Homestead Act

(1862)

On May 20, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president from the prairie state of Illinois, signed the Homestead Act into law. He enacted one of the most liberal land laws in history, a policy that theoretically gave free land to actual settlers. The Homestead Act granted adult heads of families 160 acres of surveyed public land, given five years of continuous residence on the land and payment of a government filing fee. The law's passage was the culmination of almost eighty years of debate. Homesteading symbolized many of the aspirations of Jeffersonian republicanism. From the...

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Galusha Grow, father of the Homestead Act (Library of Congress)

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