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“ Resolved, That the Committee on the Territories be instructed to inquire into the expediency of giving the assent of Congress to the provisions of the sixth section of the seventh article of the constitution of Ohio relative to the boundary line between the State of Ohio and the Territory of Michigan." (Journal of the House of Representatives, 1st Session, 20th Congress, p. 124.)
The above resolution, like several others before noticed, certainly implies a belief that the provisions of the sixth section of the seventh article of the constitution of the State of Ohio had never received the assent of Con. gress; and that such is the fact, is believed now to have been fully shown in the foregoing view of all the legislation of Congress on this subject.
Against so many positive laws, and the uniform and invariable bearing of so long a course of legislation, it will hardly be seriously contended that the State of Ohio can have any legal right whatever to any portion of country north of a line drawn due east from the southern extreme of Lake Michigan. And here the Territory of Michigan might safely rest her case, confident that Congress never has assented, and in the full belief that, in opposition to so many of their own acts, that body never will assent to an enlargement of the boundaries of Onio.
Even supposing the Territory had no rights involved in this case, and that Congress could divide and dispose of the country within her limits as they might deem expedient, still Michigan might safely rely upon obviously just considerations of national policy, to prevent the extension and aggrandizement, at her expense, of a State already so gigantic and powerful as to threaten to overshadow and subject the whole West to her dominion and control.
That State, it is obvious, should not receive from Michigan a particle of territory more than is strictly and legally her due; when all that is given her, if taken from Michigan, must tend to make the weak weaker, and the strong stronger. But Michigan has rights involved in the settlement of this question, as has been shown already, and as will more clearly appear, by a further and fuller consideration of the ordinance of Con. gress of the 13th July, 1787, the articles of which are in the ordinance itself declared to be . articles of compact between the original States and the people and States in the territory northwest of the river Ohio, and forever to remain unalterable unless by common consent."
This ordinance having been ratified by the State of Virginia, the grant of the whole Northwestern Territory to the United States was, and is now, as unalterable as the federal constitution, and by it the people of Michigan most solemnly believe and declare that their southern boundary is a line drawn due east and west through the southern extreme of Lake Mi. chigan ; and that whenever there may be 60,000 free inhabitants north of said line, they believe they have a right to be admitted into the Union as a sovereign and independent State, on the same footing with the original States in all respects whatever.
The provisions of the fifth article of the ordinance in relation to this line, as well as all the lines therein described, are so plain, that it is believed nothing now prevents its universal recognition as the southern boundary of Michigan, but two different acts of Congress at variance therewith, which were passed, without sufficient examination, at a time when Michigan was not represented in Congress. The two acts alluded
to are those admitting the States of Indiana and Illinois into the Union, with boundaries extending north of this east and west line ; which acts the people of Michigan fully believe never would have passed, had they been represented, or had the attention of Congress been directed particularly to the provisions of the ordinance aforesaid.
It is reported, on the best authority, that, at the time of the admission of Illinois, Nathaniel Pope, the Delegate from that Territory, himself acknowledged that he owed the success of his experiment in claiming north of this line, to the circumstance that no one telt interest enough to look into the matter and oppose him.
This statement is much strengthened by the fact that he was made chairman of the select committee to whom the subject of the admission of Illinois was referred, and had thus an opportunity to give such a direction to the deliberations of the committee, in a matter which then seemed principally to concern his constituents, as to prevent a strict inquiry into the provisions of the ordinance. A bill authorizing the State to form a constitution and State Government was presented by the chairman of the committee, but no other report was made to the House ; not a word was said about the boundaries described in the ordinance ; and from all that can be gathered from the journals of both Houses, the bill, so far as relates to boundaries, seems to have passed with but very little attention from any quarter, excepting from the quarter where all were interested in preventing examination. (Jour. H. R. 1st Session, 15th Congress, pp. 174, 423, 428, 461, 466, 476, 492.)
These remarks will also apply, with great force and propriety, to the legislation of Congress authorizing the State of Indiana to form a constitution and State Government in 1816, two years previous to the admission of Illinois into the Union.
