Northwest Ordinance (1787)

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  • The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was the blueprint followed by Congress to form new states from the trans-Mississippi west. Although originally applicable to the territory north of the Ohio River, the ordinance established a process in which a territory became a state coequal with the original thirteen states while concurrently guaranteeing rights for U.S. colonists.

    Enacted in the waning months of the Confederation Congress, a territory, under the ordinance's provisions, achieved statehood through three phases. In the initial phase, Congress appointed a governor with powers similar to American colonial governors, a secretary, and three judges, which had common law jurisdiction. In phase two, the territory gained greater local autonomy when the number of free adult male inhabitants reached five thousand. Resembling American colonial governments, an ...

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