EDWARD COLES, Illinois’ second governor was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, on December 15, 1786. He obtained an education through private tutors and later at the Hampden-Sydney College and William and Mary College. Coles entered public service in 1809, serving as private secretary to President James Madison, a position he held for six years. In 1816, President Madison sent him on a diplomatic assignment to St. Petersburg, Russia. Two years later, he returned and moved his family to Illinois, settling in Edwardsville, where he freed his slaves, believing in equality for all people. On March 5, 1819, Coles secured an appointment as register of the land office in Edwardsville, a position he held until 1822. He won election as Illinois governor on August 5, 1822, and was sworn into office on December 5, 1822. During his tenure, the judiciary system was restructured, establishing both circuit and supreme courts; and an antislavery referendum was sanctioned. Governor Coles also advocated for the passage of fitting laws to prevent kidnapping and to humanize African-Americans. On December 6, 1826, Coles left office and returned to his Edwardsville farm. He retired from politics after running unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1831. Governor Edward Coles died in Philadelphia, on July 7, 1868, and he is buried in the Woodland Cemetery, near Philadelphia.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.