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1869–1873-ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR PALMER.
Republican and Democratic State Conventions-Life and Character
of Governor Palmer-Legislation, the Tax Grabbing Laro, Lake Front Bill, Land Companies, &c.-The Constitution of 1870The Great Chicago Fire.
When, in 1867, Gen. Palmer failed to obtain the Republican caucus nomination for U. S. senator, the feeling in his party became very general to reward him for his eminent services with the governorship, and he was thence tacitly looked forward to as the Republican candidate for that office in 1868. But the object of this high distinction was far from seeking it. In March, 1865, he wrote that the invalid condition of one of his children would compel his absence from the State during the ensuing campaign, and as he would consequently be unable to do his full share of labor in the canvass it was not proper that he should become the head of the ticket. Aspirants enough now sprang up for the exalted position, but they had no desire to embarrass Gen. Palmer. The Hon. R. G. Ingersoll, under date of Chicago, April 3d, asked him to state explicitly whether he was a candidate or would accept the noinination. He answered by telegraph, "I am not, and do not intend to be a candidate for governor.” But his objections, it was thought by some of the Republican press, might be overcome, and the Carlin ville Free Democrat, his former home organ, thought that "for some time past it had observed strenuous efforts made in certain quarters to compel Gen. Palmer to announce a priori that he would not serve the Republican party if nominated for goverwor;" that the party had not asked him to take the position; that while he was not thrustiug himself forward, it spoke with assurance, he would not decline the nomination if tendered him by the Peoria convention. To this the Illinois State Journal replied : “ We are requested to state that this is not the position which Gen. Palmer occupies." Still it was thought he was in the hands of his friends; that if the nomination was pressed upon him he would regard the voice of the convention as a summons to duty which must be obeyed. *
The Republican State convention of 1868 met at Peoria, May 6th. Franklin Corwin presided. An informal ballot to select a candidate for governor resulted: For John M. Palmer, 263 votes; Robert G. Ingersoll, 117; S. W. Moulton, 82; J. K. Dubois, 42. • Chicago Post.
The friends of Anson S. Miller refused to submit his name against Gen. Palmer. After a spirited debate with reference to Palmer's candidature, Gen. Rowett from Macoupin telegraphed to him : "It is asserted that you will be nominated for governor. Will you accept ?" He replied promptly, “Do not permit me to be nomi. nated. I cannot accept." Whereupon he was immediately nomi. nated; the first formal ballot being, for Palmer, 317; Ingersoll, 118; Moulton, 52; Dubois, 17. Previous to this, however, a letter from him to Horace White had been read, stating that if nomi. pated he would be governed by the duty of the hour. But for Gen. Palmer's repeated objections, he would undoubtedly have been selected by acclamation. He more than came within the Jeffersonian rule, neither to seek nor refuse office.
The remainder of the ticket was made up, either on the first ballot, or by acclamation, of John Dougherty of Union, for lieutenant-governor; Edward Rummel of Peoria, secretary of state; Charles E. Lippincott of Cass, auditor; E. N. Bates of Marion, treasurer; Washington Bushnell of LaSalle, attorney-general; and for penitentiary commissioners, after some delay and discus. sion, the old board, Andrew Shuman of Cook, Robert E. Logan, of Whiteside, and John Reid of Will, were re-nominated. Gen. John A. Logan was nominated for congress from the State at large.
The platform reannounced the Republican doctrine; condemned the policy of President Johnson ; denounced all forms of repudiation, and affirmed that the indebtedness of the United States should be paid according to the letter and spirit of the law under which it was contracted; that the principal of the debt should be a heritage of the future; instructed in favor of U. S. Grant as the Republican nominee for president and the natural successor of Abraham Lincoln; and oddly enough declared in favor of " the most efficient means to raise the moral standard of the people.”
