It’s a date every Hoosier should know: Dec. 11, 1816. On that day, Indiana became the 19th state.
We've been observing it formally since 1925, when the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring the governor to “issue a proclamation annually designating the eleventh day of December as Indiana Day.”
Indiana Code 1-1-10-1 encourages public schools and citizens to celebrate “in appropriate and patriotic observance of the anniversary of the admission of the state of Indiana into the Union.”
Statehood was the culmination of a lengthy process, set out in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, through which territories proved they had enough population — 60,000 “free white inhabitants” — and enough political experience to govern themselves.
Among the final steps: Petitioning Congress for statehood, passage of an enabling act by Congress, drafting of a state constitution in June 1816 and Aug. 5 elections of state and local officials and U.S. representative.
“A spirited campaign for the governorship was waged between Jonathan Jennings and Thomas Posey,” note the historians John Barnhart and Dorothy Riker in "The History of Indiana." Jennings won by a vote of 5,211 to 3,934 and took office on Nov. 7. He served two terms, and was later elected to Congress.
Voters elected 29 representative and 10 senators to the first General Assembly. Most of the winners had political experience as delegates to the constitutional convention or as members of the territorial legislature. Their introductory session began Nov. 4 in the new state capitol building in Corydon. The first order of business was to select the men who would serve as secretary of state, auditor and U.S. senators — positions that would not be chosen by popular vote until the 20th century.
On Dec. 11, President James Madison signed into law the congressional resolution admitting Indiana to the union “on an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatever.” That day has been considered Indiana’s birthday ever since.
If the typical Hoosier does little to celebrate this landmark date, our younger citizens make up for our oversight. Indiana history is taught in fourth grade classrooms, and many students take part in the Statehood Day Essay Contest, which takes place every year in the fall with finalists invited to the Statehouse for a ceremony in the Rotunda.
Corydon is an especially popular field trip destination because its historic buildings tell the story of Indiana’s infancy. The original Federal-style capitol still stands on East Walnut Street; its 40-foot square walls were made of limestone from local quarries, testament to what would become a significant Indiana industry.
Corydon remained the state capital until 1825, when the seat of government moved north to Indianapolis, and the capitol building became the Harrison County Courthouse. The building was restored and opened as a state historic site in 1930.
James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and colleagues spent almost four months debating, writing and editing the document that would become the U.S. Constitution. It took James Brownlee, Benjamin Parke and associates only 18 days to write Indiana’s.
The framing of our first constitution represented the final step in a lengthy and sometimes controversial process that advanced Indiana from frontier territory to full-fledged state. Territorial leaders had hoped Indiana would be admitted to the Union earlier, following a process laid out in the Northwest Ordinance, but financial difficulties and the War of 1812 intervened. By 1816, Indiana was back at bat.
Congress passed an enabling act on April 19, 1816, providing for a May election of delegates to a state constitutional convention. The representatives were to meet the next month in the territorial capital of Corydon. They gathered on June 10, 1816.
“As a group they were men of high quality,” according to an account by the Indiana Historical Bureau.
Patrick Henry Shields was one of them. Educated at Hampton-Sydney College and William and Mary’s law school in Virginia, Shields moved to Indiana around 1804 and served as a judge. He was a private under William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe.
John Boone of Harrison County was Daniel Boone’s brother. Jeremiah Cox of Wayne County was a blacksmith. William Eads of Franklin County was a banker and postmaster.
Two future governors were selected to lead the convention: Jonathan Jennings as president and William Hendricks as secretary.
Their first task, as required by the enabling act, was to determine whether to proceed immediately toward statehood. On June 11, after considerable discussion, the delegates voted 34-8 for Ezra Ferris’s resolution declaring it “expedient, at this time, to proceed to form a Constitution and state government.”
Unlike the Philadelphia delegates, who parsed every clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Corydon convention worked quickly. Most of Indiana’s constitution was copied from the constitutions of Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The convention cost taxpayers $3,076, with $200 spent on printing and stitching the Constitution and journals, $41.50 on books and stationery and $27.50 for tables and benches.
When they weren’t sitting on benches, the delegates could be found under an elm tree. Construction of the State Capitol building was not quite finished, and the log cabin that served as territorial headquarters was miserably hot, so the delegates took their discussions outdoors.
The tree, with leafy branches spanning 130 feet, was dubbed the Constitution Elm and became a symbol of Indiana’s founding.
