Focus; Democracy and Slavery in Frontier Illinois: The Bottomland Republic
Good morning and welcome to focus 580 This is our telephone talk program my name is David inch and we're glad to have you listening this morning in this first part of focus 580. We're going to talk about a bit about American history and actually explore a chapter in Illinois history that perhaps many people are not familiar with. And it concerns one of the earliest and perhaps most important struggles between pro and anti slavery forces in the new American republic. It took place in the 18th 20s and indeed it took place here in Illinois and one of the results was rioting arson and mob violence across the state. We'll be talking this morning with the author of a book that explores this chapter of Illinois history his name is James Simeoni. He is associate professor of political science at Illinois Wesley and university and the book is titled Democracy and slavery in front tier Illinois and it's published by the Northern Illinois University Press and looks at this
period. In Illinois history where there was a strong movement by pro slavery forces in the southern part of the state too in Virtual a set up and an independent state where these people most of them had been southerners who had migrated into the state from the south hoped to create a bottomland Republic of farmers who could own slaves on the basis of popular sovereignty and Chrisette up a great battle between them and those people who were interested in maintaining the state of Illinois as a free state and in many ways this struggle prefigured the one that would take place later and of course would influence national politics and lead up to the Civil War. As we talked this morning with James Simeoni you certainly should feel free to call him maybe you'll have some questions to ask yourself. We involve people in the conversation anybody who would like to call and certainly welcome to do that. The only thing we ask is that people just
try to be brief in their comments so that we can keep things moving along and involve as many people as possible but anyone is welcome to call here in Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We also have a toll free line that's good anywhere you can hear us around the state. Even in Indiana if you'd like to call any you certainly can. The number he has heard locally is 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 and then the toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5 and if you match up the numbers with Ledger on the phone you get wy allow three three three. Wy allow and toll free 800 1:58 w whilom. Professor Simeoni Hello. Hello David. Thanks for talking with us today. Oh thanks for having me appreciate it. I think first maybe would be interesting to talk just a little bit about what Illinois was like at this time because certainly in many respects it was different certainly in terms of where most people lived. It was different because most of the people at the time were living in the southern part of the state and along
the the edges along the waterways which is what you would expect because those were the the major roadways of the time and like today I suppose the one thing you could say is that people want to live there because it was very good farmland. Oh yeah. I mean what's really special about Illinois is the fact that it had such good bottom land farmland near rivers and of course Rivers was so important for not only for transportation but also for water and of course now we think of ourselves as the Prairie State. And back then however you know it took a steel. While invented by John Deere and six oxen to break the prairie so back before 1830 when the majority of the people as you say lived in the southern tip of the state you really did need to live near the forest
and the forest and the rivers really important thing about the forces that gave you wood for heat. So I guess some people you know they don't realize that all that great prairie farming land was was not really accessible to the early farmer and how many people were there in Illinois. Roughly speaking of the well 18 20 there are about 50000 and that would be have just been I think a little bit more not much more than there would have been hard to be a state. Well yeah that was one of those sources of controversy. In fact in 1918 the standard number on I say standard the number that Congress is using was forty thousand in course Illinois when they did their first census only came up with 35000. So and that was important for the history of the state because all the people who wanted to become a state were really under the gun they felt that they needed to appease Congress and so they just
when they when they did another census six months later they came up with 40000. Is it in 10. So consummately though when they wrote the Constitution they felt they had to do it in a way that that would please Congress and of course that led to trouble later on. It's Illinois has always been an interesting place because of the kind of divisions of priorities it seems always to have been a very interesting mix of people who really had different ideas about what kind of a place they wanted to be. And I think interestingly enough you're right at one point in the book this line that Illinois was a northern state settled by southerners that right there seems to set up the possibility of conflict. When you look at the people within the state of Illinois those who wanted it to be a free state and those who wanted it to be a slave state. Let's talk about those two groups of people and those people who were interested in Illinois not not permitting slavery. Who were they and where
did they come from. Well yeah you make a good point for people listening they really have to realize that you know at least 80 percent of the people who settled in Illinois these 60000 we're talking about in 1820 at least eight percent were from the south. And yeah that group that was anti-slavery many of them were from the south. Many of them indeed were slave owners themselves. Certainly Edward Coles who sort of led the anti-slavery movement was from Virginia and he inherited 900 slaves from his parents. And yet when he came to Illinois he had the idea that Illinois was you know a free state and he wanted to start a new chapter of his life in a free state. But of course there were also among the 20 percent of people who weren't Southern. Many who were northerners who were very committed to anti-slavery and they saw the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which guaranteed that there would be no
slavery in the Northwest Territory as there are sort of guiding light. And on the other side those people who wanted there wanted slavery to be permitted. Where did they come from. They're sort of the most interesting people in this whole drama I think. They they were what historians have called sort of the back country people that is people who came into the United States between about 17 20 and 79 80. They they came mainly from the what's called the Borderlands. In Britain they were they were Scottish and English and Irish. The reavers as they're sometimes known in English history and they came in through Philadelphia and they immediately settled with the land that was available which was in the mountains and in the western section of the settle part of of the United States at that time. So you know they. What's so interesting about about this group of people
who came to Illinois and call themselves the white folks was that you know they as the back country have sort of the backbone the lower classes of of the United States at that time. They really I guess you'd call them people with a chip on their shoulder they they felt that they had fought the revolution and won it you know in the in the trenches. And then when time came to form a government they were recognized. So there were still property qualifications for voting etc. so when they came to Illinois they felt OK this is where we're going to set up our own state under our own rules. And that's I think that's an interesting point that again people should kind of bear in mind when they think about what's going on here in this in the state of Illinois and in the country at this time. This was the frontier and that there were a lot of people who came here with the idea that this was a new place they were going to be new rules they were going to start off a new with a clean slate. Of course then there was this recipe for conflict because
different groups of people have different ideas about what place kind of place it was going to be but it seems that an awful lot of people came here with the idea that they were going to start a new. They had a certain sense a set of ideas and ideals and thought here was in a sense a blank canvas that they could paint on. Oh absolutely. And you're you're you're you're right to stress the fact that it's front dure it's the absolute Western point of of American expansion at this point in the history of the nation. And your absolute right also to focus on the fact that whatever Illinois I was going to become as far as the back country up when Southerners the percent who settled it were concerned it was going to be a. A state that fostered and benefited the values and interests of the poor white Southerners. And of course they they didn't necessarily want slavery at the beginning but what
happened was they blamed the 89000 Constitution for the depression. Of course you remember that in your American history the panic of of 18 19 basically the country was in a deep depression at that time. And they felt that they were getting emigrants from the south who would bring their slaves in and even though the constitution of 1818 said that slavery was here after prohibited. It's sort of suggested that that slavery was that the existing slavery was OK and further it made special provisions for those people who were would bring their their their slaves in and could indenture them. So the idea was. And in particular for the for the same means down in Gallatin County and in Jackson County. The indenture provision was was restricted in the 1880 constitution so that only those slaves that were brought in to work the sailing were now permitted previous to
that during the territorial period. Anyone could bring their slaves in and indenture them for as much as 30 40 50 60. There's even some records showing indentures of 100 years. So basically defacto slavery and this allowed the southern immigrants to come into Illinois after 1880 and they all went to Missouri. So the idea was you know everything was great in Illinois and so we passed the stern 1818 Constitution which we had to to write a certain way to please Congress because we were short on our numbers and now now we have an economic depression and it's all these outsiders and easterners who are running it for us. And it's really it's interesting too. And I don't know if this is some people would say this is looking at this period through a contemporary lens but you seem to be making the case that what's going on here is a real class conflict that these people that we're talking about who are say poor or maybe
lower middle class farmers the people who actually apparently do refer to themselves as white folks really see themselves as in in a pinch between blacks and Indians. One hand and upper class whites on the other. And it really does take on seems to take on this dimension. One of the dimensions it seems to take on is a dimension of class warfare. That's right and that was very important in that in the back of these people's minds I mean they they felt that they had been a dejected and rejected class in the eastern United States and so it wasn't just political equality they wanted and that's something that they didn't feel like they had in the east. They also wanted social equality. And when the depression went down and the economy went down in the Depression there was this sense that by hook or by crook were going to make it so the white folks can farm and make money.
