Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Smith, 26 November 1802

From John Smith

Chillicothe Nov 26th 1802


The day after to morrow I expect we shall sign the Constitution of this new State; a Copy of which, accompanying an adress will be sent you from our body.

The propositions of the law of Congress I presume will not be accepted without some modification, for which purpose we in all likelihood will send Col. Worthington with instructions to negociate with the National Legislature & adjourn to a day subsequent to his return. The operation of the terms proposed by Congress, would in the opinion of many be partial & excite much discontent in our new State, which would be unfortunate at the moment of our entering into a State Government—This Sir, is the important crisis, to settle the political habits & sentiments of the people in our Country And much depends on the conduct of the general government toward us in the above affair. We are chiefly Republican in theory & I hope Sir that we shall now reduce it to a uniform practice.

I beg that you will excuse the liberty I take in stating to you the little progress we are making in the affairs of our government—And also to recommend to your consideration Charles W Byrd Esqre (who stands high in the esteem of our Republican Friends) to the office of Federal Judge in our State—He has been educated to the law, He would I am confident fill that office with honour as he does that of Secretary. The Republicans would be greatly pleased with him in that situation. They hear Mr McMillen (whom they most cordially despise) is a Candidate—It would be very disagreable to them, from various considerations to hear of his appointment.

The 2d. Tuesday in Jany. next we elect our Governor & Representatives. The first session of the state Legislature is to meet at this place on the first monday in march. I think there is good reason to suppose that they will choose for us two Republican Senators & in consequence we will elect a Representative for Congress of the same politics. Be pleased to accept the assurances of the high consideration & respect with which I am

Sir your most obedient Servant

John Smith

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thos Jefferson Esqr. President of the U States”; endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL as received 9 Dec.

The Enabling Act of 1802 contained three propositions for the consideration of the Ohio constitutional convention. The first called for setting aside one section in every township for the use of schools. The second would grant several salt springs to the state, provided that the legislature would not lease the same for periods longer than ten years. The final provision would apply five percent of public land sale proceeds toward the construction of federal roads through the state. All three provisions, however, were made on the condition that Ohio would exempt all federal lands sold after 30 June 1802 from state and local taxes for a term of five years after the day of sale. The convention agreed to the propositions on 29 Nov., provided that the land for schools include portions of the U.S. and Virginia military districts, the Connecticut Reserve, and any future Indian land cessions, and that said school lands would be vested in the state legislature. The convention also requested that three percent of the net proceeds from federal land sales be granted to the legislature for road construction. The convention appointed Thomas Worthington to carry the propositions to Washington, who presented them to Congress on 23 Dec. Congress agreed to the modified provisions on 3 Mch. 1803 (Thomas Worthington, Letter from Thomas Worthington, Inclosing an Ordinance Passed by the Convention of the State of Ohio, Together with the Constitution, Formed and Agreed to by the Convention for the Said State, and Sundry Propositions Submitted to the Congress of the United States. 23 December, 1802 [Washington, 1802; Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , No. 3331], 33–4; 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 , 2:175, 225–7).

TJ saw several other letters from Ohio Republicans recommending Charles W. byrd as federal judge. On 17 Nov., Thomas Worthington sent separate letters to Gallatin and William B. Giles advocating Byrd’s appointment. He wrote Gallatin that Byrd discharged his duties as secretary and governor “with much satisfaction” and deservedly had “the Confidence of the republicans.” To Giles, he wrote, “Mr Byrd I am well satisfied will be acceptable to the people here and will discharge the duties of the office with fidelity.” On 4 Dec., Edward Tiffin wrote Madison from Chillicothe at the request of several other residents who wanted the president to be informed of their support for Byrd as district judge. Tiffin observed that Byrd stood “high in the estimation of the people—and is a regular Law Character, equal to any which can be selected in the State” (RCs in DNA: RG 59, LAR; both endorsed by TJ as Byrd “to be judge of Ohio”).

Prominent Cincinnati attorney and jurist William McMillan (mcmillen) served briefly as the delegate for the Northwest Territory in Congress and received an appointment as U.S. attorney for the territory in June 1801. Although previously a Republican, McMillan earned the enmity of the party when he allied with Arthur St. Clair in his effort to redivide the territory along the Scioto River, which, McMillan believed, would have enhanced Cincinnati’s future prospects. In his letter to William B. Giles of 17 Nov., Worthington declared that “the president could not appoint a man More Obnoxious to the republicans” than McMillan. On the same date, Joseph Darlinton warned Albert Gallatin from Chillicothe that McMillan’s appointment would “prejudice the minds of many against the President” (DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “McMillan not to be judge”). He did not receive the federal judgeship for Ohio and in 1803 was an unsuccessful candidate for the state’s representative to Congress (Jeffrey P. Brown, “William McMillan and the Conservative Cincinnati Jeffersonians,” The Old Northwest, 12 [Summer 1986], 117–35; Vol. 33:676; Vol. 36:300–1; Worthington to TJ, 10 July 1803).

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