Lincoln's Vandalia, a pioneer portrait; illus. by Romaine Proctor.
Baringer, William Eldon, 1909-
Page  [unnumbered]Page  [unnumbered]

PART TWO: ENTER LINCOLN OF SANGAMON
[missing figure]
depiction of log house

Page  [unnumbered]Page  31

ENTER LINCOLN OF SANGAMON

THE capital community to which Stuart introduced his tall colleague was an overgrown village of large ambi|tions. Editor James Hall, describing Vandalia in The Illinois Monthly Magazine, wrote extensively of the Kaskaskia River as a potential great highway of commerce.^1 Commercial pre-eminence was still a dream in 1834, despite the revival of business as the legislature prepared to go into session. The Illi|nois Advocate and State Register, Vandalia's Democratic news|paper, reported that the capital contained, in December, 1834, "fifteen wholesale and retail establishments, all doing a fair business, besides many curious manufactures." The log capital was palpably growing up. In 1833 the post office acquired a postmark stamp more imposing than that of St. Louis. Postal receipts for 1833 were $426, against $681 for Springfield. Only two other offices in the state, Galena and Jacksonville, ex|ceeded the Vandalia figure.^2 Shortly before the legislature met, the Illinois Advocate declared editorially that the town had improved so rapidly as to assure its future prosperity, regard|less of what the state might do about relocating the capital. Fayette County land was beginning to be appreciated, and was said to hold out greater promise to the immigrant than Sangamon or Morgan County. The editor wrote:

In relation to the improvements of Vandalia, we shall merely mention the very large tavern house, called the Vandalia Inn, and the extensive houses of Cols. Black, Blackwell, Remann and Leidig, the dwelling house of Col. Field, and the stores of Messrs. Brown and Jordan, besides many shops, stables and out houses, together with a large Methodist Church and a smaller one for strangers—all of which are nearly completed. The Vandalia Inn Page  32 is very extensive, and every way calculated for a first rate tavern. . . . We trust the old complaint of want of room will no longer be heard in Vandalia.

The Advocate listed 34 carpenters, 3 cabinetmakers, 3 black|smiths, 1 gunsmith, 2 bakers, 2 shoemakers, 6 "Taylors," 1 "Waggon" maker, 3 house painters, 4 masons, 3 plasterers, and 7 merchants, "All doing good business," 1 steam power and 1 water power "Saw and Grist Mill."^3

A greater interest in doing things not strictly their own busi|ness, a burgeoning cosmopolitanism, was now apparent in Vandalia. On October 22, 1834, a "large and respectable meeting," presided over by leading men, heard the stories, translated from French into English, of a band of Polish exiles, victims of the 1830 Polish revolt. Congress had offered land to these men without a country, and some of them settled in and near Vandalia. The new national movement to build a monu|ment to George Washington in the city of his name called forth a public meeting and produced a few dollars. The venerable James Madison was national president; Governor Duncan presided in Vandalia, with John T. Stuart as secre|tary. The lyceum movement, founded by Josiah Holbrook of Boston, had reached Vandalia. Holbrook himself appeared late in 1831 and established a "State Lyceum." Also "in a very flourishing condition" were three state societies: colonization, temperance, and Bible study. The Fayette County Tem|perance Society met habitually in the Presbyterian church "at early candlelight." Small itinerant circuses occasionally ap|peared and exhibited, at high prices, an assortment of "beasts and brutes," an art exhibition, and a few riding acts.^4

Three years earlier James Hall had found it impossible to conduct a book review section in The Illinois Monthly Magazine because he could not obtain the new publications. But in February, 1835, a new book store and bindery was opened by E. Stout, offering "BOOKS and STATIONARY, consisting of Medi|cal, Historical, Miscellaneous, and School Books." Commercial concerns in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and New York Page  33 bought advertising space in the Vandalia paper. The old In|telligencer, Vandalia's first newspaper, had disappeared, and the Whig, which absorbed it, would give up the ghost in February, 1835, leaving the Illinois Advocate and State Register in sole pos|session of the field. Published by corpulent John York Sawyer, ex-judge, aspirant for the post of public printer, the Advocate followed Governor Duncan's moderate Democratic politics and caused enthusiastic Jackson men to cry for a new paper in Vandalia.^5

Business establishments waxed and waned with astonishing rapidity. Partnerships of the 'twenties, which had often changed two or three times a year, had been replaced by new ones of a less evanescent character. The firms were still general stores; specialization had made but slight progress. Foremost among the new merchants was Ebenezer Capps. London-born, a former resident of Springfield, Capps had gone to England in 1830 and persuaded a number of cousins to move to the Illinois capital. Arriving in Vandalia in the fall of 1830, aged 32, he opened a store next to the state house and speedily established himself as a leading merchant. In December, 1834, he moved into a larger building on the north side of the square, where he soon took a wife, produced a large family, and reigned as the commercial arbiter of the region. Capps' list of "prices current" was standard. He bought and sold everything, and made his name known from Chicago to New Orleans. Dour of countenance, Capps possessed native wit and independent habits which made his store a gathering place.^6

But there were holes in the bright fabric of Vandalia's progress. Legislators not used to Spartan living cautioned wives against coming for the social season. The newspaper often failed to appear on schedule because of a press breakdown, be|cause editor or underling was ill, or because the paper supply had run out. Mail service was frequently irregular, especially from the east. The Kaskaskia bottom, impassable at spring high water, remained nearly so until it dried out, which gen|erally took half the summer. Grading operations across the Page  34 bottom were regularly ruined by high water. The best time for travel was autumn, and winter before snowfall. The legislative season of 1834-35 encountered exceptionally mild weather; no snow fell until the end of January. Work on the National Road between Vandalia and Terre Haute crept forward, in good weather, at a snail's pace. Good schools had been developed, but they were private and expensive.^7

[missing figure]
depiction of Charter's Tavern

Charter's Tavern

The half dozen boarding taverns to be seen around the square, lodging thirty to forty each, were not necessary to house the legislature, there being fifty-five representatives and twenty-six senators. But the Vandalia Inn, the National Hotel, Charter's Tavern, the Sign of the Green Tree, and the New White House gained the bulk of their custom from lawyers, litigants, office-seekers, lobbyists, and devotees of social di|version which could be found, if anywhere in Illinois, at the center of government. Every hotel claimed possession of an ample supply of "choice liquors" and wines. Partaking of these delights, as a visiting reporter from Beardstown discovered, Page  35 was an invading and continually growing army of office-seekers. Why so many, he asked? Because public office offered more pay for less work, it seemed to him, than any other kind of employment. The legislature ought to cut all salaries. De|spite the recent building boom, he found Vandalia,

. . . crowded to excess. . . . The number of applications for door-keeper and clerks of the different Houses is truly astonishing. It is said there were more than eighty applicants. . . . Almost every county furnished one candidate and some several, and all urge their claims with a pertinacity altogether invincible. One founds his claims on his revolutionary services; another on serv|ices in the last war; a third shows his wounds; and tells of his ex|ploits and escapes; a fourth was an old ranger; the next, one of the oldest settlers; another can carry a bigger log, and make a better fire than any other man; whilst another insists that he can take up the ashes better, sweep the room cleaner, and bring better water than any other living Sucker.^8

Another observer noted the prevalence of military titles:

The male population was made up almost exclusively of gen|tlemen of a military turn of mind. And the rank to which all seemed to aspire and attain was that of Colonel. If there was a Major in town I failed to make his acquaintance. We had two Captains,—Captain Eccles and Captain Linn, but . . . Cap|tain Linn was a steamboat captain . . . and not, therefore, subject to "the articles of war," as was the balance of the gentle|men in town.^9

The resident Colonels and visiting dignitaries of assorted rank, whenever business did not press, filled the taprooms for discussion, politics, stories, games, songs, segars, and drink. Strong drink and strong language were always much in evi|dence, two habits in which Abraham Lincoln reputedly did not indulge. But young Lincoln "was always as cheerful" as if he did. Southerners transplanted to Illinois, warmed by liquid refreshment, made the nights loud with plantation songs. Someone would bellow the hundred verses, and fill out the evening with new ones, of a famous Tennessee corn shucking song, "with a score or more honorable members to troll the responsive refrain, . . ."

