Front Page Titles (by Subject) INTRODUCTION TO THE COLLECTION OF LAWS, TREATIES, AND OTHER DOCUMENTS HAVING OPERATION AND RESPECT TO THE PUBLIC LANDS. - The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 3
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INTRODUCTION TO THE COLLECTION OF LAWS, TREATIES, AND OTHER DOCUMENTS HAVING OPERATION AND RESPECT TO THE PUBLIC LANDS. - Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, vol. 3 
The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1879). 3 vols.
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INTRODUCTION TO THE COLLECTION OF LAWS, TREATIES, AND OTHER DOCUMENTS HAVING OPERATION AND RESPECT TO THE PUBLIC LANDS.
This collection is divided into two parts: the first embraces such public acts as relate to the title of the United States to the public lands; the second consists of the Resolutions and Acts of Congress respecting the disposal of the lands.
Under the first head are included: 1. Treaties with foreign nations, so far as they relate to the acquisition of territory or to the boundaries of the United States.
2. Cessions of territory to the United States by individual States, members of the Union, and Acts of Congress relative thereto.
3. Treaties with Indian tribes, so far as they relate to the extinguishment of the Indian title to the public lands.
The treaties with foreign nations, by which territory has been acquired or which relate to boundaries, are those of 1783 and 1794 with Great Britain, of 1795 with Spain, and of 1803 with France.
The treaty of peace (of 1783) with Great Britain, which designated the boundaries of the United States, left, however, some unsettled points. The question relative to the true river St. Croix, the eastern boundary of the United States, has been determined in pursuance of the treaty of 1794. That respecting the rights of the two nations over certain islands at or near the mouth of that river has not yet been adjusted. But as the disputed territory in both cases belongs to the State of Massachusetts, neither of those questions affects the public lands of the United States. The same observation applies to certain islands in the river St. Lawrence, which continued to be claimed by Great Britain, and which are presumed to belong to the State of New York. The claims of the two nations to some other islands in the lakes and rivers west of that State have not yet been adjusted. But the principal undecided question arising from that treaty relates to that part of the boundary therein described as a line drawn due west from the most north-western point of the Lake of the Woods to the river Mississippi. It is ascertained that a line drawn in that manner cannot intersect that river, which does not extend as far northward as the latitude of the north-western extremity of the Lake of the Woods. And nothing more was agreed on in that respect by the treaty of 1794 than a mutual engagement to make a survey of the country, and to regulate by negotiation the boundary-line according to justice, mutual convenience, and the intent of the treaty of 1783.
The southern boundary of the United States was, by the same treaty, fixed at the 31st degree of north latitude. But Great Britain, having, by her treaty of the same date with Spain, ceded to that power West Florida, which under the British government extended as far north as the Yasous River, Spain, then in possession of the country between that river and the 31st degree of north latitude, refused at first to deliver it. Yet the title of the United States was indisputable; for their provisional treaty with Great Britain, a public instrument, signed on the 30th of November, 1782, and which was to take effect as soon as peace should be made between Great Britain and France, had already established the 31st degree of latitude as the southern boundary of the said States. Spain, therefore, when receiving Florida from Great Britain, a cession which cannot bear an earlier date than the 20th of January, 1783, the day on which the preliminary articles of her treaty of peace were signed, accepted that province with the boundary thus previously established; the territory lying north of the 31st degree, which might, prior to the 30th November, 1782, have made part of West Florida, having on that day, with the knowledge of Spain, been ceded by Great Britain to the United States. Spain did accordingly acquiesce, after a delay of some years. She made no cession of territory by the treaty of 1795, which simply, and without reserve or exception, recognizes the same boundaries which had been fixed by the treaty of 1783 between the United States and Great Britain.
The United States, by the treaty of 1803 with France, acquired Louisiana without any direct definition of its boundaries, but as fully and in the same manner as it had been acquired by France from Spain, in virtue of the Treaty of San Ildefonso, of the 1st of October, 1800. By this treaty Spain had retroceded Louisiana to France, “with the same extent that it then had in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it, and such as it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states.”
