The Northwest Ordinance
July 13, 1787

New lands to the west constituted a serious challenge for the new government. Whites were eager to take possession of tne land, against the wishes of Native Americans.  Following the procedures outlined in the Ordinance of 1785 (including one that towns be six miles square, subdivided into thirty-six 640-acre sections, and that the community reserve the
income from one section for the support of public schooling), the authors of the Northwest Ordinance (probably jurist Nathan Dane of Massachusetts and politician Rufus King of New York) formulated a plan that was subsequently put to good and frequent use as the country expanded to the Pacific.

Three principal provisions were ordained in the document: (1) a division of the Northwest Territory into "not less than three nor more than five States"; (2) a three-stage method for admitting a new state to the Unionówith Congress appointing a governor, secretary, and three judges in the first phase; election of an assembly and one nonvoting delegate to Congress in the second phase; and the drafting of a state constitution and, request for admission to the Union in the third phase, when the population reached sixty thousand; and (3) a bill of rights protecting religious freedom and other individual rights. In addition, the ordinance encouraged education and forbade slavery.   Officially titled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North-West of the River Ohio," the Northwest Ordinance became law on July 13, 1787, in the Second Continental Congress. The Ordinance provided a method for admitting new states to the union from the territory and promised settlers of the Northwest Territory the same individual liberties that had been fought
for in the Revolution.


SECTION 1.  Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, That the said territory, for the purposes of temporary government, be one district, subject, however, to be divided into two districts, as future circumstances may, in the opinion of Congress, make it expedient....

 SEC. 3.  Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That there shall be appointed from time to time by Congress, a governor, whose commission shall continue in force for the term of three years, unless sooner  revoked by Congress; he shall reside in the district, and  have a freehold estate therein in 1,000 acres of land,  while in the exercise of his office....

SEC. 5.  The governor and judges, or a majority of  them, shall adopt and publish in the district such laws of the original States, criminal and civil, as may be nec essary and best suited to the circumstances of the dis trict, and report them to Congress from time to time:  which laws shall be in force in the district until the organization of the General Assembly therein, unless disapproved of by Congress; but afterwards the Legislature shall have authority to alter them as they
shall think fit.

SEC. 6.  The governor, for the time being, shall be commander in chief of the militia, appoint and commission all officers in the same below the rank of general officers; all general officers shall be appointed and commissioned by Congress....

SEC. 9. So soon as there shall be five thousand free male inhabitants of full age in the district, upon giving proof thereof to the governor, they shall receive authority, with time and place, to elect a representative from their counties or townships to represent them in the general assembly: Provided, That, for every five hundred free male inhabitants, there shall be one representative, and so on progressively with the number of  free male inhabitants shall the right of representation
 increase, until the number of representatives shall amount to twenty five; after which, the number and  proportion of representatives shall be regulated by the legislature: Provided, That no person be eligible or qualified to act as a representative unless he shall have been a citizen of one of the United States three years, and be a resident in the
district, or unless he shall have resided in the district three years; and, in either case, shall likewise hold in his own right,
in fee simple, two hundred acres of land within the same; Provided, also, That a freehold in fifty acres of land in the dis-
trict, having been a citizen of one of the states, and being resident in the district, or the like freehold and two years resi-
dence in the district, shall be necessary to qualify a man as an elector of a representative....

SEC. 11.  The general assembly or legislature shall consist of the governor, legisiative council, and a house of representatives...  And the governor, legislative council, and house of representatives, shall have authority to make laws in all cases, for the good government of the district, not repugnant to the principles and articles in this ordinance established and declared. And all bills, having passed by a majority in the house, and by a majority in the council, shall
be referred to the governor for his assent; but no bill, or legislative act whatever, shall be of any force without his assent. The governor shall have power to convene, prorogue, and dissolve the general assembly, when, in his opinion, it shall be expedient....

SEC. 14. ART. 1.  No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory....

ART. 3. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded
in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friend ship with them....

ART. 5. There shall be formed in the said territory, not less than three nor more than five States; and the boundaries
of the States, as soon as Virginia shall alter her act of cession, and consent to the same, shall become fixed and established. ... Provided, however, and it is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three States shall be subject so far to be altered, that, if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of the said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or
extreme of Lake Michigan. And, whenever any of the said States shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such State shall be admitted, by its delegates, into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever, and shall be at liberty to form a permanent constitution and State government: Provided, the constitution and government so to be formed, shall be republican, and in conformity to the principles contained in these articles; and, so far as it can be consistent with the general interest of the confederacy, such admission shall be allowed at an earlier period, and when there may be a less number of free inhabitants in the State than sixty thousand.

ART. 6. 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 duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.

Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That the resolutions of the 23rd of April, 1784, relative to the subject of this ordinance, be, and the same are hereby repealed and declared null and void.

Done by the United States, in Congress assembled, the 13th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1787, and of their sovereignty and independence the twelfth.