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Map of Ohio

In these years, Ohio changed from a virtually unpeopled frontier area within the Northwest Territory to the fourth most powerful state in federal elections. Its first significant elections were for the lower house of the Territorial Assembly in December 1798. Suffrage was restricted to adult males who owned fifty acres freehold (the most limited franchise in the nation), although Governor Arthur St. Clair extended the vote to those who owned town lots of comparable value. Voting took place viva voce at the county seat, under the supervision of men appointed by the governor, who also determined apportionment and could veto legislation and prorogue (postpone) and dissolve the Assembly. The upper house, the Council, was appointed by the president from a list of names drawn up by the house; Congress appointed the governor on the president's nomination. This authoritarian system was overthrown when Congress passed the Enabling Act of 1802, authorizing the calling of a convention elected virtually on the basis of manhood suffrage.

Ohio became a state in March 1803, operating under the constitution drafted in November 1802. That instrument gave little power or patronage, and no veto, to the governor, who was elected biennially. The all-powerful General Assembly was divided into two chambers: The House was elected annually by county constituencies, and the Senate was elected biennially, half the members each year, in districts made up of one or more counties. There were no property qualifications for membership in the Assembly. Every four years the state took a census of adult males and redistributed legislative seats, and congressional districts were reapportioned each decade immediately after Congress had reapportioned the federal House and electoral college. Beginning with the first presidential election in 1804, the electors were chosen by statewide popular vote. The right to vote was limited to white adult males who had been resident for one year and had paid a tax. However, because the state constitution defined compulsory work on the roads as a tax and all adult males between the ages of 18 and 55 were obliged to work on the roads (or buy a substitute), this amounted to a nearly all-inclusive franchise for white males. From the start, voting was by secret ballot, with ballots deposited in special locked boxes, and whereas under the territory, voters had had to travel to the few county seats to vote, people now voted at a central place in each of the rapidly multiplying townships.

This democratic electoral system produced elections that saw a surprising degree of partisan action and comparatively high—but fluctuating—voter involvement, especially after 1807 when the key elections began to coincide in even years. The Federalist predominance of the territorial period was overthrown in 1802—1803, and the then overwhelmingly dominant Democratic-Republican party soon divided along factional lines, notably over the role of the judiciary. In some parts of the state, the Federalist Party revived after 1807 but suffered a severe decline after 1816. As a consequence, nonpartisan elections became even more common, although old-party considerations operated in some local elections into the 1820s. In 1824 Ohio's first competitive election for the presidency saw turnout surge as voters began giving their allegiance to entirely new political formations.

<h3>Bibliography </h3> <ul> <li><title>Annual Report of the Secretary of the State to the Governor of the State of Ohio: including the statistical report to the general assembly for the year 1875. Colombus, OH: Nevins & Myers, State Printers, 1876. (Lists members of the General Assembly and their districts from the formation of the state)
  • Brown, Jeffrey P. and Andrew R. L. Cayton, eds. The Pursuit of Public Power: Political Culture in Ohio, 1787–1861. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1994.
  • Cayton, Andrew R. L. The Frontier State: Ideology and Politics in the Ohio Country. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1986.
  • Ohio Historical Society, Ohio Fundamental Documents Searchable Database,
  • Ratcliffe, Donald J. "Voter Turnout in Early Ohio," Journal of the Early Republic, 7 (1987): 223–251. Reprinted in New Perspectives on the Early Republic, ed. Ralph D. Gray and Michael A. Morrison. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994, pp. 269–297.
  • ________. "The Mystery of Ohio's Missing Presidential Election Returns, 1804–1848," Archival Issues: The Journal of the Midwest Archives Conference, 17(2)(1992): 137–144.
  • ________. Party Spirit in a Frontier Republic: Democratic Politics in Ohio, 1793–1821. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1998.
  • ________. The Politics of Long Division: The Birth of the Second Party System in Ohio, 1818–1828. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2000.
  • ________. "The Changing Political World of Thomas Worthington." in The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic, ed. Andrew R. L. Cayton and Stuart D. Hobbs. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005, pp. 36–61.
  • Utter, William T. The Frontier State, 1803–1825, 1943 reprint ed. Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1968), Vol. 2 of Carl Wittke, ed., A History of the State of Ohio, 6 vols. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1941–1944.

  • Clintonian

    The followers of DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828, Governor of New York 1817-1822, 1825-1828), the Clintonians had a life that outlived any other "candidate party" other than the "Jeffersonians" (Republicans) and "Jacksonians" (Democrats). The term first came to use in the 1806 State Assembly elections in New York. "Within New York Republicanism, factional battles developed - first between the Clintonians and Burrites, and then between the Clintonians and Lewisites. In each struggle, Clinton's foes allied with Federalists, and in each the banking power of the Clintonians, exercised through the Manhattan Company, appeared critical to success, emphasizing the ties between Clinton and 'opulent men.' In 1807, Clinton compensated for his increasing distance from the farmers and mechanics who made up the mass of New York voters by backing Daniel D. Tompkins, 'the farmer's boy,' for governor. This step created a Republican alternative to which New York City mechanics and upstate farmers might look for Republican leadership - and an alternative with whom Southerners might ally." (De Witt Clinton and the Rise of the People's Men. Craig Hanyan with Mary L. Hanyan. Montreal, 1996, McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 8) The term found widespread use outside of New York state during the presidential election of 1812 as Clinton became a fusion candidate, running against James Madison with the support of dissident Republicans and Federalists who had no firm candidate of their own. Clinton, after being forced from any political office in 1815, maintained a considerable amount of political power as the primary supporter of the Erie Canal. In 1824, "heading the ticket offered by the People's Movement, he won in an electoral triumph that captured the governorship and almost two-thirds of the state assembly . . . The People's men of New York State launched the earliest broad-based reform movement of the new republic and won control of a state that had one-sixth of the United States' male population. Beginning their effort soon after the introduction of a new state constitution in 1822, the reformers came to power pledged to democratize New York's political process. They accomplished their ends after administering a sharp defeat to the regular Republicans of the State." (Hanyan, p. 4).

    "During the campaign [of 1812], Clinton won support from Federalists who were discontented with the Madison administration's entry into a war with Britain that was bound to have devastating effects on the commerce of the United States; the country ought to have peace of adequate protection of its maritime trade." (Hanyan, p 9)

    "The Clinton-[New York Chief Justice]-Spencer alliance held together, but over the next three years the tenuous peace within the New York Republican Party dissolved. Two elements fully emerged, each hoping to dominate the politics of New York in the name of true republicanism. Martin Van Buren stood out as the leader of a "Bucktail" opposition that increasingly emphasized the virtue of party regularity, while the Clintonians increasingly emphasized the iniquity of party as a potential vessel of conspiracy and oppression that would enhance the power of government at the expense of social harmony. (fn: Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1850, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969, 219-23)" (Hanyan, p 10)

    Additional Sources:

    • The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy: New York as a Test Case. Lee Benson. Atheneum. New York. 1967.
    • De Witt Clinton and the Rise of the People's Men. Craig Hanyan with Mary L. Hanyan. McGill-Queen's University Press. Montreal and Kingston. 1996.
    • The Birth of Empire: DeWitt Clinton and the American Experience, 1769-1828. Evan Cornog. New York, Oxford University Press, 1998.