By the grant of Louis XIV. to Crozat, dated 14th September, 1712,1 all the country drained by the waters emptying directly or indirectly into the Mississippi is included within the boundaries of Louisiana. The discovery of that river by the French, the general principles adopted by the European nations in relation to the rights of discovery, the publicity of the grant, and the long acquiescence of Spain, establish the claim of the United States to that extent. But the western boundary on the sea-shore, and south of the waters emptying into the Red River, is still a subject of controversy between the two nations; the territory called by Spain “Province of Texas” being claimed by both. The claim of France, now transferred to the United States, extended at least as far west as the bay of St. Bernard, in virtue of the settlement made there by La Salle, in 1685, in the vicinity of the river Guadeloupe, at a time when Spain occupied no part of the territory east of the Rio Norte. That settlement was destroyed, and, notwithstanding the repeated orders of the French government, was not resumed by the local authorities. In the mean while (in 1717), the Spaniards sent some priests among the Indians, and shortly after established a small military post at Adayes, afterwards transferred to Nogodoches, on which rests their claim to the country east of La Salle’s settlement. By an arrangement made in 1806 by the commanding officers in that quarter, it was agreed that for the present the Spaniards should not cross the Sabine, and that the Americans should not extend their settlements as far as that river. And in order to prevent any collisions until the difference should be finally adjusted, instructions have been given that the public lands should not be surveyed west of a meridian passing by Natchitoches.
East of the Mississippi, the United States claim, by virtue of the treaty of 1803, all the territory south of the 31st degree of north latitude, and extending eastwardly to the small river Perdido, which lies between Mobile and Pensacola, and was, when Louisiana formerly belonged to France, the boundary between that colony and the Spanish province of Florida. That territory, together with the residue of Louisiana east of the Mississippi, was, by the treaty of 1763, ceded by France to Great Britain, who by the same treaty acquired also Spanish Florida. The preliminary articles of that treaty were signed on the 3d day of November, 1762, and on the same day France, by a separate Act,1 ceded to Spain all the residue of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, and including the city and island (so called) of New Orleans. By the treaties of 1783, Great Britain ceded to the United States all that part of the former colony of Louisiana east of the Mississippi which lay north of the 31st degree of north latitude, and to Spain, under the name of West and East Florida, both that part of Louisiana east of the Mississippi which lay south of that parallel of latitude, and the old Spanish province of Florida. The 31st degree of latitude was, by the subsequent treaty of 1795, between the United States and Spain, confirmed as the boundary between the possessions of the two nations. The title of the United States to the territory in question, under the treaties of San Ildefonso and of 1803, is fully established by those facts.
Louisiana was retroceded to France “with the same extent that it then had in the hands of Spain;” and the territory in question, by whatever name Spain chose to call it, was then substantially in her hands.
Louisiana was retroceded “with the same extent that it had when France possessed it;” and not only was that territory part of Louisiana when France possessed it, but she never owned that province a single day without that territory as part of it. For, as has been stated, she ceded on the same day the eastern part of Louisiana to England, and the western part to Spain.
Louisiana was retroceded “such as it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states;” and Spain never had, since she acquired Louisiana in 1762, made any treaties relative to Louisiana but that of 1783 with Great Britain, and that of 1795 with the United States; she had entered into no treaty whatever which affected Louisiana west of the Mississippi. This member of the description can therefore only apply to the territory in question east of the Mississippi, and there it has full effect; the territory having been acquired by Spain by her treaty of 1783 with Great Britain, and its boundaries having been finally established by her treaty of 1795 with the United States, “Louisiana, such as it should be,” &c., can only mean, including East Louisiana as restored by the treaty of 1783, but extending no further north than the southern boundary of the United States as recognized by the treaty of 1795.
The spirit of the treaty equally supports the construction necessarily derived from its letter. Spain retrocedes to France the colony which France had ceded in 1762, and she must, therefore, yield all in her possession which France had formerly given up. The cession by France of West Louisiana to Spain was to compensate for the loss of Florida. The cession of East Louisiana to England was to make, together with Florida, an equivalent for Cuba, which, on that condition, was restored to Spain. France ceded the whole for the benefit of Spain, and Spain having recovered Florida by the treaty of 1783, having herself ultimately lost nothing, it is a natural consequence that France, in obtaining a retrocession, should take back all she had lost for the sake of Spain. It is hardly necessary to add that no private explanation between those two nations, made subsequent to the Treaty of San Ildefonso, can affect the right of the United States derived from a public treaty; such supposed explanation not having been communicated to them by France when the treaty of 1803 was concluded, nor even afterwards by Spain when she acquiesced in the acquisition of Louisiana by America.1
All the Acts of Congress which relate to Louisiana, and, amongst others, those respecting the public lands, have been so expressed as to become immediately applicable to that Territory, whenever possession should be obtained by the President according to the powers vested in him by law to that effect.
