Inaugural Address of Mayor Augustus Garrett
March 7, 1844
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and misspellings in the original document have not been corrected.
Editor’s note: The exact date of this inauguration is not certain, but Mayor Garrett’s oath of office was filed March 7, 1844.
Fellow Citizens and Gentlemen of the Council:
In accepting the unsolicited honor of a re election to the office of Mayor of this city, I am again prompted, as on a former occasion, to return to you my most respectful thanks. I am the more induced to do so, inasmuch as it was known to many of my more immediate friends that I did not desire a re election; and it was not until called out, by undecided expression of opinion, that I consented again to appear as a candidate. To the members generally of the party from which I received my nomination, I therefore most cordially extend the warmest expression of gratitude. To those of the whig party who, from feeling of personal attachment voted for me, I am under obligations. And if there are any who, in a malevolent or vindictive spirit towards me personally, risked, by their opposition, the triumph of the democratic party, as I have reason to believe there were, I can only say, that, while I deprecate the motives that may have actuated them, and while they urge no objection to my official course, I am totally unconscious of ever having willfully given them any cause of ill feeling.
My re election, I can regard in no other light than as a mark of confidence that the affairs of the city will continue to be faithfully administered by me. If I shall be as fortunate in my future as in my past official conduct, I shall retire with the consciousness of having, to the best of my abilities, discharged a public trust, and in the grateful recollection of the confidence of my fellow citizens. This confidence will by me never be betrayed. My official course, while I have been in the councils of the city, is, I trust, a sufficient guarantee that I shall continue the faithful guardian of its interests; and, as I have never before, so I shall not now, neglect the paramount duties of the public station I occupy. Those duties cannot be mistaken. They consist in being vigilant, prudent and faithful; in recommending good measures, the passage of good laws, and enforcing rigidly the ordinances of the city; to be always watchful lest any citizen may be aggrieved, and to be always active in redressing wrong and in suppressing vice and disorderly conduct; in upholding the honor, maintaining the credit, and protecting the interests of the city. To the attainment of these objects, I shall not cease to exert myself while I remain the first magistrate. And, confiding in the disposition for good order and virtue of the citizens, and the wisdom and intelligence of the Common Council for my aid, my reward will be, on retiring from office, to know that the good of the city has been promoted, and its happiness and welfare increased.
Gentlemen of the Common Council:
Rumors having been raised that illegal proceedings and fraud had been resorted to in the recent municipal elections, I recommend you to appoint a committee to examine into the truth of such rumors and to report at as early a day as possible.
I have the pleasure of congratulating you on the favorable state of the finances of the city. During the past year, the expenditures were swelled beyond the ordinary estimate, by extraordinary causes which could not be obviated. These were for the purchase of hydrants and hose, for building the cemetery fence, the Clarke street sewer, and making crossways, amounting in all to about the sum of $2500; leaving the actual ordinary expenses of the city, under a system of economy, about the sum of $4500; considerably less than the ordinary expenses of the previous year. And, notwithstanding the extraordinary expenses, there was still a balance, at the end of the fiscal year, in the Treasury, sufficient to pay all arrearages of interest due on the city debt, and to pay $1000 of the principal due to Messrs. Strachan & Scott. During the whole year, the city orders have been kept at par, enabling the city to pay its dues in such funds as would command the lowest cash prices, and without loss to the laborer by a depreciated currency. The prospect for the ensuing year is, that the revenue of the city will be largely increased. The Fort Dearborn Addition, and Canal Lots sold last fall, will be taxable during the present year; which, with the enhanced value of real estate, would, at the present and former rates of taxation, increase the revenue by several thousands of dollars; sufficient, probably, after paying the ordinary and extraordinary expenses of the present year, to cancel the principal of the debt due to Messrs. Strachan & Scott, amounting to $4000. In the face, however, of an increasing revenue and an overflowing treasury, I recommend to you, notwithstanding, to continue to practice the most rigid economy in the public expenditure. By so doing, within the next two years the whole of the public debt can be paid, and we shall then present the spectacle of a city of 9000 inhabitants free from debt, with credit restored, and equal to that of any city in the world. Thereafter, all surplus revenues can be applied in the erection of public buildings, or to other useful and ornamental purposes. I would further recommend, among the first acts of the Council, that a loan be made for a few months, in anticipation of the payment of the yearly tax, so that there may at all times be a sufficiency in the treasury to keep the orders at par. This temporary loan of a small amount for a few months to come, can be made at the rate of six per cent. per annum. It will prevent any depreciation of orders, and thereby secure to the city the cash value of labor and other items of expenditure.
Another subject, to which I beg leave to call your early attention, is that of the markets. The title to the State street market has, during the past year, become perfect in the city; but all action in relation to city markets and a market ordinance has been postponed, for some months past, until a proper time might arrive for building additional market houses. It will be proper to enquire whether it would not, as soon as possible, be expedient to repair the present State street market, and to build two additional market houses in such parts of the city as will suit the convenience of all, and at the same time to place them under such proper municipal regulations as will suit the present demands of our citizens; such as will be in no way oppressive but rather a protection to the butchers, and which will by their reasonableness ensure obedience. The stalls could then be leased, at public auction, from year to year; the income would soon pay the entire cost of the buildings, and thereafter they would furnish a source of revenue to the city. The thanks of the citizens are due to the whole Fire Department for the untiring exertions used in cases of fire and their vigilance in guarding against it. During the past year, considerable improvements have been made in this department, especially by the purchase of hydrants and hose. It however becomes imperatively necessary that the city should purchase a new engine of the most approved plan. We have not now a perfect engine in the city, and the cost is nothing in comparison with the value of property at stake. I therefore strongly recommend that this subject should meet with your early attention.
