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It has been supposed that the whig and know-nothing parties were wholly absorbed by the republican party. Such is only partly true. It is true in the northern part of the State, perhaps, but not in the central and southern parts. In the latter, while the democratic party contributed largely toward its ranks, it received back a greater number of whigs. The Germans, wholly democratic in Madison and St. Clair counties, went over almost in a body, but the whigs of Sangamon, Tazewell, Morgan and Adams largely joined the democracy, where they are to this day.
The repeal of the Missouri compromise was both a party blunder and mistaken statesmanship. The south, with a sectional institu.
. tion in its midst, ought to bare broadly appreciated the great north with its giant steps toward empire, its teeming millions, its innu. merable work-shops, skilled laborers and vast industries. In the face of this, while it had practical control of the government, its policy was to excite into being the party whose principles, however they may be said in the abstract to have been national by approxi. mating to the landmarks of the fathers, were sectional, because it opposed the spread of an institution which was itself sectional; and it became national only through the operation of a war madly
' precipitated by the south. The party which ostensibly sought only to restrain the sectionalism of the south, has accomplished greater and mightier deeds than the most ardent abolitionist of 25 years ago could have dreamed. And what it has done it has done so thoroughly that it can never be undone. It has abolished slavery; raised more than 5,000,000 of negroes to citizenship, and enfranchised them-all this by constitutional provisions.
W. H. Bissell was elected governor by a plurality of 4,729 votes over Col. Richardson ; Morris, K. N., receiving 19,241 votes for the same office, while Buchanan's plurality over Fremont was 9,164; Filmore, K. N., receiving 37,451. The legislature was democratic. The democracy had thrown no obstacles in the way of the opposition dividing upon Filmore, but rather encouraged it; but the main reason why Buchanan carried the State and Richardson failed was owing to the former's want of identification with the repeal of the Missouri compromise, though he had accepted the Cincinnati platform and dilated upon the beauties of popular sovereignty. It was, in spite of this, believed that in his convictions and policy would be apart from its principles, and break faith with its devoted friends—an opinion which proved prophetic within the year of his installation. The Missouri Democrat, while it espoused republicanism and supported Bissell, by a strange inconsistency, labored even with republicans to separate Buchanan in the public mind from the outrage of the repeal of the Missouri compromise.
We close this chapter by the concluding portion of Mr. Lincoln's speech made after the election at the republican banquet in Chi. cago, Dec. 17, 1856 :
"All of us who did not vote for Mr. Buchanan, taken together, are a majority of 400,000. But in the late contest we were divided between Fremont and Filmore. Can we not come together for the future? Let every one who really believes, and is resolved, that free society is not, and shall not be, a failure, and who can conscientiously declare that in the past contest he has done only what he thought best—let every such an one have charity to believe that every other one can say as much. Thus let by-gones be by-gones. Let past differences as nothing be, and with steady eye on the real issue, let us re-inaugurate the good old 'central ideas' of the republic. We can do it. The human heart is with us—God is with us. We shall again be able not to declare that 'all States, as States, are equal,' nor yet that 'all citizens, as citizens, are equal,' but to renew the broader, better declaration, including both these and much more, that 'all men are created equal.'
1857-1861-ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR BISSELL.
Life and Character of the Governor-Gro88 Attack upon him in
the Legislature on Account of his Dueling Affair- Turbulence of Party Strife and want of Official Courtesy, Disgraceful Action in Organizing the House-Apportionment Bills of 1857-9 -The Canal Scrip Fraud-The McAllister and Stebbins Bonds.
Aside from the general excitement incident to our quadrennial political campaigns, that of 1856, owing to its sectional character, was more than ordinarily bitter. The contest for State and local offices in Illinois, where the new republican party had developed unexpected strength two years before, was unusually acrimoni. ous and personal. Of the candidates for governor, Richardson canvassed the State thoroughly, but Bissell, owing to his physical ailment, was unable to do so, and made but one speech, which was to his old neighbors at Belleville. But bis character through. out the campaign was the target of vindictive assaults, some of which he felt himself impelled to deny as utterly untrue. In let. ters addressed to the Quincy Herald and Springfield Register he took occasion to repel the charges that in 1851, as the paid attorney for the capitalists who sought the incorporation of the Illinois Central Railroad, he had been authorized to offer 10 per cent. of the gross earnings of the road for the charter, or that he had from his knowledge of public men in the legislature, labored as a lobbyist with Mr. Rantoul to obtain the reduction to 7 per cent. to the lasting detriment of the treasury of the State.
Upon Richardson was concentrated and poured out all the pent up rage of the opposition. He, it was urged, as a northern man, next to Douglas, had advocated in congress with determined zeal, persistence and effectiveness the disturbance of the Missouri compromise, and was joint author in opening the Pandora's box to precipitate the evils of slavery agitation upon the entire country, and a border war upon the ill-fated territory of Kansas, to crush out her freedom for the purpose of enlarging the area of human bondage. These impassioned appeals told with effect upon the people-Bissell was elected by a plurality of 4,729 votes over Richardson. The legislature, nearly balanced, was politi. cally opposed to the governor elect. The senate stood, 13 democrats, 11 republicans and 1 American (K. N.); house, 37 democrats, 31 republicans and 6 Americans, besides a contested election case from Peoria, which was the occasion of a fierce partisan struggle, as we shall see.
