« PrejšnjaNaprej »
proper to collect from any person or persons a net amount equal to the value of all products produced by him or them from any of said lands prior to the inclusion of said property in the receivership.
STATEMENT OF MR. G. E. MERRITT, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA., REP RESENTING THE STATE LAND DEPARTMENT OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA.
The CHAIRMAN. Judge, may I inquire how long you expect to be in making your address? The reason I ask that is that there will be a roll call some time this afternoon.
Mr. MERRITT. Well, I think probably in half an hour I can put in all we have, and I may be able to do it in less time than that.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Give your name to the reporter, please.
Mr. MERRITT. I am connected with the State land office as an attorney of that department. However, I was not connected with the suits in the Supreme Court relative to this piece of land, but I am acquainted with all of them, and I knew what was going on at the time.
I want to say that I think that Oklahoma came into this, even with its attempt to declare the Red River a navigable stream, with clean hands, for the reason that Oklahoma was informed by the Department of the Interior that they had only 42,000 acres of public lands in Oklahoma, and that the department had declared that they had no interest in this Red River bed before the suit was brought and before the Department of Justice got into it, and we believed that we had a right, as a State, the same as our sister State to four north (Kansas) had, to declare the rivers in our State navigable streams, which was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.
On that basis we proceeded to make that declaration, both by statute and by decision of our supreme court. Our supreme court in a case held that the Arkansas River was navigable throughout the extent of the State, based upon the decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court in which they held that the Kansas River and the Arkansas River were navigable from Topeka to the boundary of Oklahoma, and we thought if at its source, or along its middle, that it was navigable, it ought to be at its mouth where it flows into the Mississippi, and where it passed along through us.
But just recently the Supreme Court of the United States held that it was not navigable, and I might add here that the Indians in Oklahoma have their rights, and that their rights have entered a great deal into the decisions of our supreme court in these matters.
In the case on the Arkansas River, the Osage Indians and that case was finally decided upon the treaty made with the Osage Indians, in which it was held that under that treaty the Osage Indians were entitled to hold to the middle of the stream. In effect, that precluded Oklahoma from declaring that a navigable stream.
The court said that we would not go back of that treaty and take away from that tribe something that Congress had given it by an act of Congress.
Then, we passed an act in 1919, when this became valuable down there, and just like everybody else--and I might say that I do not believe that the United States would have had very much in Red River either, if Oklahoma had not started. They did not do anything in Texas after all. Our attorney general believed from the start that they were trying to throw a bluff into us. There has always been an abiding faith, in Oklahoma, that our boundary ran to the south banks, We based that upon the Greer County case and the policy which was established there.
This land being in our territory, we concluded that we would proceed to declare it taxable, and that we ought to have the land that the pioneers did not claim.
Now, the only question in our mind at that time was the possibility of the riparian owners on the Oklahoma side going out across the stream. They believed that the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States would be to the effect that this land belonged to Oklahoma. We did not think in the beginning that the United States had any right in there at all; but so far as that is concerned the Supreme Court of the United States has rendered its decision and that is final and Oklahoma is willing to abide by that decision, and we do not want to attempt to show this committee that that court is wrong. It is the greatest court in the world. So far as legal questions are concerned in the United States, when it speaks once, we must all abide by that decision, and Oklahoma is willing to do that.
Then, we come to you and we ask this Congress to grant to us this south half of the river in the place of what we were entitled to under the law of 1892, as amended by the act of 1866.
Now, it has been suggested here that possibly some of the other land granted to the State of Oklahoma at the time was granted in lieu of this land. Now, that is not
We were granted 1,200,000 acres, or 1,250,000 acres of land in lieu of swamp lands and interior improved lands; but there is no reference in the act at all to the 30,000 acres that every State is entitled to, based on the number of representatives it has in the Congress; 30,000 acres for each Senator and each Member of the Congress.
Mr. BURTNESS. The lands that were granted were for the benefit of the common schools of the State?
Mr. MERRITT. We were granted 1,000,000 and somewhere near 400,000 acres of land for the common schools; that is, 16 and 36 on the west side. We were granted, I think, $5,000,000 I presume to offset or in lieu of 16 and 36 on the east side of the State.
Now, some suggestions have been made as to the value of the land and as to comparisons as to the value of lands in other States.
Now, gentlemen, I do not believe that that is a matter that enters into it at all. The question is simply this: That if all of these should be public lands lying in other States that could be granted by Congress to the State of Oklahoma, the State would receive sections 16 and 36 in every township in the whole State, but because of our Indian population, who are wards of the Government, and whom the Government guards and protects and rightly so, but who are in addition citizens of Oklahoma and of like privileges as the citizens in the State, get the benefit of our courts, benefit of our laws and of our schools, yet their lands are not taxable, and we could not obtain sections 16 and 36, so we were deprived of that.
