The Northwest Ordinance (formally An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio, and also known as The Ordinance of 1787) enacted July 13, 1787, was an
Considered one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation Congress, it established the precedent by which the Federal government would be sovereign and expand westward with the
The prohibition of slavery in the territory had the practical effect of establishing the Ohio River as the geographic divide between
The territory was acquired by
The region had long been desired for expansion by colonists. The states were encouraged to settle their claims by the US government's de facto opening of the area to settlement following the defeat of Great Britain. In 1784, Thomas Jefferson, a delegate from Virginia, proposed that the states should relinquish their particular claims to all the territory west of the Appalachians, and the area should be divided into new states of the Union. Jefferson's proposal to create a federal domain through state cessions of western lands was derived from earlier proposals dating back to 1776 and debates about the
The 1784 ordinance was criticized by
When passed in New York in 1787, the Northwest Ordinance showed the influence of Jefferson. It called for dividing the territory into gridded townships, so that once the lands were surveyed, they could be sold to individuals and speculative land companies. This would provide both a new source of federal government revenue and an orderly pattern for future settlement.