1787 : Congress Passes the Northwest Ordinance (Ordinance of 1787)

July 13, 2024 all-day

One of the most important pieces of legislation ever enacted in the United States, the Northwest Ordinance, provided for the orderly division and governance of what would eventually become the states of the Upper Midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It laid out the steps to be followed in the progression from territory to statehood, beginning with a territorial period of limited self-government. When the population of free adult males reached 5,000, voters were to elect a territorial legislature, and once the population of free inhabitants reached 60,000 the territory could enact its own constitution and petition for statehood. The Ordinance also guaranteed basic political rights such as trial by jury and freedom of religion, and prohibited slavery (although this last was not always strictly enforced).

Source : Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Digital copy of the original document from the National Archvies. A copy from Archiving Early America. Another copy with commentary. A short video clip from Encyclopedia Britannica. More information about the History of the Northwest Territory from the American Memory Project.

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