In 19th century Illinois, only the City of Chicago could claim more representatives in state and national political offices than Quincy. Reviewing the list of Quincy’s pre-eminent politicians on February 18, 1883, the “Quincy Daily Herald” indicated that “generally the representation (by Quincy politicians) has been conspicuously influential.” There was one notorious exception.
Of all Quincy’s state and national politicians, Stephen A. Douglas, who lived in Quincy from 1841 to 1848, would become by 1858 the most powerful Democrat in the nation. In the contest that year for his U.S. Senate seat, Douglas beat not only Abraham Lincoln, but President James Buchanan, a Democrat who despised Douglas, as well. Douglas had been a congressman (1843-1846), senator (1847-1861), a candidate three times for his party’s nomination for the presidency (1852, 1856), and in 1860 the Democratic nominee for president.
In addition to Douglas, three other Quincyans served as U.S. senators: Richard Montgomery Young (1837-1842), Orville Hickman Browning (1861-1862), and William Alexander Richardson (1862-1865). Browning was the only 19th century Quincy resident to serve in a president’s cabinet. Browning was President Andrew Johnson’s secretary of interior from September 1866 to March 1869.
President James Knox Polk appointed Quincyan Young commissioner of the U.S. General Land Office in 1847. He served through June 1849.
Including Douglas and Richardson, Quincy was home to four congressmen. When Illinois legislators elected Douglas to the U.S. Senate in 1847, Quincy area voters elected Richardson to Douglas’s congressional seat. Richardson held the position until he was elected U.S. senator in 1862. The other Quincy congressmen were George Alburtus Anderson (1887-1888) and James Washington Singleton (1879-1882).
Among governors Quincy furnished to the State of Illinois, Quincy and Adams County founder John Wood is likely best known locally. Nominated by Abraham Lincoln, Wood was elected lieutenant governor in 1856 on the Republican Party’s first statewide ticket. He ascended to the chief executive’s office when Governor William Henry Bissell of Joliet died in March 1860. Wood served ten months from an office on the south side of his Greek Revival mansion at 12th and State Streets. With no intention to occupy the official governor’s office at the state capitol in Springfield, Wood invited Lincoln to use it for his presidential campaign throughout 1860. Lincoln accepted the offer.
Wood made his greatest contributions to President Lincoln and Illinois from his Quincy office. Wood knew the likelihood of the South’s secession in 1860. And knowing that Illinois governors since the end of the Mexican War in 1848 had allowed the state militia to deteriorate, Wood focused on its rehabilitation. That work, said Horace Greeley’s “New York Tribune,” made Illinois the best prepared state to answer Lincoln’s call in July 1861 for troops as the Civil War began.
Quincy was home to three other Illinois governors, each of them transplants to the city. Thomas Carlin, the state’s seventh governor, had been an early federal land officer in Quincy. His term in the statehouse from 1838 to 1842 was marred by debt piled up by an outlandish spending spree by legislators in the 1836-1837 session.
Thomas Ford, a former state’s attorney for the Quincy region, was governor from 1842 to 1846. He managed the state through its crushing financial problems, but his otherwise glowing reputation was tarnished by political miscalculations during the Mormon Wars in Western Illinois, including the assassination of Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith.
The fourth Quincyan to become governor was Adolphus Frederick Hubbard. Details of his residence in Quincy are sketchy. But Quincy lawyer and local historian Henry Asbury includes Hubbard among Quincy’s earliest lawyers before 1831. That conforms to other biographical sketches that place Hubbard in Quincy after the end of his political career.
Hubbard was elected a pro-slavery delegate from Gallatin County to the Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1818—one of only three lawyers at the convention—and elected to the state’s first general assembly, which convened that year.
Elected lieutenant governor in 1822, the Kentucky-born Hubbard became governor by usurping the office while Gov. Edward Coles was away from the state. When the governor returned, Hubbard claimed that by his ten-week absence Coles had forfeited the office. Hubbard asserted that the state constitution made him the rightful occupant for the remainder of Coles’s term.
The secretary of state, however, refused to recognize Hubbard’s actions, and the Illinois supreme court rejected Hubbard’s claim to the office. His ambitions unsatisfied, Hubbard appealed to the state legislature where his rejection fell two votes short of unanimous.
The controversy made Hubbard’s name familiar around the state. Hubbard misconstrued his celebrity as popularity. Rebuffed in the attempt to possess the governor’s office by intrigue, Hubbard sought to win it constitutionally. He presented himself in 1826 as a candidate for Illinois governor.
He was an active campaigner, delivering speeches throughout the young state’s first counties. In one speech was this gem:
“Fellow-citizens, I offer myself as a candidate before you, for the office of governor. I do not pretend to be a man of extraordinary talents; not do I claim to be equal to Julius Caesar or Napoleon Bonaparte, nor yet to be as great a man as my opponent, Governor (Ninian) Edwards. Nevertheless, I think I can govern you pretty well. I do not think that it will require a very extraordinary smart man to govern you; for to tell you the truth, fellow-citizens, I do not think you will be very hard to govern, no how.”
Hubbard discovered that voters did not want him to govern them, “no how.” He won only 580 of the 12,707 votes cast.
It was a humiliating defeat. Hubbard moved to Quincy, where he disappeared from history. When he died, he was buried in Jefferson Cemetery, which was on the south half of the block between Vermont and Broadway and Fifth and Sixth Streets. In 1845, some 300 bodies were moved to a new cemetery at 24th and Maine. Some graves went unidentified, however, and bodies were left there undisturbed. Somewhere among them was the body of Adolphus Frederick Hubbard.
Reg Ankrom, “Quincy’s Gov. Ford Saves State’s Reputation,” Quincy Herald-Whig, March 22, 2014.
“Biographical Directory of the United States Congress,” at
Henry Asbury, Reminiscences of Quincy, Illinois. Quincy, Illinois: D. Wilcox and Sons, Printers, 1882.
William Coffin, Life and Times of Hon. Samuel D. Lockwood.Chicago: Knight & Leonard Co., 1889.
William H. Collins and Cicero F. Perry, Past and Present of Quincy and Adams County. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing, 1905.
“Descendants of William Hubbard and Elizabeth Boatman,” at
Louis L. Emmerson, Ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois. Springfield: Illinois Secretary of State, 1921.
Thomas Ford, History of Illinois.Vol. 1. Chicago: S.C. Griggs & Co., 1854.
“History of Woodland Cemetery,” Woodland Cemetery Records, Vol. 1. File, Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.
John Moses, Illinois Historical and Statistical, Vol. 1. Chicago: Fergus Publishing Co., 1889.
John M. Palmer, The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent.Vol. 1. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899.
Proceedings of the Illinois State Bar Association for the Year 1889. Springfield, Illinois: State Bar Association, 1889.
“Quincy in the State and National Councils,” Quincy Daily Herald, February 18, 1883.