Page  36
As I went down to Shinbone Alley,
CHORUS. A-Hoozen John, a-Hooza;
As I went down to Shinbone Alley,
CHORUS. Long time ago,
'Twas there I met little Johnny Gladdon, etc.

Revelry sometimes became so obstreperous that the county commissioners threatened suspension of license for "having permitted disorder, riotings and drunkenness." But discipli|nary action was difficult, for the taverns commanded the best of legal talent. Gaming and gambling had increased to a point requiring the county commissioners to erect, in the fall of 1833, a new and commodious "jailhouse," complete with iron bars, "dungeon room," debtors' room, and two jailers' rooms equipped with fireplaces.^1^0

As Lincoln and other new legislators quickly discovered when the Ninth General Assembly convened, the nature of their lawmaking labors was primarily determined by the gen|eral condition of the state. Illinois attained the age of sixteen years on the third day of December, 1834, two days after the session began. Like a promising young man of that age, Illinois was large, strong, and unfinished. Already the state had a re|corded history extending more than a century into the past, but it was a story of individuals—Jesuit priests, French traders, soldiers of kings, scattered bands of Indians, tough pioneer hunters, transplanted French peasant farmers, rivermen half-Indian, half-French—rather than of solid institutional de|velopment, material for the romancer rather than the his|torian.

Sixteen years of statehood had likewise failed to produce any striking manifestations of progress. The northern third of the commonwealth lay beyond the frontier line. The Indians had been swept across the Mississippi, but in 1832 they had re|turned and caused a war of re-expulsion. Chicago, located on the site of an ancient aboriginal community on Lake Michigan, Page  37 was a log house hamlet. Profiting by great expectations founded on congressional support of harbor improvements and a canal connecting the lake with the Illinois River, the future metropolis was just beginning its sensational growth. The canal was still a dream, but lake traffic had commenced.

The population of the state, forty-five thousand in 1818, had passed two hundred thousand by 1834, the newcomers being mostly frontier farmers. Agriculture formed the economic mainstay, for trade was almost entirely local and commerce but little developed. Settlement was strung out and me|andering, following lines of river and stream, with the great Illinois prairie remaining as yet unbroken.

Government continued to be carried on under the 1818 constitution, an instrument the few thousand voters of the state had never been called upon to ratify or reject. The new state of Michigan, admitted in 1836, provided for a state uni|versity at the first meeting of its legislature. Arkansas, also ad|mitted in '36, made its first legislature notable when the Speaker of the House killed a member with his bowie knife in the House chamber. The Illinois legislature did not establish a state university until after John Wilkes Booth had terminated Lincoln's career, but neither was any member murdered dur|ing its First General Assembly. According to Thomas Ford, governor from 1842 to 1846, who dipped his historical quill in acid ink and wielded it with wit, the weight of ignorance lay heavily on the state. Early legislatures had pared down the governor's powers and increased their own. Governors were never re-elected; indeed, they found it nearly impossible to ob|tain any public office whatever after presiding over the state for four years. Ford wrote:

A session of the legislature was like a great fire in the boundless prairies of the state; it consumed everything. . . . Until the new revision in 1827, all the standard laws were regularly changed and altered every two years. . . . For a long time the rage for amending and altering was so great, that it was said to be a good thing that the Holy Scriptures did not have to come before the legislature; for that body would be certain to alter and amend Page  38 them, so that no one could tell what was or was not the word of God, any more than could be told what was or was not the law of the state.

Selection of the representatives of the people, he added, was frequently motivated by "the vulgar notion that any bellowing fellow, with a profusion of flowery bombast, is a 'smart man,' a man of talents, fit to make laws, govern the country, and originate its policy."^1^1 The techniques of politics were adoles|cent. During the eighteen-twenties,

There were no parties of Whig and Democrat, Federalist and Republican. The contests were mostly personal, and for men. As for principles and measures, . . . there were none to contend for. Every election turned upon the fitness and unfitness, the good and bad qualities of the candidates. The only mode of electioneering . . . then known, was to praise one set of men, and blacken the characters of the other.

This nonpartisanism, gratifying though it may be to chronic critics of "party politics," was productive of irresponsible and inefficient government. Citizens were unable to assign credit for good measures or blame for bad, since responsibility could not be fixed clearly upon any group of public officials. Gov|ernor Ford continues:

During this period neither the people nor their public servants ever dreamed that government might be made the instrument to accomplish a higher destiny for the people. . . . Government was supposed to be necessary, . . . but [the people] did not want government to touch them too closely, or in too many places: they were determined upon the preservation and enjoy|ment of their liberties. . . . The people were, most of them, pioneers and adventurers. . . . Such persons cared but little for matters of government, except when stirred up by their dema|gogues. . . . The politicians took advantage of this lethargic state of indifference of the people to advance their own projects, to get offices and special favors from the legislature, which were all they busied their heads about. . . . Offices and jobs were created, and special laws of all kinds for individual, not general benefit, were passed, and these good things were divided out by bargains, intrigues, and log-rolling combinations, and were mostly obtained by fraud, deceit, and tact.^1^2

Page  39Furthermore, the notion was current in New England that a fifth-rate Boston lawyer could move to Illinois and speedily be|come a judge or member of Congress.^1^3

By 1830 the trappings of civilization were palpably en|croaching upon frontier customs. The dangle-tailed coonskin cap was giving way to the hat, fringed hunting shirts to cloth coats, deerskin moccasins to shoes, homespun cotton and woolen frocks to gowns of silk and calico. The appearance of political parties was one of these manifestations of advance|ment. Parties would have appeared sooner or later, but their arrival was speeded by the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Old Hickory's popularity and vigorous politics influenced political practices in ways too numerous to mention. Most im|portant, in Illinois, was the appearance of a band of Jackson adherents among the state's active politicians. They became the Jackson party, or Democrats. Their opponents became anti-Jackson or Clay men, later Whigs.^1^4 Jackson's great na|tional popularity was reflected in the predominance of his fol|lowers in Illinois. But there were varieties of Jacksonians— "whole-hog" Jackson men, and coat-tail riders who let go and rode with Clay at appropriate times, contemptuously dubbed "milk-and-cider" Democrats.

Albeit after parties arrived voters were supposed to be voting for measures and not men, personality continued to count heavily, as it does today, although in lesser degree. Legislative conduct of the eighteen-thirties makes the student wonder if these new parties were not, except on election day, largely theoretical. Members of the General Assembly were not given party labels in the official Journal of House and Senate, or in newspaper reports, and their votes on bills did not generally follow any ascertainable party line. "Bargains, intrigues, and log-rolling combinations" might bring to passage any minority member's bill and send down to defeat the measure of any majority representative or senator.

