« PreviousContinue »
same, and in other ways effecting the financial redemption of both. In the midst of the worst account of these financial worries Worth goes on to say:
"But notwithstanding all this, I am in fact and in feeling unchanged. My memory is good, honest, and tenacious of its stores. Every benefit conferred, every act of kindness, of friendship, or of partiality is registered in a firm and durable character, and I stand ready to endorse the list. Among the many recorded I always find yours and Mrs. Sloo's standing in bold relief; around these names, the lines, obligatory of favor, of kindness and of hospitality, appear to thicken at each review. I make the confession once for all, and believe me 'tis an honest one.”
He then urges Sloo to support Clay for the Presidency and closes with this prophecy:
“How comes on your Canal? and how do you stand politically. I expect to see you Governor of Illinois yet. If you were perfectly free from all your old business concerns, you would naturally rise in any walk you might choose, either in Church or State.”
The early months of 1824 must certainly have been a stirring time for Mr. Sloo. His correspondence shows that be was busied with the affairs of the Canal Commission, that he was troubled by his friend Worth with many details in regard to the latter's land holdings in Illinois and his debt to the Branch Bank, that he took some part, although it does not just appear what, in the exceedingly exciting convention campaign of this same year, and that he was considerably exercised over the apparent failure of Dr. Alexander's land speculations in southern Illinois. In regard to the Presidency under the date of April 14, 1824, his friend Worth writes, “You must be a Crawfordite, if I should judge from the office you lately held. Pray, will Illinois support that radical chief?” Worth states in regard to the situation in his own state, that Crawford who seems to “calculate” on New York “reckons without his host.” He then adds:
"Some of our political leaders would indeed elevate to the Presidency the Devil himself, provided he would make them his prime ministers. Remember, all the intrigues in the union, and all the radicals and political Stock Jobbers are for Crawford. I am for Clay, Adams, or Jackson in preference. I would vote for Crawford only on one condition, and that is, that he should pay my debt to the Branch."
The reference to the federal office which Sloo held is to the position as special inspector for the Treasury Department of the land offices in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.3 Mr. Sloo was indeed a Crawfordite and he seems to have remained true to his chief despite the representations of his friend. Possibly it was this support of Crawford upon which he relied to give him the next political position to which he aspired. We have this aspiration chronicled in Worth's letter of June 19, 1824. He says:
“I have before me your aspiring letter of 12 May. It seems your ambition is not likely to be satisfied with trifles. Member of the Legislature, Canal Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, and Agent of the Treasury, etc., etc., are mere nothings, we must be Senator of the United States !
1 Ibid. Box 29, No. 61. 2 Ibid. Box 29, No. 63. 3 Ibid. Box 9, No. 48. 4 Ibid. Box 29, No. 64.
One of the grand counterpoises to Executive Influence—the sanctioning or controlling power of Official patronage! Very well
Mr. Worth does not seem to have a very high opinion of some of Sloo’s associates, who were his own as well, in certain Illinois speculations, for he continues:
“Mr. Webb too (who the Devil won't rise next!) is on the road to greatness. Well, I hope it will increase his ability to pay his notes at the Branch."
“Political honors, must I think, be. cheap in Illinois, when the Lawgivers, and the representatives of the Majority of the people, are composed of such materials as Webb, etc., etc.” “The Doctor it seems [i. e. Dr. Wm. Alexander] has nearly run his
I am sorry for him but remember, every dog has his day.” Worth's opinion of Webb was not likely to have any effect upon Sloo if we may judge from a letter he received from Mr. Webb himself. The missive reads:1 "Received your letter of the 4th of this month [September] a few days ago before I left home, and according to your request mentioned to the representatives of Union [County] your being a candidate for the Senate of the United States. I found that they had been apprised of it previously by some of your friends." Mr. Webb’s letter also shows that in addition to their common legislative experience that he and Sloo and the latter's brother, Howell, were interested in land and timber speculations in the lower part of Illinois and that Webb advised lenient terms for some of their debtors. Accordingly Worth was not more likely to influence Sloo against a possible senatorial supporter and business associate like Webb, than he was able to influence him against Crawford, his choice for the Presidency. Webb may likewise have been a Crawfordite and Sloo must have depended upon the Crawford influence to assist him in his senatorial aspirations. By this time he may have deemed himself the most prominent Crawfordite in the State, aside from Coles, who then held the Governor's chair. Worth continues:
“On the subject of your own ambitious views, I doubt not of success. As a Senator you would certainly appear to great advantage, you have a natural dignity of deportment, and a most senatorial gravity of aspect, in short, you were made for a Senator, for one of the sages of the present age, for a conscript Father! Then, you have all the necessary requisites of wit, and worth, and words, action and utterance. You have (I am not in jest) the eloquence of truth and of nature—of form, of sentiment and of feeling-not the noisy eloquence of a demogoguenot the oratorical flourish of a declaimer. But the more winning and impressive power of mildness of judgment and gentlemanly deportment.
