9. Law to Relocate Capital from Kaskaskia to Vandalia (1819)
Background: Illinois was settled from the south to the north, as most early settlers from the east came down the Ohio River. Kaskaskia, located on the Mississippi River just 90 miles north of the Ohio River, was named the territorial capital of Illinois in 1809. Delegates to the state constitutional convention realized that Kaskaskia's location, approximately 400 miles south of the new state's northern border, would not be a convenient location as the state's population moved northward. Delegates at the constitutional convention added language to the Constitution calling for the capital to be moved north of Kaskaskia along the Kaskaskia River. They further required the first session of the General Assembly to petition Congress for a tract of federal land for the creation of a new capital city, which was to serve as the seat of state government for a term of 20 years. Congress agreed to make the land grant.
The Document: In keeping with the requirements of the new Constitution, legislation entitled "An Act for the Removal of the Seat of Government of the State of Illinois" was approved on March 30, 1819. The legislation called for the General Assembly to appoint a five-member commission to find a suitable location for a new capital. The bill required the land to be along the Kaskaskia River and to consist of four sections of federal land. The bill noted that the new city would serve as the state capital for 20 years. The bill also called for the construction of a statehouse and stated that it needed to be two stories, with a room for the House of Representatives on the first floor (the lower chamber) and the Senate on the second floor (the upper chamber). Finally, the bill allowed the commissioners to name the new town. The commissioners named the town Vandalia. The Second General Assembly met for the first time in the hastily built town of Vandalia on December 4, 1820.
Note: Twenty-year-old Sidney Breese, a future U. S. Senator and Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, was paid $25 to move the state archives by wagon from Kaskaskia to Vandalia. The 80-mile trip took him a week through the wilderness. 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."