1Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Permit me gentlemen, to congratulate you upon the happy circumstances under which, by the blessings of Divine Providence, we have again assembled. Maintaining her peaceful policy, our beloved country is enjoying the full tide of prosperity, and throughout all her borders, the enterprising and industrious citizen is reaping the rich reward of his labors.
But gentlemen, it is upon our own State that her Representatives may look with becoming exultation. During the past year, a vigorous and enterprising population pouring in from all quarters upon her rich and beautiful prairies, has greatly increased her resources, and given further evidence of the high destiny that awaits her.
And whilst the abundance of the crops and the high price of labor are filling the coffers of the farmer and mechanic, we have reason to be thankful for the uninterrupted good health enjoyed by every portion of the country.
To be the favored citizens of such a country, and to be so signally blessed, commands our deepest gratitude to the Almighty Ruler and Governor of the Universe, under the dispensations of whose divine providence we are permitted to enjoy the rich and inestimable blessings of civil and religious liberty.
In conformity with the act of the 9th of January 1836, making it my duty to negotiate a loan for commencing the Illinois and Michigan canal, I proceeded to New York and on my arrival found money very scarce and stocks low. After waiting several weeks in expectation of some relief from the pressure then existing, I negotiated a loan of $100,000, at 5 per cent advance. I considered this premium too low, and declined taking a larger sum at that rate. Experience however, has shown that it was higher than could have been obtained
<Page 2>at any period since the loan was negotiated, or perhaps greater than may be obtained for some time to come. In anticipation of the remaining stock authorised by the act, I had the necessary State Bonds prepared and printed in an approved form for the whole amount, so that it will be easy at any time to arrange for the remainder of the contemplated loan, or such portions of it as may be required from time to time in the progress of the work. The $100,000, of bonds now sold will assume a value in the stock exchange which will be a guide in negotiating future loans which the improvement or policy of the State may demand.
I am pleased to inform you that the act passed in accordance with a suggestion in my message at the opening of the last session of the legislature, authorizing the sale of the contingent stock of the State Bank for the benefit of the State, has been carried into effect, and that the Bank has assumed the payment of the loan of $100,000, obtained from Samuel Wiggins in 1830. This considerable sum is thus saved to the people, and a debt extinguished, which has done much, by reason of its unpopularity, to prejudice the minds of many of our citizens against borrowing money upon the faith of the State, and consequently delaying some of the most important objects of Internal Improvement.
By an act passed at the last session of Congress, the surplus revenue of the United States is directed to be deposited with the different States. Your early attention, I have no doubt, will be directed to the necessary steps required by the provisions of said act, preparatory to its reception.
If provision should be made appropriating this entire sum, and all that may from time to time be received hereafter from the same source, into a fund for internal improvements to be used as circumstances may require, we may anticipate the most beneficial results, and whilst the steps preparatory to its expenditure in such improvements are taken, it may be loaned temporarily to the Banks by which an interest may be secured, and the money passed into general circulation, and, in some measure, relieve that pressure usually felt in new and flourishing communities.
My views, as expressed in a former message, relative to the establishment of a general and uniform system of internal improvement in the State, have underwent no change, and I again beg leave to urge the importance upon your consideration of passing a general law providing that the State take a
<Page 3>certain amount of the capital stock in all canals and rail-roads, which may be authorized by law, wherever private individuals shall take the remainder of the stock necessary to the construction of such work. Under such policy I have no doubt that many works of great value to the community would be immediately commenced, and carried into effect, which, if left to individual enterprize, unaided, would remain untouched for years to come.
Should the State be true to her own interest, and take one half, or one third, of the stock in all works of internal improvements, she will hasten the completion of the most important first, and secure to herself a lasting and abundant revenue to be applied upon the principles of the plan proposed, until the whole country shall be intersected by canals and rail-roads, and our beautiful prairies enlivened by thousands of steam engines, drawing after them lengthened trains freighted with the abundant productions of our fertile soil.
The Judge of the 3d Circuit, the Hon. Jeptha Hardin resigned his office last fall, too late for the appointment to be made in time for a successor to hold the courts, consequently I made no appointment, and the vacancy remains to be filled by the Legislature.
