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H. S. Osborn, Washington.
Samuel Christy, Cass.
The Democrats had a majority in both houses. Lieut. Gov. John Wood was the presiding officer of the Senate, and Ben. Bond was elected Secretary over E. T. Bridges, by a vote of 13 to 10.
Samuel Holmes was elected Speaker of the House over Isaac N. Arnold, by a vote of 36 to 28, and Charles Lieb was elected Clerk over E. T. Bridges, by vote of 38 to 29.
Of the prominent men, or those to attain prominence, of the two houses, there were: Judd, Cook, Henderson, Bryan, Gillespie, Underwood, Kuykendall, Dougherty, Sloan, Ingersoll, Logan, Anderson, Morrison, Sparks, Moulton, Cullom, Epler, O. L. Davis, Blades, Lathrop, Isaac N. Arnold.
The message of Mr. Matteson, the retiring Governor, was submitted to the two houses on the 6th of January. Referring to the condition of the people, he said:
"Even in the midst of adverse elements, the hand of abundance has been opened upon the harvests of the husbandman. The firesides of the humble have been protected and happy, and everywhere throughout the State labor is reaping a rich reward.
"With these sentiments, and a deep sense of thankfulness towards a generous people for the confidence so freely extended, I am now about to surrender, with cheerfulness, to my successor and to you, the trusts which have engaged my attention for the last four years. I do this the more cheerfully because I recognize in you and my successor agents appointed by the people to receive them, and eminently qualified to keep and discharge them faithfully. I sunder the last official connections with her councils with emotions of no ordinary character. Having very great confidence in the patriotism and capacity of the distinguished individual elected to become my successor, I invoke for you and him harmony in council and patriotism of purpose."
The exhibit relating to the State debt made in his message showed that there had been paid during Mr. Matteson's administration, of principal and interest, $7,079,198.42, leaving a debt of $12,834,144.85.
The revenue of the Illinois and Michigan Canal was estimated at $150,000 for the year 1857.
In closing his message, Mr. Matteson said:
"I lay down the cares of office with cheerfulness, and surrender the responsible interests of the State into the hands of my successor and yourselves, with the prayer upon my heart that her progress may continue, and her people, for a long time in the future, live in the enjoyment of republican freedom, prosperity and happiness."
Gov. Matteson's administration had been eminently popular, the people had become prosperous and happy, and the State debt had been placed in course of ultimate and easy extinction.
Owing to the physical disability of Gov. Bissell, caused by an attack of paralysis, the two houses repaired to the Executive Mansion on the 12th of January, and in their presence he took the oath of office, and at his request his message was read to the two houses on the same day by I. R. Diller. Mr. Bissell recommended the erection of a new penitentiary; the revision of the school law; friendly legislation in the interest of the Illinois Central Railroad, and paid a fitting compliment to the men who had been foremost in the inception of that great enterprise, in these words:
"It is but reasonable, perhaps, that I should here avail myself of the opportunity of distinguishing certain individuals who were prominent in the inception of this great enterprise. To Morris Ketchum, George Griswold, David A. Neal and Jonathan Sturges, are we mainly indebted for the successful carrying out of this great project. Mr. Ketchum, especially, was as active as he was efficient in organizing the company, and in devising ways and means for the prosecution of the work. In these things he was ably sustained by the other gentlemen named. And on more than one occasion, when the prospects of the enterprise were shrouded in gloom and doubt, and when nothing but the most bold and skillful policy could have saved it, these gentlemen risked their own private means to an extent which, had the enterprise failed, would have involved some of them, at least, in irretrievable ruin. I take pleasure, therefore, in placing these gentlemen before the State in the light which I know is proper to them, that our people in future may never forget to whom they are mostly indebted for the great work of the Central Railroad."
The agitation of the slavery question was then the subject which occupied the attention of the people of the State more than all others, and Mr. Bissell, having been elected on the Republican ticket as an anti-Nebraska Democrat, alluded to the question in these terms:
"The question of the extension of slavery into our new National territory, although not forming any part of State politics, was, nevertheless, so prominent a feature in the late canvass, as to create the expectation, perhaps, that I should, on this occasion, say something concerning it.
"Up to the time of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, I had ever considered the existence of slavery within the United States as an anomaly in our republican system, tolerated by a necessity springing from the actual presence of the institution among us when our Constitution was adopted.
"The provisions in the Constitution for a slave basis of representation, and for the reclamation of fugitives from labor, I had supposed, and still suppose, were admitted there upon that necessity. And that such were also the views of a vast majority of the American people, both North and South, I had, until the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, never doubted.
"But the introduction, progress and passage of that measure, together with the course of argument made to sustain it, forced me reluctantly to the conclusion that, if finally successful, slavery is no longer to be considered or treated as anomalous in our system, but is rather, thenceforward, to be a leading and favorite element of society, to be politically recognized as such, and to which all else must bend and conform. This conclusion is strengthened, not a little, by the subsequent administration of the measure, in the same hands which originated and matured it. Considering that we are intelligent people, living in an enlightened age, and professing the peaceful doctrines of Christianity, and a love of liberty above all things earthly, it may well be doubted whether, when the world's history shall have been written to its close, it will contain a more extraordinary page than that which shall record the history of Kansas in 1855 and 1856.
"Forced to the conclusion stated, a large portion of our fellow-citizens, myself among them, have resisted the consummation as we best could; and believing that not the fate of the negro alone, but the liberties of the white man, of all men, are involved in the issue, we shall continue to resist according to our best ability.
"In doing this we shall ever be careful neither to forget nor disregard the value of the Union, the obligations of the Constitution, nor even the courtesies due our brethren of the South."
The legislation of this session was mainly directed in the interest of the several towns or local communities, but among the more important laws enacted were the acts to establish and maintain free schools; to establish and maintain a normal university at Bloomington; to amend the banking law; to provide for a general system of railroad incorporations; to provide for the incorporation of county agricultural societies; to fund the arrears of interest accrued and unpaid on the public debt; to lease the penitentiary to Samuel K. Casey for five years, and to build an additional penitentiary, in which David Y. Bridges, Chauncey L. Higbee and Nelson D. Edwards were constituted commissioners, with full power and authority to select and obtain, by purchase, a suitable site for the
The topics which claimed the time of the House and elicited the attention of the people in general, was the discussion of the motion to print 20,000 copies of Gov. Bissell's message for the use of the House, and a resolution to repeal the "black laws." There had been a unanimous vote in favor of printing 20,000 copies of Matteson's message, in English, and a vote of 65 ayes to 4 noes, in favor of printing 5,000 copies in German, but when it was proposed to print 20,000 copies of Bissell's message, a motion was made to reduce the number to 10,000. The House being Democratic, and Mr. Bissell having been elected as a Republican, there was a strong disposition to circumscribe the publication of his message, and the motion to print 10,000 instead of 20,000 copies continued the subject of an angry debate for over a week, when, on the 20th of January, the resolution passed in that form by a vote of 41 ayes to 32 noes.
On the 10th of February, Mr. Kelsey presented a petition of the citizens of Illinois, praying for the repeal of certain black laws, which was referred to a select committee