The Democratic State Convention met at Springfield, April 15, 1868. Hon. A. L. Thornton, of Shelby, presided. The proceedings were not harmonious. The disturbing question was that of paying the national debt in “greenbacks," as proposed by Mr. Pendleton of Ohio. The committee on resolutions brought in majority and minority reports, the former, (which was adopted), made by eight, favoring payment of the 5-20 bonds, the vast bulk of the national debt, in legal tender notes, but where the faith of the government was pledged to pay gold, to so fulfill the obligation; favored the abolition of the national bank system; and instructed the delegates to the national convention to vote as a unit for the nomination of George H. Pendleton as a candidate for president. The minority report, made by five members, insisted upon paying the 5-20 bonds in the lawful money of the country," gold; and opposed trammeling our delegates to the national convention by instruction in favor of Pendleton. For a candidate for governor, the names of S. A. Buckmaster and John R. Eden were presented. On the first ballot, when it was found that Eden was largely in the lead, the name of Buckmaster was withdrawn and Eden was nominated by acclamation. The remainder of the ticket was made up of William Van Epps of Lee for lieutenant-governor; Gustavus Van Hoorbecke of Clinton, secretary of state; Jesse J. Phillips of Montgomery, treasurer; John R. Shannon of Randolph, auditor; W. W. O'Brien, of Peoria, congressman at large; and for penitentiary commissioners, John W. Connett of Cook, W. W. Garrord of Edgar, Calney Zarley of Will.
The canvass of 1868 was unattended by interesting events, and the election in November resulted in favor of the Republicans by large majorities, that for governor being 44,707.
John McAuley Palmer was born on Eagle Creek, Scott county, Kentucky, September 13th, 1817. During his infancy his father, who had been a soldier in the war of 1812, removed to Christian county in Western Kentucky, where lands were cheap. Here the future governor of Illinois spent his childhood and received such meagre schooling as the new and sparsely settled country afforded, to which he added materially by diligent reading, for which he evinced an early aptitude. The father, an ardent Jackson man, was also noted for his anti-slavery sentiments, which he thoroughly impressed upon his children. In 1831 he emigrated to Illinois and settled in Madison county. Here the labor of improving a farm was pursued for about two years, when the death of the mother broke up the family. About this time Alton College was opened on the “ manual labor system,” and in the spring of 1834 young Palmer with his elder brother, Elihu, afterward a minister of the gospel and noted for his learning and eccentricities, entered this school and remained 18 months. Next, for over three years, he tried variously coopering, peddling and school teaching.
During the summer of 1838 he formed the acquaintance of Douglas, then making his first canvass for congress, who, young, eloquent and in political accord, won his confidence, fired his ambition, and fixed his purpose. The following winter, while teaching near Canton, he began to devote his spare time to a desultory reading of law, and in spring entered a law office at Carlinville, making his home at his brother Elihu's, stationed at that place in the ministry. On the next meeting of the Supreme Court he was admitted to the bar, Douglas, who took a lively interest in him, being one of his examiners. He was not immediately successful in his profession, and would have located elsewhere than Carlin ville, but for the want of means. Thus his early poverty was a blessing in disguise, for to it he now attributes the success of his life. From 1839 on, while he diligently pursued the practice of his profession, he was more or less involved in local politics. In 1843 he became probate judge; in 1847 he was elected to the constitutional convention, where he took a leading part. In 1852 he was elected to the State Senate, and at the special session of February, 1854, true to the anti-sla very sentiments bred in him, took a firm stand in opposition to the repeal of the Missouri compromise on two sets of resolutions then before the legislature, and when the Nebraska question was made a party issue he refused to receive a renomination for senator at the hands of the Democracy, issuing a circular to this effect. Still, as if hesitating to break with his party, a few weeks later he par. ticipated in the congressional convention which nominated T. L. Harris against Richard Yates, and which approved unqualifiedly the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska act. But later in the campaign he made the plunge, and running for the senate as an antiNebraska democrat, was elected. The following winter he put in nomination for the United States Senate Mr. Trumbull, and was one of the five steadfast men who voted for him until all the wbigs came to their support. In 1856 he was made chairman of the Republican State Convention at Bloomington. In 1859 he was defeated for congress. In 1860 he was a republican elector for the State at large. In 1861 be was appointed one of the fire delegates (all republicans) sent by Illinois to the peace congress at Wash. ington. In that body he advocated the call of a national convention for an adjustment of the country's difficulties, and that proposition failing, he favored the measures of compromise finally recommended.*
When the civil conflict broke out, he offered bis services to bis country and was elected colonel of the 14th regiment. Of the engagements in which he participated may be mentioned the cap. ture of Island No. 10; Farmington, where he skillfully extricated his command from a dangerous position ; Stone River, where his division for several hours, on the 31st of December, held the advance and stood like a rock, and for his gallantry here he was made Major General of volunteers ; Chicamauga, where his and Van Cleve's divisions, for two hours, maintained their position, when, by overpowering numbers, they were cut off. Under Sher: man Major General Palmer was assigned to the command of the 14th army corps, and participated in the Atlanta campaign. At Peach Tree Creek his prudence did much to avert disaster. When Gen. McPherson fell, and Gen. Howard, a junior ofticer, was promoted to the command of the army of the Tennessee, both Generals Hooker and Palmer asked to be reliered.
