Northwest Ordinance - History

Northwest Ordinance - History

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In one of the few actions of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance was passed. It opened the territories of the Northwest (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana) for settlement. The only problem was these territories were already settled by Native Americans.

The Northwest Ordinance: The Most Republican Law in History?

In 1787, the U.S Congress unanimously passed the most republican law in Western history—the Northwest Ordinance, in which Americans argued that real sovereignty resides in the individual human person in association.

On this day in 1787, the Congress of the United States unanimously passed what my colleague, friend, and mentor John Willson has called the most republican law in western history—the Northwest Ordinance.

I don’t think Prof. Willson’s claim should be dismissed as hyperbolic. In fact, I think just the opposite. Today, of all days, every supporter of a republican form of government should refresh himself as to its significance.

This law is as deeply rooted in the American experience of liberty under law as is the U.S. Constitution. In some ways, it’s more western than American in its understanding of republicanism.

We current Americans would be remiss to ignore this aspect of the founding, simply because those debating at the constitutional convention were absent from the vote regarding the Northwest ordinance indeed, they were debating the merits of the Articles of Confederation and their replacement only a short distance from the U.S. Congress. In every sense, the men who voted—without a single dissent—for the Northwest Ordinance were as much a part of the founding as were those who drafted the Constitution.

If the men of the constitutional convention tended to put national interest and power above goodness and virtue, the men in Congress did quite the opposite.

What did the Northwest Ordinance decree in its six articles: 1) freedom of religious worship 2) the rights of the English common law, the right to associate (marriage, schools, business, churches, education, etc.) with one another without political interference, and the absolute natural right to property 3) respect for American Indians 4) equality among the states, thus preventing a citizen of one of the original thirteen states claiming superiority over an American from a future state and 5) the abolition of slavery. These laws applied to what is now Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a small part of Minnesota.

They also created the spirit of what western expansion for the republic SHOULD BE.

Two years later, the French Revolutionaries in their insidious Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed that

the principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

Under the Northwest Articles, Americans argued just the opposite—real sovereignty resides in the individual human person in association.

To state the obvious, we’re not the French.

It is also especially interesting to contrast what was decided on July 13 in Congress with what was being contested only a short distance away. Whereas the Congressmen unanimously proclaimed the Northwest Territory off limits for slavery, the men of the constitutional convention fought one another bitterly over the issue.

On August 8, Rufus King of New York proclaimed, “the admission of slaves was a most grating circumstance to his mind.”

Gouvenor Morris labeled slavery a “nefarious institution—It was the curse of heaven.”

Of course, the founders of the constitutional convention—much to the unnecessary shame they brought upon the republic—allowed slavery to remain, despite the voiced objections to the institution, especially in what was supposedly a free republic. In some of the final words argued on the subject in the constitutional convention, Rutlidge spoke for the majority of men present when he stated on August 21, “Religion & humanity had nothing to do with question—Interest alone is the governing principle with Nations.”

One can only imagine how different the history of the republic would be had the founders of the U.S. Constitution followed the lead of those in Congress.

Regardless, what happened, happened.

Still, as advocates of republican government, we would do well to remember the glories of the Old Northwest and its ordinances, offering perhaps the finest understanding of republican citizenship yet proclaimed in this world of sorrows.

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

The featured image is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Northwest Ordinance of 1787

When parties who would later form the Ohio Land Company expressed an interest in buying 5 million acres of land should the territory be organized on a free basis, the Articles of Confederation Congress took note. In 1787, an ordinance based on earlier recommendations from Thomas Jefferson was enacted. The Northwest Ordinance, as it came to be known, clearly indicated the western lands north of the Ohio River, west of the Alleghenies, and east of the Mississippi River would be settled and become states on a par with existing ones. The ordinance provided that:

  • No fewer than three, or more than five, states would be formed
  • Admission to the Union would be available when the number of free inhabitants reached 60,000 be guaranteed
  • Education be encouraged
  • Slavery and involuntary servitude be prohibited.
  • The ordinance spurred the westward movement of American settlers
  • It overturned the colonial idea that newly settled lands would be subservient to established areas
  • It established the format for American land policy for years to come
  • The law provided the first national limitation upon the expansion of slavery.

In Wisconsin History: The Northwest Ordinance Sets the Stage For Settlers

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — On this date 233 years ago, the brand-new United States of America adopted the Northwest Ordinance — a document that paved the way for Wisconsin and the rest of its region to become a part of the union.

Sandwiched in time between the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 often goes overlooked, says Bryan Rindfleisch, an assistant professor of history at Marquette University. But the document had a huge impact in shaping how the early Americans would go on to create what we now know as the U.S.

“They won a war against Great Britain. Now they have to create a nation,” Rindfleisch says. “Not just a nation of those 13 colonies or states, but a nation that is always looking west, and a nation that always is looking to expand.”

The ordinance set out rules for “the Government of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio,” detailing how these lands would be settled and eventually turned into states (Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, to be exact, plus a chunk of Minnesota).

In the period after the Revolutionary War, the U.S. claimed this Northwest Territory as part of its winnings from Britain. On the ground, though, the land was still mostly populated by Native American tribes, who had been the area’s main residents even as France, Britain, and now the U.S. had laid claim to it at various points.

“This was largely the hunting territories or the residence territories of indigenous peoples,” Rindfleisch says. “They're engaged in the fur trade with the French, who are up in Canada and up and down the Mississippi River. But the American presence at this time is just minimal, if anything.”

The leaders of the new United States were eager to acquire more land: As historian Reginald Horsman writes, they had promised land grants to revolutionary soldiers, and hoped that expansion could help accommodate a growing population and erase some of the national debt.

At the same time that delegates were gathering to draft the U.S. Constitution and decide how to govern the pre-existing colonies, then, they were also discussing how the new nation would expand its reach across the continent. And even though it was widely agreed that these lands should become part of the new nation, the question of how became a hotly contested one.

