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The Road to Illinois Statehood

The legislative process leading to Illinois statehood is preserved in the Journal of the House of Representatives, the Journal of the Senate, the House Bills and the Statutes at Large, which are available online through the Library of Congress’ American Memory project. Illinois petitioned for statehood in January of 1818. Their request for statehood was presented in the House of Representatives by Nathanial Pope, Delegate from Illinois Territory, on January 16, 1818, and referred to a committee. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, page 151

The Committee met and reported back to the House on January 23, 1818. The request was set aside to be considered by the full House of Representatives. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, page174.

The text of the bill was also printed as House of Representatives Bill 53, A Bill To enable the people of Illinois Territory to form a Constitution and state government and for the admission of such state into the union, on an equal footing with the original states. Bills and Resolutions, House of Representatives, 15th Congress, 1st Session.

On April 4, 1818, the full House of Representatives considered the bill. After several amendments were offered, it was set aside for further action. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, page 423-424.

A final draft of the bill was ordered April 6, 1818 and sent to the Senate. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, page 428.

The United States Senate considered the bill on April 7, 1818. After a second reading, it was referred to the Committee on Public Lands. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 7, page 328-329.

The Senate Committee on Public Lands considered and amended the bill and referred it back to the Senate on April 9, 1818, where it was read. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 7, page 342.

The Senate considered the bill again on April 13, 1818. After voting not to postpone action on the request, the Senate voted to finalize the bill. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 7, page 354.

The Senate again considered the bill on April 14, 1818. After the final bill was read, it was approved and sent back to the House of Representatives. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 7, pages 357-358.

The House of Representatives was informed of the Senate action on the bill the same day. The amended bill was referred to a committee. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, pages 461-463.

On April 16, 1818, the House committee considering the bill reported back to the full House of Representatives. The amended bill was approved. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, pages 476.

On April 18, 1818 the House of Representatives was informed that President James Monroe had signed the bill to admit Illinois to the Union. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 11, page 492.

The approved act, titled "An Act to Enable the People of Illinois Territory to form a constitution and state government and for the admission of such state into the Union on an equal footing with the original states" was printed in Statutes at Large, 15th Congress, 1st Session, pages 428-431.

An election was held in July, 1818 to elect representatives to a constitutional convention, which was convened in Kaskaskia in August. The records of the first constitutional convention held in Illinois are available online:

Illinois State Historical Society. The Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1818. [Springfield, IL: Illinois State Historical Society]. Illinois State Historical Society Journal, v.6, no.3, October 1894.

The President´s Message of November 17, 1818 noted the pending accession of Illinois as a state. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 12, page 16.

On November 19, 1818, the Constitution of the State of Illinois was presented to the House and referred to a select committee. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 12, page 22.

On November 20, 1818 a resolution declaring Illinois´ admission to the Union was read and ordered to be finalized by the House of Representatives. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 12, page 25.

November 23, 1818, the finalized resolution was read for a third time and a vote was taken to admit Illinois as a state. In a roll call vote, 117 members voted to admit Illinois as a state and 34 members voted against the resolution. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 12, page 30-31.

On November 25, 1818, the House of Representatives informed the United States Senate that they had passed a resolution declaring that Illinois should be admitted to the Union. The resolution was read twice and referred to the Committee on Public Lands. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, page 32.

The Senate Committee on Public Lands returned the resolution declaring Illinois a state to the full Senate without adding any amendments. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, page 34.

The Senate considered the resolution to admit Illinois as a state on November 27, and postponed action until the following Monday. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, page 39.

The Senate resumed work on the resolution to admit Illinois as a state on November 30, 1818 and ordered a third reading of the resolution. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, page 42.

The Senate read the resolution for a third time on December 1, 1818. At that time they passed and returned the resolution to the House of Representatives. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, page 43.

On December 2, 1818, both the House and the Senate reported that the resolution to admit Illinois as a state had been finalized. It was forwarded to the President. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 12, page 57 and Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, page 46.

The resolution was signed by the President on December 4, 1818. The House and Senate were notified of the President´s action and John M´Lean was seated as Illinois first Representative. Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Volume 12, pages 60-61.

The Senate was also informed that of the President´s action and seated Ninian Edwards and Jesse B. Thomas as Senators. The new Senators were assigned to a Senate class by drawing lots. Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Volume 8, pages 52-53.