Saturday, February 3, 2018

Teetotaler, Abraham Lincoln of the Long Nine, Really Enjoyed a Good Party.

A notable shindig took place in Vandalia on February 28, 1837. Vandalia had been the state capital since 1819, but it never really worked very well. It was too small, too hard to get to, and some thought it was too far south in a state that was growing rapidly to the north and west.

Among these detractors were the "Long Nine,"[1] a group of legislators from Springfield. Called the Long Nine because of their abnormal height, their main objective in the 1837 legislative session was to bring forth legislation to move the capital to Springfield.

Abraham Lincoln was among the Long Nine, and he was the de facto floor leader of the Whigs in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Abraham Lincoln toasts the legislative win. Seven of the Long Nine are present.
After the February 28th vote, the victorious Long Nine immediately staged a celebration at Ebenezer Capps' tavern, near the state houne, and invited the entire legislature. Most of the members came and partook generously of free champagn, cigars, oysters, and other delights. The bill for the celebration was psid for by the wealthy Ninian W. Edwards.

Supporters of Vandalia attempted on several occasions to reverse the February 1837 vote. The last such effort was a meeting held in Vandalia in July of 1838.

There was long speculation that the support for the move was tied in with an internal improvements scheme that would benefit Springfield. Some have also accused Lincoln and the Long Nine of "logrolling[2]." The vote on the removal of the capital no doubt involved the usual horse trading and political wrangling. However, most historians agree that it did not involve any illegal or impoper acts.

The bill for the party was $233.50 or $5,134 today, and the bottles of champagne would be $44 each today.
Bill for the affair.
To be fair, there was reason to celebrate. Springfield had bested Alton and Jacksonville, contenders for a new location for the state capital, and the Whigs scored a major political victory in the process.
Colonel Matthew Rogers' General Store was also used as the Athens, Illinois Post Office. Surrounding the building are friends of Abraham Lincoln. A flag is in the upper left window, where Representative Abraham Lincoln and the other Long Nine members attended the banquet August 3, 1837.
When the Illinois General Assembly approved moving the state capital to Springfield, it prompting grateful citizens of Athens (pronounced locally as "A-thens") to honor the "Long Nine" members at a public banquet which was held on August 3rd on the second floor of this building, with about 100 people attending.

According to the Sangamo Journal, Lincoln led the group in a toast, saying, "Sangamon County will ever be true to her best interest and never more so than in reciprocating the good feeling of the citizens of Athens and neighborhood."

The good feelings somewhat diminished two years later, when the boundary of Sangamon County was re-drawn, leaving the town of Athens in the new Menard County. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


[1] The delegation from Sangamon County for the 1836-1837 Session of the legislature quickly became known as the “Long Nine.” The seven representatives and two senators were all six feet or taller. Five were lawyers, three were farmers, and one was an innkeeper. Seven were originally from the South and two from the North.

The representatives included: Abe Lincoln who at age twenty-seven was the youngest of the group: John Dawson, the oldest at age forty-five, and the father of ten children; William F. Elkin who was forty-four and the father of thirteen children; Ninian W. Edwards the aristocratic son of the former Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards who was twenty-nine; Andrew McCormick, age thirty-five, who weighed almost three hundred punds; Daniel Stone who was a college-educated lawyer, a native of Vermont and a former Ohio legislator and Robert L. Wilson, thirty-one, who was a one-term member of the legislature and father of eight children. The senators were: Job Fletcher, the father of seven children and a resident of Sangamon County since 1819 and Archer G. Herndon, a business man and the father of William Herndon, who later became Lincoln’s law partner.

[2] Logrolling is the trading of favors, or quid pro quo, such as vote trading by legislative members to obtain passage of actions of interest to each legislative member. 

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