William P. Cutler was born near Marietta, July 12, 1813; was a member of the Ohio legislature from 1844 to 1846, officiating as speaker of the house during his last term; was a member of the constitutional convention of 1850; afterwards was for some years president of the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad Company; was elected in 1860 a representative to the 37th congress, and has been for a few years past again officially connected with the above mentioned railroad.
In 1818 Judge Cutler again appeared in public life as a member of the Ohio legislature from Washington county. We regret that we can not exhibit in detail his noble services at this period of his life; we can only state the results. He succeeded in changing the land tax system from a direct tax to an ad valorem basis. Prior to 1824 the whole burden of state taxes was laid on the lands as a direct tax, levied by the acre and without reference to value. Consequently thinly populated counties like Athens and Washington actually paid more into the treasury than wealthy and populous counties like Hamilton and Butler. The system was grossly unequal and oppressive. Judge Cutler’s clear vision enabled him to perceive this, and he labored long and successfully to change it, so that taxes should be assessed on the whole property of the people according to value.
His other great achievement at this time was the establishment of an excellent common school system. The first public allusion to education in Ohio is found in an oration by Solomon Drown, delivered at Marietta, April 7th, 1789. The first memorial on behalf of the general interest of public schools read in the Ohio legislature was offered in 1816, by the Rev. Samuel P. Robbins, of Marietta, but prior to 182o there was no organized sentiment in the state on the subject of common schools, and no general legislation. In 1821 the legislature passed an act for the regulation and support of common schools, but it did not provide any adequate revenue for their maintenance, and was by no means an efficient system. The common school question was an issue in the elections of 1824. Several ardent advocates of a thorough system were elected, among them Judge Cutler, as senator from Washington county. We do not aver that he alone deserves the credit for the success of the measure in the legislature of 1824-5, but he was the acknowledged leader of the friends of common schools, and his experience in public affairs and as a legislator rendered his services of the greatest value. On the 5th of February, 1825, an excellent school bill, providing a thorough system and liberal support therefor by taxation, was passed by the legislature. When the vote in the senate was taken, Judge Cutler and Mr. Nathan Guilford (senator from Cincinnati, who was an ardent and able friend of the cause, and who drafted the bill), were standing side by side. When the result was announced, a majority for the bill of twenty-two votes, judge Cutler turned to Mr. Guilford, and, with great solemnity and earnestness, said: “Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
The latter years of Judge Cutler’s life were spent quietly at his, place in Washington county, amid the enjoyments of home and the affectionate attention of relatives and friends. He died July 8th, 1853.