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CHAPTER LII.

OUR SENATORS IN CONGRESS.

Their Lives and Characters-Senatorial Contest between Lincoln

and Douglas in 1858.

Edwards and Thomas.-Upon the meeting of the first State legislature in October, 1818, Ninian Edwards, who had been the able and popular territorial governor up to that time, and Jesse B. Thomas, one of the federal judges during the entire separate territorial existence of Illinois, were elected as senators to congress; the former on the first ballot by a large majority, 32 out of the 40 votes, and the latter on the 3d ballot by 21 out of the 40 votes cast; Leonard White receiving 18, and Michael Jones 1.

The full term of a senator is 6 years, or 3 congresses. The constitution of the U.S. divides the senators into 3 classes, one going out with the expiration of each congress. Upon the admission of a State the new senators draw lots for classes. Edwards drew the 3d class, being the existing 15th congress which expired with the 3d of March, 1819, and Thomas the class which expired with the 17th congress on the 3d of March 1823. Both were re-elected for full terms. Edwards in 1819, till March 4th 1825, and Thomas at the sessiou of 1822–3 till March 4th, 1829.

Of Edwards we have already spoken fully, as governor. Thomas, as a federal judge, had borne himself with much dignity upon the bench, but it is recorded that he did not apply his talents to the mastery of the law. By nature he was rather a politician, an avocation which absorbed his better abilities through life. Without talent as a speaker, he exhibited shrewdness and tact in the management of men and questions. We have already noted the manner of his election as a delegate to congress by the Indiana territorial legislature in 1808, bis pledge being that he procure the separation of Illinois from Indiana, a valuable public service to us, which he fully discharged. Both senators actively supported, in 1820, the admission of Missouri as a slave state. Mr. Thomas gained considerable notoriety for originally suggesting the line of 36d. 30m., known as the Missouri compromise. With this proviso the Missouri bill passed the senate, 24 to 20; the senators of all the slaveholding States, with one from Indiana and two from Illinois, the last admitted State into the Union, voting for it. Mr. Randolph, the leader of the ultra southern faction in the house, indignantly characterized the compromise as a “dirty bargain," and the northern men by whose co-operation it was carried as “doughfaces,” which was the origin of that appelation. Thomas was the intimate friend of Mr. Crawford,

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advocating his election to the presidency in 1824, but after the suecess of Adams, came over to the support of his administration. During the convention struggle he advocated the engrafting of slavery upon our constitution. After the expiration of his last senatorial term he removed to Ohio, where he died in 1853.

John McLean.-In 1824 Edwards resigned the senatorship to accept the mission to Mexico tendered him by President Monroe. On the meeting of the legislature in November of that year, John McLean was elected to fill the unexpired term of Edwards, the latter having thrown up the Mexican mission, being his competitor. McLean is said to have been in many respects, the most gifted man of his period in Illinois. He was born 1791, in North Carolina. At the age of 4 years his father's family removed to Logan county, Kentucky, where he received such limited education as the new country afforded. He studied law, and in 1815, at the age of 23, came to Illinois and settled at Shawneetown, with little means and less credit, but endowed with great natural talents and swayed by a lofty ambition. He speedily became conspicuous at the bar and in political life. Three years after, he became a candidate for congress, Daniel P. Cook being his opponent. The contest was one of the most animated and vigorous ever made in the State, characterized throughout by a high-toned courtesy, which eminently distinguished both competitors. They were young men of rare promise and alike won the esteem of the people. McLean was elected by a small majority, but at the next election Cook succeeded over him and continued to hold the place until 1826, when Duncan beat him. McLean was frequently a meinber of the legislature and speaker of the house.

He looked the born orator; with a large symmetrical figure, fine light complexion, a frank, magnanimous soul, he exercised that magnetism over his auditory which stamped him as the leader of men. Possessed of strong common sense, a lively imagination, a pleasant humor, ready command of language, his oratory flowed with a moving torrent, almost irresistible to the masses of bis day. With these native attributes and a compass of intellect exceedingly great, consciousness of power caused him to rely perhaps too much upon them to the exclusion of that discipline, constant and painstaking study which make the profound scholar. He was twice elected to the U. S. senate, the last time, December 6tb, 1828, unanimously, as the successor of Jesse B. Thomas, for a full term; but he only served the first session, and after coming home died at Shawneetown in 1830, in the very prime of his manhood, at the age of 39 years. His death was a great public loss, and the legislature, as a fitting testimonial to his memory, named the large, fertile and now populous county of McLean in honor of him.

