When was “twenty-negro law” introduced?

istockphoto 1277037087 170667a
istockphoto 1277037087 170667a

Twenty-Negro Law was an act created by the U.S. Congress on February 2, 1901, which capped the amount of land that any one company could own in an entire state at twenty thousand acres. 

This law would come to be highly contested over equity concerns, but it remained in use until 1976 when it was finally overturned by Congress with the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934.

The answer is discussed here about why did the “twenty-negro law” enrage many white southerners during the civil war?

The act was created in order to prevent people who were not in the best interest of the public from acquiring large amounts of land. 

Landowners in the west were in some cases getting away with fraud and embezzlement through claiming vast amounts of land that would later be deeded over to others (a practice known as “land grabbing”). 

Some of these land grabbers would then sell off their land to unsuspecting buyers for extortionate rates, or lease it out with inflation agreements, ultimately leading to less affordable lands for poorer Americans.

Here are some points discussed about twenty negro law-

1. Restriction of land holding.

If any one individual or company was to acquire twenty thousand acres of land, their land would be under the jurisdiction of the United States Land Office. 

Moreover, it would be illegal for them to transfer, lease out or sell this land under any circumstances. 

This law was proposed by Western members of Congress who were against the expansion of large corporations controlling too much property within their congressional districts. 

2. The law came into effect on 2nd February 1901.

Congress passed this act to avoid any possible conflicts in the future related to the above mentioned law. 

It also played an important role in developing new state lands for agriculture and homesteading by individuals instead of government sponsored railroad companies. 

Purchasing near railroad lines was easier for industrialists to transport their goods rather than industrialists purchasing the land.

3. The law was repealed in 1976.

The act restricted U.S. Homesteading made it difficult for people to acquire land through the Homestead Act, but its repeal in 1976 was not due to any potential conflicts within this act, but rather because of the expiration of the General Land Office’s administrative jurisdiction over public lands. 

As a result, restrictions on land holding were no longer required. During the following year, President Gerald Ford signed a law that would make it possible for American Indians to buy land in fee simple from the government through their tribal corporations. 

In the same context, the Secretary of Interior was given discretion to lease Indian lands to non-Indians. 

4. It was in effect for more than 60 years.

The act was in effect for over sixty years in U.S. case law, in territories acquired by the United States that were not yet states at the time when this act was passed. 

These possessions that were seized without having ratified the Constitution namely, Puerto Rico and Guam also fell under this act.

The twenty negro law was repealed on July 1, 1976, when President Gerald Ford signed the 

Taylor Grazing Act of 1976 which kept restrictions of land holding intact but modified it to make it possible for non-Indian people to lease Indian lands through their tribal corporations for ninety-nine years instead of the previous twenty-one year period.

5. The act has never been challenged in court.

The Twenty negro law was not disputed by any individual or company, but it was challenged by the United States Department of Justice through the use of implied repeal doctrine under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. 

The act required the government to pay compensation for lands that had been taken by Congress after it had acquired them for public purposes. The act motivated many people to purchase land cheaply from rail corporations after they had given up land near railroads, with an aim to resell them at higher prices. 

6. U.S territorial expansion during its existence was flourishing. 

Before this act came into effect territorial expansion in the U.S was just about to start up, after its repeal the United States got the chance to expand territories at its will. 

It also made exploration of new land achievable for westerners. It also ensured expansion of the frontier and growth of the American economy.

7. The land was not given to Indians.

The homestead law made it possible for people to get land for agricultural purposes, but it did not provide any incentive to Indians who were occupying the same lands from 1634 until that law came into effect in 1901. 


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