Frederic Clemson Howe.

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lowed the Civil War. No demand on the part of
the interests powerful in Congress was too extrav-
agant to receive attention. It is estimated that
up to the year 1890, 337,740,080 acres of the public
lands were granted to corporations and states for
wagon roads, canals, river improvements, and rail-
roads.^ This is an empire equal to one-sixth of

on funds, the income of the tribe for the fiscal year 1907 amounted to
$1,351,577.66, or $606 for every man, woman, and child in the tribe.
This is equivalent to nearly $3,000 a family. The royalty on the oil-
wells is one-eighth of all the oil produced. The royalty on gas is
$100 per annum for each gas-well in operation. The land belonging
to the tribe is leased for a limited period subject to re-appraisal.
A similar policy has been adopted as to other tribes. During the
fiscal year 1907, the government collected for the Choctaw and
Chickasaw Indians the sum of $052,875, from coal and other royal-
ties, and from the selling of town lots. The royalties and other
collections for the Cherokee nation amounted to $731,315.60,
and for the Creek nation the sum of $237,245.99. In ten years'
time, the coal and asphalt royalties of the Choctaw and Chick-
asaw nations amounted to $1,975,972.62. The total enrolled
population of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee and Creek
Indians was 98,000 and the amount which they received from the
administration of their estates by the government in the form of
ground-rent for the year 1907 amounted to $150 for every family
of five in the reservation. See annual reports of the Secretary of
the Interior.

»"The Populist Movement," by F. L. McVey, Economic Studies
(American Economic Association), Vol. I, p. 153. A large part of
these grants, however, was never actually patented by the grantees.


the total area of the United States, including moun-
tain and desert lands as well as the territory of
Alaska. It is an area ten times the size of Iowa,
and three times the size of France, with its popu-
lation of 39,000,000 souls.

A carnival of prodigality attended the construc-
tion of the Pacific railways. They took what they
wanted of the public domain. In addition to a
right of way across the continent of from 100 to
400 feet wide, with such land as was needed for
sidings, stations, yards, and the like, a subsidy of
eveiy alternate section of one square mile each
on either side of the right of way was added as
an aid to construction. The subsidy to the North-
ern Pacific Railway consisted of alternate odd-num-
bered sections to the amount of twenty alternate
sections per mile on each side of the road where
the line passed through the territories, and ten
alternate sections per mile on each side where it
passed through the states, extending from the west-
ern boundary of Minnesota to Puget Sound and the
Columbia River.

It is difficult to tell the amount of land that
was authorized by these grants. It is even more
difficult to ascertain the amount that was actually
patented by the railways. The land originally
granted has been estimated at 215,000,000 acres.
The official estimate of the Government Land Office
is somewhat less. It reports the grants at 155,514,-


994,000 * acres, and the area actually patented by the
railroads as 73,942,260 acres. This does not include
38,000,000 acres granted to the railways by the state
of Texas.

But the land grants were not the only help which
the railroads received. A loan of $60,000,000 was
made to the Pacific railroads as an additional aid to
their construction. This, of itself, would have built
over 2,000 miles of railway across the continent.
It would have saved a great portion of the West
from railway monopoly forever and have furnished
a standard by which rates and services for the rest
of the country could have been measured.^

Scandals of many kinds arose through the dealings
of the Pacific railways with Congress. These are the
dangers always alleged to be incident to government
ownership. Yet we are in a position to make a com-
parison of the relations of the government with the
Pacific railways with its experience in the construc-

* The Public Domain, Donaldson, p. 268.

E. Benjamin Andrews, in The United States in Our Own Times,
chap. 4, gives the land grants to the six Pacific railroads as follows:

Union Pacific Railroad 13,000,100 acres

Central " " 12,100,100 "

Northern " " 47,000,000 "

Kansas " " 6,000,000 "

Atlantic and Pacific Railroad 42,000,000 "

Southern Pacific Railroad 9,520,000 "

129,620,200 acres
2 "The Secretary of Interior stated : ' The entire road (the Northern
Pacific) when completed, 2,700 miles, will have cost about $75,000,-
000 or at the rate of $28,000 a mile.' "—The Public Domain, p. 887.


tion of the Panama Canal, which is being built by
the nation itself.

