What Was the Land Ordinance of 1785?

The Land Ordinance of 1785 determined how the Ohio country territory would be divided. It was subsequent to the Land Ordinance of 1784, which called for the land to be divided into several different states, but did not address how the divisions should be made.

The land area that was the subject of the Land Ordinance of 1785 occupies parts of what are now known as the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The land was acquired following the Revolutionary War as part of the Treaty of Paris. At the time, however, the region was primarily occupied by Native Americans as well as former colonists who had contracted segments of the land from the King of England.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 divided the land into 36-square-mile plots with townships at their centers. The plots were then further subdivided into 1-mile-square plots that were sold for $1 per acre, but only after Revolutionary War veterans were given land set aside exclusively for them in exchange for their services during the war. The federal government also allocated plots for the purpose of building government institutions, such as schools and government buildings.