Division of the Northwest Territory

The next movement in the evolution of the territorial divisions of the Northwest Territory, was the act of Congress dated May 7, 1800. This provided for the separation of the western part of the territory, and calling it the Indiana Territory. The division was to be at a line beginning on the Ohio opposite the mouth of the Kentucky river; thence northerly to Fort Recovery; and thence north to an intersection of the territorial line between the United States and Canada. This line divided the lower Michigan peninsula into two nearly equal parts, but it did not remain in force for any considerable time. The eastern division, thus created, was to remain under the existing government, and the western division to be organized under a similar one.

It was also provided in the act, that when the eastern part should be formed into a state, the western boundary line should be changed, and begin at the mouth of the Great Miami River, and run thence due north to the Canada line. A division of the territory into states had been contemplated in the Ordinance of 1787, and this provision for changing the western boundary, made the act coincide with the terms of the Ordinance upon the subject. Its requirements were:

'There shall be formed in the said territory, not less than three, nor more than five states ; and the boundaries of the states, * * * shall become fixed and established as follows, to-wit: The western state in the said territory shall be bounded by the Mississippi, the Ohio and Wabash Rivers; * * * the middle states shall be bounded by the * * * line from the Wabash and Post Vincents due north to the territorial line between the United States and Canada, and by the said territorial line to

Map Showing Division of Northwest Territory

the Lake of the Woods and Mississippi, by a direct line drawn due north from the mouth of the Great Miami to the said territorial line, and by said territorial line. The eastern state shall be bounded by the last mentioned direct line, the Ohio, Pennsylvania and the said territorial line; provided, however, and is further understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three states shall be subject so far to be altered, that if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two states in that part of the said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan; and whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted, by its delegates, into the Congress of the United States, * * * and shall be at liberty to form a permanent constitution and state government."

The census of 1800 revealed the fact that the eastern division of the territory had a population of forty-two thousand, and although this was less than the number set in the ordinance, to entitle it to admission to the Union, the people were ambitious to form a state government, and made application to Congress for the privilege. Much scheming was indulged in at the time, between the adherents of the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist parties, each desiring to get the political advantage of the other in the formation of the new state. Each desired to have the boundaries coincide with their political majority. St. Clair was a Federalist and was working for a state that would vote for his party. He advocated that one be made from the territory east of a line running up the Scioto' to the southwest corner of New Connecticut, as, in this district, a majority of the voters supported the Federal party. But in the boundaries, as they were fixed in the Ordinance of 1787, not including the county of Wayne, there was a majority in favor of the Anti-Federalists. Congress was then an Anti-Federalist body, and the Ordinance boundaries were left intact.

Online Resources | Ohio AHGP

Source: Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, Volume 5, John L. Trauger, 1898.




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