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Role of Thomas Worthington in Ohio Statehood

Thomas WorthingtonThomas Worthington was elected to the Northwest Territorial House of Representatives in 1799 which put him in a position of influence for Ohio statehood. The United States Congress passed a Division Act May 7, 1800 that divided the Northwest Territory at the Great Miami River into a western half that became the Indiana Territory and the eastern half which kept the name Northwest Territory until a state could be formed. The new capital of the eastern half was Chillicothe.

The Second General Assembly met in Chillicothe at the new courthouse on November 25, 1801. The Democratic Republicans led by Worthington, Tiffin, McArthur, Massie and others were ready to move forward to statehood and self-government. The Federalists, led by the Governor of the Northwest Territory Arthur St. Clair, were against statehood at this time.

During this second assembly, Governor St. Clair convinced the delegates to pass another Division Act which would divide the New Northwest Territory at the Scioto River making Cincinnati the capital of the west and Marietta the capital of the east. This would also divide the population requirement of 60,000 and delay statehood. It passed the assembly December 18, 1801.

The Democratic Republicans still had an option to defeat this Division Act because it had to be ratified by the United States Congress. Thomas Worthington and Michael Baldwin were sent to Washington D.C. to lobby against its passage. Thomas Jefferson had just been elected President and as a Democratic Republican he could help their cause for statehood.

Worthington left for Washington December 27, 1801 and Baldwin followed. They met with leaders in the congress and Jefferson to gain support. A month later, January 27, 1802, the Division Act was rejected by a vote of 81-5 and a committee was appointed to evaluate statehood for Ohio. Baldwin went home to Chillicothe but Worthington remained to lobby for an Enabling Act which will allow Ohio to write a state constitution.

Representative William Giles of Virginia wrote the committee report and legislation for the Enabling Act. Thomas Worthington kept meeting with members of congress and Jefferson to fight the opposition. It was not until the end of April of 1802 that the Enabling Act was passed with a party-line vote. Worthington returned home to Chillicothe after a four month absence.

Now a Constitutional Convention could be organized. There were 35 delegates made up of 26 Democratic Republicans, 7 Federalists, and 2 doubtful. The convention convened November 1, 1802 at the courthouse in Chillicothe. Thomas Worthington, Edward Tiffin, Nathaniel Massie, Michael Baldwin, and James Grubb represented Ross County. Committees were appointed and debating the issues began. Even with the dominance of the Democratic Republicans, the views of the Federalists were a part of the final document due to leaders like Ephraim Cutler, Rufus Putnam, and Benjamin Gilman. It took 29 days to complete the Ohio Constitution which provided for a powerful legislative branch elected by the people. This had been a goal of the Democratic Republicans.

The delegates ratified the constitution, addressed a communication to President Jefferson and another to congress. Worthington was then deputized to carry the document to Washington D.C. He presented it to congress December 21, 1802. Congress passed the bill on February 19, 1803 and Jefferson signed it into law. March 1, 1803 Thomas Worthington left for Chillicothe, the Ohio General Assembly convened, and Ohio Statehood was celebrated. Thomas Worthington and his yeoman’s effort earned him the title “Father of Ohio Statehood.”

Adena Mansion and Gardens
Thomas Worthington & Family
The Old Northwest Territory
Ohio Statehood
Great Seal of the State of Ohio
Benjamin Latrobe

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