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Assistant Professor of History Leland Stanford 
Junior University 


Copyright, 1910, By 






It is the purpose of this study to show how the 
national public lands passed into private ownership 
during the first great period of our land system. It 
is concerned, therefore, only with the disposal of the 
lands by the nation, it does not presume to discuss 
the uses to which the lands were put. It considers 
the land grants for education, for example, merely 
as a way in which great areas passed from the public 
domain to the control of the States; it does not 
work out the management of those grants. In 
short, it deals with the origin of the public domain 
and with every form of disposition which was in use 
before 1820. 

Some explanation may be necessary for the 
choice of 1 820 as the termination of this study. That 
date marks the close of the first great period in the 
history of the national land system. Between 1776 
and 1820 the public domain had been formed, the 
land system had been organized, the granting of 
land for education and military services had been 
introduced, and grants for internal improvements 
had been discussed, while the methods for confirm- 
ing foreign titles had been well worked out. But 
especially it was the period of the credit system, 
the operation of which well deserv^es consideration. 
There may be some difference of opinion as to the 
other periods into which a study of the land system 


may be divided. I would have the second end with 
the Preemption Act of 1841, the third ^vith the 
Homestead Act of 18G2, and the fourth with the 
rise of the Conservation JNIovement, which certainly 
marks a new period in our land history. 

Jolm Fiske has told us that "questions about 
public lands are often regarded as the driest of 
historical deadwood. Discussions about them in 
newspapers and magazines belong to the class of 
articles which the general reader usually skips. Yet 
there is a great deal of the philosophy of history 
wrapped up in this subject." And he was very near 
the truth. A transaction with the land office was a 
very unromantic performance, and yet it was of 
great importance in the life of the settler. And if 
the subject is dull in itself it is closely related to 
some of the most interesting phases of our history. 
Without some knowledge of the land system a 
study of the westward movement would be only 
superficial, and a large part of the history of the 
West must be written in terms of land. 

It is a pleasure to acknowledge here my indebted- 
ness to Professor INIax Farrand, of Yale Univer- 
sity, who first called my attention to the importance 
of this subject, and to my colleagues, Professor E. 
D. Adams and Professor IT. E. Bolton, who have 
offered valuable suggestions. The map of the In- 
dian Cessions was based on the excellent collection 
in the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of 

Payson J. Treat. 
August 2, 1910. 



I. The Origin of the Public Domain . . 1 

A national government did not imply a national 
land system — The charter claims of the colonies — 
Objections raised by the non-claimant states — ■ 
Confusion of boundary lines — Congress refused to 
set limits to the states — Position taken by Mary- 
land — New York solved the problem by ceding her 
western lands — The other claimant states followed 
— The public domain formed — Its political signifi- 
cance — Stipulations contained in the deeds — Ces- 
sions of North Carolina and Georgia made after 
the adoption of the Constitution. Summary of the • 

II. The Origin of the Federal Land System . 15 
The lands considered a source of revenue — Indian 
title delayed plans for disposal — Pelatlah Webster 
presented a plan containing many features of the 
later Ordinance — Connecticut insisted upon the 
township system — The Army plan. The Finan- 
ciers' plan — The committee of 1784 — New England 
and Southern land system's compared — Proposed 
land ordinance of 1784 — Recommendations of 
Washington — New Committee of 1785 — Grayson's 
account of their deliberations — Ordinance amended 
and passed — Influence of Timothy Pickering — Or- 
dinance of 1785 a compromise between the two sec- 
tional land systems. 

III. Land Sales under the Confederation, 

1787-1789 41 

Thomas Hutchins appointed Geographer — The first 
surveys — The Ordinance amended — First sales of 
public lands — Reasons for small sales — Indian 
hostilities northwest of the Ohio — ^Troops sent to 



drive out unautliorized settlers — Later changes in 
the Ordinance — Sales to Companies — Ohio company 
formed — Services of the Reverend Manassch Cut- 
ler — Contracts signed for sales to the Ohio and 
the Scioto companies — Petitions from Symmes, 
Flint and Parker, and George Morgan for per- 
mission to purchase lands — The Symmes' purchase 
— Difficulties encountered by the Ohio Company — 
Relief sought — Congress amends terms of contract 
— Later history of the Scioto Company — Questions 
arising from SjTnmes' purchase — Terms amended — 
Dispute over boundaries — Preemption granted to 
settlers — Summary of sales to companies — Pennsyl- 
vania purchases the " triangle." 

IV. The Development of the Land System, 

1789-1800 66 

No general land legislation between 1789 and 1796 
— Debates in the First Congress — Hamilton's Re- 
port — Based on the financial demands of the time — 
Debate during Third Session — Ko action until 1796 
— Attempt to bribe members of Congress — Indian 
relations in the Northwest — Wayne's victory and the 
Greeneville Treaty — Land Act of 1796 — Develop- 
ment of land laws, 1785-1796 — System of rectangu- 
lar surveys firmly established— Failure to provide 
funds for surveys — Small sales under the act — 
Surveys delayed — W. H. Harrison elected first dele- 
gate from Northwest Territory — Land act amended 
in 1800 — Four land offices established — Credit 
period extended. 

V. The Abolition of the Credit System . . 101 
Act of 1800 in operation — Credit system bound to 
be disastrous — First sales under the act— Westward 
movement not confined to public lands — Indian ces- 
sions and surveys must precede land sales — Method 
of computing interest charges altered — Special 
terms allowed Dufour and associates — Ohio Enab- 
ling Act — Its land grants for education became pre- 
cedents — First act for sale of lands in Southwest — 
Proposals to amend general system — Gallatin urged 



reduction in size of tracts and in price, and aboli- 
tion of credit, 1804 — Act for sale of leinds in Indiana 
Territory — Quarter section tracts — Other altera-i 
tions in the system — First land laws for Louisiana 
Purchase — Strict provisions — Standing committee 
on public lands appointed in House — Two reports 
against credit system, 1806 — First relief act post- 
poning forfeitures, 1806 — Effect of commercial de- 
pression on credit system — Morrow recommended 
reduction in price and abolition of credit, 1809 — 
First general extension of credit, 1809 — Act of 
1810 — Two reports against the system, 1811 — Re- 
lief acts of 1812 — Establishment of the General 
Land Office, 1812— Annual relief acts, 1813-1830— 
Partial introduction of eighty acre tracts — Senate 
passed bill abolishing credit, 1819— Act of 1820— 
Credit abolished, price reduced, eighty acre tracts 
— Acts extending the credit system. 

VI. Congress and the Land Debtors . . . 144 
Why preemptions or donations were not granted — 
Auction system retained — Relief for creditors ad- 
vocated — Question as to method of relief — Plans 
proposed — Act of 1821: relinquishment, remission 
of accrued interest, discount for cash, extension of 
credit— Acts of 1824, 1828, 1830, 1831, 1832— Opera- 
tion of the relief laws — Their hesitating ineffective- 
ness — Changing attitude of Congress — Revenue 
policy no longer dominant — Growing political in- 
fluence of the "West. 

VII. The Extension of the Land System . . 162 
Three steps in process of opening land to settle- 
ment: extinguishment of Indian title, completion 
of surveys, proclamation of sales — Surveys delayed 
by private land claims — The squatters — Indian 
treaties in Northwest — Early surveys and sales — 
Under act of 1796 — Indian cessions in Southwest 
— First sales in Mississippi Territory — Surveys and 
sales in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan — Surveys 
west of the Mississippi — Indian cessions, 1805-1814 
— New land ofBces established — Important cessions 



in Alabama — Sale of reserves — First land sales in 
Missouri and Michigan territories. 

VIII. The System of Surveys 179 

The surveys were the most important provision of 
the Ordinance of 178o — An application of a well 
understood system — Not an " invention " of Mr. 
Jefferson — Method of surveying under Ordinance 
of 1785 — Six distinct surveying areas in Ohio — 
Mansfield perfects combination of " Principal Meri- 
dians " and base lines — The Principal Meridians in 
the Northwest described — Frequent base lines and 
guide meridians necessary — Several Principal Meri- 
dians in the old Southwest — Surveying methods in 
1817 — Errors in surveys — Administration of sur- 
veys — Later developments. 

IX. The Confirmation of Foreign Titles . . 198 
The problem — Foreign titles in the Northwest — 
Resolutions of the Old Congress — Early attempt 
to confimi titles — Act of 1791 — Boards of Commis- 
sioners introduced by act of 1803 — Commissioners 
appointed for Vincennes, Kaskaskia, and Detroit — 
Reports of Commissioners — Congressional action — 
Frauds at Kaskaskia — Confirmations at Vincennes 
— Re-opening of confirmations at Kaskaskia — Con- 
firmations at Detroit, Green Bay, and Prairie du 
Chien — Discussion of methods of investigating 
foreign titles — Effect on general land system. 

X. Land Grants for Military and Naval Serv- 
ices 230 

Colonial precedents — Royal Proclamation of 1763 — 
Revolutionary bounties: land offered to foreign de- 
serters and to Continental troops — Boimties offered 
by the- States — Plans for satisfying Continental 
bounties — Militarj' reserves authorized — Act of 
1796 — Attempt to expedite location of warrants — 
Reserves abandoned, 1830 — Undesirable features of 
bounties — Offered for war of 1812 — Reserves estab- 
lished — Attempts to change bounty laws — Canadian 
Volunteers — Petition of Abigail O'Flyng — Objec- 
tions to reserves — Abandoned in 1842 — Bounties 



for Mexican War — General bounty acts of 1850, 
1852, 1855 and 1856 — Reasons for later liberal policy 
— Criticism of bounty grants. 

XI. Land Grants for Education 263 

A study of origins — Omission of grants in plan 
of 1784 — Introduced in 1785 from New England 
land system — Omitted in early acts of Congress — 
Ohio Enabling Act, 1802 — A precedent for later 
acts — Land grants to Tennessee, Louisiana, and 
Missouri — Later developments — Grants for higher 
education — Grants for asylums for deaf and dumb 
— Grants for religious purposes — Summary of 


XII. Special Grants of Land, Public and Pri- 

Canadian Volunteers and Refugees — Christian In- 
dians in Ohio — A. H. Dohrman, Isaac Zane, George 
Ash, J. J. Dufour, General La Fayette, Lewis and 
Clark, Leitensdorfer— Monroe's veto of a religious 
grant — Earthquake sufferers — Vine and Olive 
Society — Special grants for public purposes. 

XIII. The Satisfaction of the Conditions in the 

Deeds of Cession, 1784-1802 .... 319 
The Connecticut Reserve — The Vieginia Mili- 
tary Reserve — Origin — Virginia Revolutionary 
bounties — Question concerning the western bound- 
ary or reserve — Ludlow and Roberts' lines — Boun- 
ties for state troops allowed — Frequent acts extend- 
ing period for satisfaction — Estimate of quantity 
of land granted for Virginia bounties. The North 
Carolina Cession — Delay in completing cession^ 
Conditions in the deed — Revolutionary bounties^ 
Admission of Tennessee— Act of 1806— The Congres- 
sional Line— Acts of 1842 and 1846— The Yazoo 
Land Claims — ^Western lands of Georgia — Land 
sales to companies, 1789, 1795 — The Georgia cession 
— Satisfaction of private land claims — Fletcher v. 
Peck — Other claims. 



XIV. The Early Land System and the Westward 

Movement 370 

Present recognition of economic and social forces 
in American history — West.vard movement under 
way before origin of public domain — Before 18i?0 
only portion of western people located on public 
lands — Ordinance of 178,5— Act of 1796 — Act of 
1800 — Public lands administered as a source of 
revenue — The credit system — Settlers desire pre- 
emption — Arguments advanced — Summarj* of pre- 
emption laws — Changing conception of object of 
land legislation — Developments after 1820. 

Bibliography 391 


1 Area of the state cessions 395 

2 Ordinance of 1785 395 

3 Extension of the land system — amount of land 

surveyed and sold 401 

4 Distances between the land offices .... 402 

5 Estimated area of Indian cessions .... 404 

6 Land sales by land offices, 1800-1807 ... 406 

7 Land sales 1808-1814 407 

8 Land sales 1815-1820 408 

9 Lands sold, receipts and balances unpaid . . 410 



1. Indian Cessions, 1785-1820 164. 

2. Land Offices, 1821 174 

3. Diagrams showing subdivisions of public lands . 181 

4. Ohio, showing land divisions 185 

5. Tennessee and Mississippi Territory, showing, the 

Congressional Line and the Yazoo claims . . 348 


The National Land System 





A study of the American Land System should of 
necessity commence with some discussion of the 
origin of the public domain. Before the Revolution 
the various colonies had for years been engaged in 
the disposal of land and several distinct systems had 
been developed based upon differing physical and 
economic conditions, but no uniform system could, 
under the circumstances, be worked out. Nor did 
the establishment of a central government necessar- 
ily mean that a national land system could be in- 
augurated. The very nature of the loose defensive 
union of the thirteen colonies precluded any grant 
of power to a central legislature over the lands 
within the states, while at the commencement of 
the Revolution the idea of national lands outside 
the boundaries of the states had not developed. 
Under these circumstances there could be no field 
for national land legislation. At first the object of 
the struggling patriots was to assert as large terri- 
torial claims as possible for the United Colonies so 
that when independence was achieved the new 
nation would possess an extensive area. This could 


be easily clone because six of the colonies had sea to 
sea claims based on their ancient charters. These 
parchments of INIassachusetts, Connecticut, Vir- 
ginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia 
were considered good against England for the land 
as far west as tlie Mississi])])i. while New Vi)rk had 
a supJDorting claim, as suzerain of the Iroquois In- 
dians, to the country west of the Delaware River. 
Franklin's draft of the Articles of Confederation 
of May 10, 1775, shows that at that time the charter 
claims of these colonies were not contested. 

But soon this first assertion was questioned. Six 
of the states had very definite boundaries and they 
could present no charter claims to the rich lands be- 
yond the Alleghanies. They then believed that, even 
should the western lands be held against England 
as parts of the states, nevertheless Congress should 
have the power to limit the boundaries of the great 
states, and to erect new colonies. This was shown 
in the Dickinson draft of the Articles of Confeder- 
ation of July 12, 1776, but the clause was struck out 
in the Committee of the Whole. From this arose a 
number of questions regarding the ownership of 
the lands beyond the Alleghanies which developed 
into one of the most per])lexing domestic problems 
confronting the new nation, and one which had to 
be settled wisely and well. 

First came the question, do the lands beyond the 
mountains belong to the claimant states under their 
charters or to the United States as the result of a 
successful revolution? Against charter claims were 


cited the Royal Proclamation of 1763/ which re- 
stricted the right of the colonies to grant lands west 
of the headwaters of streams flowing into the Atlan- 
tic, and the Quebec Act of 1774, which attached the 
country north of the Ohio River to the Province of 
Quebec. And before this question was answered 
there arose another : if the lands belong to the states, 
then to which states, for conflicting claims had 
already arisen under the ancient charters ? 

It was the presence of these conflicting claims in 
the west which made the later public domain pos- 
sible. If the claims of the various states to the 
western lands had been well founded it is doubtful 
if any dispute would have arisen. Virginia held 
unquestioned vast unappropriated areas east of the 
mountains, and Massachusetts possessed great 
vacant tracts in Maine. But no state could present 
a claim to the western lands which could not be 
questioned, many people thinking the Proclamation 
of 1763 and the Quebec Act limited all the colonies 
to the mountains. In the northwest four states 
claimed lands with overlapping bounds, and this 
would present a serious problem in boundary 
adjustment should the charter claims be accepted. 

It seemed unwise to Congress to raise these ques- 
tions during the actual struggle with Great Britain. 
In order to make the position of the United States 
as strong as possible it would make use of both 

1 Alvord, The Genesis of the Proclamation of 1763, Mich. Hist. 
and Pioneer Soc. Collection, v. 39, p. 52. "The proclamation did 
not set western limits to the colonies, nor was such the intention 
of the ministry at the time." 



theories." It would maintain the sea to sea claims 
of the states, and, should these be denied, it would 
claim the western lands as successor to the rights 
of the King of England. 

The small states, with fixed boundaries, early 
questioned the territorial claims of the seven larger 
ones. It was ^Maryland who persistently attacked 
the theory of the state claims to the west. Over 
against it she argued for a common right and a com- 
mon ownership. At first she would waive any dis- 
cussion of the charter claims provided that Con- 
gress was authorized to fix the western boundaries 
of the claimant states. This was the position taken 
by Dickinson in 1776 and ]\Iaryland alone voted 
for it on October 15, 1777-^ Rhode Island, New 
Jersey and Delaware opposed the land claims, but 
on financial grounds, for they were willing that the 
sovereignty over the lands should be vested in the 
claimant states provided the lands themselves pass 
to the United States.^ In spite of their protests a 
clause was added to the proposed Articles of Con- 
federation, on October 27, 1777, which, after set- 
ting up a Court of Commissioners to determine dis- 
puted boundary claims, provided also " that no state 
shall be deprived of territorj'^ for the benefit of the 
United States.' 

Although defeated in Congi*ess the small states 
did not give up the fight. In 1778 Rhode Island and 
New Jersey presented amendments to the proposed 

a See Thompson Papers, N. Y. Historical Col. 1878, 109-141, 
3 J. IX., 807. * Adams, 33. » J. IX., 843. 


Articles of Confederation which would turn all the 
crown lands within the states over to the United 
States, while the sovereignty would remain in the 
states^. These amendments were overwhelmingly- 
defeated and it was well that such was the case for 
national sovereignty as well as common ownership 
of the western lands was necessarj^. It was the 
great service of Maryland to render this possible. 

The part she played in causing the claimant 
states to cede their western lands need not be de- 
tailed here/ Maintaining that they had " not the 
least shadow of exclusive right," and that the unset- 
tled country, " if wrested from the common enemy 
by the blood and treasure of the thirteen states, 
should be considered as comimon property,"^ sub- 
ject to the control of Congress, she refused to ratify 
the Articles of Confederaton until the disputed 
question was in some way settled. Especially did 
she fear the financial and political benefits accruing 
to Virginia from her vast claimed lands. 

Even if the position taken by Maryland and the 
other non-claimant states were correct it was unwise 
to insist upon it in opposition to the opinions of 
seven of the more powerful states. A denial of 
charter claims or an enforced curtailment of them 
would have been disastrous in those days of state 
jealousies. A much more expedient proposition 
was now suggested, one which avoided all discussion 

« J. XI., 639, 650. 7 See Adams. 

8 Instruction to Delegates in Congress. Dec. 15, 1778. Read 
May 21, 1779. J. XIV., 619-622. 


of territorial claims and aimed at the cession of the 
disputed land to the nation for the common good. 
An early proposal for cessions of western lands by 
the states was made by the Committee on Finance 
on September 19, 1778," and a year later Virginia 
and the other states were urged to cease grant- 
ing western lands during the continuance of the 

This proved to be a real solution of the problem. 
New York offered to cede her western lands, with- 
out reserve, in 1780. Virginia made a first, but un- 
satisfactory, offer in Januaiy, 1781, and a month 
later INIaryand ratified the Articles of Confedera- 
tion. Between 1782 and 1802 the seven claimant 
states made cessions of their western lands, and by 
the latter date the public domain covered all the 
territory between the Alleghanies and the JNIissis- 
sippi, with the exception of Kentucky, which was 
reserved by Virginia and later erected as a state, 
and of the Connecticut Reserve in Ohio. In bring- 
ing about these cessions the influence of INIaryland 
was negative while that of New York was positive. 
Both states deserv'c great credit.^® 

With these cessions the public domain was 
formed. From a political point of view they were 
most important. They were a pre-requisite to the 

J. XIl., 931. 

10 For the cessions see Adams, Maryland's Influence upon Land 
Cessions to the United States. J. H. Univ. Studies, 3d series. 
Sato, History of the I-nnd Question in the United States. J. H. 
Univ. Studies, 4th series. Wellinp, The Land Politics of the L^nited 
States. Papers of the N. Y. Hist. Society, 1888. 


completion of the Confederation, although the first 
one was not perfected until twenty months after 
the ratification of INIaryland. With them vanished 
the fear of any enormous development in wealth 
and power on the part of the favored states, and 
the settlement of conflicting boundary lines was 
avoided. The Congress of the Confederation ex- 
ceeded its powers in accepting them and in pro- 
viding a government for the lands which they cov- 
ered. With the possession of a public domain, a 
" common estate," came a real bond of union in the 
critical period of the republic. 

With the exception of the Connecticut Reserve 
all the cessions were of territory and jurisdiction. 
New York offered to cede soil and jurisdiction or 
to retain all or part of the jurisdiction. Connecti- 
cut, in her offer of October 10, 1780, proposed to 
cede the soil but retain the jurisdiction. This would 
have proven acceptable to some of the states, and 
even Alexander Hamilton had agreed that the 
jurisdiction over the land should remain in the 
states. ^^ 

Such cessions of territory would have created a 
public domain, but the controversy which would 
have arisen over the conflicting claims to jurisdic- 
tion in the northwest .might have wrecked the infant 
nation. Maryland feared the political power which 
so large an extent of authority would give the claim- 
ant states. It is easy to understand how perfect a 
solution was found when unquestioned cessions of 

11 Hamilton Works, I., 262. 


soil and jurisdiction were effected. Controversies 
between the states were quieted, the central govern- 
ment gained political and financial strength, and a 
uniform system for the control and disposal of the 
western lands was rendered possible.^* 

Of the seven deeds of cession three were without 
conditions of any kind while four contained stipu- 
lations which are more carefully discussed in an- 
other chapter. ^^ New York defined her own limits 
and ceded her right to the lands northward and 
westward of these boundaries, without condition as 
to disposition. Virginia ceded all right, title and 
claim " to the territory or tract of country within 
the limits of the Virginia charter " lying northwest 
of the Ohio River. No mention was made of the 
claim of Virginia to Kentucky, although the first 
offer of 1781 had included a provision that this ter- 
ritory should be guaranteed to Virginia. In 1783 
Congress had refused to make such a guarantee. ^^ 

12 The importance of the fact that the first cessions were of 
disputed claims should be noted here. Virginia, New York, Penn- 
sylvania, and Massachusetts all retained unoccupied land which 
they continued to dispose for some years. At a later period 
Massachusetts was accused of selfishness in not ceding her un- 
appropriated lands in Maine. Such a charge is not to the point. 
These lands were never " crown lands " in the sense of the term 
as used after 1763. No other state could lay claim to them, and 
although a cession of them to the United States would have 
added strength to the nation it was not seriously demanded nor 
expected. The lands ceded later bj- North Carolina, South Carolina 
and Georgia were considered crown lands according to the Pro- 
clamation of 1763. 

18 Donaldson, 65-82 for deeds; S-J-S6 for reservations, also see 
Chap. 13. 

14 J. IV., 265. 


Virginia incorporated certain conditions in her deed 
of 1784. The territory ceded should be laid out into 
states ; the expense incurred by Virginia in conquer- 
ing and holding this country should be reimbursed 
by the general government; the French inhabit- 
ants and other settlers at Kaskaskia, Vinceimes 
and the neighboring settlements, who had pro- 
fessed themselves citizens of Virginia, should have 
their possessions and titles confirmed to them; one 
hundred and fifty thousand acres should be laid oif 
for General George Rogers Clark and his men, who 
had conquered the Illinois country for Virginia; 
and lands should be reserved between the Scioto 
and the Little Miami rivers for the military boun- 
ties promised by Virginia to her troops upon con- 
tinental establishment should there be an insufficient 
quantity of good land in the tract already reserved 
for them in Kentucky. But the most important 
provision was as follows : all lands in the ceded ter- 
ritory, not covered by the above reserv^ations or by 
the bounties promised by Congress to the Continen- 
tal Army " shall be considered as a common fund 
for the use and benefit of such of the United States 
as have become, or shall become members of the 
Confederation or Federal Alliance of the said 
states, Virginia inclusive, according to their usual 
respective proportions in the general charge and 
expenditure, and shall be faithfully and bona fide 
disposed of for that purpose, and for no other use 
or purpose whatsoever." 

Of all the conditions made by the states this one 


is the most important. From this time rarely could 
a proposition to cede or grant lands be made in 
Congress without giving rise to these inquiries : is it 
for the common good? Avill it be a bona fide disposi- 
tion of a common property? North Carolina and 
Georgia later inserted this condition in their deeds. 

The JNIassachusetts cession was without reserve. 
It covered the lands claimed under her charter, west 
of the western boundary of New York.^^ 

Connecticut, however, was apparently less gen- 
erous, and she retained a " western reserve " of 
some 3,800,000 acres which was used as a fund to 
reimburse sufferers during the raids of the Revo- 
lutionary War, as well as to form a basis for the 
present school fund of the state. In the reserve, 
which extended for one hundred and twenty miles 
west from the Pennsylvania line, Connecticut re- 

15 Massachusetts and New York both claimed the lands in west- 
ern New York. In 178t, a federal court was appointed, under the 
Articles of Confederation, to determine the dispute. Massachu- 
setts claimed the land under her charter, New York claimed it as 
suzerain of the Iroquois. The dispute was settled amicably, with- 
out reference to the court, in 1786, Massachusetts receiving the 
soil and New York the jurisdiction of the lands in question. This 
compromise gave a more definite sanction to the claim df Massa- 
chusetts to the western lands than did the mere acceptance of the 
Massachusetts cession by Congress, for in the latter instance no 
investigation of the soundness of the claim was made. This is 
the more interesting because a similar claim of Connecticut for 
land in Pennsylvania was rejected by the Federal Commissioners 
at Trenton in 17S2, but the charter rights were apparently affirmed 
by the acceptance of her cession by Congress. It should be noted 
that the disputed lands in Pennsylvania had been actually granted 
to Penn by charter. New York had no such claim to the lands 
in the western part of the present state. 


tained both soil and jurisdiction. In 1797 she 
offered to cede the jurisdiction over the reserve and 
in 1800, after some discussion, Congress passed 
an act of acceptance. T hirty years la ter, when the 
land question assumed a sectional aspect, Connecti- 
cut ^d JNIassachusetts were held up as selfish com- 
monwealths in con trast Avith the magnanimous con- 
d uct of Virgini a and the Southern states. In ex- 
tenuation it should be remembered that at the time 
of the cessions Connecticut was the only state ced- 
ing claims which did not possess unoccupied lands. 
Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and the South- 
ern states all held within their accepted boundaries 
considerable areas of vrhich they were disposing. 
Her claims to the Wyoming country had been de- 
feated and Pennsylvania had profited thereby, it 
was not unreasonable for her to endeavor to retain 
some of her domain. These facts caused the accept- 
ance of the cession of 1786, a cession which alloAved 
her to retain land already ceded to the Union by 
both New York and Virginia, and in fact violated 
the conditions of the Virginia cession. 

These cessions covered the territory of the old 
Northwest. The United States secured jurisdic- 
tion over all but the Connecticut Reserve, and over 
this in 1800. But as has been sho^vn, not all this 
country came into the public domain for the French 
settlers and others had claims which must be con- 
firmed, while the military bounties of Virginia had 
also to be satisfied. 

Under the Confederation only one cession was 



made south of the Ohio. South Carohna, in 1787, 
ceded a narrow strip, twelve miles wide, from her 
western limits to the INIississippi, and this cession, 
made without condition or reserve, was " for the 
benefit of the said states." For several years this 
tiny hit of land was entirely cut off from the rest 
of the public domain, until it was annexed to the 
North Carolina cession later. 

Some political importance has been attached to 
the fact that five of the state cessions were made 
under the Confederation and two under the present 
Constitution. The Articles of Confederation con- 
ferred^o power on Congress to receive or govern 
any common lands, but Congress assumed the 
power. In order to remedy this omission the 
new Constitution provided that " the Congress shall 
have Power to dispose of and make all needful 
Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or 
other Property belonging to the United States." 
From time to time the question was raised as to 
whether the Constitution superceded the prior deeds 
of cession, for if it did the stipulations of the deeds 
would not be binding. The issue was never fairly 
joined although the Su])reme Court has held that 
the power of Congress over the public lands was 
" without limitation," ^" and as the grantor states 
ratified the Constitution it might be assumed that 
they waived their former conditions. As a matter 
of fact the conditions in the deeds were in every case 
faithfully carried out, unless the strictest possible 

as U. S. V. Gratiot, 14 Peters, 526. 


construction is placed on the general provisions of 
the Virginia and Georgia articles. 

In another chapter ^^ the cessions of North Caro- 
lina and Georgia are discussed at some length. 
Made respectively in 1790 and 1802, after the west- 
ward migration had commenced, it goes without 
sapng that considerable portions of their western 
lands had been sold or granted away. In the North 
Carolina cession the soil was so covered with war- 
rants, surveys, and patents, that it was never 
brought under the national land system nor dis- 
posed of in the usual manner, whilein_the_south- 
west jhjL. Yaj^QQ l^rid claims caused considerable 
annoyance_for investors, settlers, and Confess. 

Thus, in briefest fashion, the origin of the Pub- 
lic Domain has been outlined. Primarily the result 
of the successful issue of the Revolution, it stands, 
h owev er, as the result of the cessions by the states 
t hemselv es. Such a solution avoided the host of 
controversies which the conflicting claims of state 
against nation and state against state would have 
produced. In some cases the titles which the states 
passed were of questionable validity, but as all the 
states quit-claimed their rights the central govern- 
ment did not need to search the title, it was only 
when states tried to reserve land for themselves that 
any question was raised. But J^efore any of the 
cessions were. completed a discussion had arisen as 
to the proper dispos ition of the new domain. 

17 Chap. IS. 



1780, Feb. 19. Act of New York Legislature. 
March 7. Laid before Congress. 

Oct. 10. Act of Connecticut Legislature. 

1781, Jan. 2. Act of Virginia Legislature. 

Mar. 1. New York deed of cession executed in Congress. 

1782, Oct. 29. New York cession accepted by Congress. 

1783, Sept. 13. "Virginia cession rejected. 
Oct. 20. Second Virginia Act. 

1784, March 1. Virginia cession completed. 
June 2. Act of North Carolina Legislature. 
Nov. 13. Act of Massachusetts Legislature. 

Nov. 20. Act of North Carolina Legislature repealed. 

1785, Apr. 19. Massachusetts cession completed. 

1786, May 11. Second Act of Co>nnecticut legislature. 
May 26. Connecticut cession completed. 

1787, March 8. Act of South Carolina Legislature. 
August 9. South Carolina cession completed. 

1788, Feb. 1. First Act of Georgia Legislature. 
July 15. Georgia offer rejected. 

1789, Dec. 2ii. Act of North Carolina Legislature. 

1790, Feb. 25, North Carolina cession completed. 

1802, April 24. Articles of Agreement and Cession entered into 
between the Commissioners of the United States and of 
June 16. Ratified by the Georgia Legislature. 



The acquisition of the public domain made pos- 
sible a national system, and Congress was called 
upontojegulate the disposal of the western lands. 
The discussions of the past few years had revealed 
a general agreement of opinion as to the policy 
which should control the land system. The lands 
were^ considered jprimarily as a source of revenue, 
and Congress was expected to so provide that the 
lan^s would serve to relieve the financial burdens of 
the^struggling nation. Every thoughtful citizen 
could apjDreciate the financial possibilities of the 
new domain, although the tendency was to exagger- 
ate the immediate value of the vacant lands. Specu- 
lations in land were not new in this coun- 
try, ffreat schemes had been under discussion in the 
western country even before the Revolution, and 
the New England colonies had at times profited 
through their land sales. To the south Virginia ^ 
and North Carolina ^ had opened land offices and 
expected to increase their annual revenue and to 
sink their public debt. It was very natural, there- 
fore, for persons in and out of Congress to look 
upon the western lands as a valuable asset, which 
should be carefully managed. These acres were to 

1 Hening, X, 60-65. 2 N. C. Records, 24:43. 



be sold for a fair sum, and not to be given away as 
had so often been the case in colonial days. 

