Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Ohio Moments


St. Clair tried, failed to block Ohio statehood

[photo]
St. Clair

On April 30, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed the Enabling Act, which laid the groundwork for Ohio to become a state quickly.

Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, tried to prevent Ohio's becoming a state. In an attempt to keep the Federalist Party in control, he pushed for the Scioto River to serve as Ohio's western boundary - a move that would have basically cut the territory in two sections. His strategy was to delay statehood indefinitely to keep the Northwest Territory intact and to keep it from falling into the hands of the Democratic-Republicans.

The plan didn't work, largely because Jefferson was the founder of the Democratic-Republican Party. Congress rejected St. Clair's plan in January 1802 and the House of Representatives formed a committee to begin Ohio's application for statehood. At the time, Ohio didn't have the 60,000 residents required to become a state. So the committee drew up the Enabling Act on the grounds that it would meet the requirement by the time the state constitution was adopted. Jefferson signed it immediately.

St. Clair publicly denounced the act, prompting Jefferson to remove him as governor of the Northwest Territory. Ohio became a state less than a year later.

Rebecca Goodman

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com or call (513) 768-8361.




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