1. Evaluating an Interpretation of the Importance of Land
In Land Tenure and Land Taxation in America, Aaron Sakolski summarizes the place he feels land deserves in our history:
... the study of the land question consumes a paramount importance in solving the ever-recurring problems of human welfare. That the land problem has been only less serious in the United States than in most other countries of the world is due not only to the fact that our nation's comparatively young but also to the fact that until more recent years it was blessed with abundance of practically uninhabited land area.... The country, however, is now thoroughly populated. "Free land" is at an end. Large areas are engrossed in private ownership. The history of this process, including an understanding of the "regard " for land and the evolution of the institution of landownership and use, in the United States, therefore, is worthy of study, if for no other reason than that it forms a basis for future trends and may give indications the need for a new quest for economic justice.
After reading the above interpretation, please answer these questions:
2. Writing Essays Showing the Importance of Land in our History
The pages of American history are filled with countless examples of the vital role of land and land policy in our lives. Have the students choose one of the following issues (or one that may be very recent) and write an essay on this subject Much of the information can be obtained from textbooks although some may wish to use current publications.
The essay should discuss the background to the events the essence of the event and its long-range importance to this country. If the subject lends itself to controversy, then students may include their opinions along with their reasons. Some suggested topics are:
- Summarize the main point that the author is making about land.
- Why has the land problem been less serious in the United States than other countries?
- What does the author mean by the "regard" for land?
- Why does the author believe it is important to study a history of land?
- What types of ownership of land do we have in the United States?
- Based upon the above reading, what do you speculate is his main criticism?
3. Analyzing A Table on U.S. Land Acquisitions
Please click here to see this activity on its own page.
- The Land Ordinances of 1785
- Homestead Act of 1862
- Rail roadland grants
- Indian concept of land ownership
- Land speculation and the Panic of 1837
- Morrill Act of 1862 and land grant colleges
- Turner thesis and the frontier
- Theodore Roosevelt & the conservation movement
- Henry George and the Single Tax
|Date||Acquisition||Land Area (acres)||Cost (x $1,000)||Price per acre|
|1781-1802||State cessions||236,826||6,200||0 to 11¢|
|1819||Florida Red River Basin||75,747||6,674||14¢|
|1850||Purchase from Texas||78,927||15,496||20¢|
After you have studied the table, please answer the following questions:
- Which acquisition was the largest in terms of area?
- Which areas did the United States obtain as the result of a war?
- Which area do you think had the least value to the United States at the time of purchase? Why?
- Which of the acquisitions is still being debated and a subject of suits in our courts? Cite examples.
- Obtain a map of the United States and indicate or locate as many of the acquisitions as you can.
- Use any locations in the country, even your own home, and estimate the present cost of land.
- What are the various countries that were involved with these purchases of land?
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