What significance did the Homestead Act have?

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The Homestead Act was designed to encourage Americans to settle in the Great Plains region. This area had been previously considered to be a barren area, but the government was trying to encourage Americans to move lands west of the Mississippi River. By offering 160 acres of land for free...

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The Homestead Act was designed to encourage Americans to settle in the Great Plains region. This area had been previously considered to be a barren area, but the government was trying to encourage Americans to move lands west of the Mississippi River. By offering 160 acres of land for free if a person lived on the land for five years, the government believed people would then move to this region.

The impact of this law was not a positive one for the Native Americans. The Native Americans had been relocated here in the 1830s and 1840s because the government believed that the land was unfit for settling. However, now that Americans were moving here, the Native Americans were again perceived to be in the way of progress. Many conflicts occurred between the Native Americans and the army and the Native Americans and the settlers. Native American ways of living were disrupted, and they were eventually forced to live on reservations.

The Homestead Act did spur the westward movement to the Great Plains and eventually beyond that region. Many people tried to farm the land that they received. However, life was difficult on the Great Plains as the soil was hard to farm and the climate could be very unpleasant, with very hot summers and very cold winters. As people moved westward, businesses also expanded to these regions to meet the demands of the people who lived here. Thus, this law did assist with the growth of the United States after 1860.

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The significance of the Homestead Act was that it helped to cause the settling of the Great Plains (and, to some extent, more western areas).

The Homestead Act offered free land to anyone who would settle it, improve it, and live on it for five years.  This offer attracted large numbers of settlers who moved to the Plains to take advantage of the free land.   Historians tend to emphasize that this law did not actually end up helping small farmers as much as it was supposed to.  They point out that the land grants were often not big enough to support farmers.  They also point out that speculators often ended up with the land, thus benefiting rich people rather than the small farmers it was intended to help.

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