Cook County, Illinois is named after
Daniel Pope Cook, one of the earliest, youngest, and most brilliant
statesmen in Illinois history.
Son-in-law of Ninian Edwards. Born
in Scott County, Ky. Illinois state attorney general, 1819; U.S.
Representative from Illinois at-large, 1819-27. Died in Scott County,
Ky., October 16, 1827. Cook County, Ill. is named for him. (See
also his congressional
The spectacular achievements accomplished
by this young pioneer lawyer, newspaper publisher, territorial auditor
and clerk, United States courier, circuit judge, attorney general,
United States congressman, and diplomat are worthy of recount here.
Though widely acclaimed in his day
for his astute leadership, Cook has been something of a forgotten
man in the annals of his state's history, possibly because the overshadowing
figure of Abraham Lincoln soon was to appear upon the scene.
It is lamentable, therefore, that there is a scarcity of source
materials dealing with Mr. Cook's life.
Daniel Pope Cook was born in Scott
county, north central Kentucky, in 1794. Though he was related
to the influential Pope family of Kentucky, young Daniel's parents
were too poor to send him to college after he had finished with
the grades. The youngster was ambitious, however, so began
studying law while working in the office of a lawyer relative.
From boyhood thru manhood Cook not
only was small and frail of stature, but his health was poor most
of the time. Thus beset with continuing ill health, it is
a testimonial to his fortitude that he always could muster a winning
smile, a cheerful word, and draw from deep wells within him sufficient
strength to bring fulfillment to his dreams. He had but 33
years in which to accomplish his life's work.
Upon reaching 21 years, Daniel set
out to seek his fortune further west. Three hundred miles
away lay St. Genevieve, a town on the banks of the Mississippi river
in the Missouri territory, just across the river from Kaskaskia,
seat of the new Illinois territory. There, at St. Genevieve,
Daniel found work in a store, but quit after a short time and moved
across to Kaskaskia, then a western metropolis of some 700 residents.
When he entered Kaskaskia in the Illinois
territory in 1815, young Cook is believed to have worked again in
a store, but for only a few weeks because the bartering of salt
and calico for "Dominecker" chickens, hand-churned butter,
and fresh possum pelts did not fit in with his ambitions.
Cook resumed the reading of law, this time under his uncle, Nathaniel
Pope, a lawyer, and in the same year began practicing law in the
counties surrounding Kaskaskia.
In January of 1816, when but 22 years,
Cook was appointed auditor of public accounts for the Illinois territory
by the territorial governor, Ninian Edwards, which position he was
to hold for some 15 months. In the meantime, however, the
young barrister took additional steps to advance both himself and
the welfare of his adopted territory.
In 1816, he and a friend purchased
The Illinois Herald, the only newspaper then published in
the territory, and renamed it The Western Intelligencer.
Daniel Cook became the paper's editor.
A year later, at the age of 23,
Cook reached the conclusion that he was not rising rapidly enough
in the world. Maybe by going to Washington, D.C., he reasoned,
President elect James Monroe or somebody in the capital would appoint
him to some important job, such as secretary of the Alabama territory.
Moreover, his lawyer-uncle, Nathaniel Pope, already in Washington
as the territory's delegate to the House of Representatives, might
be able to lend him assistance.
It was in February of 1817 that young
Daniel arrived in Washington. Failing to obtain a high post,
he settled for a lesser governmental job, that of dispatch bearer,
but still he felt that even greater success lay just around the
corner. On April 5 he sent back to Kaskaskia his resignation
as territorial auditor.
Within weeks Cook, always a dapper
dresser and of polished manners, was sent to London with state papers
which he delivered to John Quincy Adams, then United States representative
to Britain. These papers asked Adams to return home and become
secretary of state in the cabinet of President Monroe.
Together, the outstanding statesman,
Adams, and the youthful messenger, Cook, returned on a slow boat
to Washington. During the long trip they became well acquainted,
which acquaintanceship eventually had much to do with making Adams
president, and had a direct bearing upon the political setback that
befell Cook a year before his early death.
The duties of a government messenger,
Cook learned, could not always be so romantic and important as his
trip abroad. When his tasks became more menial, young Daniel
thought he was in a rut. He was learning the hard way that
important governmental posts were not easy for mere youths to obtain.
His health was not good, and he grew homesick for the sights of
familiar faces, including that of Julia Catherine Edwards (daughter
of the territorial governor.) In November of 1817, Cook
quit his job and returned home.
