Relief Act of 1821

From Ohio History Central

During the early 1800s, many Ohioans purchased land on credit. During the War of 1812 and afterwards, farmers bought many acres of land from the federal government. This land had been part of the Congress Lands, set aside by the national government as it organized the Northwest Territory. It was not difficult for Ohioans to make payments on their loans as long as the economy remained strong, but by the late 1810s the state was in the midst of severe economic problems. During the Panic of 1819, there was a shortage of currency that made it impossible for many farmers to make the necessary loan payments. In addition, other parts of the nation were also experiencing these economic problems, making it difficult for farmers in Ohio to sell their crops. Many people feared that they would lose their farms as a result.

Congress responded to the farmers' concerns with the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821. The Land Act reduced the number of acres that Ohioans had to purchase from 160 to eighty and the cost from $2.00 per acre to $1.25 per acre, in an attempt to encourage additional land sales. The Relief Act permitted Ohioans to return land that they could not pay for back to the government, granting a credit towards their debt for the returned land. Additionally, Congress extended credit to the buyer for eight more years. The government hoped that with the time extension, the economy would improve. Farmers would then be able to sell their crops and make payments on their loans. By allowing the return of land that Ohioans could not afford, Congress helped farmers not lose everything that they had worked for. People could often afford a smaller acreage, but not the 160 acres originally mandated by the Land Act of 1804. Overall, the federal government's policies were successful, and many Ohioans were pleased that Congress had taken action to help them.

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