Ohio History Journal



Archaeological and Historical






The Centennial of the adoption of the Constitution of Ohio,

was celebrated at Chillicothe Saturday, November 29, 1902 by

the unveiling of a tablet, marking the site of the first state house

of Ohio, which is the site of the present court house.

The weather was very inclement, snow and rain interfer-

ing with the ceremonies to the extent, at least, that the audience

was small and the attendance from outside the city was not as

large as the importance of the event deserved.




At 11 o'clock the people gathered on the esplanade of the

court house, and after patriotic airs by the Young Men's orches-

tra, Robert W. Manly, a great grandson of the first Governor of

Ohio, presented the tablet in the following fitting address.

Honorable Mayor of Chillicothe and Fellow Citizens:

We are assembled this morning to participate in the un-

veiling of a tablet, marking the site of the building which was

used as Ohio's first statehouse.

The building was of great historic interest. Within its walls

was held the last session of the Legislature of the Northwest

territory; one hundred years ago to-day within its walls Ohio's

first constitution was adopted by the members of the constitu-

tional convention; for twelve years it served as Ohio's state-

house; in it the political and economic policies of our state

were formulated and put into execution, the beneficial effects

of which policies still influence the administration of our state


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In 1798 General Arthur St. Clair,

Governor of the Northwest territory,

appointed for Ross county Justices of

a court of Quarter Session, and in the

same year the court appointed Com-

missioners to arrange for the erection

of a court house and other necessary

county buildings and a deed was se-

cured for the land upon which to erect

the same.

In the year 1799, in view of the fact

that the seat of government of the

Northwest territory was to be re-

moved from Cincinnati to Chillicothe,

the court ordered that a levy of taxes

be made for the purpose of raising funds for the erection of a

"stone court-house."

In 1800 the court appointed a commission to advertise for

bids for the erection of a court house and also appointed a com-

mission to superintend the erection of the building.

In 1801 the erection of the building was completed and the

Territorial Legislature of 1801-2 was held in the new structure.

In 1852 the building was torn down to take the place of our

present court house.

During the past year the ladies of our city, members of the

Century club, inaugurated a movement to mark with a tablet the

site of the old state house. The chapters of the Daughters of

the Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution

in this city, took up the movement, and these three organiza-

tions with the assistance of many of our citizens, together with

Mr. Henry H. Bennett, of this city, as designer, provided the

tablet we are to unveil this morning.

And now, sir, representing the members of the Century club,

the Daughters of the Revolution and the Daughters of the Ameri-

can Revolution, I present, on their behalf, to the public, through

you, this tablet which marks the site of that building which was

used as the first state house of Ohio.

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Following the presentation address, Miss Effie Scott, great-

granddaughter of Gov. McArthur, unveiled the tablet.

Hon. W. D. Yaple, the Mayor of

the city, accepted the tablet in an

address, as follows:

Members of the Century Club, Daughters

of the Revolution, Daughters of the

American Revolution and Ladies and


From   the most ancient time, it

has been a custom among all nations,

in all stages of civilization, to erect

monuments, statues and tablets to per-

petuate the memory of individuals,

and in commemoration of historical

events and occurrences. But for this

custon much that we now recognize as

the world's history would have been forever lost. The great pyra-

mids of Egypt, the wonder of all ages since their erection, still

bear and for ages to come will bear mute testimony of the exist-

ence of a great nation whose prowess long since vanished from

the face of the earth, while the inscriptions upon the obelisks and

temples erected during the flourishing period of that people, per-

petuate much of the history.

In our time the Federal government and many of our State

governments have expended and are still expending large sums

of money in the erection of monuments on the great battle fields

of our several wars, and in converting them into national parks,

so that we are not without precedent in assembling here for the

purpose of formally dedicating this tablet in commemoration of

an event of importance in the history of our city, county, state

and nation.

With the adoption of the constitution of the United States

but little more than a cenury ago, there came into being a Republic

whose form of government was an experiment on the part of

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those who formed it, and which was looked upon with suspicion

and jealousy by the powers of Europe; but after weathering

the storm which beset it during the first few years of its exist-

ence, it entered upon a period of growth and development truly

wonderful, until to-day the experiment of 1787 has proven a

"world power" and an American citizen is respected in foreign

countries as was the Roman citizen in the palmy days of Rome.

Ohio was the fourth state to be added to the original thirteen

and the first to be carved out of the Northwest territory, and

as the inscription on the tablet just unveiled recites, "On this

site stood the first state house of Ohio, wherein was adopted

the original constitution of the commonwealth, November 29th,


From the time Ohio became a state her growth and progress

has been a factor in the growth and development of the nation.

In times of war her people have shown their patriotism by

their readiness to respond to the call to arms; and among the

military heroes she is proud to number among her sons such

national idols as Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Custer.

In times of peace she has contributed her full quota to the

ranks of the nation's statesmen, and the nation has honored

Ohio by elevating five of her sons to the Presidency, Grant, Hayes,

Garfield, Harrison and McKinley.

