The Northwest Ordinance should be remembered by all citizens, but particularly should it be recalled by those of us who live in the area which comprised the old Northwest Territory. By description, it is that land that lies west of the Appalachians, north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, and south of the Great lakes. This area ultimately became the five states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin; and it contains a large portion of what is now Minnesota as well.
This area was desired by the citizenry who wished to move West and settle the land. It was territory under dispute, as it was claimed variously by the states of Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Virginia. As well, the British still claimed much of this land. Thus, the Continental Congress passed the ordinance which created the Northwest Territory, requiring the cession of claims by the various states. The British claim was not ultimately resolved until the conclusion of the War of 1812.
The Northwest Territory was under the control or governance of the Continental Congress, until the formation of the United States Congress in 1789. On August 7, 1789, the Congress affirmed the Ordinance. Thus it was assured that as the territory was developed it would result in the creation of new states, rather than extensions of existing states into new territory.