A statue of George Washington, the first president of the United States, at Federal Hall in New York City. According to Wikipedia, he directed the new nation to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Territory despite the presence of Indian nations there. Photo: Wally Gobetz

Peter d'Errico: Founding Fathers conspired to take land from tribes

Anyone remember what the Northwest Ordinance was all about? Well wonder no more, for a new book explains how it led the United States to take more land away from Indian nations. Retired professor Peter d'Errico offers a review of The Northwest Ordinance: Constitutional Politics and the Theft of Indian Land:
Robert Alexander’s new book, The Northwest Ordinance: Constitutional Politics and the Theft of Indian Land (McFarland, April 2017), exposes the murky dealings leading to the 1787 Northwest Ordinance—“An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio”—a mechanism for extending U.S. jurisdiction into the interior of the continent beyond the original 13 colonies.

The U.S. Library of Congress describes the Ordinance, enacted under the Articles of Confederation, as “one of the most important legislative acts of the Confederation Congress.” Alexander’s meticulous research demonstrates how a small group of well-connected land speculators—including members of the so-called “founding fathers” of the United States—developed the terms of the Ordinance to profit from a federal mechanism to divest Native Peoples of their lands.

Alexander’s research points to “an intimate link between the two original sins of the [United States]: the enslavement of millions of African-American men, women and children—and the theft of millions of acres of Native land.” The book displays how northern anti-slavery and southern pro-slavery interests managed to agree that Black people, as slaves, would count in the new constitution as three-fifths of a person, and that Native lands would be seized.

Read More on the Story:
Peter d'Errico: Northwest Ordinance and Slavery: White Supremacy in the Foundation of the US (Indian Country Media Network 5/24)

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