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such hands. The men who would have made those lands valuable are not there; the railroads which would have made them accessible are not building for want of that encouragement which in every sense it would be the interest of the government to give; and the men with idle capital called speculators, with a foresight for which they should receive credit, are enabled, by the timidity, the indifference or the inaction of Congress, to obtain for a trifle, large portions of the very rich lands, which while we are framing laws, ostensibly and on paper to secure them to the hard working man, we are taking especial pains to render by their position not worth his purchase.
But it will be said of one instance, in which a grant of land has been made to aid in the construction of a prominent railroad, that that grant has got into the hands of speculators, who will extort a large price for the lands, and secure an unreasonable profit from the operation.
The case referred to is well known to be a peculiar one, and if it should take a shape, which is by no means admitted now, open to censure, it will be more in consequence of the machinery brought into play at Washington to obtain the grant, in consequence of Congressional difficulties having nothing to do with its principle, than by any necessary evils growing out of the application of land in aid of that enterprise.
Were it proper to wave all considerations affecting the general prosperity and wellbeing of the country, what does the government risk or lose as a mere landholder, by making a grant of land in aid of any leading line of communication through the interior of the Western states ?
The principle acted upon in the railroad land bills for Alabama, lississippi and Illinois has been to donate every alternate section for six miles in width on either side, and to double the price of the land on the remaining alternate sections. The cost of the land donated is thus provided for and recovered,* for the remaining land will easily command the increased price. The condition ad.
A recent examination of the land bills shews us, that the compensation to the Government by doubling the price of the remaining sections, is only strictly true, where there have been no entries made upon the alternate sections reserved by the United States within the six mile belt.-Where there are occupied lands or preemption rights within that belt. and every alternate section does not remain with the Government on which to double the price, the compensation to the land office would be proportionally reduced; but this consideration is conceived to be of very secondary importance under any circumstances.
mits of the government conferring a vast benefit upon a state without pecuniary loss, and with certain benefit in other respects to itself.
And does the Government gain any thing by this timely benefit so easily conferred ?
Take the case of the Illinois Central railroad, the Mobile and Ohio railroad, the Missouri railroads, the proposed Arkansas railroad, or the proposed railroad through Iowa. In the case of all these railroads, public lands, which are at present entirely inaccessible for any practical purpose, are made available and profitable, without charge or risk to the Government. A large extent of territory will, as these railroads are made, be industriously settled. Its produce will swell the commerce of the country East, West and South, and its trade and wants add to the revenues of the Government. An active population will settle along these railroads, as a matter of course, for they are not less prolific than rivers of ample water power, in the creation and support of industrial pursuits. The wealth and power of the country is increased, and what was formerly an idle range for the hunter, becomes noisy with the activities of civilized life. Surely, the difference is worth some sacrifice and might excuse some effort, and yet such advantages, following the progress of railroad communications through such territories, as surely as the plant grows from the seed, are begrudged or delayed in subservience to party or sectional jealousies, as if the consequences involved were of the most secondary importance.
It is said by some that the question of such improvements is merely one of time, and that the lands will under any circumstances gradually be filled up, and the improvements be eventually undertaken, and carried through sooner or later by private enterprise. It is freely admitted, that such would eventually be the result. — Time, however, is an element, which in a matter of this nature, may either so much encourage or so much discourage the progress of a State, as to make a residence in it in the course of this generation, either very desirable or very much the reverse.
. The object of the Government is to encourage and foster the settlement of the public lands now, not to let the matter alone in the face of so inany new opportunities for colonisation yearly appearing, when a little effort on its part would render them desirable and available to settlers.
In the new States capital iš very much in demand, and does not
exist in sufficient amount to meet the growing wants of the community. To make railroads there under the adverse circumstances of deficient capital, thin population, and a country unoccupied, except along the borders of the navigable streams, is to enter upon undertakings, compared with which the expensive railroads of the Eastern or Middle States, are in reality difficulties very inferior in degree. If in the Eastern States the routes of communication aro very costly, the country is densily populated, and capital is obtainable with but little difficulty. If in the Western States such routes can be opened at about half the expense of Eastern roads, the difficulty of reaching the capital is ten-fold, and the resulting advantages are not all to the community, that undertakes the work, but in large part to the Government, as proprietor of the public lands, which yet declines or delays to assist undertakings, calculated to promote the sale of those lands, and in every other way to add to the convenience and economy of its executive action. To promote the present prosperity of the Western states at some sacrifice might not have been inconsistent with a liberal and enlightened policy: to be able to do so at no sacrifice must encourage in all the hope, that a boon, which can so fairly be granted, will not long be withhold.
