|The 6th President|
|Arthur ST. CLAIR|
Scottish Born US President.
By Stanley L. Klos
ST. CLAIR, Arthur,
soldier, born in Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, March 23, 1734; died in
Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 31 August 1818. There is much debate over President
St. Clair's Lineage. Laurel Fechner, Historian Clan Sinclair USA, for instance
maintains that St. Clair's actual name in Scotland was Sinclair (clarified
by clicking here).
Arthur St. Clair's story is one of unusual contrasts, enjoying a great family inheritance and then ending his life in desolate poverty; crossing the Delaware with Washington to capture Trenton while loosing Fort Ticonderoga under his own command in 1777; presiding as President of the United States in the Congress Assembled that produced the US Constitution and Northwest Ordinance only to be removed by Thomas Jefferson as Northwest Governor for opposing Ohio Statehood.
St. Clair attended the University of Edinburgh and studied medicine serving part of an apprenticeship with the renowned anatomist, William Hunter. On May 13, 1757, St. Clair changed his career plans and purchased a commission as ensign in the 60th Regiment. He came to America with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet. St. Clair served under Gen Jeffrey Amherst at the capture of Louisburg, 26 July 1758. For this and other services he received a lieutenant's commission on April 17, 1759 and was assigned to the command of Gen. James Wolfe. At the Battle of the Plains which decided the fate of French in America St. Clair took a notable part:
"Then came the fatal struggle on the plains during which Lieutenant St. Clair seized the colors, which had fallen from the hand of a dying soldier, and bore them until the field was won by the British."
One year later on duty in Boston, St. Clair married
Bayard in May of 1760 at the Trinity Episcopal Church. Phoebe was the
daughter of , Balthazar Bayard & Mary Bowdoin whose grandfather was James
Bowdoin of Boston. In 1762 he resigned his commission and moved to Bedford
Pennsylvania to survey land for the
Penn's. By 1764 the
couple decided to settle permanently in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania. St. Clair
purchased land and erected mills becoming the largest landowner in western
Pennsylvania and a quite prominent British subject.
In 1770 he was made surveyor of the District of Cumberland and subsequently held positions as a justice of the court of quarter sessions and of common pleas, a member of the proprietary council, a justice, recorder, clerk of the orphans' court, and prothonotary of Bedford and Westmoreland counties. His most memorable role in Colonial Western Pennsylvania occurred in 1774.
Virginia, who since the 1750's claimed the Fort Pitt territory, decided to repossess Pittsburgh. Dr. John Connolly, a native Pennsylvanian,
"... appeared on the ground, and having the authority and blessings of Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, took possession of Fort Pitt."
The Fort had recently been abandoned by the British government, and upon
Connolly’s seizure it was renamed Fort Dunmore. At the Fort, in his official
role of Captain Commandant of the Virginia Militia, he issued a proclamation,
calling on the people of Western Pennsylvania to meet him, as a militia, on the
25th of January, 1774 and join the Western Pennsylvania secession to Virginia.
Arthur St. Clair, as the Westmoreland County Magistrate, was appalled by this action and issued a warrant against John Connolly . Magistrate St. Clair, in the name of the King, committed Connolly to jail at Hannastown, the seat of justice of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.
Outraged by this brazen action Lord Dumore, asserting the claims of Virginia, insisted that Magistrate St. Clair should be punished for arresting his agent by dismissal from office. Governor Penn declined to remove St. Clair, who, he maintained was a loyal magistrate and was duty bound to take legal notice and action against Mr. Connolly.
“Mr. St. Clair is a gentleman, who for a long time had the honor of serving his majesty in the regulars with reputation, and in every station of life has preserved the character of a very honest, worthy man; and though, perhaps, I should not, without first expostulating with you on the subject, have directed him to take that step, yet you must excuse my not complying with your Lordship's re1cttisition of stripping hire, on this occasion, of his offices and livelihood, which you will allow me to think not only unreasonable, but somewhat dictatorial."
