Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Goforth, 5 January 1802

From William Goforth

Jan. 5th. 1802.

May it please the President

I would wish to bring into your immediate view the Government of the Northwestern territory under which the adventures to this remote part of the Empire have Sustained a deprivation of those privileges injoyed by our fellow citizens in the States in the Union.

Secondly to lay before the President the rational views we had in a short time to rise from that depresst State.

Thirdly to shew the means persued by our placemen to prevent our political resurection.

And fourthly to implore Presidential aid to restore us to the precious privilege of a free Elective Republican Government.

First as to our ordinance Government it is a true transcript of our old English Colonial Governments, our Governor is cloathed with all the power of a British Nabob, he has power to convene, prorogue and dissolve our legislature at pleasure, he is unlimitted as to the creation of offices, and I beleive his general rule is to fill all the important leading offices with men of his own political Sentiments, and I beleive he has not Issued a Single commission in the territory, not even excepting the Presideing Judges of the Common Pleas, on any other terms than those which he and the Judges of the Supreme Court in their adopting capacity have by a resolution declared to be dureing his will and pleasure except his own son who holds on the tenure of good behavior, it is easy to conceive that the influence of a Governor thus circumstanced will pervade our Elections, and hence we have seen (notwithstanding he holds in his hands an intire and commanding Branch of the Legislature a majority of his will and pleasure creatures in both houses of the Legislature, and if any man or the friends of any man wished their country to be benifitted by his services either in the Legislative Council or as an agent to Congress, to use the old Colonial dialect it would be prudent for him or them to be on exing1 good terms with his Excellency

Secondly I was to lay before the President the reasonable views we had to emerge from this deprest State.

The Confederate Congress who gave assistence to the ordinance Government seem to have been conscious that such a Government would not sit well on citizens from the free states and therefore appear to meliorate it by the Solemn and unalterable compact with which they prop it, in the fifth article of which they divide the territory into States and assertain their boundaries and pledge the national faith that when either of these states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein they shall be at liberty to form a perment State constitution and be received into the Union, and indeed the grand pivot on which this business hinges seems not to depend as much on numbers as the general interest of the confederacy, now it certainly must be for the general intrest to save the annuel Stipend paid to our placemen and it must finally be more to the general intrest, provided we mean to preserve our most excellent Republican Government, to have the citizens rared and nutured and matured under a free elective govment, than under a government highly tinctured with Aristocracy and monarchy which will rather fit the citizens for a monarchical than a Republican Government, I now beg leave to lay before you an extract taken from the Secretary of the territorys account of the Census taken last year.

The county of Hamilton laying on the Great Miami in which is Cincinati 14,671
The county of Wayne in which is detroit 3,206
The county of Washington in which is Marietta 5,427
The county of Ross in which is Chilicothe 8,540
The county of Adams on the Ohio opposite Limestone in Kentucky 3,452
The county of Jefferson county adjoining Pennsylvania 8,766
The county of trumble 1,303
If we substract from the Number Total which is 45,365 45,365
the citizens from Wayne county  3,260  
the remaining Number will be 42:105  
which have migrated to this territory in thirteen years which will average between three and2 four thousand pr. year but it should be remembered that the first, 2d. 3d. and 4th. years did not amount to more than three 4 or five hundred a year, Since that time the numbers have been progressing and are not now less than 8,000 pr. year and as the census was taken a year ago I may with propriety place that number to the acct. 8,000
increase by population Since takeing the Census 1,000
and without casting any odium on the gentleman or gentlemen who took the Census an allowance may with Justice be made for the families that were missed oweing to our Scatterd situation in a wilderness, one of our placemen who is averse to going into a state Government told me six families had been missed just in his neigbourhood, I allow every 12th. family to have been missed which would be 3,780
  57,145 total 57,145

Thirdly I come now to lay before the President the means persued by our placemen to prevent our political resurrection

