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CHAPTER 2 The Constitution of 1818 Slavery, a Bogus Census, Feeble Executive Power ThefirstMondayinAugust1818,twenty-ninedelegatespushedtheirwaythrough the gathered spectators into Bennett’s tavern in Kaskaskia for the beginning of Illinois’s first constitutional convention. Four delegates elected from the nearby countiesofWashingtonandJacksoninexplicablydidnotappearuntilthesecond day. There is no record that any woman was present. Nor is there any mention of black presence, although there certainly would have been slaves and perhaps other servants in attendance.1 Delegate elections July 6, 7, and 8, in each of Illinois’s fifteen counties, were the culmination of seven months of political activity in Illinois and Washington —activity remarkable in its urgency in a time of poor communications and difficult travel. At each county seat, votes were cast for delegates by voice vote, viva voce, declared to each county sheriff, who proclaimed the vote aloud and provided a tally. The enabling act specified that two delegates would be elected from each of twelve counties, with three to be elected from each of the three largest. No delegate came from north of the far south ends of today’s Madison, Bond, and CrawfordCounties;thusallthedelegatesresidedinthemostpopuloussouthern one-third of the state.2 Seven months earlier, in December 1817, the first formal steps toward statehood began. On December 1, four days after the second of Daniel Pope Cook’s The Constitution of 1818 45 Intelligencer editorials arguing the case for statehood, the territorial legislature assembled in Kaskaskia for its regular session. The next day, Governor Edwards deliveredhismessageconcerningstatehoodinwhichhecongratulatedthestate’s citizens for the “astonishingly rapid increase of population” and called for a census . Four days later, on December 6, the house of representatives adopted the memorial to Congress asking that the territory be admitted into the Union. On December 10, the council approved it. With the governor’s concurrence, the document was sent to Nathaniel Pope in Washington.3 While Nathaniel Pope waited in Washington from January until April 1818 for the Illinois statehood bill to be taken up in the Congress, preparations in Illinois for the census moved slowly. Governor Edwards had appointed census commissioners in all but two counties by mid-January, but final appointments were not completed until June, after it was known in Illinois that, contrary to Pope’s hopes, the Congress required a census showing that the state population exceed forty thousand inhabitants. The Territorial Census of 1818 When census returns were reported in June 1818, they showed a population of 34,610, far short of the requirement. Forewarned that the process was failing to reach the required number, the legislature provided for a supplementary census to continue counting until December 1, on the premise that a large increase in population would occur later in the year.4 The prediction of an increase in population was made true, at least in the census commissioners’ reports. As the count continued, there were reports of census takers who were not doing their jobs, failing to record citizens of their counties.Therealsoweremanyindicationsofoverzealouscountingbycensustakers that amounted to padding the numbers, if not fraud. Families were recorded at more than one place as they transited through Illinois on their way to settle in Missouri. Some were listed two and three times as they crossed one county and met different census takers. Without an actual count, “good faith” estimates were made of persons in distant forts, including Fort Crawford at the junction of the Wisconsin River with the Mississippi, well north of Illinois’s boundaries. Eventually the count was reported at 40,258, which was taken at face value and reported to Congress.5 The 1820 federal census bears out the charge of padding. The population of several counties was less than the number reported in the 1818 Illinois census, 46 Chapter 2 even though it was clear that the permanent population had increased in the intervening two years. Illinois’s boosters, in their zealous desire to become a state, simply cooked the books. The Delegate Campaigns Little information exists describing electioneering or issues that may have been disputed in particular delegate election contests. It is clear, however, that two overriding concerns dominated the public’s thinking about the new constitution . The first, on which there was widespread agreement and little dispute or discussion, was to have relief from the autocratic governor-dominated system of government that existed in the territory. The second was the issue of slavery. These two matters had coalesced in the December 1817 session of the territorial legislature.6 On December 10, 1817, the same day the council approved the memorial...


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