In 1925, despite efforts to save it, the tree died from Dutch elm disease. The branches were cut into souvenirs. The trunk was coated in black creosote and preserved inside a sandstone monument.
It’s little wonder that today’s political discourse is polarized. The folks doing most of the arguing know so little about the past that they cannot justify their views with historical evidence or data. So they appeal to emotion, name calling, stereotypes and hyperbole.
Indiana state Sen. Mike Delph used his Twitter account to debate HJR 3, a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman. He was immediately attacked by fellow Tweeters as a hater, a bigot and “delusional.”
Name-calling isn’t new. Look at accounts of the election of 1800 and you’ll find nasty rhetoric from supporters of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams weren’t very nice in 1828 either. What’s new is the complete lack of historic perspective on the part of the name-callers.
In a speech last year, the historian Gary W. Gallagher said, “Ignorance about the American past gets in the way of fruitful public debate about current issues of surpassing importance. This ignorance affects what passes for discussion of politics and other issues on the 24-hour news channels, on the Internet and in newspapers. A shrill tone often dominates in all of these settings, frequently set up by ‘analysis’ that is strikingly uninformed.”
The immigration debate is one such example, he said. On one side, opponents argue that illegal immigrants are an economic drain; on the other side that they are an economic contributor. One side says they take jobs no one else wants; the other side that they take jobs away from U.S. citizens.
“Often lost is awareness that percentages of foreign-born residents are not remarkably high right now,” Gallagher said. During the 1890s, about 15 percent of the U.S. population was born outside the United States. Today the percentage is 12.9. Throughout America history, there have been periods of heavy immigration (the early 1900s, 1910s, and 1990s), but over time numbers rise and fall somewhat cyclically.
This is the kind of knowledge that makes for informed and scholarly debate. But few Americans can claim anything close to historic or civic literacy.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests student knowledge in various subjects every few years. In 2010, only 20 percent of fourth-graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors were considered grade-level proficient in American history.
Sad to say, both American history and civics education are losing ground in our nation’s schools because neither subject is considered essential by policymakers.
An informed public is the best antidote to polarized and uncivil discourse, yet as Gallagher, and so many others have warned, we are moving in the wrong direction.
Three states claim Abraham Lincoln as a favorite son, but only Indiana can take credit for his formative years.
During this period, Lincoln handled an ax “almost constantly,” as he himself recalled. He read voraciously. He practiced carpentry, even helping his father build a coffin for his mother. He took a ferry to New Orleans on business and witnessed a slave auction that troubled his soul. He listened and learned from political debates at the local general store.
“Many of the character traits and moral values that made Abraham one of the world’s most respected leaders were formed and nurtured here,” according to National Park Service historians at the Lincoln Boyhood Home Memorial.
The site is Indiana’s most significant tribute to the 16th president, preserving some of the original acreage where Lincoln lived from age 7 to 21.
Lincoln's Indiana years began in late 1816, just as Indiana became a state, when Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved with their son and daughter from Kentucky to Spencer County, which was still a forested wilderness. The Lincolns built the first of several cabins on a knoll in the midst of a 160-acre claim near Little Pigeon Creek, and Abe and his father set about clearing land to ready it for planting. “It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods,” Lincoln wrote.
The family had been in Indiana two years when Lincoln’s mother contracted a fatal case of milk sickness. The illness was caused by drinking milk or eating meat from a cow that has ingested a toxic plant called white snakeroot.
In 1819, Thomas Lincoln went back to Kentucky to marry a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston, and the two returned to Indiana with her three children in tow. She also brought a small library, including Aesop’s Fables, "Robinson Crusoe," "Pilgrim’s Progress" and "Sinbad the Sailor."
Those stories inspired Lincoln, as did Parson Weems’ "The Life of Washington" and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, which demonstrated the sacrifices the founding fathers had made to create the United States. Lincoln received only a year or two of formal schooling. His stepmother encouraged him in his attempts to better himself, which he did by studying books and practicing oratory.
In 1830, Thomas Lincoln moved his family again, this time to Illinois in pursuit of more productive farmland. Abe struck out on his own, settling first in New Salem and later Springfield, where he enjoyed a successful law practice. In 1834, he launched a political career that would take him from the Illinois Legislature to the White House.
A strong work ethic. A love of learning. A clear sense of right and wrong. A gift for gab and the intellect to back it up. Lincoln’s formative years prepared him well for the Civil War that would consume his presidency.
