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Reply #59: 40 acres and a mule [View All]

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Brewman_Jax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Nov-07-06 10:10 AM
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59. 40 acres and a mule
the legendary promise and catch phrase was just that--a legend. It was never proposed or promoted by Lincoln.

Facts of the matter, it was a mix of 2 similar and unrelated events: Section 4 of the First Freedman's Bureau Act and Special Order No. 15 by the War Department.

Section 4 of the First Freedman's Bureau Act stated that this agency "shall have authority to set apart for use of loyal refugees and freedmen such tracts of land within the insurrectionary states as shall have been abandoned or to which the United States shall have acquired title by confiscation or sale, or otherwise; and to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid there shall be assigned not more than 40 acres of such land."
Introduced into Congress by Thaddeus Stevens this portion of the Freedmen's Bureau Act was defeated by Congress on February 5, 1866 "by a vote of 126 to 36." Lands which had been distributed to freedmen were reclaimed and returned to the previous owners.

Issued January 16, 1866 by General William T. Sherman, Special Order No. 15 provided that:

"The islands of Charleston south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of egroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States."

The land was then divided into 40-acre tracts. Sherman then issued orders to General Saxton to distribute the plots and processory titles to the head of each family of the freedmen. There were no mules included in the order, so where did the "and a mule" come from? Shortly after Stanton left, Sherman's commissary man came to him complaining that he had a large number of broken down mules for which he had no means of disposal. Sherman sent the useless animals to Saxton for distribution along with the land.

After Johnson became President, he recinded Special Order No. 15 and had the land returned to the former owners and the freed slaves were thrown off.

These events helped to solidify the idea of the freed slaves were meant to receive 40 acres and a mule to live free in the USA. The rest is history.
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