American History 1785 - 1849

United States History The Northwest Ordinance

Once settlers began to move into the Northwest Territory, the Native Americans (Kickapoo and Illinois in the southern part, the Potawatomi, Miami, and Chippewa in the central part, and the Ottawa, Winnebago, and Sauk-Fox in the northern part of the territory) living there began to fight. These tribes were semi-nomadic who followed game. The white settlers could not understand why they needed so much hunting land.

Road to Fallen Timbers

Several battles were fought. After the American army won the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the Indian tribes signed treaties with the U.S. government. In the early 1800’s, Tecumseh, a young Shawnee chief, dreamed of regaining these lands. He traveled around the country, rallying the Native Americans to fight. He wanted to make the Ohio River the border between the white man and the Indian. While away, Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh’s brother, led an attack against General William Henry Harrison and lost. This was the end of the movement for an Indian nation.

After the Revolutionary War Americans started moving west across the Appalachian Mountains to land known as the Northwest Territory. This land was north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.

In 1785 the United States government sent men to survey the Northwest Territory. The men divided the territory into townships. Each township was six miles long by six miles wide. The townships were divided into four equal parts: one for public buildings such as schools and courthouses. The rest was for sale.

In 1787 Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance which said:

Northwest Ordinance
  • Congress had the right to appoint a governor to make rules for each area where people settled.

  • When 5,000 free male settlers over the age of 21 came to an area, it could start its own legislature to make its own laws.

  • After 5,000 free male settlers moved to an area it would then be called a territory.

  • A territory could later become a state.

  • Legislators from a territory could go to Congress, but they could not vote.

  • People living in territories were given the same rights as all Americans.

  • When 60,000 free people moved to a territory they could write a state constitution and ask to become a state. Free people did not include blacks or slaves.

People began to move into the Northwest Territory by horseback and by wagons. They also traveled on rafts and flatboats down the rivers.