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for this reason the whigs of the committee were not invited to be present. The project was stated to the committee, and all the members agreed to it but one, and he was soon argued out of his objections by Judge Douglas. The next day it was introduced into the lower house as a report from the finance committee. This circumstance put Mr. McClernand in the position of being its principal advocate; and it was soon known to be a favorite measure of the new administ ation.” It met with general favor among the members.
The opposition to it came mainly from the outside expectants of office in winding up the concern. Says Ford: “Lyman Trumbull, secretary of State, put himself at the head of this opposition, In taking this ground, Mr. Trumbull was probably less influenced by a hope of pecuniary advantages to himself, than by a desire to serve his friends, to be considered a thorough-going party man, and by a hatred of McClernand and Shields, who both favored the measure.*
“As soon as McClernand took his position on the bank question, Trumbull arrayed himself in opposition. He pretended that McClernand's measure was not sutficiently democratic; in fact, that nothing could be democratic in relation to the banks but to tear them up and destroy them root and branch, and he hoped to fasten upon McClernand the imputation of being a “milk and water democrat,' and thus lower him in the estimation of the party. At the instance of Ebenezer Peck, clerk of the supreme court, and others, he put up a notice that he would address the lobby on the subject, in the evening after the legislature had adjourned. Most of the members attended to hear his discourse.
“The next day McClernand, who possessed a kind of bold and denunciatory eloquence, came down upon Trumbull and his confederates in a speech in the house, which for argument, eloquence, and statesmanship was far superior to Trumbull's. This speech silenced all opposition thereafter to the bill in the house. The outdoor opposition, after this, forseeing signal defeat in the house, turned their attention to the senate.
Trumbull took his stand in the lobby and sent in amendments of every sort, to be proposed by Crain, of Washington, Catlin, of St. Clair, and others. The mode of attack was to load it down with obnoxious amendments, so as to make it odious to its authors; and Trumbull openly boasted that the bill would be so altered and amended in the senate that the framers in the house would not know their own bant. ling when it came back to them. From this moment I determined
["His quarrel with McClernand sprung out of his appointment to tbe office of sec. retary of State two years before. McClernand was a member of tbe legislature in 1838, but not being an applicant then, Junge Douglas was appointed at the beginning of the session without opposition. But when Douglas was elected a judge of the su. preme court, toward the end of the session, McClernand incited his friends to get up in his favor a strong recommendation from the members of the legislature for the vacant office.
Gov. Carlin had already allowed the members of the legislature and his political friends to dictate to him the appointment of McClernand on a former occasion He had lately yielded to similar dictation in the appointment of Douglas in opposition to his own wishes, for be had previously promised the office to Isaac N Morris, of Quincy. (Hej subsequently used his intuence with the legislature to get Morris elected to the office of president of the board of canal commissioners. But this contest between McCleraand and Trumbull took place at the close of the session, when the governor bad nothing more to hope or fear from that legislature. Trumbull was nominated to the senate ; and McClernand and Shields as immediately went to work in that body to procure the rejection
of his appointment. They camo within a vote or two of defeating his nomination... Ever since then there has been no good feeling between McCiernand and Trumbull."-Ford's History.
to remove Trumbull from the office of secretary of State, (which was done). The obnoxious amendments were rejected, and the bill passed by a large majority, and was approved by the council of revision. Judge Douglas, botwithstanding he had advised the measure before the finance committee, voted against it in council. [The bill passed the house by 107 for to 4 against.] A bill somewhat similar, passed in relation to the Shawneetown bank. By these two bills the domestic trálsury of the State was at once relieved, and another debt of $2,306,000 was extinguished immediately.
"The legislature at this session also passed laws for the sale of State lands and property; for the reception of the distributive share of the State in the proceeds of the sales of the public lands; for the redemption of interest bonds hypothecated to Macalister and Stebbins, and for a loan of $1,600,000 to complete the Illinois and Michigan canal. By these various laws provision was made for the reduction of the State debt to the amount of eight or vine millions of dollars.
From this moment the affairs of the State began to brighten and improve. Auditor's warrants rose to 85 and 90 per cent. State bonds rose from 14 to 20, 30 and 40 per cent. The banks began to pay out their specie, and within three months time the currency was restored, confidence was increased in the prospects of the State, and the tide of emigration was once more directed to Illinois."
