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BY RUHL JACOB BARTLETT, M. A.

The admission of Ohio as a state into the Union, marked the end of a long and bitter political contest both within and without the Northwest Territory.* It was that age old conflict between the forces that are progressive and those that are conservative, for it must be remembered that the closing years of the 19th century marked a period of rapid political transition in American history. The colonists who had so gallantly adorned themselves in new garments of political liberty and equality in 1776 found that their desires had grown by 1800 to a demand for additional plumage, in the way of popular government. The pre-Revolutionary leaders as well as those who had piloted the new government through its first twelve years of existence, did not look with favor upon the too rapid growth of democratic ideals, but were content with the old.

Unaided then, by these Revolutionary fathers, a great political renaissance had taken place in the minds of the American people. The Revolutionary War and the new responsibility after the war was in a great measure the cause of the change. New England colonists, who never in their lives had travelled a dozen miles from their native town, and Virginia colonists, who had not looked beyond their native valleys, were brought into contact by the war. Their intellectual and political horizon was extended and a national consciousness was born, which in its travail brought forth the L'

* This seems to be the best designation for the land that was governed by the Ordinance of 1787. It was first known as the Northwestern Territory and subsequently was legally named The Territory of the United States Northwest of the Ohio River. Most writers have adopted either the title, Northwest Territory or simply The Territory; but Judge Jacob Burnet and William Maxwell write of it as the Northwestern Territory.

desire for a more democratic form of government. This contest, that was shaking the people of the original states, inevitably was carried to the rapidly increasing population of the western lands. The conflict in the west took the form of a controversy over the admission of Ohio, as a state into the Union, and extended over a period of four years, from 1799 to 1803. But the forces of reform had been brewing before 1799, and therefore it will be necessary for us to consider briefly the early history of Ohio, in order to understand fully the feelings of its inhabitants, which caused them to be either such strong supporters or such fervent enemies of statehood.

The fertility of the Ohio valley had for a long time been a matter of common knowledge to the colonists of America. For its possession the French and Indian War was fought, and for it also the heroic George Rogers Clark led his intrepid band to Kaskaskia during the winter of 1778-9. After the Revolution, settlers -began to migrate to this land, without much regard for the rights of the states to which it belonged. These rights, either authentic or fictitious, formed the subject of much long and bitter discussion among several of the states, and Congress had at an early time, made an attempt at conciliation by assuming control, with the consent of the states, of the disputed Territory.

In 1787 Congress perfected a system of government

for the Territory of the United States northwest of the Ohio river. For the purpose of this paper, suffice it to say, that the government of the new Territory was administered by a governor and three judges, appointed by the President. General Arthur St. Clair was the choice of President Adams for the first governor of the Ohio country, and on the 9th of July, 1788, the new executive completed his long journey across the mountains of Pennsylvania and arrived at Marietta. On the 15th of the same month, and in the presence of the small but sturdy band of pioneers who had gathered in the Campus Martius of Marietta, the Governor assumed formal possession of the Territory.”

The succeeding ten years of Ohio's history is economic and industrial rather than political. . It was a decade of migration, of settlement and development, of home seeking and home building, and of Indian wars. Nevertheless this was an important period in the history of Ohio and of particular significance for the subject under discussion, for the people who came to Ohio during this period were to determine the political character of the government . Of these immigrants there were two distinct classes politically; those who came from the east and those who came from the south. The pioneers from the Federalist states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, very naturally settled in eastern Ohio, thus making the cities of Marietta and Cleveland the centers of the Federalist party in the Territory, while on the other hand, the Republicans of Virginia and Kentucky just as naturally settled in central and western Ohio, making Chillicothe the center of republicanism.

1

Randall and Ryan - History of Ohio, Vol. 2, p. 465. *Rufus King – Ohio, p. 199.

The government in the Territory from 1788 to 1798 reflects the personality and political theory of Governor St. Clair. He had been schooled in New England ideas of government, and of course carried these ideas with him to the western country. He shared in the political beliefs of Washington and Adams, which, as mentioned at the outset, were considered liberal in 1776 but became somewhat conservative in 1800. The character of his government, therefore, was autocratic rather than democratic. Culprits were punished by fines, the pil lory or the stocks, and people were put into prison or sold into slavery for debt. Everywhere and in any case, the will of the Governor was absolute.

This condition of government made the character of the emigration to Ohio of great importance. The people who came from the cities of New England were accustomed to a strong centralized government and, in some measure, to the rigorous regulation of lives by law. Therefore, they did not fret under the sturdy administration of Governor St. Clair. On the other hand, those adventuresome frontiersmen of western Virginia and Kentucky, who, impelled by the western rush of population, crossed the Ohio river from the south and southeast and settled in southern and western Ohio, were unaccustomed to administrative control, and hence somewhat dissatisfied with the government. It is of importance, then, to keep these two types of immigrants in mind, for out of them, were to develop two factions which dominated the political thought of the Territory

* Randall and Ryan History of Ohio, Vol. 2, p. 466, also Daniel J. Ryan - Ohio, p. 49.

and whose influences can be traced through fifteen or twenty years of Ohio's history.*

The Territory grew so rapidly in population that by 1798 it contained 5000 free male inhabitants, which, according to the Ordinance of 1787, was required for the establishment of a Territorial Legislature. Accordingly, in December of 1798, Governor St. Clair ordered an election to be held for the purpose of electing members for such a body." Any freeholder of fifty or more acres of territorial land, who was a citizen and had resided within the Territory for two years, possessed the right of suffrage. The candidate for office, however, was required to be a free holder of 200 or more acres of territorial land in addition to the qualifications of voters. Under these conditions twenty-two men were elected to compose the first legislature of the Territory.

The representatives met at Cincinnati, February 4, 1799. Their first duty, in pursuance of the Ordinance of 1787, was to nominate ten men of the Territory, who were free holders of at least 500 acres of land, and from whom the President would select five to compose the Legislative Council. Having made these nominations the legislature adjourned to meet again at the same place on September 16, 1799.8 On September 24, 1799, the Governor addressed the Legislature, congratulated them on the formation of the new government, and called their attention to the problems which, in his opinion, should receive their attention."

The

The influence of the ardent states' rights supporters was shown in

the "Sweeping Resolutions" and the National bank case.

Western Spy and Hamilton Gazette, December 8, 1798.

6

W. H. Smith-The St. Clair Papers, Vol. 1, p. 207.

7

Jacob Burnet-Notes on the Northwestern Territory, p. 291.

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8

* Ibid, p. 292.

'Western Spy, September 31, 1799.

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