Imágenes de páginas

made for improvements in almost every part of the State, and those out-of-the-way counties which could not be reached, were to share in a fund of $200,000, first to be raised. Alton, then muni. ficently supplied with millions by the State bank to build her up as the mercantile center and metropolis of the west, would not be satisfied with less than the termini of three railroads. In 1834, she had received the highest number of votes as the seat of government, after the 20 years limitation at Vandalia should ex. pire ; but upon this she did not now insist—she preferred railroads. Several efforts were made to cut down the scheme to less dimensions, with failures each time, and not unfrequently more works added. Although the internal improvement convention had long since adjourned, there was still a powerful lobby busily engaged applying the pressure to pliant members of the legislature. The lobbies witnessed many oratorical efforts of ingenious and logical argument. The manifest destiny of government was protrayed in glowing colors; deductions from similar systems in progress in other States were made applicable to Illinois, and their certain success driven home and clinched with predictions; and who can argue against prophecy? The subsequent facts of signal and disastrous failure, were then hidden in the womb of time. What appears ridiculous and absurd now, was then by many confidently believed, because there were no facts to gainsay it, but much positive asservation that it would be a success.

The question of removing the seat of government from Vandalia, the 20 years limitation under the constitution having nearly expired, played no inconsiderable part in the passage of this measure. Sangamon county, then the most populous in the State, was represented by two senators and seven representatives, familiarly known as the "long nine,” all whigs but one. Says Gov. Ford :

"Amongst them were some dexterous jugglers and managers in politics, whose whole object was to obtain the seat of government for Springfield. This delegation, from the beginning of the session, threw itself as a unit in support of, or opposition to, every local measure of interest, but never without a bargain for votes in return on the seat of government question. Most of the other counties were small, having but one representative, and many of them with but one for the whole district ; and this gave Sangamon county a decided preponderance in the log-rolling system of those days. It is worthy of examination whether any just and equal legislation can ever be sustained where some of the counties are great and powerful and others feeble. But by such means 'the long nine' rolled along like a snow ball, gathering accessions of strength at every turn, until they swelled up a considerable party for Springfield, which party they managed to take almost as a unit in favor of the internal improvement system, in return for which the active supporters of that system were to vote for Springfield to be the seat of government. Thus it was made to cost the State about $6,000,000, to remove the seat of government from Vandalia to Springfield, half of which sum would have purchased all the real estate in that town at three prices; and thus by log-rolling on the canal measure, by multiplying railroads, by terminating three railroads at Alton, that Alton might become a great city in opposition to St. Louis, by distributing money to some of the counties, to be wasted by the county commissioners, and by giving the seat of government to Springfield, was the whole State bought up and bribed, to approve the most senseless and disastrous policy which ever crippled the energies of a growing country.

The first board of commissioners of public works, consisted of Murray McConnell, William Kinney, Elijah Willard, Milton K. Alexander, Joel Wright, James W. Stephenson, and Ebenezer Peck. An effort was made to elect members of the legislature to this important place of trust. To evade the provision of the constitution, that "no senator or representative shall, during the time for which he shall have been elected, be appointed to any civil office under this State," and also the determination of Governor Duncan not to commission any member who might be chosen, a law was endeavored to be passed to over-ride the constitution and do away with a commission, notwithstanding the requirement that all civil officers shall be commissioned. In the light of a late decision of the supreme court, however, a commissioner is not an officer. Still, at the joint meeting of the two houses an effort was made to elect members as commissioners, but there were some scruples in the way; an adjournment for a day was had, when inen were chosen, not members of either house.

