Joseph Duncan

Continuing our review of the governors of Illinois down to the end of Reconstruction, we have come to the sixth governor, Joseph Duncan.

Born on January 22, 1794 in Paris, Kentucky,  he enlisted in the Army at the outset of the War of 1812.  He served with the 17th Infantry throughout the War, being mustered out as a Lieutenant.  He settled in Illinois in 1818, the same year that Illinois was admitted into the Union.

Residing in Jackson County, Illinois, he began to purchase land in several counties in Illinois, and embarked upon a career in politics by being elected Justice of the Peace in Jackson County from 1821-23.  In 1824 he was elected to the State Senate.  While in the Senate he became Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs and helped draw up an act reorganizing the state militia.  In 1826 he was elected to the US House of Representatives in which he served until 1834.  He was a supporter of Andrew Jackson and helped organize the Democratic party in Illinois.

Elected governor in 1834, his tenure was notable for the Internal Improvements Act which he sponsored and the General Assembly passed.  This bill authorized the use of state funds to build roads, canals, bridges, etc.  The bill was ardently supported in the House by a young representative, Abraham Lincoln.  The Governor later changed his mind about the Internal Improvements Act, citing its great cost, but by then it was too late.  In a state noted for fiscal disasters, the Internal Improvements Act was a monument to fiscal folly.  Paying for often useless projects, the State entered a period of near bankruptcy for generations.  The bills accumulated by the Internal Improvements Act would not be payed off until 1882.

The other item of note during his term of office, was the transfer of the state capitol from Vandalia to Springfield, a feat largely attributable to representative Lincoln, and the other representatives  from Sangamon County.

In 1842 he ran for governor for a second time, on this occasion as  a nominee of the Whig Party.  He was defeated by Democrat Thomas Ford.  He died on January 15, 1844.

Published in: on January 23, 2022 at 5:23 am  Comments Off on Joseph Duncan  
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