All the vacant lands in Louisiana have, by the acquisition of that country, become the property of the United States. But those east of the Mississippi, and contained within the boundaries designated by the treaty of peace with Great Britain, were claimed by individual States; and the title of the United States is, in that respect, principally, if not altogether, derived from cessions made by those States. The documents relative to that branch of the subject have been arranged under two sections,—the first consisting of extracts from the charters and other Acts establishing or affecting the boundaries of the States which made cessions; the other including the Acts of cession to the United States and the Acts of Congress relative thereto. These cessions embrace three distinct tracts of country.
1. The whole territory north of the river Ohio and west of the State of Pennsylvania, extending northwardly to the northern boundary of the United States, and westwardly to the Mississippi, was claimed by Virginia; and that State was in possession of the French settlements of Vincennes and Illinois, which she had occupied and defended during the Revolutionary war. The States of Massachusetts and Connecticut claimed all that part which was within the breadth of their respective charters; and the State of New York had also an indeterminate claim to the country. The United States have obtained cessions from the four States, and thus acquired an indisputable title to the whole. The State of Virginia, amongst other conditions of her Act of cession, made provision for securing the old French settlers in their possessions, and reserved two tracts of land,—one of 150,000 acres, near the rapids of the Ohio, for that portion of her State troops which had reduced the country, and the other, between the rivers Scioto and Little Miami, containing about 3,500,000 acres, to satisfy the bounties in land which she had promised to her troops on the continental establishment. The State of Connecticut reserved a tract on Lake Erie, bounded on the south by the 41st degree of north latitude, and extending westwardly one hundred and twenty miles from the western boundary of the State of Pennsylvania. The cessions of Massachusetts and New York included an insulated tract commonly called “the Triangle,” lying on Lake Erie, west of the State of New York, and north of that of Pennsylvania, and which has since been sold by the United States to Pennsylvania.
2. North Carolina has ceded to the United States all her vacant lands beyond the Alleghany chain of mountains within the breadth of her charter; that is to say, between the 35th degree and 36th degree 30 minutes of north latitude, the last parallel being the southern boundary of the States of Virginia and Kentucky. That territory which now forms the State of Tennessee was, however, subject to a great variety of claims, described in the Act of cession. And Congress has, by the Act of April 18, 1806, ceded to the last-mentioned State the claim of the United States to all the lands east of a line described in the Act, leaving the lands west of that line still liable to satisfy such of the claims secured by the cession from North Carolina as cannot be located in the eastern division.
3. South Carolina and Georgia were the only States which had any claim to the lands lying south of the 35th degree of north latitude. By the cessions from those two States the United States have acquired the title of both to the tract of country now forming the Mississippi Territory, extending from the 31st to the 35th degree of latitude, and bounded on the west by the river Mississippi, and on the east by the river Chatahoochee, and by a line drawn from a place on that river, near the mouth of Uchee Creek, to Nickajack, on the river Tennessee. As a condition of the cession from Georgia, the Indian title to the lands within her present boundaries will be extinguished at the expense of the United States, and she is also entitled to receive 1,250,000 dollars out of the proceeds of the first sales of lands in the ceded territory.
Cessions having thus been obtained from all the States claiming any part of the “public lands,” it is now immaterial, so far as relates to those States, to examine the foundation of their respective titles. But, although the State of Georgia has no longer any immediate interest in the question, certain large claims pretended to be derived from that State, and known by the name of “Yazoo Claims,” render it important for the United States to prove that a considerable portion of the territory thus claimed was not within the boundaries of Georgia nor of any other State at the date of the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and became, therefore, immediately vested in the United States by virtue of that treaty.
