A permanent preemption act was passed only after the Eastern states had been placated by the principle of distribution (i.e., the proceeds of the government land sales would be distributed among the states according to population). Distribution was discarded in 1842, but the preemption principle survived. The act of 1841 permitted settlers to stake a claim of 160 acres (65 hectares) and after about 14 months of residence to purchase it from the government for as little as $1.25 an acre before it was offered for public sale. After the passage (1862) of the Homestead Act, the value of preemption for bona fide settlers declined, and the practice more and more became a tool for speculators. Congress repealed the Preemption Act in 1891.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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