2

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 said that the territory northwest of the Ohio River should ultimately become at least three, but not more than five, states. (It ultimately became five states plus part of a sixth. I happen to be sitting now in that part of that sixth state.) But they did not at that time propose any particular new states.

In 1784 Governor George Clinton of New York asked Congress to overthrow the government of Vermont, which he considered a district in rebellion against New York. A committee in Congress recommended instead offering the rebel regime admission to the Union as a new state. Neither that proposal nor Clinton's passed. Although the committee recommended that Congress make the first move rather than waiting for a petition from Vermont, this is not fully a case of Congress making the first move, since they had been approached by Vermont on previous occasions. Vermont had been turned down because of objections from New York, which claimed Vermont.

Both of the above events involved the Congress of the Confederation rather than the later two-house Congress consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives.

In early 1791, Congress acted first to admit Kentucky, but that state was not to be admitted until well over a year later, and then to admit Vermont with only two weeks' notice. After negotiations between Vermont and New York, Vermont had submitted a petition, carried by the two lawyers Nathaniel Chipman and Lewis Morris to President Washington.

The legislature of Virginia had consented to its western district becoming the state of Kentucky. I don't know whether the proposal was submitted to Congress by the Commonwealth of Virginia or by statesmen of the proposed new state, but I doubt very much that Congress proposed the new state. I think the Virginians saw advantages in greater southern representation in the Senate and maybe also wanted to be free of expenses incurred in governing so large a region. Certainly at least one New Yorker, Alexander Hamilton, wanted Vermont admitted in order to get greater northern representation in the Senate, but it was the state of Vermont that submitted the petition.

Has Congress ever initiated the process without first receiving a petition?

  • @sds: Is that easier to parse now? – Pieter Geerkens May 17 '17 at 19:42
  • Actually, Congress specifically DID require all states to concede claims west of the Appalachians to the Federal government as part both of reconciling the conflicting claims, and ensuring that there would be a limit on the size of individual states. The smaller states were concerned about the possibility of the larger ones growing without bound, and coming to eventually dominate Congress. – Pieter Geerkens May 17 '17 at 19:45
  • Texas wasn't even part of the US, and was immediately a state upon annexation by an 1845 treaty. – Spencer May 17 '17 at 21:50
  • @PieterGeerkens : I don't know why you added the words "broke down", but I've deleted them. The negotiations took place in 1790 and were successfully concluded, making the submission of Vermont's petition timely. – Michael Hardy May 17 '17 at 23:46
  • @MichaelHardy: Can you add a verb to that sentence fragment then? I took a guess at what the verb might be, and flagged my choice by putting it in square brackets. – Pieter Geerkens May 18 '17 at 2:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.