Proposed Resolution of Illinois House of Representatives regarding the Contested Election in Pike County, [17 December 1839]1
1On December 17, 1839, James T. Cunningham introduced the resolution, penned by Abraham Lincoln, in the House of Representatives, and the House adopted it.
Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 46.
2The contested election was between Oscar Love and Richard Kerr. On November 25, 1839, Pike County held a special election for a representative on the supposition that Kerr, a Whig elected in August 1838, had vacated his seat by removal from the state. On December 9, Love presented his certificate of election as representative from Pike County, but the House refused to seat him, and passed a resolution instructing the Committee on Elections to investigate whether Kerr had vacated his seat. The House later re-considered this action, postponing consideration of the resolution by a vote of 42 yeas and 36 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. On December 12, Kerr informed the House that he was in attendance, and requested quick action on Love’s claim to the seat. On December 13, the House passed a resolution instructing the Committee on Elections to report what information it had obtained in order to decide whether it was necessary the delay the final decision on Kerr’s claim. The committee reported later that day that the facts of the case proved that Kerr had not vacated the state, and was therefore entitled to his seat. John H. Murphy moved a resolution to seat Kerr, but Isaac P. Walker offered an amendment that the House take no action until the testimony of Hanson could be obtained and considered. Lincoln moved an amendment to the amendment by adding “and that until this contest be determined, neither of the contesting parties be entitled to a seat in this House.” The House adopted Walker’s amendment as amended by Lincoln. On December 14, the House refused to table Murphy’s original resolution by a vote of 42 yeas to 42 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The House also refused to table Walker’s amendment by a vote of 38 yeas to 47 nays, with Lincoln voting yea. The House did table Lincoln’s amendment by a vote of 41 yeas to 41 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. On December 16, the House again refused to table the original resolution and amendment until July 4, 1840, by a vote of 43 yeas to 45 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The House refused an amendment that would have entitled Kerr the seat until it was shown to have been vacated by a vote of 43 yeas to 45 nays, with Lincoln voting yea. The House passed Walker’s resolution as amended entitling Love to the seat until further testimony could be heard by a vote of 45 yeas to 43 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. Lincoln then proposed to amend the resolution by striking out the words “until further testimony is heard on the subject.” The House adopted this amendment, but rejected the resolution as amended by a vote of 44 yeas to 44 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. On December 17, the House tabled a resolution prohibiting Love from voting and acting as a member of the House until the contested election could be resolved by a vote of 48 yeas to 40 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. On December 17, the House authorized Speaker William L. D. Ewing to issue subpoenas for all witnesses associated with the case, and on December 23, the House began hearing testimony. On December 24, the House adopted a resolution that Kerr was entitled to the seat by a vote of 44 yeas to 43 nays, with Lincoln voting yea, and Kerr replaced Love.
Theodore C. Pease, ed., Illinois Election Returns, 1818-1848, vol. 18 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1923), 322, 329, 330; Illinois House Journal. 1839. 11th G. A., special sess., 5-6, 25, 34, 37-40, 41-43, 48-49, 79, 82, 83-84.
Handwritten Document, 2 page(s), Lincoln Collection, GA Session 11-S, Illinois State Archives (Springfield, IL)