The charter of Carolina having been surrendered to the Crown by the proprietors, South Carolina became a regal colony, the boundaries of which might be altered by the Crown according to circumstances. Georgia was accordingly erected into a separate government, and, her charter having been surrendered by the trustees, she also became a regal colony. Her southern boundary was originally the Alatamaha River, and thence westwardly a parallel of latitude passing by the source of that river. The territory between the rivers Alatamaha and St. Mary’s was annexed to it by the King’s proclamation of the 7th October, 1763; and, though not positively expressed by that instrument, it appears by the commission of Governor Wright, dated 20th January, 1764, that the jurisdiction extended to the river Mississippi as far south as the 31st degree of north latitude, which, according to the proclamation, formed the northern boundary of the new British province of West Florida. But, on the representation of the board of trade, the boundaries were altered, and it appears from the second commission of Governor Johnstone, of that province, and from those of the subsequent governors, Eliot and Chester, that West Florida, from the 6th day of June, 1764, and thence as long as it continued under the British government, was bounded on the north by a parallel of latitude passing by the mouth of the river Yasous, or about 32 degrees 30 minutes of north latitude. The jurisdiction of the governors of West Florida did accordingly, in fact, extend to the territory lying between that parallel and the 31st degree, as well as south of this. Lands were granted by them within those boundaries, and, when not subsequently forfeited, continue to be held under that title. That portion of territory (viz., between the 31st degree and about 32 degrees 30 minutes of latitude) appears, therefore, to have been acquired not by any of the States as lying within its boundaries, but by the United States as part of West Florida, and for the benefit of the whole Union. All the documents which could be procured on that subject are inserted in the 2d Section, and amongst them the recital of the second commission of Governor Johnstone, which was very lately obtained, and is now for the first time published.1
The last section of the first part of this collection includes all the articles of treaties with Indian tribes which relate to the extinguishment of their title to the public lands of the United States. Those tribes are in some respects considered as independent communities. They govern themselves without being subject to the laws of the United States, and their right to remain in possession of the lands they occupy, and to sell them only when they please, is recognized. On the other hand, the United States have the exclusive right of pre-emption, and all sales to foreign nations or to individuals, whether citizens or foreigners, are null by law; a provision as necessary for the protection of the Indians as for that of the public domain. This principle is generally acknowledged by themselves, and recognized in several of their treaties. Nor can it be disputed that even if their own right to sell was entire, the United States have that to forbid any one to purchase. The sales to the United States are, however, altogether voluntary, and never made without a compensation more valuable to the Indians than the use of the land which they cede. Nor has, in any instance, the general government attempted to dispose of lands prior to their being purchased from the natives. For although it will appear that a portion of the lands ceded by them, in 1795, by the Greenville Treaty, had been previously sold by Congress to the Ohio Company and to J. C. Symmes, that treaty was only a confirmation of others made in 1784 and subsequent years, which had been violated by the Indians.
The treaties inserted are only such as relate to the public lands of the United States; and those for the purchase of land not ceded by the States to the Union are omitted. In several instances the same land will be found to have been purchased from different tribes, the purchase not being considered complete until all their conflicting claims have been acquired. The Indian title to the following tracts of country has thus, by successive treaties, been completely extinguished.
1. All the lands in the State of Ohio and in the Indiana and Illinois Territories bordering on the river Ohio, extending from the western boundary of Pennsylvania to the mouth of that river, and thence up the Mississippi to the river Illinois. The depth of that tract is not, on an average, less than 120 miles; and it is estimated to contain, exclusively of the Virginia military reservation, more than thirty-two millions of acres, of which more than twenty-four remain at the disposal of the United States.
2. A tract extending along the Mississippi, from the Illinois to the river Ouisconsing, and supposed to contain near twenty millions of acres.
3. A tract in the Michigan Territory, bordering on Lakes Huron, St. Clair, and Erie, estimated to contain about four millions of acres. It is separated from the “Connecticut Reserve” and from the other public lands of the United States by a tract still held by the Indians, extending along Lake Erie from the river Miami of the Lakes to Sandusky Bay.
4. A small triangular tract of 322,000 acres in the northern part of the Mississippi Territory, and in what is called the Great Bend of Tennessee, extending from a point on that river, northwardly, to the southern boundary of the State of Tennessee.
5. The lands in the Mississippi Territory bordering on the river Mississippi, from the mouth of the river Yasous to the 31st degree of latitude, thence extending along that parallel of latitude to the river Mobile, and thence about sixty miles up the branch of that river called “Tombigby.” This tract, having an inconsiderable breadth on the Mississippi, is not estimated to contain more than six millions of acres.
A large tract of country in Upper Louisiana appears also to have been ceded by the Sacs and Foxes, and by the Osages. No other treaties have been made by the United States with Indian tribes west of the Mississippi. It is, however, believed that the Indian title is extinguished to all the lands bordering on the west bank of that river as high up at least as the Missouri, but on what depth is not understood.
The second part of this collection consists of the Acts of Congress for the disposal of the public lands, and those have been arranged under four sections: 1. General provisions. 2. Donations. 3. Special sales north of the Ohio. 4. Adjustment of private claims. But this being a collection, and not a digest, of the laws, and the text of the law having therefore been uniformly preserved, it has not been practicable to follow in the details as methodical an arrangement as would have been desirable.
