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

Bill Introduced in Illinois Legislature
to Organize the County of Van Buren [1]

[December 24, 1836]

SECTION 1 Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois represented in the General Assembly that all that tract of country lying within the following boundaries, to wit: Begining at the North West corner of Sangamon county on the Illinois river and runing from thence East along the North line of said county to the North East corner of Township No. 20 North of Range No. 5 West. Thence South along the Range line between Ranges four and five to the South East corner of Township No. Eighteen North of Range No. five West. Thence diagonally across Ranges, five, six, and seven West to the South West corner of Township No. Seventeen North of Range No. Seven West. Thence West along the line between Townships No. sixteen and seventeen to the line between Sangamon and Morgan counties. Thence North along the line between Sangamon and Morgan counties to the Sangamon river. Thence along the channel of the said Sangamon river to it's junction with the Illinois river; and thence following the meanders of Illinois river to the place of begining, shall constitute a new county to be called the county of Van Buren [2]

Page  58SEC 2ND. The permanent seat of Justice for said county shall be the village of Petersburg, and the public buildings thereof shall be erected on the public square recorded in the plat of said town as public ground: Provided [3] that unless the proprietors of the said village of Petersburg shall convey to the said county of Van Buren for the purpose of the erection of public buildings, one fourth of all the lots of the said village, the seat of justice of said county shall not be located at the said village of Petersburg; but shall be located by commissioners hereinafter named, at some point not more than one mile and a half from the geographical centre of said county.

SEC 3RD. The county commissioners for said county, when elected under the provisions of this act, shall immediately appoint some suitable person, as agent, whose duty it shall be to call upon the proprietors of said village of Petersburg or their agent, and notify them or him, that he is ready to make the selection of the lots aforesaid, on behalf of the county; and if the said proprietors or their agent agree to said selection, the said agent for the county, shall proceed to make the selection by choosing one lot, and allowing the said proprietors or their agent to choose three, and so proceed till the whole selection is made: Provided that the paying over, by the proprietors of the said village of Petersburg, to the county commissioners of the said new county, one fourth of the proceeds of the sales of the lots already sold shall be deemed a sufficient compliance with the provisions of this act in regard to the lots so sold. [4]

SEC 4 If the said proprietors shall neglect or refuse, for a longer term than ten days after the said agent for the county has notified them that he is ready to make the selection as aforesaid, to convey to the county commissioners for the use of said county the lots selected, or offered to be selected, by said agent, the said county commissioners shall give notice to John Henry of Morgan county, Benjamin Mitchell of Tazewell county, and Samuel Hackelton of Fulton county, that they are appointed commissioners to locate the seat of Justice of said county, whose duty it shall be to meet at the said village of Petersburg on the second monday of August next, and after being duly sworn by some Justice of the Peace, faithfully and impartially to discharge their duties, shall proceed to locate the seat of justice of said county according to the provisions of this act; which location shall be the permanent seal of justice of said county. [5]

Page  59SEC 5 The county commissioners of said county shall allow, out of the county treasury, the sum of three dollars to each of said commissioners for each day they may have been necessarily employed in making said location. [6]

SEC 6 The said new county of Van Buren shall constitute a part of first judicial circuit, and a circuit shall be held for said county at some convenient place in the village of Petersburg until the public buildings shall be erected. The time for holding said courts shall be appointed by the Judge presiding on said circuit. [7]

SEC 7 All Justices of the Peace and constables now commissioned in and for the county of Sangamon that now reside within the boundaries of the aforesaid county of Van Buren shall hold their offices in and for the said new county of Van Buren.

SEC 8 The legal voters of said county shall meet at the several precincts now organized for holding elections within the above boundaries on the first monday in July next, appoint Judges and clerks of elections, and proceed to elect three county commissioners, a Sheriff, a Coroner, a county surveyor and county Recorder for said county; and the returns of said election shall be made by said Judges and clerks to the Justices of the Peace in said new county of Van Buren, any three or more of whom shall meet at the village of Petersburg within seven days after said election and proceed to open said returns and in all things perform the duties required by law of the clerks of county commissioners courts and Justices of the Peace in like cases

SEC. 9 In all elections for officers, except county officers, the county shall vote with the county of Sangamon until the next census; and the returns of the elections shall be made to the county clerk of the new county of Van Buren, by whom a certified abstract of the returns of such election shall be made to the county commissioners clerk of Sangamon county within seven days thereafter.

SEC 10 Be it further enacted that the legal voters of the county of Sangamon shall meet at the several places of holding elections in said county, on the first monday of June next, and if a majority of said voters shall vote in favour of the organization of said new county of Van Buren under this act, then shall the county be organized as is in this act provided for; but if a majority of said voters shall vote against the organization of said new county, then shall this act be void and of none effect.

Page  60SEC 11 It shall be the duty of the Judges and clerks of the several election precincts in and for the county of Sangamon, to meet at the several places of holding elections, on the day prescribed in the tenth section of this act, and then and there proceed to open polls for the purpose contemplated in the said tenth section, and in all respects conduct the voting, and make the returns in the manner prescribed by the general election laws of this state. The official certificate of the clerk of the county commissioner's court of Sangamon county shall be evidence of the result of said voting. [8]

SEC 12 The clerk of the county commissioner's court for Sangamon county shall give notice of said voting in the same manner, and for the same length of time that he is required to do by law, of general elections.


[1]   AD, I-Ar. In addition to the engrossed bill, which is in Lincoln's hand but dated and signed by the House clerk on December 24, there are two pages of amendments and two amendments on slips of paper, also in Lincoln's hand. These amendments, reported by Lincoln on December 21 from a select committee, make up more than half of the bill as passed. The original bill, introduced on December 20 by Stephen A. Douglas, representative from Morgan County, from the committee on petitions, was drawn in response to petitions signed by citizens of Morgan and Sangamon counties requesting the formation of a new county out of adjacent portions of the two counties. Remonstrances against the petitions had also been presented, and it was clear that Sangamon voters were by no means unanimously in favor of forming the new county. The bill was tabled by the Senate and failed to become law. (See Lincoln's ``Report,'' February 13, 1837, infra.)

[2]   The name of the proposed county had been left blank throughout the original bill and remained so until Lincoln's amendment naming ``Marshall'' was changed on the motion of David Nowlin of Monroe County to read ``Van Buren.'' The insertion of ``Van Buren'' in the title was done by amendment after the bill had been passed by the House.

[3]   This proviso was one of Lincoln's amendments.

[4]   Section 3 was Lincoln's amendment.

[5]   Section 4 was Lincoln's amendment.

[6]   Section 5 was Lincoln's amendment.

[7]   Sections 6,7,8,9, and 10 were in the original bill.

[8]   Sections 11 and 12 were amendments by Lincoln.