Slike strani

1,834,998,400 acres. Of this amount there had been disposed of under the land laws, up to June 30, 1870, 447,266,190.16 acres, leaving still in possession of the Government 1,387,732,209.84 acres. The rate of annual disposal is increasing, and must increase still more rapidly as the public surveys are extended to enable claimants to designate the legal subdivisions located upon the soil. Of the 198,165,794.67 acres which will inure to railroads and wagon roads, under the various grants of Congress, title had passed to only 23,430,270 acres up to the 30th of June last, leaving 174,735,524.67 acres which will soon be demanded by the beneficiaries. If twenty years should elapse before the last of these donations be certified or patented this item alone will require an annual disposal of public lands fully equal to the entire operations of the land offices and of this office at present. When we take into consideration the swelling tide of immigration and the increased rapidity, in all other departments, of appropriation of the public lands, we can reasonably anticipate a large increase over the present annual rates.


The term public domain is generally used in its widest sense, embrac. ing the total area of the public-land States and Territories, the jurisdiction of which, as well as the title to the soil, once resided in the General Government.

According to the statement in the foregoing, and heretofore reported, the aggregate area of the public lands of the United States on the 30th of June, 1870, was 2,867,184.74 square miles, or 1,834,998,400 acres. This, however, embraces only that portion of the public domain coming under the jurisdiction of the General Land Office. The territory now included within the limits of Tennessee, according to the terms of the above definition, was as substantially a portion of said domain as Obio or Indiana, yet the public lands in Temessee were not disposed of under the direction of the executive department of the General Government, and hence have not been embraced iu our annual reports. If the area of Tennessee, 45,600 square miles, or 29,181,000 acres, were added to the areas of the public lands officially reported, the aggregate actual surface would be 2,912,784.74 square iniles, or 1,864,382,223 acres.

This territory was acquired by the Government, tirst, by cessions from States in the Union, and, second, by treaty with foreign powers.

By the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain, concluded September 3, 1783, our national territory was defined as extending westward from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River, and from a line on the north of the lakes to the thirty first parallel, and the south boundary of Georgia, embracing 830,000 square miles, or 531,200,000 acres. Of this area 311,756 square miles, or 218,723,510 acres, were included in the thirteen original States constituting the American Union. Kentucky, Vermont, and Maine were subsequently erected out of territory claimed re. spectively by Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, by virtue of grants from the British Crown prior to the Revolution. These States embrace 82,892 square miles, or 53,050,880 acres. The remainder of our original territory, including 405,352 square miles, or 259,425,280 acres, was held by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, under graut from Great Britain, during their colonial condition. These territorial interests were surrendered to the general government of the Union by the last-named States at different times subsequent to July 4, 1776, and constituted the nucleus of our public domain. Those interests cover the entire surface of the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, that part of Minnesota lying east of the Mississippi River, and all of Alabama and Mississippi lying north of the thirty-first parallel. In order to trace the chain of title by which the United States now hold these lands it will be necessary to review briefly the charters granted by the Crown to the different colonies. This is by no means of easy accomplishment, owing mainly to two causes: first, the ignorance, in the early history of this hemisphere, of the chorography of the North American Continent in those who drew these charters, and, secondly, a disregard on the part of English sovereigns of prior grants of the same territory. Serious conflicts of title and popular commotions, resulting in some cases in violence and bloodshed, grew out of these overlapping grants, indicating complications and obscurities sufficient to excuse misapprehension in early historians and publicists.

The first efforts to colonize our continent by the English were made under the reign of Elizabeth ; patents were granted to Sir H. Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh, and others, authorizing settlements upon territories not actually in possession of any prince in alliance with the Queen, yet all attempts at settlement under these charters proved abortive; the Tudor dynasty passed away and several years of the first reign of the Stuarts had elapsed before the Anglo-Saxon race had gained a permanent foothold on this continent.

In 1606 James I, on application of Sir Thomas Gates, authorized the establishment of two colonies, named, respectively, the first and second colonies of Virginia. The first enterprise was confided to a corporation of citizens of London, and is often historically referred to as the "London Company.” The territorial grant of the first colony covered a strip of sea-coast fifty miles broad, extending from the tbirty-fourth to the fortyfirst parallel, with all the islands within one hundred miles of the shore. No settlements in the rear of these limits were to be permitted, except upon written license from the colonial council. To the second colony, consisting of citizens of the city of Plymouth, and hence called the “Plymouth Company," was assigned the tract between the thirty-eighth and forty-fifth parallels. The territory between the thirty-eighth and fortyfirst parallels was then embraced in both charters, but conflict of jurisdiction was avoided by providing that neither colony should establish a settlement within one hundred miles of any actual occupancy of the other.

