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134 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

chap. vii. village of a few houses to be a city of several thousand inhabitants. The story of the sudden fortunes made there excited at first wonder and amazement; next, a gambling spirit of adventure; and lastly, an all-absorbing desire for sudden and splendid wealth. Chicago had been for some time only one great town-market. The plots of towns for a hundred miles around were carried there to be disposed of at auction. The Eastern people had caught the mania. Every vessel coming west was loaded with them, their money and means, bound for Chicago, the great fairy-land of fortunes. But as enough did not come to satisfy the insatiable greediness of the Chicago sharpers and speculators, they frequently consigned their wares to Eastern markets. In fact, lands and town lots were the staple of the country, and were the only article of export." The contagion spread so rapidly, towns and cities were laid out so profusely, that it was a standing joke that before long there would be no land left in the State for farming purposes.

The future of the State for many years to come was thus discounted by the fervid imaginations of its inhabitants. "We have every requisite of a great empire," they said, "'except enterprise and inhabitants," and they thought that a little enter­prise would bring the inhabitants. Through the spring and summer of 1836 the talk of internal im­provements grew more general and more clamor­ous. The candidates for office spoke about little else, and the only point of emulation among the parties was which should be the more reckless and grandiose in its promises. When the time arrived for the assembling of the Legislature, the members

LEGISLATIVE EXPERIENCE 135

were not left to their own zeal and the recollection chap.vii, of their campaign pledges, but meetings and con­ventions were everywhere held to spur them up to the fulfillment of their mandate. The resolutions passed by the principal body of delegates who came together in December directed the Legislature to vote a system of internal improvements "com­mensurate with the wants of the people," a phrase which is never lacking in the mouth of the char­latan or the demagogue.

These demands were pressed upon a not re­luctant Legislature. They addressed themselves at once to the work required of them, and soon devised, with reckless and unreasoning haste, a scheme of railroads covering the vast uninhabited prairies as with a gridiron. There was to be a rail­road from Galena to the mouth of the Ohio Eiver; from Alton to Shawneetown; from Alton to Mount Carmel; from Alton to the eastern State boundary — by virtue of which lines Alton was to take the life of St. Louis without further notice ; from Quincy to the Wabash Eiver; from Bloomington to Pekin; from Peoria to Warsaw; — in all, 1350 miles of railway. Some of these terminal cities were not in existence except upon neatly designed surveyor's maps. The scheme provided also for the improve­ment of every stream in the State on which a child's shingle-boat could sail; and to the end that all objections should be stifled on the part of those neighborhoods which had neither railroads nor rivers, a gift of two hundred thousand dollars was voted to them, and with this sop they were fain to be content and not trouble the general joy. To accomplish this stupendous scheme, the Legislature

136 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap. vii. voted eight million dollars, to be raised by loan. Ford's Four millions were also voted to complete the canal. These sums, monstrous as they were, were still ridiculously inadequate to the purpose in view. But while the frenzy lasted there was no consideration of cost or of possibilities. These vast works were voted without estimates, without sur­veys, without any rational consideration of their necessity. The voice of reason seemed to be silent in the Assembly; only the utterances of fervid prophecy found listeners. Governor Ford speaks of one orator who insisted, amid enthusiastic plaudits, that the State could well afford to borrow one hundred millions for internal improvements. The process of reasoning, or rather predicting, was easy and natural. The roads would raise the price of land; the State could enter large tracts and sell them at a profit; foreign capital would be invested in land, and could be heavily taxed to pay bonded interest; and the roads, as fast as they were built, could be operated at a great profit to pay for their own construction. The climax of the whole folly was reached by the provision of law directing that work should be begun at once at the termini of all the roads and the crossings of all rivers.

It is futile and disingenuous to attempt, as some have done, to fasten upon one or the other of the political parties of the State the responsibility of this bedlam legislation. The Governor and a majority of the Legislature were elected as Jackson Dem­ocrats, but the Whigs were as earnest in passing these measures as their opponents; and after they were adopted, the superior wealth, education, and business capacity of the Whigs had their legitimate

LEGISLATIVE EXPIMENCE 137

influence, and they filled the principal positions chaf. vu. upon the boards and commissions which came into existence under the acts. The bills were passed, not without opposition, it is true, but by sufficient majorities, — and the news was received by the peo­ple of the State with the most extravagant demon­strations of delight. The villages were illuminated ; bells were rung in the rare steeples of the churches ; "fire-balls," — bundles of candle-wick soaked in turpentine, — were thrown by night all over the country. The day of payment was far away, and those who trusted the assurances of the sanguine politicians thought that in some mysterious way the scheme would pay for itself.

Mr. Lincoln is continually found voting with his friends in favor of this legislation, and there is nothing to show that he saw any danger in it. He was a "Whig, and as such in favor of internal improvements in general and a liberal construction of constitutional law in such matters. As a boy, he had interested himself in the details of local improvements of rivers and roads, and he doubt­less went with the current in Yandalia in favor of this enormous system. He took, however, no prominent part in the work by which these rail­road bills were passed. He considered himself as specially commissioned to procure the removal of the State capital from Vandalia to Springfield, and he applied all his energies to the accomplishment of this work. The enterprise was hedged round with difficulties; for although it was everywhere agreed, except at Vandalia, that the capital ought to be moved, every city in the State, and several which existed only on paper, demanded to be made

138 ABEAHAM LINCOLN

chap.til the seat of government. The question had been submitted to a popular vote in 1834, and the result showed about as many cities desirous of opening their gates to the Legislature as claimed the honor of being the birthplace of Homer. Of these Springfield was only third in popular estimation, and it was evident that Mr. Lincoln had need of all his wits if he were to fulfill the trust confided to him. It is said by Grovernor Ford that the " Long Nine " were not averse to using the hopes and fears of other members in relation to their special rail­roads to gain their adherence to the Springfield programme, but this is by no means clear. We are rather inclined to trust the direct testimony of Jesse K. Dubois, that the success of the Sangamon County delegation in obtaining the capital was due to the adroit management of Mr. Lincoln — first in inducing all the rival claimants to unite in a vote to move the capital from Vandalia, and then in carrying a direct vote for Springfield through the joint convention by the assistance of the southern counties. His personal authority accomplished this in great part. Mr. Dubois says: " He made Webb and me vote for the removal, though we belonged to the southern end of the State. We defended our vote before our constituents by say­ing that necessity would ultimately force the seat of government to a central position. But in reality we gave the vote to Lincoln because we liked him, because we wanted to oblige our friend, and because we recognized him as our leader." To do this, they were obliged to quarrel with their most intimate associates, who had bought a piece of waste land at the exact geographical center of the State and

LEGISLATIVE EXPERIENCE 139

were striving to have the capital established there chap.vii. in the interest.. of their own pockets and territorial symmetry.

The bill was passed only a short time before the Legislature adjourned, and the " Long Nine " came back to their constituents wearing their well-won laurels. They were complimented in the news­papers, at public meetings, and even at subscrip­tion dinners. We read of one at Springfield, at the " Rural Hotel," to which sixty guests sat down, where there were speeches by Browning, Lin­coln, Douglas (who had resigned his seat in the Legislature to become Register of the Land Office at the new capital), S. T. Logan, Baker, and others, whose wit and wisdom were lost to history through the absence of reporters. Another dinner was given them at Athens a few weeks later. Among the toasts on these occasions were two which we may transcribe: "Abraham Lincoln: He has fulfilled the expectations of his friends, and disappointed the hopes of his enemies " ; and " A. Lincoln: One of Nature's noblemen."

CHAPTEK VIII

THE LINCOLN-STONE PROTEST

chap.vin. /^N the 3d of March, the day before the Legis-1837. V_>/ lature adjourned, Mr. Lincoln caused to be entered upon its records a paper which excited but little interest at the time, but which will probably be remembered long after the good and evil actions of the Yandalia Assembly have faded away from the minds of men. It was the authentic record of the beginning of a great and momentous career.

The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:

Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery hav­ing passed both branches of the G-eneral Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulga­tion of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought not

140

THE LIFCOLN-STONE PBOTEST

141

to be exercised, unless at the request of the people of the chap. yin. District.