The foregoing number of persons in the territory threw our placemen into the horrors Something must be done, a grand caucus was held in the town of Cincinati consisting of placemen expectants and those under their immediate influence, at which I think the very first charactors in the government attended and at which I have reason to beleive it was determined to divide the territory and in order to mask the treason against the majesty of the people petions were pushed about with great assiduity, the President may rely upon it that these petions did not originate with the body of Yeomonry in the country but with the aforesaid charactors of Cincinati, a friend of mine by my request favoured me with a copy of each of the petitions one to the Legislature and the other to Congress I have taken the liberty of incloseing them to the President in the last articles of each of these the President may see their efforts goes to prevent going into a State government and thereby protract their dominion over the citizens. This caucus as I apprehend was held before the meeting of the Legislature and was well understood by the Junto in and out of the Legislature and the bill for divideing the territory was passed before they received the petition to pass it, I have also taken the liberty to inclose the bill which I am informed passed without alteration in the house of Representative haveing orignated with the Legislative Council the perswasive inducements held out to the citizens in order to enduce them to sign said petitions were that if we went into a state government we should lose the forty four hundred dollars paid annually to our placemen, that their lands would be consumed by a Federal tax and that if we went into a division of the territory the towns of Cincinati and Marietta would become the seats of government, by going into a division of the government they expect to reduce our numbers to about 30,000 and to keep us in the State we are untill run upon 60,000 denova, nothing in my opinion can be a higher proof of my first position with respect to the governors powers than carrying a bill through both houses of the Legislature for altering the boundaries of the government in order to keep himself in power without the knowledge instructions or wish of the main body of the citizens Fourthly I come now to implore Presidential aid in order to restore us to our former privileges which are injoyd by our fellow citizens in the Union, in this we only ask the nation to be Just and maintain inviolate the compact entered into by Congress under the confederation and maintain the National honour and faith and admit us to form a permanent State constitution And admit us into the Union, on it appearing that we have performed our part of the covenant; but if they suffer our government to be divided and thereby reduce our number to about 30,000 and keep us in the State we are until we amount to 60000 souls denova it will be dealing with us with as much duplicity as Laban made use of with Jacob respecting his daughter Rachel. Permit me to observe to you that one of the members of the Legislature was very strenious for divideing the Government on seeing the petition to Congress, gave it as his opinion that it would not do to send it forward at the present period and whether they will send it forward at all I am not warranted to say, perhaps Mr McMillen who was agent from the territory to Congress last year may bring it with him as he is now ingaged by the gentlemen of Cincinati as their particular delagate and on the wages of a member of Congress it is supposed his influence will be equal to the accomplishment of their most Sanguine expectations, If any impediment should arise to government to put it out of their power to perform the covenant of the Confederate Congress, we object not to submit to what may be done by Congress provided we are emancipated from our present antirevolutional government, I have reference to the State of Virginia altering her line of session, with respect to which I am uninformed not having the Virginia code, if we must be divided, government may as well support us as free states, as territories, but if I might be permitted to give my opinion, that as we lean on the general government for protection in case of a war I think we could make out very well if we were excused from paying a federal tax on land or otherwise untill the next takeing the general Census. I shall only add that I beg your forgiveness for the present intrusion and that you would beleive me to be with every species of respect your most obedient Humble servant

William Goforth.

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “To Thomas Jefferson President the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 26 Jan. and so recorded in SJL with notation “N.W. territory.” Enclosures: (1) Petition to the Council and House of Representatives of the Northwest Territory in the legislative session of 1801, praying for a resolution to land disputes within the Symmes tract; that trustees be appointed to take charge of school and ministerial tracts; that county levy laws be revised, township officers be elected by township residents, and the poll tax on married men be repealed; that the stray laws be amended to require advertisement in public papers; that less public money be spent on the salaries and travel of legislators; that territorial and county taxes be reduced; and that the legislature “not take any measure whatever towards entering into a state government,” which action would be “highly prejudicial to our interest and happiness at this time”; the petitioners instead request that the territorial representative to Congress be instructed “to move for a redivision of the Territory,” which would result in “material advantages” to the citizens at large (Tr in same; undated and unsigned; entirely in Goforth’s hand). (2) Petition from the inhabitants of the Northwest Territory to Congress, praying that the formation of a state government be postponed, citing the large size of the territory, the isolation of its settlements from each other, the expense and inconvenience of rotating the general court between two locations, the lack of progress made in improving the territory overall, and the lack of convenient markets; statehood is being urged by only “a few designing, disconted Ambitious men”; the petitioners are happy to remain under the paternal care of Congress until the territory has developed further and suggest that a new division of the territory be made along the Scioto River, the western boundary of the French grant opposite Little Sandy Creek, or any other line that Congress deems proper (Tr in same; undated and unsigned; entirely in Goforth’s hand). Other enclosure not found.