Chillicothe claims many of Ohio's distinguished sons, among

whom may be mentioned Massie, Tiffin, Worthington, McArthur,

Allen and Thurman; she has furnished to the commonwealth

four governors, and to the nation four senators and nine repre-

sentatives in Congress, and the wife of one of its chief execu-


We are fortunate in having with us to-day in the person of

the eloquent gentleman who has presented this tablet on behalf

of its donors, a lineal descendent of our first governor, Edward

Tiffin; and in the person of the young lady who unveiled it a

great-granddaughter of Governor McArthur and a granddaugh-

ter of William Allen the last of Ross county's citizens to occupy

the governor's chair.

I have the honor to represent the people of this city and

county, and to accept for them, and in their name, this tablet,

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donated and erected by the Century Club, the Daughters of the

Revolution, the Daughters of the American Revolution and nu-

merous citizens, in commemoration of the adoption of the first

constitution of the state of Ohio, and on the one hundredth an-

niversary thereof.

May it remain in its place to relate its historic story to all

who may pause to read so long as Ohio remains a state and re-

tains her proud position in the union of states.



After an invitation extended by Mr. H. H. Bennett to the

people to attend the afternoon ceremonials at Memorial hall, an

informal reception was held in the court house. The strangers

were introduced to Col. Wm. N. King, of Columbus, great grand-

son of Gov. Worthington, Mrs. Mary Manly, Miss Diathea Cook,

Mrs. Frank Gilmore and Miss Eleanor Cook, grandchildren of

Gov. Tiffin, Miss Eleanor Tower, of Detroit, and the Misses Cook,

great granddaughters of Gov. Tiffin; Col. Matthews and sister,

Mrs. Blackburn, of Cleveland, great grandchildren of Gov. Hunt-

ington; Dr. Walter S. Scott, W. Allen Scott, descendants of Gov.

McArthur and Gov. William Allen; Miss Dorothy W. McArthur

and Mrs. Allen W. McArthur, relatives of Gov. McArthur, and

Mr. C. E. Kirker, of Manchester, great grandson and Mrs C. E.

Bedwell, of Columbus, great granddaughter of Speaker Kirker of

the first Ohio House of Representatives, and also governor of

of the state. Gen. J. Warren Keifer, of Springfield, Speaker of

the United States House of Representatives and Chairman of

the State centennial commissioners and Historical Society Execu-

tive committee. Mr. S. S. Knabenshue, editor of the Toledo

Blade, and a noted archaeologist; Judge Rush R. Sloane, San-

dusky, President of the Fire Lands Historical society. Mr. E.

O. Randall, Secretary of the Ohio State Archaeological and His-

torical Society, Fred. J. Heer, State Printer and Publisher of the

Ohio State Historical Society publications.



The afternoon exercises at Memorial hall were of a most in-

teresting character and the attendance was large. Judge J. C.

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Douglas presided and after a patriotic chorus by the Euterpean

club, Mr. William T. McClintick, of Chillicothe, was introduced

and spoke as follows:


Fellow Countrymen:

I bid you a hearty welcome on this, the day which marks the

one hundredth year since the adoption of the First Constitution of

the State of Ohio.

It is fit that one who was born in

Ohio as early as February, 1819,

should bid you such a welcome, for

such a one may well serve as a con-

necting link between the past and the

present,- the past of one hundred

years ago, when Ohio was almost a

wilderness, and the present, when it

is almost a garden full of the fruits

and flowers of the highest cultivation,

and when the wilderness has literally

been made to bloom and blossom as

the rose.

I have said that I feel myself to be a

connecting link between the past and present, and so I am, for

I have personally known all the Governors of the state from

Edward Tiffin and Thomas Worthington down to our present

Governor, George K. Nash, except Samuel Huntington, who

died in 1817, before I was born; Return Jonathan Meigs, who

died in 1825, when I was but six years old, and Ethan Allen

Brown, who removed from the state at an early day.

I had the honor of having a tooth pulled by Dr. Edward

Tiffin, in my childhood, and my recollection of Governor Worth-

ington riding down High Street on Sunday morning on a gray

horse, with his little son, William Drake, behind him, hitching

his horse to a post and then mounting the stile into my father's

front yard and making his way, with his little son, to a rear room

in my father's house to attend a Methodist class meeting, of which

my father was the leader, is as fresh as if it had happened yes-

terday. William Drake and myself were provided with small

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stools on which we sat while the meeting progressed. I also fol-

lowed the procession which carried Governor Worthington to

his grave, at Adena, in 1827.

Nathaniel Massie, the early Northwestern surveyor and pio-

neer, and the founder of our town of Chillicothe in 1796, died

before I was born, but I knew his widow and all his children,

all his grandchildren and many of his great grandchildren. One

of his grandsons, Hon. D. M. Massie is a resident of our city,

and would gladly have participated with us in this celebration,

did not his duties as a Commissioner in Cuba forbid his presence


I might name many other distinguished men of that early

period with whom I have spoken and shaken hands, such as Jacob

Burnet, that great lawyer and Judge, who came to Ohio in 1796,

and remained here until his death in 1853; William Henry Har-

rison, the hero of Tippecanoe, whose history is identified with the

Northwest territory, and the state of Ohio, from 1795 or earlier,

until his death at the White House in Washington City in April,

1841, while President of the United States, Duncan McArthur,

whose services in peace and war are known to us all, and who

died at his Fruit Hill home, near this city, in 1840. Long will his

memory be honored and revered; William Creighton, Jr., who

passed through Chillicothe on his way to Kentucky in 1796, look-

ing for a location, and after returning to Virginia, again came,

in 1798, to Chillicothe, where he made his permanent home.

