Great Lakes History Politics & Government


The books and articles below are about the political and legal history of the Great Lakes region. See the right column for more info about this website.


The Expediency of Securing our American Colonies by Settling the Country Adjoining the River Mississippi, and the country upon the Ohio, considered

Edinburgh 1763
Author UnknownGo to Book

The Proclamation of 1763 prohibited expansion west of the Alleghenies by white settlers unless authorized by the Crown, and guaranteed the rights of the Indians in this area. This anonymous pamphlet appeared immediately after the Proclamation.

Proclamation of 1764, British colonial policy, causes of the Revolutionary War, Northwest Territory, American history, free online library

“Legislature of the Northwestern Territory, 1795”

Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Publications 30, January 1921/Number 1, 13—53.

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Go to Article

This is not really an article but is rather a reproduction of the minutes of proceedings
of the Territorial legislature in the summer of 1795 in Cincinnati. This includes an
address by Governor St. Clair, a response by the two judges that were empowered with St. Clair to make laws for the Territory, excerpts from some correspondence, laws passed, and court business addressed.

See related historical documents at:
Great Lakes Region History: Documents & Collections of Records

Northwest Territory, legislative history, primary sources, government administration, ebooks online

New Governments West of the Alleghenies before 1780

Madison: University of Wisconsin 1897
Alden, George Henry Go to Book

(title continued) ” … (introductory to a study of the organization and admission of new states) “

Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, Historical Series.

The Mississippi Valley in British Politics: A Study of the Trade, Land Speculation, and Experiments in Imperialism Culminating in the American Revolution

Cleveland: Arthur Clarke 1917
Alvord, Clarence W.Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

Professor Alvord of the University of Illinois here presents a thesis that the origins of the Revolutionary War lie in the northwest as much as in Massachusetts. “… let me … boldly assert that whenever the British ministers soberly and seriously discussed the American problem, the vital phase to them was not the disturbances of the “madding crowd” of Boston and New York but the development of that vast trans-montane region that was acquired in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris”. This is not a history of the American northwest, but rather a history of British politics and policy toward America.

Chapter headings are:

-Government by Factions
-The Treaty of Peace, 1763
-The Beginning of Western Speculation
-The Earlier Western Colonial Policy of Great Britain
-The Choice of the Man
-The Formation of the Policy
-Proclamation of October 7, 1763
-The Organization of the Indian Department
-The Plans of the Old Whigs
-The Chatham Ministry
-Indian Management and Western Trade
-Lord Shelburne’s Western Policy

Proclamation of 1763, French and Indian War, British colonial policy, causes of the Revolutionary War, Northwest Territory, American history, British Native American policy, free online library

Intervention for Freedom. Address of Hon. F. F. Bailey, at Fitchburg, Friday Evening, Aug. 24th, 1860

Bailey, Goldsmith F.Go to Book


Evolution of the Ordinance of 1787, With an Account of the Earlier Plans for the Government of the Northwest Territory

NY: Putnam’s Sons 1891
Barrett, Jay Amos Go to Book


“The Bid of the West for the National Capital”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol III, 1909-10, 214-90

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association
Clark, Olynthus B.Go to Article

The author writes that there were efforts to change the location of the capital from Washington, D.C. after it was burned by the British in 1814, and again in 1846. However, the most serious effort occurred in the wake of the Civil War, with the first step being taken in 1867 and ending in 1871. This article covers that last effort, which was centered in the Middle West.

History of the Ordinance of 1787

Philadelphia: Press of the Society 1856
Coles, EdwardGo to Book

This was an 1856 address by the former Governor of Illinois to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in which he sketches the development of the Ordinance of 1787, the first version of which was found in a report of a Congressional committee of April, 1784, ending with its nearly-unanimous passage July 13, 1787. Governor Coles also weighed in the question of who was primarily responsible for the ideas expressed in the Ordinance. Senator Daniel Webster had recently claimed that Nathan Dane of Massachusetts was mainly responsible. Coles argued that Thomas Jefferson was the principal author.

Ordinance of 1787, Northwest Ordinance, Northwest Territory, American history, 18th century, ebooks online

Great Lakes History Politics & Government

The Ordinance of July 13th, 1787

Ohio History I, June 1887/Number 1, 10-37

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Cutler, William P.Go to Article

This historian looks into the roots of the Northwest Ordinance, reviewing the thinking and discussions of the men who drafted it and the legislators who considered and helped shape it. He notes what an unusual case this was, that passage of the ordinance “…stands out in history as an isolated effort on the part of its authors to forecast a complete system of government and project it over a vast territory in advance of its actual occupation by future inhabitants.” Even before the acquisition of the Northwest Territory “…under the terms of the treaty of peace in 1783 the policy of “independent states” had been announced.” He also addresses the question of why the slave states allowed the ordinance to contain a provision prohibiting slavery in the new states there.

