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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Dewitt Clinton's Tour Of Ohio in 1825 and His Enthusiastic Reception by the People

Dallas Bogan on 19 September 2004
The following was taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Invited to Ceremony of Inaugurating Work On Ohio Canals, the New York Statesman Receives Many Ovations in the Towns and Cities--Notable Public Dinner
at Lebanon in His Honor.

May 25, 1916

No visitor to Ohio ever received from the people of the state so many ovations and sincere expressions of homage and applause as did DeWitt Clinton in 1825. During his sojourn of about one month he past from Cleveland to Cincinnati and in returning homeward again crost the state from west to east, in his journeys visiting nearly all the important towns of the young and rapidly growing commonwealth. Everywhere he was greeted as a hero.
Caleb Atwater, Ohio's first historian devotes several pages of his history to this visit of the New York statesman, evidently regarding it as one of the most interesting incidents in the history of the state. He says: "From one shire town to another Governor Clinton was attended by all the county officers and most distinguisht citizens of each county to its line, where he was received by a similar escort from the adjoining county and by them conducted to the next city or town. In this manner he past across the state. As soon as he appeared on sight of any town the bells of all its churches and public buildings rang their merriest peals; the cannon roared and its hundred guns and a vast crowd huzzaed, Welcome to the Father of Internal Improvements."
The man who received these ovations was not a military hero. He had even opposed the last war in which his country was engaged, and in 1812 he had been the candidate of the peace party for president and had carried only the New England and other eastern states where opposition to the war was the greatest. The people of Ohio had been enthusiastically in favor of the war of 1812, but they were now willing to forget Clinton's course in that war, and remember only his great services as a leader in the cause of internal improvements by canal navigation.
Dewitt Clinton was at this time one of America's great men, but the public offices he had filled were chiefly in his own state. He had little experience in the national government. He had served a short time as U.S. Senator, an office he resigned to become mayor of New York City. He had at various times served in each house of the legislature and as mayor, lieutenant-governor, governor, and canal commissioner. He was best known, however, as the chief promoter of the Erie canal, and when work upon it was begun on July 4, 1817, Gov. Clinton with his own hands broke the ground. That great work was now approaching completion and when the ceremony of inaugurating work upon the Ohio canal, which was to connect the waters of the Great Lakes and the Ohio river, was fixed for July 4, 1825, the governor of New York was appropriately invited to be the leading figure in the celebration.
With the aid of Caleb Atwater's history, documents relating to the Ohio canals and files of newspapers we can trace the course of the distinguisht man on his memorable tour which was made by stage coach and carriage.
In June Gov. Clinton started for Ohio from Albany. He was accompanied by several distinguisht men, two of whom, Messrs. Rathbone and Lord, had made the first loan for the Ohio canal fund; $400,000 bearing 5 per cent interest at 97 1-2, the only loan made at a discount in constructing the canals. The governor arrived at Cleveland by steamboat on the last day of June. Cleveland was then a little village but a large concourse greeted the governor's entrance into the state. The visitors were conducted in carriages to the Mansion House where an ad- dress of welcome was made to which Gov. Clinton replied in a speech on the benefits the new state would reap from canal navigation.
The canal commissioners had decided to have the ceremony of breaking ground for the canal at the Licking Summit, three miles from Newark. The visitors made the journey to Licking county by stage. On the night of Sun- day, July 3, Governor Clinton slept twelve miles from Newark. The villages of Newark and Granville were filled on that night with strangers from almost every county in the state. On Monday, July 4, 1825, in the presence of a great multitude, after addresses by Thomas Ewing and Governor Clinton, ground was broken for the Ohio canal. A spade was presented to Governor Clinton and another to Governor Morrow, and the two men dug the first earth for the artificial channel.
The next day Governor Clinton began his tour of the state. On the 5th he went to Lancaster where he was given a public dinner. On the 6th he proceeded to Columbus and on the 7th was formally welcomed by Governor Morrow in the Representatives Hall. In his reply Governor Clinton made a most enthusiastic prophecy concerning the Ohio canal, predicting that within two years after its completion it would bring in an annual revenue of at least a million dollars. A public dinner ended the proceedings of the day. From Columbus Governor Clinton went to Springfield where he was addrest by Charles Anthony and given a public dinner. Similar festivities occurred at Dayton and Hamilton, Hon. Joseph H. Crane delivering their address at Dayton and Hon. John Woods at Hamilton.
On July 13, Governors Clinton and Morrow were both guests at a public dinner at Cincinnati in honor of Henry Clay. The next day they proceeded by steamboat to Louisville, where the New York Governor gave his preference to the Kentucky side for the canal around the Falls of the Ohio. On their return up the river they attended a reception at Lawrenceburg. The canal celebration at Cincinnati, the southern terminus of the Miami canal, was held on Monday, July 18, when the addresses were made by Joseph Benham and Governor Clinton and a public dinner was given in honor of the state's guest.
The ceremony of breaking ground for the Miami canal took place near Middletown, on Thursday, July 21, and was attended by Governors Clinton and Morrow, Ex-Governor A.Ethan A. Brown, Gen. Wm. H. Harrison and other distinguisht men. An address was delivered by Hon. Joseph H. Crane, of Dayton.
From Middletown Gov. Clinton proceeded to Lebanon where a public dinner was in his honor the next day, Friday, July 22. As the governor and his party approached the town on Thursday evening they were welcomed by a salute fired by Captain Mix's artillery and for the cheers of the citizens. The dinner at Lebanon was one of the most notable banquets Clinton attended on this tour. There were present DeWitt Clinton, Henry Clay, Gen. Wm. H. Harrison, Gov. Morrow and Ex-Governor E.A. Brown, all of whom made addresses. Henry Clay was at this time detained at Lebanon by the sickness of his daughter. Before the banquet, which was served at Ferguson's hotel on Main street, the citizens met in the Presbyterian church where addresses were made by A. H. Dunlevy and Gov. Clinton.
The durable fame Clinton had acquired by the construction of the Erie canal was well exprest by the toast at the Lebanon dinner which called out the New York statesman. It was as follows:
"Our distinguisht guest, his excellency DeWitt Clinton--while the fame of other men lives only in the perishable pages of history, his is deeply engraved in the soil of his native state."
The next day Gov. Clinton, accompanied by Ex-Governor Brown and Judge Kesling, left Lebanon for Hillsboro where arrangements had been made for another public reception.
Continuing his journey homeward he past thru Chillicothe, Circleville, Lancaster, Somerset, Zanesville, Cambridge and other towns and every where received distinguisht attention. At Pittsburg, in addition to other tokens of respect, a large and beautiful steamboat named "DeWitt Clinton" was launched in his presence. He past rapidly across Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York.
Dr. Daniel Drake and Edward D. Mansfield, two young men who reacht distinction, rode up from Cincinnati to see and hear the eminent men at the Lebanon banquet. Mansfield relates that when he heard Henry Clay defend himself at the dinner given him at Cincinnati against the charge of bargain and corruption, he thought the speech the most eloquent one he had ever heard in fiery utterance and energetic action, but the next week at Lebanon he thought Clay "fell far short of the high culture and well-armed and vigorous mind of DeWitt Clinton."
Mansfield placed Gov. Clinton at the head of the truly great American statesman of his time. He describes him as a remarkably handsome man, portly and dignified, and ruddy in complexion. Clinton died in less than three years, leaving to Henry Clay the undisputed leadership of the new political party which took the name of Whig.

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This page created 19 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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