In November of 1802 Ephraim Culter of Washington County, Ohio was a delegate to the first Ohio Constitutional Convention. As part of the legal provisions of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Ohio was to be a free state. Slavery was to be forever banned in Ohio and all the states created through the Northwest Ordinance, passed by the original Congress of the States. But the slave industry was not willing to accept this agreement. They attempted to amend the original Ohio Constitution to permit slavery until a person was 35 years old.
Ephraim Cutler and Rufus Putnam were two of the strongest advocates for keeping slavery out of the Northwest Territory. On the day the pro-slavery provision was placed for a vote of the Constitutional Convention, Ephraim Culter was terribly sick and unable to get out of his bed. His friend, Putnam came to him and told him regardless of illness, that Cutler had to “be in his place” or the pro-slavery measure would prevail. Cutler dragged himself out of bed and went to work and cast his vote. The slavery measure was defeated by one vote. Later Putnam would confide “It cost me every effort I was capable of making…” (See David McCullough’s outstanding work, The Pioneers, pg. 145 for more details.)
The Ohio Legislature has the opportunity to strike down the veto of SB 311 by Governor Mike DeWine this week. The House and Senate passed SB311 to amend Ohio’s quarantine laws and give the Legislature the power to review and override abuse by the Ohio Department of Health. The measure also makes it illegal to quarantine healthy people. This measure would restore constitutional balance in the state of Ohio. COVID-19 restrictions are not the moral equivalent of slavery. The abuse of power and loss of civil rights, however, should sound a massive alarm across the nation.
SB 311 passed with a super majority of Republican votes which is large enough to override the Governor’s veto. No Democrats had the clarity or courage to support the measure. Now two Republican members of the Ohio House have tested positive for COVID-19. Without their votes, Governor DeWine will prevail and the human suffering created by his COVID-19 obsession will continue in the Buckeye State.
So are the pro-COVID forces in Ohio celebrating the illness of these two Republican representatives? Is this the end of the hard fought battle for SB311? Or will Republican leaders in the Legislature “mask-up” their two members and make a path for them to enter the House, push a single disinfected button to vote for the veto override and leave as they came. No one has to be within 20 feet of these two members. They can show up in hazmat suits and oxygen tanks if necessary. They can send a message to Ohio, the nation and to the next generation.
No law can stop these members from voting. No agency of the state has the power to restrict them. This can be done honestly and without risking any one’s health. And it will be the measure of the mettle of the Ohio Republican Party. Yes, it will be inconvenient but not nearly as painful as the horrific abuse Ohioans have endured under the unrestricted “ultimate authority” of SB311 and Governor Mike DeWine.