Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story—the settling of the Northwest Territory by dauntless pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country.
As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio etc. etc. river
McCullough chose a small number of people who provided the leadership in this vast settlement of the Northwest Territories. They might not be so well known in the broader scope of American history but as he wrote the communities that evolved were based on the ideals that would come to define our country. For example those who lobbied the Congress of the United States then based at the very beginning in New York City that slavery not be allowed in the new territories and states. Or that public education schools and universities following the New England model would be nurtured and supported by land grants based on federal. As people flooded by the thousands into the Ohio River Valley and also came from overseas a new world was being created for settlement and trade. Trade up and down the river and even worldwide with new technologies changing transportation dramatically like steam engines and so on. It was mostly all new to me and as McCullough often does he made it personal and very interesting I definitely recommend it.