Cynosure of attention of new members like Lincoln was the capitol on the west side of the public square, a two-story brick Page  40 structure which had been there ten years. But it looked much older, bearing the marks of dilapidation rather than antiquity. Falling plaster frequently punctuated the eloquence of earnest debate. Recently the capitol had been improved by a new fence built around the lot, and both House and Senate chambers had been enlarged by eliminating a central hall and stairway, knocking out walls and substituting pillars for supports. A new stairway had been built on the south end of the building. Lincoln of Sangamon, stepping through the front door to ex|amine the scene of his new work, found himself in a large, barren room covering the whole first floor. Upstairs at the south end was the Senate chamber, at the north end a few small offices occupied by state functionaries who complained that their quarters, remote from the stairs, were firetraps. Entering the House chamber, the tall, slightly stooping new member discovered the workroom of the powerful House of Representatives to be as unostentatiously furnished as the common room of any tavern. Members sat at long tables, three to a table, in movable chairs, some of which were com|fortable Windsors. The Speaker sat at a similar table, slightly elevated, equipped with a pewter inkstand. The members' tables bore inkstands of cork. Several sand boxes were dis|tributed about the floor, for the accommodation of tobacco chewers and for blotting the ink on written papers—inelegant combination, but quite in character. These men were used to such things. Heat was provided by a fireplace and a stove, artificial light by candles, and finally there was a water pail and three tin cups.^1^5

Here, and elsewhere around the square, the fledgling Ly|curgus from Sangamon County watched the great men of the state talking, smoking, drinking, entertaining, gambling, wad|ing the snow and mud of the streets, slipping on the ice. He saw for the first time a handsome, squat young man who signed himself Stephen A. Douglass.^1^6 Young as was the twenty-five-year-old Lincoln, this schoolteacher and lawyer from Winchester, Morgan County, was four years his junior. Page  41

[missing figure]
portrait of Stephen A. Douglass

Stephen A. Douglass
Douglass was not a member of the legislature, but expected one day to be, and was in Vandalia to lobby in his own behalf as aspirant to the office of state's attorney of the first judicial circuit.

Page  42The greatest man of the moment was Joseph Duncan, governor-elect, recently the sole Illinois representative in Congress, farmer, Kentuckian, major military hero of the War of 1812 and holder of high rank in the Illinois militia. A large man, genial, modest, curly-haired, with a pug-nosed Scotch-Irish countenance, whose wife, a beautiful young heiress, had married him on the recommendation of Henry Clay, Duncan's public career was to lapse at the conclusion of his term.

William Lee Davidson Ewing, acting governor, Kentuckian, lawyer, Black Hawk War hero, was a figure of great popu|larity. Short, heavy, auburn-haired, his ability and generosity were admitted by all.^1^7 Ewing's career began in 1826 in the humble capacity of clerk of the House. Elected representative in 1830, he was made Speaker, advanced to the Senate, be|came United States Senator for two years in 1835, and then be|gan to retrace his steps. Back in the House in 1838 and '40, he was elected Speaker over his competitor, Abraham Lincoln; in the next General Assembly he was again clerk of the House, but was spared the ignominy of ending where he began by his election in 1843 as auditor, in which office he was to die.

On the Supreme Court of Illinois sat the stormy petrel of Illinois politics, Theophilus Washington Smith, better known as "Tammany" Smith. New York born, he had left the United States Navy to study law in the office of Aaron Burr, and emi|grated to Illinois Territory in 1816. Entering politics, he sought the attorney generalship, lost, was elected to the Senate in 1822, and in 1825, despite a hulking, undignified, entirely un|judicial appearance and bearing, became associate justice of the Supreme Court, in which capacity he acquired the repu|tation of never permitting the law to interfere with politics. Smith on one occasion became so angry at Governor Ninian Edwards that he confronted the great man with a pointed pistol. Edwards instantly seized the gun and swung it violently into Smith's jaw, cracking the bone and leaving him scarred for life.^1^8 Impeached in 1832 for "oppressive conduct" and cor|ruption, Page  43 his trial in the House, resulting in acquittal, was the most sensational legislative trial in Illinois history. It lasted a month; one of the speeches for the prosecution went on for three days.

Two more state officials were men of mark. Alexander Pope Field, perennial secretary of state, Kentuckian of aristocratic family, tall, long-nosed, of wry expression, fond of dissipation, brilliant in speech and conversation, raconteur and ballad singer, had been a member of the House for three terms before becoming secretary of state in 1828. The most eminent criminal and damage lawyer in the state, Field was out of town on a case more often than not, for he never allowed official duties to interfere with his law practice.^1^9 A milk-and-cider Jack|sonian, Field, like Duncan, drifted into the Whig camp, and became the object of removal proceedings begun by a new Democratic governor, Thomas Carlin. Ousted at last in 1840 to make way for Stephen A. Douglass, Field was to quit the state and become secretary of Wisconsin Territory by appoint|ment of President Harrison. The last act of his public career was destined to be the most dramatic. Removing to New Orleans shortly before the Civil War, he was elected to the House of Representatives from Louisiana when Lincoln at|tempted to reconstruct the state, but was refused his seat in Congress by Radical Republicans.

John Dement, smaller even than young Douglass in stature, treasurer, Tennesseean, Black Hawk War hero, began his career as sheriff, advanced to the House in 1828, and was chosen treasurer by his colleagues in 1831. He was to resign and return to the House in 1836 to fight Springfield's attempt to capture the capital, then move to northern Illinois and en|gage in manufacturing. Dement's career tapered off in slow time; he achieved the remarkable record of membership in three constitutional conventions, 1847, 1862, and 1869-70.

Among the twenty-six senators there were, besides Ewing, only a half dozen men of prominence, of whom three were notables. Cyrus Edwards, brother of the late Ninian Edwards, Page  44 was a Marylander, retired lawyer, merchant, Black Hawk War hero, and former representative from Madison County. A Whig, Edwards was to be candidate for governor in 1838, and would return to the House in 1860 as a Republican.

George Forquer, Pennsylvanian, senator from Sangamon, former representative from Monroe, secretary of state, at|torney general, and candidate for Congress, was born to poverty but rose by acting as carpenter, land speculator, lawyer, and merchant. Celebrated as an orator and writer, Forquer was also known as a man of impecuniosity no matter what position he held.

Another Democratic Pennsylvanian was Adam W. Snyder, born in poverty, a wool-curler who promoted himself to the law, and reached the Senate in 1830. A Black Hawk War veteran, a spirited speaker, of fiery, impetuous temperament, he was defeated for Congress in 1834 by Governor John Reyn|olds. Snyder was to defeat Reynolds in '36 and to lose to him again in the next campaign. Returning to the Illinois Senate in 1840, Snyder was to be robbed of victory as Democratic candidate for governor in 1842 by an untimely demise.

Among the crowd assembling in Vandalia's taverns were young men not yet legislators, who were destined to play large rôles in the history of Lincoln. Ninian Wirt Edwards, Whig, son of Governor Edwards, nephew of Cyrus, was on hand seeking election as attorney general of the state. He was suc|cessful, but resigned almost at once. Elected to the House in '36 and '38, to the Senate in '44, to the House again in '48 and '50, this polished, cultured aristocrat became Lincoln's brother-in-law and the social leader of Springfield. Turning Democrat, Edwards became the first Illinois superintendent of public instruction in 1854, and in his declining years wrote a dull biography of his father.

Orville Hickman Browning, another young Kentucky aristocrat, a Whig, and a lawyer, was destined to play an equally large rôle in the career of Lincoln in a national setting. Classically educated, an effective orator, a figure as dignified Page  45 and courtly as though he had stepped from the pages of Henry Fielding, Browning had his fortune to make and had set about it in Quincy, where he lived in a log cabin. In the Black Hawk War he had served for a time in the same company with Lincoln. Now a candidate for the office of state's attorney of the fifth district, he was to find, on February 10, 1835, the legislature overwhelmingly in favor of another man. Two years later he would return to Vandalia a senator, become a member of the House in 1842, aspire to Congress the next year and lose to Douglass, and lose again in 1850 and '52 to another Demo|crat. His greatest energies aroused later by the Republican movement, he became a leader, supporting (with inner mis|givings) the candidacy of Lincoln, and succeeding the late Stephen A. Douglas as United States Senator in 1861. In the Senate he became the President's spokesman, confidant, and adviser during the first year of war, President Johnson's Sec|retary of the Interior in 1866, and finally a member of the Illinois constitutional convention of 1869-70.

