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would even cease prodụcing altogether, when prices continued low. The necessary consequence of such a proceeding was, that by allowing their produce to waste away and rot, they would lose more money than they could have gained, even if they had sold it at the highest market price, and would incur still another loss by being obliged to borrow money at high rates of interest, in order to рау
many necessities of life, or to carry on their enterprises, since, having sold nothing, they were often entirely destitute of money. However evident the folly of their course might be to others, they could not be prevailed upon to abandon it, having, it appears, an unshaken confidence in the infallibility of their own judgment.
In regard to the state of politics, of the government, and the administration of justice, the following appears worthy of notice. The majority of the Illinoisians were new immigrants, who had come with the avowed purpose of bettering their own condition. Bearing this fact in our mind, we shall not be surprised to hear, that they evinced an utter indifference for all matters connected with government, confiding these entirely to the hands of cunning politicians, in whose rule they seemed to acquiesce, provided the latter would leave them undis. turbed, and in possession of the largest personal freedom. The original pioneers, though now but a small minority of the people, easily to be distinguished by their linsey shirts, leather breeches, moccasins, and the large butcher-knives in their belts, which knives were an indispensable part of their dress, were apt to take a more active interest in politics, as appears from the predominating influence they exercised upon the elections, at which, by a mere parade of superior physical force and reckless spirit, they would frequently decide the contest in favor of the candidate identified with their own party and interests. Politicians were very careful not to offend this class of men, known as the Butcher-Knife Boys; but, for the rest, taking advantage of the want of regard paid to politics by the people at large, secured to themselves nearly all the offices and emoluments of the government; created others, the salaries of which they diligently pocketed; passed laws for their own benefit, and whilst hypocritically pretending to watch over the welfare of the people, in whose name they governed, were always ready to deceive them in the most shameful and barefaced
Nor were honest politicians and office-holders safe from their intrigues, for they knew how to gain the confidence of such honorable folks, by the most cuuning devices and most artful manæuvres, using them for their own purposes without their being aware of it. Thus it was, that Samuel Crozier, a man of most irreproachable honor, and a member of the Senate, whom the politicians had used, with great success, as an instrument for the accomplishment of their own ends, without the slightest suspicion on his part, after having been in the Senate for two sessions, was heard to say, at the close of the second, that he really did believe, that some intrigue bad been going on.” Such politicians, as by their polished and winning manners bad gained the favors of credulous people, whom they afterwards imposed upon, in a slang phrase, were said to have “greased and swallowed their victims."
The elections in Illinois during that time were at first by ballot, but as nobody was willing to make known, whom he had voted for at the elections, since, to vote against a candidate was then considered as a personal insult, and as balloting, by opening a vast field for intrigue, fraud, and corruption, brought the system of voting thus into disgrace, the Legislature, at their session in the year 1828–9, made it unlawful to elect by ballot.
The judiciary system of those times appears to have been a very simple one. People then did not require judges to be possessed of profound learning and erudition, but would be satisfied with one reputed a man of sagacity and good common sense. The state of civili. zation then enjoyed by the country, and the small amount of business then transacted by the judges, not having yet rendered necessary the erection of large and splendid halls of justice, the judges would hold their courts in log-houses, or in the bar-rooms of inns, fitted up
with temporary seats for the judges, lawyers, and jurors. It is related, that on the opening of the first Circuit Court held by Judge John Reynolds, the sheriff went into the court-yard and said to the people : “Boys, come in; our John is going to hold Court.” Judges seem to have been considered as very amiable, harmless men. In fact, the judges, whenever they could do so, would leave the decision of a case to the juries, lest they might give offence to any of the parties concerned, or expose their incompetence. They would tell the jury: “If the jury believe from the evidence, that such a matter is proved, then the law is so and so." One of these judges used to say to the lawyers asking him for instructions: “Why, gentlemen, the jury understand the case; they want no instructions; no doubt they will do justice between the parties.” The same judge once had to pronounce sentence of death upon a man by the name of Green. He said to him: “Mr. Green, the jury in their verdict say you are guilty of murder, and the law says you are to be hung. Now, I want you
and all your
friends down on Indian Creek to know that it is not I, who condemns
you, but it is the jury and the law.” He then asked him, what time he would like to be hung. The prisoner replied, he was ready to die at any time the Court would appoint. The judge then told the prisoner, that the Court would give him four weeks' time to prepare himself for death. The Attorney General of the State, who prosecuted the case, interposed here, and required the Court to state to the prisoner, the particular reasons of the judgment pronounced upon him, and solemnly to exhort him to repent and prepare for death. To this the Judge replied : “O, Mr. Green understands the whole matter as well as if I had preached to him a month. He knows he's got to be hung this day four weeks. You understand that, Mr. Green, don't you ?” “Yes," said the prisoner, whereupon he was taken back to prison to await the day on which he was to be hung.
