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Introduction When Abraham Lincoln said goodbye to family and friends in Springfield, Illinois, in February 1861 and departed to assume the presidency, he left behind a state that was a microcosm of the United States. Southern Illinois was largely rural, with scattered towns and small cities. Northern Illinois was experiencing rapid economic and population growth, with burgeoning rail routes and a boom in development of counties and cities along the Illinois and Michigan Canal and north to the Wisconsin state line. Chicago in less than thirty years had become the state’s dominant urban center and one of the nation’s largest cities, blessed by its location at the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan on land that had been engineered to open water routes to the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and rail routes to the West. No other city in America had grown as large as quickly as Chicago. Illinois had not long been this way. In July 1831, when Lincoln, who described himself later as “a piece of floating driftwood,”1 returned to settle in New Salem after working on river flatboats, southern Illinois contained almost all the state’s non-Indian population. Most of its people came to Illinois from or through the South.TheyarrivedontheMississippiRiverfromNewOrleansormovedacross theOhioRiverfromsouthernslavestates,justasThomasLincolnhaddone,coming from Kentucky through Indiana to Illinois, with young Abe and his family in tow. 2 Introduction Slavery was common in the Illinois country from the earliest days of white settlement by the French in the late seventeenth century. Indian and African American slaves lived in the small farms and homes of trappers and settler families and in sizeable numbers in the founding houses of French priests. For six decadesfromthe1720s,blackslaveswereimportedopenlyfromNewOrleansor, after 1780, brought from other American colonies. From 1787 until 1818, Illinois settlers—first in the Illinois part of the Northwest Territory, later in the TerritoriesofIndianaandIllinois —soughttohaveslaverylegalized.Theysucceededby devisingeuphemisticmeansoflawfullyholdingblacksinbondage.Thefirstfour governors of the state all were or had been slave owners, as were many holders of public office. WiththefirstIllinoisconstitutionalconventioncampaignin1818,andsuccessive political battles in 1824, in the 1847 constitutional convention, and even into the constitutional conventions of 1862 and 1869, forms of bondage, black codes, and disputes over the presence in the state of free blacks and their civil rights to vote, hold office, or be free of segregation were contested hotly. The ownership of black slaves and bonded servants existed until the 1850s in the southern half of the state, including, significantly, the capital at Springfield. InIllinoisin1861,asinthenation,therewerestrongdifferencesofopinionabout slaverybetweenthesouthandnorth.Sentimentfavoringblackslaveryandslaveholders in neighboring states, and sympathy for recovering runaway slaves, was widespreadinthesouthofthestate.Sentimentopposingslaverywaswidespread inthenorth,aswasadvocacyforabolition.In1861,mostwhitepeopleinthestate, even while opposing slavery, did not believe in equality for African Americans. They held views, shared by Lincoln, that blacks were not social and political equalsanddoubtedthat blacksmight ever bereadyto livefreein a whitesociety. Following the Civil War, many continued to harbor antiblack animus. Delegates to the 1869 constitutional convention stridently debated proposals to approvesegregationandprohibitblackvoting .Theyalsocreateduniqueprovisions for political representation in the 1870 constitution to ameliorate the strongly held differences of political opinion between the southern and northern halves of the state after the Civil War. TheIndianpresence,whichwaspervasiveinterritorialyearsandwhosemembers engaged in hostilities against settlers even into statehood, ended little more than a decade later with treaties following the Black Hawk War in 1832, when the Introduction 3 lasttribe,thePotawatomi,wereforcedtomovewestoftheMississippi.Theproof of their tragedy and coerced disappearance is the fact that from the mid-1830s the history of Illinois can be written as if Indians never lived there.2 Reflectingtheirtimes,allfournineteenth-centuryconstitutionalconventions were white men’s conventions. White males elected the delegates. White males wrote the constitutions. White males voted to ratify or reject them. Women were not mentioned in any of the four. They were excluded by implication from holding office, however, and barred explicitly from voting and from service in the militia, both privileges of white males only. Blacks,menandwomenalike,werethesubjectofsevererepressiveprovisions in the first three constitutions and excluded from service in the militia. Indians were named specifically once in each of the first three constitutions, only to be disqualified from service in the militia. As with slavery, and often with comparable emotion, political battles in the stateculminatinginconstitutionalconventiondebatesandratificationreferenda were fought over the forms, structures, and powers of government. Legislative supremacy,executivepowers,appointmentorelectionofcivilofficialsandjudges, qualifications to vote, public education, taxation, debt financing, regulation of banking, railroads, and warehouses, and the ability of government to incur debt were sharply debated and changed, permitted in one constitution and changed in another. Internal improvement controversies over roads, bridges, canals, and, especially , railroad charters, excited rivalry among towns and counties. Legislative abuses...


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