Jonathan Jennings, then Delegate from the Territory of Indiana, was made chairman of the select committee to whom the subject of the ad. mission of that State into the Union was referred ; and being thus placed in a situation to exert a controlling influence, the committee seem to have paid about as much attention to the rights involved in the question which they were then considering, as was afterward given to similar rights, on the admission of Illinois, before spoken of. It is true that, on the 5th January, 1816, Mr. Jennings made a short report on the subject referred to the committee ; but in that report the boundary described in the proviso of the fifth article of the ordinance of 1787 is kept wholly out of view, and not even alluded to. (House Journal, 1st Session, 14th Congress, p. 128, and Rep. of same session, No. 21.)
The chairman, who doubtless wrote the report which he submitted to the House, seems to have been conscious that even to name this proviso of the ordinance would call too much attention to it, to suit the interests of Indiana, and therefore the whole subject was studiously avoided, both by Mr. Jennings in this case, and by Mr. Pope at the time of the admission of Illinois.
There were but five members on the committee in either of these cases, any three of whom would, of course, form a majority for the transaction of business; and, as the chairmen were the only persons who, it can be presumed, felt any particular interest in the subject before them, it is not to be wondered at that every thing which would have a tendency to ope
rate against their views and wishes should have been passed over in silence. Nor is it at all surprising that laws, conflicting with the ordi. nance, should have been passed by Congress, when it is considered that the country north of the aforesaid east and west line was not represented in that body. So soon after the unfavorable report of the surveyors, sent out from Ohio to locate military bounty land, it was thought to be so poor, cold, and inhospitable, that it never would be formed into States ; and, consequently, that the establishınent of the northern boundary of the aforementioned States was a matter of very little importance.
Even had the provisions of the ordinance been well considered, and the east and west line running through the southern extreme of Lake Michigan acknowledged to be the true division intended by the proviso in the fifth article, it is doubtful whether the members of Congress would, under the circumstances, have opposed the wishes of Indiana and Illinois, knowing, as they must, that, whenever a State should be formed north of those States, so much of the act which they were then passing, as might conflict with the aforesaid proviso, would be null and void.
This view is said to have been taken by some members at that time; but, from the organization of the committees, the report of Mr. Jennings, and all that appears in the journals of Congress relative to the passage of the acts admitting Indiana and Illinois into the Union, it seems evident that, in passing those acts, the provisions of the ordinance were kept out of view as much as possible.
And yet these acts, passed under such circumstances, and ex parte as they were, are now relied on as precedents, to settle the construction which Congress is, and of right ought, to place on that part of the ordinance which relates to the line or boundary now in question ! How far such reliance is just or proper, is respectfully submitted for the consideration of the committee.
To most persons, if not to all, it is believed the language of the ordinance itself, so far as relates to boundaries, is plainer and clearer than any comment or construction whatever can make it; and, on reading over the fifth article for the first time, probably ninety-nine persons out of every hundred would be at a loss to see what part of it is doubtful.
In answer to the question “What is to be the north boundary of Ohio, India ana, and Illinois, if Congress should form more than three States in the Northwest Territory?" they (the 99) would all agree that it is a line drawn east and west through the southern bend or extreme of Lake Michigan. This is the obvious meaning of the proviso; yet study and ingenuity, stimulated by interest, have, within a few years, found out that this is not at all the boundary which it was supposed to be, that it is merely a “descriptive boundary,” intended to be a limit for the people on one side, and a license for those on the other; or, in other words, that the one or two States, which Congress has authority to form in the Northwestern Territory, cannot extend south of this line, while the three States, already formed, may be extended north of it at pleasure.
The reasons are not very obvious for a provision so one-sided and unjust as this is; and that it was never intended, may be inferred from its unfairness and injustice, as well as from the following considerations, viz.
It will be observed that, in fixing the limits for each of the States, described in the fifth article of the ordinance, particular attention was paid
to natural boundaries, in all cases where it could be done with propriety; and conspicuous and well known places were selected for the corners of the States, on the Ohio river-places which might be regarded as starting points that would easily be known, and could never be mistaken in all future time. Such is the mouth of the Great Miami, the Wabash, and Post Vincent; and such, likewise, is the southern extreme of Lake Michigan, which was fixed on as the point through which the said east and west boundary line was to run ; because it was the most conspicuous, well known, and unchanging natural object to be found for many miles in that part of the Northwestern Territory. These are certainly very obvious reasons why that point should have been selected ; and they go to prove that the east and west line drawn through it is the true division line intended to be established by the proviso of the fifth article of the ordinance, in the event that Congress should deem it expedient to form more than three States northwest of the river Ohio.
