Homestead Act

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Wikipedia.
Related to Homestead Act: Dawes Act

Homestead Act,

1862, passed by the U.S. Congress. It provided for the transfer of 160 acres (65 hectares) of unoccupied public land to each homesteader on payment of a nominal fee after five years of residence; land could also be acquired after six months of residence at $1.25 an acre. The government had previously sold land to settlers in the West for revenue purposes. As the West became politically stronger, however, pressure was increased upon Congress to guarantee free land to settlers (see Foot ResolutionFoot Resolution,
offered in 1829 by Samuel Augustus Foot in the U.S. Senate. This resolution instructed the committee on public lands to inquire into the limiting of public land sale.
..... Click the link for more information.
; Preemption ActPreemption Act,
statute passed (1841) by the U.S. Congress in response to the demands of the Western states that squatters be allowed to preempt lands. Pioneers often settled on public lands before they could be surveyed and auctioned by the U.S. government.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Several bills providing for free distribution of land were defeated in Congress; in 1860 a bill was passed in Congress but was vetoed by President Buchanan. With the ascendancy of the Republican party (which had committed itself to homestead legislation) and with the secession of the South (which had opposed free distribution of land), the Homestead Act, sponsored by Galusha A. Grow, became law. In 1976 it expired in all the states but Alaska, where it ended in 1986.

Homestead Act


in the USA a land allotment law passed in May 1862 during the Civil War (1861–65), under pressure of the mass of people and the radical wing of the Republican Party.

According to the Homestead Act any US citizen who had reached 21 years of age and who had not fought for the South against the North could receive a piece of land not more than 160 acres (65 hectares) in area from the general land fund after paying a registration tax of $10. A settler who was working the land and who had begun building on it received the property rights to that land free after five years. Rights to the plot could also be acquired immediately, upon payment of $1.25 per acre. This opened up great opportunities for capitalists to receive the best lands and to speculate with them. Under the Homestead Act approximately 2 million homesteads were distributed in the USA, with a total area of 285 million acres (115 million hectares). The passage of the Homestead Act and of measures against slavery carried out during the Civil War and Reconstruction was a significant victory on a national scale for the farmers’ “American” way of developing capitalism in agriculture, which ensured “the most rapid development of productive forces under conditions which are more favorable for the mass of the people than any others under capitalism” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, p. 150). The development of capitalism in agriculture intensified the process of class stratification among farmers and the proletarianization of the majority of them.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 15, p. 542.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, pp. 129, 150–51; vol. 27, pp. 129–227.
Kuropiatnik, G. P. “Zakon o gomstedakh i “amerikanskii” put’ razvitiia kapitalizma v sel’skom khoziaistve.” In the collection K stoletiiu Grazhdanskoi voiny v SShA. Moscow, 1961.
Kuropiatnik, G. P. Fermerskoe dvizhenie v SShA ot greindzherov k Narodnoi partii: 1867–1896. Moscow, 1971.
Gates, P. W. “The Homestead Act: Free Land Policy in Operation, 1862–1935.” In Land Use Policy and Problems in the United States. Lincoln, 1963.
Gates, P. W. History of Public Land Law Development. Washington, D. C., 1968.


References in periodicals archive ?
The 1862 Homestead Act gave anyone over 21 years old who was either a citizen or declared their intention to become one, the right to stake out a claim to 160 acres of public land providing they built a home and farmed the land for five years.
And where some failed, others succeeded, so by the time the Homestead Act was repealed in 1976, homesteaders had claimed more than 270 million acres of land in 30 states, from Florida to Alaska.
The Homestead Act is a special law in Massachusetts to help protect the family home in case the owner is ever sued.
1 -- 2) John Ballard, below, filed a Homestead Act claim in 1880 to property in the Westlake Village area, above, that county supervisors want to rename in his honor.
Let us look at the record of the operation of the Southern Homestead Act insofar as there is any reliable record, for the office which had prime jurisdiction over it quite ignored it in the early years.
And he won passage of the Homestead Act, which in time made millions of Americans equity owners in our society.
One might have thought the 1862 Homestead Act was the culmination of the land reformers' desires; bur according to Lause, the National Reformers did not sit on their laurels.
Emma Draper's letters are a precious record of a struggle to find a new life in the era of the 1862 Homestead Act.
Some facsimiles and excerpts from primary source documents are included; examples are The Homestead Act, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and amendments to the Constitution.
Residents say their community was settled about 1930, when a family received a land grant in the area under the Homestead Act.
The main aspect of the program is interactive equipment that allows students to experience almost all of the features of the park site, which tells the story of ramifications of the Homestead Act of 1862.
This thinking, Lind suggests, undergirded the Homestead Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862: This act "did not necessarily make America more free, but it did make America more republican.