The abuses to which the liberal and just policy contended for, may be open, and to which every just measure is open, will not, we trust, be heard of as any reason against the acknowledgement of its clear equity and propriety. What course of policy can be pursued, if its liability to be abused is to become a bar to its adoption ?
The Western states of Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas particularly, have work to do during the next ten years, in the shape of railroads, which they cannot complete without embarassment, unless Congress pursues towards them a liberal policy in regard to the public lands. We will particularize the state of Missouri, only as being more familiar with her position. The amount of land at present available for profitable settlement in this State, is by no means as great as is imagined. The mass of the land within reach of water communication is taken up: Before the large balance which remains, can be profitably applied, a large amount of capital in the shape of railroads and plank or macadamised roads, must be expended. The mass of the interior lands does not exist as a source of wealth or profit, until these things are effected. The railroad
for long distances has taken the place of all other modes of communication. On short distances, as in the Eastern states, its peculiar advantage is its speed and its economy of business time; but in long distances, as in the Western states, its more marked advantage will be its economy in the cost of transportation in connection with its availability at all seasons; its power in other words to render the market cities available to lands three hundred to five hundred miles from the rivers, as well as to the lands on the rivers. The interior of the far West would, without its assistance, remain entirely inaccessible to the agriculturist, and continue for a long period as barren of results as now. The railroad has become a necessity of the times, and no Western state will be able to maintain her position and influence without such a connection with the leading railroads now in progress from the seabord cities, as will unite her with the Eastern and Southern markets, and afford the citizens of Missouri for instance, the same advantages for the sale or purchase of commodities, as will then be possessed by the intervening states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Many citizens may consider it to be a matter of choice, whether they construct or not the two railroads now commenced in Missouri. We view the case very differently and look upon their construction, and that of some others, as undertakings which cannot be avoided, and which as the progress of the neighbouring states becomes more prominent, no one will desire to avoid. It is in view of this state of affairs, that a liberal and early settlement of the policy to be pursued by the Government in regard to the public lands, becomes important. If the Government performs its part as fairly towards the state of Missouri, as it has done towards the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Illinois, the difficulty attending the execution of the necessary lines of communication will be much reduced. Without such aid these undertakings must strain the resources of the State, and embarras3 her progress. The position of the other Western states is essentially the same.
During the next five years the two railroads now commenced in Missouri will be completed, and in operation at an outlay of not less than ten millions, and within ten years from this date it will be a' molerate estimate to assume, that, ineluding other similar enterprises to be undertaken, the railroad capital then in existence will represent twenty millions. With the assistance of the public lands the citizens of the State may be relieved of one half of this
amount, without loss but with profit to the Government, and the State will to that extent be free to develope her extensive mineral resources, and will have received a vast increase of population and of wealth, not without effort and sacrifice, but without distress or discredit.
If the citizens of Missouri will weigh their position, and looking at the state of Ohio for instance, endeavour to understand what they have to do during the next ten years, they will be prepared to acknowledge the moderate view taken here of the expenditures to be met in some shape during that time. A little determined and united exertion now throughout this state, and all the Western states similarly situated, will not merely lessen their difficulties one half, but will secure the completion of many subsidiary works which would otherwise be neglected.
Too much dependance in relation to the public lands is placed apon the exertions of the officials of the railroads under construction. It is not remembered, that their exertions may be profitless unless endorsed by the expressed and earnest opinion of the people. There is no county in the state, which cannot be of service in this respect, and every county, however situatel, must ultimately reap the benefit directly or indirectly. The other railroads yet to be made with their branches, will be reached and completed so much the more promptly according to the measure and time of assistance afforded by the Government. If the leading counties have held meetings before, and have presented petitions before, these petitions to this time have been without effect, and their repetition to a new Congress, cannot be entered upon too earnestly. It is necessary to show that there exists no indifference on the part of the citizens of any portion of the state to the measure for which others are contending in their name. Such petitions would have more influence, if they could be presented in a body, instead of being allowed to drop upon the House of Representatives, one by one to be silently laid aside. We would suggest, that the Mayor of St. Louis should receive all such petitions, and that he or some equally prominent citizen should be requested, to go on to Washington, and present them in a body, and see to their existence being acknowledged. And to that end all the counties, which understand their own interests sufficiently, to be willing to take any trouble in this matter, should take steps immediately to have such petitions,