Shortly after his return in Kaskaskia,
Daniel Cook was back writing in his little newspaper and on November
20, 1817 printed his first editorial on his pet-project--advocating
statehood for the Illinois territory.
Statehood, at that time, was something
to which neither the territorial residents nor their political leaders
had given serious thought. The territory was too young, still
in the process of organization, and its population too small.
At that time, the neighboring Missouri territory had already taken
preliminary steps seeking statehood, but was torn by dissension
over the slavery issue. At the age of 23, Cook thought it
would be fun to beat the Missouri territory into the union and Cook
knew that in less than two weeks the territorial legislature was
to convene in regular session in Kaskaskia. Knowing the timing
was crucial, Cook followed up in the newspaper's next issue with
an urgent appeal for the territorial legislators to move forward
in asking Congress to grant Illinois statehood and advocated that
Illinois should come into the union as a slave-free state.
When the territorial legislature convened
in Kaskaskia on December 2, 1817, Cook was very much on hand not
only as a reporter for his own newspaper, but also (thanks to an
appointment by Governor Edwards,) as clerk of the house of representatives.
Immediately upon convening, the territorial legislators introduced
a resolution memorializing Congress to grant Illinois statehood.
Because much of the wording of the resolution was similar to that
in Cook's newspaper articles, it is reasonable to presume that Cook,
himself, drafted most of the resolution. Politics in the territory
has not yet crystallized into serious factions and since Governor
Edwards favored the resolution the legislators paid little attention
to the resolution's anti-slavery provision; however, a short time
later this was to become a highly contentious issue.
On December 10, 1817, twenty-two days
after young Cook returned to town with his idea for statehood, the
legislators unanimously adopted the resolution. The memorial
was handed to Congress on January 16, 1818, by Delegate Nathaniel
Pope (Cook's uncle) and shortly thereafter cleared committees.
On April 6, 1818, it was passed by the house and on April 14 by
the senate. President Monroe signed it on April 18, 1818.
On August 18, 1818, the Illinois Constitutional
Convention was held in Kaskaskia and adopted a state constitution
selecting Kaskaskia as the first state capital. On October
6, 1818, Shadrach Bond was inaugurated as the first state Governor.
On December 3, 1818, President Monroe signed the act of admission
by which Illinois became the 21st state of the union. Thus
Cook's territory won the race for statehood over Missouri by two
years, eight months, and seven days. (Missouri was admitted
August 10, 1821.)
During the year of 1818 when the territory
was preparing itself for statehood, young Cook kept himself as busy
as ever. Not only did he edit his paper and supervise official
government printing in the paper's job shop, but practiced law with
such success that early the same year he was appointed judge of
the western circuit courts. Though he was to hold the judgeship
only a few months, he quickly won for himself an enviable reputation
for his fairness. Traveling on horseback from one to another
of the new counties surrounding Kaskaskia, he held court in private
homes or in any other building that could accommodate small gatherings.
One record remains that on May 11, 1818, in Union county,
Judge Cook convened a grand jury in a log cabin, presided as evidence
was presented, then had the jury retire to the adjoining woods for
its deliberations. The jurors, composed of backwoods farmers
and hunters, sat on the trunk of a fallen tree as they pondered
over the evidence and made their findings.
In the elections that fall, with statehood
virtually assured, the youthful Judge Cook sought to become the
new state's first representative in Congress for the remainder of
the term that would follow statehood. He was defeated by 14
votes, however, by another ambitious young barrister, John McLean
of Shawneetown, who was to become his strongest political opponent
throughout the rest of his abbreviated life.
In December of 1818, Judge Cook was
chosen by the state legislature as the first Attorney General of
the new state of Illinois.
Daniel Cook held this position until
the following August of 1819 when he came back to defeat John McLean
for congressman by a majority of 633 (the count was 2,192 for Cook
to 1559 for McLean.) Thus Cook, at age 25, became the second
congressman to represent the young state of Illinois, and he was
re-elected in 1820, 1822, and 1824. On May 6, 1821,
during his second term in Congress, young Cook married Julia Catherine
Edwards. Her father, Ninian Edwards, at that time was United
States senator for Illinois, later became Governor.
Cook was a registered Democrat of Randolph
county. By 1826, however, he was running on the Whig ticket.
