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some of the States nearly all of the vacant lands which in fact were not swamp have been certified to the States as such, the lands which in fact and law are swamp shall not be ascertained and set apart and the books closed.. Clerical force and special agents are necessary to do this work. Under the law it has always been the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to perform it. If the means had been pro. vided him for that purpose, no such wrongs would have been committed, and if the means are now provided to ascertain the true character of the lands none need be in the future.
The acts providing for soldiers' additional homesteads and for the issue of the various scrips before enumerated have been the source of much fraud against, and expense to, the Government. I cannot here enter into all the particulars of the frauds. The soldiers' additional homestead rights under the act creating them can be used to locate double minimum and pine lands. With these rights, which sold for forty cents per acre, or less, bare been located pine lands of great value, which could not be bought with cash at any price under existing laws. In what was previously, if not now, the Mille Lac Indian reservation 286 soldiers' additional homestead applications have been filed in the land office at Taylor's Falls, Minnesota, on lands which are worth for their timber alone from $10 to $30 per acre.
The Red Lake cession, surrounding the Red Lake reservation, has been largely taken by the Red Lake and Pembina half breed scrip, most of which, I have no doubt, was fraudulently obtained. The lands in this cession are very valuable for the timber upon them. The Sioux half breed scrip has been the means of much fraud and robbery. It can be located upon lands surveyed or unsurveyed, and has been used fraud. ulently to locate much valuable timber land, wbich would have brought to the Government from five to twenty dollars per acre, in cash, if the law had permitted its sale to the highest bidder. A favorite mode of operating with this scrip has been to locate it upon timber land, cut the timber oft under color of the title thus obtained, and then, upon some pretense satisfactory to the local office, withdraw and relocate it upon other timber land equally valuable.
The treaty of April 7, 1855, permitting certain persons to purchase 160 acres of public land, was only a subterfuge for enabling persons dealing in scrip to purchase those rights, and thereby procure choice lands in districts where the same could not be bought for cash in a direct and honest way. About six hundred of these entries have been made, when perbaps there never were to exceed two hundred persons entitled to ipake them under the law, if the exact facts could have been ascertained.
The act of the 3d of March, 1877, for the sale of desert lands in certain States and Territories is a good law, from which most beneficial results sbould and would be obtained, if it could be fully carried into effect.
The difficulty in the way of good results under the act may be briefly stated thus: Tue promoters of the law not being able, under existing laws for the sale or disposal of the public lands, to purcuase the same for cash, bad to resort to the plan of getting a special bill through Congress. The bill was somewhat loosely drawn. A liberal construction of it would allow the persons who have entered lands under its provisions to procure title by putting very little water upon the land. A strict and rigid construction of the law, which I may as well say here and now will be placed upon it by this office, in my opinion practically defeats its operation, and any good results that might be expected from it. To be required to irrigate all of a tract of 640 acres of land, except in very rare cases, is to require something well nigh impossible, or, if possible, something so expensive that no person or corporation could afford to do it until lands for cultivation are far more valuable than they now are.
This law, together with many others concerning the procuring of title to portions of the public lands, was passed because the lands were not for sale for cash. Very few, if any, of the acts providing for the issue of land scrip, which have been the source of so much fraud and mischief, wouli bave been passed if the public lands had been in market, as they should, in my opinion, have been. These acts, whether so intended or not, have been so many subterfuges by means of which titles could be procured. Instead of these devious ways of procuring title to the public lands, there should be a plain, straightforward way of doing it by purchase for cash.
Recurring again to the desert land bill, I would recommend its early repeal, and in lieu of it the enactment of a law giving to persons or corporations all the lands which are truly and unmistakably desert in character, which they may thoroughly and fully reclaim by means of irrigation, either from rivers or lakes or by artesian wells. If lands whicb require no irrigation are given a way to any persons who will settle upon and improve them, wby not give away the desert lands upon the same conditions, especially when it requires so much more to improve them ?
THE HOMESTEAD AND PRE-EMPTION LAWS.
A prudent writer might be expected to approach the subject of any change in these laws with diffidence if not with fear.
