October 5, 2009
Transcript of Northwest Ordinance (1787)
An Ordinance for the government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio.
Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, That the said territory, for the
purposes of temporary government, be one district, subject, however, to be divided into two districts, as
future circumstances may, in the opinion of Congress, make it expedient.
Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That the estates, both of resident and nonresident
proprietors in the said territory, dying intestate, shall descent to, and be distributed among their children,
and the descendants of a deceased child, in equal parts; the descendants of a deceased child or
grandchild to take the share of their deceased parent in equal parts among them: And where there shall be
no children or descendants, then in equal parts to the next of kin in equal degree; and among collaterals,
the children of a deceased brother or sister of the intestate shall have, in equal parts among them, their
deceased parents' share; and there shall in no case be a distinction between kindred of the whole and half
blood; saving, in all cases, to the widow of the intestate her third part of the real estate for life, and one third
part of the personal estate; and this law relative to descents and dower, shall remain in full force until
altered by the legislature of the district. And until the governor and judges shall adopt laws as hereinafter
mentioned, estates in the said territory may be devised or bequeathed by wills in writing, signed and sealed
by him or her in whom the estate may be (being of full age), and attested by three witnesses; and real
estates may be conveyed by lease and release, or bargain and sale, signed, sealed and delivered by the
person being of full age, in whom the estate may be, and attested by two witnesses, provided such wills be
duly proved, and such conveyances be acknowledged, or the execution thereof duly proved, and be
recorded within one year after proper magistrates, courts, and registers shall be appointed for that purpose;
and personal property may be transferred by delivery; saving, however to the French and Canadian
inhabitants, and other settlers of the Kaskaskies, St. Vincents and the neighboring villages who have
heretofore professed themselves citizens of Virginia, their laws and customs now in force among them,
relative to the descent and conveyance, of property.
Be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, That there shall be appointed from time to time by
Congress, a governor, whose commission shall continue in force for the term of three years, unless sooner
revoked by Congress; he shall reside in the district, and have a freehold estate therein in 1,000 acres of
land, while in the exercise of his office.