Summary of Legislative Debate on Bill to Establish Circuit Courts, 18 February 18411
Mr Trumbull, from the judiciary committee, reported back the bill for establishing nine circuit courts, with amendments.2
The question being on striking out that part of the bill limiting the time of holding courts in the former 10th judicial circuit.
Mr Hicks spoke in support of the motion, when the amendment was then agreed to.
Mr. Charles moved to strike out the amendment relating to the time for holding court in the county of Hancock.
Mr Charles urged the necessity of this amendment, on the ground that one week was not sufficient to get through the business on the docket.
Mr Ross replied that as Hancock had hitherto had but one week, it should have no more now: it would be impossible for the judges to get through the circuit if the time was to be extended which the courts had hitherto had.
Mr Charles replied, when,
Mr Hardin suggested that the members from the different circuits should agree among themselves out of the House, on the time for holding courts; and proposed for this purpose that the amendment by stricken out.
Messrs[Messieurs] Ross and Charles briefly replied, when the amendment was stricken out as suggested by Mr Hardin.3
The question was then taken on the proposed amendment of the committee to allow only $1000 salary to the five new judges, which amendment was rejected, yeas 17, nays 68.4
Mr Trumbull moved the previous question, on the bill: not ordered.
Mr Drummond moved to strike out Judge Brown from the 6th, and Judge Treat from the 8th circuit, and transpose them.
Messrs[Messieurs] Trumbull and White opposed the amendment, which was supported by Messrs Brown, of Vermillion, Drummond and Lincoln.
Mr Peck moved to amend by substituting the name of Smith for Treat. Not in order.
Mr. HENDERSON moved to recommit the bill, with instructions to amend the bill so as to require judges to run the round of the circuits without doing duty twice in succession in the same circuit.
Mr. TRUMBULL moved to lay the two motions on the table.5 The question of laying Mr Henderson’s motion on the table was then carried, yeas 47 nays 29.6
The question on laying mr Drummond’s motion on the table was then put and lost, yeas 37, nays 44.7
A call of the House was then made...8
The Sergeant-at-Arms, having reported,
Mr Lincoln resumed the argument in favor of sending Judge Treat to Jo Davies, and Judge Brown to the Sangamo Circuit.
mr Trumbull replied, and contended that Judge Treat ought to be continued in the circuit in which he had already been so long, and that if, as it was alleged, Judge Brown was too infirm to do circuit duties, the argument went against his capacity for the office he held.
mr LINCOLN replied, and was followed by Mr White on the other side.
Mr Ormsbee moved to re-commit the bill to the judiciary committee, with instructions to define the method of holding courts so that, each judge go round the circuits in rotation.
Mr Murphy, of Cook, moved to lay the motion on the table.
mr Trumbull moved the previous question which was ordered,
The question on striking out Judge Brown from the 6th circuit was then taken and decided in the negative, ayes 41, nays 45.9
The question on striking out the name of Treat for the 8th circuit, was then taken and negatived, ayes 41, nays 46.10
So the House decided that Judge Brown should take the 6th circuit (Jo Davies and the adjoining counties,) and that Judge Treat should remain on his old circuit.11
The question on the adoption of the amendments as amended was then taken and agreed to, and the bill was ordered to a third reading. 12
1A shorter version of this debate appeared in the Sangamo Journal on January 26, 1841.
2On February 10, 1841, the Illinois General Assembly overrode the objections of the Council of Revision and passed an act which reorganized the judiciary of the state. Section one of this act repealed all acts or parts of acts establishing circuit courts. Section three divided the state into nine judicial circuits. On February 9, 1841, a day before the House of Representatives and Senate passed the judiciary act in its final form, Adam W. Snyder introduced a bill in the Senate to create nine circuit courts. The Senate passed the bill on February 11. The House of Representatives referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary on February 13. The committee reported back on February 18 with several amendments, and this debate would be over these amendments.
Illinois Senate Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 279, 286, 288-89, 295; Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 374, 392, 393, 424-26; “An Act Establishing A Circuit Court North of the Illinois River,” 8 January 1829, Revised Laws of Illinois (1829), 38-39; An Act to Establish a Uniform Mode of Holding Circuit Courts; An Act Dividing the State into Judicial Circuits; An Act Forming an Additional Judicial Circuit; An Act Dividing the State into Judicial Circuits.
3Hancock County was placed in the fifth judicial circuit, so the House struck out the part of the judiciary committee’s report on the fifth circuit.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 425.
4Abraham Lincoln voted nay. Section two of the judiciary act called for the election of five additional associate justices of the Supreme Court. On February 15, the General Assembly elected Sidney Breese, Thomas Ford, Samuel H. Treat, Walter B. Scates, and Stephen A. Douglas the new five justices. Section five of the circuit court bill stipulated a salary of $1500 annually for the new justices. The act kept the salary at $1,500.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 406, 425.
5Lincoln moved a division of the question in order to take a vote separately on each amendment.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 425.
6The House Journal recorded the vote as yeas 47, nays, 35, with Lincoln voting nay.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 425.
7Lincoln voted nay.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 426.
8The House of Representatives suspended debate pending a call of the House.
9The House Journal recorded the vote as ayes 42, nays 45, with Lincoln voting aye.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 426-27.
10Lincoln voted aye.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 427.
11Treat handled circuit duties in the eighth judicial district, which included Sangamon County.
12The judiciary committee’s amendments as altered amended the bill by removing the original eighth section and adding new sections eight through twenty-three. The House passed three more amendments on February 19 and passed the bill. That same day, the Senate referred the amended bill to the Committee of the Whole, which recommended several amendments, to which the Senate concurred along with the House amendments, and passed the bill. The Council of Revision approved the bill on February 23 and the act became law.
Illinois House Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 426-27, 440, 462, 464; Illinois Senate Journal. 1840. 12th G. A., 353-54, 356-57, 375, 381, 383.

Printed Document, 1 page(s), Illinois State Register (Springfield), 26 February 1841, 2:5.