Facts, information and articles about Homestead Act, an event of Westward Expansion from the Wild West
Homestead Act summary: The Homestead Act was a U.S. law that enabled adult Americans to acquire ownership of land in the United States at the minimum cost. The first Homestead Act was passed on May 20, 1862 for the purposes of accelerating the settlement of the western territories. It was signed into law by the President Abraham Lincoln. Anyone older than 21 was eligible provided they never took up arms against the US government. This included women and liberated slaves as well.
The homestead laws were proposed several times before the Civil War, but the southern states always voted against them because the homestead principle was related to the Northern policy of “Free Soil” that enabled people to claim and farm their own land. The rich southern slave owners saw this concept as a threat because they feared that the political influence of the free states will be increased in the west. That’s why the first Homestead Act was passed during the Civil War in 1862, when there was no opposition from the South.
By this Act, any adult citizen who never went to war against US government could claim 160 acres of federal land. There were also some conditions that had to be fulfilled: the claimants had the obligation to build a house on the lot they acquired and they had to farm the land. Their task was to improve the land they got. They had to spend 5 years on that land in order to become owners and they only needed to pay a small fee.