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CHAPTER XLVIII.

1853-1857-ADMINISTRATION OF GOV. MATTESON.

Democratic and Whig Conventions-Sketches of the Gubernatorial

Candidates-Financial Condition and Physical Development of the State-Legislation, 1853–5—Maine Law and Riot at ChicagoOur Common Schools and trials in the establishment of the Free School System.

The Democratic State Convention of 1852, to make a ticket for State officers, met in Springfield April 20th. The political outlook for that party appeared clear all around the horizon auguring an easy victory at the coming November election. Hence there was no lack of aspirants for place on a ticket of such promise. For the position of governor seven names were presented. For some time previous it had been confidently expected that the Hon. David L. Gregg, then secretary of State, an accomplished gentleman of learning, varied political experience, and great influence with his party, would receive the nomination. Quite

number of counties had instructed for him, the public press in its comments and surmises, had settled on him with a degree of certainty, causing the opposition to discharge their batteries at him, as if his nomination had been consummated. The attack upon him was mainly on account of his religion, he being a Catholic. The evening before the meeting of the convention, a sermon of a political bearing, violently attacking Romanism, was preached at the Capital, which was largely attended by the assembled members of the convention. Some controversy was indulged afterward as to whether the minister was a whig or democrat. One thing, however, was certain, it was preached to influence the action of the convention in the defeat of Mr. Gregg. How much influence it had we do not say. No sooner had members begun to collect than it was whispered about that it would never do to nominate Gregg because of his catholicism; and this objection was industriously but quietly urged against him in the convention. After his sacri. fice there was an effort to smother the matter, but it could not be done. Mr. Gregg knew and felt it all the time, but he was to true to party to bolt the ticket, and he gave it the support of all his power. In a letter to I. N. Morris, scouting the idea that the convention was governed by such intolerant motives, he nevertheless adds, “it is doubtless true that a few men in the convention sought to stir up religious prejudices with the view of accomplishing my defeat.” Aside from this quiet persecuting intrigue, the convention was entirely harmonius.

The convention was organized with the Hon. J. A. McClernand as its permanent chairman. The names presented for the position of governor on the ticket, together with the number of votes on the first ballot, were as follows: D. L. Gregg, of Cook, 84 votes; Joel A. Matteson, of Will, 56; John Dement, of Lee, 53; F. C. Sherman, of Cook, 23; Thomas L. Harris, of Menard, 16; Lewis W. Ross, of Fulton, 7; and D. P. Bush, of Pike, 6. Joel A. Matteson afterwards received a majority of the votes cast and was declared the nominee of the convention for goveruor. Gustavus Koerner received the nomination for lieutenant-governor; Alexander Starne, secretary of State; Thomas H. Campbell, auditor, and John Moore, State treasurer.

The platform stood by the compromise measures of 1850, and non-intervention; against meddling witn the domestic affairs of other States to stir up strife and hatred; for free homesteads to heads of families on the public domain; and declared in favor of Douglas for the presidency-that he “ embodied all the elements of popularity and success to such a degree as to stamp him as the man for the coming crisis.” State affairs received no notice at its hands, and as the free banking law was in full operation, democratic hostility to banks, so strenously asserted in 1846'48, was not repeated.

The Whig State Convention of 1852, met also at Springfield on the 7th of July. It was but sparingly attended. The regularly appointed delegates failed to appear and their places were in part filled by proxies taken from the grand and petit juries, litigants and witnesses in attendance upon the U. S. district and circuit courts then in term. It was organized by the choice of the Hon. 0. H. Browning, of Adams, as chairman, who in his opening speech candidly remarked in effect, that it was not expected that the ticket to be by them nominated would carry the State, but it would prove important in tending to hold up the hands of their party friends in those States where there was hope of success for Gen. Scott, candidate for the presidency.

