Ohio House History
One of the most important legislative documents in U.S. history, the Northwest Ordinance, is relatively unknown compared to its "siblings," the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution. July 13, 1987 marked the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Northwest Ordinance. Its importance cannot be underrated, as it laid the foundation for our system of free public education, set up the mechanism for the introduction of new states to the Union, and outlawed slavery northwest of the Ohio River. In addition, it made guarantees of individual liberties that were the cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.
At least six states had territory affected by the terms of the Northwest Ordinance. Ohio was the first of these to enter the Union. Initially, the Ohio Territory was ruled by a military governor and three judges. Residents had no voice in government and were represented in the U.S. Congress by a non-voting delegate. It was in 1798 that the Ohio Territory gained sufficient population (5,000) of males to initiate self-government. A 22-member territorial legislature was formed, of which five members were selected to serve as territorial council.
Eligibility for statehood came in 1802, when the population reached 60,000 persons. Male voters elected delegates to a Constitutional Convention. The delegates drafted the constitution on which our state government is based. On February 19, 1803, the U.S. Congress approved the constitution and admitted Ohio as the 17th state.
The constitution called for a bicameral legislature, similar to the federal model, consisting of a House of Representatives and Senate. The first session (meeting) of the Ohio House occurred in Chillicothe on March 3, 1803. This first House of Representatives consisted of only 30 members. This first session was concerned with levying taxes, creating counties, and appropriating monies for the operation of the state. Chillicothe remained the capital until the government temporarily moved to the city of Zanesville in 1809. The capital returned to Chillicothe in 1812 before finally settling in Columbus in 1816.