What a farm family wanted most was a government policy that would permit a farmer to “squat” on a piece of land. that is, to build a house and clear the trees, and then after the region had been surveyed, to purchase his land at the minimum auction price without being outbid by the speculator. In 1842 the first “Preemption Bill” was passed. It protected the farmer who had made improvements. It also whetted his appetite for free land. If a farmer improved new land. “homesteaded,” was he not performing a national service and benefiting the national economy by bringing the wilderness under cultivation?