Congress could not prepare a plan of disposal for 
the lands until the national title was clear to at 
least one section of the territory, and it was not 
until iNIarch, 1784, that the New York and Virginia 
cessions had quieted all claims to the southern por- 
tion of the old Northwest, while even then the In- 
dian title remained to be dealt with. But before 
this time a plan had been published which merits 
more than a passing notice. Early in 1781, Pelatiah 
Webster, relying upon the future cessions of the 
states, had proposed a system for the disposal of 
the lands which is highly suggestive.^ 

He dismissed with scant comment the proposal 
that the entire domain be sold or mortgaged to 
foreign states at the present time : " It would be 
like killing the goose that laid an egg every day in 
order to tear out at once all that was in her belly." 
Instead, the ceded territory should be carefully 
marked off from the unceded and intrusions on it 
should be rigidly prohibited. First, the land should 
be sun'eyed into townships^ of six, eight or ten 

3 In the collected essays of Pelatiah Webster this essaj on the 
" Extent and Value of our Western Unlocated lands, and the 
Proper Method of disposing of them so as to gain the greatest 
possible Advantage f rtmi them " is stated to have been first pub- 
lished in Philadelphia on April 2jth, 1781, but in Almon's "Lon- 
don Remembrancer" for 1783 the essay appears anonymously under 
the signature of '* A Gentleman of Philadelphia " and the date of 
February 17, 1781. 

•» The township idea was early before Congress. In 1778 Congress 
offered land in townships of from 30,000 to 60,000 acres to Hessian 
deserters. The land was to be provided by the states. J. X. 405, 


miles square ; then it should be sold at auction to the 
highest bidder, and the minimum price should be 
one Spanish dollar per acre; purchasers should be 
obliged to settle and improve the land within two 
or three years or forfeit the same ; and, finally, the ^ 
townships should be laid out in courses or tiers, 
and should be sold in that fashion — only when one 
tier was settled should the next be placed on 

There were certain advantages in this system 
which the author proceeded to develop. It would 
push out settlements in close columns, much less 
assailable by the enemy and more easily defended. 
Laws, customs and police could be easily extended, 
and it would prevent one great abuse, that of the 
absentee proprietor profiting through the hard- 
ships and labors of the pioneers. The Indians should 
be kindly treated, and, in order to avoid friction, 
intruders should be removed, for Webster had little 
sympathy for settlers without permission — they 
merited punishment rather than reward. He held 
also that salt licks, coal and mineral lands should be 
reserved for the public use. 

The merit of this plan does not lie in any orig- . 
inality of the author. It will later be shown that 
almost every one of these provisions may be found 
in the land system of the New England colonies, 
but Pelatiah Webster was apparently the first to 
apply this colonial experience to the problem which 
was soon to confront the Congress of the Confed- 


Between 1781 and 1784, when the first Congress- 
ional land committee reported, the general subject 
of the western lands was several times before Con- 
gress, and the discussions doubtless served to de- 
velop the opinions on the subject of a land system. 
When the various states offered to cede their 
claims only one of them made any stipulation as 
tojhe method of disposing of the Jand. Connecti- 
cut, in her first offer of October, 1780, had insisted 
upon the extension of the township system over the 
area ceded by he;\ The land was " to be laid'out 
and surveyed in townships in regular form to a suit- 
able number of settlers in such manner as will best 
promote the settlement and cultivation of the same 
— according to the true spirit and principles of a 
Republican state." ^ This system of disposition was 
accepted by the committee which reported on the 
cessions of New York, Virginia, and Connecticut, 
and the petitions of the Indiana, Vandalia, Illinois 
and Wabash companies, for it recommended that 
the new states " shall be laid out into townships of 
the quantity of about six miles square." No action 
was taken on this report by Congress." 

In the spring of 1783 interest in the actual dis- 
position of the western lands was stimulated by the 
proposition on the part of certain of the officers in 

f! MSS., Conn. State Library, Susq. Settlers, I, IQS. 

6 Report presented Nov, 3, 1781, but entered on the Journul of 
May 1, 1782, J. IV, 20-25; 227. This recommendation was doubt- 
less due to the fact that the committee was composed of Northern 
men, from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Is- 
land, and Maryland. 


the army at Newburgh to found a new state north- 
west of the Ohio. This plan was discussed in the 
early part of April, and the first propositions called 
for the satisfaction in that region of the bounty 
offers of Congress, while additional lands would be 
given to those settling within a year J ' ' These rights 
being secured, all the surplus lands shall be the com- 
mon property of the state, and disposed of for the 
common good; as for laying out roads, building 
bridges, erecting public buildings, establishing 
schools and academies, defraying the expenses of 
government, and other public uses." Conditions of 
settlement and cultivation were to be attached to 
each grant, with penalties of forfeiture for non- 
compliance. The United States was expected to 
defray the expenses of the march to the Ohio, and 
to furnish subsistence for three years, and, finally, 
the total exclusion of slavery from the region was 

While the officers were considering their plan of 
settlement and before their petition was actually 
presented another proposition was laid before Con- 
gress which would have used the western lands not 
only for the satisfaction of the military bounties but 
for the settlement of the sums due for arrearages 
and half pay. In another chapter these details of 
the report will be discussed, but there were features 
of more general interest in this proposal of ISIr. 
Bland, of Virginia, of June 5, 1783." The territory 

7 Pickering, I, 457, 546. 

8 Seconded by Hamilton. Ban. I, 312-4. 


to be set apart for the accounts due the soldiers was 
to be " laid off into districts not exceeding two de- 
grees of latitude and three degrees of longitude 
each, and into townships not exceeding . . . miles 
square." The exterior lines of the districts were to 
be run by surveyors appointed and paid by the 
United States. Out of every hundred thousand 
acres granted to the soldiers there should be re- 
served ten thousand acres, which would remain for- 
ever a common property of the United States unless 
disposed of by Congress, and the proceeds of these 
reserved tracts might be used for " the payment of 
the civil list of the United States; the erecting fron- 
tier forts; the founding of seminaries of learning; 
and the surplus after such purposes (if any) to be 
appropriated to the building and equipping a navy, 
and to no other use or pm-pose whatever." The 
lands to be granted to the soldiers were to be free 
from all taxes and quit-rents for seven years after 
the passing of the Ordinance. 

These plans, known as the " Army Plan " and 
the " Financier's Plan," A-ere alike in their insist- 
ence upon the township system, but they differed 
as to the ownership of the unappropriated land. In 
the former tlie land would belong to the state and 
would be used for local needs, there would be no 
ownership of land within the state by the nation; in 
the latter the national domain was to be assured 
thi"ough definite reserves and their proceeds were 
to be used for general needs. Tlie " Financier's 
Plan " was referred to the Grand Committee of 


May 30th, and no action seems to have been taken 
on it. 

The petition of the officers was finally presented 
to G^eneral Washington on June 16th and for- 
warded by him to Congress on the next day.^ Of 
the two hundred and eighty-five petitioners, one 
hundred and fifty-five were officers of the JVIassa- 
chusetts line, forty-six from Connecticut, thirty- 
six from New Jersey, thirty-four from New 
Hampshire, thirteen from Maryland, and one from 
New York. Rufus Putnam, in a letter to Wash- 
ington which accompanied the petition, discussed 
the territory which they desired and expressed the 
wish that the gi-ants be made by townships, six 
miles square, or six by twelve, or six by eighteen, to 
be subdivided by the proprietors to six miles square, 
" that being the standard on which they wish all 
calculations may be made." They also desired re- 
serves for schools and for the ministrj\ Washing- 
ton approved the plan heartily and wrote to Con- 
gress that not only was the region designated the 
one which should first be settled, but that it could 
not " be so advantageously settled by any other 
class of men as by the disbanded officers and soldiers 
of the army," for this plan of colonization " would 
connect our government with the frontiers, extend 
our settlements progressively, and plant a brave, a 
hardy and respectable race of people as our 
advanced post, who would be always ready and will- 

8 Petition in Cutler, I, 159; Washington's letter in Cutler, I, 172; 
Putnam's letter in Cutler, I, 167. 


ing (in case of hostility) to combat the savages and 
check their incursions." Washington also urged 
the matter in person while the Congress sat at 
Princeton.^" The members pleaded the incomplete 
cession of the lands, and finally Congress stated on 
October 29th, on the memorial of General Armand. 
that they could not at that time make any appro- 
priation of land, " much less can they assign certain 
districts to any particular corps." ^^ 

The next year saw the completion of the Virginia 
cession and then, for the first time, w^as a committee 
appointed to prepare a plan for the disposal of the 
lands. The itlea of using the lands as a fund for 
meeting the national debt was uppermost and the 
committee naturally prepared a plan with this in 
view. The committee of 1784 was composed of 
Jefferson, of Virginia, chairman; Williamson, of 
North Carolina; Howell, of Rhode Island; Gerry, 
of Massachusetts, and Read, of South Carolina. It 
was not expected that these men would devise an 
entirely new land system for the public domain, and 
it would have been difficult for any untried plan to 
be adopted by Congress. Instead they would turn 
to the methods used in the states wliich they repre- 
sented and they would endeavor to apply the best 
of the colonial experience to the problem before 
them. For that reason it is very necessary that 
some attention be paid to the methods employed by 
the colonies before the Revolution in the disposal 
of their lands. 

10 Cutler, I, 177. n J. IV, 304. 


Two very definite land systems had developed 
during the colonial period — the New England and 
the Southern. " Township planting " was the basis 
of the J\ ew England system and this was perfected 
in the 18th century. The laying out of townships 
by the colony preceded private ownership, and there 
could be no title to land outside a township. ^^ 
Within the townsliip the land was divided into 
tracts by the colony, the town, or the proprietors, 
these tracts were definite in amount, carefully laid 
out, plats were prepared and bounds were re- 
corded. And the surveys almost always preceded 
settlement. The towns were responsible for the 
accuracy of the survej^s and town-officers, fence 
viewers, took care that the bounds were accurately 
determined. In the Eighteenth Century groups of 
townships were frequently laid out, sometimes in 
tiers, and a favorite area was a tract of six miles 
square. The custom of selling these townships at 
auction also appeared. The success of the New 
England system of township planting so impressed 
the home government that the instructions of Rob- 
ert Johnson, Governor of South Carolina, of June 
10, 1730, contained directions to mark out eleven 
townships within sixty miles of Charlestown, in 
square plats of 20,000 acres each.^^ Ten townships 
were thus laid out.^^ Others proposed to extend 
the system over larger areas. Kennedy's plan of 

12 This statement describes the general system. There might be 

IS P. L. I, 46. "Ramsay, I, 108. 


1752 would have used the township system in his 
western colony.^' Hazard's scheme of 1755 prom- 
ised that the settlement would be laid out into town- 
ships and the tracts divided by lot.^" Connecticut 
men carried this township system into the Wyoming 
country/% and also into West Florida in their 
Natchez Colony,^^ and Connecticut, in 1780, tried 
to bind the nation to establish the system in the 
tract which she offered to cede. New Kngland was 
strongly attached to this system. Grants of land 
for education and for religious purposes formed 
part of the New England system and conditions 
for the improvement of the lands were frequently 
inserted in the grants. 

In the South the land was taken up by the loca- 
tion of wa rrants on any part of the unapprojHMated 
area. The surveys were supposed to be made by 
public surveyors but as most of them were made by 
deputies of little experience the possibility of error 
was always present. ^^ The Virginia system of 1779 
called for warrants, certificates, caveats, and grants 
— a clumsy system compared with the simple deed 
in New England — and the records were poorly 
kept.-*^ North Carolina had a similar system, and it 
was being extended over the present states of Ken- 
tuck}^ and Teimessee. 

So far as the acquirement of land was concerned 
the main difference between the two systems lay 
in the fact that in the South individual initiative 

18 Frothingham, 116. is P. L., I, 133, 957. 

10 Broadside, Conn. State Lib. is Roosevelt, III, 8. 
1' Miner; Wyoming, 104. 20 Hening, X, 50. 


played a larger part. A person could select a desir- 
abTe tr act of unappropriated land and lie could have 
i t laid off for him hy a county surveyor under his 
direction. He did not need to consider the relation 
of other pieces of property to his own. This was 
properly called " indiscriminate location." But in 
New England the waste land in the township was 
laid off by colonial or local committees who fixed 
the bounds of the various tracts with reference to 
the neighboring allotments. These divisions were 
at once recorded so that the possibility of over-lap- 
ping claims was very slight. An individual could 
not engross the best land for himself — the proprie- 
tors or the to\\Tispeople shared in each division of 
the unappropriated land. If the Southern system 
encouraged initiative and resourcefulness the New 
England system afforded a security of title which 
facilitated an orderly settlement of new lands. 

The relative value of these systems is evident. 
The one provided a sure protection against over- 
lapping sui*veys and title disputes, and it placed the 
town or colony as guaranty for the accuracy of the 
survey and the title which passed thereby. Also, 
as the settlement was made by townships it tended 
toward compactness over against the system of in- 
discriminate location in the South. The lack of 
proper surveys, the careless manner of recording 
titles, the use of natural l)ounds, caused constant 
confusion and endless litigation. Both systems were 
the embodiment of colonial experience. That of 
New England was adapted to a free population, 


loving community life and forced to it, as well, for 
protection against the savages and mutual help dur- 
ing the severe winters. The other was the develop- 
ment of a society where large plantations and slave 
labor, less hostile Indians and a favoring climate 
permitted the extension and scattering of settle- 
ment over the coast lands, while in the back countrj^ 
the system enabled the pioneers to locate the good 
lands along the streams. 

Jefferson's committee reported to Congress on 
the seventh of JNIay, and although three of the five 
members came from southern states they recom- 
mended the distinctly New England system of dis- 
criminate prior surveys. 

Their report ^^ provided for the disposition of the 
lands after they had been purchased from the In- 
dians and laid off into states. The territory was to 
be divided into " hundreds," of ten geographical 
miles square, each mile containing 6086.4 feet, and 
the " hundreds " into lots one geographical mile 
square, each containing 850.4 acres. The lines were 
to run due north and south, by the true meridian, 
and east and west. Surveyors and registers were 
to be appointed by Congress. The land was to be 
sold by warrants,-- and these could be purchased by 
specie, loan office certificates — reduced to specie by 
the scale- of depreciation, certificates of the liqui- 
dated debt, or military warrants. Prospective set- 
tlers would purchase warrants, for a lot or a " hun- 
dred," and then locate them, which explains an in- 

21 J., IV, 416. '- No price per acre was specified. 


teresting provision, drawn from Virginian experi- 
ence,^^ which stated that no patent should issue until 
the warrant and certificate had been in the hands of 
the register for . . . months, during which time a 
person claiming under a prior location could file a 
caveat and the conflicting claims would then be 
settled by arbitration. 

The important features of this report were, in 
brief, that surveys should precede sales ; " hun- 
dreds," of ten geographical miles square, sub- 
divided into lots, were to be laid off; and Jhe pro- 
ceeds were to be applied to the sinking fund solely. 
T here was no provision for education or religion. 

Although this report was in Jefferson's hand- 
writing^* yet one can hardly infer that he "in- 
vented " the system which was outhned. This re- 
port combined the ISTew England system of sui^eys 
with the southern system of disposition — the use of 
warrants, certificates and caveats. But the latter 
procedure was not incorporated in the system as 
finally adopted. The merit of the report of 1784 
lies in the fact that the committee proposed a better 
system than the one which was in use in the major- 
ity of the states which they represented. 

On May 28th, Congress voted not to consider the 
report at that time, only North Carolina voting for 
immediate action.^^ 

Almost a year passed before Congi'ess once more 
took up the question of the public domain. Settlers 

?3Hening, X, 50. Act of 1779. 24 Ban., I, 159. 

25 J., IV, 419. 


were passing over the mountains to the Ohio coun- 
try,'" the soldiers were demanding their promised 
hounty, the need of an increased revenue was keenly 
felt, and, moreover, far-sighted men realized the 
importance of establishing a permanent system for 
the settling of the western lands. 

In the summer of 1784, Washington made a 
journey into the west to examine the portages be- 
tween the Potomac and James rivers on the Atlan- 
tic side, and the Ohio and Kanawha on the western 
side of the mountains.^^ Althoug4i he did not reach 
or cross the Ohio yet he gathered all the informa- 
tion he could about that region and communicated 
his observations regarding the public domain to 
Jacob Read, then a member of Congress. 

He was impressed with the need of a progressi^^ 
and compact settlement of the West, but if this was 
to be secured Congress would have to act rapidly. 
" Such is the rage for speculating in and forestall- 
ing of lands on the north-west of the Ohio that 
scarce a valuable spot, within a tolerable distance of 
it, is left without a claimant. JNIen in these times 
talk with as much facility of fifty, an hundred, and 
even five hundred thousand acres, as a gentleman 
would formerly do of one thousand." ^^ He pointed 
out the conduct of these people, roving about on the 
Indian side of the Ohio, marking out lands, surv^ey- 
ing and settling them, and causing discontent 
among the Indians. He proposed that Congress 

2« Ban., I, 333, 368. 27 Ban., U. S., VI, 125. 

28 Nov. 3, 1784. Ban., I, 387. 


should purchase enough land from the Indians to 
make one or two states, and sell the land at a price 
that would discourage monopolizers and yet not be 
burdensome for real occupiers. Furthermore Con- 
gress should declare the acts of the trespassers be- 
yond the Ohio null and void and should declare all 
intruders on the Indian lands outlaws and fit sub- 
jects for Indian vengeance. 

In this letter and in one of March 15, 1785, to 
Richard Henry Lee, President of Congress, Wash- 
ington pointed out the desirability of selling a small 
amount of land at a medium price." ^ He firmly 
believed in "progressive seating," as he described 
it, yet the conditions which he deplored northwest 
of the Ohio were but reproductions of those south 
of the river, where, under the Virginian system, the 
lands were being taken up. " Progressive seating " 
could best be obtained under the New England sys- 
tem of " township planting," yet it does not follow 
that Washington had that system in mind. These 
recommendations of an authority on western condi- 
tions being placed in the hands of leading members 
of Congress ^^ must undoubtedly have received 
some consideration from those who perused them. 

On March 4, 1785, the report of 1784 was again 
taken into consideration. It was read a second time 
on March 16, and, after debate, was referred to a 
committee of one member from each State, whose 
most valuable members were probably William 

20 Ban., I, 416. 

so Lee showed the letter to Grayson. Ban., I, 425. 


Grayson, of Virginia, and Rufus King, of JNIassa- 

For a month this committee had the subject 
under consideration, and finally they presented a 
report on the 14th of April, which was much more 
carefully worked out than the rejwrt of the year 
before.^^ In brief, they retained the rectangular 
townships, but reduced the size to seven miles 
square and substituted statute miles for geograph- 
ical miles, while they insisted upon "township 
planting" — for the land was only to be sold in 
tracts of that size. The land was to be sold at 
auction, with a minimum price of $1.00 per acre, 
and reserves were set apart for schools, for religious 
uses, and for the future disposition of Congress.^^ 

The day after the report was presented, Graj^son 
forwarded a copy to General Washington, know- 
ing his interest in any action Congress might con- 
template regarding the public lands, and he gave, 
at some length, the reasons advanced by the advo- 
cates of the measure.^^ 

81 The committee: Long, (N, H.) ; King, (Mass.); Howell, (R. 
I.); Johnson, (Conn.); R. R. Livingston, (N. Y.) ; Stewart, (N. J.); 
Gardner, (Pa.); J. Henry, (Md.) ; Grayson, (Va.) ; Williamson, 
(N. C); Bull, (S. C); Houston, (Ga.). Howell and Williamson 
had been on the Committee of 178*. Jefferson had sailed for Eu- 
rope in 1784. 

32 J., IV, 500. 

33 Grayson to Washington, April 15th, gives the impression that 
the report was made on April 12. — Bancroft, I, 425. Monroe to 
Jefferson, April 12th, " A report drawn principally by Col. Gray- 
son will be delivered in a few days." — Monroe's Writings, I, 70. 
The report is in Grayson's handwriting. — Ban., I, 180, n. 

34 April 15. Ban,, I, 425. 


Surveys were advocated because they would en- 
able information to be gained concerning the lands, 
because they would preclude "controversy on ac- 
count of bounds to the latest ages," and because the 
surveys into squares were the least expensive — there 
being only two sides of the square to be run in 
most cases. 

Sale by auction was introduced because it would 
give equal advantage to those away from the lands. 
Sale by township was defended because " the East- 
ern States, where lands are more equally divided 
than in any other part of the continent, were gen- 
erally settled in that manner; that the idea of a 
township, Avith the temptation of a support for re- 
ligion and education, holds forth an inducement for 
the purpose of purchasing and settling together; 
that the Southern mode would defeat this end by 
intruding the idea of indiscriminate locations and 
settlements, which would have a tendency to de- 
stroy all these inducements to emigration which are 
derived from friendships, religion, and relative con- 
nections; that the same consequences would result 
from sales in small quantities under the present 
plan." Moreover, such a laying-off of the country 
tended to an equal representation, while the ex- 
pense and delay would prevent division into smaller 

Under this system the poorer classes would unite 
to purchase a township; if a speculator purchased 
one he would not be able to hold it on account of 
the high price in the first instance and interest 


charges, and if, in spite of these, he still should buy- 
one, then the great design of the land office, " which 
is revenue," would be answered. 

Furthermore, it was said that " the offering a 
small number of townships for sale at a time is an 
answer to the objection on account of delay, and 
at the same time it prevents the price from being 
diminished, on account of the markets being over- 
stocked," and it was pointed out that " the present 
plan excludes all the formalities of warrants, en- 
tries, locations, returns, and caveats, as the first 
and last process is a deed." 

The sale of townships in the different states was 
pronounced " conformable to the principles of gov- 
ernment, one state having an equal right to the 
best lands at its market with the other; as also the 
disposing of its public securities in that way." " If 
the country is to be settled out of the bowels of the 
Atlantic States, it is but fair the idea of each state's 
contributing its proportion of emigrants should be 
countenanced by measures operating for that pur- 

And, finally, the advocates of the report agreed 
" that if the ])lan should be found by experience to 
be wrong, it could easily be altered by reducing the 
quantities and multi])lying tlie sun'cys." 

Grayson then ])roceeded to state some of the 
ideas which clashed during the drafting of the re- 
port. " Some gentlemen looked upon it as a mat- 
ter of revenue only, and that it was true policy to 
get the money without parting with inhabitants to 


populate the country, and thereby preventing the 
lands in the original states from depreciating. 
Others (I think) were afraid of interference with 
the lands now at market in the individual states. 
Part of the Eastern gentlemen wish to have the 
land sold in such a manner as to suit their own 
people, of whom I believe there will be great num- 
bers, particularly from Connecticut. But others 
are apprehensive of the consequences which may 
result from the new states taking their position in 
the confederacy. They, perhaps, wish that this 
event may be delayed as long as possible." 

A very informing letter was tliis one of Gray- 
son's, and from it can be secured a very good idea 
of the discussions which took place in committee 
while the Ordinance of 1785 was being drafted. 
One thing is very clear, the New England members 
had carried their way in every important particular. 
As Grayson asked for Washington's opinion of the 
proposed plan, the latter forwarded a criticism on 
April 25. He dismissed the " township planting " 
with a single sentence — " if experience has proven 
that the most advantageous way of disposing of 
whole townships is by whole townships, there is no 
arguing against facts." ^^ His main objection was 
directed against the proposed sale of the lands in 
the respective States. He believed there was no 
good reason for it, that it would lead to State job- 
bing, and that a central land office would be more 
convenient and would encourage competition. 

85 Ban., I, 430. 


This proved to be one of the first features of the 
Ordinance to be amended. 

With the presentation of the report the discus- 
sion was transferred to the halls of Congress. It 
could hardly be expected that so uncompromising a 
measure could be carried without a struggle, and as 
the vote of seven States was necessary for passage, 
no one section of the country could carry the meas- 
ure against a united opposition. 

In Congress the op])osition was mainly directed 
against the " township planting " feature of the 
report. There is no record of any Southern mem- 
ber urging the system of "indiscriminate loca- 
tions," ^° which at the very time was being extended 
by Virginia and North Carolina, apparently all 
accepte d the advan tages of the rectangular surveys 
b efore sale. Typical of the spirit of the times was 
the passage, by the New York Legislature, on 
April 11, of a land law ^^ which provided for town- 
ships of six miles square, and should a body of per- 
sons unite to purchase such a to\vTisliip they would 
receive land for schools and a minister and five per 
cent, of the price for roads ; but smaller tracts, up 
to five hundred acres and laid off in equilateral 
squares, might be sold. Accepting the rectangular 

30 Riifus Kinp to Gerry, April 2fi, 1785: "We have been this 
fortnight aboMt a land ordinance — Virginia makes many diflBcul- 
ties — the eastern States are for actual survey, and sale by Town- 
ships, the Southern States for indiscriminate Locations, etc. What 
will pass, if anything does, is wholly uncertain." 

37 Loudon's N. Y. Packet, April 18, 1785. Congress was then in 
session in New York city. 


surveys did not, however, mean an acceptance of 
the New England system of " township planting." 
The delegates from the South, therefore, sought to 
amend the clause which provided that the land 
could only be sold by townsliips; they would_make 
it possible for settlers to ^purchase smaller amounts 
wherever they cLesiigd. ""— _ 

This, then, was a clash between the strict New 
England system of compact settlements and dis- 
criminate locations and a modified Southern sj^s- \ 
tem of rectangular surveys but individual locations^ 

For over a month the land ordinance was under 
consideration. In that time some of the details 
were altered and the most stoutly contested feature 
waJs compromised. It became evident that neither 
party could have its way regarding the size of the 
minimum tracts to be sold. Finally a compromise 
was proposed to the effect that in alternate town- 
ships the land should be divided into sections of 
one mile square — 640 acres — and in these town- 
ships the land would be sold by sections. Half the 
townships, therefore, would be offered as a whole, 
and these would appeal to New England settlers, 
while in the other half it would be possible for a 
purchaser to select his 640 acres without waiting 
for the surrounding land to be sold, but his tract 
must be bounded by sectional hues. The New 
Englanders were sincere in their loyalty to the sys- 
tem of " township planting," for they had proven 
its value as they pushed out into the wilderness, 


and surely the unsettled conditions north of the 
Ohio at that time made compact settlements de- 
sirable. But the Southerners grasped better the 
spirit of the westward movement, and in insisting 
upon the sale of small tracts they pointed out the 
development of the land system for the next fifty 

Other amendments reduced the size of the town- 
ships to six miles square and struck out the reserva- 
tion of a section in each township for the support 
of religion. The manner in which the latter amend- 
ment was made is worth noting, because it shows so 
clearly one of the great defects of the government 
under the Articles of Confederation. The question 
was put. Shall the words stand? Five States fa- 
vored retention, two opposed, two were divided, 
and three were not sufficiently represented to cast 
a vote. As seven states did not support the mo- 
tion, it was lost, and the words stricken out, al- 
though seventeen of the members present favored 
and only six opposed. If the question had been 
put in a different way: Shall the words be stricken 
out? it could not have carried. 

On the 20th of ISIay the Land Ordinance of 
1785^^ was finally passed, and in final form its 
pix)visions were substantially as follows: The ter- 
ritory ceded by the States was to be disposed of as 
soon as the Indian title was purchased — the for- 
mation of States was no longer a prerequisite. The 
land was to be surveyed into townships of six miles 

3s See Appendix II. 


square, subdivided into lots^^ of one mile square. 
The first lines north and south, and east and west, 
were to commence on the Ohio River at the Penn- 
sylvania border, and only the township lines were 
to be actually surveyed. The townships were to be 
sold alternately as a whole and by lots. The sales 
were to take place in the States. As soon as seven 
ranges**^ were surveyed the townships were to be 
drawn by lot, one-seventh of the entire amount for 
the claims of the Continental army, and the balance 
was to be drawn and distributed among fhe States 
" according to the quotas in the last preceding req- 
uisition," to be sold by the commissioners of the 
loan-offices therein at public auction. A minimum 
price of one dollar ^^ per acre was established, which 
might be paid in specie, loan-office certificates re- 
duced to specie, or certificates of the liquidated 
debt, including interest; but the expenses of sur- 
veying, estimated at $36.00 per township, must also 
be paid by the purchaser at the time of sale. The 
purchasers secured deeds for definite tracts of land 

39 The term " section " was used in the debates on the Ordinance 
and in some of the motions, but it was not used in the Ordinance 
as passed. It first appears in the Federal land laws in the act of 
1796. Professor Frederick J. Turner states "the 640 acre (or one 
square mile) unit of North Carolina for pre-emptions, and frontier 
land bounties, became the area awarded to frontier stations by 
Virginia in 1779, and the "'section' of the later federal land 
system." Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wis- 
consin, 1908, p. 231. 

*o A range was a tier of townships running from south to north. 
The ranges were enumerated from east to west. 

*i EflFoTts were made to reduce the price to one-half or two-thirds 
of a dollar. 


and not warrants permitting a future location. 
Congress reserved for future disposition sections 
8, 11, 26, and 29 in each township, as well as one- 
third part of all gold, silver, lead, and copper mines, 
and the sixteenth lot in each township was reserved 
for the maintenance of puhlic schools. The form 
of deeds as well as the manner of issuing them was 
prescribed, as well as the method of obtaining mili- 
tary bounty warrants,^- a reservation of three 
townships was made for the lands already prom- 
ised to Canadian and Nova Scotian refugees dur- 
ing the Revolution,^^ and three towns were reserved 
for the Christian Indians settled therein. 

If the influence of New England upon the for- 
mation of the national land system is not already 
evident, it could be shown through the influence 
exerted by Timothy Pickering, of ^lassachusetts. 
Just before Congress took up the report of 1784, 
in 1785, he wrote to Gerry for information concern- 
ing the plans for disposing of the Western lands. 
"If they mean to permit adventurers to make a 
scramble for them (as has been the case in tliis 
State and Virginia) it will behoove us to engage 
reasonably with some enterprising but confidential 
character, to explore the country and make loca- 
tions. But I should rather suppose that Congress 
would fall on a more regular plan. . . ." And he 
proceeded to outline a system of surveys into town- 
ships and lots, sales to be by auction and surveys 

<2See Chapter 10. <3 See Chapter 12. 


to be paid for by the purchaser.^^ Gerry replied, 
enclosing a draft of the report of 1784, and, as he 
was about to return home, asked Pickering to com- 
municate with Rufus King. Pickering wrote to 
King on March 8 and criticised the report of 1784 
because the surveys did not provide for the conver- 
gence of the meridians toward the north; he also 
held that the land should be sold at auction with 
a minimum price, and that salt licks and mines 
should be teserved/^ He especially criticised the 
lack of educational and religious reserves. 

When Grayson's committee reported. King sent 
a draft to Pickering and stated, "You will find 
thereby, that your ideas have had weight with the 
Committee who reported the ordinance." ^^ Gray- 
son wrote to Pickering on the 27th; and on May 8 
King wrote that they had been forced to " give up 
the plan of townships as to admit the sale of one- 
half of the townships in lots of a mile square.^^ 
And on the 30th he wrote, " All parties who have 
advocated particular modes of disposing of this 
western territory have relinquished some things 
they wished, and the ordinance is a compromise of 

Thus, out of conflicting interests, through com- 
promise and concession, arose the American land 
system. Refusing to try vague experiments in that 
valued domain. Congress adopted the system wliich 

..'i^From Phila., Mar. 1, 1785. Pickering, I, 504. 
•^'^6 Pickering, I, 506. 47 514. 