I regret to say that depredations have been committed, from time to time, by the disinterment of bodies from the cemetery, in the grossest violation of private feeling as well as of public decency. I would urge the most constant vigilance to prevent such occurrences for the future, and the offering of large rewards for the detection of the of the offenders.
During the past year, the expenses of the bridges have amounted to over $4500, and they generally exceed one third of the ordinary expenses of the city. The peculiar location of the city and the convenience of its inhabitants [illegible word] however, to require, at least for the present, continuance of them. But it would be valid to examine and ascertain whether the expenses could not be reduced, or some provision of a permanent nature be made for their supply from some source less onerous to the citizens than general taxation.
I recommend the Council to continue [making?] crossings from time to time, over the primary streets as the convenience of the inhabitants require. Experience has proved the benefits of them, and they have, during the past winter answered the purpose intended better than was expected. And I would likewise recommend some plan to be adopted for the improvement of some of the leading streets, making a twelve foot sidewalk on both sides of Randolph st. Similar to the one on Lake street. The experiment might also be tried of Mac Adamizing one of the principal Blocks in the city; when the Canal is completed, which will be at no distant day, the facility of procuring stone for such purpose will enable us to Mac Adamize at a comparatively small expense, and, in the meantime the experiment might be tried for the purpose of testing its advantages.
An important suggestion has recently been made to the Common Council, which for a want of time has not been acted on, from persons engaged in the erection of Slaughter houses, that a location in the city be designated, within the limits of which such business partaking of the character of a nuisance, might be transacted undisturbed. Several of these persons were fined and prosecutions taken against them and they have manifested a disposition to abate such nuisances requesting at the same time that a location may be designated; whether this can be done consistently with the public interest, it will remain with you to determine, and to give the subject consideration at as early a day as possible.
In consequence of many complaints having been made of frauds committed in the sale of wood, it would, perhaps, be proper to appoint a wood measurer—an officer authorized to be appointed by the charter. I beg leave to call the attention of the Council to a subject of considerable importance, which affects every owner of property in the city. It is known that the lines of some of the streets have been disputed, in the settlement of which difficulties have arisen between the owners of lots and the public. It would therefore be proper to cause application to be made to the legislature, either to direct a new survey to be made of the original town [or?] the old survey to be legalized and authenticated in such proper way as to be made evidence, and hereafter the boundary between public and private rights may be easily ascertained and placed beyond doubt. And I would likewise urge that an alteration of the charter be made so as to change the street tax. Complaints are made that it is now oppressive, requiring three days labor on the streets or a fine of three dollars and the consequence follows, as it always does, when a law is considered oppressive, that a great part of the street tax has remained every year uncollected. Under the present law, the poor man without any property, pays a burthensome tax and as much as the rich man. If it were changed so as to require but one day’s labor, as it is in most other States, and a moderate fine of one dollar for the omission, a greater amount of labor would be performed; and, if any deficiency of labor or revenue should arise by the reduction it should be made up by a tax on property.
I close this brief summary of the various subjects to which I have thought proper to call your attention by alluding to that of the public schools. Under an able board of Inspectors and skillful Agent the schools have continued to flourish and the number of Scholars to increase during the past year. Such has been the addition of scholars that it becomes necessary as soon as practicable to increase the number of schools in some of the districts, as well as to form, perhaps, one or more additional districts. A plan has also been proposed to establish a high school, in addition to the district schools. I recommend that an immediate examination should be made upon the subject, with a view to the improvement of their organization, the system of instruction, and the number of districts and district schools; that the school tax for the present year be raised to the former rate of one mill, for the purpose of effecting the improvements now needed, and that should it be necessary, a temporary tax for a few months, in anticipation of the payment of the school tax, should be made. When we reflect upon the importance of proper attention to this branch of our City Government; that the future prospects of this city depends in a [measure?] on the intelligence and education of those whose minds are now receiving their mould in these infant seminaries of instruction, where the seeds of wisdom and virtue, may be sown no pains should be spared by us to render the school organization as perfect as possible.
I have thus, gentlemen of the Council, alluded to some topics which it was proper to bring to your attention for early action. It will be remembered that the city pays many thousands of dollars each year for the privileges it enjoys of being a city, under regular organization, with a proper government and salutary laws, and unless that government be wisely administered and the laws and ordinances rigidly enforced, we shall derive no benefit, but rather a loss in consequence of our privileges.
On a former occasion I alluded to what I conceived to be the duties of the members of the council in their respective wards: that they are bound to see that all the ordinances are obeyed and kept, to be watchful that no one is aggrieved and that no disorderly or riotous conduct take place and that they act as conservators of the peace. I now again enjoin the same duties upon each one of you and, also, laying aside all party feeling, to act together harmoniously for the general good. Within a single year our citizens from poverty and bankruptcy have again become prosperous and are again rising to affluence, and with the enterprise intelligence and disposition for good order of the people, the natural advantages we possess, and the stimulants we shall derive by the completion of the canal, at no distant day, we shall, under a wise Municipal Government, soon become one of the prominent cities of the Union.
- Chicago Democrat, March 13, 1844.