Abraham Lincoln in Illinois
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 10LINCOLN'S SALARY WARRANT NO. 256 FOR SERVICE AS A STATE REPRESENTATIVE
July 22, 1837
A pay warrant was the equivalent of a modern day paycheck. The state treasurer and state auditor signed the preprinted warrant, which in this case was made out to Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had to pick up the warrant, sign a receipt for it, and then take it to a bank to be cashed. Eventually the cashed warrant, endorsed on the backside by the payee, was returned to the state and kept in its official records.
The Tenth General Assembly started in December 1836 and was Lincoln's second term as a state representative. During the regular session, Lincoln joined with most other state legislators in approving legislation known as internal improvements. Illinois legislators felt the state's population growth and economic development were being hindered by a lack of infrastructure, specifically roads, canals, bridges and railroads. With the nation's economy booming, they passed legislation committing the state to building such infrastructure. However, in May 1837 a national bank panic started that quickly devalued Illinois bank notes and began a five-year depression. Far from being able to build infrastructure improvements, Illinois was now greatly in debt.
Only a few miles of railroad track were ever built under the internal improvements legislation and it wouldn't be until 1881 that Illinois would pay off the last of its debts from this program. In response to the debt, Governor Joseph Duncan called a special session of the General Assembly to meet to resolve the state's new financial crisis. This warrant is for service during that special session, which met from July 10 to July 22, 1837.
Points to Consider
What are "internal improvements" and why would Illinois need them in 1837?
In what ways does the state now pay for improvements to roads and bridges?
Why was it important for the state to keep the cashed pay warrant?