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plimentary and encouraging letter, signed 'Steph. A. Douglas.' Naturally desiring to know something more of my unknown friend than the name, I found, upon inquiry, that he was a young man from the State of New York, engaged in the humble but honorable occupation of school-teacher. A few days afterward, say about the first of March, Mr. Douglas visited Jacksonville, and a personal introduction followed. In anticipation of his visit, I expected to see a young man, for of such was composed the corps of Yankee schoolmasters' in this state at that time; but in this, my first interview with Douglas, I was surprised to see a youth apparently not exceeding seventeen or eighteen years of age. He was not quite 'twenty-one,' but was beardless, and remarkably youthful in appearance for that age. I was more surprised, however, in the strength of his mind, the development of his intellect, and his comprehensive knowledge of the political history of the country."
As has been stated in a former part of this book, although the state was Democratic, and had voted for General Jackson in 1832, public opinion was in a very unsettled and excited state respecting some acts of his administration. The “Bank Question" was the all-pervading topic of national politics. The removal of several cabinet officers, the withdrawal of the government deposits from the custody of the United States Bank in September, 1833, were the leading acts of aggression charged against the administration. The bank was contracting its discounts and circulation, producing panic and consternation throughout the state, whose people were expecting internal improvements through the aid of external capital. No locality in Illinois was exempt from the excitement. Parties were designated "Jackson party” and “Opposition." The hostile feelings of the two parties in Illinois were intense, and were exhibited in all the relations of life. Social and business intercourse was confined, as far as was practicable, to political friends. To be a political opponent was, to a great extent, to be a personal enemy, and an enemy to the country. At that time, in Jacksonville, the supporters of the bank policy of the administration were very few. The editor of the “News,” and perhaps two others, were the only men who dared openly justify and maintain the cause of General Jackson. A few men, farmers of intelligence in different parts of the county, who were independent, and under no obligations of a pecun
iary character to the bank or its friends, were fearless in the assertion of their political sentiments. It was the custom in those days for nearly the entire population of the county to visit the county seat on Saturdays-the men to sell produce, trade horses, and talk politics, and the feminine portion to see the fashions and do shopping. Consequently, almost every Saturday was a kind of seventh day political jubilee for the Jackson party, who, if not numerous, gloried in their individual and collective pluck, in the justice of their cause, and, of course, were not afraid to make a noise. Mr. Douglas opened his law office in a room in the court-house building. He soon became the political cynosure toward whom the eyes of the Democracy of the county were directed. His open, frank, and respectful manners, the extraordinary ability and vehemence with which he defended the acts of the administration, and the remarkable self-possession and confidence which marked all his political controversies-and they occurred almost dailysoon made him the object of attraction and admiration on one side, and of fear and abuse on the other. The Oppositionjust about that time called "Whigs"-were so arrogant in the superiority of their numbers, and so overwhelming in the control of public sentiment, that it became necessary for the friends of General Jackson to "define their position" in some public manner, and effect an organization. After consultation, it was deemed by Mr. Douglas and the editor of the News expedient to call a mass meeting of the Democrats of the county, to test the question whether General Jackson was to be entirely abandoned or heartily supported. The proposition, however, met violent opposition from the residue of the party, under the impression that the people would not turn out to sustain the President under the existing panic. The proposition met with more favor from the Democrats outside of Jacksonville, but still a majority thought the experiment a hazardous one. Notwithstanding the fierceness of the Opposition, and the openly proclaimed objections of Democrats, hand-bills were issued and posted in every town in the county, calling a mass meeting two weeks hence at the court-house. In the mean time resolutions were prepared, endorsing the policy of the President in refusing to recharter the bank and in removing the deposits-two points upon which thousands of Democrats differed from the administration. The majority of the Democrats
thought a bank of some kind indispensable, and the other side thought and declared the charter of such an institution to be clearly unconstitutional. The resolutions met with fierce opposition in the little caucus. When the day of meeting arrived, the court-house was thronged; people poured into town in wagons, on horseback, and on foot. At twelve o'clock a larger concourse of people had assembled in Jacksonville than had ever met there before. Douglas had previously declined the duty of offering the resolutions, pleading his youth, his short residence in the town, and various personal considerations; but when the hour of meeting arrived, when the court-house was filled to its utmost capacity, when the windows were taken out to enable those outside in the square to hear the proceedings within, the gentleman to whom had been assigned the duty of presenting the resolutions handed them to Douglas, telling him that the opportunity now presented to make an impression was an extraordinary one, and should not be neglected, and was of such personal importance to him (Douglas) that he ought not to allow it to pass. At all events, it was soon ascertained that unless he presented them they would not be offered at all. The meeting having been organized, Douglas boldly advanced, stating that he held in his hands certain resolutions which he supposed would meet the approval of all Democrats: these resolutions he then read, and, in a brief speech, explained and supported them.
