« AnteriorContinuar »
search, with a view to a more uniform and efficient execution of the laws in the premises.
With due respect to the opinions of those who may differ from them in opinion, they have come to the calm and deliberate conclusion, that the laws of Congress do give the powers exercised in the enactment of our school laws, and that they ought to be sustained and acted upon with perfect confidence and by efficient legal measures.
The first act we find in the laws of the United States, in reference to school lands, and the system adopted by the General Government in relation thereto, is in “An act to enable the people” of Ohio to form a Constitution and State Government, approved April 30, 1802. Story's laws of the U. S. pages 869 70. It is one of three propositions made by Congress to the people of Ohio, in forming their constitution, that if they would exempt public lands from taxation for five years after their entry at the Land Office, thereby encouraging the settlement and sale of the public domain; then and in that case, “Section No. 16, in every township, and where such section had been sold, granted or disposed of, other lands equivalent thereto, and most contiguous to the same, shall be granted to the inhabitants of such township for the use of schools.”—This act being the first which Congress passed of the kind, it would be expected that some of the sections No. 16, had been previously disposed of, hence the necessity of granting other and cquivalent lands for that purpose.
By a subsequent act, approved March 3d, 1803, Story-pages 890 and 92, entitled "An act in addition to and in modification of the propositions contained in an act to enable the people” of Ohio to form a constitution, &c. This system of appropriating portions of the public lands to the support of common schools, is extended and better defined. This act says “the following several tracts of land in the state of Ohio, be and the same are hereby, appropriated for the use of schools in that state, and shall vest in the Legislature in trust for said use.” And after describing the several tracts appropriated to " the United States Military tract," the “Connecticut Reserve,” and " the Virginia military reservation,” this act provides that one thirtysixth part of all the lands of the United States lying in the state of Ohio, to which the Indian title has not been extinguished, which may hereafter be purchased of the Indian tribes by the United States, which thirty-sixth part shall consist of section No. 16, in each township, if the said lands be surveyed into townships of six miles square, and shall, if the lands be surveyed in a different manner, be designated by lots,” shall be thus appropriated to the use and support of schools. This act seems, in fact, to be the commencement of the system now in force, of appropriating lands for this object, the principles of which have been carried out in all new states and territories.
By this act the principle is established, that the lands appropriated for schools, shall vest in the Legislature in trust for “schools in the State;” not only giving the Legislature a control over them as a trustee, but designating the use of them to be general, and not limited to the towns in which they may
lie. In all the enactments of Congress relative to the sale of the public lands from that day down to this, the sixteenth section is reserved from sale, and left for the use and support of schools. And though the before quoted acts specifically allude to Ohio, yet they show the policy and intention of the general government in relation thereto; and by tracing subsequent acts of Congress, we shall see that the same provisions have been extended to us and the school lands in this Territory.
By an act of Congress approved May 7th, 1800, "to divide the territory of the United States, north-west of the Ohio River, into two Territories-Story, page 774; the district now composing Wisconsin Territory, fell within the Indiana Territory. And by an act approved March 25, 1804, “making provisions for the disposal of the public lands in the Indiana Territory-Story, pages 926-9, the 16th sections are reserved from sale, and appropriated to the support of schools. By the act of April 18th, 1818, admitting the state of Illinois into the Union, the 16th section is granted to the State for the use of schools. And by the same act “all that part of the Territory of the United States, north of the state of Indiana, and which was included in the former Indiana Territory, together with all that part of the Illinois Territory, which is situated north of, and not included within the boundaries prescribed by this act, to the State (of Illinois,) thereby authorized to be formed, shall be, and hereby is attached to and made a part of Michigan Territory," &c., “and the inhabitants therein shall be entitled to the same privileges and inmunities, and subject to the same rules and regulations in all respects, with the other citizens of the Michigan Territory.” Statute of Wisconsin, page 22.
By the 12th section of "An act establishing the Territorial Government of Wisconsin," approved April 20th, 1836, it is provided that the inhabitants of said Territory shall “be entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities “HERETOFORE granted and secured to the Territory of Michigan and to its inhabitants," &c. Now one of the rights, privileges, and immunities wheretofore granted and secured to the Territory of Michigan,” is contained in the following act of Congress granting to said Territory, the use and control of the school lands; and as this act was passed in 1828, when this Territory was a part of Michigan, the provisions of it must extend to us, even if no other act granting that extension had ever been passed. But as it is, those rights, privileges, and immunities are doubly secured.
