History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

=The Development of the Small Freehold.=—­The cheapness of land and the scarcity of labor, nevertheless, made impossible the triumph of the huge estate with its semi-servile tenantry.  For about $45 a man could get a farm of 160 acres on the installment plan; another payment of $80 was due in forty days; but a four-year term was allowed for the discharge of the balance.  With a capital of from two to three hundred dollars a family could embark on a land venture.  If it had good crops, it could meet the deferred payments.  It was, however, a hard battle at best.  Many a man forfeited his land through failure to pay the final installment; yet in the end, in spite of all the handicaps, the small freehold of a few hundred acres at most became the typical unit of Western agriculture, except in the planting states of the Gulf.  Even the lands of the great companies were generally broken up and sold in small lots.

The tendency toward moderate holdings, so favored by Western conditions, was also promoted by a clause in the Northwest Ordinance declaring that the land of any person dying intestate—­that is, without any will disposing of it—­should be divided equally among his descendants.  Hildreth says of this provision:  “It established the important republican principle, not then introduced into all the states, of the equal distribution of landed as well as personal property.”  All these forces combined made the wide dispersion of wealth, in the early days of the nineteenth century, an American characteristic, in marked contrast with the European system of family prestige and vast estates based on the law of primogeniture.

THE WESTERN MIGRATION AND NEW STATES

=The People.=—­With government established, federal arms victorious over the Indians, and the lands surveyed for sale, the way was prepared for the immigrants.  They came with a rush.  Young New Englanders, weary of tilling the stony soil of their native states, poured through New York and Pennsylvania, some settling on the northern bank of the Ohio but most of them in the Lake region.  Sons and daughters of German farmers in Pennsylvania and many a redemptioner who had discharged his bond of servitude pressed out into Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, or beyond.  From the exhausted fields and the clay hills of the Southern states came pioneers of English and Scotch-Irish descent, the latter in great numbers.  Indeed one historian of high authority has ventured to say that “the rapid expansion of the United States from a coast strip to a continental area is largely a Scotch-Irish achievement.”  While native Americans of mixed stocks led the way into the West, it was not long before immigrants direct from Europe, under the stimulus of company enterprise, began to filter into the new settlements in increasing numbers.

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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