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The Homestead Acts were a series of laws enacted in the USA, that gave the homesteader ownership of portions of various specified tracts of federally owned lands for little or no cost.

The first of the acts, the Homestead Act of 1862, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862. Subsequently, until as late as 1916, five additional new Homestead Acts, or amendments to pre-existing acts, became Law.

The Homestead acts had a huge impact on the settlement of the USA's territories:

Supra:

Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads and distributed 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land for private ownership. This was a total of 10% of all land in the United States.2 Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986.

It's noteworthy that President Lincoln was more famous for fighting the Civil War to preserve the Union (and free the slaves).

Was there any connection between these events and the Homestead Acts? What other events might they have been tied to?

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Try asking a question instead of posting a long text you found on a website. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 8 '13 at 20:36
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You need to reformat this as a question. You just posted text from the national archives: archives.gov/education/lessons/homestead-act If you don't reformat the question into a question, we'll have to delete your question. –  ihtkwot Sep 8 '13 at 21:36
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The next question, now that Vector was nice enough to actually post one, is why you think that there was any major historical events needed. As far as I can tell the only major historical event was firstly Columbus trips to America, secondly the British colonization of North America and thirdly the US independence war. –  Lennart Regebro Sep 9 '13 at 6:31
    
Actually, I believe that the Homestead Act (at least of 1862) was part of the fight against slavery. I've edited the question and second the nomination to reopen. –  Tom Au Sep 9 '13 at 20:26
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@LennartRegebro - Agreed. I just edited the question, I didn't vouch for it being very good: When you have a whole continent of wilderness that you'd like to make into a developed country, you need to get people to move there - giving away land is a very good way of doing that. But since it took until 1862, in the middle of the American Civil War, there is more to it than that... the timing is important. –  user2590 Sep 9 '13 at 20:27

1 Answer 1

Since the founding of the US, there were some who felt that Slavery as an idea was evil. The tough part seemed to be developing a pragmatic political philosohpy around this.

In the mid 1800's one of the political currents that started to flow around the northern states was that slavery was not just morally wrong, but that it actually hurt free white people economically and socially by depressing the labor market and making entire industries off limits to free whites.

When you follow this thinking, USA territorial aquisitions become a bit of a problem. You certianly don't want the evil to spread, but if you just let the "Free Market" take its course, slaveholders will naturally gobble up most of the land for plantations. They have more money to start with, and can potentially earn much more off of it than free men could, as their labor costs are much cheaper.

So it became important to a lot of northern anti-slavery types that new land was not simply sold to the highest bidder, but instead poor whites who wanted to farm themselves were given first crack at it. This was the germ of the idea of simply giving away a single smallish plot of new land to whoever asked, or selling it at a very nominal fee. It was hoped this would stop the spread of slavery.

In 1848 the anti-slavery portions of both major parties left in disgust over the failure of their respective parties to prohibit slavery in the new territories. This was a blow the Democrats could absorb, as their base was in the South anyway, but it killed the Whig party. The new Free Soil party this created had the Homestead Act as part of its platform. After a couple of election cycles, this party merged with the Republican Party.

The Homestead Act was in fact one of the centerpiece ideas of the Republican Party when they were campaigning for the election of 1860. They were not running on the idea of ending slavery, but rather on the idea of stopping its expansion into new states using vehicles like the Homestead Act. So it shouldn't suprise much of anyone that one of the first things they did upon winning the election was pass the Homestead Act.

If there was one single event most reponsisble for this coming to pass, it would probably be the Kansas-Nebraska act, and the ensuing violence. This whole series of events so inflamed northerners that the election of a President with "Free Soil" views became a real possibility. The views themselves though had been floating around for quite a while.

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