“The settlement and government of these areas was one of the most controversial issues of these first years of the revolutionary nation,” Horsman writes.

Some individual colonies had their own claims to land in the Northwest Territory, which they had to turn over to the central government in order for this territorial plan to function. Plus, the specifics of self-government for the new Northwest went through several rounds of edits. Thomas Jefferson created an earlier version of the ordinance in 1784 that would create more, smaller states in the area and give the new settlers a lot of freedom, but the 1787 version kept the settlements on a tighter leash with more oversight from Congress.

The final Northwest Ordinance created an orderly process for expansion that “reflected the Enlightenment love of order and balance,” Horsman writes. Surveyors would divide up the land into townships and sell it off in chunks, for the minimum price of $1 per acre. Once a territory reached a population size of 5,000 adult free males, it could form its own legislature to replace its Congress-appointed governor at a population of 60,000, it could apply for full statehood. (In Wisconsin, it would be another six decades before that milestone was reached, making it the last full state created out of the Northwest Territory land.)

Another major function of the Northwest Ordinance was to establish a bill of rights for the settlers of these lands. In addition to guaranteeing freedom of religion and promoting education (“Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind,” its authors write), the document banned slavery in the region for good — nearly a century earlier than the 13th Amendment was passed.

“It's an important recognition by having, as early as 1787, this document saying ‘Slavery: No,’” Rindfleisch says. “And this will set us up ultimately for the showdown of the American Civil War.”

Even Nathan Dane, one of the delegates who helped author the ordinance, seemed surprised that the other representatives let this rule go through. “I had no idea the states would agree to the sixth [article] prohibiting slavery,” he wrote in a letter shortly after the Ordinance was adopted.

The Northwest Ordinance also promised that settlers would observe “the utmost good faith” toward Native Americans and would not take their lands without consent. But this promise was not kept over the course of U.S. expansion, Horsman writes.

Over the course of the early 19th century, Rindfleisch says, the appeal of open land would draw a wave of American settlers into the Northwest Territory — and push many Native Americans out of their traditional homelands and onto reservations. The protocols established in 1787 would serve as a “template” for how the U.S. would keep spreading even beyond the Midwest, he says.

“It basically laid the foundation that the United States was going to expand across the entire continent,” Rindfleisch says. “Those lands will ultimately be inhabited by American citizens and become part of the United States. And indigenous peoples are not seen as part of that image.”

The Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance had four important stipulations. First, it authorized a provisional government for the territory northwest of the Ohio River that the United States had obtained at the end of the Revolutionary War. Second, it provided a method for making new governments out of that territory. Third, it guaranteed a bill of rights to inhabitants of the new territories and prohibited slavery in them. Finally, it outlined a way to survey and denote the new lands so they could be sold to settlers.


The Northwest Territory included all the then-owned land of the United States west of Pennsylvania, east of the Mississippi River, and northwest of the Ohio River. It incorporated most of the former Ohio Country except a portion in western Pennsylvania, and eastern Illinois Country. It covered all of the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as the northeastern part of Minnesota. Lands west of the Mississippi River were the Louisiana Province of New France (acquired by the United States in 1803 by the Louisiana Purchase) lands north of the Great Lakes were the British Province of Upper Canada, and lands south of the Ohio River constituted Kentucky County, Virginia, admitted to the union as the state of Kentucky in 1792. The area included more than 260,000 square miles (670,000 km 2 ) and comprised about 1/3 of the land area of the United States at the time of its creation. It was inhabited by about 45,000 Native Americans and 4,000 traders, mostly Canadien and British. Among the tribes inhabiting the region were the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, Wyandot, Ottawa and Potawatomi. Notably, the Miami capital along with British trading posts was at Kekionga at the site of present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. Neutralizing Kekionga became the focus of the Northwest Indian War, the driving events in the early evolution of the territory.

Integration of the Northwest Territory into a political unit, and settlement, depended on three factors: relinquishment by the British, extinguishment of states' claims west of the Appalachians, and usurpation or purchase of lands from the Native Americans. These objectives were accomplished correspondingly by the American Revolutionary War, provisions in the Articles of Confederation, and various treaties preceding the Northwest Indian War including Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784) and Treaty of Fort McIntosh (1785). The treaty process would extend well beyond the War and existence of the Territory as a political entity.

New France Edit

European exploration of the region began with French-Canadian voyageurs in the 17th century, followed by French missionaries and French fur traders. French-Canadian explorer Jean Nicolet was the first recorded European entrant into the region, landing in 1634 at the current site of Green Bay, Wisconsin (although Étienne Brûlé is stated by some sources as having explored Lake Superior and possibly inland Wisconsin in 1622). The French exercised control from widely separate posts in the region, which they claimed as New France among these was the post at Fort Detroit, founded in 1701. France ceded the territory to the Kingdom of Great Britain as part of the Indian Reserve in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, after being defeated in the French and Indian War.

British control Edit

From the 1750s to the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812, the British had a long-standing goal of creating an Indian barrier state, a large Native American state that would cover most of the Old Northwest. It would be independent of the United States and allied with the British government, who would use it to block American westward expansion and to build up their control of the fur trade headquartered in Montreal. [2]

A new colony, named Charlotina, was proposed for establishment in the southern Great Lakes region. However, after the events of Pontiac's War, the British Crown issued the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited white colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. This action angered American colonists interested in expansion, as well as those who had already settled in the area. In 1774, by the Quebec Act, Britain annexed the region to the Province of Quebec in order to provide a civil government and to centralize British administration of the Montreal-based fur trade. The prohibition of settlement west of the Appalachians remained, contributing to the American Revolution.

In February 1779, George Rogers Clark of the Virginia Militia captured Kaskaskia and Vincennes from British commander Henry Hamilton. Virginia capitalized on Clark's success by laying claim to the whole of the Old Northwest, calling it Illinois County, Virginia, [3] until 1784, when Virginia ceded its land claims to the federal government.

Britain officially ceded the area north of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachians to the United States at the end of the American Revolutionary War with the Treaty of Paris (1783), but the British continued to maintain a presence in the region as late as 1815, the end of the War of 1812.

Cessions by the states Edit

Several states (Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut) had competing claims on the territory: Virginia claimed all of what were formerly Illinois Country and Ohio Country Massachusetts claimed what are today southern Michigan and Wisconsin Connecticut claimed a narrow strip across the territory just south of the Great Lakes New York claimed an elastic portion of Iroquis lands between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. The western boundary of Pennsylvania was also ill-defined. Virginia's jurisdiction was limited to a few French settlements at the extreme western edge of the territory. Massachusetts's and Connecticut's claims were effectively lines on paper. New York had no colonial settlements or territorial government in the claimed lands.

The western border of Pennsylvania, previously assumed to run in a north by northeast zigzag, was resolved in 1780 by the Continental Congress. The Mason–Dixon line was extended westward to a point five degrees of longitude (about 260 miles) from the Delaware River and the western boundary extended to run due north from the westernmost extent of the Mason–Dixon line to the 43rd parallel. This incorporated the eastern part of Ohio Country as western Pennsylvania, and set the eastern boundary of federal lands.

"Unlanded" states, such as Maryland, refused to ratify the Articles of Confederation so long as these states were allowed to keep their western territory, fearing that those states could continue to grow and tip the balance of power in their favor under the proposed system of federal government. As a concession to obtain ratification, these states ceded their claims on the territory to the federal government: New York in 1780, Virginia in 1784, and Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1785. So the majority of the territory became public land owned by the U.S. government. Virginia and Connecticut reserved two areas to use as compensation to military veterans: The Virginia Military District [4] and the Connecticut Western Reserve [5]

Thomas Jefferson's Land Ordinance of 1784 was the first organization of the territory by the United States it provided a process for dividing the territory into individual states. The Land Ordinance of 1785 established a standardized system for surveying the land into saleable lots, although Ohio would be partially surveyed several times using different methods, resulting in a patchwork of land surveys in Ohio. Some older French communities' property claims based on earlier systems of long, narrow lots also were retained. The rest of the Northwest Territory was divided into roughly uniform square townships and sections, which facilitated land sales and development. The ordinance also stipulated that the territory would eventually form at least three but not more than five new states. [6]

Founding of the territory Edit

Under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which created the Northwest Territory, General St. Clair was appointed governor. When the territory was divided in 1800, he briefly served as governor of the Northwest Territory remnant that included Ohio, the eastern half of Michigan, and a sliver of southeastern Indiana called "The Gore."

St. Clair formally established the government on July 15, 1788, at Marietta. In 1790, he renamed the settlement of Losantiville Cincinnati, after the Society of the Cincinnati, and moved the administrative and military center to Fort Washington.

As Governor, he formulated the Maxwell's Code (named after its printer, William Maxwell), the first written criminal and civil laws of the territory. Maxwell's Code consisted of thirty-seven different laws with the stipulation that the laws had to have been passed previously in one of the original thirteen states. The laws restructured the court system then in effect in the Northwest Territory. They also protected residents against excessive taxes and declared that English common law would be the basis of legal decisions and laws in the Northwest Territory.

Northwest Indian War Edit

The young United States government, deeply in debt following the Revolutionary War and lacking authority to tax under the Articles of Confederation, planned to raise revenue from the methodical sale of land in the Northwest Territory. This plan necessarily called for the removal of both Native American villages and squatters from lands west of Appalachia, loosely, the territory called "Ohio Country" and beyond. [7] Difficulties with Native American tribes and a supporting British military presence presented continuing obstacles for American expansion.

The area making up the Ohio Country had been contested for over a century, beginning with the 17th-century Beaver Wars. The Western Confederacy, or Western Indian Confederacy, was a loose confederacy of Native Americans in the Great Lakes region of the United States created following the American Revolutionary War. Congress passed the Proclamation of 1783, which recognized Native American rights to the land. A council held in 1785 at Fort Detroit declared that the confederacy would deal jointly with the United States, forbade individual tribes from dealing directly with the United States, and declared the Ohio River as the boundary between their lands and those of the American settlers. [8]

The Northwest Territory's first governor, Arthur St. Clair, sought to end Native American claims to Ohio land and thus clear the way for white settlement. In 1789, he succeeded in getting certain Native Americans to sign the Treaty of Fort Harmar, but many native leaders had not been invited to participate in the negotiations or had refused to do so. Rather than settling the Native Americans' claims, the treaty provoked an escalation of the "Northwest Indian War" (or "Little Turtle's War"). Mutual hostilities led to a campaign by General Josiah Harmar, whose 1,500 militiamen were defeated by the Native Americans in October 1790. [9]

A group of squatters had moved up to the area near present-day Stockport now in Morgan County, Ohio and settled along flood plain, or "bottom" land, of the Muskingum River, some 30 miles north of an Ohio Company of Associates settlement at Marietta, Ohio.The Big Bottom massacre occurred on January 2, 1791. Lenape and Wyandot warriors stormed the incomplete blockhouse and killed eleven men, one woman, and two children. (Accounts vary as to the number of casualties.) Rufus Putnam wrote to President Washington that "we shall be so reduced and discouraged as to give up the settlement [Marietta following the Big Bottom disaster]." [10]

