On Land Monopoly

Abraham Lincoln

[From a letter written to his law firm partner, Mr. Gridley; quoted in Abraham Lincoln and the Men of his Time, by Robert H. Browne. Reprinted from The Freeman, February, 1939]

"If I made the investment it would constantly turn my attention to that kind of business; and so far disqualify me from what seems my calling and success in it and interfere with the public or half public service which I neither seek nor avoid.

"I respect the man who properly named these villains land sharks. They are like the wretched ghouls who follow a ship and fatten on its offal.

"The land, the earth God gave to man for his home, sustenance and support, should never be in the possession of any man, corporation, society or unfriendly government any more than air or water -- if as much. An individual or company, or enterprise, acquiring land should hold no more than is required for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly. All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make homesteads and to hold them as long as they are so occupied.

"The idle talk of foolish men, that is so common now, will find its way against it, with whatever force it may possess, and as strongly promoted and carried on as it can be by land monopolists, grasping landlords and the titled and untitled senseless enemies of mankind everywhere.

"On other questions there is ample room for reform when the time comes; but now it would be folly to think we could take more than we have in hand. But when slavery is over and settled, men should never rest content while oppression, wrongs and iniquities are enforced against them."