In honor of Presidents' Day, we wanted to highlight some of the Presidents who oversaw the Homestead Act. Between its founding under President Abraham Lincoln (in 1862) to its final years under President Reagan (1986), 24 different Presidents sat in office while the Homestead Act was law.
The full list of Homestead Act Presidents follows, with select quotes from some of these Presidents that talk to the Homestead Act. If you'd like to read more quotes afterwards, you can find a more complete collection listed here.
The Homestead Act idea harks back as far as President Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd President, but this list begins with Lincoln, the President who signed the Homestead Act into law:
01. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865),
"I think [the Homestead Law is] worthy of consideration, and that the wild lands of the country should be distributed so that every man should have the means and opportunity of benefiting his condition."
02. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869),
"Long experience and earnest discussion have resulted in the conviction that the early development of our agricultural resources and the diffusion of an energetic population over our vast territory are objects of far greater importance to the national growth and prosperity than the proceeds of the sale of the land to the highest bidder in open market."
03. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877),
04. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881),
"I see no reason why Indians who can give satisfactory proof of having by their own labor supported their families for a number of years, and who are willing to detach themselves from their tribal relations, should not be admitted to the benefit of the homestead act and the privileges of citizenship, and I recommend the passage of a law to that effect."
05. James A. Garfield (1881-1881),
06. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885),
07. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889),
08. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893),
09. Grover Cleveland (1893-1897),
10. William McKinley (1897-1901),
11. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909),
12. William Howard Taft (1909-1913),
13. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921),
14. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923),
15. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929),
16. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933),
17. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945),
18. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953),
"The Homestead Act of 1862 provided [immigrant settlers] with an opportunity to acquire land and establish family farms. To the land-hungry immigrants, the tough prairie sod seemed a golden opportunity and they conquered it by hard work."
19. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961),
"Because of the unique exposure of the farmer to economic forces over which he has no control, and the dependency of the nation upon our agricultural economy, the Federal government must concern itself in practical ways to assist in assuring a sound farm economy and income [...] one application of this principle a hundred years ago: A Federal Homestead Act, passed under Lincoln, providing free quarter sections of land to settlers."
20. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963),
"One hundred years ago the Congress passed the Homestead Act, probably the single greatest stimulus to national development ever enacted."
21. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969),
"Americans have always built for the future. That is why we established land grant colleges and passed the Homestead Act to open our Western lands more than 100 years ago."
22. Richard Nixon (1969-1974),
23. Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977),
"I think all of us recognize that America's future depends upon America's farmers. Our national heritage was created by farmers. [...] Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which embodied our fundamental belief in the importance of the American family farm. Lincoln was so right."
24. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981),
25. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989),
"Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act that ensured that the great western prairies of America would be the realm of independent, property-owning citizens -- a mightier guarantee of freedom is difficult to imagine."
Have a happy Presidents' Day!
Last updated: February 17, 2018