But the new canal loan of $1,600,000 met with delay in its negotiation. European capitalists were well disposed toward it, but there was no reliable evidence placed before them as to the value of the canal; nor were they willing to take the loan without some evidence of public faith and recognition of the obligation of the State, and some legislation for taxation to make at least a beginning to pay interest on the public debt.
In his message to the legislature of 1844-5, therefore, Gov. Ford recommended taxation. In September preceding, however, Mr. William S. Wait, of Bond county, through his published letter to the governor against taxation, had already afforded him an opportunity to make known his views in a public letter written in reply, which did great credit to his sentiments of honor and capacity as a sagacious statesman. It gained a wide circulation and produced so favorable an effect in Europe as to immediately cause the completion of the subscription to the loan. The State revenue was derived from a land tax, a portion of which had been in 1827 diverted to the counties then generally in debt, to aid them toward the erection of court-houses and jails, which had long since been built, and the governor in his message says:
“ This land tax ought to be resumed to the State treasury. Frequent attempts have been made to effect this, but without success.
The objection has always been that there was more land taxable in the old than in the new part of the State, and that the measure would be unequal. (Under the compact with congress in the enabling act of 1818, lands were not to be taxed till five years after their entry.] I would recommend that the additional revenue thus derived, and such additional tax as the legislature in its wisdom will provide for, be formed into a fund, the proceeds and increase of which shall be sacred and dedicated to the extinction of a portion, however small at first, of the interest on the public debt. Whatever we do in this way, ought to have the greatest permanency: And thus by setting a limit to the fears and imaginations of men in relation to the huge phantom of expected taxes, we might reasonably calculate to restore ourselves in the estimation of mankind, turn the tide of emigration again into our country, accompanied by wealth and intelligence.”
But from various causes quite an opposition had been raised to the administration. This grew out of the “Morman war,” and the jealousies of political aspirants. Two bank commissioners, a secretary of state, three judges of the supreme court, and a U.S. senator had been appointed. For these offices there were many applicants, and the disappointed ones joined their influence to oppose the administration measures. Many charges were brought against the administration and an investigating committee was appointed, which, while it made a thorough inquisition of the executive offices and found nothing amiss, still did not possess the magnanimity to make any report at all—"the newest way of discrediting an administration," which ought to be patented, says his excellency.
The main administration measure at this session was a supplemental canal bill, and to provide for paying a portion of the interest on the State debt. It provided for a transfer of 1 mill from the county to the State tax, so as to make the State tax 3 mills, the latter to remain permanent, and together with all surplus moneys in the treasury constitute an “Interest Fund," to be sacredly set apart for the payment of interest on the public debt. The bill giving to the foreign bondholders two canal trustees and to the State but one, afterwards divided and passed in two laws, was prepared in accordance with the propositions of the foreign creditors, as made by the Boston committee, Governor Davis, of Massachusetts, and Mr. Leavitt, of New York, being present during the latter part of the session.
Besides disaffected democrats, a strenuous effort was made to array the whig party in opposition to this measure. To this end a secret meeting of the whig leaders was called to form a coalition with the southern democrats. But to these intrigues, fraught with mischief to the credit and prosperity of the State, Judge Stephen T. Logan, of Springfield, N. D. Strong, of Alton, and other whigs, set their faces as steel; and in the house these machinations met with signal defeat, the bill passing by some 20 majority. In the senate, after a substitue offered by Edwards and amendments by Worthington and Constable, (whigs,) all tending to its defeat, were voted down, that body refused to order the bill to a third reading—19 to 22. Now followed much parliamentary manuevering, and charges of bribery and corruption were freely made.
“The vote on the bill in the senate being reconsidered, it was referred to a select committee, together with another bill of an important character, which had already passed the house of representatives. It was known that one senator would not vote for the tax and the canal both in the same bill. By their connection the tax was made to appear as a local measure, intended only for the benefit of the north. The committee, therefore, divided the bill. They struck out of the canal bill all that related to a tax, and they struck ont all of the bill referred with it, and inserted the taxing part in that. And these two bills being now reported
back to the senate, the senate concurred in their passage as thus amended. They were sent back to the house the same hour for concurrence, which was given; and thus these important measures passed into laws; or rather they wabbled through the legis. lature. To Thomas M. Kilpatrick, senator from Scott, is due the honor of the good management in the senate, in dividing and amending the measure, and thus securing its passage. I give the facts, curious as they may appear, to illustrate the fertile genius of western men, and as a specimen of the modes of legislation in a new country.**
Thus was shown a recognition of our obligation to pay the public debt, and a willingness to contribute to do so as far as lay in our power. This, too, at a period of sore trial to the people of the State. For the two preceding seasons the crops had been a partial failure; the unprecedented freshets of the Mississippi, the Illinois and many other streams in the State, in 1844, had destroyed a large amount of property, and laid waste many a bome. stead; and an unusual amount of sickness had not only followed in the wake of the floods, but generally pervaded the country.
