Shadrach Bond, the first Governor of Illinois after its organization as a State, serving from 1818 to 1822, was born in Frederick County, Maryland, in the year 1773, and was raised a farmer on his father’s plantation, receiving only a plain English education. He emigrated to this State in 1794, when it was a part of the “Northwest Territory,” continuing in the vocation in which he had been brought up in his native State, in the “New Design,” near Eagle Creek, in what is now Monroe County. He served several terms as a member of the General Assembly of Indiana Territory, after it was organized as such, and in 1812-14 he was a Delegate to the Twelfth and Thirteenth Congresses, taking his seat Dec. 3, 1812, and serving until Oct. 3, 1814. These were the times, the reader will recollect, when this Government had its last struggle with Great Britain. The year 1812 is also noted in the history of his State as that in which the first Territorial Legislature was held. It convened at Kaskaskia, Nov. 25, and adjourned Dec. 26, following.
While serving as Delegate to Congress, Mr. Bond was instrumental in procuring the right of pre-emption on the public domain. On the expiration of his term at Washington he was appointed Receiver of Public Moneys at Kaskaskia, then the capital of the Territory. In company with John G. Comyges, Thomas H. Harris, Charles Slade, Michael Jones, Warren Brown, Edward Humphries and Charles W. Hunter, he became a proprietor of the site of the initial city of Cairo, which they hoped, from its favorable location at the junction of the two great rivers near the center of the Great West, would rapidly develop into a metropolis. To aid the enterprise, they obtained a special charter from the Legislature, incorporating both the City and the Bank of Cairo.
In 1818 Mr. Bond was elected the first Governor of the State of Illinois, being inaugurated Oct. 6, that year, which was several weeks before Illinois was actually admitted. The facts are these: In January, 1818, the Territorial Legislature sent a petition to Congress for the admission of Illinois as a State, Nathaniel Pope being then Delegate. The petition was granted, fixing the northern line of the State on the latitude of the southern extremity of Lake Michigan; but the bill was afterward so amended as to extend this line to its present latitude. In July a convention was called at Kaskaskia to draft a constitution, which, however, was not submitted to the people. By its provisions, supreme judges, prosecuting attorneys, county and circuit judges, recorders and justices of the peace were all to be appointed by the Governor or elected by the Legislature. This constitution was accepted by Congress Dec. 30. At that time Illinois comprised but eleven counties, namely, Randolph, Madison, Gallatin, Johnson, Pope, Jackson, Crawford, Bond, Union, Washington and Franklin, the northern portion of the State being mainly in Madison County. Thus it appears that Mr. Bond was honored by the naming of a county before he was elected Governor. The present county of Bond is of small limitations, about 60 to 80 miles south of Springfield. For Lieutenant Governor the people chose Pierre Menard, a prominent and worthy Frenchman, after whom a county in this State is named. In this election there were no opposition candidates, as the popularity of these men had made their promition to the chief offices of the State, even before the constitution was drafted, a foregone conclusion.
The principal points that excited the people in reference to political issues at this period were local or “internal improvements,” as they were called, State banks, location of the capital, slavery and the personal characteristics of the proposed candidates. Mr. Bond represented the “Convention party,” for introducing slavery into the State, supported by Elias Kent Kane, his Secretary of State, and John McLean, while Nathaniel Pope and John P. Cook led the anti-slavery element. The people, however, did not become very much excited over this issue until 1820, when the famous Missouri Compromise was adopted by Congress, limiting slavery to the south of the parallel of 36° 30′ except in Missouri. While this measure settled the great slavery controversy, so far as the average public sentiment was temporarily concerned, until 1854, when it was repealed under the leadership of Stephen A. Douglas, the issue as considered locally in this State was not decided until 1824, after a most furious campaign. (See sketch of Gov. Coles.) The ticket of 1818 was a compromise one, Bond representing (moderately) the pro-slavery sentiment and Menard the anti-slavery.
An awkward element in the State government under Gov. Bond’s administration, was the imperfection of the State constitution. The Convention wished to have Elijah C. Berry for the first Auditor of Public Accounts, but, as it was believed that the new Governor would not appoint him to the office, the Convention declared in a schedule that “an auditor of public accounts, an attorney general and such other officers of the State as may be necessary, may be appointed by the General Assembly.” The Constitution, as it stood, vested a very large appointing power in the Governor; but for the purpose of getting one man into office, a total change was made, and the power vested in the Legislature. Of this provision the Legislature took advantage, and declared that State’s attorneys, canal commissioners, bank directors, etc., were all “officers of the State” and must therefore be appointed by itself independently of the Governor.
During Gov. Bond’s administration a general law was passed for the incorporation of academies and towns, and one authorizing lotteries. The session of 1822 authorized the Governor to appoint commissioners, to act in conjunction with like commissioners appointed by the State of Indiana, to report on the practicability and expediency of improving the navigation of the Wabash River; also inland navigation generally. Many improvements were recommended, some of which have been feebly worked at even till the present day, those along the Wabash being of no value. Also, during Gov. Bond’s term of office, the capital of the State was removed from Kaskaskia to Vandalia. In 1820 a law was passed by Congress authorizing this State to open a canal through the public lands. The State appointed commissioners to explore the route and prepare the necessary surveys and estimates, preparatory to its execution; but, being unable out of its own resources to defray the expenses of the udnertaking, it was abandoned until some time after Congress made the grant of land for the purpose of its construction.
On the whole, Gov. Bond’s administration was fairly good, not being open to severe criticism from any party. In 1824, two years after the expiration of his term of office, he was brought out as a candidate for Congress against the formidable John P. Cook, but received only, 4,374 votes to 7,460 for the latter. Gov. Bond was no orator, but had made many fast friends by a judicious bestowment of his gubernatorial patronage, and these worked zealously for him in the campaign.
In 1827 ex-Gov. Bond was appointed by the Legislature, with Wm. P. McKee and Dr. Gershom Jayne, as Commissioners to locate a site for a penitentiary on the Mississippi at or near Alton.
Mr. Bond was of a benevolent and convivial disposition, a man of shrewd observation and clear appreciation of events. His person was erect, standing six feet in height, and after middle life became portly, weighing 200 pounds. His features were strongly masculine, complexion dark, hair jet and eyes hazel; was a favorite with the ladies. He died April 11, 1830, in peace and contentment.
Source: “Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign County, Illinois,” Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1887.