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PUBLIC SALE OF LAND.
By the President's proclamation, No. 723, dated the 28th August, 1867, there are proclaimed for offering at public sale on the second day of December next, at St. Peter, Minnesota, 310,000 acres of valuable lands in that part of the Sioux Indian reservation, on the Minnesota river, lying within the limits of the St. Peter's land district, in that State.
MILITARY RESERVATIONS. By the act of Congress approved 3d March, 1819, vol. 3, page 520, the Secretary of War, under direction of the President, was authorized to cause to be sold such military sites, belonging to the United States, as had been found, or should become, useless for military purposes, and to furnish the requisite deeds of conveyance. The provisions of the act were extended by fourth section of act of 3d March, 1857, (Stats. at Large, vol. 11, page 200,) to all military sites, or to such parts thereof as are or may become useless for military purposes.
All laws authorizing the sale of military sites, useless for military purposes, are repealed, except certain reservations in Florida, by the sixth section of the act approved 12th June, 1858, vol. 11, p. 336.
The act approved 3d March, 1859, (vol. 11, p. 408,)*to protect the timber growing upon lands of the United States reserved for military and other purposes, visits with a penalty of fine and imprisonment any one offending by cutting or destroying any timber growing on such reservations, which, even when abandoned, cannot, except in Florida, be disposed of, unless Congress shall so order, which is recommended. QUARTERLY ACCOUNTS OF SURVEYORS GENERAL AND DEPUTIES, OF RECEIVERS
OF PUBLIC MONEYS, AND DISBURSING AGENTS. All the accounts of these diffcrent classes of officers have been examined at this office, adjusted to the 30th June, 1867, the end of the fiscal year, and reported to the treasury for settlement. As rapidly as they may be received for the quarter ending on the 30th September, 1867, they will be disposed of in like manner.
The rules of the department are peremptory in the requirement that all receivers of the public moneys shall promptly deposit the funds in their hands at the close of a quarter, -80 that it seldom occurs that an officer holds at such periods over $2,000, which is the maximum the treasury regulations allow to remain with a receiver until drawn for or otherwie specially ordered.
Accounts for the five per cent. fund accruing by law to certain States from the net proceeds of the sales of public lands have been adjusted to the end of the calendar year and reported to the treasury for payment.
TRANSCRIPT ARCHIVES PREPARED. This office has been engaged in making good the loss of plats and other archives destroyed during our domestic difficulties in one section of the country, and by fire in the other.
For the southern States there bave been prepared one thousand and twentyseven township plats, with fifty ledgers or tract-books, containing nearly nine hundred thousand entries of sales and locations which had been made, beginning in years past and extending to the latest land operations.
The cost of labor in the preparation of these plats and books is estimated at fourteen thousand five hundred dollars.
There have also been prepared for land offices in Minnesota and California three hundred and seventy-one plats and fifteen tract-books, the latter containing nearly sixty thousand entries of sales and locations, at a cost of three thousand four hundred dollars.
In the early history of the country the extensive forests which existed seemed adequate to the exigencies of advancing settlements to an indefinite future.
At a later period Congress found it necessary to intervene for the protection of live oak and red cedar as a reserve for ship-building. Accordingly, in 1817, a statute* to that end was passed, which was followed by a law in 1831, to arrest spoliation. By judicial rulings and executive decisions, these laws may be invoked for the protection of all timber on the national domain. A system of agency many years ago was established for protection of trees; but resulting in no substantial advantage, was abandoned. The district land officers were then specially charged with the duty of timber protection. This measure has proved to be an improvement; yet it has been found difficult, with all the instrumentalities at hand, effectually to correct the evil. Special instructions from time to time have been issued to registers and receivers, impressing upon them the necessity for constant vigilance and energetic proceedings to suppress depredations. In the case of a wilful violation of the law, where the requisite proof is at hand, it has been ordered that the timber cut, wherever found and identified, shall be seized and sold ; the intervention of the district attorney and marshal having been called into requisition to bring offenders to strict accountability. The dictates of wise policy, however, have suggested exception to a rigid mode of procedure, where extenuating circumstances exist, and in such case a reasonable tariff as stumpage for timber cut has been received, by way of compromise, as an equivalent for the civil injury, while the criminal prosecution is dismissed by the district attorney, under the belief that as the party acted with no wilful or criminal intent to defraud the government, the offence would not be repeated.
This system has operated beneficially. Instead of mulcting the government in heavy costs, after long and unsuccessful prosecutions according to the old system, doubtful cases have been compromised, and a considerable revenue thereby placed in the treasury. In the entire management of the business, the main object in view has been not so much the accumulation of a fund from this source, as the suppression of a mischief which strikes so directly at the material interests of the country. While thus checking trespass, the most liberal privileges have been extended to settlers under the pre-emption and homestead laws, by allowing them to use the timber growing upon their claims for all necessary domestic purposes, in opening up and improving new homesteads, for building and fencing purposes, for firewood, in clearing fields for cultivation, and whatever may enhance the value of avd beautify and adorn their farms.
This much is freely conceded in the interest of placing good and permanent freeholders upon the public lands, whose energy in developing the country will add to national wealth.
The settler cannot lawfully transcend these limits, and whenever a pre-emptor before proving up and paying for his tract, or the homestead claimant before perfecting his title by five years actual residence, attempts speculation on his place, he is regarded as a trespasser and becomes liable to the penalties fixed by the statute, the inceptive right acquired by the actual settler, before his title shall have been perfected by a full compliance with all the requirements of law, giving him no license to waste the timber or speculate with the same, but, on the contrary, imposing an obligation for its protection.
* Acts of March 1, 1817, 3 Stats., 347, and March 2, 1831, 4 Stats., 472; 3 Wheaton, 181, and 9 Howard, 351. Attorney Generals' Opinions : Mr. Wirt's, May 27, 1821, vol. 1, p. 471; Mr. Nelson's, August 11, 1843, vol. 4, p. 221, and Mr. Mason's, July 16, 1845, vul. 4, p. 405. Annual report Commissioner General Land Office for 1866, p. 33.
SPECIAL IMPROVEMENT GRANTS.
River grants. Fox and Wisconsin rivers.--By the acts of Congress approved August 8, 1846, 2d March, 1849, 3d August, 1854, joint resolution of 3d March, 1855, and act of June 9, 1858, granting lands to the State of Wisconsin “to aid in the improvement of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and to connect the same by a canal,” that State became entitled to 684,269 acres.
The claim of Wisconsin has been finally adjusted, and the full quantity heretofore duly certified to the State.
Des Moines river, Iowa:-In virtue of the act of August 8, 1846, joint resolution of March 2, 1861, and act of July 12, 1862, granting lands to the State of Iowa "to aid in the improvement of the navigation of the Des Moines river,” there has inured to the State 833,079.90 acres. The department transferred to Iowa, previous to June 30, 1866, 831,762.58 acres, leaving a residuum of 1,317 32 acres; which has been duly certified since last annual report, thus fully satisfying the claim under the several acts.
Ship canals. Portage lake, Michigan.—By the act of March 3, 1865. granting lands to the State of Michigan “to aid in building a harbor and ship canal to connect the waters of Lake Superior with the waters of Portage lake,” the president of the company, under the requirements of the law, filed a map, and the State appointed an authorized agent to make the selections, who has performed the service, having filed preliminary lists to cover the grant of 200,000 acres.
In addition to the former grant, Congress, on the 3d of July, 1866, made an additional concession of 200,000 acres to be selected in the upper peninsula, upon which initiatory steps have been taken by the canal company to complete selections in view of speedily satisfying the last-named grant.
Sturgeon bay, Wisconsin.—The act of April 10, 1866, granted lands to the State of Wisconsin " to aid in the construction of a break water and barbor and ship canal at the head of Sturgeon bay to connect the waters of Green Bay with Lake Michigan."
The State was authorized to select the quantity of 200,000 acres nearest the location of said harbor and canal. Pursuant to law the State agent duly made and filed lists of selections to cover the grant, and the department, on the 4th of May, 1867, invested the State with title.
Lac La Belle, Michigan.-Congress, by the act of July 3, 1866, granted lands to Michigan “to aid in the construction of a ship canal to connect the waters of Lake Superior with the lake known as Lac La Belle." The State was authorized to select one hundred thousand acres of land nearest the location of the canal. The selection having been made by an authorized agent, the department, on the 26th of March last, issued a patent accordingly.
In the adjustment of the claim of Nebraska to 500,000 acres for internal improvements under act of September 4, 1841, the point was considered as to whether the State should be charged with the lands granted by the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh sections of the Nebraska enabling act of 19th April, 1864.
The Secretary ruled that “the lands mentioned in the act of 1864 were granted for purposes totally distinct from those contemplated by the grant of 1841;" that “it is also questionable whether those lands” could be considered as “granted to the State before its admission and while under a territorial government;" and that it might well be insisted that this provision in the act of 1841 refers not to the time when in a future contingency the grant was to take effect, but
to the period when it actually vests; and that, according to this view, the only lands contemplated by said act are those the right to which had passed to the Territory, and were made subject to its disposal for the purposes declared by Congress. In this view the Secretary decided that the lands granted by the aforesaid sections of the act of 1864 should not be deducted from the amount granted by the act of 1841, and accordingly under that ruling the internal improvement grant to Nebraska will be duly adjusted. SWAMP AND OVERFLOWED LANDS GRANTED BY ACTS OP 2D MARCH, 1849, 28TH
SEPTEMBER, 1850, AND 12TH MARCH, 1860. The necessities of man in all ages have compelled him to dispute with nature the possession and use of lands primitively unfitted for occupancy or utility.
Instances of this are frequent in the history of nations in the eastern hemisphere, where, for the purpose of supporting dense population, the personal safety of communities, the convenience of commerce, or from sanitary reasons, immense tracts, once entirely or partially submerged by water, have been made subservient to populous communities, while yielding rich products to the enterprising hand of the agriculturist.