After the admission of Ohio into the Union, he was our first

Secretary of State; afterward U. S. Attorney for the District

of Ohio; then a member of the Ohio Legislaure, and a member

of the United States Congress in which office he served at inter-

vals, for many years. He was president of the Branch bank of

the United States in Chillicothe during its existence, and was ap-

pointed to the office of Unied States District Judge in 1828, which

he held until March 4th, 1829. After his retirement from Congress

in 1833 he was not again a candidate for any public office.

He was, along with Col. Wm. Key Bond, my preceptor in law

studies from 1837 to 1840, and afterward my partner in practice.

I never knew a more genial and kindly man, a more sincere lover

of the poor, or a stancher friend. He died October 2, 1851.

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Did time permit, I might swell this list to a very large

number of the eminent men of that early period with whom I was

personally acquainted.

The change in the face of the country which has taken place

in that part of the great West which constitutes the state of

Ohio, since the adoption of the state Constitution in 1802, and

the present time, might well challenge comment, as most extra-

ordinary and wonderful--but we must hasten to consider the

story of the old house memorable in the history of the state, as

the first statehouse of Ohio.

My early recollection of the court house square, bounded

east by Paint street, north by the alley between Second and Main

streets, west by private property (now the Presbyterian church),

and south by Main street, goes back to a period when there

were but three houses on the lot. These were the court house

proper, of stone, about sixty feet square, curving outwardly on

the west side; another brick house of two stories of about the

same size as the court house, which stood about ten feet south

of it, fronting toward Main street, the upper story of which was

connected with the upper story of the court house by an en-

closed corridor, lighted by windows on either side. The third

house was the jail, in the rear of the court house, in which Wil-

liam Rutledge, the jailer, resided with his family.

I was told in my childhood that the brick house fronting

toward Main street had been a part of the state house prior

to the removal of the capital from Chillicothe to Columbus, the

lower story being occupied by the state offices, and the upper

story by the Ohio Senate; while the upper story of the court

house was occupied by the House of Representatives, the en-

closed corridor being the means of communication between the

two houses, through which a sergeant-at-arms could pass, or

one body join the other when required to meet in joint session.

The lower room of the court house proper was used for the

sittings of the United States District and Circuit courts, the Su--

preme Court of Ohio, and the Court of Common Pleas of the


I do not remember the tearing down and removal of the

building which had its frontage toward Main street. It was prob-

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ably done after 1830, and contemporaneously with the erection

of the two story brick edifice at the Northwest corner of Main and

Paint streets, which latter had a frontage of probably forty feet

on Paint street, and fifty feet on Main street, the lower story be-

ing occupied on Paint street by the office of the Clerk of Courts

and the County Auditor, and the frontage on Main street by a

wide hall and stairway and the office of the County Recorder.

The upper story was occupied by lawyers' offices.

I was admitted to the bar of Ohio in March, 1840. I remem-

ber the court room as it was then, and doubtless had been from

the beginning. The Judge's bench was in the curve at the west

side, about six or eight feet above the floor, with space for the

Presiding Judge and his three associates in the Common Pleas;

the Clerk's desk in front, about four feet lower, with juror's seats

on either side, on the same level; the Sheriff's box and the witness

stand on the south side, and the lawyer's desks arranged in front,

the whole enclosed by a bar, so as to shut it off from the crowd

of spectators who thronged the room on the opening day of the

court or when causes of general interest were being heard. Four

tall, fluted pillars were interspersed at equal intervals for the

support of the upper floor.

The room was heated in winter by a wide open fire-place, in-

side the bar, on the north side of the house, and by an old-fash-

ioned tin plate stove in the center, outside the bar.

The stairway started near a door on the north side of the

house, and extended upward with the wall on that side, about

half way, when it turned to the right along the East side, to the

upper floor, which was occupied by a large room for the use of

the grand and petit juries as occasion required, with two smaller

rooms for witnesses and other purposes. In this large upper

room were also held the meetings of literary societies, with lec-

tures on literary subjects, and otherwise by the citizens, when not

occupied for public pursposes.

Later a two-story building of limited dimensions was erected

south of the court house, fronting directly on Main street, the

lower story of which when I returned from college in 1837, was

occupied by a volunteer fire company, the "Citizen's" of which I

was a member, and the upper story for the Mayor's office. This

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building was not removed until 1853 or 1854, prior to the erection

of the present court house.

In 1840, the bench was occupied by the Hon. John H. Keith

as Presiding Judge, with his three associates, from the business

walks of life. Col. Wm. Key Bond had removed to Cincinnati

and Gen. John L. Green had taken his place as the partner of Mr.

