ORDINANCE OF 1787: THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT

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ORDINANCE OF 1787: THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT 01/03/2007

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ORDINANCE OF 1787: THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT

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ORDINANCE OF 1787: THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT

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ORDINANCE OF 1787: THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT

(THE CONFEDERATE CONGRESS, JULY 13, 1787)

AN ORDINANCE FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF THE TERRITORY OF THE UNITED

STATES NORTHWEST OF THE RIVER OHIO

Section 1. Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled,

That the said territory, for the purpose of temporary government, be one

district, subject, however, to be divided into two districts, as future

circumstances may, in the opinion of Congress, make it expedient.

Sec. 2. Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That the estates

both of resident and non-resident proprietors in the said territory,

dying intestate, shall descent to, and be distributed among, their

children and the descendants of a deceased child in equal parts, the

descendants of a deceased child or grandchild to take the share of their

deceased parent in equal parts among them; and where there shall be no

children or descendants, then in equal parts to the next of kin, in

equal degree; and among collaterals, the children of a deceased brother

or sister of the intestate shall have, in equal parts among them, their

deceased parent’s share; and there shall, in no case, be a distinction

between kindred of the whole and half blood; saving in all cases to the

widow of the intestate, her third part of the real estate for life, and

one-third part of the personal estate; and this law relative to descents

and dower, shall remain in full force until altered by the legislature

of the district. And until the governor and judges shall adopt laws as

hereinafter mentioned, estates in the said territory may be devised or

bequeathed by wills in writing, signed and sealed by him or her in whom

the estate may be, (being of full age,) and attested by three witnesses;

and real estates may be conveyed by lease and release, or bargain and

sale, signed, sealed, and delivered by the person, being of full age, in

whom the estate may be, and attested by two witnesses, provided such

wills be duly proved, and such conveyances be acknowledged, or the

execution thereof duly proved, and be recorded within one year after

proper magistrates, courts, and registers, shall be appointed for that

purpose; and personal property may be transferred by delivery, saving,

however, to the French and Canadian inhabitants, and other settlers of

the Kaskaskies, Saint Vincents, and the neighboring villages, who have

heretofore professed themselves citizens of Virginia, their laws and

customs now in force among them, relative to the descent and conveyance

of property.

Sec. 3. Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That there shall be

appointed, from time to time, by Congress, a governor, whose commission

shall continue in force for the term of three years, unless sooner

revoked by Congress; he shall reside in the district, and have a

freehold estate therein, in one thousand acres of land, while in the

exercise of his office.

Sec. 4. There shall be appointed from time to time, by Congress, a

secretary, whose commission shall continue in force for four years,

unless sooner revoked; he shall reside in the district, and have a

freehold estate therein, in five hundred acres of land, while in the

exercise of his office. It shall be his duty to keep and preserve the

acts and laws passed by the legislature, and the public records of the

district, and the proceedings of the governor in his executive

department, and transmit authentic copies of such acts and proceedings

every six months to the Secretary of Congress. There shall also be

appointed a court, to consist of three judges, any two of whom to form a

court, who shall have a common-law jurisdiction, and reside in the

district, and have each therein a freehold estate, in five hundred acres

of land, while in the exercise of their offices; and their commissions

shall continue in force during good behavior.

Sec. 5. The governor and judges, or a majority of them, shall adopt

and publish in the district such laws of the original States, criminal

and civil, as may be necessary, and best suited to the circumstances of

the district, and report them to Congress from time to time, which laws

shall be in force in the district until the organization of the general

assembly therein, unless disapproved of by Congress; but afterwards the

legislature shall have authority to alter them as they shall think fit.

Sec. 6. The governor, for the time being, shall be commander-in-chief

of the militia, appoint and commission all officers in the same below

the rank of general officers; all general officers shall be appointed

and commissioned by Congress.

Sec. 7. Previous to the organization of the general assembly the

governor shall appoint such magistrates, and other civil officers, in

each county or township, as he shall find necessary for the preservation

of the peace and good order in the same. After the general assembly

shall be organized the powers and duties of magistrates and other civil

officers shall be regulated and defined by the said assembly; but all

magistrates and other civil officers, not herein otherwise directed,

shall, during the continuance of this temporary government, be appointed

by the governor.

