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the golden past a little more than to the dim future. Writing in a neat round hand, he nevertheless held a caustic pen.
He said: “The Assembly (the first convened under the Constitution of 1818) having organized the State Government, and put it in motion, adjourned to meet again in the winter of 1818–19. At this adjourned session a code of statute law was passed, mostly borrowed from the statutes of Kentucky and Virginia.
“Upon examining the laws of that day it will be seen that they are generally better drawn up than those which were passed at a later and more enlightened period. The members were mostly ignorant and unpretending men; there was then some reverence for men of real knowledge and real abilities; the world was not then filled with audacious and ignorant pretenders, and the sensible and unpretending members were content to look to men of real talents and learning to draw their bills.
But this code, as a whole, did not stand long. For many sessions afterwards, and in fact until the revision of 1827, all the standard laws were regularly changed and altered every two years to suit the tastes and whim of every new legislature. For a long time the rage for altering and amending 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 them so that no one could tell what was and what was not the word of God any more than could be told what was or what was not the law of the State. A session of the legislature was like a great fire in the boundless prairies of the State, it consumed everything; and again it was like the genial breath of spring, making all things new.”—[Ford's History of Ill., 31-32.
But we must allow this to those who helped to place the corner-stones: they did not work for themselves alone. They recognized the need of building wisely and carefully in the light of experience, and with the intention to bind posterity to nothing that would be unreasonable. They viewed law as a rule of civil conduct, and determined that certain boundaries or outlines for legislation and government should be defined by a constitution, restricting action to matters pertaining to the mutual interests of all the citizens. Nor did they overlook the fact that in laws there is some tendency to change, since this is a principle of life: “Without decay there can be no reproduction, and everything belonging to the earth * is submitted to certain immutable laws," of destruction or modification, “as certain and immutable as those which produce the planetary motions."
Those who have carefully observed the proceedings of this Association since its first organization have noticed that the papers contibuted to it have reviewed many important items in the history of legislation and judicial action, not only in foreign lands and ancient times, but also in this State, and in its preceding Territorial organizations. So much has thus been done in the way of exploration and analysis that for variety's sake we are almost driven for the present to a gleaning of home fields, and even there must treat of what is current or without much antiquity.
Gov. Ford, in his history before quoted, said, that to Elias Kent Kane, a native of New York, but who came here from the South, and was a member of the Convention of 1818, and seemingly but 23 years of age at the time, we were chiefly indebted for the peculiar features of our first State Constitution, adopted in that year. Of the other thirty-two members of the Convention, interesting particulars as to their participation in the work of the convention could doubtless have been given; but the names of many of them appear only incidentally, in later parts of the history, as conspicuous in public affairs at home or elsewhere.
Could we follow the biographical sketches of the various members of our first Constitutional Convention, and supplement the review with an account of the career and standing of the members of the other Constitutional Conventions held in this State, we should find much to interest and entertain.
If, again, we should go through the three State Constitutions which our people have at successive periods adopted since the time of our Territorial Government, we should find shackles broken by each of the last two conventions, but that at the same time other fetters, in words of command or restriction, have been applied ; to prevent evils from making entrance through legislative and other channels.
Forty years ago, various European governments were in the throes of revolution, or were threatened by insurrection. Then, also, the first Constitution of Illinois, mentioned just now, was superseded by the Constitution which was framed by the convention of 1847, and ratified by vote of the people on the 6th day of March, 1848. This second Constitution of our State was prepared by a very able and prudent body of men. In harmony with the times, it prescribed strict economy in the government. One of the best points for the public credit, as we have well realized, was the provision for a special two-mill
a tax, which was so long applied for the extinction of the State indebtedness. The provision for the election by the people of
the Judges of the Supreme and Circuit Courts, who had been previously appointed by joint ballot of both branches of the General Assembly, and had, consequently, been of the dominant party, which was Democratie, was in the direction of a larger trust in the people. New England spoke to us through some of her able sons in the convention, requiring the General Assembly to enact a law giving to the several counties in the State, previously governed by three County Commissioners, a right to adopt township organization; thus providing for local government in townships, as well as in counties.
Pausing for a moment with the year 1848, we may note that in April of that year in England, Chartism, which, under the general form of advocacy of the “ People's Charter," had a checkered run for some ten years, proposing, as it did as to home government in Great Britain, universal suffrage, along with some other ideas, as the great panacea, and at times, or in special localities, bordering on socialism and communism, and threatening in its aspects, had its culmination. The counsel and services of the Duke of Wellington were brought into requisition by the British Cabinet, in order to use, if necessary, military forces, as well as the police power, to check violence, which was likely to result from the proposed mammoth procession in London. An enrollment of a large number of special constables, including Louis Napoleon, subsequently the French Emperor, was one of the precautions taken, in connection with a proclamation forbidding the procession. The mammoth petition, found afterwards to have been rather ludicrously exaggerated as to the number of signers, was quietly taken to Parliament, and governmental functions were not disturbed. The agitators yielded to the sober second thought, inclining to greater calmness of discussion, and to peaceful, rather than violent, changes in matters pertaining to government.
