Looking for Lincoln - Internal Improvements - Vandalia, Illinois
Posted by: gparkes
N 38° 57.682 W 089° 05.609
16S E 318614 N 4314573
Quick Description: This is the first marker of a series of ten around Vandalia, Illinois, in celebration of the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 8/21/2009 9:31:45 PM
Waymark Code: WM723R
In Lincoln’s First Campaign Speech on March 9, 1832, he expressed support for internal improvements.
“Time and experience have verified to a demonstration, the public utility of internal improvements. That the poorest and most thinly populated countries would be greatly benefited by the opening of good roads, and in the clearing of navigable streams within their limits, is what no person will deny.”
Consistent with their Whig political philosophy, Lincoln and the other members of the “Long Nine” had two major goals during the Tenth General Assembly of the Illinois Legislature, which convened at Vandalia on December 5, 1836. Those goals were the passage of a bill providing for a system of internal improvements and removing the state capital to Springfield. Some historians would say that the Long Nine provided support for provisions in the Internal Improvements Act in exchange for support for moving the state capital to Springfield. Whether or not this was the case, the mood of the state was in support of internal improvements.
During the early 1800’s Illinois was largely undeveloped. There was great difficulty in bringing agricultural products to markets in the cities. Few roads, canals, or railroads existed. Illinois farmers and merchants built flat boats, loaded them with salted pork and other produce, and took them to New Orleans with the spring floods. They would return over land or by steamboat with cloth and other manufactured items which they would sell when they returned. Lincoln himself navigated a flatboat to New Orleans on two such trips.
The bill that eventually passed the legislature provided for the construction of roads, canals, or railroads in almost every county in the state. The cost of this plan was $10,250,000, which was financed through the issuance of bonds by the state of Illinois. The net result of the whole project was a mammoth debt for the state. Not until 1882 were the bonds finally paid, forty-five years after the passage of the measure and seventeen years after Lincoln’s death.
The interest in internal improvements resulted in part from the success of the Erie Canal which was completed on October 26, 1825 and connected the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The Erie Canal became the model for internal improvements. It was based on the economic principle of connecting large commercial centers to one another. Unfortunately, that pattern could not be duplicated in the sparsely settled Illinois of the 1830’s.
Location Type: Historic Marker
Property Type: Public
Date of Event: 1837
Marker located on east side of Old Capitol grounds.
URL for Additional Information: [Web Link]
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