The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
- the tenth amendment of the US Constitution
See? Did you read that? Believe it or not, every single state in the USA has a government. They don't get as much press as the one in Washington, DC, but they certainly exist. The Midwestern state of Ohio is no exception. It was adopted in 1802, and amended significantly in 1851 and 1912.
The 1802 Constitution was difficult to amend, and some things were left out. The only way to amend it was to call another Constitutional Convention, which the legislature could prevent if it liked. In 1851, in effect, a new Constitution was adopted, the current basis of government in the state. In 1912, many changes were made.
US State Constitutions follow a general pattern, similar to that of the US Constitution. In fact, not only is the format similar to the US Constitution, but if you replace all references to the nation in the US Constitution with 'the great state of Ohio' or something similar, you can hardly tell the difference.
We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution.
The Preamble of Ohio's constitution is simple and to the point. This is rather unlike the US Constitution, which, to the dismay of many schoolchildren who had to memorise it, begins with a very specific line of six things it hopes to accomplish. This constitution makes reference to Almighty God very quickly, as Ohioans are generally religious people.
The Bill of Rights If you're ever in Ohio, it might be useful to know what your rights are. These have been changed, most importantly in 1912, when the most recent round of amendments were made. There are 20 rights, of which some of the most important are:
Inalienable rights - you can be happy, you can have property, you can have life and liberty. This is similar to the second paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence.
Bearing Arms - people are allowed to hold arms to protect themselves and their liberty. Along with the second item of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees that the people can alter, reform or abolish the government, this is reminiscent of the Enlightenment principles inherent in the American revolution.
Slavery - Ohio was not a slave state. Slavery and involuntary servitude was outlawed, except as punishment for a crime. Being a free state on the border of a slave state, Kentucky, Ohio and cities like Cincinnati were one of the most important places on the historic underground railroad, which allowed slaves to escape to free states.
Libel, Freedom of Speech, Press - everyone is allowed to speak and publish what they think. No person can be convicted for libel if the thing that is alleged to be libellous is true.
Quartering Troops - If a soldier ever turns up at your door during a time of peace, you can turn him down.
Rights Reserved for the People - just because a right isn't on this list doesn’t mean it doesn't exist. Such as, for example, the right to personal space or the right of a tourist to as many buckeyes1 as you can fit in your pockets and socks.
Legislative The constitution set up a General Assembly (much like the US Congress), consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. This article also explains the process to amend the constitution, impeachment and the yearly salaries of the major government figures, in amounts less than they receive monthly today. That's inflation for you, though.
Executive The governor of Ohio has many of the same duties and rights as the President of the United States. He may grant pardons, he gives the Assembly information about the state of the state from time to time and he is commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the state. This article also sets forth the idea of the Great Seal of the State of Ohio, which today features a sunrise, the Wright Brothers' aeroplane and two stacks of grain.
Judicial Just like the United States, Ohio has three branches of government, one of which, the Judicial, very quiet. It is headed up by the Supreme Court. It also sets up a system for common pleas judges and lesser judgeships.
Elections The original constitution says that 21-year-old white male citizens are the only ones that can vote. Today, the only word that remains in that phrase is 'citizens', as all 18-year old citizens can vote.
The Boundaries The constitution talks at some length about the creation of new counties, as counties were much more important then than now. It also talks about what the official boundaries are - a line with Pennsylvania to the east, the Ohio River to the south, Lake Erie to the north and a line with Indiana to the west. The northwestern border was based on where the southern tip of Lake Michigan was. Unfortunately, this was unclear at the time, which ended up sparking a territorial 'war' with Michigan over the land called the 'Toledo War'.
Done in convention, at Chillicothe, the twenty-ninth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two, and of the independence of the United States of America, the twenty-seventh.
In testimony whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names.
Edward Tiffin, President and Representative from the county of Ross.
Adams county, Joseph Darlington, Israel Donalson, Thomas Kirker.
Belmont county, James Caldwell, Elijah Woods.
Clermont county, Philip Gatch, James Sargent.
Fairfield county, Henry Abrams, Emanuel Carpenter.
Hamilton county, John W. Browne, Chas. Willing Byrd, Francis Dunlavy, William Goforth, John Kitchel, Jeremiah Morrow, John Paul, John Reily, John Smith.
Jefferson county, Rudolph Bair, George Humphrey, John Milligan, Nathan Updegraff, Bazaleel Wells.
Ross county, Michael Baldwin, James Grubb, Nathaniel Massie, Thomas Worthington.
Trumbull county, David Abbot, Samuel Huntington.
Washington county, Ephraim Cutler, Benjamin Ives Gilman, John McIntire, Rufus Putnam.