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ed by individual enterprise or capital was daily becoming more and more remote; and as that prospect receded, the policy of having the state embark in the grand enterprise assumed more significance, until at last it took shape and form, and became the eventful topic of the day. It had its friends and it had its opponents; for years the latter were the stronger, and Legislatures, reflecting the popular will, refused to commit the state to the internal improvement policy. A particular series of works formed the body of each proposed scheme, but these works were not of overruling local importance to those portions of the state having the main portion of the people, and consequently controlling the State Legislature. To overcome this great difficulty, the scheme of public works was each year increased by the addition of a new railroad, or branch connecting two or three counties, or giving the means of transportation from interior counties to creeks and streams, which were, with very little regard for truth, declared by act of Legislature "navigable rivers." We believe a steam-boat captain, deceived possibly by one of these acts of Legislature, attempted to ascend the "navigable" river Sangamon, and did succeed in reaching a small place called Portland, near Springfield, but the trip was never repeated, the boat having been compelled, for want of room to turn, to back down stream until it reached the Illinois River. Those who now pass the railroad bridge over the Sangamon River, on the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad, a few miles north of Springfield, will have some difficulty in discovering the advantages of that point, the site of Portland, for a city with an extensive river trade. Yet, in olden times, that prospect was not deemed more visionary than that Chicago would be a city of a hundred thousand inhabitants. The advocates of the internal improvements to be constructed by the state grew stronger each year. Many counties, once strong in their hostility to the great scheme, were revolutionized in sentiment by including in the general plan a railroad or a branch which was to enhance the value of the farms a hundred-fold, and give to each producer a cheap and rapid ride to market with his products. Who could withstand the temptation? Who could refuse to vote for a railroad to pass by his own door? The history of the last five years has shown that the men of 1835-6 were at least no more unwise than the men of 1859. Cities borne down with debt, counties
reduced to repudiation, and individuals utterly ruined by liberal subscriptions to railroads, indicate that the seductions of grand works of internal improvement have been as potent of late years as they were in the days when Illinois so unfortunately embarked in the business. In vain, however, was the plan of a general system presented. The flying bids for local support became so numerous and so heavy that they threatened destruction to the whole. The removal of the seat of government was agitated, and eventually that project became a powerful auxiliary to the improvement system. It is believed that the delegation of a county having six members in the Lower House were enlisted in support of the improvement bill by the promise of the removal of the capital to the county seat of that county. Nor did this even turn the scale. Another and a more extensive bid for local support was included in the scheme. This was, that out of the first moneys borrowed on the faith of the state for works of internal improvement, a large sum (eventually fixed at $200,000) should be paid, in proportion to a census to be taken, to all the counties in the state through which no railroad or canal was provided to be constructed by the state!
The state was also, to some considerable extent, agitated upon the subject of General Jackson's bank policy. The bank had many interested, as well as political friends in the state. The policy of General Jackson was represented as fatal to the best interests of the people, because it destroyed the only reliable banking capital of the country. How was Illinois to prosper without roads and canals, and how were roads and canals to be constructed if the banks-the only capitalists of the country—were destroyed? These questions were propounded at every town-meeting and court-day, and many of the most devoted friends of Jackson shrank from a defense of what they knew not how to defend.
Pending these great questions, pending the consideration of measures fraught with so much evil to the state, and whose consequences are yet so severely felt, on a morning late in November, 1833, STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS stepped from a steam-boat at the town of Alton, and for the first time trod the generous soil and breathed the pure, free air of the Prairie State, Illinois. He lost no time in Alton, but at once proceeded by stagecoach to Jacksonville, where he arrived next day. He still lacked six months of being twenty-one years of age.
FIRST STRUGGLES IN ILLINOIS.
ONCE arrived at Jacksonville, he had reached that point in his journey where, whether fortune was to smile or to frown upon him, he was to meet his destiny. He saw no prospect of succeeding at the law, no prospect of immediate success, and pecuniary aid was indispensable. He had but thirty-seven cents in money, and was a total stranger. Gentlemen now in Illinois, who at that time held high position-socially, politically, and officially-state that, even a year later, there was but little in the personal appearance of the delicate, wasted form, and the pale, anxious face of the youth, to attract any special attention. His first essay was to find employment in a law office, where for a time, in consideration of his services as a clerk, he could obtain enough to defray his personal expenses. He remained in Jacksonville some days, and was forced by necessity to sell such of his school-books as he had brought with him. Failing to obtain any employment, even as a teacher, at Jacksonville, he started one morning in December on foot, and walked to the town of Winchester, now the flourishing county seat of Scott County. The morning after his arrival he left his lodgings to inquire for employment. As he approached the square, he saw a crowd of persons assembled, and curiosity led him to the spot.
