Map of Illinois

In 1778 American revolutionary George Rogers Clark, defending colonial interests in the Northwest, claimed the sparsely populated Illinois country for Virginia. Following the American Revolution, Illinois fell within the boundaries of the Northwest Territory and operated under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

Settlement in this region increased, and on March 1, 1809, Illinois Territory was officially established with its capital at Kaskaskia. This sparked a wave of settlement, with most migrants hailing from the southern United States. Their influence was immediate and lasting. Not only would the territorial government select its laws from among the existing laws of the southern states, but the southern heritage of territorial residents would affect the slavery debate and political climate for decades.

Under the Northwest Ordinance, the vote was restricted to property owners, but because few property owners with substantial land claims resided in Illinois Territory, a referendum was soon adopted granting suffrage to all white taxpaying males who had lived in the territory for at least one year. In October 1812, members of the first legislature, as well as the first territorial representative to the United States Congress, Shadrach Bond, were elected by popular vote.

On December 3, 1818, after exaggerating population totals, Illinois became the twenty-first state admitted to the Union. The capital first remained at Kaskaskia, but it moved to Vandalia in 1819 and to Springfield in 1837. As a state, Illinois adopted a constitution that defined three branches of government marked by a strong bicameral legislature known as the General Assembly. This body, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives, met biennially. Members of the House were elected annually for each assembly. Senators served four-year terms, with half of the legislative body elected every two years. The General Assembly had the power to impeach, counted gubernatorial votes, appointed many state and local officials, and elected the four state supreme court justices, who made up the early judiciary.

The governor was elected biennially by popular vote, but the powers of this office were limited. Under the constitution of 1818, the governor possessed the power of veto only as a single vote in the Council of Revision, a separate body that consisted of the governor and the justices on the state supreme court; the Council was usually neutralized by the overarching powers of the General Assembly. The governor would not gain sole power of the veto until 1848.

The Illinois constitution of 1818 also gave the vote to white male inhabitants over twenty-one who had resided in the state for six months. In the early years of state government, debate surrounded the general election process. In 1819 and 1823, provisions were made for voting to take place via ballot, whereas in 1821 and 1829, viva voce voting was implemented. Viva voce eventually disappeared as population and polling places increased.

Prior to 1830, local factions dominated Illinois party politics. The Harrison faction and the anti-Harrison, or Edgar-Morrison, faction were both pro-slavery but differed in approach. The Edwards and anti-Edwards factions, which sparred over patronage and the judiciary, soon replaced the Harrison factions. When anti-slavery Governor Edward Coles was elected in 1822, a fierce debate began, which gave rise to the Jacksonian politicians who would dominate Illinois politics in the ensuing years.


  • Alvord, Clarence Walworth. The Illinois Country: 1673–1818. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987. Originally published as Volume 1 of the Centennial History of Illinois by the Illinois Centennial Commission, 1920.
  • Biles, Roger. Illinois: A History of the Land and Its People. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.
  • Boggess, Arthur Clinton. The Settlement of Illinois, 1778–1830. Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society, 1908.
  • Buck, Solon J. Illinois in 1818. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1967.
  • Davis, James E. Frontier Illinois. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998.
  • Leichtle, Kurt E. "The Rise of Jacksonian Politics in Illinois." Illinois Historical Journal, 82 (Summer 1989): 93–107.
  • Pease, Theodore Calvin. The Frontier State: 1818–1848. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987. Originally published as Volume 2 of the Centennial History of Illinois by the Illinois Centennial Commission, 1918.
  • Pease, Theodore Calvin and Marguerite Jenison Pease. George Rogers Clark and the Revolution in Illinois: 1763–1787. Springfield: The Illinois State Historical Library and The Illinois State Historical Society, 1929.
  • Simeone, James. Democracy and Slavery in Frontier Illinois: The Bottomland Republic. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2000.
  • Sorensen, Mark W. "The Illinois History Resource Page." Illinois State Historical Society, December 12, 1995."The Illinois History Resource Page."
  • Sutton, Robert M. "Edward Coles and the Constitutional Crises in Illinois, 1822–1824." Illinois Historical Journal, 82 (Spring 1989): 36–46.
  • Sutton, Robert P., ed. The Prairie State: A Documentary History of Illinois, Colonial Years to 1860. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1976.

one-issue parties

In the "Era of Good Feelings", when many candidates were of the same party, specific issues would divide the candidates and the candidates would be described in newspapers in terms of their support or opposition of that issue. The various one-issue parties include:

