Thomas Jefferson Papers

III. Thomas Worthington’s Charges and Explanations, 20 February 1802

III. Thomas Worthington’s Charges and Explanations

Charges exhibited to the President of the United States against Arthur St Clair Esquire as Governor of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio

1. He has usurped legislative powers by the erection of courts and location of seats of justice by proclamation on his own sole authority

2. He has misused the power of negativing legislative Acts by putting his negative on laws useful and necessary for the Territory

3. He has refused to perform the duties of his office but on the payment of arbitary fees not established by any lawful authority

4. He has negatived acts of the legislature abolishing those fees and passed their act giveing him 500 Dollars meant as a compensation for that abolition thereby holding both the fees and the compensation

5. He has attempted to effect the dismemberment of the Territory and to destroy its constitutional boundaries in order to prevent its advancement to those rights of self government to which its numbers would entitle it

6. He has granted commissions generally during pleasure but that of Attorney general to his own son during good behaviour

7. He has endeavoured arbitarily to influence and controul the proceedings of the judiciary and has revoked and effected a surrender of the commissions of those who have refused to bend to his will

8. He has appointed persons resideing out of a county to offices the duties of which were to be habitually performed within them.

9. He has (neglected and thereby) obstructed the organization and diciplining of a militia for the defence of the territory by withholding the appointment of officers 18 months after a law had passed establishing them

10. He has avowed his hostility to the form and substance of republican government and his contempt of Militia Regulations

T. Worthington City of Washington February 20th 1802

Explanation of and references to documents in support of the foregoing charges.

The paper marked No 1 contains three proclamations of the Govenor erecting the counties of Clermont, Fairfield and Belmont
Eleven laws were rejected at one session Viz 6 erecting new counties 1 regulating marriages 1 regulating taverns 1 createing the office of County surveyor 1 to ascertain the number of souls in the eastern division or state in the territory and 1 establishing Manchester as the seat of justice for the county of Adams. See the journals of that session marked A page 207 the Governors communication to the house of representatives on this subject. At the last session of the assembly he rejected a second time an act regulateing marriages see the journals of that session marked B page 177.
Fees on marriage Ferry & Tavern licences have been demanded and received. It is true there is or was a law in the territorial statute book said to be adopted from the pennsylvania code directing the payment of 4 dollars to the Governor for each tavern licence but let it be remembered that the governor was a principle in the enacting or adopting this law giveing fees to himself in the other cases fees have been taken without the color or sanction of a law. The paper marked No 2 exhibits full proof of the foregoing charge. Other fees have been taken as shall be made appear hereafter
No official communication was made on the part of the Assembly to the Governor expressive of their real intention in giveing him this sum; A general understanding was believed to exist on this subject. A reliance on the candour and Integrity of the Governor induced the assembly to act open and unguarded. See the journals marked A page 211 the governors acceptance of the sum appropriated page 208 his rejection of the acts to abolish his fees on tavern and marriage licences
The Governor exercised usurped power and violated his constitutional authority wantonly in assenting to the late law of the territory which was almost unanimously rejected by Congress. On examination of the ordinance of Congress for the government of the territory it will appear that no such power is given him. He communicated the plan of this law to Mr Pickering late Secretary of State by letter dated in Jany or Feby 1800. It was urged by the Governor that the population of the Territory ought to be divided in order to prevent any part from governing itself for a great length of time because at such period as its self government commenced it would commence its opposition to the views of the then administration. It is hoped this letter is to be found in the office of state if not the substance thereof can be proved. The paper marked No 3 contains the governors letter to the then delegate in congress from the Territory pointing out the same plan and is expressive of the governors and local attachments
This fact is too notorious to be denied
The revocation of the commissions of Nathaniel Massie and others justices of the1 court of common pleas for Adams County and the late case of Colo Finly stated at length in the paper marked No. 4 it is hoped2 fully proves this charge
John J Wills Esqr of Cincinnati in Hamilton County was appointed 1st prothonotary of Adams County afterwards recorder of deeds and register of lands in Ross County Mr George Gordon of Cincinnati succeeded Mr Wills in the clerkship of Adams County. The case stated by Judge Meigs is another in point where the same person is appointed to two different offices in different counties other cases could be stated if necessary
For what cause the commissions were withheld from the militia officers of Ross county is best known to the Governor An advertisement appeared in the sioto gazette (I think in October last) signed by the commanding officers of the militia for that county stateing that in consequence of the Govr. not haveing issued the necessary commissions the militia could not be diciplined. The paper marked No 5 exhibits further proof on this subject
The paper marked No 6 exhibits positive proof of this avowal haveing been made in one instance in the house of Mr Joseph Tiffin in the Town of Chilicothe on the 19th of December 1801

