History of the ” The Long Nine”
Compiled by: Andrew L. Bresnan
What is “The Long Nine”?
It is an interesting question that most Illinoisans do not know the answer to or have even heard of them. This group goes back over 150 years ago during Lincoln’s time in the Illinois State Legislature. There are even shades of corruption associated with this group.
The first capitol of Illinois was Kaskaskia. In 1819 the Illinois Congress voted to move the capitol
to a more centrally located area. The area chosen was a place called Reeve’s Bluff, which is, located about 90 miles northeast of Kaskaskia. This is where the city of Vandalia would grow and prosper. At Vandalia there were three capitol buildings. The first was destroyed by fire in December of 1823. The second building was constructed in the summer of 1824. It was hastily built which soon became evident. The floors began to sag and the walls started to bulge. It got so bad that in 1834 people refused to enter the building fearing that it might collapse.
The residents of Vandalia did not want to lose the capitol. There had been an earlier attempt to relocate the capitol. Alton and Springfield were two of the choices. The residents tore down the old capitol building in 1836 without the authorization of Congress. They replaced it with a brick State House costing $16,000. This building did have space for all the governmental offices except that of the governor. The legislature was able to meet in December of 1836 even though the construction was not complete.
Even with the new State House many of the legislators were not satisfied with Vandalia as the state capitol. One of the most vocal groups in favor of moving the capitol was the group known as “The Long Nine”. This was a group of legislators from Sangamon county. “The Long Nine” included two Senators and seven Representatives. Archer G. Herndon and Job Fletcher were in the Senate; Abraham Lincoln, Ninian Wirt Edwards, John Dawson, Andrew McCormick, Dan Stone, William F. Elin, and Robert L. Wilson were in the House of Representatives.
The name “The Long Nine” comes from the fact that these men were on an average of six feet in height and weighed over 200 pounds. These men belonged to the Whig political party and wanted the capitol moved to Springfield. Relocating the capitol was not an easy task. There were deals that had to be made. It was also at this time that there was a huge internal improvements bill being considered in the Congress. This involved the spending of over $12,000,000 for the building of various railroads and canals throughout the state.
Lincoln spent many long nights trying to gain votes for his project of relocation of the state capitol. He was told of a block of votes that would vote his way if Lincoln could deliver a block of votes supporting the Internal Improvements act. Many people including a General L.D. Ewing of Vandalia felt that the Springfield Whigs had sold out to the internal improvements contingent. Lincoln, while at Vandalia, made a speech on January 11, 1837 opposing a resolution to investigate the state bank that was to issue bonds for the internal improvements projects. An investigation would damage the bank’s ability to finance the project. Lincoln announced that he was opposed to any move that would injure the bank’s credit.
On February 25, 1837 the seven Representatives of “The Long Nine” voted in favor of the Internal Improvements Act calling for a statewide public works program. The two Senators of “The Long Nine” voted in favor of the act of February 27, 1837. These included roads, railroads and canals all to be paid for by the state. On March 3, 1837 the General Assembly then voted to remove the capitol from Vandalia to Springfield in 1839. It is interesting to note that the massive internal improvements program collapsed in 1841 leaving the state with a huge debt.
“The Long Nine” as a group was led by Abe Lincoln and made many deals to achieve their
goal of relocating the state’s capitol to Springfield. In achieving their goal they were forced to make many deals as politicians still do today. However, there were many claims of corruption in gaining their ends. The term “Log rolling” is used when describing what “The Long Nine” resorted to. This is the idea of “You scratch my back and I’lll scratch yours.” This type of politics was done regardless of the well being of the state. In a book written by Paul Simon he charges Lincoln and “The Long Nine” with “log-rolling”, the wholesale making of deals and promising votes for the internal improvements program in exchange for votes for Springfield as the new state capitol.
In the end Lincoln and “The Long Nine” got their way. The state built its fifth capitol building
in 1853 at a cost of $260,000. This building was replaced in 1888 by the current building. Were Lincoln and “The Long Nine” the most honest politicians? The answer is left up to how one wants to perceive the group and from what camp you happen to be, Vandalia or Springfield. “The Long Nine” is very much a part of Springfield history and heritage. If not for this group, Springfield may have just been another of the many small prairie towns that make up Illinois.
Carpenter, Allan Land of Lincoln , Childrens Press, Chicago, 1968 p. 60.
Illinois Blue Book 1991-1992 p. 431. Green, Linda
IL State Archives, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Feb. 17, 1998. History of Vandalia as Capitol, Illinois
Historic Preservation Agency, http://members.aol.com/vandaliail/caphis.htm,
Mar. 1996. Sandburg, Carl Abraham Lincoln The Prairie
Years Blue Ribbon Books, New York, Harcourt, Brace
and Company, Inc. 1926 p. 116, 117, 120, 121, 146,
147. Simon, Paul “Lincolnâ€™s Preparation
For Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years.” University
of Illinois Press 1965.