The late Treasurer, the Hon. John Dement, resigned on the 3d instant, and the office of State Treasurer has been temporarily filled by the appointment of Charles Gregory, Esq. of Green county.
A well organized, and disciplined militia is of the utmost importance as a part of our general system of Government, and I hope this subject may receive a due share of your deliberations. While a people govern themselves, and think it a privilege, and the highest honor to fight their own battles, they cannot fail to be free, and on the contrary when they are governed and protected by other arms, they will soon become slaves. In our country, the love of liberty and spirit of patriotism is manifested in nothing more than in the spirit and condition of the militia.
The public revenue of the State is believed to be ample for all the ordinary expenses of the government, but owing to the land tax being paid into the Treasury after the adjournment of the legislature, some embarrassment has been felt at the time when the funds are required, and leaves a great surplus unemployed in the Treasury for the balance of the year. I would therefore respectfully suggest the propriety of altering
<Page 4>the revenue law, so as to have the funds paid into the Treasury as early as the first of January in each year.
In consequence of the dilapidated and falling condition of the old State House, the public officers, mechanics, and citizens of this place, believing that the legislature would have no place to convene or hold their session, have built the House you now occupy. This work has been done in a time, and under circumstances which evinces an industry, zeal and public spirit that does honor to the place, and commands our grateful acknowledgements, and I hope their services and expenses will be promptly remunerated.
In all ages, and under every circumstance, education has decided the relative greatness of men and nations. Placed beyond its genial influence, man becomes a savage, and a nation, a wandering band of lawless depredators. Education under all forms of government, constitutes the first principle of human happiness; and especially, it is important in a country, where the sovereignty is vested in the people. Entertaining such views in 1825, while a member of the senate, I submitted (in a preamble, to a bill, for the establishment of free schools,) a sentiment, and still considering it sound and just, I beg leave to quote the following extract.
“To enjoy our rights and liberties, we must understand them; their security and protection, ought to be the first object of a free people, and it is a well established fact, that no nation has ever continued long in the enjoyment of civil and political freedom, which was not both virtuous and enlightened, and believing that the advancement of literature has always been, and ever will be, the means of developing more fully, the rights of man—that the mind of every citizen in a republic, is the common property of society, and constitutes the basis of its strength and happiness, it is therefore, considered the peculiar duty of a free government, like ours, to encourage and extend the improvement, of the intellectual energies of the whole.”
Since then, I have reflected much on the subject, and am more fully convinced, that such policy, is perfectly consistent with the rights and interest of every citizen, and that it is the only one calculated to sustain our democratic republican institutions; in fact, general education is the only means by which the rich and the poor, can be placed upon the same level, and by which, intelligence and virtue, can be made to assume its proper elevation over ignorance and vice.
Contracts have been made for the construction of several sections of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, by which it appears that the expense of completing the work is likely to exceed very far the highest estimate ever made by any of the engineers who surveyed it. The increased price of labor and supplies account in some measure for the great difference between the estimates and the contracts. The work is of the highest importance both to this State and the U. States, and no ordinary difficulty, or expense, should, for a moment, deter us from its vigorous prosecutionsThe means arising from the canal lands and lots will be very large, and it is hoped may be nearly sufficient to meet the whole cost of the work. Should it turn out otherwise, additional funds will doubtless be furnished by the general government, as the national character of the work is fully established and acknowledged by several acts of Congress, the conditions of the cession of the North Western Territory by Virginia, and the universal judgment of the country; and as the work has been commenced under the auspices of the general government, it will doubtless in this, as in all other cases, furnish means to carry it through.
The State Bank, as far as I am informed, has manifested a disposition to forward the views and interests of the State, and has undoubtedly furnished the community with the means of doing much good in carrying on the commerce and improvements of the State. Entertaining the fullest confidence in the just and prudent management of the institutions, and of its being a profitable investment, I have thought it advisable, and therefore recommend that the State subscribe for the stock reserved for it in the charter.
Banks are to some extent monopolies, and, therefore, inconsistent with the true spirit of our free institutions. They have, however, grown up with our system and are so rapidly spreading their influence over the whole country, that it is extremely doubtful whether they can ever be entirely eradicated. Such is our attachment to a sound paper currency, that it is certain that Banks can only be superseded, if at all, by establishing a circulating medium of the same description, based upon capital invested in loans secured by bond and mortgage. If such a system could be introduced with proper guards, it would certainly be more republican and might be made the means of introducing an ample capital into our country.
While engaged in promoting the prosperity and improvement of our country, and providing for the moral and intellect-
<Page 6>ual advancement of the people, we should not fail to guard with jealous watchfulness the great charter of our liberties, the Constitution of the United States: its violation should wake up every patriotic heart to the spirit of the revolution. With the history of my country before me I ask, has this sacred instrument been properly regarded by all the functionaries of our government, and all its principles adhered to. I firmly believe it has not; and now when the country is quiet, and the angry billows of party strife, which have lately rolled so high, are sinking to their proper surface, allow me to call your attention and that of our countrymen to this subject—the settlement of which, in my opinion, decides the future destiny of our country; for if any department of our government is sustained in a violation of the Constitution, or the exercise of illegal powers, we shall have changed a government of constitutional law for one of self-will, proscription, and oppression.
The fundamental principles of our government are plain and easily understood. It is emphatically a government of the people; and for the sake of convenience alone, they appoint officers and representatives who make and administer the laws for their benefit and according to their will, each acting under a solemn oath to support the constitution and laws.
In Monarchies, the “King who can do no wrong,” is the Government, the fountain of honor and disposer of all offices and favors, which he bestows on his family and friends for the purpose of establishing his power, and extending his authority over the people. Under our liberal, free and happy form of Government the people possess all power, elect and cause all officers to be elected or appointed, and as matter of convenience alone it is made the duty of the President of the United States, who is not the Government, nor the “fountain of honor, and who may do wrong” to nominate, and by and with advice of the Senate (which is made a check upon his appointing power) to appoint all public officers. It is a principle of our declaration of rights, that all Governments should be instituted for the good of the governed, and not for public officers, or the party who happens to be called by the people, to administer its affairs. If these axioms be true, then the claim set up of late by a political party in this country, that the appointment of public officers and patronage of the Government is given to the President of the United States for the purpose of sustaining his authority and extending his power and influence, is unjust and fallacious, to sanction the power of the
<Page 7>President to remove men from office for an independent expression of opinion, or an honorable opposition to his measures is a species of opposition and proscription wholly incompatible with the spirit of our Government. When the public officer is appointed for his support of the party in power, he knows that his retention in office does not depend so much upon his qualifications and fidelity as on the zeal and ability he displays at elections in supporting his party. If the President may thus fortify himself, who does not see the influence he can exercise over the people, either to extend his own power, or to build up and establish that of his favorite. Should this new principle obtain, and it be acknowledged that the executive branch of the Government is to exercise such unlimited power over the destiny and liberties of the public officers, and they become at once a trained band, backed by all the influence of place, and the money of the country, to corrupt, manage and plunder the people; such principles are not more novel in our country than they are dangerous to its liberties. To show the dangerous tendency of allowing the executive government in this country to remove faithful and competent public officers for the purpose of filling their places with his friends and partizans; I beg leave to cite a single case which happened under my own observation. The first Secretary of War appointed under this administration removed the 2nd Auditor, and appointed in his place one of his brothers-in-law, he also removed the Chief Clerk in the War Department, and filled his vacancy by appointing another brother-in-law. By reference to the law and the national calendar, it will be seen that it is the duty of the 2nd Auditor to audit and settle the whole contingent account of the Secretary of War, amounting to hundred of thousands of dollars annually, and that these accounts are examined and filed away by the chief Clerk. Thus by the exercise of this removing and appointing power, we see one of the executive officers charged with the disbursement of large sums of public money; filling those offices, which were intended by the law to be checks upon his official conduct with his relations.
Another plain principle of our constitution and Government, is, that the representatives of the people have power to investigate the conduct of every public officer, from the President down, and while they are held amenable to the people alone or to public sentiment to be expressed at the polls for their official conduct, they are not subject to be called in ques-
<Page 8>tion by any other power, yet the President of the United States has interrupted the proceedings and deliberations of one of the branches of congress by protesting against its authority to pass resolutions calling in question his official conduct. As to the principle involved, it is immaterial whether the President had or had not been guilty of the charge of violating the law and constitution which the Senate made against him. The question to be settled now, is, whether Congress or any part of it, is amenable to the President for their official conduct, and whether they are to be interrupted, or questioned by any other department of the Government. If so, can they longer be relied on as guardians of public liberty? as well might an army expect to repose in safety when protected by a guard detailed from the enemies camp.
