Southwest Ordinance Law and Legal Definition

The Southwest Ordinance of 1790 was an attempt to organize the territory of the U.S., South of the River Ohio into one political district and established provisions for its interim governance by Congress and expected transition to statehood.

The Ordinance outlined a three-stage process for the transition from territorial status to statehood. In the first stage, Congress would appoint a governor, secretary, and three judges to administer the territory. In the second stage, when the district reaches a population of five thousand adult free males, the governor, an elected lower house, and an appointed legislative council would assume governing responsibility. Finally, when the district crossed the third-stage threshold of sixty thousand free inhabitants, it could adopt a republican state constitution and apply to Congress for full statehood.