As soon as he had taken his seat, Josiah Lamborn, Esq., a lawyer of considerable reputation, subsequently attorney general of the state, a Whig, and a man of great personal influence, followed in opposition to the resolutions. He was severe and caustic in reference to Mr. Douglas, and flatly contradicted a statement of fact made by him. He addressed the meeting for some time. Douglas immediately arose, and at once applied himself to a reply to Lamborn. The question of fact he soon disposed of by calling up several Whigs, who declared Lamborn to be wrong. He then for an hour or more addressed the meeting in his own peculiar style. The effect was irresistible. Lamborn precipitately left the room; and when Douglas concluded his speech, the excitement of the meeting had reached the highest point of endurance; cheer upon cheer was given with hearty vigor; the crowd swayed to and fro to get near the orator, and at length he was seized by them, and, borne
on the shoulders and upheld by the arms of a dozen of his stalwart admirers, was carried out of the court-house and through and around the public square with the most unbounded manifestations of gratitude and admiration. He was greeted with varied but most expressive complimentary titles, such as "Highcombed Cock," "You will be President yet,' ""Little Giant" -which last title, originating at this first public occasion of his defense of Democratic principles, is yet, with renewed confidence in its appropriateness, applied to him by his friends.
Such was the first appearance of Stephen A. Douglas on the theatre of Illinois politics-a theatre that for twenty-five years has been the constant scene of unbroken triumphs. As on his first appearance he was borne in triumph upon the shoulders of his admiring hearers, so, for a quarter of a century since then, he has been borne upon the hearts of a most generous people. He has made their cause his cause, and, in return, they have made his cause theirs.
That day, the personal and political triumph of the newlydiscovered yet powerful champion of General Jackson's policy settled the political destiny of Morgan County for several years. The speech itself is remembered to this day; and the old veterans who heard Douglas that day, and who have heard him a hundred times since, declare that he has never yet equaled the first speech he delivered in Jacksonville in March, 1834. Morgan County, from that day forth, became Democratic; the Jacksonville News was sustained in its policy. It remained Democratic until Douglas had moved to another county, and the party, feeling secure in its strength, suffered the newspaper to fail for want of support, when it became Whig, and remained a Whig county until, in 1858, it gave a majority for Douglas and democracy.
The history of this meeting was published far and wide in the state, and there was a great desire to see and hear the man -the youthful David-who had compelled an orator like Lamborn to flee from a meeting in his own town. During that year an election was held for governor and lieutenant governor. Joseph Duncan, who for several years had been a representative in Congress, was elected governor, and Alexander M.Jenkins lieutenant governor. Neither had a majority: there being three tickets in the field, Duncan and Jenkins were elected by a plurality of votes. The election took place in August,
and the new officers were installed in January, 1835. The Legislature at that session passed an act changing the mode of appointing certain officers. State's attorneys had previously been appointed by the governor; this act made them elective by the General Assembly in joint convention. The name of Douglas was suggested for the office of attorney for the first judicial district. His friends-and they were all friends who knew him -if few, were ardent in his support. As soon as the act was passed, Mr. Douglas went up to Vandalia, where the Legislature was in session. His competitor was JOHN J. HARDIN, one of the most accomplished lawyers in the state, a gentleman universally esteemed and respected, a speaker of the highest order, an experienced prosecutor, and one who had been favorably known to the people of the district for years. On the 10th of February, 1835, the Legislature met in joint convention to elect officers. The vote for state's attorney for the first judicial circuit being taken-we quote the Journal-" Mr. Stephen A. Douglas, Esq., received 38 votes, and John J. Hardin, Esq., 34 votes for that office; scattering, 2."
In the recorded list of the names of those voting for Mr. Douglas on that occasion is that of the now venerable John S. Hacker, at that time a member of the State Senate; Mr. Hacker, in 1858, was dismissed from a small federal office because he refused to support the Republican candidate and oppose Douglas. He had a son in the Legislature of 1858–9 who voted for Douglas's re-election to the Senate. Another name recorded in the list of those who voted for Douglas in 1835 is that of James Hampton, who, in 1859, as a member of the Legislature, had the pleasure of again voting for him-on this latter occasion for his re-election to the Senate, over the combined fury and bitter hostility of the Republican party and federal authorities.
The election of Douglas to the important office of public prosecutor in the most important circuit of the state, over the celebrated Hardin, caused great discussion throughout all Illinois. Those of his political friends who knew him were extravagant in their joy and confident of his success; those who did not know him were doubtful if a mistake had not been made, and his enemies openly declared the election an outrage. One of the Whig judges of the Supreme Court, who has long since expressed the highest opinion of Mr. Douglas's ability,