Alexander Campbell (Illinois politician)

Alexander Campbell (October 4, 1814 – August 8, 1898) was an Illinois businessman, politician, and author. After serving in state and local office as a member of the Whig Party and the Republican Party, Campbell published a book titled The True American System of Finance, becoming a leading figure in the Greenback movement. Campbell's work expanded on that of economist Edward Kellogg, who had advocated for fiat money. Campbell served a single term in the United States House of Representatives as an independent, and won the backing of several delegates for the presidential nomination at the 1876 and 1880 Greenback National Convention.

Alexander Campbell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1877
Preceded byFranklin Corwin
Succeeded byPhilip C. Hayes
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1814-10-04)October 4, 1814
Concord, Pennsylvania
DiedAugust 8, 1898(1898-08-08) (aged 83)
LaSalle, Illinois
Political partyWhig


Cambell was born on a farm near Concord, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. He attended the public schools; became a clerk in an iron works and was subsequently promoted to superintendent, became wealthy managing mines and steel mills in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Missouri until 1850, when he moved to LaSalle, Illinois and became interested in the coal fields there.

Public office and political theoryEdit

As a member of the Whig Party, Campbell won election as mayor of the newly-established town of LaSalle, serving two terms in that office in the early 1850s.[1] He then served as a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1858 to 1859.[2] He was a delegate to the 1862 Illinois Constitutional Convention.

In 1864, Campbell expanded on the ideas of pre-Civil-War U.S. economist Edward Kellogg in a book titled The True American System of Finance.[3] In the book, Campbell followed Kellogg's example in advocating for fiat money. He differed from Kellogg in that he favored maintaining that system through a currency and bond system rather than through re-establishing a national bank.[1]

The publication of The True American System of Finance made Campbell one of the leading figures in the evolving Greenback movement to replace bank currency with United States Notes in an effort to place labor on an equal footing with capital in the structure of finance. "Money creates no wealth," he wrote. "It only gathers up and appropriates to its owner things already produced."[4] He followed this up in 1868 with The True Greenback.[5]

He was elected as an independent to the Forty-fourth Congress from the Illinois' 7th congressional district, unseating Republican incumbent Franklin Corwin. He served from 1875–77, and sought re-election in 1876, but was defeated by Republican Philip C. Hayes. Campbell received several votes for the presidential nomination at the 1876 Greenback National Convention, but the nomination went to Peter Cooper.

After CongressEdit

After his defeat, he never again held public office, although he issued pamphlets such as his 1878 Address to the voters of the seventh congressional district of Illinois.[6]

He was a candidate for the presidential nomination at the 1880 Greenback National Convention, but the convention nominated James B. Weaver.[7]

He died in LaSalle on August 8, 1898, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.


  1. ^ a b Walker, Robert H. (2015). Reform in America: The Continuing Frontier. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 32–36. ISBN 9780813164892.
  2. ^ "List of the members and officers, twenty-first General Assembly of the State of Illinois, Springfield, January 3, 1859" Springfield: Illinois. General Assembly (21st: 1858-1860)
  3. ^ Campbell, Alexander. The True American System of Finance: The Rights of Labor and Capital, and the Common Sense Way of Doing Justice to the Soldiers and Their Families; No Banks, Greenbacks the Exclusive Currency. Chicago : Evening Journal Book and Job Print, 1864
  4. ^ Rodgers, Daniel T. The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850-1920 Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979; p. 216
  5. ^ Campbell, Alexander. The True Greenback: The Way to Pay the National Debt Without Taxes, and Emancipate Labor. Chicago : Printed at the Republican Book and Job Office, 1868
  6. ^ Campbell, Alexander. Address to the voters of the seventh congressional district of Illinois. Chicago, Blakely, Brown & Marsh's, Printers, 1878
  7. ^ Richardson, Darcy G. Others: Third Party Politics from the Nation's Founding to the Rise and Fall of the Greenback-Labor Party Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2004; Volume 1; pp. 510-512

Further readingEdit

  • Gretchen Ritter, Goldbugs and Greenbacks: The Antimonopoly Tradition and the Politics of Finance in America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by