The Constitution of the United States, for the purpose of giving all necessary energy to the armed forces of the country, places them exclusively under the President’s command, but so jealous were the framers of that sacred instrument of any power, to prevent the possibility of their energies or arms being improperly directed, and to prevent an improper use of the public money in any way, it was placed exclusively under the control of Congress, which body only is authorized to declare war and to collect and dispose of the public revenue. With a view to carry out this plain and safe provision of the Constitution, Congress at various times has passed laws authorizing the appointment of a Treasurer and Secretary of the Treasury, whose duties are regulated by law, which they take an oath to support. In 1816 a law was passed by Congress placing the public money in the Bank of the United States, which required the Bank to collect and pay out the public revenue, without charge, and pay one million five hundred thousand dollars for the privilege and use of the public deposites. In this act, Congress made it the duty of the Bank to report its condition from time to time to the Secretary of the Treasury, who was required in certain events, to remove the public funds from it, and report the reasons for so doing to congress; should any other officer or department, and especially that one against whose strong arm the foregoing provisions were intended to guard, take possession of the public treasure, or claim the custody or control thereof, must, when party prejudice shall have subsided, be regarded by every American as an exercise of power wholly incompatible with the constitution and the safety of our free institutions. Yet it is known that the present head of the
<Page 9>executive department of our government, has by means of an indirect power, actually put himself and those under him who were equally unauthorized by law, in full possession of the entire public revenue, and so complete is that possession, that a man by the name of Whitney, a private individual, bound by no bond or oath of office, and whose character would seem to disqualify him from holding any public trust, has had the acknowledged direction of the whole public money for several years, which amounts to near $40,000,000, the interests on which at six per cent per annum amounts to two million four hundred thousand dollars a year, and at four per cent, which is the interest the State Bank agrees to allow on moneys deposited arising from the sale of the State bonds, which is perhaps the true value of the public money to the Banks would amount to one million six hundred thousand dollars. I have made these calculations merely to show what an individual or party in power can make for themselves by the possession or control of this large amount of Public Money, while at the same time it gives them unlimited power over the Banks, and enables them to regulate the value of all stocks, by which power alone, they may, if so disposed put millions of dollars in their own pockets.
It is immaterial whether the President in assuming this power, was actuated by a desire to break down the restraints that the constitution imposed upon his authority, or by those high and patriotic principles which influenced him to set at nought the law and constitution in 1815 at New Orleans when the safety of the country called for all his energies. The question now to be settled is, whether this power does or does not belong to the Executive branch of our government; for it will be remembered, that a large party in this country claim that the power over the public money belongs to the presidential office independent of the Constitution, and all law. Should such be the ultimate decision of this question, or if this claim of power is not immediately frowned down by the people, we shall under the name of a government of laws and limited powers have established a despotism more absolute than that of any civilized government in the world.
In addition to these powers, which I consider to be illegal, there are others extensively exercised by the executive branch of the government, which though sanctioned by law, and long custom, are becoming so grievous as to call for an immediate remedy. I allude to its vast and rapidly increasing
<Page 10>patronage, which has placed in the gift of the President, higher and more lucrative offices, than the people themselves, with a single exception, can bestow. The state offices have sunk into insignificance in comparison with those in the gift of the general government; and such is the influence of this vast power, that the eyes of all the ambitious aspirants, from the honorable senator, to the lowest messenger, is steadily fixed upon this inexhaustible fountain of honors and rewards, which is now visibly seen and felt by the hundreds of men in our country, who make politics a trade for the purpose of managing the voters at elections, and procuring an office by which they may subsist without work. Indeed such are the temptations that this patronage holds out, to allure our industrious and virtuous citizens, from their honest occupations that the inordinate love of office, is rapidly becoming one of the prominent vices of our country. The long cherished principle, that offices in a republic, should never be accepted, unless freely given, and never declined, when freely offered, is only remembers as the phantom of an idle dream, and the mind is carried to the departing and returning of some ambassador to a foreign court, with his 9000 outfit, 4500 allowance for returning, and 9000 a year placed in a splendid armed ship, crossing the ocean to make his bow to some King, and returning to his country full of honors with an ample fortune, without rendering the slightest service to his country, or remaining long enough from home to learn the first principle, or to obtain the least influence with the government of the country he has visited. The power to remove is not a constitutional power, but has been made lawfull by long custom. It was first allowed for the purpose of getting rid promptly of faithless public officers. It is now used for other purposes also, and has become one of the strongest engines of power, of all the long list now claimed and exercised, by the executive—by it, the government can, not only command their support, and active services at elections, but can influence and dictate their official conduct. In the first, the freedom of elections is assailed, and in th esecond, the life, liberty and property, of every citizen, may be put in jeopardy. It is idle to talk of the restraints of the law and constitution, which he swears to support, or of a mans conscience, who is dependent for his place, and perhaps the support of a helpless family, upon the arbitrary will and caprice of a single person, much less that of a party.