In March 1791, St. Clair succeeded Harmar as commander of the United States Army and was commissioned as a major general. He led a punitive expedition involving two Regular Army regiments and some militia. In October 1791 as an advance post for his campaign, Fort Jefferson (Ohio), was built under his direction. Located in present-day Darke County in far western Ohio, the fort was built of wood and intended primarily as a supply depot accordingly, it was originally named Fort Deposit. One month later, near modern-day Fort Recovery, his force advanced to the location of Native American settlements near the headwaters of the Wabash River, but on November 4 they were routed in battle by a tribal confederation led by Miami Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. More than 600 soldiers and scores of women and children were killed in the battle, known as "St. Clair's Defeat" and many other names. It remains the greatest defeat of a US Army by Native Americans in history, with about 623 American soldiers killed in action and about 50 Native American killed. Although an investigation exonerated him, St. Clair resigned his army commission in March 1792 at the request of President Washington, but continued to serve as Governor of the Northwest Territory. [11] [12] [13]

After St. Clair's ignominious defeat, In June 1792, President Washington tapped revolutionary war hero Major General "Mad" Anthony Wayne to avenge St. Clair and assert sovereignty over the western frontier. Wayne was commissioned to form a new army of 5120 professional soldiers, dubbed the "Legion of the United States". Wayne recruited and trained his army in Pennsylvania, and moved them to southwestern Ohio in fall of 1793. There they were joined by the Kentucky Militia under Major General Charles Scott. Over the next ten months, the armies marched north up the Great Miami and Maumee River valleys toward the Miami capital of Kekionga. Along the way Wayne's legion built a series of outpost forts including Fort Greene Ville, Fort Recovery and Fort Defiance. Fierce battles occurred around some of these but none of Wayne's forts were ever taken by the Native Americans.

In mid 1794, the British built Fort Miamis near what is today Toledo, Ohio, to forestall Wayne's putative advance on the British stronghold at Detroit. The final battle of Wayne's campaign occurred within the scope of this fort. The military campaign of Gen. Wayne against the Western Confederacy, who were supported by a company of troops from Lower Canada, culminated with victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Following the battle, in fall 1794, Wayne's army marched unopposed to Kekionga where they constructed Fort Wayne, a defiant symbol of U.S. sovereignty in the heart of Native American Country.

Jay's Treaty, in 1794, temporarily helped to smooth relations with British traders in the region, where British citizens outnumbered American citizens throughout the 1790s. The following year, the Treaty of Greenville secured peace on the western frontier and opened most of southern and eastern Ohio for American settlement.

Settlement Edit

Sporadic westward emigrant settlements had already resumed late in the war [ which? ] after the Iroquois Confederacy's power was broken and the tribes scattered by the 1779 Sullivan Expedition. Soon after the Revolution ended, land-hungry migrants started moving west. A gateway trading post developed as the town of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, which was a key outfitting center west of the mountains. Other wagon roads, such as the Kittanning Path surmounting the gaps of the Allegheny in central Pennsylvania, or trails along the Mohawk River in New York, enabled a steady stream of settlers to reach the near west and the lands bordering the Mississippi. [b] This activity stimulated the development of the eastern parts of the eventual National Road by private investors. The Cumberland–Brownsville toll road linked the water routes of the Potomac River with the Monongahela River of the Ohio/Mississippi riverine systems in the days when water travel was the only good alternative to walking and riding. Most of the territory and its successors was settled by emigrants passing through the Cumberland Narrows, or along the Mohawk Valley in New York State.

The Continental Congress' title to the lands north of the Ohio River was derived from the Treaty of Paris (1783), the Treaty of Fort McIntosh, and the cessions of four states. Settlement was through several means: squatters, direct U.S. government land sales to settlers, sales of tracts of land to land companies, and state sales of land to veterans in the Virginia Military District and Connecticut Western Reserve. The first area to be surveyed was the Seven Ranges along the eastern border of Ohio in 1786–1789. Direct sales of federal lands to individual homesteaders started here. In some cases, the government granted or donated land for special purposes.

Settlement followed the forts, whether garrisoned or not. Lack of a garrison meant that threat of Native American attack had become negligible. This was true everywhere in Ohio before 1800 except the northwest sector above the Greenville Treaty line. It became true in Indiana after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 by 1813 Battle of the Thames where Tecumseh was defeated and killed, the frontier had essentially moved to west of the Mississippi. The first U.S. military garrisons in the territory were Fort Patrick Henry, Vincennes, Indiana (1779), Fort Clark at Falls of the Ohio, Indiana (1783), and Fort Harmar in Ohio (1785). The first settlements were at these locations.

The first land grant was to George Rogers Clark in 1781 at Falls of the Ohio on the Indiana side he went on to found the settlement of Clarksville. The first two land purchases were large tracts of land sold to John Symmes (Symmes Purchase) in 1788 and two tracts sold to Ohio Company in 1787 and 1792 (Purchase on the Muskingum). Settlement of these areas was spearheaded by Losantiville and Marietta, respectively. In 1792, Congress donated 100,000 acres to Ohio Company as a buffer zone against Native American incursion around the settled area. The vexing land claims by inhabitants of the old French Vincennes Tract were finally resolved by what was dubbed the 'Vincennes donation lands' embodied in a federal land act of 1791. Federal land sales in Indiana (then a part of Indiana Territory starting in 1800) didn't begin until 1801, through the Cincinnati land office.

