Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

The door-opener to America

By George Will



JewishWorldReview.com | At the end of this year in which election results reinserted immigration into the political conversation, remember that 2012 is the 150th anniversary of “the first comprehensive immigration law.” This is how the Homestead Act of 1862 is described by Blake Bell, historian at the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Neb., one of the National Park Service’s many educational jewels that make the NPS one of just two government institutions (the other is the U.S. Marine Band) that should be exempt from any budget cuts, for all eternity.

In 1862, the grim year of Shiloh and Fredericksburg, Congress would have been forgiven for concentrating only on preventing national dismemberment. Instead, while defiantly continuing construction of the Capitol dome, Congress continued nation-building. It passed the Pacific Railway Act to provide for the movement of people and goods to and from the new lands in the West, the Morrill Act to build land-grant colleges emphasizing agriculture, and, most important, the Homestead Act, whose provisions were as simple as the problem it addressed was stark.

What today is called the Great Plains was at that time identified on maps as the Great American Desert. Under the act, $18 in fees entitled homesteaders to farm 160 acres to which they would acquire title for no further cost after five years. Or after six months, if they paid $1.25 an acre. (Union soldiers could deduct their time in uniform from the residency requirement.) The act was intended to attract immigrants from abroad — immigrants who would put down roots. For this purpose it provided all requirements for citizenship.



RECEIVE LIBERTY LOVING COLUMNISTS IN YOUR INBOX … FOR FREE!

Every weekday NewsAndOpinion.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.

Until then, Bell writes, the states had been “the primary overseers of immigration.” And as an immigration commissioner of New York later testified to Congress, large numbers of immigrants would “come regularly to this country every spring” but would take themselves and their earnings back to Europe in the autumn, not paying taxes and depressing American wages.

The Naturalization Law of 1802 required immigrants to receive certificates (“first papers”) proving that they had declared upon arrival their intention to become citizens. After five years, an immigrant could take the certificate and two witnesses to a courthouse and be naturalized. This law addressed the worry that Europe was deliberately exporting the wretched refuse of its teeming shores — people of (in a Kentucky congressman’s words) “the most turbulent and factious tempers,” accustomed to monarchies and sorely in need of Americanization.

By 1850, the United States had acquired, by hook or by crook (including Indian “removal” and the morally dubious but indubitably beneficial war with Mexico), vast quantities of land. Most of it was uninhabited, unless you counted, as few did, Indians. In 1862, with many citizens fighting, noncitizens were needed to (in an Illinois congressman’s words) “go upon these wild lands” to increase the nation’s wealth.

Bell calls the Homestead Act “an accommodating immigration law” because its requirement that the land be farmed for five years was the amount of time required to become a citizen, and because it began the assimilation of immigrants into American law.

The spirit of the act was optimistic. As the New York Times said, it would attract “the common people of Europe” who are free from the prejudices of “the aristocratic and snobocratic classes.”

Under the Homestead Act, which continued in effect in Alaska until 1986, more than 270 million acres — approximately 422,000 square miles or 2.5 Californias — were privatized. The truth-tellers at the National Archives say that most homesteaders came from near their homesteads — Iowans moved to Nebraska, Minnesotans to South Dakota, etc. Furthermore, speculators, railroads and other sharpies snapped up most of the land: Of 500 million acres dispersed by 1904, only 80 million went to homesteaders. Small farmers settled more land under the act in the 20th century than in the 19th.

Still, Bell rightly notes that the act was an immigration law in effect as well as intent. By 1870, the foreign-born population of Wyoming and Montana was 39 percent; of Dakota Territory, 34 percent; of Nebraska, 25 percent. And the peak years of national immigration, 1905-14, were the peak years of homestead claims.

Skeptics will say that the Homestead Act, which welcomed immigrants to a sparsely populated continent, is irrelevant to today. Skeptics should consider not only that immigration is still an entrepreneurial act but also that as the entitlement state buckles beneath the weight of an aging population, America’s workforce needs replenishing.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

George Will's latest book is "With a Happy Eye but: America and the World, 1997-2002" to purchase a copy, click here. Comment on this column by clicking here.

Archives

© 2012 WPWG

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles