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Northwest Ordinance

Northwest Ordinance

An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio

The Northwest Ordinance (officially the Ordinance of 1787) was enacted by the Congress of the Confederation of the States on July 13, 1787. This statute provided for the government of the Northwest Territory, an area bounded by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the Great Lakes, and created a procedure by which states could be established within this territory and admitted to the Union. Congress was spurred to enact the ordinance when the Ohio Company of Associates, a group of land speculators, made plans to purchase more than one million acres in the territory.

The Northwest Ordinance set several important precedents. It established that unlike many nations, which left their new territories in a position inferior to the old, the United States would admit new states to the Union on an equal basis with the original states. The ordinance also set aside land in each township for schools, thus setting a precedent for federal support to education. In addition, the ordinance prohibited slavery in the territory and included the first full statement of U.S. Indian policy, which stressed that "utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians."

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