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On the 7th of April in this year, an act was passed organizing the Territory of Mississippi,* and Winthrop Sargent, who had thus far been Secretary of the north-western, was appointed Governor of the south-western realm belonging to the United States. Wilkinson, during this spring, had been ordered to the country still held by the Spaniards,t who, however, abandoned the region in dispute without serious opposition. By the 10th of October, the line dividing the possessions of Spain and the Federal Government was in a great measure run,|| and the head quarters of the American commander were fixed at Loftus Heights, $ six miles north of the 31st degree of north latitude.
The appointment of Sargent to the charge of the South-west Territory, led to the choice of William Henry Harrison, who had been aid-de-camp to General Wayne in 1794, and whose character stood very high in the estimation of all who knew him, to the Secretaryship of the North-West;? which place he held until appointed to represent that Territory in Congress.
• American State Papers, xx, 203.
† Sargent seems to have been an unpopular man, even more so than St. Clair : see Burnet's letters, p. 79. In 1801, he was accused of misdoings in Mississippi. (American State Papers, xx. 233 to 241.) The following advertisement is from Freeman's Journal, (Cincinnati,) of November 26, 1796:-To the Generous Public : In the month of July, 1794, I had some business to do at Greenville with the army. In my absence, the Great and Honorable Winthrop Sargent, Esq. arrived at this place—he got the consent of Mrs. Munsell to tarry in my house until my return, which was within a few days. I informed him on my arrival, I could not spare that part of my house which he occupied, therefore requested him to remove, but as he had got possession, he chose to keep it; after he had lived in it for seventeen weeks, I was obliged to hire my house to get rid of him. On the 2d day of this month I made out my bill, an.1 signed my receipt in full-sent it by my boy, with a request for him to send me the money by the boy; he would not. On the 19th, I wrote him a few lines, and demanded the money, or my receipt, and in particular an answer, but he would not do either : as he had got the advantage, he chose to keep it.
I write these few lines to let the world know what an exalted character we have got for a Deputy Governor in this country.
LEVI MUNSELL, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, North-West of the River Ohio, 25th November, 1796.
The editor of the Kentucky Herald will particularly oblige the subscriber by inserting the above.
Wilkinson's Memoirs, i. 434. | American State Papers, xx. 710. & Wilkinson' Memoirs, ii. 133. 1 Burnet, in Ohio Historical Transactions, part 2, vol. 1. p. 69.
1799. The north-western Territory, as may be seen by a reference to the ordinance of 1787," was to have a representative assembly as soon as its inhabitants numbered five thousand. Upon the 29th of October, Governor St. Clair gave notice by proclamation that the required population existed, and directed an election of representatives to be held on the third Monday in December.t
During the summer of 1798, the famous alien and sedition laws were passed by Congress. They were, by the Democratic party every where regarded with horror, and hated, and in Virginia and Kentucky especially, called forth in opposition the most able men, and produced the most violent measures. The Governor of Kentucky called the attention of the Legislature to them, and upon the 8th of November resolutions prepared by Mr. Jefferson were introduced into the House, declaring that the United States are “united by a compact under the style and title of a constitution for the United States, that to this compact, each State acceded, as a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming to itself the other party; that the government created by this compact, was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; but, that as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for himself, as well as of infractions as to mode and manner of redress.” And this doctrine was further developed by the mover of the resolutions, Mr John Breckenridge: said he, “I consider the co-States to be alone parties to the federal compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the power exercised under the compact-Congress being not a party, but merely the creature of the compact, and subject as to its assumption of power, to the final judgment of those by whom, and for whose use, itself and its powers were all created.” In another passage he says, “if upon the representation of the States from whom they derive their powers, they should nevertheless attempt to enforce them, I hesitate not to declare it as my opinion, that it is then the right and duty of the several States, to nullify those acts, and protect their citizens from their operation."
To this doctrine, since disclaimed by Kentucky, in a clear and formal declaration,|| William Murray, of Franklin, alone offered a steady opposition, and took the ground since occupied by Mr.
Ante p. 295. + Dillon i. 421. Burnet in Ohio Historical Transactions, part 2, vol. i. p. 70. Butler 285 to 287.
In 1838. See Butler, 289.
1799. North-Western Legislature organized.
467 Webster with so great power; but he argued in vain, the Senate unanimously passed the resolutions, the House acted with almost equal unanimity, and the Governor gave them his approbation."
A change in the Penal Code of Kentucky took place during 1798, by which the punishment of death was confined to the crime of murder; and for all others the penitentiary system was substituted.
The election of representatives for the Northwest Territory having taken place, they met at Cincinnati upon the 4th of the ensuing February, to nominate persons from whom the members of the Legislative Assembly were, according to the Ordinance, to be selected. This nomination being made, the assembly adjourned until the 16th of the following September. From those named, the President selected as the members of the Council, Henry Vandenburg of Vincennes, Robert Oliver of Marietta, James Findlay and Jacob Burnet of Cincinnati, and David Vance of Vanceville. From the letters of Jacob Burnet, the first lawmaker and true ruler of this Northwest Territory, we extract the following account of the earliest popular proceedings in the region wherein Freedom first fairly tried her powers.
On the 16th of September, 1799, both branches of the legislature assembled at Cincinnati, and organized for business. The Governor met the two houses in the representatives' chamber, and in a very elegant address, recommended such measures as he thought were suited to the condition of the country, and would advance the safety and prosperity of the people. The legislative body continued in session till the 19th of December, when having finished their business, the governor
Butler, 285, &c. See the Virginia resolutions, the alien and sedition laws, the debate in Virginia, the resolutions of other States, and Madison's ® Vindication,” in a volume published at Richmond, by Robert I. Smith, in 1832. See also North American Review, vol. 31, (Oct. 1830.) This is a very full and able paper.—Marshall, ü. 254, &c. 317. + Butler, 281. Marshall, ii. 238.
