Ohio History Journal

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WHEN the great Ordinance of 1787 was passed by

Congress it was agreed by all the States present that six

of the articles, known as the articles of compact, should

not be repealed except by the joint consent of Congress

and the States concerned.   The fifth of these "irrevo-

cable articles" provided that not less than three nor more

than five States should be formed out of the region of

country known as the Northwest Territory. In case the

division was into three States, it was to be made by north

and south lines from points named in the articles; if it

should be divided into four or five, they were to be sepa-

rated by the same lines running north and south, and up

to an east and west line through the extreme south point

of Lake Michigan.

Thus it was left to the discretion of Congress whether

the territory north of this line should form one or two

States and that south two or three. But the boundary

line in either case was definitely fixed; especially was

this true of the line separating the northern from the

southern tier of States. It was imperatively stated that

an east and west line, running from the extreme south

point of Lake Michigan, should separate these two sec-

tions. According to the very nature of the compact, Con-

gress could not change these boundary lines at will.

The right of the Congress of the Confederation, so

to bind its successors, may, from a standpoint of justice

and right, be denied, but from a legal point of view it can

not surely be questioned, when we take into consideration

the fact that the power of the colonial and Continental

Congresses depended largely, if not solely, on the assump-

1This paper is a part of a formal thesis prepared two years since, when

its writer, then a student in Ohio State University, was a member of the

seminar established there for advanced and special investigation of Ameri-

can historical questions.