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A History of the Republican Party by Platt

Jefferson's Ordinance came up for consideration


Jefferson was the most urgent against slavery of all the founders of the nation. His statesmanship foresaw the evils negro slavery would bring upon the nation's social and political development, and his nature was stirred by the great moral wrong. Long before the Declaration of Independence he worked untiringly in Virginia to bring about a sentiment against the slave trade, and his efforts met with success. His fierce denunciation of England's part in the slave trade was stricken from the Declaration, but he did not give up the fight, although the material interests of the South thwarted his plans for the moment. When, by the unforeseen results attendant upon the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, that imperial domain reaching from Pennsylvania to the Mississippi and from the Ohio to the Lakes became national territory, Jefferson, with the prescience of a mighty genius, saw an opportunity to deal a death blow to slavery. This magnificent public domain, subsequently to be divided into the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, was given to the nation on condition that it should be cut up into States, to be admitted when they had a certain population, and that the land should be sold to pay the debts of the United States. Throughout this vast region there were very few people, and there had been no social, political or economical development, and so the only opposition which could come in Congress to any measure for the future government of the Territory
would be from the original States. No sooner had the cession been fully made than Jefferson suggested a plan which, if it had succeeded, would have confined slavery North and South to the mountain boundaries of the original States. His plan for the government of this new territory, among other things, provided that after the year 1800 slavery should be prohibited in it. He went beyond this and advocated and urgently solicited Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to cede their rights in the land west of the Mountains, and he would have had slavery prohibited in this territory also after the year 1800. His plan was no more or less than to prohibit slavery after the year 1800 in all land between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, from the Lakes to Florida.

On April 19, 1784, Jefferson's Ordinance came up for consideration. North Carolina moved that the clause prohibiting slavery after 1800 be stricken out; South Carolina seconded the motion, which was put in the form, "Shall the words moved to be stricken out stand?" Six States voted that the clause should stand, three were opposed to it, but as the Articles of Confederation required the votes of nine States, the motion was lost and the Ordinance, with the slavery clause taken out, was then adopted.

The following year Congress made inducements so attractive that in a short time several companies were organized and bought large tracts in the new National Territory; and as they purposed settling on their purchases at once, Congress agreed upon a more elaborate plan of government and laws than those set forth in the Ordinance of 1784. The famous Ordinance of 1787 was the result of this agreement. Mr. Jefferson was not present at the time of its adoption, having been sent as Minister to France, but the influence of his work and sentiments were felt, and his ideas were adopted in a new form. The new Ordinance repealed the old one, and among other things provided that the Territory should be cut up into not less than three nor more than five States, all of which were to be admitted into the Union when they had a population of 60,000 free inhabitants. The States which might be formed were forever to remain a part of the United States, and it was declared that the Ordinance was to be considered as a compact between the original States and the people and States of the new territory, and forever to remain unalterable unless by common consent. Most important and far-reaching of all was the Article,

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