Some documents in American history have considerable importance for the development of the nation. Students use historical thinking to examine key documents which form the basis for the United States of America.
6. The Northwest Ordinance addressed a need for government in the Northwest Territory and established precedents for the future governing of the United States.
As Ohio country settlement progressed in the Connecticut Western Reserve and the Virginia Military District, and with the enactment of the Land Ordinance of 1785, the Congress of the United States recognized a need for governing land acquired in the Treaty of Paris. The Northwest Ordinance provided the basis for temporary governance as a territory and eventual entry into the United States as states.
The Northwest Ordinance also set some precedents that influenced how the United States would be governed in later years. New states were to be admitted “into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original States.”
This provision was continued in later years and it meant that there would be no colonization of the lands as there had been under Great Britain. “Schools and the means of education” were to be encouraged. This wording reinforced the provision in the Land Ordinance of 1785 allocating one section of each township for the support of schools and established a basis for national aid for education. Basic rights of citizenship (e.g., religious liberty, right to trial by jury, writ of habeas corpus) were assured. These assurances were precursors to the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. Slavery was prohibited in the Northwest Territory. This provision was later included in the Constitution as Amendment 13. State governments were to be republican in structure. This provision was repeated in the U.S. Constitution.
Expectations for Learning
Show how the Northwest Ordinance, in providing government for the Northwest Territory, established a precedent for governing the United States.