Summary of Legislative Debate on Resolution to Adjourn, 27 January 18411
The resolution to adjourn sine die on the 22d prox.[proximate] offered on yesterday by Mr. Hardin, from the committee on the Judiciary, was then taken up.2
The question being on mr Olds’ amendment, providing that necessary business be received, acted upon, and finished, before adjournment, it was decided in the negative, by ayes 39, noes 46.3
Mr. WHEELER offered an amendment providing that the House will do the business of the country and forthwith go home, and give an account of its proceedings to the people.
Messrs[Messieurs] Minshall and Gillespie, briefly objected to the phraseology of the amendment, by which they were required “to go home,” nolens volens, when they might perhaps wish to take an excursion elsewhere.4
Mr PECK was sorry to see gentlemen on the other side so afraid of going home and returning to their constituents: under these circumstance he hoped they would consent to stay until the business was got through. He never saw any good result from fixing a day for adjournment; it was our first business to do what we were sent here to do. As the gentlemen were not anxious to go home, he hoped they would not force others home by voting for an adjournment, before the business was got through.
Mr. HARDIN complained of the alleged delays of the committee of Finance.
Mr PECK explained that there was a parliamentary mode of compelling committees to report, by making a motion to that effect: the committee had not yet been able to agree on a report, notwithstanding it had been incessantly employed day and night.5
Mr McCLERNAND bore testimony to the diligence and activity of the chairman Fi of-nance[of Finance] (mr Peck. ) If the gentleman from Morgan was so anxious to advance the public busness, why did he absent himself from the business of the House. He had been frequently absent; he had even been to enjoy himself at home, while the chairman of the Finance committee had never absented himself one day from the House, no, nor even one hour. After some further remarks,
Mr. McC. moved to strike out the words “forthwith go home;” which, after a brief exchange of pleasantry between him and mr Gillespie, was agreed to.
mr. HENDERSON moved to lay the amendment, as amended, on the table, as it had now neither beginning, end, nor middle, and merely said “we will do the business of the House,” which would seem to imply that hitherto we had not attended to it.6
The motion was then carried, and the amendment laid on the table.
The question being on the adoption of the original resolution,
mr CAVARLY spoke against the proposition to fix a time to adjourn, whether business should be completed or not; and deprecated the practice of consuming the time of the House by bringing forward and debating resolutions for the purpose of giving the appearance at home of a zeal for short sessions.
Mr. WHEELER offered to amend by adding that night sessions be held.7
Mr. HARDIN moved to lay the amendment on the table, which was agreed to.
mr. CAVARLY moved to lay the original resolution on the table; which was lost—ayes 42, noes 45.
mr. CARPENTER then moved to amend by striking out 22nd February, and inserting March 1st.
Mr. PARSONS made the calculation that those resolutions had, by the delay and loss of time and long discussions they had occasioned, cost each one of them at least two thousand dollars to the State. Mr P was opposed to being driven home by the opposite party before the business was finished.
Mr LINCOLN denied that this party had attempted to delay any measure brought forward by the other party.
mr. Hardin contended that these resolutions came from the Democratic party.
Mr. Carpenter rose to move the previous question.
Mr. MURPHY, of Perry, urged that the main object of all the resolutions was “Bunkum.” Mr M then proeeeded to shew the necessity of completing the business of the country, and then, and not till then, adjourning.
Mr CARPENTER moved the previous question, which motion pending,
The house adjourned.
2Adjournment sine die means without assigning a date or time for resumption. Other members of the Committee on the Judiciary were Wickliffe Kitchell, Alfred W. Cavarly, Albert G. Leary, Edwin B. Webb, Lyman Trumbull, John Dougherty, Stephen G. Hicks, and Thomas Drummond.
Governor Thomas Carlin had called for the opening of the Twelfth General Assembly on November 23, 1840, two weeks before the constitutionally-mandated date for the regular session, in order to deal with the state debt crisis. Particularly vexing was that the state had no funds in the treasury to satisfy the interest payment on the debt due January 1, 1841.
The Democrats and Whigs in the House of Representatives already had an ugly confrontation over attempts to adjourn sine die during this special session. In December 1839, the state’s debt crisis forced the State Bank of Illinois to suspend specie payments for a second time. The bank’s incorporation act and an act supplementary gave the bank sixty days to resume specie payments or forfeit its charter. On January 31, 1840, the General Assembly passed an act suspending stipulations on specie payments until the end of the next legislative session. On December 5, 1840, the Whigs, hoping to protect the bank against Democrat demands that it resume specie payments by the end of the special session or forfeit its charter, boycotted the General Assembly, thereby preventing the necessary two-thirds quorum for adjournment sine die. When the situation became acute, Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Gillespie, and Asahel Gridley, occupying their seats as a token representation of Whigs for procedural votes, exited the House chamber through windows to prevent a quorum and frustrate plans of the Democrats.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 33, 283; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:162; John H. Krenkel, Illinois Internal Improvements 1818-1848 (Cedar Rapids, IA: Torch, 1958), 166.
5On December 16, 1840, the House and Senate passed an act to pay the interest payment due January 1, 1841, but the finance committee was still debating several pieces of legislation--including a bill from Lincoln--for a compensative solution to the debt crisis. On February 4, 1841, the Finance Committee, of which Lincoln was a member, issued its report on the public revenue, including the long-awaited bill on paying the interest on the state debt.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 323.
6The “H” in “House” appears to be italicized, but the editors concluded that its was a printing mistake. We regulated the letter.
Printed Document, 1 page(s), Illinois State Register (Springfield), 12 February 1841, 1:4-5.