That these laws are kind and beneficent, or were intended to be, will not be denied. Had they been in force forty years earlier, wben emi. grants from all parts of the Eastern States went beyond the Mississippi many hundreds of miles from railroads or other means of cheap transportation, they would in their effect have been still more kind and beneficent. To-day the country might be said to be without a frontier other than the two great oceans and the international boundaries. Lines of comparatively cheap transportation penetrate into and very near to all parts of the country, by means of which farın products are shipped with profit to the producer, and such supplies as he requires are laid down near his door at fair if not low prices.
In view of the fact that this condition of the country exists largely if not mainly by means of liberal donations of land by the General Gov. erument, and cash aid for which the whole people, East as well as West, are taxed, is it right that all or nearly all of the public domain, even in. cluding that immediately on the lines of great highways built at Gov. ernment expense, shall be held for free donations to whomsoever will settle upon and occupy it? Heretofore in the history of all people who gave away the soil it was given to induce settlements far away from the home government and for the extension of empire. Without pursuing this argument or suggestion of an argument further, and admitting that all agricultural or arable lands should be held for free donation to those who are now or hereafter to become citizens, I wish to present some reasons why lands which are not agricultural, and are unsuitable for the homes of an agricultural population, should not be subject to the homestead and pre-emption laws. The desert lands where there is not water for irrigation, the pine lands on the mountain tops amidst perpetual shows, in the great interior of the couutry embracing Colorado, Wyoming, Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Utal, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona, and
also in the States and Territories bordering on the Pacific, and the pine lands on the Gulf coasts and on the lakes of the North, are alike held for disposal under the homestead and pre-emption laws.
Why should these laws longer exist with reference to these lands? If the valuable pine lands are to be given away and the timber to be destroyed, would it not be better to enact some law whereby the title can pass without perjury? As the law now is, men procure title by swearing to a compliance with the laws requiring cultivation. The homestead and pre-emption laws are now educating thousands of men in the crime of perjury. It would be better to pass a law granting the land to the persons who would manufacture the timber upon it into lumber, railroad ties, and charcoal, as that is in fact what they do and all they do now after taking them under the homestead and pre-emption laws. I would recommend that the homestead and pre-emption laws be so amended as to be applicable only to arable agricultural lands, and in no case to land chiefly valuable for the timber growing upon it. Respectfully submitted.
J. A. WILLIAMSON,
Commissioner. Hon. C. SCHURZ,
Secretary of the Interior.
P A P E RS
THE ANNUAL REPORT
COMMISSIONER OF THE GENERAL LAND OFFICE,
For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877.
Operations under the laws governing the survey and disposal of public lands,
and amount of clerical labor performed in the General Land Office, during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1777, as reported by the heads of the several divisions of the bureau.
During the past fiscal year there were written and recorded in this division 4,083 letters, covering 1,617 pages of folio record, and transcripts were furnished amounting to $8,837.60.
DIVISION B.-RECORDER'S DIVISION.
Number of patents issued.
Nuniber of patents transmitted .......
27,636 Certified copies furnished from patent records ....
3, 873 Cash received for same .................
$6,439 00 Being an increase over the previous year of....
$2, 993 86 Number of letters received..
7, 786 Number of letters written ...
8, 754 Pages of record covered ..
4,800 The excess of four thousand one hundred and ten patents transmitted over those issued, is caused by the retransmission of that number to individuals of such as had been returned from discontinued local offices. The average number of clerks of all grades—including second class only-employed in this division during the past fiscal year, has been twenty-three, which is the present force, showing a decrease from the previous year of about twenty, notwithstanding which more work has been accomplished, and a far greater degree of accuracy attained, than was done under the old practice of sending a large proportion of the patent writing to be prepared by unskilled, and in most cases incompetent, persons out of the office.
As a matter of general interest, I desire also to present the following facts and statistics, as carefully collated from the records in this divis
The oldest patent of record in the General Land Office was issued in 1793, and from that date to the present time there have been prepared, engrossed, recorded, and transmitted, of agricultural patents, from this division, in the several States and Territories, as follows, to wit: