Inaugural Address of Mayor Augustus Garrett
March 7, 1843
The speech below is from the files of the Municipal Reference Collection and is reproduced as first published.
Fellow Citizens & Gentlemen of the Common Council:
Having been elected to the office I have the [approx. 6 characters illegible] to hold by an overwhelming majority of [approx. 14 characters illegible] of my fellow citizens, were I on this the earliest official occasion of meeting you; to [approx. 8 characters illegible] an expression of my feelings. I cannot [approx. 7 characters illegible] my election in any other light than as a [approx. 4 characters illegible] mark of public confidence, that through [ approx.4 characters illegible] efforts, however humble, the character of our City will be sustained both at home and abroad, of public confidence also, that, as the first representative of the City in its councils, my best exertions will be used to subserve its interests, preserve its morals, and maintain law and good order throughout the community. To that party to which I more especially owe my election, I need only say, that if I shall be instrumental in carrying out, during my term of office, to any extent however small, its comprehensive first principle of the greatest good to the greatest number, I shall consider that I shall have discharged my duty to it, knowing full well that I cannot accomplish that result, but by performing conscientiously and rigidly all the duties of a faithful public servant. Happily for the party that elected me, its differences are healed, and union and harmony prevail to enable it to assert triumphantly now, and, I trust, hereafter, its elevated doctrines; but although I view my election, as the triumphant assertion of a great principle, I yet feel that no political motives nor party bias will ever tempt me to sacrifice, in any degree, the welfare of our flourishing City, but that in every thing pertaining to the public interest, I shall consult the public good and advocate measures tending to the public prosperity, unbiased by party considerations.
Gentlemen of the Common Council:
Some suggestions for the Government of the City have occurred to me which it may not be improper to lay before you. Much credit is due to the late Council for its able management of the finances of the City. By the reduction of salaries and an economical expenditure, the debt and the amount of orders in circulation have been considerably reduced, and it will be your duty to continue the system already introduced; to practise, if possible, a more rigid economy, that our taxes may be diminished to the lowest possible point. A reduction of our City taxes, already too burthensome, with what we are obliged to pay to the City and County, so far as it can be done consistently with a proper government of the City, will be the most important subject that can come before you, and will meet my most cordial concurrence. The same feelings of reform, retrenchment and economy that an individual carries into his private affairs in times like these, should be carried into the City Councils. In times of universal plenty of all the commodities of life and unusual scarcity of money like the present, an individual can live comfortably upon comparatively small means, when he might perhaps live uncomfortably on larger; and why may we not do as a City, what we can do as individuals, provided we shall only practise the same rigid economy and suit our expenditures to our abilities to meet them. As an important means of effecting this object, I recommend the fixing of salaries at a moderate rate, and of uniting several different offices, and reducing the compensation so that the duties of two or three might be performed for a reasonable sum. There are a number of small offices, the duties of which are not sufficient to keep one person employed, but which could be united at a great saving to the City. The salary of the Clerk was reduced when it was at $500, because it was considered too high, but it appears notwithstanding, from the late report of the finance committee, that the clerk for the past year has received $629, including therein pay for extra services. There is no doubt but what an efficient clerk can be had for a sum not in any event to exceed $400. In order, as soon as possible, to take the necessary measures in relation to the finances, I shall take the earliest occasion to appoint the different standing committees, and I would recommend the finance committee immediately to ascertain from the different committees and other sources, the probable amount that will be required to defray the expences of the year, including the interest on the City debt, setting apart about $500 a fund to meet any extra expenses that may occur, and that a tax may then be levied that will not be oppressive, to meet the amount of moneys that may be required for the year, and that nothing may be expended beyond what may be thus raised, unless it should become indispensably necessary. Measures thus early taken to ascertain our resources and probable expenses will, I apprehend, save much trouble and prevent many errors in our financial affairs.
In connection with this subject it becomes a matter of consideration whether it would not be better to make an arrangement with the holders of standing debt to defer for the present the payment of the principal, taking care at the same time to keep the interest on it promptly and punctually paid. The present being a time of unparalleled scarcity of [approx. 20 characters illegible] the payment of the debts would [approx. 48 characters illegible] being besides a large amount of [approx. 7 characters illegible] property in the Fort Dearborn Addition not subject to taxation for two years to come. A portion of the debt will be due on account of improvements made there, and if it is now paid off, a benefit will have been derived without a corresponding share of taxation-For these reasons it might be better to make such arrangement to defer the payment of the principal until a time, which cannot be distant when money will be more abundant, property more valuable, and the burthen upon the whole be diminished, by a large and valuable portion of the city becoming subject to taxation.