Our own quiet and peaceful changes in the organic laws of this State, according to constitutional methods, indicate to us that as our governmental machinery, such as it is, is in the hands of delegates who are held accountable to their principals, there will, in the future as in the past, be mutual concern to keep the ship of state in good trim for the different gales to be encountered. Yet we will not assume to be entirely relieved from observing in the general reading of history, the best methods of government and administration in times of supposed or actual grievances seeming to require relief, or to threaten disturbance. But in the main we rely on the wisdom and patriotism of rulers and people alike, not forgetting, however, that public spirit in our profession as well as on the part of the people generally, is one of the especial safeguards which our present organization should not overlook.
A general comparison of progress, first in the country which especially as to our laws is the mother country, and next in our own State, might bring a good degree of interest. A review of the reign of Queen Victoria, extending back for a period of something more that ten years prior to the adoption of our second State Constitution, seems suggestive of a great change in the industrial character of the prosperity of England and Scotland during that reign, the change being, as I understand, from agricultural to superior and more distinctively industrial activities and achievements. If we enter into comparison with those older countries, still taking the year 1848 as the local starting point, we find much greater rapidity of growth in our population, with our policy of a welcome to all. We also find wonderful progress and advance in nearly all industries. From being mainly agricultural, our people have become great in manufacturing and industrial pursuits as well, attaching in the comparison, a broad and comprehensive meaning to the word “industrial.” Forty years ago we were but slightly above the zero point either as to railroads or as to telegraph lines. Now we stand at the front in these and other improvements.
The constitution of 1848 marked a slight turning point in reference to tendering the elective franchise to aliens. Under the first and second State constitutions the color line was drawn. Under the former of the two all white male inhabitants above the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State six months next preceding an election, could vote. The convention of 1847 was not very unequally divided between the Democratic and Whig parties, and thought it proper to limit this right to citizens of the l'nited States; not excluding from its exercise the aliens who were residents of the State on the 1st of April, 1848, but leaving it for later times to efface color lines.
A marked discrimination in policy as to aliens not choosing to be naturalized as citizens, was, however, as all know, made at the last session of the General Assemby, in respect to the right to acquire and hold real estate in this State.
Do such matters move in cycles? Is it true, "That the thing which hath been is that which shall be”?
Niebuhr speaks of a greater disposition in modern times to admit aliens to citizenship than formerly prevailed. He says, "that among the ancients admission to the rights of citizenship was everywhere difficult; the alien (excluded) needed not to be of a foreign tongue; he might belong to the same nation as the citizen, and even to the same tribe as the citizen. The lines are drawn in the most varied manner,'' instancing the oldest known constitution, that of the Jews, as making special distinctions.
Here we have relied on the Jeffersonian plan, the education of the people; and the schoolmaster finds good pupils in the various nationalities, all inclined to join in the school of industry and good government.
A career of great prosperity and marked advancement opened to us from about the spring of 1848, at which time the Illinois and Michigan Canal was opened for navigation, and the enterprise of our people in business activities has advanced at a good pace, even in times of adversity, but with great rapidity in times of prosperity.
From the standpoint of 1848, we might see a few of the lawyers and judges who were the earliest practitioners in the courts, or who presided therein from the organization of the State, but a larger number who came to the State from the South and East at a later date, and who had attained an excellent reputation locally, and oftentimes throughout the State. Some of these had enjoyed the specially advantageous training or education of public life, which, in the case of many, had a superior effect. With others there was the slower but not less rounded growth arising from diligence in study and business. The bar of some of the cities, such, for instance, as Springfield, Quincy and Peoria, had prominence in public estimation, but in this regard stood but little in advance of the bar at some other important cities or towns. If there was rivalry as to standing, it was friendly and honorable, and such as came from a desire to fill professional engagements with ability.
Looking in on the United States Circuit Court for the District of Illinois in the summer of 1849, for instance, we might see Judge Nathaniel Pope, the first United States District Judge for the District, presiding in his dignified manner, and having before him leading representatives of the bar of not very advanced years, but of prepossessing appearance and bearing, in attendance from different parts of the State.
As we have advanced in these forty years from a State to whose Supreme Court but three judges were chosen in 1848, and whose Circuit Courts were to be held by but nine judges, until now the number in the higher Court has been more than doubled, while the Appellate Court, as an intermediate Court,