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Vandalia in Fayette County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

First Elective Office

1834

 
 
First Elective Office Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., April 10, 2011
1. First Elective Office Marker
Inscription.  
On December 1, 1834 Abraham Lincoln entered the State Capitol that stood on this site. This was his first term as a state representative and the first time he held elective office. The Abraham Lincoln that began his political career on that December day was not yet the national hero that is brought to mind with the mere mention of his name. He had spent his life in Kentucky, Indiana, and the preceding four years, in Illinois. Lincoln had moved to New Salem just three years earlier. Many historians believe that Lincoln’s early interest in the legislature was, in part, due to the fact that it paid better than most other pursuits available to him. By serving in the state legislature, Lincoln rejected once and for all the backbreaking labor of subsistence farming as practiced by his father, Thomas Lincoln. Young Abraham had detested farm life in Kentucky and Indiana, and the Illinois legislature offered him a proven path to self-advancement.

The building that served as the state capitol had been the former home of the State Bank. This building became the capitol after the original capitol in Vandalia burned in 1823. Accounts
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indicate that the structure was in poor condition, almost from the start, with sagging floors and falling plaster. Sessions of the legislature were held during the winter so that they did not interfere with agricultural activities. This practice meant that the weather would usually be cold and inhospitable while the legislators were in session here.

Lincoln's first term in the legislature was a turning point in his life. He was one of fifty-five House members, thirty-six of whom were in their first term. He first met his lifelong nemesis, Stephen Douglas, here. Douglas was a first term representative from Morgan County. Lincoln enjoyed one big advantage over most other members of the legislature. Lincoln's roommate John Stuart was the leader of the Whig minority. The politicians he met through John Stuart and the legislative experiences he gained here in Vandalia transformed him from an unsophisticated young man into a politician who would ultimately become one of the nation's greatest presidents.

Lincoln was a younger man when he began his first term as a state representative. He was just twenty-five years old, having just arrived in Illinois four years earlier with his extended family. Vandalia’s statue of Abraham Lincoln presents him as he would have appeared during this time period, seated on a bench reading a copy of the Vandalia Whig newspaper.
 
Erected
First Elective Office Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., April 10, 2011
2. First Elective Office Marker
2008 by Looking For Lincoln Heritage Coalition.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Government & PoliticsSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is December 1863.
 
Location. 38° 57.667′ N, 89° 5.689′ W. Marker is in Vandalia, Illinois, in Fayette County. Marker is on 4th Street near Gallatin Street, on the right when traveling south. Marker is west across 4th Street from the Third (Old) State Capitol. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 125 South 4th Street, Vandalia IL 62471, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Second State Capitol (here, next to this marker); First Protest Against Slavery (within shouting distance of this marker); The Charters Hotel (within shouting distance of this marker); Cumberland Road (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln and the "Long Nine" (within shouting distance of this marker); Madonna of the Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Ebenezer Capps' Store (within shouting distance of this marker); Public Printer (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Vandalia.
 
Also see . . .  Looking For Lincoln
Capitol Drawing on First Elective Office Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By David Miller, undated
3. Capitol Drawing on First Elective Office Marker
. National heritage Site Webpage (Submitted on February 19, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 
 
Photo on First Elective Office Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Vandalia Main Street and Rich Bauer, undated
4. Photo on First Elective Office Marker
First Elective Office Rubbing Medallion image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr., April 10, 2011
5. First Elective Office Rubbing Medallion
Looking For Lincoln Story Trail Logo image. Click for full size.
Photographed By William Fischer, Jr.
6. Looking For Lincoln Story Trail Logo
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 19, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 16, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 709 times since then and 30 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on May 16, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.   6. submitted on May 15, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

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Jul. 21, 2024