Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Wildnerness Politics and Economics

SOON AFTER SIGNING THE PEACE TREATY WITH England in 1783, which, in effect, ended the American Revolution, Congress passed a series of laws establishing governance for the newly acquired lands in the Great Lakes area. In 1784 an ordinance, written in part by Thomas Jefferson, provided, in vague terms, for creation of as many as ten new states in the Northwest, each of which would be admitted to the Union as a complete equal with existing states as soon as its population reached that of the least populated state already in the Union. This law proved to be unworkable however, because it failed to provide procedures by which territorial governments could be organized. The following year another ordinance was passed resolving the questions of survey and sales. Prior to entry by settlers all public land had to be surveyed and divided into townships, each six miles square. Every township was then subdivided into thirty-six sections, each containing 640 acres, with sales from section sixteen reserved for support of schools. Half the townships were to be sold whole at public auction in New York City and the remainder were to be disposed of by section, with the minimum bid set at $1 per acre. The third law passed by Congress was the Ordinance of 1787, which replaced the Ordinance of 1784, and made precise provisions for creating governments in the Lakes region. This document consisted of three sections. The first established a “Territory North West of the Ohio” that could eventually be carved into not less than three nor more than five territories. Section two defined a three-stage evolution from territorial status to statehood. In the first stage all power rested with a governor, secretary, and three judges appointed by Congress. When the adult population reached 5,000, the territory entered its second stage. At this time a legislature could be elected, but it had to share its authority with a Council of Five selected by the governor and Congress. Also, the legislature was empowered to elect a nonvoting member to serve in the national House of Representatives. The final stage was attained when the territory's

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