Northwest Ordinance (1787)

This was the most important piece of legislation enacted by Congress under the Articles of Confederation. The United States claimed the Ohio Territory after the 1783 Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War. The Northwest Ordinance then established policies for the creation of new states and the admission of those states into the confederation. The law accelerated westward expansion, and established that all states would be equal, regardless of when they were established.

The Northwest Ordinance also addressed the equality of the rights of citizens of the new states with the rights of citizens of the states that had fought the Revolution. Listed were some fundamental rights including trial by juryhabeas corpusdue process, and religious freedomExcessive fines and cruel and unusual punishments were banned. Slavery was also banned in new territories, though fugitive slaves who escaped to a new state would be returned to their masters.