Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards . Springfield: Illinois State Journal Company, 1870. [format: book], [genre: history; bibliography; letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwardsillinois.html
Gov. Edwards' Correspondence with the Secretary of the Treasury on the
Subject of the Three Per Cent. Fund His Private Character His Pursuits Management of his Personal Affairs His Usefulness as a Citizen and Neighbor Funeral Discourse of the Rev. J. M. Peck.
THEEE PER CENT. FUND.
On the 9th of March, 1829, Gov. Edwards addressed a letter to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, advising him of his having drawn bills on account of the three per cent. fund due to the State, and requiring payment at the treasury. The letter was referred to Samuel D. Ingham, the Secretary of the Treasury, who replied to the Governor that the act of Congress directs "that an annual account of the application of the money shall be transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury, and in default of such return being made, the Secretary of the Treasury is required to withhold the payment of any sums that may be due until a return shall be made as herein required. This provision of the act not having been complied with on the past of the State of Illinois, and the act seeming to leave no discretion, I have been constrained to decline the payment of one of the bills mentioned in your letter, which has this day been presented; but the holder has at the same time been informed that the bill is for part of a sum now due to the State of Illinois, and that immediately upon the receipt of the return required by law, payment would be made." On the receipt of this letter from Mr. Ingham, Gov. Edwards, on the 2d of July and subsequently the Governor and Commissioners of the School Fund wrote to the Secretary, inclosing an account of the disposition of the sums which had been paid to them for the encouragement of learning within the State of Illinois, under the act of the 12th of December, 1820. Mr. Asbury Dickens, the Acting Secretary, replied "that it would have afforded great satisfaction to the Department to have found in that account, and in the explanation presented, a justification for the payment of the drafts of the Commissioners, but the law must be the rule of action; and as the Department cannot consider the investment which the account shows to have been made of the moneys hitherto paid in purchasing the State
-- 233 --
debt, as an application of those moneys according to law, it deems itself prohibited by law from making any further payment until an account is presented showing the application of the sums already paid to the purposes for which the law declares they shall be applied. I have submitted the whole subject to the notice of the President, who has been pleased to approve the course which has been adopted."
Gov. Edwards, considering the doctrines and assumptions in the letter of the Acting Secretary, although sanctioned by the President and Secretary of the Treasury, as subversive of the just rights and derogatory to the dignity and honor of the State, contended that Congress had no more right to confer such a power on the Secretary than the State would have a right to authorize the Auditor to require of the Government of the United States an annual account of the application of the money stipulated to be disbursed under the direction of Congress in making roads leading to the State. The following reply to the letter of the Secretary is an able exposition of the rights of the State, and satisfactorily demonstrated that no such power could be delegated to the Department as to authorize the withholding of this money:
BELLEVILLE, ILLINOIS, June 4, 1829.
SIR I had the honor, a day or two ago, to receive your letter of the 13th ult., acknowledging and informing me that it would afford great satisfaction to the Department to have found in that account, and the explanation presented in my communications, a justification for the payment of the drafts of the Commissioners for the amount which has subsequently accrued; but that the law must be the rule of action, and as the Department cannot consider the investment which the account shows to have been made of the moneys hitherto paid, in the purchasing the State debt, as an application of those moneys according to law, it deems itself prohibited by law from making any further payment until an account is presented showing the application of the sums already paid to the purposes to which alone the law declares they shall be applied; that it is a cause of sincere regret to the Department; that with the strongest desire to regard as correct such a disposition of the funds in question as the authorities of the State of Illinois might have deemed proper, it has not found grounds to concur in the views which they have taken of the subject; and that, anxious on an occasion of so much delicacy and interest, that the State should not suffer by any error of judgment on your part, you had submitted the whole subject to the notice of the President, who has been pleased to approve of the course which has been adopted.
Not doubting in the least that it would have afforded you great satisfaction to have found in the account of the Commissioners a justification for a different decision, in a case of so much delicacy and interest to the State, and how great soever may have been your regret at finding yourself compelled, by your construction of the law referred to, to refuse the payment of the drafts in question, I can truly say it cannot have exceeded that which I sincerely feel at finding myself compelled, by a due regard to the high responsibilities which your decision devolves upon me, to endeavor to justify the part I have had in this business, and to protest in behalf of
-- 234 --
the State against the doctrines and assumptions of your letter, as equally subversive of its just rights and derogatory to its dignity and honor. In doing this, I must be understood as combatting your opinions only for as the duty enjoined upon the Secretary of the Treasury in this case is purely ministerial, his responsibilities are so exclusive that even the President himself has no right to control, no power to justify him; and so long has this principle been established by the highest judicial decisions, so universally acquiesced in, and so uniformly acted upon by the Treasury Department itself, that I can but regard it as an extraordinary inadvertence that you, who have so long and often witnessed and participated in its practical operation, should have introduced the President's opinion with an official communication on a subject so clearly without the sphere of his authority.
The injuries which the State has already sustained by the decisions of the Department, and losses, greater than the whole amount drawn for, which must inevitable result to it, from an adherence to the determination expressed in your letter, will T trust, fully justify the frankest examination, on my part, of the grounds you have assumed, and invite to a review by the Department of a decision too disastrous, in his present and ultimate consequences, to be insisted upon under every doubtful authority, or without the clearest, most perfect and irresistible conviction of its justice and propriety. In pursuance of a practical exposition which had been given to the compact between the United States and this State, and to the law you refer to, both by Mr. Crawford and by Mr. Rush, as Secretaries of the Treasury, and in conformity to the advice and every previous requisition of the Department, the drafts in question were drawn none of the Commissioners anticipating that the Government or any department thereof would disown its own acts, and, by a sudden change of its conduct, without any previous notice thereof to the State, subject it to the severest losses consequent upon the protest of those drafts. These losses, however, it has sustained, by the decision of Mr. Ingham. Those which must result from yours, are far greater. He determined that the drafts could not be paid till "the return required by law" should be made; but by informing the holders of them that, immediately upon the receipt of such return, (knowing at the same time that annual ones were then impossible) payment would be made, he gave assurance that a strict compliance with the law would not be insisted upon. You say, "the law must be the rule of action." He only decided that a return should be made. You claim the right to decide upon its consistency with the obligations of the State, and thereby to control its action and cause its submission to your own views of its duty. His decision amounted to no more than that payment should be postponed. Yours is equivalent to a determination that it shall never be made. For knowing, as you did, that the State had authorized and that the Commissioners had invested the moneys, hitherto paid, in purchases of the State debt determining this to be illegal, insisting that "the law must be the rule of action," and requiring returns which those purchases have rendered utterly impossible, can amount to nothing less than an absolute refusal to pay at all. Nothing was less anticipated than this result. Mr. Ingham's letter, with a perfect knowledge that no returns had been made for years past, and with the law of the State, authorizing those investments in the Department, containing an assurance that immediately upon the receipt of an account of the application of the moneys heretofore received, "payment would be made," and such amount having been transmitted, no danger was perceived in renewing the drafts; and they were renewed under a confident expectation that no further difficulty would occur. Your decision, however, has not only, a second time in the same year, subjected the State
-- 235 --
to an additional loss of ten per cent, upon the whole amount drawn for, but must, if persevered in, force it to incur the expenses of a call of the Legislature, far more considerable than the whole amount which you have thought fit to withhold. For as no doubt was entertained that the Legislature of the State might authorize this fund to be loaned upon interest, for the purpose of rendering it a productive source "for the encouragement of learning," or that it might authorize the Governor to borrow it from the Commissioners, for the use of the State, upon like terms, and for the same purpose, its appropriation in that way was so confidently relied on, as a provision for defraying the current expenses of the Government, that its operations must necessarily be suspended, without other resources which the Legislature alone is competent to supply.
