Imagens das páginas
PDF

SENATE.]

heart of our remote Western forests. Fortunes, perhaps, are made or augmented by it, but it is well. The value of land is enhanced greatly all around these selected spots, but this also is well; it is a just reward of enterprise and public spirit, and it injures no one, for the broad praries of the interior are still open to the grazier, and the plains and woodlands to the farmer, at the Government price, and a nearer and more extensive market is open to him in the new and flourishing cities which arise on these choice selected spots. I am not, therefore, prepared to condemn, even as a matter of public policy, the countenance which our present laws give to this kind of investment by the capitalist. Much less am I disposed to join in the denunciation of those who, under and pursuant to our laws, adopt this node of investing their surplus capital. Gentlemen even here are perhaps too much in the habit of addressing themselves to the lowest passions of the lowest portion of society, and, while they themselves are insatiate in their thirst for riches, speak of poverty as if it were a merit, a good thing in itself—and wealth, or even competency, as if it were a crime. I, for one, unite in nothing of this feeling or expression; if a young man shows himself industrious, enterprising, and intelligent, and biols fair to rise in the world by these qualities, I am not prepared, as a statesman, to tell him that the moment he has risen he will have lost his claim to the affections of his country and the respect and regard of its rulers. And in our country, where industry, sobriety, and prudence, will in almost all cases raise a man to competence, I do not think that mere poverty, too often the result of indolence and intemperance, is of it. self sufficient to entitle the individual to our special af. fections and regard. In my opinion, poverty and wealth are, or ought to be, out of the question. I esteem a man none the more and none the less for being poor or rich; and in legislation I know not how we can discriminate between American citizens according to their property. And I contend, and am prepared to defend the proposition, that the man whom industry, temperance, and intellect, have enabled to acquire a competence, is as meritorious as one whom indolence, intemperance, and imprudence, have kept poor. I therefore put out of the question all that has been said about and against capitalists and speculators. I join in the denuncia'ion of no class of our fellow-citizens who pursue a business which the law authorizes; and I do not make, nor do I pretend to make, any efforts to put them down. But, on the other hand, I will not consent to pass any law which shall operate against the mass of the community—against the small capitalist, the farmer, the mechanic, the laborer—for the special benefit of any class of speculators, however great their power or democratic their professions; and I believe it, that many of the executive officers, some of the very highest, next to the President himself, are deeply concerned in these land speculations. It is also said, and I believe it, that some in this chamber and in the other House are also members of these large joint stock companies, which have purchased to an immense amount. I charge no one in particular, nor do I present it as a matter of charge; but I name it to caution gentlemen who are so engaged and so interested, that they do not permit their private interest, unawares to themselves, to glide in and mingle with the performance of a public trust. How can those who are so engaged, and who have so pur. chased to the full extent of all their available means, how can they now, as lawgivers, say to the rest of the consoy, you shall not purchase—the public sales shall be closed against you—and if you wish to buy, come to us; we have land to sell in abundance, and we will sell it to :*: will pay for it, without discrimination, and we sell it embarrassed by no troublesome conditions?

[blocks in formation]