And of course the bottom lands were so filled with with vegetation they were thought to be sickly. Indeed many people die. Died of a version of malaria. They grew in the bottom lands as they were farming and the idea was well if you could clear the bottom lands of all this me asthmatic vegetation and you could use a slave to do that. You would then be able to farm the fertile bottom lands. And even though you are sort of doing it in a subsistence way you'd have a little extra for the market. That's what was nice about the bottom lands they were so fertile and consequently you could make that transition from being a squatter to being a landowner. And once of course you were a land owner now you had you were forced to have others recognize you. And so the irony though is that this sort of story line did indeed focus on the class motives of the white folks. Shifted once once
the state government was now Democratic and the leaders were no longer appointed by the federal government as they were under the territory. It was clear to everyone that political equality and control over the government would be in the hands of the majority group who call themselves the white folks. So they got political equality and consequently this class element sort of receded to the background I say. And so it became much more important to to debate issues that were that appealed to the white folks and politicians of course needed to find ways to divide and the white folks. So that then became very important as well. Let me just real quick introduce Again our guest for this part of focus 580 We're speaking with James Simeoni. He is associate professor of political science at Illinois Wesley and university and we're talking about the chapter of Illinois history that he writes about in
his book Democracy and slavery in front here in Illinois the bottomland Republicans published by the Northern Illinois University Press. And questions welcome 3 3 3 W I L L toll free 800. Two two two AWOL. I just wanted to go back just for a second this to the term white folks. And somebody I was talking to about this said is that a real that does that term really come out of that time did these people actually refer to themselves that way was it a common was that in that terminology in common circulation. You know that I got the term from local sources. It's used several times in the newspaper but the instance that I take take it directly from is where an old Tennessee woman who was one of the upland southerners who had migrated came into contact with a Northern Yankee family. And she made the comment that he was after
after 1815 more and more northerners started coming into Illinois. And even though they were a minority they were a significant minority may had many leadership positions. So they were sort of politically prominent I guess you could say. And. Her statement that ring ring in the ears of many was you know between that the Yankees on the one side and the Indians on the other the white folks are going to be squashed out she said. You know that sort of gives you the image and sort of the picture of how these people felt they were being squeezed you know on the one hand you had these these whites who were more sophisticated. Of course it was always commented that the Yankees had their own unusual way they wanted to have written contracts they didn't make contracts with a shake of the hand. You know they had clothes pins and all these unusual fixin's. And so they were sort of a sophisticated big full group. On the one hand and then on the other hand you had a racial divide
the white folks felt well at least if we're poor we're not black or native. We have a caller others who are certainly welcome to join the conversation 3 3 3 W I L L toll free 800 1:58 W while O. We have a call here line number 1. Hello. Yeah I missed the very first part. You might've mentioned this but I'm just wondering what these riots and conflicts influenced by have had on Lincoln and his political development. I realize he would have been very young at that time but I'm sure that you know this was still you know sort of currents in you know what was going on with politics but he started becoming politically active and Illinois. Definitely. And you know certainly Lincoln when he was in Indiana. His father belonged to the Hardshell primitive Baptists with what they called at the time regular Baptist
congregation in which Daniel Parker preached and and Lincoln always for the rest of his life felt that that that sort of Calvinist variety of of Baptism was a very powerful and yet mistaken view of the ology and yet he in the second inaugural he seems to slip back into that so I guess that's the the influence of early training. But yes he sort of rebelled from what I would call the white folks approach. And sure my politics divided into these two groups the sort of the milk inciter and the whole hog groups and the whole the whole hogs are those who who completely supported the people and whatever the majority of the people wanted right Stephen Douglas took that approach and called it popular sovereignty. Lincoln took the milk insider approach. This is the group that said Well of course we're in a democracy that the majority is important
but that's not the only thing that you have in a democracy you also have fundamental principles and basic individual rights so yeah you're absolutely I think that is something that we need to keep in mind that Lincoln was formed by the early struggle at least by the culture that this early struggle left. And of course technically we live in a republic and democracy is something a lot of people forget might argue about just how democratic small D democratic you know we really are in this country given the power of corporations but. Well fair enough I mean but the thing about democracy is this story I think shows is there is this majority hereon strain in it which is part and parcel of democracy. And and so when you have. People running around saying well whatever the majority of the people want the government has to give them it. You know look what's happening in Eastern Europe
