I am reading The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, written in 1885, and came across a passage describing poor white Southerners who had no property or slaves but who were nevertheless coerced or cajoled into supporting the rebellion as white trash.
The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre—what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old régime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.
I had assumed the term white trash was a more modern idiom. I am curious, when did the term originate and has the meaning changed over time?