5.1. The Midwest, 1780-1820: The Frontier Era


Population (1000s), rank

1810

(16 states)

1820

(24 states)

Ohio

231

13th

581

5th

Indiana

25

-

147

18th

Illinois

12

-

55

24th

Michigan

5

-

9


Wisconsin

-

-

-

-

Iowa

-

-

-

-

Minnesota

-

-

-

-

Total population

% of US pop.

 

273

 

4.0%

 

792

 

8.2%


Key events:

  • In 1776, only a handful of white settlers lived in what is now the Midwest.  Starting in the 1780s an ever-increasing tide of settlers made their way across the Appalachian mountains and the Ohio River, cleared ground, built farms and villages, and formed governments.
  • A three-layer pattern of settlement:  Early settlement of the Midwest flowed in a north-south direction, creating three distinct tiers of culture which can still be seen in faded form today.
Region                 
 Settled mainly by people from:
    Period         
Lower Midwest (southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois)
 Upper South (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina)       
 1780-1820
 Central Midwest (central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois
 Pennsylvania, Maryland
 1790-1830
Upper Midwest (central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois)
 New England, New York
 1820-1850


The Northwest Ordinance (1785-1787):  Charter for a Continental Republic

  • The U.S. acquired all British territory between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River at the end of the American Revolution.  Congress had to organize the territory quickly in order to encourage settlement and ensure that British troops, who remained in the area, would not remain there forever. 
  • The Ordinance, which covered all American territory north and west of the Ohio River, created a three-stage process for attaining statehood:

 Stage 1 

  • Congress (later President) appoints governor and legislative council
  • Governor and council to act as territorial supreme court
  • No locally-elected officials
Stage 2:
  • Territories eligible for this stage when population reaches 5,000
  • Congress (later President) appoints governor
  • Legislative council members elected by the people
Stage 3:
  • Territories eligible for this stage when population reaches 60,000
  • Territory creates state constitution, to be approved by Congress
  • Congress gives up all direct control of territory when it approves statehood
  • Slavery was not permitted (Nathan Dane of Massachusetts proposed this provision, and Congress approved it by a one-vote margin).  The Ordinance was America’s first national antislavery measure.
  • First federal bill of rights:  freedom of speech, freedom of religion, trial by jury guaranteed.
  • First colonial system in world history to allow colonies full membership in the colonizing nation.


TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS PERIOD, CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW. YOU CAN ALSO USE THE "SITEMAP" TAB AND THE LINKS ABOVE TO GO TO:

  • OTHER ASPECTS OF MIDWEST LEGAL HISTORY DURING THIS PERIOD
  • OTHER PERIODS OF MIDWEST LEGAL HISTORY
  • THE LEGAL HISTORY OF OTHER REGIONS

New states:

  • Ohio (1803)
  • Indiana (1816)
  • Illinois (1818)
Indiana territorial capitol, Vincennes
Old Illinois capitol, Vandalia (pictures courtesy Wikimedia Commons)














A Vision for America

“[T]he Ordinance is more than a blueprint for constitutional expansion.  Drafted at a time of sectional division and constitutional crisis, it also embodies a vision of a more harmonious, powerful, prosperous and expanding union. To plan for the addition of new western states when the existing union appeared to be on its last legs was an act of faith.”

-Peter Onuf, Statehood and Union


The Northwest Territory (courtesy Wikimedia commons)





























)