Homesteading In The Westward Expansion Essay

Homestead Act Essays

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The Homestead Act of 1862 made surveyed lands obtainable to homesteaders. The act stated that men and women over the age of 21, unmarried women who were head of households and married men under the age of 21, who did not own over 160 acres of land anywhere, were citizens or intended on becoming citizens of the United States, were eligible to homestead. This paper will show how the Homestead Act came to be enacted, who the homesteaders were and the effects of the Homestead Act on the pioneers.


The distribution of Government lands had been an issue since the Revolutionary War. Early methods for allocating unsettled land outside the…show more content…

Others were concerned that factories in the East would lose their supply of cheap labor if workers were lured westward by the availability of small blocks of land at low prices. Congressmen from the West argued that settlers were performing a patriotic service when they tamed the wilderness and advanced the frontier.
For decades, the halls of Congress echoed with debates about the minimal price at which land should be sold and the minimal acreage that a buyer should be required to purchase. Gradually, Congress decreased the minimum unit from 640 acres in 1785 to 320 acres in 1800, 160 acres in 1804, 80 acres in 1820, and 40 acres from 1832 until 1862, when the Homestead Act gave 160 acres free to anyone who would live on the land and cultivate it for five years.


     The Pre-emption Act of 1841 legitimized squatting by letting farmers claim unsurveyed plots and later buy them from the government. Pre-emption became the national policy, but supporting legislation was blocked. Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee took up the cause in 1840. Southerners opposed Johnson’s land giveaway as benefiting working-class whites who were unlikely to vote slavery into the new states. Three times the House of Representatives

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The Homestead Act Essay

Homestead Act
The expansion of the United States is such a vital part of American history, yet some often forget how it all happened. Many thriving settlers were given an extraordinary opportunity starting on January 1, 1863 that would end up laying the floor work for many Midwestern and Western citizens today. The rights and responsibilities to live on and maintain 160 acres of land may seem like a lot to take in for a student learning about an Act about land from the 1860s. However, think about all the people the Homestead Act of 1862 affected. There was a lot of pressure on the original homesteaders to make good use of their newfound land, the government was giving out land that wasn’t exactly theirs, and the Native American would have some their rights stolen.
It was not very easy for the United States to expand like they had in mind. The division of land had been a rising problem since the Revolutionary war. Two of the main issues during the time of the Articles of Confederation were the pricing and land measurement (Potter and Schamel 1). Throughout the course of over fifty years, the government had tried many different attempts to get people to want to expand to the west. They just didn’t really know the right way of how to go about it. Trying to sell the acres did not go over well, considering the price seemed outrageous for what they were getting. Untouched soil was very hard to start on and be successful from the beginning, which caused some problems with people not wanting to buy the land (Weiser 1). So again, a different political group tried a different approach.
A political group called the Free Soil Party in 1852 demanded free homesteads. Legends of America says, “In 1854 the first free homestead bill was introduced in Congress by congressman Galusha A. Grow of Pennsylvania” (Weiser 1). Although there was a strong opposition to the bill, many poorer people and people of the west liked the idea of the bill. The first Homestead Act stated that the settler would pay twenty-five cents per acre for the land. It was passed by Congress in 1860 but then was later vetoed by President Buchanan. It would not be until May 20, 1962 when President Abraham Lincoln would sign the free Homestead Act. The law was put into action on January 1, 1963 (Potter and Schamel 1).
Under the Homestead Act of 1862 any woman or man who was, a citizen or trying to become a citizen, the head of the family, over twenty-one years old, and/or had never borne arms against the United States could file a claim to receive 160 acres of undeveloped land if they promised to live on the land for five years and pay eighteen dollars in fees. Also under this law, the homesteaders were required to build a home, farm, and improve the land before they could downright own it (Weiser 1). Eric Foner and John Garraty state, “If the settler was willing to pay $1.25 an acre, he could obtain the land after only six months' residence” (Foner and Garraty 1). After the civil war,...

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