right now I mean you have the exact same problem people who were excluded in Eastern Europe under the communist system now are taking control. And what's the first thing that they do they lash out at the outsiders. You know those who are different in the case of Hungary say the Jews. And yet I don't think there's more than 5 percent of the people in Hungary are Jews. Same thing happened in Illinois. As soon as you get into power the majority says well I Dennehy the people who we are is it should rule should reign. And those those who are different. The Yankees the black folks they're going to be marginalized. And I think that that is part and parcel of democracy not that it has to always be what democracy ends up with. But. So I can say I agree with you that that we don't have a pure democracy but I also say that maybe in the end that's not such a bad thing. Thank you very much. I think just to be clear I say in it when Illinois became a state 18 18 did the majority of Illinois. Would they have
favored slavery. Now that's a real that's a real tough call. I think without the Depression No as I pointed out a lot of those upland Southerners the white folks they came to Illinois precisely because they wanted to get away from slavery. Not only didn't slavery exclude them because they weren't wealthy enough to own slaves but it was part of that whole southern pecking order with the big folks on top down in the plantations in the the the sort of the white folks as their servants and the black folks as their slaves and so in many ways they wanted to get away from that tradition but they you know I guess you would say I don't see many of them felt that they first had to defeat the big folks and the only way to do that with say the majority rules in the majority can do whatever it wants. Of course once you do that you open the door to slavery. Well it's interesting in that respect that people would want to who would feel oppressed by that system would have come to Illinois initially with the idea that they wanted to get away
from it. And then. Decided that for economic economic reasons there way they were going to get their leg up the economic ladder was in fact to embrace slavery. Yeah David and I would just put you to death process repeats itself over and over again. I don't think it's unique to Illinois but yes that's been I guess you could say that's the paradox of the story. Let's talk another call in Urbana here Lie number two. Hello. Hi my question I guess is sort of implied in the whole issue of class difference. But I was wondering to what extent for those you know the pro-slavery anti-slavery argument there was some consideration for the work ethic meaning you talked about the poor whites you know the white people who had to work for everything that they wanted. And so wouldn't that have factored into the idea that the upper class sort of had it easier and and therefore they shouldn't have played you know that that the American worked at it as opposed to saying it was they were opposed to slavery out of consideration for the humanity of the blacks. I mean does that factor into this at
all. Well I think both of those approaches the slavery existed. I. Are you saying that that it would violate their own producer norms you know to own slaves because they were claiming all along that they were better than the big folks because they were the ones who were doing the work right. And also now they're going to yes and in fact now they're going to become the slave owners they're not going to do the work they're going to lose their sort of special status as the pure good people who are doing the work while everyone else is living off of them yeah. I think that was a problem and in fact that was the argument that was used by the anti-slavery forces that really worked like a charm. Right right right. And you know the vote was close I mean it ended up being that obviously you know Illinois a free State the anti-slavery forces won. It was a 600. Margin in 1824 when they call the convention to change the constitution so I mean it's not like the anti-slavery forces were in the
minority when the vote when it came down to a vote. But I think given the prominence of the convention is that it the pro-slavery group in Illinois politics after the convention it's pretty clear that they at least be the cultural persuasion. The producer culture that these white folks had certainly was was predominant in the state right. But the attitudes towards blacks was still pretty prejudice right and it wasn't like they were opposed to slavery because they saw blacks as equal I mean it was still the reso the racism was still and totally and it was a total disaster. Basically even though you had the Northwest Ordinance even though you had the constitution of 1818 slavery really wasn't really limited from the state declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court until 1845. OK and then even then black people didn't but men didn't weren't able to vote until 1895. Been ok. So yeah you're actually
right that that was a long and problematic history right. OK thank you. We'll go to Bloomington Illinois for another call here lie number four. Hello good morning. Yes it seems to me. This discussion that you're having here is tired then with a capitalistic system. And this seems to me that that the capitalistic system itself is based upon slave labor or near slave labor. And so they want you to comment on that. I would just say you have to make a distinction between people who can contract for their labor and people who can't. So I have to see it as an improvement but it's certainly the idea that that the market and the coming of the market to the back country front to your people was a very traumatic experience in their
lives and to go from a subsistence economy to a capitalist market economy was a very difficult transition. And we we to this day have difficulty making this transition so if that's what you're suggesting I agree. But I would also say that you can't put the blame soley on the market and the fact that people like to trade. I mean I think you have to look at the fact that people do get caught up in these these group identity. Which to some extent the market successfully breaks. Part. So I don't think that that the capitalism is the bogeyman completely because it actually helps encourage people to to think selfishly Yes and to think of their self-interest and think individualistically. And it was that kind of thinking which convinced many of the white folks hey wait a minute I'll never even be able to buy a slave anyway. So maybe I ought to not vote for this. So I think it's a mixed bag.