Is then, the State to be subjected to such inconveniences, its interest to be thus sacrificed and its dignity prostrated at the feet of an acting Secretary of the Treasury -- however distinguished for his intelligence, integrity and patriotism merely because, "with the strongest desire to regard as correct such a disposition of the funds in question as the authorities of the State of Illinois might have deemed proper," he has not found grounds to concur in the views they have taken of the subject? Such results could hardly have been expected at any time; much less at a time and under circumstances so generally regarded as peculiarly auspicious to State rights. It must be admitted that there can be no more legitimate object of State authority and jurisdiction than the "encouragement of learning." What, then, could be more humiliating to the just pride of a free and independent State, than that its legislative action upon a subject, so unquestionably within the sphere of its sovereign powers, should be subjected to the supervision, control and negative of a subordinate officer of a different government? The degradation cannot but be most painfully felt in the present case. As none could have a deeper interest in or higher motives to the "encouragement of learning" than the State itself, the compact, with no more than reasonable confidence, has, without exacting security or providing any means of coercion whatever, submitted this business to the sound discretion and good faith of the Legislature of the State. The Legislature, with a disposition that has never been complained of but as too favorable to this object, has, in the exercise of its best judgment, endeavored to render this fund as available as possible to the purposes for which it was granted. The measures adopted with this view have been and still are approved by the people of the State, and their success is sufficiently evinced by the extraordinary augmentation of the fund itself. Yet, your decision, assuming that the Legislature was either too ignorant to perceive its duty or too faithless to perform it, requires that the State shall retrace its steps, and in default thereof denounces against it consequences only due to a faithless violation of the most solemn promises and engagements. And all this because it so happens that you cannot concur in the views that nave been taken of this subject by those whose peculiar province it was to decide upon it.
If such a decision is to be persevered in, it will not, I trust, be without a favorable reception and a deliberate consideration of the objections which painful but imperious duty calls upon me to make against it. I will not urge the force of precedents. I will not rely upon the practical exposition of Mr. Crawford and Mr. Rush, and the acquiescence of the Government for eight successive years; but I may be permitted to say, that, if you are right, they must have been guilty of flagrant violations of their duty, and it is left to the Department to decide how far this serious inculpation of
-- 236 --
such distinguished and enlightened public officers should furnish an additional motive to that deliberate reconsideration which I have the honor most respectfully to solicit. I am perfectly willing to consider the case as res integra, and to test your decision upon principle.
And here let me be distinctly understood as not intending to include any objections to the decisions of Mr. Ingham. On that branch of the subject, I have nothing to add to the views contained in my letter to him of the 2d of April, last. But I contend that the Government of the United States is incompetent to confer upon the Secretary of the Treasury the right, which you have assumed, of deciding upon the validity of the account of the application of the fund in question, which the State is required to return; that no such power was intended to be or has been delegated to him, by the law referred to, and that, if it had been, your decision is erroneous.
The propositions offered by the United States were accepted and agreed to by the State on certain conditions. Now, sir, I need not, I am sure, quote authorities to show a gentleman of your intelligence that all treaties, conventions and agreements, however denominated, made between sovereigns, are public engagements, which, in regard to their validity, their execution, the dissolving of them, the rights they confer, the obligations they impose, are all subject to precisely the same rules. This compact, therefore, cannot be considered in an inferior light to that of a treaty, and a treaty, too, between equals: because, however different in splendor, pomp and power, equal in point of independence which is all that is essential to sovereign equality. This equality, then, at once explodes your doctrine that the "law must be the rule of action," as applied to the rights and obligations of the State; for as law is nothing less than a rule of action prescribed by a superior to an inferior, whence can either party derive authority to give law to the other. The power of the United States to disengage themselves from their promises and nullify a compact, is not intended to be questioned; but the right, on their part, to interpolate into it conditions for which it has not provided, and to prescribe the duties of the State by law, cannot be conceded without dishonor. Sovereigns acknowledge no competent authority to decide between them, and have nothing to rely upon for the fulfillment of their mutual engagements but the faith of promises. Neither party has a right to construe the compact at its own pleasure, and any difference between them, growing out of it, necessarily becomes the subject of negotiation or must eventuate in its nullification. How, then, could Congress delegate to you the power to supervise, control and negative the legislative action of the State upon this subject? How authorize you to require the State to retrace its steps, and enforce its conformity to your own views of its duty, by a violation of the promises of the United States and the exaction of conditions which it had never bound itself to perform, and yet recognize the existence of the compact? The refusal of one party to fulfill its stipulation places them in a new attitude towards each other, from the very nature of things puts an end to the compact, and is only to be justified on the ground of a faithless violation of the promises of the other. The obligations of the compact are perfectly reciprocal; the rights of the parties under it equal. If, then, the United States can authorize their Secretary of the Treasury to require of the State an annual account of the application of the money, stipulated to be appropriated by the Legislature thereof, for the "encouragement of learning," and to withhold payment if he should think the money misapplied, permit me earnestly to ask of you (or of Mr. Ingham, if this letter shall be referred to him,) why may not the State authorize its Auditor of Accounts, or any other officer, to require of the United States an annual account of the application of the money stipulated to be disbursed,
-- 237 --
under the direction of Congress, in making roads leading to the State, and to suspend the execution of all the promises of the State if he should think this money misapplied?
