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THE ORDINANCE OF 1787, AND ITS HISTORY.
BY PETER FORCE.
[See Vol. I., pp. 116-36.] On the first 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 forty-seventh 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 the 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 the 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 on 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 of their legislature. That such temporary government shall only continue in force in any
State until it shall have acquired twenty thousand 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 governments 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 the 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 the 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 with the 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 eleventh of the Articles of Confederation. Until such admission by their delegates into Congress, any of the said States, after the establishment of their temporary govern. ment, shall have authority to keep a sitting member in Congress, with a right of debating but not of voting.
That the territory northward of the forty-fifth degree, that is to say, of the completion of forty-five degrees from the equator, and extending to the Lake of the Woods, shall be called Sylvania. That, of the territory under the forty-fifth and forty-fourth degrees, that which lies westward of 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 Cheronesus, and shall include any part of the peninsula which may extend above the forty-fifth degree. Of the territory under the forty-third and fortysecond degrees, that to the westward, through which the Assen isipi or
Rock River runs, shall be called Assenisipia ; and that to the eastward, in which are the fountains of the Muskingum, the two Miamis 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 forty-first and fortieth degrees, the western, through which the river Illinois runs, shall be called Illinoia ; that next adjoining, to the eastward, Saratoga; and that between this last and Pennsylvania, and extending from the Ohio to Lake Erie, shall be called Washington. Of the territory which lies under the thirty-ninth and thirty-eighth 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 thirty-seventh degree, that to the westward, within and adjacent to which are the confluences of the rivers Wabash, Shawnee, Tanisee, Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri, shall be called Polypotamia ; and that to the eastward, farther up the Ohio, otherwise called the Pelisipi, shall be called Pelisipia.
That all the preceding articles shall be formed into a charter of compact; shall be duly executed by the President of the United States, in Congress assembled, under his hand and the seal of the United States; shall be promulgated, and shall stand as fundamental conditions between the thirteen original States and these newly described, unalterable but by the joint consent of the United States, in Congress assembled, and of the particular State within which such alteration is proposed to be made.
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."
The report was further considered and amended on the 20th and 21st. On the 23d, it was agreed to (ten States voting aye, and one no), without the clause prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude after the year 1800. On the question to agree to the report, after the prohibitory clause was struck out, the yeas and nays were required by Mr. Beresford. The vote was:
Mr. Foster, aye.
Mr. Blanchard, aye. Massachusetts
Mr. Gerry, aye.
Mr. Partridge, aye. Rhode Island
Mr. Ellery, aye.
Mr. Howell, aye. Connecticut
Mr. Sherman, aye.
Mr. Wadsworth, aye.
Mr. Dewitt, aye.
Mr. Paine, aye. New Jersey
Mr. Beatty, aye.
Mr. Dick, aye.
Mr. Mifflin, aye.
Mr. Hand, aye.
Mr. Stone, aye.
Mr. Chase, aye.
Mr. Jefferson, aye.
Mr. Monroe, aye.
Mr. Williams, aye.
Mr. Spaight, aye.
Mr. Reed, no.
Mr. Beresford, no.
Thus, the report of Mr. Jefferson for the temporary government of the Western Territory, without any restriction whatever as to slavery, received the vote of every State present except South Carolina. It did not “lay on the table of Congress during the three years from 1784 to 1787.” During these three years, it was the law of the land. It was repealed in 1787.
Nearly a year after the first plan was adopted, the clause originally offered by Mr. Jefferson, as a part of the charter of compact and fundamentul constitutions between the thirteen original States and the new States to be formed in the Western Territory, prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, was again submitted to Congress, omitting the time named—“after the year 1800 of the Christian era.”
On the 16th of March, 1785–
"A motion was made by Mr. King, seconded by Mr. Ellery, that the following proposition be committed:
“That there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the States described in the resolve of Congress of the 230 of April, 1784, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been personally guilty; and that this regulation shall be an article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitutions between the thirteen original States and each of the States described in the said resolve of the 23d of April, 1784."
The motion was " that the following proposition be committed”that is, committed to a committee of the whole House; it was not "in