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  American HistoryUnited States: General History and DescriptionRevolution to the Civil War, 1775/1783-1861The Confederation, 1783-1789
map of the Northwest TerritoryNorthwest Ordinance, 1787

official name: An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio

The Northwest Ordinance was enacted by the Congress of the Confederation on July 13, 1787. The ordinance created the Northwest Territory, which included all lands northwest of the Ohio River between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. It also established a procedure for the territory's admission to the Union as separate states. At first, the entire territory was to be governed by a congressionally appointed commission. As soon as there were 5,000 free adult males in the territory, it could elect a legislature and send a nonvoting representative to Congress. When any part of the territory had a voting population of 60,000, it could apply for statehood. The ordinance decreed that between three and five states could be formed from the Northwest Territory. These were to be "on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever." The ordinance also contained a bill of rights that established freedom of worship and trial by jury in the territory, prohibited slavery and primogeniture, and encouraged education.

The five states that were created from the territory, all in the first half of the 19th century, were Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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  The Robinson Library > American History > United States: General History and Description > Revolution to the Civil War, 1775/1783-1861 > The Confederation, 1783-1789

This page was last updated on January 10, 2015.

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