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Illinois Territory - RG 100 | Illinois State Archives

Name: Illinois Territory - RG 100
Fuller Form: 100.000 Records of the Illinois Territory

Historical Note:

The U.S. Congress approved an act that separated Illinois from the Indiana Territory on February 3, 1809. It stipulated that the administration of the new territory would remain "in all respects similar" to the government created by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (U.S. Stat. at Large, II, 514). The President of the United States appointed a Governor and three territorial judges, who acted as a unicameral legislature named the Council of Revision. All legislation written by the Council was subject to congressional disapproval.

As chief executive the Governor also was empowered to act as commander-in-chief of the militia and was authorized to appoint militia officers below the rank of general and civil officers for counties and townships. Acting as the Governor's appointee the Adjutant General preserved militia records, attended public military reviews, transmitted gubernatorial orders to military units, and reported to the Governor on the condition of equipment.

The Secretary of the Territory, also appointed by the President, was to keep and preserve all laws and other public records and documents created by the Governor in his executive role. The Secretary assumed the duties of the Governor whenever he left the Territory or upon his removal, resignation, or death (U.S. Stat. at Large, I, 50). Under legislation adopted from the Indiana Territory the Secretary kept a file of surety bonds posted by county officials. Results of county censuses taken by sheriffs and election returns also were required to be filed with the Secretary (Francis S. Philbrick, ed., The Laws of Indiana Territory, 1801-1809, in Theodore Calvin Pease, ed., Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, XXI [Springfield, 1930], 152, 199, 571).

By 1812 the population of Illinois was great enough to qualify it as a territory of the second grade. According to the terms of the Northwest Ordinance the Governor called an election of representatives to form a House of Representatives. This House in turn selected ten of its members as nominees to the Legislative Council, the upper chamber of the new territorial legislature. The U.S. Congress selected five of the nominees as actual Legislative Council members (Theodore Calvin Pease, ed., The Laws of the Northwest Territory, 1788-1800, in Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, XVII [Springfield, 1925], 125-127). Together the House of Representatives and the Legislative Council replaced the Council of Revision as the territorial General Assembly. Provisions also were made in 1812 for a territorial Auditor of Public Accounts and a Treasurer.

Throughout the territorial period the duties of the Governor and the Secretary expanded. In 1811 the Governor was authorized to remit fines and grant pardons and reprieves in all cases except impeachment (Terr. L. 1811, p. 29). As Superintendent of Indian Affairs the Governor also was allowed in 1814 to grant licenses to trade with the Kaskaskia Indians (Terr. L. 1814, p. 43). During 1812 the General Assembly ordered the Secretary to accept and file Randolph County records dating before July 13, 1781 so that they would "be safely kept by him as other Public archives & records of his office" (Terr. L. 1812, p. 46). Although the General Assembly repealed this law when the capital was moved from Kaskaskia to Vandalia the 1812 act set a precedent for the Secretary to care for local as well as state records. At the direction of the General Assembly the Secretary also preserved census returns and compiled lists of officials who took their oaths of office before the Governor. In the same year the General Assembly provided that all documents connected with its proceedings be deposited with the Secretary (Terr. L. 1814, pp. 46, 100).

In 1818 a population census, taken at the direction of the Governor, verified that Illinois met the minimum population requirement for statehood. On this basis the U.S. Congress authorized Illinois to adopt a constitution and form a state government on April 18, 1818. Accordingly a convention at Kaskaskia approved an ordinance on August 26, 1818 that accepted the terms of statehood as laid out by the U.S. Congress. Illinois entered the union as the twenty-first state on December 3, 1818 (U.S. Stat. at Large, III, 536).

For territorial records incorporated into the files of the Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, and the Adjutant General see RS 103.041, RS 103.068, RS 103.069, RS 103.073 through RS 103.076, RS 105.003 through RS 105.005, RS 105.012, and RS 301.002.

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