Augustus C. French


Continuing on with our series on the Governors of Illinois down to the end of Reconstruction, we come to the ninth Governor of Illinois, Augustus C. French.

Born on August 2, 1808 in New Hampshire, his father died when French was a child.  Eager to obtain an education, he attended Dartmouth College, but had to leave due to lack of funds.  He persisted in his studies on his own, and in 1823 French was admitted to the bar.

He settled initially in Albion in Edwards County in Illinois, but soon moved to Edgar Courthouse in Edgar County in Illinois.  Edgar Courthouse would soon be renamed Paris, and is the hometown of the author of this blog post.  French became a successful attorney, and raised his younger siblings after the death of his mother.

In 1837 he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives.  Moving to Palestine in Crawford County, he became the Receiver of Public Monies for funds paid for the purchase of federal land in Illinois.

French was nominated by the Democrats for the governorship and won the office in the election of 1846.

French’s term was noted for two things relatively rare in Illinois politics:  fiscal wisdom and no scandals.  When he came into office the fiscal books of Illinois were still in a mess from the overspending of the Illinois legislature on public works during the administration of Governor Joseph Duncan.  By the time French left office in 1853 the deficit had been eliminated. 

In retirement French became a law professor at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois.  In 1858 he ran for election as the State superintendent of Public Instruction, but was defeated.  In 1862 he was a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention, derided by critics as the Copperhead Convention due to the anti-war stance of most of the delegates.  The changes recommended in the Illinois Constitution by the Convention were not ratified by the voters.  French died on September 4, 1864.

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 5:59 am  Comments Off on Augustus C. French  
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