See related historical documents at:
Great Lakes Region History: Documents & Collections of Records

Ordinance of 1787, Northwest Ordinance, Northwest Territory, American history, online history magazine

The Aaron Burr Conspiracy in the Ohio Valley

Ohio History XXIV, April 1915/Number 2, 121-37

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Henshaw, LeslieGo to Article

In this article about the still-mysterious matter of the Burr conspiracy, the author reviews the known details of the former Vice President’s travels to the west in 1805 and 1806, and describes reports in contemporary newspapers and the contents of surviving letters. She also draws upon evidence presented later in Burr’s trial for treason in this attempt at reconstructing Burr’s plot.

Burr conspiracy, Aaron Burr, history journal, free online library

“Western Land Policy of the British Government”

Ohio History I, December 1887/Number 3, 207-29.

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Hinsdale, Burke A.Go to Article

When the 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War, Great Britain was left in possession of Canada, Florida and all American lands as far as the Mississippi River. The British government had already been formulating its new policy for governing North America, releasing a Royal Proclamation in October, 1763 that laid out the new system and policy. There were to be four new governments; one in the West Indies and three on the continent. Boundaries between the provinces in North America were defined in the proclamation, and governors of the new colonies were prohibited from giving patents, “for any lands beyond the heads or sources of any of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the west or northwest; or upon any lands whatever, which not having been ceded or purchased by us…”

This last point, which apparently directed colonial governors in America to prohibit settlement of western lands, is the focus of this paper. The author says that one reason that the British government adopted this policy was to conciliate the Indians. He goes on to examine the evidence for additional motives and objectives, and tries to understand more precisely the British policy toward the Indians.

British colonial policy, Northwest Territory, causes of Revolutionary War, online journal

The Laws and Courts of the Northwest and Indiana Territories

Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill 1886
Howe, Daniel WaitGo to Book


The Territorial Governors of the Old Northwest: A Study in Territorial Administration

Iowa City, IA: State Historical Society of Iowa 1910
McCarty, Dwight G.Go to Book

This book was undertaken at the request of the State Historical Society of Iowa because the Territorial Government of Iowa evolved from territorial governments of the Northwest Territory, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. “The object has been to characterize rather than to present a detailed history – to indicate the real forces at work in the beginnings of Territorial government and to point out the important part played by the Governor.” (from the Author’s preface). Chapter headings are:

-The Old Northwest
-Early Attempts at Government
-The Ordinance of 1787
-The Organization of the Territorial Executive
-Governor St. Clair and the Northwest Territory
-Governor Harrison and the Indiana Territory
-Governor Edwards and the Illinois Territory
-Governor Hull and the Territory of Michigan
-Governors Cass and Mason and the Territory of Michigan
-Governors Dodge and Doty and the Territory of Wisconsin

For biographies and memoirs of early 19th century governors in the Great Lakes states, see:
– Edwards, Ninian Wirt, History of Illinois, from 1778 to 1833; and Life and Times of Ninian Edwards in Illinois History Politics & Government
;
St Clair, Arthur and Smith, William H., ed., St. Clair Papers: The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Esarey, Logan, ed., Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison in Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Alvord, Clarence W. ed., Governor Edward Coles in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Reynolds, John, My Own Times, Embracing also the History of my Life in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Hemans, Lawton Thomas, Life and Times of Stevens Thomson Mason in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
McLauglin, Andrew C., Lewis Cass in Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History

Northwest Territory government, Old Northwest, Ordinance of 1787, Governor Arthur St. Clair, Territorial governors, U.S. history, books free

Great Lakes History Politics & Government

The Future of the North-west: in Connection with the Scheme of Reconstruction without New England

Philadelphia: Crissy & Markley 1863
Owen, Robert Dale Go to Book


Public good: Being an Examination into the Claim of Virginia to the Vacant Western Territory

London: Carlile 1819
Paine, Thomas Go to Book

(title continued) ” … and of the right of the United States to the same. To which are added, proposals for laying off a new state, to be applied as a fund for carrying on the war, or redeeming the national debt. Written in the year 1780″


Lessons on the Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Indiana Historical Bureau 1987
Patrick, John J. Go to Book

(title continued) ” … learning materials for secondary school courses in American history, government, and civics”