The difference hetween these opinions and those con­tained in the above resolutions is their reason for enter­ing this protest.

(Signed) dan stone, A. lincoln, Representatives from the county of Sangamon.

It may seem strange to those who shall read these pages that a protest so mild and cautious as this should ever have been considered either neces­sary or remarkable. We have gone so far away from the habits of thought and feeling prevalent at that time that it is difficult to appreciate such acts at their true value. But if we look a little care­fully into the state of politics and public opinion in Illinois in the first half of this century, we shall see how much of inflexible conscience and reason there was in this simple protest.

Edwards, "History of

Illinois,"

p. 179.

Edwards,

p. 180.

The whole of the North-west territory had, it is true, been dedicated to freedom by the ordi­nance of 1787, but in spite of that famous prohibi­tion, slavery existed in a modified form throughout that vast territory wherever there was any con­siderable population. An act legalizing a sort of slavery by indenture was passed by the Indiana territorial Legislature in 1807, and this remained in force in the Illinois country after its separation. Another act providing for the hiring of slaves from Southern States was passed in 1814, for the osten­sible reason that "mills could not be successfully operated in the territory for want of laborers, and that the manufacture of salt could not be success­fully carried on by white laborers." Yet, as an un­conscious satire upon such pretenses, from time to

142 ABRAHAM LINCOLN

chap. viii. time the most savage acts were passed to prohibit the immigration of free negroes into the territory which was represented as pining for black labor. Those who held slaves nnder the French domina­tion, and their heirs, continued to hold them and their descendants in servitude, after Illinois had become nominally a free territory and a free State, on the ground that their vested rights of property could not have been abrogated by the ordinance, and that under the rule of the civil law pa^ts sequitur ventrem.

But this quasi-toleration of the institution was not enough for the advocates of slavery. Soon after the adoption of the State Constitution, which prohibited slavery " hereafter," it was evident that there was a strong under-current of desire for its introduction into the State. Some of the leading politicians, exaggerating the extent of this desire, imagined they saw in it a means of personal advancement, and began to agitate the question of a convention to amend the Constitution. At that time there was a considerable emigration setting through, the State from Kentucky and Tennessee to Missouri. Day by day the teams of the movers passed through the Illinois settlements, and wher­ever they halted for rest and refreshment they would affect to deplore the short-sighted policy which, by prohibiting slavery, had prevented their settling in that beautiful country. When young bachelors came from Kentucky on trips of business or pleas­ure, they dazzled the eyes of the women and excited the envy of their male rivals with their black retainers. The early Illinoisans were per­plexed with a secret and singular sense of inferi-

THE LINCOLN-STONE FROTEST 143

ority to even so new and raw a community as chap.viii Missouri, because of its possession of slavery. Governor Edwards, complaining so late as 1829 of the superior mail facilities afforded to Missouri, says: " I can conceive of no reason for this prefer­ence, unless it be supposed that because the people of Missouri have negroes to work for them they are to be considered as gentlefolks entitled to higher consideration than us plain * free-State' folks who have to work for ourselves."

The attempt was at last seriously made to open the State to slavery by the Legislature of 1822-3. The Governor, Edward Coles, of Virginia, a strong antislavery man, had been elected by a division of the pro-slavery party, but came in with a Legisla­ture largely against him. The Senate had the requisite pro-slavery majority of two-thirds for a convention. In the House of Representatives there was a contest for a seat upon the result of which the two-thirds majority depended. The seat was claimed by John Shaw and Mcholas Hansen, of Pike County. The way in which the contest was decided affords a curious illustration of the moral sense of the advocates of slavery. They wanted at this session to elect a senator and pro­vide for the convention. Hansen would vote for their senator and not for the convention. Shaw would vote for the convention, but not for Thomas, their candidate for senator. In such a dilemma they determined not to choose, but impartially to use both. They gave the seat to Hansen, and with his vote elected Thomas; they then turned him out, gave the place to Shaw, and with his vote carried the act for submitting the convention ques-

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