To me, it appears that the rights of the State, and the propriety of such a requisition on its part, are far the most obvious and reasonable, because both these stipulations appear to have been offered as inducements to the State, were obviously intended for its benefit, and were granted only upon the condition of an ample equivalent which it has faithfully rendered. Should this right be conceded to the State, there is every reason to believe the compact would be of short duration, since it is not probable that there is a single individual within its limits who really believes that the disbursements of this fund which have been made under the direction of Congress have been in conformity to the compact. At all events, they are not less questionable than those appropriations under the authority of the Legislature of the State, which you have denounced. It cannot be pretended that the State has not strictly complied with every condition on which the engagements of the United States were made to depend. Is it, then, reasonable to expect that the State should continue to perform those conditions, whilst the stipulated equivalents for them are thus arbitrarily withheld? I think not. Every article of a treaty or compact has the force of a condition, which, by a default of the party promising, is nullified for neither party is bound by its promises but upon the honest and faithful fulfillment of the engagements of the other. The State may, therefore, rightfully and legally absolve itself from its obligations whenever the promises in its favor are violated, or the benefits intended to be secured to it are withheld; and as the bargain was a very disadvantageous one on its part, it is scarcely to be doubted that it will avail itself of this right, if this extraordinary refusal of payment shall be persisted in.
It cannot, therefore, be presumed that Congress could ever have intended to delegate to the Secretary of the Treasury power whoso exercise involves such awful consequences; and the nature and importance of the case forbids any derivation of the power you have assumed from implication. Let us, then, see whether the power you claim has been conferred upon you. The law declares that the Secretary of the Treasury shall pay the money in question for the purposes mentioned in the compact; that an account of its application by the State shall be transmitted to him; and that in default of such returns being made to him, he shall withhold the payment of any sums that may then be due, or which may thereafter become due, until the return shall be made. All, then, that the Secretary is authorized to demand of the State is that it shall exhibit to him an account of its application of the money. This being done, whether he may think the application right or wrong, wise or unwise, he is bound to pay, since he has no right to withhold payment but in default of such return being made to him. The State is not required to account to him for its conduct, to satisfy him that the money has been properly applied; to submit to his control or dictation in a case confided to its own judgment by the compact itself, and undeniably included within its legitimate power. Nor has the law given him the power to decide upon the validity of the application of the money, to arraign the State for its ignorance, or to denounce it for its treachery, and subject it to punishment or force it to abandon measures which it knows to have been adopted in good faith and believes to be in conformity with the compact, and better calculated than any other to advance the very interest for which it was intended to provide. Had such an awful power been intended to be granted to the Secretary, its great importance and the obvious consequences to which it might lead,
-- 238 --
forbid the belief that it should have been left to any kind of implication or that it would not have been distinctly expressed and guarded by every prudent precaution. It is far more reasonable to suppose that Congress intended to provide the means of ascertaining how the money should be disposed of, and to reserve to themselves, and not transfer from them to the head of a Department of the Government, the right of deciding upon such measures as should thereupon appear to be expedient proper.
But if this extraordinary power has been granted to the Secretary, it is, with all due deference, confidently believed that you have decided erroneously.
Previously, however, to entering upon this branch of the subject, that I may not be personally involved in the censure implied by your decision, I may be permitted, in justice to myself, to remark that, as I never participated in the investment of the money in question in the purchase of the State debt, I am not entitled to any share of the merit or demerit of that measure. It is due, however, to candor to say that I have never seen, nor can I now see, any objection to the whole policy that has been pursued by the State in regard to this fund, than an over-anxiety to augment it for the purposes for which it was granted, and premature efforts to aid the interests of learning at the expense of other interests having equal claims.
In a new State, with a very sparse and greatly dispersed population, it may well be imagined that there may have been a time when a regular system for the encouragement of learning had not been adopted, and that with the utmost anxiety to effect so desirable an object, it may have been unavoidably retarded by circumstances which could not be controlled. This was, in fact, the situation of this State at the time the money in question was received. There were no existing institutions of learning to which it could properly be applied. Should it, then, on this account, have been withheld by the Secretary? If not, was it absolutely necessary that it should lie idle and unemployed, when it could be made to yield an increase that would greatly facilitate and accelerate the object for which it was intended? Or how should it have been used so as to have enabled the State to render an account of its application that would have satisfied your construction of the law? If I understand rightly the remarks in your letter, with the reference you make to mine of the 2d April, it is just as necessary to exhibit an account to satisfy you that the money had actually been literally applied to "the encouragement of learning," as that it had not been misapplied to any other object. And, indeed, if you have the right to decide upon the consistency of the return with the obligations of the State, there seems no reasonable distinction between those eases, since the cause of learning could not be less injured by withholding this fund from its aid than by otherwise applying it.
What then is the consequence of thig construction? Being unable, and likely to continue so a long time, with its own funds exclusively to establish those institutions of learning which should be the objects of the stipulated appropriation, the State in the meantime, though held to a strict and continued performance of the equivalent conditions on its part, is to be altogether deprived of the use of this money. And this notwithstanding the law itself has declared that it shall be paid to it quarterly. Is it to be supposed that such a state of things could be acquiesced in by a free, highminded and independent people?
I had the honor to state to Mr. Ingham, in my letter of 2d April, to which you refer, as follows: "The several sums heretofore received, however, on this account, being as yet inadequate to the objects for which they were granted, have not been appropriated otherwise than in the purchase of the notes of the State Bank of Illinois
-- 239 --
and warrants upon its treasury at a great discount, which has considerably augmented this fund, all of which is deposited in the treasury of the State, to be apppropriated in due time exclusively to the objects for which it was granted." Instead of a justification for making further payments, you find enough in this state ment, and in the account of the Commissioners, to prohibit them. Why? Because cannot regard as correct such a disposition as has been made of the fund in question, which as well includes the deposit of the whole amount of it, augmented as it has been, "in the treasury of the State, to be appropriated in due time exclusively to the objects for which it was granted," as the means by which its augmentation was effected. Speaking of the latter, as you do, in such close connection with the obligations of the State to appropriate the money to "the encouragement of learning," you seem to contend that it should, at all events and under all possible circumstances, be confined to a specific appropriation, that should directly and immediately and exclusively operate upon learning only; and hence it would appear that no deposit in the treasury of the State of any sum, under any circumstances, till the sums received should be adequate to the intended objects, would meet your approbation, since the deposit of the actual sum received could scarcely be more satisfactory than that of a much larger amount for the same purposes; and especially as the acknowledgment, by the State, of the receipt of the former from the Commissioners could afford no greater security than its acknowledgment of the receipt of the latter, with the most solemn pledges of its faith to appropriate it exclusively "to the encouragement of learning," and to no other object.
