Imágenes de páginas

had never been canvassed before, and perhaps not since. The convention system inaugurated by Douglas was the object of special attack. He bore the brunt of the battle as he has ever done, and repelled the assaults of his opponents. He appealed to the people to elect, not himself, but the ticket. He fought the first fight in behalf of regular nominations, and the people of Illinois have fought that fight for him on repeated occasions since then. The contest continued up to the day of election. The result was that the entire Democratic ticket was elected, save and except one of the candidates for representative. General Hardin, leading his ticket, was elected over one of the Democratic nominees. This determined the success of the convention system, and the success of Douglas in thus redeeming an old Whig county was properly appreciated by the Democracy throughout the state.



On the first Monday in December, 1836, Mr. Douglas took his seat in the most important Legislature that ever assembled in the State of Illinois. It was at that session that the great project of internal improvements was brought to a successful legislative approval. The country was wild with speculation. Schemes of improvements were pressed from every quarter. We have already given a list of the acts incorporating railroad and canal companies passed at the two previous sessions. The United States Bank was no more; state banks were expanding with a fearful momentum; the State of Illinois was pressed to become a partner in the institutions which were to furnish capital to the state and her citizens to enable them to prosecute an advancement that was to equal almost in celerity and magnificence the magic achievements of the genii that obeyed Aladdin's lamp and ring. The people had gone beyond their representatives. Many counties instructed unwilling or reluctant representatives to vote for the schemes of promised wealth and grandeur. The Legislature met, a majority of its members pledged personally or by instructions to vote for the Internal Improvement Bill. The Legislature met

on the 5th of December. In the House were W. A. Richardson, John J. Hardin, James Semple, Robert Smith, Abraham Lincoln, S. A. Douglas, John Calhoun (of Lecompton memory), John A. M'Clernand, Augustus C. French, James Shields, and other men whose names have since been written brightly on our national history. At that session the Hon. R. M. Young was elected United States Senator for six years from March, 1837. The governor, in his message, reviewed in terms of strong condemnation the financial policy of General Jackson, impeaching his conduct, and censuring his motives and purposes. After a warm debate, that part of the message referring to federal affairs was referred to a select committee. On the 23d of December, the committee, through the Hon. John A. M'Clernand, its chairman, made a report, concluding with resolutions approving the general course of General Jackson's administration, and disavowing the correctness of the charges made in the governor's message. The debate on these resolutions was protracted and warm. It was participated in by nearly all the prominent men on both sides. The main contest, however, was between Douglas and Hardin, the rival representatives from Morgan County. The debate covered the entire policy of General Jackson. The resolutions were adopted.

Mr. Douglas was appointed chairman of the Committee on Petitions. Early in the session a petition was presented, praying, on behalf of one Henry King, that he be divorced from his wife Eunice. That petition was committed to Mr. Douglas's hands. The Legislature had for several years been accustomed to granting divorces, and applications for that kind of relief were annually increasing in number and importance. Mr. Douglas made a report upon the subject of divorces, and the powers and duties of the Legislature in relation to the matter, concluding with the following resolution: "Resolved, that it is unconstitutional, and foreign to the duties of legislation, for the Legislature to grant bills of divorce." This was debated, Mr. Hardin approving of the resolution, but objecting to the word "unconstitutional," which he moved to strike out. Douglas replied, and the House, by a vote of 53 yeas to 32 nays, adopted the resolution as reported. That was an end to divorces by the Legislature in Illinois.

It having been soon demonstrated that some system of internal improvements, to which the state was to be a party, was

to be passed, the question became important which of the two leading plans suggested should be adopted. These plans were substantially as follows:

1st. That the state should select certain leading and most important works, which should be owned, constructed, and worked exclusively by the state. 2d. That the state should subscribe to a certain share-one fourth, one third, or one half-of the stock of the several railroad and land companies then incorporated, or which should thereafter be incorporated by the state.

These plans had their advocates and friends. The latter plan was the favorite of the speculators; under it the several companies could organize by the payment of a few dollars on each share, and then obtain the subscription by the state in full. Had this plan been adopted, the state would have been the contributor of all the actual cash capital, and would have had no proprietorship or control of the works. We have shown that, at the time the Legislature met, there were companies incorporated authorized to construct over 3400 miles of railroad and canal; the capital to do this work, estimated at the moderate sum of $30,000 a mile, would have made an aggregate (supposing no other works to be proposed) of over $100,000,000, into which enterprise the state would soon be led to at least one third of the entire amount.

