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United States Northwest Territory

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The Northwest Territory was a government and region within the early United States. The Northwest Ordinance provided for the organization and rules for state admission for the territories. It was passed by the Continental Congress in 1787. The territory included all the land of the United States west of Pennsylvania and northwest of the Ohio River. It covered all of the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as eastern part of Minnesota.

History When the territory was created it was inhabited by about 45,000 Indians and 2,000 traders, mostly French. Officially, American settlement began at Marietta, Ohio on April 7, 1788. Arthur St. Clair formally established the government on July 15, 1788 at Marietta. His original plan called for the organization of 5 initial counties: Washington (Ohio east of the Scioto River[?]), Hamilton (Ohio between the Scioto and the Miami[?] Rivers), Knox (Indiana), St. Clair (Illinois and Wisconsin), and Wayne (Michigan).

Arthur St. Clair was the Territory's only governor. The original supreme court was made up of John Cleves Symmes, James Mitchell Varnum[?], and Samuel Holden Parsons[?]. There were three Secretaries: Winthrop Sargent[?] (July 9, 1788-May 31, 1798; William Henry Harrison (June 3l[?], 1799-December 31, 1799); and Charles Willing Byrd[?] (January 1, 1800- January 15, 1803).

In 1798 the territory became eligible to send a non-voting member to the U.S. Congress. The Assembly elected this representative. Representatives were:

In 1800 the Indiana Territory[?] was carved out, reducing the Northwest Territory to the size of Ohio, to prepare for statehood. The Northwest Territory went out of existence when Ohio was admitted as a state on March 1, 1803.

Law and government At first the territory had a modified form of martial law. The Governor was also the senior army officer within the territory and he combined legislative and executive authority. But, a supreme court was established, and he shared legislative powers with the court. County governments were organized as soon as the population was sufficient, and these assumed local administrative and judicial functions. Washington County was the first of these, at Marietta in 1788. Hamilton County at Cincinnati followed in 1790.

As soon as the number of settlers exceeded 5,000 the Territorial Legislature was to be created. This happened in 1798. The full mechanisms of government were put in place, as outlined in the Northwest Ordinance. A bicameral legislature consisted of a House of Representatives and a Council. The first house had 22 representatives, 2 elected by each district (county at the time). The House then nominated 10 citizens to be Council members. The nominations were sent to the Congress, which appointed five of them as the Council. This assembly became the legislature of the Territory, although the Governor retained veto power.

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