The Administration of Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Northwest Territory (1787-1802)
Ragen, Alice Anne
With the enactment of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, Congress laid down a series of fundamental principles which were of great significance in the development of the Union and the government of the territories west of the mountains. This document laid the foundation for the American territorial system and introduced a new conception of the relation between colonies and the parent state. In contrast with former systems--in which the colonies either were subordinate or quite independent- --the American plan had as its basis political equality between the original states and the new territory. The task of giving life and meaning to the principles of this important document was entrusted to Arthur St. Clair. St. Clair, a Scotchman of noble descent, had served as a general in the Revolutionary War. He was a friend of George Washington and a Federalist in politics. In 1786 he served as a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress. In recognition of his marked ability during the session, he was elected president of the Congress on February 22, 1787. The passage of the Northwest Ordinance was the greatest work of the session. In view of St. Clair’s later position in the Northwest, it is especially significant that he should have served as president of the Congress that passed it. St. Clair, in particular, recognized the scope of the document and used his influence to bring about its passage. The Ordinance became a law by the unanimous vote of eight states present in Congress on July 13, 1787.
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