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gallery of the house and the lobby were daily tbronged by her anxious citizens, deeply intent on its proceedings. To remove the capital it was necessary first to defeat the appropriation bill. This was the test. The house was a large, unwieldy body of 177 members, and its rules were such that by dilatory motions-parliamentary “ fillibustering”-time could easily be consumed so as on no day to reach the order of business in which the bill stood on the calendar. All manner of parliamentary tactics were practiced to kill time and tire out the house. Quantities of weary memorials on the capital question found their way in and were diligently in. sisted upon to be read at length, and when this was refused speeches were made on the right of petition. Thus the time of adjournment for the recess, April 17th, was reached without action on the bill, notwithstanding a majority of the house were for it.
The feeling of depression at Springfield was very great. Gov. Palmer next convened the legislature on the 24th of May, and required, among many other important measures omitted, action on the State house appropriation. Bills for this purpose were again introduced and pressed duly forward under the rules. The previous scenes were re-enacted by the opposition; but the calendar was not so full. And now the move was to tack on a submission clause. The Peoria lobby, reinforced from other parts of the State, was again on hand. Day by day the beauty and fashion of Springfield thronged the galleries of the house like a bright galaxy, as they were, and patiently set out the weary hours with the punctuality of members, eagerly and anxiously watching the dilitory morements below. Gradually but slowly the measure was pressed along in its order Finally, when every parliamentary resistance was under the rules exhausted, a vote was reached at 10 o'clock at night, June 7th, and the bill passed by 100 yeas to 74 nays. Peoria's apple of hope was turned to ashes. The senate the next day substituted the house bill aud passed it. It provided for a bond of the citizens in the penal sum of $500,000, conditioned that the obligors procure such additional ground as the State might require, not exceeding 4 acres, to be demanded within two years after the building is ready for use. Thus ended the last effort to remove the capital. The agitation of the question had a most depressing effect upon the building business and the price of real estate at Springfield for a full year or more.
The Penitentiary-A Resume of its History.-In June 1867, Gov. ernor Oglesby convened the Legislatnre in extraordinary session, inviting action upon ten subjects, chief of which was to provide for the taxation of the shares of banks, State and National. The assembly, however, acted upon but five. But before the session was two days gone another occasion arose to again convene that body, which was done for the 14th iust. This was the abandonment of the penitentiary by the lessees, which threw upon the hands of the State 1,058 convicts to be immediately provided for, fed, clothed and put to work.
To go back 40 years, the first step taken toward the establishment of a penitentiary in this State was at the legislative session in 1826–27. The need of a State's prison had been greatly felt for some time. The jails of the country were very inferior, and the breaking of them by the more energetic and desperate
offenders was of frequent occurrence. The State was poor and oppressed by the broken currency of the First State Bank. There was, however, at the time a project on hand for the legislature to memorialize congress to allow the State to sell 30,000 acres of the Ohio and 10,000 acres of the Vermillion Saline lands. The Saline reserves, which had been granted to the State in 1818 on condition that they be never sold, had become useless for the manufacture of salt, but they retarded the settlement of the country. Congress readily made the concession, the lands were sold, and the proceeds, according to previous arrangements, were divided between the eastern and western sections of the State—the former applying its share toward the improvement of the Great Wabash, the draining of Purgatory Swamp opposite Vincennes, and of the Cache river flats; the latter devoting its share toward the building of a penitentiary. Governor Edwards opposed the measure, and great efforts were made to further divide the fund for the benefit of local river improvements, but all failed.
Ex-Gov. Bond, Dr. Gersham Jane and W. P. M'Kee were appointed the first penitentiary commissioners. They selected the site at Alton, for which ten acres of ground were donated. Besides the proceeds of the Saline lapd sales, the legislature, in 1831, appropriated $10,000 toward the completion of the penitentiary The first building, which was a neat stone structure, contained 24 cells, and was ready for occupation in 1833. The system of State prison confinement in Illinois has ever been (except in the case of some special sentences) what is known as the congregated in contradistinction of the dreadful solitary plan, in vogue in Penn. sylvania and elsewhere.
The criminal code had been adapted the preceding legislative session to the penitentiary system by abolishing the barbarous punishment of whipping, the stocks and pillory, and substituting confinement and hard labor. A close observer of the effects of this change (Gov. Ford) states that the increase of crime for 15 years following greatly exceeded the relative increase of the population in Illinois.
For the first 5 years the State conducted the prison herself. A warden was biennially elected by the legislature, who received a salary of $600, and 3 inspectors were also elected, whose powers and duties were much the same as those of our present penitentiary commissioners. They received $2 a day each for the time actually employed, not to exceed $100 each annually, however, Whether candidates for this position were numerous or not we are unable to say.
Under the law of 1837 the inspectors were authorized, in their discretion, to farm out the convicts and give a bonus of $800 annually besides Accordingly, on the 10th of June, 1838, the penitentiary, then containing 38 convicts, passed from the control of the State into the hands of a lessee, Mr. S. A. Buckmaster. Thence forward the lease system was continued for 29 years—from 1838 to 1867. In 1842 it was leased to Isaac Greathouse and N. Buckmaster, but without a bonus from or expense to the State. In 1845 it was re-leased to S. A. Buckmaster for a term of 8
years, the bonus---$5,000 annually.... now coming to the State; besides which he agreed to feed, bed and guard the prisoners, pay physicians' bills, fees of the inspectors, and save the State harmless from all expense. The lease was subsequently extended 5 years on the same terms. Under the lease system the lessee was vested with the powers of a warden.
