Born in England, George H Evans
was a radical reformer
, with experience in the Working Men's movement of 1829 and the trade union movements of the 1830s. In 1844, Evans, trade unionist John Windt, former Chartist Thomas Devyr and others founded the National Reform Association
, which lobbied Congress and sought political supporters with the slogan "Vote Yourself a Farm." Between 1844 and 1862, Congress received petitions signed by 55,000 Americans calling for free public lands for homesteaders.
Free land was depicted as a means of attracting the excessive eastern population westward, and, as a result, bringing about higher wages and better working conditions for the laboring man in the eastern industrial areas. For many years the public domain had been regarded as the safety valve of the American political and economic order. (Bronstein, 1999).
The efforts of Evans and his allies—notably Horace Greeley—led to the Homestead Act of 1862. Evans, thus, deserves the title of "Father of the Homestead Act."
Evans was a publisher, and the editor of a series of radical newspapers including: Workingman's Advocate (1829-36, 1844-45), The Man (1834), The Radical (1841-43), The People's Rights (1844), and Young America (1845-49). He also spent the period 1837-41, and the period after 1848, on his farm in New Jersey (Lause, 2005). George Henry Evans died in 1855.
- Jamie Bronstein, Land Reform and Working-Class Experience in Britain and the United States (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999).
- Mark Lause, Young America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005).