Counter arrests and much correspondence followed, but the controversy was soon obscured by the stirring events of "Lord Dunmore's War". After this had ended, strife returned, Connolly was again arrested; but a counter arrest of three of the Pennsylvania justices caused his release. St Clair in an attempt to thwart further rebel action by Connolly raised 100 militia to protect Pennsylvania's claims and their presence maintained a balance of power in the area until the Revolutionary War. The boundary troubles between Virginia, Pennsylvania, and later Maryland were finally settled in Pennsylvania's favor while Arthur St. Clair was commissioned in the Revolutionary War.
On the 3rd of January, 1776, St. Clair was commissioned colonel of the 2d Pennsylvania regiment. He was ordered to join General John Sullivan in Canada after the disastrous affair at Three Rivers. Primarily through St. Clair's counsel Gen. Sullivan was able to save the army from capture. For that service St. Clair was appointed brigadier-general on August 9th, 1776.
Joining General Washington's command in November 1776, St, Clair was ordered to organize the New Jersey militia and together with General Sullivan they raised over 2000 new troops to support the Revolution. He and Sullivan joined Washington's beleaguered 400 troops in Pennsylvania and prepared for the Delaware Crossing. On Christmas night 1776 St. Clair's Continental troops, now under Washington's command, crossed into New Jersey and attacked the Hessians in Trenton at dawn on the 26th. Twenty-two Hessians were killed, 84 wounded and 918 taken prisoner.
After the Battle of Trenton, General Cornwallis mustered his troops to attack the Continental Army. Washington was unable to hold his ground and retreated to St. Clair's position along the Assunpink Creek, in what is now Mercer County in NJ. At nightfall Cornwallis called off the attack and the Continental Army was spared what should have been a swift defeat.
Washington called a council of war on January 2, 1777 and suggested a retreat across the Delaware River. St. Clair maintained that Cornwallis was probably expecting such a retreat route and recommended to the council a movement North towards Princeton, Brunswick and then the hills of Morristown. This night "retreat" was quickly adopted by Washington and the Council and culminated in the Victory at Princeton the following day. Not only did St. Clair direct the details of the march but also his own brigade marched at the head of the advancing army. British losses were estimated at 400 to 600 killed, wounded or taken prisoner and Cornwallis was forced to withdraw into Northern NJ.
Promoted to major-general for his role in the victories of Trenton and Princeton, Congress wasted no time in testing St. Clair's military capabilities. His next call to action was not by Washington but by a Congressional order through President John Hancock who ordered him to defend Fort Ticonderoga. This upstate New York Fort was built to control the strategic route between the St. Lawrence River in Canada and the Hudson River to the south. Overlooking the outlet of Lake George into Lake Champlain, it was considered a key to the continent. The fort was used in the French and Indian War and largely abandoned after that, but the British had military stores there at the beginning of the Revolution.
In 1775, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold (who, in 1777, was livid over Congress passing over him and promoting St. Clair to major-general) surprised the British and captured the fort. The cannons and armaments of Ticonderoga were used in the siege of Boston which drove the British out of Massachusetts. The fort was garrisoned with 12,000 troops to counter any invading force coming into America from Canada.
In 1776, however, with Washington’s military losses many troops deserted Ticonderoga while others were moved to more pressing posts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. By the spring of 1777 the Fort had fallen in disrepair with only a handful of troops protecting the northern passage When it became clear that the British under General Burgoyne were marching south to retake the fort, Congress quickly ordered Major Gen. Arthur St. Clair to command and defend Fort Ticonderoga, by this very letter:
Philadelphia, April 30,
The Congress having received intelligence of the approach of the enemy towards Ticonderoga have thought proper to direct you to repair thither without delay. I have it therefore in charge to transmit the enclosed resolve [not present] and to direct that you immediately set out on the receipt hereof.
John Hancock, Presidt.
To: Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair. - Click Here to view letter
St. Clair arrived in early June and set about preparations for defense.
However desirous Congress was of retaining the Fort, St. Clair was only spared some 2,500 men and scarce provisions to hold Ticonderoga which required a minimum garrison of 10,000 men to check the British advance. Burgoyne's army consisted of 8,000 British regulars and 2,500 auxiliary troops. The regular troops, both German and English, were superbly trained and equipped, and their officers were selected with especial care. Generals Phillips and Fraser were regarded as among the best officers in the British service.