This belt of three degrees, then, constituted debatable ground, the jurisdiction of which was to be determined by prior settlement. A noble provision in these charters excluded all feudal tenures, and required all the lands to be held in free and common socage, as in the English county of Kent. To this exclusion of tenancies in capite, or by knight's fees, as in England, we may trace that liberalization of American civilization which finally surmounted all the legal superstitions of feudalism and culminated in the fundamental axioms of freedom which found such logical expression in the Declaration of Independence. The long delay in the occupancy of the American wilderness by a civilized population is now seen as an element of untold advantage to the cause of liberty and progress. The very difficulties of colonization compelled the English government to multiply the attractions, especially by liberalizing the land tenures. The democratic principle being thus firmly fixed in the social organism, we bave no difficulty in tracing its revolutionary influence upon political institutions.

The attempts at settlement under the charter to the first colony of

Virginia proving failures, King James, in May 1609, granted a charter incorporating the London Company, under the title of “The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony of Virginia.” The territorial limits of the colony were extended to embrace the whole sea-coast north and south within two hundred miles of Old Point Comfort, extending from sea to sea, west and northwest,” and also “ all the islands within one hundred miles along the coast of both seas of the precinct aforesaid,"evidently meaning the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Under this enlarged charter the first permanent settlement was made in 1611. In 1624 this charter of the first colony of Virginia was vacated by the court of King's Bench and its government confided to a royal commission. The company was soon dissolved, sinking £120,000 in the enterprise. In 1625 Charles I issued a proclamation alleging the judicial repeal of the charter and transformed the colony into a royal province. The chartered limits of the colony were subsequently reduced by including successive portions of it in other colonies. The territory of Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina, with parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Georgia, were originally included in the jurisdiction of the London Company. The residuum of the original territory of the first colony of Virginia was claimed by the State of Virginia at the breaking out of the revolutionary war.

For several years after the permanent settlement of the first colony, the second Plymouth Company was unsuccessful, and finally became discouraged in regard to the establishment of colonies within its chartered limits. In November, 1620, the King, James I, granted a new

, charter to this company, reiterating the grants previously made, and desiguating the extreme territorial limits as the fortieth and forty-eighth parallels, “ from sea to sea.” This territory was named New England, and placed under the government of the “Council of Plymouth."

A number of Puritans, having been driven from England by the persecutions inflicted upon them during the reign of Elizabeth, had settled at Amsterdam, in Holland. Failing to obtain from James I'a relaxation of the persecuting policy, they determined to seek an asylwn in the wilderness of North America, and first directed their attention to the valley of the Hudson. After tedious negotiations with the London Company for a settlement within the limits of the first colony of Virginia, they finally obtained a patent for a tract of land, but without explicit assurance of security in the rights of conscience. After some hesitation, they embarked their first company of emigrants upon the Mayflower at Delft Haven, and in November, 1620, the Pilgrims were landed at the present site of Plymouth. The place of their landing being outside the limits of the first colony of Virginia, their patent from the London Company was useless, and they were compelled to settle upon the territory of the northern colony, trusting to circumstances for legal authority. From this settlement arose one of the noblest reorganizations of society by colonization that history records. Overcoming herculean difficulties of climate and soil, the colonists achieved within the following decade such a measure of success and substantial progress that the Plymouth Company was induced, in spite of aristocratic and ecclesiastical prejudices, to grant them a charter in January, 1630, covering a tract lying between the Cohasset and Narraganset Rivers, and extending westward “to the utmost bounds of a country in New England called Pokanoket, alias Sowamset.” The grant embraced also a tract lying fifteen miles wide along each side of the Kennebec River, which was subsequently incorporated with the province of Maine.


[ocr errors]

In March 1628 the council of Plymouth sold to Sir Henry Roswell, Sir John Young, and four associates, a patent for that part of New England lying between the parallels passing through points three miles north of the mouth of the Merrimack and three miles south of the mouth of Charles River, extending westward to the Pacific. This territory, called Massachusetts, from the Indian name of a bay upon its coast, was settled by English Nonconformists, who purchased rights under the patent to the Massachusetts company. On the petition to this company, seconded by the influence of Lord Dorchester, Charles I, in March 1629, confirmed the grant of the Council of Plymouth to Roswell and his followers, with the assignments that had been made under it, in a charter incorporating the colony under the name of “The Governor and Company of Massachusetts.” In 1684, during the brief tyranny of James II, the Court of King's Bench, upon a writ of quo warranto, vacated the charter of Massachusetts and the prior grant to Roswell and his associates, with all the assignments under which it had been made. But after the accession of William and Mary, October 1691, a new charter was issued, consolidating the colonies of Massechusetts Bay, New Plymouth, Maine, Arcadia, Nova Scotia, and the territory intervening between the two last mentioned, into a single colony under the name of Massachusetts Bay. The province of Arcadia was ceded to France by the treaty of Breda, in 1667, and the transfer acknowledged by the treaty of Ryswick, in 1697. On its restoration to England by the treaty of Utrecht, in 1712, it became a distinct province, with the line of the St. Croix for its western boundary, and it now constitutes the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The history of Maine presents some remarkable variations of boundary. In 1622 the Council of Plymonth granted to Sir Fernando Gorges and Capt. John Mason, jointly, the lands lying between the Merrimack and Kennebec Rivers, under the name of Laconia. In November 1029 the Council of Plymouth gave to Captain John Mason a charter covering that portion of the above-described colony of Laconia situated between the two lines, each sixty miles long, traversing the entire length of the Merrimack and Piscataqua Rivers, and joined at their inland extremities by a straight line. In 1631 Gorges, Mason, and others obtained

