Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Remarks in Illinois Legislature
Concerning Appropriation for Building the State House [1]

January 7, 1839

Mr Lincoln said, that as the Hon. Speaker [2] had confined his remarks to the expensiveness of the work under consideration, he would not wander from this point himself. And, indeed, it was unnecessary to say much upon that subject; for he believed that the majority would agree, that if the work was to be done [at] all, it had best be well done; that is, in a manner creditable to the State. He felt perfectly willing to submit the question to the House, without saying one word more. [3]

Mr. Lincoln, in reply, contended that the people of 1840 would have no better right to decide the question, than the people of 1839. True, the inhabitants of Vandalia had a right to retain the seat of government here twenty years, according to the provisions of the Constitution; but, on the other hand, if the people of Illinois at large had found that they had a hard bargain, they have a right to get out of it as soon as they can. Has not the corporation of Springfield faithfully performed her part of the contract? Two thirds of the stipulated sum is paid; and for the other third which is not paid, the bonds of twenty-five responsible men are put forward, which may be sued at any time, and are perfectly secure, so far as the interest of the State is involved. He could not say, indeed, with his colleague, that he considered the faith of the State as pledged to complete the State House at Springfield; but wished thatPage  127 work to go on, and that place to be made the permanent seat of government; because it was the place of his residence, and because he really believed that the people would thus be best accommodated. True, when the question of a Capitol was formerly submitted to the people at large, Springfield did not receive the highest number of votes; but this can furnish no evidence that if the question were now a second time submitted to the same tribunal, Springfield would not have a larger vote than any other point.

As to making money by locating the Capitol in some new place, and selling the lots of a city that is to be, he would simply ask how much money had been made, and how many State Houses had been built out of the land received here in Vandalia, as a donation from the General Government? Depend upon it, the idea of realizing such immense sums of money in this way, is all an illusion. As for the unconstitutionality of agitating this question at present, he hardly expected that those who bring forward a series of plans, of the same general nature with this now in progress at Springfield, would throw upon their opponents this charge; for each and all of these is equally unconstitutional.


[1]   Vandalia Free Press, January 10, 1839. A less adequate account appears in the Sangamo Journal, January 19, 1839.

[2]   William L. D. Ewing.

[3]   Ewing then proposed other amendments, contending that it was unconstitutional to legislate on the subject until 1840, and that it would be better to locate the seat of government on vacant land.