*8 April 15, 1T85. Pickering, I, 511. 48 516. 


had proven most effective in the old States, and, 
refusing to sacrifice the future for a temporary 
gain, it preferred to postpone the land revenue 
rather than to make use of a dangerous expedient. 
For the carefully run rectangular sun^eys would 
take time and would add to the expense of the 
lands, whereas the system in vogue south of the 
Ohio provided an immediate revenue for the State 
but frequently left the purchaser with an accumu- 
lation of boundary disputes. New England could 
not cany her "township planting" unaltered into 
the West, and with the close of the Indian wars 
the system of individual settlement, encouraged by 
the sale of small tracts, was more desirable; but 
the system of prior " discriminate " sun'cys was 
hers and represents one of her great contributions 
to the development of the West. 

The Ordinance of 1785 was the fo undation of 
the American Land System, and its leading prin- 
ciples have continued in operation to this day. Too 
much credit cannot be given to the men who framed 
and adopted this measure, for, though of little im- 
mediate usefulness and later ignored for a season, 
it proved to be one of the wisest and most influen- 
tial, if not the wisest and most influential, of all 
the acts of the Revolutionary period. 



Now that the Land Ordinance had been passed, 
it remained for Congress to provide means for its 
execution. According to the Ordinance, the sur- 
veys, which must be made before the land could be 
placed on sale, were to be made by surveyors, one 
from each State, chosen by Congress, but all act- 
ing under the direction of the Geographer of the 
United States. Thomas Hutchins had been ap- 
pointed one of two geographers on May 4, 1781, 
and after 1784 he was sole Geographer. He was 
a man of considerable experience, having served as 
a British officer for more than twenty-two years, 
notably in Bouquet's expedition of 1764, and in the 
Revolution he had been detailed to the Southern 
army under General Greene.^ In 1784 he had been 
engaged in running the Virginia-Pennsylvania 
line. A week after the Ordinance was adopted. 
Congress continued Hutchins in his office for three 
years, with a salary of six dollars per day, includ- 
ing expenses. At the same time nine sui'veyors 
were appointed from as many States, and four 
others were chosen within the next two months.^ 

1 Hutchins, 9, 

o They were to be paid $2.00 per mile for surveys, which was to 
include the wages of their helpers and all other expenses. There 
was difficulty in filling some of these positions. Three surveyors 
for New Hampshire were elected in turn between May 27 and 
August 24, 1785, 



Hutcliins promptly commenced preparations for 
the surveys. On September 3 he met five of the 
surveyors at Pittsburg, where fear of the Indians 
kepi his party until the 22d, but between that date 
and October 23 the surveyors ran an east-and-west 
line for some distance, until the Indians forced 
them to return.^ 

On ^lay 9, 1786, Congress instructed the Geog- 
rapher and surveyors to proceed to the execution 
of the Ordinance,^ but added that they were not to 
survey north of the first east-and-west line, which 
ran from the junction of the Pennsylvania boun- 
dary and the Ohio River; and on the 12th the pro- 
vision that all lines be run by the true meridian and 
that the variation of the magnetic needle be certi- 
fied on each plat, was repealed because it would 
greatly delay the sun'cys.^ This was the first alter- 
ation in the Ordinance, and a most unfortunate one 
it would have been if it liad not been later amended. 
Late in July, Hutchins again arrived in Pittsburg 
and was engaged in the sun^eys until the first of 
the following February, during which time some- 
what more than four ranges were surveyed, and the 
plats were submitted to Congress on April 18, 
1787. The next year his appointment expired, and 
he was reelected for two years. In 1787 and 1788 

3 Hutchins, 43. This party of surveyors was composed of Benja- 
min Tupper, (Mass.); William Morris, (X. Y.) ; Alexander Parker, 
(Va.); James Simpson, (Md.) ; Robert Johnson, (Ga.) ; Isaac Sher- 
man, (Conn.) ; Absalom Martin, (N. J.) ; and Edward Dowse, (N. 
H.). J., IV, 700. 

*J., IV, 636. 8 J., IV, 637. 


he was engaged on two surveys, one of the Massa- 
chusetts-New York hne,^ and the other of the line 
between these States and the pubHc lands, so that 
it was not until the fall of 1788 that he could return 
to the land surveys. While on duty there he was 
taken ill and died at Pittsburg, April 28, 1789/ 
The surveys of the " seven ranges " were later com- 
pleted, and in 1800-1801 the ranges were extended 
on the north to the southern boundary of the Con- 
necticut reserve. 

The surveys had taken longer than had been ex- 
pected when the system had been adopted and no 
land could be sold until seven ranges had been com- 
pleted. The hostile Indians who prevented the sur- 
veys also would have checked any extensive settle- 
menfrso it is doubtful if the delay in placing the 
land on the market worked an}-- hardship. But it 
is easy to understand how Southern members could 
become out of patience with what seemed to them 
a very slow system, and ready to support any plan 
of alteration. In 1786 two efforts were made to 
amend the Ordinance, but without success. As 
Grayson wrote to Madison, " An attempt was 
made to change the system altogether, and was 
negatived. Indeed, the Eastern and some other 
States are so much attached to it that I am afraid 
no material alteration can be effected." ^ And twice 
in 1787 were attempts made by Sputhernmembers 

6 In western New York, Massachusetts owned the land, and New 
York held the sovereignity. 

7 Hutchins, 48. 8 May 28, 1786. Ban., I, 508. 


t o intro duce " indiscriminate locations " in the un- 
surveyed area, but New England and some,of the 
ISIiddle States stood firm.^ The struggle for prior 
discriminate surveys was by no means finished in 
1785; it had to be fought out year after year for 
ten years before it was decisively won. 

As soon as the plats of the four ranges were laid 
before Congress it was decided to proceed with the 
sale of these lands rather than wait for the seven 
ranges specified in the Ordinance, and, in asking 
the Board of Treasury to report a plan of sale, it 
showed that it considered the method outlined there 
unsatisfactory even before it had been tried. Act- 
ing on the report of the Board, it abolished the 
system of sales in the thirteen States^" and pro- 
vided that after the land was drawn for the soldiers 
the sales would take place at the seat of Congress.^' 
Another alteration marked the first step in the 
process which fastened the giving of credit upon 
the land system, until it was finally rooted out by 
strenuous measures in 1820. Under the Ordinance 
the land purchased must be paid for at the time of 
sale or the lands be resold, but by the amendment 
of 1787 one-third of the purchase money must be 
paid Immediately and the balance within three 
months. Failure to pay the balance caused a for- 
feiture of the first payment. 

Under these ])rovisions, between September 21 
and October 9, 1787, some 108,431 acres were sold 

• Cutler, I, 126; Madison Writing, II, 356; Ban., II, 438. 
10 April 21, 1787. J., IV, 739. n New York. 


at auction in New York, for $176,090.'=^ Of these, 
35,457 acres, purchased for $88,764, were later for- 
feited, incurring a loss of $29,782.^^ So actually 
only 72,974 acres were sold, and $117,108 received 
in public securities. No entire townships were 

Among the explanations advanced for these 
small sales, two deserve consideration. In the fi rst 
place, the sale of large tracts of land to companies 
had commenced, and this withdrew many possible 
bi dders fro m the public sales, and, in addition, the 
threatening state of Indian affairs northwest of the 
Ohio deterred individual investors. Although by 
the second treat}^ of Fort Stanwix, on October 22, 
1784, the United States had secured a cession of 
the claims of the Six Nations to territory north of 
the Ohio, yet the local tribes refused to be bound 
by the action of their former overlords. On the 
21st of January following, a treaty signed at Fort 
Mcintosh with the Wyandots, Delawares, Chip- 
pewas, and Ottawas, marked out certain lands for 
their use and vested the title to the other lands in 

i^F. L., Ill, 459. 

13 These purchasers tried for many years to secure some com- 
pensation for the amount which they had forfeited. Petitions were 
presented to Congress in 1799 and in 1823. In the latter memorial 
the claimants dwelt upon the reasonableness of their request be- 
cause the land sold for more later, and because they were unable 
to complete the payments as they were building a ship for the 
China trade from which the United States received more than 
$200,000 in revenue. In 1828, when relief measures were the order 
of the day, an act provided that certificates receivable for public 
lands should be issued for all sums forfeited through failure to 
complete payments. See P. L., Ill, 613. 


the United States. But this treaty, as well as that 
of 1786 with the Sha^vllees, was not respected by 
the various tribes of the Northwest, and so the In- 
dian title was still in dispute. The frontiersmen of 
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Kentucky country 
might cross the Ohio and take up a claim by " tom- 
ahawk right," ^* but the Eastern settler was not 
ready to invest his money in so dubious a venture, 
and the New England people who were ready to 
emigrate were being interested in a New England 
enterprise, the " Ohio Company." 

In order to drive out the unauthorized settlers 
who were locating on the public lands and jeop- 
ardizing the peace of the frontier, Congress twice, 
in 1787, instructed the military to move against 
them, and on October 3 resolved to station seven 
hundred troops on the frontier " to protect the set- 
tlers on the public lands from the depredations of 
the Indians ; to facilitate the surveying and selling 
of the said lands, in order to reduce the public 
debt and to prevent all unwarrantable intrusions 
thereon." '^'^ Under these instructions a detachment 
of troops moved down the right bank of the Ohio, 
driving out the settlers and burning their log 
cabins, but they generally returned as soon as it 
was safe.^" At this time tix)ops were stationed at 
the following frontier forts : Forts Franklin, Pitt, 
and INIcIntosh, in Pennsylvania; Fort Harmar, at 
the mouth of the ISIuskingum; Fort Steuben, at 

14 Used to denote a claim marked out with blazed trees. 
» J., IV, 785. " Cutler, I, 133. 


the Rapids of the Ohio, and Post Vincennes, on 
the Wabash.'^ 

The last changes in the Ordinance of 1785 were 
made on October 22, 1787, when two mihtary re- 
serves were set apart for the satisfaction of bounty 
warrants in Heu of the method provided in the Or- 
dinance,^^ and on July 7, 1788, when a supplement 
to the Ordinance was passed which contained the 
amendments of 1787 as to the sale of the land, but 
further amended it to permit of sales at New York 
or Philadelphia or other places as the Board of 
Treasury might direct, and also incorporated the 
change in the method of satisfying the military 
bounties/^ In fact, all previous purchasers of 
land were permitted to make payment in bounty 
warrants up to one-seventh of the amount.^*' These 
were the last amendments passed by the Old Con- 
gress, and it held fast to the rectangular surveys, 
but by this time its interest had been diverted from 
the operation of the Ordinance to the sales of large 
tracts to companies. 

The first of these sales was arranged for in July, 
1787, although the contract was not signed nor the 
first payment made until October, after the public 
sale of land in the four ranges. The story of the 
organization of the Ohio Company can only be out- 
lined here.^^ The founders, Generals Rufus Put- 

17 J., IV, 875. 18 J., IV, 832. See Chap. 10. 

19 J., IV, 832. 

20 No purchasers availed themselves of this provision. The two 
land companies already had received this privilege. 

21 See: Cutler, I, Chapters 5-8; McMaster, I, 505-515. 


nam and Benjamin Tupper, had signed the sol- 
diers' petition of 1785. Tupper had helped survey 
the four ranges and the information gained at that 
time led to the issuing of a call for residents of 
JMassaclmsetts wishing to purchase lands in the 
Ohio country to meet in their respective counties 
and send delegates to a meeting at the Bunch of 
Grapes Tavern, in Boston, on INIarch 1, 1786. On 
March 3, Articles of Agreement were adopted and 
subscription books were opened for the capital 
stock of $1,000,000 in specie certificates. A year 
later the subscriptions amounted to $250,000, and 
a committee of three, General Samuel PI olden Par- 
sons, General Rufus Putnam and the Reverend 
Manasseh Cutler, w'ere appointed to make applica- 
tion to Congress for a private purchase of lands. 
The memorial, submitted by Parsons, was referred 
by Congress to a committee, which reported on 
July 14, 1787." 

Under ordinary circumstances such a proposal 
would doubtless have been rejected, for it called 
for the virtual suspension of the Land Ordinance 
even before it had been tried; it sought the corpo- 
rate ownership of an immense area instead of the 
small holdings encouraged by the Ordinance; and 
by offering fifty cents an acre it would impair the 
approaching sale of the four ranges. But^ these 
were no ordinary times. The finances of the JI!on- 
federation Averc \n a wretched state, Shay's Rebel- 
lion had just been suppressed, but it s bitter ness 

- 23 J., IV, 7557 "" ' 


still lingered, and the Federal Convention had al- 
ready assembled in Philadelphia for the purpose 
of revising the Articles of Confederation and pro- 
viding a more efficient central government. From 
the 12th of May to July 6 Congress met from day 
to day in New York without securing a quorum, 
due to delegates attending the Convention at Phil- 
adelphia, but on the 13th the famous Ordinance of 
1787, for the government of the territory of the 
United States northwest of the Ohio River, was 
passed. On the next day the committee reported 
on the memorial of General Parsons. 

Under these circumstances the offer of a million 
dollars for Western lands seemed somewhat attrac- 
tive, yet the offer was not promptly accepted. The 
Reverend JNIanasseh Cutler had been selected to 
see the measure through Congress, and from the 
6th to the 11th he labored in New York, leaving 
there for a visit to Philadelphia while the govern- 
mental Ordinance was under consideration. When 
he returned, on the 17th, he found that a strong 
opposition had developed, and, therefore, in order 
to force matters, he announced that he would give 
up the whole scheme and endeavor to purchase 
land from one of the States.^^ This had an effect 
on the committee, but especially on Colonel Duer, 
Secretary of the Treasury Board, who broached the 
subject of a land speculation involving " the prin- 
cipal characters in the city," and who believed that 
if Cutler would extend the contract and take in 

23 Cutler, I, 294. 


another company, secretly, the grant could be se- 
cured. This advice was followed, and on the 23d 
Congress agreed to the sale,"^ but the terms were 
not considered satisfactory and it was not until 
Cutler had again made a feint at giving up the 
matter that a satisfactory arrangement was made.^' 
As only eight States were represented in Congress 
at tliis time, and as seven were needed to pass the 
measure, it required considerable diplomacy, if 
nothing else, to secure a favorable consideration. 
Aside from the " land speculation,I!il^Cutler_^states 
that the matter was fju ored by his coming^ out for 
General St. Clair, tlitn President _of^jCongress, 
for Governor of tlic uvw Xni-thwest Territory, 
although St. Clair's biographer questions the 
charge."^ If the measure had failed, it was ar- 
ranged that Sargent should go to INI ary land and 
secure a representation favorable to the plan, while 
Cutler should visit Connecticut and Rhode Island, 
these States being at the time unrepresented in 
Congress.'^ There can be little doubt that the in- 
terests of the Ohio Company were well looked after 
by the Reverend jNIanasseh Cutler. 

On October 27 Cutler and Sargent signed two 
contracts, one for the Ohio Company, and the other, 
an option to purchase, for the Scioto Company. 
The former was supposed to cover 1,500,000 acres, 

2* J., IV, App. 17. 2? J., IV, App. 18. 

28 " Without connecting this speculation similar terms and ad- 
vantages could not have been obtained for the Ohio Company." 
Cutler, I, 305. 

27 St. Clair, I, U6. =8 Cutler, I, 303. 


and the latter about 5,000,000. These tracts lay 
between the Seven Ranges and the Scioto and on 
the Ohio River. In each case the exterior lines of 
the survey were to be run by the United States, 
but the companies were to run the interior lines 
according to the Ordinance of 1785. In each town- 
ship section sixteen was to be reserved for educa- 
tion, and sections eight, eleven, and twenty-six, for 
the future disposition of Congress, and in addition 
section twenty-nine was to be given perpetually for 
religion — this was a New England feature which 
had failed of passage in the Land Ordinance. An 
entirely new provision was the grant of two town- 
shij)s for a university. These large donations of 
land doubtless caused some of the opposition to the 
grant. The price of the land was that fixed in the 
Land Ordinance, one dollar per acre, considerably 
more than the company had intended to pay. As 
payments might be made in government paper, and 
as one-third of a dollar per acre was allowed for bad 
land and incidental charges, the nominal price was 
reduced to sixty-six and two-thirds cents an acre, 
while the actual price was only eight or nine cents, 
as the certificates of indebtedness were then worth 
only about twelve cents on the dollar. Military 
bounty rights could be offered up to one-seventh of 
the whole amount. 

The first terms proposed by Congress required 
a payment of $500,000 with the signing of the con- 
tract and the balance when the sui'vey of the exte- 
rior lines was completed, but Cutler and Sargent 


were unwilling to have their sound Ohio Company 
jeopardized by the speculating Scioto Company, so 
they insisted that $500,000 be paid with the con- 
tract, $500,000 with the survey, and the balance in 
six equal payments,^" while a deed for $1,000,000 
worth of land was to pass when that amount had 
been paid. Other deeds were to pass as agreed 
upon later, while a right of entry and occupancy 
was allowed on part of the tract until the deed 
could pass. At the time it was believed that the 
two tracts would bring in to the treasury $2,993,- 
154 in certificates of indebtedness, while bounty 
land warrants for six or seven hundred thousand 
acres would be satisfied as well.^*^ 

The success of the Ohio Company encouraged 
some typical land speculators to see k Co ngress 
lands at two-thirds of a dollar an acre. John Cleve 
Symmes, who had represented New Jersey in Con- 
gress in 1785-9, petitioned for one million acres be- 
tween the Great and Little ^liami rivers, on the 
Ohio. He desired the same terms as those granted 
Cutler and Sargent, but would accept a single 
township for an "academy." Congress referred 
the petition to the Board of Treasury to " take 
order." ^^ 

In the meanwhile Royal Flint and Joseph 
Parker and their associates had sought two tracts,'^- 
one of two million acres on the Ohio, and another 
of one million on the Mississippi. As the Indian 

W'Half yearly" added by Congress. 3o j., IV, 871. 
31 J., TV, App. IS. Aug. 29, 1787. 32 j., IV, App. 19. 


title had not been extinguished in this region, the 
petitioners desired to purchase the Indian rights 
themselves and receive four townships of land, 
92,160 acres, in full compensation. But Congress 
resolved, on October 22, that no land should be 
sold until the Indian title was extinguished by the 
United States,^^ and the next day passed a general 
resolution covering the two applications then be- 
fore it, as well as others to come.^^ This author- 
ized the Board of Treasury to contract with any 
persons for the sale of land which was free of In- 
dian claims, but no tract was to be less than a mil- 
lion acres nor to extend more than one-tliird of its 
depth along the Ohio, Mississippi, Wabash or Illi- 
nois rivers. The terms were to be similar to those 
granted to Cutler and Sargent, but there were to 
be no donations for seminaries unless the contract 
called for an amount equal to their purchase, and, 
finally, the tract must be in a different State. _ 
The next year George Morgan and his associates 
sought a tract on the Mississippi to the south of 
that desired by Flint and Parker. In this case, 
also, the Indian title had to be extinguished, but a 
sale was authorized,^^ the final payments not to be 
made until after the government had quieted the 

83 J., IV, App. 19. 

84 J., IV, 802. 

35 June 20, 1788. J., IV, 823. 

86 Royal Flint was a prominent merchant in New York city who 
had served as paymaster in the Revolution. He was a leading mem- 
ber of the Scioto Company and was to have represented it abroad. 


If these applications for about 5,000,000 acres 
had been carried throu^^h, it would have meant a 
reduction of $3,000,000 in the domestic debt, and 
the satisfaction of another half-million acres of 
mihtary warrants. Only one, however, resulted in 
a sale, and on October 15, 1788, Symmes signed a 
contract for one million acres of land on the east 
side of the Great jNIiami. The terms were similar 
to those obtained by Cutler and Sargent, but no 
donation was made for a seminary .^"^ A first pay- 
ment of $82,198, one-seventh in military rights and 
the rest in public securities, was made; a similar 
amount was due within a month after the survey 
of the external lines; and the balance in six 
equal semi-annual paj^ments. The total payment, 
exclusive of military rights, was estimated at 

The engagements entered into by Cutler and 
Sargent and by Symmes, and the other large con- 
tracts pending, seemed to point to the rapid extin- 
guishment of the domestic debt and were used as 
Federal arguments during the struggle for the rati- 
fication of the Constitution. The Ohio Company 
at once began to survey and settle its lands. In 
December, General Putnam led the first party to 
the Ohio, arriving at Fort Ilarmar on April 7, 

His ill-health led to the appointment of Joel Barlow. — Cutler, I, 

Colonel George Morgan was an Indian agent of the United States 
during the Revolution. He was interested in the old Indiana Com- 
pany and had petitioned Congress in its behalf. 

87 p. L., I, 127. 88 J., IV, 871. 


1788. The city, later called Marietta, was laid out. 
Symmes, who had been elected one of the judges 
for the new territory on February 19, 1788, crossed 
the mountains in August, and settlers were on his 
tract even before his contract was signed.^^ 

Witli the first ratifications of the new Constitu- 
tion the pubhc credit began to improve; the all 
but worthless securities began to rise in value, which 
served to increase the cost of Western lands; not 
only did furth er applications for tracts cease, but 
the existing contractors found themselves embar- 
rassed l)y the improved credit of the nation and by 
th e Indian w ai.s which soon broke out. Instead of 
the contracts being carried out in due course and 
without question, they became a source of trouble 
under the new government, and doubtless served to 
render that form of disposition of the public do- 
main undesirable. This is perhaps the best place 
to summarize the later history of these sales, even 
though the sequence of events is broken, for it was 
almost fifteen years after the contract with 
Symmes that the last legislation affecting his tract 
was passed. 

In, March, 1792, the Ohio Company presented to 
Congress a memorial asking relief, and General 
Putnam, ISIanasseh Cutler and Robert Oliver jour- 
neyed to Philadelphia to add their personal repre- 
sentations.''" The company stated that it had al- 
ready paid $500,000 for the land, equal to thirty- 
three and one-third cents an acre, but in the last 

39 Cutler, I, 415. 4o Cutler, I, 471. 


few years the rise in the value of securities, the suf- 
fering, distress and expense occasioned by the In- 
dian wars,"** the donations of hind to settlers who 
would perform military service,^- and the prevail- 
ing belief that Congress was about to reduce the 
price of Western lands, had combined to threaten 
the company with ruin. The external sun^eys had 
just been completed, a^d the second payment of 
half a million would soon be due. If this amount 
was not forthcoming, the land and all the improve- 
ments would be forfeited and the settlement broken 
up, for the company had received no deed as 5''et, 
nor could any pass until a million dollars had been 
paid. Under these circumstances, the memorial 
prayed that the land might be granted the com- 
pany at fifty cents an acre instead of the sixty-six 
and two-thirds of the contract. 

Congress took a broad view of the situation and 
at once decided that the settlement should be main- 
tained, and that as a specific performance of the 
contract was beyond the means of the company, 
then some alteration should be made. In fact, the 
House Committee reported that the company had 
probably paid already as much as Congress would 
charge for Western lands in the future.^^ The re- 
lief bill was passed, after amendment in the Senate, 
the casting-vote of the Vice-President, Adams, be- 
ing necessary to carry the donation of one hundred 
thousand acres."** 

41 $33,000. *3 Cutler, I, 478. 

♦2 About 90,000 acres. ••♦Annals, 1791-3, 123. 


This act of April 21, 1792/' authorized the Pres- 
ident to issue letters patent to the Ohio Company 
for three tracts of land, one for 750,000 acres with- 
out further charge, one for 214,285 acres to be cov- 
ered by military warrants, and one for 100,000 
acres to be granted by the company in one-hundred- 
acre lots to male settlers eighteen years of age or 
over. It was provided that resen^ations for educa- 
tion and religion should be continued in the first 
tract, but nothing was said about them in the other 

The Ohio Company, therefore, received 750,000 
acres in return for $500,000 in Continental securi- 
ties worth about twelve and a half cents to the 
dollar. And for the other 214,285 acres bounty 
land warrants were actually presented for only 
142,900 acres, or at the rate of one and one-half 
acres of land for each acre called for in the war- 
rants. The one hundred thousand acre tract for 
donations has not generally been charged against 
the company, but has been considered a national 
grant for the encouragement of settlement on the 
frontier. These figures show that the Ohio Com- 
pany could compete very successfully when the na- 
tional lands were placed on sale at two dollars an 
acre. All things considered, in spite of the inter- 
ference with the general disposal of lands, the sale 
to the Ohio Company was to be commended. It 

45 1792, Chap. 25. 

48 The Ohio Company later petitioned for these reserves — having 
granted lands of their own for those purposes — but without suc- 
cess. P. L., I, 255. 


extinguished lialf a million of the debt at a time 
when the treasury was all but bankrupt; it was a 
concrete example of the wealth of the Western 
lands; it seemed to pave the way for other remun- 
erative sales, and, better than all this, it placed on 
the frontier a most desirable body of settlers, many 
of them veterans of the Revolution. 

Cutler and Sargent also signed a contract in 
1787 on behalf of the Scioto Company. The 
troubled history of that ill-starred speculation can- 
not be dwelt upon here. No formal organization 
was ever effected, but shares in the five-million-acre 
preemption were divided among Cutler, Sargent, 
Duer, Tupper, Putnam, Flint, and others, and Joel 
Barlow was sent to Europe to dispose of the land 
to investors there.^^ As no payment was due Con- 
gress until the survey was run, the promoters be- 
lieved that they would bj^ that time have sufficient 
funds to make the successive payments and clear a 
neat profit, and under normal conditions they 
doubtless would have been successful. Barlow suc- 
ceeded in selling the rights to three million acres to 
a company organized in Paris, but it was permitted 
to resell all or part of the tract, although it actually 
could deal in nothing but " rights." The outbreak 
of the French Revolution turned a ix)yalist emi- 
gration to America, and among these unfortunates 
sales were rapidly effected, although the titles were 
bad on their very face. Several hundred emigrants 

*T See E. C. Dawes, History of the Scioto Purchase, in Cutler, I, 


sailed for America early in 1790. The difficulties 
of settlement in the northwest which embarrassed 
the Ohio Company also disorganized the less wisely 
managed undertaking. In October the first emi- 
grants were settled within the Ohio Company's 
lands at Gallii^olis, while the Indian war prevented 
further surveys of their tracts. The conditions on 
the frontier were bad enough, but the final blow 
fell when Duer and Flint, the leading backers of 
the company, failed in New York in April, 1792. 
Then all hope of securing title to the grant van- 
ished. No money had been paid by the company 
because none was due until after the survey had 
been filed. The preemption simply lapsed, and the 
French settlers had neither money nor land. The 
donation clause in the Ohio Company's bill was ex- 
pected to relieve their distress, and in 1795 it was 
extended to them, while at the same time Congress 
passed a specific relief act granting 24,000 acres to 
the French inhabitants of Gallipolis on condition of 
settlement within five years and five-year resi- 
dence.^^ These conditions of settlement were 
waived in 1806. This grant was divided into lots 
of two hundred and seventeen and two-fifth acres 
among ninety-two French settlers, while ]M. Ger- 
vais received four thousand acres.^^ An additional 
grant of twelve hundred acres was made by Con- 
gress in 1798. 

In this way the great purchase of the Scioto 
Company, welcomed as an aid to the struggling 

*8 March 3, 1795. Chap. 49. 49 Cutler, I, 523. 


national credit, in which so many " of the principal 
characters of America" were interested, and with- 
out wliich the sound purchase of the Ohio Company- 
could hardly have been effected, resulted in the 
du])ing of too guileless emigrants and in a donation 
of land by a sympathetic Congi*ess from a rich do- 

The Symmes purchase caused even more ex- 
tended Congressional action. Under his contract 
the tract would have been a long strip, twenty miles 
wide, running along tlie Great ^liami, north from 
the Ohio. Before the surv^ey was completed, 
Symmes had ])roceeded to grant lands along the 
Little ]Miami, beyond his limits, and Governor St. 
Clair had warned prospective purchasers, as well as 
prohibited further location upon the lands in dis- 
pute.""^" Congress, however, agreed in 1792 to have 
the terms of the contract altered so as to cover the 
land between the Great and Little JMiamis,*^^ and 
shortly after passed a relief measure similar to that 
for the Ohio Company.'"'- This permitted Symmes 
to receive a patent for as much land as he had 
already made payments, and also allowed him to 
take up 106,857 acres under military'- rights. The 
act also granted to Symmes and his associates a 
township for an academy and other seminaries of 
learning, for although Symmes had sought such a 
grant in 1787, it had not been made because his 
tract was so much smaller than the Cutler- Sargent 

60 St. Clair, II, 209. bi April 12, 1793. 

B2 May 5, 1792, Chap. 30. 


purchase. Letters patent, therefore, issued in 1794 
for 311,682 acres, including the five reserved sec- 
tions in each township and the township granted 
for the academy, and at the same time Symmes 
quit-claimed his rights to all the lands remaining in 
his former contract. When this patent was ana- 
lyzed it appeared that, aside from the reserves, 
Symmes received 248,540 acres of land, and of 
these, 105,683 were covered by the $70,455 in pub- 
lic securities paid in 1788, while 142,857 acres were 
paid for with military warrants. In the latter case, 
instead of setting an acre, as called for by the mili- 
tary warrants, oiF against an acre of land, the treas- 
ury reckoned the warrants as being worth one 
dollar an acre and accepted them in exchange for 
land at two-thirds of a dollar, so that warrants for 
only 95,250 acres were satisfied.^^ 

The patent of 1794, favorable as it was to 
Symmes, did not satisf}^ him. He soon claimed the 
right to complete payments on the balance of his 
original million-acre contract, and, while his memo- 
rials were before Congress, he proceeded to sell as 
much land as he could between the two Miamis. 
For several years Congress had to consider his 
claims and the claims of those who had purchased 
land from him beyond the limits of his patent. The 
question was a complicated one. In amending the 
terms of the original contract. Congress had as- 
sumed that one million acres were contained be- 
tween the two IMiamis, and Symmes claimed that 

53 See P. L., I, 75, 104, 157. 


he had only quit-claimed his rights to any land in 
the former contract not covered by the altered 
bounds. But when the surveys were run it was 
found that only about 543,950 acres lay between 
the two rivers. In short, Congress took the posi- 
tion that Symmes had given up all claim to the 
land beyond the bounds of the second contract, and 
that he had forfeited his rights to the balance of 
the lands within it because of his failure to make 
the proj^er payments. But Congress was not will- 
ing to deal harshly with the innocent . purchasers 
from Symmes. In the case of the French settlers 
at Gallipolis, who were in similar circumstances, 
Congress had made donations of land, but the pur- 
chasers from Symmes were not looked upon as ob- 
jects of charity. Congress only granted them a 
preemption of their lands at the minimum price of 
two dollars an acre, but allowed two years for the 
payment, instead of the one year's credit then in 
vogue.^^ Additional acts in 1801, 1802, 1803, and 
1804, were necessary because Symmes had contin- 
ued to make sales, and under these acts the credit 
period of four years was allowed, as under the 
amended general land system. For several years 
Symmes sought permission to carry out the terms 
of his original contract and to complete the pay- 
ments for one million acres, but in spite of the ex- 
pense and liardship incurred in founding his settle- 
ment and his later broken fortunes, Congress did 
not see its way to grant, as an act of grace and not 

04 March 2, 1799, Chap. 34. 


of right, the privilege of buying lands at two-thirds 
of a dollar, which would, under the existing land 
system, be sold for at least two dollars an acre. 

A summary of the actual workings of these sales 
to companies under the Confederation is of value. 
At the time it was expected that the two Cutler- 
Sargent contracts would realize three million dol- 
lars in securities and satisfy some six or seven hun- 
dred thousand acres of military bounty warrants. 
The Symmes purchase was estimated at $571,437 
and 143,000 acres in bounties. 

. Warrants 

Acres Securities , . . 


Ohio Company 750,000 $500,000 

214,285 142,900 

100,000 (donation) 

Scioto Company 25,200 (donation) 

Symmes 105,683 70,4^ 

142,857 95,250 

1,338,025 $570,455 238,150 

As commercial transactions, these sales could 
hardly be considered successful, but what the na- 
tion lost in money it gained in men, and the Ohio 
Company certainly justified its existence and 
served to raise the value of the pubhc lands adjoin- 
ing its frontier settlements. 

One other large land sale under the Confedera- 
tion should be considered here, and in this case the 
purchaser was one of the Confederated States. 
When the western boundary of New York, under 
the cessions of New York and Massachusetts, was 


determined, it was found that a tract of some 200,- 
000 acres lay 's\ithin the public domain bounded by 
New York, Pennsylvania and Lake Erie. Con- 
gress decided, in 1788, to have the tract surveyed 
and disposed of at private sale for not less than 
three-fourths of a dollar the acre,'*'' and Pennsyl- 
vania offered to purchase the triangle at that price, 
thus securing an increased frontage on I^ake Erie. 
The offer was accepted by the Board of Treasury, 
and on September 4 Congi'css transferred the gov- 
ernment and jurisdiction of the tract to Pennsyl- 
vania, in addition to the land.^® The reason for 
this relinquishment of jurisdiction over land ceded 
by other States was simply because the triangle was 
cut off from the rest of the Northwest Territory 
by the Connecticut Reserve. At the time it was 
not expected that Connecticut would later cede the 
jurisdiction over her tract to the nation, therefore 
it was expedient to have Pennsylvania extend her 
government over the isolated region. New York 
could have secured the region had she cared to bid 
for it, but she already possessed a considerable strip 
of the lake shore. Pennsylvania paid $151,640.25 
for the 202,187 acres, and the letters patent were 
issued in 1792." 

65 June 6, J., IV, 820. ne J., IV, 864. 

6T January 3, 1795, Chap. 4. 



Acres Securities Warrants 


1787, Sales at New York 72,974 $117,108 

Ohio Company 964,285 500,000 142,900 

1788, Sjonmes 248,540 70,455 95,250 

Pennsylvania 202,187 151,640 

1,487,986 $839,203 238,150 

Military Bounties. 


For education. , 

For religion. 

For Christian Indians. 


Settlers in Ohio Company tract 100,000 

French settlers at Gallipolis 25,200 

Canadian refugees 58,640 

French settlers at Vincennes, Kaskaskla, etc. 

Arnold Henry Dohrman* 22,400 

f 5e^ 4^ouj - -f/' ^^'^ " ^ 

/ 'J 



When the first Congress under the Constitution 
assembled in JNIarch, 1789, it was to be expected 
that some of its time would be devoted to the man- 
agement of the western lands. The dissolution of 
the old Board of Treasury, the recent death of the 
Geographer, and the necessity of completing some 
of the surveys rendered some action desirable. 
Those who were most interested wondered whether 
Congress would simply endorse and continue the 
land Ordinance of 1785 as it was about to do in the 
case of the governmental ordinance of 1787, or 
whether it would further modify its provisions. As 
a mat ter of fact no general land legislationwas 
passed until 1796, and in the meanwhile no land 
was uircrcd at ])ul)lic' sale. During those years 
many attempts wcie niaclc to pass a land law but 
each time without success, and it was well that such 
was the case for these pro}X)sals would have estab- 
lished a very different system from the sound one 
of 1785. For this reason the deliberations of Con- 
gress between 1787 and 1796 merit careful consid- 
eration, and at times it looked as if the existing land 
system, with its rectangular surveys, was about to 
be abandoned. 


THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 67 

The first debates in the House disclosed a desire 
for a new system, in spite of the fact that the exist- 
ing Ordinance was based upon a compromise. Mr. 
Scott, of the western counties of Pennsylvania, led 
the movement for a new act. He took the position 
that Congress must act speedily in regard to the 
public lands. The surveys called for in the con- 
tracts with the companies must be completed, for 
otherwise the second payments would not be made. 
And he would remodel the whole system. He was 
opposed to the system of large sales in million acre 
tracts, he objected to the great cost of the surveys 
under the existing system, he would sell the land in 
small quantities and the purchasers then should pay 
the cost of the surveys.^ 

He further believed that a land office should be 
opened near the public lands where only certificates 
of indebtedness would be received, and he an- 
nounced that it was useless to attempt to drive set- 
tlers off the lands, instead, preemption should be 
granted them. Finally, he recognized that favor- 
able measures toward the pioneers would meet with 
disfavor in the Eastern states because of the drain 
of population caused by the new settlements, but, 
on the other hand, if Government did not encour- 
age an orderly settlement of these people they 
would surely move across the IMississippi where the 

1 He stated that 20,690 " specie dollars " had been paid for 
2091 miles of surveying. " Congress had better give away their 
lands to those who will take and settle them than pay it." Annals, 
1789-90, 629. 


Spanish government was offering favorable terms 
to settlers. 

Several members took exception to some of ]Mr. 
Scott's recommendations, and Mr. Sherman, of 
Connecticut, took the New England position that 
settlements should be extended gi-adually, in com- 
pact bodies, that it was better to settle by to\vn- 
ships, even giving some of the lots to settlers, and, 
above all, the surveys should be retained, for the 
lack of them would cause the clioice of the best land, 
irregularity of settlement, disputes and eternal 
lawsuits. Mr. Scott replied that the to\vnship sys- 
tem was unnecessary and ill-adapted to the western 
conditions. ♦ 

After further debate a committee was appointed 
to bring in a bill providing for the establishment of 
a land office, regulating the terms and manner of 
granting land, limiting the amount to be granted to 
any one person, establishing a price per acre, and 
granting preemption to actual settlers.- ]\Ir. Scott, 
as chairman of the Committee, reported such a bill, 
but it did not proceed beyond a second reading. No 
further action was taken at the first session to pro- 
vide for a general sale of lands. 

At the next session the land question came up 
during the first month in an interesting way. A 
certain Hannibal W. Dobbyn, of the " kingdom of 
Ireland," presented a petition for leave to purchase 
fifty thousand acres in one tract, pacing one-third 
down, one-third in seven years, and one-third in 

2 Annals, 1789-90, 665-6. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 69 

twelve years, with interest at six per cent.^ The 
House referred the memorial to a committee, whose 
report caused a general debate. Mr. Scott favored 
the petition, but it soon was evident that the House 
was in no mood to enter upon a land- jobbing busi- 
ness without careful consideration. As ]Mr. Boudi- 
not, of New Jersey, said : " The business of selling 
lands was of considerable consequence; if it was 
properly managed it might be a productive source 
for the extinguishment of the national debt; but 
much depended on the manner of setting out. If 
they went into a desultory mode of selling lands 
they might do material injury. He wished a gen- 
eral and systematic plan might be adopted, which 
should not be receded from."^ He suggested that 
the report be referred to the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury. ]Mr. Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, wished to 
broaden the object of the reference and request the 
secretary to report general regulations for the dis- 
tribution of lands and he looked far into the future 
when he said : " He was decidedly opposed to sell- 
ing lands, unless the whole of the purchase money 
was paid down. He would never consent to make 
individuals debtors to the Union, because it tended 
to weaken the hands of the government. If they 
received but one-third of the payment, he should 
look upon the other two-thirds as relinquished." 
After several other members had expressed similar 
views, the House voted to have the report lie upon 

8 Jan. 18, 1790. Annals, 1789-90, 1061. 
4 Annals, 1789-90, 1069. 


the table, and to request the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury to prepare a uniform plan of disposal. 

This was the second of the important reports 
which Alexander Hamilton ])repared at the re(|uest 
of the first Congresses. His First Rejwrt on Public 
Credit, prepared in response to the resolution of 
the House of September 21, 1789, had been pre- 
sented on January 14, but had not been taken up 
when the present reference was voted. In that 
report, among other proposals, he suggested the 
payment of the domestic debt partly in land at the 
rate of twenty cents an acre.^ Hamilton now turned 
to this new duty and six months later presented his 
" Report of a Uniform System for the Disposition 
of the Lands, the Property of the United States." * 

In preparing this report Hamilton proceeded as 
if no land system existed. He simply dismissed the 
Ordinance of 1785 without consideration and out- 
lined a different system. In studying the ques- 
tion Hamilton found "two leading objects of con- 
sideration: one, the facility of advantageous sales, 
according to the probable course of purchasers; the 
other the accommodation of individuals now inhabit- 
ing the western country or who may hereafter emi- 
grate thither. The former, as an operation of finance, 
claims primary' attention." He came to the conclu- 
sion that there would be three classes of pui'chasers 
of western lands: "moneyed individuals and com- 
panies who will buy to sell again; associations of 

5 Finance, I, 15-25. 

« P. L. I, 8. Hamilton's Works, viii, 87. Donaldson, 198. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 71 

persons who intend to make settlements themselves ; 
single persons or families, now resident in the west- 
ern country, or who may emigrate hereafter." The 
first two classes would want considerable tracts, 
while the third would desire land in small quantities. 
Hence three land offices should be established: a 
General Land Office at the seat of government, 
where large purchases could be made, and subor- 
dinate offices, one in the Northwest and the other 
in the Southwest Territory. It seemed to him desir- 
.able to have the Commissioners of the General 
Land Office vested with a considerable amount of 
discretion in order that they might take advantage 
of special conditions, but their conduct should be 
subject to some limitation, and he proceeded to out- 
line certain regulations which would be desirable. 

A study of these propositions discloses Hamil- 
ton's ideas on the land problem. He dismissed the 
existing system of prior surveys of ranges, town- 
ships and sections — although he believed there 
would be some community settlements — and advo- 
cated instead a modified system of indiscriminate 
locations. In other words, there should be three 
tracts set apart : one for subscribers to the proposed 
loan, and no location to be less than five hundred 
acres; one in which actual settlers might secure 
tracts, but no holding to exceed one hundred acres ; 
and one in which land should be sold by townships 
of ten miles square. But " any quantities may, nev- 
ertheless, be sold by special contract, comprehended 
either within natural boundaries or lines, or both." 


In these three tracts, and in those sold under special 
contract, the external lines of purchases were to be 
run by government surveyors, at the expense of the 
purchasers, but no regular system of surveys was 
to be established. 

Sales at a fixed price were substituted for the 
auction system, and thirty cents an acre, in specie 
or stock bearing an immediate interest at six per 
cent., was suggested as a fair price. No credit was 
to be allowed for purchases of less than ten miles 
square, and in no case could the credit run over two 
years, while one quarter of the price must be paid 
down and some security, besides the land, advanced 
for the balance. This was a good business proposi- 
tion, but a poor political one, for it favored the 
rich speculator instead of the actual settler. 

Donaldson, in his " Public Domain," described 
the report as follows : " The extraordinary char- 
acter of the above plan can now be fully seen. It 
forms in its several leading features the basis of 
the prior and existing methods of administration 
for the sale and disposition of the public domain. 
JNIr. Hamilton's views upon this subject, as well 
as upon every question he touched relating to the 
organization of the Nation, displayed his matchless 
practical ability."^ 

A careful study of the report fails to justify this 
praise. Land offices were later established, but 
they had been suggested before this time. The pro- 
vision for three tracts in which locations of different 

T Donaldson, 200. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 73 

sizes might be made was promptly rejected, and if 
accepted would have been a decided retrogression 
if not entirely impracticable. The fixed price of 
thirty cents an acre was apparently too low in view 
of the later sales at two dollars minimum under the 
auction system, wliile the recommendation of the 
credit system was not a wise move, even though it 
did not apply to the mass of settlers. As far as the 
details of administration go they were but little in 
advance of the old Ordinance. The General I^and 
Office was to take, over the duties of the defunct 
Board of Treasury, the Surveyor General was to 
have the duties assigned to the Geographer, while 
the necessity of three commissioners for each of the 
land offices was not made clear. The Treasurer of 
the United States and the Secretaries of the West- 
ern governments were to be the receivers of monies. 
There is but one conclusion to be drawn from this 
report an d that is that H amilton prepared it to 
meet the finjmcial demands of t he hour wit hout a 
proper consideration of the future. In no other 
wa y can the substitution of indiscriminate locations, 
even in definite tracts, for the S5^stem of accurate 
su rveys devised in 1785i__be_accjounted„ for. The 
surveys, to be sure, were expensive and time was 
required for their execution, moreover they were 
opposed in certain sections, but they were the basis 
of an accurate and regular land system. The en- 
couragement of purchases by speculators is also 
accounted for by Hamilton's interest in funding 
the national debt, and at that time many members 


of Congress believed with him that the lands should 
be managed as a great source of revenue rather than 
solely as field for western expansion. 

As the report was communicated to the House 
only a few weeks before the close of the session no 
action was taken on it at that time, but on August 
4, the act making provision for the payment of the 
debt of the United States^ contained a section 
appropriating the proceeds of all future sales of 
lands to the sinking fund. This was a wider appli- 
cation of the land revenue than Hamilton had sug- 
gested and it was frequently cited later in opposi- 
tion to grants of land revenue for other purposes. 
Washington approved of it in his second annual 
message and trusted that the lands would soon be 
made to contribute to the reduction of the debt. 

At the opening of the Third Session Hamilton's 
report was referred to the Committee of the Wliole 
and a debate ensued on his recommendations. After 
a lengthy discussion the House agreed upon twenty 
four resolutions which were referred to a conmiittee 
appointed to draw up a bill.'' The questions which 
caused most discussion were the method of location, 
the method of sale, and the price. 

Scott fought vigorously for the principle of in- 
discriminate location. " He conceived it would be 
the interest of Government to let every one pur- 
chase where he pleased, and as much or as little 
as he chose." So he attacked the recommendations 
of the report that certain tracts be laid off in which 

8 1790, ch. 34. 9 Annals, 1790-1, pp. 1829-3-2. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 75 

land should be located in different quantities, as 
well as the provision that the actual settler should 
not be allowed to purchase over one hundred acres. 

Although the House agreed with him in oppos- 
ing the setting aside of separate tracts for different 
modes of location, yet he stood alone on the ques- 
tion of indiscriminate location. On this question 
the debate took the form of an " experience meet- 
ing." Wilhamson had seen the evil effects of it in 
North Carolina, choice tracts were selected by 
speculators and the remainder rendered unsalable. 
Boudinot cited the New Jersey experience: "He 
said more money had been spent at law, in disputes 
arising from that mode of settlement in New Jer- 
sey, than would have been necessary to purchase all 
the land of the State." Sedgwick, of ISIassachu- 
setts, disliked the system : it led to speculation and 

So Scott's amendment providing for indiscrim- 
inate location was defeated, but he succeeded in 
carrying an amendment to place on sale the Seven 
Ranges provided for in 1785 instead of the pro- 
posed townships ten miles square. This enabled 
some land to be placed on sale at once. 

Regarding the price and the method of sale there 
was much difference of opinion. Should there be a 
fixed price as proposed in the report, or should 
there be a minimum price established leaving the 
actual price to be determined by the surveyors, or, 
finally, should the auction system be used? 

Members from Massachusetts, New Hampshire 


and New York stated that their states had fixed the 
relative value of the lands hut vested discretionary- 
power in the surveyor or commissioner. Georgia, 
on the other hand, had found it a mischievous sys- 
tem, and most of the speakers favored a fixed price. 
Hamilton's estimate of thirty cents an acre was re- 
tained, although there was a difference of opinion 
as to this. 

The resolutions as adopted by the House agreed 
with Hamilton's report in some respects but dif- 
fered in many essentials.^*' The proposal of tracts 
for different forms of location was rejected. The 
tract for townships and the tract for actual settlers 
were merged in the resolution that the Seven 
Ranges be placed on sale, while no tract for sub- 
scribers to the proposed loan was necessary, as that 
form of funding the debt had been given up. There 
might be special sales within natural boundaries or 
lines, but purchasers on a navigable river must pur- 
chase a certain amount of back lands. The price 
was fixed at thirty cents an acre but all securities 
were to be received without discrimination. The 
twelfth resolution was new, and provided for pre- 
emption in these words : " That preference be given 
for a limited time to those actual settlers whose 
titles are not secured by the former governments of 
that country and the existing ordinances and acts 
of Congress." The General and subordinate land 
offices were agreed upon and a Sun^eyor General, 
who could appoint his deputies, was provided. 

10 Annals, 1790-1, p. 1841. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 77 

A bill, based on these resolutions, was presented 
to the House and amended so as to reduce the price 
to twenty-five cents " hard money." It passed and 
in the Senate it was referred to a committee and 
then postponed to the next session. 

S o, year a fter year passed and no proyisiDn was 
m ade for the sale of wes tern lands. The nation 
certainly needed the revenue, and for this reason 
alone som e action was necessary, while settlers mov- 
ingjnto the Northwest demanded the right to pur- 
c hase land . In spite of the Indian forays the settle- 
ments beyond the Ohio were rapidly increasing and 
the pioneers were locating either upon the tracts 
which had passed out of public ownership or as un- 
authorized settlers upon the public domain. 

It was not until the first session of the Fourth 
Congress that a determined effort was made to 
provide a system of disposal for the western lands, 
and although the necessary resolution was presented 
on December 17, 1795, a very interesting event 
occurred before the committee reported a bill. 

This event was the exposure in the House of a 
rather crude attempt to bribe certain members into 
favoring a grant of the Michigan peninsula, some 
twenty million acres, to a company of speculators 
represented by a Mr. Randall and a Mr. Whitney. 
The company was willing to pay half a milhon or 
even a million dollars for the grant and their serv- 
ices in quieting the Indians would make the grant 
desiral)le. It was a bold schejne. The property 
was to be divided into forty shares and twenty-four 


of them were to be distributed among members of 
Congress. The matter came up on December 28, 
when Smith, of South Carolina, the chairman of the 
liand Office Committee, stated that he had been 
approached by Randall, whereupon INIurray, of 
Maryland, Giles and ISIadison, of Virginia, stated 
that they also had been sounded. Buck, of Ver- 
mont, had been approached by Whitney at his 
home, while Lyman, of jNIassachusetts, added that 
the latter had discussed the plan in general terms 
with him. 

This testimony was sufficient to cause the arrest 
of the bribers. Then the House had to decide upon 
a form of procedure in such a case, for never before 
had an outsider been summoned before the bar of the 
House. Two more members then stated that they 
had been appix)ached by Randall, and, on January 
6, 1796, he was declared guilty of a contempt and 
breach of privileges of the House in attempting to 
corrupt the integrity of its members. He was then 
called to the bar, reprimanded and committed to 
the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms until further 
orders. Whitney escaped by a narrow margin, 
mainly because the offense was committed before 
Congress assembled. Within a week Randall peti- 
tioned for his discharge and it was granted. 

This incident has been narrated because it un- 
doubtedly caused Congress to hold fast to its posi- 
tion against large sales to speculators, and it seems 
also to have caused a greater interest in the question 
of the public domain than ever before. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 79 

There was another event wliich doubtless had 
even a greater effect in arousing interest in the 
question. For the first time since the states had 
ceded their western lands it seemed as if the nation 
could really pass a good title to purchasers. Before 
the United States could dispose of its waste land it 
must quiet the troublesome occupancy of the Indian 
tribes, and although the government had endeav- 
ored to do this in the Northwest it was not until the 
crushing victory of " Mad " Anthony Wayne, on 
the 20th of August, 1794, that Indian treaties in 
that region really meant anything. 

The treaties of Fort INIcIntosh, in 1785, and of 
Ft. Harmar, in 1789, had not been generally 
accepted by the northwestern tribes. The next year 
they insisted on reestablishing the boundary line 
along the Ohio, and, negotiations failing, the first 
of a series of expeditions was sent against them. 
Harmar's expedition of 1790 and St. Clair's of 
1791 were disastrous failures, and in 1793 the com- 
missioners appointed to negotiate with the hostiles 
met a severe rebuff. Only the Ohio as a boundary 
would satisfy them, and they repudiated the exist- 
ing treaties as made by a few unauthorized chiefs. 
But Wayne's victory of the next year broke the 
spirit of the Indians, and a year later, August 3, 
1795, by the treaty of Greeneville, some twenty-five 
thousand square miles were ceded to the United 
States, comprising the eastern and southern part of 
Ohio, as well as sixteen detached portions west of 
the line. Doubtless the knowledge that the British 


were about to surrender the western posts facili- 
tated the treaty. 

Such was the condition of affairs wlien Congress 
assembled. The British posts had been given up by 
Jay's treaty/^ and a rich territory was opened for 
settlement by the Greeneville treaty, into which 
pioneers were already advancing, while the airing 
of the bribery charges warned Congress to be cau- 
tious in its legislation. 

The Land Office Committee of the House re- 
ported a bill on January 28, 1796, which was read 
twice and referred to the Committee of the Whole, 
where it was not brought up for debate until Feb- 
ruary 15. Unfortunately there is no record of this 
original bill although many features can be restored 
from the debates. 

The chairman of the committee, William Smith, 
of South Carolina, stated that the committee had 
two objects in view: "to raise revenue, and to sell 
the land in such lots as would be most convenient 
to purchasers." ^^ For that reason it favored town- 
ships of three miles square and rejected the auction 
system in favor of a fixed price of two dollars an 

These were the features of the report which 
elicited the greatest debate, and the old, old ques- 
tion was again threshed out: shall the system of 
rectangular sun-eys be retained or shall tlie prior 
surveys — for no one favored indiscriminate loca- 
tions — take into consideration natural bounds, the 

11 Nov. 19, 1794.. 12 Annals, 1795-6, p. 331. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 81 

division of bottoms, and the laying out of land 
along the water courses with larger tracts attached. 
All the latter propositions were rejected, and the 
surveys were to be rectangular. 

A more vigorous discussion arose as to the size 
of the lots. Members from the back country stood 
out for the sale of small tracts, even as small as 
fifty acres, while there were others who believed in 
selling large tracts to moneyed purchasers. The 
question was brought to an issue by the amendment 
of Gallatin that half the townships should be sold 
in large and the other half in small tracts, without 
specifying the respective sizes. Havens, of New 
York, stood out for the sale of all the land in small 
lots, preferably six hundred and forty acres. Al- 
though some favored his amendment yet the ma- 
jority was for Gallatin's proposal, the "wholesale 
and retail plan." In defending his amendment 
Gallatin urged that large tracts should be offered 
so that the speculator could subdivide and sell at 
a long credit to poor men who could not afford to 
purchase directly from the government. If only 
small tracts were placed on sale these would be 
purchased here and there and so prevent a pur- 
chaser from buying a large tract. There was a 
pretty general agreement that both sizes of tracts 
were desirable. 

An effort was then made to limit the amount of 
sales, either by extending the settlement in com- 
pact bodies or by setting a limit to the annual sales. 
The assigned reason was the question of defense and 


government, but those who opposed believed that 
the Eastern states feared too great an immigration 
as well as that interested landholders favored the 
policy. This attempt to limit settlement was de- 

The provision for a fixed price was rejected with- 
out defense while the auction system found many 
supporters and was continued with a minimum 
price of two dollars an acre. There was practically 
no objection to this figure, which testifies to the 
improved financial conditions since 1791 when 
twenty-five cents an acre was proposed. Even Gal- 
latin believed the price none too high. 

Further provisions were added with little debate. 
The large lots were to be sold at the capital and 
the small ones in the Western Territory. Salt 
springs were to be reserved, and there were to be 
reserves for schools and colleges. 

Williams, of New York, offered an amendment 
which is of real interest. If it had been adopted 
it would have had no small effect upon the land 
system. For he proposed that conditions of settle- 
ment be affixed to every grant. That there be one 
settler on every • . • acres Avithin . . . years from 
the sale thereof. This motion produced a very gen- 
eral debate and was supported generally by the 
members from the frontier, notably Gallatin 
and Findlej% of Pennsylvania, and Rutherford, of 
Virginia, who had lived fifty years on the frontier. 
Williams agreed >vith them that the settlers should 
not be forced to improve the value of lands for non- 

TllE LAiSfD SYSTEM, 1789-1800 ^i 

residents, while Rutherford pointed out that un- 
occupied tracts would cause a weak frontier. Galla- 
tin held that this was the system before the Rev- 
olution "from one end of the country to the 

The opposition came, in general, from members 
who favored speculative purchases. Others believed 
it would reduce the price of lands, and encourage 
emigration, to which Gallatin replied that he hoped 
the price of labor in the old states would be kept 
up thereby. Finally it was stated that such condi- 
tions in New York, Massachusetts, New Hamp- 
shire, Vermont and other states had been found in- 
effectual, and that Gk)vernment could not enforce 
the condition. The amendment was rejected, al- 
though twenty-two votes were cast in its favor. 
This is apparently the only time that any deter- 
mined attempt was made to insist upon the settle- 
ment of all land sold by the government. If it could 
have been enforced the measure would have been 
a creditable one. The actual settlers were continu- 
ally complaining of the tracts retained by moneyed 
Easterners which increased in value only as they 
themselves toiled and improved the surrounding 
lands. They were soon able to cause Congress to 
abandon its reserve system but the holdings of the 
speculators were even a greater source of com- 
plaint. If this condition of settlement had been 
passed the provision for the sale of large tracts 
would have been worthless, and the attempt to 
secure two diverse ends would have been abandoned 


— the welfare of the settler would have triumphed 
over the needs of the treasury. 

Other amendments were proposed and carried, 
notably to extend the term of credit to three years, 
and then the bill was referred to a select committee 
consisting of the original committee with four mem- 
bers added. 

The bill reported by the committee provided for 
rectangular sun^eys, six miles square. Half the 
townships were to be sold in quarter townships of 
three miles square, and the balance in lots of six 
hundred and forty acres. 

In the Conmiittee of the Whole an attempt was 
again made to limit the amount of land placed on 
sale, as well as to provide for a bond and mortgage 
instead of forfeiture for non-payment. A separate 
tract for the location of military warrants was de- 
cided upon rather than permitting them to be ex- 
changed for land anywhere. And, finally, an 
amendment was carried providing for the sale of 
half the six hundred and forty acre lots in quarter 
sections of one hundred and sixty acres. This was 
a great concession to the actual settler, but an at- 
tempt to divide the quarter township lots into sec- 
tions was lost. When the bill was debated in the 
House an attempt was made to increase the mini- 
mum lots to three hundred and twenty acres, but 
without success. 

The Senate passed the bill witli amendments — ^ 
notably one which struck out tlie small lots, and an 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 85 

attempt to reinsert this provision in the House was 
lost, thirty-three votes to thirty-one. 

After further amendments the bill finally passed 
and President Washington approved it on May 18, 

In brief, this act "providing for the sale of the 
lands of the United States in the territory north- 
west of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of the 
Kentucky river," ^^ was much as follows: A Sur- 
veyor General was to be appointed who might en- 
gage deputies and who was to survey the land in 
the above district to which the Indian title had been 
extinguished. The lands were to be divided into 
townships of six miles square, one-half of which 
t ownships were to be further divided into sections 
of six hu ndred and forty acres. Reserves were to 
be made for the United States, namely, the salt 
spring near the Scioto river and the township em- 
bracing it, and every other salt spring and the sec- 
tion which included it, also four sections at the cen- 
ter of each township, except in the case of fractional 
townships of less than three quarters of a township. 
As soon as seven ranges were surveyed they were 
tojbe offered for sale, the sections at Cincinnati 
and Pittsburg, and the quarter townships at the 
seat of government. The^sale jwas to be at public 
vendue and two dollars an acre was fixed as the 
minimum price. Provision was also made for the 
sale of the townships surveyed under the Ordinance 

13 1796, ch. 29. May 18. 


of 1785. As to payments, the purchaser was to 
deposit one-twentieth, complete one-half of the 
price within thirty days, or forfeit the deposit, and 
pay the balance within one j^ear, but a discount of 
ten per cent, was offered for cash. The patent only 
issued when the payment was completed, and any 
failure in payments caused a forfeiture of the land 
and the deposits. Other provisions related to the 
administration of the system. The surs^evs were 
to be at the expense of the United States, but fees 
were defined for certificates and patents. A re- 
ceiver of moneys was to be appointed by the Presi- 
dent. The reserves for schools and colleges did not 
appear in the bill as passed.^^ 

It is of interest at this time to note the develop- 
ment of Congressional opinion regarding the public 
lands between the Ordinance of 1785 and the first 
general land act under the new Congress. Although 
the members did not recognize it yet there was a 
marked similarit}^ between the two acts. The rec- 
tangular surveys, the townships six miles square, 
the division into sections, the sale of large and small 
tracts, the auction system, — these fundamental pro- 
visions are all found in the Ordinance. Yet the 
debates between 1789 and 1796 hardly indicate that 
there was then in existence an ordinance for the 
sale of the lands of the United States. In other 
words, the then members of Congress based this 

14 Fees: Certificates, when one-half of purchase price was paid, 
for 640 acres, $6.00; for quarter township, $20.00. Patents, for 640 
acres, $6.00; quarter township, $20.00. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 87 

new legislation on the experience with which they 
were familiar, the recent experience of New York 
being frequently cited, and their observations co- 
incided with those of the members of the old Con- 
gress. T he qu estions which divided Congress in 
17 85 no longer appe ar. In 1796 no member fav- 
or ed_locations by the use of warrants, everyone 
realized the value of prior surveys. Nor did any 
member hold out for "township planting," even 
the New Englanders realized that such a system 
would not have general application in the West. 
Those members who insisted upon the sale of large 
tracts used different arguments from those ad- 
vanced in 1785. Then, the sale of to^vnships would 
encourage the settlement of bodies of emigi'ants 
who would divide their purchase into small hold- 
ings; now, large tracts were to be offered to the 
speculator, and although it was hoped that small 
holdings would result yet he would profit in the 
process. So in 1796 both parties to the main com- 
promise of 1785 were pronounced in the wrong, 
but Congress had not seen fit to reduce the mini- 
mum tracts. 

In the eleven years since the Ordinance various 
attempts were made to modify the system of sur- 
veys so as to take into consideration natural bounds, 
which would destroy the rectangular system, as well 
as to make more equitable distribution of the water 
courses and bottoms. Under an older and richer 
government the latter provisions would have been 
desirable. Congress rejected them simply because 


of the expense of so careful a survey. But fifty 
years later the United States should have adopted 
such a system in the far West where water is of 
such tremendous importance. Congi*ess insisted 
upon surveys before sales, and the cheapest and 
surest >vere the rectangular surveys of the old 

As to the price of the waste lands the estimates 
ran from the one dollar minimum of 1785 to the 
fixed twenty-five cents proposed in 1791, and the 
two dollar minimum of 1796. This is not difficult 
to understand. T he im proved credit oj^ tlie nation 
made the latter price possible, and both East and 
West agreed on it, the former to che ck emigr ation, 
and tlic latter to 2)i't^vcnt engrossing. At this time 
the government was in competition with several of 
the old States. INIassachusetts, Connecticut, New 
York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and 
Georgia were all selling back lands at lower rates. 
But the sure titles and the superior fertility of the 
nation's lands were raj^idly turning the tide of set- 
tlement to the Ohio. 

