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1, which could be easily raked together at the comers of sn •
stakes soon decay and heaps of earth are soon washed awn^
iistricts the lines are further marked by blazing the trees adjfif
■;S made by the surveyors were supposed to be additional men'
ndary-lines. To a large extent, however, these added securit
ing. Marked trees are soon destroyed, and as no thorough '
3 adopted the charts were practically valueless; hence the sm
Is made for the piirpose of parcelling the same have been of '
leritage of litigation relating to boundary-lines has been be
)ver increasing with the enhancing value of lands. For scien *

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titudes, aud azimuths properly determined, and from the geodetic points established j
in this triangulation all the lines of the parceling surveys should be checked, and the I
datum points in the parceling surveys should be marked with imperishable monuments i
of stone or metal. By such a plan the boundary lines of parcels could be accurately \
and permanently fixed and easily identified. The comer-posts would not be immedi- j
ately destroyed by natural agencies, and if lost by accident or removed by design, they I
could be easily and accurately replaced, and the whole basis of the system, in its geo-
detic points and triangles, would remain while hills and mountains stand and the stars
shine. In tliis manner a proper parceling of the public lands would be made, and at
the same time all other scientific purjxjses of a survey would be subserved.

It is quite unnecessary to represent to a learned body the importance of a good trig-
onometric survey for scientific puri)ose8. It is rather of its utilitarian purposes that I
would here speak, and especially of its importance to our system of surveys of .the
public lands. Not only would the use of a primaiy triangulation as the basis of land-
surveying remedy the ' principal defects of that system, but it would be a means of
great economy in the final cost, and would have the immense advantage of rendering
much of those surveys both unnecessar>^ and inexcusable, and would distribute the
cost over the coming years in a luanner leas-t burdensome upon the revenue.

The relatively small proportion of the land remaining in the possession of the gov-
ernment which is useful for industrial purjioses has had, in the last few years, the
eflect of locating the incoming population of the far West upon scattered districts
where water can be found, and these settlements are separated from each other by
mountains or by broad exi)anses of barren plains which, for many years to come, will
not be sold nor turned to any economic use except in very rare instances. And yet
a survey is as essential to the title of the homesteader of Wyoming and Idaho as to
the old settlers of Ohio and Illinois^ To make that survey by present methods, and
in conformity with existing statutes, it is necessary to run lines from standard meridi-
ans and parallels or frcmi established township comers, and these lines must be "marked
and measured" before the contractor can receive his payment. Connections of isolated
districts must thus be made through a series of township comers. The futility of
marking such comers wherever they may chance to fall in the mountains and deserts,
by such perishable devices as are authorized by law, needs no remark. The inaccu-
racy of such measurements in a diflScult country is a consequence equally obvious.
The whole system is one which from the jieculiar character of the western region ren-
ders necessary a very lar^e amount of surveying which serves no useful purpose except
to connect isolated districts and such connections are from the nature of the case
grossly inaccurate. To such a method the trigonometric method stands in the strong-
est possible contrast. By a judicious selection of natural and conspicuous geodetic
stations scattered over the land, all superfluous surveying may be entirely avoided.
The latitudes and longitudes of such stations being once determined, they may be-
come the datum-points or origins of local surveys of all districts which lie in their
vicinity. But while a trigonometric survey, if conducted with proper accuracy, is in
one sense an expensive undertaking, there may be danger of overestimating its rela-
tive cost. It could not be more expensive than the present land surveys which yield
such pooj* and perishable results. But even here it is well to remember that a trian-
gulation, with a secondary' and tertiary system of triangles, need not be at once ex-
tended over the entire domain, nor even over a very large proportion of it. Popula-
tion in the far West has shown a tendency to cluster around a number of localities of
relatively small extent, while the greater portion of the region is unoccupied. The
primary points once determined in a few naiTow belts, it will be practicable to
expand a net of inferior triangles over those localities which need surveys while the
barren wastes may be left until a survey is needed for them. It will always Im' prac-
ticable to regulate the extent of the triangulation, and to adapt it to wants as they

The greatest economy of this method would arise from the fact that it would dis-
pense with the unnecessary work of the present land surveys. RecaUiiig here the
fact that under the present method the work is done by contract, it obviously becomes
the pecuniar^' interest of the deputy to survey as nmch land as practicable pi-ovided
it will yield him a profit. To a considerable extent he has discretion in the selection
of the districts which he has to survey, and being governed solely by considerations
of profit, naturally, and quite lawfully, selects such lands as can be siu-Acyed at least
cost to himself witnout regard to their present or even probable occupation by set-
tlers. Many millions of acres have thus been parceled without the slightest neces-
sity, the lands Ijeing worthless, and the land marks have been allowed to perish, and
all useful results have perished with them. We have but to contrast this prodigal and
wasteful method with the peiiuanent and ever-useful results of a triangulation in
order to recognize the immense advantage of the latter.

