The birth of the Illinois State Library occurred under the administration of Thomas Carlin, the sixth Governor of Illinois. Carlin is remembered as neither intellectual nor highly literate.
Of Irish ancestry, Carlin was born near Frankfort, Kentucky, on July 18, 1786, and came to Illinois as a mounted ranger during the War of 1812. He settled in Greene County, where he served as its first sheriff and became a large landowner. Carrollton, the seat of Greene County, was located on his property, and he donated land for public buildings. A twotime state Senator, Carlin was later appointed as Receiver for the Quincy land office. 1
A devout follower of Andrew Jackson, he secured the nomination for Governor in the 1838 election and won by 926 votes over the Whig candidate, Cyrus Edwards, the youngest brother of the third Governor of Illinois, Ninian Edwards. But his term in office was marred by the Mormon controversies at Nauvoo, with their unrest and violence, as well as by the internal improvements disaster that drove the state into financial distress. One contemporary also recalled his “intensely proslavery” views. However, he was also widely known for his loyal nature and honesty in nearly all matters. His lack of intellect was obviously no barrier to the formation of the State Library under his administration. 2
Carlin continued to be active in politics after leaving office and remains a well-respected pioneer of Greene County. He died on Feb. 14, 1852, in Carrollton. One of his sons was later arrested near Quincy for his pro-Southern views, while a nephew, William P. Carlin, became one of Illinois’ foremost Civil War generals for the Union. 3
1. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men, 2nd ed., 71, provides an overview of the opinions of scholars on Carlin’s intellect. Also see Moses I-424-425, 1166.
2. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men, 2nd ed., 73, 354.
3. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men, 2nd ed., 71, 76, relates the low opinions of Carlin by scholars but credits the Governor with strong personal virtues. For more information on William P. Carlin, see The Memoirs of Brigadier General William Passmore Carlin, U.S.A. by Robert Girardi and Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes.