Sunday, January 1, 2012
Southern Opposition to Homestead Act
When Texas annexation was being debated in the 1840s Southerners were very much in favor of the measure because they knew it would allow for slavery's expansion into the new state. Their position quickly changed though when new territories were attempted in the North (Kansas-Nebraska). Southerners understood that slavery had a slim chance of being established in those areas.
The disdain for what would become the future Homestead Act (when it finally passed in 1862 due to the lack of Southern opposition - since they had seceded) is revealed in a short newspaper story that was republished in the Lexington Observer and Reporter on April 11, 1860; just one year before Fort Sumter. It read in full -
"THE HOMESTEAD BILL - The Richmond [Virginia] Whig, in reference to the Homestead bill, which recently passed the House, says:- 'Never was there a more odious and iniquitous bill passed by any deliberative body on earth.' and adds:
Thus under the provisions of this Homestead bill, the public lands, comprising over one thousand millions of acres, and belonging equally to all of the States, are given away to all manner of persons, and for the exclusive benefit of the Northern States. They are given not only to native born, but to all persons who may file a declaration of intention to become citizens at a future date--thus embracing in the terms and benefits of the grant the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who land upon our shores. And thus goes the vast public domain, to the strengthening and enriching of the Northern States, at the expense of the Southern, Virginia included."