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of that kind was valid. The local tax which might be levied was limited to 25 cents on the $100, its purpose to be designated. Incorporated towns and cities were allowed to go to 50 cents on the $100. In 1851 a majority of the legal voters, attending at any legally convened meeting for the purpose, were allowed to levy a local tax not exceeding $1 on every $100 of the taxable prop erty of the district. The taxable wealth of the State at this time exceeded $100,000,000, and $1,000,000 might have been raised, which added to the State school fund annually distributed, and that of the township, would have furnished the people an ample fund for a complete free school system. But it depended upon their election to avail of it, and instead of $1,000,000 and more, we find that for the year 1852 the total local ad valorem school tax in the whole State amounted to only $51,000, being less than one-twentieth part of the limits of the law. Mr. Gregg, secretary of State and superintendent of public instruction at the time, says: “I am not aware that in a single instance has this been done (that is, the full benefit of the law availed of], nor can any motive be assigned for the action of the people in this respect, unless it grows out of a preference for the system wbich now prevails.” The school law, in educational effects, was a dead letter.
As stated in the outset, the problem remained how to lift public sentiment from the slough of apathy into which it had sunk, to the great importance of education. Happily, from many parts of the State the question of a general free school systein was beginning to be agitated. The press, which had long stood aloof, took hold and began to discuss the subject in earnest. The Illinois Teacher, a publication devoted to the cause of education and numbering among its contributors many of the ablest teachers, exerted a wide influence and did efficievt service. The finan. cial condition of the State, too, was undergoing a mnost desirable change. Our rapid increase in population and wealth was dissi. pating the clouds of embarrassment which for 10 years had cast their shadow over the land, and the people beheld the future bright with promise. The railroad era bad dawned upon the State, a new impulse was given to its development, and its strides to empire were unequaled. Gov. Matteson, in his inaugural mes. sage, in a forcible manner directed attention to the great impor. tance of a broad and comprehensive common school system, free to all alike, and supported by a tax upon all the property in the State, to fit the rising generation in its intellectual capacity for the proper direction of the grand future of the State. Still there were in the then views of the people many weighty objections to a scheme of such extraordinary State dictation, as it was called. It was regarded as wholly at war with the property rights of the individual, exacting and oppressive to those unable or unwilling from various motives, to favorably view or participate in the common advantages to be derived from it; and the legislature adjourned without having accomplished anything toward a solution of the problem.
In December, 1853, anticipating an extra session of the legislature, two large common school conventions met, one at Jerseyville composed of many adjoining counties, and one at Bloomington, for the whole State. These conventions, whose earnest spirit was widely felt, indicated not only a growing dissatisfaction with the
existing common school system, but evinced a ripened determination in the public mind to make a radical change. These more. ments, and the very general approbation of their expressions, were so emphatic as to produce a decided impression upon the general assembly, which met in February following, and took the first step in the right direction, by the enactment of a law separating the office of superintendent of public instruction from that of secretary of State, the former being neglected on account of the arduous duties of the latter, and creating it a distinct department of State government, the incumbent to receive a salary of $1500. Besides other duties, he was required to draft a bill embodying a system of free education for all the children of the State, and report it to the next general assembly. On the 15th of March, 1854, Gov. Matteson appointed the Hon. N. W. Edwards State superintendent of common schools. This most important office, at that juncture, was bestowed upon Mr. Edwards on account of his long experience in public life, and from the conviction that he would carry into effect the hopes of the people and the designs of the legislature in creating it. "In January following he submitted to the general assembly a full report upon the condition of the public schools throughout the State, ably urged the education of the children in the State at the public expense, and presented a welldrawn bill for a complete system of free schools, which, with some alterations, became a law. And thus the great desideratum, long sought, was found ; and the earnest and indefatigable men, who had labored unceasingly to advance the cause of education, and who had never faltered even in the darkest hours of the State's finances, were rewarded by beholding the completed machinery prepared for its accomplishment.
The act bore date Feb. 15, 1855, and embraced all the essential principles now in force. In them, as we said in the outset, is evinced something of the science of government. We have voted the educational needs of the people, and how they might have provided the means under the laws for free schools in every district of the State, but they would not. It remained, therefore, to compel them, not by force or the strong arm of the government, but in a way whose results would be fully as efficient. And this was accomplished by recognizing and enforcing the principle that the State has the sovereign right to levy and collect a sufficient tax from the real and personal property within its limits, and expend it in giving its youth a common education.
For State purposes the school tax was fixed at 2 mills on the $100. To this was added the interest from the permanent school fund, when the whole would be given back to the people, i of it in proportion to the number of children under 21 in each county, and the residue to the townships, whole or fractional. In allowing territory to control of the fund, which is un varying in the distribution, new or sparsely settled counties were stimulated to the establishment of schools, which otherwise could not have coped with the denser settlements. But before the State fund could be shared in, certain prerequisites must be complied with. A free school had to be maintained for at least 6 months in the year, and it was made imperative upon the directors of erery organized school district to levy such a tax annually as if added to the public funds would be sufficient for that purpose; and, as if fearing that this might not prove successful, it was made collectable the same as the State and county tax. Other taxes might still be voluntarily added by a vote of the people, to extend the term of schools, build or repair school houses, purchase sites, &c. The local tax made thus obli. gatory, is, however, the main resource of our free school system, which, in '1868, aggregated $4,250,679. The public school funds having reached the hands of the township trustees, a new rule obtains as to their distribution among the districts. To encourage school attendance, half of the funds are apportioned on the exhibits of the teachers' schedules, and balf in proportion to the number of children under 21 years old in each district. Such are the leading and sagacious combinations of the scheme to bring education nearer to the people, and induce them to partake of it. This is the force resorted to by government to render the system efficient. It is essentially the offering of large yearly premiums to every district to establish and maintain a free school for its youth.