• another charter to a portion of Laconia lying on both sides of the Piscataqua. At some period prior to the dissolution of the Plymouth Council in 1635, Gorges had obtained from it a charter covering all that part of Laconia lying east of the Piscataqua, which was confimed by the King in 1639, four years after the dissolution of the council. The remaining area of Maine had been patented to two other parties in two separate tracts, thus dividing the entire province between three patents and consolidating a number of minor grants. No evidence is presented of any occupation of the soil under the patents of the two parties above referred to. The council had also, prior to its dissolution, consented to a grant by the King to Sir William Alexander, covering the territory east of the St. Croix and south of the St. Lawrence.

Gorges, engaging in the civil war on the royal side, was taken pris. oner by the parliamentary forces, and thus compromised his rights under the republican régime that followed. The province suffered on the withdrawal of his authority, especially after his death in 1649, from the factious intrigues of ambitious demagogues. The loss and suffering thus entailed inclined the colonists to accept the claim of jurisdiction which Massachusetts began to urge in 1652. This claim was founded upon a new interpretation of the limits of the grant

from the Council of Plymouth to Roswell and his associates in 1628. The northern bound

ary was, by this construction, not the parallel passing three miles north of the mouth of the Piscataqua, but that passing three miles north of its source, or 430 43' north latitude, which strikes the Atlantic coast at Casco Bay. During the following year Massachusetts employed skillful mathematicians to make out this new boundary. In 1658 the new line had been generally recognized in the inhabited districts; but in 1664 the King, by letter, ordered the restoration of the province to the heirs of Gorges. In defiance of this order, Massachusetts, in 1666, resumed the government of the province, and in 1668 sent four commissioners, with a troop of horse, to enforce her authority. In 1677 the two lords chief justices of King's Bench and of common pleas, to whom this question had been referred, decided adversely to the claim of Massachusetts, the initial point of her northern boundary being fixed three miles north of the mouth of the Merrimack. The agents of Massachusetts purchased the claims of the heirs of Gorges, anticipating the overtures of the King himself for the same purpose. The claim of Massachusetts, being then generally recognized, was, by the charter of William and Mary, in 1691, definitely legalized. Maine retained this status as a district of Massachusetts up to the time of her admission, in 1820, as a State of the American Union..

That portion of Laconia west of the Piscataqua, not having been purchased by Massachusetts, was not thereafter a portion of that province. In 1679 the King ordered a commission for organizing this territory into a separate government, under the name of New Hampshire. In 1740 a tedious controversy in regard to its south boundary was settled by the lords in council, whose decision, approved by the King, fixed it along a line following the meanderings of the Merrimack at three miles distance on the north side, from its mouth to the falls of the Pawtucket, " and thence due west to meet the other royal governments."

The charter of 1691 made Massachusetts coterminous on the south with the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The colonies were erected within the limits of a grant from the Council of Plymouth, in 1630, to its president the Earl of Warwick, and by him, in 1031, transferred to two English lords, Say and Seal and Brooke. Its limits were described with an ambiguity and obscurity of expression remarkable even in those days of rude description and want of geographical knowl. edge, and laid the foundation for serious conflicts of title in after years. They included all that part of New England west of the Narraganset River, extending “the space of forty leagues upon a straight line near the ser shore, toward the south and west, as the coast lieth toward Virginia, accounting three English miles to the league; and also all and singular the lands and hereditaments whatsoever lying and being within the lands aforesaid, north and south in latitude, and in breadth and length, and longitude of, and within all the breadth aforesaid, throughout the main lands there from the Western Ocean to the South Sea."

This territory was settled by several independent communities or colonies, which, by the charter of Charles II, in 1662, were consolidated into a single colony by the name of “ The Governor and Company of the English Colony in Connecticut in America.” The colony of New Haven, included in this charter, refused to submit to the arrangement till 1665. The territory of this consolidated colony was designated as extending from Narraganset Bay to the Pacitic, and from the line of Massachusetts plantations southward to the sea coast, including the adjacent islands. The present boundary was finally settled by agreement in 1713. From this broad area Connecticut was destined to sub

« PrejšnjaNaprej »