the ordinances of 1785 and 1787 privatized national resources and transferred
federally owned lands into private holdings, townships, and
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
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.
This is an Encyclopedia Britannica entry on information regarding the creation of townships
in the United States.
This is an outline of the causes, terms, and effects of the ordinances of 1785 and 1787.
This is a website about the general American history. It is very useful for most of the