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 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
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation
This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.
of the Continental Congress contains the legislative
history of the Northwest Ordinance.
- April 26, 1787 - A committee issued its
report on an ordinance for disposing of the Western Territory.
- May 9, 1787 - The proposed ordinance was debated.
- May 10, 1787 - Debate continued on the proposed ordinance.
- July 9, 1787 - The proposed ordinance was referred to a new committee.
- July 11, 1787 - The new committee issued a revised draft
of the ordinance.
- July 12, 1787 - The proposed ordinance was read a second time.
- July 13, 1787 - The Northwest Ordinance was passed.
of Delegates to Congress reprints a number of letters
that reference the Northwest Ordinance, including:
Search the Letters of the Delegates to find additional letters
written about the Northwest Ordinance.
American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray
This collection presents a panoramic and eclectic review of African-American history and culture, spanning almost one hundred years from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, with the bulk of the material published between 1875 and 1900.
from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention,
This collection contains 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. It includes the essay To
Form a More Perfect Union, which
examines Congressional debate after the Revolutionary
War over the division and government of the Western
First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820
This collection consists of 15,000 pages of original historical material documenting the land, peoples, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The collection is drawn from the holdings of the University of Chicago Library and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky. It 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,
This collection portrays the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century through first-person accounts, biographies, promotional literature, local histories, ethnographic and antiquarian texts, colonial archival documents, and other works drawn from the Library of Congress's General Collections and Rare Books and Special Collections Division.
The special presentation The
History of the Upper Midwest: An Overview includes
a chapter The
Northwest and the Ordinances, 1783-1858.
Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
The complete Thomas Jefferson Papers from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 27,000 documents.
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
Barrett, Jay A. Evolution of the Ordinance of 1787: With an Account of the Earlier Plans for the Government of the Northwest Territory. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1891. [Catalog Record] [Full Text]
Jensen, Merrill. The New Nation: A History of the United
States during the Confederation, 1781-1789. New York:
Knopf, 1950. [Catalog
Merriam, John M. "The Legislative History of the Ordinance of 1787." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 5 (April 25, 1888): 303–342. [Full Text]
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]