By the Legislature of the State, it has been supposed that this fund was intended to aid it in the establishment of institutions of learning, as well as to support them after their establishment. that it was under no imperative obligation, whether prepared or not, expedient or otherwise, to exhaust every cent received by immediate, direct and exclusive appropriations to "the encouragement of learning;" that it was under no absolute necessity to "rip open the goose to get the golden egg;" but that it might invest the money in any safe and productive funds, or loan it upon interest, and apply the proceeds to those objects. You would have the whole amount received annually exhausted, at all events. You would not permit it to be invested even in the stock of the Bank of the United States, since you object to its more profitable investment in the debt of the State, unless upon the degrading assumption that the former is worthy of all credit and the latter of none. It would seem that it could not be more safely loaned than to the State, whose honor and interest equally conspire to insure its fidelity to such an engagement; but you would not permit it to be loaned at all, since you refuse to allow the State to use it upon far more profitable terms, unless your objection arises from a particular want of confidence in the ability or good faith of the State. What, then, would you have the Commissioners of this fund to do? Would you wish them to release the State from its solemn and explicit obligation to pay the whole amount for which it has receipted in the lawful currency of the United States, and to diminish the fund go greatly increased, by accepting, in discharge of its obligation, the amount only which has been received from the United States? And can you believe that this would advance the interest which you are so careful to protect? How would you have that part of the fund which is required to be appropriated to a college or university disposed of? I confess, I cannot ever conjecture what, with your construction of the law, would satisfy you; and I would take it as a favor to be enlightened on the subject by the department.
-- 240 --
By the compact, it is declared that one-sixth part of the money contracted to be paid by the United States "shall be exclusively bestowed on a college or university." Now, suppose the amount received within the past year, after the passage of the law, to be one thousand dollars, one hundred and sixty-six dollars and sixty-six and two-thirds cents of this amount would be applicable to a college or university; but no such institutions were then in being, nor was the existence of either, at that early period, contemplated by either of the contracting parties. The money, therefore, could not be directly bestowed on a college or university. It would be insufficient for the erection of a suitable building for either; the annual application of such a sum to such a building could scarcely be expected to eventuate otherwise than in its entire loss; and you will not permit it to be idle or suffer it to be employed in any other manner than the strict letter of the compact; for the State is under precisely the same obligations to apply and account for the application of this part of the fund as the balance of it. What, then, should be done with it? The State will be greatly interested in being informed on the subject, should it find itself compelled to abandon its own, and adopt your views of its rights and obligations.
The Legislature of the State, composed, as it has been, of men who claim no exemption from the fallibility and imperfections common to all mankind, may, doubtless, have erred, but the most rigid scrutiny is defied to detect a single ground to justify the imputation, or even the faintest suspicion that it has in any manner whatever acted upon the subject without the most scrupulous regard to good faith. Influenced by its own construction of its rights and duties, and animated by an ardent, if not a rather too exclusive disposition to advance the interests of education, it seized with avidity the opportunity to make the investments to which you object, as the best possible expedient for rendering this fund the most available for those purposes. It authorized all the notes of the State Bank purchased by the Commissioners, to be canceled, and required the Auditor of Public Accounts to give them a certificate for their whole amount, payable in the legal currency of the United States which certificate was delivered to and kept by the Commissioners "as an evidence of their claim upon the treasury of the State." It has sufficiently evinced its determination to appropriate this fund exclusively to the encouragement of learning, and to prevent its diminution in any other way, by having caused a sum of which it had been robbed, while it was in deposit for sale keeping in the Bank of the State, to be reimbursed to it; by providing by law that "no part of the said three per cent. fund shall ever be applied to any other purpose than the encouragement of learning in this State, and the expenses attending the receipt of any portion thereof shall be paid out of any moneys in the treasury not otherwise appropriated;" by establishing a system of free schools, and providing by law "that for the encouragement and support of schools respectively established in this State, according to this act, there shall be appropriated, for those purposes, two dollars out of every hundred hereafter to be received in the treasury of this State; also, five-sixths of the interest arising from the school fund (meaning the one in question), which shall be divided, annually, between the different counties of this State, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in every county under the age," etc.
But I will press the subject no further. The whole case resolves itself into this simple question: Whether the State is to be compelled to abandon its own opinions, in which there is, probably, not a single dessentient within its limits, and to adopt yours? If this must be so, it cannot be less than a mortal blow to State rights; and whatever the consequences, I, for one, can never yield my assent to it.
-- 241 --
I have only to add that, whatever may have been the freedom of the remarks which I have felt myself called upon to make, I beg leave candidly to assure you that they have proceeded, not from any unfriendly disposition, but from a sincere and anxious desire to avoid a collision but too well calculated to interrupt the peace and harmony of the Union itself.
I need not urge that the peculiar circumstances of the case render it extremely important to the State that I shall receive as early an answer to this communication as may suit the convenience of the Department.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir,
Your most obedient servant,
To asbury dickens, Esq., Acting Secretary of the Treasury.
Having given a history of Gov. Edwards' character as a public man, and of his public services, I propose to say something of his private life of his pursuits in the management of his personal affairs and his usefulness as a neighbor and citizen.
At a very early age, as has been previously stated, he was sent by his father to Kentucky to take charge of his landed estate. Although only nineteen years of age, he took charge of the farm hands, opened and improved a farm upon which his father afterwards removed, with his numerous family, from the State of Maryland, built distilleries and tan-yards, and gave all the necessary instruction in relation to their construction. It was at this time that he indulged in habits of dissipation, from which, by a determined resolution, he was snatched like a fire-brand from the fire. He broke loose from his associates, removed to Logan county, Kentucky, where he devoted himself to the study and practice of his profession. Very soon after his appointment to the office of judge, he resided on a farm, and successfully carried it on until his appointment to the office of Governor of the Territory.
After the reformation of his habits, he was intrusted by his father with funds to locate lands in Kentucky, and his success was such that he laid the foundation for the fine estate which was afterwards realized by his brothers and sisters. Though his father was anxious to divide his property by giving him an equal share with his brothers and sisters, he insisted upon receiving nothing under the will. It appears, from a letter to Mr. Wirt, that he declined receiving anything from his father, as early as 1808. Mr. Wirt, in a letter of that year, thus alludes to it: "Your delicacy in relation to your father's will does you honor; but you are amply requited for it for a testamentary compliment from such a man and such a father is the richest of legacies."
Although, in the year 1799, he was left without a dollar he could call his own, by his practice for the short space of only four years, and his prudent investment of the money realized from his profession, he amassed what was considered in that day a large fortune, consisting of lands, notes,
-- 242 --
farms and stock, previous to his leaving Kentucky for Illinois, in the year 1809. Many of his friends expressed surprise that he should leave Kentucky for the office of Governor of the Territory of Illinois. Speaking of his success in Kentucky, Mr. Wirt, in a letter written about that time, says, "I had supposed the Presidency of the Court of Appeals, connected with the society of your relatives and friends, and its dignity, upheld by your own splendid fortune, was an office much more desirable than that for which you have exchanged; and although it gave me great pleasure to state to Mr. Madison, at large, my impression of you, yet, I must confess, in secret, I half wished the application might fail, principally on your father's account, whose old age, I believed, reposed in a great degree on you. But of all these considerations, you, who was on the ground, are certainly best judge, and I will not doubt that you have decided correctly."
