“THE NORTHWEST FRONTIER HAD BEEN RECEDING STEADILY FOR TWO YEARS”: RARE FIRST PRINTING OF THIS KEY ACT ON THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY, APPROVED INTO LAW BY WASHINGTON IN MAY 1792
UNITED STATES CONGRESS. An Act respecting the Government of the Territories of the United States North West and South of the River Ohio. Second Congress of the United States: At the First Session, begun and held at the City of Philadelphia, in the State of Pennsylvania, on Monday the twenty-fourth of October one thousand seven hundred and ninety-one. [Philadelphia: Printed by Childs and Swaine, 1792]. Folio, original broadside leaf measures 8 by 13 inches, printed on recto, uncut. $6000.
First official printing of this crucial May 1792 Act reasserting America’s governance of the Northwest Territory against renewed incursions of the British and the “spectre of Indian war,” one of only 30 slip law copies issued. A rare association copy from the library of New England’s leading senator, Stephen Row Bradley.
This rare first printing of a signal congressional Act, approved into law by Washington on May 8, 1792, marks an especially critical period in America’s early frontier history. “Throughout 1792 there had been reason to belief that the King’s Canadian officials… [intended] to enlarge British influence over the Indians of the Northwest… Conditions north of the Ohio had become desperate in the past year. The ugly spectre of Indian war hung everywhere. The northwest frontier had been receding steadily for more than two years” (Freeman, 614-5). Passed five years after the Northwest Ordinance first established the Northwest Territory, and only two years after the Southwest Ordinance extended into territory south of the Ohio River, this 1792 Act reaffirms governance of the embattled regions, still largely ruled under a form of martial law. The Act permits the territorial governor and judges to repeal laws when needed and authorizes territorial judges to hold courts, while further addressing the territory’s “limitation act” of December 1788. Printed beneath this Act is a second law, one that provides payment to the heirs of a Revolutionary War colonel who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Wabash. One of approximately 30 copies issued in a slip law printing by Childs & Swaine, who had relocated to Philadelphia with the government in the 1790s, and printed “folio slip laws for the Congress as they had in New York.” Pursuant to a 1789 resolution of Congress, such slip laws were typically issued “with no title pages, index numbers… within ten days of passage of any law,” and provided the President with two copies to be sent to the governor of each state (Powell, 99, 87). OCLC lists one copy. NAIP shows three copies: American Antiquarian Society, New York Public Library, and Rhode Island Historical Society. Evans 24902. This copy from the library of Stephen Row Bradley, the first United States Senator from the newly admitted state of Vermont. An influential supporter of Jefferson and Madison, Bradley was senator from 1791-1795, and again from 1801-1813. With contemporary inked notations in the left corners.
Faint creasing to corners, lightest edge-wear. A near-fine copy of this rare and important document on the American frontier.