The struggle to secure the sale of small tracts 
was still going on. Under the Ordinance half the 
townships were to be sold in sections, and the 
attempt of the Virginians to introduce three hun- 
dred and twentj^ acre lots was unsuccessful. In 
1796 the House voted for one hundred and sixty 
acre lots but the more conservative Senate rejected 
this concession to the small purchaser. But the 
reasons which caused differences of opinion varied 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 89 

in the two debates. In 1785 the Southerner strove 
for the small location in order to secure some free- 
dom of choice for the settler. It was a struggle 
between the free location and " township planting " 
systems. In 1796 the members from the back dis- 
tricts favored the small lots for the sake of the pen- 
niless pioneer, but they were also opposed to the 
scattering of settlement. Rutherford, the member 
from the back counties of Virginia, who had de- 
scribed himself as "a mere child of nature, an in- 
habitant of the frontier, as untaught as an Indian," 
averred that the one hundred and sixty acre lot pro- 
vision was the only favorable clause to real settlers 
in the bill. The measure was urged by members 
from New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North 
Carolina, and was opposed in debate by a member 
from each of the first three states and from Mass- 
achusetts and JNIaryland. 

Thus throughout these debates the Knes of dis- 
cussion formed and reformed. Such divisions 
appeared as the Coast versus the Frontier, the for- 
mer unwilling to encourage emigration and the 
advocates of the latter announcing that if the land 
could not be purchased on favorable terms the set- 
tlers would take it and then the old States would 
lose their citizens and the nation would lose its 
revenue as well; the friends of the moneyed pur- 
chaser versus the friends of the poor pioneer ; those 
who would manage the lands solely with an eye to 
revenue versus those who considered their orderly 
settlement of more importance. But the lines were 


no longer formed between the East and South as 
in 1785. It is difficult to determine how much 
politics entered this debate of 1796. Apparently 
there was little, although the report of the commit- 
tee was roundly criticised by members who were 
criticising administration measures. But the crude 
political divisions of the times could not hold in the 
presence of the greater economic issues. 

Certain omissions are noteworthy. The school 
and college reserves failed to carry, possibly be- 
cause they were introduced in 1785 as a valuable 
feature of the " township planting " system. The 
attempt to limit the amount of land sold each year, 
in order to provide for a compact spread of popula- 
tion as well as to apply the law of supply and 
demand to the public lands, failed, nor would Con- 
gress insist upon conditions of settlement. And 
there was no provision for preemption, although 
it had been favored in 1791. 

A gradual advance toward the establishment of 
the credit system is noticeable. In 1785 immediate 
payment was insisted upon; in 1787,.three months 
credit was allowed; in 1791 a credit of two years 
was suggested on large purchases; and in 1796 a 
year's credit was offered, and the end was not yet. 

In brief, therefore, the Act of 1796 continued the 
principles of the Ordinance of 1785 in every im- 
portant particular except as to the granting of 
credit. And in that lies the importance of the 
measure. The great fundamental principle of the 
prior rectangular suneys was so firmly established 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 91 

that it could not be later overturned. Little land 
wa s disposed of under this act, but its principles 
governed the_ini])ortant amendment of 1800. The 
battle waswon, and yet it might so easily have been 
lost. The desire for an immediate land revenue, the 
deman d for untramme led land selection, even the 
ne cessity o f quickly strengi;hening the frontier, all 
mi ght have c aused the abandonmen t of t he slow 
b ut sound syste m of rectangular surv^eys. Any in- 
terference with that principle would have meant a 
widespread disturbance of the orderly peopling of 
the great West. Too much importance can hardly 
be attached to the surveys of ranges, townships, sec- 
tions, and lots, in extending regular settlements into 
the wilderness, and in establishing sound titles for 
all time. 

Although this measure was before Congress for 
some four months, and two weeks elapsed between 
its passage and the adjournment of Congress, yet 
no appropriation was made to carry out the surveys 
provided in the act.^'^ For the first time the impor- 
tance of such legislation was felt, and many times 
later the expansion of settlement was destined to be 
aided or retarded by clauses in appropriation bills 
which might easily escape notice. 

Early in January, 1797, Gallatin moved that a 
committee be appointed to inquire into the progress 
of the sales and to report any needed alteration. 
Through this committee there was laid before Con- 
gress a communication of Oliver Wolcott, Jr., the 

iB^^r, 3, 1797, $27,000 appropriated. 


Secretary of the Treasury, to the effect that as far 
as tlie present reports went, some 49,000 acres in 
the Seven Ranges had been sold at Pittsburg for a 
total of $112,135 of which $40,617 had been re- 
ceived."^ At Philadel])hia the alternate townships 
which, under the Ordinance, were to be sold intact, 
had been offered in quarter townships with no bid- 
ders. And the secretary accounted, in a measure, 
for the poor showing. The surveys under the Ordi- 
nance only covered the external lines of the town- 
ships, the section lines were not run. This made it 
very difficult for the purchaser of a section to locate 
it, as well as for the government to compute the 
size of fractional townships and sections. In fact 
these were but roughly computed and sold at the 
buyer's risk. Another reason which prevented sales 
was the high price — two dollars an acre was too 
much to give for a quarter township considering the 
present scarcity of money. 

The conclusions to be drawn from this communi- 
cation were briefly, if Cono'ress insisted upon sell- 
ing land in large tracts it must either reduce the 
])rice or extend the credit, and if it desired tq^sell to 
the settler it must either reduce the price or the 
size of the minimum tract. Twelve hundred and 
eighty dollars, the minimum price for a section, was 
too much to expect from a pioneer. 

The committee of the House only favored one 
of these changes and reported that the credit should 
be extended so that one-fifth should be paid within 

16 p. L. I., 74. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 93 

thirty days and the balance in four annual pay- 
ments/^ But the House rejected this proposal, 
and in opposition to the extension of credit it was 
said that when time for payment came not money 
but petitions for extending the time would come in. 
It would be better, it was urged, to lower the price 
than to extend the credit. The House also rejected 
the corollary of this proposition when it refused to 
reduce the quarter township tracts to sections. The 
only general legislation of this session was proposed 
by Gallatin and permitted certificates of the foreign 
debt and six per cent, stock to be received for lands 
at their nominal value, while other certificates 
should be received at approximately their market 
value. At the time these certificates were worth 
about seventy-five cents on the dollar. ^^ 

Two years passed before any lands were surveyed 
for sale under the Act of 1796. The sales of that 
year had been of lands survej^ed in the Seven 
Ranges, and in 1797 the newly appointed Surveyor 
General and his staff had been occupied in running 
the Greeneville treaty line, and in laying off the 
military tract and the tracts granted to the Mo- 
ravians.^^ In 1798 they took up the regular sur- 
veys but seven ranges had to be completed before 
any could be placed on sale. During these delays 
the Senate twice tried to amend the law of 1796, 
but the House, on Gallatin's advice, postponed any 
action until the act had been given a trial. In the 

17 p. L. I., 74. 18 p. L. I., 183. 

19 p. L. I., 81. 


meanwhile it refused to grant any petitions for the 
purchase of lands on terms different from those in 
the existing law. 

In 1798 it was found that the territory North- 
west of the Ohio contained more than the five thou- 
sand free male inhabitants necessarj^ for the estab- 
lishment of representative government, and the 
next year the first legislature met at Cincinnati. 
William Plenry Harrison, late Secretary of the 
Territory, was chosen to be the first delegate to 
Congress, where he could sit and debate but could 
not vote. He was the first representative of the 
" public land states " to appear in Congress and he 
at once set about securing the much needed land 
legislation. His constituents wanted the right to 
buy land in small tracts and at local land offices; 
and they wanted an extension of credit and, if pos- 
sible, a grant of preemption for those who had 
taken up government land before it was surv^eyed. 
It was Claiborne, of Tennessee, who urged the pre- 
emption measure, and seventeen members finally 
voted for it. At this time half the state of Tennes- 
see was considered public land, but it never actually 
came under the national land system as will be 
narrated elsewhere. Harrison's bill, for he was 
chairman of the House Committee, called for lots 
of three hundred and twenty acres, an attempt to 
reduce them to one hundred and sixty failed, and 
finally the " large and small " tract idea prevailed. 

The Act of INIay 10, 1800, was the first effective 
land law since the Ordinance, for the Act of 1796 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 95 

had not had time to be thoroughly tried. The gen- 
eral principles of the three acts were the same, the 
details were more carefully worked out in 1800. 

Four land offices were to be established, at Cin- 
cinnati, Chillicothe, JNIarietta, and Steubenville, 
with a Register and Receiver for each. Lands east 
of the Muskingum were to be sold only in sections ; 
west of the IMuskingum and above the mouth of the 
Kentucky River, half in sections and half in half- 
sections. The auction system with the two dollar 
an acre minimum was retained, but after lands had 
been exposed to sale for three weeks they were 
subject to private sale. PajTnent could be made 
in specie or in certificates of the public debt. There 
was a return to the Ordinance in the provision that 
the purchaser must pay the surveying expenses, 
which were fixed at six dollars a section. The credit 
system was worked out more carefully than in 1796. 
Exclusive of fees and surveying expenses the pur- 
chaser deposited one twentieth of the amount of the 
purchase mone}^ to be forfeited if, within forty 
days, an additional payment making a total of one- 
fourth was not made. If this sum was not paid 
the land would be forfeited and subject to private 
sale, but not for less than the price bid at the 
auction. The balance of the price was divided into 
four annual payments due respectively two, three, 
and four years after the sale. On these payments 
interest at six per cent. " from the date of sale " ^° 
was charged, payable as they became due, but a 

20 A Senate ameDdment. 


discount of eight per cent, from the amount de- 
mandable was extended for prompt payments. If 
the final payment was not made within one year 
after it fell due the tract would be advertised for 
tliirty days and sold at public sale for a price not 
less than the whole arrears due plus the expenses 
of the sale. Any sin'])lus would be given to the 
original purchaser, but if a sufficient price was not 
bid and paid then the lands reverted to the United 
States and all payments were forfeited. Such were 
the means devised to prevent tricky manipulations 
of land purchases. 

With the addition of the Register to the Receiver 
provided in the Act of 1796 we have the administra- 
tive force of the land offices as they exist to-day. 
Both officers were to be paid by fees, the latter re- 
ceiving one per cent, of all moneys paid him, and 
the former one-half per cent, on moneys ex}:)ressed 
in receipts entered by him, as well as the fees for 
applications and certificates.^^ Each officer was to 
give a bond of ten thousand dollars. Superintend- 
ents of the sales were to receive five dollars a day. 
these were not regular officers but the Register and 

21 The Register entered the applications for land, i. e., entries, 
and filed tlie receipts for moneys paid the Receiver. When payments 
were completed he would give a final certificate which entitled the 
holder to a patent, granted by the President and countersigned by 
tlie Secretary of State. 

Fees: To Register; application, section $3.00, half section, $2.00. 
Certificates and receipts, each, .25; final certificates, $1.00; all copies 
of documents, .25; general inspection of the book of surveys, .25. 
To United States: Pntent, section, i?5.00; half section, $4.00. Cost 
of surveys, $6.00 a sectidn. 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 97 

either the Governor or Secretary of the Northwest 
Territory were to be present at all sales. 

The Congressional reserves of the four center 
sections in each township were retained and they 
might be leased for seven years. But the school 
and college reserves were still lacking. Finally, a 
preemption at the minimum price was granted to 
the builders of mills before the passage of the act. 

T he Act of 1800 rema ined the model for acts 
regulatin g the disposal of ^jands down to 1820. 
According to its title it was an act to amend the 
Act_oFl796, and such was the case, but both acts 
applied onl y to land in the Xorthwest and above 
the mouth of the Kentucky River. Although more 
carefully worked out than the previous act it con- 
tained only modifications of that former legislation. 
The principles of the American land system had 
been threshed out in the earlier debates. If the 
Congress of 1796 had sought accuracy it would 
have entitled its act an amendment of the great 
Ordinance of 1785. There is not a single feature 
of the Act of 1800 which did not develop out of the 
earlier legislation or debates. 

The three important developments of the Act of] 
1800 were: the establishment of Land Offices, the' 
extension of credit, and the reduction of the size of» 
tracts. But these were normal developments, they 
were not new features. By the Act of 1796 lands 
in three definite tracts were to be sold at Pittsburg 
or Cincinnati. Four years later four tracts were 
set apart and a permanent oflSce established in each, 


and tliese were the land offices which men who knew 
anything about Western lands had been striving to 
have established for fifteen years. The provision 
tliat land might be sold at private sale, although not 
found in any previous act, was a very simple de- 
velopment of the auction system.^^ As to the land 
officers, a Receiver had been provided in 1796 and 
the new Registers took over the duties of the Terri- 
torial officials under that act. 

The credit system had developed since 1785. The 
terms were carefully worked out in 1800. The four 
year credit, denied in 1797, was now granted.^^ All 
prospective land purchasers were enthusiastic over 
that feature. But there were men level-headed 
enough to prophesy the result of such an induce- 
ment to speculation or to over-extensive purchases 
by the actual settler. 

The reduction of the size of tracts to three hun- 
dred and twent}'- acres, in some cases, was simply a 
further advance in the movement which was later 
to result in forty acre lots. Tlie Congress of 1 800 
was not as Jiberal as it might have been^biiLtlie old 
objections to small tracts still held good. 

What has been taken for an apparently new pro- 
vision in the act was that which allowed^ a pre- 
emption to builders of mills before this time. Pre- 
emption was a subject on which opinions differed 

22 The private sale of large tracts was authorized by the Confed- 
eration and resulted in the Ohio Company and Sjinmes purchases. 
Hamilton favored private sales rather than the auction system. 

i's In 1799 a two years' credit was granted the purchasers from 

THE LAND SYSTEM, 1789-1800 99 

greatly at this time. In 1791 the House agreed to 
a resolution that preemption be extended for a 
limited time to settlers in the Northwest, but in 
1796 a House Conmiittee, reporting on the claims 
of sundry persons to preemption, presented an 
adverse report " inasmuch as illegal settlements on 
the lands of the United States ought not to be en- 
couraged."-^ In 1799 Congress granted preemp- 
tion at the minimum price to persons who had con- 
tracted with Symmes for lands which did not fall 
witliin his patent. This was granted as an act of 
grace solely. But when Claiborne attempted to 
insert a general preemption in the Act of 1800 the 
House rejected the proposal. The preemption to 
mill owners was undoubtedly granted because of 
the public services rendered by these pioneers who 
had been forced to settle upon public lands pending 
the completion of the surveys. 

Under the Act of 1800 land offices were opened 
and sales soon commenced. With the extension of 
the credit system and the great increase in material 
prosperity which marked the first years of the new 
century an era of westward migration, with the 
accompanying land sales and speculations, began, 
which soon caused further modifications of the land 
system. And these changes, important as they were, 
still left untouched the principle of the rectangular 
surveys. To follow some of the more important 
developments will be the purpose of the next chap- 

24 p. L. I., 68. 



Amount Price For- Receipts 

acres felted 

1796 Pittsburg 43,446 $99,901.59 $525.94 $100,427.53 

Philadelphia... 5,120 10,280 10,280 

48,566 $110,181.59 $525.94 $110,707.53 



The land act of 1800 was passed by a Congress 
in which the Federalists were in a decided majority. 
One j'-ear later a new administration controlled the 
government, an^dministration whose support had 
largely^^ome from the back-woods districts of the 
o ld states, and whose principles were to wm 
approval in the states yet to be born. Albert Gal- 
latin, formerly the leader of the opposition in the 
House and a man who spoke authoritatively on 
questions of the public lands, now entered the Cabi- 
net as Secretary of the Treasury. For the first 
time the executive power over the public lands was 
placed in the hands of a man who really appreciated 
the possibilities and the difficulties of the adminis- 
tration of such a system. Liberal and sympathetic 
recommendations could be expected from this Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, and they should receive 
thoughtful consideration by this Democratic Con- 

About a year was allowed for the surveys and 
new divisions under the Act of 1800, and sales were 
not to commence until April, 1801.^ The principal 

1 Land previously oflFered at auction was placed on private sale 
in July, 1800, at Steubenville and Marietta. No public land was 
open to sale south of the Ohio. 



features of the system existing at that date were as 
follows: A purchaser desiring land east of the 
Muskingum, could secure nothing smaller than a 
section ; west of the river he might purchase a half 
section in one of the alternate townships which 
were so divided. If he desired a smaller tract he 
would turn to the great holdings which did not 
come under the Federal system, and in the Ohio 
Company's purchase, in Symmes' tract, in the Vir- 
ginia or the National military district, or in the 
Connecticut Reserve, he could probably secure the 
amount of land he desired and on more reasonable 
terms. But if he preferred the terms and the good 
title of the government he would attend the public 
sale, which lasted for three weeks at the three west- 
ern offices. These sales did not over-lap, so that a 
purchaser could move from one to the other. The 
lands in the Steubenville district had already been 
offered at auction and so were now exposed to pri- 
vate sale. 

If a person paid cash for the land the eight per 
cent, discount reduced the price to one dollar and 
eighty-four cents an acre. And this was further 
reduced if he chose to pay in certificates for they 
were worth at that time about seventy-five cents on 
the dollar. On the other hand, interest at six per 
cent, from the date of sale was charged on all bal- 
ances, while the eight per cent, discount was allowed 
on any of these payments which might be fore- 
stalled. A person purchasing a half section at the 
minimum price would owe the United States six 


hundred and forty dollars. If he paid cash on the 
day of sale this would be reduced to $588.93,^ plus 
a two dollar fee to the Register for the application, 
and another of one dollar for the final certificate of 
payment, while three dollars must be paid for sur- 
veying expenses, and a patent fee of four dollars 
paid to the government. If, on the other hand, he 
desired to take advantage of the credit system, he 
would pay the fees for the survey and the applica- 
tion as well as one-twentieth of the price (thirty- 
two dollars) on the day of the sale. Within forty 
days he must pay the balance of the first quarter, 
one hundred and twenty-eight dollars in the case 
assumed, and then secure a certificate from the 
Register at a cost of twenty-five cents. The second 
quarter was due at the end of two years from the 
date of sale, but to this was added six per cent, in- 
terest, making a total of $179.20, and the interest 
ran on the third and fourth payments also, from the 
date of sale. Any prepayment would secure a dis- 
count of eight per cent, from the sum due on the 
day which was anticipated. A fee of twenty-five 
cents must be paid to the Register for every receipt. 
Hence such a purchaser, making every payment 
when due, would, at the end of four years, have 
paid $726.40 to the United States for his half sec- 
tion, in addition to various fees amounting to eleven 
dollars. The interest charges might continue for 

« Determined by reckoning the future payments at six per cent, 
interest, and deducting eight per cent, per annum for the amount 


one year after the date of the final payment, but if 
the tract was not completely paid for at that time 
it would revert to the United States. Of course the 
specie value of these payments would be reduced if 
they were made in evidences of the public debt, the 
value of which varied from time to time. 

Suc h a S3^st em was bound to be disastrous. With 
the second payment not due for two j^ears the set- 
tler was encouraged to purchase just as much land 
as he could possibly cover on the first payment, hop- 
ing that he might be able to earn enough within the 
first credit period to meet the subsequent payments, 
or perhaps expecting that the rush of westward 
migration would increase the price of his tract so 
that he might sell a portion for enough to complete 
his own balance. " In spite of his rude, gross 
nature, this early Western man was an idealist 
withal. He dreamed dreams and beheld visions." ^ 
And one of the most alluring of his dreams gen- 
erally involved him in some speculation in the pub- 
lic lands. As long as crops were good and prices 
high, as long as population increased normally and 
the country was jjrosperous, just so long would the 
credit system prove of sei*vice in developing the 
West, but the conditions which were essential to its 
success were by no means permanent. And with- 
out them the system could be of greater danger 
than it had ever been of sen'ice. 

The first sales under the new act were the pri- 
vate ones at Steubenville and IMarietta, commenc- 

8 Prof. F. J. Turner, in Atlantic, Sept., 1896. 


ing on July 1, 1800. These were followed by the 
auctions in April, May and June, 1801, at Cincin- 
nati, Chillicothe, and Marietta. By November 1, 
1801, the sales had amounted to 398,466 acres,^ 
purchased at $834,887, of which amount $586,426 
remained due. The system was in operation. 

In this chapter it will only be possible to discuss 
changes in the general system, in succeeding chap- 
ters the development of each of the special forms 
of disposition will be described. And a few general 
statements may prove of service here. 

The period from 1800 to 1820 was one of increas- 
ing westward migration, especially so after the 
War of 1812 . The population of Ohio, for ex- 
ample, increased fi-om 43,365 in 1800, to 581,295 
two decades later, and the other states of the North- 
west showed even a greater proportional growth. 
In the Southwest the JNIississippi Territory with 
8,850 inhabitants in 1800, numbered 303,349 in the 
states of JNIississippi and Alabama in 1820. Ken- 
tucky doubled and Tennesssee quadrupled her 
numbers in the period. 

These facts are well known. Their interest here 
lies in connection with the public domain. An in- 
crease in western population must mean an increase 
in the demand for land, ])ut the relation of cause 
and effecl is not as absolute as might be imagined. 

First of all, Kentucky was never a part of the 
public domain, and although Tennessee was nom- 
inally included its soil was so covered with North 

4 Fin. I, 715. 


Carolina warrants that no land was ever sold there 
under the Federal system. And in the other regions 
north and south of the Ohio the settlers were not 
in every case locating upon government land. In 
Ohio several large tracts had passed out of the 
domain, or had never formed part of it, while in 
the southwest there were titles based upon the 
grants of Spain, Britain and France. 

Other factors, therefore, entered into the land 
sales. First, chronologically, would come the treaty 
with the Indians. In the period u nder discus sion 
sixty-one treaties of varying importance were 
signed, and they covered the cession of most oFlhe 
Indian lands east of the ^Mississippi.^ Ii ^the tliir - 
ties jnost of the Southern Indians finally y^ere re- 
moved from Alabama and ^Mississippi. After the 
acquirement of the Indian title the land was ready 
for surveying, which must precede all sales. A 
large appix)priation of funds for surveys meant the 
rapid preparation of wild lands for open sale, while 
a delay in the surveys meant that " squatters " 
would locate upon the land they desired, frequently 
preceding the surveyors by several years. Between 
1787 and 1819 the expenditures for surveys 
amounted to $1,585,223, and half of the total was 
spent in the last four yeai's.^ Only once before 181 G 
did the annual expenditure reach $100,000. With 
the land surveved the sales could commence, and 
these were in turn affected by certain abnormal con- 

B Bureau of Ethnology, 18th Report. 1997. « F. L. Ill, 459. 


Indian wars north and south and the War of 
1812 forced back settlement and decreased sales. 
Good crops and high prices caused expansion and 
speculation. And esjDecially disturbing was the 
floo d of p aper money which deluged the Missis- 
si ppi Valley after the War_of 1812. The cheap 
money encouraged widespread land speculation 
and caused the final downfall of the credit sys- 
tem. Thi s was espe cially true in the southwest i 
where the rush for cotton lands in Alabama led to 
the wildest kind of bidding at the Huntsville land 

With these facts in mind it will be easier to 
follow the changes in the general system of disposi- 
tion during the period. 

A first modification of the credit system was in- 
corporated in the Act of March 3, 1801.^ This was 
a special act designed to afford relief to persons 
who had purchased lands from Symmes which did 
not lie within his patent. It extended the preemp- 
tion rights granted by the Act of 1799,^ and as that 
act foreshadowed an extension of the period of 
credit, so this act outlined a further change in gen- 
eral legislation. 

This change was to the effect that no inter- 
est would hereafter be charged on deferred pay- 
ments until they became due. Such a provision 
reduced all interest charges, but also reduced the 
cash price per acre to one dollar and sixty-four 

7 ch. 23. 8 See page 62. 


cents,® twenty less than under the regular system. 
The ini])ortance of this reduction was at once evi- 
dent and measures were taken to have it incorpo-. 
rated in the general system. At the next session of 
Congress a petition was presented from the in- 
liabitants of Fairchild County, Ohio, praying for a 
remission of interest and for a general revision of 
the land laws/" This petition was denied, but to- 
ward the close of the session a further relaxation 
of the interest provisions was made in the case of 
John James Dufour, and his associates, who "were 
permitted to enter not more than four sections of 
land, between the Great ^liami and the Indian 
boundary line, at two dollars the acre, payable, 
without interest, on or before January 1st, 1814.^^ 
Payments might be made in specie or in certificates, 
and six per cent, discount was allowed for prompt 
payments. These favorable terms were granted 
in order " to encourage the introduction, and to 
promote tlie culture of the vine," but such liberal 
terms, preemption and remission of interest, were 
to be demanded by settlers generally. 

Tlie dav before the act offerinq; these favorable 
terms to the vinedressers was signed, another act 
of a more general nature had received the Presi- 
dent's a]^])roval. This was tlie Ohio enabling act," 
and it is of interest in the present connection be- 
cause of the three propositions which were offered 

e As the six per cent, interest charges were not included in the 
sum on which the cipht per cent, discount was allowed. 
10 Annals, 1801-2, 508. n May 1, 1802. i2 Apr. 30, 1802, ch. 40. 


Ohio on condition of her consenting to exempt all 
lands sold by the United States from State, county, 
and township taxes for five years after the day of 
sale. An account of this legislation is given else- 
where. Ohio altered the propositions, but agreed 
to the exemption on November 29, 1802, and on 
JMarch 3, 1803, the modified propositions were 
stated by the United States. As finally adopted, 
the considerations offered Ohio for the exemption 
of these lands for five years were: practically one- 
thirty-sixth of all the lands in the State for the use 
of schools; certain salt springs and the adjacent 
sections; and the establishment of a fund consist- 
ing of five per cent, of the net proceeds of all lands 
sold within the State after June 30,1802 — this was 
subdivided into a three per cent, fund to be ex- 
pended by the legislature on roads within the State, 
and a two per cent, fund to be used by Congress 
for roads to Ohio. Out of the proceeds of the 
latter the old National Road from Cumberland, 
Maryland, to the Ohio River at Wheeling, was 
commenced in 1806. 

The object of the agreement between the United 
States and Ohio was the protection of the pur- 
chasers of lands from the United States. The 
State could not tax the lands of the United States, 
nor could she levy higher taxes on non-resident 
proprietors than on residents. This was forbidden 
by the fourth article of compact in the Ordinance 
of 1787. But the taxation of lands in process of 
sale by the United States and before the patent 



had passed would cause difficulties. The State 
could not sell for taxes the property of a delinquent 
who had not yet secured his patent. This would 
be selling the land of the United States, for it had 
not received the entire purcliase price. ^^ But if this 
method of distress were not allowed the State 
would have trouble collecting its taxes from per- 
sons who were paying for their lands under the 
credit system. So it seemed desirable to secure a 
general exemption from taxation for all purchasers 
of the national lands for the term of five years, the 
general period of credit for lands. Gallatin's pro- 
posal of February 13, 1802, suggested a greater 
concession to the purchasers. It called for an ex- 
emption for ten years after the completion of pay- 
ment to the United States, but it also doubled the 
fund for roads. The House passed a bill modeled 
on these recommendations, but the Senate amended 

The propositions in this enabling act became 
models for those of later public land States. The 
exemption from taxation was a real inducement t o 
purcha'sers of lands from the Unite d State s. The 
States soon began to complain that they were los- 
ing more in taxes than they gained by the land 
grants, and after the abolition of the credit system 
a determined effort was made by the States to rid 
themselves of this restriction on their taxing power. 

Up to this time no provision had been^uade for 
the sale of lands south of the Ohio. Most of the 

""Annals, 1801-2, 1100. 


land in the North Carohna cession was covered 
with warrants issued by that State, but to the south 
of Tenn essee there was a vast amount of land in 
the old territory of ]Mississippi and in the tract 
more recently ceded by Georgia, which would soon 
b e overrun b y settlers if some provision w as not 
made for its sin-vey and sale. 

At the opening of the second session of the Sev- 
enth Congress petitions were presented from Mis- 
sissippi Territory praying for a land office and for 
preemption to actual settlers/^ On the last day 
of the session an act was passed ^^ for the purpose 
of quieting the claims based upon British or Span- 
ish grants and to provide for the survey and sale 
of the ungranted lands. Among other provisions 
were these, which are of especial importance in the 
present study: a donation of not more than six 
hundred and forty acres was provided for those 
who had settled before the Spanish troops finally 
evacuated the territory in 1797, provided they did 
not claim other land under British or Spanish 
grant ;^^ a preemption was offered to settlers at 
the date of the passing of the act, but no interest 
was to be charged upon payments until they be- 
came due; all unappropriated lands, to which the 
Indian title had been extinguished, were to be sur- 
veyed into half-section lots, and, with the excep- 
tion of the school reserves, were to be sold on the 

i< Annals, 1801-02, 277, 422. " Mar. 3, 1803, ch. 27. 

18 Xote donations to French inhabitants in the Northwest. Chap. 


same terms as lands north of the Ohio, but evi- 
dences of the pubhc debt were not to be received; 
and, finally, two land offices were to be established 
in the territory. 

This Act is typical of the development of land 
legislation. Sections and half-sections were offered 
at the auctions in the Northwest; only half-sect ions 
in the Southwest. A general preem ption was 
granted there; it had been denied in th e other cas e. 
Certificates of the public debt might be received 
for lands north of the Ohio; not so in ^lississippi. 
Interest was not computed until the payment was 
due, in the case of persons granted ])reemption in 
both regions. The^elay in completing tlie Geor- 
gia cession, which was not ratified by Jhe State 
Legislature until June 16, J802, caus ed this d elay 
in extending the national land svstem over the re- 
gion south of Tennessee. The land officers found 
there a trying confusion of British and Spanish 
grants, Yazoo frauds, and donation and preemp- 
tion claims. 

At the first session of the Eighth Congress a 
rather determined effort was made to alter the 
general land system, which liad now been in opera- 
tion less than three years. Both Houses appointed 
committees to inquire into tlie expediency of alter- 
ing- the land laws. The Senate committee had a 
distinctly favorable composition, Ohio, the only 
public land State, being represented by Senator 
Worth ingt on. 

The campaign on the part of the land purchasers 


was opened by a very respectful petition from cer- 
tain residents and purchasers in Ohio, presented to 
the House on December 23, 1803.^^ The improve- 
ments suggested by the petitioners were not rad- 
ical and the tone of the document was in marked 
contrast to many which later were submitted to 
Congress. They approved highly of the system of 
sui-veys, but recommended that the size of the 
tracts be reduced, suggesting one-sixth of a section 
as a proper tract, that is, one hundred and six and 
two-thirds acres. The reasons for tliis change were 
that the tracts were too large for the general pur- 
chaser, while the speculator could retard the devel- 
opment of the countiy through the holding of large 
tracts. Further recommendations were that inter- 
est be charged from the expiration of the credit 
period rather than from the date of sale; that the 
reserved sections be sold as soon as possible; that 
fractional sections be sold individually, whereas by 
attaching them to adjoining sections tracts of more 
than two thousand acres had been offered; and, 
finally, that entry and patent fees be abolished and 
that patents be obtained from the Registers, rather 
than from the seat of government. 

