Samuel Huntington

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Samuel Huntington (1).jpg
Engraved portrait of Samuel Huntington, the third governor of Ohio. He served one, two year term from 1808-1810.

The son of a minister, Samuel Huntington was born in Coventry, Connecticut, on October 4, 1765. He attended Dartmouth and Yale Colleges before studying the law, practicing in Connecticut from 1793 to 1800. In 1800, Huntington traveled to the Northwest Territory, visiting the Connecticut Western Reserve and Marietta. The following year, he moved his family to the fledgling community of Cleveland, which was still located in the midst of the wilderness. In 1807, Huntington traded his land in Cleveland for a tract of land in Painesville Township, co-founding the community of Fairport and developing a number of business interests there.

Within a very short time of his move to Ohio, Huntington became active in territorial politics. He served as lieutenant colonel of the Trumbull County militia, supervisor of the roads, and a justice of the peace. Huntington became very involved in the debate over Ohio statehood, siding against Governor Arthur St. Clair's attempts to impede the statehood process. In 1802, he served as a member of the first constitutional convention, allying himself with men such as Thomas Worthington and Edward Tiffin.

Once Ohio became a state in 1803, Huntington served as a judge on the Ohio Supreme Court, along with Return J. Meigs, Jr. and William Sprigg. In 1804, Huntington became chief justice of the court. As chief justice, one of his most famous cases was Rutherford v. M'Fadden (1807). Modeling the state's supreme court after the United States Supreme Court, in this ruling Huntington and his fellow justices determined that the court had the right to declare state laws unconstitutional. This decision placed the court at odds with members of the state legislature, who felt that the court was trying to reduce their power to make laws. This decision became an issue in the gubernatorial election of 1808, when Huntington ran against fellow Democratic-Republicans Worthington and Thomas Kirker. His opponents argued in favor of the sovereignty of the state legislature in making laws, while Huntington continued to argue that the Supreme Court had the authority to declare laws unconstitutional. Because Worthington and Kirker divided their supporters' votes, Huntington was able to win the election and became Ohio's third governor, serving from 1808 to 1810.

Huntington's term as governor was not without controversy. Although he himself was not targeted, the state legislature tried to impeach two other judges for decisions similar to the Rutherford v. M'Fadden case. These impeachment proceedings were ultimately unsuccessful. The two judges, Calvin Pease and George Tod, maintained their positions by a single vote each. The state capital was moved to Zanesville for a time, and there was continued debate over its permanent location. In addition, there was considerable unease about potential military conflict with Great Britain, which ultimately did occur with the War of 1812.

Choosing not to run for reelection as governor in 1810, Huntington instead ran against Worthington for U.S. Senator. He was unsuccessful in this election and returned home after finishing out his term as governor. During the War of 1812, General William Henry Harrison appointed him army paymaster. On June 8, 1817, Huntington was killed in an accident while supervising the construction of a road near his home.

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