How the Ordinance of 1787 was drafted, by one of its authors.

Letter of Nathan Dane to Rufus King, 1787 July 16.

Nathan Dane was a Massachusetts attorney and delegate to the Continental Congress, 1785-1787. He helped draft the Ordinance of 1787 under which western regions were to be governed and ultimately admitted to the union. This letter was written in New York, shortly after Dane's committee had drafted the Ordinance, to his colleague Rufus King in Philadelphia. Dane describes how the work was progressing and how he slipped in language outlawing slavery from the new territories. The criteria that he and his colleagues drew up at the time this letter was written were the rules by which Wisconsin was made a territory and a state two generations later. Dane went on to write an 8-volume textbook on American law; our Dane County was named for him shortly after he died. Click "Page & Text" to see a typed transcript of any page while viewing it.

Related Topics: Territory to Statehood
The Northwest Ordinance, 1787
Creator: Dane, Nathan, 1752-1835
Pub Data: Original manuscript in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives (SC 1423). Abbreviated version printed in Edmund Burnett's Letters of members of the Continental Congress (Washington, 1936), vol. VIII, pp. 621-622.
Citation: Dane, Nathan. "Letter, 1787 July 16." Original manuscript in the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives (SC 1423). Online facsimile at:; Visited on: 4/13/2024