Happy Homestead Act anniversary

Exactly 150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law.  This act permitted applicants to claim ownership of undeveloped federal land at no cost, fulfilling the vision of Free Soilers who wanted to settle the frontier with free farmers rather than slaveowners.  Before this date, pro-slavery politicians had blocked passage of such an act in an attempt to preserve the ability of the peculiar institution to spread westward, but the secession of the South and the rise of a Republican Congress removed this impediment to a free American West.

Author Fergus Bordewich has some reflections on this important anniversary at The Wall Street Journal.  You can read more about the Homestead Act’s legacy at the website of The Chicago Tribune.

Act of May 20, 1862 (Homestead Act), Public Law 37-64, 05/20/1862; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives.

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Filed under Lincoln and Memory, Lincoln as President

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