Ohio History Journal

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Assistant Professor of History and Political Science,

Kenyon College

A constitutional mandate requires the submission to Ohio's

electorate in 1952 of this question: "Shall there be a convention to

revise, alter, or amend the constitution."1 Provision for periodic

review dates from the constitution of 1851. It was introduced as a

democratic reform based on Thomas Jefferson's oft-quoted dictum

that no law should be in effect longer than a generation, roughly

twenty years, unless reenacted. Until 1912 submission of the ques-

tion was optional with the legislature; an amendment at that time

made it mandatory.

The last time the voters of Ohio gave an affirmative answer was in

1910, the first step leading to the constitutional convention which

convened in 1912. Although historical analogies are suspect when

pressed too far, something of profit can be learned from a study

of that charter-making body. What created the demand for con-

stitutional change in 1910-12? What was the character of the con-

vention? Was it dominated by extremists of either the right or the

left, a fear expressed by those opposing a call today? What

were its objectives and how successfully were they realized? What

educational value did it have for the people of the state? These are

some of the points which a study of Ohio's constitutional convention

of 1912 may illuminate.

At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century the

majority of Ohioans were eager to revise their fundamental law.2


1 Art. XVI, sec. 3 of the Ohio Constitution of 1851 as amended in 1912.

2 The following historical narrative is a compressed version of Chapters XI-XIII

of the author's doctoral dissertation, Ohio's Crusade for Reform, 1897-1917 (Harvard

University, 1950). Since the thesis manuscript contains footnote references to every

important statement and is available upon loan to the student, the author has agreed

to the editors' request to conserve space by keeping footnote citations to a minimum

and listing the most important sources in this bibliographical note.

The conditions in 1910 and the vote on the question of holding the constitutional

convention are discussed by Henry W. Elson, "Making a New Constitution for Ohio,"