After the Revolutionary War ended, Rufus Putnam (the "Father of Ohio") and Manasseh Cutler were instrumental in creating the Northwest Ordinance, which opened up the Northwest Territory for settlement. This land was used to serve as compensation for what was owed to Revolutionary War veterans. It was also at Putnam's recommendation that the land would be surveyed and laid out in townships of six miles square. Putnam organized and led the first group of veterans to the territory. They settled at Marietta, Ohio, where they built a large fort called Campus Martius. [19] [20] [21]

Putnam and Cutler insisted that the Northwest Territory would be free territory - no slavery. They were both from Puritan New England, and the Puritans strongly believed that slavery was morally wrong. The Northwest Territory doubled the size of the United States, and establishing it as free of slavery proved to be of tremendous importance in the following decades. It encompassed what became Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. Had those states been slave states, Abraham Lincoln would not have been elected president. The Civil War would not have been fought. And, even if eventually there had been a civil war, the North would probably have lost. [22] [23]

Putnam, in the Puritan tradition, was influential in establishing education in the Northwest Territory. Substantial amounts of land were set aside for schools. Putnam had been one of the primary benefactors in the founding of Leicester Academy in Massachusetts, and similarly, in 1798, he created the plan for the construction of the Muskingum Academy (now Marietta College) in Ohio. In 1780, the directors of the Ohio Company appointed him superintendent of all its affairs relating to settlement north of the Ohio River. In 1796, he was commissioned by President George Washington as Surveyor-General of United States Lands. In 1788, he served as a judge in the Northwest Territory's first court. In 1802, he served in the convention to form a constitution for the State of Ohio. [24] [25] [26]

In the 1800 United States census, following the passage of an organic act by the 6th U.S. Congress creating the Indiana Territory in 1800, seven counties in the Northwest Territory reported the following population counts: [15] [16] [17] [18]

Rank County Population
1 Hamilton 14,692
2 Jefferson 8,766
3 Ross 8,540
4 Washington 5,427
5 Adams 3,432
6 Wayne 3,206
7 Trumbull 1,302
Northwest Territory 45,365

According to the 1800 Census of the United States, the Northwest Territory (i.e. the pending state of Ohio) had a population, excluding Native Americans, of over 45,000, and Indiana Territory, a population of about 5,600. By the time of Ohio statehood, there were as many as 50 named towns in Northwest and Indiana Territories, a few, like Vincennes, with thousands of settlers, and dozens of unnamed settlements below the Treaty Line in Ohio.

Following settlement of the frontier, the great wave of colonial immigration flowed westward, founding the great cities of the eventual 6 states of the Territory which is now the midwestern United States early in the 19th century: Detroit (<1800), Cleveland (1796), Columbus (1812), Indianapolis (1822), Chicago (1833), Milwaukee (1846), Minneapolis (1847).

Statehood for Ohio Edit

A Federalist, St. Clair hoped to see two states made of the old Ohio Country to increase Federalist power in Congress. [ citation needed ] However, he was resented by Ohio Democratic-Republicans for what was perceived as his partisanship, high-handedness and arrogance in office. In 1802, his opposition to plans for Ohio statehood led President Thomas Jefferson to remove him from office as territorial governor. He thus played no part in the organizing of the state of Ohio in 1803. The first Ohio Constitution provided for a weak governor and a strong legislature, in part a reaction to St. Clair's method of governance.

In preparation for Ohio's statehood, Congress split the Northwest Territory into two sections in 1800. A new territory, Indiana Territory, would encompass all land west of the present Indiana–Ohio border and its northward extension to Lake Superior, except for a wedge-shaped area of present-day Indiana in the southeast known as "the gore". It, along with everything east of the new territory remained part of the Northwest Territory. [28] This legislation was signed into law by President John Adams on May 7, 1800, and became effective on July 4. Later, on April 30, 1802, Congress passed an enabling act for Ohio that authorized the residents of the eastern portion of the Northwest Territory to form a state constitution and government, and be admitted to the Union. [29] When Ohio was admitted as the 17th state on March 1, 1803, the land not included in the new state, including the gore, became part of Indiana Territory, and the Northwest Territory went out of existence. [28]

Ongoing disputes with the British over the region were a contributing factor to the War of 1812. Britain irrevocably ceded claim to the former Northwest Territory with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the Northwest Territory, and defined its boundaries, form of government, and administrative structure. In particular, it defined the bodies of government, established the legal basis of land ownership, provided for abolition and transfer of state territorial claims, made rules for admission of new states, established public education, recognized and codified 'natural rights', prohibited slavery, and defined the land rights and applicability of laws to the Native Americans.

Law and government Edit

At first, the territory had a modified form of martial law. The governor was also the senior army officer within the territory, and he combined legislative and executive authority. But a supreme court was established, and he shared legislative powers with the court. County governments were organized as soon as the population was sufficient, and these assumed local administrative and judicial functions. Washington County was the first of these, at Marietta in 1788. This was an important event, as this court was the first establishment of civil and criminal law in the pioneer country.

As soon as the number of free male settlers exceeded 5,000, the territorial legislature was to be created, and this happened in 1798. The full mechanisms of government were put in place, as outlined in the Northwest Ordinance. A bicameral legislature consisted of a House of Representatives and a Council. The first House had 22 representatives, apportioned by population of each county. [30] The House then nominated 10 citizens to be Council members. The nominations were sent to the U.S. Congress, which appointed five of them as the council. This assembly became the legislature of the Territory, although the governor retained veto power.

Article VI of the Articles of Compact within the Northwest Ordinance prohibited the owning of slaves within the Northwest Territory. However, territorial governments evaded this law by use of indenture laws. [31] The Articles of Compact prohibited legal discrimination on the basis of religion within the territory.

The township formula created by Thomas Jefferson was first implemented in the Northwest Territory through the Land Ordinance of 1785. The square surveys of the Northwest Territory would become a hallmark of the Midwest, as sections, townships, counties (and states) were laid out scientifically, and land was sold quickly and efficiently (although not without some speculative aberrations).

Officials Edit

Arthur St. Clair was the territory's governor until November 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson removed him from office and appointed Charles Willing Byrd, who served the position until Ohio became a state and elected its first governor, Edward Tiffin, on March 3, 1803. [32] The Supreme Court consisted of (1) John Cleves Symmes (2) James Mitchell Varnum, who died in 1789, replaced by George Turner, who resigned in 1796, and was replaced by Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr. and (3) Samuel Holden Parsons, who died in 1789, replaced by Rufus Putnam, who resigned 1796, and was replaced by Joseph Gilman. [33] There were three secretaries: Winthrop Sargent (July 9, 1788 – May 31, 1798) William Henry Harrison (June 29, 1798 – December 31, 1799) and Charles Willing Byrd (January 1, 1800 – March 1, 1803).

