An Organic Act, in United States law, is an Act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States or an agency to manage certain federal lands. The first such act was the Northwest Ordinance, enacted by the U.S. Congress of the Confederation in 1787 in order to create the Northwest Territory. Next, the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 incorporated Washington, D.C. and placed it under the exclusive control of Congress.
The Organic Act for the Territory of New Mexico was part of the Compromise of 1850, passed September 9, 1850. Primarily concerned with slavery, the act organized New Mexico as a territory, with boundaries including the areas now embraced in New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado.
Later Organic Acts have included:
- The Colorado Organic Act, created the Territory of Colorado in 1861.
- The Arizona Organic Act, created the Territory of Arizona in 1863.
- The Montana Organic Act, created the Territory of Montana in 1864.
- The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, created a single municipal government for Washington, D.C.
- The First Organic Act for Alaska of 1884, which allowed for Alaska to become a judicial district as well as a civil one; and the Second Organic Act for Alaska of 1912, which gave Alaska an elected legislature.
- The Oklahoma Organic Act of 1889, established the Oklahoma Territory
- The Hawaiian Organic Act, enacted in 1900, established a government for the Territory of Hawaii.
- The Foraker Act or Organic Act of 1900, established civilian (limited popular) government in Puerto Rico.
- The Philippine Organic Act (1902), creation of an elected Philippine Assembly.
- The Jones Law (Philippines), replaced the 1902 act and created a fully elected Philippine Legislature
- The National Park Service Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service and the National Park System in 1916.
- The Organic Act of the Virgin Islands of 1936 (Pub.L. 74–749, 49 Stat. 1807, enacted June 22, 1936) established a government for the U.S. Virgin Islands, replacing previous temporary provisions (Pub.L. 64–389, 39 Stat. 1132, enacted March 3, 1917). It was repealed and replaced by the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands of 1954 (Pub.L. 83–517, 68 Stat. 497, enacted July 22, 1954).
- Finally, the Guam Organic Act of 1950, transferred Guam to the United States Department of the Interior as an unincorporated territory.
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