Northwest Ordinance

Madiha Rehan and Jennifer Lee

Northwest Ordinance

The Northwest Ordinance was adopted by the Confederation Congress on July 13, 1787. Also known as Ordinance of 1787, it established a government for the Northwest Territory, outlined the process for admitting a new state to the Union, and and guaranteed that newly created states would be equal to the original thirteen colonies. It protected civil liberties and outlawed slavery in the new territories.


The Northwest Ordinance specified four principal things:

First, it authorized a provisional government for the vast territory northwest of the Ohio River that the United States had obtained at the end of the Revolutionary War. Second, it provided a method for making new governments out of that territory. Third, it guaranteed a bill of rights to inhabitants of the new territories and prohibited slavery in them. Finally, it outlined a way to survey and denote the new lands so they could be sold to settlers.


Before the population of a territory reached 5000, there would be a limited form of government. There would be a governor, a secretary, and three judges, all Congress appointed. The governor will have a “freehold estate therein, in one thousand acres of land,”. The governor would be commander-in-chief of the militia, appoint magistrates and other civil officers, and help create and publish laws as they see fit for their territory.

The secretary and the judges will have a, “freehold estate therein, in five hundred acres of land”. Finally, they would have a three year term.

The Articles of Confederation and the Northwest Ordinance

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