Pacific Railroad Acts

acts of Congress authorizing support for the first transcontinental railroad

The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 were a series of acts of Congress that supported the construction of a "transcontinental railroad" (the Pacific Railroad) in the United States. This happened through authorizing issuing government bonds and the grants of land to railroad companies. The War Department under then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was authorized by the Congress in 1853 to do surveys of five different potential transcontinental routes from the Mississippi. These surveys ranging from north to south and submitted a massive twelve volume report to Congress with the results in early 1855. However, no route or bill could be agreed upon and passed authorizing the Government's financial support and land grants. This change when the secession of the southern states in 1861 ended their opposition to a central route. The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 489) was the original act. Some of its provisions were changed, expanded, or repealed by four more amending Acts: The Pacific Railroad Act of 1863 (12 Stat. 807), Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 (13 Stat. 356), Pacific Railroad Act of 1865 (13 Stat. 504), and Pacific Railroad Act of 1866 (14 Stat. 66).

The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 started federal government land grants directly to corporations; before that act, the land grants were made to the states, for the benefit of corporations.