From 1781 to 1785, states that owned lands in the west, including Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, gave their western land claims to Congress. Virginia gave the largest area, known as the Northwest Territories, which included the present-day states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as part of Minnesota.
In 1787, Congress adopts the Northwest Ordinance, which provides for governance of this area. The ordinance guarantees residents’ property rights as well as other rights such as trial by jury and freedom of religion. It also specifically prohibits slavery, although ordinance does not affect slaves already living there and does not prevent some slaveholders from bringing slaves into the Indiana and Illinois territories.