I regret that I cannot at present advise any appropriations for the purpose merely of ornamenting the city, as our first duty is to discharge its debts and until that is done, we should not be justified in laying out any money beyond what may be indispensably necessary,—with proper management, in the course of three years, the debt may be extinguished, without resorting to oppressive taxation, after which time, we shall be at liberty to use our means in such a way as may be thought proper.
I am happy to say that I approve generally of the present system of the common schools, as one calculated to promote the cause of education, nor am I aware that any material alteration should be proposed. It may be proper however for the Common Council to take into early consideration whether it is legal or expedient to appropriate any portion of the School funds to the employment of teachers of music; while some have approved, others have condemned the measure as an expenditure of money that might otherwise be better laid out. So much mismanagement and useless squandering of the school funds throughout the State and especially in this township have heretofore at times taken place, that it becomes us to be more careful now of the fund that remains. The present agent has apparently given general satisfaction and has taken efficient means to gather together the scattered fragments of the funds, which remained when it came into his hands. It was gratifying to see by the late report that only $15,700 of the debts were considered bad. So long as the fund is in proper hands, it would perhaps be inadvisable to make any removal of it.
In the selection of our appraiser I would s[approx. 6 characters illegible] that a choice be make, with reference [approx. 7 characters illegible] the qualification of the individual. And [approx. 7 characters illegible] knowledge of the value of property [approx. 14 characters illegible] requisite. Heretofore [approx. 21 characters illegible] much dissatisfaction [approx. 45 characters illegible]purchases of lots. And I would recommend a donation of a lot to be made to each of the churches as an act of benevolence that would be credible to the city.
In the passing of ordinances, great caution should be used to adopt none that might act oppressively upon all or any particular class of persons. When adopted, they become useless from the difficulty of enforcing them, and [may] tend to litigation, and the city gains nothing in the end. Good and useful laws only should be passed; and they should be rigidly adhered to and enforced. And I would, with all respect, say to the gentlemen of the Council that I consider it to be the [approx. 130 characters illegible] prevented and punished and all ob[approx.10 characters illegible] and nuisances are removed; that they are elected to be the conservators of the public interests of the citizens, in their respective wards; to see that no one is aggrieved, and as well to take care that the ordinances are kept as to pass them; and that, on all public occasions, such as the anniversary of our Independence, in case of tumult or riot, they should be at their post as part of the police of the city, and should especially be on the alert to preserve decorum and good order. These remarks are made because the duty of the members of the Council, in this respect, has not perhaps heretofore been as distinctly understood as it ought to have been. It is a matter of observation, that nuisances have frequently for a long time existed, without removal, for want of attention on the part of the Common Council. And, although our citizens are generally distinguished for their regard for law and good order, some of them, on the last anniversary of our Independence, excited, as they naturally might be by the feelings common on such a day, occasioned serious injury, by the firing of cannon, which might have been prevented by the timely interference of some officer of the Council.
It has been intimated that a combination has been entered into here and at [some point] on the Mississippi River for the transportation of slaves from a sister state into the [illegible], and from a rumor of this kind existing abroad, serious injury may be done to the character of our city, and as I am of opinion that no right exists for such interference, I deem it a duty to recommend our citizens to take all legal and honorable means to suppress any thing of the kind that may operate abroad so injuriously to our reputations.
It is to be hoped that the Sabbath day will hereafter be more strictly and religiously observed, and that no good citizens will allow their shops or stores to be open on that day for trade or traffic; and I would strongly recommend our religious friends to be more particular in future, as their good example in this respect will tend to improve the morals of others.
I cannot conclude my address without paying a tribute to the cause of temperance. During the past year our city has undergone a mighty reform, especially observable on the late election day, when not an instance, heretofore so common of intemperance was to be seen. This salutary change may be traced chiefly to the efforts of the Catholic Temperance and Washingtonian Societies. Whatever might have been the case with the latter on former occasions, this year, I am happy to say, it wisely abstained from all political interference; which course will ever ensure it success; and both have devoted themselves zealously to the cause of temperance and been the means of producing a great moral reform among our citizens.
In conclusion, Gentlemen of the Common Council, I call upon you to render assistance during the ensuing year, in conducting the administration of the city, that by our cordial cooperation its character may be sustained. We have every reason to be proud of it. Within a few years it has increased with wonderful rapidity from a small frontier settlement to one of the most important of the western cities, and new sources of wealth and grandeur are yearly opening. Its imports and exports are increasing beyond all calculation and with the prospect of the speedy completion of the canal, the resources of the whole State will be tributary to us, and there is no product of any part of the world that may not be brought here. The natural position of our city, that has given it such an advantage over others, would be of little avail, if it were not for the enterprise of its inhabitants. And the duty now devolves upon us of exercising wisdom in its councils.
- Chicago Democrat, March 14, 1843.