Northwest Ordinances

(1784, 1785, 1787) Measures enacted by the U.S. Congress for the division and settlement of the Northwest Territory, the frontier region extending north of the Ohio River to the Great Lakes and west of Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River.

The original ordinance, written by Thomas Jefferson, divided the territory into self-governing districts and set population requirements for statehood. The final ordinance, written partly by Rufus King, set land-grant sizes and prices, provided public land for schools, outlawed slavery, and guaranteed civil liberties. It established the principle of admitting new states on equal terms with the original 13 states.

* * *

United States [1784, 1785, 1787]
also called  Ordinances of 1784, 1785, and 1787 

      several ordinances enacted by the U.S. Congress for the purpose of establishing orderly and equitable procedures for the settlement and political incorporation of the Northwest Territory—i.e., that part of the American frontier lying west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, and south of the Great Lakes; this is the area known today as the American Midwest.

      Until about 1780 the lands of the Northwest Territory were claimed by several existing states, including New York and Virginia. These states soon ceded their territorial holdings to the central government, and by the time that the American Revolution ended in 1783, specific measures were needed to guide the settlement and division of the Northwest Territory. The Ordinance of 1784, drafted by Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson, Thomas) and passed by Congress, divided the territory into a handful of self-governing districts. It stipulated that each district could send one representative to Congress upon its attaining a population of 20,000, and it would become eligible for statehood when its population equaled that of the least populous existing state. (This ordinance was superseded by the Ordinance of 1787.)

      The Ordinance of 1785 provided for the scientific surveying of the territory's lands and for a systematic subdivision of them. Land was to be subdivided according to a rectangular grid system; the basic unit of land grant was the township, which was a square area measuring six miles on each side. A township could then be subdivided into a number of rectangular parcels of individually owned land. The minimum land sale was set at one square mile (640 acres), and the minimum price per acre was one dollar. One section in each township was to be set aside for a school. These procedures formed the basis of American public land policy until the Homestead Act of 1862.

      The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the most important of the three acts, laid the basis for the government of the Northwest Territory and for the admission of its constituent parts as states into the Union. Under this ordinance, each district was to be governed by a governor and judges appointed by Congress until it attained a population of 5,000 adult free males, at which time it would become a territory and could form its own representative legislature. The Northwest Territory must eventually comprise a minimum of three and a maximum of five states; an individual territory could be admitted to statehood in the Union after having attained a population of 60,000. Under the ordinance, slavery was forever outlawed from the lands of the Northwest Territory; freedom of religion and other civil liberties were guaranteed; the resident Indians were promised decent treatment; and education was provided for. Under this ordinance, the principle of granting new states equal rather than inferior status to older ones was firmly established. The ordinances were a major accomplishment of the often-maligned government under the Articles of Confederation.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Northwest Ordinances — The Northwest Ordinances were the acts of the Congress of the Confederation passed to regulate the settlement of the Northwest Territory: Northwest Ordinance of 1784 Northwest Ordinance of 1785 Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the best known of the… …   Wikipedia

  • northwest — /nawrth west /; Naut. /nawr west /, n. 1. a point on the compass midway between north and west. Abbr.: NW 2. a region in this direction. 3. the Northwest, a. the northwestern part of the United States, esp. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. b. the… …   Universalium

  • Northwest Territory — the region north of the Ohio River, organized by Congress in 1787, comprising present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the eastern part of Minnesota. * * * ▪ historical territory, United States  U.S. territory created by… …   Universalium

  • Northwest Ordinance — Northwest Territory (1787) …   Wikipedia

  • Northwest Ordinance of 1784 — The Ordinance of 1784 (enacted April 23, 1784) called for the land west of the Appalachian Mountains, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River to be divided into ten separate states. However, it did not define the mechanism by… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Northwest Territories general elections — This is a list of territorial elections in Northwest Territories, Canada since 1870. The Northwest Territories operates on a consensus government using the First Past the Post electoral system. The territory does not presently recognize political …   Wikipedia

  • United States — a republic in the N Western Hemisphere comprising 48 conterminous states, the District of Columbia, and Alaska in North America, and Hawaii in the N Pacific. 267,954,767; conterminous United States, 3,022,387 sq. mi. (7,827,982 sq. km); with… …   Universalium

  • native American — native American, adj. a person born in the United States. [1835 45, Amer.] * * * ▪ indigenous peoples of Canada and United States Introduction also called  American Indian,  Amerindian,  Amerind,  Indian,  Aboriginal American,  or  First Nation… …   Universalium

  • Native American — Indian (def. 1). Usage. See Indian, Eskimo. * * * ▪ indigenous peoples of Canada and United States Introduction also called  American Indian,  Amerindian,  Amerind,  Indian,  Aboriginal A …   Universalium

  • Ohio — Ohioan, adj., n. /oh huy oh/, n. 1. a state in the NE central United States: a part of the Midwest. 10,797,419; 41,222 sq. mi. (106,765 sq. km). Cap.: Columbus. Abbr.: OH (for use with zip code), O. 2. a river formed by the confluence of the… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.