20. Resolution Notifying the Senate that the House is Organized (1840)

Background: On November 23, 1840, the 12th session of the Illinois House met for the first time. The next day, the House elected officers and William L. D. Ewing defeated Abraham Lincoln for Speaker. While it can be argued that defeating Lincoln for the speakership was the highlight of Ewing's political career, he can also lay claim to one of the more unusual careers in Illinois political history. After serving as House clerk in 1826 and 1828, Ewing was elected in 1830 as a state representative. The freshman legislator was then selected to serve as Speaker of the House. Two years later he was elected state senator and the freshman Senator was chosen by his colleagues as Speaker pro tempore, making him next in the line of succession for Lt. Governor. Upon the resignation of the Lt. Governor Zadok Casey, Ewing assumed that position. When Governor John Reynolds resigned near the end of his term to enter Congress, Ewing became the state's fifth governor, serving for 16 days before automatically returning to the state Senate. In 1835, Ewing was selected to serve the remainder of U. S. Senator Elias Kent Kane's term following Kane's death. Two years later, Ewing lost the Senate seat. He returned to the Illinois House and was twice more elected Speaker. He later resumed his position as Clerk of the House before ending his career as State Auditor.

The Document: The 12th biennial session of the Illinois House of Representatives met for its second day on November 24, 1840. Ewing, a popular Democrat from Vandalia, defeated Lincoln, a popular Whig from Springfield, for Speaker, 46 to 36. It was the second time Ewing had defeated Lincoln for Speaker, mainly due to selection along party lines. After the vote, Lincoln, in his typically inimitable manner, wrote and moved for passage of this resolution, informing the Senate that the House had elected Ewing and other officers, and was "ready to proceed to Legislative business."

Note: This resolution is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of Secretary of State Record Series 103.030, "Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly."