The Northwest Territory included land that existed outside of the original 13 states, comprised of what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Though the Articles of Confederation was founded under the pretense of diminishing the authority that the central government had over the individual states, the central government was given control over the regulation of westward expansion. The Northwest Ordinance gave settlers free reign to colonize the 5 states outlined in the document.
Under the regulations of the Northwest Ordinance, all settlers were entitled to the same freedoms and liberties afforded to citizens of the original 13 states. Located within the text of the Northwest Ordinance was a section entitled “Articles of Compact”, 6 procedural requirements to which settlers were obligated to adhere. They included an outline of processes and regulations, which ensured that the guidelines set forth in the Articles of Confederation were upheld in every territory included in the western expansion effort. Because both the Continental Congress and Thomas Jefferson were in favor of expanding the borders of the United States of America, the Northwest Ordinance was passed in order to persuade, rather than deter, settlers to do so.
In order to retain control of the expansion, only a certain amount of land was allotted to settlers participating in the western expansion effort. The Articles of Confederation allowed the central government to regulate all boundary parameters set forth in the Northwest Ordinance, and as result, the central government was responsible for granting statehood to the territories. The Northwest Ordinance required that once a territory had 5,000 settlers, they would be able to send a non-voting representative to Congress. In addition, once a territory amassed 60,000 settlers they would be entitled to apply for statehood.
The Articles of Compact required that every settlement adhere to the tenets set forth in the Articles of Confederation, which ensured that the liberties afforded to citizens residing in the 13 states would be allowed to all settlers. The six principles of the Articles of Compact stated that:
● All settlers were granted freedom of worship.
● All settlers were both entitled to trial by jury, as well as habeas corpus.
● All settlers were encouraged to establish functional community relations, which included school systems and adequate housing. In addition, settlers were forbidden to do unjust harm onto Native Americans residing in surrounding areas.
● All settlers were to adhere to the Articles of Confederation, and like the citizens of the 13 states, they too were exempt from Government-impost taxes.
● All settlers adhere to the boundaries set forth in the Northwest Ordinance. They were forbidden from expanding past the set parameters.
● Slavery was forbidden in the western territories.
The Northwest Ordinance was one of the few jurisdictions that the Articles of Confederation had granted the central government, and the enforcement of its regulations allowed for a democratic expansion of the United States of America’s border, fueled by liberty and opportunity.