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THE ORDINANCE OF 1787.
The following authentic history of the Ordinance of 1787 was prepared for the National Intelligencer in 1847. The author has kindly permitted us to use it in this volume. It is unquestionably the only perfect history of that Ordinance ever given to the American people. We copy it with the remarks of that journal.
"A discussion having arisen in the public prints as to the authorship of certain important provisions embraced in the Ordinance of 1787 for the government of the Western Territory, now constituting several States of the Union, and especially in regard to that celebrated provision which forever excluded slavery from that vast and fertile region; our fellow-townsman, Peter Force, Esq., has prepared from authentic materials the article which appears on the preceding page. From this careful exposition, it seems clear that Mr. Webster was right when, in his celebrated speech on Foote's resolution, he ascribed tho authorship (if not the original conception) of the clause above specified to Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts.
"It happens that, in seeking among the archives of all the old States, and among numerous private collections, for materials for his voluminous work, 'American Archives,' Mr. Force became possessed of the original projects and reports submitted to Congress respecting a plan of government for the Northwestern Territory, from this step in 1784 to 1787, when the Ordinance was finally adopted. He has the copy of the Ordinance of 1787, with all its alterations marked on it, while under consideration, just as it was amended at the President's table, among which the clause respecting slavery remains attached to it as an amendment in Mr. Dane's hand-writing, in the exact words in which it now stands in the Ordinance. From these materials, together with the official journals of the body, Mr. Force has compiled the narrative which we now insert; and, his materials being thus authentic, we must receive it as settling the question. He has taken this trouble for the sake of historic truth, and the same motive, together with the intrinsic interest of the subject, and the further reason that we have given currency to versions of the transaction which do injustice to the dead, have induced us cheerfully to yield to it the large share of our space which it occupies."
NOTES ON THE ORDINANCE OF 1787.
In the history of the Ordinance of 1787, published in the National Intelligencer on the 6th of the present month, there are several errors, which, before they become "fixed facts" should be corrected. These notes furnish material for the correction of some of them.
On the 1st of March 1784, a committee, consisting of Mr. Jefferson, of Virginia, Mr. Chase, of Maryland, and Mr. Howell, of Rhode Island, submitted to Congress the following plan for the temporary government of the Western Territory:
The committee appointed to prepare a plan for the temporary government of the Western Territory have agreed to the following resolutions,—
Resolved, That the Territory ceded or to be ceded by individual States to the United States, whensoever the same shall have been purchased of the Indian inhabitants and offered for sale by the United States, shall be formed into additional States, bounded in the following manner, as nearly as such cessions will admit; that is to say Northwardly and Southwardly by parallels of latitude, so that each State shall comprehend, from South to North, two degrees of latitude, beginning to count from the completion of thirty-one degrees north of the equator: but any territory northwardly of the 47th degree shall make part of the State next below. And eastwardly and westwardly they shall be bounded, those on the Mississippi, by that river on one side and the meridian of the lowest point of the rapids of the Ohio on the other; and those adjoining on the east, by the same meridian on their western side, and on their eastern by the meridian of the western cape of the mouth of the Great Kanawha. And the territory eastward of this last meridian, between the Ohio, Lake Erie and Pennsylvania shall be one State.
That the settlers within the territory so to be purchased and offered for sale, shall, either on their own petition, or the order of Congress, receive authority from them, with appointments of time and place, for their free males, of full age, to meet together, for the purpose of establishing a temporary government, to adopt the constitution and laws of any one of these States, so that such laws nevertheless shall be subject to alteration by their ordinary legislature, and to erect, subject to a like alteration, counties or townships for the election of members for their legislature.
That sach temporary government shall only continue in force in any State until it shall have acquired 20,000 free inhabitants, when, giving due proof thereof to Congress, they shall receive from them authority, with appointments of time and place, to call a convention of representatives to establish a permanent constitution and government for themselves.
Provided, That both the temporary, and permanent government be established on these principles as their basis:
1. That they shall forever remain a part of the United States of America.
2. That in their persons, property, and territory they shall be subject to the government of the United States in Congress assembled, and to the Articles of Confederation in all those cases in which the original States shall be so subject.
3. That they shall be subject to pay a part of the federal debts contracted or to be contracted, to be apportioned on them by Congress according to the same common rule and measure by which apportionments thereof shall be made on other States.
4. That their respective governments shall be in republican forms, and shall admit no person to be a citizen who holds any hereditary title.
5. That after the year 1800 of the Christian era there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty.
That whensoever any of the said States shall have of free inhabitants as many as shall then be in any one of the least numerous of the thirteen original States, such State shall be admitted by its delegates into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing withthe said original States, after which the assent of two-thirds of the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be requisite in all those cases wherein, by the confederation, the assent of nine States is now required; provided the consent of nine States to such admission may be obtained according to the 11th of the Articles of Confederation. Until such admission by their delegates into Congress, any of the said States, after the establishment of their temporary government, shall have authority to keep a sitting member in Congress, with a right of debating, but not voting.
That the territory northward of the 45th degree, that is to say, of the completion of 45 degrees from the equator, and extending to the Lake of the Woods, shall be called Sylvania; that of the territory under the 45th and 44th degrees, that which lies westward of Lake Michigan shall be called Michigania; and that which is eastward thereof, within the peninsula formed by the Lakes and waters of Michigan, Huron, St. Clair, and Erie shall be called Cherronesus, and shall include any part of the peninsula which may extend above the 45th degree. Of the territory under the 43d and 45th degrees, that to the westward, through which the Assenippi or Rock river runs, shall be called Assenisipia; and that to the eastward, in which are the the fountains of the Muskingum, the two Miamies of Ohio, the Wabash, the Illinois, the Miami of the Lake, and the Sandusky rivers, shall be called Metropotamia. Of the territory which lies under the 39th and 38th degrees, to which shall be added so much of the point of land within the fork of the Ohio and Mississippi as lies under the 37th degree, that to the westward within and adjacent to which are the confluences of the rivers Wabash, Shawnee, Tamsee, Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri, shall be called Polypotamia; and that to the eastward farther np the Ohio, shall be called Polisipiu.
This report was recommitted to the same committee on the 17th of March and a new one was submitted on the 22d of the same month. The second report agreed in substance with the first. The principal difference was the omission of the paragraph giving names to the States to be formed out of the Western Territory. It was taken up for consideration by Congress on the 19th of April, on which day, on the motion of Mr. Spaight, of North Carolina, the following clause was struck out:
That after the year 1800 of the Christian era there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the said States, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted to have been personally guilty.