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How did the United States attempt to ensure an orderly process of westward expansion?
The U.S. government did achieve some important successes under the Articles of Confederation. American leaders foresaw that their nation would expand to the West, and wrote the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance (1787) to govern westward expansion. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, envisioned the West as a vast "empire of liberty," in which many American farmers could gain land, and which would spare the U.S. from developing large industries and crowded cities.The Land Ordinance created the grid-like pattern of settlement in the present-day Middle West. Eastern colonies and states, adhering to European practices, had created irregularly-shaped fields and roads laid out at odd angles. Beginning with the surveying and settling of Ohio, and extending westward, the Land Ordinance decreed that the nation's lands be divided into townships--square parcels six miles on each side. These townships were in turn to be divided into thirty-six sections of one square mile each. Because one square mile equals 640 acres, a section could neatly be divided into 160-acre, 80-acre, and 40-acre farms. The Land Ordinance was designed to make the process of settling the West orderly and to prevent land fraud.The Northwest Ordinance (1787) was also designed to ensure an orderly process of Westward expansion by spelling out how Western territories could become states (the Northwest Territory includes present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.) Under the Northwest Ordinance, Western territories could write a Constitution and apply for statehood when their population reached 60,000. It also decreed that slavery was illegal in the Northwest Territory, which contributed to the growing difference between the North and South over the issue of slavery.
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