Passed when only a single state outlawed slavery, the anti-slavery stance of the Northwest Ordinance–barring slavery in the territories, and thus in future states–gave weight to Abraham Lincoln’s later argument that the Founders sought to place slavery “in the course of ultimate extinction.”

July 13, 1787

Article VI

…There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, Read more

Adopted by the Congress of the Confederation in 1787, the Northwest Ordinance set forth a model for the expansion of the American republic. Providing a governing structure for the territory that would later become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, it prohibited slavery, protected religious liberty, and encouraged education. Following the adoption of the Constitution, the new Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance again in 1789. Read more