Except during the period of the universal bankruptcy, the lawsuits were mostly small cases, actions for trespass, slander, indictments for assault and battery, riots, and unlicensed rum-selling; the latter occurring most frequently. Jurors were disposed to forgive minor offences, and would even discharge a murderer, when it could be shown, that an altercation and an ungovernable fury had driven him to murder; but would always convict the murderer, who had assassinated his victim in cold blood, and in a cowardly, clandestine manner. The character of the Illinoisians was in many respects violent and impetuous, which will account for the willingness on the part of jurors to dismiss indictments for assault and batteries, or even murder. This spirit of the Illinoisians is best shown in the following instance. In the year 1827, there was a very excited election for State Treasurer, in which the former occupant of the office was defeated. After the election the Legislature adjourned, but before they had left the hall, the defeated candidate walked in and gave a valiant thrashing to four of the strongest of his opponents, who had voted against him. Before him the members dispersed and scattered like sheep before the intruding wolf. He not only escaped unpunished for this offence, but during the same session was appointed Clerk of the Circuit Court, and Recorder of a county; which will go far to show the respect in which physical force was at that day held by the Illinoisians.
Whilst displays of physical force, bribes, and intrigues of all kinds, were thought by aspiring politicians to be very serviceable instruments for securing their election, the power of liquor was not overlooked by them. A candidate would frequently hire the taverns and liquor stores for several weeks previous to the election, and furnish the people with liquor at his own expense. The people, of course, quite unwilling to miss so precious an opportunity of gratifying their taste for liquor, were sure to visit these taverns regularly every Saturday.
The candidates would at first harangue the people from stumps of trees, whence the name of stump speeches; and after the addresses of the candidates had been delivered, all present would freely partake of liquor, until, a majority of them having become drunk, they would march about, raising loud shouts for their candidates, and making preparations to fight them into office, if necessary. Having satisfied their desire for free fights and pugilistic encounters, they would, at a late hour in the night, mount their ponies and gallop home.
In the year 1830, the office of Governor becoming again vacant, William Kinney, who belonged to the "whole hogs," a party devoted body and soul to Gen. Jackson, and Judge Reynolds, were the candidates for it; the former, who electioneered for himself, with the Bible in one hand, and a bottle of whiskey in the other, notwithstanding he was thus armed with “the sword of the Lord and of the Spirit,” was defeated; and the latter, a man of fine talents, elected.
At the same time a new Legislature was elected, a majority of whom were Jackson men. Upon this Legislature devolved the odious duty, the fulfilling of which had been so long prorogued and delayed by their predecessors, of making some provision for the redemption of the old “State Bank” notes, then nearly due. Whilst some members were fearful to be branded with infamy for neglecting, and others afraid of losing a hardly-acquired popularity, by fulfilling their duty, a majority of the Legislature, in both houses, convinced of the necessity of saving the honor of the State, authorized the famous Wiggins load of $100,000, which being taken, the notes of the bank were redeemed, and their popularity ruined, at the same time. 'Twas altogether in vain for them to apologize for their conduct; the people, paying no regard to their representations, ducked every one of these unfortunate politicians in the tempest-ridden sea of popular indignation, and down they went, never to rise again.