found the roots of what was called the "Masonic-weed" thirty feet deep, and about as large at that depth as at the surface. This weed, which is called in other localities the "Devil's shoe-string," grows luxuriantly over crevices, as its roots penetrate the rich clay, which fills them, and derives greater nutriment than from the surrounding earth or soil. As lead-ore was found in these crevices, it became an object to ascertain the whereabouts of a crevice from the surface; and if one could find a luxuriant row of these weeds, he might reasonably infer the existence of a crevice underneath, and there he would put down a "hole." This sign was at first known to but a few, and was tried by them to be kept as a secret, and hence the growth got the name of the "Masonic-weed." Badgers dug, it appeared to me, to get into these crevices; and sometimes the dirt they excavated would contain small pieces of lead-ore, and by digging there you would be apt to strike a "lead."
It was at such an early day when I was at the mines, and there were so few who could then be called inhabitants of Wisconsin, that I don't recollect to have heard them particularly designated. The miners (no matter where from) generally worked in pairs, and their hovels were partly in the ground. They would dig down the side of a hill, and lay up logs to form the ends and outside wall, the perpendicular side of the hill being the inner wall. Poles would be laid from a "step" in the hill to the outer wall, and over them would be laid first brush, then grass, then dirt, so
44that the roof of the edifice would form a continuation of the slope of the hill. Dirt would be embanked against the sides; and a "fire-place" would be dug out of the earth in the upper side, and a chimney would be formed by laying up sods about a foot high. In coming down hill in the dark, you would be in danger, at times, of stepping into your neighbor's chimney; and you could seldom see his house unless you approached it from below. These huts were pretty warm in the winter, when the ground was frozen, for the miners generally kept up good fires. The floors were of "old mother Earth." The only utensils for manufacturing our furniture (which consisted solely of a bedstead and two stools) were an axe and an auger. The bedstead was constructed thus: holes were bored in the logs forming the end and outer walls, at the proper height and distance, into which the ends of "quaking-asp" poles were driven, the other ends of which were inserted into holes bored into an upright post which formed the corner. Other poles were laid across these, and grass upon them, and a buffalo or bear-skin placed over the grass. This constituted the bed. The covering was a blanket and overcoat. The dirt roof kept out the snow and a slight rain, but if it rained heavily, torrents of mud would descend upon us.
A miner's costume would consist of two red flannel shirts, a pair of buckskin pants, a pair of stogy shoes, a blanket, overcoat, and a red, knit cap.
A dutch-oven and lid, a long-handled frying-pan, a coffee-pot, and two tin cups, comprised our kitchen-furniture.
The "bill of fare" was coffee, biscuit, and fried salt pork. One partner would brown, pound, and boil the coffee, and fry the meat, the other would make the bread. The grease fried out of the meat was used for "shortening," A bread-tray was formed by cutting of a section of a flour-barrel, which was turned over and made a cover for the barrel, and kept the dirt and mice out. The coffee was drank without cream or sugar. Butter was unheard of. The only thing we ever got in the vegetable line was wild onions, which were sought for and devoured ravenously. I have always thought that our desire for onions was in obedience to a craving of nature for an anti-scorbutic. We never had the "scurvy" or dyspepsia.
As there were no books or papers amongst us, our intellectual entertainments consisted entirely in telling stories and playing cards. The Missouri miners were famous for their jokes. They had been reared up in that sort of life. Hospitality was a cardinal virtue among the miners. The latchstrings to their cabin-doors were always out, and every man was at liberty to go in and help himself to something to eat.
Rattlesnakes abounded; they were as plenty as "lightning-rod peddlers are supposed to be in purgatory, or a still hotter place;" and instead of supporting a rattan-cane, every miner, when perambulating the country, would carry a spade in his hand to exterminate them, and dig for lead-ore if any indications appeared.
In early times, all the money that was brought into or made in the country was paid into the land-offices, and expended on the seaboard. To compensate for this drain in some measure, Internal improvements by the General Government were demanded; such, for instance, as the construction of the "Cumberland Road" (begun under the auspices of Mr. Jefferson), and the improvement of the rivers. When Gen. Jackson, however (at the suggestion of Mr. Van Buren, as we supposed), in vetoing the "Maysville Road" bill, announced the dogma, "that no appropriation could be constitutionally made for an improvement above a fort of entry." We were thrown into great tribulation until Mr. Clay's "land-bill" took effect, which, to some extent, compensated for the drain through the land-offices.
To get the better of Jackson's dogma, nearly every creek in the State was declared by the legislature to be a navigable stream, and some village at its head to be a port of entry. While things were in this condition, dollars were like angel's visits, "few and far between."
To give an idea of hard times, I will relate an incident. On returning from the lead mines, in the fall of 1829, I came down the river from Galena, to where Quincy now stands, in a skiff, and crossed the country on foot to Phillips' Ferry, on the Illinois River. From there I walked home, about 100 miles. I had but one dollar in my exchequer when I started, and I offered to pay my way at every place at which I stopped over night, or took a meal, and found no one who could change my dollar until I reached Carrollton, in Greene County. Nothing was produced in the settled parts of the State at that early day, except beeswax and peltries, which would bear transportation, or could be converted into money. A few persons living on the margins of the rivers could club together and build a flatboat, and descend to New Orleans and market their surplus products, but these were exceptional cases, speaking of the State at large.
I am constrained, by a sense of propriety, to draw my remarks to a close, but I cannot forbear to make a few general observations as to what I have passed through. I have seen Illinois emerge from a population of 40,000 to upwards of 3,000,000. I have seen her expand to be the third State in the Union. She is today confessedly at the head, in point of agricultural and mineral resources, of the roll of States. She has money enough in
46her treasury to wipe out the last cent of her once enormous indebtedness. Her public buildings, her educational and charitable institutions, are equal to those of any State in the Union. Her escutcheon is without a blemish. Her credit in the money markets of the world is above par. The devotion of her children to the maintenance of our glorious Union was conspicuous in the highest degree. Within her limits were the great champions of the two great national parties of the country — Lincoln and Douglas; men of whose transcendent virtues and abilities it would be presumption in me to speak.
Illinois is the heart of the nation, from her geographical position and the composition of her population.
Of our grand nation, I may say that we have passed through the most trying ordeal to which a people was ever subjected, but in so-doing have eliminated from our system an element which antagonized with the first principles of Republican government and the perpetuity of our Union; and, contrary to the hopes and anticipations of the enemies of free government, as expressed through the authorities of Spain, England, and France, we emerged from the conflict with our power and prestige not only uninjured but immeasurably increased. We had only to say the word and the hordes of the treacherous and degenerate scion of the illustrious family of Napoleon, who by fraud and villainy had usurped the authority over the gallant and noble French people, would have scampered in hot haste from the soil of our sister-republic of Mexico. The dastard ruthlessly and recklessly involved his country in a war with the nearly-consolidated Germanic race, and France was reduced to the lowest depths of humiliation and despair, and her proud people became frantic and furious, and threatened universal war against mankind.
On that dreadful occasion, the only foreign Minister who stood to his post and braved the danger was the American — and a citizen of Illinois — the Hon. Elihu B. Washburne. The only flag which afforded protection against the infuriated mob was the American flag; under its ample folds the benignant provisions of international law were observed. The voice of our heroic Minister, in the interests of humanity, rose above the din of the tumult, and through his influence, and the regard of the Parisians for the people he represented, the lives of thousands of prisoners were saved. This was the grandest tribute of respect ever paid to a nation. The exclamation, "I am a Roman citizen," might, in days of the Roman power, save the man who uttered it, through fear; but in Paris there was no dread of American retaliation, and the protection was extended to all nationalities, and was through the respect entertained for the principles of our Government and people, and the regard had for our representative.
47Henceforth our career as a nation is "onward and upward." There is no longer any interest in this country which could imagine that its condition would be bettered by a disruption of the Union. Our mission is simply to develop our boundless natural resources, and protect every one in the "enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
You have here a great city — a city of palaces — the equal to which, for magnificence, is not to be found on the globe. You have risen "phoenix-like," with redoubled splendor, from your ashes. It is said that the celebrated Sir Christopher Wren, after the great fire in London, besought the authorities to have the burnt district rebuilt in grander style. They were insensible to his arguments. He withdrew, and in tones of indignation, remarked that "they were unworthy of a great fire." You have proved yourselves pre-eminently deserving of such a dispensation.
