Northern railroad interests decided to build a railroad bridge across the Mississippi River from Illinois to Iowa at Rock Island. Jefferson Davis, as Secretary of War, tried to stop it by claiming that Rock Island was an Army installation. He issued an order saying that the bridge could not be built, but it was ignored. He sent US Marshals to stop construction, but they didn't. He sued, but lost.
Two weeks after the bridge opened, a riverboat crashed into it and burned it down. The riverboat owners (which supposedly included Davis) sued to prevent a replacement bridge; the railroad hired Lincoln to defend them, which he successfully did all the way to the Supreme Court. Newspaper coverage of Lincoln in court made him well-known to northern Republicans.
Southern riverboats going up and down the river couldn't keep up with the northern trains bringing settlers.
I don't see how stealing native land and exterminating native americans can be equated with "freedom and opportunity". But I guess the victors write the history.
> Signing the act essentially removed any hope of southern control of the west
South never had any hope of controlling the west. It was a demographic impossibility. There were nearly 20 million white northerners and 5 million southern whites. It was why they ultimately seceded.
> It also galvanized numerous factions in the North to support the idea of total victory when they might have otherwise agreed to a compromise.
The civil war ultimately ended in a compromise. The north did everything they could to make the south feel welcomed back to the union. And those who fought against the north were welcomed back to the military and together, the north and the south, waged extermination wars against the natives in the west. Nothing like a common enemy to bring a divided nation back together.
That's not really how controlling territory works. The Manchus established control of around 100,000,000 Chinese when there were less than 300,000 of them. By that ratio, the south would have had no trouble controlling the north with a population of just 50,000 -- 5 million is absurd overkill.
(Is there more to it than a ratio of rulers to ruled? Yes, of course, that's the point.)
There were literally more than a hundred dating from the 1600s until the twentieth century.
Suggestion: use blockchain solutions to let settlers make claims publically without possible government meddling (like bribes), then work out the "claims conflict" the old, expansive way or through some international arbitraging.
Bonus: this could externalize the costs to NGO and charities, unlock large amounts of capital, while getting a new and better land registry started. Existing titles could later be converted to the new system. After that, people could trade their property with fewer paperwork - improving the capital markets.