I have been having difficulty coming up with events that relate to the American Revolution this time of the year, but in my research I found this interesting controversy related to Ohio. On February 19, 1803, Congress accepted Ohio’s constitution, but statehood not ratified till 1953. How did that happen?
Unlike Vermont and Tennessee, whose State government already in existence was simply recognized by Congress via what we now refer to as Acts of Admission and unlike Kentucky, which was authorized to form a State government which would thereafter take effect on a date specified by what we now refer to as that State’s Enabling Act. Ohio was voted on by Congress to be allowed into the US as a state in the last session of April 1802, but then State of Ohio was drafted and adopted by convention on 29 November 1802, said Constitution calling for elections in January for a Governor and a legislature styled the General Assembly to convene at the then-Territorial capital of Chillicothe (the territorial/state capital at the time) on March 1, 1803).
In the meantime, Congress passed- on 19 February 1803- what was officially titled ‘An Act to provide for the due execution of the laws of the United States within the State of Ohio’ which, among other things, expressly observed that “the people… did… form for themselves a constitution and State government in pursuance of whereby the said State has become one of the United States of America”.
Louisiana, the next state admitted to the union, was required to submit its State Constitution to Congressional for scrutiny before being allowed entry into the United States. The State of Louisiana had a much different background than the states that had joined the union thus far. Its primary religion was Catholic and rather than English roots, it had French and Spanish roots. Also, it was the only State at the time divided into parishes rather than counties. Therefore, Congress felt that it was important to make certain that Louisiana’s constitution was compatible with the rest of the country.
Ohio had, however, been immediately accepted as the 17th State of the Union without any debate. As Ohio prepared to celebrate its Sesquecentennial in the early 1950s, the way that Ohio was admitted into the union became an issue. When the events organizers went to look for the official document stating that Ohio had been admitted to the union, there was none.
Republican Congressman George Bender was concerned enough to introduce a bill on the floor of the House on January 19, 1953 that would retroactively admit Ohio to the Union as of March 1, 1803 which was the date the Ohio General Assembly first convened, thus formally instituting State government in the State. This proposal allayed any fears regarding Ohio’s legitimate statehood status and also officially declare a specific date as the date Ohio became a State. The House passed it on May 19 and the Senate followed suit on August 1, President Eisenhower signed it into law on August 7, 1953. This date fell on the anniversary of the Northwest Territory Act of 1789 (which Ohio was a part along with Indiana and Illinois).
Some individuals even today question the legitimacy of Ohio’s ratification of amendments to the constitution because this official ratification did not occur until 1953. However, if one goes back to the timing and wording of the original documentation in congress, this act of congress was unnecessary. In addition, because President Eisenhower signed this law into effect making it retroactive to 1803, the question of Ohio’s original date of statehood therefore becomes a doubly moot point.
Last week I promised you an announcement this week. Today I would like to announce that I will soon be publishing my first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening. Declare your independence from high food costs by beginning your own vegetable garden in your own back yard this year. More information about this book during the next several weeks.