Abraham Lincoln in Illinois
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 13, 1838

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Illinois' population tripled between 1830 and 1840, going from just over 150,000 residents to slightly more than 450,000 residents. The rapidly growing state provided plenty of opportunity and a newcomer with talent could move ahead quickly. Such was the case of Antrim Campbell and his brother, David.

The Campbell brothers came to Sangamon County in 1837 and opened up a law practice. David Campbell was a Democrat and Antrim was a member of the Whig Party. They quickly became local civic leaders. In 1839 the state legislature selected David Campbell as state's attorney for the newly created Eighth Judicial Circuit. By 1842 he was mayor of Springfield. He later served as Illinois attorney general and also rode the circuit with Lincoln.

Antrim Campbell had only been practicing law in Springfield for eight months when some of the leading members of the community signed this petition asking that Governor Joseph Duncan appoint him as a district attorney, which the petition referred to as prosecuting attorney. Duncan had been elected governor as a Democrat but switched to the Whig Party before taking office.

All of the persons signing the petition were attorneys. Among them were John Todd Stuart and Stephen T. Logan, Lincoln's first two law partners. Also signing it was Edward Baker, a state senator and future congressman; Ninian Edwards, a state representative and son of Illinois' third governor; Samuel Treat, an attorney and future judge; Josephus Hewett, the resigning prosecuting attorney; and Cyrus Walker, a prominent Whig from McDonough County who in 1840 would join Lincoln as a candidate for presidential elector for Whig William Henry Harrison.

Despite the strong list of supporters, Duncan did not appoint Campbell to the position.

Points to Consider

Why could a man with talent advance quickly in Illinois in the 1830s?

Was this a good list of endorsers? Why?

In what ways has getting a government job changed since Lincoln's time? In what ways is it still the same?

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