A column in Sunday's Washington Post reveals an ugly truth about our pioneering ancestors: they weren't above bending the law.
Fordham law professor Eduardo M. Peñalver notes that many settlers of America's midsection were once considered (to quote James Madison) "uninformed or evil disposed persons," and (added Henry Clay) "lawless rabble."
Although federal law made it a crime to enter publicly owned land slated for auction, hundreds of thousands of squatters trespassed on this land, as well as on absentee-owned private holdings, and began to farm it illegally. The federal government tried at times to protect the land by sending the Army to clear squatters out, but the settlers would simply return once the soldiers had moved on. [Link]Perhaps if the government had built a wall to keep out these opportunistic scofflaws, they would have given up their dreams of better lives.