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coupled with a suppositious idea of its immense value in dollars and cents, seems to be an impidement to legislation.
In expressing their views, this committee do not propose to shadow forth a general system in reference to the Swamp Lands of this State, but only as to those, the subject of the bill referred, lying and situated in the Upper Peninsula.
From the first organization of counties in the Upper Peninsula, that portion of our State, its regulations and wants have been the subjects of special legislation. The election of State and county officers is regulated by special act, its judicial system is separate and distinct; its interests peculiar. Although the Legislature have ever evinced a willingness to protect and foster these interests, and to promote the advancement and improvement of the mineral regions, yet a misapprehension of facts and circumstances, so different from those pervading the Lower Peninsula has often rendered their acts a partial, if not positive detriment. Particular interests have been favored to the prejudice of its general welfare.
The geographical boundaries and remote position of this territory preclude an intimate knowledge of its condition and requirements by the great body of our Legislature. Distant hundreds of miles from the densely settled portions of our State, and almost inaccessible save for a few months in summer, a large majority of those who enact laws for its development and government must ever remain unacquainted with its properties, its necessities and its population. They represent districts and communities, the physical distinctions and interests of which are wholly different from those of the Lake Superior country, and in their commendable efforts to benefit their own section, they have neglected the more distant.
of the six hundred and fifty thousand dollars expended by the General Government in this State, in opening roads, not a dollar has been laid out in the Upper Peninsula; of the large amount appropriated for piers and harbors, every penny has been used beyond its limits; and of the five hundred and fifty-five thousand acres of internal improvement lands, appropriated by Congress for the benefit of the entire State, every acre has been used for improvements in the Lower Pen nsula. The Upper Peninsula has been left to take care of itself; to open its
own roads, build its own bridges, construct its own docks and piers, erect its own colleges and academies, cut and open its own mail routes, and inch by inch develop its resources. It has struggled unaided by the General Government or its own State Legislature, until within a very recent period the interests of capitalists in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other States coveted the products of its copper fields and iron mountains, and gained its harbors through the St. Mary's Canal; thus partially unclosing the gates that have shut it up
to the world.
In the appropriations and expenditures for educational purposes, the same inequality exists. The University, nobly endowed and sustained at present by the State Treasury, dispenses its benefits without price, to the young men of the Lower Peninsula. Every branch of science and of art may be learned within its walls. The State Normal School endowed with twenty-five sections of salt spring lands, and a direct appropriation in money of thirteen thousand seven hundred dollars, educates teachers for the Lower Peninsula. The State Agricultural School or College, for which twenty-two sections of salt spring lands were appropriated, is to educate and raise up farmers for the Lower Peninsula. The Teachers’ Institute, sustained at an expense of eighteen hundred dollars during the past year, improves and polishes those engaged in teaching the schools of the Lower Peninsula. The State Agricultural Society, mantained by an annual appropriation of two thousand dollars from the State Treasury, improves the breed of horses, and other stock, and pays the premiums to farmers in the Lower Peninsula.
We know that the citizens of the Upper Peninsula are entitled to the privileges and benefits of these institutions—that the University, the Normal School, and Agricultural College, are open and free to her citizens, sons and daughters—that the benefits and premiums of the State Agricultural society are open to their enjoyment and competition; but they are privileges that can never be enjoyed, benefits that can never be embraced by the people of that distant region. Nature has placed her barrier in the way, and though joined in one State government, neither section can fully and equally receive and enjoy the benefits of the institutions of the other. For full one-half the year they are separated by frozen lakes and straits-commerce is suspended and all communication ceases, save what necessity compels, always at the
hazard, and occasionally the loss of life. To get from either section to the other, during this period, a journey of hundreds of miles, through an almost unbroken wilderness, across frozen rivers, over fields of ice and snow, throughout Canada, without shelter or accommodation on the way, must be encountered, or an equally lengthy and perilous journey through Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, and thence through a dense and trackless forest for several hundred miles upon snow shoes.
