1840 Illinois State Election

Date: From 1840-08-03 to 1840-08-03

Place: Illinois

Coming in the midst of the economic depression gripping Illinois and the nation in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837, the Illinois state elections in August 1840 revolved around economic issues and the personalities of the presidential candidates, William Henry Harrison and Martin Van Buren. Whigs attacked Van Buren for his hostility to the West, typified by his opposition to internal improvements, and for his mishandling of the economic crisis. Democrats countered by condemning Harrison's character, labelling him an abolitionist and an inept military leader. The Democrats campaigned on hard money, strict government economy, laissez-faire economics, and the Independent Treasury System. The Whig campaign centered on soft money, government-subsidized internal improvements, a national bank, and government intervention in the economy. State issues revolved around the state financial crisis brought on by the economic slowdown and over-extension in funding the internal improvement system. Although Harrison defeated Van Buren and the Whigs took control of both house of Congress, the Democrats in Illinois won control of both houses of the General Assembly, winning twenty-five Senate seats to fifteen for the Whigs, and forty-nine House seats to forty-two for the Whigs.

Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 570-75; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:148-67; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 89-121; Theodore C. Pease, The Frontier State 1818-48 (Chicago: A.C. McClurg, 1922), 265-70; Niles' National Register, 12 September 1840, 59:21.