A considerable part of the country had been successively subject to several foreign powers: the Territories of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois to France, and then to England; the southern part of the Mississippi Territory first to France, afterwards to England, and finally to Spain; Louisiana to France, and then to Spain. A part of the land was claimed by the inhabitants and others either by right of occupancy or under titles said to be derived from those several governments or from the local authorities. Eight boards of commissioners were instituted by various Acts of Congress for the purpose of investigating those claims, one for each of the Territories of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Louisiana, two for the Mississippi, and two for the Orleans Territory. The rules prescribed by law to the commissioners have varied according to the nature of the claims respectively coming before them. But the object appears uniformly to have been to guard against unfounded or fraudulent claims, to confirm all bona fide claims derived from a legitimate authority, even when the title had not been completed, and to secure in their possessions all the actual settlers who were found on the land when the United States took actual possession of the country where it was situated, though they had only a right of occupancy. In some cases, also, a right of pre-emption has been granted to persons who had occupied lands in the Mississippi Territory subsequent to the time when the United States had taken possession. The commissioners in that Territory were authorized to decide finally on the claims; they have completed their work, and the boards are dissolved. The commissioners for the Territories of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois were only authorized to investigate the claims and to report their opinion to Congress. Their respective reports have been received, all their confirmations have been ratified by Congress, and the whole business has been completed in Michigan and Indiana. But it remains for Congress to decide on a great number of claims in the Illinois Territory rejected as fraudulent by the commissioners. In the Territories of Orleans and Louisiana, the commissioners have been authorized to decide finally on all claims not exceeding one league square, and to report their opinion to Congress on those of a greater extent or for lead mines. Their reports have not yet been made; but those for Louisiana and the eastern part of the Orleans Territory are expected within a short time.
The laws included under the head of “Donations” are those respecting the bounties in land given to the officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary war, the grants made to the refugees from Canada and Nova Scotia in compensation of their losses and services, certain donations for public purposes in the State of Ohio, and miscellaneous grants made by Congress to the United Brethren, to A. H. Dohrman, to the French inhabitants of Galliopolis, to General La Fayette, to Captains Lewis and Clarke, to Isaac Zane, and to some Indian tribes now residing within the boundaries of the lands to which the Indian title has been extinguished. These, together with the donations to actual settlers above mentioned, with another donation of 100,000 acres to settlers in the tract sold to the “Ohio Company,” and with the reservations for schools and seminaries of learning hereafter noted, include all the lands given by the United States. The laws providing for granting patents to persons entitled to land in the Virginia military reservation, between the rivers Scioto and Little Miami, have also been inserted under this head.
Three tracts of land had been sold by contract prior to the adoption of the present form of government; that is to say: 1. To the State of Pennsylvania, the triangular tract on Lake Erie above mentioned, containing 202,187 acres. 2. To an association called “the Ohio Company,” a tract on the rivers Ohio and Muskingum, originally intended to contain about two millions of acres, but afterwards reduced, at the request of the parties, to 964,285 acres. 3. To John Cleves Symmes and his associates, a tract on the Ohio between the rivers Little and Great Miami, originally supposed to contain one million of acres, but which, by an alteration and then a failure in the contract, has been reduced to 248,540 acres. All those lands were sold at the rate of two-thirds of a dollar an acre, payable in evidences of the public debt of the United States, and a part of the two last tracts was paid for in military land-warrants, each acre in such warrant being received in payment for one acre and a half of land. A right of pre-emption, at the rate of two dollars an acre, has been allowed to persons who had made purchases from J. C. Symmes within the boundaries of his first contract. The laws respecting those subjects, those authorizing the sale of lots at Cincinnati and Shawnee Town, those allowing a right of preemption of 640 acres to George Ash, and of 320 acres to William Wells, and that for the sale of 2560 acres to John James Dufour, are arranged under the head of “Special Sales.”
All the other public lands sold by the United States have been sold under general laws. No more than 121,540 acres had thus been sold prior to the Act of 10th May, 1800, viz.: 72,974 acres at public sale at New York, in the year 1787, for 87,325 dollars, in evidences of the public debt; 43,446 acres at public sale at Pittsburg, in the year 1796, for 100,427 dollars; and 5120 acres at Philadelphia, in the same year, at two dollars an acre. The system now in force was organized by the Act last mentioned, but has received some subsequent modifications. Its general outlines, as it now stands, are as followeth:
1. All the lands are surveyed before they are offered for sale, being actually divided into townships six miles square, and these subdivided into 36 sections one mile square and containing each 640 acres. All the dividing lines, running according to the cardinal points, cut one another at right angles, except where fractional sections are formed by the navigable rivers, or by an Indian boundary-line. The subdividing lines of quarter-sections are not actually surveyed, but the corners, boundaries, and contents of these are designated and ascertained by fixed rules prescribed by law. This branch of the business is conducted under the superintendence of two principal surveyors, who appoint their own deputies. The powers and duties of the first—who is called surveyor-general—extend over all the public lands north of the river Ohio, and over the Territory of Louisiana. The other—known by the name of surveyor of the public lands south of the State of Tennessee—superintends the surveys in the Mississippi and Orleans Territories. Both make returns of the surveys to the proper land office and to the Treasury.
