Shadrach Bond-First Governor of Illinois

 

Being a resident of the Land of Lincoln, I probably have more interest in the history of the Sucker State than most of our readers.  However, many of the Governors of Illinois have been fairly colorful characters, and during the period of our nation’s history covered by this blog, down to the end of Reconstruction, Illinois played a rather large role.  Therefore I am beginning a series on the Governors of Illinois to the end of Reconstruction.  I have already written about the second Governor of Illinois, Edward Coles here.

The first Governor of Illinois, Shadrach Bond, was born in Maryland in 1773.  His uncle, also named Shadrach Bond, came to Illinois as a scout with George Rogers Clark, during his epic campaign in 1779 which seized what would become Illinois and Indiana from the British.

From his uncle, Shadrach learned that Illinois possessed excellent soil for farming.  He moved to Illinois in 1806, settling near Kaskaskia, and immediately began farming.  Bond served as the territorial representative of Illinois in Congress and in 1818 he was elected Governor of the newly admitted State of Illinois.  A tribute to the lack of partisanship at this time in American history, Bond was elected to both posts without opposition.

Then, as now, Illinois was broke.  Bond signed a bill to allow for the operation of private toll roads and bridges as a consequence of the lack of state money to build a transportation infrastructure.  Arson was made a capital crime under Bond.  Bond abolished the whipping post and the pillory for misdemeanor offenses, reserving them for felonies.  (Considering that Illinois has sent four governors to prison over the last four decades, one might wish that these devices were still in use today.)  Starting early on the habit of fiscal irresponsibility which has been a hallmark of Illinois government, the state legislature passed a bill creating a State Bank of Illinois.  Bond vetoed the bill fearing that the Bank would be under-capitalized as the State lacked the gold to back up the banknotes issued by the Bank.  The legislature passed the bill over his veto.  The State Bank of Illinois was created, and swiftly went bankrupt, Governor Bond’s fears proving prophetic.

After his one term, Bond retired back to his farm.  He died of pneumonia in 1832.  Illinois has a history of rascality in its politics, but Bond appears to have been an honest man trying to do his best as Governor of the State.

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Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 6:23 am  Comments Off on Shadrach Bond-First Governor of Illinois  
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