Northwest Ordinance, officially titled "An Ordinance
for the Government of the Territory of the United States North
West of the River Ohio," was adopted by the Confederation
Congress on July 13, 1787. Also known as the the Ordinance
of 1787, the Northwest Ordinance established a government
for the Northwest Territory, outlined the process for admitting
a new state to the Union, and guaranteed that newly created
states would be equal to the original thirteen states. Considered
one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation
Congress, the Northwest Ordinance also protected civil liberties
and outlawed slavery in the new territories.
Library of Congress Web Site | External
Web Sites | Selected Bibliography
American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray
Provides an account of the drafting
of the Northwest Ordinance that focuses on the prohibition
of slavery in the territories. Also includes an account
of the Centennial
Jubilee of Freedom at Columbus, Ohio, which was a
celebration by African Americans in 1888 of the Northwest
Ordinance and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation
of the Continental Congress contains the legislative
history of the Northwest Ordinance. On
April 26, 1787, a Congressional committee issued its
report on an ordinance for disposing of the Western Territory.
The proposed ordinance was debated on May
9 and May
10, but did not receive final approval. Instead, it
was referred to a new committee that issued a new draft
of the ordinance on July
11, which passed in its final form as the Northwest
Ordinance on July
of Delegates to Congress reprints a number of letters
related to the Northwest Ordinance. For example, Richard
Henry Lee announced to Francis Lightfoot Lee in a
letter dated July 14, 1787, that "after some difficulty
we passed an Ordinance for establishing a temporary Government
beyond the Ohio as preparatory to the sale of that Country."
Dane also discussed the recently adopted Northwest
Ordinance in a letter to Rufus King. Dane and King are
considered the principal of authors of the Northwest Ordinance.
the Letters of the Delegates to find additional letters
written about the Ordinance.
from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention,
Includes the special presentation To
Form a More Perfect Union: The Work of the Continental
Congress and the Constitutional Convention, which
examines Congressional debate after the Revolutionary
War over the division and government of the Western
Contains a broadside of the Northwest
Ordinance as passed on July 13, 1787. Also includes
of the Ordinance with annotations in the margin that
indicate changes made on May 10, 1787.
First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820
Includes a book about American geography published in
1794 that provides a general description of the Northwest
Territory, including the system
of government created by the Northwest Ordinance.
the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin,
Contains the special presentation The
History of the Upper Midwest: An Overview, which includes
the chapter The
Northwest and the Ordinances, 1783-1858.
Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the
Ordinance of 1784 was passed by Congress but never
went into effect. The provisions found in the Ordinance
of 1784 served as the basis for the Northwest Ordinance
Creating the United States
This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. The section of the exhibition Road to the Constitution contains two documents related to the Northwest Ordinance.
This exhibition focuses on the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.
A section on the
West examines Jefferson’s role in developing
a plan for the creation of territories and new states
that formed the basis of the Ordinance of 1784, which
accepted the cession of most of Virginia's old Northwest
to the federal government.
and the Founding of the American Republic
Explores the role religion played in the founding of
the American colonies, in the shaping of early American
life and politics, and in forming the American Republic.
Includes a section entitled Religion
and the Congress of the Confederation, which discusses
references to religion in the Northwest Ordinance.
On December 3, 1818, Illinois entered the Union as the
twenty-first state. Illinois was the third state formed
from the Northwest Territory after Ohio in 1803 and Indiana
Michigan entered the Union as the twenty-sixth state
on January 26, 1837, the fourth state created from the
On May 29, 1848, Wisconsin became the thirtieth state
admitted to the Union, the last state formed in its entirety
from the Northwest Territory.
Minnesota became the thirty-second state admitted into
the Union on May 11, 1858. The section of the state east
of the Mississippi River was originally part of the Northwest
Ordinance Timeline, Indiana Historical Bureau
Documents, Northwest Ordinance, National Archives and
Jensen, Merrill. The New Nation: A History of the United
States during the Confederation, 1781-1789. New York:
Knopf, 1950. [Catalog
Onuf, Peter S. Statehood and Union:
A History of the Northwest Ordinance. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1987. [Catalog Record]
Taylor, Robert M., Jr., ed. The Northwest
Ordinance, 1787: A Bicentennial Handbook. Indianapolis:
Indiana Historical Society, 1987. [Catalog Record]
Williams, Frederick D., ed. The Northwest
Ordinance: Essays on its Formulation, Provisions, and Legacy.
East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1989. [Catalog Record]