Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

The Northwest Ordinance, 1787

Before the ink had dried on the U.S. Constitution, representatives of the thirteen colonies tried to figure out how new states might be added to their union. The result of their deliberations was the Ordinance of 1787, or the Northwest Ordinance, adopted July 13, 1787, by the Second Continental Congress.

The Northwest Ordinance specified four principal things. First, it authorized a provisional government for the vast territory northwest of the Ohio River that the United States had obtained at the end of the Revolutionary War. Second, it provided a method for making new governments out of that territory (the rules under... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: The surveyor that laid out Madison recalls his days in the field in 1837.  The surveyor that laid out Madison recalls his days in the field in 1837.
Link to article: A Wisconsin surveyor describes running lines in the 1830's.  A Wisconsin surveyor describes running lines in the 1830's.
Link to manuscript: How the Ordinance of 1787 was drafted, by one of its authors.  How the Ordinance of 1787 was drafted, by one of its authors.
Link to map: The English map America just before the Revolution (1776).  The English map America just before the Revolution (1776).
Link to map: States and territories created under the Northwest Ordinance.  States and territories created under the Northwest Ordinance.
Link to map: The rectangular survey gets underway in Wisconsin, 1835.  The rectangular survey gets underway in Wisconsin, 1835.

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to book: A historical, documentary, and descriptive history of Wisconsin to 1854  A historical, documentary, and descriptive history of Wisconsin to 1854
Link to book: Collected historical documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society  Collected historical documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society
Link to manuscript: U.S. General Land Office surveyors' field notes and plats for Wisconsin  U.S. General Land Office surveyors' field notes and plats for Wisconsin
Link to manuscript: The full text of the Northwest Ordinance.  The full text of the Northwest Ordinance.

Related Links

Discover more about the surveyors' notes from our Local History Office.
Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights

  • Questions about this page? Email us
  • Email this page to a friend
select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text