The territory's first common pleas court opened at Marietta on September 2, 1788. Its first judges were General Rufus Putnam, General Benjamin Tupper, and Colonel Archibald Crary. Ebenezer Sproat was the first sheriff, Paul Fearing became the first attorney to practice in the territory, and Colonel William Stacy was foreman of the first grand jury. [34] Griffin Greene was appointed justice of the peace.

General Assembly Edit

The General Assembly of the Northwest Territory consisted of a Legislative Council (five members chosen by Congress) and a House of Representatives consisting of 22 members elected by the male freeholders in nine counties. The first session of the Assembly was held in September 1799. Its first important task was to select a non-voting delegate to the U.S. Congress. Locked in a power struggle with Governor St. Clair, the legislature narrowly elected William Henry Harrison as the first delegate over the governor's son, Arthur St. Clair, Jr. Subsequent congressional delegates were William McMillan (1800–1801) and Paul Fearing (1801–1803).

Land ownership Edit

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the concept of fee simple ownership, by which ownership was in perpetuity with unlimited power to sell or give it away.

Prohibition of slavery Edit

The ordinance was the first of its kind in prohibiting slavery in a U.S. state or territory, but a fugitive slave clause allowed slave owners in other states to reclaim runaway slaves.

Native American lands Edit

In regards to the Delaware Native Americans living in the region, Congress decided, on July 27, 1787, that 10,000 acres on the Muskingum River in the present state of Ohio would "be set apart and the property thereof be vested in the Moravian Brethren . . . or a society of the said Brethren for civilizing the Native Americans and promoting Christianity." [35]

Education Edit

The Northwest Ordinance called for a public university for the education, settlement and eventual statehood of the frontier of Ohio and beyond. Article 3 stated, "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." The Land Ordinance of 1785 created an innovation in public education when it reserved resources for local public schools. The ordinance divided the territory into 36 mile 2 townships, and each township was further divided into 36 one mile 2 tracts for purposes of sale. The ordinance then stated that "there shall be reserved from sale the lot No. 16 of every township for the maintenance of public schools within the said township." [36]

In 1801, Jefferson Academy was established in Vincennes. As Vincennes University, it remains the oldest public institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory.

The next year, American Western University was founded in Athens, Ohio, upstream of the Hocking River, due to its location directly between Chillicothe (an original capital of Ohio) and Marietta. It was formally established on February 18, 1804, as Ohio University. [37]


The territory was acquired by Great Britain from France after the former's victory in the Seven Years' War and during the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Great Britain took over the Ohio Country, as its eastern portion was known, but a few months later, Britain closed it to a new European settlement by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Crown tried to restrict the settlement of the Thirteen Colonies to the area between the Appalachians and the Atlantic Ocean, which raised colonial tensions among those who wanted to move west. In 1774, Britain annexed the region to its Province of Quebec. With the Patriots' victory in the American Revolutionary War and the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the United States claimed the territory as well as the areas south of Ohio. The territories were subject to overlapping and conflicting claims of the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Virginia dating from their colonial past. The British were active in some of the border areas until after the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812.

The region had long been desired for expansion by colonists. The states were encouraged to settle their claims by the U.S. federal government's de facto opening of the area to settlement after the defeat of Great Britain. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson, as delegate from Virginia, proposed for the states to relinquish their particular claims to all territory west of the Appalachians and for the area to be divided into new states of the Union. Jefferson's proposal to create a federal domain through state cessions of western lands was derived from earlier proposals dating back to 1776 and debates about the Articles of Confederation. [6] Jefferson proposed creating ten roughly rectangular states from the territory, and suggested names for the new states: Cherronesus, Sylvania, Assenisipia, Illinoia, Metropotamia, Polypotamia, Pelisipia, Washington, Michigania and Saratoga. [7] The Congress of the Confederation modified the proposal and passed it as the Land Ordinance of 1784, which established the example that would become the basis for the Northwest Ordinance three years later.

The 1784 ordinance was criticized by George Washington in 1785 and James Monroe in 1786. Monroe convinced Congress to reconsider the proposed state boundaries a review committee recommended repealing that part of the ordinance. Other politicians questioned the 1784 ordinance's plan for organizing governments in new states and worried that the new states' relatively small sizes would undermine the original states' power in Congress. Other events such as the reluctance of states south of the Ohio River to cede their western claims resulted in a narrowed geographic focus. [6]

When it was passed in New York in 1787, the Northwest Ordinance showed the influence of Jefferson. It called for dividing the territory into gridded townships so that once the lands were surveyed, they could be sold to individuals and speculative land companies. That would provide both a new source of federal government revenue and an orderly pattern for future settlement. [8]

Land ownership Edit

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the concept of fee simple ownership by which ownership was in perpetuity, with unlimited power to sell or give it away. That was called the "first guarantee of freedom of contract in the United States." [9]

Abolition and transfer of state claims Edit

Passage of the ordinance, which ceded all unsettled lands to the federal government and established the public domain, followed the relinquishing of all such claims over the territory by the states. The territories were to be administered directly by Congress, with the intent of their eventual admission as newly-created states. The legislation was revolutionary in that it established the precedent for new lands to be administered by the central government, albeit temporarily, rather than under the jurisdiction of the individually-sovereign original states, as under the Articles of Confederation. The legislation also broke colonial precedent by defining future use of the natural navigation, transportation and communication routes. It did so in a way that anticipated future acquisitions beyond the Northwest Territories and established federal policy. [10] Article 4 stated: "The navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between the same, shall be common highways and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of the said territory as to the citizens of the United States, and those of any other States that may be admitted into the confederacy, without any tax, impost, or duty therefor."

