Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Within a year Congress has . . .

. . . done more for the benefit of the great mass of the people than during the twenty years of peace which preceded it.  Prior to this war the Government was run exclusively for the benefit of a class, and that class the last one that should have been favored.  All questions of tariff, currency, commerce, revenue, and the public lands were decided to suit the interests and the whims of the planters.  States that excluded slavery were themselves excluded from the Union, or insulted and kept waiting for years.  Tariffs had to be adjusted to suit the ideas of 350,000 planters and breeders of slaves and the public lands so disposed of and managed to facilitate their occupancy by planters in large tracts, to the exclusion of poor white men.  Things are now entirely changed.  Congress is legislating for the benefit of the whole people.  Our foreign relations are now managed with a view to promote commercial intercourse and prosperity of the whole country.  The Pacific Railroad might now be built but for the fact that we are engaged in a great war.  But most important of all “THE HOMESTEAD BILL” has passed both houses of Congress and become law.  This is a most beneficent measure, destined to produce the most important results.  It is destined to do more for us as a nation than all the legislation of the last fifty years – to greatly accelerate our rapid growth – to largely increase our substantial wealth and national strength and glory.  The friend of civilization and progress – the poor and humble and down trodden, not only of America, but of the whole world, have reason to thank God and take courage.  The desolation of civil war and blood-shed is upon this generation, but the homestead law is for all time.  The National Domain stretching far to the West and South, large enough to make thirty States as big as Iowa, is reserved and offered without money and without price, free homes for free white men.  Who can calculate the vast results to flow, even in fifty years from the passage of this law?

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 31, 1862, p. 2

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