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SWAMP AND OVERFLOWED LANDS.
LEGISLATION RELATING TO SWAMP LANDS.
The attention of the Congress of the United States was early called to tho fact of vast areas of worthless public lands, lying as marshes, or subject to periodical overflow by adjacent water-courses.
Efforts to make these lands the subject of national legislation were first made in 1826 by a senator from Missouri, who then unsuccessfully endeavored to obtain a cession to Missouri and Illinois of the swamps within the limits of those States respectively.
Other efforts were made at intervals, but no definitive action was taken until the passage of the act of March 2, 1849, applicable exclusively to Louisiana, a large extent of the territory of which was annually overflowed. Along the Mississippi, the alluvial margin is from one to two miles wide; and to prevent the inundation of that river, an artificial embankment or levee system had been resorted to-extending, on the east side of the river, from forty miles below New Orleans to a distance up the river of one hundred and eighty miles, and on the west side generally to the Arkansas boundary.
To aid Louisiana "in constructing the necessary levees and drains to reclaim the swamps and overflowed lands therein," Congress, by the act of March 3, 1849, granted to that State “ the whole of those swamps and overflowed lands which may be, or are, found unfit for cultivation."
The General Government, in the spirit of enlarged public policy, conceded this class of inundated lands to aid in the construction of permanent levees, with a view to secure private property, the theory being reclamation of the lands through the States, and also as a sanitary measure.
Then followed the law of September 28, 1850, extending the grant to enable the “State of Arkansas to construct the necessary levees and drains to reclaim the swamp and overflowed lands therein,” the fourth and last section of which enlarged the grant 80 as to embrace “ each of the other States of the Union in which such swamp and overflowed lands, known and designated as aforesaid, may be situated.” When this measure had its origin, and before it became general, the grant was estimated as taking some five millions of acres. This and subsequent enactments has taken from the public domain to June 30, 1880, by patent, 51,952, 196.10 acres ; and there are now in the General Land Office claims by States under these several acts (including patented lands) for 69,206,522.06 acres. Sec. 2480, R. S., gives the spirit and intent of the act act as far as disposition of the proceeds from the sale of said lands by the States: “The proceeds of said lands, whether from sale or by direct appropriation in kind, shall be applied exclusively, as far as necessary, to the reclaiming of said lands, by means of levees and drains."
The reasons assigned for this donation to the several States were:
1. The alleged worthless character of the premises in their natural condition, and the inexpediency of an aitempt to reclaim them by direct national interposition.
2. The great sanitary improvement to be derived from the reclamation of extensive districts notoriously malarial, and the probable occupancy and cultivation that would follow.
3. The enhancement in value, and readier sale, of adjoining Government property.
The measure as originally reported granted only such tracts as were designated on the plats of the Government surveys as swamp and unfit for cultivation. Subsequent amendments added to this the “ overflowed lands,"conveying to the States the swamp, or inundated, without reference to their description on the plats of survey.
At an early day (1851) in the administration of the act, a decision was rendered by the then Secretary of the Interior, that the law was a grant in præsenti. Whilst this class of lands was unsegregated, the laws for the public and private sales and location of the public lands were in active progress. The result was that multitudes of conflicts arose, growing out of entries and locations made by individuals of lands which afterwards were selected and claimed as swamp.
With a view to protect individual sales and locations in conflict with the swamp grant, which, under the said decision, took precedence, Congress deemed it proper to intervene by act, approved 3d March, 1855, conferring authority for the recognition and patenting of such salos, and at the same time stipulating indemnity in cash for sales which had been made by the United States of lands claimed as within the swamp grant of 1850, and in other land for tracts of that class taken by individual locations.
In extending, by the act of March 12, 1860, the swamp grant of 1850 to the States of Minnesota and Oregon, which had been admitted into the Union subsequent to the original grant, Congress have laid down two important and just principles, essential indeed to the successful and harmonious administration of the various laws under which the land system is in operation; and these are, first, that the grant shall not in. clude any lands which the Government “ may have reserved, sold, or disposed of (in pursuance of any law heretofore enacted) prior to the confirmation of title to be made. under the authority of said act"; and provided a limitation for the time of selection.
By acts of March 4, 1849, September 28, 1850, March 2, 1855, March 3, 1857, Congress not only conceded swamp and overflowed lands “ in place,” but when lands of this class had been sold as arable, or located with bounty warrants, the statute allthorized the Department in the one case to pay over in money to the State authorities the amount of such sales, and in the other to give to the State an equivalent in public lands.
This was a cash and land indemnity.
The total amount of indemnity adjusted and allowed since the passage of the indemnity acts to June 30, 1875, was $801,416.60 for cash entries of swamp lands, and 654,351.47 acres for swamp lands located with warrants or scrip. Special certificates were issued to States for acres to be taken on other public lands in lieu of tracts covored hy bounty-land warrants or scrip. The various laws fixed the method of selection and patenting.
With the exception of California, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, selections of swamp lands are made by agents of the State and proof of the swampy character of the land furnished.
In Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, selections are made by the surveyor general, or the General Land Office, from the field-notes of survey.
The tracts inuring to California are determined by three methods under the fourth section of the act of July 23, 1866 (14 Stats., p. 218).
