A Community in Search of Itself: A Case History of Cairo, Illinois

By Herman R. Lantz | Go to book overview

6
Political development

The basic problems associated with the growth of the community, discussed in earlier chapters, were imposed on a weak and often fragmented local government. For several decades it was not an autonomous civil unit working for the interest of the general citizenry, but instead came under the influence of the Cairo Property Trust and men of power who were able by support or aloofness to move it momentarily in particular directions or to stand by and watch it disintegrate. By the time the local government came out from under these influences, it had inherited a community with very little future, and the problems continued.

As noted earlier, initial efforts to organize a community had failed on two separate occasions. Thus, there was no local government until the era of the Cairo Property Trust. From 1846 until 1855 law enforcement was minimal and difficult; commercial obligations and contracts were difficult to enforce.

By 1855 the need for local government became so pronounced that the citizens decided to incorporate under the General Town Law without the benefit of a state charter.1 Problems of law and order, the need to impose a quarantine on boats whose passengers suffered from infectious diseases, and the question of jurisdiction regarding the right to collect wharfage were factors needing immediate action.2

Thus, on March 8, 1855 an election for city trustees was held. The law then applicable to such matters provided for a vote viva voce3 at the polls. At the election, 135 voters openly announced their respective preferences or votes. At least one writer suggests the people looked upon the whole proceeding as a "good joke"; they felt that ordinances would

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A Community in Search of Itself: A Case History of Cairo, Illinois
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Purpose and Overview 1
  • 2 - The Early Years 7
  • 3 - River Transshipment and Railroads 20
  • 5 - The Economy of Liquor and Vice 68
  • 6 - Political Development 88
  • 7 - Failure in Process 111
  • 8 - Flooding and Seep Water 132
  • 9 - Power, Dependency, Alienation, And Resignation 146
  • 10 - The Present and the Future 170
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 219
  • Index 231
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