French, Augustus C.

Born: 1808-08-02 Merrimack County, New Hampshire

Died: 1864-09-04 Lebanon, Illinois

French attended Dartmouth College, and in 1831, gained admission to the bar in New Hampshire. By 1832, he was teaching at a school west of Albion, Illinois, and in 1833, he moved to Paris, Illinois. French was a circuit attorney for the Wabash River district for one year. In 1836, he was elected to the first of his two terms as a state representative, during which he was a colleague of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. President Martin Van Buren appointed him receiver for the land office in Palestine, Illinois, and in 1844, he was a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket.

French was elected governor in 1846 and again in 1848, becoming the first Illinois governor to be reelected. In 1850, he owned nearly $16,000 in real property. He served as governor until January 10, 1853. French continued the economic policies of Governor Thomas Ford, and worked, as Ford had, to eliminate the state's debt. In 1858, Governor Joel Matteson appointed him a commissioner of the State Bank of Illinois, and by 1860, he owned nearly $60,000 in real and personal property. In 1862, he was a St. Clair delegate to a wartime Constitutional Convention. He died of typhoid fever two years later.

Governors of Illinois: 1818-1918 (Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1917), 19; Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors, 1818-1988 (Springfield: Illinois Issues, Sangamon State University and Illinois State Historical Society, 1988), 91-97; Illinois Daily State Journal (Springfield), 8 September 1864, 2:2; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 104; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Sangamon County, IL, 121; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), St. Clair County, IL, 621; Gravestone, College Hill Cemetery, Lebanon, IL. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.