Today is the day many Ohioans who are in the know, celebrate the birthday of the 7th most populace state in the Union even though it is only 34th in size. Yet, despite this great day of celebration, there is a mild ripple running through the backs of some Ohio historians pondering the idea if what we’re celebrating really true?
When the Ohio state convention agreed to petition the Union for admittance on November 29, 1802, they felt they had everything in order. Congress also believed everything was in order and approved Ohio’s petition on February 19, 1803. However, the 8th United States Congress missed a critical step. Adding a state to the Union required the congressional ratification of Ohio’s State Constitution. The Constitution of Ohio had been presented to congress, but for whatever reason congress failed to take the necessary ratification step. Without congressional approval of the state constitution, Ohio technically remained part of the Northwest Territory.
From 1803 onward that fact got lost in the dust bin of history and there it would have remained were it not for some legal eyed, history minded Representatives in the 83rd Congress that raised the issue of Ohio’s statehood. They brought up the fact that there were some illegal members of the Senate and the House now occupying seats in Congress that they should not legally occupy.
After some discussion, Ohio Representative George H. Bender introduced some legislation in January 1953 to retroactively grant statehood to Ohio. On May 19, 1953, the House voted to approve legislation that ratified the original state constitution, effectively admitting Ohio to the Union as of March 1, 1803. President Dwight Eisenhower signed this legislation into law on August 7, 1953.
Yet, is Ohio really a state? That depends. If Ohio wasn’t legally a state, was Representative George H. Bender who had been serving as a US Representative since 1938, and who would later become an Ohio Senator, legally a US Representative when he introduced that specific piece of legislation? Could this be a case for the Supreme Court? We will probably never know the answer to that question.
So if you missed celebrating Ohio’s birthday on March 1, you can always send a card on August 7.