Judge Samuel Lockwood
Backstory and Context
Along with Samuel Treat, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Samuel Lockwood was appointed by Governor Thomas Carlin on Aug. 14, 1841, to purchase books for the newly established State Library. It was one of many assignments for Lockwood in a long career of public service. 1
Lockwood was born Aug. 2, 1789, in Poundridge, New York, and received very little education in his youth. From 1803 to 1811, he lived and studied law with an uncle in Waterford, New York, and received his law license in February 1811. During the next seven years, he practiced law in three New York towns and was an active leader in community affairs despite his relatively young age. Among the posts he held were sergeant major and paymaster of a local militia regiment, justice of the peace and master of chancery, church trustee, and organizer of New York’s first Bible society. 2
He came to Carmi, Illinois, in 1818 and continued his legal and political activity. On Feb. 6, 1821, he was elected Attorney General by the Illinois Legislature, but was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1822. Lockwood resigned as Attorney General on Dec. 28, 1822, when he was appointed Secretary of State, but resigned that post within a matter of weeks, after his confirmation as receiver of the Edwardsville land office. 3
During this time, Lockwood also became one of the most vocal opponents of slavery, a position shared by then-Governor Edward Coles, and he contributed articles to many anti-slavery newspapers. On Jan. 19, 1825, Lockwood was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court, where he sat for nearly 24 years. While on the bench, he authored the state’s criminal code and co-wrote the revisions of numerous Illinois laws. 4
In the mid-1830s, Lockwood and two associates nearly lost their lives in a winter storm while on horseback between Carmi and Vandalia. During the 60-mile trip, the three men plunged through a storm of wind, sleet, and snow until they could go no further. Tying their horses, the men spread a blanket on the ground near a fallen tree to ride out the night and squatted close together, with Lockwood in the middle. When morning came, the freezing men finally reached the Kaskaskia River on the eastern edge of Vandalia only to find the river overflowing its banks. With no other alternative, the men jumped into the river and managed to swim across at the end of a harrowing journey. Lockwood, who had been suffering from poor health, believed his well-being would decline even further but, to his surprise, found that he enjoyed better health afterward than he had in many years. 5
In addition to his service on the bench, Lockwood was also the first man to serve as vice president of the board of trustees of the Illinois Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in Jacksonville in 1839. A decade later, he was named president of the first board of trustees of the Central Hospital for the Insane. Like many other prominent 19thcentury Illinoisans, Lockwood held membership in the Chicago Historical Society. 6
Throughout his career, Lockwood earned great respect through his personal dignity and good character. Noted state historian John Moses wrote that, “no man stood higher in respect of purity of character, sound judgment, and eminent ability.” Tall and thin in appearance, Lockwood was also described by Moses as having features “strongly marked with lines of thought, care, and feeling…his aspect was at once benevolent, venerable, and intellectual. His charges to grand juries were preserved and served for years as models to his successors.” 7
Lockwood was a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1848, which made Illinois Supreme Court judges elective by the citizens. However, Lockwood himself did not seek election, choosing instead to retire to private life. In 1851, he was appointed legislative trustee of the land department of the Illinois Central Railroad. In 1855, Lockwood, a former Whig, aligned himself with the new Republican Party. He spent the last years of his life in Batavia, where he died on April 23, 1874. 8
- Letter of Thomas Carlin to Samuel Lockwood, Aug. 14, 1841.
- Dictonary of American Biography XI-344; Krause and Stowell, 36.
- Dictonary of American Biography XI-344; Moses I-316, 322, 551; Krause and Stowell, 36.
- Dictonary of American Biography XI-344; Moses I-328, 345; Krause and Stowell, 36.
- Moses I-388-389n.
- Moses II-1009, 1016, 1018; Dictonary of American Biography XI-344.
- Moses II-554, 964-966.
- Dictonary of American Biography XI-344; Moses II-1104; Krause and Stowell, 37.