Give Thanks for the Northwest Ordinance

Unsure of what to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season? Here’s a suggestion of something to be thankful for: the Northwest Ordinance.You might ask, what is the Northwest Ordinance? The answer: It’s a law passed by the Confederation Congress meeting openly in New York in July 1787, even as the Constitutional Convention was meeting behind closed doors and windows in Philadelphia.

The ordinance provided a plan for governance for the American territory west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River. It provided that the land be surveyed and divided into 6‑mile-by-6-mile townships — hence the square checkerboard landscape you can see from the plane — with one mile-square section devoted to support education. It provided that the Northwest could be divided into territories to be governed by Congress but also, controversially at the time, into separate states fully equal to the original 13. To that, we owe the states of Ohio, Indiana, Il …

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