2. The following tracts are excepted from the sales, viz.: 1. One thirty-sixth part of the lands, or a section of 640 acres in each township, is uniformly reserved and given in perpetuity for the support of schools in the township. 2. Seven entire townships, containing each 23,040 acres, viz., two in the State of Ohio, and one in each of the Territories of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, and Orleans, have been also reserved and given in perpetuity for the support of seminaries of learning. 3. All salt springs and lead mines are also reserved, but may be leased by the President of the United States. Three other sections were formerly reserved in each township for the future disposition of Congress; but this reservation has, since the Act of 26th March, 1804, been discontinued. One section was also reserved in each township within the boundaries of the tracts respectively sold to the Ohio Company and to John Cleves Symmes, and was given in perpetuity for religious purposes; but this reservation has not been extended to any other part of the public lands.
The Mississippi, the Missouri, and the carrying-places between them, the Ohio, and all the navigable rivers and waters leading into either of those three large rivers, or into the river St. Lawrence, or the Gulf of Mexico, remain common highways, and forever free to all the citizens of the United States, without any tax, impost, or duty therefor.
3. All the other public lands not thus excepted are, after the rightful private claims have been ascertained and confirmed, offered for sale at public sale in quarter-sections of 160 acres each, but cannot be sold for less than two dollars an acre. The lands not purchased at public sale may, at any time after, be purchased in quarter-sections at private sale, and at the rate of two dollars an acre, and without paying any fees whatever. The purchase-money, whether the land be bought at public or at private sale, is payable in four equal instalments,—the first within forty days, and the three others within two years, three years, and four years after the date of the purchase. No interest is charged if the payments be punctually made; but it must be paid from the date of the purchase, at the rate of six per cent. a year on each instalment not paid on the day on which it is due. A discount at the rate of eight per cent. a year is allowed for prompt payment, which, if the whole purchase-money be paid at the time of purchasing the land, reduces its price to one dollar and sixty-four cents per acre. Tracts not completely paid for within five years after the date of purchase are offered for sale at public sale for a price not less than the arrears of principal and interest due thereon; if the land cannot be sold for that sum, it reverts to the United States, and the partial payments made therefor are forfeited; if it sells for more, the surplus is returned to the original purchaser.
4. All the lands to which the Indian title has been extinguished are, for the convenience of purchasers, divided into districts, in each of which a land office is established. Ten of these districts are in full operation, viz.: those of Steubenville, Canton, Zanesville, Marietta, Chillicothe, and Cincinnati, in the State of Ohio; those of Vincennes and Jeffersonville, in the Indiana Territory; and those of Nashville (for Madison County, in the Great Bend of the river Tennessee) and Washington (near Natchez) in the Mississippi Territory. The sales have not yet commenced, the surveys not being yet completed, or the private claims not yet being decided upon, in the four districts of Detroit, in the Michigan, of Kaskaskia, in the Illinois, of Mobile, in the Mississippi, and of Opelousas, in the Orleans Territory. None have yet been authorized in the Territory of Louisiana and in the eastern part of the Territory of Orleans. Each land office is under the direction of two officers,—a register, who receives the applications and sells the land, and a receiver of public moneys, who receives the purchase-money, unless the purchaser prefers paying it into the Treasury. Those two officers operate as a check one on the other. Transcripts of the sales and of the payments, together with the original receipts and assignments, are transmitted to the Treasury; and no patent issues till after the calculations have been examined and it has been ascertained that the party has paid the whole purchase-money and interest. The system, as it relates to the accountability of the receivers, is better checked than that of any other branch of the public revenue; but the various and contingent provisions respecting the credits, interest, discount, forfeitures, and other conditions of sale, render it rather complex, and for that reason liable to delays in the final settlement of the accounts of the receivers.
