Page images

at Peoria; it is purely local in its interest. The position of register naturally brought Coles into close connection with the organized agricultural interests in the state. A letter from him to Henry S. Dodge, secretary of the State Agricultural Society, describing his methods of breaking the prairie land is perhaps the best of this


Two of his governor's messages form the more important part of the group covering the years 18231826. It is interesting to note the insistence upon an abolition of the last remnant of slavery or involuntary servitude. Several projects for state development are advanced. The more noteworthy of these touch upon the opening of new waterways, the careful choice of seminary lands, and a digest of the state laws.

In a series of letters written to his agent in Illinois after his removal to Philadelphia, Coles shows himself as a man of business. These letters are purely personal in nature, but they are valuable for the insight they give into the financial interests which he succeeded in developing in spite of a life filled with official duties. All these letters may be found in the library of the Chicago Historical Society and were probably collected by Mr. Washburne during the preparation of his paper on Mr. Coles.

On the whole, historians will find the next eleven documents most valuable. The first ten of these are taken from the Chicago Free West, for the year 18541855, and represent a spirited controversy concerning the character and political career of Governor Coles. The writers, Hooper Warren, George Churchill (who contributed only one letter), and John M. Peck, were all participants in the convention struggle. They all

knew Edward Coles through close personal association, an association which made Warren strongly antagonistic and Peck a most loyal admirer. Although united in their opposition to the extension of slavery in the state, Warren's personal bitterness towards Coles prevented any real union of forces in the struggle, and obliged Coles to face a most complex situation. The controversy carried on through these ten letters arose as the result of a review of Governor Ford's History of Illinois, written by Hooper Warren and appearing in the Free West for December 21, 1854. Warren's criticism of the treatment of the convention struggle in Ford's volume drew a reply from Peck, and the two were promptly involved in an argumentative correspondence through the Free West. Both men had been actively connected with the political developments of 1823-1824, and in this controversy the interplay of forces is disclosed without reserve.

The last letter does not belong to this series. It was written by Edward Coles some twenty years after his removal to Philadelphia, in response to a request from the Chicago Historical Society for his memories of Morris Birkbeck. Through their long friendship and mutual interests, both in political affairs and in the development of improved agricultural methods, Coles was well qualified for the task, and the resulting memoir gives an excellent picture of the Englishman who played so important a part in the development of agriculture in early Illinois.

As the last document there has been included the History of the Ordinance of 1787 prepared by Mr. Coles in 1856 for the Pennsylvania Historical Society. It is as Mr. Coles himself says a mere sketch, but becau se

of his familiarity with the later history of the territory, and his keen interest in the slavery measures of the ordinance, it deserves some notice. There are included also several miscellaneous documents, some of which are of no great importance in themselves, but which do assist in the formation of a complete picture.

In order to preserve clearly the identity of the original Sketch of Edward Coles and prevent any confusion with regard to footnotes, those appearing in the original edition are indicated by asterisks, those added by the editor, by numerals.

In closing it is a pleasure to me to express my obligation to Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber of the Illinois State Historical Library for her aid in the collection of material for this volume, and to Miss Caroline McIlvaine of the Chicago Historical Society, who has performed a similar service in the search for material in the collections of that society. In the performance of the work of editing I have had the assistance of Miss Nellie C. Armstrong of my staff, to whose care and enthusiasm the result is in large part due.


April 14, 1920


Illinois and Illinois men filled an important, if not the leading role in the struggle over slavery and in the war which resulted in its overthrow. Governor Edward Coles opened the battle for freedom in Illinois. It is almost certain that if it had not been for his persistence and courage, slavery would have been written into the Illinois Constitution. The story of his struggle against the forces of slavery is one of the most inspiring in the annals of Illinois. If he had failed and Illinois had become a slave state, one wonders what the subsequent history of Illinois would have been. It is not likely that the great debate between Lincoln and Douglas would have occurred. It was this debate which made Lincoln president of the United States. Indeed, with Illinois a slave state, it is altogether possible that the Confederacy might have won. And thus the battle which Edward Coles, in the new and sparsely settled state, waged against the forces of slavery, becomes an event of historical importance of the first class It is therefore fitting that, as a part of our celebration of our hundredth anniversary as a state, we should gratefully call attention anew to the life and services of Edward Coles. FRANK O. LowDEN.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »