Petition of John Bennett to the Illinois General Assembly, 16 December 18391To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of Illinois—
The undersigned respectfully petitions that Blocks, two, three, four and five in Bennett's addition to the town of Petersburgh in the county of Menard be vacated—2Dec 16 1839John Bennett.
The Petition of John Bennett praying the vacation of the plat of part of Bennett[’]s addition to the town of Petersburg—
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the text of this petition and signed John Bennett’s name. He also wrote on page two the title and his name as part of the list of representatives considering the bill.
On December 17, 1839, Abraham Lincoln in the House of Representatives presented this petition of John Bennett, requesting vacation of the plat of part of Bennett’s addition in Petersburg. The House referred the petition to a three-person select committee that included Lincoln. In response to this petition, Lincoln of the aforesaid select committee introduced HB 58 in the House on December 27. The House passed the bill on January 13, 1840. On January 30, the Senate amended the bill by an additional section relating to tax assessment in Greene and Jersey counties. The Senate passed the bill as amended, amending the title by adding the words “and for the assessment and collection of taxes in certain counties.” The Senate informed the House of the bill’s passage and amendment, but the House did not take up the Senate amendments.
Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 44, 92, 114, 161, 306; Illinois Senate Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 109-10, 216-17.
2Illinois experienced a time of intense land speculation in the 1830s that resulted in a number of “paper towns,” settlements that were platted and available for sale but where few or no people actually lived. Many of the proprietors of these settlements abandoned them during and after the Panic of 1837. As a result, the General Assembly received a large number of petitions for vacation during their sessions from 1838 to 1841. In 1841, the legislature passed an act setting parameters for proprietors to vacate town plats themselves. Vacating a plat gave owners greater flexibility in the use, fencing, and sale of the property.
An Act to Vacate Town Plats; Alasdair Roberts, America’s First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), 19, 33, 38; James E. Davis, Frontier Illinois (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 210-12; Robert P. Howard, Illinois: A History of the Prairie State (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1972), 196.
Handwritten Document Signed with a Representation, 2 page(s), Lincoln Collection, HB 58, GA Session 11-S, Illinois State Archives (Springfield, IL)