There has been no scandal, no bribery, no control
of political parties in connection with the latter en-
terprise, for there is no great interest to corrupt the
government. But the Pacific railways were given
land enough alone to more than pay the cost of
their construction. According to conservative esti-
mates the grants of the Northern Pacific Railway
alone were worth a thousand million dollars.^ Had
the land been sold by the government to settlers,
who later purchased it from the railroads, five and
possibly ten transcontinental railways could have
been built from the proceeds of this grant. But
this is only the initial loss. Ever since the grants

• " Mr. Wilson, for many years the Commissioner of the Land De-
partment of the Illinois Central Railroad, . . . thought that if prop-
erly managed the Northern Pacific land would build the entire road
connecting the then terminus of the Grand Trunk through to Puget
Sound, the head of navigation on the Columbia, fit out an entire
fleet of sailing vessels and steamers for the China, East India, and
coasting trade, and leave a surplus that would roll up to millions.
He deemed the probable value of the grant $990,000,000, its pos-
sible value $1,320,000,000. "—The United States in Our Own Times,
E. Benjamin Andrews, chap. 4.

If this estimate of the value of the Northern Pacific land grants is
anywhere near correct and the cost of its building was not in excess
of $75,000,000, as estimated by the Secretary of the Interior, ten
transcontinental systems could have been built out of the sale of the
lands and still leave a surplus. The Union Pacific Railroad received
an average of $4.42 per acre for its land up to 1879. At this price
the Northern Pacific would have received $207,740,000, or enough
to have built three systems.

An exhaustive investigation of this grant was made by a com-
mittee of Congress, which reported that the entire cost of the North-


were made the government has been honeycombed
with the corrupting influences which have grown out
of the relationship. For years the Land Depart-
ment has been struggHng to recover milHons of acres
of agricultural, grazing, mineral, and timber lands,
which have been fraudulently enclosed, in addition
to the grants which the railways rightfully enjoy.
The states of the West and the Federal employees
have been corrupted by the same influences, while
the whole nation is struggling under fictitious rail-
way capitalization, inadequate trackage, insufficient
shipping facilities, and excessive charges. Had
Congress constructed the roads itself, had the nation
been plundered by the most corrupt of contractors,
it would still have received an immeasurably greater
return than it has enjoyed under the policy which
was pursued.

At the time these subsidies were granted public
opinion was quieted by the assertion that only by

ern Pacific had been paid for out of the land grants, estimating the
land as only worth $3.00 an acre, and that a surplus of $41,284,000
remained for the company. The committee said in its report to
Congress: "The undersigned suppose that all that could be asked of
the government in the exercise of the most prodigal generosity would
be a sufficient amount of lands to enable the company to construct
its road without costing it a single dollar of its own money, and as
either of the foregoing hypotheses shows a surplus of many millions
more than are necessary for that purpose it has occurred to them
that it might be to the interest of the people of the United States
generally to look somewhat after the surplus, whatever it may be.
. . . There are no good reasons yet apparent why the people should
pay the cost of its construction and present the company with a
colossal fortune besides. " — The Public Domain, Donaldson, p. 889.


these means would the West be peopled, and that
through this settlement the remaining land would be
greatly increased in value. To some extent this has
been true. The railways were built some years
earlier than they otherwise would have been. And
land values were increased in consequence. But the
price has been a fearfully costly one. Large parts
of the West have been strangled in consequence.
Millions of acres are still held by the railroads for
speculative purposes, while great manorial estates,
with hired men and a tenant class, are to be found
wherever the railway grants were made. Out of these
subsidies the bonanza farms of ten, twenty, one
hundred thousand, and even a million acres have
been carved. Many of these great feudatories cover
whole counties. Some of them are larger than an
Eastern state. ^

Land-grabbers and ranchmen followed close behind
the railways and appropriated great tracts of land

' As instances of the great estates which are to be found in almost
every state of the West, many of which were made possible by the
railway land grants, the following may be cited: "The Texas Land
Syndicate No. 3 owns 3,000,000 acres in Texas, in which such English
noblemen as the Duke of Rutland and Lord Beresford are largely
interested. Another syndicate, the British Land Company, owns
300,000 acres in Kansas, besides tracts in other places. The Duke
of Sutherland owns hundreds of thousands and Sir Edward Reid
controls 1,000,000 acres in Florida. A syndicate containing Lady
Gordon and the Marquis of Dalhousie controls 2,000,000 acres in
Mississippi." — The Menace of Privilege, by Henry George, Jr., p. 36.

