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building of 1,342 miles of railroad at a cost of over eleven millions of dollars. In three years the people woke up to a realization that they were already in debt nearly fourteen millions of dollars, and that the State was unable to pay the interest on its bonds. The State became so embarrassed that its credit was gone, and that it could not borrow another dollar of money, and that the public enterprises, the building of the railways and canals, which they so fondly hoped to see completed had scarcely been entered upon. Sparse as was the population, and limited as was the taxable property of the State, it seemed an impossibility to meet the enormous indebtedness and the people were driven almost to the extremity of repudiation. The credit of the State became a byword all over the commercial world. This period of depression and bankruptcy continued from 1839 until 1847, eight years, during which time the high taxes and hard times made capital and emigrants shun the State as they would the pestilence. Speaking of those days, one of the delegates to the constitutional convention of 1870 said, “It was a glorious time for two or three years, but after the money ran through and all was gone, and pay-day came, the people had to pass through an ordeal such as no community, perhaps on this continent, ever went through before. This period of depression embarrassed the people for twenty years. It paralyzed the industries, it drove emigrants from the State, and reduced communities to pauperism.”
It is really not remarkable that the hard times and distressing conditions which existed in those dark days should have driven many to despair, that there should have been those among them who favored practical repudiation of the State debt by demanding of our creditors that they should accept in payment of their bonds less than they called for upon their face, that it should have been said that the people were bankrupted and that they could never pay any portion of the bonds unless a compromise could be effected. It was an awful crisis, but to the honor of the noble men and women of that period, it may be said that they heroically met the crisis and saved themselves and their great State from the dishonor of either repudiating or compromising their indebtedness.
Men and women said that if it took every dollar they possessed and every piece of property they had, they would pay every cent of the debt or move out, that they would not live in a State that repudiated.
To the everlasting honor of the people of Illinois, they ordained and established in their fundamental law, which was absolutely binding upon them, a tax upon themselves to raise the means to meet their obligations. What was called a two-mill tax, was placed in the Constitution of the State to be inexorably collected every year to pay off the bonds.
At the time when this provision was made for the payment of the debt the population of the State was limited. Chicago was in its infancy, and the vast prairie regions of northern Illinois, now so densely populated, containing the most valuable farm property on the continent, was comparatively uninhabited. When it appeared that the State had adopted a policy to meet her obligations and that every dollar of her indebtedness would be paid, vast numbers of people from the eastern and middle states, and from Europe, turned their faces toward Illinois and the immigration into the State was enormous. The result proved that the two-mill tax was sufficient to amply provide for the payment of the debt, and before we knew it, the bonds were all canceled.
It is natural in speaking of the achievements and glory of Illinois for us to place in the front rank her inestimable services to the country at large during the Civil War. No line of encomium or of eulogium for our commonwealth would be more natural or agreeable to the speaker than this. But it has been thought that it would not be out of place to bring to mind achievements of earlier days, for we realize that
“Not without thy wondrous story
Illinois.” But we leave this to younger men in whose memories still linger the achievements of the heroes who took so prominent a part in the struggles that saved the country.
In recalling the heroes and statesmen of Illinois the time alloted to me only admits of the mentioning of four names: Lincoln, Douglas, Grant and Logan! What other commonwealth can number among her immortals such great names? Such as these can scarcely be found in the realms of fancy. In the epics of Homer, such a galaxy does not appear. If one ascends the heights of Olympus and contemplates the divinities in the sublimity and glory with which mythology endows them, he will search in vain for attributes so sublime and character so majestic. Had Illinois only given these four to the nation, she would have been distinguished as is no other commonwealth among the sisterhood of states. Yet were Lincoln and Douglas and Grant and Logan not numbered among those sent forth from the prairies, there would still appear in the firmament of American glory a constellation of Illinois statesmen and heroes that would illumine the world.
The temple of which the states of the American Union form the integral parts is the most sublime that was ever reared. Its foundations are laid in principles more substantial and enduring than granite; while the superstructure embodies and amplifies, in sublimity and beneficence, the wisdom and hopes and aspirations of all ages.
In the midst of this mighty structure, exalted to lofty eminence, supported and dependent upon all the other states, uniting and giving strength and grace and beauty to the whole, so conspicuous through the achievements of her sons that all the people instinctively turn their eyes toward her, rises Illinois, whose splendors and glories illumine every part of the mighty edifice which she majestically canopies.
New York is justly called the Empire state, and Pennsylvania the Keystone state. Illinois must be recognized as the stately Dome of the American Republic.
THOMAS SLOO, JR., A TYPICAL POLITICIAN OF EARLY
Isaac Joslin Cox, University of Cincinnati.
In a former volume of the publications of this Society Dr. John F. Snyder has given a brief sketch of the career of Thomas Sloo, Jr. under the caption, “Forgotten Statesmen of Illinois." The only reason for adding to this sketch is the fact that it has been my personal pleasure to find in the Torrence Collection” of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio a considerable number of hitherto unused letters concerning Mr. Sloo and his early life in Ohio and Illinois. These have been edited and will appear in current numbers of the quarterly issued by that society. The present sketch is an attempt to present from these letters certain facts of the career of Sloo that bear upon the politics of early Illinois.
While it may seem strange that this material relating to Mr. Sloo should be found in an Ohio depository, that fact is but another illustration of the interlacing of the history of the whole Mississippi Valley. In the westward movement of our population we are familiar with the fact that the outlying communities of one generation act as the nurseries for more remote communities to be established at later periods. In this respect certain districts of the upper Ohio Valley, more particularly the Blue Grass Region, Marietta, and the Miami districts were centers from which the outskirts of the Northwest Territory and the lower Mississippi Valley were later peopled. Mr. Sloo who was born at Washington, Mason County, Kentucky, and who passed his youth and young manhood in Cincinnati and about a decade of his more mature years in Illinois, before going on to New Orleans where he spent the greater part of his life, is a typical illustration of this fact. His parents crossed the moun
1 Publication No. 8 of the Illinois State Historical Library, containing Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for the year 1903, pp. 190-210. The sketch of Sloo is found on pp. 201-206.
2 This collection comprises letters written by and to William Henry Harrison, James Findlay, Thomas Sloo, Jr., George Paull Torrence, and others of local celebrity in Cincinnati and vicinity, as well as a few from men of national reputation. Seven numbers scattered through Volume I.-VI. of the Quarterly issued by the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, contain selections from the letters of the Torrence Collection. In addition to the letters the collection comprises the account books of the firm of Smith and Findlay, pioneer merchants of Cincinnati, military records of the early Indian campaigns, Findlay's accounts as receiver of public monies at Cincinnati, Hamilton County records acquired by Torrence, and miscellaneous printed and written documents, broadsides, public acts, etc., etc., such as would usually be collected in the course of the long business and political experience of record preserving pioneers. The bulk of the letters in the collection is addressed to Findlay. Those addressed to Torrenca follow in numbers, while there are a fairly large group addressed to Thomas Sloo, Jr., and a few written by him.
The presence of the letters addressed to Sloo may be accounted for by the fact that Torrence was his brother-in-law, to whom Sloo seems to have sent many of his papers, when he moved to New Orleans, about 1830.