Over the many years of our country’s existence, the years of 1787 and 1788 stand out in that they were marked by many political and social achievements that forever changed the way in which our country runs today. These were the years in which the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the settlement of Marietta Ohio occurred. These monumental achievements would have never come about if it weren’t for the influence that the political leaders had on one another at the time. Two figures that played major roles in the drafting of the Ordinance and the settlement of the Northwest Territories were Nathaniel Dane and Manasseh Cutler. These two men had a working relationship that amounted to political and social success; a success which would in turn permanently affect the settlement and government of our country.
On July 13, 1787, the Congress of the old confederation passed an ordinance for the government of the territory northwest of the Ohio River, which is now considered in history as the “Ordinance of 1787.” This territory included what are now the states of Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. On August 7, 1789 Congress adapted the Ordinance of 1787 to the Federal Constitution. The Ordinance itself contained the most notable instance of legislation ever enacted by the Congress. It forever fixed the immigration as well as the educational institutions of the people who were to later inhabit the territory. It also forever prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude.
However, at the end of the Revolutionary war, the country became financially exhausted. A plan was needed in order to regain financial security within the government. This is where the Ohio Company came into existence. The leading officers of the late army of the eastern part of Massachusetts decided to form a company which would purchase land from the government for the settlement of citizens. On March 1, 1786 the first meeting of the Ohio Company was held at the Bunch-of-Grapes Tavern in Boston. After the company had been formed, they met once again on March 8, 1787, this time instructing Manasseh Cutler to proceed to New York to negotiate for the purchase of the land of the Northwest Territories from Congress.
As Cutler became involved with the issues of Congress, at first he found that his decisions and actions were greatly influenced by the Southern members of Congress, because of his need for their votes. At the time there was a feeling in Congress that New England did not favor the settlement of the west. This in turn caused any members with western interests to look toward the south rather than the east for support. Therefore, Cutler held himself somewhat distanced from his New England associates in order to further his western project and to create friendships with the Southern members. Soon however, other northern members would have a greater influence on Cutler, one of the most prominent being Nathaniel Dane, the representative of the Essex District of Massachusetts. Dane was the delegate solely responsible for the drafting of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Even though the basic ideas and principals behind the Ordinance’s earlier version were a combined effort of many men, the final version was the work of Dane himself. Dane was also responsible for introducing the provision that prohibited slavery or involuntary servitude in the territory that was covered by the document. He was also influential in favoring the use of civilian over military authority in the Northwest Territory. Even though he did not realize it at the time, Dane would soon have a great influence on Cutler’s plans for settling the west.
Instead of relying on Dane for making the acquaintance of the other members of Congress, Cutler went ahead with the issues concerning the Ohio Company. His was the first proposal made for the purchase of the public lands. If his proposal concerning the purchase of land failed, others were sure to fail as well, he said. Cutler’s statement and bold actions made a deep impression upon the Southern members of Congress, which were who he needed for support. Soon they promised him their votes. Other members of Congress began coming forth with their proposals for the purchase of land. However, soon they realized that Cutler had more of an influence on the rest of Congress than they did, so they secretly put Cutler in charge of their proposals. Cutler was able to purchase five and a half million acres, even though only a million and a half were needed for the Ohio Company. It was during this time that the Ordinance of 1787 of the Northwestern Territory was drawn and passed.
It was Cutler who represented the Massachusetts men who had abolished slavery in their Constitution of 1780. Cutler was also among the men who established public schools for the general public, and framed the most advanced code of laws concerning the rights of men, and civil policy.
On the other hand, the Massachusetts members with the exception of Cutler and Dane never seemed to take any active interest in creating any sort of plan for the settlement of the Northwest Territory. They viewed the settlement as a negative draw away from the capital of their own state. Massachusetts itself owned an immense amount of unoccupied territory in the Province of Maine (Maine being part of their own jurisdiction). Cutler brought up this fact many times with Congress, “threatening, in case they did not give him the terms he desired that the company would buy lands of Massachusetts.” The Massachusetts members had trouble openly opposing the Western movement since it was so popular with all of their peers.
Dane on the other hand, realized the importance of a settlement in the west in the same way that Cutler did. In order to attract settlers to the area, Dane fought for prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude as well as ensuring that educational institutions would be set up in the new area. Dane’s proposals were accepted and would soon have a great impact on the settlement and purchase of the territory.
Dane’s authorship of the Ordinance of 1787 became extremely influential in the Ohio purchase. The Ordinance of 1787 and the Ohio purchase were one part in the same transaction that occurred. Without Dane’s Ordinance of 1787, the Ohio purchase would have never occurred. Likewise, the Ordinance itself could never have been enacted without the essential purchase that was to take place.
On October 27, 1787 the contact for the Ohio land purchase was formally signed by the Treasury Board and by Cutler as an agent of the Ohio Company. With the help of the Ordinance of 1787, the company was able to obtain a grant of 5,000,000 acres of land, which would amount to $3,500,000 dollars. In the spring of 1788, the first settlers including carpenters, farmers, laborers, and boat-builders left for the new territory. On April 7th, the first settlement was established near the present city of Marietta, Ohio. On October 5, 1787 Congress elected Arthur St. Clair as the Governor of the new territory. Never before had the settlement of a new territory been so successful. George Washington described the settlement as, “No colony in America was ever settled under such favorable circumstances. Information, property and strength will be its characteristics.”
Indeed, the settlement of Marietta Ohio and the Northwest Territory proved to be a monumental success in our nation’s past. Both Cutler and Dane were instrumental in its undertaking. Dane as the author of the Ordinance of 1787 had a great influence on the end result of the settlement as well as the process that took place during its purchase. Many times Cutler had to rely on Dane for his influence in favor of the company.
Further evidence of Dane’s influence on Cutler and the settlement of Marietta Ohio can be proven through the many re-enactments and celebrations that honor the original pioneer trek that took place in 1787. Every fifty years since the original trek in 1787, the event has been honored and remembered. Descendents of the original pioneers as well as other family members and friends have retraced the original path that Manasseh Cutler and his followers took on December 3, 1787 by walking the entire seven hundred and fifty-one miles. The re-enactments have been occurring from 1837 up until the most recent in 1987 . (see also map )
As the years have proven, the settlement that gathered near what is now the city of Marietta Ohio has grown into one of the most populated regions in our country. Without Dane’s Ordinance of 1787 and his influence on Cutler and the Ohio Company, our nation would have never experienced the growth and prosperity that it has seen throughout the ages.
In conclusion, Nathan Dane greatly influenced Manasseh Cutler and his pursuit of a settlement in Marietta Ohio. Both men shared similar ambitions and principals which caused them to become interested in the same goals. Over the years their work inspired great changes that resulted in the formation of a new and very different country.
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