Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, Illinois
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
How three constitutions built the modern Prairie State
In its early days, Illinois seemed destined to extend the American South. Its population of transplants lived an upland southern culture and in some cases owned slaves. Yet the nineteenth century and three constitutions recast Illinois as a crucible of northern strength and American progress.
Frank Cicero, Jr. provides an appealing new history of Illinois as expressed by the state’s constitutions—and the lively conventions that led to each one. In Creating the Land of Lincoln: The History and Constitutions of Illinois, 1778-1870, he sheds light on the vital debates of delegates who, freed from electoral necessity, revealed the opinions, prejudices, sentiments, and dreams of Illinoisans at critical junctures in state history.
Cicero analyzes decisions large and small that fostered momentous social and political changes. The addition of northern land in the 1818 constitution, for instance, opened up the state to immigrant populations that reoriented Illinois to the north. Legislative abuses and rancor over free blacks influenced the 1848 document and the subsequent rise of a Republican Party that gave the nation Abraham Lincoln as its president. Cicero concludes with the 1870 constitution, revealing how its dialogues and resolutions set the state on the modern course that still endures today.
Frank Cicero, Jr., a senior partner at Kirkland and Ellis LLP, served as a delegate for Illinois’s Sixth Constitutional Convention. He is the author of Relative Strangers: Italian Protestants in the Catholic World.
Cost of Admission: $Free