In addition to these the Marquis of Tweeddale owns 1,750,000
acres, Phillips, Marshall & Co. (London), 1,300,000 acres, the
Scully estate 2,000,000 P-cres, the Holland Land Co. 4,500,000 acres,



from which they refuse to be dislodged. The rail-
roads themselves have kept great areas out of use.
The alternate sections, checker-boarded within the
limits of the railway grants, have been fenced in.
Actual settlers are denied access to them. By virtue
of the lieu land laws, the railways are permitted to
substitute new sections for those which the govern-
ment has reserved for schools, forests, and other
purposes. This power is used to cloud titles. By
means of it mineral claims, developed by honest pros-
pectors, are appropriated under some claim of title,
and men who have spent their lives in the develop-
ment of a property are forcibly ejected from their
holdings, or exhausted by the delays and expenses of
protracted legal controversies. By these and similar
means whole commonwealths are arrested in their
development; titles of property are rendered inse-
cure, and great areas of land are closed to occupancy.
The history of the relation of the government to
the Pacific railways has been one of stupendous folly.
It has been one of the most costly experiences of the
nation. The financial cost of the Civil War does not
compare with the loss involved in our land policy.
Not only were the railway grants capable of sustain-
ing from ten to twenty million people in comfort;
not only were the forest and mineral resources bar-

and a German syndicate 1,100,000 acres. Fifty-four individuals
and foreign syndicates own 26,710,390 acres, an area greater than
seven of the more populous Eastern states with a population of
8,359,000 people.


tered away in the process, but the entire West was
so involved — poHtically, socially, and industrially —
that it has remained as a vast feudatory to the Pacific
railway systems. Its politics reflect the interests
which control the railways, the land grants, and the
resources of the country. In Congress and at home
these interests struggle to stifle every expression of
real democracy.

But the tale of our wastefulness does not end with
the railway land grants. Probably an even greater
area has been stolen by persons and corporations
in conspiracy with the railways or the agents of the
government. The extent of these fraudulent en-
closures will probably never be known. In a re-
cent issue of a popular magazine is a story of a
poor German who landed in this country in 1850;
of how he became the owner of 14,539,000 acres of
the richest land in California and Oregon. His
enclosures cover 22,500 square miles, an area three
times as great as the state of New Jersey with
its population of 1,500,000 souls. The story tells
how one hundred men in the Sacramento Valley
came to own 17,000,000 acres; of ranches of eight,
twenty, and even one hundred miles in extent; of
single estates twice the size of Belgium, bigger
than all Switzerland, bigger even than the com-
bined areas of New Hampshire, Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and Delaware.^ Other investigations

' Everybody's Magazine, May, 1905.


indicate that more than 150,000,000 acres have
been illegally or collusively appropriated from the
public domain.*

It is probable that from 250,000,000 to 350,000,000
acres of the public domain have been granted to the
Pacific railways or illegally appropriated by persons
and corporations in conspiracy with the agents of
the government. We have no complete data on the
subject, but the investigations made during the ad-
ministration of President Roosevelt, as well as the
disclosures in the federal courts, indicate that a large
part of the best land of the nation has been acquired
by dishonest means. The homestead entries covering
a period of forty years amount to but 111,000,000
acres. The timber, stone, desert land, lumber

> An exhaustive study has been made of these operations by Mr.
William R. Lighton, of Omaha, Neb., and published in the Boston

Transcript. He says:

