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COLLECTIONS OF THE ILLINOIS STATE HISTORICAL LIBRARY

VOLUME XV

BIOGRAPHICAL SERIES, VOLUME I

GOVERNOR EDWARD COLES

EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY

CLARENCE WALWORTH ALVORD
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

PUBLISHED BY THE TRUSTEes of the

ILLINOIS STATE HISTORICAL LIBRARY

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS

1920

COPYRIGHT, 1920

BY

THE ILLINOIS STATE HISTORICAL LIBRARY

281366

ILLINOIS PRINTING COMPANY

DANVILLE, ILLINOIS

PREFACE

Several forces have united in bringing this volume into being. Its inception was due to Mr. John A. Bingham of Vandalia, whose enthusiastic interest in the life of the most notable of the early governors of Illinois led him to Madison County, where in the circuit clerk's office were preserved the legal documents in a suit brought for political reasons against Coles by his opponents in the slavery struggle of 1823-1824. Mr. Bingham, feeling that the centennial year was a fitting occasion to pay merited honor to the man responsible for preserving Illinois as a free state, proposed as a memorial the publication of the documents and the reprinting of Washburne's Sketch of Edward Coles. For this project he secured the support of Governor Lowden, and it was suggested that the Centennial Commission undertake it. This proved to be impossible. Finally the Illinois State Historical Society consented to furnish the money provided the Illinois State Historical Library would permit the volume to be included in the Collections. Such is the history of this book.

When the editing of the volume was placed in my hands it seemed advisable that the search for new material upon Governor Coles should be extended. The results of this further search have been on the whole rather rich and are presented in the later pages of the volume. They will be described more fully in this preface.

The first and longest document here published is the well known Sketch of Edward Coles by Elihu B. Wash

burne, which was prepared for the Chicago Historical Society and published under its auspices. The trustees of the Illinois State Historical Library desire me to express their appreciation for the courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society in permitting this reprint.

The author of this sketch was born in Livermore, Maine, on September 16, 1816, and belonged to a family that won distinction by the services of five brothers to their respective states and the Union. Four served their country in Congress as representatives from different states; one was a senator; two became governors, and one served for seven years in the diplomatic service. These five Washburne brothers were in public service an aggregate of eighty-eight years.

Elihu Washburne's education was to a large extent in the school of experience. His first job was on a newspaper. After that he attended law school at Cambridge and in 1840 came west and settled in Galena, Illinois, where he soon gained recognition in politics. He served in Congress from 1852-1869, and during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln was regarded as his spokesman. He early became a friend and admirer of General Grant and did all in his power to further his interests. It was not surprising that in 1869 he was appointed Secretary of State, a position he almost immediately resigned to become minister to France. During the Franco-Prussian war he rendered service which gained the respect of both the French and the Germans, although on his first appearance he was not regarded as eminently fitted for a diplomatic At the close of his service in France in 1877, he settled in Chicago. There was talk of his candidacy

career.

for the presidency in 1880, and he actually was placed in nomination for the vice-presidency. He died on October 27, 1887.

Gustave Koerner, who knew Mr. Washburne very well, says in his Memoirs that he "had been a most efficient member of Congress for five or six years, and had rendered most valuable service in guarding the Treasury against rings, jobs and corrupt lobbies, by which vigilance he had acquired the soubriquet of the 'Watch-Dog of the Treasury.' He was thoroughly honest, and an exalted Union man."

There follows the Sketch of Edward Coles by Washburne, the group of documents from the Circuit Court of Madison County, furnished by Mr. Bingham. These are limited to the lawsuit brought against Governor Coles for his failure to give bonds at the time of the manumission of his slaves. The suit was a purely political one, instituted only after the lapse of several years and by a person who could not possibly have been affected by the case. It was based, furthermore, on a law which although passed, had not been promulgated at the time of Coles' alleged violation of it. The verdict of the Circuit Court was against Governor Coles, and a two thousand dollar fine was imposed. Upon appeal the case was heard before the Supreme Court of the state and the judgment of the lower court reversed.3

The next five documents concern the period during which Coles was register of the land office at Edwardsville. The longest of these is a report of land claims

1Memoirs of Gustave Koerner, 2: 408.

2 See post, 208.

3The judgment of the Supreme Court is printed post, 213-221.

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