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Mid-19th-century drive for free land in the U.S. Midwest, Great Plains, and West. It began in the 1830s as labourers and reformers joined farmers in calling for public land to be given free to settlers. In 1848 the Free Soil Party advocated the homestead proposal. Opposition from industrial employers and Southern slaveholders blocked legislation until the 1860 election, when the winning Republican Party supported a homestead measure. In 1862 the Homestead Act was passed, providing 160 acres of public land free to any adult citizen or head of family who had lived on the land for five years. By 1900, 600,000 homesteaders had claimed 80 million acres.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Homestead Movement, visit Britannica.com.
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