Creighton. The firms Creighton & Green and Allen & Thurman

had the largest practice. The other lawyers were Thomas Scott

& Son, Henry Brush, Benjamin G. Leonard, Frederick Grimke,

Richard Douglas, Joseph Sill, William S. Murphy, Jonathan F.

Woodside, Henry Massie, John L. Taylor, Robert Bethel, Gusta-

vus Scott, James Caldwell, Amos Holton, and perhaps others, not

now recalled.

Mr. Theodore Sherer, who had read the law with Messrs.

Allen & Thurman, and I, with Creighton & Bond, were admitted

to the bar by the Supreme Court on the circuit in Scioto

county, Ohio, in March, 1840. From that time we continued

to fight our legal battles in the old court house until the

spring of 1852, when one day in March of that year, I was pass-

ing through the court house yard on the way to my office up-

stairs in the building I have heretofore described as on the corner

of Main and Paint streets, I heard Charles Martin, then Sheriff,

of the county, crying off, under the order of the County Commis-

sioners the court house for sale. "Who bids?" said he. In jest,

I said "Seventy-five dollars," and passed on to my office, forgetful

of my jest, and was soon absorbed in the study of some case.

What was my surprise, when some minutes later the Sheriff ap-

peared to inform me that I was the purchaser of the court house.

What was I to do with it? It ought to have been allowed to

stand as a monument of the early days in Ohio history, but the

Commissioners were inexorable, and the terms of sale required it

to be taken down and removed without delay. Unfortunately for

the city, but very fortunately for me, "the great fire" occurred on

April 1st, 1852, and a demand for stone, brick and lumber sprang

up for rebuilding, and so the old court house vanished into cellar

walls, stables, etc., and became a thing of the past save a few

relics which curiosity lovers preserved.

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The court house square was soon covered with stone and lum-

ber for the present building, but the corner stone was not laid un-

til July 12th, 1855, when the Hon. Thomas Scott and myself had

the honor of delivering addresses on the occasion from a point

where the northeast pillar of the portico now stands.

Such was my personal connection with the building, on

whose frontage we have this day placed a tablet commemorating

'The site on which stood the first state house of Ohio wherein

was adopted the original constitution of the commonwealth."





Hon. Daniel J. Ryan was introduced by Judge J. C. Doug-

las, and spoke as follows:


Fellow citizens of Ohio:

In order to appreciate intelligently the event which we cele-

brate here to-day it is necessary that we have a clear conception

of the   principal actors  concerned

therein, and of the times and sur-

roundings of a century ago in the Sci-

oto Valley. The first constitutional

convention, from an intellectual stand-

point, is the greatest, as well as

the most picturesque episode in the

history of our State, and the events

which led up to it read like a romance.

The conversion of a wilderness into a

garden; the invasion of the Virgin-

ians; the overthrow of the great Ar-

thur St. Clair; the struggle for state-

hood; the victory of the people

over the aristocracy; the framing

of the constitution for a people with-

out their consultation or consent, are all events that form a back-

ground for a picture that has no parallel in American history.

And all these scenes were enacted in a theatre of intellect; the

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only weapons were tongues and pens, but they were directed by

men who for brains and bravery are worthy of every tribute of

admiration and respect that the people of Ohio can to-day bestow

upon them.

Six years prior to 1802, there came into the Scioto Valley a

young Virginian named Nathaniel Massie. He had served in the

Revolutionary War from his native State at the age of seventeen,

and at nineteen started to Kentucky to pursue his vocation of sur-

veying the public lands and placing warrants for soldiers of the

Revolution.  He founded Manchester in Adams county, and

in 1796 penetrated the Scioto Valley, which was then a beau-

tiful but savagely wild territory. He located in the region about

us to-day and laid out Chillicothe. It is easy to understand how

he was attracted to this glorious land, which, then, as now, bore

all the evidence of the richnes of nature.

One of his companions in his tours of surveying and explor--

ation was John McDonald, afterward of Poplar Ridge in this

(Ross) county, and sixty-two years ago he wrote a description

of the land about Chillicothe as he saw it with Massie in 1796. His

little volume -"McDonald's  Sketches"--is now   exceedingly

rare and on that account I take the liberty to repeat in his plain

style what he wrote. His description of the surroundings of the

site selected by Massie for his town, and the condition of the same

territory to-day shows a wondrous transformation from a land of

savagery to the garden spot of a commonwealth of the highest

civilization. Here is his picture of the Scioto Valley in the spring

of 1796; "About four or five miles above the mouth of Paint

Creek, the river (Scioto) suddenly makes a bend, and runs a

short distance east, thence southeast to the mouth of Paint Creek.