For one shining moment in the early 19th century, a group called the Harmonists achieved utopia on the Wabash River. Two hundred years later, their experiment continues to inspire visitors to New Harmony, Ind.
Founded in 1814 by 800 German Pietists and carefully ordered by their leader George Rapp, New Harmony was an exercise in both religious freedom and economic innovation.
Residents believed they were God’s chosen people and devoted themselves to preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. They renounced private property and practiced celibacy.
Unlike other millennialists, who abandoned worldly activities and took to the rooftops to wait for Jesus, the Rappites felt called to create a good and just society on Earth.
“That is still the lesson of New Harmony,” says Connie A. Weinzapfel, director of Historic New Harmony. “How do people come together for the success of the town where they live?”
By modern standards, the Harmonists were successful indeed. In the course of a decade, they built more than 180 log, frame and brick structures, including community centers, a granary, a tavern and a church. At its peak the Harmonie Society had close to 900 members.
The Harmonists grew crops and raised merino sheep, planted vineyards and orchards, established a library and school and started businesses that made pottery, shoes, cloth and rope. “Their economy was balanced and nearly self-sufficient, and it was very profitable,” writes the historian James Madison in "The Indiana Way."
The architecture was especially notable at a time when 70 percent of their frontier neighbors lived in one-room log cabins. A typical Harmonist family dwelling was a two-story frame and brick home modeled after the traditional German hall-kitchen design known as flurkuchenhaus.
Rapp and his followers immigrated to the United States in 1803 after being persecuted in Germany for their pietist and pacifist views. The group initially settled in Pennsylvania, but they outgrew that property and wanted better shipping access, so they moved west and acquired 20,000 acres on the Wabash River in what was still the Indiana Territory.
Citing scriptural reasons, Rapp decided to move the community back east to the Pittsburg area in 1824. He sold the town for $135,000 to Robert Owen, a wealthy industrialist of Welsh descent, and William Maclure, a Scottish philanthropist.
The two were seeking a ready-made location to launch their own utopian experiment — this one secular and socialist. It lasted only two years, likely because there was little incentive for people to work and no religious commitment to bind them together.
Owen's children remained in Indiana and helped create a culturally and scientifically vibrant community that thrived until the 1850s. Many years later the wife of Owen descendant Kenneth Dale Owen was influential in restoring landmarks from both utopian experiments.
On Sept. 3, 1812, a Native American war party killed more than 20 settlers living in a wooded outpost near present-day Scottsburg. Motivated by bounties offered by the British, the perpetrators scalped women and children, torched their log cabins and left the village in ashes.
The massacre at Pigeon Roost is the most notorious example of frontier violence in Indiana history. To this day, it is shrouded in mystery.
This much is clear: The massacre left settlers on guard as the War of 1812 raged in their own backyard.
The United States had declared war on Great Britain in June 1812 in response to British harassment of American ships, occupation of forts and alleged incitement of Native Americans in the Old Northwest, including Indiana. Indians generally sided with the British, and were encouraged after the fall of Detroit to conduct raids on pioneer settlements throughout the Midwest.
Pigeon Roost was one such place, named after passenger pigeons that used the area as a roosting site where they fertilized the soil and provided a plentiful poultry supply. The village was founded in 1809 by Revolutionary War soldier William E. Collings, who had moved north from Kentucky with family and friends.
Early histories of the episode seem culturally biased if not inflammatory — by 2014 sensibilities. Lizzie Coleman’s 1904 History of the Pigeon Roost Massacre referred to “bands of savage redskins.” George Cottman’s 1915 Centennial History and Handbook of Indiana described the massacre as “the most diabolical event in our Indian history.”
Some believe Pigeon Roost was a random but easy target because most men were away in the military service of Gen. William Henry Harrison, which left remaining residents vulnerable to attack. Some say Pigeon Roost was specifically chosen by the war party of mostly Shawnees.
"A 1909 History of Clark County," by Lewis Baird, claimed bad blood existed between the Collings family and local Indians because “the Collins [sic] boys had stolen a fawn from the Indians and refused to give it up.” The elder Collings was home at the time of the massacre and provided the only armed resistance to the Native Americans, killing at least two of them.
In 1888, the Indiana Historical Society published an account of the incident by Judge Isaac Naylor, a member of the Indiana Territory militia, who had arrived at the site the following day.
