The introduction outlines the history of Illinois, focusing on populations of southerners, immigrants, Indians, and enslaved blacks and their various effects on four constitutional conventions held between 1818 and 1869. The biography of Abraham Lincoln organizes the discussion: his migration to the state with other southerners, his service in the state legislature and as a U.S. representative as a Whig, his debates with Stephen Douglas, his election to president representing the new Republican Party, and the legacy of his efforts to unite the nation and to emancipate blacks during the Civil War. Themes of north versus south, rural versus urban (i.e., Chicago), slavery versus freedom, economic and railroad development, and debates about executive, legislative, and judicial powers shaped each of Illinois’s nineteenth-century constitutional conventions.
Keywords: Chicago—history, Illinois—bicentennial, Stephen Douglas, enslaved blacks, Illinois—state constitutional conventions, Illinois—state history, Abraham Lincoln, Republican Party—history, Slavery, Whig Party—history
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