Did you know?

It is a well-known fact that Springfield is the third town to serve as capital of Illinois after Kaskaskia and Vandalia both held the distinction during the state’s early days, but did you know Abraham Lincoln’s role in changing the location of Illinois’s capital city?

180 years ago this spring, State Representative Abraham Lincoln and the eight other legislators representing Sangamon County convinced their colleagues to support moving the Illinois state Capital from Vandalia to Springfield.

When the state was first settled, much of the population was concentrated in southern Illinois, so the territorial capital was in Kaskaskia. As the population shifted to the north over time, the capital was moved to Vandalia. The legislature specified that Vandalia was to remain the official center of state government for 20 years, as lawmakers knew that people would continue to settle in northern Illinois.

A group of state representatives, senators and Lincoln known as “The Long Nine” knew that the capital would eventually follow the population trends and move north. They saw Springfield, the county seat of Sangamon County, as the ideal spot for relocation. The group was given the name of “The Long Nine”  because the men are said to have been over six feet tall, the tallest being Lincoln at 6’4”.

Not to be outdone by the Long Nine, a group of local businessmen in Vandalia had a new statehouse building erected during the recess leading up to the General Assembly of 1837. The new building was considered extravagant by contemporary standards. It cost $16,000, which is equal to about $300,000 adjusted for inflation. The building was still under construction when lawmakers returned for business, and many were unimpressed with Vandalia’s new statehouse. During winter and spring of 1837, the Long Nine successfully persuaded and compromised with their fellow legislators to secure enough votes to approve moving the center of state government to Springfield.

The capital was moved to Springfield for the remainder of the 1837 General Assembly. It has remained there to this day, making Springfield the longest-serving Illinois capital by far. Springfield’s convenient access to transportation and location in the middle of the state have made it an ideal seat for the center of government in the middle of the 19th century. The assets touted by Lincoln and the Long Nine are enjoyed by the capital city to this day.