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Why Alton Is Not the Capital of Illinois

 

From the Alton Weekly Telegraph, February 28, 1873

 

          We are indebted to the Hon. Ninian Edwards of Springfield for the following interesting article in regard to the popular vote cast in 1834 for the location of the State Capital:

 

          In accordance with a provision of the first Constitution of the State, the seat of Government was fixed at Vandalia for the term of twenty years - from the year 1818. During the session of the Legislature in 1833, a bill was introduced by Mr. Pierce of Greene county, providing for the appointment of Commissioners to permanently locate the State Capital. Although it was introduced and supported by the friends of Alton, it was warmly supported by John T. Stuart and other representatives of Sangamon county, and passed the House by a close vote. It was amended in the Senate by a clause submitted the question to a vote of the people, and in this form became a law.

 

          Although the passage of the bill did not meet the wishes of the Sangamon delegation, and of the northern portion of the State, they determined to make the most of it, and early in January 1834, a public meeting was called to Springfield for the purpose of uniting the northern portion of the State in favor of some place to be voted for at the general election to be held in August of that year. At this meeting a committee, consisting of John T. Stuart, George Farquar, E. D. Taylor, Stephen T. Logan, Peter Cartwright and Samuel Morris, was appointed to attend a District Convention at Rushville, for the purpose of agreeing upon some one of the places designated to be voted for as the permanent seat of government. This Convention met on the 7th of April, 1834, and organized by the election of Col. Samuel Alexander of Adams county, as Chairman, and on motion of the Hon. John T. Stuart, the following resolution was adopted:

 

          Resolved, That a select committee of seven be appointed to take into consideration what measures shall be adopted by this Convention for the permanent location of the seat of government of the State, in order to secure harmony and concert of action among ourselves; and that they report to this Convention by resolution or otherwise.

 

          This committee, of which Mr. Stuart was chairman, reported the following resolution:

 

          Resolved, That we recommend to our fellow citizens of the State at large, and more particularly to that portion of those whom we represent in this Convention, that at the next August election they vote for the town of Springfield in the county of Sangamon, to be the permanent seat of government of the State of Illinois, after the time prescribed in the Constitution for its remaining at Vandalia.

 

          Among the competing points in the northern part of the State, were Springfield and Peoria, and after a full discussion of the subject the above resolution was carried by a vote of yeas, 26; nays, 9.  A committee was then chosen to draft an address in accordance with the views of the convention, which was done and published in the leading papers of the State. The law provided that the place receiving the highest number of votes should be the permanent seat of government. The following statement shows the vote by counties:

 

AUGUST ELECTION, 1834

COUNTIES

VANDALIA

SPRINGFIELD

ALTON

JACKSONVILLE

GRAND CENTER

PEORIA

Madison

13

6

1292

 

2

3

Bond

183

 

150

     

Clinton

 

1

148

     

Gallatin

unreadable

104

86

 

27

 

Pope

126

1

241

1

12

1

Union

133

4

198

2

1

 

Alexander

21

4

21?

     

Franklin

350

2

159

1

   

St. Clair

192

13

631

   

5

Washington

124

 

169

     

Randolph

1??

11

415

 

11

1

Monroe

4

2

362

 

1

 

Jackson

72

1

157

 

44

 

Johnson

250

 

85

 

1

 

Perry

28

2

57

 

10

1

Fayette

637

1

7

     

Montgomery

2??

8

1?8

 

20

 

Marion

281

 

75

     

Hamilton

289

4

116

3

2

 

Wayne

314

3

79

2

3

1

Lawrence

526

16

11

1

67

 

Shelby

453

62

14

     

Jefferson

53

3??

1

     

Edwards

2??

 

5

     

Clay

137

 

1

     

Clark

180

17

1

1

6

 

White

693

38

102

2

7

2

Wabash

331

3

10

1

1

 

Coles

2??

57

6

 

29

 

Iroquois

 

36

       

Edgar

33

495

 

4

37

 

Vermillion

4

1015

   

1

 

Champaign

1

unreadable

       

Sangamon

1

2291

10

1

21

2

Greene

   

1350

6

1

9

Peoria

         

63

Macon

1

51

   

249

1

Morgan

 

411

51

185

7

2

Knox

 

107

   

1

43

McDonough

8

257

2

13

   

Hancock

3

249

51

1

 

1

Pike

2

66

496

22

63

4

Adams

2

643

68

4

7

4

Schuyler

2

562

8

10

11

4

Warren

 

146

89

1

1

7

Calhoun

   

158

     

Rock Island

 

18

85

 

2

 

Jo Daviess

35

94

82

8

 

190

Tazewell

13

45

2

 

13

65

McLean

1

102

   

102

13

Cook

4

13

1

2

9

25

TOTAL

7148

7044

7511

272

774

486

         

          From which it appears that the city of Alton received the highest number of votes. The total number of votes being only 23,255, while at the same election the votes for Governor amounted to 33,239. It thus appears that 9,964 votes did not vote on the question. Fulton, Putnam and LaSalle counties, which gave 1,367 votes for Governor, gave no vote for the seat of government. The question will be asked, why was not the Capital located at Alton, as she received a majority of the popular vote? The explanation, we believe, is that the State at that time was projecting a vast system of railways, and there was a strife among the towns of the State as to which should be the centre of this system. Alton was very anxious to be the terminus of the projected lines, and accordingly an arrangement was made, subsequently to the election, by which Alton waived her claim to be the capital in consideration of the Legislature's making her the centre of the State railway system. The capital was then located at Springfield. But - "The best laid plans of mice and men, Gang aft aglee."  The great projected system of railways utterly failed, so that Alton got neither the capital nor the terminus of the railways.

 

***********************

 

WILL SELL RELIC OF ALTON'S AMBITION - SITE BOUGHT FOR CAPITOL TO BE DISPOSED OF

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 4, 1904

Corporation Counsel L. D. Yager is preparing an ordinance to be presented at the next city council meeting, authorizing the sale of the old Washington school property, on what is known as State House square. The city of Alton bought the property in its ambitious days as a site for the state capitol. The property was bought subsequently by Robert Smith, who was the wealthiest man in Alton in his day. Most Alton people do not know that Alton was voted upon and received a majority of votes as the site for the state capitol, and in 1833 the people purchased that piece of property whereon to erect the state building. The legislature refused to make the appropriation for Alton because it was not the geographical center of the state, and afterward Vandalia won the prize. The "State House Square" was subsequently used by the city of Alton for school purposes, and within the last seven years has been practically abandoned. The lot is large and is said to be worth $1,000 or more. It is a source of expense to the city, but will be valuable for a private individual to own.

 
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