It was now fondly hoped by those whose heads were not entirely turned that the fund commissioners would be unable to negotiate the bonds of the State. But this was soon swept away. Through the aid of the United States bank, then trading in State stocks, which served to bankrupt it, loans were effected in the summer of 1837; work was commenced at many different points before the end of the year. Throughout the State public expectation was wrought to the highest pitch over the scheme. Money became abundant by reason of local expenditures and in payments for estimates upon works. It had been confidently believed that the bonds of the State would bring ten per centum premium in market. Gov. Duncan had disposed of $100,000 in canal bonds the summer preceding at 5 per centum premium, which he considered too low and declined a larger sum at that rate. But now the commissioners could effect loans in this country only at par; London was tried with worse effect, “those in Europe were at 9 per cent discount. The bankers paid 90 cents on the dollar to the State, and, as is alleged, 1 per cent to the fund commissioners, for brokerage."* Besides which a heavy contract was given for

9 railroad iron at a most exorbitant price. Labor progressed meanwhile upon all the works.

*Ford's History.



Continuation of the Subject of Internal ImprovementCollapse of

the Grand System-Hard Times--Reorganization of the Judiciary in 1841.

While the unwieldy internal improvement system of the State was in full operation, with all its expensive machinery, amidst bank suspensions throughout the United States, a great stringency in the money market everywhere, and Illinois bonds forced to sale at a heavy discount, the general election of 1838 was approaching. Discreet men who had cherished the hope of a speedy subsidence of the public infatuation, met with disappointment. A governor and legislature were to be elected, and these were now looked forward to for a repeal of the ruinous State policy. But the grand scheme had not yet lost its dazzling influence upon the minds of the people. Time and experience had not demonstrated its utter absurdity. Hence the question of arresting its career of profligate expenditures did not become a leading one with the dominant party during the campaign, and most of the old members of the legislature were returned at this election.

Of the gubernatorial candidates, Cyrus Edwards (brother of the late governor,) whig, came out strongly for the system; while Thomas Carlin, the democratic nominee, well apprised of the public infatuation not yet sobered, failed to declare an emphatic opinion either for or against. This was the first time that the two political parties had the field to themselves in a gubernatorial campaign, unembarrassed by other tickets. In December preceding, the Democratic State convention had nominated James W. Stephenson for governor, and John S. Hacker for lieutenant governor. In April following, Hacker withdrew from the contest, and Stephenson, who was charged with being a defaulter, also withdrew, a sacrifice to the demands of party interests. The convention was recalled and met June 4th, when Thomas Carlin was nominated for governor, and S. H. Anderson for lieutenant governor. Carlin was elected, receiving 35,573 votes to Edwards 29,629. Anderson received 30,335 votes, tó W. H. Davidson, the whig nominee for lieutenant governor, 28,716.

Gov. Carlin was born in Kentucky, near Frankfort, July 18th, 1789. His father was an Irishman. The education of young Carlin was meagre. In early manhood he applied himself to remedy this deficiency, being his own tutor. He was fond of reading through life. In 1803 his father removed to Missouri, then Spanish, where he died in 1810. In 1812 the subject of our sketch came to Illinois and participated in all the ranging" service incident to the war of that period, proving himself a soldier of undaunted bravery. He was married to Rebeca Huitt in 1814, and lived on the bank of the Mississippi opposite the mouth of the Missouri 4 years, when he removed to Greene county. He located the town site of Carrollton, and made a liberal donation of land for county building purposes in 1825. He was the first sheriff of Greene county, and afterward was twice elected a senator to the legislature. In the Black Hawk war he commanded a spy battalion, a post of considerable danger. In 1834 he was appointed by President Jackson receiver of public moneys and removed to Quincy. After the close of his gubernatorial term he removed back to his old home at Carrolltou, where he spent the remainder of his life, as before his elevation to office, in agricultural pursuits. In 1849 he served out the unexpired term of J. D. Fry in the lower house of the legislature. He died Feb. 14, 1852, leaving surviving him his wife and seven children, out of thirteen born to them.*

Gov. Carlin was a man of remarkable physical energy and capacity. In stature he was above the medium height; light complexioned, a spare looking face, high forehead, long nose, and thin lips, giving to his mouth a compressed appearance. He was unyielding it not obstinate in disposition, possessed in private life an unblemished character, and was a democrat of the straightest sect. While he did not seek preferment, he did not reject office. Mentally he was not without vigor. His messages are smoothly and rather well written, but he did not attempt public speaking.

The lieutenant governor elect, Anderson, was a native of Tennessee. He proved an efficient officer, and attached to himself many warm friends through life. He resided in Jeffersou county, After the expiration of his terın of office, he received from Presi. dent Polk the office of United States Marshal. In politics, it is needless to add, he was a democrat.

Upon the meeting of the legislature, 1839, the retiring governor, Duncan, in his message spoke in emphatic terms of the impolicy of the internal improvement system by the State; presaged the evils threatened by that measure, which experience had already sufficiently shown would have a most deleterious effect upon the property of the State; and urged that to correct the mistake, without too great a sacrifice of public or private interests, should occupy the most serious and patriotic deliberation of the legislature. But the incoming governor, contrary to the hope of many wise and discreet men, while he strongly assailed, in true Jacksonian style, the banks and their suspensions, which had been legalized, held the following language on the subject of internal improvements:

“The signal success which has attended our sister States in the construction of their extensive systems of improvements can leave no doubt of the wise policy and utility of such works. They open new channels of commerce and trade, furnish the farmer and mechanic the means of transporting the products of their labor to market, develope the natural and hidden resources of the country, and stimulate the enterprise and industry of the people. * * In the principles and policy of this plan, contrasted with that of joint stock companies and private corporations, I entirely concur. Had I occupied my present situation at the establish


*From a memoir by his daughter, Mrs. E.C., Woodward.

meut of the system, I would have recommended its adoption on a less extensive scale, and the construction of the most important works first. Under the present plan of proceeding, however, near two million dollars have been expended, and whatever diversity of opinion may now exist as to the expediency of the system as originally projected, all must admit that the character and credit of the State forbid its abandonment."

It was, therefore, to be expected that those who saw the folly of the State in the prosecution of this system, and had cherished the hope of a change, would be disappointed. The new legislature not only did not repeal or modify the expensive project, but made further specific appropriations and authorized additional works, involving an out-lay of near a million dollars: $50,000 for the improvement of Rock river; $150,000 to improve the navigation of the Little Wabash; $20,000 on the western mail route; $100,000 for a new railroad from Rushville to Erie, on the bank of the Illinois river; $20,000 to improve the navigation of the Embarras river; $20,000 for the Big Muddy; and $10,000 for a road from Cahokia Creek to Kaskaskia. Besides these specific amounts, the improvement of the navigation of the Illinois river was directed to be extended to Ottawa (which according to modern experience would have taken many millions more) and a lateral branch railroad from some eligible point on the Alton and Shelbyville railroad between Hillsboro and Alton to run to Carlinville. The governor was also authorized to negotiate a loan of $4,000,000 to prosecute the work on the canal. The lands and public works of the State were exempted from taxation. So thoroughly was the legislature still innbued with the idea of the State exclusively owning all the public works, that the chairman of the Committee on Internal Improvement, Mr. Smith, of Wabash, in reporting adversely upon a bill for "an act to incorporate the Albion and Grayville Railroad Company," at this session, said: “In the opinion of the committee, it is inexpedient for the legislature to authorize corporations or individuals to construct railroads or canals calculated to come in competition with similar works now in course of construction under the State system of internal improvements."

Here let us stop and speculate over the probable future of our State, had this remarkable Mr. Edward Smith lived. As chairman of the committee on internal improvements, he drafted that glowing report of the committee which so tired the honorable members upon the subject of developing the resources of the State as to cause them to vie with each other in actually doing more than that not very modest document asked; and who, apparently, possessed the magnetic power to bring the members squarely up to the support of these improvement measures, like a skillful general marshaling his hosts for victory. He seemed to be born to command in this particular field of enterprise. Unfortunately, before the next session, Mr. Smith died, when the splendid system collapsed. Had he remained in life, with the peculiar force that characterized him in pushing through these measures, the final result of this herculean undertaking of the State becomes a subject of curious contemplation. It must have either bankrupted the State beyond all hope of redemption, or made her treasury the recipient of all the many millions of annual earnings of the vast net-work of nearly 7,000 miles of completed railroads at the present time, which now find their way into the coffers of private corpora

« AnteriorContinuar »