Gentlemen, it is true, could not be operated upon by motives of this kind, but it were well to avoid the appearance of evil; and as this bill will, if it become a law, have the direct effect of driving purchasers from the Government to the speculator, and as it is to continue in force about long enough to enable these large companies to make sale of the twenty millions of acres which they have now on hand, the public will attribute to them this, as one of the motives which induced the passage of the act. They will be the more inclined to think so, as this act is not, and they will see that it is not, what it is pretended to be. It is not a bill to confirm the sales of the public lands to actual settlers; and an amendment which would produce that effect, laid on the table by myself, (not offered, for I could not support any proposition which would deny to my fellowcitizens the right of purchasing lands to settle their children)—an amendment which would have produced that effect, met with the universal disapprobation of the friends of this bill. This bill, therefore, is not, and the people will see that it is not, what it purports to be; and its effect, which is the important matter, will be to raise at once some fifty or a hundred per cent. the price of the lands already in the hands of the large speculators, of whom the lawgivers, who are about to pass this bill, form a very respectable part, and whose friends in the executive Departments form another portion not less large and respectable. If this law pass, a member of one of those companies, whose profits would have been confined to one hundred thousand dollars, will pocket his two hundred thousand. For this it will be said he may very well break out in terms of patriotic indignation against speculators and capitalists, and he may overflow with sympathy for the poor man. But the churlish and ill-natured will aver that the members of the legislative and of the executive Departments, who hold the key in their hands, have fed until they were full gorged with these dainties, and then locked the closet, that no one else might break in until they were ready themselves to return and renew the feast. I have said that the amount of land in the hands of speculators is about twenty millions of acres; this, in round numbers, is very near the quantity. In a report which I had the honor to present last year, from the Committee on Public Lands, I estimated the quantity wanted for actual occupation at eight millions of acres yearly. This was then thought too high, but time will verify its accuracy. Year before last the sales amounted to about thirteen millions of acres. This year they aunounsed to more than twenty millions; which, taking my estimate of what is wanted for settlement as correct, (and every one admits it is high enough,) it will leave in the hands of speculators from sixteen to twenty millions of the purchases of those two years. The whole aggregate is low enough at twenty millions. This immense investment, amounting in cash (if we include all expenses) to thirty millions of dollars, has more than exhausted all the capital that can be turned from the ordinary business of the country to this object. Those who hold public stations and command political influence, or whose friends command it, have become burrowers to an immense amount of the public money from the deposite banks; and the deposite bill of the last year cut off the sources of their supply, and compels them to pour back into the fountain from which it was drawn a portion of their borrowed treasure. This state of things tends to make this business, pushed as it has been to an unreasonable extent, a precarious if not a losing business, unless the Legislature come to the relief of these borrowers of the public money. Gentlemen may say what they please about these persons, if they will only aid them by a law such as this. If they will but encumber the conditions of the sales of public land to honest and fair purJAN, 24, 1837.]

chasers, so that they cannot buy of Government, but may be compelled to buy of the speculator, those who have gone farthest in proportion to their resources, and are compelled to sell, will thank you for your hard names and good gifts. And they have no reason to complain of unkindness; the Treasury order did much for them, but that cannot endure long; the public exclaim with one voice against it, and it must go down. But this bill, which better effects the same object, is to be first substituted in its stead. I see, however, by indications here, that we shall not touch the bill rescinding the Treasury circular in time for it to be taken up in the other House and passed into a law. It will not do to keep up that order to oppress the country, for the people will not endure it long. It is to be rescinded, but not by an act of Congress. We shall pass such act through this branch near the close of the session; it will be lost in the other House for want of time; and thus it will be reserved until after the 4th of March, that its final recision may be a feather in the cap of the new administration. I infer this srom the fact that this bill, for which the people do not call, is pressed in advance of the bill to rescind the Treasury order. And when I moved the other day to take up that bill, I received a most significant intimation, from a gentleman whose word is law here, that I might spare my efforts, for they were useless; and it proved so— the party refused to take up the bill. Having considered some matters which touch this bill collaterally, and which, if it pass, will really have more influence on its passage than any intrinsic merit which it possesses, I will now proceed to consider some of the provisions of the bill itself, and show how far forth it is likely to effect its professed objects. It proposes to limit the sales of the public lands to actual settlers, and that in small quantities. The requirements of the bill in that respect are, 1st, no man may enter under one of the sections of this bill more than 1,280 acres of Hand; but in another part of the bill he is very generously allowed 640 acres more if he want it, to eke out his farm; so he may purchase 1,920 acres; and this is what is called “smail quantities.”. The settlement provision requires that the purchaser should reside on the land or some part of it one year, or-not and——or clear and cultivate one tenth part of it within five years. Now, the clearing, where one tenth part of the tract is open prairie land, is not a matter of much difficulty or hardship, it requires only the burning off the grass in November, and that work is done. Then the cultivation; what is that, and how is it defined? Is it the passing a harrow over the ground, and sowing tame grass seed on it? Is it running a few furrows across a tract of one or two hundred acres, and planting corn rows upon it, with the hills a hundred yards apart? It is not to be cultivated well, but merely cultivated, and the fact of cultivation to be settled by those who make the affidavit before the register and ré. ceiver, in order to perfect the title. Those, then, who live upon the spot, and who understand it, would have nothing to do but to put up a log cabin, which would cost five or ten dollars, burn the grass off of 200 acres of prairie, and run a plough or harrow a few times across, and sow or plant a little grass seed or a few hills of corn, and the condition of the law re uiring “actual settlement” is complied with. The affidavit is made, and the patent obtained. This bill leaves the fact of clearing and cultivation to the sound discretion and clear c.

