Article Six, Texts and the Process of Historical Change

Passed on July 13, 1787, the Northwest Ordinance was the most momentous piece of legislation by the Articles of Confederation Congress.  The vote was 8-0 among the states who bothered to have representatives at the Congress at this time.  The Ordinance would serve as a model for the organization of territories acquired by the United States.  Although not considered very important at the time, it is Article Six which has riveted the attention of after generations:

Art. 6. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid. 

Article Six became a battleground in a way I think which would have bemused the drafters of the Ordinance who probably viewed the prohibition of slavery as simple common sense in  a geographic area ill-suited to slavery due to climate. (more…)

Published in: on September 6, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Article Six, Texts and the Process of Historical Change  
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