1 Ibid. Box 28, No. 26.
"You will be a favorite at Washington with the honest portion of all
This is my deliberate opinion.” In the month of August Mr. Sloo receives a letter from Emanuel J. West, one of his associates on the Canal Commission, who urges immediate preparations for a trip to the north, and adds."
“You have no doubt heard of my defeat and the defeat of the main question; we are beaten easy. I hope you will not fail to be here. We have extensive political arrangements to make.”
The reference above is of course to the call for a convention. This was defeated by a popular, decisive majority which marked the redemption of Illinois from any possible relapse into slavery. Upon this result Worth thus expresses himself to Sloo:2
“The rejection of a call for a Convention, is however, indicative of some good sense, or of great good fortune; for the present period is not propitious to the tinkering of Constitutions. The introduction of Slavery into your State, though it might operate favorably to the immediate interests of a few, would be the certain index to its future degredation, or the positive bar to its future moral, physical, and political importance in the Union.”
This summer was also marked by an important episode which occurred in attempting to fill the American mission to Mexico—the so-called “A. B. Plot.” A controversy had arisen between Edwards and Crawford over the affairs of an Illinois bank in which public funds had been deposited. Edwards made certain charges against Crawford which he was unable to substantiate. When the details of this transaction became known it led to his forced resignation of the appointment as minister to Mexico, and elicited the following comment from Worth :3
“As for Governor Edwards, he is politically damn'd in the estimation of nineteen-twentieths of the people of the United States. His charges, however true, were from their nature incapable of that clear and absolute demonstration as to fact, and that irresistable inference as to motive, which could alone sanction their introduction against so high an officer of the Government, and on such a fallacious pretence. The result was such as any sensible man would have anticipated. They advanced the interests, if not the reputation of his adversary, and covered himself with obloquy and disgrace. As the conduct of the representative honours or dishonours his Constituents, the State I should suppose would ‘feel the stain like a wound and punish its author with merited contempt. If therefore you have no more formidable rival for the Senate than Edwards, I predict your success. In truth I know of no weight of character, of talent or merit, which should induce you to withdraw, or to despair of your election."
In December Edwar did appear as a candidate for re-election to the Senate, but he had lost his hold upon the electorate of Illinois and the prize passed to another. It was John McLean, however, who filled you may succeed.
1 Ibid. Box 28, No. 29. 2 Ibid. Box 29, No. 65.
8 Ibid. Box 29, No. 65. Benton in his Thirty Years View, I., pp. 34-36 is unfavorable to Edwards. An opposite view is expressed in Edwards, History of Illinois, pp. 135-154 and the Edwards Papers, pp. 223-231, and by Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 62-64.
out Edward's unexpired term and who wished to succeed also to the six year period following. In this, he too, was doomed to disappointment, for in the week following his election to the temporary place, the Illinois Legislature selected Elias Kent Kane for full-term Senator. McLean and Sloo as well as other aspirants, among whom we may mention John Reynolds, failed to achieve their ambition, but Mr. Sloo received the complimentary number of four votes when Kane was elected. At about this time his friend sent the following from New York: "How comes on your Senatorial race? I
God I think you will. You were made for a Senator-cut out originally for one of the Conscript Fathers of this deliberative realm.