Elias Kent Kane—was elected a senator in congress Novem. ber 30, 1824, for the term commencing March 4, 1825, and termi. nating March 3, 1831-to the place of McLean. The latter, at the time of his election, 7 days before for the 3 months unexpired term of Edwards, was also a candidate for the long term, and, not doubting his choice, immediately departed for Washington; but a new candidate appeared in the field, and after a protracted

struggle, he failed becoming his own successor, and Elias K. Kane was elected. This was on the 10th ballot, when Kane received 28 votes, and Samuel D. Lockwood, the next highest, 23. Mr. Kane was a native of New York; had received a thorough education, being a graduate of Yale College, studied law, and in 1814, when quite young, sought the south and west, and located finally at Kaskaskia. He was possessed of a strong, clear mind; was a close reasoner, a profound lawyer, an agreeable speaker, a lucid writer and attained eminence in his

profession as well as in public life. When the wheels of the new State government were put in motion, in October, 1818, Gov. Bond appointed him secretary of State. Afterwards he was a State senator. December 11, 1830, he was re-elected, on the first ballot, to the U. S. senate for the full term from the 4th of March following, J. M. Robinson, his principal opponent, receiving 6 votes; but before the expiration of his 2nd term, his health, which had long been feeble, gave way, and be died at Washington, December 12th, 1835. He was a man of purity of character, honesty of intention, amiable and benevolent in disposition, and very generally esteemed. The legislature named the county of Kane in honor to his memory.

Darid Jewett Baker-was, November 12th, 1830, appointed by Gov. Edwards to fill the unexpired term of John McLean, deceased; but the legislature, between which and his excellency there was little accord, ineeting shortly afterwards, refused to sanction the executive choice, and on the 11th of December, 1830, elected John M. Robinson instead. Baker was born in Connecticut, in 1792, and after receiving a collegiate education, and studying law, in 1819 with his young bride removed to Illinois, and located at Kaskaskia. He was a studious, painstaking lawer, and attained a standing with the ablest of the Illinois bar. He was long probate judge of Randolph county. He eschewed politics, except in 1824, when he actively, both with pen and tongue, opposed the introduction of slavery into Illinois. For his warm utterances, the then chief justice of the State, Thomas Reynolds, afterwards gov. ernor of Missouri, attacked him with a bludgeon in the streets of Kaskaskia. During his short stay in congress he originated the measure for disposing of the government lands in tracts of 40 acres, which facilitated the settlement of the State—the law up to that time not permitting the entry of less than 160 acres. In 1833 he was appointed by Jackson U. S. attorney for Illinois, and re-ap. pointed in 1837 by Van Buren. In 1840 he united with the whig party. In 1848 he was defeated for supreme judge by Mr. Trumbull, in the 3d grand division. In 1854 he helped to organize the republican party. He died at Alton, August 10, 1869.

John M. Robinson-had the following opponents: Theophilus W. Smith, Thomas Mather, R. M. Young, J. Kitchell and ex-Gov. Bond, but his strength increased at every ballot, and on the 5th obtained a majority. Gen. Robinson was a Kentuckian by birth, with a liberal education and a lawyer by profession. While still a young man he came to Illinois and settled at Carmi, where he married, and continued to make his home; a member of his

See Weekly Illinois State Journal, Aug. 11, 1869.

family-a daughter, the only survivor-still resides there. He was tall and erect in stature, well proportioned, of light complexion, with large head, pleasing countenance and winning address-a fine specimen of manly beauty. A distinguishing trait of his character was sociability; indeed, his convivial disposition carried him into frequent excesses. His title of general was derived from a connection with the militia organization of the State. He was re elected to the U. S. senate December 20th, 1834, on the first ballot by a vote of 47 to 30—R. M. Young being his opponent—for a full term, which expired March 3d, 1841. In 1843 he was elected one of our supreme judges, but within two months after, April 27th, died at Ottawa, away from home, whither his remains were taken.

William Lee D. Ewingwas elected December 29th, 1835, to serve out the unexpired term of Elias K. Kane, deceased. This election was a protracted struggle. His competitors were James Semple and R. M. Young, both of whom led biin on the first ballot, the vote standing, Semple 25, Young 19 and Ewing 18. On the 8th ballot Young was dropped, the 9th and 10th stood a tie, but on the 12th Ewing received 40 to Semple 37, and was elected. Gen. Ewing was a gentleman of culture, a lawyer by profession, and had been much in public life. He had been receiver of the public moneys at Vandalia and lost a $1,000 deposit by the robbery of the State bank in 1823. He was speaker of the State senate in 1834, and by virtue of that position had been acting governor for 15 days. His title of general was of militia origin, and he attained some distinction in the Black Hawk war. He was a Kentuckian, above medium hight, and of heavy build, with auburn hair, blue eyes, large-sized head and short face. He was genial, social, friendly and affable, with fair talent, though little originality. Únder Gov. Ford he was elected State auditor.

