according to the length of time the lands have been in the market, without reference to any other circumstances. The certainty that the efflux of time would not always in such cases, and perhaps not even generally, furnish a true criterion of value, and the probability that persons residing in the vicinity, as the period for the reduction of prices approached, would postpone purchases they would otherwise make, for the purpose of availing themselves of the lower price, with other considerations of a similar character, have hitherto been successfully urged to defeat the graduation upon time.

May not all reasonable desires upon this subject be satisfied without encountering any of these objections ? All will concede the abstract principle, that the price of the public lands should be proportioned to their relative value, so far as that can be accomplished without departing from the rule heretofore observed, requiring fixed prices in cases of private entries. The difficulty of the subject seems to lie in the mode of ascertaining what that value is. Would not the safest plan be that which has been adopted by many of the states as to the basis of taxationan actual valuation of lands and classification of them into different rates ?

Would it not be practicable and expedient to cause the relative value of the public lands in the old districts, which have been for a certain length of time in market, to be appraised and classed into two or more rates below the present minimum price, by the officers now employed in this branch of the public service, or in any other mode deemed preferable, and to make those prices permanent, if upon the coming in of the report they shall prove satisfactory to Congress? Cannot all the objects of graduation be accomplished in this way, and the objections which have hitherto been urged against it, avoided ? It would seem to me that such a step, with a restriction of the sales to limited quiintities, and for actual improve. ment, would be free from all just exceptions.

By the full exposition of the value of the lands thus furnished and extensively promulgated, persons living at a distance would be informed of their true condition, and enabled to enter into competition with those residing in

the vicinity; the means of acquiring an independent home would be brought within the reach of many who are unable to purchase at present prices; the population of the new states would be more compact, and large tracts would be sold which would otherwise remain on hand; not only would the land be brought within the means of a large number of purchasers, but many per. sons possessed of greater means would be content to settle on a larger quantity of the poorer lands, rather than emigrate further west in pursuit of a smaller quantity of better lands.

Such a measure would also seem to be more consistent with the policy of the existing laws—that of converting the public domain into cultivated farms owned by their occupants. That policy is not best promoted by sending emigration up the almost interminable streams of the west, to occupy in groups the best spots of land, leaving immense wastes behind them, and enlarging the frontier beyond the means of the government to afford it adequate protection ; but in encouraging it to occupy, with reasonable denseness, the territory over which it advances, and find its best defence in the compact front which it presents to the Indian tribes. Many of you will bring to the consideration of the subject the advantage of local knowledge and greater experience, and all will be desirous of making an early and final disposition of every disturbing question in regard to this important interest. If these suggestions shall in any degree contribute to the accomplishment of so important a result, it will afford me sincere satisfaction.

In some sections of the country most of the public lands have been sold, and the registers and receivers have little to do. It is a subject worthy of inquiry whether, in many cases, two or more districts might not be consolidated, and the number of persons employed in this business considerably reduced. Indeed, the time wili come, when it will be the true policy of the general gove ernment, as to some of the states, to transfer to them, for a reasonable equivalent, all the refuse and unsold lands, and to withdraw the machinery of the federal land offices altogether. All who take a comprehensive view of ou

federal system, and believe that one of its greatest excel. lencies consists in interfering as little as possible with the internal concerns of the states, look forward with great interest to this result.

A modification of the existing laws in respect to the prices of the public lands, might also have a favorable influence on the legislation of Congress, in relation to another branch of the subject. Many who have not the ability to buy at present prices, settle on those lands, with the hope of acquiring from their cultivation the means of purchasing under pre-emption laws, from time to time passed by Congress. For this encroachment on the rights of the United States, they excuse themselves under the plea of their own necessities; the fact that they dispossess nobody, and only enter upon the waste domain; that they give additional value to the public lands in their vicinity, and their intention ultimately to pay the government prices. So much weight has from time to time been attached to these considerations, that Congress have passed laws giving actual settlers on the public lands a right of pre-emption to the tracts occupied by them, at the minimum price.