Such was the petition from the purchasers. 
There was no demand for preemption, no cry that 
the credit system be abolished. It was the repre- 
sentation of the men who had purchased their land, 
and frequently the interests of the men who had 

IT p. L. I., 163. Others received before this time, but not printed. 


purchased and of those about to do so were con- 

On the otlier hand, the House received a number 
of petitions from settlers in the INIississippi terri- 
tory, which tended to show that there would be a 
great increase in the population of that territory if 
Congress would make donations to actual settlers. 
The House committee did not dispute the state- 
ment, but reported adversely because such boun- 
ties had been uniformly refused by the United 

Other petitions had been presented even before 
those which have been noted, and, with them in 
mind, the House committee turned to Albert Gal- 
latin, Secretary of the Treasury, for suggestions 
based upon his official experience with the land 
laws.'^ The committee submitted certain propo- 
sitions to Gallatin, and as they were based upon 
several petitions from persons residing in Ohio 
they deserve some attention as typifying Western 
sentiment : 

" Will the sales of the lands be retarded or accel- 
erated; and how will the revenue be affected? 

" 1st. Bv selling the lands in smaller tracts. 

" 2dly. By charging no interest on the amount of 
sales until after the purchaser has made default in 

" 3dly. By selling for cash, instead of giving the 
credit now authorized by law, 

"4thly. By reducing the price of the lands. 

18 p. L. I, 181. 19 P. L. I, 182. 


" 5thly. By making grants of small tracts to ac- 
tual settlers and improvers." 

These proposals, not one of them new, are strik- 
ing when presented in a group at this time. Every 
one of the provisions became a part of the land 
laws, but half a century elapsed before the last 
proposition was passed into general legislation. 

Gallatin used the propositions as a text, and re- 
plied in a letter which showed a splendid grasp of 
the whole situation. It might be compared with 
Hamilton's report of 1790, but the comparison 
must be very carefully made. Hamilton was asked 
to outline a land system. Gallatin was requested 
to point out defects in the existing one. Hamilton 
erred in rejecting a really valuable system because 
it had not been efFectivelj'' executed, and his own 
recommendations were apparently based upon the 
immediate needs of his department, rather than 
upon a consideration of the future development of 
the West. Gallatin, with longer and more inti- 
mate experience, took a stand which was highly 
commendable. He saw the dangers which sur- 
rounded the present system, and every one of his 
reconmiendations was in line with future develop- 
ment. His letter deserved the most serious consid- 
eration by Congress, and throughout the next six- 
teen years its prophetic utterance could have been 
studied with profit. 

In brief, he endorsed ^*^ a reduction in size, reduc- 
tion in price, and abolition of credit. He arrived 

.. 2o"jan, 2, 1804. P. L. I., 183. 


at these conclusions from the following facts. He 
pointed out the different sizes of the tracts offered 
north of the Ohio, as well as the different regula- 
tions regarding the computation of interest charges 
— the cash price for lands being therefore either 
$1.84 or $1.64 per acre. The high minimum price 
was established, he stated, in order to prevent en- 
grossing and also to secure a permanent revenue. 
Both objects had been secured, but at the time 
these acts were passed the value of certificates of 
indebtedness would have reduced the real cash 
price to about $1.50. And the present sales were 
being made in competition with sales in the Con- 
necticut Reserve, in the INlilitary tracts, and in 

So a reduction in price was desirable, yet it must 
not be a considerable reduction. That would in- 
jure former purchasers, and encourage speculators. 
But to reduce the price to what may be considered 
as "the market price which actual settlers give for 
small tracts in similar situations " would not pro- 
mote migrations nor speculations on a large scale, 
and would satisfy the demand for land created by 
the existing population, as well as increase the 

This reduction in price must, ho^vever, be 
coupled with the abolition of credit. In three 
years more than nine hundred thousand acres had 
been sold, for w^hich eight hundred thousand dol- 
lars had been received, yet almost eleven hundred 
thousand dollars remained due from the pur- 


chasers. "Great difficulties," he continued, "may 
attend the recovery of that debt, wliich is due by 
nearly two thousand individuals; and its daily in- 
crease may ultimately create an interest hostile to 
the general welfare of the Union." 

In order that the cash-Sy^tem might be generally 
available there should be a reduction in the size of 
tracts. The land now offered in whole sections 
should be offered in half-sections, and the present 
half-section tracts in quarter-sections, with a mini • 
mum price of $1.25 an acre for the whole and half- 
section tracts, and $1.50 for the quarter-sections. 
Such a system, he believed, would work for the 
benefit of both the purchaser and the government. 
It would mean the transfer of more land for the 
same amount of money, but the revenue would be 
sure and easily collectible. 

As to the other points suggested by the commit- 
tee, he believed that, in order to remove any ground 
of complaint from the old purchasers, interest on 
their installments should not be computed until 
they became due, but only in the case of those 
whose previous payments had been made on time, 
and who had not ahenated their property. Pur- 
chasers who had already made payments of interest 
should receive certificates for the same, payable in 

On the subject of preemption Gallatin expressed 
the current opinion: " It is believed that the alter- 
ations which have been suggested will enable a 
great portion of the actual settlers to become pur- 


chasers ; but the principle of granting them a right 
of preemption, exclusively {sic) of the abuses to 
which it is hable, appears irreconcilable with the 
idea of drawing a revenue from the sale of lands." 

Certain minor regulations were also proposed. 
The powers of the Surveyor-General should be ex- 
tended to the lands as far west as the ISIississippi; 
district surveyors should be appointed, to be paid 
by fees, for making resurveys and for completing 
lines now left open; all fees except for surveys 
should be incorporated in the price of the lands; 
in place of fees there should be a salary and an 
increased commission for the Receivers and Reg- 
isters; and the expediency of excluding the sec- 
tions formerly reserved for Congress from sale was 
pronounced doubtful. Gallatin closed his observa- 
tions by stating that they were to apply only to 
land north of the Ohio, as many of these regula- 
tions could not be well applied south of Tennessee. 
In other words, he felt that the different conditions 
rendered a general system of disposal inexpedient. 

The House committee, of which Nicholson, of 
JNIaryland, was chairman, presented on January 23 
a series of resolutions which included every one of 
Gallatin's recommendations, although there were 
certain details to be filled in later." ^ 

The issue was, therefore, clearly presented in 
1804. The Secretary of the Treasury and a com- 
mittee of the House had come out squarely and 
asserted that the existing system of disposal was 

21 p. L. I., 182. 


bad and should be promptly altered. But there is 
no record of any debate on these proposed altera- 
tions. It is evident that these recommendations 
were eminently proper, and yet it is just as evident 
why they could not be carried into legislation. 
Every purchaser and speculator was opposed to 
the abolition of the credit system, while the old 
States were generally opposed to any reduction in 
price or in size of tracts. And yet in good times 
the indebtedness had grown to threatening propor- 
tions — what would happen under less prosperous 
conditions ? Gallatin's letter and the resolutions of 
this committee must be classed, unfortunately, 
among the recommendations which are made in 
advance of their time. 

Although the abolition of credit and the reduc- 
tion in price were not accepted at this time, several 
of the other recommendations were incorporated in 
the Act making pix)vision for the disposal of lands 
in the Indiana Territory .^^ Among these were the 
following: All public lands, north or south of the 
Ohio, were to be offered in quarter-sections; the 
powers of the Surveyor- General were extended 
over the lands, north of the Ohio, to the Mississippi 
River; deputy surveyors were to be appointed to 
run the minor lines ; interest was not to be charged 
until after a payment was due, but the failure to 
pay promptly caused the interest to be computed 
from the day of sale; all fees were abolished, ex- 
cept certain postage charges on sending the final 

22 March 26, 1804, ch. 35. 


certificate to Washington and receiving the pat- 
ent ;^^ and the Registers and Receivers were al- 
lowed an additional commission of one-half per 
cent, of all moneys paid for lands sold in their 
offices, as well as a salar\^ of five hundred dollars.'^ 

These provisions were among those reported hy 
the committee. Other portions of the Act may be 
noted. Land offices were to be established at De- 
troit, Vincennes, and Kaskaskia, the public sales 
to be announced by proclamation of the President. 
A form of procedure was outlined for claimants 
under French or British grants, and the Registers 
and Receivers were to act as commissioners within 
their respective districts. The sixteenth section in 
every township was reserved for schools, and an 
entire township in each district for a seminary. The 
salt springs and adjacent lands were to be reserved, 
and the CongTcssional reserves under the acts of 
1785, 1796, and 1800 were to be sold.-^ Persons 
who had received a preemption in Symmes' tract 
were allowed a further time for payment. Frac- 
tional sections might be sold singly or by uniting 
two or more, and, finally, preemi)tion was extended 
to three persons, one of them the projDrietor of a 
mill dam. 

The Indiana Act of 1804, in spite of its local 
character, contained several provisions of general 
application. JMost important of these was the 

23 Survey fees were charged only for dividing half-section lots. 
i^The salaries at Marietta were to be $:?00.00. 
26 The upset price raised to $8.00 in 1805, and reduced to $4.00 
in 1808. 


clause permitting the sale of quarter-section tracts. 
This was in line with the demands of Western Con- 
gressmen and settlers from the earliest period. The 
question had been raised and discussed time and 
again. Its incorporation in the present bill was 
probably due directly to the recommendation of 
Gallatin and the House committee, but it was in 
keeping with the general development of the land 
system. Another provision of general application 
was that which authorized the computation of in- 
terest only after a payment was due. This had 
been foreshadowed by the preemption clauses in 
the acts of 1801 and 1803. Of com'se it materially 
reduced the charges of the purchaser who availed 
himself of the credit system, but in the case of the 
man who could pay cash the price was reduced 
from $1.84 to $1.64 an acre, a very considerable 
reduction. The sale of fractional sections singly 
or by uniting two or more, the abolition of fees, 
the provision for deputy surveyors, and the new 
compensation for Registers and Receivers, were all 
general provisions. With this act the questionable 
practice of reserving three sections in each town- 
ship " for the future disposition of Congress " was 

With the passage of this act it was possible for 
a settler to secure a tract of public land for the 
sum of $262.40, provided he was able to secure the 
quarter-section at the minimum price or purchased 
it at private sale, and in either case paid cash. But 
there were still surveying fees to be met, based 


upon the amount of work to be performed by the 
deputy surveyors. 

On the same day that the Indiana Act extended 
the hind system to the ^lississippi River in the 
Northwest, the President approved the first act 
deahng with the land in the newly acquired Loui- 
siana country. The treaty of cession had been 
signed on April 30, 1803, the Senate advised rati- 
fication on October 19, and a temporary govern- 
ment was provided by act of October 31. On De- 
cember 20 Governor Claiborne, of jNIississippi Ter- 
ritory, and General Wilkinson, the Commissioners 
appointed by President Jefferson for the purpose, 
received the province from ^I. Laussat, the French 
Commissioner. By this acquisition some 875,025 
square miles were added to the territories of the 
United States, but not all of it to the public do- 
main, for the United States agreed to protect the 
property rights of the inhabitants. 

The Act of October 31, 1803, which went into 
operation on the cession, had vested extraordinary 
powers in the President and merely substituted his 
appointees for the late officials, so measures were 
promptly taken to draw up a more elaborate form 
of government; moreover, the reports"'' which 
were received of the conduct of Spanish officials 
and American adventurers in Louisiana in the pe- 
riod between the news of the cession and the actual 
transfer of jurisdiction, caused Congress to take a 
decided stand in defense of tlic national domain. 

. i-o- 20 p. L. I., 187. 


The only features of the " Act for erecting Loui- 
siana into two Territories, and i^roviding for the 
temporary government thereof,''^' which concern 
this discussion, are those which deal with the lands 
within the region. The pohtical and constitutional 
features can be passed by. As the bill passed the 
Senate on February 18, 1804, it contained a pro- 
vision prohibiting unauthorized settlements in 
Louisiana and providing fine and imprisonment for 
the settling or surveying of lands there. The Pres- 
ident was authorized to employ the mihtary to re- 
move such intruders. An attempt was made in 
the House to strike out this clause, without suc- 

If certain members of the House opposed the 
penalties for unauthorized settlement on the lands 
of the United States in Louisiana, there were 
others who beheved the Senate bill entirely too 
mild, and it was Mr. Rhea, of Tennessee, who of- 
fered an amendment which would render null and 
void all grants and attempts to secure grants of 
land which, at the date of the treaty of St. Ilde- 
fonso,^^ were in the crown or government of Spain. 
Now, the treaty of St. Ildefonso had been signed 
on October 1, 1800, the actual retrocession to 
France did not take place until November 30, 
1803, and twenty days later France turned over 
the province to our commissioners. This amend- 
ment was a vigorous attempt to block the devices 

27 March 26, 1804, ch. 38. 28 Annals, 1803-4, 1185. 

29 Between Spain and France. 


of French, Spanish, and American land-grabbers, 
but it was bound to work hardship upon legitimate 
settlers who had entered Louisiana during those 
three years. The amendment was promptly at- 
tacked, and a variety of reasons advanced against 
it. It would nulhfy the grants of France, and 
surely France was qualified to make grants during 
the period; such a law would be judicial rather than 
legislative, for the courts should pass on the valid- 
ity of the grants ; and such hasty legislation would 
cast suspicion upon the Spanish government. Rut 
the effective re])ly was simply tliis: We know that 
fraudulent grants have been made, and this act 
will prove a warning to second purchasers. Be- 
tween the day on which the Senate passed the bill 
and the date of this debate President Jefferson had 
submitted to Congress further information regard- 
ing the antedated grants of lands in Louisiana,^" 
and, in connection with the earlier information. 
Congress was wai'ranted in keeping on its guard. 
Rhea's amendment w^as carried in the House, but 
the Senate pix)mptly struck out this provision by 
the decisive vote of 27-1. The House refused to 
recede on this section by the close vote of 46-45. 
As the result of a conference the section was 
adopted with two provisos added which protected 
the actual settlers either in grants secured or pro- 
ceedings leading to a grant, provided they were 
agreeable to the laws, usages, and customs of the 
Sjianish government. These grants were not to 

30 p. L. I., 193. 


exceed one mile square of land, with such addi- 
tional amount as had been allowed for the wife 
and family of the settler.^ ^ 

The act as passed Avas more just than the orig- 
inal House provision, but it still was unjust, be- 
cause there were many bona fide grants, made be- 
fore the news of the treaty of St. Ildefonso reached 
Louisiana, which would not be protected. In the 
endeavor to strike the land-grabbers some innocent 
grantees were sure to suffer. But this act is of 
further significance. No donations or preemptions 
were offered. Instead, the prospective squatter 
was met by the rigid penalties imposed for unau- 
thorized settling. The act, therefore, was more 
unyielding than any of the former acts relating to 
acquired territory, but later legislation provided 
the preemptions and donations which were at this 
time denied. The next year an act ^^ made the first 
provision for the determination and confirmation of 
French and Spanish grants in Louisiana, but it is 
of especial importance in this connection because 
it extended the American land surveys over the ac- 
quired region, supplanting the systems of Spain 
and France. The powers of the Surveyor of Pub- 
lic JLa£ids,_southp^^ was extended over 
th£_t erritory of O rleans, and the surveys were to 
b e the sa me, " as nearly as the nature of the country 
w ill admit " as those northwest of the Ohio. 

31 See description of Louisiana communicated with Jefferson's 
message of Nov. 14, 1803. Annals, 1804-5, 1498. 
33 March 2, 1805, ch. 26. 


In order to handle the growing business in con- 
nection with the public lands, the House of Repre- 
sentatives decided upon the appointment of a 
standing committee in December, 1805. Before 
that time select committees had been appointed in 
each House to consider various land questions as 
they might arise. It was not until December, 1816, 
that the Senate provided for a standing committee, 
and at that session the House added the Committee 
on Private Land Claims. 

This first Committee on the Public I^ands took 
a high stand against the credit system, yet was 
forced to see its recommendations rejected. Two 
strong reports, hostile to the system, were pre- 
sented at this session. One was submitted by John 
Randolph, from the Committee of Ways and 
IMeans, on INIarch 22, 1806, " that the public lands 
form a great and increasing source of revenue, al- 
though the money accruing from their sale cannot 
be considered in the nature of a tax. Your com- 
mittee can discover no principle that will justify 
the extension of a further credit to purchasers who 
have received a fair equivalent (rapidly increasing 
in value) for the sums which they have stipulated 
to pay, that would not more forcibly warrant a 
similar extension of credit on custom-house bonds, 
and other debts due to the public; and they dread 
(if the present wise and salutary jDrovisions relat- 
ing to the sale of public lands be once relaxed) lest 
that important branch of our public resources 


should be altogether dried up and lost."'* Ran- 
dolph held to the Revolutionary theory that the 
lands should be considered a vast source of reve- 
nue, and from that point of view any extension of 
the credit system was bad business. 

The second report was from the Committee on 
Public Lands. On March 26, 1806, it had been di- 
rected to inquire into the expediency of repealing 
the credit provisions of the land acts, and its re- 
port was submitted April 3.' 


This report exhibited the following facts: 

Balance due from purchasers in Ohio, exclusive of interest. 

On October 1, 1803 $1,092,390 

On October 1, 1804 1,434,212 

On October 1, 1805 2,094,305 

The debt had nearly doubled in the course of the 
last two years. 

On January 1, 1806, there was due $229,000 on 
account of purchases made before January 1, 1802. 
This amount must be paid during the year, or the 
land be forfeited. And it was due from three hun- 
dred and nine persons. No sales or reversions un- 
der forfeitures had up to that time taken place, 
but some must certainly occur if the law was to be 
rigidly enforced, and these penalties would not be 
satisfactory. Few persons would dare to bid 
against their unfortunate neighbors, and if the 

88 p. L. I., 284. »« p. L. I., 286. 


lands reverted to the government the tenant would 
remain as an encumbrance, who would have to 
be evicted before another sale could take place. 
" It might be added, that few strangers would run 
the risk of bidding for property at a vendue, when 
the united interest of the whole neighborhood was 
opjDOsed to the sale." ^° 

A letter from Gallatin accompanied the report, 
in which he restated his opinions of 1804. He 
feared the extension of the debtor class might cre- 
ate " in that section of the Union, a powerful inter- 
est, hostile to the Federal government, and which 
would endanger both the outstanding debt and the 
lands unsold." If the present system was to be 
continued, he held that it must be more rigidly en- 

So the committee recommended the repeal of all 
credit provisions. 

Two years before, a committee of the House had 
made a similar report, and the House had declined 
to act; now, in the face of the growing indebted- 
ness. Congress either should have abolished the 
credit system or else should have insisted upon its 
rigid enforcement. But Congress did neither. Its 
action was so carefully concealed that it has escaped 

SB From 1801 to 1806 the only forfeiture liable was one-twentieth 
of the purchase price, after that date some of the purchasers were 
forfeiting one-fourth of the price and sometimes more. The one- 
twentieth was the deposit pafd on the day of sale, the one-fourth 
within forty days, but the latter, and all subsequent payments, were 
not considered forfeited until one year after the day when the last 
installment fell due. 


the attention of many students of the subject. The 
act was entitled '* an Act to suspend the sale of 
certain lands in the state of Ohio and the Indiana 
territory,"^® and it provided for the suspension of 
the sixth condition of the fifth section of the Act 
of 1800, chapter 55, in favor of purchasers who 
were actually resident at the time of the passage of 
this act. It really should have been entitled " an 
Act to extend the credit on lands purchased in 
Ohio," for such was its object. It postponed all 
forfeitures, in the case of actual settlers, until Oc- 
tober first, next. 

S uch was the first of the "relief acts" which 
were caused bv the credit system. Twelve were 
passed before it fell in 1820, and after that date 
ab out as m ajQX-more were needed to extricate the 
settlers a nd speculato rs who_liaiLJb€en_^enta n^led in 
i ts meshe§ . 

It is very difiicult to view with patience this first 
relief act. Congress had twice been warned by 
Gallatin and by the House comjnittees against the 
dangers of the credit system, and yet it not only 
retained the source of evils, but introduced a fur- 
ther complicating element, the extension of credit 
^nd the suspension of forfeitures. 

Under the circumstances the credit system was a 
vicious one. A strong government, able and will- 
ing to enforce its penalties, might well dispose of 
the public domain in limited tracts under such a 
system. But the dangers were too great for the 

36 April 15, 1806, ch. 28. 

■ oL 


United States at that time. The rapid increase of 
the debtor class in the Western regions would be 
followed by the exertion of a strong political in- 
fluence in Congress, and laws, unjust to faithful 
purchasers, might be expected. And with this in- 
crease in the debtors would come the time when 
the government could not carry out its forfeitures. 
/ The influence of the community in the execution 
of the land laws must be noted. It was the com- 
munity which made it unwise for a man to pur- 
chase the forfeited improvements of an older set- 
tler or to bid in the improvements of the squatter. 
Before a single forfeiture had been made, the 
House committee pointed out the difficulties which 
M'ould be met in an endeavor to enforce the pen- 
alties of the credit system. INIoreover, it fostered 
land speculations and led to the evils of absentee- 
ism. "Good times" were essential for its success- 
ful operation, but Indian raids, poor crops, a de- 
ranged currency, or, as happened, war itself, would 
throw it into confusion and drag the dreaming 
speculator down with the unfortunate settler. 

Yet Congress would neither abolish this system 
nor would it even insist upon its rigid operation. 
And the reasons are not difficult to find. E\'^ry 
person who hoped to purchase Western lands, 
whether as a settler or as a speculator, insisted 
upon the retention of the system. And in the pres- 
ence of these practical demands the warnings of 
Gallatin were powerless. 

For the next fourteen years the story of the de- 


velopment of the general land system is concerned 
with the struggle over this question of credit. 
Practically no changes were made in the general 
law during that period. After April 30, 1806, no 
new purchaser could pay for his land in certificate^ 
of the public debt, and after 1807 provision was 
several times made for settlers to become tenants 
at will of vacant lands before they were placed on 
sale by the United States, but aside from these 
changes the land laws of 1800 and 1804 remained 
in operation throughout the period and were grad- 
ually extended over the public domain. 

During these years Congress perfected its legis- 
lation regarding foreign titles and military boun- 
ties, grants for education were increased and appli- 
cations for land for internal improvements were 
considered, while futile attempts were made to se- 
cure a general donation or preemption for actual 
settlers. All these questions are discussed in other 
chapters. It seem^ advisable here to center atten- 
tion on the growth and abolition of the credit sys- 
tem as the most important question of general in- 
terest during the next fifteen years. 

About this time the operations of the land sys- 
tem became involved in the general confusion which 
marked the approach of the second war with Eng- 
land. The West had shared in the general pros- 
perity occasioned by the growth of commerce dur- 
ing the Napoleonic wars. Money was easy an d 
speculati^on..wa&-ri£e. But, on December 22, 1807, 
the embargo was passed as a culmination to Jef- 


ferson's policy of " peaceful coercion " and the 
West suffered with the rest of the nation. 

Petitions came out of the West praying for some 
relief because, owing to the embargo and the sus- 
pension of commerce and the "stay laws" in the 
old States, many persons were threatened with a 
forfeiture of their lands. The credit system, so 
dangerous to purchasers in good times, now threat- 
ened to crush them utterly. 

Jeremiah JNIorrow, of Ohio, one of the sanest 
men who ever handled land legislation, was chair- 
man of the House Committee on Public Lands. In 
his report of January 19, 1809, he recommended 
an extension of credit because of the unfortunate 
financial conditions, but coupled this relief with 
recommendations for the abolition of the credit 
system and a reduction of the price of lands.^^ 

But the House was not ready to follow the lead 
of Morrow, and preferred instead the Senate bill 
extending the time for making payments. 

This was the first general extension of credit.''* 
It applied to all purchasers, save those who had se- 
cured a preemption, whose lands had not already 
been resold by the United States or reverted for 
non-payment, and the time for whose last payment 
might expire before January first. Such persons 
were allowed two years for the payment of the resi- 
due of the principal due. This extension was to 
commence one year from the day on which the last 

3T P. L. I., 909. A similar resolution was introduced by Boyle 
of Kentucky, on January 4. ss Mar. 2, 1809, ch. 26. 


payment was due, or, in other words, at the end of 
the one year's grace allowed under the law of 1800. 
But all arrears of interest must be paid on the day 
the extension was to commence, and the residue of 
the principal, with interest, must be paid in two 
equal annual payments. Failure to pay arrears of 
interest, or the accruing interest on the last two 
payments, would cause a forfeiture. 

This act applied to purchasers before January 1, 
1805, the only ones then subject to forfeiture of 
their lands, and as Congress had repealed the em- 
bargo on March 1, it possibly thought that the 
need of relief would vanish with one of the occa- 
sions for it. It had established, however, in the case 
of certain purchasers of the public lands, a credit 
period of seven years. Naturally all other pur- 
chasers were going to demand the same considera- 

At the next session the Ohio Legislature peti- 
tioned for an extension of the credit period, and 
Congress passed the desired act. As previously, 
the measure was introduced in the Senate, where 
it was spoken of as a bill granting preemption. 
There was some debate on the measure in the 
House, but no new facts were presented.^* There 
were members who feared the growth of tliis debtor 
class, there were others who favored the present 
system, but hoped that cash sales would soon be es- 
tablished, while others defended the credit system 
as essential to purchases of land by the poor. But 

39 Annals, 1809-10, 1999. 


the measure passed principally because of the ef- 
fects of the commercial restrictions and because the 
act simply extended the favor conferred upon 
others at the last session. 

This Act of 1810''° applied to purchasers of six 
hundred and forty acres, or less, before January 1, 
1806, but was limited to persons who had actually 
inhabited and cultivated any one tract for one year 
within five years of the date of purchase. This 
provision was designed to prevent speculators from 
securing the benefits of the act. And a further 
favor was extended to small purchasers by the pro- 
vision that lands, less than six hundred and forty 
acres, which might have reverted since January 1, 
last, might be reentered by the original purchasers 
with a credit of all former payments and the ben- 
efits of the present extension of time.^^ The re- 
entrj^ must be made before June 1, and the land 
must not previously have been resold by the gov- 

No relief act was passed at the session of 1810- 
1811, although the legislatures of Ohio and Indi- 
ana Territory sought such action. They desired a 
remission of interest as well as an extension of 
time ; the General Assembly of Ohio, for example, 
suggesting that citizens about to lose their lands 
might have the following relief:^' If they had 
paid one installment they might relinquish it and 

♦0 April 30, 1810, ch. 36. 

*i The act of 1809 did not prevent forfeitures between January 
1st and April 30, 1810. " p. L. II., 252. 


enter the land at the original terms; if they had 
paid two or more they might lose the first and 
credit the balance on the new entry. But these 
provisions were only to extend to purchasers of one 
section or less. 

At the following session two committees re- 
ported on the credit system. Morrow, for the 
House committee, was opposed to any remission 
of interest or to any permanent extension of the 
credit, although on account of the Indian wars and 
the low price of produce he believed that an exten- 
sion of one year on purchases in the Northwest 
due before December 22, 1812, might be granted.^^ 
Worthington, for the Senate committee, recom- 
mended the sale of eighty-acre tracts, a reduction 
in price to one dollar an acre, a discontinuance of 
credit, and an extension of credit to the present 

Once more Congress refused to follow the advice 
of its committees and passed a relief act instead. 
This applied only to purchasers of lands northwest 
of the Ohio, holding six hundred and forty acres or 
less, secured before April 1, 1808.*^ They were 
allowed three years from January 1, 1813, and the 
balance was to be paid in four annual payments, 
commencing on that date. But before the end of 
the session a supplementary act*^ applied the ex- 
tension to assignees of purchasers, if actual resi- 
ts p. L. II., 256. Harrison's Tippecanoe campaign. 
«« P. L. II., 439. The actual forfeitures to September 30, 1811, 
amounted to $98,579. 

« April 25, 1812, ch- 77. " July 6, 1812, ch. 134. 


dents, and provided for the reentry of lands re- 
verting between April 1 and August 1 of that year. 
The extension of credit had now been increased to 
three years.*^ 

It was at this session that a General Land Office 
was at last established.^^ A Commissioner was ap- 
pointed who took over the executive duties of the 
Secretary of the Treasury in regard to the public 
lands. He became custodian of the books, plats, 
and other records at Washington, and through his 
office the patents were issued. From this date until 
1849 the General Land Office was a bureau of the 
Treasury Department, when it was transferred to 
the newly created Department of the Interior. The 
early advocates of a General Land Office had in 
mind a convenient central bureau for the sale of 
lands, but as established the office had nothing to 
do with the actual disposal of the lands. It was a 
central executive and administrative bureau. 

If the commercial restrictions and the Indian 
wars made relief measures necessary, the actual 
outbreak of war with Great Britain rendered them 
even more justifiable. The frontiers were ravaged 
and many of the settlers, who otherwise would 
have been endeavoring to meet their annual install- 
ments, were in the army, while the deranged con- 
dition of commerce and trade and the currency 

*T The first three year extension was the act of April 10, 1812, 
which allowed that privilege on the lands of soldiers who had been 
killed or wounded in the Wabash Campaign of November, 1811. 
Two weeks later similar terms were granted all delinquent settlers 
in the Northwest, as above. *» April 25, 1812, ch. 68. 


made the credit system more burdensome than 

In December, 1812, Morrow returned to his old 
plan, to abolish credit, sell eighty-acre tracts, and 
fix one dollar and twenty-five cents the acre as the 
minimum price, but yet give two years' grace on 
payments due on January 1, 1814.*^ But Con- 
gress simply passed a relief act,^*^ now in general 
terms, giving a three-year extension of credit to 
purchasers prior to April 1, 1809, on tracts of a 
section or less. The next year similar legislation 
favored purchasers before April 1, 1810.^^ 

With the close of the War of 1812 came financial 
disorders and a period of wild-cat banking in which 
enormous speculations took place.^^ The amount 
of money due the United States for land was 
reaching a scandalous figure for those days. The 
system was undeniably bad, yet Congress seemed 
unwilling to abandon it. 

In 1815 the usual extension was granted. The 
next year the extension was only offered to settlers 
in Mississippi Territory for a period of two years 
an?eigHt months, and they were i^ermitted to enter 
reverted lands. In 1817 no extension was granted, 
but the~next year an extension of one year was 
granted on tracts under six hundred and forty 
acres. In 1819 and 1820 similar acts were passed, 
the period of forfeiture being finally suspended 
until March 31, 1821. 

*» p. L. II., 730. BO March 3, 1813, ch. 43. si Feb. 19, 1814, ch. 14. 
52 Emerick, The Credit System and the Public Domain, 6. 