For a considerable portion of his time, after his removal to Illinois, he resided on his farm near Kaskaskia, to which he brought with him, from Kentucky, an improved stock of horses, cattle and sheep, from which the agricultural interests of the Territory were much benefited. He also had a choice collection of fruit trees, grape vines and shrubbery. He established saw and grist mills, and engaged extensively in the mercantile business having no less than eight or ten stores in as many places in Missouri and Illinois; and, notwithstanding the arduous duties of his office, he almost always purchased his goods himself. He established stores in Kaskaskia, Belleville, Carlisle, Alton and Springfield, in this State; and in St. Louis, Franklin and Chariton, in Missouri.
He was equally useful to his fellow-citizens and neighbors as a physician; for, although he did not practice medicine as a profession, yet he was devoted to the study of it, and the writer knows of hundreds of instances of his visiting and prescribing for the sick without any charge; and it was not unusual for persons to come several hundred miles to consult him with regard to cases that were considered of a dangerous character by other physicians.
As in his public life righteousness and faithfulness were the rules of Ms conduct, so in his private affairs was he influenced by a love of justice, benevolence and truth. He was sued but once in his life, and in that he was successful. He was kind and compassionate to the unfortunate, never turned away the needy from his door, and was the friend of the widow, the fatherless and the poor. I know of widows and ministers of the gospel who were indebted to his liberality for their homes. A more affectionate and devoted husband, father, brother, or a kinder neighbor, never lived. His children so respected and loved him, that it was unusual for either of
-- 243 --
them ever to incur his displeasure by doing any act which they believed would not meet his approbation.
He resided at and in the vicinity of Kaskaskia from 1809 to 1818; in Edwardsville from the time of his removal from Kaskaskia until 1824; from which time, his place of residence was Belleville, St. Clair county, where he died on the 20th July, 1833.
In closing this memoir of Gov. Edwards, I may be permitted to say, what indeed can be said of few men who have been engaged so long in the public service, that his political opponents were never able to point to a single measure which he had supported which did not meet with almost the unanimous approbation of his fellow-citizens; nor to any measure, calculated to advance the interests of his constituents, which he did not propose or favor. At the time of his death, he had scarcely an enemy in the State. Gov. Bond, John McLean, (Senator in Congress from this State,) and nearly all his former political opponents, were his warmest personal friends. In the year 1828, he received a letter from the Hon. John McLean, of Illinois, in which he says, "But that you have always been true to your friends and faithful to your engagements, I am and have for a long time been fully satisfied; and it has always been to me a source of regret that we were, either with or without cause, in a state of collision. But that is over, and, on my part, I assure you that I only recollect it to regret that it ever existed."
The following sketch of Gov. Edwards' life, extracted from a discourse delivered by the Rev. Dr. J. M. Peck, on the 22d of December, 1833, is
inserted here as embodying, not only some of the leading traits of his character, but facts of his history:
"Her strong rods were broken and withered." EZEKIAL xix: 12.
Figures of speech were common in ancient times; the scriptures abound with them. Hence, to a right understanding of such expressions of scripture as my text, it is necessary to notice the application of the phraseology, and its connection with the subject over which the prophet was lamenting. He was here bewailing the ruin of the royal family of Judah, and the great calamities that had fallen upon the nation of Israel.
In the connection, the Jewish commonwealth is represented by the figure of a lioness her whelps ensnared and taken. (Verses 3-9.) Allusion appears to be had to Jehoahaz, whom the people had made king after Josiah was slain, and whom Pharaoh Necho carried, in chains, into Egypt. The people, seeing no hopes in his return, submitted to Jehoiakim, whom Pharaoh had made king. Like a young lion he used his power with great cruelty, till he fell under the provoked hostilities of the king of Babylon.
The next figure, to represent the condition of the Jewish nation and their rulers, is that of a vine, planted in a fruitful soil. (Verses 10-14.) Their magistrates and
-- 244 --
chief men are compared to "strong rods."--(2-11.) The judgments of heaven had passed over the land. "The east wind had dried up her fruit." What the prophet alludes to here is not so readily determined. Was it the pestilence from the east that swept off the people and withered the strong rods? Or, was it the allusion to the invasion of Judea, by the king of Babylon?
"Strong rods" metaphorically denote leading men rulers of the nation. This is manifest from the eleventh verse: "And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bore rule." Such a metaphor would describe those who had superior talents, and in other respects were well qualified to rule.
It is deserving of remark that such a rod should grow out of a weak vine; but God raised up from the Jews, even when the nation was in a low condition, many distinguished and mighty men. For there were periods, in the history of this nation, when the people had excellent and wise magistrates for their governors.
It is affirmed in the text that these strong rods were broken and withered. Death had removed them. Imbecility and corruption, or tyranny and cruelty, then characterized her rulers.
The loss of such public men, as were fitly described by the figure "strong rods," was deplored by the prophet as a public calamity. Hence, I regard the text as expressing this sentiment: that the death of an able statesman is a public calamity.
First I shall contemplate the use and application of the metaphor.
A parent is a strong rod to his family. The companion of his bosom leans on him for support and happiness, and his children look up to him for counsel and example.
A minister of the gospel is a strong rod to the church over which he has been placed as overseer.
A man eminently qualified for public business and usefulness in a political community, is a strong rod to a nation or a state.
We will proceed to notice some of these properties in public men, which entitle them to the application of the figure "strong rods."
1. Great natural talents. These are to be found in strong reasoning powers and a vigorous understanding; a peculiar aptitude and genius for public business; a keen penetration into the tendencies of measures towards the welfare or injury of the community, and the speediest means to advance the one and counteract the other with clear perceptions of right and justice, and the false colors in which unjust measures are often disguised. Though these abilities are susceptible of great improvement, by education, self-discipline and experience, yet their foundation seems to be laid in a naturally vigorous intellect.
2. In an educated or well cultivated mind. When great natural talents are well cultivated by close, systematic study, observation and experience, and by these means the mind has become enriched with a large fund of useful knowledge, the foundation is laid for a great man.
Public men should possess considerable knowledge of the history of men, nations and governments knowledge of the whole circle of human affairs, (particularly of the condition, resources, policy and designs of neighboring nations) that they may know how to direct the affairs of their own with advantage; and more particularly of the constitution, principles, history, laws, and peculiarities of their own Government.
The peculiar organization of our National Government, with the coordinate subordinate relations of each State the different circumstances in which each are placed in relation to others, and to the Confederate Republic make it indispensable for a well qualified statesman to bring to this subject a mind habituated to severe and patient investigation, and well stored with previous reading.
-- 245 --
Considerable knowledge of the nature, sources and obligations of law, and especially of the fundamental laws of our country, is a most important acquisition; so is the knowledge of human nature, in general of our own hearts of the human passions, and especially the power of influencing others to the adoption of important measures. A statesman must not only be capable of forming wise plans, but he must be able to carry them into effect by bringing the people to cooperate with him. He must also possess competent knowledge of the condition and resources of the country he serves, and skill to direct those resources to the best advantage.
