Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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July 13th
The Northwest Ordinance
On July 13, 1787, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, one of the greatest achievements of the young American republic. The legislation provided for the government of a huge region then called the Northwest Territory – the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota.

Under that wise, far-seeing measure, slavery was forever banned in those lands. Further, the lands were divided into townships 6 miles square and subdivided into 36 sections of 640 acres each. One of these sections was donated for the purposes of public education. “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means
of education shall be forever encouraged,” Congress said. Thus, even from the beginning of the republic, the focus of education was on the moral as well as the intellectual development of youth.

The Northwest Ordinance treated each new territory as a state-in-embryo. Settlers in the territories could establish free governments and write constitutions, and once they had achieved 60,000 inhabitants, they could apply for admission to the Union as new states. Each state would be admitted on an equal basis with all previous states.

This was the first time in the history of the world that the principle of equality was so recognized. American territories would not be colonies, held in perpetual subordination to the “mother” country.

A crucial feature of the Northwest Ordinance was its treatment of religion. The first article stated: “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory.” This enlightened doctrine was little short of revolutionary for its time. No other government had ever laid out such a principle for administering newly acquired territories.

American History Parade
Congress adopts the Northwest Ordinance, providing for the government of the region north of the Ohio River and west of Pennsylvania.

Rioting against a Civil War military draft erupts in New York City, leaving more than 100 people dead.

In a New York Tribune editorial, Horace Greeley advises, “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

The famous Hollywood Sign (originally reading “Hollywoodland” to advertise a real estate development) is dedicated on the hills above Hollywood.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

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