  • New York 1807 Assembly, Dutchess County: The Division and Anti-Division Tickets.
  • New Jersey 1810 Essex County: The Bank Tax Ticket and the Anti-Bank Tax Ticket.
  • Pennsylvania 1814 Assembly, Columbia, Northumberland and Union: In 1813, Northumberland County had been divided into three counties: Northumberland, Columbia and Union. The 1814 Assembly election for the district composed of these three counties split on the division.
  • Maryland 1816 House of Delegates, Montgomery County: Moderates and Violents. Both groups appeared to be Federalists, but were listed in several newspapers as Moderates and Violents (including the Daily National Intelligencer (Washington), Alexandria Herald, Federal Republican (Baltimore) and Federal Gazette (Baltimore). Throughout the early republic, the Federalist remained incredibly united. One exception was the 1816 Montgomery County election. Montgomery was among the most Federal counties in Maryland, and as sometimes happens when one party is so dominant, dissension, often in the form of personality conflicts erupt. The exact cause of this split is not yet known, but it is interesting that none of the Delegates chosen in 1815 ran for re-election, although one was a candidate for Congress. Although all the candidates for Delegates were Federalist, it was stated that Republicans supported those listed as Moderates. Among those listed as Violents was Alexander C. Hanson, owner of the virulent Baltimore Federal Republican, which had recently moved back to Maryland from Georgetown. Although Hanson was not elected to the House of Delegates, he was chosen a few months later to the United States Senate. With his appointment, this conflict seemed to subside.
  • New Hampshire 1816 House of Representatives, Portsmouth: Brickites and Woodites. Both groups were Republicans but were split on a "law passed for the exclusive erection of brick buildings" (Portsmouth Oracle. March 16, 1816.)
  • Kentucky 1817 and 1818: George Madison who was elected Governor of Kentucky in August 1816, died very shortly after being inaugurated. He was succeeded by Gabriel Slaughter, who had just been elected as Lieutenant Governor. The new Lieutenant Governor, appointed John Pope, who was considered by many to be an avowed Federalist, to the office of Secretary of State for Kentucky. This caused uproar among the Kentucky Republicans and many of them demanded a new election for Governor and that became a big issue in the state elections of 1817. It would have required an act of the State Legislature to call for a new election of a Governor, so in the 1817 and 1818 state elections, candidates for the state legislature aligned themselves into those who were in favor of a new election for Governor, and those against a new election for Governor.
  • New York 1819 Assembly, Ontario County: The Division and Anti-Division Tickets.
  • Illinois and Missouri 1820: Various elections included tickets there listed as either Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery or Restrictionist (anti-slavery) and Anti-Restrictionist or variations of the two tickets running against each other (e.g. Pro-Slavery vs. Restrictionist). These would come up again in Illinois in 1824.
  • Maryland 1822 and 1823 House of Delegates elections in Anne Arundel County and the 1822 Assembly election in Annapolis City: The Caucus and Anti-Caucus tickets. With their loss of the State Senate in September 1821, and even more for Delegates in the following month of October, by the next election of 1822, the Federalists in many counties offered only token any opposition. With the upcoming Presidential election, in which a Congressional caucus would be called upon to choose the republican candidate, the system of caucus nominations, both nationally and on the state level was coming under increasing attack. In 1822, several Federalist newspapers, listed some candidates in Annapolis City and Anne Arundel County as Anti-Caucus. In Annapolis City, Lewis Duvall who had been elected for many years a Republican member to the House of Delegates was not re nominated in 1821. This apparently caused some dissension, as he still received substantial support in both 1821 and 1822. In Anne Arundel County, two candidates were set up in opposition to the Regular Republican ticket and both were elected. It is interesting to note that almost half of their votes came from the most Federalist district within that county. It does appear that in both places, much of the support for these candidates was drawn from Federalists. Throughout the states, regularly nominated Republican candidates faced opposition from others within their party, a further reflection of dissatisfaction with the nomination process.
  • Kentucky 1822 House of Representatives, Bullitt County, Assembly, Fayette County and Assembly, Franklin and Owen Counties, 1823 Assembly, Fayette County and 1824 Assembly, Madison County: The Relief and Anti-Relief (or Constitutionalist) Tickets. The Relief and Anti-Relief parties were a reaction to the crisis caused by the national economic downturn [Panic of 1819] and how the state of Kentucky was dealing with the aftermath.
  • Maryland 1823 House of Delegates, Washington County: The Jew-Bill Ticket and the No Jew-Bill Ticket. This was in reference to the bill, eventually passed in 1826, that removed the Christian oath requirement for public office in Maryland.
  • Pennsylvania 1824 Commissioner, Moyamensing Township: The People's ticket and the Family Ticket.
  • Pennsylvania 1824 Commissioner, Southwark District: The 25 Cent ticket and the Quality Ticket.
  • Kentucky 1824 House of Representatives, Bourbon, Fayette, Franklin, Mercer and Washington Counties: The Court Ticket and the Country Ticket.