The once powerful republic of Venice was first founded on the deposits of numerous rivers in the midst of lagunes, the land approaches leading through almost impassable morasses.
The city of St. Petersburg was eommenced, and mainly built, upon a marsh caused by the widening of the Neva, at an expense of years of severe toil and immense loss of life from malaria ; while a large proportion of the inhabitants of the kingdom of Holland to-day derive their sustenance from lands wrested from the dominion of the sea.
In the United States the attention of Congress was early directed to the subject of worthless regions lying as marshes, or periodically overflowed by large watercourses.
Efforts to make them the subject of national legislation were first made in 1826 by a distinguished senator from Missouri, who then unsuccessfully endeavored to obtain a cession to Missouri and Illinois of the swamps within the limits of those States respectively.
Other efforts were made at intervals, but no definitive action was taken until the passage of the act of Mareh 2, 1849, applicable exclusively to Louisiana.
That statute was followed by the general grant of September 28, 1850, under which the larger portions of territory, classed as swamp or overflowed, have been ceded to the States.
The reasons assigned for this munificent donation were :
1. The alleged worthless character of the premises in their natural condition, and the inexpediency of an attempt to reclain them by direct national interposition.
2. The great sanitary improvement to be derived from the reclamation of extensive districts notoriously malarial, and the probable occupancy and cultivation that would follow,
3. The enhancement in value, and readier sale, of adjoining government property
The measure as originally reported granted only such tracts as were designated on the plats of the government surveys as swamp and unfit for cultivation. Subsequent amendments added to this the "overflowed lands," conveying to the States the swamp, or inundated, without reference to their description on the plats of survey. It was held in the debates that these amendments would make the grant more definite, and enable the executive department specifically to designate the lands transferred. Experience has shown that this change in the original bill has in fact been a retarding cause in administering the grant, and has given rise to multitudes of controversies and cases of litigation, by reason
of the indefinite terms of the statutory concession. For this cause also the quantity of land selected as swamp and certified to the States has exceeded by many millions the estimates made at the incipient stages of legislation. Under its expansive terms tracts have been claimed which for certain purposes of farming are as desirable as the choicest uplands. The overflowed lands bordering on great rivers generally afford the finest timber, and present soil of rich alluvion. The marshes and sloughs of the prairies are almost indispensable addi. tions to every well-selected grazing tract, because affording the best grass and supplying water for farm stock.
The year embraced in this report has been industriously occupied in bringing to conclusion the work required by the swamp concessions.
There have been approved to the States entitled during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1867, 1,030,020.22 acres, while within the sampe period there have been patented 328,997.08 acres.
Under the indemnity laws of March 2, 1855, and March 3, 1857, there have been awarded 36,429.93 acres in lieu of swamp disposed of by the government in bounty-land locations. Besides this, there has been refunded for swamp lands sold by the United States for cash the sum of $99,143 19. Of that amount there was paid to the State of Iowa the sum of $92,899, aud the remainder to Illinois.
The act of July 23, 1866, to quiet titles in California, has received special attention, every effort consistent with accuracy having been made to complete the work required by the statute.
The lists reported by the surveyor general have been promptly acted upon, and all correct selections have been certified and patented to the State. The anomalous condition of a portion of the selections, caused by conflicts and irregular surveys, necessarily requires special investigation, which has been ordered as preliminary to final disposal.
Since the date of the first grant there has been selected by the States entitled, thirteen in number, an aggregate of 60,246,532.10 acres.
There have been approved of this area 47,377,523.23 acres, of which there have been patented 43,585,272.17 acres. Of these selections over 39,000,000 acres, or more than one-half, are within the limits of Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and Michigan, and of that amount more than 30,000,000 have passed in feesimple to these four States.
Not only have over forty-three and a half millions of acres been patented outright to the States, but Congress, by the acts of March 2, 1855, and March 3, 1857, has granted in cash or other tracts an indemnity for premises disposed of to individuals where those premises have been proved to be swamp. Under those acts there have been awarded as indemnity, up to June 30, 1867, 514,466.86 acres, and $696,344 56 have beeu refunded in cash from the United States treasury.
The act of March 12, 1860, extending the swamp grant to Minnesota and Oregon, however, restricts selections to tracts not disposed of by the United States prior to confirmation of swamp title-thus abolishing the indemnity principle so far as it pertains to selections made since that date; the same act imposing a limitation for selections, yet making that limitation coincident with a period to elapse subsequent to the State legislative session next ensuing the official notice of the completion of the public surveys. Legislation is recommended requiring all selections of swamp “in place" to be made within, say, two years from the return of surveys, and that the evidence upon which awards are to be made of indemnity in cash or other lands shall hereafter assume the form and character of regular judicial investigations, instead of being made upon ex parte affidavits.
The reclamation of swamp or inundated lands in any and all localities must result in local advantage. Experience has established the correctness of the