St. Clair's force was too small to cover all exposed points, and, as he had not discovered Burgoyne's designs, he neglected to fortify Sugar Loaf Mountain over which the British approached. Additionally when the British arrived they placed artillery batteries atop nearby Mount Defiance, and were soon capable of bombarding the fort without fear of retaliation by the Americans.
St. Clair and his officers held a council of war, and decided to evacuate the fort. Matthias Alexis Roche de Fermoy who was placed in command of Fort Independence, opposite Fort Ticonderoga, by orders of Congress, and against the protest of Washington made a grave military error that almost caused St. Clair the loss of a large number of his forces. Upon the retreat of St. Clair from Ticonderoga, Fermoy, against the orders, set fire to his quarters on Mount Independence at two o'clock on the morning of 6 July 1777 thus revealing to Burgoyne St. Clair's evacuation of Ticonderoga. Had it not been for this, St. Clair would have made good his retreat.
St. Clair fled through the woods, leaving a part of his force at Hubbardton, which was attacked and defeated by General Fraser on 7 July 1777, after a well-contested battle. On 12 July, St. Clair reached Fort Edward with the remnant of his men. St. Clair reported,
"I know I could have saved my reputation by sacrificing the army; but were I to do so, I should forfeit that which the world could not restore, and which it cannot take away, the approbation of my own conscience".
In Britain the St. Clair’s loss of Ticonderoga was greeted with exultation, as the death-blow to the American cause. Horace Walpole reported how the king rushed into Queen Charlotte’s quarters clapping his hands and shouting, "I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!" Members of Parliament began to discuss the best method of reestablishing the royal governments in the "colonies."
In America there was general consternation. St. Clair was greeted with a storm of abuse. John Adams, then president of the Board of War, wrote, "We shall never be able to defend a post till we shoot a general!" General Schuyler, as commander of the department, was boorishly and riotously blamed. Schuyler’s political enemies seized upon the occasion to circulate fresh stories to his discredit.
St. Clair's retreat, however,
showed that the
capture of Ticonderoga was not to help the British in the least. On the
contrary, it straightway became a burden, for it detained a seventh part of
Burgoyne's force in garrison at a time when he could ill spare it. Indeed,
alarming as his swift advance had seemed at first, Burgoyne's serious
difficulties were now just beginning, and the harder he labored to surmount them
the more completely did he work himself into a position from which it was
impossible either to advance or to recede. forced Burgoyne in finally
arrived in Saratoga with his supply line cut and army exhausted from the many
attacks of the militia against the pursuing forces. The British Army greatly
weakened was surrendered at Saratoga to
General Horatio Gates
without him firing a shot. This was one of the great American victories of
the war and made the British retention of Fort Ticonderoga untenable. This great
victory shocked the European Nations and money poured into US coffers from
France and the Netherlands. It was the beginning of the end of the Revolutionary
Amidst the storm over the loss of Fort Ticonderoga Washington's enemies called for his removal as Commander-in-Chief in favor of Saratoga's hereo General Gates. These same enemies of Washington call for a court-marshal of Arthur St. Clair. Despite this pending court marshal, General St. Clair remained with his army, and was with Washington at Brandywine, 11 September 1777, acting as voluntary aide.
There is no qualm that St. Clair’s failure to fortify Mount Defiance was a grave error of judgment. Ironically, blame must be fairly apportioned between St. Clair and the hero of Saratoga General Gates. It was Gates who had been in command of Ticonderoga in the autumn of 1776, when an attack by Carleton was expected, and his attention had been called to this weak point by Colonel Trumbull, who claimed that Gates laughed to scorn. General Gates had been in command from March to June. St. Clair had taken command about three weeks before Burgoyne's approach and had seriously considered the question of fortifying Mount Defiance, but had not been sufficiently prompt due to the disrepair of the Fort. Additionally, St. Clair believed that siege-guns could not be dragged up the steep ascent. It was British General Phillips who saw the value of the position, and worked night and day in breaking out the pathway and dragging up cannon. "Where a goat can go, a man may go; and where a man can go, he can haul up a gun," argued the gallant general. Great was the bewilderment of the St. Clair when, on the morning of July 5th, they saw red coats brimming on the top of the hill, which the English named Mount Defiance.
