Judge Samuel McDowell

KENTUCKY'S FIRST CONSTITUTION - 1792

 I think that all of us Bufords can be proud of this because one of our family members played a rather large roll in the drafting of Kentucky’s First Constitution.  My book explains the hard work and all the Political workshops that were held at Judge Samuel McDowells home of Pleasant Vale.  I also have in my book a letter explaining the constitution and Samuel writing to his son-in-law; Andrew Reid, in Virginia,  “I think we have done justice to this; our first constitution.”  In Danville, Kentucky it was Judge Samuel McDowell’s home that they gathered. I have a copy of this constitution with Samuel’s signature.  It was Samuel’s son, Dr. Ephraim McDowell who married Governor Shelby’s daughter Sarah.

~~~~~

OFFICERS of GOVERNMENT   
from the 1806 "Coleman's Directories"

~~~~~
Governor or Chief Magistrate for the Commonwealth of Kentucky -
Christopher Greenup
Lieutenant Governor - John Caldwell
Secretary of State - John Rowan
Attorney General - James Blair
Auditor of Public Accounts - George Madison
Treasurer of State - John Logan
Register of the Land Office - John Adair
George Muter , Chief Justice of Kentucky.
Benjamin Sebastian, Caleb Wallace, Thomas Todd, Judges
of the Court of Appeals,
John Coburn, Benjamin Howard, Samuel McDowell,
Stephen Ormsby, James G. Hunter, John Allen,
Cary L. Clarke, Circuit Judges
Harry Innes, Judge of the Federal Court for the District
of Kentucky

 

~Fern K. Buford Walker~ 


The McDowell home outside of Danville, Kentucky ~ Photo taken by Jerry L. Walker 2003
This home had the 'first' Lead Glass Windows in the county


This is located  in Constitution Square State Park
across the Street from Dr. Ephraim McDowells Home and office in Danville, Kentucky
Photo by Jerry L. Walker 2002

The following was written by Sandi Gorin -- © Copyright -  1 Feb 2007, Sandra K. Gorin

Kentucky's first constitution was a reflection of the times. When, on April
3, 1792, forty-five delegates met in Danville KY, they came to frame a
constitution for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Col. George Nichols was
there; a well-known and influential lawyer. He was joined by Isaac Shelby
who would serve so ably as Governor of Kentucky twice and the following: 

Fayette Co was represented by Hubbard Taylor, Thomas Lewis, George S Smith,
Robert Fryer and James Crawford.

Jefferson County had sent it's best - Richard Taylor, John Campbell,
Alexander S. Bullitt, Benjamin Sebastian and Robert Breckinridge.

>From Bourbon County came John Edwards, James Garrard, James Smith, John
McKinney and Benjamin Harrison.

William King, Matthew Walton, Cuthbert Harrison, Joseph Hobbs and Andrew
Hynes made the trip from Nelson Co.

Madison County picked Charles Cavender, Higgason Grubbs, Thomas Clay,
Thomas and Joseph Kennedy.

From Mercer Co came Samuel Taylor, Jacob Froman, George Nicholas, David
Rice and Judge Samuel McDowell. 

Those from Lincoln County were Benjamin Logan and Isaac Shelby named above
along with Benedict Swope and William Montgomery. Woodford Co sent John
Watkins, Richard Young, William Steele, Caleb Wallace and Robert Johnston.

Finally, from Mason Co came George Lewis, Miles W. Conway, Thomas Waring,
Robert Rankin and John Wilson (Collins' Kentucky, Volume 1, p. 365.).

Some of the interesting articles framed at this convention by people from
all walks of life and from many places of origin included:

Article IX - Slaves. This allowed the owners of slaves to emancipate them,
saving the rights of creditors and preventing their becoming a charge to
the county in which they reside. It also gave the full power to prevent
slaves from being brought to Kentucky from a foreign country; and to
prevent those from being brought into this state who have been imported
into any state of the United States from a foreign country (since January
1, 1789). The Legislature was not allowed to pass any laws for the
emancipation of slaves without the consent of the owners, or without paying
the owners, previous to the emancipation, a full equivalent in money for
the slaves so emancipated. This principle was used by Abraham Lincoln in
justifying his emancipation proclamation of 1863 only as a military
necessity.

An unusual article in this original constitution was one giving the Supreme
Court (called the Court of Appeals) not only appellate but original
jurisdiction of suits involving titles to land. They thought this a wise
decision; trials of titles by judges and juries in the counties where the
land lay were often found unfair when one party was a non-resident and the
other a resident. This was presented by Colonel Nicholas, but he failed to
discuss it before he was elected; he didn't feel he should ask for its
adoption without having it first approved by his constituents. So; he
resigned from the convention, was re-elected and the provision was approved.

This Convention of 45 had been given authority to adopt the constitution;
time was running out and it was nearly time for organizing under it so it
was not submitted to the people for approval. It was promulgated directly
by the convention 19 April 1792. Kentucky became the fifteenth member of
the Federal Union on June 1, 1792.

Other provisions of this constitution called for election of state
officials and Isaac Shelby was chosen as the first Governor. Lexington was
named the temporary capital and it was there that the majority of
legislators and Shelby meet on June 4, 1792. Alexander Scott Bullitt was
the Speaker of the Senate and Robert Breckinridge was Speaker of the House.
A commission was appointed to select a permanent site for the capital and
Frankfort was chosen. John Brown and John Edwards were elected the first
United States Senators from Kentucky.

The people of Kentucky didn't like and strongly opposed the state
government in several areas. One must remember, at noted by historian
Temple Bodley in 1928, that most Kentuckians were terribly poor. They
needed a state government of their own but feared they couldn't support
one. When Virginia and Congress did offer them statehood, even though they
really desired it, some hoped it would be refused. Their fears wouldn't be
allayed even those there was a terribly small number of officials needed
and their salaries were meager by comparison to other states. Not much
money was needed for public buildings. But the citizens had come out of
over fifteen years of being under Indian warfare; most of the settlers had
brought the barest of necessities with them; and it looked impossible to
get their goods to market because of the Appalachian Mountains to the east
and the closing of the Mississippi. They were not very optimistic.

The state of the Federal government also caused concern for the
Kentuckians. The country owed nearly $12,000.000 due to France and other
creditors. The Continental Congress had contracted a large number of debts
they had issued over $240,000,000 in paper money consisting of bills
entitling the holder to receive a specified sum in silver. It was this
which was paid to the soldiers for their services to encourage them to
continue the war effort and to buy supplies. A continental soldier who
enlisted in January 1778 for a 3-year term and at a fixed monthly rate of
pay in continental bills, found they were worth 25 cents on the dollar; and
by January 1779, they were only worth 12 ½ cents; dropping to 3 cents by
the end of the year, then to a cent, then to worthless. The Continental
Congress tried lotteries - everything they could think of. Have you heard
the expression "not worth a Continental dollar?" Now, you know what it means.

It was a rough coming of age for Kentucky.

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