It will now be perceived that, without an educated and well cultivated mind, a man can never become an eminent statesman, however great may be his native powers. Like that potent agent that propels our commerce and drives our machinery, a vigorous mind, without cultivation and discipline, may do great injury.
I am not here depreciating the properties of those minds who have not been classically or scientifically educated, or whose names have not been recorded on a college diploma. Shall I be told that eminent men, profound statesmen and able commanders have done honor to our own country and that of other nations, and yet have never entered the walls of a literary or scientific institution? Will the names of Washington, Franklin, Sherman, Rittenhouse, Patrick Henry, and a hundred more in the last or present generations, be arrayed before me to confute the position that an educated and well cultivated mind is necessary to eminence in public life? Let it be remarked that I have not made a collegiate education and the attendance of able instructors, in all cases, indispensable to these attainments. But it is denied that Washington, Franklin, and other sages and patriots of like character, were uneducated men, and that they attained to eminence and usefulness by mere natural genius, with uncultivated minds. They possessed, most unquestionably, great intellectual powers, but these were highly cultivated. They had not the advantages that many others possessed, in the means of acquiring their education. By pressure of circumstances they were forced, in a considerable degree, to educate themselves. Did such men ever arise by the mere flight of unaided genius? No; it was only by patient and long continued study aided by much practical observation that their mental powers became developed and exhibited such vigor.
We admonish young men to beware of the delusion that they can ever become "strong rods" in a political community, or eminent in any pursuit, without close study. Your partial friends may flatter your vanity by indiscreetly praising your genius and natural talents; but never expect to arise above the common level, without study and
observation. "Give attendance to reading" is no less applicable to the young patriot than to the young preacher.
3. Self government is an important requisite in the character we are contemplating. This implies the subjugation of our appetites and propensities equanimity of temper and such power over the passions as will enable the judgment and reason to retain the ascendency on every emergency. He who cannot rule himself, will rarely succeed in governing others and retaining their confidence.
4. A noble, high-minded and generous disposition. Nothing servile, base and cringing. Men of small talents, uncultivated minds and bad tempers are apt to be jealous, envious, malignant and revengeful, and are often guilty of low and mean conduct, especially towards their rivals.
In the collisions of party and the heat of political excitement, men of character and talents often say and do that which, in their sober and reflecting moments, they deeply regret; but the real statesman never will suffer such feelings to become habitual. A noble mind, conscious of its own tendency to undue excitement, makes allowances
-- 246 --
for the same infirmity in others. Such a character will possess self-respect; and the tendency of a due regard to one's own character will manifest itself in a proper respect to that of others. A man of real greatness of mind abhors those things that are mean and sordid. Artifice and clandestine management, to promote his own selfish designs, cannot be the governing principles of his soul. A just regard to future character is the duty of every one. This is far removed from the vices of pride, vainglory or ambition. It arises from self-respect. A man is as much bound to respect and preserve his own character, as he is to preserve the members of his body or his life; and he is equally bound to transmit the odor of a good name to posterity as to provide for the future happiness of his children. This duty devolves preëminently upon public men; and not only are their personal friends and families immediately concerned, but their services and their characters are alike the property of the nation.
5. Firmness and decision of character are also important qualities. In all governments there are broad, fundamental principles, which must be regarded and maintained, whatever may be the risk. On these principles the coarse of a statesman should never vacillate. The right of the people to instruct their representatives is unquestionable for they in the aggregate, and not a privileged few, possess the governing power; but there may be occasional emergencies when a public man has to take the responsibility, and risk his popularity, for the benefit of his country. Such instances occurred in the gloomy period of the Revolutionary war. In some districts of the country a majority of the people fainted in the day of adversity, and would have submitted to British domination; but there were men of uncommon nerve who threw themselves into the breach and saved the country.
It is admitted that this call is not upon the topics of ordinary and common legislation, much less for the promotion of party designs. It is only when constitutional principles are at stake, the national compact to be preserved, or great and paramount interests are in jeopardy, that the firmness and integrity of the patriot should be brought in collision with the will of his constituents. Yet he should never be obstinate or self-willed, but proceed with due deliberation and make up his mind to fall a sacrifice to popular resentment, rather than betray his country or violate his conscience. There is a moral sublimity in the conduct of a public man who will risk this much for the public good.
He should also be firm and immovable in the administration of law and justice. Hence, unbending integrity and an inflexible regard to righteousness should mark his course under all circumstances. He should not be "a terror to good works, but to the evil." (Rom. xiii, 8 )
6. Patriotism is the last quality I will notice as belonging to a statesman. A patriot is one who is actuated by love of his country, and who will sacrifice his own interests rather than the interests of the people. Private interests are merged in public good.
True patriotism does not annul or counteract the duty of universal benevolence, for it does not call us to regard our country's interest exclusively, at the expense of the general happiness of mankind. It does not abrogate the Divine injunction to love all mankind to love our enemies. The laws of universal justice and equity require no one to promote the interests of the country, state, town or neighborhood where he resides, at the expense of justice, humanity and the happiness of mankind. A nation is exalted only by righteousness, and not by rapine, injustice and artifice. "Equal justice to all" has been recognized as the sentiment of this nation.
-- 247 --
True patriotism in a citizen displays itself in zealously supporting the honor, interests and prosperity of our country and government on principles of equal justice. It never agrees in plots or conspiracies to overturn or pervert constitutional principles though individuals, equally patriotic, may honestly differ in opinion about the extent and application of those principles. It never seeks to bring the government or its constituted authorities into contempt; and though it may approve of one set of measures and disapprove of another it may seek to elevate this man as more fitted to rule than that yet it never takes pleasure in exposing the errors of or in defaming their characters. A dutiful son may see faults in his father, and affectionately remonstrate, but until all affection is extinguished, and self-respect is lost, he will not take pleasure in exposing him.
So with the real patriot. He delights not in exposing his country's faults.
But the man in office, above all others, is expected to be a true patriot. He must exhibit that unquenchable love of country that will prompt him to a cheerful sacrifice of his own interest when placed in competition with the public good. This will appear the more necessary when it is noticed that men of wealth as well as influence are frequently selected for the higher and more important offices. If such persons are not influenced by the spirit of the real patriot, the temptation to sacrifice the people's interest to their own will too easily prevail.
It is unnecessary here to particularize instances where the most elevated patriotism existed. Their names are found scattered over the records of antiquity. One of the most brilliant examples is that of Moses. For in renouncing the pleasures of Egypt, and his title, as the adopted son of the king's daughter, to the throne, and in preferring the interests of the Hebrew nation in their vassalage, his patriotism was not less conspicuous than his piety was elevated. The page of our revolutionary history furnishes evidence of entire devotion to the welfare of the nation. He, then, only deserves the name of a patriot who enters into public office with the fixed principle of promoting the good of his country and his fellow-men, and who continues to be governed by that principle. And, however important are natural talents, a well cultivated mind, self-control, magnanimity and high-souled feelings, and decision of character, if patriotism is wanting, he may be a great man, but we dare not pronounce him a great statesman.