Clearly, Gates was more at fault than any one else, but was not present when the catastrophe occurred, and consequently he escaped the public’s wraith. Even more perplexing is that amid the general wrath, the loss of Ticonderoga was alleged as a grounds for replacing Schuyler by Gates; for if Gates had been there, it was argued that the disaster would have been prevented.
A court-martial was finally held in 1778, and St. Clair was acquitted, "with the highest honor, of the charges against him," which verdict was approved by congress. The court inquiry concluded
"... the facts brought out by the court martial spoke eloquently in favor of St. Clair. Burgoyne's army, when he met St. Clair, numbered 7,863. St. Clair had less than 2200 men, all of whom were ill fed and half clad. Burgoyne surrounded him with 142 guns, while St. Clair had less than 100-second rate cannon of various sizes and these were served by inexperienced men. It is scarcely necessary to defend his retreat in this age of general intelligence."
Lafayette wrote to St. Clair, "I cannot tell you how much my heart was interested in anything that happened to you and how I rejoiced, not that you were acquitted, but that your conduct was examined." John Paul Jones wrote, "I pray you be assured that no man has more respect for your character, talents, and greatness of mind than, dear General, your most humble servant."
Later St. Clair assisted General John Sullivan in preparing his expedition against the Six Nations, was a commissioner to arrange a cartel with the British at Amboy, 9 March, 1780, and was appointed to command the corps of light infantry in the absence of Lafayette, but did not serve, owing to the return of General George Clinton. He was a member of the court-martial that condemned Major Andre, commanded at West Point in October 1780, and aided in suppressing the mutiny in the Pennsylvania line in January 1781.
St. Clair's Orders to Yorktown - Click Here
Once again during the 1780's campaign St. Clair was active in raising troops and forwarding them to the south. In the above Congress orders St. Clair’s to round up his troops in preparation for his journey to Yorktown.
By the United States in Congress Assembled
September 19, 1781
Ordered that Major General St. Clair cause the levies of the Pennsylvania line now in Pennsylvania to rendezvous at or near Philadelphia with all possible exposition.
Extract from the minutes
Specifically the Journals of the Continental Congress report:
The report of the committee on the letter from Major General St. Clair was taken into consideration; Whereupon, The Committee to whom were referred the letter of the 28th. of August last from Major General St Clair, beg leave to report-- That they have conferred with the Financier on the subject of the advance of money requested by General St Clair for officers and privates of the Pennsylvania line, and that he informs your Committee that it is not in his power to make the said advances--
That your Committee know of no means which enables Congress at present to make the advance requested by General St Clair: and they are therefore of opinion that his application ought to be transmitted to his Excellency the President and the Supreme Executive of the State of Pennsylvania with an earnest request that they will take the most effectual measures in their power to enable General St Clair to expedite the march of the troops mentioned in his letter.
Ordered, That the application of Major General St. Clair be transmitted to his Excellency the president and the supreme executive council of the State of Pennsylvania and they be earnestly requested to take the most effectual measures in their power to enable General St. Clair to expedite the march of the troops mentioned in his letter.
The result was that St. Clair joined Washington at Yorktown a few days before the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. In November he was placed in command of a body of troops to join General Nathanael Greene, and remained in the south until October, 1782.
In 1783 while St. Clair was engaged in closing up the
accounts and furloughing the veteran soldiers, new levies, stationed at
Lancaster, refused to accept their discharges without immediate pay. The
soldiers mutinied and marched for Philadelphia, for the stated purpose of
compelling Congress to relinquish to their demands. The mutineers were
reinforced by the recruits in the barracks of Philadelphia, and, as they marched
to the hall where Congress was in session, they numbered three hundred.
Congress called out the Pennsylvania militia but it failed to come to the rescue. The unicameral Government of the United States of America, the Delegates of Congress Assembled, were held hostage in Philadelphia’s famed Independence Hall. The mutineers demands were made in very dictatorial terms, that,
"unless their demand were complied with in twenty minutes, they would let in upon them the injured soldiery, the consequences of which they were to abide."
