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

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November 18, 1840

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On August 3, 1840, Abraham Lincoln was elected to his fourth and final term in the Illinois legislature. Since all elections are organized and supervised by local government officials, the results must be verified locally and then sent to the state for recording. This document served as certification of his election.

By 1840 Lincoln was the leader of the Whig Party in Illinois. As such, he spent most of the campaign traveling around the state on behalf of William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate for president. Harrison would win the White House but he lost in Illinois. Lincoln had run as one of five presidential electors pledged to Harrison, so he also lost. Lincoln limited how much he campaigned for his own reelection as legislator. He won his race but came in last among the winners.

The Twelfth General Assembly actually convened with a special session that began on November 23. The purpose of the special session was to address the ever-growing internal improvements debt, which according to Governor Thomas Carlin had reached more than $13 million at a time when state government operated on around $25,000 every two years. The special session basically repealed the Internal Improvements Act, which stopped future projects but still left the state deep in debt.

As in 1838, Lincoln again ran for Speaker of the House but again lost to former Governor William L. D. Ewing. During his final term in the General Assembly, Lincoln appears to have lost some interest in legislative affairs. His law practice was expanding and he was courting Mary Todd, whom he married on November 4, 1842. He also was in ill health for much of the session, with some saying it was due to a brief estrangement from Mary Todd.

Major legislation passed during the session included a bill to redistrict the state's legislative districts, a bill to reorganize and expand the state Supreme Court, and a bill assisting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) by incorporating the town of Nauvoo in western Illinois.

Points to Consider

Why did Lincoln do so poorly in his reelection campaign?

What reasons can you suggest for Lincoln not wanting to serve in the legislature after 1841?

What are presidential electors?

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