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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Jeremiah Morrow Should Be Called The Father Of Ohio

Dallas Bogan on 27 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 209
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

George Washington has been called the "Father of our Country," and, in this writer's opinion, Jeremiah Morrow should be called the "Father of Ohio." As we read on, we shall examine the political life of this pioneer and his contribution to the State of Ohio and the country.
In the early days of statehood, Mr. Morrow's accomplishments were awesome. He held the office of Representative for a longer period than any other. He was Governor four years, Senator six years, and Congressman-at-large ten years. Ohio has had only one Congressman-at-large. (A member of the lower house of Congress who represents an entire State is called a Congressman-at-large.) This was Jeremiah Morrow of Warren County. He was for ten years the first and only representative of the State in Congress.
He moved from Pennsylvania in 1795 and located in Columbia, where his stay lasted two or three years. He, for a time, taught school and worked in the surveying field. In 1798, Morrow moved to Warren County, cleared his newly purchased land, and lived here until his death.
When first elected to this prestigious post, he was a resident of Deerfield Township where he made his home in a modest log cabin. His dwelling was midway between the present site of Foster and Twenty Mile Stand, situated not far from the Little Miami River. His first election to public office was in 1800 when he was elected as a member of the Territorial Legislature. In 1802, he was a member of the convention that framed the first Constitution of Ohio. In 1803, he became a member of the first State Legislature. The center of the State Government at this time met at its first capitol, Chillicothe. Mr. Morrow attended all these meetings.
Ohio's first ten years as a State had only two officers chosen by a public vote, the Governor and a Congressman-at-large. Judges of the Supreme Court, U.S. Senators, and other officers for the State were selected by the Legislature. Under the laws of the new State Constitution, the first election was held January 11, 1803, in which a Governor, members of the Legislature and county officers were elected. The first Governor was from Chillicothe, Dr. Edward Tiffin. The Legislature designated the date for an election of Congressman-at-large as of June 21, 1803.
Morrow's name was brought up by many Jeffersonians as a candidate. Two of his principal opponents were William McMillan of Cincinnati, and Michael Baldwin of Chillicothe, both well-known lawyers. The official returns of the leading contenders for the first election of a U.S. Congressman from Ohio were: Jeremiah Morrow, Warren Co., 3701; Wm. McMillan, Hamilton Co., 1873; Michael Baldwin, Ross Co., 902; Elias Langham, Ross Co., 615; and Wm. Goforth, Hamilton Co., 313. The results of the election of the opposing sides were: Jeffersonians, 5558; and Federalists, 1960.
Morrow was a well-known and well-liked Congressman, being elected to four successive terms, each by a greater majority than the previous. In 1810, he was elected without an opposing candidate. All five terms incorporated a period in which only one representative from the State was comprised.
He was asked to serve as Governor of the State of Ohio. In September 1812, during his last term in office as Congressman-at-large, he published in several newspapers in Ohio that he would not be a candidate for Governor because of his commitment to Congress. Ten years later he was elected Governor and served two terms. In the meantime, he had served one term in the United States Senate.
Morrow's record of sixteen years in his service to the country and Congress was elevated to high standards partly because of his journeys to and from Washington City.
Many times his attendance was asked for in special sessions held in the summer, and he responded diligently.
His trips over the mountains were made on horseback along with a complement of necessities. He forded many bridgeless streams, and sometimes swam his horse through the treacherous surges.
His most outstanding work in Congress was related to public lands, in which he served for a long period of time as chairman. Jeremiah Morrow was credited by Judge Joshua Collett (also from Warren County) as a proven land laws expert. He speaks highly of him by writing:
"He may, with propriety, be called the father of the land system of the United States. Being chairman of the committee on public lands he originated the land system and drew all the laws on the subject.
"No man ever possessed the confidence of the national legislature in regard to his public duties in a higher degree."
Henry Clay spoke of Jeremiah Morrow in a speech in the Senate in 1832, with regards to his great service as head of the land committee. He said:
"With the existing laws, the great state of the west is satisfied. During the long period in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, that her upright and unambitious citizen, the first representative of that state, and afterwards successfully senator and governor, presided over the committee of public lands, we heard of none of these chimerical schemes.
"All went on smoothly and quietly and safely. No man in the sphere within which he acted, ever commanded or deserved the implicit confidence of congress more than Jeremiah Morrow. There existed a perfect persuasion of his entire impartiality between the old states and the new.
"A few artless but sensible words pronounced in his plain Scotch-Irish dialect were always sufficient to ensure the passage of any bill or resolution which he reported. For about twenty- five years there was no change in the system."
Morrow, while serving in Congress, did not waste much time in debate, his speeches being short, possibly never surpassing twenty minutes. His elegance of manner tended to carry forth his message more than any other aspect in the business of national interests.
A work edited by General A.W. Greely, entitled, "Public Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses," carried a list of early Senators and Representatives who made the greatest number of reports in Congress.
Of the half dozen men whose names were highlighted were: Jeremiah Morrow of Ohio, 74; John Randolph of Virginia, 66; Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, 50; William B. Giles of Virginia, 48; Joseph B. Varnum of Massachusetts, 39; and William Findlay of Pennsylvania, 39.
There is much more to be said about this outstanding citizen. Perhaps at another time another article will appear in this column that tells more of his personal life. It is well that we read and perhaps eulogize one of the finest men that Warren County has produced. Rarely do we find one who has served the people and his country with such great esteem.

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