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What is arguably one of the most important documents in U.S. history was celebrated Wednesday morning at the Start Westward Monument in Muskingum Park.

A celebration of the 235th anniversary of the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787 was led by bells ringing from First Congregational Church and a color guard from the Marietta Chapter Sons of the American Revolution presenting flags.

John Carey, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, was on hand to present Susan Vessels, acting Marietta mayor and city council president, with a proclamation from Gov. Mike DeWine.

Kimberly Murnieks, Ohio budget and management director and member of the Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial, also addressed the crowd of locals, including representatives from Marietta Main Street, the Washington County Historical Society, the Veterans Service Commission, and the Marietta City Council.

The keynote speaker was Todd Kleismit, director of the Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial, who gave a brief synopsis of the ordinance and how it has shaped the U.S. He also talked of how the committee has four years to plan for the U.S. 250th anniversary and how.

According to TeachingAmericanHistory.org, the Northwest Ordinance spelled out a plan that was subsequently used as the country expanded to the Pacific.

The new states, which eventually became Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, with parts of Minnesota also included, would be admitted into the Union on equal terms with the original states following a three-stage method: a congressionally appointed governor, secretary, and three judges would govern in the first phase; a territorial assembly and one non voting delegate to Congress would be elected in the second phase; and a state constitution would be drafted and membership to the Union be requested in the third phase, when the population reached 60,000, the site noted.

The new state constitution has to be republican in form. The Ordinance protected religious freedom and other individual rights, and emphasized the importance of education. The territorial government was prohibited from taking tribal lands and property without the Indians’ consent.

The Ordinance prohibited slavery (although it also contained a fugitive slave clause). As slavery was not prohibited in the territory to the south, the Ordinance effectively introduced a dividing line between nonslave and slave states that would affect expansionist policies up through the Civil War.

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