Homestead Act

Monday, May 5, 1862

The Homestead Act commemorative stamp. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

To bolster the Free-Soil movement and westward expansion, Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act of 1862 into law. The law enables independent "yeoman" farmers to claim Western federal lands for free after submitting an application, living on and improving the land claim for five years, and filing for a deed to the land. The measure, which had been proposed years before, was originally intended to give an additional economic advantage to individual farmers over slave plantation owners.

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