7. First Bill Passed by the General Assembly (1819)

Background: The Illinois General Assembly first convened on October 5, 1818, in Kaskaskia and met for a week. During that time, legislators organized themselves into a legislative body; approved appointments to offices; petitioned the federal government for land for a new capital city; and attended the swearing in ceremony for Governor Shadrach Bond. The Congressional Enabling Act had required that Illinois form a government before statehood. However, because Illinois was not yet a state, members of the General Assembly questioned whether they had the authority to pass any legislation. Legislators concluded that they did not have the authority to pass bills and adjourned the first session of the first General Assembly on October 13, 1818, without passing a single law. It wasn't until its second session of the first General Assembly, which began one month after statehood in January 1819, that the state legislature began passing legislation.

The Document: The first bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly is a handwritten, one-page document entitled "An Act Declaring What Laws are in Force in this State." The bill essentially states that British common law was the rule of the state until any aspects of it were superseded by an action of the General Assembly. The document is signed by Shadrach Bond, the first governor of Illinois, Pierre Menard, the first Lt. Governor of Illinois and "Speaker" of the Senate, and John Messinger, the first Speaker of the Illinois House.

Note: Most public acts and bills introduced in the legislature were handwritten until the early 20th century. This public act is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Secretary of State Record Series 103.030, "Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly."