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Commemoration of Northwest Ordinance Day
2014 Proclamation by Governor Mike Pence
2011 Proclamation by Governor Mitch
2010 Proclamation by Governor Mitch Daniels
2009 Proclamation by Governor Mitch Daniels
2008 Proclamation by Governor Mitch Daniels
Northwest Ordinance Day - July 13
The Northwest Ordinance, enacted by Congress on July 13, 1787, established provisions for governing the Northwest Territory; this area eventually became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and part of Minnesota
The Northwest Ordinance provided for the continuation of an organized survey of land and also provided that individual rights and freedoms would be extended to the settlers moving west. These rights included freedom of religion, trial by jury, elimination of cruel or unusual punishment for crimes, and the elimination of imprisonment or confiscation of property without a trial. The guarantees of religious and civil freedoms preceded the Bill of Rights by four years.
Slavery was prohibited by the Northwest Ordinance. There were many people in the territory who wanted slavery to be legal, and some people in Indiana used indentured servitude to maintain "slaves" within the letter of the law. The ordinance also extended protection to Native Americans, but the desire for land as settlers moved west brought about inequities as Indian tribes were removed.
The Northwest Ordinance outlined a three phase plan for obtaining statehood and called for the creation of not less than three and not more than five new states from the Northwest Territory. Ohio, the first state formed, was admitted to the union in 1803. Indiana became a state in 1816, Illinois in 1818, Michigan in 1837, and Wisconsin in 1848. A small part of Minnesota was also in the Northwest Territory.
The Northwest Ordinance proved to be a very important document in the history of the United States. Not only could a territory become a state, but it became an equal unit of the United States--equal with the original thirteen states. Thirty-one states, including Indiana, achieved statehood under the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787.
A publication, Lessons on the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, by John J. Patrick, is available for sale from the Indiana Historical Bureau.