The United States acquired the Northwest Territory in 1781 in a compromise between large states and small states over ratification of the Articles of Confederation. A few of the original colonies had acquired lands in the West after adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Their holdings stimulated debate between small landless states and large landholding states. Small states feared that large states with western lands might lord over them. Landless states--Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island-- wanted the entire territory to become common land. The exigency of the situation--union or disunion--persuaded landholding states to turn their claims over to the federal government by 1781. The United States under the Articles of Confederation soon faced other hurdles in the West: governance, settlement, and uprisings by Native Americans. The United States under the Constitution later faced the problem of African slavery. 1
For African Americans, life in the United States has been a long journey from slavery to freedom. The year 1619 marked their official arrival in Virginia, the first permanent English colony in North America. Traders from the Dutch Republic, seventeenth-century masters of the high seas, exchanged in Virginia about twenty enslaved Africans for supplies. John Rolfe observed their arrival. "About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of a 160 tunes arrived at Point-Comfort . . . . He brought not any thing but [twenty] and odd Negroes, [which] the Governor and Cape Marchant bought for victual." 2 Africans did not become slaves in Virginia immediately, but by 1660 they sank into perpetual slavery.