At a General Assembly of the State of Illinois, begun and held in pursuance of the Constitution, at Vandalia, on Monday the 1st day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four, the following members appeared, were qualified and took, their seats, viz:
  • From the county of Alexander—WILSON ABLE.
  • From the county of Union—JOHN DOUGHERTY.
  • From the county of Johnson—JOHN OLIVER.
  • From the county of Pope—CHARLES DUNN.
  • From the county of Gallatin—STEPHEN R. ROWAN and JAMES HAMPTON.
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
  • From the county of Sangamon—JOHN DAWSON, JOHN T. STUART, WILLIAM CARPENTER and ABRAHAM LINCOLN.^2^0
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Most counties had one member, several had two, a few three, and two, Sangamon and Morgan, had four. Northern counties were represented by a fraction of a man. Fulton, Knox, and Henry each boasted a third of a representative, Page  46 while Peoria, Jo Daviess, Putnam, La Salle, Cook, and Rock Island each possessed one-sixth of John Hamlin.

As the session opened, members strolled in, talking with col|leagues and drawing lots for seats. Dressed in long, black, wide-lapelled coats, tight trousers, stiff white shirts with collars held high by neckpieces called stocks which encircled the neck with several layers of black cloth, the honorable representatives looked more dignified and formal than they were in fact. A few years earlier silk shirts with frills could have been seen, but now a few lapel embellishments of black satin or velvet were as far as the people's representatives thought it advisable to go. Veteran legislators jocularly speculated on the prospect of having to eat, this session, seven wild game dinners each week. They hoped tavern keepers could manage a meal of more civilized fare at least once or twice a fortnight.

Gazing about at his colleagues, Lincoln saw old William McHenry, patriarch of the legislature, a living personification of the state's history, complaining to listeners that Illinois was not what it used to be. An Indian fighter in two wars, pioneer who in territorial days had killed a bear with a knife in the wilds of White County, itinerant preacher and mill owner, Major McHenry was the only surviving member of the 1818 constitutional convention and the First General Assembly still in politics, and the only former senator in the House. Elected as representative from White County for the fourth time, he was to die before the end of the session.

Other celebrities of the House who drew attention were Semple, Stuart, and Cloud. James Semple, Kentuckian, Black Hawk War brigadier general, ex-tanner, lawyer, belied his humble origin by his distinguished appearance. Very tall, wearing whiskers in the style of the European aristocracy, Semple was a man of presence. Entering the House from Madi|son County in 1832, he was to be elected Speaker in 1834 and '36, and a year later chosen United States minister to New Granada. Returning from South America in 1842, he was to sit on the supreme bench of the state until elected the next year Page  47 to the United States Senate. Fed up with politics, he would upon expiration of his term retire and devote his declining years to writing a history of Mexico, never published, tinkering with unsuccessful inventions, and building a handsome estate and a substantial fortune.

Semple made his way into the aristocracy; John Todd Stuart was born there. Possessor of the best classical education obtainable in Kentucky, young Stuart read law for two years, then moved to Springfield in 1828. Entering politics as a Clay man, he won election to the House in 1832 and now had re|turned with a satellite, a new member from New Salem two years his junior. He circulated through the crowd, introducing Lincoln to members whom the new man had not already met, conversing about the political climate, recalling outstanding events of the previous session. Stuart was to run for Congress two years later, lose, then win in '38 and '40. Stopped in mid-career by the subsequent Whig decline in Illinois, he was to enter the Illinois Senate in 1849. Stuart's last phase would bring him into open opposition to a former pupil grown great. Defeated as candidate for governor on the Bell-Everett ticket in 1860, he was to be elected to Congress in 1862 as a Demo|crat, and to lose in 1864 at the hands of another satellite, Shelby Moore Cullom.

Newton Cloud, from Morgan County, an easygoing North Carolinian, farmer, Methodist preacher, and Democrat, had been in the House in 1830 and had now returned to embark on a career of legislative service destined to total eighteen years over a forty-year period, and to include a term as Speaker, a term as senator, and the presidency of the 1847 constitutional convention.

Among the honorable members of the House who moved about meeting their colleagues were young politicians now re|membered only because of their association with the tall young man from New Salem. John D. Whiteside, Democrat, repre|sentative from Monroe County, the only member of the legis|lature born in Illinois, was one of the famous Whiteside family Page  48 of Indian fighters, hence familiarly called "General." The general had already served two terms in the House, was to ad|vance to the Senate in 1836, and to become treasurer a year later. But none of these things would leave a discernible foot|print in the sands of time. That came in 1842, when White|side, on behalf of James Shields, delivered to Abraham Lincoln a summons to the field of honor.

Jesse Kilgore Dubois, red-haired Whig, representative from Lawrence County, Hoosier, son of a Canadian who was a personal friend of General William Henry Harrison, boasted an incomplete college education. He was to win re-election in '36, '38, and '42, to become a merchant during lean political years, to re-enter politics as a Republican and be elected auditor in 1856, in which position he became one of that inner circle of Illinois politicians who made Lincoln the party's candidate for president.

Orlando Bell Ficklin, independent representative from Wabash County, Kentuckian, and lawyer, was to make an im|pression in history by persistently opposing the destiny of his New Salem colleague. At the end of the session Ficklin was elected state's attorney for his district, resigned his seat, moved to Coles County in 1837, returning to the House a con|firmed Democrat in '38 and '42. Advancing the next year to Congress, he was twice re-elected, finding throughout his third term his old Vandalia colleague sitting on the opposite side of the House chamber on Capitol Hill. Returning to Congress in 1851, Ficklin bobbed up again in 1858 as a prominent sup|porter of Douglas, a line he followed when Douglas ran for president. Ficklin wound up his career, astonishingly, back in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1878.

To become a man of mark in this assemblage was not as difficult as might be thought. The turnover of members was rapid. Many representatives were plain men who, after one term, ran for re-election, were defeated, and lost interest completely. Serious politicians, after a similar period, hankered for a seat in the Senate or in Congress. The House in 1834 Page  49 contained thirty-five first-term members besides Lincoln, seventeen second-termers, one third-term member, and one veteran of three previous terms, William McHenry. A Boston traveler, comparing Illinois with the rest of the country, found "as fair a proportion of talent in Illinois, as in any other state . . . in proportion to its population. There are, it is true, but a very few minds of the highest order . . . , but there is an unusual amount of very respectable, clever tal|ent."^2^1

Members settled themselves at ten o'clock and the session got under way. Temporary officers were appointed, and the House proceeded to elect permanent replacements. A roll call for Speaker gave James Semple of Madison thirty votes, Charles Dunn of Pope twenty-five. Lincoln and Stuart voted for the minority candidate, a less than whole-hog Jacksonian. This thirty to twenty-five division gives as good an indication as exists of the relative strength of Jackson and anti-Jackson parties.^2^2 As a guide to legislative action, the ratio is about as accurate as were fifteenth-century maps in guiding explorers to the New World. Though Stuart was the Whig floor leader, there was no point in putting him up, for the reliable Clay men numbered a mere seventeen. The Whig strategy was to gain favor among the milder Democrats, whose support would help Whig measures become law.

Minor officials were then selected, seven ballots being required to choose the doorkeeper. A trifling amount of business was dispatched and the House adjourned early. Tuesday morning at ten the House met, dealt with routine matters, and adjourned to reassemble at noon and hear a message from the acting governor. The remarks of W. L. D. Ewing, chief of the state for fifteen days because both Governor Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Zadoc Casey had resigned to serve in Congress, were a mixture of rhapsody and woe. Ewing said he was sorry to be governor. Sitting quietly in chairs, the long tables occupied by arms, feet, papers, Lincoln and his new colleagues were shown a beautiful vision.