These laws have in all instances been retrospective in their operations; but in a few years after their passage, crowds of new settlers have been found on the public lands, for similar reasons, and under like expectations, who have been indulged with the same privilege. This course of legislation tends to impair public respect for the laws of the country. Either the laws to prevent intrusion upon the public lands should be executed, or, if that should be impracticable or inexpedient, they should be modified or repealed. If the public lands are to be considered as open to be occupied by any, they should, by law, be thrown open to all.

That which is intended, in all instances, to be legal. ized, should at once be made legal, that those who are disposed to conform to the laws, may enjoy at least equal privileges with those who are not. But it is not believed to be the disposition of Congress to open the public lands to occupancy without regular entries and payment of the government price, as such a course must tend to worse sary to abolish

evils than the credit system, which it was found neces

It would seem, therefore, to be the part of wisdom and sound policy to remove, as far as practicable, the causes which produce intrusions upon the public lands, and then take efficient steps to prevent them in future. Would any single measure be so effective in removing all plausible grounds for these intrusions as the graduation of price already suggested? A short period of industry and economy in any part of our country would enable the poorest citizen to accumulate the means to buy him a home at the lowest prices, and leave him without apology for settling on lands not his own. If he did not, under such circumstances, he would enlist no sympathy in his favor; and the laws would be readily executed without doing violence to public opinion.

A large portion of our citizens have seated themselves on the public lands, without authority, since the passage of the last pre-emption law, and now ask the enactment of another, to enable them to retain the lands occupied, upon payment of the minimum government price. They ask that which has been repeatedly granted before. If the future may be judged of by the past, little harm can be done to the interests of the treasury by yielding to their request. Upon a critical examination, it is found that the lands sold at the public sales since the introduction of cash payments in 1820, have produced, on an average, the nett revenue of only six cents on an acre more than the minimum government price. There is no reason to suppose that future sales will be more productive. The government, therefore, has no adequate pecuniary interest to induce it to drive those people from the lands they occupy, for the purpose of selling them to others.

Entertaining these views, I recommend the passage of a pre-emption law for their benefit, in connection with the J'reparatory steps towards the graduation of the price of ile public lands, and farther and more effectual provisions to prevent intrusions hereafter. Indulgence to those who have settled on these lands with expectations that past legislation would be made a rule for the future, and

at the same time removing the most plausible ground on which intrusions are excused, and adopting more efficicnt means to prevent them hereafter, appears to me the most judicious disposition which can be made of this difficult subject.

The limitations and restrictions to guard against abuses in the execution of the pre-emption law, will necessarily attract the attention of Congress; but under no circumstances is it considered expedient to authorize floating claims in any shape. They have been heretofore, and doubtless would be hereafter, most prolific sources of fraud and oppression, and instead of operating to confer the favor of the government on industrious settlers, are often used only to minister to a spirit of cupidity at the expense of the most meritorious of that class.

The accompanying report of the secretary of war will bring to your view the state of the army, and all the various subjects confided to the superintendence of that officer.

The principal part of the army has been concentrated in Florida, with a view and in the expectation of bringing the war in that territory to a speedy close. The necessity of stripping the posts on the maritime and inland frontiers of their entire garrisons, for the purpose of assembling in the field an army of less than four thousand men, would seem to indicate the necessity of increasing our regular forces; and the superior efficiency as well as greatly diminished expense of that description of troops, recommend this measure as one of economy, as well as of expediency. I refer to the report, for the reasons which have induced the secretary of war to urge the re-organi. zation and enlargement of the staff of the army, and of he ordnance corps, in which I fully concur.

It is not, however, compatible with the interest of the people to maintain, in time of peace, a regular force adequate to the defence of our extensive frontiers. In periods of danger and alarm, we must rely principally upon & well-organized militia ; and some general arrangement, that will render this description of force more efficieui, has long been a subject of anxious solicitude. It was recommended to the first Congress, by General Washing

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