Northwest Territory

An American Territory

The Old Northwest became U.S. territory in 1783 by the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution and soon was one of the most pressing problems before the U.S. Congress. The four so-called landed states—Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut—claimed portions of the Old Northwest, while states with no western land claims, especially Maryland, argued that if the claims of the landed states were recognized, the wealth and population of the other states would be attracted to the western lands. The final solution was the cession of all the lands to the U.S. government, which was thus greatly strengthened; New York made its cession in 1780, Virginia in 1784, Massachusetts in 1785, and Connecticut in 1786. Two reserves were kept, the Virginia Military District and the Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio. The Ordinance of 1785 established the Township System for surveying, which used a rectangular grid system in order to divide the land.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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