Northwest Ordinance: Primary Documents in American History
Adopted on July 13, 1787, the Northwest Ordinance established a government for the Northwest Territory and outlined a process for admitting new states. This guide compiles Library of Congress digital materials, external websites, and a print bibliography.
Ken Drexler, Reference Specialist, Researcher and Reference Services Division
Created: March 20, 2020
Last Updated: March 20, 2020
The Northwest Ordinance, officially titled "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio," was adopted by the Confederation Congress on July 13, 1787. Also known as the Ordinance of 1787, the Northwest Ordinance established a government for the Northwest Territory, outlined the process for admitting a new state to the Union, and guaranteed that newly created states would be equal to the original thirteen states. Considered one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation Congress, the Northwest Ordinance also protected civil liberties and outlawed slavery in the new territories