Joseph Duncan (politician)
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|6th Governor of Illinois|
December 3, 1834 – December 7, 1838
|Preceded by||William Lee D. Ewing|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Carlin|
February 22, 1794|
|Died||January 15, 1844
|Political party||Democratic, Whig|
Joseph Duncan (February 22, 1794 – January 15, 1844) was an Illinois politician. He served as the sixth Governor of Illinois from 1834 to 1838, the only Whig to ever govern the state. Before becoming governor he served four terms in the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat.
Duncan was born in Paris, Kentucky. He served in the War of 1812 and the Black Hawk War as a soldier. He moved to Illinois in the year of its statehood, 1818, settling in Brownsville in Jackson County. He moved to Jacksonville in 1830. Before becoming governor, he had a notable political career. He served a term in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1825 to 1829. He was elected to represent Illinois's At-large congressional district in Congress in 1826, defeating long-term Congressman Daniel Pope Cook. Jacksonian Democrats were ascendant in Illinois politics, and Cook had fallen out of favor with them when he voted against Andrew Jackson in the contingent election of 1825. Duncan successfully ran as a Jacksonian, winning 6,322 votes to Cook's 5,619.  He was re-elected twice to the at-large district and in 1832 won a fourth term representing the newly created 3rd district.
Duncan first went to Congress as a Jacksonian Democrat, but his relationship with President Jackson's party worsened during his career in Congress. By 1834 he voted more often with the opposition Whigs. His final break with the Democrats occurred in June 1834, when he voted to recharter the Bank of the United States.  With the help of Democrats unaware of Duncan's change in politics, Duncan was elected governor that year without campaigning or even visiting Illinois.
In his mid-term address two years later, Governor Duncan asked the legislature to pass a state Internal Improvements Act, which would authorize the construction of numerous roads, railroads, bridges, river and harbor improvements, and canals across the state. Attempting to deal with the national economic Panic of 1837 and seeing the costs of internal improvements piling up, Duncan asked the legislature to repeal the program. Legislators ignored the governor, adding even more projects to the program. While the number of improvements were few, the program accumulated debt that almost forced the state into bankruptcy. The first bill for the $15 million that had been borrowed to pay for the program was more than double the state's annual revenue. The debt from the Internal Improvements Act would not be fully paid off until 1882, costing the state more in interest than in the dollar amounts to actually build the so-called improvements throughout the state.
It was also during Duncan's tenure that the state capital was moved from Vandalia, Fayette County, Illinois, to its current location, Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois. This was controversially done in large part by the successful leadership skills of Springfield's representatives, known as the "Long Nine," one of whom was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln and the eight other members of his delegation won the capital by trading their votes to win the capital for Springfield for projects for other representatives' districts. This led to the failed internal improvements program.
Duncan died in Jacksonville. Interment is at Diamond Grove Cemetery there.
- Elizabeth Duncan Putnam (1921), The Life and Services of Joseph Duncan, Illinois State Historical Society, 121-3. Google Books, 
- Putnam , 145-146.
- Putnam, 144.
- Ford, Gov. Thomas (1945). A History of Illinois from its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847. Chicago, Illinois: Lakeside Press. p. I:297.
- Howard, Robert (1972). Illinois: A History of the Prairie State. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William Eerdman Publishing Co. p. 228. ISBN 0-8028-7025-2.
- "Report of the Auditor of the State of Illinois to the General Assembly, December 13, 1838". Vandalia, Illinois: William Walters, Public Printer. 1839. p. 12-13.
- Joseph Duncan at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Joseph Duncan House (in Jacksonville)
- Perrin, William Henry (1884). Counties of Christian and Trigg, Kentucky : historical and biographical. F.A. Battey Publishing Company. pp. 115–116.
|United States House of Representatives|
Daniel P. Cook
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's at-large congressional district
March 4, 1827 – March 3, 1833
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 3rd congressional district
March 4, 1833 – September 21, 1834
William L. May
William Lee D. Ewing
|Governor of Illinois