August 7, 2019
From the moment Daniel Boone cut through the Appalachian Mountains at Cumberland Gap, the spirit of freedom inspired Americans to venture west. Boonesborough was settled in 1775 with other Kentucky settlements soon following. (see ) However, the lands above the Ohio River still belonged to the Native Americans, at least for a time.
As Great Britain and France battled over territory in the New World, the boundaries continued to shift. Following the French & Indian War, France's defeat forfeited some of their claims to Britain, which included what was known as the Northwest Territory. This area consisted of land in modern day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. As part of the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution, the land once again changed hands as it fell to the new United States of America.
A year before General George Washington defeated General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, the Second Continental Congress drafted and signed the Articles of Confederation. (see ) After winning the Revolutionary War, Congress drafted several ordinances to address the desire of expansion as they negotiated agreements with the Native Americans. As states such as Virginia claimed territory west of the Appalachian Mountains, smaller states grew concerned regarding their ability to continue to move their boundaries. In addition, squatters, speculators, and settlers maintained they purchased the same land from Native Americans, causing multiple claims on plots of land. Without organized oversight, the situation was threatening to become a terrible conflict quickly. Therefore, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Ordinance of 1784, enticing states to give up their rights to lands west of the Appalachian Mountains and designing a system where the future of those lands were addressed. Deep in debt from the war, the concept of selling the lands became an attractive bonus as well for the new country.
As an anti-federalist, Jefferson wanted to guarantee the territory was available to settlers as opposed to the national government. His plan called to divide the area into ten separate entities that would remain territories until they obtained a certain population. Once they met that requirement they could apply for statehood, receiving equal rights and protections the original thirteen states enjoyed. Jefferson also included that the territory would be slave-free after 1800, yet this provision failed by one vote and was removed. (see )
In Jefferson's disappointment, he commented, "The voice of a single individual ... would have prevented this abominable crime from spreading itself over the new country. Thus we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and Heaven was silent in that awful moment!" Regardless, he and other Founders continued to maintain citizens would soon dissolve slavery on their own.
Jefferson helped draft a second Ordinance in 1785 before leaving for France to replace Benjamin Franklin as the US Ambassador. It expanded the 1784 Ordinance, which established parameters for setting up self-governing areas, instituting requirements for surveying the land. To avoid the issues Kentucky was having of random property lines, usually separating desirable from undesirable tracts, Jefferson proposed the rectilinear system. Land surveyors portioned off tracts in six-mile square sections, equalling 36 square miles, called townships. These sections were then divided into 36 one-mile square sections, or 640 acres, with their boundaries running perfectly north, south, east and west. This systems allowed for easy surveying and selling of plots and one section was specifically designated for supporting public education.
The Continental Congress passed its third and final Ordinance, officially titled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio," on July 13, 1787. Using portions of Jefferson's original 1784 document, this Ordinance included highly detailed instructions on the requirements to become a state. Most importantly, it returned the provision stating the Northwest Territory would be slave-free, yet this time is would be immediate.
The Northwest Territory would be divided into three to five territories, with governors appointed after their population contained 5,000 men of voting age. Once they reached 60,000 citizens, the territory could draft a state constitution. The only requirements were the government had to be "republic" and slavery and involuntary servitude was strictly prohibited. The governors in the territories had similar rights and duties as those in the colonies before the revolution, yet this was only meant as an intermediate period as the state grew in population. Living themselves as colonies of a mother country, Congress made the unprecedented move to allow the territories to apply for statehood, entering the Union as equals to the original thirteen states, receiving "the fundamental principles of civil and religious liberty" and all benefits soon entitled under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Article Three of the Ordinance emphasized religion, education, and Indians: "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them."
The Articles of Confederation proved to lack enough designed leadership to oversee the squabbled and growing pains of the expanding nation, nor to collect the necessary funds needed to pay for the American Revolution. It was evident changes needed to be made. A Constitutional Convention was convened in May of 1787 to make changes. Instead, a completely new document, the Constitution of the United States, was drafted and passed on September 17, with the Bill of Rights almost exactly two years later. (see and ) Under the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, some of the most innovative, groundbreaking, and historical concepts were born.
Following George Washington's inauguration in April of 1789, some items passed by Congress under the old system needed some updating. This included the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. A few modifications and amendments were made to comply to the new Constitution. Congress reconfirmed the Ordinance and President Washington signed it into law, both on August 7, 1789.
Settlers were already flooding into Ohio Country, yet the Shawnee and Miami tribes, encouraged by recently defeated British who refused to leave the area, fought the frontiersmen. (see ) Washington was forced to organize an army to battle the Indians, led by Blue Jacket. During the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794, General "Mad" Anthony Wayne obtained an overwhelming victory, resulting in the natives relinquishing the majority of the Ohio Country to the United States in the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795. (see )
In 1803, Ohio became the first state in the Northwest Territory and the United States obtained the Louisiana Purchase. (see ) The newly acquired land did not have the same slavery requirement as the Northwest Territory. Therefore, when Missouri wanted to enter the union, the slavery issue rose to the forefront again. Under the Ordinance, the Ohio River became a slavery boundary. To settle the debate, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise in 1820, abolishing slavery in the northern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. (see )
Eyeing a presidential bid, Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It negated the Missouri Compromise by allowing territories to determine their slavery status regardless of their location. Both pro- and anti-slavery advocates flooded the territory in efforts to gain the majority population, resulting in the "Bleeding Kansas" incident and countless deaths. In response, Senator Charles Sumner and others formed the abolitionist Republican Party. (see)
When Dred Scott sued for his freedom in 1857 after being taken into a free state, Democrat Andrew Jackson appointee Chief Justice Roger B. Taney jumped on the opportunity to end the slavery debate once and for all. Ruling Scott was a slave and did not have the right to file a lawsuit, the ruling could have ended there. Yet Taney continued, declaring Negros never were and never could be citizens. He also proclaimed that slaveowners could take their slaves into free states without fear of retribution per the Fifth Amendment. (see ) This ruling completely overstepped its bounds, not only nullifying the Missouri Compromise, by deeming the Northwest Ordinance unconstitutional. Within four years, the first Republican President was elected and the states were in a bloody war. While Taney reached beyond his purview in hopes of permanently cementing slavery in America, his actions actually caused its final demise.
Liberty, many argue the Founders did nothing to stop slavery. To claim that you have to be completely ignorant of the Northwest Ordinances at best or blatantly and purposefully misrepresenting America's history at worst. Jefferson addressed slavery in the Declaration of Independence, yet with two states refusing to support his criticism of slavery, he was forced to remove the paragraph to keep unity within the colonies. (see ) Likewise, understanding nothing could be done federally in the original thirteen states, the Founders obviously took steps to prevent its expansion into new states.
The Ordinances emphasized religion, morality, and education as keys to the survival of our Republic. It is in no wonder the Progressive left are destroying all three, Liberty? You must fight against the secular push to make government our god as it only leads to more slavery. Too many lives have been lost and too much blood has been shed for our freedom to not fight just as hard to preserve it.
That’s my 2 cents.