Land Ordinance of 1785

From Academic Kids

The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted on May 20, 1785 by the Congress formed by the Articles of Confederation. The Continental Congress was not able to tax citizens, so the immediate goal of the ordinance was to raise money through the sale of land in the largely unmapped territory west of the original colonies acquired from Britain at the end of the Revolutionary War.

This ordinance in fact laid the foundations of land policy in the United States of America until passage of the Homestead Act in 1862. The Land Ordinance established the basis for the Public Land Survey System. Land was to be systematically surveyed into six mile square townships. Each of these townships were sub-divided into thirty six sections of one square mile or 640 acres (2.6 km&sup2). These sections could then be further subdivided for sale to settlers and land speculators.

Sections were numbered beginning with "1" in the southeastern corner. When "6" was reached at the northern border, the numbering continued at the southern boundary of the next column with "7" and so forth until section "36" in the northwestern corner was reached.

The ordinance was also significant for establishing a mechanism for funding public education. The sixteenth section in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Many modern schools today still are located in section sixteen of their respective townships, although a great many of them were sold to raise money for public education. The federal government also reserved sections 8, 11, 26 and 29 to compensate veterans of the Revolutionary War.

The earlier Ordinance of 1784 called for the land west of the Appalachian Mountains, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River to be divided into ten separate states. However, it did not define the mechanism by which would become states, or how the territory would be governed or settled before they became states.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 was intended to address these issues.

External links

  • Ordinance Text (http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/ihb/resources/docldord.html) from Indiana Historical Bureau
  • Land Ordinance of 1785 (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/ohc/history/h_indian/document/landord.shtml) from Ohio History Central
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