The interview didn’t answer all my questions but taught me things I didn’t know. I doubt that many American schoolchildren know them either. Nevertheless, the Northwest Ordinance deserves broader familiarity.
Dr. Arnn’s remarks need little elaboration here. But among the points he emphasizes are these.
1) There were actually two vast land acts, the other 1785.
2) That both acts passed under the Articles of Confederation
. The Northwest Ordinance passed in New York in July 1787, while the Constitution was being debated in Philadelphia. This contradicts my schoolboy impressions that nothing of importance happened between the end of the American Revolution (1783) and adoption of the Constitution.
3) On acts of national import, the Articles of Confederation required unanimity, including the South. This was why, in many cases, they were inadequate for dealing with matters applying to the states as a whole.
4) That the acts were necessary to pay for the Revolutionary War. The Articles of Confederation did not convey the right to levy nationwide taxation, and the Congress that had fought the war was deeply in debt.