Illinois in 1837

 
"The immense resources of the Western Country, the vast increase of wealth, population, and influence in the New States, have long been, but are more particularly at the present time, topics of great and increasing interest throughout the whole of our vast Republic, and are arresting the attention not only of our own citizens, but of the inhabitants of foreign countries. Such are the admirable facilities of the West for trade, such the variety and fertility of its soil, the number and excellence of its natural products, the genial nature of its climate, and the rapidity with which its population is increasing, that it has become an object of the deepest interest to every American patriot. To this region the speculator is attracted by the increasing value of property; the politician anticipates the time when, through the ballot-box, the West shall rule; the young and enterprising, turning from the eager competition of industry and talent in the older states, see here a less occupied field of action; the philanthropist feels a benevolent anxiety for the intellectual, moral, and religious condition of our national glory. The greatness and importance of this region is bursting into vision in a manner scarcely less wonderful to the present generation than was American prosperity to the slowly progressing European."
From the preface of Illinois in 1837 & 8, published in 1837 by S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia.
Held in the collection of the Illinois State Historical Library.


The editor of Illinois in 1837& 8 credits the accompanying map with being one of the most descriptive and complete maps, for its scale, available in the late 1830s. It contained all of the counties, seventy in number, organized in the young state. Also, the map corresponds with the written portion of the book by providing a frame of reference for the descriptions of the Illinois towns and counties, some of which are included in this Web document.

The total population of Illinois at the time Elijah Lovejoy moved to Alton was estimated at around 400,000 inhabitants. A chart included in Illinois in 1837 & 8 tells that the three largest counties in terms of population were Sangamon, Morgan, and Greene. These counties held 17,573; 16,500; and 12,274 people respectively. The counties with the least number of people living within their borders were the northern counties of Stephenson (400), Boone (600), and Henry (600).

Both these population figures and the appearance of the map illustrate how the southern counties of Illinois came to be populated long before their northern counterparts. The southern and west central counties held the largest number of people and, therefore, the most power in the young state legislature. The majority of the settlers to southern Illinois migrated north from states such as Kentucky and Tennessee south of the Ohio River. Many of these "upland southerners" benefited from the system of slavery or were at the very least used to the institution. Most opposed the radical ideas of New England men such as Lovejoy who wished to limit or abolish the slavery system in Illinois and the country.



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