Newcomb: A look back at Lincoln
In “The Red Man in the New World Drama” (Vine Deloria Jr.’s edition, 1971), Jennings C. Wise pointed out that Lincoln’s economic policies resulted in tremendous areas of land being opened to colonization. As Wise noted, various states were granted 71 million acres of “public domain” lands (Indian lands) before 1873. Another 85 million acres were pre-empted (claimed) by homesteaders under the 1862 Homestead Act. And another 155 million acres of Indian lands, including “rights of way and alternate sections of non-mineral bearing lands,” were “granted outright” to “corporate interests which undertook to finance the construction of the transcontinental railroad.”
This, along with the destruction of the Indian food supply, was part of the U.S.’s “final solution” to “the Indian problem.” It was part of an array of policies designed to break Indian resistance to the extinguishing of their traditional, free way of life in order to make way for the railroads and the continued expansion of what George Washington termed “a rising empire.” Lincoln’s economic policies were key to the efforts of those who “settled the West,” to use a phrase from President Obama’s inaugural address.