The West after 1783

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Following the conclusion of peace at the end of the War for Independence, pressure began to build for expansion into the West. New settlement would bring with it many of the familiar old problems—confrontation with Native Americans, fur trading issues and the need of a governmental presence far from the seats of power.

Some of the original colonies, now states, had made extensive claims in the western regions. Sentiment developed in favor of inducing the landed states to divest themselves of their claims. New York did so in 1780 and Virginia, a major claimant, followed through in 1784 with regard to the lands north of the Ohio River.

In 1787, the Articles of Confederation Congress enacted the Great Northwest Ordinance (or the Northwest Ordinance of 1787), certainly one of that body’s greatest accomplishments. This law set the procedure for the lands of the Old Northwest (present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin) to join the Union.

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