Ohio History Journal

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VOL. XX. No. 1.

JANUARY, 1911.


[Frequent inquiries have come to the Editor of the Quarterly con-

cerning the nature of Jefferson's Ordinance of 1784, for the organiza-

tion of the Northwest Territory and its bearing upon the later Ordi-

nance of 1787. In reply to such inquiries we submit the following.]

As early as the fall of 1776 and at various times later, up to the

final peace agreement of 1783, Congress by resolution pledged bounty

lands to those (officers) who served in the Continental Army. But until

the cession of the claimant states, Congress had no lands at its disposal

to fulfill its pledges. But the western territory was constantly in

sight, and April 7, 1783, Timothy Pickering, member of Congress, wrote

a friend that "there is a plan for the forming of a new state westward

of the Ohio. Some of the principal officers of the army are heartily

engaged in it. The propositions respecting it are in the hands of Gen-

eral Huntington and General Putnam." Neither Huntington nor Pick-

ering is heard of again in the matter. But Rufus Putnam pressed it upon

General Washington in repeated letters, which Washington answered,

affirming his own interest in the scheme and saying he had urged it

upon Congress.

In June 1783, at Newburg, Washington's headquarters, nearly

three hundred officers of the Continental line "who were about to ex-

change the hardships of war for the sufferings of poverty" petitioned

Congress to "work out a district between Lake Erie and the Ohio River

as the seat of a new colony," says Mr. Avery, "in time to be admitted

one of the confederate states of America." Rufus Putnam was the

prime mover in this petition-indeed the author of it-but nothing

came directly of the project.

Probably the same month (June) of this year (1783) that the

army officers petitioned Congress for the benefits of the western lands,

Theodoric Bland, at Washington's suggestion and supported by Alex-

ander Hamilton, moved, in Congress, the adoption of an ordinance which

was referred to a "grand committee," where it seems to have remained


As we learn from the "Evolution of the Ordinance of 1787," by

Jay A. Barrett, in the publications of the university of Nebraska, the

Bland ordinance contained the following main provisions:

(1) Lands should be substituted in place of all commutation for

half pay and arrearages due the army-thirty acres for every dollar