Essay on Life After the Land Ordinance of 1785

Submitted By dontreach
Words: 566
Pages: 3

The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the Continental Congress in the United States on May 20, 1785. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation of the inhabitants of the United States. Therefore, the immediate goal of the ordinance was to raise money through the sale of land in the largely unmapped territory west of the original states acquired after the end of the Revolutionary War in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Over three-fourths of the area of the continental United States ultimately came under the rectangular survey. [1]

The Ordinance of 1784 was a resolution written by Thomas Jefferson (delegate from Virginia) calling for Congress to take action. The land west of the Appalachian Mountains, north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River was to be divided into ten separate states.[2] However, the 1784 resolution did not define the mechanism by which the land would become states, or how the territories would be governed or settled before they became states. The Ordinance of 1785 put the 1784 resolution in operation by providing a mechanism for selling and settling the land,[3] while the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 addressed political needs.

The 1785 ordinance laid the foundations of land policy until passage of the Homestead Act in 1862. The Land Ordinance established the basis for the Public Land Survey System. The initial surveying was performed by Thomas Hutchins. After he died in 1789, responsibility for surveying was transferred to the Surveyor General. Land was to be systematically surveyed into square townships, six miles (9.656 km) on a side. Each of these townships were sub-divided into thirty-six sections of one square mile (2.59 km²) or 640 acres. These sections could then be further subdivided for re-sale by settlers and land speculators.[4]

The ordinance was also significant for establishing a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Many schools today are still located in section sixteen of their respective townships[citation needed], although a great many of the school sections were sold to raise money for public education. In later States, section 36 of each township was also