Collection provided by: Illinois State Library
The first constitution of the State of Illinois (1818) was compiled mainly with provisions taken from the constitutions of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana. It was adopted by the delegates to the convention, but never submitted to the people of Illinois. This first constitution put virtually unlimited power in the hands of the Legislature while effectively keeping it away from the people.
In 1847, with an increase in the population, a movement began for calling a convention to "alter, amend, and revise" the constitution of 1818. The resulting constitution of 1848 was an improvement over the previous one, but still proved to be susceptible to abuses that encouraged greed of all kinds, which caused the Legislature to waste much time and attention, to the detriment of the public interest.
The Legislature of 1859 submitted a proposal, to hold a third constitutional convention, to a vote of the people. This proposal was endorsed in the election of 1860 and the convention convened in Springfield on January 7, 1862. According to law, the delegates to the convention were required to take an oath to support the state constitution, before starting the business of the convention. Unfortunately, the majority of the delegates not only refused to do this, but they assumed powers such as the right to interfere with military affairs - powers they did not have. This convention was soon termed a "high rolling convention", to the disgust of the people and their work was brought into disrepute. Once the delegates became aware that the convention was being severely criticized, they began to make a great effort to create a constitution acceptable to the people. The constitution was overwhelmingly defeated in the popular vote and matters left as they were until after the war.
Once the war was over and Reconstruction began, calls again began to be made for changes to the 1848 constitution. This need for constitutional changes was primarily based on the continuing growth in both population and economic complexity of Illinois. Because of the widespread belief that changes in the state constitution would affect improvements in the performance of Illinois state government, the constitution of 1870 was approved by a large majority and went into effect on August 8, 1870.
Until 1970, Illinois had five state conventions for the purpose of creating a state constitution. Of these, the 1818, 1847, and 1869-70 conventions adopted constitutions that went into effect, while the proposed constitutions framed by the conventions of 1862 and 1922 were rejected. Illinois government basically remained static from 1870 to 1970. The sixth constitutional convention, in 1970, produced a new constitution which was approved by voters on December 15, 1970.
This collection of full-text materials includes the text of all the Illinois constitutions.