This is the only construction that can be given to that proviso, without rendering it unfair and unjust ; and the only one free from some degree of absurdity. It has been asked, “ why did the proviso say Congress should have authority to form one or two States in that part of said territory, &c. instead of of that part, &c.” The reason is obvious. The whole fifth article is descriptive of boundaries within which States were to be formed; and it was therefore more natural to use the word “in” than “of” in describing those boundaries within which certain things were provided for.
If it had been intended only to point out the section of country, somewhere in which, or any where in which, Congress might form one or two States, as has been stated to the committee by the gentleman from Ohio, (Mr. Allen,) why was the southern extreme of Lake Michigan made a point in the description ? Why not have said, “ Congress may form one or two other States in the north part of said territory, whenever they may deem it expedient?" This would have been shorter and directly to the purpose, if the intention of Congress had been as contended for by Messrs. Vinton and Allen.
Is it reasonable to suppose that Congress would define, with so much precision, where an east and west line should run, and yet leave the State or States to be formed north of this line, without any definite boundary to separate them from the States south of them? It is impossible that such could have been the intention of the parties to the compact. The construction given by the delegation from Ohio is contrary to the obvious meaning of the language used, and repugnant to the leading characteristics of the whole description of the fifth article; which characteristics are precision, brevity, and a seizing upon prominent and well known natural objects, to fix the different important points in the boundaries described. It is also against all reasons drawn from a consideration of the state of the country, and of the great objects which the framers of the ordinance had in view. The leading motive for laying off and dividing the Northwestern Territory, as is done by the aforesaid fifth article of the ordinance, was to form the country into States, of such size, and with such boundaries, that they might each " become a speedy and sure accession of strength to the confederacy.” This grand object was avowed, in the very language just quoted, in the preamble to a resolution of Congress of the 7th of July, 1786, recommending to the State of Virginia so to alter her act of cession as to per
mit Congress to lay off not less than three nor more than five States in the territory northwest of the river Ohio. Now, if the States of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, can be extended north of the east and west line described in the ordinance, the one or two States which Congress have determined eventually to form north of said line, may be prevented coming into the Union for fifty years to come; and thus, so far as relates to two of the five States, the great object of the framers of the ordinance would be defeated.
By the conditions and terms of the cession of Virginia to the United States, on the 1st of March, 1784, the whole Northwestern Territory was to be laid off into States of not less than one hundred nor more than one hundred and fifty miles squared; but this mathematical division, it was found, would so cut to pieces the territory, that some of the States thus to be formed would not be able, for a long time, if ever, to enter the Union, and participate in the blessings, enjoyment, and advantages of our republican form of Government; and for this reason it was that Congress, on the 7th of July, 1786, passed a resolution recommending to the State of Virginia so to alter her deed of cession as to allow the territory to be laid off and formed into not less than three nor more than five States, view to their becoming members of the Federal Union.
As the journal of the proceedings of the old Congress, on the passage of this resolution, will throw some light on the division of the Northwestern Territory into States, with the boundaries as established unalterably by the ordinance which was passed about a year afterwards, all that part of them which can have any bearing upon the subject now under consideration is copied entire, as follows, viz.
“ FRIDAY, July 7, 1786. “ Congress took into consideration a report of a grand committee, to whom, among other things, was referred a motion of Mr. Monroe respecting the cessions of Western Territory, and forming the same into States; and the committee having submitted that it be
“ Resolved, That it be recommended to the Legislatures of Massachusetts and Virginia to take into consideration their acts of cession, and revise the same, so far as to empower the United States in Congress assembled to make such division into States of the ceded lands and terri. tory, as the situation of the country and future circumstances may require ; with this limitation and condition, however, that all the territory of the United States lying northwest of the river Ohio shall be formed into a number of States, not less than two, nor more than five, to be admitted into the confederacy on the principles and in the forms heretofore established and provided
“A motion was made by Mr. Grayson, seconded by Mr. Lee, (both of Virginia,) to postpone the consideration of the same, in order to take up the following:
“That it be recommended to the States of Virginia and Massachusetts so to alter their acts of cession, as that the States in the Western Territory may be bounded as follows: There shall be three States between the Ohio and a line running due east from the Mississippi to the eastern boundary of the United States, so as to touch the most southern part of Lake Michigan. The State lying on the Mississippi shall be separated from the middle State by a line running due north from the western side of the