The ticket was mostly made by acclamation. Aspirants for the barren honors were not numerous as in the case of the democracy. The Hon. E. B. Webb, of White, was nominated for governor; J. L. D. Morrison, of St. Clair, for lieutenant-governor; Buckner S. Morris for secretary of State; Charles Betts for auditor; and Francis Arnz, a German, then on a visit to Europe, for treasurer. Owing to the widespread disgust in the whig ranks regarding the compromise measures of 1850, and the national whig platform, which approved them, it was planned on the part of the managers that with the endorsement of the nomination of Gen. Scott, to show party loyalty, it might be best to quietly stop, leaving candidates free to assume such grounds upon the slavery question and fugitive slave law, either pro or con, as might be deemed to accord best with the varying sentiments of different localities in the State. But this plan was sadly deranged Ly Mr. Herndon, of Sangamon, who unexpectedly, introduced a resolution approving the Baltimore platform. Here was a dilemma. To refuse to adopt what was clearly their duty as national whigs, would be to break their party adhesions and become des. pised Jisorganizers ; to do so, division and estrangement in their ranks, at home was inevitable. The whig party, in the north of this State especially, was largely anti-slavery. Herndon was firm, and the resolution passed, it is said, with feelings of melancholy and mutterings of discontent. It was first omitted from the published report of the proceedings, but the alert democracy promptly called attention to the direliction, whereupon the official proceedings were republished "to correct the many inaccuracies of the first report."'*

The abolitionists, who probably expected to gain by the large defection in the whig party, also brought out a State ticket with Dexter A. Knowltou, of Stephenson, for governor, and Pbilo Carpenter, of Cook, for lieutenant-governor.

Mr. Webb, the head of the whig ticket, was a lawyer, deeply read in his profession, and of excellent standing in the State. He had been for many years State's attorney, and repeatedly represented his county in the legislature. He did not possess the gifts of oratory. In 1836, as a member of the legislature, he opposed the adoption of the State improvement system, and spread his protest upon the journal, containing language of prophesy, whose verification in a few years, was but too emphatic. In 1855 he was a candidate for the supreme bench against Judge Breese, who was elected While yet a boy his father removed to Carmi, Illinois, where Mr. Webb continued to live, and died in 1859. When the writer personally knew him in the latter years of his life, he was exceedingly fond of a small social circle of friends with whom to discuss the political and other questions of the day, and to talk over old times in his peculiar didactic and instructive manuerit

The whig candidate for lieutenant-governor, Col. Don Morrison, was also by profession a lawyer. He had served with acceptability in both the State and national legislatures, and as lieutenant-colonel of the 2d Illinois regiment in the Mexican war.

He was a native Illinoisan; an orator of distinguished manners, daring ad. dress, and an ardent whig. He had been very successful in accumulating a large and valuable landed estate, which he still lives to enjoy. Neither of these candidates was tinctured with the growing anti-slavery sentiments of the party at that day.

Beside the disappointment of public expectation in the defeat of Gregg before the democratic convention, the nomination of Matteson for governor did not at first give general satisfaction to the party in all parts of the State. From the south, hostile to all banks, the press indicated the impression to be that the head of the ticket had warmly advocated the adoption of the general banking law; that he favored a U. S. bank, or any kind of “wild cat system ;" that he had not besides been sound on the Wilmot proviso; was against the compromise measures of 1850, and favored free soilism. The democratic organ at the capital called on the Joliet paper (where Matteson resided,) to give to the democracy a "full and explicit statement of this] views” upon the im. portant subjects named. To Koerner was ascribed a position upon these questions in perfect accord with the sentiments of the party.

• See Mlinois State Journal.

(NOTE- +For his own amusement, unaided by any teacher and perhaps before he was aware of his proficiency, he became a most excellent French scholar, without being able, however, to his knowledge, to pronounce a word of the language correctly. This was done by, regularly r ading the Courier des Elat Unis, a French newspaper printed in New York, for which he was a subscriber. The writer has heard bim read in English fresh from its columns, time and again. translating with such readiness that one would suppose him to be reading from an ordinary American newspaper,

years before.

It was said that is the ticket had been reversed as regards these candidates it would have been preferable"but as it is we adhere to it,” commanded the party drill-sergeants. Two short years or less demonstrated the fallacy of these apprehensions by the going over of Koerner to the anti-Nebraska party, and Matteson's support of the repeal of the Missouri compromise.

The campaign of 1852, as might have been expected by the whigs giving up the contest in advance, was attended by little excitement; nothing of interest occurred, and upon its close in November, resulted in an overwhelming victory for the democracy. Joel A. Matteson received 80,645 votes, Edwin B. Webb 64,408, and Dexter A. Knowlton 8,829.