Mr. BURTNESS. Well, now, your contention is that you should have had sections 16 and 36 and also 210,000 acres in addition; is that, briefly, what your contention is, in order to be on a parity with other States?
Mr. MERRITT. If we had received sections 16 and 36 throughout the entire State of Oklahoma, we would still have been entitled to 210,000 acres additional, because every State in the Union, not only those that have come into the Union since, but those that were in the Union prior to the time of the passage of the act of 1866, have received either lands or script or money, in place of that, based upon the representation in Congress, 30,000 acres for each Senator and Representative.
The CHAIRMAN. Were they given that by their enabling acts or by separate acts?
Mr. MERRITT. No; they were given that under the act of 1862. I have a list of them here somewhere.
Mr. BURTNESS. Now, take my State, and I think North Dakota, Washington, Montana, and South Dakota were all admitted at the same time, under the same act, same enabling act-I plead ignorance, but I suppose that their common school systems were simply given sections 16 and 36. Now, do you have any record that indicates or shows what those States received, those four States which were admitted in 1889 received, for comparative purposes?
Mr. MERRITT. North Dakota, under the act of 1862, received 90,000 acres. It came in with two Senators and one Representative.
South Dakota, under the same act, received 120,000 acres, coming in with two Senators and two Representatives.
West Virginia received 150,000 acres in script.
Mr. Merritt, As I understand it, the script entitled them to take up public land elsewhere.
Mr. DYAR. Yes.
Mr. MERRITT. West Virginia got 150,000; Nevada, 90,000; Nebraska, 90,000; Colorado, 90,000: North Dakota, 90,000; South Dakota, 120,000; Montana, 90,000; Washington, 90,000; Idaho, 90,000; Wyoming, 90,000; Utah, 200,000, specially exempted; and Arizona and New Mexico, which were admitted after Oklahoma, did not receive this grant, but were granted other lands in lieu thereof.
Now, they were specifically mentioned in the act, in the enabling act of these two States, while in Oklahoma there is no mention at all of any of these lands being in lieu of the 30,000 acres for each Representative.
Now, to go back just a little bit, I want to show you what Oklahoma lost by not receiving this land.
Mr. LARSEN. Judge, before you go into that, could I interrupt you to get you to answer this question: There were a great many other States that were granted those lands, and that received sections 16 and 36 and sold those lands. I saw a statement, I think, somewhere as to what a majority of the States got for those lands. Have you such a statement or are you able to tell the committee what the other States received for their lands?
Mr. MERRITT. For what lands?
Mr. LARSEN. What I want to know is what the States sold their sections 16 and 36 for?
Mr. MERRITT. Practically all of them have sold their land. I believe that your State still has some land.
Mr. LARSEN. No; I do not think so.
Mr. LARSEN. Yes; we had some, but I do not think that we have any now. I am not sure about it, but I do not believe that we have any now.
Mr. MERRITT. Now, we came into the Union with 44,000,000 acres of land, in 1907. We had 44,819,200 acres, and of that, 19,840,000, cr approximately 20,000,000 acres of that land was on the east side in the old Indian Territory and practically all of it was Indian land, except the little towns that were cut out here and there which did not amount to very much. This land was not taxable.
At our entrance into the Union, we had less than 25 per cent of the land in our State that was subject to taxation,
So that on that consideration, it seems to me that we are entitled to a great deal of consideration.
Now, as to the value of our lands and their being more valuable or less valuable than other States, as stated before, I do not think that ought to enter into the question, We are entitled to the benefit of the policy of the Government, to sections 16 and 36, in all townships in the State.
On the west side we received practically 1,375,000 acres, or something like that, close to that figure. This land we have sold or a great deal of it, and we have now, I understand, $10,500,000 to be collected from the land. It was sold on a 40-year payment plan. We have out on first mortgages $7,500,000, and at the time this statement was made, we had about $250,000 cash. We estimate the value of the land unsold to be about $4,000,000. That makes a total value of $23,000,000 from the west side.
Now, that is what this land has netted.
To offset that on the east side, we were given $5,000,000. If we had received sections 16 and 36, which we should have received, we would have received in acreage, 1,100,000 acres, which figured on the basis at which we have sold the other land, would have amounted to practically $8,000,000, so that we figure that we are $13,000,000 short on what we should have had, if we had received our grants the same as other States received when they came into the Union.
Mr. BURTNESS. Now, Judge, if you will pardon an interruption, in the sale of these school lands, did you reserve the oil and mineral rights ?
Mr. MERRITT. No; when we sell land, we sell it outright, and in fee simple always; but under the enabling act, we were required to retain the title to our valuable oil and gas lands, and not sell them prior to January 1, 1915, and our State legislature, under the act these lands were granted to us to be disposed of under the rules and regulations to be provided by the legislature of our State-our State legislature early adopted the policy of authorizing the Commissioner of the Land Office wherever they deemed any lands to be valuable for oil or gas to segregate and withdraw those lands from sale, so all of those lands have not been put up for sale, and that act of the legislature is responsible for much of the land that we still have on hand. However, I might say that there are thousands of acres that were segregated, that so far as we know now do not have any oil or gas values.