“Oh, what a mournful scene of desolation, carnage and death met our vision as we beheld the smoking ruins of log cabins and the mangled bodies of men and women and children,” Naylor wrote.
A monument commemorating the victims was dedicated in 1904 and became a state historic site in 1929.
Following the massacre, settlers in the areas of Clark, Scott, Jefferson, Harrison and Knox counties lived in a state of fear until the Treaty of Ghent ended war with England on Dec. 24, 1814. For frontier men and women, the treaty symbolized the defeat of the Indians and the barrier they posed to westward expansion.
In the drizzling pre-dawn rain of Nov. 7, 1811, on high ground near modern-day Lafayette, Gen. William Henry Harrison squashed Tecumseh’s dream of an Indian confederacy that could resist the white man’s westward advances.
The Battle of Tippecanoe was a defining moment in U.S.-Native American relations. “It was on this spot the Native Americans lost their grip on the fertile Midwestern lands they had roamed for thousands of years,” according to interpreters at the Tippecanoe Battlefield national historic landmark.
Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, are familiar figures in Indiana history — Shawnee brothers who tried to unite 50 tribes into a coalition to oppose the U.S. government. Their base of operation was Prophet’s Town along the Wabash River, so named in honor of the younger brother’s role as a prophet or spiritual leader of his people.
Tecumseh wasn't present for the showdown. He was in the South recruiting other tribal nations to join his confederacy. Harrison was aware of Tecumseh’s absence when he marched 1,000 troops north from the territorial capital of Vincennes. His army set up camp where the Wabash River meets Tippecanoe Creek, about a mile west of the Indian settlement.
Most histories say Tenskwatawa was directed in a vision to conduct a sneak attack on Harrison’s camp, ignoring his brother’s warnings to avoid hostilities until his return. A more recent account suggests U.S. sentinels accidentally engaged warriors on night patrol.
By sunup, Americans claimed victory. The Indians “quit the battle and melted away into nothingness,” said historian Richard J. Reid. Harrison lost 37 men; Native American casualties were not recorded but deemed comparable.
Although the battle lasted a mere two hours, it had been brewing for two decades.
In 1795, after a decisive U.S. victory over Native Americans at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Tecumseh refused to sign a treaty he considered outright theft of Indian lands in the Ohio region. The treaty opened up the Midwest to a flood of settlers.
In 1808, Tecumseh and his brother moved their headquarters from Ohio to Tippecanoe County (Keth-Tip-Pe-Can-Nunk) at the invitation of the Delaware and Potawatomi tribes living there.
In 1809, Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory, negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne that purchased 3 million acres from Delaware, Shawnee, Potawatomi and other tribes. This infuriated Tecumseh, who took a delegation of warriors to Vincennes in 1810 to meet with Harrison and demand the treaty be rescinded.
Tippecanoe became known as the opening salvo in the War of 1812, which pitted Great Britain against the infant United States. Tecumseh and most Native American groups fought with the British.
On Oct. 5, 1813, Harrison led U.S. troops against British and Native American fighters along the Thames River in Ontario, Canada. Tecumseh was killed on the battlefield, his vision of an effective Indian resistance movement dying with him.
In 1796, John James Dufour left his native Switzerland to seek a new life and opportunity in the United States. Less than a decade later, he opened the country’s first successful winemaking business – in southeastern Indiana.
It was still the Indiana Territory at that time, but the settlement would soon become the town of Vevay in Switzerland County. It was briefly a popular destination for Swiss immigrants fleeing revolutionary Europe.
Dufour had done his homework. As a teen, he studied viticulture and worked the family vineyards in Canton de Vaud, Switzerland. Upon his arrival in America, he visited private vineyards, including Thomas Jefferson’s at Monticello, to study grape types, soil and climate.
In an 1826 book detailing his experiences as a vintner, Dufour recalled the time he resolved to come to America.
“I was but 14; and I came to this determination by reading the newspapers, which were full of the American Revolutionary War and contained many letters from the officers of the French army aiding the republicans, which complained of the scarcity of the wine among them, in the midst of the greatest abundance of everything else ... By inspection of the maps, I saw that America was in the parallel of the best wine countries in the world — like Spain, south of France, Italy and Greece.”
Dufour initially settled near Lexington, Ky., and was joined by extended family members. There they planted 35 grape varieties, most of which fell victim to disease because they were European species not suited to American growing conditions.