I shall say nothing of your growth in population and business; that is known to all men. If any should desire particular information on that head, I refer him to the accurate and thorough compilations of my friend; Gov. Bross, on "Chicago, and the sources of her past and future growth." I will simply, remark, that you are located at the crossing of the two great lines of trade and travel over North America, and, until some great convulsion to, nature disturbs your geographical position, you need have no fears of your commercial superiority. I come to Chicago, as the pious Israelite went up to Jerusalem, "to worship at the shrine o your magnificence."
St. Louis, upon our borders, is a great city. She had the advantage over you of being an emporium of commerce when you were in your swaddling-clothes. She had the benefit of the fur-trade, and the Indian and army disbursements, when your place, was unknown except by the name of Fort Dearborn. You have overtaken and passed her in growth and business, but she is no contemptible rival. She is surrounded by a splendid country and admirable facilities. She, I fear, has not the enterprise you have, I am reminded of the difference between the two cities by the story of the two men who were bragging of the strength of their horses. One was giving an account of the heavy load his horse-had drawn up hill. The other said: "Stop; my horse is so strong, that he has to hold back while pulling up hill." You are "up in-the collar," St. Louis is against the "breeching," and they seem to have as much faith in that part of the harness as the old lady had when the horse ran away with her. She was asked how she felt during the runaway. She said "she put her trust in God until the breeching broke, and then she thought no power could save, her."
The Tribulations of General James Shields in his Aspirations for the White House.
Shields was born in Ireland, and emigrated to this country before his maturity. He resided some time in South Carolina before reaching Illinois, as I gather from an address made to him on the occasion of the presentation of a sword by the authorities of that State, after the Mexican War, in consideration of his gallantry and distinguished services. The first I heard of him he was located at Kaskaskia, where he first taught school, and then studied law with Judge Nathaniel Pope. He was soon elected to the Legislature from Randolph County, and before the end of his term he took up his residence in St. Clair, at Belleville, which was then the political focus of Southern Illinois. He professed the Democratic faith. That party was divided, in the congressional district in which he lived, into two factions, known as the Reynolds and Snyder wings. Reynolds and Lyman Trumbull constituted the woof and warp of the Reynolds branch, and Adam W. Snyder and James Shields of the Snyder branch. Reynolds and Trumbull and Shields, from St. Clair, and Robert Smith, of Madison, became candidates for the nomination for Congress by a Democratic convention, which was to be held at Kaskaskia. A very spirited contest was carried in the primaries for the delegates. When they were over, it became apparent that a decided majority of the delegates were in favor of Shields, and the rest were divided amongst the other aspirants. Smith had the delegation from Madison, amongst whom was I. G. Cameron, a recent arrival from New York, and versed in the arts of political management for which that State was conspicuous. Shields, feeling perfectly secure and magnanimously inclined, conceded the organization of the convention to his opponents. I don't remember now who was chairman, but Cameron was selected for secretary. A plot had been laid to defeat Shields, in spite of his majority, which was that Smith was to solicit from Shields a few of his delegates, which, when added to the Madison-County delegation, would give Smith a respectable complimentary vote. Shields fell into the trap, and said nothing would afford him greater pleasure, and desired Smith to name the men, and Shields requested them to vote on the first ballot for Smith. Cameron immediately made up the roll and placed the names of the Shields delegates at the
49head, then followed the names of the delegates who were for Reynolds and Trumbull, and Smith's own men, and lastly the names of the rest of the Shields delegates. This gave Smith the majority, and quicker than lightning the result was announced, and Smith declared the nominee, and motion to adjourn sine die carried.
Shields and his friends were dumbfounded for the instant, but in a few minutes he recovered his self-possession, and pledged himself to the support of the nomination. The great object was to get rid of Shields. Smith, it was supposed, could be brushed aside at any time. It was understood, however, that Smith had stipulated that, in the event of his success on that occasion, he was not to be in the way of Gov. Reynolds in the future.
