Clinton’s most cherished tradition: the one-vote loss, Part II
By Dr. Walter G. Howell
When Clinton was considered for the state capital location in 1828, the name was more of an idea than a location. The town of Clinton would not be surveyed until 1829. The area had the “Mount Salus” home and the federal land ofﬁce. Isaac Caldwell, attorney, had his law ofﬁce near the Spring Hotel.
Mississippi Academy built its ﬁrst building in 1828 on donated land less than a quarter-mile from the Mount Salus home of Henry Goodloe Johnston, son-in-law of the deceased Governor Leake. A trading post operated on the Natchez Trace, about four miles from the academy. About twenty-ﬁve families lived within a ﬁve-mile radius of the academy. That was Clinton in 1828.
Henry Vick was reelected to the state Senate from Hinds County in the 1828 state election. John Peyton won the Hinds County House seat, campaigning on a promise to locate the county seat at the geographical center of the county. Peyton also opposed the removal of the state capital from Jackson.
When the 1829 legislative session began, the Senate again passed a bill to relocate the state capital without identifying a new location. When the bill was sent to the House, there was strong support for Clinton becoming the new capital location. Mississippi Academy offered to allow the legislature to use its one building as a temporary state house.
Hiram Runnels, state auditor and a trustee of the Academy, pledged that Clinton would deed to the state a Capital Square in Clinton at a location chosen by the legislature. Runnels personally offered to build ﬁre-proof buildings for the state treasurer and attorney general at no cost to the State.
Runnels and two partners were in the process of developing a plat for the town of Clinton (it would be recorded on February 12, 1829.) Having Clinton as the state capital would enhance the value of the land. The plat had a “Capital” Street running north and south on the west side of the town.
When the Senate bill to relocate reached the House, Charles Green, the Speaker, assigned the bill to committee, which reported the bill to the ﬂoor on January 30, 1829. The bill had no speciﬁc location, and a motion was made to amend by adding “Clinton” as the location. Before any action on that motion to amend was taken, another motion was made to “strike Clinton” and insert “Mississippi City.”
The motion to amend the Clinton motion was defeated on a voice vote. The voting then followed the pattern of 1828: nine other motions were made to “strike Clinton” and insert another town. Six times, these motions to amend were defeated by a voice vote, and three times on a roll call vote of thirteen “yeas” to twenty-three “nays.”
A motion was then made to postpone further debate on the Senate bill to relocate without a speciﬁc site. This motion lost on a tie vote of eighteen to eighteen. Speaker Green declared there would be no further debate on the bill, ending the attempt to relocate the capital.
After that session, House members retired to the saloon next door; and John Peyton, happy with the fate of the bill to relocate, boasted that he had defeated Clinton’s chances of becoming the state capital by his one vote. Peyton had voted against all efforts to amend the Senate bill by adding a location and voted to end debate, but never had a chance to vote on the amendment to make Clinton capital. There was no vote on that amendment.
Isaac Caldwell, Clinton attorney and trustee of Mississippi Academy, took offense at Peyton’s mendacity and challenged him to a duel. Peyton escaped injury, while Caldwell suffered a slight wound on the hand during the duel.
The 1829 legislature did vote to locate the county seat at the geographical center of the county. Raymond Robinson, father-in-law of Isaac Caldwell, donated a trace of land near the center for the county seat. Ofﬁcials would lay out a town and build a court house with the proceeds from the sale of the donated land. They named the town “Raymond” as a compliment to Robinson.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three pieces by Dr. Walter Howell that will explore the “one-vote loss” tradition regarding Clinton being named the capital of the state.