Protest in the Illinois Legislature on the Subject of Slavery

March 3, 1837.
THE FOLLOWING protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to-wit:

Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

They believe that the institution of slavery is


founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be exercised, unless at the request of the people of the District.

The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions is their reason for entering this protest.

Representatives from the County of Sangamon.



1. North and South were beginning to be much exercised over the question of the slave. In 1837 Illinois witnessed the killing of an anti-slavery editor, Elijah Lovejoy. Abolition societies were formed in various quarters. The Illinois Assembly disapproved of these societies and their influence. On March 3rd it passed the following resolutions:
"Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois:
"That we highly disapprove of the formation of Abolition societies, and of the doctrines promulgated by them.
"That the right of property in slaves is sacred to the slave-holding States by the Federal Constitution, and that they cannot be deprived of that right without their consent.
"That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the consent of the citizens of said District, without a manifest breach of good faith.
"That the governor be requested to transmit to the States of Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York and Connecticut a copy of the foregoing report and resolutions."
It was against these resolutions that Lincoln and Stone (the only other man in Assembly who had the courage to concur) protested. In W. E. Curtis's opinion this was "the first formal declaration against the system of slavery that was made in any legislative body in the United States, at least west of the Hudson River."