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ready in force in the original states, nor again were the people of this territory entirely careful to observe the directions of the Ordinance as to time and manner of forming a state government.
It happened very naturally that the Ordinance contained a large number of the theories and doctrines that were believed and practiced before 1787 as well as since that time. The principles of polity incorporated in the Ordinance of 1787 were the direct results of centuries of Anglo-Saxon civilization. The legislative proceedings of the state in general show little evidence of respect for the Ordinance, while in many cases, especially in the earlier history, the General Assembly enacted laws and adopted resolutions entirely at variance with any supposed authority contained in the Ordinance.
The second division of the State's constitutional history covers a period of about forty years, beginning with 1802. It may be characterized as the period during which the people of the state were lacking in social consciousness – perhaps state consciousness would express it better. Before the formation of the state the men and influences which controlled the national government had changed. Indeed the creation of the state was hastened for the purpose of strengthening the party which had overthrown the Federalist power. The ideas of the Democratic - Republican Party were readily adopted by a large part of the people of this new state. Some of them had come from New England, some from New York and Pennsylvania, and many of them had come from states farther south. They had fought for the independence of the United States, but they had not fought for Ohio. Their new home was something separate and apart from the colonies for whose freedom they had made sacrifices. The struggle to win homes from the savages and the forests sufficed to dim the memory of earlier struggles to secure political freedom for the strip of seaboard that now seemed so far away. Within less than twenty years after the formation of the new state, it denied the authority of the National Government and passed acts of nullification that indicated less respect for Federal authority than did even those of South Carolina a dozen years later. During these same twenty years, nevertheless, Ohio, time after time, appealed to the National Congress for assistance in building roads and opening up communication. These things were not so inconsistent as they may seem. The acts of nullification were not because the people of Ohio believed in states' rights. They believed in individual rights and resented the authority that attempted to interfere with such rights. They asked for help in building roads because they needed roads, not because Ohio wanted national aid. Ohio was to them a place, not a state. They were not yet conscious of the state. The needs of the individual and the present were the dominant ideas. The future of the commonwealth and community of interests had no place in their thoughts.
The state government which they had formed was entirely consonant with this view of their relation to government. They realized, it is true, that there were some essentials the individual does not possess which some individual or group of individuals can furnish him. They could not all meet together and barter rights and privileges, so they selected representatives to meet other representatives in a General Assembly, to haggle, dicker, and bargain to secure individual and special advantages and privileges for those who had sent them. Quite often the interested individual secured his own election to carry out his personal interests.
The people had no use for any central authority. They had provided and tolerated a nominal governor but he was stripped of power. A judiciary seemed necessary to confirm the bargains made by the representatives, and other officials were needed to deliver the goods bartered. The natural thing was to have the representatives in the General Assembly select the judges and other officials. Thus practically all the powers of government were centered in the legislature.
During the first decade of the state's history under the Constitution of 1802, the General Assembly devoted much of its attention to incorporating banks, authorizing lotteries, relieving individuals, granting divorces, and providing punishment for recognized crimes and devising and naming new ones. During the second decade the work of the legislature was largely that of incorporating turnpikes, toll-roads, toll-bridges, and ferries. These never ceased to be favorite subjects of legislation during the period covered by the first Constitution. The third decade was characterized largely by canal legislation and this reached well over into the fourth decade, although this last decade was particularly the period of railway incorporation and legislation.
Roads and bridges were absolutely necessary, so the natural thing was to have monopolized toll-roads, tollbridges, and ferries, by which the individual with an agent in the legislature could extract in a more or less painless manner the money he wanted from those who must use these means of transportation. Later, railroads were dealt with in like manner. To the enterprising citizens of that day even this form of parasitism seemed crude and inadequate. Why waste good money in building railroads? Why not have other people build them and collect from the state and county treasuries the necessary funds in the form of aids and subsidies? The plan looked good and they tried it; but it made it necessary for the individual to pay taxes into the state treasury, and the man who collected the fares and the tolls was liable to accumulate more property than he could conveniently conceal; so a simpler plan was worked out. It was to have the state borrow the money and turn it over to the promoter of the railroad in the form of subscriptions and guarantees. The monopolist then graciously waited for his money until he could collect fares; or, if he were in a great hurry, turned contractor and hired himself to build the road. This made the matter very simple indeed.
The third period in the state's history began about the fifth decade under the Constitution of 1802. It was the period when the people awakened to consciousness of the state and that the state was a unit of the individuals. This consciousness came about largely as the result of the mad rush to rob the state treasury and heap up debts to be paid by generations yet unborn. There had been no method devised for borrowing money without paying interest. If the needed sum could have been borrowed in the state, all might have gone well for a time. The debt amounted to almost twenty millions and foreign bondholders held most of the stocks and bonds. When interest was paid it left the state. To pay more than a million dollars in interest each year meant that the people in Ohio were toiling to support the people not living in Ohio. Out of this grew the realization that the people had interests in common. The debt must not be allowed to grow larger. Plans were prepared for actually paying it. But the greed of privileged individuals and the special interests had not changed. They still had their legislative methods for getting money and while such remained the people could not stop the waste under the old Constitution.
Finally the demand for relief grew so strong that, in 1849, the legislature was compelled to allow the people to vote on the question of making a new Constitution. It carried, and the convention met. What should it do? All power had been centralized in the legislature, which had become the pliant tool of individual greed. Among the traditions of the state was the danger of putting power into the hands of an executive. The only remedy that seemed to suggest itself was to keep the power in the hands of the legislature, and then tie its hands. In stopping the wild debauch of the treasury, and tying the hands of the agents of the privileged interests the people became welded into a real commonwealth.
Let it not be thought that the privileged and special interests gave up easily. They died hard, and a few of those, fostered under the old Constitution, still live. As early as 1833 the work of the General Assembly for one year was represented by the passage of two hundred and fifty local laws and only thirty general laws. But the local acts and resolutions passed by the General Assembly of 1849 (the one that submitted to the people the question of holding a constitutional convention) fill seven hundred and forty-six pages of the Laws of Ohio for that year, and include seventy-five acts relating to plank roads, sixty-seven to railroads, and seventy-eight to turnpikes. The legislature of 1851, the one in session