Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

October 23, 2013

ANDREA NEAL: Hoosier values shaped by Northwest Ordinance

1787 document 'at core of civic heritage'

(Continued)

The governance procedures set forth in the ordinance were as far-sighted as its commitment to individual dignity. Consider these enlightened promises:

Freedom of religion: “No person . . . shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments.”

Education: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Respect of Native Americans: “The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; . . . in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed.”

Sad to say, the promises were not always kept. Throughout the Northwest Territory, federal treaties stripped Native Americans of their homeland, and slavery existed despite the written ban. The 1800 federal census recorded 135 slaves in the Indiana Territory and 163 free blacks. Regular funding for public schools did not occur until after the mid-19th century.

Patrick laments the typical high-school textbook contains less than a page on the Northwest Ordinance, calling it a seminal document in American history.

Many of its principles made their way into the Indiana Constitution of 1816. Though the ordinance was superseded by other laws, Hoosiers can take pride in its formative influence.

Andrea Neal is a teacher at St. Richard’s Episcopal School in Indianapolis and adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at aneal@inpolicy.org.

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