Homestead Act Essays

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I THESIS STATEMENT
     
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.

II WHAT EVENTS LEAD TO THE HOMESTEAD ACT?

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

III PASSAGE OF THE HOMESTEAD ACT

     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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