Uncomfortable with legal slavery in Kentucky, the family moved to Indiana and tried again, dubbing the area “New Switzerland,” and this time focusing on the two grape varieties that had flourished in Kentucky: Cape and Madeira.
Congress in 1802 granted 2,500 acres to Dufour on credit, and he later bought 1,200 more for the community’s expanding vineyards. He resold parcels to other French-speaking Swiss, including Louis Gex Oboussier, who purchased a tract of 319 acres along Indian Creek, which was renamed Venoge by the Swiss after a river in their native land. The first wine was produced in 1806 or 1807 and sold in frontier cities including Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis.
In the end, the wine business did not prove economically viable. It was eclipsed by hay, which was in high demand as livestock feed and easy to load onto riverboats passing through Vevay on their way down the Ohio River.
Today the Musée de Venoge stands as a testament to southern Indiana’s once thriving grape culture. The farmhouse dates to about 1805 and is a rare example of French colonial architecture that would have been favored by the Swiss immigrants.
“It was slated to be burned down” in the mid 1990s when local preservationists stepped in to save it. “We realized it was an important piece of architecture in Switzerland County,” Donna Weaver says.
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to lead an exploration of the Louisiana Territory in search of a Northwest Passage. Lewis invited William Clark to join him. It would become one of the most famous partnerships in history, and it started in Indiana.
“When they shook hands, the Lewis and Clark expedition began,” wrote Stephen Ambrose in "Undaunted Courage," the best-selling account of the trans-continental journey.
Lewis was working at that time as Jefferson’s private secretary in Washington, D.C. Clark was living with his brother, George Rogers Clark, in Clarksville in the Indiana Territory.
The two met up in Clarksville on Oct. 14, 1803, and used the Clark cabin overlooking the Falls of the Ohio River as base camp while making final preparations. On Oct. 26, the duo and their initial crew members pushed off down the Ohio River in a keelboat and red canoe and headed west to St. Charles, Mo., the expedition’s official starting point.
“In practical terms the partnership of Lewis and Clark may be said to have begun during a 13-day interlude before they set out on Oct. 26,” says Stephanie Ambrose Tubbs, author of "The Lewis and Clark Companion."
Clark recruited the nucleus of the Corps of Discovery from the area around Clarksville and Louisville after being directed by Lewis “to find out and engage some good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried men, accustomed to the woods, and capable of bearing bodily fatigue in a pretty considerable degree.”
One of those recruits was Sgt. Charles Floyd, after whom Floyd County is named. Floyd lived in Clarksville and was the first constable of Clarksville Township. His death on Aug. 20, 1804, near Sioux City, Iowa, likely from a ruptured appendix, was the only fatality among the 33 members in the permanent party of the 1804-06 expedition.
Two others had Indiana connections. Pfc. John Shields was the oldest enlisted man at 34 and a friend of Daniel Boone. His skills as a blacksmith and gunsmith were considered critical to the trip’s success. Afterward he settled near Corydon. He died in 1809 and was buried in Little Flock Cemetery in Harrison County.
William Bratton was a skilled hunter who moved to Indiana after the expedition and became active in military and government affairs. By 1822, Bratton and his wife lived in Waynetown and had 10 children. In 1824, he was appointed justice of the peace in Wayne Township and served as a local school superintendent. He died in 1841 and was buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Montgomery County.
Indiana’s role in the expedition is often overlooked by historians, though Clark’s cabin and the crew’s departure site are popular attractions for Lewis and Clark enthusiasts. The Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville has an interpretive center where visitors can learn not only about Lewis and Clark but also the Devonian fossil beds exposed at the riverbank.
The park entry features 10-foot bronze figures of Lewis and Clark mounted on a 16.5-ton slab of Indiana limestone. The sculpture depicts the moment when Lewis and Clark greeted each other in Clarksville to begin their 8,000-mile trek.
History remembers William Henry Harrison as the first president to die in office. Hoosiers should remember him as the man who shaped the Indiana Territory.
Indiana spent 16 years as a territory before it became a full-fledged state. Following a multistep process set out in the Northwest Ordinance, citizens first had to get practice at governing, grow in population, petition for statehood, be accepted into the union and write a constitution.
Like a conductor directing an orchestra, Harrison oversaw much of the process from his governor’s mansion in Vincennes, the territorial capital chosen because it had a sizable population and was conveniently located on the Wabash River. In the process, he negotiated 10 treaties with Native Americans bringing the land firmly under U.S. control.
