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Clinton’s most cherished tradition: the one-vote loss, Part III

By Dr. Walter G. Howell

John Peyton resigned his seat in the legislature after the 1829 session to devote his time to the development of the new county seat. He bought many of the lots donated by Raymond Robinson, sold some at a profit, and built a bank. He was a promoter of the railroad built from Vicksburg to Raymond in the 1840s. Peyton became a revered figure in Raymond.
Peyton also worked on his “one vote defeat of Clinton” story during these years. He became so besotted with his importance and place in history that he revised the events of 1829, claiming that he, John Peyton, had presided over a state convention to determine the location of the state capital and that he, not Speaker Green, as presiding officer of the convention, broke a tie vote that would have made Clinton the state capital. When Peyton died after the Civil War, the Hinds County Gazette started his obituary with an account of how he had stopped Clinton from becoming the state capital.
Hiram Runnels of Clinton won Peyton’s vacated seat in the 1829 elections and introduced a bill at the start of the 1830 legislative session to relocate the state capital. No alternate site was named. When the bill went to committee, it was amended, and Clinton was designated as the new location for the capital.
The bill went to the House floor; and, after a lengthy debate and numerous votes, an amendment was made to “strike Clinton” and add “Vicksburg.” The amendment was adopted, and the bill was forwarded to the Senate, where it died. The Senate had its own ideas about a new location, but ended up by voting to build a new state house to replace the old one at the corner of President and Capital streets in Jackson. This bill passed both houses, but Governor Gerald Brandon vetoed it.
The legislature passed a bill in 1831 that set 1841 as the last year any consideration would be given to relocating the state capital. Relocation did not come up again. When Hiram Runnels of Clinton was elected governor in 1835, he promised to keep the capital in Jackson. It was during Runnels’ term that construction on the new state house on State Street was started.
The historian did not mention the one-vote subject in his series on the history of Clinton in the Hinds County Gazette in 1875, but the people of Clinton embraced that interpretation of 1829 legislative votes. Over the years, they warmed to the idea that their little town almost became the state capital. The tradition of Clinton losing by “one vote” became one of those “what ifs” in Clinton’s history.
Clinton was a better choice for the state capital in 1829 – 1830. It was much more attractive than Jackson. Clinton had a population of about 200 in 1830, when it was officially incorporated. Jackson would not be incorporated until 1836 and had no permanent population in 1830.
Hinds County tax rolls for 1830 show that owners of 111 land parcels in the county paid their taxes for the year. One hundred and two owners lived in Clinton, five in Raymond and four in Jackson. More than two hundred lots were sold in Jackson in 1822-23. By 1830, all but four were forfeited to the state. That’s why legislators wanted to move the state capital.
The accuracy of legislative voting during the 1829 relocation debate is important to historians, who have an abiding faith in written records. When records are ignored or forgotten, traditions are born, and reckless consequences ensue. An example of this was the renaming of “Capital” Street in Clinton to “Capitol” Street.
That story will be dealt with next…

Editor’s note: This is the final 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.

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