Smith was elected, and by dint of close application to business, and the free use of the franking privilege, he soon made himself: immensely popular with the people of his district. He procured the names of all the voters, and sent to every one either a letter or public document, and attended to their wants with such promptness and assiduity that he stole away the hearts of the people, and became invincible for many years. As soon as the sessions of Congress were over he spent all his time among his constituents, and availed himself of the opportunities afforded by the courts of seeing many of them together. On his return from the first session, he was visiting one of the courts where Reynolds was. The latter did not seem to like the way Smith busied himself amongst the people, and he reminded him of his pledge — not to be in his way, Smith said: "Oh, Governor, I am just round returning thanks." Said the Governor: "Smith, that may be so, but your manoeuvring looks to me a devilish sight more like grace before meals than thanks after."
Smith was frequently elected to Congress after, and the old Governor never was. This ended Shields' pretensions for the lower House; but after much tribulation, he succeeded to a seat in the Senate from Illinois. It came about in this wise: Sidney Breese voted in the U. S. Senate for a resolution censuring Gen. Taylor for the armistice at Monterey during the Mexican War. At, perhaps, the next session of the Legislature, the election for Senator came on. Breese was regarded as certain to be elected, he having control of the machinery. Stinson H. Anderson, U. S. Marshall, was his lieutenant, and managed the business with singular energy and address. In an unusually brief space of time he had Breese nominated, and the day for the election was set for the next Saturday, by a resolution of the House. Things seemed to be going on swimmingly for Breese. But Judge Nathaniel Pope, who was a great personal and political friend of
50Gen. Taylor, and who was very indignant at Breese on account of the censure passed upon him, took it into his head that Breese might be defeated after all. Gen. Taylor had just been elected President, and had disavowed the dogma that "to the victors belong the spoils," and had said that he would divide the offices between the parties. It was known that Taylor was greatly exasperated at the vote of censure, and that Breese would have no influence over him. But, on the other hand, he was very friendly towards Shields. He told Shields to send out and get the land-officers and postmasters to come to Springfield, and let them know that some of them would stand a chance of retaining their offices if he was elected, but not if Breese succeeded; and the Judge undertook to get the Senate to postpone the election for a week or more. This could only be done through the Whigs in that body; and then it would be necessary to keep the Democrats from suspecting that the Whigs had any object in view; and it would be necessary to keep Don Morrison, one of our Whigs, in the dark, as he was a nephew of Mrs. Breese. According to instructions, we Whigs professed to care not the turn of a feather who beat; but when the resolution for bringing on the election came up, we voted to sustain the motion to postpone the election for a week, which was made, I think, by Cloud, of Morgan, who was for McClernard, whose friends, together with some that were opposed to Breese and the Whigs (except Don Morrison), carried the motion. Shields went to work with his men who had come up, and they effected such a change in public sentiment that the Democrats called another caucus and nominated Shields, who was elected; but when he went to Washington, was confronted with a certificate of naturalization from Effingham County, showing that he lacked a few weeks of having been long enough a citizen of the United States to entitle him to a seat in the U. S. Senate. Of course this dashed his hopes, and he returned to Illinois a sadder man than he left. He was thought to have committed an egregious blunder while in Washington in threatening personal violence to Breese. But his star seemed to be yet in the ascendant. The Governor appointed Shields to the office after the lapse of time which would qualify him to take his seat. He again posted off to Washington, and to his amazement found that the Senate held that a governor had no power to appoint to a seat in that body under such circumstances, and he was again checkmated. Soon after this, the Governor convened a special session of the Legislature, by which he was duly elected and took his seat. He was afterwards elected to that august body from Minnesota and Missouri, having been U. S. Senator from three States, which never happened before, and may never happen again.
