« PreviousContinue »
SPECIAL MEETING OF THE ILLINOIS STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, HELD APRIL 14, 1911, IN COMMEMORATION OF THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR BETWEEN
Friday afternoon, 2:30 o'clock. Music—“The Old War Songs,” under direction of the Woman's Relief
Corps Quartette. Mrs. G. Clinton Smith, Leader. The introduction of speakers was made by Hon. Clark E. Carr, President
Illinois State Historical Society. Music—“Tenting on the Old Camp Ground.” Address—"The Patriotism of Northern Illinois," Gen. Smith D. Atkins,
Freeport, Ill. Music-“Battle Cry of Freedom.” Address—"The Slave Empire,” Mr. Eugene F. Baldwin, Peoria, Ill. Music—"The Vacant Chair." Address—“Southern Illinois in the Civil War," Hon. Bluford Wilson,
Springfield, Ill. Music—“Marching Through Georgia," "Just Before the Battle, Mother.”
Evening session, 8:00 o'clock.
“PATRIOTISM OF NORTHERN ILLINOIS.”
Gen. Smith D. Atkins, Freeport.
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN—July 4, 1778, General Clark captured Kaskaskia, replacing the English with the American flag, and all the country west of the Alleghanies, north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, became a part of the Colony of Virginia; July 13, 1787, that Colony, with a magnanimity unparalleled, ceded that magnificent empire to the general government, coupled with the condition that slavery should not exist within the territory ceded. In 1789 the Constitution of the United States was adopted, that recognized slavery in two particulars, the continuance of the African slave trade, and the return of fugitive slaves. April 7, 1818, Congress being about to adopt an enabling act for the admission of the State of Illinois, Nathaniel Pope, delegate in Congress from the Territory of Illinois, moved that the northern boundary of the proposed new State, instead of a line westward through the southern bend of Lake Michigan, be moved northward to 42 degrees 30 minutes, the present northern boundary, adding what became fourteen counties, and parts of others; Dec. 3, 1818, the State of Illinois was admitted with a free State Constitution. In 1820, Missouri applied for admission with slavery, and at the instance of Jesse B. Thomas, United States Senator from Illinois, Missouri was admitted as a slave state in 1821; but westward and north on the south line of Missouri no state with slavery was to be admitted. In 1832, South Carolina, technically on the tariff question, really on the slavery question, attempted to secede from the Union; but the incipient rebellion was quickly suppressed by Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, by a proclamation accompanied by appropriate profanity. Sept. 3, 1850, California, south of the Missouri compromise line, was admitted with a free state Constitution, and many people believed that by that legislation the Missouri Compromise was repealed. July 21, 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska bill was passed, directly repealing the Missouri Compromise, introduced by United States Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. In 1856 Buchanan, Democrat, was elected President. In December, 1856, immediately after the election, the Dred Scott case was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. The facts were simple: Dred Scott, a slave, was brought by his master, in 1834, to Rock Island, Ill.; it is curious to note how intimately Illinois is connected with the slavery question from the beginning; for two years Dred Scott was held as a slave on the soil of Illinois, notwithstanding the North West Ordinance of 1787, and the Free State Constitution of Illinois of 1818; and after he was taken back to Missouri he brought suit for his freedom, and that case found its way by appeal into the Supreme Court of the United States, and that court decided that he was still a slave; that the North West Ordinance of 1787, and the Free State Constitution of Illinois, of 1818, were entirely void on the question of slavery, because there was no power, legislative, executive, or judicial, that could exclude slavery from any place where the Constitution of the United States was supreme. Toombs of Georgia was right. If that decision of the Supreme Court of the United States was to stand, he might call the roll of his slaves at the foot of the Bunker Hill monument in Massachusetts.
In 1958 occurred the joint debates between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, turning upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and the Dred Scott decision. I attended one of those debates, at Freeport, Ill., Aug. 27, 1858. Mr. Lincoln arrived early in the day, and his room at the Brewster House was soon filled with callers. I was present. There was, in no sense, a consultation of Mr. Lincoln's supporters, but in a general conversation that appeared to come about naturally, Mr. Lincoln read the questions he proposed to ask of Mr. Douglas, the second of which was:
Q. 2. Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits, prior to the formation of such a state constitution?
All of the prominent Republicans present who engaged in the conversation objected to Mr. Lincoln's asking that question of Mr. Douglas, especially Mr. Joseph Medill, Mr. Elihu B. Washburne and Mr. Owen Lovejoy, because they argued that Mr. Douglas would, notwithstanding his unqualified endorsement of the Dred Scott case, answer that the people of a territory could exclude slavery by "unfriendly legislation," and that Mr. Douglas would please the people by his answer, and would beat Mr. Lincoln for Senator from Illinois. After listening to all that was said against his putting that question to Mr. Douglas, Mr. Lincoln replied, "I don't know how Mr. Douglas will answer; if he answers that the people of a territory cannot exclude slavery, I will beat him; but if he answers as you say he will, and as I believe he will, he may beat me for Senator, but he will never be President.” And Mr. Lincoln acting upon his own judgment, did ask that question of Mr. Douglas, and Mr. Douglas did answer as every one said he would and as Mr. Lincoln believed he would, and Mr. Douglas did beat Mr. Lincoln for Senator from Illinois; but by his answer he lost the Presidency of the United States, and that joint debate in Freeport made Mr. Lincoln so well known throughout the country that he was himself immediately talked of as a candidate for President.
In 1860 there were four candidates for President: Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckenridge, and John Bell. On the popular vote Mr. Lincoln received 1,857,610; Mr. Douglas, 1,365,976; Mr. Breckenridge, 847,553; Mr. Bell, 560,631. In the Electoral College Mr. Lincoln had 180; Mr. Douglas 12; Mr. Breckenridge 72; Mr. Bell 39. Mr. Lincoln had a majority in the Electoral College of 57 over all opposing candidates, under all the forms of law.