The total quantity of land sold under that system at the several land offices from 1st July, 1800, to 1st July, 1810, and including pre-emption rights in Symmes’s purchase and the Mississippi Territory, amounts to 3,386,000 acres, which have produced 7,062,000 dollars. Of this sum, 4,888,000 dollars have been paid, in specie or evidences of public debt, into the Treasury or into the hands of the receivers of public moneys; the balance is due by the purchasers.
All the laws respecting that branch of the subject are inserted under the head of “General Provisions,” where will also be found the Acts to prevent intrusions on the public lands, which are equally forbidden under various penalties, whether the lands still continue in the possession of the Indians or have been purchased from them. Intrusions subsequent to the 3d March, 1807, work a forfeiture of title or claim, if the intruder had any such, not previously recognized and confirmed by the United States, and the President is authorized to remove such intruders, and to employ, if necessary, military force for that purpose.
An Appendix has been added, which consists principally of various documents connected with the title of the United States, or explanatory of certain extensive claims, either already rejected or requiring a critical investigation. The most important claims of that nature which have come within the knowledge of the Treasury will now be briefly stated.
1. Illinois and Wabash Companies. This is a claim for several millions of acres on those rivers, derived solely from Indian purchases made in 1773 and 1775 by unauthorized individuals. Exclusively of other considerations, such purchases were expressly forbidden by the proclamation of 1763 of the King of England. Yet it has been lately reported that the claimants intended to institute suits for the land.
2. Some large grants by Colonel Wilkins, a former English commanding officer at Illinois. These were also forbidden by the proclamation of 1763, and are recognized by the grantor as null, unless confirmed by his government.
3. A great number of claims in the Illinois Territory reported by the commissioners as fraudulent, and subject to the ultimate decision of Congress.
4. An unlocated township, included in Symmes’s patent, and granted for the support of a seminary of learning, has never been applied to that purpose. Congress has given another township in lieu thereof, and directed that legal steps should be taken to recover the first.
5. The Yazoo claims, so called, embracing about 35 millions of acres in the Mississippi Territory, and derived from a pretended sale by the Legislature of Georgia, but declared null, as fraudulent, by a subsequent Legislature. The evidence, as published by the State of Georgia and by Congress, is inserted in the Appendix, and shows that that transaction, even if considered as a contract, is as such, on acknowledged principles of law and equity, null ab initio; it being in proof that all the members of the Legislature who voted in favor of the sale, that is to say, the agents who pretended to sell the property of their constituents, were, with the exception of a single person, interested in and parties to the purchase. Much litigation must, however, be expected; and orders have lately been given for the removal of certain intruders, some of whom claimed the land under this supposed title.
6. British grants in the Mississippi Territory derived from the Governor of West Florida. These have not been confirmed, unless the claimant had made an actual settlement; but the lands thus claimed have by law been for the present excepted from the sales.
7. Doublehead’s Reserve, so called, is a small tract on the river Tennessee, excepted by a treaty with the Cherokees from a cession of territory made by them. It remains Indian property, and is also claimed by the Chickasaws. The Cherokees, for whose use it was excepted from the general cession, seem to have supposed that they had thereby acquired the right of selling or leasing it to citizens of the United States, who now claim it, and whose removal, as intruders on Indian lands, has been ordered by the President.
8. Bastrop’s claim on the river Washita, in the Territory of Orleans. This is only a contract between the Spanish governor of Louisiana and Baron Bastrop, by which a tract twelve leagues square was promised to him on condition of his settling thereon five hundred families, to each of which four hundred arpens of the land was to be allotted gratis. The execution of the contract was suspended by the Spanish government, and if it be still binding on the United States, it is only the residue of the land, after the families of the settlers shall have been first provided for, which can possibly be claimed. Yet the whole tract is claimed as a fee-simple estate held under a complete title.
9. Maison-rouge’s claim, also on the river Washita, is of the same nature with the preceding. But the contract was approved by the King of Spain, and a certificate was, subsequent to the cession to the United States, obtained from the Spanish officers stating that the conditions had been fulfilled by the claimant. There is no patent in either case; and the assent of the King, which, from its being obtained to the contract with Maisonrouge, seems to have been requisite in large grants, has not been produced for the contract with Bastrop. It may be generally observed that the archives and documents relative to the domain of Louisiana not having been left, in conformity with the treaty, in the possession of the United States, the extent of the powers of the governors or intendants to grant land, beyond the usual concessions to settlers, is not understood, and the difficulty of deciding on the validity of many claims has been greatly increased.