"Within the last fifteen years there has been stolen from the public
domain not less than 150,000,000 acres; an area that would make
thirty states of the size of Massachusetts, five states as large as New-
York, or three states as large as Kansas. When the truth is known
— as it may be by and by — these figures will doubtless be doubled,
trebled, or quadrupled. The present statement is one justified by
present knowledge. A recent grand-jury investigation in California,
backed up by other ofiicial inquiry, disclosed that one man alone in
that state holds the title to nearly 15,000,000 acres, acquired within
the time named by the flagrant processes of theft. There are
dozens and even scores of men whose stealings will run from 10,000
to 1,000,000 acres or more, the extent of their grabs depending
principally upon their ability to swing transactions to a successful

"No reference is made to the solemn, semi-official chicanery of the
railroad land grants or to the equally bald grants in the South-west,
glossing over earlier pilferings. Those deals appear by comparison


culture, and coal land entries amount to but 51,000,-
000 acres more; 168,000,000 acres have been with-
drawn by the government as forest preserves, while
over 700,000,000 acres of mountain and desert lands
(one-half of which are in Alaska) still remain un-
surveyed. The grand total of lands accounted for
by legal entry, authorized grants, or reservations
falls short of the total lands of the nation by many
hundreds of millions of acres. By a process of
elimination it should be possible to ascertain how
much of the public domain had been fraudulently
appropriated. But no such inventory of our national
assets has ever been taken.

By the processes indicated, America has been
despoiled of an empire greater than the combined
areas of the thirteen original states. Yet it has ex-
cited but momentary activity on the part of the gov-

impeccably honest and above reproach. This charge relates only
to such downright, outright, deliberate stealings as cannot be de-
scribed by any other name, bearing no stamp of formal official

"Wherever there is a body of public land large enough to make
a bait worth swallowing, there the thefts are going on. Lands of
every description are included. Millions of acres in the rich wheat
valleys of California have been stolen; millions of acres of grazing
lands on the plains of Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota, Wyoming, and
Montana have been stolen, not to mention the earlier stealings in the
now almost devastated timber regions of Michigan, Wisconsin, and
Minnesota; and now the lumber thieves are plying their shameless
trade unhindered in the new fields of Mississippi and other unde-
veloped districts of the South; unnumbered acres of mineral land
have been stolen — in fact, nothing worth stealing has escaped the
clutch of these bold outlaws. " See issues of Boston Transcript of
May 20 and 27, June 3, 10, 17, and 24, and July 1, 1905.


ernment and aroused only isolated protests on the
part of the press. Had some foreign power laid its
hands upon one of the most worthless of our Pacific
islets, the nation would have burst forth into a de-
mand for war with all of its devastating cost in life
and treasure.

It may be suggested that the reports to which
reference has been made are the unscientific investi-
gations of magazine writers. But official documents
show conclusively the growth of land monopoly and
the questionable methods employed to acquire pos-
session of the public domain.

The Public Lands Commission, appointed by Presi-
dent Roosevelt, after an exhaustive inquiry, says:

''Detailed study of the practical operation of the
present land laws shows that their tendency far too
often is to bring about land monopoly rather than to
multiply small holdings by actual settlers.

". . . Not infrequently their effect is to put a
premium on perjury and dishonest methods in the
acquisition of land. It is apparent, in consequence,
that in very many localities, and perhaps in general,
a larger proportion of the public land is passing into
the hands of speculators than into those of actual set-
tlers who are making homes. . . . Nearly everywhere
the large land-owner has succeeded in monopolizing
the best tracts, whether of timber or agricultural land.
. . . Your commission has had inquiries made as to
how a number of estates selected haphazard have
been acquired. Almost without exception collusion or
evasion of the letter and spirit of the laws was involved.
It is not necessarily to be inferred that the present


owners of these estates were dishonest, but the fact
remains that their holdings were acquired or con-
sohdated by practices which cannot be defended. " *

The growth of land monopoly and the proportions
which it has already attained are confirmed beyond
any question by the United States Census. These
statistics tell a story quite as convincing as the more
dramatic reporting of contemporary literature. From
the Census returns of 1900 it appears that of the
841,000,000 acres of land under cultivation in the
United States, 200,000,000 acres are in farms whose
average size is 4,230 acres. These farms are owned
by 47,276 persons. One-fourth of the total acreage
of America is owned by .0006 of the population. The
area so owned is considerably greater than the com-
bined area of Germany and Great Britain. These
nations support a population of 100,000,000 souls.
Yet here in America a quarter of the cultivated
land is owned by a handful of persons, whose total
number is less than that of a good-sized suburb of
an Eastern city.

