COLUMBUS (TDB) -- During the NPR-sponsored Democratic presidential debate in Iowa today, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich claimed Ohio's original "founding documents" were written in German. But that is not true. The 26-page Ohio Constitution adopted in 1802 as the state entered the Union is handwritten in English. A copy is preserved at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, and you can actually see it online by clicking the Ohio.gov link above.
The other founding document is Thomas Worthington's draft of the Enabling Act, which was submitted to Congress, adopted, and signed by President Thomas Jefferson on April 30, 1802. It set the boundaries of the new state named Ohio and said it would be considered an equal of all others upon admission to the Union. Again, the handwritten document has been preserved. You can see it for yourself at at the link -- along with some background information from the Ohio Historical Society about the politics behind the statehood movement. Jeffersonians wanted Ohio for its presidential electoral votes; the competing Federalist Party wanted it carved into two separate states, figuring that some of the frontier territory contained supporters. The Jeffersonians prevailed.
Kucinich, D-10, was answering a question about immigration and the use of English at the Des Moines debate when he said Ohio's original statehood materials were written in the German language. He said that while serving as a state legislator he had fought and defeated efforts to make English the official language in Ohio. He said the bill was rejected "when I pointed out our state's founding documents were in German."
While that is not precisely correct, there is no doubt that German was widely spoken and used in Ohio during the 19th Century and up until the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917. After war was declared on Germany, street names were anglicized, schools were prohibited from teaching German, and meetings where German was spoken were broken up by the police.
The NPR Web site has the debate and a photo of the debaters (the photo accompanies this blog post, thanks NPR). You can hear streaming audio, and if my watch was correct Kucinich made his German comment around an hour and 51 minutes into the debate.