A very slight step toward a cash system, and one 
that had been urged for some time, was the Act of 
1817, which permitted the sale of six sections in 
each township in quarter-sections or half-quarter- 
sections.^^ For the first time land could be offered 
in eighty-acre lots. To be sure, nothing was said 
about the credit system in this act, but a poor man 
could now purchase less land and owe less money, 
and everj'^ attack on that system was based on a re- 
duction in size and in price. Both Jared ^lans- 
field, the Surv^eyor-General, and Josiah ]\Ieigs,^^ 
the Commissioner of the General Land Office, op- 
posed the division into eighty-acre lots, the one on 
the ground of the expense of the surveys, for even 
the quarter-sections were not then surveyed, and 
the other because he believed it would be possible 
for shrewd speculators and others to select the best 
land in small tracts and have the use of the less 
desirable land round about. As jNIeigs said : " I 
presume the object of the committee is to accom- 
modate poor persons; I am apprehensive that no 
accommodation will be produced, but, on the con- 
trary, they will become a prey to speculators. At 
present a man who has eighty dollars can have 
from the public a farm of one hundred and sixty 
acres for five j^ears; if he cannot then pay the bal- 
ance he has not paid a heavy rent; if he has im- 
proved his farm, and it sells for more than is due 
to the United States, he receives the surplus 

83 Feb. 22, 1817, ch. 15. The sections were numbers 2, 5, 20, 23, 
30, 33. 6* P. L. III., 277. 


money; if he has not improved it so much as to 
make it sell, it reverts to the United States, and 
he may for eighty dollars take it for five j^ears 

In 1819 IMorrow, who had represented Ohio in 
the Senate since 1813, and who had been chairman 
of the Senate Committee on Public Lands since its 
establishment in 1816, made another effort to wipe 
out the credit system. He presented a bill for cash 
sales, at a dollar and a half minimum, and eighty- 
acre tracts.^^ Various attempts were made to 
amend the bill in the Senate, without success, and 
the bill passed, only to be laid on the table in the 

That some action was absolutelj'' necessary was 
evident from the fact that on September 30, 1819, 
the sum of $22,000,657 was reported due the 
United States from land purchasers, while a total 
of $412,678 had been forfeited to the nation dur- 
ing the existence of the credit system."^ The ques- 
tion was brought before the Senate on a resolution 
of ]Mr. Leake, of Mississippi, followed by a bill 
from the Committee on Public Lands. A general 
debate followed. Walker, of Alabama, offered an 
amendment that purchasers of land before the bill 
went into operation should have the privilege of 
relinquishing the land for resale, the government 
to return to the purchaser all the land brought 

65 Annals, 1818-19, 241. P. L. III., 413. 

66 P. L. III., 460. There were balances unpaid on lands pur- 
chased in Ohio twenty years ago. Annals, 1819-20, 444. 


over the then minimum price, but not more than 
the purchaser had already paid to the United 
States. Such a provision was greatly desired in 
Alabama, where, during the days of wild-cat bank- 
ing, cotton lands had been bought at enormous 
prices. But this amendment would have permitted 
the person who relinquished the land to buy it in 
at the resale, which would mean practically at the 
minimum price, for no one would dare bid against 
a person seeking to repurchase his improvements. 
Some of the Western senators favored Walker's 
amendment, but it was defeated, 8-29. Edwards, 
of Illinois, presented an amendment designed to 
benefit the squatter, for it would have given an ac- 
tual settler on land already offered for sale a pre- 
emption and right to purchase under the existing 
system up to one hundred and sixty acres. This 
would have resulted in a mongrel system, part cash 
and part credit. Edwards' amendment was de- 
feated, although seven senators from public land 
States favored it. After Johnson, of Louisiana, 
had suggested a sort of graduation in price, the bill 
passed the Senate, the vote standing thirty-one to 

In the House the same desire to keep the bill 
free from minor amendments was evident, and 
after a general debate it was passed, one hundred 
and thirty-three to twenty-three. 

The act which James JNIonroe signed on April 
24, 1820,^® was the most important piece of land 

6T Annals, 1819-20, 44-t-489. 68 Ch. 51. 


legislation since the Congress of the Confederation | 
laid down the principles of the American land sys- 
tem in 1785. It was a short act, having only six 
sections, yet its effects were far-reaching. Its 
terms provided for the abolition of credit and the 
establishment of cash sales after July 1, 1820, for 
the sale of eighty-acre tracts, and for the reduction 
of the minimum price to one dollar and twenty-five 
cents an acre. 

This act freed the future purchaser from the 
evils of the credit system. A payment of one hun- 
dred dollars made him the possessor of a tract of 
eighty acres. Under the old sj^stem he would have 
been tempted to pay eighty dollars as the first 
quarterly payment on a quarter-section tract, now 
no inducement was offered him to discount the fu- 
ture, to buy more land than he could later pay for, 
and the speculator found his dreams curtailed as 

The establishment of cash sales and a low mini- 
mum was but a return to the system of the Ordi- 
nance of 1785. But the latter act had offered sec- 
tions as the smallest available tracts. If the land 
system had developed toward a reduction in the 
size of the tracts and toward concessions in favor 
of the actual settler, a great amount of bad busi- 
ness and cheap politics might have been saved. 
But, instead, the desire for a land revenue caused 
the price to be increased and then the credit system 
to be developed in order to facilitate the sales. The 
result was that on January 1, 1820, the total land 


sales were estimated at $44,563,254, and of this 
sum $21,799,562 were due from the purchasers.^^ 
Sixteen years before, when the debt was only a lit- 
tle over a million dollars, Gallatin had pointed out 
the dangers and urged the abolition of the credit 
system, and year after year similar warnings had 
been voiced, notably those of ]\Iorrow, who retired 
from the Senate the year before the system was 
finally abolished. While Congress hesitated^ the 
debt grew, and the system lent itself to the mad 
speculations of the wild-cat banking days. Xow 
that future sales were to be for cash only, the next 
duty of Congress was to extricate the debtors who 
still struggled under their increasing burdens. 

60 Fin. III., 561. ' 











































































































































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T he land act of 1820 was, considering the per iod 
and the circumstances, a commendable piece of 
land lef^islation. Negatively it might be criticised, 
because it failed to grant preemption or donations 
to actual settlers, but at that time the United 
States could not afford to engage in such philan- 
thropic ventures. Other poorer powers had given 
away land with lavish hand, but no nation had ever 
granted it under an expensive system of accurate 
surveys such as that in operation in the United 
States. The liberal colonial gi*ants of Britain, 
France and Spain were the occasion for countless 
lawsuits, and with such accompanying evils the 
United States could have given away its land. In 
1820, however^ the public lands were exj^ectedTto 
bring some revenue into the treasury, but if they 
were given away the orcat costs of the surveys 
would be a drain upon tlic treasu ry in stead. So, 
in spite of frequent demands for general preemp- 
tion and donations, CongTcss was still unready to 
grant them. 

From a positive point of view the act has be en 
criticised because it retained the great incentive to 
speculation, the auction s\'stem. If lands were to 



be sold at all, there were three methods available — 
the auction system, sale at a fixed price, and sale 
at a price to be determined by local officers ac- 
quainted with the tracts offered. Theoretically 
the latter system should have been employed, but 
the expense of classification and the opportunity 
for fraud which was present caused it to be almost 
entirely ignored. A fixed price would have cre- 
ated even more opposition than the auction system, 
for it would have offered rich new land on the 
same terms as land which had been rejected for a 
score of years. Under the auction system the gov- 
ernment received more nearly the value of new 
land, while old land was sold at the minimum price, 
and the minimum price came pretty close to being 
a fixed price, for the average price received seldom 
reached a higher figure. It was possible for men 
with ready money, under this systiem, to secure the 
desirable tracts, but as Senator Morrow reported 
in 1819, " The idea of providing equal facility to 
the poor and to the rich by any regulation is in- 
compatible with that of disposing of the land for a 
valuable consideration." ^ So, if the land were to 
be sold at all, the auction system was apparently 
the best way to dispose of it. 

But if the Act of 1820 provided a better way for 
disposing of the public domain in the future, it did 
not afford relief to the purchasers under the old 
system. Attempts had been made to add relief 
provisions to the bill, but they were defeated in 

1 p. L. III., 414. 


order not to confuse the bill with details. Before 
the general land act had passed, a relief bill had 
been carried suspending forfeitures until INIarch 
31, 1821, and with that very slight relief, for it 
affected but a small body of sufferers, Congress 
put off the evil day until the next session. 

At the close of 1820 the amount due the United 
States from land debtors amounted to more than 
$21,000,000, more than one-fifth of the national 
debt. INIuch of this money was due from persons 
of doubtful financial standing, while the problem 
was complicated by demands for equitable relief. 

Congress had the difficult task before it of so 
I legislating as to secure the largest amount of 
money with the smallest amount of forfeitures, for 
only in this way could the demands of the treasury 
and of the debtors be reconciled. And this was no 
ordinary financial transaction. Congress J tself 
coiild well accept some of the responsibility for the 
largeness of this debt and for the distress it was 
causin g. Congress had extended the credit period 
to five years, and, in spite of frequent protests, had 
refused to correct the error. Congress had en- 
dorsed the policy which caused commercial restric- 
tions and finally war itself. Congress had per- 
mitted the Bank of the United States to go out of 
existence and the period of mushroom banks had 
followed. The effects upon the credit system of 
all these actions have already been pointed out. 
There was a political issue raised as w^ell. These 
acts had been passed by Democratic Congresses 


and their effects had been greatest in regions where 
Democracy was strongest. Well might a Ken- 
tucky Senator say, " The government is bound in 
justice to grant the relief; and these citizens have 
a moral right to demand it." 

When Congress assembled in November, 1820, 
its disposition was well described by Senator Ed- 
wards, of Illinois, " All agree that relief is neces- 
sary." But the best method of relief was a per- 
plexing question. Jolmson, of Kentucky, pre- 
sented to the Senate the first resolution on the sub- 
ject.^ This would have enabled a purchaser to 
retain as much land as his payments covered at the 
price contracted for and to relinquish the remain- 
der. The desirability of some form of relinquish- 
ment was generally accepted throughout the West, 
and within the next three months some thirty-five 
petitions came up to the Senate favoring the appli- 
cation of previous payments at the rate of two dol- 
lars an acre and the relinquishment of the balance. 
The legislatures of Missouri and Kentucky passed 
resolutions favoring relinquishment. These pro- 
posals would have wiped out the debt at once, leav- 
ing the debtors in possession of as much land as 
their actual payments would cover. Butjthe great 
speculations had been those of 1818 and 1819, and 
on these lands only one-fourth of the price had gen- 
e ralTy been p aid. Johnson's resolution would have 
caused these purchasers to lose three-fourths of 
their holdings. 

a Annals, 1820-21, p. 17. 


Another plan ^ was that of Walker, of Alabama, 
which combined extension of credit to those who 
chose to retain all their lands ; relinquishment of all 
land, resale by the government and a return to the 
original purchaser of the amount received above 
one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre, but never 
more than the purchaser had already paid the gov- 
ernment ; a discount of three-eighths of the original 
price, including interest, for prompt payments; or 
a relinquishment of part of the land and comple- 
tion of payments on the balance. Noble, of Indi- 
ana, suggested that patents be issued to purchasers 
who had made three payments on their land/ while 
Ruggles, of Ohio, suggested a remission of inter- 
est and an extension of credit.*^ 

The bill, which was reported to the Senate on 
December 28, by the Committee on Public Lands, 
was decidedly favorable to the debtors.^ In brief, 
it provided for relinquishment, a discount for 
prompt payment of balances, an extension of credit 
on balances due, and a remission of accrued inter- 
est. The amendments of Senate and House simply 
made these provisions more definite. 

Two valuable speeches were made during the de- 
bate in the Senate. Thomas and Edwards, Sena- 
tors from Illinois, dwelt uiK)n the economic and 
financial history of the past twenty years. Both 
pointed out the effect of reducing the minimum 
price of lands. Thomas showed how it would be 

« Annals, 19:20-21, p. 19. • P. 28. 

4 Annals, 18i0-91, p. iW. • P. 139. 


wiser for any purchaser who had paid but one in- 
stallment to relinquish the whole tract and buy it 
in at the new minimum, saving at least twenty-five 
cents an acre thereby. Edwards maintained that 
the government had violated its contract with the 
old purchasers when it reduced the price, for, under 
the former system, a dehnquent purchaser might 
forfeit his lands and, on the resale, receive the sur- 
plus over the amount due the government. But 
with the new minimum there would be no surplus. 
He failed to mention that the purchasers were beg- 
ging off from their contract with the government. 
But whether based on the depreciation of the land 
or on the appreciation of money, he believed the 
discount for cash payments of balances due should 
be at least thirty-seven and a half per cent."^ And 
he voiced the general sentiment of Congress when 
he said " narrow considerations of interest, nice 
calculations of pecuniary profit, when the great 
question is one of legislative grace and relief, to a 
considerable and suffering portion of the conrniu- 
nity, seem to me to be out of place on this floor." 
Of the unsuccessful amendments which were of- 
fered during the debate, those of Eaton, of Ten- 
nessee, were perhaps the most suggestive. He 
first endeavored to have the relief extend solely to 
actual settlers — which caused Walker to ask whv 
the government should legislate against the spec- 
ulator after the sale when it encouraged him before 

7 Based on the decrease in the minimum price from $9.00 to $U5 
an acre. 


it — and when this was defeated he tried to secure 
special concessions to settlers. But he obtained lit- 
tle support from the Senate. Walker tried to have 
the discount apply to the whole purchase price in- 
stead of only to the amount due, but he could not 
carr}^ his amendment. After other minor changes 
the bill was carried, thirty-six to five being in favor 
of engrossing. 

As might be expected, the House contained 
members who were ready to discriminate against 
the evil speculators. Allen, of Tennessee, foretold 
the time when persons who had completed their 
payments would petition Congi-ess for a remission 
of such sums as would place them on an equality 
with those now about to be favored. " I know of 
no class of men who have less claim upon the pa- 
ternal indulgence or gracious favor of the govern- 
ment than most of the purchasers of public land — 
I mean that portion most clamorous for relief and 
the most to be benefited by this bill." He did not 
believe that much land bought for actual cultiva- 
tion would be relinquished, but the speculator, who 
bought some poor man's improvement over his 
head, would now release the adjoining tract and 
keep the improvement. And in another speech 
Allen asked the House to imagine a farmer who 
had been living on a plantation for three or four 
years without rent, unable to pay the eighty dollars 
a year necessary to complete title to a quarter-sec- 
tion tract. Under the present bill he would have the 
liberty of paying thirty dollars a year for eight 


years without interest, which was not half the rent 
of a home in any country, and if he defaulted he 
would have had eight years' free rent. But the 
members of the House had no difficulty in recol- 
lecting many worthy individuals who had been un- 
able to secure as much as eighty dollars a year from 
their partly tamed lands. 

With various minor amendments the bill passed, 
ninety-seven to forty. 

This act ® became the model for the relief acts of 
the next ten years. In the first place it permitted 
the relinquishment of land not paid for and the 
application of the total payment to the purchase 
of the tract retained. But these tracts must be 
bounded by legal lines, eighty acres being the mini- 
mum in every case, and those who had purchased 
at any time two or more quarter sections could not 
relinquish less than one-quarter section. In no 
case would the government repay any monej^ Sec- 
ondty, all interest on land debts accruing up to 
September 30 was remitted. Thirdty, the debtors 
were divided into classes, based upon the propor- 
tion of the original price which they had paid, and 
those who had paid one-quarter were allowed to 
meet the balance in eight annual payments; those 
who had paid one-half, in six; and those who had 
paid three-quarters, in four. These instalments 
bore six per cent, interest, which would be remitted 
if they were promptly paid. Fourthly, in order to 
encourage prompt payments a discount of thirty- 

«Mar. 2, 1821, ch. 12. 


seven and a half per cent, was allowed on the pay- 
ment of the balance due before September 30, 1822, 
but this did not apply to the transfers under sec- 
tion one. Among other provisions was one relat- 
ing to exploiters of town sites, another announced 
a forfeiture if the total debt was not paid within 
three months of the day fixed for final payment, 
while others required that a written acceptance of 
the terms of this act must be filed before September 
30, and in the meanM'hile no land was to be for- 
feited and no relinquished land was to be sold 
until two years after surrender. 

Such was the act which Congress hoped would 
clear up the vast land debt due the government. 
Thomas believed that such a bill would at once re- 
duce the debt some four million dollars through 
relinquishments and three millions through the 
payments induced by the discount, while the bal- 
ance would provide a desirable annual revenue. 
The act was certainly liberal enough, and the 
strong vote it secured in each House showed how 
ready the whole country was to afford relief. 

The immediate results of this first relief act were 
even greater than its friends had anticipated. By 
September 30, 1821, the debt had been reduced to 
$11,957,430, nearly fifty per cent. But Congress 
was not surprised to learn that further legislation 
was necessary. The Act of 1821 fixed September 
30th as the date for accepting its provisions. In 
view of the transportation facilities of the time it 
was absurd to believe that this news could reach 


and be understood by all the delinquent purchasers. 
So a supplementary act was passed on April 20, 
1822, extending the time of acceptance until Sep- 
tember 30th of that year, and the time of forfeiture 
as well. A similar extension was granted by the 
Act of March 3, 1823, although the applicants 
were required to produce evidence that their failure 
to act more promptly was due to causes beyond 
their control. These extensions, of course, did not 
increase the period of liquidation, they merely ex- 
tended the time in which the benefits of the Act of 
1821 might be accepted. It was at this session 
that the Legislature of Alabama sent up a memor- 
ial praying that persons who had paid for their 
lands before the relief laws were passed might have 
a discount of thirty-seven and a half per cent.^ 

After the first great reduction in the debt the 
annual decrease was small. Congress learned that 
further credit had been taken on some 3,588,558 
acres upon which there was a balance of $6,740,358 
due to the government. ^*^ This simply meant that 
the time for forfeitures would soon be at hand. 
Quite contrary to its custom. Congress proceeded 
to anticipate the day of reckoning and its act of 
1824 gave a new stimulus to the reduction of the 

The benefits of this act ^^ were only extended to 
persons who had taken a certificate of further 

Annals, 1822-23, 793. lo p. L. Ill, 630. 

11 May 18, 1824, ch. 88. Further explained by act of May 96, 
1894, ch. 176. 


credit under one of the former relief acts. Such 
persons were permitted to relinquisli part of tlieir 
land and credit all ])ayments to the tract retained, 
but this time the amount relinquished must either 
completely pay for the part retained or the balance 
must be paid in cash, with the customarj^ discount 
of thirty-seven and a half per cent. Also, if they 
would make complete payment before April 10, 
1825, the customary discount would be allowed. 

Under this act the debt was reduced $3,906,578, 
amountin^T to $6,322,675 on June 30th, 1825.'- 
Complete payment was made for 932,068 acres, 
by relinquishing 1,140,749 acres and paying in cash 
$369,589, less the discount of $222,124. The terms 
of tills act were continued until July 4, 1827, by 
an act of 1826,^^ and in addition any person mak- 
ing complete payment before that day would secure 
a remission of all accrued interest as well as the 
discount on the principal. This act, moreover, per- 
mitted a person holding a certificate of further 
credit to reenter any of his lands which might have 
reverted for nonpayment since July 1, 1820, and to 
redeem them by paying the balance due, without 
any interest, and with a discount of thirty-seven 
and a half per cent. Again, in 1828,'^ the preced- 
ing acts were continued until July 4, 1829, and the 
right of reentry was granted to persons who did 
not take out a certificate of further credit and 
whose lands might have been forfeited since 1820. 

« p. L. IV., 794. i« May 4, ch. 34. 

1* Mar. 21, 1829, ch. 22. 


But in spite of these relief measures the forfeit- 
ures continued. With the great increase in the 
wealth of the nation Congress began to look upon 
the public lands less as a source of revenue and 
more as a great field for settlement. And when, in 
1828, statistics ^^ could be brought to its attention 
showing that since 1800 the nation had taken in 
forfeitures the sum of $560,000 for which the pur- 
chasers received nothing at all, and, moreover, fre- 
quently lost their improvements as well. Congress 
granted an imexpected relief. It simply provided 
that certificates, receivable for public lands in the 
same state or territory, should be issued for all 
sums forfeited since 1787, except in the case of 
those who took a further credit in 1821.'^ And in 
the case of the latter a similar relief was granted in 

After affording this exceptional relief Congress 
had to extend its benefits to other sufferers. The 
Act of 1830 ^® appHed to the reverted lands of per- 
sons who had taken further credit. Such persons 
might preempt the forfeited land before July 4, 
1831, on payment of one dollar and twenty-five 
cents an acre in addition to the amount already for- 
feited, the total payment not to exceed three dol- 
lars and fifty cents an acre; or draw scrip within 
nine months for money paid on lands purchased at 
not more than two dollars and fifty cents an acre, 
such scrip not to be good for lands bought after 

"P. L. v., 12. "July 9, 1832, cK. 181. 

16 May 23, 1828, ch. 71. is March 31, 1830, ch. 48. 


this date at public sale; or pay the balance due in 
cash, subject to thirty-seven and a half per cent, 
discount. Provision was made for preempting 
relinquished land which the person might still 
occupy,'^ and a stand was taken against prevalent 
frauds '^ in the resale of relinquished lands by pro- 
viding a fine and imprisonment for attempts to 
hinder a person bidding at a public sale, and by 
rendering void all contracts to pay a premium, to 
the successful bidder, over the purchase price. 

The next year further relief was aif orded in the 
case of lands which sold at fourteen dollars an acre 
or less on which a further credit had not been taken, 
for such lands patents would pass if one dollar and 
a quarter per acre was paid before July 4, 1831.^^ 
This act also amended the terms on which 
occupants of relinquished lands might secure pre- 
emption. If the land had sold at five dollars an 
acre or less it might be preempted for one dollar 
and twenty-five cents an acre, while if it sold for 
between five and fourteen dollars the preemption 
would amount to one-foiu'th of the purchase price 
per acre. Finally, in 1832, the last relief act was 
passed.^" This was in the nature of an amendment 
to the Acts of 1824 and 1828. In the former case 

19 Preemption nt $1.25 per aere, phis 62), per cent, of the amount 
formerly paid for the land and applied to complete the purchase 
of land retained. Total price not to exceed $3.50 an acre. 

00 For frauds see P. L. IV., 766. 

21 Feb. 25, 1831, ch. S-l. This act was designed to relieve pur- 
chasers in good faith, and not the speculators of 1818-9, who had 
bid high for lands. 22 July 9, 1832, ch. 181. 


it provided that when land had been relinquished 
and the payments transferred exceeded the pay- 
ment due on the lands retained then land scrip was 
to issue for any excess over ten dollars. And in the 
latter case, it authorized the issue of land-scrip for 
anj^ sums forfeited on lands on which a further 
credit had been taken. After 1832 only the peti- 
tions of Alabama, that certificates be issued to 
those who purchased lands there at exorbitant 
prices in 1818-1819, served to remind Congress of 
the days of the credit system.^^ 

A study of the operation of the relief laws can 
now be profitably undertaken. At the close of 
1820 the amount due from purchasers stood at 
$21,213,350.2* Qf |.|-,jg amount more than half was 
due in Alabama alone, $11,206,447, while the debt 
in Ohio, Missouri, and Indiana ranged from two 
and a quarter to two and a half millions. It was 
in Alabama, of course, that the land speculation, 
under tlie credit system, had reached its height. 
The_desire for new cotton lands and the abundant 
paper money uniting to eliminate all caution. _At 
the'Huntsville land oiRce in 1818 and 1819 wild 
lands sold at auction for thirty dollars an acre, 
a nd hig licr prices were occasionally bid."' Alabama, 
theref ore, derived th e most benefit from the relief/ 

Of the four and a half million acres relinquished 

23 1833: p. L. VI., 635. 1835: P. P. VII., 655. 
®4 P. L. IV., 795. Figures vary in documents. 
26 P. L. III., 555. 


under these acts, three-fourths were given up in 
Alabama. The rehnquishments in ^lissouri and 
Ilhnois were proportionately very large, for there 
also the speculation had been excessive. In Ohio, 
where better financial conditions prevailed less than 
half the outstanding debt was met in that way. In 
Alabama the relinquished land had been bought at 
about five dollars an acre, in IMissouri and Ohio at 
about three dollars, and in the other states at a 
little over two dollars. 

The people of Ohio preferred to take advantage 
of the discount provisions of the first relief acts 
and in this way retained their land at prices nearly 
equal to the new one dollar and a quarter minimum. 
This would indicate that, in general, the land was 
desirable and had been purchased at a reasonable 
price in the first instance, and also that there was 
some ready money available to take advantage of 
the cash discount. But the Acts of 1830 and 1831, 
allowing purchasers who had taken further credit 
and who had been unable to hold their lands, to 
preempt the forfeited tracts at from one dollar and 
a quarter to three dollars and a half an acre and 
granting a similar preemption to persons who still 
I occupied relinquished lands, proved of greatest 
I service in Alabama. There the planters in many 
instances had relinquished the least profitable of 
their lands and tried to hold, on the new credit, gen- 
erally for eight years, the choicest parts of their 
jjlantations.^® These lands had been bought at 

26 p. L. III., 630. 



prices rising to thirty dollars and over an acre. 
Even eight years was not long enough for them 
to break in their new lands and meet such unrea- 
sonable prices. The lands began to revert in 1829 
and under the Acts of 1830 and 1831 these lands 
could be preempted at not over three dollars and 
fifty cents an acre, including former payments, or 
at one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre if 
originally purchased at fourteen dollars or less. 
I n this way a considerable quantity of high priced 
la nds in Alabama passed in to private hands at only 
nominaF figures . The more consei-vative planters, 
who had relinquished their good lands in order to 
settle their entire indebtedness, must have felt 
rather exasperated at the success of the optimists 
who held on to as much as they could in the fer- 
vent hope that Congress eventually would relieve 
their " distress." 

In view of these facts some general observations 
may be offered. The relief legislation, in its 
hesitating ineffectiveness was quite in keeping with 
the conduct of Congress in handling land questions. 
The persons who owed the government some $21,- 
000,000 in 1820 deserved some measure of relief, 
that has been pointed out, and under the law the 
speculator was as much entitled to it as was the 
actual settler. A forfeiture worked a real hard- 
ship, because the unfortunate one lost not only his 
money and his land but his improvements as well. 
So long as the Congressmen were chosen by the 
people they could hardly be blamed for not insist- 


ing upon such penalties. But Congress could have 
taken a middle ground between the exaction of for- 
feitures and the generous relief extended by the 
Act of 1821. It was evident to all that the exist- 
ence of so large a debt was undesirable. Congress 
felt itself called upon to provide for the reduction 
of this debt in some equitable way. But instea d 
of providing for its immediate liquidation it 
allowed further credit on one-third of the amount. 
It certainly seems as if tlie best act possible in 1821 
would have been based upon Senator Johnson's res- 
olution, permitting the relinquishment of enough 
land to complete the payment of the balance, while 
the discount of thirty-seven and a half per cent, 
for payment in full should have been allowed. This 
would have rendered unnecessary further relief 
acts of every description. Such an act was passed 
in 1824, but it did not prevent further legislation, 
for Congress was not willing to insist upon for- 
feitures or to profit through the resale of relin- 
quished land. If, therefore, it was quite possible 
to afford relief in a business like way, it must be 
remembered that a number of motives caused the 
enactment of the first relief act.^^ The_general 
feeling that good times were sure to come, the en - 
thusiasm of the western Congressmen who believed 
that their constituents would soon be ab le to sHak e 
off their Inirdens, the general readiness to help a 
man get up on his feet after a financial crisis, all 

27 The emphasis changes from the idea of revenue to the en- 
couragement of settlement. First general preemption act, 1830. 


appealed to individual Congressmen. Then should 
be noted tne change in Ihe attitude of Congress 
toward the public lands and the growth of political 
influence in the pubhc land states. With these 
suggestions in mind it is easy to understand the 
terms of the acts which finally rid the West of the 
evils of the credit sj^stem. 


IN 1820. 

Mar. 2, 1821. Relinquishment, discount, further credit. Expired 
Sept. 30, 1821. 

Apr. 20, 1822. Extends act of 1821 to Sept. 30, 1822. 

Mar. 3, 1823. Extends act of 1821 to Sept. 30, 1823, for cause 

May 18, 1824. Relinquishment. Discount for complete payment. 

May 26, 1824. Explanatory of act of 1824. 

May 4, 1826. Extends acts of 1824 to July 4, 1827. Permits re- 
entry of forfeited lands, on which further credit 
was taken, on payment of amount due less dis- 
count; remission of interest and grant of discoimt 
on all lands completely paid for. 

Mar. 21, 1828. Extends acts of 1824 and 1826 to July 4, 1829, 
Extends re-entry to lands on which further credit 
was not taken and which were forfeited since 
July 1, 1820, and remain unsold. 

May 23, 1828. Certificates to issue for all moneys forfeited on 
lands for which a further credit was not taken. 

Mar. 31, 1830. Redemption of reverted land on which a further 
credit had been taken: preemption or issue of 
scrip. Preemption to holders of relinquished 
Feb. 25, 1831. Reduction in charges of preemption of reverted 
and relinquished lands. 

July 9, 1832. Certificates to issue for moneys forfeited on lands 
on which a further credit had been taken. Cer- 
tificates to issue for all sums over $10.00 due to 
purchasers when land was relinquished to com- 
plete pajinent on land retained. 




In the previous chapters the development of 
general land lc<ri slat ion has been considered and 
frequent references have been made to the exten- 
sion of the land system over the great public 
domain. It now seems desirable to point out more 
carefully the gradual advance of the surveys and 
sales until they became almost coextensive with the 
lands. It is too frequently assumed that all the 
public domain was open to authorized settlement. 
As a matter of fact, this has never been the case. 
In the period under discussion, that is before 1820, 
three steps were necessary before any of the pub- 
lic domain could be purchased. First, the Indian 
title had to be extinguished; secondly, the surveys 
had to be completed; thirdly, the lands had to be 
declared on sale. A later development was to allow 
a preemption, first on surveyed lands and finally 
on unsurveyed lands, but even then certain lands 
were closed to preemption. To be sure settlement 
did not bv any means wait for the extension of the 
land system. Where lands were held under foreign 
titles tlie period of confirmation would delay the 
surveys and regular sales but would permit of 
speculation and some increase of population. And 
even the most ra])id surveying could not keep up 
witli the land-hungry settlers who preferred to 
squat on unsurveyed land, in the hope of securing 



a preemption, rather than buy inferior land at the 
minimum price or pay a premium for the better 
land at the auction sale. The surveyors had to run 
their lines over good, bad and indifferent land. 
The squatters would locate only on the best. For 
that reason the surveys could not, even if money 
were available, keep pace with the settlers. While 
the linesmen were struggling through some morass 
or thicket the squatters were ringing trees along \ 
a likely river bottom. Therefore a map of the ex- 
tension of the surveys would not agree with a map 
of the population of the public land states. For 
people would be settled on unsurveyed land and 
considerable surveyed land would still be unsold. 

A study of the extension of the system is con- 
cerned with many details. First of all come the 
Indian relations which determine the cessions of 
land; then come the surveys, depending upon the 
annual appropriation and upon the pressure 
exerted to secure surveys in different regions ; then 
come the establishment of the land offices, the loca- 
tion at times left to the choice of the President; 
and, finally, the sales. All must be borne in mind. 

The Ordinance of 1785, the first act for the dis- 
posal of the public lands, apphed to " the territory 
ceded by individual states to the United States, 
which has been purchased of the Indian inhabi- 

At that time two treaties were in existence be- 
tweeen the United States and the Indians of the 
Northwest. The treaty of Fort Stanwix, October 




22, 1784, had simply secured a relinquishment of 
the title of the Six Nations to the land west of the 
Niagara River, but as this land was claimed by 
other tribes it availed little. A treaty had also 
been negotiated at Fort Mcintosh, on January 
21st, 1785, with the Wyandot, Delaware, Chip- 
pewa and Ottawa tribes, which ceded their title 
to approximately the southeastern half of Ohio. It 
was under this treaty that the first surveys were 
undertaken, although the treaty itself was not car- 
ried out by the Ohio tribes. Although treaties were 
made with the Shawnees on January 31st, 1786, 
and with the Wyandots, Delawares, Ottawas, 
Cliippewas, Potawatomis, and Sauk, at Fort Har- 
mar, on January 9th, 1789, it was not until 
Wayne's victory, and the treaty of Greeneville, on 
August 3rd, 1795, that Indian cessions in the 
Northwest really meant anything. This treaty 
covered two-thirds of the present state of Ohio, 
from the Pennsylvania Hne to the Cuyahoga River, 
then to the Tuscarawas and along the "Indiaa 
Boundary Line," including the entire southern 
half of the state, to the Indiana line, then south- 
west to the Ohio, opposite the mouth of the Ken- 
tucky. It was the land in this cession that was to 
be surveyed under the Acts of 1796 and 1800. 