Secondly The death of such a man is a public calamity.
1. Because such men are great benefits to society and government. The prosperity of a nation depends much more on the character of its public men than is commonly imagined. They not only give direction to public sentiment, but, from the constitution of our natures, and the unavoidable habit of suffering ourselves to be influenced by those in whom we repose confidence, they often originate that sentiment.
All the great, and many of the minor interests of society, are under their care and subject to their influence; and their opportunities to promote the public interest are great in every respect.
The direction they give to public affairs has a tendency to promote the wealth and prosperity of the nation, or to impoverish and cover it with the thick cloud of adversity.
The interest and happiness of the whole community, not excepting the humblest and most obscure, are materially affected by the character and conduct of those who are chosen to rule over the people. And as it is the intention and tendency of all good and upright governments to be a terror to all evil-doers and a protection to
-- 248 --
those who do well, public and private morals and virtue are promoted or retarded by the character of public men.
And while, in accordance with the principles of our national and state constitutions, we protest against all interference, on the part of the civil government, with the high and holy attributes of religion, as a subject entirely beyond its province, yet it is obvious to every reflecting mind that the character of public men cannot but affect materially the influence and prevalence of religious principles. Public virtue and sound morality are always affected by the course of human legislation. A most striking illustration of this truth is to be found in the history of France, when the national convention, controlled by a band of unprincipled atheists, denounced all religion, set up the Goddess of Reason, severed every bond of moral obligation, placed over the gates of the public cemetery the inscription, "Death is an eternal sleep," and thus broke over all the restraints that accountability to the Divine Being, and the influence of religious principles, have erected as a barrier to the depraved passions.
The butcheries and enormities which followed have furnished the world with a dreadful comment of a government without religious principles and moral ties.
Without belief in the general and leading principles of religion such as the existence of a God, our accountability to him, and a future retribution no laws, penalties or oaths will have efficient influence on mankind. Not to enlarge upon the importance of religion in exciting fear in the human heart of temporal judgments, passing by its high authority in communicating sanctity to oaths, and in restraining that class of offenses which human laws can neither detect or punish, we maintain it is of the utmost importance in softening the turbulent passions of men and collecting them together in friendly society.
Thus, the prosperity and safety of the people, under God, depend very much on such public men as we have described as "strong rods." Hence, when these are broken and withered, it is to be regarded as a mark of Divine displeasure, and submitted to as a public calamity.
2. Wise, upright and talented men are, in a great degree, the defense of a nation. Innumerable and great are the evils to which nations, states and communities are exposed in this sinful world. A people without government are like a city without walls or the means of defense, and yet encompassed on every side by enemies. They become unavoidably subject to confusion, misery and destruction.
Government is necessary to defend communities from intestine discord, injustice and violence. Its necessity springs from the ignorance, depravity and selfishness of human nature. It is equally indispensable to protection from the injustice or violence of other nations, and from those individuals who have thrown off the restraints of national government, and, as pirates or robbers, depredate upon the property of individuals and communities.
Qualified statesmen and rulers are equally indispensable to the administration of good government. They are the bulwarks of a people in time of war, and the chief instruments of their prosperity in time of peace. They see the evil approaching and throw themselves into the breach. They survey the resources of the country and aid the people in their development.
Strong rods are necessary to good government. Such was the virtuous Josiah to the nation of Israel, who probably was one of the "strong rods" alluded to by the prophet. When he fell in an unequal contest with the king of Egypt, "they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers,
-- 249 --
and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah." With him fell the glory and strength of the nation.
It will be readily perceived by this audience that, in many particulars, our late distinguished fellow-citizen, Gov. Edwards, was a strong rod to this community and State. He was justly entitled to the appellation of Father of Illinois.
After giving a very brief sketch of his life, not materially different from that I have given in another part of this work, Dr. Peck proceeds as follows:
From the time of his first election to the Legislature of Kentucky, before he had attained his majority, up to this period, he had not been out of public office, and in every station he had acquitted himself with honor, and to the satisfaction of the people.
It was not to be expected that he would be permitted to remain long in retirement. The people of Illinois, who, in various ways, had expressed their acknowledgments of the value of his public services, still had claims upon him. He was elected Governor of the State in 1826, and whatever might have been the feelings of political opponents upon his entrance into this office, we believe few persons could be found who did not approve the general course of his administration. A candid and dispassionate review of his correspondence as Governor of the Territory, his speeches in Congress, and his messages to the Legislature, would convince even his opponents of the entire devotedness on his part to the interests of the State. History and posterity will pronounce him a true patriot, and point out many official acts in which private interest was sacrificed on the altar of the public welfare.
Upon the expiration of his constitutional term as Governor, it was his intention not to appear before the people again in any public capacity. Enjoying some share of his confluence and friendship, I feel authorized in this declaration. But he consented to suffer his name to be used as a candidate for Congress, at the election in 1832, by the repeated and urgent solicitations of many friends whose wishes he felt bound to respect. This was the first and only election he ever lost before the people, and at this time there were four other respectable candidates for the same office two of whom were considered by the people as belonging to the same political party with himself, to whom many had committed themselves previous to the annunciation that Gov. Edwards was a candidate.
Much of the latter period of his life was devoted to the adjustment of his private affairs, and to acts of humanity and benevolence. And he possessed such method and system that, notwithstanding his estate was large and his business complicated, his affairs were left in such order as to admit of easy adjustment.
His neighbors and fellow-citizens can give ample testimony to his humane, liberal and benevolent character. Possessing considerable medical knowledge, with a sound discriminating judgment, he frequently administered and prescribed for the sick, visited the couch of the dying, and gave consolation to the afflicted. To the poor and distressed he was liberal in his personal services and benefactions. The poorest man in the State was as fully welcome to the hospitalities of his house and table as the most opulent and distinguished.
In his benefactions to purposes of benevolence and charity, Gov. Edwards was liberal without ostentation. It is known to the speaker that in many instances he gave liberal sums of which the public knew nothing.
-- 250 --
He never made a public profession of religion, yet he was a believer in its doctrines, and there were times in the latter period of his life, known to the speaker, when he became unusually interested in its weighty truths, and was anxious about his personal salvation. On these occasions, his conversation was free and evinced deep feeling.