Throughout the Rocky Mountain region, a great portion of the values of the public
domain subsist in the mines of gold, silver, cinnabar, lead, &c. The surveys of these
mining lands are carried on by methods even more i>oorly adapted to reasonable re-

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quirements than those of the agricultural lands. The tracts of mineral lands con-
taining ores of precious metals, titles to which are conveyed from the general govern-
ment to individuals, are surveyed by methods so inaccurate that the surveys themselves
are of little value in identifying parcels, and in the courts the records of such surveys
are of no value, parol evidence oeing necessarily substituted ; for in general the values
of the mines exist within narrow horizontal limits and should resurveys be made fol-
lowing original records it would always be probable that sites thus obtained would
not coincide with the original one but would be in part or in whole established on
other grounds. Under the law the surveys of mineral claims are connected either
with the comer posts of the land surveys or with *^ mineral monuments," and this con-
nection is made by lines run with compass and chain, and it should be remembered
that the mines are in the mountains where the use of these instruments involves the
greatest expense and secures the least accuracy. To this primitive and almost barba-
ric system of surveying the mineral lands may be attributed a large part of the dis-
astrous litigation in which the mines of the Rocky Mountain region are involved.

I need scarcely say to a scientific body that such surveys are so inaccurate as to be
of no value whatever in determining the position of the claims themselves. It thus
happens that when in a mineral district many claims have been surveyed, an attempt
is made in the surveyor-general's office, or in "the General Land Office in Washington,
to plot a number of such claims on a common chart, the several surveys are found to
be inconsistent with each other, and overlap or fail to connect. The claims themselves
should be plotted on properly constructed topographic charts and be connected with
each other by triaugulation,'and the whole connected with the general system of tri-
angulation which must be carried over the country.

Every mineral district should have a thorough topographic surv^ey, and at conven-
ient points throughout the district monuments should be erected and their absolute
and relative positions determined by fixing their angular relations to each other and
to the geodetic points of the general triangulation, and thus every miner would have
an accurate, simple, and inexpensive method by which the position of his claim could
be fixed. But such properly constructed charts necessary for the identification of min-
eral claims and the proper recording of conveyances would meet all other wants.
It would be a sufficient guide to the engineer, for all general purposes, in the location
of highways and hydraulic works, and a sufficient map for all scientific purposes. If
the work were properly done in the first instance, so as to be sufficient for all reason-
able recxuirements, no duplication of the work would be necessary for any other pur-

In the administration of the Land Office, there are important facts that should hero
be considered. The following classes of lauds are recognized under the laws :

1. Agricultural lands or lands valuable for agriculture without irrigation or drain-

2. Swamp lands.

3. Irrigable lands ; lands valuable for agriculture only with irrigation and desig-
nated in the law as '* desert lauds."

4. Timber lands.

5. Live-oak and cedar lands.

6. Mineral- vein lands, or lands containing veins or lodes of gold, cinnabar, copper,
lead, &c.

7. Placer lands, or lands containing placer mines of the precious metals.

8. Coal lands.

( Vide Revised Statutes of the United States, 1878, title 32, chap. 6; title 32, chap.
10, sees. 2458-2468, inclusive; and title 32, chap. IMecs. 2478-2490, inclusive.

United States Statutes at Large, vol. 19, chap. 107.

Statutes of the United States i^assed at the second session of the Forty-fifth Congress,
chap. 151.)

An examination of the laws thus cited will show that the classes of lands mentioned
above are therein recognized, and in the administration of the laws relating to these
lands those belonging to each specific class must be determined ; but no adequate pro-
vision is made for securing an accurate classification, and to a large extent the laws
are inoperative, or practically void ; for example, coal lands should be sold at ten or
twenty dollars jier acre, but the department having no means of determining what
lands belong to this class, titles to coal lands are usually obtained under the provision
of statutes that relate to lands of other classes ; that is, by pnrchashing at $1.25 per
acre, or by homestead or pre-emption entry. An examination of the laws will exhibit
this fact, that for the classification contemplated therein a thorough survey is neces-
sary, embracing the geological and physical characteristics of the entire public domain.
The only provision under the General Land Office for such a survey is contained in the
** Instructions to the surveyors-general" (vide p. 18, and paragraphs under the head of
" Summary of objects and data to be noted.") In the performance of those duties the
deputy surveyors, 'who do the work under contract, fail entirely to provide the facts
necessary to the x>roi)er administration of the laws, and, in i)ractice, the facts upon

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which transactions in the department are based are obtained not from experts em-
ployed as government officers and competent to perform the task, but on affidavits
made by the parties interested, or by persons selected by them, and the history of the
Land Office abundantly exhibits the fact that States and individuals have to a large
extent obtained titles to lauds from the general government under fraudulent repre-

From the above statement, it will be apparent that a thorough survey of the geology
and physical classification of the entire domain is necessary to the administration of
the laws relating thereto.