Of the entire system of State government, its improvements, institutions of learning, primary schools, charities and advantages, that of taxATION is the only one wbich the citizens of the Upper Peninsula enjoy in common, fully and equally, with those of the lower. In this particular, they have received the full care and fatherly attention of the Legislature. It is evidence they are not wholly forgotten, and proves that far off region to be still a part of Michigan. Besides their quota of the general State tax, the mining companies of the Upper Periusula pay a specific tax of more than eight thousand dollars. This large sum comes from the counties of Houghton and Ontonagon, with the exception of a sinall amount paid by two companies. Excluding Wayne, it exceeds the entire amount of State tax paid by the three next most populous counties. In return, the whole Lake Superior country receives from the State less than three thousand dollars. The salary of its District Judge, District Attorney, and compensation of its members of the Legislature, constitute its drain upon the treasury.
The personal property and real estate of the mining companies comprise nearly all the taxable property. These companies, with their workmen, constitute the great majority of the inhabitants, and own the property. The only fund that can be raised for local improvements, such as opening roads, building bridges, and erecting school houses, must be derived from a tax on this property. And yet it cannot be done. In granting charters, the Legislature, in imposing the specific tax, relieved many of these companies from taxation for county and township purposes, and consequently for school purposes. In 1848 twenty-one charters were granted. A specific tax of one per cent. upon real and personal estste was imposed, which is “ in lieu of All other taxes upon the personal property" of the companies. In 184, nine others were chartered, six of which are similarly exempted. Another is required to pay the one per cent. specific tax, “which tax shall be in
lieu of All taxes on the personal and real estate” of the company.
The charters of the remaining two differ but little from the last. Among the charters of these years are those of the heaviest and most prosperous companies, viz.: the Copper Falls, Eagle Harbor, Isle Royal, Minnesota, North American, National, Pittsburg & Boston, and others, which pay more than one half of the sum total of the specific tax. They are unrestricted in the amount and value of their real estate. The Ohio Trap Rock Company might own all the real and personal estate in a county, and by the provision of its charter it is exempt from all tax except the one per cent. paid the State.
It will thus be seen that the Legislature has cut off the only source of taxation for county and township purposes—the only mode of deriving an income for the erection of school houses and the support of schools, save the meagre pittance distributed from the primary school interest fund, amounting to a few cents per scholar, which is totally inadequate. In the Lower Peninsula all property, real and personal, is subject to tax for county, township and school purposes. By this tax roads are opened, bridges built, and school houses erected. In the Upper Peninsula such improvements must be made and maintained by contribution and private enterprise, or not at all. At this time the citizens of Ontonagon are improving their harbor by subscription, taxation and private contribution, at an expense of $25,000, for the benefit and safety of the shipping of the Lower Peninsula, and commerce generally. The county of Marquette has already expended over EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS of private funds for the improvement of its harbor, which is open to the commerce of the world.
In view of these facts—that the Upper Peninsula has received no benefit from the large appropriations by the General Government; that the University, Normal School, and Agricultural College are beyond its reach; that it cannot tax the great bulk of property for school purposes, on account of the specific tax paid the State, the committee are unani. mously of the opinion that it should receive assistance at the hands of the Legislature. It is your duty to repair the injury and injustice already done. Such a disposition of the swamp lands situated in the Upper Peninsula would be in accordance with public opinion--devoted to a useful and noble purpose. In giving them to the counties in which they are situated, in charge of the local authorities for the purposes mentioned in the bill, they will be committed to those familiar with the country, its necessities, and desires. It will place the counties of the Lake Superior country upon an equality with those of this section of the State in the means of education. It will be only expending benefits long withheld, which all here have long enjoyed. It will be no injustice to the old counties, and but tardy justice to the upper country.
The Swamp Lande in the Upper Peninsula, although amounting in the aggregate to a large number of acres, are of the class designated as “swamp and overflowed, unfit for cultivation.” The surveys have been made since 1846, by a competent, faithful surveyor, and accurate returns made. They do not embrace in the list of “swamp and overflowed” lands, tracts of timbered and farming country, as in the case of the Lower Peninsula, where the surveys were inaccurate, or faithlessly returned. Their donation, for the purposes contemplated in the bill would only place these counties on an equal footing with other sections of the State, and repair the injustice already done. The committee therefore recommend the passage of the bill.