« PreviousContinue »
"Then I shall make an attempt to execute it. you warning that not a man of us will ever return.'
But I give
"The apostles must be taken, Major Douglas,' replied the
"Very well, colonel. If you will send me alone you will be much more likely to get them.'
"But you will lose your life.'
"I will take the responsibility. If you send me alone, I will pledge myself to reach the city. As to bringing in the twelve, or getting back myself, that is quite another question. I will try.'
Major Douglas,' said the colonel, after reflecting a few moments,' will proceed to. Nauvoo, taking such escort as he sees fit.'
"The order was hardly given when the little major-for he was not then a ‘Little Giant'—dashed off at full speed and alone. As he approached the Mormon legions, General Wells came forward to meet him, and, after a brief conversation, escorted him through the hollow square of troops into the city. He was not long in finding Brigham and the twelve. All of them were old acquaintances of his. Most of them had, in fact, been before him for trial, as judge, upon some charge or other.
"The judge is famous for his taking manners, and in a very brief time he succeeded in inducing Brigham and his associates to accompany him. They all packed themselves into the 'apostolic coach,' drawn by eight horses, and presented themselves in the camp.
"The fighting was postponed, and negotiations for the removal of the Mormons were entered upon, Judge Douglas being chief negotiator on one side. Brigham himself said but little; and, at length, said he would go out for a while, directing his associates to settle the terms. These were soon informally agreed to by the twelve, and they were committed to paper.
"Brigham returned, and asked how matters had succeeded. He was told that every thing had been settled.
"Let me look at the terms,' said Brigham, quietly.
"He read them over hastily.
"I'll never agree to them-never!' he exclaimed.
"The vote was formally put, and the whole twelve, without
a dissenting voice, declared against them, though they had as unanimously accepted them not five minutes before.
"The negotiations were then renewed between Brigham and Douglas. New terms were settled; and, when the vote was taken, the twelve agreed to them at once. The treaty was duly signed, and the Mormons prepared to leave the state."
The election to a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court was as unexpected as it was undesired by Mr. Douglas. He had already attained a heavy practice, particularly in the larger He was located at the seat of government, and was holding an office of honor, whose duties were comparatively light, and which afforded him the use of the public library. As secretary of state he could practice law; as judge he would be compelled to perform a great amount of labor at a very disproportioned salary. But friends asked the sacrifice, pressed it, urged it, and he consented. He did not take his seat until the last day of that term; and, as soon as the court adjourned, removed his residence to the beautiful city of Quincy, on the Mississippi, and commenced his circuit duties. He had, independent of his Mormon constituents, a large district; his duties on the circuit, and at the semi-annual meeting of the court at Springfield, occupied nearly all his time. He was holding court at least ten months in each year, and the journeyings from county to county were by no means trips of pleasure. Some of the most important cases were brought before him. We have heard it stated that there was but one case of the many decided by him that was ever reversed, and that was one involving some question of practice. He was, as judge and as a member of the Council of Revision, determinedly hostile to all the attempts by legislation to prevent the collection of honest debts. In those days, when money was scarce and credit destroyed, there were demagogues who, not bold enough to imitate Trumbull in his proposition for direct repudiation, still sought, like him, popularity with the rabble by propositions for stay laws and assessment laws. One of these laws provided that, before a man's property should be sold for debt, it should be appraised by a certain number of his neighbors, and then it could not be sold on execution for less than that appraised value.
Against these and all similar acts of legislation Judge Douglas remonstrated in the Council of Revision; and whenever they came before him judicially, whenever he could do so conscien
tiously, he decided them to be unconstitutional, as violative of that great principle that the Legislature should not pass laws impairing the validity of contracts by ex post facto regulations. These and like decisions, often pronounced with striking emphasis and warmth, lost him the friendship and support of the few, but endeared him to the many, and eventually gained for him that warm confidence of the public which is sure to follow an upright adherence to the right.
The extent of his popularity at this time may be judged by an event that took place at the session of the Legislature in December, 1842. He had then been a judge nearly two years, and had been absent from the seat of government, and from the political caucusing and managing that was ever going on at that place. When the Legislature met a United States senator was to be chosen. He was then twenty-nine years of age -would not be thirty until April, 1843. The senator to be chosen was to be elected for six years from March 3, 1843. There was a demand from various parts that he should be selected. He was a friend and a supporter of the Hon. R. M. Young, then holding the place. There were several competitors for the place, and their friends urged Douglas's non-eligibility. The Constitution required senators to be thirty years of age; he would not be thirty at the time of his election. His admirers, in his absence, urged in reply that he need not, even if there was a called session, take his seat until after he had reached the required age. But such questions were not, in those days, as familiarly understood as at the present, and his nonage was used with great effect against him.
