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At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Smith, Gerrit (1797-1874) to John Cochran, Isaac T. Hopper, Daniel C. Eaton, George H. Evans, and William Kemeys

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04717.65 Author/Creator: Smith, Gerrit (1797-1874) Place Written: Peterboro, New York Type: Printed letter Date: 4 January 1850 Pagination: 1 p. ; 31.2 x 19 cm.

Smith writes to prominent men he chose to designate the distribution of gifts of land and money among five hundred males and females from New York. Notes that he will not give the females land, but will instead bestow $50 upon each of them. Declares, "Alas, that good men should be so slow to see, that the acknowledged right of every generation, and the whole of every generation, to the use of the earth, as well as to the use of the sea, the light, and the air, is necessarily preliminary to that state of universal comfort... for which good men labor and pray!" Notes that most of the land is unfit for farming, as he previously gave the bulk of farmable land to African Americans.

Smith, a politician from New York, served as a U.S. Representative from 1853-1854. He was a noted philanthropist and social reformer active in anti-slavery campaigns and women's rights.

All of this land given away in small parcels was done in order to give voting rights to African Americans who needed to fulfill the new discriminatory property requirement of voting.

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