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The Fast Facts on Land Ordinances

Land Ordinance

A land ordinance was a law that firmly established a plan for surveying and selling federally owned lands in a specific area. Throughout history, the United States Federal Government has passed three land ordinances (1784, 1785, and 1786) to further expand the country's federally owned land. The land ordinance of 1784 called for the land west of the Appalachian region, specifically north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River to be divided into separate states. Through this action, the land became organized and states evolved into separate entities. As a result of a land ordinance, the country divided regions and instituted governments based on the divided lands. Although the lands were still under federal law and a part of the United States, they maintained individuality through the institution of land ordinances. That being said, a land ordinance did not define the mechanism by which the lands would become entities or states, or the territories governing bodies would be established, the ordinance simply created the physical boundaries for which states could be established.

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