Joel A. Matteson was born August 8, 1808, in Jefferson county New York, whither his father had removed from Vermont three

His father was a farmer in fair circumstances, but a common English education was all that his only son received. Joel first tempted fortune as a small tradesman in Prescott, Canada, before his majority. He returned thence home, entered an academy, taught school, visited the large eastern cities, improved a farm his father had given him, made later a tour south, worked there in building railroads, experienced a storm on the Gulf of Mexico, visited the gold diggings of northern Georgia, whence he returned via Nashville to St. Louis and through Illinois to his father's home, and married. In 1833, having sold his farm, he removed with his wife and one child to Illinois, and took a claim on government land near the head of Au Sable river, in the present Ken. dall county. At the time there were not exceeding two neighbors within a range of ten miles, and only three or four houses between his location and Chicago. He opened a large farm; his family was boarded twelve miles away while he erected a house on his claim, sleeping, during this time, under a rude pole shed. Here his life was placed in imminent peril by a huge prairie rattlesnake sharing his bed. In 1835 he bought largely at the government land sales. During the speculative real estate mania which broke out in Chicago in 1836, and spread all over the State, he sold his lands under the inflation of that period, and removed to Joliet. In 1838 he became a heavy contractor on the Illinois and Michigan canal. Upon the completion of his job in 1841, when hard times prevailed, business at a stand, contracts paid in State scrip; when all the public works except the canal were abandoned, the State offered for sale 700 tons of railroad iron, which was pur. chased by Matteson at a great bargain. This he shipped and sold at Detroit, realizing a very handsome profit, enough to pay off all his canal debts, and leave bim a surplus of several thousand dol. lars. His enterprise next prompted him to start a woolen mill at Joliet, in which he prospered, and which, after successive enlargements, became an enormous establishment. In 1842 he was first elected a State senator, but, by a bungling apportiopment, John Pearson, a senator holding over, was found to be in the same district, and decided to be entitled to represent it. Matteson's seat was declared vacant. Pearson, however, with a nobleness difficult to appreciate in this day of greed for office, unwilling to represent his district under the circumstances, immediately resigned his un. expired term of two years. A bill was passed in a few hours or dering a new election, and in ten days' time Matteson was returned re-elected and took his seat as senator. From his wellknown capacity as a business man, he was made chairman of the committee on finance, a position which he held during this half and two full succeeding senatorial terms, discharging its important duties with ability and faithfulness. Besides his extensive woolen mill interest, when work was resumed on the canal under the new Joan of $1,600,000 he again became a heavy contractor, and also subsequently operated largely in building railroads. He had shown himself a most energetic and thorough business man.

Matteson's forte was not on the stump; he had not cultivated the art of oily flattery, or the faculty of being all things to all men. His qualities of head took rather the direction of efficient executive ability ; his turn consisted not so much in the adroit management of party, or the powerful advocacy of great governmental principles, as in those more solid and enduring operations which cause the physical development and advancement of a State -of commerce and business enterprise, into which he labored with success to lead the people. As a politician he was just and liberal in his views, and both in official and private life he then stood untainted and free from blemish. As a man, in active benevolence, social virtues, and all the amiable qualities of neighbor or citizen, he had few superiors. His messages present a perspicuous array of facts as to the condition of the State, and are often couched in forcible and elegant diction. The helm of State was contided to no unskillful hands.

Gustavus Koerner, the lieutenant-governor elect, was born in 1809, in the old free city of Frankfort-on-the-Main, Germany, and received in his youth the usual thorough common school education of that country. At the age of 19 he entered the University of Jena; in 1832, at Heidelberg he took the degree of doctor of laws, and was soon after admitted to the bar of his native city. While at Jena the French revolution of 1830 inspired him, like many other ardent youths, with the principles of liberty. Thus imbued, he could illy brook the decrees of the Germanic diet suppressing the freedom of the press, and prohibiting public discussions of political questions, and connected with a political association having for its aim an enlarged liberty and more perfect union of the Germanic States, he became implicated in a revolutionary movement against the government, which proved a failure, when he sought exile. Finding no security in France, then under Louis Philippe, in May, 1833, at the age of 22, he embarked at Havre for America, and on arrival proceeded to Illinois, and settled in Belleville. Here he determined to pursue the practice of the law, notwithstanding the obstacles of a foreign tongue, of which he had but a student's knowledge, and immediately commenced a dil. igent course of reading, attended the Lexington law school, and afterward became the law partner of Adam W. Snyder and James Shields. He attached himself to the fortunes of the democratic party, and took an active part in politics. In 1840 he edited a German campaign paper named Messenger of Liberty, and carried the electoral vote of Illinois to Washington. In 1842 he was elected to the lower house of the legislature, and in 1845 appointed a judge of the supreme court, by Gov. Ford, vice Gen. Shields, resigned. In 1848 he was appointed consul to Hamburg. This

See speech of D. L. Gregg, 1852

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