Some time previously a merchant in Winchester had died, and his stock in trade, consisting of a great variety of articles, had been advertised for sale by the administrator; the sale had attracted a large attendance. The morning on which Mr. Douglas made his advent into the public square of Winchester was the morning fixed by previous notice for the sale. The administrator and the crier were present, but a clerk competent to keep a record of the sales, and to make out the bills of the several purchasers, was indispensable. The hour had arrived and passed; no person in the assemblage competent was willing to undertake the duty; the administrator was embarrassed, and the multitude impatient. At this critical moment
Mr. Douglas approached the scene; he was a stranger; one of the persons present suggested that perhaps he could "read, write, and cipher." The administrator at once addressed Mr. Douglas, representing the embarrassments of the case, and the urgent necessity for the sale, which could not proceed without the aid of a competent clerk. He begged his services as a personal obligation, and tendered the liberal salary of two dollars per day. After a brief struggle, in which the promised fee had, doubtless, its full force in determining his mind, he consented, and the sale at once commenced. The auction continued three days, and the impression made by the young clerk was a most favorable one. His youth, his superior attainments, and particularly the promptness with which he discharged his duties, won for him the kind regards of all parties; and, in addition to this, the readiness and ability which he displayed in the political conversations which took place at every interval during the sale and in the evenings, gained for him a respect and an admiration not generally extended to persons of his age. The warmth and force, yet the perfect good-humor displayed by him in defense of "Old Hickory” in these discussions at once marked him as a valuable acquisition to the one party, and a formidable opponent of the other. The old farmers, who were Jackson men because they felt Jackson was right, though unable to argue the case with the Bankites, found in Douglas an object of special admiration. They expressed their willingness to serve him in any way that was in their power. His three days' services as clerk of the auction yielded him six dollars in money—no small sum in those days, particularly when they constituted a man's entire fortune. His want of means, and his desire to get a school, were soon known, and as soon canvassed among his new-found friends and admirers; and in a few days he was provided with a school of forty pupils, at the rate of three dollars each per quarter! He engaged to conduct this school for three months, and, on the first Monday in December, 1833, he commenced his labors as a teacher.
In the few days he had remained at Jacksonville he made the acquaintance of General Murray M'Connell (his first friend in the state which has since conferred so many honors upon him), and who was appointed fifth auditor of the Treasury by President Pierce in 1855, at the request of Judge Douglas,
without General M'Connell's solicitation or knowledge. The particular favor which General M'Connell rendered Mr. Douglas, which he has never ceased to acknowledge, was the loan of some old law-books and copies of the statutes of the state. These books were indispensable to him, and he had not the means to purchase them.
While teaching school, he devoted his evenings and leisure time to the study of these borrowed books, and frequently, on Saturday afternoons, acted as counsel before the justice's court. in Winchester. Before leaving Jacksonville, he had filed his application before the Supreme Court for admission to the bar. The proceeds of his school, together with the fees obtained for legal services before the justice of the peace, justified him, at the end of the three months, in giving up his school and in removing to Jacksonville, where he opened an office for the practice of the law.
On the fourth day of March, 1834, then lacking some seven weeks of his majority, he was licensed as an attorney by the judges of the Supreme Court. Little did those judges think, when they issued a license to the stripling who stood before them on that bleak March day, that in a few, a very few years, he would become the leader of a great, growing, and eventually triumphant party, having for its aim the reorganization of that court and the destruction of its political power; much less did they suppose that, in seven years from that day upon which they granted him their license to practice law, he would be elevated by the almost unanimous voice of the representatives of the people to a seat upon the same bench they occupied, possessing the confidence and the approval of the people to a degree never previously enjoyed by any judge in the State of Illinois.
At that time there was published at Jacksonville a Democratic paper, called the "Jacksonville News," edited by S. S. Brooks, Esq. Mr. Brooks, in a letter before us, after stating that he commenced the publication of this paper in February, 1834, says: "My prospectuses were circulated throughout Morgan and the adjoining counties, and, immediately after the publication of the first number of the paper, most of them were returned with lists of names of subscribers on them. Among the returned copies of the prospectus was one from Winchester, with a large number of names, accompanied by a very com