Mr. Douglas was personally opposed to any system to which the state was to be a party; but, in obedience to instructions, and yielding to the necessity of favoring the least objectionable to prevent the adoption of the greater enormity, he favored the first-mentioned plan. Accordingly, early in the session he submitted the following resolutions indicating the plan which he viewed most favorably:

Resolved, that the Committee on Internal Improvements be instructed to report a bill for the commencement of a general system of internal improvements, as follows:

The bill shall provide,

1st. For the completion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. 2d. For the construction of a railroad from the termination of said canal to the mouth of the Ohio River.

3d. For the construction of a railroad from Quincy, on the Mississippi River, eastward to the state line, in the direction of the Wabash and Erie Canal.

4th. For the improvement of the navigation of the Illinois and Wabash Rivers.

5th. For making surveys and estimates of such other works as may be considered of general utility.

Resolved, that as the basis of the system, the improvements shall be constructed and owned by the state exclusively.

Resolved, that for the purposes aforesaid, a loan of millions of dollars should be effected on the faith of the state, payable in such installments and at such times as shall be required in the progress of the works.

Resolved, that portions of the lands granted to the state to aid in the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal should be sold from time to time, and the proceeds applied to the payment of interest on the said loan, until the tolls on the proposed improvements, together with such other means as the state may provide, shall be sufficient to pay the interest on such loan.

These resolutions were referred to the Committee of the Whole, and upon them, as well as upon the bill which was subsequently reported, long, eventful, and important discussions took place. This plan was unfortunately rejected. It proposed the commencement of two roads, one traversing the state from north to south, the other from east to west, leaving to future Legislatures the task of providing for such other works as time, experience, and practical surveys and explorations might recommend. The idea of constructing two railroads only was too insignificant for the magnificent views of that day. A hundred roads would not have answered the pressing demands of an excited people, flushed with the deceitful prosperity of an inflated system of paper currency. To confine the works to these two roads would also have prevented the necessity for the state to embark as a partner in the state banks. The state was asked to authorize an increase in the banking capital of the state, to become a large stockholder in the state bank, and to make the state bank and its branches the depositories and fiscal agents of the state. All these propositions, presented in their most seductive forms, met with a firm, uncompromising hostility from Mr. Douglas. But the state was mad; no man could resist the storm which swept over it; and the entire system-internal improvements, increase of bank capital, subscription to the stock by the state,

all passed by the most decided majorities, in February, 1837, and the Legislature adjourned on the 8th of March following.

A brief synopsis of the "Act to establish and maintain a general System of Improvements," approved February 27, 1837, may not be out of place here.

The act directs a survey of the route from Charleston, via the county seat of Clark County, to the most eligible point on the Great Wabash River between York and the line dividing the states of Illinois and Indiana. It makes appropriations as follows on account of the works enumerated:

1st. Improvement of the navigation of the Great Wabash River. $100,000 2d. For removal of obstacles to steam-boat navigation in Rock River........


3d. For the Illinois River west of the 3d principal meridian.... 4th. Kaskaskia River........



5th. Little Wabash River........


6th. For a great Western mail route from Vincennes to Saint Louis......


7th. For a railroad from Cairo to some point on the southern termination of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, via Vandalia, Shelbyville, Decatur, Bloomington, thence via Savannah to Galena 3,500,000 8th. For a southern cross-railroad from Alton to Mount Carmel; railroad from Edwardsville to Shawneetown, via Lebanon, Nashville, Pinckneyville, Frankfort, and Equality......


9th. For a northern cross-railroad from Quincy, via Columbus, Clayton, Mount Sterling, Meredosia, Jacksonville, Springfield, Decatur, Sidney, Danville, and thence to the Indiana state line..... 1,800,000 10th. For a branch of the Central Railroad from a point between Hillsboro and Shelbyville, thence through Coles and Edgar counties to the Indiana state line........................


11th. For a railroad from Peoria, through Fulton, Macomb, Carthage, to Warsaw......


12th. For a railroad from Lower Alton, via Hillsboro, to the Illinois Central Road.....


13th. For a railroad from Belleville, via Lebanon, to intersect the Alton and Mount Carmel Railroad.....

14th. For a railroad from Bloomington to Mackinaw, in Tazewell County, there to fork-one branch to connect with Peoria and Warsaw Railroad at Peoria, the other branch to pass Tremont to Pekin



A person who will take up the map of Illinois will see in the above scheme of improvements how carefully Chicago is avoided. South of and including Peoria, every representative and senatorial district is provided with one or more railroads passing through them. But, to make the bill even more

« AnteriorContinuar »