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Land Ordinance of 1784

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Title: Land Ordinance of 1784  
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Subject: Continental Congress, Northwest Ordinance, Thomas Jefferson, Pittsburgh/On this day/April 23, Fugitive slave laws
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Land Ordinance of 1784

The Ordinance of 1784 (enacted April 23, 1784) called for the land in the recently created United States of America west of the Appalachian Mountains, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River to be divided into separate states.

It was adopted by the United States Congress under the Articles of Confederation.

Thomas Jefferson was the principal author. His original draft of the ordinance contained five important articles:[1]

  • The new states shall remain forever a part of the United States of America.
  • They shall bear the same relation to the confederation as the original states.
  • They shall pay their apportionment of the federal debts.
  • They shall in their governments uphold republican forms.
  • After the year 1800 there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of them.

At the time slavery prevailed throughout much more than half the lands of Europe. Following an impulse from his own mind, Jefferson designed the ordinance to establish from end to end of the whole country a north and south line, at which the westward extension of slavery should be stayed by an impassable bound. On exactly the ninth anniversary of the fight at Concord and Lexington,

To the friends who visited him in the last period of his life, he delighted to renew these aspirations of his earlier years. In a letter written just 45 days before his death, he refers to the ordinance of 1784, saying: "My sentiments have been forty years before the public: although I shall not live to see them consummated, they will not die with me; but, living or dying, they will ever be in my most fervent prayer."

The ordinance passed without the 5th clause despite Jefferson's wishes, and was in force for 3 years. The ordinance was further augmented with the Land Ordinance of 1785, and superseded by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

See also


  1. ^ "Report from the Committee for the Western Territory to the United States Congress". Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark.  

External links


  • George Bancroft History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United States of America, Volume 1, (New York, D. Appleton and Company, 1885) p. 157-158
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