Sec. 8. For the prevention of crimes and injuries, the laws to be

adopted or made shall have force in all parts of the district, and for

the execution of process, criminal and civil, the governor shall make

proper divisions thereof; and he shall proceed, from time to time, as

circumstances may require, to lay out the parts of the district in which

the Indian titles shall have been extinguished, into counties and

townships, subject, however, to such alterations as may thereafter be

made by the legislature.

Sec. 9. So soon as there shall be five thousand free male inhabitants,

of full age, in the district, upon giving proof thereof to the governor,

they shall receive authority, with time and place, to elect

representatives from their counties or townships, to represent them in

the general assembly: Provided, That for every five hundred free male

inhabitants there shall be one representative, and so on, progressively,

with the number of free male inhabitants, shall the right of

representation increase, until the number of representatives shall

amount to twenty-five; after which the number and proportion of

representatives shall be regulated by the legislature: Provided, That no

person be eligible or qualified to act as a representative, unless he

shall have been a citizen of one of the United States three years, and

be a resident in the district, or unless he shall have resided in the

district three years; and, in either case, shall likewise hold in his

own right, in fee-simple, two hundred acres of land within the same:

Provided also, That a freehold in fifty acres of land in the district,

having been a citizen of one of the States, and being resident in the

district, or the like freehold and two years’ residence in the district,

shall be necessary to qualify a man as an elector of a representative.

Sec. 10. The representatives thus elected shall serve for the term of

two years; and in case of the death of a representative, or removal from

office, the governor shall issue a writ to the county or township, for

which he was a member, to elect another in his stead, to serve for the

residue of the term.

Sec. 11. The general assembly or legislature, shall consist of the

governor, legislative counsel, and a house of representatives. The

legislative council shall consist of five members, to continue in office

five years, unless sooner removed by Congress; any three of whom to be a

quorum; and the members of the council shall be nominated and appointed

in the following manner, to wit: As soon as representatives shall be

elected the governor shall appoint a time and place for them to meet

together, and when met they shall nominate ten persons, resident in the

district, and each possessed of a freehold in five hundred acres of

land, and return their names to Congress, five of whom Congress shall

appoint and commission to serve as aforesaid; and whenever a vacancy

shall happen in the council, by death or removal from office, the house

of representatives shall nominate two persons, qualified as aforesaid,

for each vacancy, and return their names to Congress, one of whom

Congress shall appoint and commission for the residue of the term; and

every five years, four months at least before the expiration of the time

of service of the members of the council, the said house shall nominate

ten persons, qualified as aforesaid, and return their names to Congress,

five of whom Congress shall appoint and commission to serve as members

of the council five years, unless sooner removed. And the governor,

legislative council, and house of representatives shall have authority

to make laws in all cases for the good government of the district, not

repugnant to the principles and articles in this ordinance established

and declared. And all bills, having passed by a majority in the house,

and by a majority in the council, shall be referred to the governor for

his assent; but no bill, or legislative act whatever, shall be of any

force without his assent. The governor shall have power to convene,

prorogue, and dissolve the general assembly when, in his opinion, it

shall be expedient.

Sec. 12. The governor, judges, legislative council, secretary, and

such other officers as Congress shall appoint in the district, shall

take an oath or affirmation of fidelity, and of office; the governor

before the President of Congress, and all other officers before the

governor. As soon as a legislature shall be formed in the district, the

council and house assembled, in one room, shall have authority, by joint

ballot, to elect a delegate to Congress, who shall have a seat in

Congress with a right of debating, but not of voting, during this

temporary government.

Sec. 13. And for extending the fundamental principles of civil and

religious liberty, which form the basis whereon these republics, their

laws and constitutions, are erected; to fix and establish those

principles as the basis of all laws, constitutions, and governments,

which forever hereafter shall be formed in the said territory; to

provide, also, for the establishment of States, and permanent government

therein, and for their admission to a share in the Federal councils on

an equal footing with the original States, at as early periods as may be

consistent with the general interest:

Sec. 14. It is hereby ordained and declared, by the authority

aforesaid, that the following articles shall be considered as articles

of compact, between the original States and the people and States in the

said territory, and forever remain unalterable, unless by common

consent, to wit:

ARTICLE I

No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall

ever be molested on account of his mode of worship, or religious

sentiments, in the said territories.

