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The subject of the organization of the west came up time and again for consideration in Congress in the two years that followed the adoption of the Ordinance of 1784; but decision was delayed, though it is apparent that the final ideas were forming. The ultimate step was hastened and the complete plan of organization was determined on, not because Congress was ready to act on general principles, but because there was need of satisfying the demands of men who were intent on a scheme for western settlement, and wished their status determined before embarking on a financial enterprise.

The Ohio Company, made up of New England men, was formed in Boston, March 3, 1786. Its directors were General Rufus Putnam, who had served creditably in the Revolution, General Samuel H. Parsons, also a Revolutionary officer, and lastly Manasseh Cutler, a doctor of divinity, who, with a penchant for botany and a love for natural philosophy, had also an aptitude for business and was not above turning an honest penny in a landspeculation which bade fair to be remunerative and interesting. This company was organized for purchasing land in the west and promoting settlement.' The New-Englanders were already moving into the "northern frozen deserts," Cutler said, and to turn their faces to the new west it was necessary only to tell them of the temperate climate and fertile land of the Ohio country.

1 Articles of agreement, in Cutler, Cutler, I., 181–184.

In the spring and early summer of 1787 Congress at various times discussed a draught of a new ordinance for the western territory, but, moving with its customary circumspection, it had reached no results, when Dr. Manasseh Cutler appeared in New York, where Congress was sitting, and put up at the hostelry of the “Plow and Harrow” in the Bowery (July 5). Cutler came commissioned to buy land, and the simple proposition to that effect must have sounded sweet in the ears of Congress, even though the purchase was to be made, not in hard cash, but in certificates of public indebtedness. Probably the attractive prospect of disposing of land hastened the action of Congress, for on July 13 was passed the Ordinance of 1787, which, because of its wise provisions and liberal terms, has justly been considered one of the most important documents in our history. It was the consummation of long discussion and much effort, and laid down a series of fundamental principles of great significance in building up the Union west of the mountains. After providing that for the purpose of temporary government there should be at first but one district northwest of the Ohio, the Ordinance provided for the liberal descent and conveyance of estates. For the temporary government there were to be a governor, a secretary, and three judges appointed by Congress; the governor and judges were to have authority to adopt and publish such laws

Cutler, Cutler, I., 228.

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of the original states as they thought suited to the needs of the district. As soon as there should be five thousand free male inhabitants of full age, a general assembly might be brought into being, to consist of the governor, a legislative council, and a house of representatives with power to legislate.

Then followed in the Ordinance a series of fundamental declarations similar to the bills of rights that had been framed as part of the constitutions of some of the states, granting freedom of religious worship, assuring the benefits of habeas corpus, trial by jury, proportionate representation, and the conduct of judicial proceedings according to the common law. It declared that no man should be deprived of his liberty or property except by the judgment of his peers or the law of the land; that full compensation should be made for property taken or services demanded by the public; that no law ought ever to be made which would interfere with or affect private contracts that had been previously formed; and, in happily chosen words, that, as religion, morality, and knowledge are necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education should forever be encouraged. Not less than three nor more than five states were to be organized within the territory, and when any state had a free population of 60,000 it was to be admitted into the Union on terms of equality with the old states. The most famous, though possibly not the most important clause of the Ordinance, was one excluding slavery: “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.” Provision was made, however, for the reclamation and return of any person escaping into the territory from whom labor or service was “lawfully claimed in any one of the original states."

The Ordinance was a great state paper. It is true that, even had it not been framed, slavery could probably not have gained a permanent footing in the northwest. But it prevented the introduction of slavery in early years when settlers were moving into the region, it assured the development of the northwestern states unembarrassed by the slavery issue, and, not less important than all else, it stated a principle and established a precedent. There was value, too, in proclaiming in simple, straightforward language the fundamental principles of civil liberty and sound maxims concerning education and religion. By the passage of the Ordinance, Congress fulfilled its earlier promise, that, if the western lands were ceded, free republican states would be formed. By providing for temporary government and the ultimate admission of the states it laid the foundations of the American territorial system.

CHAPTER VIII

FOUNDING OF NEW COMMONWEALTHS

(1787–1788)

WHEN

THEN the Ordinance was passed, eighteen

delegates were in attendance in Congress, representing eight states — New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia-five of them south of Mason and Dixon's line, yet there was but one dissenting vote, and that came from Abraham Yates, of New York. Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, had expected opposition to the antislavery clause, and he added it almost at the last moment because he found the southern delegates favorably disposed.' But this does not mean that the southerners necessarily believed at that time in excluding slaves from all the western land. The Ordinance did not refer to the land south of the Ohio, and in considering the northwest the south was in part influenced by political motives, in part by industrial and commercial considerations. Grayson, of Virginia, who was himself an opponent of slavery extension, wrote to Monroe that “the clause respecting King, Life and Corresp. of King, I., 290.

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