The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 29, 1842

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George W. Meeker, a native of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, had come to Chicago in 1837 and there he eventually established a prominent law practice. Walter S. Gurnee and Joseph Matteson were partners in a Chicago hardware business. Lyman Trumbull was the Illinois secretary of state at this time.

Lot 1 of block 37 in the Original Town is situated at the southwest corner of Randolph and State Streets. Today all of block 37 has been leveled.

Canal construction had halted in 1842 following the collapse of the State Bank. Thomas Ford, a Democrat, had been elected governor in the fall of 1842. In his December 8 inaugural Ford recognized the state's chief challenge as being the massive fifteen million dollar debt it had accumulated in the course of reckless appropriations for varied internal improvements. This debt had been incurred when the entire state's population was made up of less than a half million men, women, and children.

Among the many projects undertaken, only the canal had real merit. Ford proposed that it be seen through to completion because once finished it would more than pay for itself through the tolls it would generate and the prices its adjacent lands would bring. The Chicago delegation to the General Assembly strongly backed Ford's plan (see document 9). By this date participation in a duel resulting in a death was punishable by a prison term of up to five years.

To locate Chicago lots and blocks, see Exhibit B.

Points to Consider

What business was George W. Meeker attempting to transact with this letter?
Who were George W. Meeker and Lyman Trumbull?
What does "cut and thrust" refer to?
What was the anticipated "winter campaign" to be set in Springfield?

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