Admission of new states Edit

The most significant intended purpose of the legislation was its mandate for the creation of new states from the region. It provided that at least three but not more than five states would be established in the territory and that once such a state achieved a population of 60,000, it would be admitted into representation in the Continental Congress on an equal footing with the original thirteen states. The first state created from the Northwest Territory was Ohio in 1803, and the remaining territory was renamed Indiana Territory. The other four states were Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A portion (about a third) of what later became Minnesota was also part of the territory.

Education Edit

The ordinance of Congress called for a public university as part of the settlement and eventual statehood of the Northwest Territory by stipulating, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." In 1786, Manasseh Cutler became interested in the settlement of western lands by American pioneers to the Northwest Territory. The following year, as agent of the Ohio Company of Associates, which he had been involved in creating, he organized a contract with Congress whereby his associates, former soldiers of the Revolutionary War, might purchase 1,500,000 acres (610,000 ha) of land at the mouth of the Muskingum River with their Certificate of Indebtedness. Cutler also took a leading part in drafting the Ordinance of 1787 for the government of the Northwest Territory, which was finally presented to Congress by Massachusetts delegate Nathan Dane. For the smooth passage of the Northwest Ordinance, Cutler bribed key congressmen by making them partners in his land company. By changing the office of provisional governor from being elected to appointed, Cutler was able to offer the position to the president of Congress, Arthur St. Clair. [11]

In 1797, settlers from Marietta traveled upstream via the Hocking River to establish a location for the school and chose Athens for its location directly between Chillicothe and Marietta. Originally named in 1802 as the American Western University, the school never opened. Instead, Ohio University was formally established on February 18, 1804, when its charter was approved by the Ohio General Assembly. Its establishment came 11 months after Ohio was admitted to the Union. The first three students enrolled in 1809. Ohio University graduated two students with bachelor's degrees in 1815. [12]

Establishment of territorial government Edit

While the population of free, male inhabitants of a territory was less than 5,000, there would be a limited form of government: a governor, a secretary, and three judges, all being appointed by Congress. The governor, appointed for a three-year term and given a "freehold estate therein, in one thousand acres of land," would be the commander-in-chief of the militia, appoint magistrates and other civil officers, and help create and publish laws. The secretary, appointed for a four-year term and given a similar freehold estate as the governor but of five hundred acres, would be in charge of keeping and preserving the acts and laws passed by the territorial legislatures, keep the public records of the district, and transmit authentic copies of such acts and proceedings every six months to the secretary of the Continental Congress. Three judges, who would be appointed indefinitely "during good behaviour" and be given the same freehold as the secretary, would be in charge of helping the governor create and pass acts and laws and in making official court rulings. [13]

Once the population of a territory reached 5,000 free, male inhabitants, it would receive the authority to elect representatives from counties or townships to a territorial general assembly. For every 500 free males, there would be one representative until there were 25 representatives. Then, Congress would control the number and proportion of the representatives from that legislature. No male could be a representative unless he was a citizen of the United States for at least three years or lived in the district for three years and owned at least 200 acres of land within the same district. The representatives would serve for a term of two years. If a representative died or was removed from office, a new one would be elected to serve out the remaining time. [14]

Establishment of natural rights Edit

The natural rights provisions of the ordinance foreshadowed the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. [15] Many of the concepts and guarantees of the Ordinance of 1787 were incorporated in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In the Northwest Territory, various legal and property rights were enshrined, religious tolerance was proclaimed, and since "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." The right of habeas corpus was written into the charter, as were freedom of religion and bans on excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment. Trial by jury and a ban on ex post facto laws were also rights that were recognized.

Prohibition of slavery Edit

Art. 6. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid. [16]

At the time, no one claimed being responsible for this article. Sometime later, Nathan Dane of Massachusetts claimed he wrote it, and Manasseh Cutler told his son Ephraim that he wrote it. Historian David McCullough discounts Dane's claim because Dane was not a good writer. [17] The language of the ordinance prohibits slavery [18] but also contains a clear fugitive slave clause. [19] An attempt to add limited slavery to the proposed constitution of Ohio in 1802 was defeated after a major effort led by Ephraim Cutler, who represented Marietta, the town founded by the Ohio Company. [20]

Efforts in the 1820s by pro-slavery forces to legalize slavery in two of the states created from the Northwest Territory failed, but an "indentured servant" law allowed some slaveholders to bring slaves under that status who could not be bought or sold. [21] [22] Southern states voted for the law because they did not want to compete with the territory over tobacco as a commodity crop since it was so labor intensive that it was grown profitably only with slave labor. Also, slave states' political power would be merely equalized since there were three more slave states than there were free states in 1790. [23]

The Thirteenth Amendment, passed in 1865, outlawed slavery throughout the United States, quotes verbatim from Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance. [24]

Effects on Native Americans Edit

In two parts, the Northwest Ordinance mentions the Native Americans within the region. One pertains to the demarcation of counties and townships out of lands that the Indians were regarded as having lost or relinquished title:

Section 8. For the prevention of crimes and injuries, the laws to be adopted or made shall have force in all parts of the district, and for the execution of process, criminal and civil, the governor shall make proper divisions thereof and he shall proceed from time to time as circumstances may require, to lay out the parts of the district in which the Indian titles shall have been extinguished, into counties and townships, subject, however, to such alterations as may thereafter be made by the legislature. [25]

The other describes the preferred relationship with the Indians:

Article III. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them. [26]

Prior to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, the Congress of the Confederation passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This act created the Northwest Territory that included what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and part of Minnesota. The newly formed federal government then renewed the Northwest Ordinance in 1789.

Without going in depth into the ordinance, I want to note the reference to education in Article 3 of the the Northwest Ordinance of 1787:

Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Seeing that Michigan was part of the Northwest Territory, it should not come as a surprise that this was—and still is—quoted verbatim in the Michigan Constitution, Article 8.