Well the researching of the situation today with a multinational corporations moving into places where the labor costs are as low as possible. And that's what I meant by a near play happening all over the world Thailand Eastern Europe. Exactly. I guess our only hope is that people move through the stages of democracy from this sort of majority hereon approach where you actually yeah force the companies to to bend to your will I guess they're the new big folks to fit into the early Illinois story. OK. Thank you sir. Questions and comments are certainly welcome we're a little bit past the midpoint here. We're talking with James Simeoni He is associate professor of political science at Illinois Wesley University and writes about this period of Illinois history in his book Democracy and slavery in frontier Illinois it's published by Northern Illinois University Press questions welcome. Three three
three toll free 800 1:58 wy love. Maybe we should talk for a moment about how it is that Illinois entered the Union as a free state given the fact that we know that there were people who supported slavery and then when we look at what happened in 1824 when there was this vote for a proposal for a constitutional convention essentially what that was was a vote on slavery. There was the anti-slavery people prevailed but it was but it was relatively narrow. Sixth I think you said it was 600 votes difference so we know we'd know at that time in 1824 that there were still. Significant numbers of people who would like to have seen Illinois a slave state. How is it that Illinois came into the Union as a free state. Well don't forget the French. Don't forget that the French that Illinois was part of the Louisiana territory after 1717. And again the fertile bottom lands were so
attractive and with slave labor they were able to export food to New Orleans so the French colony grew rapidly and so did the slaves with them. I think they had as many as 600 in 750 but then when Illinois was after the Revolutionary War Illinois basically became part of Virginia in 1778 and that's really where the the sort of bone of contention began because in 17 83 when Virginia ceded the land of Illinois and and most of the Northwest Territories to the U.S. They included a provision that said that the French and other inhabitants of Illinois would be secure in their rights and possessions. And that was interpreted to mean that existing slavery was OK. And so when the Northwest Ordinance came four years later supposedly the interpretation was
that it only prohibited future slavery in bringing new slaves into the state. So that was the sort of the conflicted reading of the law and the locals of course especially the local slave owners took it to their advantage. And there was sort of a compromise in the state at that point. The anti-slavery forces said OK knowing that they were not in a minority in a very slim majority they were willing to compromise and say OK well existing slavery we'll sort of ignore. But we know that in the future Illinois will become a free state. And of course that I was unsettled when Edward calls came and became governor. And immediately in 1822 in his inaugural address said let's get rid of every element of slavery in this supposedly free state. I want to make sure we talk a little bit because here I'm sure. Are this a part of Illinois history again
that I think a lot of people wouldn't be familiar with about just how much conflict there was around this issue at this time to the point where the state house actually was burned down and I think there were people who probably would have like to take the governor Mr. Coles out and string him up. They only burn him in effigy and they did they did that and he's probably lucky that that his house didn't get burned in a blow on his only burn his part of his mouth and they burned all his peach and peach trees and apple trees. Yes that's right. Let's talk about what about this about all of this conflict real actual physical conflict. Well you know it happens in these situations where political authority is really being contested. And there's a question about who actually controls what's going on. There was a lot of. Of disruptive behavior there was there were there were 13 murders in two years in a two year period between 18 22
and early. Twenty five I guess is two and a half year period. And many of those murders were tied to disputes that individuals and families had you know between members of families over slavery and anti slavery. So you know this is one of those situations where you not only had the political authority being contested but also the whole social order was in a way being contested in the end the white folks are saying whatever happens we're going to stand in the middle of this and be the power force and force for many people with refined educations who thought that was ridiculous. And you know that basically in the past in America people people who were poor and on educated deferred to those who are who are wealthier and and had better education to be the leaders. And suddenly the white folks are saying no more. Now the common man is actually
going to rule. And you know when that happens you have a kind of a of a social shift and and that's what I think explains the unsettling of the of the community and that's what explains all the the arson and robbery and violence. This was in effect a kind of a popular uprising. Yeah I mean when those people who who came to Governor Cole's house in Vandalia and said you know and burned his his effigy and and ground outside his house they felt that that you know here he was the Virginia plantation owner who really didn't understand what it was like. To be a poor or poor person in Illinois you know he had just come in 1890 and he was a relative newcomer and they were worried that they in the case of India that they were going to lose the state capital designation. So their lives their livelihoods were on the
