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The 21 Star Flag of the United States Illinois Joins the Union


This becomes the official flag of the United States on July 4, 1819 recognizing the admission of Illinois to the Union on December 3, 1818. It is with the admission of Illinois that Congress decides that the new national flag will be unfurled for the first time on the July 4th which follows the admission of each new state. Not only was it intended to coincide with our celebration of independence, but also as one Congressman observed, “The eagle always lays its eggs in the first week of July.”



On July 13, 1787 Congress provided a method for the admission of new states to the Union. President James Madison signs the Northwest Ordinance creating a new state from a specific region once a population of 60,000 had been reached within its borders. On April 13, 1818 Madison signs legislation establishing the boundaries of Illinois, authorizing the promulgation of a constitution for the state and also banning slavery within the territory.


Two men are considered largely responsible for Illinois becoming a state. The first is Daniel Pope Cook . At the age of 20, Daniel Cook becomes the owner of the first newspaper in the Illinois Territory. In 1817 Cook is asked by President John Quincy Adams to serve as a special messenger to European capitals. Upon his return to Illinois in November of 1817 he wastes no time in beginning his campaign for Illinois statehood, writing a bombshell article in his newspaper supporting statehood. Based on this article the territorial legislature meets in Kaskaskia and writes a memorial requesting immediate consideration by Congress for Illinois statehood.


The second important figure in Illinois statehood is Nathaniel Pope, territorial representative in Congress. On January 16, 1818 Pope presents the memorial to Congress and by January 23 the memorial is already out of committee. Two events now occur which will shape the state---Cook is able to convince Congress that rather than permanent residence as a requirement for the population of 60,000 there should be a “rolling” census. Anyone who enters Illinois is allowed to enter their name on the census. Secondly, Pope studies the surveys of the territory and realizes that access to a port will greatly enhance the commercial development of Illinois. On April 4, 1818 Pope amends the proposal to move the northern border of Illinois 41 miles to the north. Winnebago and 14 other counties in the northern tier as well as Chicago are now part of Illinois. Pope also argued that this was necessary to bind Illinois to the borders of the eastern states. His proposal was approved without objection and it was adopted by the Senate on April 18, 1818, making Illinois the 21st state in the Union.


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