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The Northwest Ordinance

essays on its formulation, provisions, and legacy

Frederick D. Williams

Publication Year: 1989

Adoption of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 ended a long and sometimes acrimonious debate over the question of how to organize and govern the western territories of the United States. Many eastern leaders viewed the Northwest Territory as a colonial possession, while freedom-loving settlers demanded local self- government. These essays address the ambiguities of the Ordinance, balance of power politics in North America, missionary activity in the territory, slavery, and higher education in the Old Northwest.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. iii

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pp. v

Professors David T. Baily, Harry J. Brown, Gordon T. Stewart, and the late Stephen Botein of Michigan State University, and Professor Gerald Moran of the University of Michigan, Dearborn, helped plan and organize the conference of 3-4 May 1987 at which these studies were presented. Carol J. Blum of the Vernon...

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pp. vii-xiv

Although the bicentennial of the United States Constitution received great attention, 1987 was also the bicentennial of the Northwest Ordinance, one of the most important laws in the nation's history. The Congress of the Confederation, meeting in New York, approved the Ordinance on 13 July 1787, even as the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention drafted the...

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Ambiguous Achievement: The Northwest Ordinance

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pp. 1-19

In 1971 a distinguished group of historians gathered at Williamsburg, Virginia, charged with the task of assessing the remarkable burst of scholarship which had recently produced sweeping reinterpretations of the American Revolution. The honor of presenting the keynote addresses at this conference rightly fell to the two men whose work had precipitated the...

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The Northwest Ordinance and the Balance of Power in North America

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pp. 21-37

"To begin with, history is all geography." So thought the great nineteenth-century historian Jules Michelet and, when evaluating the significance of the Northwest Ordinance, it is essential to begin with geography. In recent times, the area bounded by the Ohio, the upper Mississippi and the Great Lakes is not a part of...

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Battling Infidelity, Heathenism, and Licentiousness: New England Missions and the Post-Revolutionary Frontier, 1792–1805

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pp. 39-60

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 sought primarily to establish a legal and political framework for the development of the West. The Ordinance had little to say about the future social and cultural life of the region other than its ambiguous comments on slavery and its tacit reinforcement of the provisions for public education already contained in the Land Ordinance of...

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Slavery and Bondage in the “Empire of Liberty”

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pp. 61-95

...Despite this provision, slavery was a vigorous institution in the western portions of the Territory. From 1788 until 1807 residents frequently petitioned Congress to allow some form of slaveholding. Territorial governors, such as Arthur St. Clair and William Henry Harrison were frankly opposed to any strict implementation of Article VI. In the absence of Congressional action...

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The Development of Public Universities in the Old Northwest

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pp. 97-117

The Northwest Ordinance of July 13,1787, and the Morrill Act July 2, 1862, rank as the two most important documents in the history of the national government's influence over American higher education. That influence has been both traditional and revolutionary. It has been traditional in linking the nineteenth century experience of the American people...


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pp. 119-127


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pp. 129-138


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pp. 139-142

E-ISBN-13: 9780870139697
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870132629

Page Count: 142
Publication Year: 1989