science of the affidavit man, who is to swear to it; and if

there be any other regulation or restriction, I am not advised of it: . We have a committee on Agriculture, it is true, of which my honorable friend from l:entucky near me is a member, though not of high rank, last I believe. [Mr. CLAx: “last, but not least.” ‘’A laugh.) This committee, however, has not yet reported what hall'im. to cultivation, and I presume it is not the purpose of the

[blocks in formation]

chairman of the Committee on Public Lands to refer this bill to them for their opinion. Now, my constituents who reside at a distance from the public lands, and who do not understand this mode of becoming “actual settlers” and of “clearing and cultivating land,” would be unable to purchase of the Government at all, and would be driven to buy second hand of those who understood the matter better, or of the speculators who have already on hand large quantities for sale. Gentlemen who advocate this bill see in it a remedy for many great political and moral evils; among others, it is to destroy or prevent that dreadful scourge, “a surplus and distribution,” for which they evince such a holy horror. This surplus was a very good thing so long as it remained in the deposite banks, and was by them lent out to those who wished to purchase public land “in limited quantities”— such, for example, as half a million of acres to a single company; but when you come to distribute, or rather deposite in the State treasuries, then it carries with it all sorts of political iniquity and corruption; it is every thing that is monstrous, no republican can bear it, and this bill is to put an end to the mischies; and this money, which, if distributed, would corrupt the whole nation, can be safely trusted with the gentlemen and their constituents, without any danger of corrupting them. Let us, say they, be the exclusive purchasers of the public land; we will not take much of it, but we want it cheap; but save us from competition! Do not permit the Ohio and Penn

sylvania farmers, rough, rude fellows as they are, to

come to the sales with their little wallets of cash, and bid against us--us, anti-monopolists--or enter the land that we want, while we are waiting to raise funds to secure it; withdraw all this provoking competition, pass this bill, and make it unlawful for any in an living in one of the old

States to come to the new to purchase Government lands,

and we will let the tariff alone, we will adhere to the compromise and hold it sacred, and we will also save you from the inconvenience of a surplus and the perils of distribution. Some of these gentlemen reason with us mildly, others declaim with oratorical vehemence. Why, say they, should you collect money from the people which you do not want, merely to distribute it among them again? And when we answer that it arises out of the sale of the national domain, that we must receive or stop these sales, and when received we must preserve it in such manner as to render the most service to the whole country, they offer to relieve us of all this inconvenience by keeping the public land and the profits on it themselves; thus lightening the public burdens by pos. sessing themselves of the public property. You have, say they, a great quantity of excellent land, which is a very great trouble to you; we and our constituents will relieve you of it at once; but do not let the people of the old States have it, or any part or lot in it; they are speculators, and they wiłł fill your Treasury with money, which you know is a very troublesome thing. We who are not speculators, but who know how to make money by dealing in land, will take it without embarrassing you with any thing that will burden your Treasury. These lands, which gentlemen ask, in behalf of them. selves and their constituents, the exclusive privilege of purchasing at the minimum price of $1 25 per acre, are worth, by their own showing, from $5 to $40 per acre. There are yet undisposed of about one timousand millions of acres—not all of such great value, but worth, nevertheless, more than one thousand millions of dollars. Pass this bill, and follow it up, as you are certain to do if you once make the commence. ment, and there will be fortunes made under it, such as no crowned head in Europe can boast; Croesus was a beggar compared with the industrious and unscrupulous speculator under this bill, Gentlemen before whose eyes

these golden visions flit hate every thing they ought to

SENATE.]

hate, to induce other gentlemen to support their favorite measure: they hate the tariff, but they will endure it; they do not like the compromise, but they will adhere to it, if this bill can be passed to ease the Treasury of its cash, and relieve the people of their burdens. The public lands—an unconstitutional surrender of the public lands—is the only thing that can reconcile or pacify them. Pacific as I am inclined to be, and much as gentlemen

have operated on the easiness of my disposition, and .

