top illustration:

Buckingham Fountain (p. 432).

Miller, Olive Beaupre (1920).  A Happy Day in the City.

in Story Time: Part Two of In The Nursery of The Little Book House.

Chicago: The Bookhouse for Children (copyright, 1920, 1925, 1933 by Olive Beaupre Miller). 

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Most of the 13 so-called States enacted their own constitutions shortly before or after the 1776 Declaration of Independence.   These State Constitutions didn't grant a power to their state governments to create or charter cities within their boundaries.

The 1785 Ordinance that described the survey and sale of land in the Territory did not include the laying out and sale of town lots, but it also didn't rule out the laying out and sale of town lots by the private parties that bought the whole and partial 6-mile square townships and one-mile square sections of townships.  The sellers and private purchasers of such lots had a right to form an association of property owners, but not an obligation to do so.

The 1787 (July) Ordinance for the governance of the Northwest Territory does not give the territorial governors power to create or charter cities.  Nor does the 1787 Ordinance imply that the governments of any new states formed in the Territory would have the power to create and charter cities, though the new states would be equal to and just as sovereign as the old states.

English kings had chartered cities in their colonies.  The charters included a grant of land and appointed a board of councilors to manage the real estate and also administer whatever duties the king assigned them.  The king, in his capacity as God's real estate agent on earth for the extent of his country, was the proprietor of municipal real estate.  He delegated his second-hand power to the city councilors, making them third-hand proprietors.  A typical new city council divided the land within city boundaries into city lots and leased them to craftsmen and entrepreneurs who paid a yearly rent.  The city council, as proprietor, settled all disputes between tenants, according to the terms of their leases and of general regulations.

A US city council, if such existed, could not do the same, especially in the Northwest Territory.  American cities originated in a petition by an association of private landed property owners, who would remain proprietors of their individual property after their territory or state created or chartered the municipality they wanted, if such a power existed in the state, which it did not.

In the Dartmouth v. Woodward case, the US Supreme Court determined that a royal charter for an educational institution was perpetual.  The school's governing board could continue forever, exerting all the powers granted to it by the king for the operation of the school and the management of the land grant described in the charter.

An attorney inserted mention of royal municipal charters in the transcript.  The Court did not discuss what's the same and what's different about school and municipal charters.

The old states with royal charter cities left them intact to operate as they always had.  Eventually, after one or more generations of Americans died and their memories with them, the old states converted old royal charters into new statutes.  Then the leaders of new towns and cities had the same power as proprietors of the old royal cities.  As population increased, and the special powers of royal municipalities could be exploited to great advantage by the privileged few, states looked away as the royal cities acquired more land and extended their powers beyond the boundaries described in their charters.  The land they added to their stock had been sold by federal and state governments to private persons.  The royal charter was limited by the original royal land grant it described.  Nonetheless, city councils in Boston, New York, and other royal US cities extended their royal prerogatives over what had previously been, in theory, democratic land.

A French king chartered Detroit before he ceded the territory to the English king in 1763.  English kings did little with the Northwest Territory during the 20 years they had title to it.  The Americans got Congress to approve a map that re-designed the existing city so that triangular French-American lots became rectangular Anglo-American lots.  In this way, the Anglos (English, Scottish, Dutch, etc.) forced Old French Settlers to trade their potentially valuable city center lots for rectangular lots in the boonies, and the Anglos took over the city.

Nothing in the 1787 (July) Northwest Ordinance allowed the perpetuation of a Detroit city council with French or English royal prerogatives nor the usurpation of the real estate titles the Old French Settlers had.  Old French Settlers in Indiana, Illinois and the Louisiana Territory learned from the Detroit caper, and the Anglos couldn't get away with the Detroit stunt again.

If real estate speculators could predict or conspire to ensure that certain discrete areas of a territory would one day become a thriving metropolis, it was within their capabilities and in their personal interests to buy land in the area ASAP for the very low price established by the 1785 Ordinance and its revisions.

The people who live in the bubble on pancake societies and produce the dramas of empire are, with one exception, the same as people who live in the big flat doughy part of society.  The exception to the sameness of people is that imperialists think grand and in increments of centuries and millennia.  They think big for themselves and their progeny, and nobody else; but they have a talent for involving everyone else in their plans, though the majority will be as bad off as ever.

Common people buy land to live on.  Current and future moguls buy land to hold off the market until they can make a killing.  The windfall profit from the sale of a portfolio of US real estate titles is like the windfall profit when a New England trader's ship comes in.  The profit is a one time thing.  The money will dissipate if the profiteer doesn't manage it well for the benefit of his heirs in the millennia to come.

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