His successful campaigns against McLean centered largely around
the question of slavery. Though Cook had led the state into
the union slave free, there was constant agitation to amend the
new state constitution to permit slavery. John McLean was
the leading spokesman for the pro-slavery element.
In Cook and McLean's campaigns, these
young and able orators often engaged in public debates on the slavery
subject. Theirs was a prelude to the great Lincoln-Douglas
debates that were to follow in 1858. In an analogy one could
say that it was Cook, then a Democrat, who brought Illinois into
the union a slave-free state and kept it that way, and that it was
Lincoln, the Republican, who later went ahead to free the nation.
The work of each man complemented that of the other.
Even though Cook's rise to power was
aided at the outset by his uncle, Nathaniel Pope, and by his prospective
father-in-law, Ninian Edwards, his noteworthy accomplishments were
largely of his own making. He stood on his own abilities,
and in the light of history, rose above most other Illinois figures
of his generation.
While in Congress, Cook
worked prodigiously for the welfare of his young state. For
one thing, he recognized the need of a canal that would connect
the Great Lakes, at Chicago, with the navigable waters of the Illinois
river, even as Joliet had envisioned a century and a half earlier.
Such a waterway, he reasoned, not only would assist in the development
of northern Illinois, but would benefit the entire middle-west and
When Cook first sought
federal aid for the project, Congress was luke-warm and offered
only token help, and even at home Cook found some opposition.
In fact, one state senator from southern Illinois argued before
the state legislature that the canal should not be constructed because
it would be an inlet for hordes of blue-bellied Yankees. In
the end, however, Cook scored a victory that, judged even by Twentieth
century standards of federal aids, was tremendous.
On March 2, 1827, with
Daniel Cook on his way out as a "lame duck" member, Congress
granted Illinois 285,629 acres of land in alternate sections, checker-board
style, along the ten-mile wide route of the proposed Illinois-Michigan
canal. Proceeds from the sale of this land eventually were
to cover the major costs of the completed waterway. It is
significant to note that at the time of the grant which was to mean
so much to the eventual welfare of Chicago and Cook County, Congressman
Cook was Chairman of the ways and means committee of the House of
Representatives. His holding of this powerful position indicates
the esteem in which he was held in Washington.
In the fall of 1826, Daniel
Cook was defeated for re-election to Congress in part due to his
personal friendship with John Quincy Adams, the able Secretary of
State who had helped draft the Monroe doctrine. It was early
in 1825, following the previous fall's elections, that Adams, Henry
Clay, William Crawford, and Andrew Jackson (Presidential aspirants)
found themselves deadlocked, no one having a majority of the electoral
votes. Under the rules of government, this threw the matter
into the House of Representatives for a decision. There Adams
won the support of the Clay and Crawford factions, and, with the
help of Cook, Adams was chosen over Jackson by a single vote.
Jackson's followers in
Illinois, who were many, cried that Cook had betrayed his trust.
The strength of this opposition at home undoubtedly was underestimated
by Cook, for in the elections of 1826, being in ill health and not
having the formidable McLean to run against, he campaigned little.
The result, surprising to both sides, was that his opponent, Joseph
Duncan of Jackson county (a comparative unknown) won by 641 votes.
Though stung by his surprise
defeat, Cook sought to make his closing months as a "lame duck"
congressman outstanding. In this he again was successful,
but as chairman of the ways and means committee, he put in long
hours of work that further undermined his now rapidly-failing health.
When the legislative session came to an end that spring of 1827,
Cook accepted a government diplomatic mission to Cuba. He
expressed hope that the Caribbean climate would restore his health,
but this failed to be done. In June of 1827 he returned to
his home which then was Edwardsville, north of Kaskaskia.
That fall he expressed a desire to visit once again his birth place
in Scott county, Kentucky, and it was there that he died on October
16, 1827 and was buried. Daniel P. Cook was 33 years
Following the death of
her illustrious young husband, Julia Catherine Cook moved with their
only child, John (born June 12, 1825), to Belleville, Illinois,
where she died three years later. The son was to become in
time and in turn, Mayor of Springfield in 1855, a brigadier general
in the Civil War (here fighting in behalf of his father's anti-slavery
principles) and Sangamon county's representative in the Illinois
General Assembly. John Cook died in 1910 at his home near
There is no record that
Daniel Pope Cook ever had the pleasure of visiting the site of the
great county that was to be named after him when Cook County was
created by an act of the Illinois legislature on January 15, 1831,
less than four years following his death.