greatly as they have alarmed my fears, I am not yet disposed to make them this large peace-offering, until I am assured that we have the constitutional power to do it; I want to see our authority, and I would like, further, to know that we can do it and be just. This public domain is a sund placed under the guardianship of Congress by a compact prior to the constitution, and which is recognised and made obligatory by that sacred instrument. And Congress is bound, by that compact, to dispose of it bonafide for the benefit of all the States, members of this confederacy, according to their proportions of representative population. And it ought to be so, for it was bought with the common blood and common treasure of the people of all the States, old as well as new; for I acknowledge no pre-eminence in favor of the old States. Our common ancestors fought on their soil for our freedom; and they (the small remnant of them) and their descendants (now a mighty people) are spread over our whole vast territory; and wheresoever they are, they inherit the glory as well as the rights of their fathers. These public lands, then, are to be disposed of bonafide for the common benefit of all the States. The fund, of which we are thus made the trustee, is immense— worth not less than one thousand millions of dollars: this is now admitted; though a few years ago, when the estimate of its value was made by my friend from Kentucky, [Mr. Clay, ) it was scouted by gentlemen who then wanted to get the land, not because it was overflowing our Treasury with money, but because this land was not worth surveying and selling. Gentlemen, it is true, do not now ask it as a gift, but they admit the choice tracts to be worth from $15 to $40 per acre. And they ask us to withdraw from them all competition at public and at private sales, to give pre-emptions to those who shall intrude on the land, and thus secure it to them at $1 25 per acre. They only ask us to give them from about $14 to $39 an acre on all the choice land of the United States that remains to be sold. These demands, it must be admitted, are moderate, especially when addressed to a trustee who is bound to administer the fund bonafide for the equal benefit of all who have an interest in it. The privilege, therefore, which these gentlemen ask for their constituents, or those who shall i.ecome so, is a donation, and a very large one. It is against common right, and it promotes no meritorious object whatever. Suppose it to induce emigration: is that desirable to a greater extent than is now going on? Should it be the object or is it the interest of the United States, as a whole, to induce by bounties the citizens of the old States, on or near the seacoast, to abandon their farms and their homes, and migrate to the West? The last census shows that the older portions of the old States are in fact depopulating. From the year 1820 to 1830, Virginia, east of the Blue Ridge, lost about 100,000 of its population. The same was the case, though in a less degree, with several extensive districts in others of the old States. Now, I make no objection to this; bot I do not think it a desirable state of things. It is enough for us, in the West, if we receive the ot. ural increase of the population of the old States; and it is enough for them if their increased population finds an easy access to our fresh lands, and a cheap home who

[blocks in formation]

they come among us. It is not wise, nor is it necessary, to give new bounties for emigration; nor have we a right to do it. Suppose the bounty to emigrants proposed in this bill were to be paid in money out of the Treasury, and the lands were sold in sair and open market to raise the money, would any gentleman from the old States, having the least regard for the rights and interests of his own constituents, consent to it, or even entertain the proposition for a moment? I think not. And where is the difference? It is the same thing in substance and effect: the mode of bringing it about gives it a different aspect. Having considered the general objects of the bill, both as expressed and as professed by its advocates, I will now examine some of its provisions, and endeavor to show how those objects are to be carried into effect. The bill is entitled and professes to be “A bill to limit the sales of the public lands to actual settlers;” but I have said it is in fact no such thing. I call the attention of the Senate to its provisions. Who may enter land under it? Any one–man or woman, husband or wife, or both, without any cwidence of residence, or of any declaration of intent to reside upon it. All they have to do is to swear that they enter it for their own use, and not for the purpose of speculation. Here is the initiation of the title. And how much land may be entered by making this oath, and under this particular section of the bill? The husband may enter 1,240 acres, the wife 1,240, the son and daughter, over eighteen years of age, 1,240 acres each—making in all, for an ordinary family of four persons, 4,960 acres; and this may be all entered in tracts of 40 acres each, making 128 tracts that a single family, such as I have described, may enter, on this “actual settlement” principle; and these 128 tracts may be dotted over all the public lands, in the United States, occupying all the most commanding poo sitions in the country. They may take your woodland in a prairie region, your springs and brooks in a country where water is scarce, and your coal banks and quarries where fuel and stone are valuable. Having thus sworn and made the entry, and obtained the certificate, the next step to procure a title is to reside on some part of the land one year within the first five; it must not be a continuous residence, but one year in all; or, erect a dwelling-house, clear and cultivate, within the five years, one tenth part of the whole; that is to say, select in the entry somewhere one tenth part of your purchases in a dry prairie, which will burn over in October or November. This burning is a compliance with the first requisition, that “to clear.” The next is, “to cultivate,” and that can be done, as I have already shown, in a most compendious manner. A few bushes of grass seed, and one man, two horses and a harrow, for a month or two, are sufficient to make the “cultivation;” for it has only to be sworn to generally as “cultivation”—the mode and manner of it being in no wise designated. - - - The next step to be taken to procure a title is to “swear” again, or to produce the affidavits of those who will swear-swear to residence, or swear to the erection of a dwelling-house, and swear to the clearing and cultivation of the one tenth part in five years. “Our army swore terribly in Flanders,” said Corporal Trim. but the person making an entry of the public lands must swear that he enters it, not in trust for any other person, but for himself or herself only. This provision prevents the father from entering in behalf of his child, the guardian for his ward, or the trustee of a will in be: half of the widow or orphan devisees; it prevents, also, an entry in execution of a charity. All open, honest trusts, those that deserve the countenance of mankind and the favor of Government, are excluded by this bill, while every species of fraudulent and secret trust will come in and cyade its provisions. A person, before he JAN. 24, 1837.]