line and they felt that he he didn't understand that and so they wanted to impress upon him at that point. And that's what happened. You know that's why people get out in groups of people and go outside someone's house and and sing songs and and write it. Who was it that was leading the constitutionalist forces that is the those people who were pushing for the Constitutional Convention who essentially were really arguing for legalizing slavery in Illinois who was who was leading. That side of this well you have you have William Kinney from St. Clair County you have who is very popular man. You have people like Elias Kent Cain Cain was a New York attorney who's very scholarly man who who ironically many of the leaders of the pro convention pro-slavery movement were were northerners who were in fact well educated and indeed had a lot of
land it is this typically happens you you get a new political movement and the leaders who emerge. What political science we call policy entrepreneurs people who see an issue and want to take advantage of it. And in this case and with people like Cain and also Keith W. Smith I was also from New York so people like Smith Cain Kinney on the eastern side of the state. People like Leonard white and Willis Hargrove don't. These are representatives from the General Assembly and from the Senate at a time when so many of your listeners are not familiar with these people obviously but yeah they they were a formidable group. There is then that it's so obviously where we're going very quickly through. Is an interesting and sort of complex period but there
is once we get 18 24 there is this vote that takes place. Yeah and the issue at this point was should we or should we not have a constitution to talk about a convention to talk about amending the Illinois constitution. Right. And and it wasn't really clear that what we were talking what they were talking about at the time was that they wanted to change the constitution so to make slavery legal. Yes. And I mean there is some play there. Conrad will who is another one of the leaders proposed in quotes to limit its lazy plan. His idea was that the that in fact that was different from the north in the south that that it was it would be a new land where new things were possible. And the idea was that you know he didn't want to have southern plantation slavery. But he did feel that that the Illinois needed a boost in its economy and indeed the bottom line is clear. So his idea was bring the slaves in from the south who at this point have
no hope of ever being free. They'll come to Illinois they will work through the bottom lands and in 10 and 15 years they can be sent to Liberia to Africa. So their freedom. So the idea was See this is kind of a middle range we were pro-slavery but we understand that this is a that is a risky policy and in fact we're also a terrible racist and we don't want blacks among us. And so we will ship them to Africa. The vote voters rejected Illinois voters rejected this proposal for the Constitution. Constitution Question 18 24. But what used I think you said earlier that in fact the these two sides these these two movements continue to be active and to shape Illinois politics for a long time after that in in what way does this conflict continue to carry on past. 18 24.
Well there's so many lessons to come out of it but I think the the immediate impact was that many of the. But what we got at what they called it the milk insider contingent among the common people among the white folks realized that that it was wrong to say that democracy meant that whatever the majority wanted they could get and that there were certain fundamental rights that individuals had had. To be respected and in particular the Methodists were very well organized and in some ways you could say it wasn't the leaders on either side that made the difference it was it was the followers and in particular the followers among the milk insider Methodists. They were the ones who organized on the ground and in their congregations talked up the anti convention position. So I think that what happened was you know somebody called earlier and asked about Lincoln I mean
basically the milk and cider people either became moderate Democrats or they became whips. And this idea talk about the influence on Lincoln. The idea that there could be a sort of moderate principle defense of democracy. I was born in this in this struggle and the sort of moderate Democrats and the Whigs sort of realized that they didn't have to argue this political deference position that always seem to marginalize the people they could champion the people. But with some restraint and out of that came this the Whig Party platform which if you remember Lincoln was sort of on the left wing of the Whig party so he in some ways was a classic milk insider. And so that's one of the ways that that this had an impact on the political culture of the nation. And so there were really talk about the nation I guess I was thinking in a way I was just thinking about
Illinois but this does extend indeed to have a national political significance. Well when you look at the Lincoln-Douglas debates it's basically a rehash of the arguments that were made in 1824 and Douglas is arguing for popular sovereignty by which he really means the majority of the country that that the local majority should be able to control and dictate policy and we can call that squatter democracy in squatter sovereignty and he he felt that that was sort of committing to the exact error of assuming that the local majority was sovereign. And in fact it didn't even majorities are are are limited by certain fundamental principles and rights of individuals. So I mean I think that the cast and the spin that these essentially local politicians Douglas and and Lincoln put on their national parties then had
