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bounties to soldiers; (4.) grants to railways; (5.) preemption rights to actual settlers.
When the Republican Convention met at Chicago in May, 1860, the House of Representatives had passed a homestead bill that was then pending in the Senate. The convention endorsed the House bill and demanded its passage. The Senate laid aside the House bill, and passed a bill reported from its own committee. Upon conference the two houses were brought to an agreement, and the bill was submitted to the president, who returned it to the Senate with a message containing his objections.
Upon the question: “Shall the bill pass, the objection of the president to the contrary notwithstanding," the yeas were twenty-seven and the nays were eighteen. Mr. Johnson of Tennessee voted in the negative for the purpose of moving a reconsideration. Upon the passage of the bill originally the yeas were forty-four and the nays eight. The seventeen negative votes on the question raised by the veto message were given by Democrats, and of these eight had voted for the bill upon the question of its passage.
The veto message of President Buchanan made a distinct issue, and thenceforth the scheme assumed a political character. A nominal price of twenty-five cents had been fixed in the bill. That sum was designed to meet the cost of making the surveys and maintaining the land offices. The bill also granted to States certain lands that were within the jurisdictions of the respective States.
The president treated the grants to States and to settlers as gifts. In this view he was supported by the text of the bill, but he committed a grave error when he denied to Congress the power to dispose of the land for any purpose except revenue. A contrary practice had prevailed for more than half a century, and that practice was an authoritative commentary upon the meaning of the words, “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property belonging to the United States."
If Congress could endow a system of schools in a State by a free gift of the public lands, with stronger reason could it grant a homestead out of those lands to the head of a family whose children were to be educated in the schools.
The constitutional grant to Congress of power to dispose of the public lands was a broad power. It would have been equally easy, and more natural, to have limited the power to the sale of the lands,
That this was not
if such had been the purpose of the convention. done justifies the inference that it was the intention to allow Congress to dispose of the lands in that way which seemed most conducive to the public interest.
Previous to the passage of the act, approved the 20th of May, 1862, granting a homestead upon the public lands to certain persons named in the act, the title from the United States could be acquired only by virtue of the preemption laws which authorized the head of a family, or widow, or a single person, over twenty-one years of age, and a citizen of the United States, to make a location of one hundred and sixty acres at a cost of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, or by the location of bounty land warrants which had been issued to officers and soldiers who had performed service in some one of the wars in which the country had been engaged. Aliens who had filed an intention to become citizens of the United States, were also entitled to the benefits of the preemption laws. Since the act of May, 1862, was passed, no authority has been given for the issue of bounty land warrants, but, by the statute of the 8th of June, 1872, every sailor, soldier, and officer who had served ninety days during the late Rebellion was authorized to enter upon any of the reserved sections of the public lands along the line of any railroad, and locate a quarter section of one hundred and sixty acres, and receive a patent therefor. The alternate section of lands along the the lines of railroads for which grants had been made, were reserved by the government, and valued at two dollars and a half an acre. Other public lands could be taken under the preemption laws at a dollar and a quarter per acre. Every sailor, soldier, and officer who was thus authorized to make entry upon the reserved lands was allowed six months after the location to make entry and commence his improvements.
By the act of 1862, every person who was the head of a family, or who had arrived at the age of twenty-one years, and who was a citizen of the United States, or, who, being an alien, had declared his intention to become such, was authorized to make entry of one quarter of a section of land as a homestead, of any of the lands subject to preemption at a dollar and a quarter per acre, or eighty acres of the reserved lands, and subject to preemption at two dollars and a half an acre. The title, however, could be acquired only by five years' continuous residence unless the settler should plant trees upon the same in the proportion of one acre of forest to every sixteen
acres of land. In such case the title could be acquired at the end of three years. All mineral lands are excluded from the operation of the preemption and homestead laws, but, by the statute of the 10th of May, 1872, they were declared to be free and open to exploration and purchase whether the same had, or had not, been surveyed. By the same statute the limits of each location were prescribed.
Claimants are required to expend at least five hundred dollars in labor upon each claim. After public notice of the existence of a claim, and the expiration of sixty days therefrom, if no contestant appears, the claimant is entitled to a patent upon the payment of five dollars an acre to the proper officer. For the homestead system the Republican party is responsible.
In every country, and under every system of government, the ownership of land by the larger portion of the people has been a cause for congratulation, and the fact has been treated as evidence of stability in the government. The wisdom of the homestead act can be demonstrated by whatever resonable test is applied. And first of all as to revenues. When President Buchanan vetoed the homestead bill in 1860, the Secretary of the Interior estimated that the revenue from the sale of lands would be four million dollars for the next fiscal year.
Can there be a doubt that the increase of population, due to the homestead act, has added to the customs and internal revenue receipts a sum very much in excess of four million dollars annually?
The homestead system has stimulated migration from the older and most densely populated States to the frontier States and the territories, diminishing consequently the number of persons who depend for subsistence upon the sale of their labor, and increasing the number who depend for subsistence upon the sale of the products of their labor. The sale of labor is a necessary incident in the prosecution of business, but it is less conspicuous in agriculture than in manufactures, commerce, and the mechanic arts.
Population tends to the commercial cities and manufacturing towns. Any surplus of population, or of labor, in cities and large towns, generates, speedily, social and political evils of the gravest sort. The homestead system has counteracted this tendency, and multitudes of men who otherwise could not have escaped from the condition of dependent laborers, are now independent landholders and influential citizens of great and growing States.
The productive powers of mankind are now so vast, the competi
tion so active, the relations and interests of nations are so intimate and interwoven with each other, that it is no longer possible, even in the United States, to exclude the paternal quality of government from the administration of our affairs.
The chief problem of all is to so encourage and diversify industries as to secure constant and profitable employment upon the land for the largest possible proportion of our inhabitants.
THE POLICY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN FAVOR OF UNIVER· SAL EDUCATION.
HEN the Republican party was formed its power was in those States that had been distinguished for their interest in systems of public instruction.
Indeed, it may be assumed that the general intelligence of the people in the old Free States, is due to the system of free schools, and that except for that general intelligence the Republican party could not have been organized into a controlling majority. As in the beginning the party was composed of men who did not agree in measures of public policy outside of the slavery question, the organization of the party could only be preserved and its growth increased by concessions upon subordinate topics.
Such concessions are made only by men whose intelligence is so great that they can discriminate between measures and policies that are vital and those which are expedient.
The Free State party in Kansas was composed of men who represented fairly the States that supported Gen. Fremont in 1856.
Torn and wasted as Kansas had been by the invasions of slaveholders and Federal troops in the vain attempt to make it "slave" territory, that border community of hardy Republicans incorporated into its first organic law a free, public, graded system of schools, embracing common, normal, preparatory, collegiate, and university departments." It established a public school-fund which now amounts to about $2,500,000.
The confidence of Congress in the final triumph of the government was manifested in the passage of the bill "donating public lands to the several States and Territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts," approved July 2, 1862.