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Organized territory

From Academic Kids

In the history of the United States, an organized territory is a territory for which the United States Congress has enacted an Organic Act.

The provisions of an Organic Act typically include the establishment of a Bill of Rights for the territory, as well as the framework of a tripartite government. Such a territory is said to be organized. Historically, an organized territory differed from a state in that although the organic act allowed for limited self-government, a territory had no constitution and ultimate authority over the territory was held not by the territorial government but by the United States Congress. Some contemporary organized territories have constitutions, but such constitutions are distinct from state constitutions in that they do not qualify the territory for becoming a state of the union.

The first organized territory in the United States was the Northwest Territory, organized in 1787 by the passage of the Northwest Ordinance, which is the prototype for subsequent organic acts.

Historically, the organization of a territory by the passage of an organic act was typically a prelude to statehood. In the current lexicon of the United States political insular areas, a "commonwealth" is considered a special case of an organized territory. At present, there are two—Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. Neither of these, however, is an incorporated territory.

Contemporary organized territories

Currently, the following are examples of U.S. territories:

American Samoa, Guam and the United States Virgin Islands.

See also

  • Department of the Interior (http://www.doi.gov/oia/Islandpages/political_types.htm) Definitions of Insular Area Political Organizations
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