The Laws of the Northwest Territory, 1788-1800

Springfield, ILL: Illinois State Historical Library 1925
Pease, Theodore C.Go to Book

This book contains over 500 pages of the text of the laws of the Northwest Territory, followed by a detailed index. The editor provided a historical context in a 25-page introduction. First he discussed how events and individuals in U.S. congress helped shape the text of the Ordinance of 1787 and expedite its passage, and then he did much the same for the legislative process in the Territorial Government. The contents of the book are organized as follows:

-Laws passed in the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio from commencement of the government to Dec 31, 1791.
-Laws passed in the Territory July to December 1792.
-Laws of the Territory adopted from May to August, 1795.
-Laws of the Territory adopted April 1798
-Laws of the Territory passed September 1799, and certain laws enacted by the Governor and Judges from the commencement of the government to December 1792, with an appendix.

Also see: Laws of the Territory of Michigan in Michigan History: Politics & Government;
Swan, Gustavus, A Compilation of Laws, Treaties, Resolutions … in Ohio History Politics & Government;
Philbrick, Francis S. ed., The Laws of Indiana Territory 1801-1809 in Indiana History Politics & Government ;
Alvord, Clarence W. ed., Laws of the Territory of Illinois 1809-1811 in Illinois History Politics & Government;

Ordinance of 1787, Northwest Ordinance, legal history, Northwest Territory legislation, American history, ebooks online

The Ordinance of 1787, and Dr. Manasseh Cutler as an Agent in its Formation

Cambridge: 1876
Poole, William FrederickGo to Book

Reprinted from the North American Review of April, 1876. The author’s purpose here is to establish who was most responsible for the Ordinance of 1787; i.e. who proposed its main ideas, who framed the legislative strategy and used their personal influence to facilitate passage. Poole and other authors of similar articles on this web page seem to agree that this Ordinance was excellent legislation and had great importance both for the region and the country. Poole brings up the prohibition on slavery in the Ordinance and argues that without it, Indiana and Illinois and possibly Ohio would have been slave states, with dire consequences for the Union in the Civil War.

Ordinance of 1787, Northwest Ordinance, Northwest Territory, Dr. Manasseh Cutler, history books online, public domain

The Log Cabin Minstrel: or, Tippecanoe Songster: containing a selection of songs…

Cincinnati: 1840
Roxbury Democratic Whip AssociationGo to Book

(title continued) “…original and selected, many of them written expressly for this work. Compiled, published and arranged by a member of the Roxbury Democratic Whip association, and respectfully dedicated to the Log Cabin Boys of the United States”

Just one of many William Henry Harrison songbooks produced for the 1840 Presidential election campaign.

1840 Presidential election, William Henry Harrison, American music, cultural history, historical ephemera

Great Lakes History Politics & Government

The Life of Harman Blennerhassett: comprising an authentic narrative of the Burr expedition and containing many additional facts not heretofore published

Cincinnati: 1853
Safford, William H.Go to Book

“In 1796, Blennerhasset arrived in America from England, and settled on an island in the Ohio river, below Parkersburgh, where he built an elegant residence, furnished with taste and elegance. [Aaron] Burr was his guest in 1805, and succeeded in involving him in his treasonable schemes. He invested largely in boats, provisions, arms and ammunition, left his home and friends, and went to Kentucky. Warned of Burr’s real designs, he returned to his home, greatly disheartened, but, through Burr’s solicitations, and the persuasions of his wife, he persisted. His property was seized and sold, and he was prosecuted as an accomplice of Burr, but was discharged, broken in mind, and bankrupt. He was subsequently a cotton planter, removed to Montreal, in 1819, and practiced law, but in 1822, removed to the West Indies, and died in 1831. For a critical review of this work, see North American Review, Vol. 79, page 297.”
– Peter G. Thomson, A Bibliography of the State of Ohio (1880)

Burr conspiracy, Harman Blennerhassett, Aaron Burr, history journal, free online library

The Liberty and Free Soil Parties in the Northwest

NY: Longmans, Green 1897
Smith, Theodore Clarke, PhD Go to Book

This is an academic study of the political anti-slavery parties and the anti-slavery movement in the Old Northwest in the decades leading to the Civil War.

political history, Great Lakes region, Old Northwest, anti-slavery, books, public domain, online free

Cautionary hints to Congress Respecting the Sale of the Western Lands, Belonging to the United States

Philadelphia: Carey 1796
Tucker, St. George; Madison, James; Taylor, John; Wood, James Go to Book



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