NATIONAL REVENUE PROM THE SALE OP LAND.
r. Income from this source.
2. Recent Indian purchases.
3. Receipts from sales.
4. Quantity of vacant land.
5. Profit is not the object of the government's policy.
6. Grants to individuals.
7. Longevity of their claims.
8. Grants to railroads.
9. Errors and frauds in surveying. so. Condition of the timber-stealing industry. II. Rapid extinction of the national domain.
1. The national domain includes the cessions made by the original States to the Federal Government, and known as the Western Reserve, which contains 258,452, 629 acres. The later accessions were: Louisiana pur chase, from France, April 3o, 1803, 561,272,637 acres; Oregon country, by discovery and treaty with Spain, 181,291,018; Florida purchase, from Spain, February 22, 1819, 41,972,340; Mexico cession, February 2, 1848, 328,749,635; Texas purchase, November 25, 185o, 64, Gadsen purchase, from Mexico, December 3o, 1853, 29,142,4; Alaska, from Russia, March 3o, 1867, 369,529,600; Indian purchases since 1887, 32,252,540; total, 1,867,270,232 acres' 2. The Indian purchases above mentioned, for which the Government has paid, or agreed to pay, $28,261,937, require explanation. All of the laws providing for the purchase and settlement of the Indian lands contained a proviso that each settler or private purchaser, besides paying the small fee required by the Homestead law, should, at the end of five years, pay a sufficient price to reimburse the Government when all the land was sold. With this provision, expressed in the clearest language, members of Congress from the East, South and Middle States joined with the members from the Western States in making these purchases. As soon, however, as they were completed the members of both houses from the far Western States introduced a bill for throwing the lands open to settlement on the same terms as other Govern ment lands, the purchase and ownership of which rested on no such underlying agreement. At first they made slow headway ; the agreement was recent ; too many who had voted for these purchases on this condition were still members. But those who introduced the bill were per sistent. The membership of the House and Senate changed, while the supporters of the measure lost noth ing by time and change. The opposition grew weaker and weaker, and at last succumbed. A bolder and less defensible trick was never played in a legislative body.' 'In the speech of D. T. Flynn, of Oklahoma, May 3, 1900, 33 Cong. Record, p. 3,661, in favor of the free homestead bill he said: "I admit that when our people went upon these lands they did so knowing that the government expected to receive $— to 82.50 an acre for them." The speech contains some valu able statistics on the subject.
Said Mr. Cannon, chairman of the committee of appropria tions, during the debate in 1901, on a bill for the purchase of land from the Crow Indians: "I am tired of Uncle Sam buying and buying land and paying three or four or a dozen times what it is worth to the Indians, and then opening the land to settlement and turning around and giving it to the settlers. We were buncoed to the extent of between thirty and forty million dollars. • • • I am not for taking any more gold bricks under a suspension of the rules, with twenty minute? debate on a side." 34 Cong. Record, 2118.
See also the Senate Reports of the majority and minority on this subject, printed in 29 Cong. Record, pp. 361, 490.
For reasons for and against the bill see speeches of R. J. Gamble, May 16, 1900, 33 Cong. Record, p. 6,007; J. F. Saffroth, July 5, 1898, 31 Cong. Record, p. 7,447, May 3, 1900, 33 Cong. Record, p. 5,666; F. M. Eddy, Jan. 22, 1898, 31 Cong. Record, p. 1,084, in favor of the bill, and that of J. W. Maddox, May 9, 1900, 83 Cong. Record, p. 5,719 against it.
3. The receipts from the sales of land are about equal to the expenditures for surveying and managing them. Thus in 1899 the expenditures were $2,399,803, and the receipts $1,922,567. For 1898 the expenditures were $1,392,618, and the receipts were $1,459,687.' Usually the expenditures slightly exceed the receipts.
4. The vacant lands, excluding Alaska, still remain ing comprise 546,549,655 acres.' But a large portion of this is desert and barren land. It is thus classified by the United States Geological Survey in its report for 1894 95 : Desert and grazing land, 332,176,000 acres ; barren, irreclaimable waste, 69,000,000 acres ; wood land and for est, 145,373,655 acres. Of this area it is estimated that 71,500,000 acres can be reclaimed by applying water. The portion, therefore, of the public domain fit for pres ent agricultural purposes will soon be taken up if settle ment continues at the old rate of about 6,000,000 acres every year. The following table shows the quantity taken
up annually under the homestead law during the last eight years : It must be remembered that this does not represent the entire quantity taken up for settlement, as many railroad companies are large land owners and are con stantly parting with it.
5. For many years the Government has subordinated the national domain as a source of revenue to the policy of its rapid settlement, believing that the general growth of the country was more desirable than any income that might be derived from the sale of its lands. The effects of this policy have been considered in another chapter.
6. Enormous grants have been claimed by private in dividuals, and the Government is constantly contending with them for ownership. Some of these contentions have reached the courts, and titles have been settled by legal adjudication. Others have been determined by Congress. The McGarrahan claim, for lands in Califor nia, long occupied the attention of that body. Sometimes the claimant succeeded in getting a favorable report, and a vote thereon in one branch of Congress or in the other, but never succeeded in running the gauntlet of both houses and securing his claim. When an adverse decision is rendered, claimants generally appeal to the courts or to Congress, as nothing is lost by trying their chances be fore those bodies.
7. One of the unfortunate things concerning the Gov ernment is that no claim is ever outlawed. The law has wisely set up limitatons to the presentation and payment of private claims ; parties die, evidence is destroyed, but no such law operates in favor of the Government, and consequently claims accumulate. As none are killed by adverse decisions of departments or courts, all still have a potential existence ; and no one can tell, notwith standing their antiquity, when they may be revived and finally paid. This remark applies with no less force to the claimants of public land ; and doubtless they will con tinue to multiply until the Government ceases to be a land-owner. As long as there is anything to get, some body will be around.
8. Another source of contention has been over grants of land to railroad companies. The aggregate amount patented to railroads and wagon road companies to June 30, 1898, is 90,934,889 acres. The total amount granted to them and still unpatented is still larger, 220,203,807 acres.' 9. Endless corruption has arisen in surveying and selling lands. The incompetence and fraud in surveying them have been often described by Government officers ; new checks have been imposed ; even now, after long experience, the methods for preventing frauds and ob taining accurate surveys are very imperfect.
io. The care of the public lands is a grave duty, but is poorly performed. The timber-stealing industry is fully developed, and the Government seems to acknowledge its inability to protect the public from depredators. So the industry will doubtless continue to thrive until all of the timber growing on public lands has been taken or de stroyed by fire.
In short, the taking up and destruction of the pub lic domain has gone on so rapidly that in a few years there will be no more to vex public officials or attract thieves. The amount of land left, excluding Alaska and the District of Columbia, is less than 600,000,000 acres, which, at the recent rate taken by settlement, gift and theft of 25,000,000 acres annually, will exhaust the sup ply in twenty-five years.
For a more detailed account of these purchases see Rep. Of Secy. of Interior, 1899. p. Iv. See also Donaldson's Public Do main; History of the Land Question in the United States, S. Sato, 4 Johns Hopkins Univ. Studies; Mobdy's Land and Labor; Phillip's Land, Labor and Law.
For a valuable report on the proceeds from the sale of public lands see House Report, No. 996, 55 Cong. 1 Sess.
'See Rep. of Com. of Gen. Land Office, 1896, p. 40; Id. 1895, p. 41, also to railroads and wagon road companies to June 30, 1898, is 90,934,889 acres. The total amount granted to them and still unpatented is still larger.
For other references besides those already given, mention may be made of the papers published in the censuses for 1873, '80 and '90 and of others by Messrs. Pinehot, Bowers and Fer now in 6 Am. Economic Assn. No. 3. Also in the Annual Rep. of the Land Commissioner.