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   Chapter 52 1802).

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4359

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: The Western claims.]

[Sidenote: Northwest cessions.]

Although Congress had no power, under the Articles of Confederation, to regulate territory, it earnestly urged the States to cede their claims. The Ohio River divided the Western country into two regions, each having a separate territorial history. The northern part was claimed by Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, on the ground that their old charters, extending to the Pacific, were revived (§ 45). The United States, as representing the landless States, claimed the whole region as territory won by the common effort and sacrifice of the Revolutionary War. On March 1, 1784, Virginia ceded all her claims north of the Ohio River, except a reservation for bounty lands. Massachusetts followed in 1785; the commonwealth had large tracts of unoccupied land in Maine and in New York. Connecticut had no such resources, and in 1786 ceded only the western part of her claim, retaining till 1800, as a "Western Reserve," a strip, extending along Lake Erie, one hundred and twenty miles west from Pennsylvania.

[Sidenote: Territorial organization.]

The claims to the region north of the Ohio having thus been extinguished, the government began to make plans for the administration of its domain. On Oct. 10, 1780, the Continental Congress had promised that the lands ceded by the States should be "disposed of for the common benefit of the United States," and "be settled and formed into distinct republican States which shall become members of the federal union." These two principles are the foundation both of the territorial and the public land systems of the United States.

On April 23, 1784, an ordinance reported by Jefferson was passed, providing for representative legislatures as fast as the West grew sufficiently populous to maintain them. It is hardly a misfortune that the map was not encumbered with the names suggested by Jefferson for the new States,-Cherronesus, Metropotamia, Assenisippia, Polypotamia, and Pelisipia; but another clause was voted down which would have prohibited slavery in the Territories after 1800.

[Sidenote: Northwest Ordinance.]

June 13, 1787, a sec

ond ordinance passed Congress, which was inferior in importance only to the Federal Constitution. It provided minutely for a preliminary territorial government, in which laws were to be made by appointive judges, and for a later representative government. The conception was that the Territories were to occupy the position formerly claimed by the colonies; they were to be subject to no general taxation, but placed under a governor appointed by the general government; their laws were to be subject to his veto, and to later revision by the central authority. A new principle was the preparation of the Territories for statehood: the ordinance laid down a series of "Articles of Compact" to govern them after they were admitted into the Union. Religious liberty and personal rights were to be secured; general morality and education to be encouraged; and finally it was provided that "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." The introduction of this clause is due to New England men, who were anxious to form a colony on the Ohio, and who desired to secure the freedom with which they were familiar. The clause had no effect upon slaves held in the Territory at the time of the passage of the ordinance, but it distinctly expresses the dissatisfaction of the country with the system of human slavery. As soon as the Northwest Territory was organized, the sale of lands began; but nothing was received in cash till long after the Confederation had expired.

[Sidenote: Southern cessions.]

In the southern block of States the territorial settlement proceeded more slowly, and was in every way less satisfactory. Virginia retained both jurisdiction and land in Kentucky. North Carolina in 1790 granted the jurisdiction in what is now Tennessee, but every acre of the land had already been granted by the State. South Carolina had almost nothing to cede, and yielded it in 1787. Georgia stood out on the claim to the whole territory between her present boundary and the Mississippi, and would not yield until 1802. Slavery was not prohibited.

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