Eastern Workingmen and National Land Policy, 1829-1862

Eastern Workingmen and National Land Policy, 1829-1862

Eastern Workingmen and National Land Policy, 1829-1862

Eastern Workingmen and National Land Policy, 1829-1862

Excerpt

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTS IN THE HISTORY of the United States is the reorientation of public land policy which took place between 1820 and 1862. The purpose of this essay is to consider the role of the workingman of the Eastern States in that reorientation.

The United States began its career as a nation with two conspicuous assets: "the most perfect Constitution ever devised by the mind of man" and a vast, fertile, unoccupied public domain. That domain was to afford security for the national debt, assurance of national solvency, and the means of national improvement. However, in face of a constant and growing demand for readier access to this source of wealth, it became impossible to retain the public lands as a Treasury asset or to reserve them as security for public debt, whether state or Federal. Amid the conflicting aims and slogans of sectional, economic, and party forces -- each striving to demonstrate that the land policy best suited to its interests was the policy most conducive to national welfare -- the voice of the Eastern workingman was neither unheard nor unregarded. Using, as points of reference, the ideas and activities of George Henry Evans, his associates and converts, I shall attempt to show something of what interest the Eastern workingman had in the public lands, what interest he was thought to have . . .

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