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Laws of the Northwest Territory

The Northwest Territory was established by the Congress of the Confederation, a governing body that preceded the United States Congress. The Congress adopted "An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States North West of the River Ohio," commonly known as the Northwest Ordinance, on July 13, 1787.

The Northwest Territory was initially administered by a Governor, who also served as Commander of the militia. Three judges were also appointed to run a court system. The governor and judges had the power to establish laws. A Territorial Secretary was appointed to document the acts and laws passed by the governor and judges in the region and other public records. The Ordinance allowed for the formation of a legislature when the area reached a population of 5000 men. The Territorial Legislature could write and adopt laws on a wide variety of topics, which were recorded by the Territorial Secretaries and forwarded to the U.S. Congress.

The laws of the Northwest Territory to 1800 were collected into a single volume and published in 1925. These laws are available digitally:

The Laws of the Northwest Territory, 1788-1800, edited by Theodore C. Pease. Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, volume 17; Law series volume 1. Springfield, Ill.: Trustees of the Illinois State Historical Library, 1925.