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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

A Much Disputed Date - When Was the State of Ohio Admitted Into the Union?

Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
The following is 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

Ohio the Only One of All the States Concerning Whose Date of Admission There is Any Question--How the Difference of Opinion Arose--Examination of the Various
Dates Contended For.

May 18, 1916

In a recent discussion of the questions, when, how, and by whom the state of Ohio was named, we arrived at the conclusion that our state was given its name, not by congress, but by the constitutional convention at Chillicothe on November 29, 1802, the day on which our first constitution was ratified and subscribed.
We found that in the act of congress authorizing the formation of a state government for what is now Ohio, no name for the new state is given but the inhabitants were authorized to assume such name as they deemed proper, and as there never was a territory called Ohio, this name designating a political division of the United States is found for the first time in the preamble of our first state constitution. It does not appear in any act of congress until February 19, 1803, when congress first recognized the new state.
While this conclusion will hardly be questioned, it is a remarkable and interesting fact that there has long been a difference of opinion as to the date when Ohio became a state in the Union. This fact is all the more remarkable because Ohio is the only one of the forty- eight states about which such a question has arisen. The reason why the doubt exists as to Ohio is that congress never past an act expressly admitting the state into the Union as was done with every other state admitted into the original Union of thirteen states. Of every other state we know the year and the day of its admission. In the case of Ohio, the difference of opinion is shown by the various dates found in historical works and books of reference from 1803 until the present time.

The Conflicting Dates.

Half a dozen different dates of Ohio's becoming a state or admission into the Union have been found. For some of these no good reason can be assigned, and they are probably errors of writers or printers. Three of them are worthy of consideration.
1. November 29, 1802, the day on which the convention that framed the state constitution ratified it and adjourned. As the constitution was not submitted to the people and Ohio became a state under it, this date is held by some to be the date of the formation of a state government.
2. February 19, 1803, the date of the first act of congress recognizing the state of Ohio. As there was no formal act of admission, this act is regarded by many as the virtual act by which the state was admitted into the Union.
3. March 1, 1803, the day on which the first general assembly met at Chillicothe and put into operation the machinery of a state government.
As to the first of these dates, it is to be said that however important the formation of a constitution is in the organization of a state government it is not all that is necessary, and congress is to decide whether a constitution is republican in form and whether a new state is to be admitted into the Union. We also find that President Jefferson on January 11, 1803, sent to the senate nominations for the land office at "Marietta in the Northwestern Territory," so that the president of the United States, six weeks after signing of the constitution, regarded Marietta as still in a territory and not in a state.
The third date, May 1, 1803, has been advocated by able men who have discust the question. Rush R. Sloan, in a paper read at the Ohio Centennial celebration argued in favor of this date and the Centennial Commission in adopting a resolution to celebrate at Chillicothe the centennial of the organization of Ohio as a state in the Union, declared that that date was March 1, 1803. As however congress only can admit new states into the Union and as congress took no action at all concerning Ohio on March 1, 1803, it is difficult to see how the meeting of the legislature can elect the date of the admission of a state into the Union.
The largest number of writers who have considered the question favor the second date, February 19, 1803. The first Ohio writer who investigated the question was Edward D. Mansfield, professor of constitutional law in Cincinnati College, who published his "Political Grammar" in 1836. In giving the dates of the admission of states he says: "Ohio was received into the Union February 19, 1803." The first elaborate discussion of the question I have found is by I.W. Andrews, president of Marietta College, in the Report of the Secretary of State for 1879, and he ably and convincingly argues for the same date. President Andrews gives evidence that the State Department at Washington at that time recognized Ohio as a state. It's title is: An Act to provide for the due execution of the laws of the United States within the state of Ohio." It is inconceivable that congress would pass such an act unless Ohio was, in the opinion of congress, a state in the Union. In the act Ohio is three times called "the state of Ohio" and three times referred to as "the said state." In the absence of any express act of congress for the admission of the new state into the Union, it does seem that we are shut up to the conclusion that if Ohio was ever admitted into the Union as a state it was on February 19, 1803, when congress first recognized that there was a state in the Union called Ohio.

Dates on the Seal of Ohio.

The first state legislature, on March 25, 1803 pre- scribed a device for the state seal of Ohio. The device was a sheaf of wheat on the right and a bundle of 17 arrows on the left; in the background a mountain and over it a rising sun, the device to be surrounded by the words: The Great Seal of the State of Ohio." In addition to these words, the early seals contained the date 1803 or 1802, which was placed on the seal without authority of law.
I have in my possession a number of commissions signed by governors of Ohio and authenticated with the great seal of state. All of the earlier ones have the date in Roman letters, "MDCCCIII." About twenty-five years after Ohio became a state, a new seal was cut and the date on changed to "1802" in Arabic figures. Who directed this change to be made in unknown. The date "1802" remained on the great seal until 1866, when a new great seal was procured in accordance with an act of the legislature of that year. Since that time no date has appeared on Ohio's great seal.
If the earlier date, "MDCCCIII," was given as the beginning of Ohio's statehood, it was correct. If the latter, "1802," was considered as that of the adoption of the state's first constitution, it was correct, for our first constitution has always been referred to as "the constitution of 1802."
A very interesting document in my possession is the proclamation of Gov. Jacob D. Cox, dated November 5, 1866, describing the new state seal which would in the future be used in authenticating official documents of the executive department. The pro-clamation has a clear impression of the new seal which had been cut in steel in New York, and the neat signature of the governor J.D. Cox, authenticated by the great seal which had before been used, and which we may suppose was now used for the last time.
This is probably the only document which has impressions of two great seals of the state of Ohio. The old seal had the date "1802," the new one was without date.

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