That stream, the largest tributary of the Scioto, for four or five

miles above its mouth, runs almost parallel with the Scioto. Be-

tween these two streams there is a large and beautiful bottom,

four or five miles in length, and varying from one to two miles in

breadth, and contains within the space upwards of three thousand

acres. This bottom (as also the bottoms of the Scioto and Paint

Creek generally), is very fertile; the loam of alluvial formation

being from three to ten feet in depth. These bottoms, when first

settled, were generally covered by a heavy growth of timber, such

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as black walnut, sugar tree, cherry, buckeye, hackberry and other

trees which denote a rich soil. A portion of them, however, were

found destitute of timber, and formed beautiful prairies, clothed

with blue grass and blue sedgegrass, which grew to the height of

from four to eight feet, and furnished a bountiful supply of pas-

ture in summer and hay in winter, for the live stock of the set-

tlers. The outer edges of these prairies were beautifully fringed

around with the plum tree, the red and black haw, the mulberry and

crab apple. In the month of May, when those nurseries of nature's

God were in full bloom, the sight was completely gratified, while

the fragrant and delicious perfume, which filled the surrounding

atmosphere, was sufficient to fill and lull the soul with ecstacies of

pleasure. The western boundary of this valley, between the two

streams, is a hill two or three hundred feet in height. Its base to

the south is closely washed by Paint Creek, and where this stream

first enters the valley, it terminates in an abrupt point, and then

extends up the valley of the Scioto, in a northwest and north

course, for many miles, and forms the western boundary of the

bottoms along that stream.   From  the point where the hill

abruptly terminates at Paint Creek, running north-northeast at

the distance of about one mile across the valley, you reach the

bank of the Scioto, at the sudden bend it makes to the east. The

valley between this bend of the Scioto and Paint Creek, immedi-

ately below the point of the hill, was selected as a site for the

town. This part of the valley was chosen, as it consisted of

high and dry land not subject to the floods of the river, which

frequently inundated the valley towards the mouth of Paint


It was amid these natural surroundings that Massie selected

the site that was to be the standing point, of a great, powerful,

wealthy and patriotic State.

The territory of the Scioto Valley had for centuries been the

selected living place of divers races of men. In the very dawn of

human knowledge it was populated by the mysterious race of

mound-builders and was the seat of their cities, camping places,

fortifications and altars. Attracted, doubtless, by the magnificent

soil, beautiful scenery and natural resources, both of the animal

and vegetable kingdom, they filled this valley in great numbers

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until driven away or destroyed by a succeeding race. After them

came the Shawnees, famed for their bravery and numbers, and

occupied for perhaps centuries the land along the Scioto river

in their populous towns. They too, lived in this elysium of nat-

ural bliss, receiving from bounteous nature all that forest and

chase could give. The very beauty and richness of the land made

them guard it with such jealous spirit, that when Massie first

entered it, it was a great and expansive territory of danger and

death to the white man.

Chillicothe, in the very heart of the Virginian Military Dis-

trict, at once attracted immigration from Virginia. It was in

the midst of a great domain reserved by that State for the use

and settlement of her loyal sons that served in the war for inde-

pendence. The influx of settlers commenced as soon as the town

was laid out and even before the winter of 1796 it had stores and

taverns and shops for mechanics. The influence of civilized life

soon began to unfold and within a few years a substantial town

was in full operation, with a population of one thousand.

In the spring of 1798 there came to Chillicothe from Berkley

county, Virginia, one whose life and actions influenced the history

of Ohio in a greater degree than any man in its history. This

was Edward Tiffin. He played such an important part in subse-

quent events, including the first constitutional convention, that we

may well pause in our labors to-day to view a full length portrait

of his remarkable career. It will help us to understand his

power and the wonderful work he accomplished. He appeared

upon the scene of action in the Northwest Territory in its creative

period, when the work of moulding the destinies of a future

commonwealth was committed to the care of very few men. Head

and shoulders above them all stood Edward Tiffin. His subse-

quent official life displayed a greater general average of states-

manship than any of his contemporaries. He met successfully

all the opportunities and responsibilities of his life, which is the

best indication of ability. His work in creating, advancing and

developing Ohio has not been equalled by any man in its history.

His boyhood was spent in the city of Carlisle, England, where

he was born June 19, 1766. He emigrated to this country when

eighteen, and after an excellent medical education obtained in

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the University of Pennsylvania, settled in Berkley county, Vir-