MS (DLC); in Worthington’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “Worthington’s charges. references to documents.” Dft (OChHi: Territorial and Early Statehood Manuscript Collection); undated; in Worthington’s hand; incomplete, consisting of explanation and references only. Tr (Linda Elise Kalette, ed., The Papers of Arthur St. Clair, microfilm edition, 8 reels [Columbus, 1977], 7:204–9); in unidentified hands. Enclosures: (1) Proclamations by Arthur St. Clair creating the counties of Clermont, Fairfield, and Belmont, dated 6 and 9 Dec. 1800 and 7 Sep. 1801, respectively (printed in Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 3:526–8). (2) Address by St. Clair to the General Assembly of the Northwest Territory, 19 Dec. 1799 (see note to Document I). (3) Address by St. Clair to the General Assembly of the Northwest Territory, 23 Jan. 1802, in Journal of the House of Representatives of the Territory of the United States, North-west of the Ohio, at the First Session of the Second General Assembly, A.D. 1801 (Chillicothe, 1801), 176–8. (4) St. Clair to William Henry Harrison, >17 Feb. 1800 (see Enclosure No. 3 at Document I). (5) Probably a copy of the Scioto Gazette, 2 Jan. 1802 (see Enclosure No. 2 at Document I). (6) Statement of Francis Dunlavy and Jacob White, dated 26 Dec. 1801 and attested by Joseph Darlinton, recording declarations made by St. Clair at the house of Joseph Tiffin on 19 Dec., in which the deponents state that St. Clair uttered “many words and Sentences in contempt and reproach of the Government of the United States” and declared that it would soon “settle down into an Aristocracy, and from thence into a Monarchy,” which was the only government that could be sanctioned by God; St. Clair then added “several ludicrous and sarcastic observations,” stating that the militia was “all damned nonsense” and denouncing the “experiments” put forth by TJ in his 8 Dec. address to Congress as things “not to be admitted in government” (Tr in OChHi: Territorial and Early Statehood Manuscript Collection). Other enclosure not identified.

At the close of the assembly on 23 Jan. 1802, St. Clair justified his second veto of an act regulating marriages on the grounds that it allowed persons to wed “at too early a time of life” and that the power to grant marriage licenses properly resided with the governor and not with the prothonotaries of county courts (Journal of the House of Representatives of the Territory … 1801, 176–8).

The law in the territorial statute book giving the governor four dollars for every tavern license granted was enacted by St. Clair and the territorial judges on 17 June 1795. The title of the law noted that it was Adopted From The Pennsylvania Code (Laws of the Territory of the United States North-West of the Ohio: Adopted and Made by the Governour and Judges, in their Legislative Capacity, at a Session begun on Friday, the XXIX day of May, One Thousand, Seven Hundred, and Ninety-five, and Ending on Tuesday the Twenty-fifth Day of August Following [Cincinnati, 1796], 96–101).

Delegate In Congress From The Territory: William Henry Harrison.

Nathaniel Massie was a leading figure in the settlement of the Scioto River Valley and a prominent ally of Worthington. In 1798, he clashed with St. Clair in a dispute over the location of the seat of Adams County. Massie wanted it at Manchester, a town he had founded and that was already well established. St. Clair named an alternate site and vehemently defended the authority of the governor to fix the location of county seats. When Massie and another justice, Benjamin Goodin, defied the governor and attempted to hold court at Manchester, St. Clair revoked the commissions of Massie and Goodin for having “Misdemened themselves in the execution of their office by attempting to disturb the regular administration of justice” (Cayton, Frontier Republic description begins Andrew R. L. Cayton, The Frontier Republic: Ideology and Politics in the Ohio Country, 1780–1825, Kent, Ohio, 1986 description ends , 53–5, 60–1; Beverley W. Bond, Jr., The Foundations of Ohio [Columbus, 1941], 428–9; Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 3:515–16).

A territorial judge and former Federalist from Marietta, Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr., had recently joined the Republicans in Ohio. He had traveled to Washington in January 1802, where he cooperated with Worthington and met with TJ several times before returning home in mid-February (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Brown, “Frontier Politics,” description begins Jeffrey Paul Brown, “Frontier Politics: The Evolution of a Political Society in Ohio, 1788–1814,” Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1979 description ends 249–50, 438).

On 10 Oct. 1801, Ross County militia commanders James Dunlap and Elias Langham placed an Advertisement in the Scioto Gazette calling for a militia muster at Chillicothe on the 20th. An announcement in the same newspaper on 24 Oct., however, stated that the muster was canceled because St. Clair had not returned from Marietta in time to issue the necessary officers’ commissions.

Joseph Tiffin operated a tavern in Chillicothe that was a popular gathering place for territorial legislators (Sears, Thomas Worthington description begins Alfred Byron Sears, Thomas Worthington, Father of Ohio Statehood, Columbus, 1998 description ends , 56).

1Canceled: “peace.”

2Preceding three words interlined.

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