The act referred to is as follows, and may be found in the revised statutes of Michigan of 1833, page 46, as well as in the Laws of the United States:
"An act authorizing the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, lo take charge of the School Lands in said Territory,” approved May 24th, 1828.
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the Governor and Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan be, and they are hereby authorized to make such laws and needful regulations, as they shall deem most expedient to protect from injury and waste, section number sixteen, in said Territory, reserved in each township, for the support of schools therein ; and to provide, by law, for leasing the same, for any term not exceeding four years in such manner as to render them productive and most conducive to the objects for which they were designed.”
It is admitted that the school lands being merely reserved from sale, does not extend to the Legislative Assembly the right of soil, or the right of legislation concerning them. But from the general tenure of the acts of Congress in relation to the school lands, from the first act passed on the subject, down to the present time, it is evident that the design of the general government was, and is, to give the States and Territories the control of those lands, as frustees, for the use and support of schools within their respective limits. The right of sale is not contended for without a special act of Congress for that purpose. But the right of use and control, so far as is necessary to protect them from waste and depredation, is clearly established, both from the nature of the case, and the general tenure of Congressional legislation in relation thereto.
But waiving all right to the use and control of these lands, on the grounds just assumed, your committee are of the opinion that from the act of Congress, of May 24, 1828, connected with, and followed as it is, by the Organic Act of this Territory, no reasonable doubt can exist of the right of this Legislative Assembly to pass all needful laws in relation to this subject.
In addition, however, to all this, your committee beg leave to refer the House to another light in which this subject may be viewed. By the Organic Law, it is provided that “all the laws of the Governor and Legislative Assembly, shall be submitted to, and, if disapproved by the Congress of the United States, the same shall be null and of no effect.” And by the same act it is provided that the Secretary of the Territory "shall transmit one copy of the laws,” &c. “on or before the first Monday in December in each year, to the President of the United States; and at the same time two copies of the laws to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the use of Con
It is to be presumed in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that the Secretary of the Territory has discharged this part of his duty, and that, as Congress has not disapproved of the law of the Territory relating to the school lands, this law, among others, is at least negatively approved of. Furthermore, it is a principle now conceded by our highest judicial officers, that the laws of this Territory are the laws of the United States, within the Territories, until disapproved by Congress. If this view of the subject is correct, the laws of the Territory in relation to the preservation and use of the school lands are realized and of full force and effect.
If we take the opposite view of this subject; if we suppose that our legislative acts must be formally approved by Congress, before they take effect in the Territory, then we have no laws in force.For Congress has not thus formally approved of any act passed by this Assembly. It is true, one or two acts incorporating banks, were thus approved, but they have either died of themselves, been repealed, or are under injunction by our courts, and their charters, will, no doubt, soon be vacated by due course of law. Besides these, no acts of this Legislative Assembly have been approved in any other sense than negatively, by not being disapproved. And to suppose that our laws are not valid and of force, is to throw every thing into chaotic confusion-we are at sea, without helm, compass, or chart.
In reviewing the whole subject, your committee are of the opinion, that it was the policy and intention of the general government-deduceable from the general tenure of the acts of Congress in the premises—that the school lands should be under the control of the local Legislature, as trustee : that the special acts of Congress, granting to the Legislature this control, confirms and establishes that intention and finally, such laws having been passed by this Legislature, and not having been disapproved by Congress, leaves the matter without a reasonable doubt as to their validity and force.
In the investigation of this subject, another, and a very important question has presented itself to your committee : that is, whether it was the intention of Congress, in granting these school lands, that the use and avails of each section should be expended for the benefit of schools within the township in which it is located; or whether the proceeds thereof should be made a general fund, to be equally destributed to all parts of the Territory or State.
This question, your committee conceives to be more difficult to decide, than the one previously considered. The language of the several acts of Congress, in relation to the school lands, varies in different acts. In the first act, heretofore quoted, the land was reserved for