Mr. BURTNESS. Are you able to show the value of any lands that have been retained, or anything of that sort?
Mr. MERRITT. Lands that have been retained, no, sir.
There is only one piece of valuable land, one section of this land that we have on the west side that has become very valuable for oil and gas.
As the State opens up, and the development of the oil country is extended out, now and then, we have sections that become valuable. I can give an instance of one section of land, in one place, where there were three-quarter sections, at the time of the sale in 1911, three-quarter sections. At the time of the sale in 1911, three of the lessees—you remember, under our enabling act, the lessees that were on the land were given the preference of purchase at the time of the sale. They do not have to bid. They can stand back and watch everyone else bid, and when the bidding is through they can say whether they want to take the land or not at that party's bid. They were given that privilege. Three lessees on that one section were—and our law also provides that if there are no bidders, that they might take the land at its appraised value. There were no bidders on these three sections, and these people elected to take these three-quarter sections. These pieces of land have become valuable for oil, and now these three men are among the richest people in our State. The one section, the State still owns. It made a lease on it for a bonus of about $8,000, and it is being developed. However, we had one section on which a fight was made from the district court in Stevens County to the Supreme Court of the United States, and one of the principles-one of the difficulties which we have had, is that we have had to fight these lessees, had trouble in connection with these leases, which were given this preference right, under our enabling act, and they are not willing to recognize the authority of Oklahoma, and they still say that they are acting under rights that they acquired from the Government.
Now, I want to call your attention to a point, want to quote here from a report of the Committee on Public Lands. There does not seem to be any date on this report, but it was a report made by this committee
The CHAIRMAN. There should be a date at the head of it.
Mr. MERRITT. There does not seem to be. It is the Sixty-fourth Congress, first session-yes; here it is. It is June 6, 1916. This is a part of a report, and I want to read it to you.
"Inasmuch as the Secretary of the Interior held the act of 1862-
Mr. MERRITT. Mr. McClintic of the Committee on the Public Lands, submitted the following:
“Inasmuch as the Secretary of the Interior held the act of 1862, as amended by the act of 1866, constituted a pledge to new States and dependent upon the action of Congress to carry out the pledge this proceeding is rendered necessary to enable the State of Oklahoma to acquire or receive the benefits of the grant of 1862 and 1866, since the State date, in the opinion of the committee, has not received any other lands in lieu or satisfaction of this grant.
“A comparison of the enabling act of Oklahoma (34 Stat. 267) with the enabling act of New Mexico and Arizona (36 Stat. 557) clearly sustains the judgment of the committee in the premises. The granting portions of the Oklahoma act for higher educational purposes are contained in two sections."
Now, he quotes from section 8 of the enabling act, as the granting section. This grant-I do not want to go on and give it. This grant is for higher education
And section 12 reads:
“Sec. 12. That in lieu of the grant of land for purposes of internal improvement made to new. States by the eighth section of the act of September 4, 1841, which section is hereby repealed as to said State, and in lieu of any claim or demand of the State of Oklahoma under the act of September 28, 1850, and section 2479 of the Revised Statutes, making a grant of swamp and overflowed lands, which grant it is hereby declared is not extended to said State of Oklahoma, the following grant of land is hereby made to said State from public lands of the United States, within said State, for the purposes indicated, namely
That land was 1,200,000 or 1,250,000 acres, which we have nominated in our State as new college land. It was to be used for higher education.
Now, in grants to New Mexico and Arizona they contained this provision I just read, and in lieu, they were granted 30,000 acres for each Senator and Representative in Congress made by the act of July 2, 1862, Twelfth Statutes at Large, page 503, “which grants are hereby declared not to extend to the said State."
And also in the enabling act of Arizona, and in lieu of the grant of 30,000 acres for each Senator and Representative in Congress made by the act of July 2, 1862, there is a provision which reads: "Which grants are hereby declared not to extend to said State, the following grants are hereby made, to wit," etc.
You will notice these are the only two States in the Union that were not granted this, but other lands were granted in lieu.
Now, every other State has received scripts or public lands, to the amount of 30,000 acres for each Senator and each Representative, including the original States, but Oklahoma stands alone as never having received this 30,000 acres for each of its Representatives, and we feel that we are entitled to it at this time.
Mr. Dyar. I do not see Ohio on this list. I was wondering whether Ohio got her share.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, don't you get busy.
Mr. MERRITT. Ohio received agricultural college script. This act—under this act, this land applies to States which had agricultural and mechanical colleges, and Ohio received 250,000 acres.
Mr. Dyar. It is not on this paper.