Word was immediately sent to General St. Clair and his presence requested. Arthur St. Clair hurried to the rescue and confronted the mutineers. St. Clair reported to Congress and after hearing a report of the facts by him, Congress directed him
" ... to endeavor to march
the mutineers to their barracks, and to announce to them that Congress would
enter into no deliberation with them; that they must return to Lancaster, and
that there, and only there, they would be paid.'
After this, Congress appointed a committee to confer
with the executive of Pennsylvania, and adjourned:
Saturday, June 21, 1783 – Journals of the Continental Congress: The mutinous soldiers presented themselves, drawn up in the street before the state-house, where Congress had assembled. The executive council of the state, sitting under the same roof, was called on for the proper interposition. President DICKINSON came in, and explained the difficulty, under actual circumstances, of bringing out the militia of the place for the suppression of the mutiny. He thought that, without some outrages on persons or property, the militia could not be relied on. General St. Clair, then in Philadelphia, was sent for, and desired to use his interposition, in order to prevail on the troops to return to the barracks. His report gave no encouragement.
In this posture of things, it was proposed by Mr. IZARD, that Congress should adjourn. It was proposed by Mr. HAMILTON, that General St. Clair, in concert with the executive council of the state, should take order for terminating the mutiny. Mr. REED moved, that the general should endeavor to withdraw the troops by assuring them of the disposition of Congress to do them justice. It was finally agreed, that Congress should remain till the usual hour of adjournment, but without taking any step in relation to the alleged grievances of the soldiers, or any other business whatever. In the mean time, the soldiers remained in their position, without offering any violence, individuals only, occasionally, uttering offensive words, and wantonly pointing their muskets to the windows of the hall of Congress. No danger from premeditated violence was apprehended, but it was observed that spirituous drink, from the tippling-houses adjoining, began to be liberally served out to the soldiers, and might lead to hasty excesses. None were committed, however, and, about three o'clock, the usual hour, Congress adjourned; the soldiers, though in some instances offering a mock obstruction, permitting the members to pass through their ranks. They soon afterwards retired themselves to the barracks.
Thanks to St. Clair members passed through the files of
the mutineers, without being molested. The committee, with
Alexander Hamilton as chairman, waited on the State Executive Council; but,
still receiving no promise of protection by the Pennsylvania militia, on the
24th of June, advised an adjournment of Congress to Princeton.
Elias Boudinot now in his home state of NJ and protected by their militia
wasted no time in dealing harshly with the mutineers. On June 30th,
the day after Congress's arrival in NJ, a resolution was passed ordering General
Howe to march fifteen hundred troops to Philadelphia to disarm the mutineers and
bring them to trial.
That Major General Howe be
directed to march such part of the force under his command as he shall judge
necessary to the State of Pennsylvania; and that the commanding officer in the
said State he be instructed to apprehend and confine all such persons, belonging
to the army, as there is reason to believe instigated the late mutiny; to disarm
the remainder; to take, in conjunction with the civil authority, the proper
measures to discover and secure all such persons as may have been instrumental
therein; and in general to make full examination into all parts of the
transaction, and when they have taken the proper steps to report to Congress
Before this force could reach Philadelphia, General St. Clair and the Executive Council had succeeded in quieting the disturbance without bloodshed. The principal leaders were arrested, obedience secured, and a trial was set.
The congressional resolution directing General Howe to
move with the troops against the mutineers gave offense to General St. Clair.
The General regarded it as an attempt to supersede his command and undermined
his negotiations. Arthur St. Clair took it upon himself to write Congress a
scathing letter which was
answered by Elias Boudinot, President of the United States in Congress
Assembled from Princeton NJ in the July 9, 1783 letter exhibited below.
I duly recd your favor of yesterday but conceiving that you had mistaken the Resolution of Congress, I showed it to Mr. Fitzsimmons and we have agreed not to present it to Congress, till we hear again from you. Congress were so careful to interfere one way or the other in the military etiquette, that we recommitted the Resolution to have every thing struck out that should look towards any determination as to the Command, and it was left so that the Commanding officer be him who it might, was to carry the Resolution into Execution; and it can bear no other Construction.