Another “Hard Times” measure, adopted at this session, was the reduction of interest to 6 per cent. During the flush times, prior to 1840, when money was abundant and unlimited, the people overtraded themselves, and, finally, on settlement, gave their promissory notes, bearing 12 per cent. interest, which they did rather than be sued and have their property sold under execution. The reader will have noticed that for twenty-five years the tendency of legislation in Illinois, and indeed all western states, a tendency not yet arrested, was to favor the debtor classes.
At the close of Gov. Ford's administration,t we find the domestic debt for the ordinary expenses of the State government to be only $31,212, instead of $313,000 as when he came into office; now, without the sum due from the general government to the school fund being paid, there was in the treasury $9,260, when at that time it did not contain enough to pay postage on a letter; now, auditor's warrants were worth over 90 cents on the dollar, then, not 50; now, people were in the main out of debt, then they were overwhelmed with private liabilities. The banks bad been put into liquidation and gradually wound up, their depreciated circulation retired and replaced by a reasonable abundance of specie and the issues of solvent banks from other States. By exchanging the bank stock of the State for the bonds, and the sale of public property, about $3,000,000 of the public debt had been extinguished; and by the canal, then promising to be completed within the next year, some $5,000,000 more were effectually provided for in the enhanced value of the canal property, and the fact of its conveyance in trust to the foreign canal bond holders ; being a reduction of some $8,000,000, extinguished and provided for, during Gov. Fords' administration, notwithstanding its begin. ing under circumstances the most adverse and unpromising. The State, which for years before had been overwhelmed with debt; which had not for 4 years paid even interest on its bonds, and loth to even recognize its public debt; which was on the brink of repudiation-discredited throughout the civilized world, had dur. ing his administration its credit greatly restored, and was enabled to borrow $1,600,000 to complete the canal. It now had a population of about 700,000, and the 14 mill tax to be exclusively applied as interest on the public debt, would yield for the year 1846, $125,000. With the dissipation of the clouds of threatening dishonor, emigration, with an increasing tide, again sought our lands for homes, and population was augmenting faster than at any previous time. The list of taxable property, and the aggregate wealth of the State, was rapidly on the increase. From the people here, erst so anxious to sell out and depart the State, the terrors of high taxation had been removed, and now when opportunity to sell and leave was almost daily presented, they were content to remain. The reputation of Illinois before the civilized world, now stood forth almost without spot or blemish, the peer in honor and credit of any in the sisterhood of States. The year 1845 was the turning point in her financial embarrassments, and marks the beginning of her since unabated prosperity and march to greatness.
*1 Ford's History. *See his message, Dec. 1848.
“We may date the commencement of our returning prosperity to the passage of that law”—the law requiring the banks of this State to put their affairs in process of gradual liquidation-says Gov. French in his inaugural message. This law, we have seen, was conceived by the brain and drafted by the hand of Gov. Ford himself; through his admirable letter in reply to W. S. Wait, of Bond county, our foreign creditors took beart and subscribed the money for the completion of the canal; he had the courage to recommend taxation, and suggested the permanant tax or "interest fund” bill, which after a severe struggle became a law. We see thus the directing finger of Gov. Ford in every im. portant measure which aided in restoring the credit of the State, and snatching it from the jaws of repudiation and dishonor. And this was done, not with the united support of his own party friends, but in the face of their many intrigues, jealousies and party machinations. Illinois was most fortunate in securing his services for its helm of State at this critical juncture of her finan. cial career; and posterity will ever owe a debt of gratitude to him for bis clear insight into the condition of her affairs, the measures which his genius brought forward for her extrication, and the fidelity with which he discharged the high trust reposed in him at this crisis in her history. In his valedictory message he says: “Without having indulged in wasteful or extravagant habits of living, I retire from office poorer than I came in; and go to private life with a full determination not to seek again any place in the government." Gov. Ford died, Nov. 2d, 1850, at Peoria, in very indigent circumstances.