Northwestern Territory


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NORTHWESTERN TERRITORY,  THE. The Congress was in session in New York City while the convention that framed the national Constitution was sitting in Philadelphia. That body performed an act at that session second only in importance to the crowning act of the convention at Philadelphia. On July 11, 1787, a committee, of which Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, was chairman, reported " An ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States northwest of the Ohio." This territory was limited to the ceded lands in that region. This report, embodied in a bill, contained a special proviso that the estates of all persons dying intestate in the territory should be equally divided among all the children or next of kin in equal degree, thus striking a fatal blow at the unjust law of primogeniture. It also provided and declared that " there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been fully convicted." This ordinance was adopted on the 13th, after adding a clause relative to the reclamation of fugitives from labor, similar to that which was incorporated in the national Constitution a few weeks later. This ordinance, and the fact that Indian titles to 17,000,000 acres of land in that region had lately been extinguished by treaty with several of the tribes (the Six Nations, Wyandottes, Delawares, and Shawnees), caused a sudden and great influx of settlers into the country along the northern banks of the Ohio. The Northwest Territory so established included the present States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It is estimated that within a year following the organization of the territory full 20,000 men, women, and children passed down the Ohio River to become settlers upon its banks. See ORDINANCE OF 1787.




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