When parties who would later form the Ohio Land Company expressed an interest in buying 5 million acres of land should the territory be organized on a free basis, the Articles of Confederation Congress took note. In 1787, an ordinance based on earlier recommendations from Thomas Jefferson was enacted. The Northwest Ordinance, as it came to be known, clearly indicated the western lands north of the Ohio River, west of the Alleghenies, and east of the Mississippi River would be settled and become states on a par with existing ones.

The ordinance provided that:

  • No fewer than three, or more than five, states would be formed
  • Admission to the Union would be available when the number of free inhabitants reached 60,000
  • Civil rights and liberties be guaranteed
  • Education be encouraged
  • Slavery and involuntary servitude be prohibited.

The impact of this legislation was significant in several ways:

  • The ordinance spurred the westward movement of American settlers
  • It overturned the colonial idea that newly settled lands would be subservient to established areas
  • It established the format for American land policy for years to come
  • The law provided the first national limitation upon the expansion of slavery.

Jefferson had originally proposed that slavery be prohibited after 1800. The ordinance of 1787 made the prohibition effective immediately. Nevertheless, fugitive slaves were to be taken prisoner and returned to their owners in any of the thirteen original states.

Off-site search results for "Northwest Ordinance of 1787"...

Ordinance of 1787 Had No Effect on Slavery
The Ordinance of 1787 did the South no harm, and the North no good. Illinois, for instance, was a slave territory. Even in 1840, there were 331 slaves in Illinois. How came these slaves in Illinois? They were taken there under the OOrdinance of 1787 did the South no harm, and the North no good. Illinois, for instance, was a slave territory. Even in 1840, there were 331 slaves in Illinois. How came these slaves in Illinois? They were taken there under the Ordinance, and ...
http://www.adena.com/adena/usa/cw/cw264.htm

Historical Documents - Northwest Ordinance - July 13, 1787
... mountains, the so-called Northwest Territory, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the single most important piece of legislation in the Confederation period. The Ordinance provided the means by which new states wouOrdinance of 1787, the single most important piece of legislation in the Confederation period. The Ordinance provided the means by which new states would be created ...
http://www.historicaldocuments.com/NorthwestOrdinance.htm

The Avalon Project : Northwest Ordinance; July 13, 1787
Source: Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States. Government Printing Office, 1927. House Document No. 398. Selected, Arranged and Indexed by Charles C. Tansill 18th Century Page Constitution Page Avalon Home ...
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/nworder.htm