Lt. Gov. Adolphus Frederick Hubbard (1895)

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Lt. Gov. A. F. Hubbard (1895)
Illinois: Historical and Statistical
N o history of Gov. Coles administration [1822-1826] would be complete which failed to mention the part taken therein by the lieutenant-governor.

The name of this shining light in the political firmament of those days was Frederick Adolphus Hubbard, and Shawneetown enjoyed the distinction of being his place of residence. He seems to have been a lawyer by profession, of the kind which only the day and age in which he lived could have produced. It is related of him that while engaged in the trial of a lawsuit, involving the he title to a certain mill run by Joseph Duncan, the opposing counsel, David J. Baker, then recently from New England, had quoted from Johnson's "New-York Report," a case strongly against Hubbard's side. Reading reports of the decision of courts before juries was a new thing in those days, and Hubbard to evade the force of the authority as a precedent, coolly informed the jury that Johnson was a Yankee clock peddler, who had perambulating up and down the country gathering up rumors and floating stories against the people of the West and had them published in a book under the name of "Johnson's Reports." He indignantly repudiated the book as authority in Illinois, and clinched the argument by adding, "gentlemen of the jury, I as assure you will not believe anything that comes from such a source; and besides that, what did this Johnson know about Duncan's mill anyhow? Of course this was conclusive with the jury, and Hubbard gained his case.

Hubbard had been a member of the constitutional convention, and if in his subsequent career he did not attain to the utmost height of his "vaulting ambition," the failure can not be ascribed to any lack of effort on his part. At one time, after repeated and annoying application, he obtained from Gov. Edwards what he had reason to believe was a recommendation for a certain office. The more he thought about it however, the greater became his distrust of the contents of the governor's letter. In speaking of it afterward, in his lisping manner, he said: "contrary to the uthage amongst gentlemen he thealed it up, and contrary to the uthage amonst gentlemen I broke if open; and what do you think I found? Instead of recommending me, the old rathscal abused me like a pick-pocket."

At the time when Gov. Edwards resigned his seat in the United States senate in March, 1824, it happened that Hubbard was in Washington on a visit. Seeing as he supposed a splendid opportunity to advance his own political fortunes, he prevailed on the senator to allow him to deliver the letter of resignation to Gov. Coles in person. This he did, adding the gratuitous statement that Edwards and Cook [Illinois' lone Congressman] had selected him as the bearer of the document, in the blief that the governor would either resign, in which case he (Hubbard) as h8issuccessor to the gubernatorial power would appoint him (Coles) to fill the unexpired senatorial term, of that if the latter preferred the governor's chair, then in return for the general proposal, Coles should appoint no less a person than the aspiring Frederick Adolphus Hubbard to represent Illinois in the councils of the Nation! To his astonishment and chagrin, Gov. Coles was by no means favorably impressed with the suggestion. In plain words, he indignantly and contemptuously spurned the proposition, informing the ambitions politician that he declined to become a party to any such dishonorable dickering.

"Time brings its revenges," and Hubbard's opportunity to repay what he considered the insolence of his superior came within the following year. In 1825, the governor notified the lieutenant-governor that circumstances would call him out of the State for a short period after July, and that during his absence the responsibilities of the executive office would devolve upon the latter. In the autumn, Gov. Coles returned, prepared to enter upon the discharge of his official duties. But Frederick Adolphus having once tasted the sweets of elevation of power, was loath to abandon the chair whose occupancy he had thoroughly enjoyed. Remembering the affront which he had suffered at the hands of Gov. Coles, his brilliant legal mind believed that it discerned an opportunity for gratifying at once his ambition and his desire for revenge. He therefore, under that clause of the constitution which provided that the lieutenant-governor should exercise all the power and authority appertaining to the office of governor in case of the latter's absence from the State "until the time pointed out by the constitution for the election of governor shall arrive," claimed that Gov. Coles by his absence had forfeited the office, and that he, the lieutenant-governor, had fallen heir to it. Finding a number of backers among those whom he fraternized, he determined to bring the question before the courts, and November 2, he appointed W. L. D. Ewing, paymaster-general of the Illinois militia, and requested Secretary-of-State George Forquer to issue the commission therefore, which he refused to do. Ewing, as had been arranged, applied to the supreme court for a writ of mandamus to compel the secretary to sign and issue the commission, and the motion was gravely argued at great length before a full bench. Judges Lockwood and Smith delivered separate opinions in the case "of great learning and research," the court unanimously reaching the conclusion that there was no ground on which to award the writ.

Not satisfied with this judicial determination of his claim, the redoubtable lieutenant-governor appealed to the legislature, where his application was equally unsuccessful, there being but one member in each house favorable to this pretensions; although Gov. Coles stated that there would doubtless have been more had there been a reasonable prospect of ousting himself. The wonder now is that a claim so unfounded should have been so seriously considered.

The occupancy of the governor's office for ten weeks, and the proceedings incident to his contest for its retention, had made the name of Adolphus Frederick Hubbard quite noticed and familiar in the State, of which celebrity, construing it to mean popularity with the people, he was not slow to take advantaged and accordingly offered himself as a candidate for governor in the general election of 1826. He canvassed the several counties and made speeches, a sample of which is given by Gov. Ford, as follows: "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; nor do I claim to be equal to Julius Caesar of Napoleon Bonaparte, nor yet to be as great a man as my opponent Gov. Edwards. Nevertheless I think I can govern you pretty well. I do not think it will require a very extraordinary smart man to govern you; for to tell the truth, fellow-citizens, I do not believe you will be very hard to govern, no how."

The number of votes case for him, no doubt to his great surprise and dismay, was only 580, and the smallness of his poll was unquestionably the first convincing intimation he had received that his great abilities and aptitude for office were so much underrated by the people.

From this time forward the name of the Honorable Adolphus disappears from the page of history; but though "lost to sight it will long remain to memory dear," as an illustration of that peculiar class of men which was the outgrowth of the primitive times in which he lived.

Source: John Moses. 1895 (2nd Ed. Rev.). Illinois: Historical and Statistical. Chicago: Fergus Printing Co. 1:333-336.

Submitted by Jon Musgrave

©2000 Jon Musgrave
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