The importance of such a survey in the industrial interests of the country requires
brief mention. The greater part of the lands yet remaining in the possession of the
general government either needs protection on the one hand fi'om overflow^ because
of excessive humidity, or irrigation on the other, because of excessive aridity. The
utilization of all such lands depends upon the correct solution of great engineering
problems. Large portions of the public domain on the Gulf coast are swamp lands ;
the great river valleys of the South are flood-i)lain8, which must be protected from the
waters which iierioclically flow over them ; vast areas of swamp and lakelet lands
exist in the region of the great lakes that must be redeemed by drainage ; the western
half of the United States is comparatively arid ; in more than four-tenths of our
national area, exclusive of Alaska, agriculture is dependent upon irrigation, and here
the lands are to be used only by the utilization of nvers and minor streams that are
chiefly fed by the snow-fields of the Rocky Mountains. The rapid migration, which has
been greater during the past ten years than in any similar portion of the history of the
United States, is pushing, in middle latitudes, quite to the verge of possible agricul-
ture without irrigation, and soon all the lands in the humid and subhumid region
belonging to the general government will be exhausted, and future settlers on public
domain will be compelled to resort to the lands to be drained or to the lands to be irri-
gated. On the Flondian peninsula, millions of acres, valuable for the growth of sea-
island cotton or sugar, can be redeemed by the drainage of Okechobee Lake ; on the
Gulf coast, millions of acres of swamp-land can be redeemed by protecting them from
tide- water ; in the great flood-plains of the South, millions of acres of the richest land
of the continent can be redeemed by protecting them from periodic river floods ; in
the region of the great lakes, millions of acres can be redeemed by the drainage of the
swamp and small lakes ; and in the Rocky Mountain region, very many millions of
acres of land can be redeemed by spreading the rivers over the plains and valleys.
Some of the engineering problems thus indicated have important mutual relations.
The time must soon come when all the waters of the Missouri will be spread over the
great plains, and the bed of the river will be dry. A large part of the Arkansas must
also be taken out to fertilize the lands adjacent to its upi)er course, and still farther
south the waters of the upper ramifications of the Red River must be usetl. The util-
ization of these waters flowing during the season of irrigation, and the storage of the
surplus, will have an important effect upon the Mississippi River, and will, to some
extent at least, relieve the great valley plains of the Mississippi, ext^ending from the
mouth of the Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico, from the devastating floods to whioh it is
periodically subject. It has been pointed out, and it is well Imown to the scientific
men of the country, that the present system of protecting these lands by levees is not
only excessively expensive but entirely inadequate, and it has been ftirther shown
that it is practicable to redeem these lands by the storage of the waters. ( Fide Ellet :
Physical Geography Mississippi Valley. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge,
Vol. II.) But if the excess of waters can be used for irrigation a double purpose will
be accomplished, and if the relief thus obtained is quantitatively insufficient, a thor-
ough investigation of the subject should be made, for the purpose of determining what
additional measures can be adopted that will be efficient and economic.

Again, in the arid region of the United States, which is more than four-tenths- of the
whole area, as had been stated, but a comparatively small portion can be redeemed by
irrigation, and what remains is not of much value. It is, considering the wants of the
country, in the main bountifully supplied with timber, but the timber is not distributed
on or suijacent to the agricultural lands ; it is found on the high plateaus and mount-
ains where climatic conditions make agriculture impossible. Between the elevated
timber regions and the irrigable lands adjacent to the streams are broad stretches of
plain, valley, hill, and mountain-lands valuable to some extent for grazing purposes.
These physical characteristics of the country demand further investigation, and the
classification of the lands of the public domain now involved in the laws relating
thereto must necessarily in the immediate future be somewhat enlarged. For a more
tiiorough exposition of this subject, I beg leave to refer you to my repo'rt on the "Lands
of the Arid Region of the United States," copies of which I transmitted to the vice-pres-
ident of the National Academy of Sciences September 24, with the request that the
same be distributed among the members of the committee.

The greater part of the remaining public domain is in the far West. The immediate
Incentives to its settlement are the mines of precious metals found in its mountains.

