Arthur St. Clair: Roadblock to Statehood

By Charlie Zimkus

If Northwest Territory Gov. Arthur St. Clair had had his way, Lebanon would be in Indiana.

St. Clair, a former Revolutionary War soldier, was popular when he first became governor in 1788, but 14 years later it was clear that he opposed statehood.

In 1802 — in an effort to maintain power — St. Clair proposed that the Ohio territory be divided in two along the Scioto River, making it impossible to meet the 60,000 population requirement needed for part of the Northwest Territory to become a state. He had opposed the formation of a territorial legislature and Ohio’s constitutional convention, which was meeting in Chillicothe in November 1802.

During the final session of the convention, a mob assembled to loudly protest St. Clair’s proposed boundaries for Ohio. The next day, three delegates — Lebanon teacher Francis Dunlavy, future Ohio governor Jeremiah Morrow and Edward Foster — were meeting when St. Clair burst into the room. St. Clair bluntly complained about the mob’s actions and listed the problems with the United States’ democratic system, stating that it would not last. He recommended that the U.S. adopt a stronger government like that of England, which he said was a model to all.

After St. Clair left the room, Dunlavy transcribed the governor's outburst. After the three men signed the document in fron of a justice of the peace, Dunlavy sent it to President Thomas Jefferson.

On November 22, word came from Washington that Jefferson was dismissing St. Clair and appointing Charles William Byrd of Hamilton acting governor.

Weeks later, Ohio achieved statehood.

As for St. Clair, he lived near poverty for the next few years in Ligonier, Pa., selling supplies on the roadside to travelers. At age 84, on a trip to Youngstown, St. Clair died after being thrown from his wagon.

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Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory