Special Tercentennial Issue
Distinguished Graduates
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Jonathan Meigs

B.A. 1785


When Ohio became a state in 1803, its supreme court was headed by a Connecticut lawyer who would prove the Jeffersonian West to be a garden of political opportunity. In 1788, Meigs had moved to Marietta, Ohio, a town his father had just helped found. After securing a job as postmaster in Marietta and a territorial judgeship, he switched allegiance to the pro-statehood party in time to become Ohio’s first chief justice.

Charges of opportunism were probably confirmed by the judge’s restlessness. Abandoning the Ohio court within a year, Meigs went on to administrative and judicial positions in the Louisiana Territory and then in Michigan. He turned up in Washington, briefly, to serve out an interrupted Senate term. Meigs won the governorship of Ohio in 1810, defeating his old mentor Thomas Worthington.

After his reelection, Meigs came under criticism during the War of 1812, when Ohio troops in the Michigan Territory surrendered to the British. He jumped at the opportunity to move on ahead of schedule, resigning as governor in March 1814 to become U.S. Postmaster General in the Madison administration. And here Meigs settled into the longest tenure in his life, while the country doubled the number of post offices and the miles of post roads under his capable administration.