William Goforth came to the Northwest Territory from New York, where he had suffered financial reverses as a result of the Revolutionary War. He settled at Columbia, near Cincinnati in Hamilton County, where he served as a judge of the court of common pleas and justice of the peace. In October 1801, TJ appointed Goforth a commissioner for settling claims regarding the Miami Purchase lands of John Cleves Symmes. A Republican and staunch advocate of statehood, Goforth was elected to the Ohio constitutional convention in November 1802, where he presided briefly as president pro tempore. He would not write TJ again until 1807, when he recommended his son, Aaron, for office (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , 9:172–3; 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 , 3:141–2, 177–8, 295, 405, 413; Goforth to John Adams, 11 Aug. 1791, in MHi: Adams Papers; Downes, Frontier Ohio description begins Randolph Chandler Downes, Frontier Ohio, 1788–1803, Columbus, 1935 description ends , 150, 181–3, 240; Sears, Thomas Worthington description begins Alfred Byron Sears, Thomas Worthington, Father of Ohio Statehood, Columbus, 1998 description ends , 76–7, 94; 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 , 63, 76–7; Vol. 33:671, 677; Goforth to TJ, 9 Oct. 1807).

Our Governor: Arthur St. Clair.

His Own Son: Arthur St. Clair, Jr., who was appointed attorney general of the Northwest Territory by his father in 1796 (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 , 3:460).

The fifth article of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 stated that no less than three nor more than five states would be formed from the Northwest Territory, and fixed boundaries for the establishment of three future states: a western state bound by the Mississippi River on the west and a line from Vincennes on the Wabash River north to the Canadian border on the east; a middle state bound by the Vincennes line on the west and a line north from the mouth of the Great Miami River on the east; and an eastern state bound by the Great Miami River line on the west and Pennsylvania on the east. Congress reserved the right to alter these lines in the future, as well as to create one or two additional states north of an east-west line drawn from the southernmost point of Lake Michigan. Once each of these states attained a population of 60,000 free inhabitants, it would be received into the union on an equal footing with the original states. The article also permitted a state to be admitted with less than 60,000 residents, “so far as it can be consistent with the general interest of the Confederacy” (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 , 2:48–9).

Annuel Stipend Paid To Our Placemen: on 3 Mch. 1801, Congress appropriated $5,500 for the salaries of the governor, secretary, and judges of the Northwest Territory and the contingent expenses of its government (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:120).

Charles Willing Byrd was appointed secretary of the Northwest Territory in December 1799, replacing William Henry Harrison (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:330, 331).

Determined To Divide the Territory: the Northwest Territory had been divided by Congress in 1800, when the territory of Indiana was created from most of the land west of the mouth of the Kentucky River. In an effort to maintain their power in the eastern division of the territory, Federalists sought to deflect Republican calls for statehood by recommending a new division of the entire territory, dividing the Ohio country down its center along the Scioto River and extending the eastern boundary of Indiana further west. Such a move would not only delay statehood by halving the population of the Ohio country, but would enhance the influence of the Federalist strongholds of Marietta and Cincinnati while simultaneously dividing Republican strength in the Scioto River valley around Chillicothe. Despite passing a redivision bill in the territorial legislature in December 1801, Federalists would not see the measure enacted in Washington. Rejecting the division act, Congress instead passed the Enabling Act on 30 Apr. 1802, which authorized the inhabitants of the eastern division of the Northwest Territory to meet in November 1802 and form a constitution and state government. The state of Ohio was subsequently admitted to the Union in 1803 (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:58–9, 173–4; Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. description ends , 11:465–6; Laws of the Territory of the United States, Northwest of the River Ohio: Passed at the First Session of the Second General Assembly, Begun and Holden at Chillicothe, on Monday, the Twenty-Third Day of November, One Thousand Eight Hundred and One [Chillicothe, 1802], 130–2; 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 240–3; 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 , 71–8; Downes, Frontier Ohio description begins Randolph Chandler Downes, Frontier Ohio, 1788–1803, Columbus, 1935 description ends , 165, 186–200).

Denova: that is, de novo; anew (Bryan A. Garner, ed. in chief, Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed. [St. Paul, Minn., 2004], 467).

In the Book of Genesis, chapter 29, Laban promised that Jacob could marry his younger daughter Rachel after serving him for seven years. At the completion of the term, Laban instead tricked Jacob into marrying his elder daughter, Leah. He then promised Rachel to Jacob again in exchange for an additional seven years of service.

William McMillan (McMillen) served in Congress as the delegate from the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio from 24 Nov. 1800 to 3 Mch. 1801 (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989, Washington, D.C., 1989 description ends ).

1Thus in MS.

2MS: “and and.”

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