Public Lands.

[SENATE,

- t is allowed to make the entry, must swear that he enters

for himself, and not in trust for another. Now, suppose the affidavit to be wholly false, how is it ever to be proved that it is so? It is swearing to intent merely, and the intent at the time the oath is taken; and if some other person, who furnished the money to make the entry, go on in one month after, and clear and cultivate the one tenth part of it, and the patent issue at the end of one year, and the land is transferred accordingly, the capitalist has got the land, and he may go through the same process with hundreds, as far as his friends will go; and where is your evidence to convict of perjury or subornation of perjury You clearly have none—the proof must come home to the time of making the affidavit; and doing of an act inconsistent with it afterwards would convict the party of a change of purpose, but not of perjury. And all who know the facility with which these ex parte affidavits are made, where much money is to be got by them, will agree with me that the fear of the law is the only restraint upon perjury in cases like this—conscience is nothing, public opinion is nothing, for all society is placed under like temptation, and public morals would, by reason of that temptation, become generally vitiated. The man who would hold out against such a state of things would be considered an enemy to his country and the interests of it, and he could reclaim his character in no way but by joining in the general plunder. If there should be a case of prosecution, and strong proof of perjury, there could seldom be a conviction, for the fountains of justice are poisoned when the public morals are thus vitiated; and there would be great danger that the registers and receivers in the several land offices would join in the fraud and share the spoils. We should hesitate long before we place before any portion of our community such a temptation to vice—such a vast amount of plunder to be obtained by fraud and crime. There is a clause several times repeated in the bill, and of course intended to be efficacious, which provides, in substance, that no legal encumbrance whatever, and no sale, or lease, or contract, as to such land, shall be, in any wise, binding, if made before a patent issues, but all such shall be absolutely null and void. Now, whatever might be the effect of this provision in the Territories, where we have a right to interfere as a local Legislature, I hold that it is wholly nugatory in the States. If an individual have title either complete or inchoate, that title is property, and, as such, is at once amenable to the local law, and must be governed and controlled by its principles. A judgment would bind the interest when the local law should declare judgments binding on imperfect titles. A contract would attach to it, and equity would enforce its obligations. A conveyance with covenants made prior to the issuing of the patent would draw to it the perfect title after the patent had issued, upon the principle either of estoppel, enurement, or relation. Gentlemen cannot, if they would, destroy the application of these principles to effect, or serve to effect, this or any other such object; and it is well that they cannot. They may provide that no patent shall issue to an assignee, for, as the vendors of property, we have a right to make what condition we Please with the purchaser. But when the land lies in the States, and we sell it, we are vendors only, and we cannot accompany our sale with legal encumbrances, or onio inconsistent with the general principles of aw’. I would next call the attention of the Senate to the 4th section of the bill, which grants pre-emptions to actual settlers on the public lands; that is, it permits any one who shall have gone in advance of the surveys and sales, or even of the purchase from the Indians, and intruded upon choice parts of the public land, to prove that they have done so, and then enter the land, no mat