ginia. There amid the scenes and lives of the early Virginians

he spent several years as a quiet and successful physician. When

he came to Chillicothe he was still a physician, practicing with

marked success financially and professionally. In the sparsely

settled Scioto Valley his labors carried him over many miles of

travel, and he formed, the friendships that explains much of his

popularity in after years. He had decided views on politics; the

principles of Jefferson were adopted by him early in his Virginian

life, and his anti-Federal proclivities were well-known in his new


In 1799 the people of the Northwest Territory assumed the

legislative form of government and under the provisions of the

Ordinance of 1787, they elected a legislature, there being at that

time five thousand male voters in the territory. Dr. Tiffin was

sent as a representative from Chillicothe and upon the assembling

of the first Territorial Legislature at Cincinnati he was unani-

mously elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, which

position he held until Ohio became a State. He was a man of

strong religious and moral convictions. In his early life he was

an Episcopalian; in 1790 he associated himself with the Meth-

odist church and was consecrated by Francis Asbury, the mis-

sionary bishop, as a local preacher. Thus he brought into the

new territory beyond the Ohio, with his professional skill, the

still greater influence of the spiritual physician. In both capaci-

ties he firmly held the confidence of his fellow citizens throughout

his life. Upon his entry into the church he manumitted his

slaves, and his subsequent record shows how sincere were his

convictions on this subject. As President of the first Constitu-

tional Convention he won still greater honors and established his

reputation as a man of unquestioned ability; indeed so pro-

nounced and universal was this that he was elected Governor of

the new State in January, 1803, without opposition. He was re-

elected in 1805, without opposition, and in 1807 declined a third

term which public sentiment was ready to confer upon him. Dur-

ing his second term he summarily arrested the participants in the

Aaron Burr expedition, which resulted in the flight of Burr and

the breaking up of the conspiracy. His vigorous and prompt

16 Ohio Arch

16       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


measures on this occasion called forth a public letter of thanks

from President Jefferson. In 1807 he was elected United States

Senator from Ohio. While in the Senate he was the means of

securing much valuable legislation for the new State. Appro-

priations for the Ohio river, and for surveying the public lands

were obtained by him, and much of the same kind of practical

work which characterized him as Governor marked his Senatorial

term. He resigned in March 1809, owing to the death of his

wife. It so affected him that he determined to retire from public

life. Returning to his once happy home in Chillicothe, it was

his intention to spend his remaining days in peace, but notwith-

standing his desires his fellow-citizens elected him to the Legis-

lature, where he was unanimously elected Speaker of the House.

He was afterwards appointed Commissioner of the Land Office,

being the first to hold that office, he systematized the claims and

surveys of the public lands. He was in Washington in 1814

when it was burned by the British. President Madison, his

Cabinet and the heads of the departments fled like cowards in

the panic and all the public records of the American Republic

were destroyed except the records of the Land Commissioner's

office. Edward Tiffin stayed and saved the complete records of

his department. So complete, compact and systematic were they

maintained, and so cool and level-headed was their custodian that

they were removed to a place of concealment in Loudan county,

Virginia, ten miles out of Washington. All the other depart-

ments lost all their records; Edward Tiffin saved all of his. He

closed his life as Surveyor General of the West, which position

he held during the administration of Madison, Monroe, John

Quincy Adams and into Jackson's. He died here in Chillicothe

amidst the people who loved and honored him for more than a

third of a century, after a remarkable life of usefulness and dis-


This was the Edward Tiffin that confronted Arthur St. Clair

in the great contest for statehood which resulted in the convention,

the century of which we celebrate to-day. And Tiffin had a foe-

man worthy of his steel. Arthur St. Clair, the first and only

Governor of the Northwest Territory, was one of the most bril-

liant and distinguished military characters of the Revolutionary

Centennial Celebration

Centennial Celebration.              17


War. A contemporary writer calls him "the great St. Clair,"

and while in the gubernatorial chair of the Northwest, Judge

Burnet marked him as "unquestionably a man of uprightness of

purpose, as well as suavity of manners." Courtly, scholarly and

honest, he was a fitting representative of the government in a

new land. St. Clair, as his name indicates, was of French origin

although his ancestors had for centuries lived in Scotland, where

he was born in 1734. He received his education at Edinburgh

University, and was indentured as a student of medicine. He

disliked this, and purchasing his time, he entered the English

army in 1757. He was in the French and Indian War, and served

under General Wolfe at Quebec, where his conduct was gallant

and effective. He resigned from the English army in 1762 and

settled down to civil life in Pennsylvania, where he filled many

positions of trust, honor and importance. When the colonies

rebelled against Great Britain, St. Clair threw his entire fortune

and enthusiasm on the side of his country. In 1775 he was

summoned to Philadelphia by a letter from John Hancock,

president of the Continental Congress, which was then in session.

His record from thence is a part of the history of the Republic.

He was then assistant and confidant of Washington; he was a

member of his military family and shared the hardships of Valley

Forge, together with the victories of many hard fought battles.

St. Clair, after the Revolution, retired to civil life. His fortune

was gone in the whirligig of war. He started into the Revolu-

tion a rich man; when peace was declared the riches had flown.

In 1786 he was in Congress from Pennsylvania, and as a hero of

two wars and a distinguished patriot he was elected its president

in 1787. This Congress formulated and passed the Ordinance

of 1787, under which St. Clair was nominated to the governor-

ship of the Northwest Territory, which occurred October 5th.

Governor St. Clair accepted his new honor with misgivings. He

says in his letters that it was forced upon him by his friends, who

expected that there was more pecuniary compensation attached

to it than events proved. It was supposed that the opportunities

for land speculation would be so great that St. Clair would make

money out of his advantages of position. But he was not so

inclined, nor did he expect such a result. He was satisfied with

2 Vol. XII

18 Ohio Arch

18       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


and frankly stated, that he had the "ambition of becoming the

father of a country and laying the foundation for the happiness

of millions then unborn." His unfortunate career as governor

showed that he thwarted in every way his expressed ambitions.

