« PreviousContinue »
SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, November 18, 1867. Sir: I have the honor to submit a summary of the results which were attained during the last fiscal year, in the branches of the public service committed to the supervision of this department. The accompanying reports of the chiefs of bureaus and other officers furnish that specific information on matters of detail which could not be embraced in this paper without unduly extending its limits.
None of these branches occupies a higher place in the public regard than that which relates to the national domain. Much of this noble patrimony was acquired by cession from the States which won our independence. Successive additions to it have been made by treaties, the first of which was concluded with France in 1803, and the last with Russia, ceding to us her American possessions, which cover an area of 369,529,600 acres.
Our legislation has been adapted to the peculiar status of the territory acquired from foreign powers and to the adjudication of individual rights claimed under them. Experience has suggested salutary changes in the mode of disposing of the public lands. Credit on sales has been long since abolished. The right of pre-emption, originally conferred only by special enactment, has become a permanent part of our system. At a later period the homestead policy was engrafted upon it. In no respect has the wisdom of Congress been more strikingly displayed than in the adoption of a general and uniform method of public surveys. Until they are extended over the soil, the proprietorship thereof remains in the government. This policy offers a marked contrast to that of the nations which established colonies within our limits, and secures to the purchaser an indisputable right to a well-defined tract. Notwithstanding our settlements have progressed with a rapidity unequalled in the history of nations, few serious controversies have arisen in regard to titles emanating from the United States. Our present system is so simple and efficient, so well adapted to the wants of our population and the interests of the service, that it is not susceptible of much improvement. Such modifications as were needed to perfect it were alluded to in my last annual report. No necessity exists for making at this time more special reference to them.
During the last fiscal year 7,041,114.50 acres were disposed of, as follows:
Acres. Sold for cash.....
756,619.61 Located with military warrants
476,760 Taken for homesteads.
1,788,043.49 Approved to States as swamp.
1,066,450.15 Grants to railroads, wagon roads, and canals.
533,168.52 Located with college scrip
This quantity exceeds that disposed of during the previous year by 2,411,800 acres.
The cash receipts of the office from sales and fees of various kinds amounted to $1,347,862 52 ; a sum greater than that received the previous year by more than half a million dollars.
During the last fiscal year and the quarter of the present year ending 30th September last, 550 Indian patents were issued, embracing 89,824 acres.
Under the several acts of Congress relating thereto, 275 patents for private land claims in California have been issued, embracing 1,363,300 acres.
Contracts have been entered into for surveying and marking the northern boundary of California, that portion of the eastern boundary of Oregon which lies due south of the confluence of Owyhee with Snake river, to the northern line of Nevada, and the northern boundary of New Mexico. It is recommended that appropriations be made for the survey of the northern and eastern boundaries of Colorado Territory and the northern and eastern boundaries of Nevada.
The report of the Commissioner evinces great labor and research. He discusses with his accustomed ability many questions in connection with the landed interests of the United States.
The last soldier of the Revolution who was on the pension rolls at the date of my last annual report, has since died. By special act of Congress two other veterans of that war have been placed on the rolls at the rate of five hundred dollars per annum. Of the widows of such soldiers there are on the rolls the names of nine hundred and ninety-seven; of these one bundred and nineteen were married prior to 1st January, 1800.
Of wars subsequent to the revolution and prior to the rebellion the number of pensioned widows and orphans of soldiers was one thousand three hundred and ten at the close of the last fiscal year.
During the past year, sixteen thousand four hundred and fifty-two new applications for invalid pensions of soldiers, at an aggregate annual rate of one million one hundred and eighty thousand one huudred and ninety-four dollars and seventy-two cents, and thirteen thousand nine hundred and forty-six applications for increased pension of invalid soldiers, at an aggregate annual rate of one million eighty-nine thousand and three dollars and sixty-two cents, have been examined and allowed. During the same period nineteen thousand six bundred and sixty original applications for pension by widows, orphans, and