The Indiana Territory was much larger than what became Indiana. Carved out of the Northwest Territory in 1800, it included Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota and Michigan. At the time, some 12,000 Native Americans and 6,000 settlers lived there. By 1816, Indiana had been whittled down to current size and had 64,000 residents.
Harrison was a native Virginian and a military man named territorial governor by President John Adams in 1800. He moved to Vincennes in January 1801 and got to work writing laws, appointing public officials, improving roads and directing Indian affairs.
In 1804, Harrison built a governor’s residence sturdy enough to function as a fort. It was the first brick home in Indiana and became known as Grouseland because of abundant game birds in the area.
As the pursuit of statehood progressed, power shifted away from a powerful executive, Harrison, to a democratic legislative branch. In 1811, the Legislature asked Congress for permission to write a state constitution and admission to the union. By this time, the territory hoped to be financially self-sufficient. It wasn’t yet, so plans were put on hold. War broke out, and statehood was further delayed.
In the War of 1812, Harrison was named commander of the Northwest Army and resigned his post to concentrate on battling the British. In 1813 President Madison appointed Thomas Posey as Harrison’s replacement. That same year the Legislature passed the State Capital Act moving the territorial capital to Corydon, which would become the new state capital.
In 1815, the assembly again petitioned Congress for statehood, and this time all went according to plan. In December 1816, President James Monroe signed a resolution admitting Indiana to the union.
For the 12 years he served as governor, Harrison was synonymous with the Indiana Territory, and Grouseland functioned as the White House of the West. Today the mansion appears much as it did in the early 19th century.
Indiana's political values, moral compass and physical boundaries were shaped by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
The ordinance spelled out how new states would be added to the Union and the rights that would be guaranteed to citizens.
John J. Patrick, professor emeritus of education at Indiana University, calls the ordinance “a brilliant policy for governing a vast area north and west of the Ohio River — a liberal and innovative plan for colonial administration and national development.”
The document “is indisputably at the core of the American civic heritage, one of the most important political legacies we have,” Patrick said.
When the United States won the American Revolution, the 13 original states gained massive new lands stretching west to the Mississippi River and north to the Great Lakes. The Northwest Ordinance was one of several laws passed by the national Congress governing land division and westward migration.
It dealt specifically with the Old Northwest — the Midwest today — out of which “not less than three nor more than five states" were to be carved. The result? Ohio (1803), Indiana (1816), Illinois (1818), Michigan (1837) and Wisconsin (1848).
The ordinance set forth a process by which territories would elect legislatures, write constitutions and apply to the national government for statehood. It guaranteed new states would enter the union “on an equal footing with the original states" and specified their probable geographic borders.
The Ohio River became Indiana’s southern boundary. The northern perimeter was a moving target for decades. After Ohio was admitted to the Union in 1803 and the Michigan Territory created in 1805, the boundary line was set at the southern tip of Lake Michigan. In 1816, the line was shifted 10 miles further north so Indiana could claim a bit of lakeshore.
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. Federal treaties stripped Native Americans of their homeland, and slavery existed despite the written ban. Regular funding for public schools did not occur until after the mid 19th century.
Patrick laments that the typical high-school textbook contains less than a page on the Northwest Ordinance.
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.
Follow The Times
$3 off- Buy one meal and get $3 off the purchase of a second m…
Reduce Cost, Increase Productivity. Take control of your workflow with Document Management Solutions.
Visit our web site for more information. 800.837.1400 / www…
Jack & Vernon's Septic Service does residential and commer…
How important is your family too you? Call Elaine Morris with Allstate today to discuss a life insurance plan that fits your family today at 219-928-0135
Elaine Morris with Allstate today at 219-928-0135
Submit a Letter to Editor
We welcome letters from readers on any issue of public interest, and make every effort to publish as many as we can and in a timely manner. The Times will publish only one letter a month from a writer, and be sure to include your name, address and a telephone number for verification. Letters should be 150 words or less. They will be edited.Letters may be submitted:
- Via our submission form.
- Via e-mail.
- Via fax: (219) 933-3249 or (219) 465-7298
- Via mail or by hand to our offices:
- 601 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321
- 2080 N. Main St., Crown Point, IN 46307
- 1111 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN 46383
- 3410 Delta Dr., Portage, IN 46368
- Please mark envelopes with "Attn: Letters"
Email Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross or call (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357
Should Indiana have kept the Common Core standards for K-12 instruction?