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It is a region of vast and inexhaustible wealth, and gold, silver, cinnabar, coxjper, lead,
iron, and coal abound. In the State of Arkansas and the Gulf States east of the Mis-
sissippi River, where important portions of the public domain are found, the mountains
are great repositories of mineral wealth. In all of these regions a geological Survey is
necessary not alone to the proper a<^ninistration of the Land Office, but it is of vast
importance and of great value to the general government and to the i)eople of the
United States by properly exhibiting the character and extent of our mineral resources.

In the statements thus briefly ma4e, I have attempted to indicate by a few illustra-
tions the character of the scientific problems involved in the question submitted by
Congress to the Academy of Sciences, and the more important economic considera-
tions that inhere in the subject.

From the statement above, though briefly and imperfectly made, it will be clear
that a proper scientific survey embracing the geography of the public domain with the
parceling of the lands, and the geolo^ with all the physical characteristics connected
therewith, is necessary for the following reasons :

First, to secure an accurate parceling of the public lands and enduring boundary

Second, for the proper administration of the laws relating to the ]r>ublic lands.

Third, for a correct and full knowledge of the agricultural and mineral resources of
the lands;

And fourth, for all purppses of abstract science.

These considerations are ample to secure from the National Legislature all necessary
financial endowments for the prosecution of the surveys. It should be remembered
that the statesmen of America who compose and have composed our National Legisla-
ture have been not averse to the endowment of scientific research when such research
is properly related to the industries of the people. The verity of this statement will be
more apparent by the consideration of thel following facts :

For scientific work carried on under the direction of the War Department, the fol-
lowing appropriations have been made :

River and harbor improvements:

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 $5,900,000

Forthefiscalyearending June 30, 1877 4,550,000

Forthefiscalyearending June 30, 1879 8,200,000

Signal-service i

Forthefiscalyearending June 30, 1876 507,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877 349, 000

Forthefiscalyearending June 30, 1878 326,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 404,000

Lake surveys :

For the fiscal vear ending June 30, 1876 150,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877 100,000

Forthefiscalyearending June 30, 1878 ^ 110,000

Forthefiscalyearending June 30, 1879 99,000

In addition to the direct appropriations mentioned above, large indirect appropria*
tions were made in the bills providing for the support of the Army. In some cases
the indii'ect appropriations were even larger than the direct.

For scientific work carried on under the direction of the Treasury Department, the
following appropriations have been made :

Coast Survey :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 $717,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877, (including deficiency) 626, 000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 468,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 547,000

Weights and Measures :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 - 7,600

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877 - 9,700

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 4,700

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 5,000

Light-House Board :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 2, 750, 000

For the fiscal vear ending June 30, 1877 , 2,470,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 2, 130, 000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 1,970,000

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For scieutific work carried on under the direction of the Navy Dei»artment, the fol-
lowing appropriations have been made :

Naval Observatory :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 $20,500

For the fiscal year ending Juhe 30, 1877 21,300

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 28,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 23,100

Nautical Almanac :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 24,500

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877 19,500

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 19,500

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 22,500

For scientific work carried on under the direction of the Interior Department the
following appropriations have been made r
General Land OflSce :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1869 $535,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1870, (including deficiency) 575, 000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1871 790,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1872, (including deficiency) 790, 000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1873 1,248,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1874 1,365,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1875 1,238,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 1,097,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877, (including deficiency) 550, 000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 474,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 535, 000

The expenditures under the Land Office have been ^ven for ten years, from the fact
that for the past two or three years the appropriations made under this head have
been greatly diminished. This diminution was due to the fact that it had come to be
recognized by Congress that the surveys were carried on by faulty and wasteful
methods. *

The items mentioned above are only approximations, as the writer is not able to
state exactly what proportion of the office expenditures of the General Land Office
should be included under this head. One-fifth of the general expense of maintaining
the office has been included.

For scientific work carried on under the direction of the United States Commission
Fish and Fisheries, the following appropriations have been made :

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1876 |53,500

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877 36,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878 51,000

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 51,000

From the several reports made in answer to the resolution of the Hon. J. D. C. Atkins,
it appears that the following has been the total cost of the different geographical
and geological surveys that haVe been in progress of late yeare, up to June 30, 1878,
to which is added the appropriation for the fiscal yea^ ending June 30, 1879 :

United States Geological Exploration of the AOth Parallel j under Clarence King :

Amount expended up to June 30, 1878(1868-1872) $386,711

United States Surveys and Explorations west of the 100th Meridian, under Lieut, Geo.

M. Wheeler:

Amount expended up to June 30, 1878(1869-1878) $499,316

Appropriation for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1879 50, 000

Online LibraryNational Academy of Sciences (U.S.Constitution and by-laws of the National Academy of Sciences → online text (page 6 of 31)