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nately exists between the State of Ohio and this Territory, as it affects the people, who live between the line running due east from the south extreme of Lake Michigan, and that which is claimed from the north cape of Miami Bay, in a direction towards the same point.
It is understood that a new county has recently been organized by the authority of Ohio, comprehending the disputed country; that proceedings have been instituted there to levy taxes; and that every indication exists of a determi nation to enforce, contrary to the wishes of the people and to the interests of this Territory, the claimed jurisdiction of Ohio.
In this exigency my official interposition has been claimed; and painful as it may be to me, individually, to oppose myself to the views of Ohio, the State of my early adoption, it is yet with much satisfaction that it is to you, Sir, from whom I have so much of candor to expect, that I feel called upon to submit briefly my views of this interesting matter.
The claim of sovereignty over the district of country in question, which Ohio prefers, rests, I understand, upon the alleged acceptance by the General Government, of the constitution of Ohio; in which constitution is a clause, providing that in a certain event, with the assent of Congress, the northern boundary of that State, shall be as is now claimed by Ohio.
If such statement of the case be true, and if it were competent for the General Government "with the assent of Congress," to alter the previously established boundary, it may nevertheless be submitted to your Excellency, whether any other deduction be fairly inferrible from the premises, than that the General Government agreed with the people of Ohio that, if Congress should thereafter assent to it, the boundary in question might, at a time then future, be altered in the manner suggested by the framers of that constitution; and leaving it still for Congress to act specifically upon such a proposition, when it should thereafter be presented to them.
The strongest aspect in which the question can be fairly presented by those who would favor the pretensions of Ohio, is one in which Congrers may be supposed, by adopting the constitution, themselves to speak the language of it. What then may they be supposed to say, other than this, that we (the General Government) agree that in a certain event, the boundary line in question may be altered, provi
ded Congress shall agree to such alteration, whenever afterward such proposition shall be made. Such a deduction from the premises assumed, I beg leave to suggest as the true one. But there are other considerations and of a more general nature; and which would not be deemed the less applicable, if the alteration contended for had rested on words of positive import. The framers of that constitution were certainly incompetent to make any positive alteration in the boundaries previously defined. The act of Congress of the 3d April, 1802, which was the substratum of all their authority-which alone sustained the political fabric which they erected, expressly circumscribed them. In whatsoever respect they may have transcended their powers, in so far their acts must have been merely void. Nor could it have required an affirmative act of Congress to make them more so. Is it fair, then, to presume from the absolute silence of Congress concerning this subject, (whether the proposed alteration were, in its terms, absolute or merely conditional) that therefore they assented to the specific alteration, thus without previous authority exhibited in this fundamental law of the State? Had that constitution contained any other absurd or void proposition, as for example, had it proposed to extend the sovereign power of the State so far as to comprehend a part of Maine or Virginia, would such void act have acquired validity upon the admission of the State, because Congress should not have taken notice of such void proposition?
It will not have escaped the observation of your Excellency, that Congress have not by any positive legislative act, expressly avowed their assent to any part of the constitution of Ohio. Can such assent then be inferrible in regard to any proposition contained in it, except in regard to such as, by the constitution of the United States, it is imperatively made the duty of Congress to act upon, upon the admission into the Union of any new State? It may be conceded, that upon a view of the leading features of that constitution, Congress have assented to the proposition, that the Government of Ohio is republican, but that the rest of the principles contained in it, not requiring the sanction of Congress, must rest for their validity upon their own intrinsic and respective merits; otherwise, all responsibility for their moral and political correctness becomes shifted from the people of Ohio; the whole instrument becomes the act of Congress, and consequently cannot be altered but by the assent of that
body-a result which I feel confident your Excellency would reject.
It is made, by the constitution of the United States, the duty of Congress to guarantee to every new state a republican form of government, With a particular reference to this topic, I would admit the legal inference from the transaction to be, that Congress examined and were satisfied with the form of government adopted; they assented to it. But what legal necessity was imposed upon that body to examine further; to travel through all its detailed provisions dissenting from what they did not approve, judicially declaring null that which of itself had no validity, and approving and giving validity to that they might think morally and politically correct? And if no such legal necessity existed for the act, why is such examination and assent presumed?