As soon as I hear of your success, I shall drop my familiarity and commence my future epistles with ‘Most potent, grave, and reverend Seignor."
at there are compensations even when one wholly misses his senatorial aspiration, seems to be shown in an interesting letter which John McLean writes to Sloo from Washington, Jan. 16, 1825.3 He expresses his mortification at being left out for the long term and believes that he has been betrayed by those who pretend to be his friends men who wish to use him by stating that he was reserved to seal the triumph of the party by beating Cook for Congress. As McLean says, “This kind of soft corn may do to feed children but it is too lite diet for men.” McLean does not propose to desert the party but he intends to expel some men from camp. He seems to feel especially bad over his defeat because he fears that this check would cloud his future prospects. He may have felt his reverse more keenly because of the fact that Niles Register* stated that he had been elected for a full term as well as the unexpired one. His letter is important not only from the personal point of view but because it shows the existence of an embryo party organization to which he and Sloo belonged. McLean makes mention of this in a succeeding letter of Jan. 22, 1825,5 in which he expresses himself as pleased that his name had not been used for a vacancy in the State Supreme Court:
“I have no faith in the men who call themselves the party. I mean collectively. Old Nic or the Devil could not be more hypocritical or false or selfish than some of them.”
In 1825 the Illinois Canal project was beginning to attract notice outside the State and Sloo received a number of inquiries with regard to the project of connecting Lake Michigan with the Mississippi, and in regard to steamboat navigation on the Illinois River. One of these inquiries is penned by James Geddes of New York who two years before had been considered for the post of engineer of the Canal Commission. One of the later correspondents in mentioning his canal project and personal finances, expresses the belief that in a few years Sloo and his friends will be coming from the west in steam carriages on railways "at the rate of ten to fourteen miles per hour.”1
1 Snyder loc. cit. p. 203. 2 Torrence Papers, Box 29, No. 66. 3 Ibid. Box 17, No. 3. See also Appendix A. 4 Vol. XXVII, p. 256. 5 Torrence Papers, Box 17, No. 4. See' Appendix B. 6 Ibid..Box 9, No. 33.
By this time Sloo’s prominence in the State seemed to assure him of greater future consideration at the hands of its voters. Casual references in his correspondence show that from his arrival in Illinois he had opposed the faction under the leadership of Edwards. That political chief was anxious to recover his political prestige which had suffered so greatly in his controversy with Crawford. In connection with this a quotation from a letter which Edwards writes to John McLean of Ohio, then Postmaster-General, is of considerable interest. Edwards states that he does not expect to enter politics again but if he does, no power of politicians at home or in the Union can keep him from the Governorship. He would enter upon his contest, however, only to help Calhoun whom he loves and whose friends, he hopes, will do nothing to endanger his chances. This determination on the part of Edwards is of considerable interest to us for by this time the opposition faction had determined to run Mr. Sloo as its candidate for Governor. We are left in doubt as to the various motives which influenced this choice. We may surmise, however, that the men who supported Sloo represented a combination of former Crawfordites like Coles and some pro-slavery men. Jesse B. Thomas, whom Sloo had earlier claimed as his friend and whom he had assisted in his second election to the United States Senate, did not support him. He, however, secured a considerable element representing those who later formed the Jacksonian party in Illinois and most of [the] latter group who did not vote for him seemed afterwards to regret the fact.
Of course Sloo suffered from inexperience in conducting a campaign against such a veteran as Edwards. He had resided less than six years in the territory but in respect to brief residence he does not suffer in comparison with many of his contemporaries or with such later politicians as Douglas. He was a man of extremely simple life and tastes, but was not on the plane of Lincoln. He had important family connections in Ohio and influential friends throughout the whole northwest. His old friend, William Henry Harrison, was just being elected to the United States Senate from Ohio and his former employer and. benefactor, Findlay, had just been sent to Congress from the first Ohio district. As the representative of this group in Illinois, with the Crawford interest back of him and with business connections in all parts of the State, and associated with so important an economic interest as the canal, he might reasonably aspire to the highest office within the gift of the people of Illinois. His opponent, Edwards, was greatly handicapped by his controversy with Crawford; while Sloo's handicap seems to have been the record of his financial failure in Cincinnati, which was the chief point of attack urged by his opponent. The result of the election in which Edwards won by a small majority, is really a tribute to Sloo and by no means an entire victory for Edwards, who was hampered in his plans by a hostile Legislature.
1 Ibid. Box 3, No. 13. 2 McLean Papers, MSS., Library of Congress. 3 Torrence Papers, Box 19, No. 22. See also the following quotation from McRobert's letter.