: This images shows the first page of a two-page, printed version of "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States" signed by Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774-1789.
The 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.
The Northwest Ordinance stipulated the creation of at least three but not more than five states out of the Northwest Territory. After sixty thousand people resided in a territory, they could apply for statehood. The people could form a constitutional convention, draft a state constitution, and then submit the document to the United States Congress for approval. The state constitution had to guarantee basic rights to its people, including religious freedom, trial by jury, the right to bail except in capital cases, and several additional rights. Although states were to encourage education, the Northwest Ordinance did not require them to provide public education. Slavery also was outlawed in any of the states created from the Northwest Territory. The Northwest Ordinance paved the way for Ohio to become the seventeenth state of the United States of America.
Charles Thomson (1729-1824), Philadelphia merchant and politician, was active in colonial resistance against Britain for decades. Although Pennsylvania conservatives kept him from being elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, Thomson was chosen as its secretary in 1774, continuing in the position until the federal government came to power in 1789. Delegates came and went, but Thomson remained, faithfully recording the debates and decisions that shaped the infant government. Known for his fairness and integrity, the "perpetual secretary" provided the continuity and institutional memory so vital to a Congress whose members were ever-changing.
View on Ohio Memory.
: AL06946 Subjects
: Northwest Territory--History; Ohio History--Settlement and Early Statehood; United States. Continental Congress; United States Ordinance of 1787; Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 Places
: 'Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-west of the River Ohio' print