Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Edward Tiffin, 10 March 1803

From Edward Tiffin

Chillicothe Ohio
March 10th. 1803


Yours of feby—has been duly received, in which you request with as little delay as possable to be furnished with a return of the Militia, and of the Arms and Accoutrements of this state, and of the several counties or other geographical divisions of it. believing as I do, that none but an armed nation can dispence with a standing Army and that standing Armys are dangerous to Liberty, I was well aware of the importance & necessity of vigorous exertions on the part of the state Governments to carry into effect the Militia system adopted by the National Legislature, agreably to the powers reserved to them by the Constitution of the United States. I therefore as soon as I came into office called upon the Adjutant General of the Militia for a return agreable to Law. his answer received yesterday, justified my apprehensions, that both the late Governor St Clair, and himself had intirely neglected to carry the Militia Law into effect. it is therefore out of my power at present to comply with your request. the Legislature of this State is now in Session, and the Militia Law which requires much revision is before them, but from the manner in which the appointment of Officers is directed to be made by the Constitution, it will require a considerable time before the Militia can be organized, and a knowledge of its strength and situation acquired—no exertions on my part shall be wanting to accomplish these objects, which when accomplished shall be immediately communicated to you.

pardon the liberty I have taken to inclose a copy of my communication to the General Assembly, and accept the assurances of my sincere wishes for your happiness and welfare

Edward Tiffin

RC (PHi); at foot of text: “The President of [the United] States”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Apr. and so recorded in SJL with notation “W”; also endorsed by TJ: “to be filed in the W.O.” Enclosure: probably Tiffin’s message to the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives, dated 5 Mch. but presented on 4 Mch., in which he congratulates the legislature on the addition of “another sovereign, free and independent State” to the Union and calls their attention to the important work before them; Tiffin points out the auspicious situation of the country and is confident that “prompt and efficacious measures” by the president and Congress will quickly settle the current “irregularities at New-Orleans” and restore commerce on the Mississippi River; as legislators work to “raise the superstructure” of their new government, Tiffin notes the state’s solid fiscal condition and calls attention to a series of topics for consideration, including the election of federal representatives, devising a tax system, establishing a state judiciary, conducting a census, revising the militia laws, and reviewing all remaining territorial laws; Tiffin offers thanks “to that Being who has so highly favored us” and urges legislators to encourage and cultivate education, religion, economy in public expenditures, peace with the Indians, and “industry, frugality, temperance, and every moral virtue” (Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio: First Session of the Legislature, Held Under the Constitution of the State, A.D. 1803 [Chillicothe, Ohio, 1803], 11–16; Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Ohio: First Session of the Legislature, Held Under the Constitution of the State, A.D. 1803 [Chillicothe, Ohio, 1803], 9–14).

Born in England, Edward Tiffin (1766–1829) came to America in the 1780s and eventually settled in Virginia. A physician and Methodist lay minister, he emigrated to the Northwest Territory in 1798 with his brother-in-law, Thomas Worthington. Tiffin quickly became a popular and influential Republican leader and won a succession of prestigious offices, including speaker of the territorial assembly and president of the Ohio constitutional convention. In 1803, Tiffin was elected overwhelmingly the state’s first governor, serving until 1807. During his tenure, he and the Ohio legislature earned TJ’s praise for their actions in thwarting the Burr conspiracy, “which entitle them to a distinguished place in the affection of their sister states.” Tiffin later served briefly in the U.S. Senate and subsequently received an appointment as commissioner of the General Land Office from President James Madison (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 22 Jan. 1807).

yours of feby: Circular to the Governors of the States, 25 Feb. 1803.

appointment of officers: as specified by Article 5 of the Ohio constitution, the governor appointed the state adjutant general, while the legislature chose major generals and quartermasters general. Companies elected their own captains and subalterns, while majors, colonels, and brigadiers were chosen by the officers of their respective battalions, regiments, and brigades (Constitution of the State of Ohio, 2d ed. [Chillicothe, Ohio, 1803], 17–18).

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