William H. Bissell was born April 25, 1811, in the State of New York, near Painted Post, Yates county. His parents were obscure, honest, God-fearing people, who reared their children under the daily example of industry and frugality, as is the wont of that class of eastern society. Young Bissell received a respectable but not thorough academical education. By application he acquired a knowledge of medicine, and in his early manhood came west and located in Monroe county, Illinois, where he engaged in the practice of that profession. But he was not enamored of his calling; he was swayed by a broader ambition, and the mysteries of the healing art and its arduous duties possessed no charms for him. In a few years he discovered his choice of a profession to be a mistake; and when he approached the age of 30 sought to begin anew. Dr. Bissell, no doubt unexpectedly to himself, discovered a singular facility and charm of speech, the exercise of which acquired him ready local notoriety. It soon came to be understood that he desired to abandon his profession and take up that of the law. During terms of court he would spend his time at the county seat among the members of the bar, who extended to him a ready welcome.
It was not strange that he should drift into public life. In 1840 he was elected as a democrat to the legislature from Monroe county and made an efficient member. On his return home he qualified himself for admission to the bar and speedily rose to front rank as an advocate. His powers of oratory were captivating: with a pure diction, charming and inimitable gestures, clearness of statement, and a remarkable vein of sly humor, bis efforts before a jury told with almost irresistible effect. He was chosen by the legislature prosecuting attorney for the circuit in which he lived, in which position be fully discharged his duty to the State, gained the esteem of the bar, and seldom failed to convict the offender of law. In stature he was somewhat tall and slender, and with a straight, military bearing presented a distin. guished appearance. His complexion was dark, his head well poised, though not large, his address pleasant and manner win. ning. He was exemplary in habits, a devoted husband, and kind and indulgent parent. He was twice married, the first time to Miss James, of Monroe county, by whom he had 2 children, both danghters, now living in Belleville. She died soon after 1840. His second wife was a daughter of Elias K. Kane, formerly United States senator from this State. She survived him but a short time, and died without issue.*
When war was declared with Mexico, in 1846, he enlisted and was elected colonel of his regiment, over Hon. Don. Morrison, by an almost unanimous vote—807 to 6. For his opportunities he evinced a bigh order of military talent. On the bloody field of Buena Vista he acquitted himself with intrepid and distinguished ability, contributing with his regiment, the 2d Illinois, in no small degree toward saving the wavering fortunes of our arms during that long and fiercely contested battle.
After his return home, at the close of the war, he was elected to congress, his opponents being the Hons. P.B. Fouke and Joseph Gillespie. He served two terms in congress. He was an ardent politician. During the great contest of 1850 he voted in favor of "Letter from the Hon. Joseph Gillespie.
the adjustment measures, holding the following language on the doctrine of non-intervention : "It is a principle, sir, upon which I have always stood, and from which I have no idea of departing, a principle maintained and cherished by my constituents, and one which they will be slow to surrender.” But in 1854, when the same principle was sought to be applied to the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, involving a repeal of the Missouri compromise, he opposed that unnecessary assault upon the domain which for 30 years had been consecrated to freedom, and upon its consummation became identified with the organization of the republican party.
On account of exposure in the army, the remote cause of a nervous form of disease gained entrance to his system, and eventually developed parapblegia, affecting his lower extremities, which, while it left his body in comparative health, deprived him of loco motion, other than by the aid of crutches. While he was generally hopeful of ultimate recovery, this mysterious disease pursued him without once relaxing its stealthy hold to the close of his life, on the 18th of March, 1860, over 9 months before the expiration of his gubernatorial term, at the early age of 48 years. He died in the faith of the Roman Catholic church, of which he had been a member since 1854. When is remembered that William H. Bissell, in the short period of 16 years, without early educational advantages, abandoned at the mature age of 30 years one profession by casting aside his pharmacopia, his vade mecum and armamentum chirugicum-quitting the dull and laborious routine of a country doctor, and resolutely turning his attention to the profession of the law, as affording him a wider field for his active im. agination and aspiring ambition; attained speedily at the latter eminence as an irresistible advocate; distinguished himself as a soldier; as an accomplished orator took front rank in the halls of the national legislature; and as the standard bearer of a new party marching toward national freedom, was elevated to the first position of his State by the partiality of a grateful and confiding people, his life may be considered a brilliant success.* Yet, in the annals of this State, as will be seen, no public man was ever subjected to contumely so gross, abuse more barrowing, or pur; sued with malice more vindictive; and that these cruelties caused bim many a heart-pang, casting a shadow over his exalted position, or embittered his closing days, is not a foreign inference.
It was during his first congressional term, before he was stricken with paralysis, that his high sense of gallantry was deeply wounded by an effort on the part of the southern chivalry, through Mr. Sed. don, of Virginia, to depreciate the valor of northern troops at Buena Vista, while the victory upon that field—"snatched from the jaws of defeat"--was attributed solely to southern troops, and particularly claimed for the Mississippi Rifles, a regiment commanded by Jefferson Davis, the late rebel chief. The discussions in congress, growing out of the acquisition of territory, of a character to bode dissolution to the Union for a time, were attended by unu. sual explosions of turbulent passions. Personal insults and menaces to northern members, with a view to their intimidation, were frequent. These insults and the braggadocio of swaggering disunionists to overawe the north, which were submitted to in many Gov. Palmer's funeral oration, May, 1861.