Land Ordinance of 1785, Northwest Ordinance of 1781, Shay's Rebellion

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“Shaping a Federal Union”


June 8, 00








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The Land Ordinance of 1785 was a law that was passed by Congress


which allowed land to be sold in the Northwest Territory and set up the


standards for the sale of land that became precedents. Among them was the


idea to sell mile-square sections of land. The Northwest was surveyed into


townships six miles square in north, south, east, west lines. These townships


were divided into 6 sections one mile square. The land, which amounted to


640 acres sections, where auctioned off for under $ 1.00 per acre or $640.00


for all of the sections. The goal of the Land Ordinance of 1785 was to bring


more settlers, to help the economy grow, and to help raise an extremely low


deficit. For several years the question of what to do with the land had been


debated. Finally the Land Ordinance would help divide the land accordingly


in more precise units of measurements rather than the usual metes and


bounds. Surveying began in seven ranges west of the Ohio River. This land


had previously belonged to the Indians, but recent treaties had voided their


titles to the land. The rectangular pattern used to measure out the land can


still be seen from the air. The Congress reserved the income from the


sixteenth section to help support the schools even though public schools


were rare.





In 1787 the Confederation Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance.


This act specified how the land was to be divided into states, and helped


created a governmental system for the northwest territories. The act


specified that there would be three stages of government. The first stage


Congress was responsible for selecting the territory’s leaders which was to


include a governor, secretary, and three judges. Together the judges and


governor would select laws that already existed in other states that would first


be approved by congress. The governor had power over the military and


Indians matters, and the selection of law enforcement, and officials and


judges for the lower courts. The territorial government must own a lot


of land and be residents of the territory..


The second phase of this act specified how the land was to be divided into


states. According to the Northwest Ordinance there must be 5,000 free adult


males that were of voting age living in the territory. Once this happened these


men could elect a legislature for deciding local matters. The legislature


consisted of two houses, a house of representatives and a legislative council.


To be able to vote in the territory, a person had to be male and own five


hundred or more acres of land. Still an example of inequality between the


rich and the poor.


The last phase of the Ordinance stated that once there were 60,000 free


settlers in an area of the territory the people could then apply to Congress to


have the area become a state. The northwest territory was to become at least


three, but not more than five, states as stipulated by the ordinance. They


could then form a constitutional convention and draft a constitution that


would be submitted to the U.S. Congress to seek approval. Included in the


constitution must be a Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of religion, trial by


jury, representation in proportion to the constitution, habeas corpus, and


basic common law. The Bill encouraged education, but did not require


education to be provided, and permanently outlawed slavery from the


Northwest.


Shays’ rebellion began in 1787 in Springfield Massachusetts after the


farmer’s petition to the government for paper currency that would stand at


place value, lower taxes, and judicial reform, were refused. Being cut off


from the commercial ties of the British Empire caused severe economic


hardships for the U. S. Many farmers who were unable to pay their debts


were sent to prison and not released until the debts had been paid. In response to the economic crisis the Massachusetts legislation raised


taxes and court costs. The farmers decided to take matters into their own


hands. Before Daniel Shay led the army to a small but memorable victory he


was a farmer and a veteran of the Revolutionary war from Pelham. Shays’


rebellion erupted when three western counties rebelled against the


Massachusetts legislation which sought land taxes to pay off a large war


debt. Being cut off from the commercial ties of the British Empire caused


severe economic hardships for the U. S. Shay’s rebellion began when the


Massachusetts legislation adjourned without solving any of the financial


burden placed upon the farmers, and the poor. This sent the counties in a


rage. Groups of men with firearms, referred to often as rebel mobs, closed


the courts so that no other forecloses could occur. This was Shays’ Army.


Daniel Shays was the leader of approximately 1,00 men, mostly


farmers, that advanced upon the federal arsenal at Springfield,


Massachusetts. The only violent act during the six months that Shays’


rebellion had lasted was when a cannon shot killed four men from Shays


Army.


The goal was to obtain more flexible monetary policy, laws


allowing them to use corn and wheat as money, and the right to postpone


paying taxes until the depression was over. General Benjamin Lincoln soon


came with reinforcements from Boston and defeated Shays’ army. Shays’


army was victorious in causing a new legislator to be formed which included


more sympathetic members, also omitting taxes for a year, lowering court


costs, and exempted clothing, tools, and household goods from the debt


process.


The rebels were greatly exaggerated and what happened at Springfield


was highly inflated. As rumors spread more and more of the republican elite


became nervous except for Jefferson who admitted that he believed the act


was necessary writing in a letter to a friend “The tree of liberty must be


refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Many


historians like to believe that Shays army consisted of wrongheaded villains,


but in actuality they were a group of men fighting for a just cause, fighting for


fairness, fighting for there survival during the depression that followed the


Revolutionary war.




















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