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This Act was passed in 1862 and it stated that any citizen or a person who intended to possess a portion of land out of the hundred and sixty acres on offer had to meet some requirements. The said land had never been utilized before. An individual who applied for and get allocated the public land had to be an adult of eighteen years and above. The same person would utilize it for five years and apply for a title deed as a qualification to own it. There was a second option of paying a small fee of 1.25 dollars for registration to directly acquire the land. However, the person was required not to have acted against or contravened the laws in any way (Porterfield, 2004).
The Homestead Act was introduced by President Abraham Lincoln. This Act had been proposed several years earlier and had gained popularity attracting some urgency. It was finally implemented in 1862. With time, people got interested and raised questions on how the government was allocating the land. It seemed that this Act had not solved the problems of the poor people while others still lacked land for settlement. This was because most of the landless could not afford to acquire the land, practice farming as well as building houses in the farms.
Many people were unable to meet the requirements to own the land. In fact, less than half those who had applied to develop the land were able to complete the process. Another land policy was introduced in 1976 and it successfully brought the Homestead Act to an end. The government reasoned out that public land would be handled better by a central institution. It was only the state of Alaska which was left practicing the Homestead Act until 1986. The last person said to have acquired land through homesteading did so in 1979 but got his title deed in 1988 (Godfrey, 1996).
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This Act was criticized because it had some weaknesses. Some of the land which was issued in homesteading had been acquired from the displaced Indian Americans. The land was taken from them and exploited before being given to poor farmers who would pay tax. The misuse of this Act was another criticism which came about. The main purpose of this Act was to help citizens to acquire land for farming. In the infertile regions like rocky places, homesteading was used to authoritatively and selfishly take over the present resources. People who applied and got the land which was near water sources would discriminatively make use of those resources and obstruct others from accessing them. This and other selfish acts were also used to amass other resources existing in such areas.
The homesteading system continued to prove irrelevant in areas with minerals because agriculture could not be practiced. There was also no system that would be used to handle complaints or claims. The officials from the land offices used affidavits received from other witnesses to prove that the complainants were living on the land in question. This was unreliable because the witnesses were usually bribed. As time went by, another vice cropped up. Those people with well up relations would claim the land adjacent to that of their family. Perhaps this was because they felt they were of high social status or economically powerful (Godfrey, 1996).
The Homestead Act had been introduced and implemented with the aim of helping people to acquire land and settle. The land was particularly meant for agriculture. After experiencing several challenges from its implementation, the government decided to come up with another land policy that would involve the government in handling land related issues.