The proof required by the General Land Offico is set out in a series of circulars of instructions issued from that office, beginning in 1850. The annual reports since 1850 of the General Land Office contain the reports of the division (now K) in charge of such entries.
The swamp-land acts have been the subject of much complaint of fraud, actual fraud, and deceit. Their execution has been attended with great difficulty, and lists certified thereunder have required constant and most exact scrutiny. Millions of
acres have been listed as swamp lands, which are now suspended for investigation. Special agents have been, and are now, employed to unearth frauds under this act against the Government. The Commissioners of the General Land Office for years have called the attention of Congress to the frauds and attempted frauds under these several acts by States and their agents.
The amounts realized by the different States and the prices paid to them by individuals and corporations for these lands (many as low as 10 cents per acre, and now the best agricultural land in some of these States), would be an interesting chapter. Such grants are always fertile fields for schemes. See legislative and political history of the several States for this.
The area thus far claimed, and in process of being claimed, by the several States under these various acts, about equals the whole surface of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia.
A total of 69,206,522.06 acres of public lands have been claimed, to June 30, 1880, as swamp and overflowed lands, by States in which they lie, and patents have been issued for 51,952, 196. 10 acres.
FORM OF SWAMP LAND PATENT.
The following is the form used for swamp-land patents, except those for lands in Minnesota and Oregon, in which reference is made to the act of March 12, 1860:
The United States of America, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting :
Whereas, by the act of Congress approved September 28, 1850, entitled "An act to enable the State of Arkansas and other States to reclaim the 'swamp lands' within their limits," it is provided that all the "swamp and overflowed lands," made unfit thereby for cultivation, within the State of which remained unsold at the passage of said act, shall be granted to said State:
And whereas, in pursuance of instructions from the General Land Office of tho United States, the several tracts or parcels of land hereinafter described have been selected as “swamp and overflowed lands," inuring to the said State under the act aforesaid, situate in the district of lands subject to sale at - - to wit: [Description of tracts, with the area in each township and the aggregate area embraced in the patent] according to the official plats of survey of said lands, returned to the General Land Office by the surveyor general, and for which the governor of the said State of - did, on the day of
one thousand eight hundred and request a patent to be issued to the said State, as required in the aforesaid act:
Now, therefore, know ye, that the United States of America, in consideration of the premises, and in conformity with the act of Congress aforesaid, have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant, unto the said State of -- , in feesimple, subject to the disposal of the legislature thereof, the tracts of land above described; to have and to hold the same, together with all the rights, privileges, immunities, and appurtenances thereto belonging, unto the said State of — , in feesimple, and to its assigns forever. In testimony whereof I,
- President of the United States of America, have caused these letters to be made patent, and the seal of the General Land Office to be hereunto affixed.
Given under my hand at the city of Washington, the day of — , in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and , and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and By ‘he President:
Recorder of the General Land Office.
OPERATIONS UNDER THE SWAMP LAND ACTS TO JUNE 30, 1880.
Total aores patented to June 30, 1880, under all acts, as abovo, 51,952, 196.10.
EDUCATIONAL LAND GRANTS BY THE UNITED STATES TO PUBLIC
LAND AND OTHER STATES.
GRANTS AND RESERVATIONS.
The lands granted in the States and reserved in the Territories for educational purposes by acts of Congress from 1785 to June 30, 1880, were
For public or common schools, Every sixteenth section of public land in the States admitted prior to 1848, and every sixteenth and thirty-sixth section of such land in States and Territories since organized-estimated at 67,893,919 acres.
For seminaries or universities,
The quantity of two townships, or 46,080 acres, in each State or Territory containing public land, and, in some instances, a greater quantity, for the support of seminaries or schools of a higher grade-estimated at 1,165,520 acres.
For agricultural and mechanical colleges. The grant to all the States for agricultural and mechanical colleges, by act of July 2, 1862, and its supplements, of 30,000 acres, for each Representative and Senator in Congress to which the State was entitled, of land " in place” where the State contained a sufficient quantity of public land subject to sale at ordinary private entry at the rate of $1.25 per acre, and of scrip representing an equal number of acres where the State did not contain such description of land, the scrip to be sold by the State and located by its assignees on any such land in other States and Territories, subject to certain restrictions. Land in place, 1,770,000 acres; land scrip, 7,830,000 acres; total, 9,600,000 acres.
In all, 78,659,439 acres for educational purposes under the heads above set out to June 30, 1880.
The lands thus ceded to the several States were disposed of or are held for disposition, and the proceeds used as permanent endowments for common school funds. (See Reports of the Commissioner of Education, Hon. John Eaton, to June 30, 1880; land and auditors' reports of the several land States; Kiddle & Schem's Dictionary of Education; and also ninth census, F. A. Walker, Superintendent, for details of endowments of the several States for common schools resulting from sales of United States land grants for education.) As an illustration, the State of Ohio has a permanent endowment for education called the “Irreducible State Debt," the result of sale of all granted lands for education, of $4,289,718.52.
EARLY EDUCATIONAL INTEREST. The importance attached to education by the founders of the Republic is shown by the provisions they made for its permanent endowment. Indeed, in the earliest set