ROBERT FERGUS, ESQ., — DEAR SIR:
MR. N. W. EDWARDS has called my attention to some errors in my Address, in respect to his father, Gov. Edwards. I have no doubt that, in regard to facts and dates, Mr. Edwards is correct. I said that the controversy between Edwards and Crawford laid them both on the shelf, politically. I meant National politics. I don't think that Edwards was damaged at home thereby, for he was afterwards elected Governor of the State; and our people believed him to have been in the right. Gov. Edwards died in 1834, I think in Belleville; and there was not much time intervening to enable one to realize the effect upon him abroad of the controversy. I have no doubt that Gov. Edwards retained the entire confidence of very many, and, perhaps, most, of the distinguished men in the United States; but still I think it had a damaging effect, in a political point of view, upon both the Governor and Mr. Crawford. Mr. N. W. Edwards thinks I am in error, in saying that his Father was not outspoken on the Convention question. I did not say that he favored the introduction of Slavery. I did say that he was believed to be in sympathy with his son-in-law, Daniel P. Cook, who was a very decided anti-slavery man; and, I believe that he gave his influence to the anti-slavery side of the question; and his efforts may have been more serviceable to the cause than if he had been outspoken, as he had great personal influence with some Jackson men, particularly the Whiteside family. I may have been mistaken in reference to the cause and time of the street rencounter with a person who had, or was represented to have, great control over the affairs of the Edwardsville Bank. Mr. Edwards differs from me as to the time of its occurrence. He is doubtless right, as I only speak from memory. I wish to remark, that I am not writing history, but only giving my recollections of the times and men of early days. There is not much difference, in fact, between my version and that of Mr. N. W. Edwards. We agree in the main features, and differ only in detail. There was a controversy between Gov. Edwards and Mr. Crawford about the Edwardsville Bank, and neither of them figured in National politics after that. There was a street rencounter between the Governor and Judge Smith, and I thought it was in reference to the affairs of the Bank. Mr. Edwards thinks it was not. He is probably right. He says Col. Stephenson was president of the Bank. That is correct; but Judge Smith was director, and exercised great control over it. Stephenson and Edwards were devoted personal friends, but they diverged in politics. Stephenson and his family were ardent Democrats, while Edwards and his family sided with the Whigs. They sustained Mr. Cook, who voted for Adams, in 1824, in the House of Representatives; and the Adams men were known as belonging, in Illinois, to the Edwards party; while their opponents were classed as belonging to the Bond party, as is stated by the late Wm. H. Brown, in his Memoir of Mr. Cook.
From his education, acquirements, and business capacity he soon became one of the most influential residents of the embryo village.
He warmly espoused the cause of the Revolution, and different from nearly the whole population of the town, he hailed with pleasure the treaty which annexed Louisiana Territory to the United States, When the transfer of the Sovereignty took place, March 10, 1804, and the flag of France was lowered in the presence of a great multitude amid sighs and tears, Charles Gratiot un furled the first American flag in upper Louisiana on the balcony of his own residence. He left a family of four sons and five daughters. The second of the sons was the subject of this notice. The eldest son, General Charles Gratiot, was one of the earliest graduates of West Point, distinguished himself as an engineer officer in the war of 1812, and finally became chief engineer of the United States army. Many monuments to his skill still survive him. Henry Gratiot married Susan Hempstead, a daughter of Stephen Hempstead, a revolutionary soldier and one of the earliest emigrants from Connecticut to upper Louisiana Territory. She was the sister of the Hon. Edward Hempstead, the first delegate in Congress from Missouri Territory and all the vast country west of the Mississippi Kiver, and also of Charles S. Hempstead, one of the early lawyers of Galena, as well as of Wm. Hempstead, one of the most prominent of the early merchants of that town.
Mr. Henry Gratiot and his brother J. P. B. Gratiot were among the first men to develop the Fever-River Lead Mines, and for a long time carried on an immense business in mining and smelting. Their smelting works at Gratiot's Grove, now in Lafayette County, Wis., were among the most extensive of the time. At that period the Indians held the title to the land and from them they purchased the right to mine and smelt lead ore on Indian Territory.
Such was the character of their dealings with the Indians that no men ever enjoyed their confidence and friendship to a higher degree. It was these relations with the Indians that enabled Mr. Henry Gratiot to have such an influence over them during, the Ulack-Hawk war. Exercising the functions of Indian Agent at this time his services were of inestimable value to the whole white population. A man of great enterprise, liberal, generous, and just, his name was everywhere the synonym of probity, honor, and business integrity. Three sons now survive him, Col. Charles H. Gratiot, of Gratiot, Wis., Lieut. Col. Edward H. Gratiot, late assistant Paymaster, United States Army, of Plattville, in the same State, and Henry Gratiot, a resident of California. His only surviving daughter is the wife of Hon. E. B. Washburne, of Illinois, late Minister of the United States to France.