They did not organize until the 24th; Mr. Burnet alone appearing on behalf of the council on the 16th, and but four representatives, Messrs. Goforth, McMillan, Smith and Ludlow. (Chase's Sketch, 28.)
468 W. H. Harrison chosen Delegate from N. W. Terr'y. 1799.. prorogued them, at their request, till the first Monday in November, This being the first session, it was necessarily a very laborious one. The transition from a colonial to a semi-independent government, called for a general revision, as well as a considerable enlargement of the statute-book. Some of the adopted laws were repealed, many others altered and amended, and a long list of new ones added to the code. New offices were to be created and filled the duties attached to them prescribed, and a plan of ways and means devised, to meet the increased expenditures, occasioned by the change which had just taken place. As the number of members in eaeh branch was small, and a large portion of them either unprepared or indisposed to partake largely of the labors of the session, the pressure fell on the shoulders of a few. Although the branch to which I belonged, was composed of sensible, strong-minded men, yet they were unaccustomed to the duties of their new station, and not conversant with the science of law. The consequence was, that they relied chiefly and almost entirely on me, to draft and prepare the bills and other documents, which origi. nated in the council, as will appear by referring to the journal of the session. One of the important duties which devolved on the legislature was the election of a delegate to represent the territory in Congress. As soon as the governor's proclamation made its appearance, the election of a person to fill that station excited general attention. Before the meeting of the legislature, public opinion had settled down on William Henry Harrison, and Arthur St. Clair, jun., who were eventually the only candidates. On the 3d of October, the two houses met in the representatives' chamber, according to a joint resolution, and proceeded to the election. The ballots being taken and counted, it appeared that William Henry Harrison had eleven votes, and Arthur St. Clair, jun., ten votes ; the former was therefore declared to be duly elected. The legislature, by joint resolution, prescribed the form of a certificate of his election; having received that certificate, he resigned the office of Secrectary of the territory - proceeded forthwith to Philadelphia, and took his seat, Congress being then in session. Though he represented the territory but one year, he obtained some important advantages for his constituents. He introduced a resolution to subdivide the surveys of the public lands, and to offer them for sale in small tracts — he succeeded in getting that measure through both houses, in opposition to the interest of speculators who were, and who wished to be, the retailers of land to the poorer classes of the community.* His proposition became
* From a circular by Harrison to the people of the territory, dated May 14, 1800, we quote in relation to this matter the following passage :
« Amongst the variety of objects which engaged my attention, as peculiarly interesting to our territory, none appeared to me of so much importance as the adoption of a system for the sale of the public lands, which would give more favorable terms to that class of
First laws of the Legislature.
a law, and was hailed as the most beneficent act that Congress had ever done for the territory. It put it in the power of every industrious man, however poor, to become a freeholder, and to lay a foundation for the future support, and comfort of his family. At the same session, he obtained a liberal extension of time for the pre-emptioners in the northern part of the Miami purchase, which enabled them to secure their farms, and eventually to become independent, and even wealthy.t
To these paragraphs by our first law-maker, may be properly added the following from Mr. Chase, the first collector of our Northwestern statutes.
The whole number of acts passed and approved by the governor was thirty-seven. Of these, the most important related to the militia, to the administration of justice, and to taxation. Provision was made for the efficient organization and discipline of the military force of the territory; justices of the peace were authorised to hear and determine all actions upon the case, except trover, and all actions of debt, except upon bonds for the performance of covenants, without limitation as to the amount in controversy ; and a regular system of taxation was established. The tax for territorial purposes, was levied upon lands: that for county purposes, upon persons, personal property, and houses and lots.
purchasers who are likely to become actual settlers, than was offered by the existing laws upon that subject; conformably to this idea, I procured the passage of a resolution at an early period for the appointment of a committee to take the matter into consideration. And shortly after I reported a bill containing terms for the purchaser, as favorable as could have been expected. This bill was adopted by the house of representatives without any material alteration; but, in the senate amendments were introduced, obliging the purchaser to pay interest on that part of the money for which a credit was given from the date of the purchase, and directing that one half the land (instead of the whole, as was provided by the bill from the house of representatives,) should be sold in half sections of three hundred and twenty acres, and the other half in whole sections of six hundred and forty acres. All my exertions, aided by some of the ablest members of the lower house, at a conference for that purpose, were not sufficient to induce the senate to recede from their amendments; but, upon the whole, their is cause of congratulation to my fellow citizens that terms as favorable as the bill still contains, have been procured. This law promises to be the foundation of a great increase of population and wealth to our country; for although the minimum price of the land is still fixed at two dollars per acre, the time for making payments has been so extended as to put it in the power of every industrious man to comply with them, it being only necessary to pay one-fourth part of the money in hand, and the balance at the end of two, three, and four years ; besides this, the odious circumstance of forfeiture, which was made the penalty of failing in the payments under the old law, is entirely abolished, and the purchaser is allowed one year after the last payment is due to collect the money; if the land is not then paid for, it is sold, and, after the public have been reimbursed, the balance of the money is returned to the purchaser. Four land-offices are directed to be opened-one at Cincinnati, one at Chillicothe, one at Marietta, and one at Steubenville, for the sale of the lands in the neighborhood of those places.” (Life of Harrison, by Todd and Drake, p. 20.)
+ Historical Transactions of Ohio, i. 71.