Resolution regarding Election Frauds, [28 November 1840]1
Resolved, that so much of the Governors Message as relates to fraudulent voting, and other fraudulent practices at elections,2 be refered to the committee on elections, with instructions to said committee to prepare and report to this House, a Bill for ^such^ an act ^as^ which may, in their judgement, afford the greatest possible protection of the elective franchise, against all frauds of all sorts whatever—3
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the resolution in its entirety
On November 28, 1840, Lincoln introduced the resolution in the House of Representatives. The same day, John A. McClernand proposed to amend the resolution by striking out everything after “Resolved” and inserting text in lieu thereof. McClernand’s amended text referred those portions of the Governor’s message related to election fraud to a joint select committee, consisting of three members of the Senate and five members of the House. In the subsequent debate, Lincoln questioned McClernand’s motives in offering the amendment. The House approved the amendment by a vote of 48 yeas to 40 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The House then passed the resolution as amended by a vote of 51 yeas to 33 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. The Senate adopted the resolution on November 30, by a vote of 34 yeas to 3 nays.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 34-35, 43; Illinois Senate Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 26, 29-30.
2Governor Thomas Carlin claimed in his message that, while he had no direct knowledge of election fraud, he had been “informed from sources in which I place the utmost reliance,” that citizens from another state had come into Illinois to cast ballots in the 1840 presidential election. Citing instances of voter fraud in New York and other states, Carlin called for a law punishing offenders of the election law.
3Lincoln and other Whigs in the General Assembly labeled the resolution as amended by McClernand and consequent investigation a “party” measure concocted by the Democrats to cast a shadow over Whig victory in the 1840 federal election.
The General Assembly addressed some of Carlin’s concerns by passing an act amending and explaining the general election act of 1829.
Illinois State Register (Springfield), 4 December 1840, 2:2-3; An Act to Amend and Explain the Election Law, Approved January 10, 1829.
Handwritten Document, 2 page(s), Lincoln Collection, GA Session: 12-2, Illinois State Archives (Springfield, IL)