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Why was the Northwest Ordinance important?

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Quick Answer

The Northwest Ordinance was important because it settled land disputes, gave people the right to a fair trial, prohibited slavery and granted residents property rights. In addition, it granted equality to new states joining the Union and gave them a government.

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Full Answer

Prior to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Connecticut, New York, Georgia and other states were disputing their boundaries, each believing they could extend to or beyond the Mississippi River. By 1785, the states gave up on their claims, leaving the government with a large portion of land. Initially, the government tried to sell the land off, but it proved too expensive. Eventually, Congress sold it to the Ohio Company for less than 10 cents an acre.

To prevent such problems arising in the future, the Northwest Ordinance was introduced. In addition to ensuring states in the Northwest had a set government, it highlighted rules for joining the Union. This included no more implementing slavery, allowing trial by jury and providing freedom of religion. Citizens also had greater property rights.

While the Northwest Ordinance was primarily successful, challenges were made to the slavery rules. Although they prevented slave owners from establishing new slaves, they did not protect slaves already living in the territory before the ordinance was introduced. In addition, slave owners could still bring their slaves into Indiana . Pro-slavery measures continued throughout the early 19th century, which eradicated the progress made by the ordinance.

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