10. Houmas’s claim on the island of New Orleans. This is originally founded on a title to a tract about a league in length, on the left bank of the Mississippi, on a depth of about half a league. The owner, having no timber, asked and obtained from the Spanish governor of Louisiana a back concession as far as the vacant lands extended. The obvious intention of the grant was that it should preserve a breadth equal to that of the tract on the river. But the upper and lower lines of this happening, on account of a bend in the river, not to be parallel, but to diverge, making an angle of 120 degrees, the owners now claim all the land contained between those lines protracted on one hand to Manshak at the mouth of the Iberville, and on the other to the lower extremity of Lake Maurepas; which would include about 120,000 acres of the most valuable vacant land on the island.
11. A permission was granted by a Spanish governor to the inhabitants of Opelousas, in the Territory of Orleans, to cut wood wherever they pleased in the vacant cypress forest, reserving, however, the fee of the soil to the Crown. This grant, from its nature, would seem to be revocable at will, and, if continued unrestricted, will prove equally injurious to the public domain, and ultimately to the settlement itself.
12. Lead mines near Genevieve and other settlements in Louisiana. Two extensive claims of a doubtful nature are laid to some of these. The first derived from Philip Renaut, to whom a grant had been made in 1723 by the local authorities, and who returned to France in 1744, from which time his claim had lain dormant till the year 1807. The power of the officers who made the grant is doubted; and if the charter of the French Western or Mississippi Company was similar to that of Crozat, mines on being abandoned for three years reverted to the Crown. The other rests on an application of St. Vrain Lassus to the Governor of Louisiana for ten thousand acres, to be located on lead mines, salt springs, &c., where and in as many tracts as the applicant might choose. The governor, in February, 1796, writes at the bottom of the petition “Granted.” But no warrant of survey was given nor any attempt made to take up any land during the continuance of the Spanish authorities. The present holder of the supposed grant claims, by virtue of it, and has taken possession of, a number of the most valuable mines belonging to the public.
13. Dubuque’s lead mines in Louisiana, about 500 miles above St. Louis. The claim to these, and including 140,000 acres of land, is derived from a cession by the Indian tribe of Foxes, which appears to have been a mere personal permission to Dubuque to occupy and work mines as long as he pleased. The confirmation by the Spanish governor of Louisiana only grants the petitioner’s request to keep peaceable possession according to the tenor of the Indian permission. There was neither order of survey or patent, but the land is nevertheless claimed as if held under a perfect title.
14. The New Orleans Batture. The documents respecting this claim, which rests on a supposed right of alluvion, were too voluminous for insertion. And exclusively of other considerations, derived from the nature of the Batture, and from the laws of Louisiana, it is sufficient here to observe: 1st. That no title or survey has been produced proving that the land was bounded by the river. 2dly. That that land was converted into a suburb, and all the front lots sold to individuals. 3dly. That if the first purchasers from the Crown had any right to the Batture, this does not appear to have been legally vested in the present claimants. 4thly. That it is incontestably proven that during a period of near forty years, which elapsed between the purchase of the plantation from the Crown and the cession to the United States, the Batture was neither possessed nor claimed by the owners of that plantation, and was during the whole time in the exclusive and undisturbed possession of the public.
Some other vague claims to the public lands have been mentioned, respecting which no documents have been obtained; and it is probable that the reports of the commissioners for the Territories of Louisiana and Orleans will exhibit others as yet unknown.
[1 ]See that document in the Appendix to the Collection of Laws, etc.
[1 ]This Act or treaty of cession has never been made public, but its date is ascertained by the letter of the King of France to D’Abbadie, inserted in the Appendix to the Collection.
[1 ]For that act of acquiescence, see, in the Appendix to the Collection, Cevallos’s letter to Mr. Pinkney, of 10th February, 1804. These remarks have been introduced for the purpose of repelling certain large claims to lands in that territory, said to be derived from grants made by the Spanish officers subsequent to the cession of Louisiana to the United States.
[1 ]The title of the State of Massachusetts to the territory north of the old province of Maine, between New Hampshire and the river Kennebec, is not understood. The northern boundary of that province is, by the charter of 1691, fixed at 120 miles from the sea, and no subsequent document has been seen extending the province to the northern boundary of the United States. Thence it would seem that the territory west of the Kennebec, and north of the boundary established by the charter, vested by the treaty of peaeo in the United States, and not in the State of Massachusetts. The same observation applies to a small tract in the possession of New Hampshire lying north of the 45th degree of north latitude, that parallel appearing to have been the northern boundary of the province whilst under the British government.