1798 : Solomon Sibley Elected to Nortwest Territory General Assembly

December 17, 2018 all-day

On December 17, 1798, Solomon Sibley was elected the Detroit delegate to the Northwest Territory General Assembly.

Sibley was very active in the Territorial Government and was instrumental in introducing and passing legislation which incorporated Detroit as a city. As a result of his involvement, Sibley was elected to the city’s Board of Trustees while serving out his term in the Territorial Legislature.

In 1806, Sibley authored Detroit’s first City Charter. After his term as delegate expired, Sibley was elected the first mayor of Detroit in 1806. At the time, the position of mayor was mainly ceremonial, as the city was still largely under the jurisdiction of the Territorial Government. Governor William Hull and Chief Justice Augustus Woodward were largely responsible for the city’s operations. Finding his position with little real power, Sibley resigned to focus on other endeavors.

Sibley remained a large presence in Detroit and Michigan throughout his career. During the War of 1812, Sibley commanded a company of militiamen and helped defend the city during the British invasion.  Following the War, Sibley was appointed Auditor for the Michigan Territory, serving from 1814 until 1817. Sibley also helped raise funds for the founding of the University of Michigan.

In 1815, President Madison appointed Sibley as the first U.S. Federal Attorney for the Michigan Territory, a post he would hold until 1823. Showing continued confidence in Sibley, the people of Michigan elected him as territorial delegate to the United States Congress. Sibley served parts of two terms in the House of Representatives.

In 1823, he was appointed by President Monroe to serve as Chief Justice for the Supreme Court of the Michigan Territory, until his retirement in 1837. Sibley was extremely influential in setting the legal precedent that would enable Michigan to become a state in 1837. Sibley was held in high esteem by his contemporaries, as well as by the public at large.

After retiring from the court, Sibley lived out the remainder of his days in Detroit, dying on April 4th, 1846 at age 76. His death was a state-wide observance, and all members of the Michigan Bar wore black arm bands for the following month to commemorate his death and his role in the development of Michigan and Detroit.

Sources :


Encyclopedia of Detroit

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