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CHAPTER I.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND.

Migration and Settlement. Illinois was first organized as a county of the State of Virginia in 1778. The legislature of the mother state gave the territory the name of Illinois, appointed John Todd the first lieutenant governor to take charge of its civil and military affairs but ceded the territory to the confederation in 1784. In 1809, Illinois was organized as a separate territory with Ninian ,

Edwards, Chief Justice of Kentucky, the governor, appointed by President Madison. This office Mr. Edwards held until he was elected to the United States Senate in 1818, at which time Illinois became a state populated by emigrants from the older states.

Migration from the eastern to the western states has usually followed the parallels of latitude. Illinois is an excellent example of such a tendency. The State is about four hundred miles in length, and the parallels which bound it on the north and south include between them the Atlantic States from New Hampshire to North Carolina. Northern Illinois, therefore, was settled by people from Massachusetts and other New England and eastern states, while southern Illinois got its population from Virginia and the South.

The southern half of the state with the river and timber areas was settled first. The pioneer hunter was driven farther inland by a second class, the small farmer, who, in turn, had to advance before the large land-owner whose purpose was to cultivate the land, build a home for a big family, and become a permanent resident of the country.

From Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia came the more enlightened class of southerners, among whom were such lead

as Reynolds, Edwards and Coles. These possessed great political wisdom and legal talent often rising to positions of importance and prominence in the State and

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Nation. Their followers were keen, intelligent men, both progressive and conservative at the same time. All classes, however, were kind and hospitable to stranger and friend alike, but once aroused, they were “bitter, vindictive and passionate opponents in business or politics. Strong in their conviction and prejudices, persistent in the maintenance of existing ideals and institutions, they were the champions of justice, equity and freedom of speech and action."

The “poor whites,” so called, came from the Carolinas and Georgia. They were usually ignorant, obstinate, and shiftless. To gain their desires, many times dishonest and unscrupulous means were used. Wages were low and times were hard so that in the bitter struggle to earn a livelihood, ruthless measures were often adopted, without regard for principle. Some of them therefore, constituted one of the elements in the lawless gangs that harrassed places in the wealthier districts of frontier society.

Until 1830, Illinois was almost entirely settled by men from the South who brought with them their political ideals, laws, manners, customs and traditions. It was southern law that formed the model for the territorial code. They were the ones who made the constitution of 1818. Slavery was a southern institution which the convention of 1824 tried to adopt. The first free school law which was passed was southern in origin but it was also the South which caused its revocation.

Instead of a gradual settlement by classes as had been in the south, the hunter, the small hold-farmer, and the large land-owner, men of all classes came rapidly to every part of the State, and especially to the north after 1830. With steam navigation came the merchant, the farmer, the artisan, the preacher and schoolmaster, each equipped to contribute his share in creating a new civilization immediately in the new country. Dwellings, business houses, factories, churches and schools were erected at the same time. Danger from Indian Wars was over, the prairie land needed no clearing, hence the only requisite before wealth could come as the result of industry, was the means of transportation to furnish a market for products.

1 Harris, Negro Servitude in Illinois, p. 16. 2 Boggess, Settlement of Illinois, p. 123.

The Causes for Migration. At least two reasons induced people to migrate to Illinois. The first were general, influences that affected the whole country. The second were local, influences that affected special regions.

Many of the American people have shown a restless and migratory spirit. Ever have they been dissatisfied with existing conditions which they thought could be improved in a country where farms were cheap and land was fertile. With reasonable labor a better living, at least, could be made.

Business men had in several instances failed at home. The wilderness West offered a place of refuge for them. Farm laborers with low wages had learned how to farm. The western lands presented an opportunity for some of them to make a better living. Comparative land values were influential. Large tracts of land could be had in the West cheaper than small farms in the East.

After 1820, western lands sold for $1.25 per acre in plots as small as 80 acres, both of which were decided inducements for western settlement. The Foote Resolution in the House in 1829 was an inquiry which sought to find out whether the sale of public lands so rapidly was advisable because the laborers in the East were going West, thus taking them from infant industry which ought to be protected. Even Henry Clay, in 1834, reported unfavorably the advisability of ceding public land to the state in which it lay because the older states would lose by migration much of their population and wealth in land rewards offered by the new states.

Moreover, the new settlers painted glowing pictures of the western pioneer. The latter sent letters and circulars to the East showing the wonderful advantages in the new Utopia. Restless and dissatisfied easteners began to feel that the day when all western land was taken up was at hand. Speculators sent exaggerated reports of rapidly growing cities. Plots of new towns were shown in the East, unsold lots were offered at high prices. Newspapers showed the advantages the West held for the laborers and small farmers with little capital. Soon products from the West would under-sell home produce in its own market.

3 Abstract of seventh census, 1850, p. 15, showed that nearly 23% of the white inhabitants of the United States at that time had migrated from the state in which

• Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, March 24, 1846.

they were born.

Competition among the eastern states for improvements to benefit their cities gave easy communication to the West. Frequently inhabitants along the routes of travel were stimulated to move.

Many of those along the canals who remained were undersold in their own markets by the westerner. Either they had to sell and go West or reduce their standard of living.

When the water routes, the Erie Canal, the Great Lakes and the Ohio River, were navigated by the steamboat, inconveniences were reduced and the cost of transportation was within reach of the poorest. An important factor in the rapid settlement of the West, therefore, was steam navigation: “Of all the elements of prosperity of the West, of all the causes of its rapid increase in population, its growth in wealth, resources and the improvement of its immense commerce and gigantic energies, the most efficient has been the navigation by steam."

Lastly, speculation in western land from 1834 to 1840 was one element in the period of financial depression the country over. Sometimes eastern speculators, believing fortunes were to be had in western land, bought lots at high prices, though these were still under water or in the woods. Laborers were also involved in the depression. Combinations and unions were formed by laborers in some of the principal industries. High wages were demanded to meet the higher prices which were 85 per cent higher in October, 1836, than in April, 1834. Strikes resulted from the refusal to grant higher wages with a ten-hour day, and several of the principal cities had labor troubles from 1834 to 1837.' Employers could not meet the laborers' demands. The hours were reduced, then wages, but prices remained high. The New York Era, September 5, 1837, says, “we can state on the best authority that in the eastern states nine-tenths of the factories have been stopped and the same proportion of men, women and children thrown out of employment." Riots occurred, but the most noticeable result was that the “army of the unemployed went West to

• Memorial of People of Cincinnati, 1844, p. 28.

* Ship carpenters, painters, masons, tallors, shoemakers, factory hands, harness makers.

* Yale Review, v. 1, p. 94.

· Philadelphia, Boston, Hartford, Washington, Trenton, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Natchez.

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