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History
How the Homestead Act Transformed America | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine - One hundred and fifty years ago this month, President Abraham Lincoln launched the greatest land giveaway in U.S. history and destined Ken Deardorff for one of the longest nights of his life.The Homestead Act, signed by Lincoln on May 20, 1862, embodied a radical promise: free land for the masses. Until then the federal government had generally sold its unoccupied property, favoring men with capital. As a result, by the 1840s big farms were consuming smaller ones, and efforts to change the system were gridlocked as Congressional debate over slavery intensified. The problem became so pressing that Representative Galusha Grow, a Pennsylvania Republican, warned in 1860 that the nation was courting “a system of land monopoly—one of the direst, deadliest curses that ever paralyzed the energies of a nation or palsied the arm of industry.”
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