Study Guide

Abraham Lincoln in Homestead Act

By Congress

Abraham Lincoln

This guy hardly needs an intro. He's Honest Abe, that tall drink of water whose gorgeous mug graces every $5 bill. He was in office during the Civil War and is widely thought to be our best prez ever. He had impeccable taste in (super-tall) hats. His beard is copied by tattooed baristas everywhere.

What you might not know is that Lincoln is critical to the Homestead Act of 1862—dude was the one who finally got to sign it into law. Way to be an overachiever, Abe

Republicans and Northerners had tried for years (read: at least a decade) to get a "Free Soil" policy in place, aka new states as slavery-free zones. As you can read about in the Historical Context, the South was vehemently opposed to any plan that could lead to free states/territories out-numbering and over-powering the political clout of the slave-holding states.

Thanks to the secession of eleven states from the Union, Lincoln was finally presented with the means to do something about the West. Those states just happened to be the strongest opponents to any form of homestead act that could lead to even more slavery-free land in the Union. (Hence their forming their own sovereign government. And that whole bloody Civil War thing.)

The Republican Party platform had already promised free land for settlers, so with the big roadblock gone with the wind, the Homestead Act to settle the West and eventually add more states was finally able to reach the desk of a willing president. (Source)

Lincoln didn’t get the chance to prove himself in reuniting the country, thanks to the actions of a certain scumbag named John Wilkes Booth, but he did give a lot of people a lot of (kinda-sorta) free land out West.

Maybe he said it. Maybe he didn't. But we like to pretend Abe uttered, "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle." Thanks for hustling the Homestead Act, Mr. President.

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