Abraham Lincoln's Ideas on Land

W.D. Lamb

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, Vol. XXVIII, No.5, September-October 1928]

Lincoln was the straightest and one of the most honest thinkers the world ever produced. His name, "Honest Abe," was given to him when a young man, and it was his greatest asset in life. And he had the reputation of possessing more commonsense than any other man in America. This was the point pressed upon the delegates in the Chicago Convention that nominated him, in view of the critical time sure to follow, owing to the repeated threats of the Southern Dis-unionists to secede in case a Republican were elected President. And the world now knows that he showed himself to be the embodiment of both commonsense and of Moral Sense a vary rare combination. So it is very interesting to know what such a man thought on the buying and the selling and the speculating in land that was so rampant in his day, and is yet, for that matter. When in Congress in 1847, he voted for a resolution that was tabled, to the effect, that the public lands should be sold to actual settlers for the bare cost of surveying and conveying title. This shows that he saw clearly that the cheaper the land the easier for the people to have homes of their own and vice versa.

Further, the long agitated for Homestead Bill did not become law till Lincoln became President as the Southern slave holders, who had controlled the Government, always looked upon the advocates of free land to settlers with the same regard that they looked upon the opponents of Chattel slavery. They could see farther then than many of our so-called Statesmen seem to see now?

Robert H. Brown was a young man during the fifties when Lincoln was becoming active in Illinois to prevent the spread of Slavery all over the Union North as well as South. Brown was often with Lincoln at meetings- often stayed at the same hotels, slept in the same room, sat on the same bed and talked over politics and progressive reforms. He is the author of the Life of Lincoln in two volumes. He became a practising physician in Illinois, and when a young man, spent some time in a law office. He gives closer up views of Lincoln than most of the other biographers. Here is the gist of what Lincoln told him one night when they both sat in the same bedroom just before retiring.

"On other questions there is ample room for reform when the time comes; but just now it would be folly for us to undertake more than we have now on hand. But when slavery is over and settled, men should never rest contented while oppression, wrongs, and injustices, are in force against them.

"The land, the earth, that God gave to man for his home, his sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, or society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or the water if so much.

"A company or enterprise needing land, should hold no more than is needed for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudest management of their business; and even this much should never be allowed when it creates a monopoly.

"All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make Homesteads, and to hold them so long as they are so occupied.

"A reform like this will be worked out in the future. The idle talk of foolish men that is now so common on Abolitionists, Agitators and Radicals, Disturbers of the Peace, etc., will find its way against it with all the force that it can muster, and as strongly promoted and carried on by all the monopolists, grasping landlords, and the titled and the untitled enemies of mankind everywhere. "

Lincoln declared himself to be possessed of second sight, and every one of his prophecies turned out just as he predicted. He could always see the end from the beginning. As a philosopher, not Socrates nor Plato, nor Aristotle, ever approached him. He was a combination of poet, prophet, philosopher, orator, leader, statesman, humanitarian and emancipator, and he never ceased to be a pupil to the day of his death. His mind was always broadening out.