Inaugural Address of Mayor Benjamin Wright Raymond
March 7, 1842
This speech is recorded as it first appeared in print. Archaic spelling and mispellings in the original document have not been corrected.
GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMON COUNCIL;
We have been honored by the suffrages of our fellow citizens, with the conduct of the public affairs of our City, for the coming municipal year. In entering upon the duties impressed on us-it becomes us in the first place to examine into the present condition of the affairs of our city-what are her necessities and interests-and what are her abilities and resources to provide for these interests.
I am happy to learn from the report of the late committee of finance, that through the prudence and economy of the late board, the receipts into the Treasury during the last year, have exceeded the expenditures some $3,000; thereby reducing the liabilities of the city during the last year from $15,395 to $12,233-the amount appearing to be due from the city by the report of the Finance Committee in the month of February last.
From the depressed situation of our monetary affairs, and the unstable condition of our currency, we must expect the coming year will be characterized by a decrease of business and prosperity, and that our fellow citizens will expect from us the most rigid economy in the management of the affairs of the city.
And in order to carry out a system of retrenchment, you will see the importance of selecting to fill the several offices within your gift, men of tried integrity, intelligence and capacity; and under the present inability of our citizens to pay the enormous high rates of taxes heretofore necessarily levied to defray the expenses of the city government. I trust enquiry will be made into the propriety of reducing the salaries now paid to city officers. Another satisfactory reason why it may be proper to reduce the salaries is the following-that the amount of City Orders now in circulation does not exceed the amount of resources now in the Treasury; consequently our City Orders will be as desirable and safe as any paper issues in the state-(if the amount issued shall be kept within the amount of taxes for the year which I trust will be done,) as every dollar will be redeemed within 8 to 9 months in the collection of taxes. Thus the laborer, mechanic and merchant can supply materials or work for the city at the lowest possible rates.
I will here also take the liberty of referring to a subject which agitated the council through the whole municipal year of 1839. This was the Bridge question. As the contract for the construction of the present Clarke street Bridge was the last official act I was called upon to ratify, during my connection with the Council of that year, it is quite natural that I should have a ready ear to any commendation of, or complaint against either the plan or location of the bridge, and I am gratified to find so large a portion of those who were previously hostile to any bridge-now satisfied with this one; although many now, as well as then, (myself among the number,) would prefer it on Dearborn street; and think if this one had been erected there, and had caused as little hindrance to the passage of vessels and boats as the present one has so far been, the community generally, would have been as well satisfied as with the present location. But I should deprecate the idea of a change in location, so long as this bridge answers so good a purpose, and in the present state of our finances should consider it an unwarrantable expenditure to make any change.
The keeping in repair and occasional grading of our streets from the peculiar nature of our soil, will probably be as heavy an item of expenditure the coming year, as any it will be necessary to incur, and it will depend upon the experience and prudence of our street Commissioner, whether the money appropriated for this labor is economically employed.
I would suggest that enquiry be made into the propriety of forming another Hook and Ladder Company. We have two Engine Companies and but one Hook and Ladder, and from the construction of a good portion of our buildings, the Hook and Ladder Company have heretofore been of equal, if not more service in extinguishing and stopping the progress of fires than Engines, especially where they have occurred at a distance from the river. I trust the Hydraulic Company will be prepared to supply the most populous portions of the city with water for the extinguishment of fires early in May next, which will, no doubt, prove an efficient auxillary to the Engine Companies.
Complaints have been made (less frequently of late I am happy to say than formerly) of the gross violations of the Sabbath day; such as the firing of guns within the limits of the city, and the keeping open of groceries, thereby disregarding not only the commands of the Divine Law Giver of the Universe, but the laws of our Statue Book and of our city, we hope, however, that self-respect (if no higher motive may actuate them) will deter our fellow citizens from hereafter disturbing their neighbors in the peaceful hours of that day, set apart by God and man for the moral improvement of mankind, connected with the worship of our Maker in his Sanctuary, in accordance with the dictates of our consciences. Should the cause of these complaints continue, it will be our duty to enquire into and correct all abuses and transgressions of the laws. [Editor's note: "groceries" referred to places licensed to sell liquor]
It is highly gratifying to find from the report of the Committee on Schools, that upwards of 400 scholars have received instruction from our common Schools free from expense during the last year, and from the report of the School Agent there appears to be some $2,500 of the fund on hand; about this amount however has been collected by tax during the last year, and it is estimated that in order to continue the schools upon the same plan pursued the past year, it will require something more than the annual receipts of interest to maintain them-yet I believe you will decide to continue them upon the same plan if it should be found necessary even to raise a small tax to do so, in addition to the interest paid by the school fund. The greatest deficiency in the school department at present is, the want in some of the Districts of convenient and comfortable school houses. The erection of one or more the present year may come under your consideration, should there be sufficient funds to do so, without preventing the continuance of the schools upon such a plan as to enable all the children of our city to receive instruction from the fund.
I would also take this occasion to congratulate you upon the decided and marked improvement in the morals and peace of our city within the last two months. This improvement you will all recognize and acknowledge at once as produced by the Washingtonian Temperance Society. The benefits resulting from this movement have been so salutary that I should deem it an omission to pass it by without especial notice,--It will at all times afford me much pleasure to aid you according to the best of my ability in carrying out any plans or arrangements you may consider important for the welfare, comfort and prosperity of our city, and it is my sincere desire that during our connection in council, harmony and good will may characterize our proceedings, and the aim of all may be so to discharge the duties assigned us, that our fellow citizens may have cause to feel that their confidence in us has not been misplaced.
Chicago American March 16, 1842