Early Growth South and West of Chicago
Lincoln and Transportation
At age 23 Abraham Lincoln was a candidate for the Illinois state legislature and campaigned strongly for a railroad from Springfield to the Illinois River saying "no other improvement ... can equal in utility the rail road." It was a "never failing source of communication" that was not interrupted by freezing water, or high or low water. He admitted that there was "heart-stopping cost" to building a railroad.
Lincoln's interest in transportation did not wane over the years. In 1836 he cast the deciding vote in the Illinois state house authorizing $500,000 to support bonds for I & M Canal.
When out of the state government he became a railroad lawyer, perhaps the leading railroad attorney, working for the Illinois Central, the Rock Island and other concerns.
1847 before his first term in the US Congress he wrote a letter to the Illinois Journal supporting the Alton and Sangamon Railroad and calling it "a link in a great chain of railroad communication which shall unite Boston and New York with the Mississippi".
Lincoln was one of many who created many miles of tracks to be laid in Illinois. By 1850 Illinois had 2,867 miles of track -- more than any other state except Ohio. The impacts to Illinois came in many economic and social ways. Many new challenges emerged with the state's growth.
Lincoln was a leader in the fray for the first state railroad regulations. As a railroad attorney and as a legislator he kept the issues alive. It is of little wonder that the first legislation for the transcontinental railroad came while he was president. He wanted it for many reasons not the least was to better join the Union economically, socially and militarily.
The primary sources of this information are:
Last Modified: 02/02/2003