« AnteriorContinuar »
To the Hon. John M. CLAYTON,
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee
of the Senate of the United States : Sir: The Judiciary Committee of the Senate of the United States have before theni a bill to define and settle the northern boundary line of the State of Ohio, together with a joint resolution, giving the assent of Congress to the northern boundary of that State, as proposed and described in the proviso to the sixth section of the seventh article of the constitution of Ohio.
The committee have kindly intimated their willingness to receive from us, the Senators and Representative elect from Michigan, a written exposition of our views, touching the subject matter of the bill and joint resolution which they have under consideration. They have indicated no desire to restrict the range of discussion invited by the important interests involved in these papers, but an obliging readiness to listen to all the facts and arguments, as well against, as for, the claims set forth in the bill and resolution, in behalf of the State of Ohio. If the people of that State alone were interested in this subject; if the passage of the bill or resolution would extend their already wide domain, without materially and injuriously reducing that of the people of Michigan ; if it would enhance the prosperity of 'Ohio, without essentially checking and depressing that of Michigan, we should be found among the last of the citizens of this Union to interpose any obstacle to the accomplishment of the object in view. The people of Michigan cherish no unfriendly feelings towards their fellow-citizens of the State of Ohio. They hail them as brethren of the same great social and political family. They see with satisfaction their rapid progress in population and wealth, the unsurpassed development of their resources, and their brilliant march on the mountain wave of prosperity.
But the measure under consideration proposes to take from Michigan a fertile and extensive tract of territory, of which, by the laws of the United States, she has been in possession for more than thirty years. It proposes to deprive her of the only port and harbor which she has, or can have, immediateiy upon Lake Erie. It threatens to tear from her diadem the brightest jewel which adorns it, and to plant it in that of a sister State, already studded with gems of the bighest value and the richest hues. The representatives of the people and inchoate State of Michigan would, therefore, be recreant to the trust reposed in them, if they' did not exert all their faculties to preserve and secure the valuable heritage in contestation ; if they did not, step by step, resist every effort to devest them of it. They earnestly entreat the patient and impartial attention of the committee to the statement, which they are about to submit, of the case of Michigan. They feel assured that this favor will not
be denied, when the character of the controversy is taken into consideration; when it is recollected that a great and powerful State, witli twenty-one votes, on the floor of Congress, is arrayed against a State just called into existence; without a vote; without influence; without even the privilege of appearing, by her delegates, before the body which may finally decide upon the merits of her claims.
The people of Michigan still contend, as they have always maintained, that they have a vested right to all that part of the Northwestern Territory “which lies north of a line drawn east from the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan until it shall intersect Lake Erie, and west of a line drawn from the said southerly bend through the middle of said lake to its northern extremity, and thence due north to the northern boundary of the United States. These are the boundaries, and this the territory, given to them by the act of Congress, passed thirty-one years ago, establishing the Territorial Government of Michigan. As soon as that Territory was thus established, the people within the limits prescribed to it, as soon as they amounted to sixty thousand free inhabitants, became entitled to the right to form a permanent constitution and State Government, and to admission, by their delegates, into the Congress of the United States. All the legislation of Congress having any relation to the subject, except the act for the admission of Indiana into the Union as a State, has been based upon the territorial limits, and the civil and political rights, pledged to the people of Michigan, in the law constituting for them a separate Territorial Government. The day upon which that law was approved by the President of the United States, the people, within the limits set forth and established in it, acquired the right, of which no human tribunal could rightfully devest them, without their own consent, whenever they attained, within those boundaries, the population designated by the ordinance, to become a State, to form a State Government, and to be admitted as such into the Union. If Congress, after thus pledging the national faith to the people of Michigan, could reduce their Territory six hundred and fifty square miles on its southern border, they could, with equal legality, take from them twenty or thirty thousand square miles; and thus postpone, to an indefinite period, the fruition of their right to self-government, and of admission into the American Union as a free, sovereign, and independent State. By a course of this kind, by the exercise of the discretionary power claimed for them, at this time, for a special reason, Congress would indirectly do that which it is not pretended they could directly do, without a violation of the ordinance and the constitutional rights of a considerable portion of the American people. They could, by reducing from time to time the limits of the territory of the people of Michigan, prevent their attainment of a population of sixty thousand free inhabitants, and thus prevent the extension to them “of the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty, which form the basis whereon these republics, their laws and constitutions, are erected,” as well as “their admission to a share in the federal councils, on an equal footing with the original States."
The people of Michigan conceive, and the greater number of them migrated to that Territory under the implicit belief, that, by the act establishing its territorial Government, and defining its boundaries, Congress finally determined, under the authority conferred in the ordinance, to
form one or two States north of a line drawn east and west through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan. They believe that in that act the national faith was pledged to preserve the integrity of the territorial limits therein assigned to them. They believe that before the passage of that act, in the law which authorized the people of Ohio to form a constitution and State Government, Congress gave an unequivocal indication of their intention to limit the northern boundary of that State to an east line from the southern bend of Lake Michigan. This was in strict accordance with the ordinance. But the first section of the bill before the committee proposes to give to the State of Ohio a territory about six hundred and fifty square miles in extent, which, for the past thirty years, has been under the temporary government of Michigan, and which is now under the jurisdiction of her permanent government. It is due to the occasion, that the question in relation to the contemplated transfer, so injurious to the rights and interests of Michigan, should receive a careful examination; that those who are to decide it should consider well the arguments, and make up their judgments uninfluenced by considerations of political expediency, and unmoved by calculations of comparative political influence. This is all that the people of the State of Michigan can ask; and it is no more than they have a constitutional right to expect. If the bill before the committee does injustice to one of the parties affected by it; if it involves a violation of right, and is calculated to produce a deeprooted and permanent feeling of dissatisfaction among an intelligent, enterprising, and patriotic portion of the American people, it is hoped that, for the sake of the public faith, and the honor of the country, it will be modified in all its objectionable features; that it will be modified so as to leave out of view every thing in relation to the settlement of the boundaries of Indiaua, Illinois, and Alabama. There is, apparently, no necessity for settling, by one act, the boundaries of four different States. It will introduce a bad precedent into American legislation, which, if followed, may effect objects wrong in themselves; measures which could not be accomplished without such extraneous aids; and it may lead to consequences to be deplored by every friend of the Union. Ohio has sufficient vantage ground in this controversy in the numerical strength of her own delegation, in the ramifications of her power through every department of the Government, and throughout every section of the country, without presenting interested inducements to other States to volunteer their good-will and services in her behalf. Michigan has no cause of disagreement with Illinois or Alabama ; and none with Indiana that cannot be adjusted by Congress.
It has been said that Michigan has no interest in this question, and, therefore, it is not for her to complain of any course that may be taken, or of any decision that may be made. This is taking for granted what remains to be proved. Michigan claims to have important rights involved in this controversy, and of a character that cannot be constitutionally infringed without her consent; she claims, also, the privilege of an honorable and candid hearing before the only tribunal to which she has as yet been allowed to appeal. This privilege is secured by a constitutional guaranty to the humblest citizen of the republic; and, changed, indeed, must be the character of the American people, and the nature and operation of our institutions, if what is guarantied to an individual cannot be enjoyed by
a hundred and fifty thousand free inhabitants of a State claiming to be independent; claiming to have all the prerequisites necessary for admission, “by its delegates, into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footingwith the original States in all respects whatever.” Such a claim may be treated with neglect, but, we should hope, not by those whose hearts are animated by the spirit which gave to our whole country its political inheritance, and secured to us all the blessing of republican institutions.
It has been said that, under the act of Congress authorizing the people of the eastern division of the Northwestern Territory “to form a constitution and State government,” the convention met and formed the constitution of Ohio, but “accepted” the northern boundary of the State prescribed by Congress, with a proviso that, if that boundary “should” not intersect Lake Erie, or if it should intersect the said lake east of the Miami of the lakes, then, and in that case, with the assent of Congress, the northern boundary of the State shall be established by, and extend to, a line running from the southerly extremity of Lake Michigan to the most northerly cape of the Miami bay; thence, northeast, to the territorial line, and, by the said territorial line, to the Pennsylvania line.” The incorporation of this proviso into the constitution of Ohio, and the proper disregard paid to it by the United States for upwards of thirty years, have been the cause of all the difficulties between that State and Michigan. That Ohio has no right to the territory covered by this proviso is evident from the very act which gave her an independent political existence. By the first section of that act, “the inhabitants of the eastern division of the Territory northwest of the river Ohio” were authorized to form a constitution and State government, and to assume a name; and such State, when formed, was to be admitted. into the Union. The second section of the act declares, “ that the said STATE shall consist,” not of the whole eastern State of the ordinance, nor of what was called the eastern division of the Territory northwest of the river Ohio, but “ of all the Territory” embraced in the country “bounded on the east by the Pennsylvania line, on the south by the Ohio river, to the mouth of the Great Miami river, on the west by the line drawn due north from the mouth of the Great Miami aforesaid, and on the north by an east and west line drawn through the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan; running east, after intersecting the due north line aforesaid from the Great Miami, until it shall intersect Lake Erie, or the Territorial line, and thence, with the same, through Lake Erie to the Pennsylvania line aforesaid."
Within these boundaries, a convention of the people had authority to form a constitution and State government, and to assume for the State such name as they might deem proper. Nothing in the act leaves any discretion to the convention in relation to boundaries. On the north there was a prohibition by the words of the act itself. The third section of the act provides, that all that part of the territory of the United States northwest of the river Ohio, heretofore included in the eastern division of said Territory, and not included within the boundary herein prescribed for the said State, is hereby attached to, and made a part of, the Indiana Territory, from and after the formation of the said State ; subject, nevertheless, to be disposed of by Congress, according to the right reserved in the fifth article of the ordinance" of 1787. The convention, therefore, had not the