the impact. Nationally we have another caller here in Peotone lie number four. Hello Yes hello. Cathy Cathy of the first capital APRA Menard. Yes. Prince Prince men. How long was the capital there at Kaskaskia. Only till 18 twenty two years war what with that flat out. Well it flooded out in 1844 But no it was that they they wanted. It's you know a complicated series of maneuvers the base of even Delia was in the middle of the state of that part of the federal state at the time in the eastern part of the state along the Wabash River in the Ohio felt it that kept Yes it was just too far. You mean. Yeah well it wasn't because it was just in the bottom land there of the first governor. One name escapes me. But what happened to that for they were all Shadrack bond had been where they they were appointed them by I don't know the territorial governor was Ninian Edwards and
he was in power from 18 0 9 to 18 18 and then yes the first governor from eighty nine thousand eight hundred twenty two. And then Edward Coles is elected. OK well what about Pierre Menard. He was the lieutenant governor OK though he was a trader a crapper from that up in the Montana territory but he was a means because the houses were Chadwick not Pierre Menard houses a public writer. You know Ron we live in Cahokia which was another French town and I guess you know to to put the spin I would like to put on your what you're saying is that the French actually played a very important role the the upland southerners who came and settled were very impressed with the French way of life and the reason Pierre Menard was elected lieutenant governor is because he was so well regarded by everyone. And but of course that only strengthened the pro-slavery side because of course the French own slaves.
Now the French and their approach to slavery was much more mild than that in the south or in the Caribbean. In some ways you could say that they were members of the family and did better in terms of nutrition than the peasants of Europe which the French were still in a way sort of. Really. Broken off from the French empire. Right well how come the bell there at Kaskaskia is given by the King Louis whatever 16. There's something to it. Well that too is you know what people across the flea that you you know you have course they have a great tradition of not paying any attention to the king. They were very wealthy in it up until about 760 the French did very well. But my point is that the that the American saw how the French lived in the bottom land and how they farmed it with with with African American labor.
And they said that's the model we want to follow that the white folk term is one that I hear from people from the south. White folks they go you know not this you know you got to be 65 or more to hear that. And this is the thing is that course that name as Thomas Ford explains in his history of Illinois it's a mixed bag on the one hand. It distinguishes you as a white person from a black person on a on a basis of race but on the other hand of course that it originally appeared supposedly from the the as the slave the slave. The house slaves of the wealthy whites who didn't want to refer to their masters in a racial way but but felt free to to talk about the rest of the of the white population the poor white folks in that way and so many of the white folks were conflicted about their own name. Very interesting. Wonderful wonderful. Well thanks very much for the call. I just real quick something I did want to ask you about was the
role that Illinois senator played in the Missouri Compromise. I don't know if this is too much of a side issue but I guess I'm curious about how Jesse Thomas played it was involved in this whole question here in the state of Illinois where where he lined up and. How it is that he became so important in proposing this idea that yeah Missouri could be a slave state but that north of a particular line we were going to say that there was no slavery. Well in a sense you could see it as yet another example of this western approach was different in the northern and the Southern particularly on slavery you know Thomas was a great compromiser he was a great politician of the quid pro quo and he was trying to make it into the higher ranks of the Democratic Party. And he saw this as an opportunity to make a name for himself. And indeed he was the one who proposed the idea of all of a line. So I think you could say that Illinois unique. Early on in my unique contribution
- Producing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media
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- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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- with James Simeone, associate professor of political science, Illinois Wesleyan University
- Talk Show
- History; Race/Ethnicity; Illinois; Slavery
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Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
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Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus010531a.mp3 (Illinois Public Media)
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus010531a.wav (Illinois Public Media)
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- Chicago: “Focus; Democracy and Slavery in Frontier Illinois: The Bottomland Republic,” 2001-05-31, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 10, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-g73707x39t.
- MLA: “Focus; Democracy and Slavery in Frontier Illinois: The Bottomland Republic.” 2001-05-31. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 10, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-g73707x39t>.
- APA: Focus; Democracy and Slavery in Frontier Illinois: The Bottomland Republic. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-g73707x39t