Ordinances Related to Western Lands

Americans in 1776 recognized that the territory west of the Appalachians would eventually be divided into states, but they were at odds from the beginning about how to create and to govern them. By the end of the Revolutionary War, Congress was in desperate need of funds and the sale of western lands could be used to address the many financial issues facing the nation. These concerns lead to a series of three ordinances related to the western territories.

The first ordinance Congress adopted on 23 April 1784 was a plan for the government of the national domain. Thomas Jefferson was the chief architect of the ordinance which divided the national domain into ten districts and provided for self-government by the people within them.

The Second ordinance Congress adopted on 20 May 1785 provided for the survey of the Western Territory and the sale of the land surveyed.

The third ordinance was adopted by Congress on 13 July 1787. It revised some provisions of the original ordinance of 1784, described the process of admission of territories into the union as states, and provided for the protection of certain civil liberties. For an extended essay see Ordinances related to Western Lands.