As the number of convicts increased additional cells were built from time to time, and other buildings, such as the warden's resi. dence, etc., for all of which the State paid. In 1847 there were 96 cells authorized to be constructed. By 1857 the cells numbered 256, aud the convicts, averaging two to a cell, far exceeded the capacity of the institution. At this time the penitentiary was leased to S. K. Casey for 5 years, on the same terms as the Buckmaster lease of 1845. The legislature at the same session pro. vided for the building of a new prison with 1,000 cells, which, it was thought, would be ample for generations to come; but the limits of its capacity were reached in less than 7 years. The old prison was to be sold. The inspectors were discontinued, a superintendent provided, and 3 commissioners charged with the supervision of the new structure. They were instructed to contract with the lessee and employ the convict labor in the building of it. The new prison was located at Joliet on a tract of 72 19-100 acres of land. Its construction was commenced the same year, temperary structures for the workmen being provided. In May, 1859, prisoners were forwarded in batches of 40 or 50, and in June, 1860, the Alton penitentiary was finally abandoned. An area of 16 acres is at present inclosed within the main walls of the Joliet prison, which are 6 feet thick and 25 high. The prison proper contains 900 congregate cells, 100 separate, and 100 for females.
In 1863 a 6 year lease was given by the State to J. M. Pitman, who was to keep, provide for and work the convicts, and save the State harmless and free of all expense. No bonus was to be paid either way. Three others, Boyer, Buck and Buckmaster, each a one-fourth interest, bought in under Pitman. Owing to disagree. ment between them, Buckmaster, in April, 1864, bought out all his partners and received an assignment of the lease to himself, Pitman surrendering his charge as warden to Gov. Yates. Buck master took in a number of partners, the two Mitchells, Acres, Job and Judd, he retaining a one-third interest.
At this time, 400 cells were completed, but 500 in the west wing still remained unfinished. The commissioners, under the pressure for room (the number of prisoners being very great and steadily on the increase), authorized the new firm to finish these cells, which, together with repairs and other changes, made a claim against the State by January, 1867, considerably exceeding $100,000.
It now became apparent that State appropriations beyond a lim. ited amount of a few thousand dollars could no longer be looked forward to, and the firm having found purchasers, on the 28th of January, 1867, in consideration of $200,000, transferred the stock, fixtures and lease to Messrs. Burns and Hatch. The latter ad. mitted to the partnership three others..--Bane, Osburn and Dus tin----and sanguine in their new vocation, the firm obtained from the legislature an extension, or rather a new lease for 8 years froin and after the expiration of their assigned lease in 1869, upon the same terms. They were thus the lessees till 1877.
Up to this time, owing to the State's expenditures for work done, which was well paid for, as public corporations always pay, the leasing of the convict labor had proved more or less profitable to the lessees, notwithstanding the high prices of provisions and clothing, and the constantly augmenting number of convicts dur. ing the war and immediately after, many of whom were physically disabled. But now, with the speedy completion of the building, State appropriations must cease, and the lessees were thrown upon their own business enterprise for manufacturing contracts and outside jobs. These things had been for a long time of secondary consideration. The penitentiary work had consequently suffered in character and it could illy compete in price with other like manufactured articles.
The new lessees in a short time apprehended the situation, but instead of attempting to improve the management of the concern, the discipline of its inmates and character of the work like business men of energy and pluck, they were appalled by the prospect. They saw nothing but utter ruin before them, as they alleged, and threw upon the State their threatening losses. They notified the governor they should abandon the institution on the 30th day of June, 1867. It is ever thus in contracts between States and individuals; the former are bound, but the latter will find methods to either secure profits to themselves, or if loss threatens, to cast it upon the State.
In this emergency the governor, as we stated in the outset, convened the legislature to take action in the premises, either by again leasing the penitentiary, or to provide for the Staté taking control of it. The policy of State control had been mooted before upon humanitarian grounds. It was ugred as the duty of the State to retain custody and control of its convicts, provide them employ. ment, look after their welfare, and seek to reform them; and that the biring of them out for private gain was unchristian and in conflict with public morals. The
governor advocated abandonment of the lease system, believing that the penitentiary could be made self-sustaining. A committee appointed to make a thorough investigation of the conduct and workings of the prison during the recess, which the leigislature took until the 25th of June, ensuing. At this time it was determined that the State retain control of the penitentiary. Three commissioners were provided for (to be then appointed but made elective at the next regular election), a warden, chaplain, physician, matron, &c., and thus, on the 1st day July, 1867, the penitentiary passed again into the control of the State, the first time for 29 years.
At this time 900 cells and the warden's residence were completed ; $175,000 had been expended thereon, the original estimate of the entire cost being but $550,000. It is however, a superb structure, complete in all its appointments and fully equal to any in the United States. The convicts numbered 1,000. It proved a grievous burden to the State at first. Large sums of money were demanded and obtained. Everything was to buy almost-machinery, stock and tools. The sum of $300,000 was appropriated. In 1869, $350,000 more were appropriated to defray its expenses, $50,000 going to pay the late lessees for stock, machinery &c. In 1871 $175,000 more were required to pay deficits.
The choice of commissioners by the people, rendering them independent of executive supervision, did not tend to promote that harmony and unity of action among them requisite to the attainment of success. In the spring of 1869, they were found to differ widely upon important points in the management of the establishment, and in 1871 the legislature thoroughly revised the law for the government of the penitentiary. The appointment of commissioners was vested in the governor after the expiration of the terms of the then incumbents, and they were to be subject to removal by him at his discretion. It was also made the executive's duty to semi-annually visit the penitentiary and examine its affairs thoroughly. The commissioners were empowered to hire out the labor of the convicts on sealed bids, a special or semi lease system which seems to be the secret of its present success. Since then its management has steadily improved, the discipline is of the highest order, and under the last year of Gov. Palmer's ad. ministration the penitentiary has become self-sustaining and in future will probably yield a surplus.