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said that counsel must, as it was demanded, read the statute. He at once read the first section:
“ Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, that all that part of country lying within the following boundaries, to wit, Beginning,” etc., etc., “shall constitute a new county, to be called McLean.”
There was a pausema suspension of public opinion—and the silence was broken by the demand of the prosecutor that the other sections be read. Section 2 did not contain the name of the county ; section 3 repeated it twice, and each time by the name of “McLean;" sections 4 and 5 made no mention of the name, and section 6 and last named Bloomington as the “seat of justice of said county of McLean." The attorney, in drawing his indictment, had omitted the apostrophe, and capitalized the C, using a small l. He had employed the exact letters of the body of the statute; the other side, seeing a capital C, a small 1, and no apostrophe, had been caught in the very trap in which they thought the attorney had placed himself. Of course, the motion was overruled. The joke was turned, the laugh was on the other side; and the crowd, now regarding the whole thing as a most dexterous plan deliberately laid by the prosecutor to catch the able lawyers with whom he had to contend, gave him an applause and a credit vastly increased in enthusiasm by the previous impression that he had been thoroughly victimized by his opponents.
In the winter of 1835–6—the one following his election as state's attorney--the expediency of uniting the party, and effecting an organization so as to concentrate its powers, able them to elect the candidates to be chosen at the succeeding election, was duly presented by Mr. Douglas. The Jacksonville News, editorially and by communication, urged the propriety of holding a county convention to nominate candidates to be supported by the whole party. The result of these proceedings was that the Democracy did unite, did effect an organization, and did call a county convention, the first ever held in Morgan County. It was a new and hazardous movement. The county was entitled to six members of the Legislature, and the county offices to be filled were valuable. It had been customary for all candidates to run relying upon their personal popularity and their personal exertions to ob
tain support. The proposition to limit the number of Democratic candidates to one individual for each office was a startling proposition. Often as many as ten or fifteen candidates would be before the people for the same office, and Mr. Brooks assures us that he has seen no less than eighteen names announced as candidates for the office of sheriff. The county was decidedly Whig, and the only hope of success was to unite as far as possible the Democracy upon one candidate for each of fice.
The county convention was held in April. The day having arrived for its assemblage, Jacksonville was filled with people, drawn thither by the novelty of the occasion. The Whigs were there in large numbers; they confidently expected that Douglas would be defeated in his effort to reduce the aspirations of individuals to the measure of party success. The failure of the convention was predicted from the beginning. The candidates to be selected were numerous: two senators, six representatives, one sheriff, three county commissioners, one coroner, and perhaps others of minor importance. The number of aspirants for these nominations was large. The convention was conducted with great dignity and decorum. The nominations were received with great approbation, every precinct being represented by delegates, and by a large attendance of lookers-on. Much to the disappointment of the Opposition, there was but one dissatisfied man-one of the candidates for sheriff" bolted” the nomination, run as an independent candidate, and, though personally popular, and encouraged in his course by the Whigs, suffered a most inglorious defeat. The Whigs, alarmed at the union of the Democrats, united upon a ticket also. At the head of the ticket for representatives they placed the gallant John J. Hardin. There was no man on the Democratic ticket who was able to oppose Hardin in debate. Douglas at once took the stump, and met Hardin every where. He was asked why he, who was not a candidate, should canvass the county when the whole Democratic ticket was afraid to meet their opponents. The taunt at that time had its force. The Democracy wavered. At length, so disastrously did the contest appear, that one of the candidates on the Democratic ticket consented to give way, and, by unanimous desire, Mr. Douglas was placed on the ticket. He then met Hardin, and together they canvassed Morgan County as it
had never been canvassed before, and perhaps not since. The convention system inaugurated by Douglas was the object of special attack. He bore the brunt of the battle as he has ever done, and repelled the assaults of his opponents. He appealed to the people to elect, not himself, but the ticket. He fought the first fight in behalf of regular nominations, and the people of Illinois have fought that fight for him on repeated occasions since then. The contest continued up to the day of election. The result was that the entire Democratic ticket was elected, save and except one of the candidates for representative. General Hardin, leading his ticket, was elected over one of the Democratic nominees. This determined the success of the convention system, and the success of Douglas in thus redeeming an old Whig county was properly appreciated by the Democracy throughout the state.