So far as future generations are concerned, it is a
matter of indifference whether these colossal holdings
were obtained by fraud or by honest means. Mo-
nopoly is as oppressive in one instance as in the
other. However they may have been acquired,
the opportunity to make provision for the future has
passed from us. This is a fact of portentous sig-

' Senate Document No. 154, 58th Congress, 3d Session, p. 14.


nificance. For man is a land animal. Upon the
land all life depends. From it humanity draws its
strength just as did the mythological Antaeus.
Everything that man consumes comes from the land.
And the tribute which must now be paid by those
who toil to those who own the land is determined by
the law of demand and supply, population ever in-
creasing, land ever constant and limited in amount.


We have been prodigal beyond measure with our
public lands, but we have been criminally wasteful in
the disposal of our mineral resources. The face of
the continent is underlaid with coal, iron, copper,
petroleum, natural gas, lead, zinc, gold, silver, and
other mineral deposits. Many of these minerals are
almost as accessible as the air above, and only less
inexhaustible. Nature set no limit to the generos-
ity of her endowments. Not alone agriculture, but
every conceivable industry was provided for, as
though Providence had contemplated that in this
new continent, a new race, free from the mistakes of
the past, might try again the experiment of nation-

Yet within a generation these great gifts have
been appropriated. They are owned against the
claims of generations as yet unborn. This owner-
ship is not primarily for use, it is not for enjoyment,
it is for the purpose of excluding others who would
use them from the opportunity of doing so. This
monopoly of the resources of the country is as por-
tentous to our life as is the enclosure of the land
itself. For the civilization of the future is an indus-



trial one, and it is upon the raw materials of pro-
duction that the life of to-morrow depends.

Men are still living whose memory goes back to the
first timid experiments in the mining of anthracite
coal. These ranges are limited to a small area in
north-eastern Pennsylvania. But a comparatively
few years ago the region was of little value. It is
still covered with scrubby forests and is little suited
to cultivation. Yet these barren mountain-sides
have been capitalized at hundreds of millions of
dollars. Shipments of coal have reached an annual
aggregate of over 70,000,000 tons.^ The labor cost
at the mouth of the mine, as evidenced by testimony
presented to the Interstate Commerce Commission,
is less than $2.00 per ton. The freight rate to the
seaboard is $1.55 per ton. The price to the consumer
at tidewater is over $6.00 per ton.^

Upon this supply of coal the entire Eastern sea-
board, as well as a large part of the central West, is
dependent for light, heat, and power. Over ninety-
six per cent, of the mines are owned or controlled by
the eight great railroads which enter the region, and
the price of coal is fixed, and the conditions of pro-

1 According to the United States Geological Survey the total pro-
duction in 1907 was 76,432,421 tons, and the value at the mines
was $163,584,056.

2 At a hearing held before the New York State Railroad Commis-
sion in 1900, the president of the New York, Ontario and Western
Railroad made the startling admission that " without some restric-
tion (such as railway control) stove coal would be a drug in the
market at two dollars a ton. "


duction are determined, by a little group of men, who,
within a few years' time, have acquired possession of
the mass of securities which overlay these properties.
Through the merger of the railroads and the coal
fields, stock and bonds in excess of $400,000,000
have been issued, a sum equal to nearly one-half of
the present Federal debt. By means of the monop-
oly which has been acquired, a tribute is exacted
from the American people of from $100,000,000 to
$200,000,000 a year. Under the control of this
syndicate 167,000 men are employed, and nearly
1,000,000 souls supported. The wages of the men,

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Online LibraryFrederic Clemson HowePrivilege and democracy in America → online text (page 3 of 19)