Richard M. Youngsucceeded to the seat of Gen. Ewing, and served out a full term from March 4, 1837, to March 4, 1843. He was elected December 14, 1836, on the 3d ballot, Samuel McRoberts being his principal opponent; Archie Williams and Gen. Ewing also received some votes, the former 21 and the latter 13. Judge Young was gifted with fine colloquial powers, and his intercourse with men was managed with an urbanity, smoothness and address well calculated to impress them with his excellence and worth, in which lay the secret of his success, rather than force or energy of character, or vigor and compass of mental endowments. His talents, which were respectable and above mediocrity, derived additional lustre from these amiable attributes. He was a Kentuck. ian, of spare build, rather tall, educated, and a lawyer by profession. In 1824 he was elected by the legislature one of the 5 circuit judges, and assigned to the 2d circuit. During bis senatorial term in 1839, he was appointed by Gov. Carlin one of the State agents in connection with ex-Gov. Reynolds, to negotiate the $4,000,000 canal loan, for which purpose they repaired to Europe, and their advances of $1,000,000 in Illinois bonds to the house of Wright & Co., of London, proved a heavy loss to the State. Still, under party operations, before his senatorial term expired, he was made, February 30, 1842, a supreme judge, a position which he held until 1847. He died at Washington, in an insane asylum.

From this time on the caucus system was resorted to by par. Sies to determine their choice of candidates for offices, including that of United States senator, and aspirants to that exalted posi. Sion were no longer distracted with the whims of individual legis. lators. The scheming or party pipe-laying was now all with the view to secure the favor of leaders and the manipulators of the caucus. Whom king-caucus designated as the party nominee no one was to gainsay. The system was adopted by the minority as well as the majority party, but it is to be noted that Illinois never had a whig senator throughout the existence of that party. The first democratic senatorial caucus resulted in the selection of per: haps the most uncompromising party man in the State.

Samuel McRoberts—the first native Illinoisan ever elevated to the high office of a United States senator from this State, was born April 12, 1799, in what is now Mouroe county, his father residing on a farm. He received a good English education from a competent private tutor, Edward Humphrey, and attained also some proficiency in latin, but his naturally strong mind inclined him to mathematics. At the early age of 20 he was appointed circuit clerk of Monroe county, a position which afforded him opportupity to become familiarized with forms of law, which he eagerly embraced, pursuing at the same time a most assiduous course of reading. Two years later he entered the law department of Transylvania University at Lexington, Ky., where, after 3 full courses of lectures, he graduated with the degree of bachelor of laws. He commenced the practice of law in competition with such men as Kane, Reynolds, Mills, Mears, Blackwell, Star, Clark, Baker, Eddy, McLean. &c. In 1824, at the age of 25, he was elected by the legislature one of the 5 circuit judges. As judge he first publicly exhibited strong partisan bias. În 1824 he had been a violent convention advocate, and now, in defiance of a release by the leg. islature, he assessed a fine against Gov. Coles for settling his emancipated slaves in Madison county, without giving bond that they should not become a public charge; he also removed a circuit clerk in the same coumty, and appointed another in his place, from partisan motives, which caused a great outcry at the time and contributed largely to the repeal of the circuit court system in 1827. In 1828 he was elected a State senator; in 1830 appointed United States district attorney for this State; in 1832 receiver of the public moneys at the Danville land office, and in 1839 solicitor of the general land office at Washington. When the State banks of 1837 passed into whig control by their organization, Judge McRoberts, with others, opposed then, and they were refused the land office moneys as deposits, to aid in crippling them. On the 16th of December, 1840, Samuel McRoberts was elected United States senator for a full term, commencing March 4th, 1841. He received on the first ballot 77 votes, Cyrus Edwards, the whig nominee, 50, and E. D. Baker, 1. He died March 22, 1843, at Cincinnati, at the house of his old friend, Judge James Hall, formerly of Shawneetown, on his route home from Washington, in the vigor of intellectual manhood, at the age of 44 years.

Judge McRoberts was a little above medium hight, sparely built, of a nervous-bilious temperament, and had a good head.*

He had a defect in one eye.

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