The Democratic members of the Legislature met in caucus on the evening of Friday, December 16, 1842, to nominate a candidate for United States senator. The excitement was high, and was shared in by the hundreds of leading men of the state not members of the Legislature, but present at Springfield. There were nineteen ballots before a nomination was made; and as the result of each was announced to the multitude outside, the cheering for the candidates by their respective friends added greatly to the excitement. The following was the result of the first and last ballots:
The Hon. Sidney Breese, having on the nineteenth ballot obtained a majority of one, was declared nominated, and next day was elected by the Legislature.
In December, 1841, a Democratic state convention had assembled to nominate candidates for state officers, and had nominated the Hon. A. W. Snyder for governor, and John Moore for lieutenant governor. During the canvass Mr. SNYDER died, and the Hon. THOMAS FORD, one of the judges of the Supreme Court, was placed on the ticket in his place. Messrs. Ford and Moore were elected, and entered upon the duties of their offices in January, 1843.
In the spring of 1843 Judge Douglas's health became very much impaired, and he contemplated resigning his office and spending the summer in the Indian country-that country with which, under the title of Kansas and Nebraska, his name has subsequently become so familiar! But the exigencies of the Democratic party required his services again. The state had been redistricted under the new census, the number of representatives in Congress to which Illinois was entitled had been increased to seven, and the district in which he resided was one in which the Democrats had but little hope of success. Several counties had nominated him for the office, but, in consequence of his ill health, and the seeming impossibility on his part to canvass the district, he had declined the use of his name. But on the meeting of the counties he was nominated; the persons voted for, besides Mr. Douglas, on the first ballot, were William A. Richardson, A. W. Cavarly, Ex-governor Carlin, and Ex-senator Young. The convention met at Suggsville, in Pike County. Judge Douglas was nominated on the second ballot by a most decided vote. A committee was appointed to wait upon him, and urge his acceptance, as the only hope of carrying the district.
He was, when informed of his nomination, holding court at Knoxville; he was advised, considering the doubtful chances of the election, to retain his judicial office, and resign it only in the event of his election. He rejected this advice, and, having accepted the nomination, as soon as the term was closed he resigned his office as judge.
The Hon. O. H. BROWNING, of Quincy, one of the ablest lawyers in that district, was the opposing candidate. Mr. Browning was attending court at the time, and, as soon as the judge
resigned, they made out a list of appointments for joint discussion, commencing at Charleston (now Brimfield), in Peoria County, on June 23d. The district was a large one. It included the following named counties, with those which have since been formed out of them, viz., Jersey, Green, Macoupin, Calhoun, Pike, Brown, Schuyler, Adams, Marquette, Fulton, and Peoria. The two candidates from that day until the day before election traversed the district together. The election took place in August, and the contest was an excited and animated one, and the result was that Mr. Douglas was elected by a majority of 445! So great had been the exertions and labors of the candidates, that on election-day both were prostrated with illness from which neither recovered for nearly two months.
As soon as his health permitted, some time in November of the same year, he left Quincy on his way to Washington. Ten years had just elapsed since he had entered the state a poor, friendless, and unknown youth. During those ten years what an eventful life had been his. In November, 1833, he had gone from one town to another on foot, seeking employment that would yield him enough to pay for his board and washing. In November, 1843, he bore upon his person his commission as a member of Congress! In the winter of '33-4 he had accepted, as a gracious deed of kindness, the place of teacher to a school of forty pupils, at three dollars per quarter each; now he was the duly commissioned and honored representative in the councils of his country of a hundred thousand of his fellow-citizens. In 1834 he had obtained from the Supreme Court, with their sneer upon his pretensions, a license to practice law; within a few months he had resigned his seat as a colleague of those same judges to accept of a higher and more important trust confided to him by the people of Illinois. During those ten years, how strong must have been the will, and persevering the energy, that enabled him successfully to encounter all the opposition and overcome all the obstacles which met him at every path. From the day of his memorable speech in the court-house at Jacksonville he had been a marked man by friend and foe; that speech drew upon him the attention of all envious rivals in his own party, and aspiring men in the Opposition. It was the stepping-stone to an unbounded and unequaled popularity in his own party, and drew