[ocr errors]

ter how great may be its value, at the minimum price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. I object to the principle of this section; and if the principle be adopted, I object to the language and the details, as open to the practice of the most stupendous frauds. We have upon our statute book, yet unrepealed, an early law, punishing intruders upon the public lands. That law directs that the marshal of the district shall remove those who intrude against law on the public land, and that a fine shall be assessed upon them, on conviction in the district courts of the United States. Nor has this law become obsolete. It was recognised and its provisions extended in 1833, and it is now in full force, and as familiarly known as any other of the laws of the land. I object, therefore, in principle, to giving an important privilege, a great pecuniary advantage, to a class of individuals, merely because they have violated the laws. That statute, if it be unwise or unjust, should be repealed before any rights are permitted to accrue by intrusion on or over portions of the public lands. But, sir, that law is a necessary and proper law—it ought to remain, and its provisions ought to be regarded and enforced. It was enacted to prevent the intrusions of the whites upon the Indian lands, and to avoid the fraud, imposition, and oppression which is the consequence of such intrusion; and, further, to prevent a possession in advance of the sales, which would encumber the lands, and operate to the injury of the purchaser. We have recently seen enough, in our own times, to satisfy us of the wisdom and foresight of our predecessors. Whence arose your Black Hawk war in the Northwest, which cost some lives and several millions of money, but from the haste of a horde of greedy speculators to possess themselves of the fine lands belonging to the Sac and Fox Indians at the Prairie du Chien? Whence your threatened Creek war? Whence your actual war in . Fiorida, now raging, and which has cost already so many valuable lives, and which has cost and will cost more than twenty millions of treasure before it is quelled, except from the avarice, and pride, 9nd oppression, of these intruders upon the public land and the Indian property? If the laws of the United States had been enforced, if this breach had been punished instead of being rewarded, we should have escaped all this, with its attendant train of misery to individuals and mortification to a people. But if no evils arose from this contemplated law except those which fall on the individuals themselves who seek to take advantage of it, it would be enough to decide us at once against its policy. Those who framed it must have been aware of its tendency, and aware also that that tendency would be obvious, if the bill had, in form, the provisions which it is intended to have, and which, if it pass, it must have, in effect. The right of pre-emption is by the bill limited to those who have occupied, and does not extend in terms to those who shall hereafter occupy, the public lands. This is the form of the bill; but the effect is to give the right to all future occupants. For this measure is even now urged, on the ground that we have held out encouragement to settlers by former pre-emption laws; that, under the provisions of those laws, past settlers had been protected, and that those who entered on the public lands too late to claim protection under those laws had a right to expect that the same favor would be extended to them which was extended to their predecessors. This is the argument, and will it be less strong when urged next winter in behalf of those who shall have occupied and cultivated the public land during the summer of 1837, than it is now in favor of those who occupied during the past year? I can see no distinction. And if we pass this law now, we must pass another then, and so on in all future time. I would rather, therefore, pass at once a pre-emption law, to operate in all future time, and fairly, by law, hold out this reward to settlers

SENATE.]

on the public land, than to continue in force, as we do, the law against such settlement, with the assurance in advance that all those who break it shall hereafter receive the reward. All the evil consequences which would flow from a prospective pre-emption law, and they are many, flow from this state of things; and in addition thereto we hold out the assurance to the people that, whatever our laws may be, if resisted, they will not be enforced. If it become a fixed principle that the actual settler or occupant gets the land which he may select, at $1 25 per acre, then will arise contests and conflicts between individuals about the possession of favorite and valuable tracts. First, it will be a race who shall get on first to take possession; then a conflict to keep it. The first who gets on, if the tract be very valuable, is likely to be driven off by a stronger hand, with the loss, perhaps, of limb, and sometimes of life. Another yet stronger detachment drives off the second “actual settler,” and they in turn have to defend their possessions against a fourth; and all apply in their order to the register and receiver, and make the necessary affidavits to obtain their titles, Cases of this kind are constantly occurring, even now. A friend of mine, in the other House, who recently travelled through Wisconsin and part of Illinois, informed me that when at Mineral Point he heard a conflict for the possession of a lead mine spoken of, not as an extraordinary but as a recent incident. Two parties who contended for the mine drove each other away, and alternately took possession four or five times, with the loss of several lives. One of the party who succeeded in keeping possession, and who had killed a young man in one of their engagements, was quietly amusing himself in a store or tavern a short time after, when a young woman addressed him, and inquired his name. He told it; and she at once drew a pistol from under her cloak, and shot him through. Private revenge in these cases seems to be the only redress for murder, as the law takes no notice of incidents so common and so unimportant. I am told that in travelling through the fine lands in the Northwest, you will see these “actual settlements and improvements” constantly forming. If it is prairie, they merely run a furrow round it. If it is a choice piece of woodland that is to be held by improvement, they will fell trees all around it, so that the top of one will lap on to the stump of another; then the woodland is enclosed, and the party is entitled to it, as an actual settler. And perhaps it is the only spot of woods within many miles in the midst of a broad prairie, and therefore of im. mense value; if the woody island be very large, it be. comes the subject of a kind of joint stock company, or association, who all unite to “improve it,” and to secure each pther in the possession of it. I find the following advertisement in a Chicago paper:

