To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives

Connecticut residents were heavily involved in the settlement and development of the area of Ohio called the Western Reserve. In fact, there is a Western Reserve Historical Society. They look at the area from the Ohio “side” while we look at it from the Connecticut “side”. One family heavily invested in the Western Reserve was the Hart family of Saybrook, Conn.Recently added to the collection is an item that was described as a book (it is a four page document bound like a book) but in actuality is more of a manuscript. It is a printed petition to the Senate and House, which was designed so the petitioners could customize the form. For example, at the top of the document, someone penned in “Connecticut” for the state. Someone also bracketed certain passages of the document.

The petition objects to taxes being levied by Congress on non-residents of Ohio for land they owed in that state, in an act passed in 1813. The complaint was that residents were taxed on the value of their land and buildings while non-residents were taxed at a “gross sum”, not based on the assessed value of the property. The document as printed declares the different forms of taxation based on residence in Ohio “as arbitrary, unequal, unjust , and oppressive”. (So there!)

Appended to this petition after the sixth paragraph outlining various grievances, someone with beautiful handwriting added a paragraph along the margin of the inside text, providing even more evidence that Congress was wrong:

And at the first session of Congress under the present Constitution, They by their act to provide for the Government of the territory Northwest of the river Ohio gave effect to said Ordinance — In the Act of Congress passed on the 30th day of April 1802, to enable the people of the eastern division of the territory, northwest of the river Ohio to form a constitution and state government and for the admission of such state into the Union it is specially provided, That the Constitution & State Government to be formed for the people, should be republican, & not repugnant to said Ordinance, And in the preamble to the Constitution of the State of Ohio The right of the people to be admitted in to the General Government as a member of the Union is declared to be consistent with the constitution of the United States, the aforesaid ordinance & act of Congress, thereby recognizing the the force & obligation of the Ordinance on the State — By it, it is ordained & declar’d that in no case shall non-resident proprietors be tax’d higher than Resident Proprietors. [emphasis added]

The document is dated at Saybrook, Connecticut, 17 January 1814 and signed by William Hart, Richard Hart, Richard McCurdy, and the administrators of the estate of Sylvester Mather, deceased.

Evidently this petition was one of many sent to Congress from residents in other states who owned land in Ohio. Let’s face it, no one likes taxes (what is the saying about death and taxes?) but to find such a coordinated petition to Congress in 1814 is a bit of a surprise. And what a great addition to our holdings on the Western Reserve.

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