In February, 1865, Gen. Palmer was assigned to the military administration of Kentucky. This was a delicate post. Kentucky was about half rebel and half uvion, the latter daily fretted by the loss of their slaves. He, who had been bred to the rules of the common law, he has said, trembled at the contemplation of his extraordinary power orer the persons and property of his fellowmen, with which he was vested in the capacity of military Governor. But it is not our province to detail his administration in Kentucky. Suffice it, notwithstanding the many objections urged against him, it is now conceded that he blended a conspicuous respect for municipal law consistent with his functions as a military commander.
The business of Gov. Palmer's life has been the pursuit of the law. Few excel him in an accurate appreciation of the depth and scope of its principles. The great number of his able veto mes. sages abundantly testify not only this but also a rare capacity to point them out. He is a logical and cogent reasoner, and an interesting, forcible and convincing, though not fluent nor ornate, speaker. Without brilliancy, his dealings are rather with facts and ideas, which he marshals in solid phalanx and leads to invincible conclusions. And while he ever betrays the hedgings of legal rules, he is a statesman of a very high order. Physically, he is above the medium bight, of robust frame, ruddy complexion and sanguine-nervous temperament. Nature has endowed him with a
• Taken from “Annals of the Army of the Cumberland," a volume of biographical sketches.
large cranial development. He is social in disposition, easy of approach, unostentatious in his habits of life, correct in deportment, democratic in his manners, and as a man of the people, he has a large sympathy for his class. He has been indifferent to the acquisition of wealth.
On the meeting of the legislature, in January, 1869, the first thing to arrest public attention was that portion of Gov. Palmer's inaugural message which took broad State's rights ground. In discussing the rights of railroads, their oppressive charges, and the remedies, be called attention to the proposition in some quarters to enlist the national government in the creation of rail. road corporations to construct railways in this and other States and operate them, which he deprecated: “Already the authority of the State is in a measure paralyzed by a growing conviction that all their powers are in some sense derivative and subordinate, and not original and independent;" he asserted that one of the best established aud most distinctly recognized (principles which underlie our system of government, was] that the federal government is one of enumerated powers ;" that it was " the clear duty of the national government to decline the exercise of all doubtful powers when the neglect to do so would bring it into fields of legislation already occupied by the States ;" and that “ a frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of government (was) essential to civil liberty.”
Such old democratic doctrine was distasteful to many republi. cans, who, with a portion of their press, took ground in opposition to it. The democrats, on the other hand, were heartily pleased with it, and it was moved by them in the house that 35,000 copies of the message be printed, which passed with considerable reluctance. In the senate the republicans moved to cut down this number to 2,000, and here also the democrats became the champions of the republican governor in a debate which followed, characterized by no little acrimony. Indeed, the cordiality in the dominant party, between the legislative and executive departments, was for a time threatened with interruption. Finally the senate concurred with the house, only to reconsider its vote; after the lapse of near two weeks, and the infliction of many speeches, the resolution was agreed to.
The session of 1869, the last under the flexible constitution of 1848, a revision of which had then been authorized by the people, was moved upon by the monopolists, the lobbyists and the frings with a thirst for advantages and spoils, unprecedented in the history of legislation in this State. Their action was characterized by an audacity, a prodigality, and an abandon never before exhibited. Their remarkable success in 1867 had but whetted the appetites of the cormorants. Notwithstanding Gov. Palmer, in his message, characterized special legislation as anti-republican and dangerous to the liberties of the people, saying: “Many of the most important functions of government are now claimed and exercised by incorporations by special laws; they take private property and impose and collect taxes; they construct railroads and canals, and, in many instances, by the exercise of their vast powers, control the course of trade, and distract the business of the whole country”—10twithstanding this warning, bills to the number of 2,478 were introduced, covering every conceivable object for