Page  50 Blessed with a salubrity of climate unsurpassed, and a fertility of soil unequaled, in the whole Valley of the Mississippi [de|clared the acting governor], our State is progressing with won|derful rapidity, to a most elevated station among her Western Sisters. . . . Emigration from every state in this great and patriotic republic, is seeking its way in thousands and tens of thousands to this fair Delta of the magnificent valley. With the exception of an occasional village of provincial French, but yesterday it was an unbroken wilderness,—a trackless waste of prairie and unsubdued forest. The beautiful rivers that wash its borders, rolled their deep tides to the ocean unknown and unad|mired. This "desert now blooms as the rose." It is the "ultima thule" of the emigrant's hopes and aspirations. Her rivers are the channels of her rich commerce, and the admiration of the world. The magic wand of enterprise, industry and talent, is working its wonders in the land. The Indian's wigwam has dis|appeared in the presence of the rich man's mansion, and the poor man's cottage. Our rich prairies are converting into luxuri|ant fields and pastures; and all the attendant blessings and ad|vantages of christian civilization are ours, or to be enjoyed at our bidding. Wise legislation alone can secure the consummation of these blessings and advantages.

This Utopia needed a revised criminal code, fiscal measures productive of greater revenue, a state bank "founded not upon the baseless impalpable fabric of a vision—but upon a solid gold and silver reality," better schools at both lower and higher educational levels, a new state capitol, and transpor|tation improvements in the form of canals or railroads or both.

Routine business proceeded as members of the Senate walked in for the official function of examining votes for governor and lieutenant governor in the 1834 election. Nobody was surprised to hear that Joseph Duncan and Alexander M. Jenkins had been elected. The next day, Wednesday, the senators returned and took seats in the House to inaugurate the new officials. The remarks of the governor, a Jacksonian now in mid-career of backsliding, were confined to three subjects: education, internal improvements, and a state bank. He urged broad educational legislation, canals rather than railroads, and neither favored nor disfavored a state bank. Page  51 Compared to the address of Ewing, who now sat with the senators, the new governor's remarks made dull listening. The novice legislator, Lincoln, having heard two gubernatorial messages in as many days, must have been impressed by the problems therein discussed. He had thought about them, and publicly declared his position on some of them. But the intro|duction of bills dealing with those issues was farthest from his thoughts. The few laws he expected to have passed at this session dealt with minuscule matters.

The session began to move forward as members gave formal notice of intention to introduce sundry bills, or offered reso|lutions, in the discussion of which Lincoln's voice was not heard. Rules were adopted on Thursday morning, and the Speaker made assignments to the eleven standing committees of the House. Some members were assigned to three com|mittees; Stuart of Sangamon was placed on two. Lincoln of Sangamon was put on one committee, Public Accounts and Expenditures, which was the tenth committee in the list of eleven.

Legislation did not follow the modern method, with a hopper for the reception of bills and automatic assignment to a committee where they would die or, in due time, emerge. As expediters of legislation, committees were then less im|portant than the two houses themselves. To start a bill, a member gave formal notice of his intention to introduce it, and two days must elapse before he could do so, an action performed on the floor of the House. Upon introduction, each bill was normally read in full by the clerk and ordered to a second reading. But members might move assignment to a committee instead, or move to lay it on the table, or move to amend. Voting was done rapidly, by voice, unless two mem|bers called for the Yeas and Nays, whereupon the roll was called and members put on record. First and second readings could not be held on the same day unless rules were suspended. Such suspension was frequently moved, but nearly always rejected until late in the session, when suspension occurred Page  52 regularly. After second reading, if no adverse motion got in its way, a bill was "engrossed" and ordered to a third reading. Again time must elapse before the bill was read again and passed or defeated. Since reference to committee occurred only on occasion of a carried motion to refer, a great many bills were passed without any sort of committee action (except for technical consideration given by the final committee on enrolled bills), a procedure which underlines the simplicity of the legislative process in that day.

Committee work was generally dispatched in the evening. House and Senate chambers were too large and open for committee meetings; private lodgings and offices were best. By custom, the House chamber was regularly used after dark by the lobby, unofficial "third house of the legislature." The lobby had a perennial, unofficial president, James W. Whitney of Pike County, an eccentric, witty lawyer without a practice, part-time schoolteacher and minor official. Every legislative session brought Whitney to the capital, dressed virtually in rags, to conduct the lobby. His performances were standard sessional entertainment. Nicknamed "Lord Coke," by which distinguished cognomen he was known to everyone, Whitney opened the "third house" with remarks bearing a satirical resemblance to official messages. Matters before the legislature were discussed in speeches full of jokes and humorous allusions, and every hit produced cheers and loud laughter. "Lord Coke" permitted anyone to speak. If a speaker was not entertaining, Whitney adjourned the "house" until the bore sat down, then reconvened it for the next performer.^2^3 As entertainment the lobby eclipsed, on its best evenings, "farobanks, roulettes, and coffee rooms, . . . leaving them a long way in the back ground."^2^4

On Friday morning, December 5, while the House con|sidered numerous unimportant resolutions and a financial report from the auditor, Lincoln scraped back his chair, stood up, addressed himself in his high voice to "Mr. Speaker," and gave notice of his intention to introduce his first bill, "An act Page  53 to limit the jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace." His notice was shrewdly timed, coming shortly after the House had rejected another member's resolution contemplating expansion of powers of the local justices.

The second week opened with a profusion of bills. One member after another introduced his, heard it read and ordered to a second reading. Lincoln's was so treated on Tues|day, while on Monday he was assigned to his first special committee. With two others, Lincoln was to study and report a measure to increase the number of election precincts in Morgan County, adjacent to Sangamon. The committee acted with such speed that in less than a day the measure was amended, reported, and ordered to third reading. An hour later Lincoln gave notice of intention to introduce his second bill. "Mr. Speaker," he said, on obtaining the floor, "I now give notice that on Thursday next, or some day thereafter I shall ask leave to introduce a bill entitled 'an act to authorize Samuel Musick, to build a toll bridge across Salt Creek in Sangamon County.'"^2^5

On his tenth day as a maker of law, Lincoln considered that he had learned his way about well enough to propose a re|vision of the House rules: "It shall not be in order, to offer amendments to any bill, after its third reading."^2^6 The motion was speedily disposed of by rejection. Behind this proposal one can see the young Lincoln carefully studying House rules in his tavern room at night, wrinkling his brow as he meditates possible improvements. Thinking he has found one, he dar|ingly introduces it, hoping to make himself a man of mark. At first glance his suggestion seems a good one, but more experienced lawmakers knew better. The absence of such a rule was not an oversight but necessity. Not having experi|enced the closing days of a session, Lincoln did not know about the numerous last-minute changes required in bills already passed to make them harmonize with Senate action. His intention was clearly to speed up bills and make delaying obstructionism more difficult, but the new rule, had it been Page  54 adopted, would have produced the opposite result. Bills by the dozen would have died because they were not identical with the same bills as passed by the Senate.

Lincoln's Justices of the Peace bill likewise ran into diffi|culties. Instead of obtaining a third reading it was referred to a special committee, emerged with amendments, then was assigned to a second special committee. As the session entered its third week Lincoln introduced his bill, "An act to authorize Samuel Musick, to build a toll bridge across Salt Creek in Sangamon County," heard it read and ordered to a second reading. That hurdle was negotiated Tuesday afternoon and a third reading ordered. Upon its being so read, Carpenter of Sangamon, Democrat, moved that it be referred to a select committee, and the Speaker named Carpenter, Stuart, and Lincoln as the committee. Samuel Musick operated a ferry on Salt Creek, a Sangamon River tributary northeast of New Salem, and was ambitious to develop his business in pace with the county. The improvement was one every voter in north Sangamon County would favor, and Carpenter wanted some of the credit for himself. Saturday morning the committee reported an amendment, and the amended bill passed.

