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Sidney Breese (American National Biography)

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Maxwell Bloomfield, "Breese, Sidney," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/11/11-00100.html.
In December 1842 Breese won election to the U.S. Senate and promptly resigned from the bench. During his single term from 1843 to 1849, he loyally supported most major Democratic policies: a low tariff, a tough stance against England in the longstanding dispute over the Oregon boundary, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican War. Although in principle he opposed federal grants of public lands to aid internal improvements within the states, he made an exception for railroad and canal projects, especially those that promised to benefit the state of Illinois. Thus, as chairman of the Committee on Public Lands in the Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Congresses, he urged the passage of bills to aid the construction of two railroads: a transcontinental line from Lake Michigan to the Pacific and another line through central Illinois that eventually would extend southward to the Gulf of Mexico. A poor negotiator, he failed to gain support for either of these measures and suffered the added humiliation of seeing his hated rival, Senator Stephen A. Douglas, push through his own bill in 1850, which made the Illinois Central the first land-grant railroad in American history.

Denied renomination by his party, Breese returned to Illinois and plunged again into local politics. He served a term in the Illinois House of Representatives (1851-1852) and was elected Speaker in his first year. A war Democrat during the Civil War and a judicial activist, he helped to establish the legal foundations of a modern industrial society.

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