[blocks in formation]

. The particular character and purpose of these associa. tions I will show by and by more fully. There is a false face constantly put upon this subject, not intentionally, but from a mistaken notion of the thing, by gentlemen who urge, with so much zeal and perseverance, the claims of the squatters to the lands on which they intrude. Gentlemen Represent the squatters generally as poor men

seeking a freehold and a "home, willing to pay for tić land on which they settle, but unable to do so, because the lands are not in market, and cannot be purchased.

[blocks in formation]

But how is the fact? You have more than one hundred millions of acres of land, a large portion of it excellent land, constantly in market, and open to entry at $1.25 per acre; but there is not much speculation in purchasing this, and therefore these “poor men” that gentlemen speak of, seeking a home, pass it by, and go habitually to the lands that are not in market; and they will continue to do so, let you push your surveys and sales to whatever point you may. Then the improvements by which, under this bill, the squatters are permitted to gain a right to the land. We had that subject under consideration last year, and the proof was ample that, in a vast number of cases, I should think a majority of cases, the improvement was merely colorable, for the purpose of enabling the individual to

| get the land, but having nothing actual or substantial

about it; and this bill requires no substantial occupation or cultivation. The individual, to give him a title to his pre-emption, must have “actually occupied and cultivated the tract for six months before the 1st of December, 1836.” “Actually occupied and cultivated.” How occupied? Not by residing on it; for that is not necessary to make an occupation in law, much less in the opinion of the two witnesses who are to make affidavit to the occupation. He may go on the ground, mark the trees if there be any, and burn a brush-heap, and continue to go upon it once a month for the six months, claiming to occupy, and he will make out his occupancy. He must also “cultivate.” This, I am told, is done by building a little pen of rails, and sowing oats or turnips or radishes upon ten or twelve square feet of ground; and thus the “actual settler” “occupies and cultivates,” and becomes the meritorious recipient of your large bounty. My col: league informs me that lie travelled through a part of these public lands not long since, last summer, I believe, and he saw great numbers of these little pens, with something growing in them. I did not think to ask him whether they were square or triangular, built with three rails or four. [Mr. Mohnis. rails.] Mr. Ewing. I should have guessed so, sor the economy of labor is important, and the “actual settler” could thus save one rail for the whole height of his pen—no small matter. But, after proving this occupancy and cultivation, these actual settlers sell their claim, at an advance of some two or three hundred dollars, to large capitalists, who have their agents always at hand, ready to purchase, and they go again beyond the survey, and “actually cultivate” another pen full of something that will grow in a shade, and sell again. Thus squatting becomes a regular profession. A gentleman lately from Chicago informs me that he knew a great number of the pre-emption claimants about that place some years ago, who got their claims allowed and shortly after disappeared, he knew not where; but last summer, as he was going across the country to the Prairie du Chien, he found and recognised them as old acquaintances. They were on the fine lands upon Rock river, waiting to take advantage of the next pre-emption law. I do not say that this is the habit of all who squat upon the public land for the purpose of obtaining a pre-emption; I am aware that it is not; but it is the business of many, and most of the preemptions fall into and pass through the hands of those who are employed for the purpose by the large capitalist, or who go in advance of him, and cater for him. The pre-emption laws (for we have tried them for a few years past) have already produced a most fruitful crop of fraud and perjury, . From papers sent each year to the Committee on Public Lands, it appears that in many cases even the pretence of possession or cultivation was not resorted to in order to get a pre-emption or a float, which could be laid on the finest land in the

They were triangular, built with three

« AnteriorContinuar »