If on the second reading you choose your Letter should be read in Congress, it shall be done without delay …
P. S., You may depend on Congress having been perfectly satisfied with your conduct.
Boudinot, doubtless, trusted St. Clair’s judgment and spared him the embarrassment of making his letter known to Congress. Peace once again reigned and as a result of the mutiny the accused ringleaders were sentenced to death, but were pardoned by Congress in September 1783. After the war General St. Clair returned to his neglected Ligonier estate finding the mill which he had opened for communal use to be in ruins.
St. Clair seemed to prefer the calling of public service to be more engaging and meaningful than handling his private investments. He was of an "imposing appearance" bearing a tall and graceful carriage with blue eyes and graying chestnut hair. He was known to be intelligent and well-educated, "of great uprightness of purpose, as well as suavity of manners." He was a devoted husband to Phoebe who became mentally ill in 1777 as well as caring for his seven children. He personally suffered from gout which prevented him from riding a horse or in later years from leaving his bed.
After 1783 St. Clair still remained active in US politics despite being financially ruined by Indian depredations which were antagonized by the British on his frontier holdings in Western Pennsylvania. In 1785 St. Clair wrote his friend and mentor George Washington, “I am poor, indeed a very poor man.”.
He was a member of the Pennsylvania council of censors in 1783 and elected Pennsylvania delegate to the United States Congress on the 2 November 1785 and served until 28th November, 1787.
In 1786 and 1787 the United States Government was in chaos. Shay's Rebellion, led by Daniel Shays a former Revolutionary Army captain exemplified the mood of the nation. His followers, who were primarily New England farmers, rebelled against unsettled economic conditions, corrupt politicians and laws which were revoltingly unfair to working people in general. They protested against excessive taxes on property, polling taxes which prohibited the underprivileged from voting, inequitable actions by the court of common pleas, the excessive cost of lawsuits, and the lack of a stable currency.
On August 29, 1786, rebel mobs stormed the courthouse in Northampton to prevent the trial and imprisonment of debtors. In September 1786, Shays and about 600 armed farmers stormed the courthouse in Springfield. On January 25, 1787, Shays led 2000 rebels to Springfield, MA to storm the arsenal and in the midst of this bedlam Congress needed to elect a President of the United States to lead the unicameral government.
"…The Rebels formed and fired on our people, killed a Mr. Gleason of Stockbridge, a Mr. Porter of Barrington, and wounded three others. The fire was returned, which killed two and wounded five, among who was their commander. At this instant, our troops in sleighs came up; but before the men could form, the Rebels broke and took to the woods. We have made prisoners of 25 of them, retook all our friends and their property...We have been very much harassed since out troops left this point. The malice of the Rebels can be equaled only by no order of beings but Devils." - CONNECTICUT COURANT 1787
During the most eventful legislation year in US History, 1787, eight states assembled at Congress and elected Arthur St. Clair, President of the United States in Congress Assembled on February 2, 1787. Two days later, Gen. Benjamin Lincoln's troops successfully defeated Shays’ rebels at Petersham, Massachusetts but St. Clair as well as many other delegates knew the Articles of Confederation where not sufficient enough to hold the Union together.
In an earlier attempt to revise the US government an Annapolis Constitutional Convention was held in September 1786 but only attracted Delegates from five states; Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. This meeting in Annapolis, Maryland issued a report that called upon the thirteen states to send representatives to a new convention to be held in Philadelphia in May 1787. Amid calls for a stronger central government, due in part to Shays’s Rebellion, President St. Clair, unlike his predecessor Nathaniel Gorham, introduced a resolution calling for a Confederation Convention. On February 21, 1787 St. Clair’s Confederation Congress formally approved the call for a convention in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation beginning in May 1787.
Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several States be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the States render the federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government3 and the preservation of the Union. - Journals of the Confederation Congress WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1787
On May 25, 1787 a quorum of delegates from seven states
arrived in Philadelphia to start the meeting that is now known as the
Constitutional Convention. The Constitutional Convention, which convened in
Philadelphia on May 25, 1787, began to work on the
Constitution of the United States on June 19 while Congress worked
hard to govern their new nation.
In June, St. Clair decided to take-up Jefferson's Ordinance of 1784 that was suppose to be the blueprint for national expansion to the West. This ordinance failed enactment for nearly three years and had all but stifled the westward expansion in the vast territory north and west of the Ohio River ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. Through St. Clair’s leadership and determination to peacefully open-up the Northwest Territory the Confederation Congress, on July 13, 1787, passed one the most far-reaching acts in American history, the Northwest Ordinance.
The Connecticut Courant
Full Printing - Click Here
Hartford July 30, 1787
The Headlined text “An ORDINACE for the GOVERNMENT of the TERRITORY of the UNITED STATES, North-Weft of the RIVER OHIO” begins on page one carrying over to page two. “… That there shall be appointed from time to time, by Congrefs, a Governor, whofe commiffion fhall continue in force for the term of three years, unlefs fooner revoked by Congrefs; he fhall refide in the diftrict, and have a freehold efstate therin, in one thoufand acres of land, while in the excerife of his office…” General St. Clair was appointed the first Governor of the Northwest Territory and held the office until Thomas Jefferson replaced him in 1802.
The Ordinance of 1787 was the most important act by the Continental Congress, which struggled under the weak Articles of Confederation from 1781 until 1789, when the Constitution established a new government. This Northwest Ordinance which was signed into law by President Arthur St. Clair and Charles Thomson, Secretary of the United States of America in Congress Assembled put the world on notice that the land north and west of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi would be settled and utilized for the creation of not less than three nor more than five territories. Additionally, this plan for governing the Northwest Territory included freedom of religion, right to trial by jury, the banishment of slavery, and public education as asserted rights of the people in the territory. This ordinance was and still remains one of the most important laws ever enacted by the government of the United States in the words of Daniel Webster:
"We are accustomed to praise lawgivers of antiquity ... but I doubt whether one single law of any lawgiver, ancient or modern, has produced the effects of more distinct, marked, and lasting character than the Ordinance of 1787"
This ordinance was an exceptional piece of legislation because Article 5 permitted the people North and West of the Ohio River to settle their land, form their own territorial government, and take their place as a full fledge state equal to the original 13. The Northwest Ordinance's Article 5 became the principal that enabled the United States rapid westward expansion which ended with the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii as our 49th and 50th states. This ordinance guaranteed that inhabitants of the Territory would have the same rights and privileges that citizens of the thirteen States enjoyed In Article 6 slavery and involuntary servitude were prohibited in the Northwest Territory which finally gave some merit to the United States 1776 Declaration of Independence's "... all men are created equal...". In 1784, this article on slavery had been rejected by a single vote and had never been put in effect. It took 3years and a Congress lead by Arthur St. Clair to pass the ordinance making the Northwest Ordinance one of the great documents in American History.
Even more amazingly, on September 17, 1787 under St.
Clair’s administration each of the twelve state delegations voted to approve the
final copy of the a new U. S. Constitution, which had been written by
participants in the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. Eleven days
later, on September 28, 1787, Arthur St. Clair’s Congress voted to send the
Constitution to the legislature of each state. St. Clair's legislation asked
each state hold a special convention that would either ratify or reject the new
Constitution. President St. Clair, in less than one year, presided over
the United States Government that not only enacted the Northwest Ordinance but
enacted legislation for the ratification of the most important law in US
The Constitution of the United States of America.
The last major act of President Arthur St. Clair’s Congress was on October 5, 1787 when they selected a governor and other officers for the Northwest Territory according to the terms of the Ordinance of 1787. General St. Clair was overwhelmingly appointed governor what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota whose lands, at that time, comprised more than one half of the United States.
As governor St. Clair made a
Treaty of Fort Harmar with the Indians in 1789, and in 1790 he fixed the
seat of justice of the territory at Cincinnati, Ohio, which he named in honor of
the Society of the Cincinnati, of which he was president for Pennsylvania in
1783-'9. St. Clair's accomplishments as governor were many but once again a
military campaign all but obliterated his good work.