Immediately after passing Lincoln's bill the House enjoyed a respite from its routine of petitions for divorce, bills for the relief of citizens individually and collectively, petitions to Congress praying that money be appropriated to improve the state, measures declaring small creeks to be navigable streams, creating, discharging, and hearing reports of committees, laying bills on the table, and sitting as a committee of the whole House on important measures. The Senate joined them to elect a United States Senator. On a viva voce vote of 47 to 30, John McCracken Robinson, Democrat, was elected on De|cember 20 to succeed himself. Lincoln joined the anti-Jack|sonians in supporting Richard Montgomery Young, a milk-and-cider Jackson man.

On the third Monday morning of the session, three days before Christmas, the House felt twinges of conscience. Ex|pecting Page  55 to finish the session early in February, they had taken several afternoons off during the preceding week, and now voted overwhelmingly to begin work at 9 A.M. Having thus proved their industry, the House regularly adjourned for an hour at nine in the morning and began legislating at ten, until, a week later, they officially returned to the old hour.

Lincoln's bill of limitations on justices of the peace was rewritten in select committee and reported the day before Christmas. An amendment to the revised bill was proposed, whereupon another member moved that the whole matter be laid on the table until the fourth day of July, a waggish method of legislative slaughter. A lively debate sprang up between Lincoln and the amenders, who were mostly Whigs. The dispute ended when a Democrat, Stephen R. Rowan of Gallatin, moved commitment to still another special com|mittee, which was done, Lincoln being named one of its three members.^2^7

He voted against a Christmas holiday, lost, and spent the day talking politics. Early the next morning Lincoln learned the gratifying news that his toll bridge bill had been passed by the Senate. His other bill reappeared a day later, at the Saturday afternoon session. It had again been revised, and was referred to a fourth committee, this time "of the Whole House." The action of the committee of the whole on Monday afternoon was indecisive, and on motion of Stuart the bill was referred to still another special committee, of which Lincoln was not a member. Stuart, chairman of this com|mittee, was so busy as member of other special committees and as chairman of the overworked standing committee on petitions, that Lincoln's bill did not reappear until nearly four weeks later, January 22, when it was reported with an amendment, then two days later passed, 39 to 7, and sent to the Senate. There, after all its vicissitudes in the House, it suffered indefinite postponement.

On Tuesday morning, January 6, after the House heard a long report from the committee on internal improvements, Page  56 of which Dawson of Sangamon was chairman, Lincoln found and embraced an opportunity to address the House in that humorous style which was soon to bring him into prominence. Many days earlier the House had nominated one Samuel McHatton as surveyor of Schuyler County, and the Senate had appointed him. Now the House learned that no vacancy had existed. It was moved that the nomination "be vacated." This did not sound parliamentary. Lincoln stood up to discuss the question. The situation had its humorous aspect—two men legally chosen as simultaneous occupants of one position. The new surveyor, remarked Lincoln, could not legally oust the old one so long as the incumbent persisted in not dying. He therefore suggested that matters be let alone as they were, "so that if the old surveyor should hereafter conclude to die, there would be a new one ready without troubling the legis|lature." Stuart thought this approach unparliamentary also. He moved that the House rescind its nomination and ask the Senate to follow suit on the appointment. The matter was then laid on the table, an effective acceptance of Lincoln's proposal.^2^8

This speech marks a turning point. For the previous five weeks the tall young man from New Salem had done little more than vote. He had been placed on three special com|mittees. True, his two bills were doing well, but success with a brace of minor laws does not presage a brilliant political future. Any member could do as well. During the closing five weeks of the session, however, as though he had made an impression on the Speaker, Lincoln was named to serve on ten special committees, and was frequently recognized to make important motions. The prominence he tried un|successfully to gain as a parliamentary reformer could not be denied him as a wit. His personality had made him steadily more popular. As a story-teller he was already highly profi|cient, and his personal history, in a group containing many self-made men, established a rapport.^2^9 A lobbyist of the time who boarded at the same public house found him "raw-boned, Page  57 angular, features deeply furrowed, ungraceful, almost un|couth; having little if any of that polish so important in society life; and yet there was a magnetism and dash about the man that made him a universal favorite. Underneath that rough exterior—it was easy, too, to find out—dwelt a mind and a heart of immense powers."^3^0

Three days after Lincoln amused and led the House con|cerning the surveyor of Schuyler County, the lawmakers considered President Jackson and the Bank of the United States. It was their first extensive consideration of any political issue of national importance since meeting. Party lines came to the fore in a lengthy debate, and the president was upheld, without the support of Stuart and Lincoln. The next afternoon, January 10, Lincoln made in the House his first remarks on an issue of national importance. He proposed a resolution calling upon Illinois senators and representatives in Wash|ington to exert themselves to obtain Congressional legislation assigning to Illinois a portion (not less than twenty per cent) of the money received from the sale of public lands in Illinois. Another member thought this ought to be discussed by the Committee of the Whole House, but Orlando Ficklin con|sidered laying the resolution on the table a better disposition, and the House agreed. This resolution, per se, was not im|portant, for many successful resolutions called upon Congress, vainly, for much greater favors. But Lincoln's public land resolution does show that his outlook was widening, that his recent votes on the issue of Jackson and the Bank had set him to thinking seriously about larger affairs than toll bridges, roads, and justices of the peace.

But local issues must be kept in mind too. Another election would come in August, 1836, and Sangamon County con|stituents would be more concerned about legislative favors than with Lincoln's public land views. Accordingly, on Janu|ary 17 Lincoln presented "the petition of sundry citizens of the counties of Sangamon, Morgan and Tazewell, praying the organization of a new county out of said counties &c." He Page  58 moved that reading be dispensed with and reference made to the committee on petitions. This was done, and three weeks later the committee reported unfavorably and was sustained.^3^1 Before long the issue of county division was to be of prime importance to the New Salem area. But for this session the new member had done his duty.

The ambitious young solon was well launched politically. And by this time it was apparent that legislative service also offered pecuniary advantages. On December 19 he had collected a hundred dollars, with a larger sum due at the end of the session. Receiving a total of $258, of which $33 was travel allowance, Lincoln collected more than enough to pay off the loan which financed his first legislative appearance. The question of wages was raised in the House on January 21, when a member suggested that salaries of county officials be reduced. Lincoln and nearly all members voted to discuss it. A member proposed that the legislators cut their own pay, and the House quickly laid the matter on the table without a roll call.^3^2

The salary issue, thanks to the speed with which it was dispatched, did not arouse public interest. Very few bills did as they went through the legislature. Illinois voters in general had one interest in legislative developments, and that was economy. Their philosophy of government was beautifully simple. The state must be governed upon minimum taxation, or new public officials would be chosen at the next election. Let the government authorize as many road and river im|provements, canals, and railroads as they pleased, at some|body else's expense. Laws requiring increased taxation, how|ever, would cause incumbents to fall like autumn leaves. In the sixteen years since 1818 Illinois politicians had learned this lesson well. During the 'twenties only a small part of the state revenue came from taxes on its own citizens,^3^3 a delightful custom voters wished to see made permanent. But the trend was against them, a harsh fact which made the voters even more watchful. Bills which created greatest public interest Page  59 were those which spent, or threatened to spend, public funds. For Lincoln's first session these were the Illinois and Michigan Canal bill, the State Bank bill, and the measure creating five new circuit judgeships.^3^4 Neither canal nor bank bill actually appropriated money, and both, assisted by a swarm of lob|byists, passed by narrow margins. The circuit judge bill, while clearly costing money, passed easily, ample experience having shown that Supreme Court judges could no longer act efficiently as circuit judges. At least, the politicians could argue thus, while creating five new jobs.