The new school system showed directly a marked improvement in educational efforts and results. Of the number of children in the State, under 21, only about one-third attended any kind of school before its establishment, now the average reached nearly half; before, the total number of schools was 4,215, now the number rose directly to 7,694; before, the average monthly wages of teachers were $25 for males and $12 for females, now they were reported at $45 and $27, respectively; and while for 1854 the school fund interest) distributed was only $37,155, for 1855 it was $665,025—$606,809 being the yield of the 2 mill tax. The cause of education thus at once received an impetus which has since not only been well maintained but gained velocity, until to-day the free school system of Illinois, among the very best in the Union, is one of the proudest and noblest monuments which she has erected along the highway of her career toward greatness, and who will dare to raise his ruthless hand to tear it down?
But now a new feature of opposition to the free school system was suddenly developed, which clouded the vision of some of its staunchest friends, and threatened its destruction. out of the collection and distribution of the 2 mill tax, which acted very unequally in the different counties. Thus, from Cook was collected $30,000 more than she received back as her distributive share; Sangamon paid into the State treasury $23,132, and received back $11,027; and from all the wealthier and more popu. lous counties, with varying amounts, the same results obtained; while others for instance White-contributed $2,579 as her share - of the 2 mill tax, and received back a distributive share of $5,409, a gain of over 100 per cent.; Pope paid in $1,055, aud received 84,239, and Hardin paid $894, and received back $2,417, being more than 4 times the sums raised. While the people had been gradually brought to view as but right that one man's property might be taxed to defray the expense of teaching another's ohild, the idea that one county should similarly contribute to another, perhaps hundreds of miles distant, was regarded as the essence of injustice. In many parts of the State their complaints were loud and deep, and meetings were held in 1856 severely denouncing the law, and requiring of candidates for the legislature pledges to favor its modification or repeal. It was manifest that
a flagrant wrong existed somewhere, and it rested, doubtless, in great part with the unequal valuations of real and personal property in the different counties, as in Sangamon lands were valued at $12.54; in Christian, $3.06; in White, $2.52, &c.; but equalization of assessments could not wholly remedy it-the spirit and cardinal principles of the free school system were that the property and wealth of the State should bear the burden of educating its youth, no matter in whose hands it was, or where situate. The framers of the law had builded better than they knew, and with this broad idea, comprehended in its fullest sense, the efforts at amendment by the legislature in 1857 proved abortive. It is the vital principle of the law to-day.
There being still a great dearth in teachers, and with the view also to attain uniformity in the modes of teaching and conducting schools, at the session of 1857 the State Normal University was established at Bloomington.
DUELS IN ILLINOIS, AND ATTEMPTS AT DUELS.
Affairs of Honor and Personal Difficulties.
The soil of Illinois has been blood-stained but comparatively a few times by the barbarous code duello. Those fierce and implacable passions which in controversy know no final argument but mortal combat have not found congenial culture on the level plains of the Prairie State. The records and details of the actual duels fought are particularly meagre, obscure and unsatisfactory. But we are tempted to give what there are. Of the first duel fought within the present limits of this State by residents, the names of the prin. cipals even are not transmitted. All that we have been able to find recorded regarding it may be found in Reynold's Pioneer His. tory, in the words following:
"At the time the English troops came to take possession of Fort Chartres, (1765), two young officers, one French and the other English, had a misunderstanding at the Fort. This quar. rel arose as did the war of the Greeks against the Trojans, on account of a lady. These officers fought with small swords early on a Sunday morning, near the fort, and in the combat one was killed. The other left the fort and descended the river. I was informed of the above duel' nearly 50 years ago, by a very aged Frenchman. He informed me of the details, and said he was present and saw the combat.” Reynolds wrote this about 1850, and he must have received the information when he was barely 12 years old.
The next duel of which we have any record, occurred in 1809, and may be found in the same book. It proved a bloodless affair at the time, but an angry quarrel grew out of it, resulting afterwards in the dastardly assassination of one of the principals. The duel was arranged between Rice Jones, son of John Rice Jones, a Welchman, the first and also one of the ablest lawyers Illinois has ever known, and Shadrach Bond, afterwards the first governor of the State.
Jones, the elder, settled at Kaskaskia in 1790, but upon the formation of the Indiana territory, which included Illinois, removed to the capital, Vincennes, wbere he attained prominence. The son possessed a high order of intellect, was well educated, and located at Kaskaskia in 1806 to practice the profession of the law. He drifted into politics, and by his rare ability speedily attained to the leadership of his party. He was elected a member of the territorial legislatnre, which met at Vincennes. His talents, prominence and influence were distasteful to the opposite party, if they did not arouse jealousy in his own.