LEGISLATOR, LAWYER, POLITICIAN, AND JUDGE. On the first Monday in December, 1836, Mr. Douglas took his seat in the most important Legislature that ever assembled in the State of Illinois. It was at that session that the great project of internal improvements was brought to a successful legislative approval. The country was wild with speculation. Schemes of improvements were pressed from every quarter. We have already given a list of the acts incorporating railroad and canal companies passed at the two previous sessions. The United States Bank was no more; state banks were expanding with a fearful momentum; the State of Illinois was pressed to become a partner in the institutions which were to furnish'capital to the state and her citizens to enable them to prosecute an advancement that was to equal almost in celerity and magnificence the magic achievements of the genii that obeyed Aladdin's lamp and ring. The people had gone beyond their representatives. Many counties instructed unwilling or reluctant representatives to vote for the schemes of promised wealth and grandeur. The Legislature met, a majority of its members pledged personally or by instructions to vote for the Internal Improvement Bill. The Legislature met
on the 5th of December. In the House were W. A. Richardson, John J. Hardin, James Semple, Robert Smith, Abraham Lincoln, S. A. Douglas, John Calhoun (of Lecompton memory), John A. M'Clernand, Augustus C. French, James Shields, and other men whose names have since been written brightly on our national history. At that session the Hon. R. M. Young was elected United States Senator for six years from March, 1837. The governor, in his message, reviewed in terms of strong condemnation the financial policy of General Jackson, impeaching his conduct, and censuring his motives and purposes. After a warm debate, that part of the message referring to federal affairs was referred to a select committee.
On the 23d of December, the committee, through the Hon. John A. M'Clernand, its chairman, made a report, concluding with resolutions approving the general course of General Jackson's administration, and disavowing the correctness of the charges made in the governor's message. The debate on these resolutions was protracted and warm. It was participated in by nearly all the prominent men on both sides. The main contest, however, was between Douglas and Hardin, the rival representatives from Morgan County. The debate covered the entire policy of General Jackson. The resolutions were adopted.
Mr. Douglas was appointed chairman of the Committee on Petitions. Early in the session a petition was presented, praying, on behalf of one Henry King, that he be divorced from his wife Eunice. That petition was committed to Mr. Douglas's hands. The Legislature had for several years been accustomed to granting divorces, and applications for that kind of relief were annually increasing in number and importance. Mr. Douglas made a report upon the subject of divorces, and the powers and duties of the Legislature in relation to the matter, concluding with the following resolution: “Resolved, that it is unconstitutional, and foreign to the duties of legislation, for the Legislature to grant bills of divorce.” This was debated, Mr. Hardin approving of the resolution, but objecting to the word “unconstitutional,” which he moved to strike out. Douglas replied, and the House, by a vote of 53 yeas to 32 nays, adopted the resolution as reported. That was an end to divorces by the Legislature in Illinois.
It having been soon demonstrated that some system of internal improvements, to which the state was to be a party, was
to be passed, the question became important which of the two leading plans suggested should be adopted. These plans were substantially as follows:
1st. That the state should select certain leading and most important works, which should be owned, constructed, and worked exclusively by the state. 2d. That the state should subscribe to a certain share-one fourth, one third, or one half-of the stock of the several railroad and land companies then incorporated, or which should thereafter be incorporated by the state.
These plans had their advocates and friends. The latter plan was the favorite of the speculators; under it the several companies could organize by the payment of a few dollars on each share, and then obtain the subscription by the state in full. Had this plan been adopted, the state would have been the contributor of all the actual cash capital, and would have had no proprietorship or control of the works. We have shown that, at the time the Legislature met, there were companies incorporated authorized to construct over 3400 miles of railroad and canal; the capital to do this work, estimated at the moderate sum of $30,000 a mile, would have made an aggregate (supposing no other works to be proposed) of over $100,000,000, into which enterprise the state would soon be led to at least one third of the entire amount.
Mr. Douglas was personally opposed to any system to which the state was to be a party; but, in obedience to instructions, and yielding to the necessity of favoring the least objectionable to prevent the adoption of the greater enormity, he favored the first-mentioned plan. Accordingly, early in the session he submitted the following resolutions indicating the plan which he viewed most favorably:
Resolved, that the Committee on Internal Improvements be instructed to report a bill for the commencement of a general system of internal improvements, as follows:
The bill shall provide, 1st. For the completion of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
2d. For the construction of a railroad from the termination of said canal to the mouth of the Ohio River.
3d. For the construction of a railroad from Quincy, on the Mississippi River, eastward to the state line, in the direction of the Wabash and Erie Canal.