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The Preemption Act of 1841, also known as the "Distributive Preemption Act" (27 Cong. Ch. 16; 5 Stat. 453) was a United States federal law approved by the U.S. Congress on September 4, 1841, to "appropriate the proceeds of the sales of the public lands, and to grant pre-emption rights." Specifically, it permitted squatters on government land who were heads of households, widows, or single men over 21; who were citizens of the United Statesmarker, or intended to become naturalized; and who had lived there for at least 14 months to purchase up to 160 acres (65 hectares) at a very low price (not less than $1.25 per acre or $3.09 per hectare) before the land was offered for sale to the public. It further established that when the states of Ohiomarker, Indianamarker, Illinoismarker, Alabamamarker, Missourimarker, Mississippimarker, Louisianamarker, Arkansasmarker, and Michiganmarker were admitted to the Union, they would be paid 10% of the proceeds of the sale of such public land. The act was widely utilized by settlers in Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territorymarker, which were opened to settlement in 1854. After the Homestead Act was enacted in 1862, claims under the Preemption Act sharply decreased.

This also helped spread the Manifest Destiny movement. It was repealed by Congress in 1891.


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