The power vested in the executive, to appoint so large a number of public printers in the states, is calculated to have an improper influence over the freedom of the press. But when we see, added to that, a long list of violent party editors appointed by the same authority, to high and lucrative offices; it is impossible to look without alarm at the danger, which threatens our liberties from that quarter.
The frequent appointment of members of Congress, and especially the most servile of them, has had the effect to turn the mind of the representative from his duty to his constituents to a servile obedience to the will of the government. So many instances of treachery of this kind had occurred, under the seducing hope of favor from the administration, that General Jackson, before he was elected President, declared that the independence of Congress was sinking before the corrupting influence exercised by the government over it, and recommended as a remedy for the evil, an amendment to the Constitution, rendering members of Congress incapable of receiving office during and for two years after the expiration of their term of service, yet since he has been President, there has been more such appointments made than had ever been by all of his predecessors from the foundation of the government; thus showing that men in authority are ever willing to trust themselves with powers, which they consider dangerous in any other hands, and which should teach us the importance of guarding every avenue, through which our liberty can be assailed.
That the extravagance of our government is rapidly increasing, is but too manifest in the fact, that its expenditures have nearly doubled within the last few years, and regarding every thing of the kind as inconsistent with the plain republican character of our country, I consider it a subject worthy of your notice, and one that calls for an expression of public opinion and reform.
In presenting these subjects to your consideration gentlemen, I have discharged what I consider a solemn duty, and should the manner, or the substance be unpleasant to any individual I shall regret it much and can only say, that nothing is further from my wish or intention than to excite any party feelings (which I consider the bane of our government) or to wound the feelings of the most sensitive. They are grave and important subjects, and however unpleasant the task, we must meet them fearlessly and frown them down, if we would not
<Page 12>have them considered precedents for the conduct of future administrations.
Now that this election is over and all party strife, it is hoped, has ceased, and a new administration is just coming into office, appears to be the most auspicious moment for a calm investigation and safe decision of these subjects. They can only be decided by public sentiment expressed by the Legislatures of the several States and by the people in their primary assemblies and upon that decision in my opinion, depends the fate and future destiny of our free republican government.
In bringing these subjects before you, I have been influenced by no ambitious views, the principles are intended to apply with out distinction. Actuated by a sincere desire to sustain and perpetuate our free institutions, I leave the subject with you gentlemen, praying that patriotism, virtue and harmony may guide your deliberations.JOSEPH DUNCAN.Vandalia, December 9, 1836.
1Illinois’ constitution required the Governor to give a state of the state address to the General Assembly, which was generally done at the opening of every session. These messages tend to inform the direction of legislation of that session. On December 9, 1836, Secretary of State Alexander P. Field presented to the House of Representatives the following communication from Governor Joseph Duncan. The House voted to print 3,500 copies of the message and laid it on the table. On December 10, the House referred the portions of the message relating to revenue laws and the State Bank to the Committee on Finance, of which Abraham Lincoln was a member.
Illinois House Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 15-26; Ill. Const. (1818), art. III, §4.
Printed Transcription, 12 page(s), Journal of the House of Representatives of the Tenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, at Their First Session (Vandalia, IL: William Walters, 1836), 15-26