When Edward Tiffin entered upon the scene of action in the

Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair was an old man, worn

with the campaigns of war and the conflicts of politics. There

was little save its dignity to show that the classic face was that

of the handsome Ensign St. Clair, who used to wield the accom-

plishments of the drawing-room among the Bowdoins and Bayards

of Boston thirty years before.

The entrance of the followers of Thomas Jefferson into the

Northwest Territory was the commencement of a political war

against Governor St. Clair that for persistency and bitterness was

equal to the famous controversy of Alexander Hamilton and

Aaron Burr. Edward Tiffin had as his chief associates and lieu-

tenants, Nathaniel Massie, Thomas Worthington, Jeremiah Mor-

row and Return J. Meigs, Jr., all men of the highest character

and inspired by noble ambitions. They believed in the people;

they were not only opposed to the Federalistic principles of St.

Clair, but resented the arbitrary and offensive methods of his

administration. The Scotch governor knew of but two ways to

control or govern men; they were to pull them or drive them.

The Virginians would stand for neither method. So their oppo-

sition to St. Clair went not only to his principles, but to his

methods. His exercise of the veto power invited the strongest

opposition. He was an advocate of strong government. He did

not believe in conferring on the citizen the fullest powers and

responsibilities of American citizenship. He favored property

qualification for electors. He got into a controversy with the

Legislature over his own powers and prerogatives. He claimed

and exercised the power of locating county seats and erecting

new counties. This the Legislature denied, and attempted to

enact laws on this subject which he promptly vetoed. In his

contest with the Virginians he was supported by other able Fed-

eralists in the persons of General Putnam, Dr. Cutler and

Judge Jacob Burnett.

Centennial Celebration

Centennial Celebration.         19


It is not essential to our purpose to go into the details of

the controversy that waged in the Territory from 1799 to 1802.

There were acts of Congress, of the Territorial Legislature, and

of the Governor, that furnished food for the bitterest contests.

The Virginians were playing for the greatest stake in American

politics-a state of the Union. The Federalists were making

their last stand, struggling for power both in the East and the

West. It was almost pathetic to see the noble compatriot of

Washington bending beneath the new storm that was arising.

The reign of the people was abroad in the Northwest. Whatever

virtue of Washington's, Hamilton's and St. Clair's Federal views

as to concentrated power had in the then populous East, they

were not respected by the yeoman of Ohio. The settler who

fought his way into the heart of the Great West believed that

he should have a full share in its government. And this was

why the position of Tiffin was popular with the voters of his

day. In the face of almost insuperable impediments, Tiffin won

his fight for statehood.

The enabling act of Congress providing for the erection of

the new state was approved April 30, 1802. It fixed the bound-

aries and provided for holding the constitutional convention on

the first Monday of the following November. Edward Tiffin

was very naturally elected to that body, and was as naturally

selected as its president. His belief in the people is prevalent

upon nearly every page of the organic law. The very first ques-

tion of criticism that always arises in a consideration of this

convention and of the constitution which it produced is that

relative to the fact that that instrument was never submitted to

the people for adoption or inspection. How did it develop that

these men who made such a magnificent struggle for popular

rights failed to submit their work to the people? A single refer-

ence to the enabling act will show the reason for the apparent

dereliction. The fifth section provides that the convention shall

first determine whether it is expedient to form a state constitu-

tion and government. This it did on the third day by a vote of

32 to 1. The only opposing vote being Ephraim Cutler of

Washington county.

20 Ohio Arch

20       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


Such a conclusion being arrived at, the act specifically author-

ized the convention "to form a constitution and state govern-

ment." It required no approval of the people. There was no

legal machinery provided to secure such expression. It was the

evident intent of the framers of the act in question to commit

the whole and exclusive duty of forming the first constitution

of Ohio to the convention. The theory on which the convention

was formed was that under the act of Congress it (the conven-

tion) was a strictly representative body, acting for and in the

name of the sovereign people, and that it possessed by actual

transfer all the inherent power of the sovereign, limited only by

the constitution of the United States. In other words, it was

a virtual assemblage of the people, of whom, by reason of their

great numbers and remoteness from each other, an actual con-

stitutional convention was impossible. They met clothed with

all the power the sovereign would have if gathered together.

The convention might say what Louis XIV said: "We are the

State." The soundness of this position is strengthened when

we search the records on the adoption of the constitutions of

other states. The result shows that the following submitted

their first constitution to the people for expression: California,

Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Min-

nesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, West

Virginia and Wisconsin, fifteen in number. The states which

did not submit their first constitution to the people are as follows:

Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey,

New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Illi-

nois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire,

Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont; in all twenty-

one states whose conventions, with that of Ohio, regarded them-

selves as the sovereign source of power. So far as this feature

of the first constitutional convention is concerned, it may be

regarded as settled that it was neither extraordinary, nor without

dignified and patriotic precedent.

