Abraham Lincoln in Illinois
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 6AN ACT TO PERMANENTLY LOCATE THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
February 7, 1837
Although a Senate bill, this piece of legislation was written by Abraham Lincoln and helped mark one of the major accomplishments of his state legislative career. It was part of the numerous maneuvers by Sangamon County legislators to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield.
Upon the organization of Illinois as a territory in 1809, Kaskaskia, located on the Mississippi River in southwestern Illinois, became the capital city. It continued as the capital when Illinois became a state in 1818. Illinois before the Civil War was generally settled from south to north. This meant the population center of the state continuously moved northward. In 1820, the state moved the capital to the town of Vandalia, which was farther north than Kaskaksia. However, the statute moving the capital called for it to be reviewed after twenty years.
Lincoln and eight other legislators represented Sangamon County, then a much larger area than it is today. The average height of these two senators and seven representatives was six feet tall, earning the delegation the nickname the "Long Nine." Going in to the tenth session of the Illinois General Assembly (1836-1838) Lincoln led this bipartisan delegation, which was determined to have the capital relocated to Springfield.
Stephen Douglas, who opposed moving the capital to Springfield, later said of the "Long Nine," that "They used every exertion and made every sacrifice to secure the passage of the bill." Indeed, they would later be accused of voting for building projects in other legislators' districts in exchange for the votes for Springfield as state capital.
This document calls for a joint House-Senate meeting to vote on the location of a new capital. The joint House-Senate vote actually took place February 28, 1837. It took four ballots before legislators selected Springfield. Its nearest rivals were Alton, Vandalia and Jacksonville.
Springfield continues to serve as the state capital. Shortly after the vote, on April 15, 1837, Lincoln moved to Springfield and joined the law firm of John Todd Stuart.
Points to Consider
Why would Vandalia only have been made a temporary capital city?
Why would the moving of the state capital be a major achievement for Lincoln?
Why would Lincoln move to Springfield after this bill was passed?