Settlers as Conquerors: Free Land Policies and the Colonization of the Antebellum American West

Guest Lecture by Dr. Julius Wilm.


In early America, the notion that settlers ought to receive undeveloped land for free was enormously popular among the rural poor and social reformers. Well into the 1840s, however, Congress considered the demand fiscally and economically irresponsible. Increasingly, this led proponents to cast the idea as a military matter: Land grantees would supplant troops in the efforts to take the continent over from Indian nations and rival colonial powers. In his talk, Julius examines the free land debates of the 1790s to 1850s and reconstructs the settlement experiences under the donation laws for Florida (1842) and the Oregon Territory (1850). Following the settlements’ trajectory, he shows how the settler-imperialist experiments failed and how this led the US government to abandon the practice of delegating the conquest of territory to its citizens.
Julius has recently published his first major book: Settlers as Conquerors: Free Land Policy in Antebellum America (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2018).

All are welcome!

Contact Joe Goddard for more details.