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1. ALL the land in the United States, to which individuals or corporations have not acquired a legal title, is held by the general government. This includes the land, or the part of it not under special reservation, belonging to the Indians. As the settlements push on into the territory roamed over by the thinly scattered Indian tribes, an equitable arrangement is made with them, by which certain Reservations, large enough for their purposes are set aside for their occupation; and an indemnity, commonly in the form of an annuity, is made them for the lands to which they renounce their right. As they are gradually melting away, their lands will soon become all, or nearly all, the property of the government.

2. The lands free for settlement are sold under certain reg. ulations; and given to certain classes-to soldiers, to actua settlers for Homesteads, to corporations to aid in promoting the public welfare-as Railroads and Colleges-and to support education in various ways; and the remainder held until required for use in the expansion of the country.

Nearly 200,000,000 acres have been given to assist in building railroads through unsettled parts of the country. A large part of this, however, has been only conditionally given, and not yet appropriated by the corporations. Many millions more have been given to the States as a fund in aid of public schools and collegiate institutions — and one thirty-sixth part is reserved, in every new township surveyed, for the benefit of public schools in that township. The rest is sold. at very low rates, to any who will buy.

3. To manage this property a bureau was established by act of Congress, in 1812, called The General Land Office. It was under the oversight of the Secretary of the Treasury until 1849, when the Department of the Interior was established, to which it was then transferred. Its head is called


4. He is appointed by the President and Senate, must take the usual official oath before entering on his duties, and must give the usual official bond. He keeps the seal of his office, and fixes an impression of it upon all papers emanating from the Land Office. He, with his clerks and assistants, forms the bureau, keeps all the records and papers pertaining to the public lands, and performs all duties relating thereto. He receives reports from surveyors and from the district land officers, gives them their instructions, and reports to the President and to Congress when required to do so.

He issues all patents for lands granted by the United States, and sends and receives by mail all papers and documents relating to his official business, at public expense. Every patent for land is issued in the name of the United States, is signed by the President and by the Commissioner of the Land Office, and is then recorded in books kept for that purpose.


5. When it is deemed necessary and expedient to bring the lands in any particular State or section of the country into market, a surveyor general is appointed for that State or section, and also a sufficient number of deputy or assistant surveyors to perform the work; which is done under the direction of the surveyor general, who is himself directed by law as to the manner of procedure. He is appointed for four years, taking the usual oath, and gives bonds for the faithful performance of his duties.


6. The law directs how the lands shall be surveyed and mapped. Where it is practicable, they are laid out into

square miles, each of which contains 640 acres, and is called a section.

These sections are then sub-divided into halves, quarters, and eighths of sections; that is, into lots of 320, 160, and 80 acres. The boundary lines are all run north and south, and east and west. Thirty-six of these sections, which make a plat of six miles square, are put into a township. These townships are designated by numbers, but when inhabited are named by the inhabitants as their fancy dictates.


7. After the lands have been surveyed and properly mapped into townships and sections, they are brought into market and offered for sale in such quantities as are wanted by the purchaser; from 40 acres, one-sixteenth of a section, up to a whole section; or as many sections as the buyer pleases to take.



District land offices for the sale of lands are established for this purpose at as many places in the State or Territory where the lands are situated, as is deemed necessary for the convenience of purchasers. Here are kept maps of all the lands lying in the district, and buyers may make their selections both of quantity and location as suits them. Here they will find



9. The first named officer will register the application made for land in a book kept for that purpose, and the second will receive the money paid for it. These officers are appointed by the President and Senate, and report their proceedings to the General Land Office at Washington. The receiver transmits all moneys received by him to the United States Treasury once in a month or once in three months, as directed.


10. As before stated, the public lands are surveyed inte

sections of one mile square, and thirty-six of these sections make a township. For the purpose of encouraging education, Congress has enacted that section number 16, in every township, shall not be sold, but reserved for the township, to be applied to the support of common schools in that town. By this measure the government appropriated one thirty-sixth part of its lands to aid the work of educating the children in the new States. And in addition to this it has made other munificent donations of land for the establishment and support of colleges and other institutions of learning.

11. In addition to all this the United States have donated large tracts of land to the several States in which it lay, to aid them in building their State houses, &c. Large quantities of land have also been given to aid the construction of railroads.


12. The government has always sold its lands at a very low price, preferring to give the people cheap farms, rather than to raise more revenue from this source.

But in 1862, Congress passed an act called "the Homestead Law," the object of which was to cheapen the public lands to a mere nominal price to heads of families, male or female, or to persons 21 years of age or over, or to persons who had served in the army or navy of the United States, whether 21 years old or not. By the provisions of this act such persons are allowed, for the trifling sum of ten dollars, to enter upon and claim 160 acres of land, provided the claimant swears that the land is applied for his or her own use, and for settlement and cultivation. But no patent (deed) is to be given until the applicant has actually settled upon and cultivated the land for the space of five years. Such applicant must also make affidavit that he has never borne arms against the United States.

By this liberal policy, persons of very limited means may provide themselves with comfortable homes for life; and the unoccupied lands will be settled and occupied faster than if the old price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre had

been demanded. The revenue from the sale of lands will of course be less, but the wealth of the country will undoubtedi; be increased by the measure.

13. Exceedingly rich and valuable mines of gold, silver, copper, lead and other minerals have been found upon the public lands. That the benefits of mining them might be extended to the many, instead of being monopolized by a few, a different rule for selling them has been made. After they have been surveyed, mapped and described, they, like other lands, are offered for sale, but in quantities of not more than 40 acres. These are generally sold at auction, but no bid less than five dollars per acre will be received. If not sold at public sale, they are then subject to private sale at that price.




THERE are two classes of public lands subject to entry; one at $1.25 per acre, known as minimum, and one at $2.50, known as double minimum, the latter being the alternate sections along the lines of railroads. Title may be acquired by purchase at public sale, or by "private entry," and in virtue of the Pre-emption and Homestead Laws.

At Public Sale.- Lands are offered at auction to the highest bidder, pursuant to proclamation or public notice.

Private Entry-Lands subject to private entry, are those which have been once offered at public sale without finding purchasers. In order to acquire title to these lands, a written application must be made to the Land Register of the District in which the land is located, describing the tract desired. The Register certifies the fact to the Receiver, stating price, and the applicant then pays the money and takes a receipt, and at the

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