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1822–1826_ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR COLES.
A resume of Slavery in Illinois from its earliest date-Indentured Slares-Black Laws-Kidnapping-Life and Character of Gov. Coles—The effort to make Illinois a Slave State in 1824.
The general election of August, 1822, resulted in the choice of Edward Coles as governor, by a plurality of votes over his principal opponent, Joseph Phillips, then chief justice of the State. There were two other candidates in the field, Thomas C. Brown, associate justice of the supreme court, and Major General James B. Moore, of the State militia. Adolphus Frederick Hubbard was elected lieutenant governor. The other candidates for lieutenant governor were James Lemon, jr., John G. Loften, Wm. Pine, and James A. Peacock.
Into this election the question of slavery entered to a very considerable extent, Coles and Moore being anti, and Phillips and Brown pro-slavery. The country had but just emerged from the angry contest over that subject as connected with the admission of Missouri into the Union, in which our senators in congress, Messrs. Edwards and Thomas, had taken a leading part, being the originators of the compromise line of 30 degress and 30 minutes, while our member of the House, Daniel P. Cook, with much vigor haul opposed the admission of Missouri as a slave State. Thomas' term as senator would expire with the existing congress, and he looked forward to an approval of his course in congress and a reelection. Of the legislature chosen at the same election, a majority was against the governor in his anti-slavery views. But the sub. ject of principal interest during his administration was the convention struggling to make Illinois a slave State. To give the reader a more connected idea, we have heretofore purposely omitted to present in chronological order the kindred subjects constituting the heading of this chapter, and now group them together.
African slaves were first brought to Illinois in 1720 by Renault, agent and business manager of the “Company of St. Phillips. The belief obtained in France at that time that the wealth of the western world consisted in its pearl fisheries, its mines of gold and silver, and the wool of its wild cattle.* A monopoly of these resources with many others, was first granted by the King to Crozat in 1712, and upon his resignation in 1717, to the great "Company of the West," of which the St. Phillips was a branch. Renault left France in 1719 with a cargo of mechanics, miners and laborers Charlevoix, iii, 389.
numbering some 200, and on his way hither touched with his vessels at San Domingo, where he purchased 500 slaves, and thus prepared to prosecute the objects of the company, he arrived in Illinois. He founded the village of “St. Phillips,” in what is now the southeast corner of Monroe county, whence he sent out exploring parties to various sections in Illinois and Missouri, to prospect for the precious metals. In 1744, before his return to France, Renault sold these slaves to the French colonists of Illinois. Vivier, a missionary among the Illinois, six leagues from Fort Chartres, under date of June 8, 1750, writes: “We have here, whites, negroes, and Indians, to say nothing of the cross breeds. There are five French villages, and three of the natives, within a space of 21 leagues, situated between the Mississippi and another river called the Kaskaskia. In the five French villages are, perhaps, 1,100 whites, 300 blacks, and some 60 red slaves or savages. The three Illinois (Indian) towns do not contain more than 800 souls, all told.” These San Domingo slaves thus introduced became the progenitors of the French slaves in Illinois.
The edict of Louis the XIII, dated April 23, 1615, first recognized slavery in the French possessions of America, and the French settlers of Illinois brought with them from Canada the French laws and customs, among them the law which tolerated slavery. In March, 1724, Louis XV published an ordinance reenacting the edict of XIII, and for the "regulation of the government and administration of justice, police, discipline, and traffic in negro slaves in the province of Louisiana," wbich includes Illinois. It provides that the slaves be baptized and instructed in the Roman Catholic religion and that they observe the Sabbath; prohibits the intermarriage of whites and blacks, under penalties, and the priests from solemnizing such marriages; provides that the children of slaves shall be bondsmen, or if one parent is free the children shall follow the condition of the mother; that slaves enfeebled by age or infirmity shall be maintained by the master; allows the master to pursue and recapture fugitives; prohibits their severe treatment, and the separate sale of husband or wife, or children under age, of a family, either by bill or execution; provides that 110 slave over forty years old attached to lands, shall be sold from the land, unless for the debt of his purchase; enjoins their parental treatment upon the masters, &c. The edict contains 55 articles, and may be found at large in Dillon’s History of Indiana, i, 31. It was more just, and tempered with greater mercy, than most laws of that character.
Thus was slavery originally established in Illinois. By the peace concluded at Paris, Feb. 10, 1763, this country, as a dependency of Canada, was ceded to Great Britain, and when General Gage took possession of Illinois, he promised in his proclamation of Dec. 30, 1764, to the late subjects of France, “that those who choose to retain their lands and become subjects of his [Britanic] majesty, shall enjoy the same rights and privileges, the same security for their persons and effeets, and liberty of trade, as the old subjects of the king.” At this period England recognized slavery in all her American colonies, and the acquisition of Canada and its dependencies operated to extend her colonial laws and customs to these.
Next, Virginia, 1778, through her expedition under the command of George Rogers Clark, made the conquest of Illinois, and as soon as the news was received, her house of burgesses further declared as within her chartered limits the whole of the northwest territory, and proceeded by act to erect it into a county which was called Illinois, and extended over this country her laws and jurisdiction. The preamble of the act recites, “that the inhabitants had acknowledged themselves citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia, and had taken the oath of fidelity to the State," wherefore it was declared that they should enjoy their own religion, with all their civil rights and property.” Other States came forward with charter claims, but that of Virginia was as broad as these; added to which was her title by conquest, going back to the first principles by which all titles are originally deduced, and her actual occupation constituting the best of tenures; and while it was urged that the latter could not operate against her confederate claimant sister States, engaged in a common war jointly with her, congress did not deny the right of her separate conquest. After some hesitation, Virgivia finally authorized her delegates in congress to convey all of the northwestern territory to the United States. The deed of cession was executed March 1st, 1784, the same day accepted and by congress ordered to be enrolled among the public archives. In the meantime, by the treaty of peace with Great Britain, in 1783, the whole of this country was ceded to the United States.
The following stipulation in the deed of cession has given rise to much controversy in the history of slavery in Illinois :
6. That the French and Canadian inhabitants and other settlers of the Kaskaskias, St. Vincents, and the neighboring villages, who have professed themselves citizens of the State of Virginia, shall have their possessions and titles confirmed to them, and be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberties.”
The first effort made by congress to organize the northwestern territory was as early as 1784. The bill contained the provision, "that after the year 1800 there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States,” to be formed out of the territory. When the bill came up for action, the proviso, on a separate vote, failed, although 6 States voted for it to 3 against; but under the articles of confederation the vote of 9 States was required to carry a measure.
On the 13th of July, 1787, congress adopted the ordinance for the government of the territories northwest of the river Ohio, the 6th article whereof reads as follows: "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." The ordinance was subsequently approved under the constitution, when the latter went into operation. The acts of congress dividing the territory, both in the case of Indiana and Mlinois, extended to the inhabitants of each, all and singular the rights, privileges, and advantages granted by the ordinance originally, as we have seen. The census of 1800 gave the number of slaves in the Indiana territory, which then included Illinois, as 133. In 1810 Illinois separately had 168 slaves; in 1820, 917, which probably included indentured and registered servants, and in 1830,
The 6th article of the ordinance of 1787, prohibiting slavery, became at an early period a subject of repeated complaints. In 1796 four persons in Kaskaskia, doubtless picturing to themselves in golden colors the ease and affluence incident to slave labor, petitioned congress to suspend the restriction of the ordinance. November 22, 1802, Gov. Harrison, in compliance with the wishes of a number of inhabitants, but with what legal right it is difficult to conceive, issued his proclamation directing the people to hold an election in the several counties of the territory on the 11th of December and choose delegates, who were to meet in convention at Vincennes on the 20th instant, to deliberate on “territorial interests.” Front Illinois, for the county of St. Clair, Shadrach Bond, John Moredock, and Jean F. Perry were returned, and for Randolph, Robert Morrison, Pierre Menard, and Robert Reynolds. Gov. Harrison presided. The object was to obtain from congress a repeal or modification of the 6th article of the organic act, prohibiting the introduction of slaves into this territory.
A memorial was prepared and transmitted to congress, declaring the consent of the people to a suspension of the prohibitory clause; that such suspension would be highly advantageous to the territory and would meet the approbation of nine-tenths of the good citizens” thereof; that "inasmuch as the number of slaves in the United States would not be augmented by the measure," the abstract question of liberty and slavery was not involved; that the introduction of slaves into the territory where labor was scarce, from the States where it was abundant, would prove equally advantageous to both sections; that slavery was prohibited in the territory by congress when they were not represented in that body-without their being consulted and without their knowledge or approbation;" that the number of slaves could never bear such a ratio to the white population was to endanger the internal peace or prosperity of the country; that slaves were tolerated in other territories; that among their small farmers they would be "better fed and clothed than where they were crowded on large plantations by hundreds," etc.*
In March, 1803, Mr. Randolph, of Virginia, as chairman of the special committee, reported that “the rapidly increasing population of the State of Ohio sufficiently evinces, in the opinion of your committee, that the labor of slaves is not necessary to promote the growth and settlement of colonies in that region. That this labor, demonstrably the dearest of any, can only be employed to advantage in the cultivation of products more valuable than any known to that quarter of the United States; that the committee deem it highly dangerous and inexpedient to impair a provision wisely calculated to promote the happiness and prosperity of the northwestern country, and to give strength and security to that extensive frontier. In the salutary operation of this sagacious and benevolent restraint, it is believed that the inhabitants will, at no very distant day, find ample renumeration for a temporary privation of labor and immigration.” How prophetically true! A resolution embodying these views was also reported.
This report, made just before the close of the session, was not acted upon, and at the next session was referred to a new committee, with Mr. Rodney, of Delaware, as chairman, who reported "See Annals of Congress, House, Nov. 1807.
Feb. 4, 1804, favorably to the memorialists, suspending the 6th article for ten years, allowing the importation of slaves from States only, and that the male descendents should be free at 25 and the females at 21; but no action was had on the report. Again, at the legislative session of 1805-6, additional memorials of similar import were prepared and submitted to congress, and in the House referred to a select committee, with Mr. Garnett, of Virginia, as chairman; and again a favorable report to the prayer of the memorialists was made, Feb. 14, concluding with a resolution substantially like the one of Mr. Rodney. The report was made the special order for a certain day, but it was never called up. With the opening of the next congress, more resolutions from the Indiana legislature transmitted by Gov. Harrison, were presented, urging in a long preamble a suspension of the 6th article of the ordinance. The subject was finally referred to a special committee, this time with Mr. Parke, the territorial delegate, as chairman, and for the third time a favorable report was made, together with a resolution suspending the obnoxious article; but no action was had and the report slept with its predecessors. Simultaneously with these importunities upon the House, copies of memorials and resolutions were also transmitted to the president and by him sent to the senate.
But while those favorable to throwing open the territory to the influx of slaves were active, the opponents were not idle. In October, 1807, a large and enthusiastic meeting of the citizens was held in Clark county, Indiana, and a remonstrance drafted expressive of the impropriety of the suspension, and soliciting congress to defer action until their population should entitle them to form a constitution, etc. They also charged that the slave party, by some “legerdemain," obtained the name of the president of the legislative council to the last resolutions sent to congress, which he denies signing. In the senate a committee, consisting of Franklin, of North Carolina; Kitchell, of New Jersey, and Tiffin, of Ohio, was appointed, to which the whole subject was referred. After duly considering the matter, they reported adversely to the prayer of the legislative memorialists. Thus ended the very persistent, but happily abortive, efforts to throw open the doors of this vast and fertile region to the blighting influences of slavery Not the people at home, but congress sitting at Washington, saved us from this curse.
Notwithstanding the words of the ordinance, “there shall be neither slavery or involuntary servitude in said territory," it was very early contended that the words in the deed of cession from Virginia — shall have their possessions and titles confirmed”guaranteed to the holders of these slaves a right of property in them; that this provision in the deed overrode the ordinance and secured them a vested right for all time in that species of property; that slavery in the territories was not abolished, but its further introduction simply prohibited; that these slaves were the property of citizens of Virginia, or were then the descendants of such slaves, and remained slaves by the compact entered into between the State of Virginia and the general government. And although others contended that the words " titles, 9 “ possessions,”.“ rights” and “liberty,” in the deed of cession, “ were never intended by Virginia to guarantee the possessions of slaves,” still all that class