25. Second Illinois Constitution (1848)

Background: By the 1840s, the 1818 Illinois Constitution was hopelessly outdated. Illinois had grown from a sparsely settled state of barely 40,000 residents to a state with a population 10 times that large. Economically, politically and socially the state had undergone many changes by 1848 that made it almost a completely different place than it was in 1818. After an attempt to call a constitutional convention failed in 1842, a second attempt was approved in 1846. Voters elected delegates to the convention in April 1847 and 162 delegates convened in Springfield on June 7, 1847. The convention adjourned on August 31. On March 6, 1848, voters approved the new Constitution and the two amendments that had been submitted separately for their consideration. The new Constitution plus the two amendments went into effect on April 1, 1848.

The Document: Delegates to the 1847 Constitutional Convention approved a highly detailed document that was much longer than the 1818 Illinois Constitution. The Constitution strengthened the executive branch of government while reducing the size and powers of the legislature. This was done in part because of the legislature's insistence on creating a state bank and passing an expensive internal improvement program, both of which had failed and left the state deeply in debt. Many positions in government that had previously been appointive were now made subject to election, including the Secretary of State and the members of the state Supreme Court. The 1818 Constitution had allowed for all white male residents of the state to vote, regardless of whether they were American citizens or not. The 1848 Constitution added a citizenship requirement for voting. It also required ballots for elections rather than voice votes. An effort to extend the vote to African-Americans failed. The convention also voted to submit to the voters two separate amendments: one to ban African-American immigration into Illinois and another to levy a property tax to help pay off the state debt. Voters approved both the Constitution and the two amendments.

Note: The 1848 Illinois Constitution remained in effect until it was replaced with the third state Constitution in 1870. Only the preamble and signature pages to the new constitution are displayed here. The 1848 Constitution is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Secretary of State Record Series 103.013, "Second Constitution of Illinois (1848)."