A fourth measure, which aroused public interest on a smaller scale, dealt with funds for education. Given by the federal government public land and money to spend on schools, Illinois had not yet established a system of public education. Instead, the federal money had been "borrowed" and used for general state expenses. Friends of education banded together to end this game by forcing the legislature to spend education money for education. A lobby group calling itself the Illinois Institute of Education had been organized at Vandalia in 1833, and in November of 1834 succeeded in producing a series of county educational conventions. These groups chose delegates to a state convention which met in the capital on December 5. Sangamon County chose its six legislators and five other prominent citizens as delegates. The Vandalia convention produced a modest request that interest on the federal school money borrowed by the state be used for schools, but failed to stir up any great public interest. The lawmakers debated the issue for days. It was clear that free schools would mean taxes, and three education laws were passed which did no more than carry out the convention's request.^3^5

At this period, with the fate of important measures like the canal and bank bills hanging in the balance, the capital's night life underwent a change. Comradely drinking and singing, parties, dances, theatricals gave way to business, and mild weather changed to bitter cold. Many a private decision was reached at tavern table and bar, but large questions were Page  60 threshed out by candlelight in the House chamber as the lobby met each evening between dinner and bedtime. Representa|tives and senators met unhampered by official rules, to thresh things out with the aid of state officials, interested lobbyists, and small-fry politicians.

The session was drawing near its end. Bills were being passed in half dozen batches, and the House was speedily passing, or on rare occasions rejecting, bills received from the Senate, when on January 27 Lincoln gave notice of his intention to introduce "An act relative to a state road therein named." But Dawson of Sangamon, Democrat, again showed signs that the opposition feared Lincoln would become too popular at home. Dawson introduced the bill himself two days later. It became law, indicating that if Dawson had not intervened Lincoln could have converted two bills into law, out of three introduced. As chairman of the internal improvements com|mittee, Dawson was the best man to expedite Lincoln's road bill, but Lincoln was not pleased. He retaliated with an encroachment of his own, staking out a credit claim on one of Dawson's bills, "An act to improve the navigation of the Sangamon river," by successfully moving, after the House passed the bill, that its title be changed to "An act to authorize a special election in Sangamon county."^3^6 Under Lincoln's title the bill became law.

On January 30 the question of reapportioning the state came up. The apportionment which gave Sangamon four representatives was only four years old, but the state was growing fast. A census was scheduled for 1835, which was bound to make reapportionment necessary unless the new figures were to be disregarded. A special committee had been studying the question of a special session for December. John T. Stuart reported a resolution asking that House and Senate "meet again at the Seat of Government on the first Monday of December, 1835." Webb of White County moved to lay the resolution on the table until July 4. Members from districts certain to lose strength enthusiastically supported the tabling Page  61 motion, and the vote was 23 to 23. Having escaped the table, the resolution passed. Sangamon County would have increased representation under a reapportionment, and the Sangamon delegation voted in accordance with the county's interests.

The legislature was the great selector of public officials of Illinois. Voters were permitted to fill only four categories of state offices—governor, lieutenant governor, senators and representatives in the General Assembly. The last two did all the rest, from Supreme Court justices down through county surveyors. Elections had occurred at various times throughout the session, but a large number of selections not yet made were cleaned up at a joint session Tuesday afternoon, February 10. During the last week of the session attendance was often low, but for the elections nearly all members appeared. By an overwhelming majority, including Lincoln, Jesse Burgess Thomas, former United States Senator, was elected attorney general to replace Ninian W. Edwards, resigned. Five state's attorneys were selected for five judicial districts, among them S. A. Douglass (Lincoln voting against) and O. B. Ficklin (Lincoln voting for). A crowd of members, including Lincoln, walked out while the warden of the penitentiary was being chosen. Three judges of probate were elected by ballot as still fewer remained. Elective functions completed, the Senate filed upstairs, and the session was nearly over.

When the House doorkeeper blew out the candles on Friday night, February 13, the General Assembly having adjourned sine die, the Honorable Abraham Lincoln had performed about every function a House member could, in the ordinary run of legislating, except serving as chairman of an important com|mittee, presiding over the Committee of the Whole House, and acting on a Senate-House conference committee. Not until the last day but one did he call for the Yeas and Nays. He did so twice on February 12. It is true but misleading to generalize that Lincoln usually voted with Stuart. A break|down of their votes on measures, when both were present, Page  62 shows that Stuart and Lincoln voted together a hundred and one times, and Lincoln voted against his mentor twenty-six times. Frequently Stuart would be absent, working in com|mittee, when roll was called. On the few occasions when Lincoln was absent, Stuart was on the floor. On no roll call were both absent, indicating that they worked as a team. When public officials were elected by calling the roll of the House, Lincoln differed with Stuart only once.

Since Stuart, Whig floor leader, had Congressional am|bitions which he hoped would ere long remove him from Vandalia, the co-operation of the two Whigs in answering roll call hints that Stuart was grooming the lanky young man to succeed him as Whig leader in the House. Of significance also is the recently discovered fact that a few bills not Lincoln's were written in his hand, and introduced by others.^3^7 Probably this custom began because his handwriting was exceptionally legible. His proficiency in penmanship, not his knowledge, was being used. But the habit was valuable, for it made Lincoln a more useful member, imparted skills and established contacts which could easily grow into authorship of legislative bills on a wide scale.

A further interesting aspect of Lincoln's first session was perhaps the inception of his habit of writing anonymous letters to the press. As a Whig officeholder he was naturally well known to Simeon Francis, editor of the Springfield Whig paper, the Sangamo Journal. In this paper appeared reports from Vandalia which might have been written by Lincoln. On December 13 the Journal printed a short letter from Vandalia under the caption "From Our Correspondent."^3^8 The report was a brief summary of the important measures before the legislature, in a style resembling Lincoln's. Men|tioning five bills, "Our Correspondent" was not sure about the prospects of three, but thought the other two would fail, a prediction in which he was mistaken. Two more letters appeared in the Journal before adjournment.^3^9 The third letter merely reported progress, but the second was a heavily Page  63 humorous account of House Democrats arguing among themselves over resolutions approving Jackson's bank policy. While Democrats squabbled, wrote "Our Correspondent," Aristocrats were silent. "They held in, knowing that a word from an Aristocrat could effect nothing except probably, to unite the Democrats. . . . The thing was funny, and we Aristocrats enjoyed it 'hugely,' as Tristram Shandy says."

Vandalia merchants watched with sorrow the rapid exodus of the capital's transient population, and the doldrums speedily set in. Governor Duncan went off to more comfortable quarters at his home in Jacksonville. Lincoln, with more than a hundred dollars in his pocket, boarded the first stage to Springfield alongside Stuart, Carpenter, and Dawson. De|scending at New Salem at the end of a cold ride in twenty-below-zero weather, the tall young legislator triumphantly shook hands, renewed acquaintances, and told stories of the mysteries of government. With a successful season of public service to his credit, he cut a larger figure than he did a year earlier. Postal and surveying activities were resumed, but with a difference. Lincoln had found his profession. Previous contacts with the practice of law had been tentative and timorous; he doubted his ability to become a lawyer. After making laws for two and a half months, and intimately associating with the state's leading lawyers, the calling no longer seemed unattainable and he began to study seriously. Stuart, his political mentor, encouraged him to study law and became his legal mentor as well. From Stuart, Lincoln, as he recalled later in writing an autobiography, borrowed law books and "went at it in good earnest. He studied with no|body. He still mixed in the surveying to pay board and cloth|ing bills. When the Legislature met, the law books were dropped, but were taken up again at the end of the session."^4^0

Politics again came to the fore in the late autumn. On November 10, Lincoln wrote a letter to Governor Duncan Page  64 recommending appointment of Levi Davis of Vandalia as auditor, and Davis was installed when the legislators drifted into Vandalia for the special session arranged the preceding January. They approached through heavy snow, and found the capital lovely under a thick blanket of white. The cluster of log cabins with smoking chimneys presented a picture suitable for modern Christmas cards. The square, however, had been too much traveled to be anything but a mass of churned gray. And the honorable members, once inside the state house, regretted that last winter's mildness had not returned. The building was more dilapidated than ever. Cracks ran down the walls. The north wall bulged out several inches and the west wall had sunk an inch or two. Piles of sifted snow adorned the Senate floor, new in 1834, but now sunk half a foot at the center.^4^1

Fewer lobbyists, office-seekers, and social visitors appeared for the short special session, an absence more than com|pensated for by a swarm of Democratic politicians. Little Stephen A. Douglass, now a state's attorney, had begun the process of convincing Illinois Democrats that organization would reduce internal strife and produce more Whig defeats. The first state political convention in Illinois history began in the House chamber on opening day, after the legislature had hastily organized and adjourned.

Vice-President Martin Van Buren had been nominated Democratic presidential candidate at Baltimore in May, and the Douglass objective was to obtain endorsement of "Little Matty," select a pledged electoral ticket, produce a seductive address to the people, and force into line the milk-and-cider Jackson men. Whig strategy against Van Buren called for support of whichever of three candidates, Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, or Hugh Lawson White, was strongest in each state. In Illinois it was White of Tennessee. The anonymous Vandalia correspondent of the Sangamo Journal was inspired to write a small volume reporting and reproving the opposition convention. Democratic "dictation" Page  65 and the squirming of anti-convention Democrats so inspired the reporter that he wrote more than the Journal could print on schedule. Long letters on the subject appeared in February, 1836, after the legislature had adjourned.^4^2

On December 12, 1835, "Our Correspondent" pictured a crowd of Democrats in town. "There are no White men here from a distance without business," he wrote, "while the hotels are lined with ruffle-shirted Vannies. There is no one here whose sole business it is to puff Judge White; consequently I seldom hear his name except when I go among the people, where (God be praised!) I hear nothing else." He wrote gaily of Democratic arguments over a convention president, and waggishly depicted, as a sample of "British aggression," the activity of Ebenezer Peck, "late of Canada, now of Chicago," who insisted on the virtues of organization.^4^3

On the second day, December 8, Governor Duncan's message was read to the assembled House. It was brief, and called for a brief session. In addition to reapportionment, he directed attention to defects in the Illinois and Michigan Canal and State Bank acts, both passed in 1835. Modern legislatures, meeting in special session, act only on those matters for which the governor calls them together; but members of the Ninth General Assembly, with a lively sense of the approaching campaign of 1836, speedily began acting on every subject which came to mind. The special session was distinguishable from regular sessions only by its comparative brevity. In addition to the three bills asked by the executive, House and Senate each added more than a hundred of their own. From the number of corporations authorized it would seem that a large portion of the state's inhabitants were inter|ested in a new railroad company, canal company, or insurance company.

John T. Stuart, his ambitions now fixed on a seat in Con|gress, played a less active part than usual, while the voice of Abraham Lincoln was heard as frequently as it had been dur|ing Page  66 the last half of the regular session. Though he introduced only one bill of his own, an act regarding insolvent debtors (which passed the House but stuck in the Senate), he reported two Sangamon County road bills at the behest of petitioners,

[missing figure]
portrait of Joseph Duncan

Joseph Duncan
and as chairman of a special committee shepherded through the House a bill incorporating the Beardstown and Sangamon Canal Company. Lincoln served on five special committees, and was chairman of three. His popularity with the Speaker, James Semple, held until mid-session, when a United States Senator was elected vice the late Elias Kent Kane. News of Kane's death, wrote the capital correspondent of the Sangamo Journal, threw Vandalia into a state of "continual commotion." Nine candidates offered themselves at once. But "he whose Page  67 prospects seem brightest in one hour, is off the track by the next." Semple was the leading candidate for eight ballots, but lost on the twelfth to W. L. D. Ewing. Lincoln did not once vote for Semple; instead he helped elect Ewing, and was not popular with the Speaker during the closing three weeks of the session. Writing a fascinating report of the election to the Springfield editor, "Our Correspondent" pictured Semple's defeat as a blow to convention Democrats. "Our friends," he concluded, "have had but two shots at that convention—but each of those has brought a pigeon. These two, mind ye, are the large fowls: they'll kill them off faster when once they get among the little ones."^4^4

As a parliamentary tactician Lincoln kept a close eye on the interests of Sangamon County, outshining Stuart in that respect. When a Senate bill reached the House, for example, requiring the county to bridge the Sangamon River, Lincoln successfully moved an amendment providing a second bridge near New Salem. But the Senate refused to accept the amend|ment. Faced with the responsibility of killing the bridge, Lincoln astutely engineered removal of his amendment, and the bill became law.^4^5

On the important reapportionment measure Lincoln's course was somewhat puzzling. He offered an apportionment figure which would add only twelve new members, while Sangamon County stood to gain heavily under a larger in|crease. Probably, knowing that a large membership was certain, he wished to stake out an economy claim which would be useful on the hustings the following summer. The new ap|portionment law provided a House of ninety-one members and gave Sangamon seven representatives instead of four. Lincoln's seat was thus made doubly secure.

Important also was the fact that he collected $162 for his second session labors, and materially advanced his political education and prospects. The Democratic state convention had completed its labors the evening of the second day, but its influence lingered. As soon as possible a House Whig intro|duced a resolution denouncing the convention system as Page  68 "anti-republican." A Democrat moved to lay it on the table "until the 4th day of July next." Lincoln and the resolution's author called for the Yeas and Nays, and on the table it went, 33 to 19. In the Senate, where Whigs and Democrats were more evenly matched, the Whigs jammed through, 13 to 12, a resolution nominating White for president, by the clever ex|pedient of labeling White a better Democrat than Van Buren, winning the support of five milk-and-cider senators who ab|horred the convention system. Democrats raged at this suc|cessful maneuver. Late in the session the House Democrats exploded a long resolution branding White an associate of nullifiers and traitors, denouncing the opposition's assumption of "the ancient and honorable name of Whig," and declaring "the most perfect confidence" in Van Buren. Whigs fought back with every possible parliamentary device, seeking to pre|vent a vote. Dawson of Sangamon, backsliding into the Whig camp, Stuart, and Lincoln figured prominently in the per|sistent delaying action. But in vain; the anti-White resolutions passed, 30 to 20.^4^6

Two weeks later, January 18, 1836, the special session ended, and lawmakers journeyed home in weather mild as spring. The Springfield stage carried an unhappy man. Wil|liam Carpenter, Democrat, was disgusted at the apostasy of Dawson, chairman of the important internal improvements committee. Stuart and Lincoln were delighted at Dawson's switch. During the session all three had supported the popular new movement to make Illinois great and wealthy through large-scale internal improvements. "Our Correspondent's" letters to the editor dealt in detail with dastardly Democratic efforts to thwart the will of the people as the new canal bill wended its tortuous way through House and Senate. The legislature had just authorized seventeen new railroads, all to be privately financed—perfectly safe legislation. Perhaps the next Sangamon County delegation, nine strong, might be able to use the internal improvements issue to carry out a grandiose scheme for Sangamon.