Religion Is Necessary to Good Government

Now, I do not think religion must (or should) be run by government. However, I think this line about education in the ordinance is spot on. “Religion” is “necessary” to good government and the happiness of man.

Sadly, many schools today have sought to detach school from religion and morality, leaving only knowledge (and even this is being lost!). This effort to leave religion out of education has been an epic disaster. Young people are taught information with no foundation in which to base it.

Education has always been linked with religion (and thus morality), including in early America. Only modern secularism has sought to separate the two, and this has been a dismal failure. Public schools now teach children that God and the Ten Commandments are irrelevant to life—and no one should be surprised when they live like it.

How Government Can Encourage Education

Because religion is necessary to good government and man’s happiness, schools and education should be encouraged by the government. But ironically, the government has done the exact opposite of “encouraging” education by setting up its own school system. And this school system has banned religion! It has banned the very thing the Northwest Ordinance said is necessary for good government.

Instead of the government running the schools—as is the case with public schools—the government should free people up to run private schools. If the government wants to “encourage” true education, it should just get out of the way.

Decrease taxes, stop running schools, and give tax exemptions and benefits to those who run schools subject to the market. Then do what government is supposed to actually do by punishing and preventing violence and theft, thus creating a safe environment for schools. That is how government can encourage education.

The Northwest Ordinance

According to President Franklin Roosevelt, the Northwest Ordinance was the “highway” on which “the United States was built.” Approved by the Continental Congress on July 13, 1787, the Northwest Ordinance established a system to govern the Northwest Territory.

The Ordinance determined that the Northwest Territory (the area east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River) would be carved into smaller territories that eventually became states.

The Ordinance also laid out a three-stage program to govern territories and prepare them for statehood.

In the first stage, the president appointed a governor, a secretary and three judges to govern a territory. In the second stage, once a territory reached a population of 5,000 free white adult males, it could elect a legislature.

The third occurred when a territory reached a population of 60,000 free residents (both male and female). The territory drafted a constitution. After obtaining congressional approval, the territory became a state. When this happened, the territory, according to the Northwest Ordinance, entered the Union “on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatsoever.”

Five states—Ohio (1803), Indiana (1816), Illinois (1818), Michigan (1837) and Wisconsin (1848)—were eventually formed out of the Northwest Territory.

The Northwest Ordinance also guaranteed that settlers living in the Northwest Territory would receive the same rights enjoyed by Americans living in the original thirteen states. These rights were later included in the Bill of Rights.

The Northwest Ordinance established a system for new states to join the Union in an orderly fashion. It was one of the most important documents in American history.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 .

New states would be admitted to the nation as equal members of the Union. The polices of the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 not only fostered westward expansion but also took steps to legislate for public education and to limit slavery in the newly added territories.

D. Albany Plan of Union 2) According to the Articles of Confederation. what was one thing the . 4) The Northwest Ordinance established procedures for the orderly . D. They feared the new government would give up land to Native Americans O . C. Declare War, Make Peace Treaties, Create a Post Office

Bearing in mind this passage, a) one way in which the Northwest Ordinance extended republican institutions into new territories was through the land rent to a settler and the proceeds were used to pay for schools. The ordinance encouraged this commitment involved with religion and morality. b) Another way that is not mentioned is that settled a precedent for federal support education, being the first national education law passed anywhere in the world. c) The Northwest Ordinance was the first and main conflict between them, because Native Americans were displaced across the Appalachians and the Midwest (today) and then, with the Ordinance they were promised decent treatment and education. However, many of them resisted and they stayed in their territories until the twentieth century.

C prohibition of slavery within the territory and establishing the Ohio River as the border between free and slave states in the territory

The Northwest Ordinance legalized the use important geographical features to separate 2 political regions in United States.

The Slave states are the states which legalize the use of slave labors in business organizations and private tasks.

The Free states make the use of slaves in any shape or forms become illegal.

The ordinance was important for the confederates states to create a distinction on which lands that they can sell to planation owners who wanted to expand their businesses. Plantation owners from southern states generally prefers to buy lands in the slaves states to increase their profit.

C. prohibition of slavery within the territory and establishing the Ohio River as the border between free and slave states in the territory

The Northwest Ordinance legalized the use important geographical features to separate 2 political regions in United States.

The Slave states are the states which legalize the use of slave labors in business organizations and private tasks.

The Free states make the use of slaves in any shape or forms become illegal.

The ordinance was important for the confederates states to create a distinction on which lands that they can sell to planation owners who wanted to expand their businesses. Plantation owners from southern states generally prefers to buy lands in the slaves states to increase their profit.

I think it is C) prohibition of slavery within the territory and establishing the Ohio River as the border between free and slave states in the territory

The area called the Old Northwest included the present day states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. The Ordinance of 1785 created a system to survey and divide western lands. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 became a model for admitting new states to the union. The Northwest Ordinance outlawed articles in the territory.

The correct answer is A) the Northwest Ordinance added to the guidelines for American expansion that were introduced in the Articles of the Confederation.

The statement that accurately describes the relationship between the Northwest Ordinance and the Articles of the Confederation is “the Northwest Ordinance added to the guidelines for American expansion that were introduced in the Articles of the Confederation.”

The Northwest Ordinances were a series of ordinances in 1784, 1785, and 1787 were enacted o by the Confederate Congress of the United States. The Ordinance authorized the creation of the Northwest territory in an organized way. That portion of land was located West of Pennsylvania, North the Ohio River, South of the Great Lakes and South the Mississippi River. And the statement that accurately describes the relationship between the Northwest Ordinance and the Articles of the Confederation is “the Northwest Ordinance added to the guidelines for American expansion that were introduced in the Articles of the Confederation.”

Watch the video: Land Ordinance vs Northwest Ordinance (November 2022).

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