A reference to the proceedings of Congress, however, will shew that the particular provision in the constitution of Ohio, to which allusion is made, did not pass totally unobserved. The constitution of Ohio was referred to a very respectable committee of the House of Representatives. That committee made a long report upon it, which, so far as it regarded the suggested contingent alteration of boundaries, was accepted by that body, and the sentiment contained in the report, and so accepted was, that as the suggested alteration was not submitted in the shape of a distinct proposition by any competent authority for approval or disapproval, it was not necessary nor expedient for Congress then to act upon it at all; thus expressly excluding the inference contended for by the authorities of Ohio. (See report of Com. 2d Session, 7th Con. page 327-346.)
And I beg leave further to solicit your Excellency's attention to the important fact, that the claim set up by Ohio is opposed by one uniform course of Congressional legislation, commencing with the Ordinance of 1787, and extending to a period long subsequent to the admission of the State of Ohio.
The Ordinance of Congress evidently contemplates a line due east from the south extreme of Lake Michigan, as the true and immutable boundary of the State, to be formed in the eastern division of the North-Western Territory. The Act of 1802 expressly establishes that as the boundary, and the Act of 1805, which was passed about two years after the admission of Ohio, expressly gives to this Territory
(then created) the same line, as its southern boundary, in that direction. The Act of 1812 again recognises the same line.
But were the claim of Michigan, for the reasons stated, less unequivocal, I should still feel obliged to propound to your Excellency the question, whether in reality it were competent for the General Government, without the assent of all parties in interest, to alter the boundary first contemplated by the Ordinance of 1787?
In regard to the old North-Western Territory, the United States voluntarily placed herself in the relation of a grantee under Virginia. Virginia in her cession deemed it expedient to annex conditions to her grant. The General Government necessarily and voluntarily took according to the form of the grant; and not being pleased with all those conditions, submitted her request to Virginia, that those conditions, so far as they related to the subdivision of the Territory into States, might be altered. Virginia assented to the request, and agreed to the boundaries as contemplated in the fifth of the permanent articles of the Ordinance; which fifth article, as well as the sanction provided for its fulfilment, it is considered, became incorporated with and forms a part of the original grant. That article, so assented to, leaves it in the discretion of Congress to create more than three States, and in the event of the election of Congress so to do, contemplates the establishment of the northern boundary of the eastern State to be the same which Michigan has always claimed. By the creation of the States already created, Congress have decided their election, their power in this regard is executed, and that body can no longer be authorised to vary the boundaries proposed in the Ordinance, except according to the principles contained in the Ordinance itself: i. e. by the common consent of the parties having interest in the subject matter of the articles of compact. The people of Michigan have never consented to such alteration, and they were excluded from all participation in the formation of the constitution of Ohio. Virginia has never consented to such alteration, yet the contract was made with her: and it is furthermore respectfully urged, that Congress have never intended expressly or impliedly to assent to it.
This subject, as your Excellency is doubtless advised, was stirred during the last session of Congress: a resolution recognising the survey actually made of the true boundary
line, in pursuance of the provisions of the act of 1812, was submitted to the consideration of one of the most intelligent and respectable of the standing committees of the House of Representatives, of which the Hon. Mr. Anderson, of Kentucky, was Chairman. That committee reported, it is believed by unanimous consent, in favor of the resolution, and consequently in affirmance of the pretensions of this Territory. Nothing prevented the formal and definite expression of the opinion of Congress on this topic, during that session, but the absolute want of time to act further upon it.
I have felt it to be my duty to present to your Excellency the view I have been able to take of the relative pretensions of Ohio and of Michigan, to the contested jurisdiction; and to call to the recollection of your Excellency, that the subject still continues sub judice, before the present Congress of the United States: and I now venture in this exigency, respectfully to request of your Excellency, such official and legal interposition on your part, as may best tend to restore harmony upon that frontier, and to prevent the manifold and rapidly accumulating evils, which are growing out of this prolonged and unhappy difference.
With much respect, I have the
most obedient Servant,
(Signed) WILLIAM WOODBRIDGE, Sec'ry, and at present Acting Governor of Michigan.
To His Excellency,
ETHAN A. BROWN, Esq.
Governor of the State of Ohio.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN TER. AUGUST 11th, 1820. SIR-I have the honor to enclose a copy of a letter I this day transmitted to Governor Brown, of Ohio. It relates to the contested boundary of this Territory. I am advised by the magistrates and others living on and near this contested tract of country, that serious difficulties are threatened there, from the apparent determination of the constituted authorities of Ohio to enforce their claims; much confusion has already occurred.
The Executive concerns of this Government having devolved upon me, in the absence of Gov. Cass, I could not feel justified in resisting the calls of that people for some official interference in their behalf. I have exhorted them