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The object of the present work is to furnish officers of the Government, members of the bar, settlers on the public lands, and all who are connected in any manner with the land affairs of the United States, all the means of information necessary to a thorough comprehension of the system, as it now exists, by the publication, in extenso, of all the important land laws, together with the construction placed upon them by those officers of the Government charged with their administration. It contains,
1st. A selection of such of the laws of Congress, in relation to public lands, passed prior to the year 1838, as are of present application and operation. It was deemed unnecessary to give all the laws contained in Part I, of “ Laws, Opinions, and Instructions,” which was published in 1838, since, for the greater part, those laws have expired or become obsolete; and since that work is still in print, and can be obtained by all professional men, who alone would be likely to require it for reference in cases which may
have originated more than twety years ago.
The selections which have been given, however, are enough to render this work complete for all practical purposes.
From the year 1838 to 1860, all the laws relating to public lands will be found in this volume.
2d. Decisions by the Secretaries of the Interior, in cases on appeal from the Commissioner of the General Land Office. These decisions contain an exposition of the land laws by the highest Executive Officer of the Goverament having cognizance of them, and who acts, in regard to such cases, in a quasi judicial capacity.
3d. The more important opinions of the Attorneys-General in full, upon questions which have arisen under the land laws.
4th. The instructions of the Commissioner of the General Land Office to Registers and Receivers, and to Surveyors-General, in regard to their duties, together with reports and notes, giving the rulings of his bureau in particular cases. And
5th. Notes of reference to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, in cases involving the exposition of land laws, giving the substance of such decisions, with references also to the opinions of the
Attorneys-General in relation to the same subject. Some of the leading decisions of State Courts are also referred to.
The work has very naturally divided itself into several“ titles,” or heads. Every law and official paper has been numbered; the first in the order of date, and the latter in the order of insertion. Some of the laws which were inadvertently omitted from their regular order, will be found in the Appendix. For brevity and convenience, the laws are referred to in the decisions and instructions by the numbers which bave been given them.
In order to render this work as complete as possible, the editor has availed himself of the assistance and advice of several gentlemen connected with the Department, and in this connection, it is proper that he should express his grateful appreciation of the favors thus conferred.
Especial obligations are acknowledged for many important suggestions, to Moses Kelly, Esq., Chief Clerk of the Department of the Interior, to the Hon. Joseph S. Wilson, Commissioner of the General Land Office, and to Henry Beard, Esq., of the Interior Department, whose thorough knowledge of the subject rendered their advice and aid of peculiar value; likewise, to J. A. Barksdale, Esq., of the Department, and to Messrs. Jno. Hood, C. 0. Joline, Thompson Allan, B. F. Slocumb, N. Vedder, H. L. Skinner, and B. F. Reilly, of the General Land Office, for very valuable assistance in respect to those branches of business of which they have charge.
PUBLIC ACTS OF CONGRESS
SALE AND DISPOSITION OF PUBLIC LANDS.
No. 1.-An Act providing for the sale of the lands of the United States in the
Territory northwest of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of Kentucky river.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That a surveyor general shall be appointed, whose duty it shall be to engage a sufficient number of skilful surveyors, as his deputies; whom he shall cause, without delay, to survey and mark the unascertained outlines of the lands lying northwest of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of the river Kentucky, in which the titles of the Indian tribes have been extinguished, and to divide the same in the manner hereinafter directed; he shall have authority to frame regulations and instructions for the government of his deputies, to administer the necessary oaths
upon their appointments, and to remove them for negligence or misconduct in office.
SEC. 2. Be it further enacted, That the part of the said lands which has not been already conveyed by letters-patent, or divided, in pursuance of an ordinance in Congress, passed on the twentieth of May, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-five, or which has not been heretofore, and, during the present session of Congress, may not be, appropriated for satisfying military land bounties, and for other purposes, shall be divided by north and south lines, run according to the true meridian, and by others crossing them at right angles, so as to form townships of six miles square, unless where the line of the late Indian purchase, or of tracts of land heretofore surveyed or patented, or the course of navigable rivers, may render it impracticable; and then this rule shall be departed from no further than such particular circumstances may require. The corners of the townships shall be marked with progressive numbers, from the beginning; each distance of a mile between the said corners shall be also distinctly marked, with marks different from those of the corners. One half of the said townships, taking them alternately, shall be subdivided into sections, containing, as nearly as may be,