8.3.2

Explain how the ordinances of 1785 and 1787 privatized national resources and transferred federally owned lands into private holdings, townships, and states.

             Inexpensive and vast plots of land were promised to all those who came to America as part of the freedom package. But before the 1780s, the land west of west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, and south of the Great Lakes, also known as the Northwest Territory belonged to many states like New York and Virginia. Those states soon gave up their claims and Congress took over. They passed a number of ordinances, or laws, to control the selling, dividing, and surveying of the land. In a way, those ordinances helped immensely but they also provided serious problems.
             To further gain control of land, Congress passed the Ordinance of 1785 to establish a method of surveying and selling land north of the Ohio River.  This broad area of land was divided into townships measuring six miles wide and six miles long.  Each township was cut up into 36 plots of 640 acres each to be auctioned off at the minimum price of a dollar an acre.  People speculating the land seized this opportunity to accumulate large pieces of land for a cheap price.  To prevent lawless people from moving in, as pointed out by Richard Henry Lee, the president of Congress, they drafted a second ordinance to protect hard-working settlers’ rights and interests.
             The Ordinance of 1785 made many natural resources private so that other people who didn’t own the land couldn’t use it. This also may have caused conflicts with the Native Americans, who did not believe in selling such things. A township is a unit of government found primarily in the northeast and north central parts of the United States. It was born from this ordinance and was what the Northeast Territory was turned into. The territory was divided into townships, which were granted to people who in turn sold the plots to others. When enough people settled in one township, it could apply for statehood and once it became a state, the state had more rights and powers so said the Articles of Confederation.
             In 1787, Congress passed another ordinance. This is considered by many historians to be the more important ordinance of the two. This ordinance was also called the Northwest Ordinance. It made a single Northwest Territory out of the lands north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.  This land was to be divided into three to five smaller regions where people could live and when the population reached 60,000, it could become a state by applying for it. The ordinance also included a bill of rights and an attempt to stop slavery; There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in said territory.
             Like its precursor, this ordinance pushed along the transfer of federal lands to private ownership. Education was provided for and that was very important in the development of public schools in America. The natural resources now belonged to whomever the land belonged to and it was no longer free to use for everyone. But boats were allowed on the waters for trading purposes since everything seemed to revolve around trade. The policies opened and closed many doors for settlers and natives alike.


More Information:

   1.    http://www.geology.iupui.edu/Academics/CLASSES/G206/TownshipsInUSA.htm
          This is an Encyclopedia Britannica entry on information regarding the creation of townships in the United States.

   2.    http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~patrick/geo201/pub-land.htm
          This is an outline of the causes, terms, and effects of the ordinances of 1785 and 1787.

   3.    http://www.gliah.uh.edu/index.cfm
          This is a website about the general American history. It is very useful for most of the standard questions.