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Senate Roll Call for the attempted override of President Buchanan's veto of S. 416, June 23, 1860

The 36th Congress (1859–1861) tried to pass the Homestead Act over President James Buchanan’s veto. To override a presidential veto, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress. The Senate could not garner enough support for an override.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Senate Roll Call for the attempted override of President Buchanan's veto of S. 416, June 23, 1860

The Homestead Act

With the Homestead Act of 1862, Congress altered the way individuals could acquire federal land. Instead of selling the property, a policy that favored the wealthy, the federal government awarded a 160-acre plot to any citizen or intended citizen who claimed it by dwelling on it for a designated period and paying a fee. Congress had considered numerous homestead bills since the 1840s, but Southern senators routinely blocked them, wanting the land reserved for slaveholders. After 11 Southern states seceded in 1860–1861, the Homestead Act passed.