The signing by the President of the bill which virtually gives to the negroes all the United States lands in the Southern States. The New York World says:
‘The supplementary homestead bill which quietly became a law the other day, will if the intentions of its protectors are carried but produce a more vital change in the condition of the negro race at the South than over the transition from slavery to freedom. The mere abolition of slavery did not materially change the status of the negro as a labor. He was compelled to work in the cotton fields before the war by the will of his master, and he still works the same ground to earn wages upon which to live. The new homestead bill, however, aims to make him a freeholder, and thus break up what is left of the present labor system of the South. It is safe to predict that, if the designs of the Radicals who passed this bill are accomplished, in two years time the amount of negro labor available for cotton cultivation for a large part will be reduce fully to ‘one half.’
‘By the provisions of this bill as it passed all the public land in the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida are thrown open in eighty acre homesteads to actual settlers only. While the negroes are permitted to occupy the land at once, no poor white man who favored the rebellion can acquire a homestead until 1867. As the bill passed the House, all rebels were perpetually excluded, but to this the Senate would no consent. The compromise finally effected is this explained be the Washington correspondent of The Boston Advertiser:
‘The managers on the part of the House in the conference committee would not have consented to the limitation of the exclusion of active rebels from the benefits of the act to the next six months, but for the assurance of the Freedmen’s Bureau that this space of time would be sufficient to accomplish the object of the Bill— that is to inable the loyal people (the negroes) of the five States to enter land under it.—
General Howard, as soon as the President has signed the bill, will send out special instructions to the agents of the Bureau to take every point to inform the colored people of the nature of the act, and to intice them to exercise the right of selecting homesteads on public land conferred upon them by it. The Freedmen’s Bureau has had no better opportunity for inestimable usefulness since its establishment.’
‘It is easy to foretell how this will end. The negroes will become possessed of a small freehold: will raise their corn, squashes, chickens, and pigs: and will work no more in cotton, rice, and sugar fields. In other words, their labor will become unavailable for those products which the world specially needs. The history of negro communities proves that then the blacks can live on the soil they will not work as laborers.
‘The following is the amount of public land to be donated to the negroes:
In Arkansas…………………………….. 9,898,012.70 acres
In Alabama……………………………… 5,732,038.08 acres
In Florida………………………………… 9,379,365.61 acres
In Louisiana…………………………….. 6,228,102.45 acres
In Mississippi…………………………… 4,760,746.03 acres
‘In all, forty-six million three hundred and ninety-eight thousand and odd acres of which thirty million is known to be good arable land. This will give nearly four hundred homesteads, and support nearly two million people.
‘The title of this law ought to have been ‘A Bill to get rid of the laboring class of the South, and make a self-supporting nuisance.