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Federal Land Grants

The federal government authorized disbursement of federal lands for two main purposes. This entry examines congressional policy to disburse land for territorial and state expansion and state development in the form of higher education.

Land Grants and Homesteads

In its first use, land was distributed for the purpose of homesteading or encouraging migration to rural, previously unincorporated territories to promote state expansion. A second use of federal land grants came through the Morrill Act, which distributed federal lands to states for the purpose of expanding higher education. Though it was poorly organized, government distribution of lands began during the colonial era. The Land Ordinance of 1787 systematized land survey and distribution. Land was divided into townships, and buyers needed to purchase large tracts of land (generally 640 ...

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