The spirit of the contest which culminated in statehood

seemed to run through the constitution. The executive branch of

the state government was stripped of all authority. It left the

name of "governor" to apply to an office that had more honor

Centennial Celebration

Centennial Celebration.              21


and dignity than power. The men who controlled the convention

did not believe in dividing legislative power, and therefore gave

to the general assembly sole power of making laws. They did

not propose that the governor should interfere by veto power

of the people. And it can be truthfully said as a tribute to these

views of Tiffin and the men of 1802, that after a hundred years

there has not developed a sufficiently different public sentiment

to change the active veto principle of their organic law. Next

year the people of Ohio vote on an amendment to their constitu-

tion expressly granting the governor the right of veto. I do

not believe there will be any change from the original idea intro-

duced in the first constitution. The total absence of property

qualifications for office is another indication of the antagonism

of the convention to the views of St. Clair. They seemed determ-

ined to outlaw every element of aristocracy. This provision has

also stood test of two subsequent constitutional conventions, and

stands firmer in our organic law than ever.

In apportioning the sovereign power of the people among

their official agents the convention gave by far the greater power

to the Legislature. The right to make all the laws without any

limitation but constitution itself has been carried up to modern

times. The money of the state was committed wholly to the

legislature and that is where it is today.

The general provisions of the bill of rights and the specific

powers of the state government have been practically those under

which the people of Ohio have lived for one hundred years. The

second constitution of Ohio adopted in 1851 by a vote of the

people followed throughout substantially the government lines

laid down by the first constitutional conventions. The changes

introduced were the result of the advanced progress of the state

rather than a difference of constitutional ideas.

When Thomas Jefferson expressed his opinion to Jeremiah

Morrow in 1803 on the constitution he approved it generally,

except the provision relating to the erection of the judiciary,

which he thought was too restricted for the future wants of the

state. He said, "They had legislated too much." Whatever was

done by the men of the first convention their descendants followed

22 Ohio Arch

22      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


them in 1851, for the same restrictions are apparent in the

second constitution.

The satisfaction which the original constitution gave the

people of the state is illustrated by their refusal to change it for

fifty years. When Thomas Worthington was governor in 1817,

he recommended the holding of a convention to form a new

constitution. Afterwards, in 1818, Governor Ethan Allen Brown

made a similar recommendation, and in 1819 the question of

a second constitutional convention was submitted to the people

of Ohio, and in a total vote of 36,302 was rejected by a majority

of 22,328 votes.

The principal objection to the original constitution was the

fact that the judiciary and state officers were appointed by a

joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly. Jefferson

saw this would give trouble in the future. Its operations as after-

wards developed, caused scandal, contention and disgrace, and

hence the demand of Governors Worthington and Brown for an

opportunity to change.

This conflict between the judiciary and the legislature com-

menced in 1818 and lasted for several years to the great dis-

turbance of the proper administration of law. It appears that in

1805 the legislature gave justices of the peace jurisdiction without

a jury to the amount of fifty dollars. As the constitution of the

United States guaranteed trial by jury to the suits in which over

twenty dollars was involved the Supreme Court very properly

in a case before it, decided the law void and unconstitutional,

for the Constitution of Ohio provided that "the right of trial by

jury shall be inviolate." The judicial decision was constructed

as an insult by the Legislature. As a result resolutions of

impeachment   ere preferred in the Sixth General Assembly

against Judges Huntington and Tod of the Supreme Court, and

Judge Pease, presiding judge of the Third Circuit. Nothing was

done at this session. While these articles of impeachment were

pending Judge Huntington was elected governor, and of course

resigned the judgeship. But the efforts at impeachment went

on. Charges, however, were not made against Governor Hun-

tington, but were preferred against Judges Tod and Pease.

Centennial Celebration

Centennial Celebration.              23


Their answer to the charges of impeachment was the Con-

stitutions of the United States and the State of Ohio. The result

was an acquittal in both cases. Another incident growing out of

the legislative power conferred by the first constitution was the

sweeping resolution passed in 1819. This resolution passed in

January swept out of office every judge of the Supreme Court,

and the Court of Common Pleas, the secretary of state, the

auditor, the treasurer of state, and also all the justices of the

peace throughout the state. This resulted in interminable con-

flict and contusion, but it was the exercise of the power of the


If it were not for this single feature which caused these vio-

lent party strifes there is every probability that we would be living

under the constitution of 1802 today. Indeed, a reference to the

political literature of the time preceding the holding of the con-

vention of 1851, will show that the election of the judiciary and

other state offices was the most potent argument used in favoring

a new constitution.

This convention that laid the political foundations of the state

of Ohio so heavy and deep that substantially, they have never

been changed, was formed of strong men. Out of the thirty-five

all but two of them were from Southern and Southeastern Ohio.

The Western Reserve played little part in this great work. She

opposed both the territorial government and the state government.

It is to the men who came from Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania

and New York that the credit for the founding of Ohio must be

given. They were the characters that dominated the first con-

vention. It was their ideas of government that were injected

into the first Constitution, and for the first fifty and the last fifty

years of the state those ideas have prevailed. And the one man

who conducted all, who influenced all, who executed all, was the

minister, physician, parliamentarian, governor, senator and honest

man -Edward Tiffin, of Chillicothe.

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