Inaugural Address of Mayor John B. Rice
May 6, 1867
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: Mayor Rice gave two speeches at the start of his second term in lieu of the customary inaugural address. The first was a short message to the departing aldermen. The second was an annual message detailing the state of the city. Both are given below.
Message to Departing Aldermen
GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMON COUNCIL—The vote just recorded is the last act of official duty of several in this Council for the present. The records of the Council of this city bear witness that, for the two years last past, there has been a large amount of important business transacted in this chamber. The opinion all our citizens, as I do sincerely believe, will say that that work has been well done, and that is the reward of an Aldermen—the approval of his constituents and of his own conscience. For my own part, I most cheerfully bear testimony, that during all the time the intercourse, officially, in this chamber, has been of the most pleasant, the most friendly, the most proper and most courteous character, and I do assure you that I speak, as I believe, the sentiment of all this city, when I say you go from this Council Chamber with the approval of all who know you and your acts, and that you leave nothing to regret for those you leave behind.
GENTLEMEN—In accordance with my duty, I communicate to you such matters concerning the interest of the city as I deem necessary for your information and consideration:
The total debt of the city this day is $5,392,000, and it is composed of the following items, viz:
|Bonded debt-municipal ......................................||$1,415,500.00|
|Sewerage debt ...............................................||1,522,000.00|
|Water debt .......................................................||1,820,000.00|
|Floating debt of the city ....................................||398,926.00|
|Bills payable ................................................||236,288.00|
Deduct from the above the amount due
from the water works, which is pro-
vided to be paid, principal and inter-
est, out of the revenue from water
Also, the amount expended for deepen-
ing the canal, all of which is to be re-
imbursed by the State......................................................130,000.00
and it leaves $3,454,000 as the debt of the city to be paid, principal
and interest, by taxation. The interest on the above is about $235,000.
Gentlemen, it is of the greatest importance to the city that you give the subject of taxation your most careful consideration. One of the chief complaints against the administration of the city’s government the two past years is that the taxes are too high. This compliant comes from a large number of citizens, and I desire to call your earnest attention to it. There are thirty-two of you, and two of you represent the interests of the inhabitants of one division of the city. That is your first and especial duty. Secondly, to consider the wants of the city as a whole. If I am right in this, then I call upon you to consult with your constituents on the subject. The question must be met and decided. The city of Chicago is prosperous. Its population and wealth is far in advance of its improvements. To bring it up to the standard of other cities, or what is considered desirable by many, will cost a large amount of money. It is contended that in order to accommodate our vast and rapidly increasing commerce, the river should be widened to a uniform width of 200 feet.
The Board of Education say to you that the schoolhouses are all filled to their utmost capacity, and that more lots must be bought and houses built, there being 12,000 children now kept out of public schools for lack of room.
The lack of sewerage is complained of in every direction, and the Board of Health say that extended sewerage is absolutely necessary for the health of the citizens.
But a very small proportion of the city is paved, and many business thoroughfares leading to our principal railroad depots, and warehouses are impassable at certain seasons.
The police force is said to be inadequate, and it is urged that the number of patrolmen should be increased.
The same complaint is made of the Fire Department.
Now, if the statements be true, and you desire to supply those wants, of course you know it will require a vast amount of money, and that money is to be obtained by taxation.
Under the new provisions of the charter, a Tax Commissioner has been appointed, who, with the three Assessors elected by the Council, will give their entire time, throughout the year, to the correct and equal assessment of all property, real and personal, in the city; and I believe that all our citizens will have reason to be pleased with this new order of things. In connection with this, I would suggest to the Committee on Public Buildings the necessity of providing, for the collection of taxes, a proper office which, I hope, for this year at least, may be found in the building occupied by the Board of Public Works. I regret to inform you that nothing has been done toward the erection of a House of Correction to take the place of the present Bridewell, and I call your attention to it, deeming it necessary that you act in this as soon as possible.
The Fire-Alarm Telegraph continues to be satisfactory because of its usefulness and efficiency, and I would recommend to you the necessity of its extension. Many portions of the city are entirely without it. Some complaints have been made of the Fire Department; but, after careful inquiry, I am satisfied that the Chicago Fire Department is well managed, is efficient, and in every way entitled to the favorable opinion of all our citizens.
The Police Department is in the highest degree satisfactory. The men are prompt in duty, humane, and well disciplined.
The Health Department are in the constant discharge of their duty, and I believe that the city will be greatly benefited by their wisdom and action
A very large amount of street improvements are recommended by the Board of Public Works-in every case, as far as I know, at the request of property-owners, who are to pay for them. If the work is done, it will require a large amount from the general tax fund to pay for the paving of the intersections of streets, and a small percentage also for the general benefit.
During the recent canvass in the city, I deemed it my duty to address the citizens, and did so on several occasions. When I spoke of the officers elected by them, what their duties were, and how those duties have been performed, I told them they had been served faithfully by all; that all the money paid by them had been honestly and discreetly used. In telling that, a promise by implication is made that this Council will continue to do what has hitherto been done. I beg of you to consider well your acts, and to keep constantly before you the interest of the citizens of Chicago; to set the example of a strict and proper economy; of plain, unqualified justice, and confirm the people in their present belief that the affairs of the city are properly administered. Complaints will be made of the high taxes, and it is your duty, if it be possible, to reduce them; but if to provide the means of education, security against lawlessness, the ravages of fire, the inroads of pestilence, together with the necessary improvements of our streets, rivers, and bridges, the same amount of taxation should be required, then I believe they should not be reduced; and I beg of you to let no fear about popularity move you one jot from the plain path of duty.
- Chicago Common Council. Journal of the Proceedings, May 6, 1867.