When that dreadful disease, the cholera, to which he fell a victim, first appaered amongst us, Gov. Edwards was indefatigable in obtaining the most valuable and accurate information of the nature of the disease, and the most successful mode of treatment, and in diffusing it among the people. When it approached the village where he resided, his anxiety for the preservation of others was great. Though of feeble health and of impaired constitution, and forewarned by his friends that an attack of the cholera in his system would prove fatal, yet, night and day, he was with the sick and dying, till he fell a victim to his humane and charitable exertions for the relief of others. The first attack on himself was in the form of dysentery, which greatly weakened his system, but produced no alarming symptoms. From this attack he recovered so far as to leave his room, prepare some papers on business, and converse with his family and friends, which he did for two days, with cheerfulness and with the prospect of a speedy recovery.
On Friday evening, July 19, he was attacked with the cholera in its regular form, under which he sunk rapidly till about seven o'clock on Saturday morning, July 20, when he expired. He left three sons and one daughter, to feel and mourn the irreparable loss of a kind father.
Were I to attempt a portraiture of his character, in its various colorings, I could say nothing new nor do it ample justice. Yet, it may be necessary to call into remembrance some of its prominent features, to excite your minds to profitable reflection:
First. Contemplate him again as a youth, a minor ardent, impetuous, aspiring, and sent forth upon the world; journeying several hundreds of miles from his paternal guardian and home; entering upon a new and unformed state of society on the frontier of Kentucky, and exposed to all the temptations incident to youth in all places, with those peculiar to a new country. See him, falling before the tempter the structure of a noble mind about to be thrown down in ruins yielding to the seductive influences of youthful follies lured on to the precipice by giddy and thoughtless companions the hydra monster about to encircle him in his scaly and voluminous folds. Pause a moment! Here are brilliant prospects promising talents a fine imagination a cultivated mind a father's hope, a mother's joy about to be crushed and withered in this deadly embrace, and, as worthless things, thrown down the precipice into the gulf of oblivion. And is escape from such toils common? Ah, no! Where one has escaped, thousands have perished. Gaze here, ye young men, accustomed to your nightly orgies! Look at that immolation about to be offered! And yet, from this horrid embrace, and these fascinating toils, he did escape marvellously escape!
We pause again. A silent, secret resolution begins to heave his youthful breast; it wavers it struggles it falters, and struggles again. The hopes of father, mother, brother, sisters, and a long line of friends, are flickering sending forth the last feeble rays. The voice of filial love is not quite silent. The voice of conscience is upraised. The cheering gleams of hope appear above the distant horizon. The struggle is renewed, and victory crowns the conqueror!
Let our young men here be admonished. Your success depends, not in imitating his youthful follies, but in escaping from the snare and devoting your minds to the acquisition of useful knowledge and forming habits of virtuous industry.
-- 251 --
We know that which to admire the most the merciful providence of God to this young man, or the uncommon decision and energy of character put forth. Now view him as a close laborious and successful student, determined to qualify himself for the profession he bad chosen. Breaking away from the fascinations of his youthful
companions, he puts forth the vigor of manhood and enters upon a life of honor and
Second.View him as a public man ardently devoted to the interests of the people; receiving their confidence; chosen by them to important trusts, and, from the midst of a constellation of legal talent, placed on the bench of the circuit court at the age of twenty-seven rising, both in the confidence and respect of the people and in the judicial station, till he reaches the elevated position of Chief Justice of the State of Kentucky before he is thirty-two years of age. Is here imbecility of mind, fickleness of purpose, neglect of study, time wasted in gossiping and listless folly? Is here anything like indecision? indolence? waywardness? Far otherwise. Here are talents of no common order moral energies that press through every obstruction steadiness of purpose that never fails of success mental discipline that will cause the mind to grow brighter and brighter time husbanded as an invaluable treasure. Here is decision of character sufficient for the noblest purposes, industry that never tires, and a soul subjected to the government of reason.
Contemplate him through his future public life. The same traits of character increase in vividness the same intellect accumulates strength. All the virtues we have contemplated are called into active exercise in forming the character, modeling and administering the government of this Territory.
View him as a Senator. His weight of character and influence command the respect of the nation. His suggestions are listened to as the voice of wisdom and experience, while, through all his public services, the people cling to him, as a strong rod, for support.
Third. But it is not in the ardor and buoyancy of youth, nor in the halls of legislation, nor on the bench of justice, nor yet in the executive chair, that a man's whole character is exhibited to the best advantage. Go to the domestic circle, see him by the fire-side, around the family altar, and in the every-day dress of his character, if you wish to gain a full and distinct view of the picture of a man. Let us contemplate our friend in this interesting aspect. As the head of a family and a father, few persons have manifested stronger affections in the family circle few fathers were more beloved by their children. Ask that desolate widow, whose affections have been scathed as with the lightning's blast, to count up the sum of her loss. Ask those disconsolate children how much they loved him. Let the circle of relatives, with the long line of personal friends, draw near, estimate his worth, and the loss they have sustained.
Fourth. Contemplate him as a neighbor and citizen. Though elevated to high offices and rank, he was truly your equal. Few men of his station in life ever possessed less of the pride of ostentation and greatness. While all trifling and mimicry were despicable in his eyes, it was his nature to be sociable, conversant and friendly with every class of citizens. As a neighbor, he was kind and obliging.
Were I to mark the prominent traits of his character, I would place in high relief great decision determined, resistless perseverence quickness in dispatch of business sagacity to the public interest a liberal and philanthropic disposition and a sense of his accountability to God.
-- 252 --
We have thus, fellow-citizens, attempted to give you a brief but imperfect sketch of the life and character of our distinguished friend; and while we are taught, from Divine revelation, to submit with humility to that calamity which a wise and mysterious Providence has brought upon this State, in the death of a fellow-citizen of such eminent abilities and usefulness, we shall close this discourse with a single reflection. "For none of us liveth to himself," is the declaration of an inspired apostle. We are not insulated beings. Our example, influence, wealth, talents and prayers are all to be employed for useful purposes, and should be directed in that way that will lessen the most misery and promote the most happiness in the world in which we dwell. Whatever be our rank whether as legislators, jurists, magistrates, ministers of the gospel, or private citizens we are capable of doing immense harm or immense good, and the influence of this good or evil is not expended upon the present generation, merely: ages to come will feel the effects. It will follow in the continuous line of succeeding generations; and future millions will arise to call us blessed, or invoke anathemas upon our memories. The laws that are now framed the moral influence exerted the national or state improvements attempted the schools established the churches gathered the preachers ordained the appointments to office the public and private example of all the humblest walk of the humblest citizen of this State will prove the means of happiness to individuals and the community for years to come.
Filled and overwhelmed with a sense of this weighty responsibility, let each one act well his part in life, that blessings may water his memory when his ashes have commingled with their kindred dust.
-- 253 --
Edwards, Ninian W. History of Illinois from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards . Springfield: Illinois State Journal Company, 1870. [format: book], [genre: history; bibliography; letter]. Permission: Northern Illinois Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwardsillinois.html