TRANSMITTAL LETTER SIGNED BY PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON OF THE FIRST RATIFIED TREATY BY THE US SENATE.
On August 30th George Washington writes to Samuel
Huntington, Governor of Connecticut, transmitting two acts of Congress including
the approval of the Treaty of Hamar and an order to begin a survey of
Ohio. Washington writes in full:
New York August 30th 1789
I have the honor to transmit to your Excellency a Resolution of Congress for carrying into effect a Survey directed to be made by an Act of the late Congress -- and requesting the President of the United Sates to appoint a proper person to compleat[sic] the same. -- Also the duplicate of an Act relative to negotiations and Treaties with the Indian Tribes. –
I have the honor to be
With due consideration
Your Excellency's Most Obt.
and Most Humble Sevt.
On January 9th Governor Arthur St. Clair negotiated a treaty with the Sachems and Warriors of the Six Nations, the Mohawks excepted; and with the Sachems and Warriors of the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippawa, Pattiwatima, and Sac nations, inhabiting part of the country northwest of the Ohio at Fort Hamar. Since the Continental Congress was unable to obtain a quorum in 1789 the Treaty was never ratified.
When George Washington took office the treaty was
waiting for him on his desk and when ratified it would be the first US Treaty
under the US Constitution and an important one at that as it opened a large area
in the Northwest Territory for expansion. Washington submitted the treaties
(there were two - executed by St. Clair) to the US Senate on May 25, 1789 -
Gentlemen of the Senate:
In pursuance of the order of the late Congress, treaties between the United States and several nations of Indians have been negotiated and signed. These treaties; with sundry papers respecting them, i now lay before you, for your consideration and advice, by the hands of General Knox, under whose official superintendence the business was transacted; and who will be ready to communicate to you any information on such points as may appear to require it.
The Senate turned over the treaties to a committee on
June 10 and they did not report in the affirmative on ratification until August
24, 1789 -- the US Journals note:
Journals of the US Senate: WEDNESDAY, August 26, 1789.
Proceeded to consider the report of a Committee, appointed June the10th, on Indian treaties made at Fort Harmar, the 9th day of January,1789, viz: The Committee to whom was referred the message of the President of the United States, of the 25th of May, 1789, with the Indian treaties and papers accompanying the same--
Report: That the Governor of the Western Territory, on the 9th day of January, 1789, at Fort Harmar, entered into two treaties, one with the sachems and warriors of the Six Nations, the Mohawks excepted, the other with the sachems and warriors of the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Pattawattima, and Sacs nations--that those treaties were made in pursuance of the powers and instructions heretofore given to the said Governor by the late Congress, and are a confirmation of the treaties of Fort Stanwix, in October, 1784, and of Fort McIntosh, in January, 1785, and contain a more formal anti regular conveyance to the United States of the Indian claims to the lands yielded to these States by the said treaties of 1784and 1785.
Your Committee, therefore, submit the following resolution, viz:
That the treaties concluded at Fort Harmar, on the 9th day of January, 1789, between Arthur St. Clair, Esq. Governor of the Western Territory, on the part of the United States, and the sachems and warriors of the Six Nations, (the Mohawks excepted,) and the sachems and warriors of the Wyandot, Delaware, Ottawa, Chippewa, Pattawattima, and Sacs nations, be accepted; and that the President of the United States be advised to execute and enjoin an observance of the same.
The US Senate ordered, that the consideration thereof be postponed.
On August 30th Washington, thinking that by virtue of the Senate taking-up up the matter meant the treaty was ratified, began to execute transmittal letters enclosing a copy of the treaties to all the Governors and the letter to Samuel Huntington was the one sent to Connecticut.
New York August 30th 1789
I have the honor to transmit to your Excellency a Resolution of Congress for carrying into effect a Survey directed to be made by an Act of the late Congress -- and requesting the President of the United Sates to appoint a proper person to compleat[sic] the same. -- Also the
duplicate of an Act relative to negotiations and Treaties with the Indian Tribes. -
I have the honor to be With due consideration Your Excellency's Most Obt. and Most Humble Sevt.