ARTICLE II

The inhabitants of the said territory shall always be entitled to the

benefits of the writs of habeas corpus, and of the trial by jury; of

a proportionate representation of the people in the legislature, and of

judicial proceedings according to the course of the common law. All

persons shall be bailable, unless for capital offences, where the proof

shall be evident, or the presumption great. All fines shall be moderate;

and no cruel or unusual punishments shall be inflicted. No man shall be

deprived of his liberty or property, but by the judgment of his peers,

or the law of the land, and should the public exigencies make it

necessary, for the common preservation, to take any person’s property,

or to demand his particular services, full compensation shall be paid

for the same. And, in the just preservation of rights and property, it

is understood and declared, that no law ought ever to be made or have

force in the said territory, that shall, in any manner whatever,

interfere with or affect private contracts, or engagements, bona

fide, and without fraud previously formed.

ARTICLE III

Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and

the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall

forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed

towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from

them without their consent; and in their property, rights, and liberty

they never shall be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars

authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity shall,

from time to time, be made, for preventing wrongs being done to them,

and for preserving peace and friendship with them.

ARTICLE IV

The said territory, and the States which may be formed therein, shall

forever remain a part of this confederacy of the United States of

America, subject to the Articles of Confederation, and to such

alterations therein as shall be constitutionally made; and to all the

acts and ordinances of the United States in Congress assembled,

conformable thereto. The inhabitants and settlers in the said territory

shall be subject to pay a part of the Federal debts, contracted, or to

be contracted, and a proportional part of the expenses of government to

be apportioned on them by Congress, according to the same common rule

and measure by which apportionments thereof shall be made on the other

States; and the taxes for paying their proportion shall be laid and

levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the

district, or districts, or new States, as in the original States, within

the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled. The

legislatures of those districts, or new States, shall never interfere

with the primary disposal of the soil by the United States in Congress

assembled, nor with any regulations Congress may find necessary for

securing the title in such soil to the bona fide purchasers. No tax

shall be imposed on lands the property of the United States; and in no

case shall non-resident proprietors be taxed higher than residents. The

navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and Saint Lawrence, and

the carrying places between the same, shall be common highways, and

forever free, as well to the inhabitants of the said territory as to the

citizens of the United States, and those of any other States that may be

admitted into the confederacy, without any tax, impost, or duty

therefor.

ARTICLE V

There shall be formed in the said territory not less than three nor more

than five States; and the boundaries of the States, as soon as Virginia

shall alter her act of cession and consent to the same, shall become

fixed and established as follows, to wit: The western State, in the said

territory, shall be bounded by the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Wabash

Rivers; a direct line drawn from the Wabash and Post Vincents, due

north, to the territorial line between the United States and Canada; and

by the said territorial line to the Lake of the Woods and Mississippi.

The middle State shall be bounded by the said direct line, the Wabash

from Post Vincents to the Ohio, by the Ohio, by a direct line drawn due

north from the mouth of the Great Miami to the said territorial line,

and by the said territorial line. The eastern State shall be bounded by

the last-mentioned direct line, the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the said

territorial line: Provided, however, And it is further understood and

declared, that the boundaries of these three States shall be subject so

far to be altered, that, if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient,

they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of the

said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through

the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan. And whenever any of the

said States shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such

State shall be admitted, by its delegates, into the Congress of the

United States, on an equal footing with the original States, in all

respects whatever; and shall be at liberty to form a permanent

constitution and State government: Provided, The constitution and

government, so to be formed, shall be republican, and in conformity to

the principles contained in these articles, and, so far as it can be

consistent with the general interest of the confederacy, such admission

shall be allowed at an earlier period, and when there may be a less

number of free inhabitants in the State than sixty thousand.

ARTICLE VI

There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said

territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party

shall have been duly convicted: Provided always, That any person

escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed

in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully

reclaimed, and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or

service as aforesaid.

Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That the resolutions of the

23d of April, 1784, relative to the subject of this ordinance, be, and

the same are hereby, repealed, and declared null and void.

Done by the United States, in Congress assembled, the 13th day of July,

in the year of our Lord 1787, and of their sovereignty and independence

the twelfth.

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