The survey of the first four ranges in 1785-7, 
then extended to seven in 1788-9, and continued to 
the boundary of the Connecticut Reserve in 1800-1, 
has been described, as have the sales in New York 
in 1787 and at Pittsburg in 1797. These sales were 


in the Seven Ranges as surveyed before their con- 
tinuation. But although so little land in the North- 
west had come under the general system there was 
a considerable amount subject to authorized settle- 
ment. This included the Ohio Company's purchase, 
the Symmes purchase, the Virginia and the Con- 
tinental bounty lands, the private claims at the 
French settlements, and certain smaller grants. In 
1800 the Connecticut Reserve passed to the na- 
tional jurisdiction but not to the public domain. 

The Act of 1796 provided for the appointment 
of a Surveyor-General who should proceed to 
divide the lands ceded at Greeneville, but until 
seven ranges were sun^eyed no land could be sold. 
The only sales under this act, therefore, were of 
tracts in the original Seven Ranges. No appro- 
priation for surveys was made in 1796, but in the 
next three years $48,519 were granted so that when 
the act of 1800 established land offices at Steuben- 
ville, JNIarietta, Chillicothe, and Cincinnati, enough 
land had been surveyed to permit of a commence- 
ment of the public sales in 1801. A new land 
office was established at Zanesville in 1803, but it 
was still within the Greeneville cession. 

The next extension of the land system was in 
the Southwest. The JSIississippi Territory had been 
erected in 1798 in spite of Georgia's pretensions, 
although the issue was never joined, and in 1802 
the deed of cession by that State cleared the na- 
tional title to the entire region south of Tennessee. 
But it left a tangle of Spanish and British grants, 


Yazoo claims, and squatters' rights. Over the 
greater part of this region the Indian title was 
still unextinguished. In 1801 and 1802 the Choc- 
taws had confirmed their cessions of 1765, which 
included a strip along the Mississippi from Vicks- 
burg to the Louisiana line and in Alabama between 
the Tombigbee and Chickasawhay rivers. It was 
necessary, therefore, for Congress to proceed to 
quiet the claims of the Chickasaws, Creeks, Choc- 
taws and Cherokees, then to confirm or reject the 
private land claims, to settle or repudiate the 
Yazoo claims and finally to make some arrange- 
ment for the settlers who had moved into the re- 
gion before the lands could be placed on public 

The Act of 1803, therefore, extended the land 
system to the region south of Tennessee. It estab- 
lished two land offices, one for the country east, and 
the other for that west, of the Pearl River, Missis- 
sippi. But the officials were to be chiefly concerned 
with the investigation of private land claims under 
Spanish or British grants, and of claims of settlers 
in 1797 to donation lands, and of others to pre- 
emption. The Register and two other persons 
appointed by the President were to act as Com- 
missioners in each district. A " surveyor of the 
lands of the United States, south of the State of 
Tennessee" was appointed, but with his deputies 
he was to lay off the confirmed claims and then 
proceed to di\'ide the unappropriated lands, to 
which the Indian title was extinguished, into half 


sections. Twenty thousand dollars were appro- 
priated for these surveys and other expenses. 

Under this act and its early amendments the two 
boards of Commissioners were occupied for sev- 
eral years with the various private land claims. 
The first land sold south of the Ohio under the 
regular system was in 1807 at the land offices estab- 
lished under the Act of 1803.' In 1805 the Chick- 
asaws and Cherokees made over-lapping cessions in 
Tennessee and Northern Alabama; these were 
brought under the land system by the Act of 1807 
which directed that they be surveyed and author- 
ized the President to establish a land office for their 

In the meanwhile a first step had been taken to- 
ward the extension of the land system over the 
rest of the territor}^ northwest of the Ohio, for in 
1804 the Surveyor-General had been instructed to 
have the lands there, to which the Indian title had 
been or shall hereafter be extinguished, surveyed in 
the usual waj'. Three land offices were established, 
at Vincennes (Indiana), Kaskaskia (Illinois), and 
at Detroit (JNIichigan), the whole region still form- 
ing Indiana Territory. But before any surveys 
could be made the private land claims had to be 
investigated, and at the passing of the act but 
little land had been acquired from the Indians. 
In 1803 most of the tribes wliich had joined in 
the Greeneville Treaty entered into a second which 

1 In 1804, the S. C. cession of 1787, was attached to the Miss. 


defined the limits of the cession adjacent to Vin- 
cennes. This was practically all the land open to 
survey in Indiana at the time of the passing of the 
Act of 1804, with the exception of Clark's Grant 
and the land above the mouth of the Kentucky 
River ceded in 1795. In Illinois a considerable 
cession had been secured from the Kaskaskias in 
1803 — but other tribes disputed the region. The 
next year a valuable tract along the Ohio, in In- 
diana, was secured from the Dela wares and 
attached to the Vincennes district, the cession being 
ratified in 1805 by the JNIiamis, Eel Rivers, and 
Weas, who in turn continued the ceded land east- 
ward to the Greeneville Treaty line. In the latter 
year, also, the Piankishaw Indians turned over a 
tract which completed the acquisition of the 
entire north bank of the Ohio, from the Pennsyl- 
vania line to the Mississippi. In 1804, the Sacs 
and Foxes ceded what purported to be the north- 
west half of the State of Illinois, with a little of 
Missouri and Wisconsin as well. This land was 
attached to the Kaskaskia district in 1805, but 
other treaties, as late as 1833 in one case, were 
necessarj'^ before the claims of other tribes were 
satisfied. The first land sales in the Indiana Terri- 
tory took place at Vincennes in 1806. It was not 
until 1814 that lands were offered in the Kaskaskia 
district, due to the delay caused by the private 

claims, while the Detroit office was not opened 
until 1818. 

The acquisition of Louisiana in 1803-4 was fol- 


lowed bj^ the erection of two land districts, with a 
Register in each, in the Territory of Orleans (later 
the State of Louisiana), while a Recorder of land 
titles was appointed for the District of Louisiana 
(the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase). This 
Act of 1805,^ was concerned with tlie examination 
of private land claims, it extended the powers of 
the sun'eyor of public lands, south of Tennessee, 
over the Territory of Orleans, but it established no 
land offices nor did it intimate when the lands would 
be placed on sale. The next year the powers of the 
Surveyor-General were extended over the Terri- 
tory of Louisiana^ while another act of the same 
session authorized the President to appoint a Re- 
ceiver for the western district of the Territory of 
Orleans and to place the surveyed lands therein on 
sale. But twelve years were to elapse before any 
land in the great Louisiana Purchase was placed 
on public sale. In the meanwhile vast areas were 
being confirmed as private claims or given as dona- 
tions to early settlers. 

In 1807 two new land offices were opened, one at 
JefFersonville, Indiana, for land on the Ohio be- 
tween the Cincinnati and Vincennes districts, and 
the other at Canton, Ohio, for land between the 
United States ^Military tract and the Connecticut 
Reserve, the Indian title to most of which having 
been extinguished in 1805. At this time, there- 

8 March 2, 1805. 

s Feb. 28, 1806. ch. 11. "District" changed to "Territory" by 
act of Mar. 3, 1805. 


fore, there were six land offices in Ohio, two in In- 
diana, and two in Mississippi Territory where lands 
were on sale. 

Although the Choctaws had made a very impor- 
tant cession in 1805 along the southern border of 
Mississippi (state) the land was not attached to a 
land district until 1808, while the land ceded in 
1805 by the Cherokees and Chickasaws was placed 
on sale in 1809 in Madison County, Alabama. No 
further cessions took place in the southwest until 
after the war of 1812, and during those years of 
Indian warfare the land sales were greatly reduced 
in the offices east and west of the Pearl River. 

The j'-ear 1805 had been rich in Indian cessions. 
Nine treaties had been concluded covering terri- 
tory in all parts of the public domain save the far 
northwest. The next year saw but a single treaty, 
that with th^ Cherokees, which covered ground 
already ceded in 1805. Two treaties were concluded 
in 1807, one of them with the Ottawas, Chippewas, 
Wyandots and Potawatomis, opening up the first 
large tract of public land in Michigan ; while of the 
two treaties in 1808, one covered a considerable 
territory in Missouri while the other gained the 
right of way for two roads, one from the rapids of 
the River INIiami, which flows into Lake Erie, to 
the Connecticut Reserve, along which land for one 
mile on each side was ceded for settlement ; and the 
other from Lower Sandusky, Ohio, to the Greene- 
ville treaty line to the south, but in this case no 
settlement was allowed. The cessions of 1809 were 


in Indiana and Illinois and were attached the next 
year to the Vincennes and Cincinnati districts. 
Then came the trouhled relations with the trihes 
on both sides of the Ohio and no further Indian 
treaties were made until 1814 when, after Jack- 
son's defeat of the Creeks, they were penalized to 
the extent of about half the area of Alabama and 
a wide strip alon^^ the southern border of Georgia. 
After 1815 the Indian title, especially in the south 
was rapidly extinguished. 

The Indian title to most of the present state of 
Louisiana had been extinguished before the Ameri- 
can occupation, only little strips on the northern 
and northwestern borders were acquired by the 
United States. The delay in extending the land 
system there was due to the private land claims 
not to Indian rights. In 1811 ^ provision was made 
for the establishment of four land offices west of 
the ]Mississip])i, three being in the Territory of 
Orleans, and one in the Territory of Louisiana. 
The former were to be at New Orleans, Opelousas, 
and at a ])lace north of the Red River to be de- 
termined by the President. This act also designated 
the first day of January, 1812, as the date for the 
commencement of the sales in Orleans Territory. 
But this date proved ])remature, and instead 
the President was authorized to designate the day 
for the opening of the offices.^ Before this act 
became known in Louisiana the register of the 
Opelousas office and the principal deputy surveyor 

*Mar. 3, 1811, ch. 46. 'Dec. 12, 1811, ch. ♦. 


there had proceeded to place some land on sale. It 
required special legislation to permit the buyers to 
complete their payments and secure patents.* No 
further sales were made for several years. 

The next land office was established in 1812 at 
Shawneetown,"^ in Illinois, for the sale of lands be- 
tween the Kaskaskia and Vincennes districts, and 
as there were no private land claims in this region 
it was possible to commence the public sales in 1814, 
before any land was sold in the much older Kas- 
kaskia district. It was in 1815, also, that the land 
along the road in Ohio, ceded in 1808, was attached 
to the Canton district and placed on sale. And 
provision was also made for the survey and sale 
of the rich lands in Alabama, ceded by the Creeks 
in 1814. This cession was to comprise a separate 
land district, the land office at first being established 
at Milledge\nlle and in 1817 at Cahawba. The first 
lands were sold in 1816 and within the j^ear this 
office sold land worth $753,849, a record figure up 
to that time. 

A third land district was established in Illinois 
at Edwardsville in 1816, which included the ceded 
lands north of the base line. Although the greater 
part of Illinois had been covered by the Indian 
cessions of 1803-4, much of the same region was 
not finally ceded until the treaties of 1816, 1818, 
and 1819. Three important cessions were obtained 
in 1816 covering rich land in northern and eastern 
Alabama. These treaties were made with the 

Tjuly l7 1812, ch. 118. 7 Feb. 21, 1812, ch. 29. 



LAND ON sale: BEFORE 1820 


(1) Marietta, 1800. 

(2) Zanesville, 1803. 

(3) Steubenville, 1800. 

(4) Chillicothe, 1800. 

(5) Cincinnati, 1800. 

(6) Wooster, (Canton, 1807). 

(7) Piqua, 1819. (Not open). 

(8) Delaware, 1819. (Not open). 

(9) Vincennes, 1804. (1806). 

(10) JeflFersonville, 1807. 

(11) Brookville, 1819. (Not open). 

(12) Terre Haute, 1819. (Not open). 

(13) Shawneetown, 1812. (1814). 

(14) Kaskaskia, 1804. (1814). 

(15) Edwardsville, 1816. 

(16) Palestine, 1819. (Not open). 

(17) Vandalia, 1819. (Not open). 

(18) Detroit, 1804. (1818). 

(19) St. Louis, 1811. (1818). 

(20) Franklin, (Howard County) 1818. 

(21) Cape Girardeau, 1818. (Not Open). 

(22) Polk Bayou (Lawrence County, Arkansas) 1818 (not open). 

(23) Little Rock (Arkansas County) 1818 (not open). 

(24) Monroe ("Northern District of Louisiana") 1811 (not 

(25) Opelousas ("Southwestern District of Louisiana") 1811 
(not open.) 

(26) New Orleans, 1811. (Not open.) 

(27) St. Helena, 1819. (Not open.) 

(28) Washington (" Wlest of Pearl River") 1803. (1807). 

(29) Jackson Court House, 1819. (Not open.) 

(30) St. Stephens ("East of Pearl River") 1803 (1807). 

(31) Huntsville, 1803. (1807). 

(32) Cahawba, 1817. (Milledgeville, 1816). 

(33) Tuscaloosa, 1820. (Not open). 

(34) Conecuh, 1820. (Not open.) 

Dates in parentheses show when sales commenced, if later than 
opening of office. (Not open) means not open for sales in 1820. 


Cherokees, Chickasaws and Choctaws. The next 
year Congress provided for the surveying of the 
land and attached it to the ]Madison County dis- 
trict, the land office of which was Huntsville. These 
lands began to come into the market in 1817, and 
as has already been pointed out the combination of 
rich cotton lands and cheap money caused the Ala- 
bama speculation of 1818 and 1819. The sales at 
Huntsville, Alabama, for the fiscal yesir 1818-19 
amounted to 774,989 acres at a price of $4,775,303. 
At Cahawba 1,046,564 acres w^ere sold at a price 
of $3,764,431. 

Legislation was also necessary for the sale of 
reserves set apart for any reason. Acts of this 
kind would attach the land to the nearest land dis- 
trict and provide for the survey and sale. Examples 
of this would be the acts covering small tracts ceded 
at Greeneville in 1795: the two mile square tract at 
the lower rapids of Sandusky River, and the twelve 
mile square tract at the rapids of the ISIiami of the 
I^ake were placed on sale in 1817. In that year 
also the unlocated land in the reserve for Canadian 
Refugees was attached to the Chillicothe District, 
and two years later the unused balance of the 100,- 
000 acres granted the Ohio Company for donations 
was attached to ISIarietta. 

In the meanwhile the surveys in ISIissouri had 
been proceeding rapidly. In 1812 Congress pro- 
vided for such surveys as the President might 
direct, but at first the surveying of confirmed claims 
and donations occupied the attention of the sur- 


veyors. Six years later, when about 9,000,000 acres 
had been surveyed, Congress prepared for placing 
the lands on the market by establishing four new 
land offices, in addition to the one at St. Louis. 
These were to be at the county seats of Howard 
and Lawrence counties; at Jackson, in Cape Gir- 
ardeau County; and at some place in Arkansas 
County. The President was to direct that the lands 
be placed on sale when he saw fit. Two land offices 
were opened in 1818, at St. Louis and at Franklin, 
Howard County, just in time to serve the purpose 
of the land speculators. These were the first lands 
to be regularly sold in the Louisiana Purchase. 

Earlier in the year the first land sales — except 
of preempted lands — took place at Detroit. In 1819 
four new offices were established, at Piqua and 
Delaware, Ohio, and at Brookville and Terre 
Haute, Indiana, the two latter for the great Miami 
cession of 1818, and the next year offices were 
added at Tuscaloosa and Conecuh Courthouse, 
Alabama, and at Vandalia and Palestine, Illinois, 
but sales did not commence until 1821. 

To follow the extension of the land system across 
the continent would be a tiresome task. Enough 
has already been said to indicate the process which 
was only repeated year after year. Indian cessions, 
surveys, sales — that was the normal process, inter- 
fered with at times by private land claims and 
always by squatters after preemption became 
authorized. But this normal process gave some 
opportunity for political operations. Western Con- 


gressmen tried to hasten the extinguishment of the 
Indian title, tried to secure increased appropria- 
tions for surveys and then tried to have the work 
carried on in their respective districts, and each 
one would have liked to see a land office established 
at his home town. In this, as in so many other 
ways, the control of the public lands was a vital 
question generally of first importance in the minds 
of the western peoples and their vigorous represen- 

At the end of the credit system there were eight- 
een land offices open for the sale of lands, while 
others had been established solely for the investi- 
gation and confirmation of private land claims. Of 
the eighteen offices, twelve were northwest of the 
Ohio, three in Alabama, one in INIississippi and two 
in INIissouri. The accompanying maps show the 
relation of the Indian cessions to the extension of 
the land offices. 



Most important of all the provisions of the great 
Ordinance of 1785 was that which required sur- 
veys before any land could be offered for sale, and 
this condition was insisted upon even at the cost of 
delayed sales and increased expense. The prior 
survey has been of inestimable value in the orderly 
settlement of the great west. First of all it pro- 
vided definite bounds, free from overlapping 
claims, to every land holder ; then it gave a securitj'- 
against lost or forgotten bounds, for with the gov- 
ernment records every point could be redeter- 
mined ; finally it rendered possible the simplest kind 
of a deed for the conveyance of property. A hne 
or two of description would do better service than 
a whole page under the old colonial system. Other 
benefits derived from the surveys could be enumer- 
ated. The trained surveyors were required to re- 
port on the quality of the lands and the natural 
phenomena coming under their observation. In this 
way a great amount of reliable information was 
obtained along with the extension of the surveys. 
But the security of title and the simplicity of con- 
veyance were the two great contributions of the 
land surveys. 



Prior surveys alone would not have secured all 
these advantages. In the southern states and in 
Kentucky and Tennessee, surveys were required to 
be made before a patent could pass. But these sur- 
veys were " indiscriminate." Under that system it 
was not possible for the surveyors to know 
accurately what otiier surveys had been made, espe- 
cially when large tracts were being laid off, so 
over-lapping surveys were frequent and land liti- 
gation was constantly going on. It was the great 
work of the men of 1784 and 1785 to insist upon 
discriminate surveys, so worked out that no possible 
confusion could result. And altliough they did 
this in a general way, it was left to others to per- 
fect the system and hand it down, to us in its pres- 
ent splendid form. 

It is a remarkable thing that apparently, and of 
course more light may be thrown upon this point 
at some future time, the method of executing the 
discriminate prior sun-eys aroused little opposition 
or criticism in the old Congress, nor was it con- 
sidered important enough to merit discussion in 
any of the contemporary correspondence now avail- 
able. Jefferson was chairman of the committee 
which, in 1784, reported the first proposed land 
ordinance, with its " hundreds " of ten geographical 
miles square, and its lots of one mile square. Unless 
evidence to the contrar}'^ may be found, he should 
be credited with the authorship of the report. But 
it has already been pohited out that the general 
plan of prior surveys, and of tiers of townships, 



Ordinance of 1785 

Act of 1796 


















23 . 


























































Method of numbering sections in a township. 

A township in the 

United States 

Military District, 













Four sections showing legal 


b, b, b. Half-section. 

c, c. Quarter-section. 

d, d. Half quarter-section. 

Public Land Surveys. 


was already in operation in New England and was 
later insisted upon by New England members in 
1785. In other words, INIr. Jefferson did not "in- 
vent " this system of surveys, he merely applied a 
well understood system to the greater areas of the 
northwest. At that session of Congress he was 
appointed, with Adams and Franklin, to a diplo- 
matic mission, remaining abroad until the end of 
1789. He therefore was not in Congress when the 
Ordinance of 1785 was enacted, nor do his pub- 
lished writings show that he ever expressed any 
j)ersonal interest in the land system, as would 
doubtless have been the case if he had been the 
father of it. In fact, on hearing of the enactment 
of the measure he wrote to Monroe, " I am much 
pleased with your land ordinance." ' Although Jef- 
ferson has generally been credited with the intro- 
duction of the system of survey's, it would seem, 
from the above facts, that his services were slight 
and might well have been performed by anyone 
else. Some credit surely belongs to the men who, 
in 1785, perfected the rough })lan and made it law. 
The system of surveys established in 1785 was 
based upon the plan of 1784, with certain modifi- 
cations. The townships were to be six miles square 
and the statute mile was to be used. The first 
north and south line was to be the western bound- 
ary of Pennsylvania, while the first east and west 
line was to run from the intersection of the former 
with the Ohio River. All lines were to be run by 

1 Jefferson, Writings, IV., 86. 


the true meridian,^ but no provision was made for 
the contracting of the meridians to the North. 

" The Unes shall be measured with a chain ; shall 
be plainly marked by chaps on the trees, and ex- 
actly described on a plat whereon shall be noted 
by the surveyor, at their proper distances, all mines, 
salt-springs, salt-licks and mill-seats, that shall 
come to his knowledge; and all water-courses, 
mountains and other remarkable and permanent 
things, over and near which such lines shall pass, 
and also the quality of the lands." On the town- 
ship lines, at points one mile apart, the corners 
of the " lots " or sections^ were to be marked " in a 
different manner from those of the townships." 
But the section lines were not to be run. 

The only surveys under the Ordinance of 1785 
were those of the Seven Ranges in Ohio, performed 
under the direction of Thomas Hutchins, Geog- 
rapher of the United States, in 1785-1789. For 
several years no further surveys were made and in 
this period settlement was going on in the tracts 
purchased by the Ohio Company, and by Symmes, 
in the Virginia and Connecticut Reserves, and in 
the lands about the old French settlements. When 
the surveys were again taken up it was evident that 
it would not be possible to extend them progress- 
ively across the Northwest Territory. To the west 
of the Seven Ranges laj" the lands of the Ohio 

2 Repealed, May 15, 1786. J., IV., 637. Pickering criticized the 
report of 1784 on this account. Pickering, I., 506. 

3 " Section " first used in act of 1796, although used in Report of 


Company and to the north of them, but with some 
government land between, lay the United States 
Military Reserve, created in 1796. It was also im- 
portant to make surveys along the Ohio River, 
between the Ohio Company's purchase and the Vir- 
ginia Reserve, and again between Symmes pur- 
chase and the Indian Boundary Line. In other 
words, the presence of already alienated land pre- 
vented the progressive extension of the surveys. 
It would have been possible to connect up the sep- 
arate surv^eys rendered necessary by these circum- 
stances, but this was not attempted at the time, 
instead, the state of Ohio contains six distinct sur- 
veying areas, and out of this confusion developed 
the first great improvement in the system of sur- 

First of these areas was the Seven Ranges, later 
extended to the boundary of the Connecticut Re- 
serve and increased to twenty-one when the cession 
of 1805 was surveyed. There the townships were 
numbered from the Ohio River and the sections 
numbered as in the diagram, figure 1, in the case 
of the surveys run prior to 1796. To the west lay 
the United States IMilitary Reserve, in which the 
townships were only five miles square, thus prevent- 
ing a continuation of the township lines in the 
Seven Ranges. The ranges, twenty in all, w^ere 
numbered from the eastern boundary, and the 
townships from the southern.^ South of the JNIili- 

* The initial point for these surveys was the southeast comer of 
the reservatioD. 



1^.^_. ^— .^v*-^* 



tary Reserve, and bounded by the Seven Ranges, 
the Ohio Company's lands, the Ohio River, and the 
Virginia ISIihtary Reserve, lay fifteen ranges of 
public lands which were surveyed under the Acts 
of 1796 and 1800. Here the ranges were numbered 
in continuation of the Seven Ranges, making 
twenty-two in all, and the townships were counted 
from the Ohio. In this tract the sur\'eys were made 
at diff'erent times and the surveyors did not suc- 
ceed in connecting up the surveys very accurately, 
moreover many fractional townships were caused 
by the Scioto River and the broken lines of the 
Ohio Company's grant. In all the public lands 
except the Seven Ranges and the United States 
^Military Resene the sections are numbered as in 
the diagram figure 2. 

West of the Virginia Reserve, and between the 
Great and I^ittle INIiami rivers, lay Symmes' pur- 
chase. He had surveyed not only the lands which 
were finally patented to him but others to the north, 
and had sold quantities of them. Tliis caused a 
variation in the national system in order to meet 
Symmes' surveys. The ranges were numbered from 
south to north, starting from Symmes' base line, 
and the townships from west to east. Symmes had 
paid little attention to the east and west lines, and 
the rough country and careless chaining caused 
odd-shaped sections to be formed. 

Between the Great Miami and the Indian Bound- 
ary Line the surveys were governed by the First 
Principal INIeridian, which runs due north from the 


mouth of the Great Miami. The ranges were num- 
bered east and west of the meridian and the town- 
ships north from the Ohio River. In the northwest 
corner of the state the Indian title was not extin- 
guished until 1817 and 1818. In that tract the 
same meridian was used, but the forty-first degree 
was taken as a base line, the ranges being numbered 
east of the meridian and the townships numbered 
south and north of the base line.^ 

In this way six distinct surveying areas are found 
in the public lands in Ohio, and besides these are 
the privately surveyed lands of the Connecticut 
Reserve, in which townships five miles square were 
laid out, and of the Ohio Company and Symmes 
purchases, as well as the indiscriminately surveyed 
lands of the Virginia Reserve. 

This discussion of the surveys in Ohio has 
touched upon the first great improvement in the 
surveys, which however was first worked out in In- 
diana. Captain Jared Mansfield, U. S. A., suc- 
ceeded Rufus Putnam, the first Surveyor- General, 
in 1803. It was necessary for him to survey the 
Vincennes Indian grant of 1795, confirmed in 1803, 
but as the tract was surrounded by Indian lands, 
cut off from the other surveys and remote from the 
Ohio River, he was at a loss as to how to proceed. 
If he tried to sui*vey the tract in conformance with 
the lines east of the Greeneville Treaty line he 
felt sure that when the lines were connected after 

5 FoT the Ohio surveys, see Higgins, Subdivisions of the Public 
Lands, 92-117. 


the Indian title to the intervening land was secured 
there would be great confusion, and if he merely 
surveyed the tract as a unit he would destroy any 
uniformitv of survevs in the Indiana Territory. 
He therefore decided to base the surveys upon 
great lines which could control all future surveys 
in that region and to this end he ran the second 
principal meridian, through the northeast corner 
of the cession, and for a base line he used a line 
running from the westernmost corner of Clark's 
grant on the Ohio — the nearest surveyed land. This 
,CJ^ was the beginning of the combination of principal 
' meridians and base lines which have been used in 

all later surveys. Both had been used before — 
INIansfield perfected the system and applied his 
brilliant talents to the astronomical location of the 
important points from which surrounding surveys 
could be made. The Second Principal INIeridian 
governed the surv^eys in Indiana and those in 
Illinois to the western boundary of the fourteenth 
range west, from that line to the INIississippi and 
Illinois rivers the sur^^eys have been based on the 
Third Principal INIeridian, which runs from the 
mouth of the Ohio River. The lands between the 
Illinois and the JNIississippi rivers were reserved 
for bounties of the War of 1812, and to expedite 
the surveys, as the intervening land had not been 
ceded, a Fourth Principal ^Meridian was established 
running from the mouth of the Illinois, extended 
to the north it governed the surveys in Wisconsin 
and in Minnesota, east of the ^Mississippi. In 


Michigan the surveys were based on the Michigan 
Meridian which runs north through the center of 
the peninsula. The last Principal INIeridian to be 
determined before 1820 was the Fifth, which runs 
from the mouth of the Arkansas River. In 1815 
this line was run 317 miles and a base line com- 
menced from the mouth of the St. Francis which 
reached the western boundary of Arkansas in 1841. 

A further development of this combination of 
principal meridians and base lines was the use of 
frequent base lines to correct the errors caused by 
the convergence of the meridians to the north. In- 
structions were therefore given to the deputy sur- 
veyors to form new base lines twenty-four miles 
north, or thirty miles south of the existing one — the 
difference in miles being due to the more marked 
convergence to the north. These lines were later 
known as correction lines. Also in surveying the 
great areas west of the JNIississippi it became neces- 
sary to run guide meridians between the principal 
meridians, the ranges being still numbered from 
the principal meridians but the surveys being based 
on the guide meridians.® 

For historical reasons, due to the location of the 
Indian cessions, it was not possible to use one or 
two meridians for the surveys in Mississippi and 
Alabama. Mississippi was survej'^ed from five in- 
itial points. To the south the Washington merid- 
ian 91° 05' west of Greenwich, governed the sur- 
veys to the Pearl River, and east of the river the 

8 Higgins, 121-138. 


St. Stephen's (Alabama) meridian 88° 02' west, 
was used. The central portion of the state was sur- 
veyed from the Choctaw meridian/ 90°05' west, 
and the northern part from the Chickasaw merid- 
ian,^ 89° 12' west, while a few townships east of the 
Tom})igbee were governed by the Huntsville, 
(Alabama), meridian, 86°31' west. The Alabama 
surv^eys, however, have all been made from the two 
meridians mentioned, the state being about evenly 
divided, the northern part controlled by the Hunts- 
ville and the southern part by the St. Stephen's 
meridian. Finally, for the I^ouisiana lands east of 
the Mississippi the St. Helena meridian was used, 
differing but slightly from the Washington merid- 
ian used in JNIississippi to the north, the former be- 
ing 91°05' west, and the latter, 91°11' west, while 
for the lands west of the river the Louisiana merid- 
ian, 92° 20' west, was used. The base line for the 
St. Stephen's, Washington, St. Plelena, and Louis- 
iana meridians is the 31° north latitude. For the 
Huntsville and Chickasaw meridians the 35th par- 
allel is used, while for the Choctaw meridian the 
base line runs from its southern extremity. 

An extended account of the method of executing 
the surv^eys would be out of place in a study of this 
kind. A brief account would only confuse the non- 
expert and would be of no value to the specialist. 
An excellent account of the early surs^eys is given 
in Niles' Weekly Register" for April 12, 1817, a 

^ Cessions of 18;30 nnd 1830. » Cession of 1832. 

» Niles' Register, \-2, 98-99. 


selection from which will doubtless give the more 
interesting features of the system at that time. 

" The north and south lines are run by the true 
meridian, and the east and west lines at right 
angles therefrom, as far as practicable, in closing. 
But as the east and west lines are made the closing 
lines of the sections or townships, they frequently 
vary a little from those points; being run from one 
section or township corner to another. The lines 
are well marked by having all those trees which 
fall in the line notched with two notches on each 
side where the line cuts, and all or most of the trees 
on each side of the line and near it blazed on two 
sides, diagonally or quartering towards the line. 

"At the section corners there are posts set, hav- 
ing as many notches cut on two sides of them as 
they are miles distant from the township boundary, 
where the sectional lines commenced. At the town- 
ship corners the posts have six notches made on 
each of the four sides facing the lines. Wherever 
a tree falls exactly in the corner, it supplies the 
place of a post, and is marked in the same manner. 
The places of the posts are perpetuated thus: at 
each corner the courses are taken to two trees, in 
opposite directions as nearly as may be, and their 
distance from the post measured. These trees are 
called 'bearing trees,' and are blazed on the side 
next the post, and one notch made with an axe in 
the blaze. But in prairies, or other places where 
there are no trees, within a convenient distance for 
bearings, a mound of earth is raised at each comer, 


not less than two and a half feet high, nor less than 
that in diameter at the base, in which the mound- 
posts are placed. 

" At the section corners, the numbers of each 
section, together with the numbers of the township 
and range, are marked with a marking iron (such 
as are used in mills and warehouses) on a bearing 
or other trees standing within the section and near 
to the corner, thus: A blaze, large enough for the 
purpose, is made on the tree, and on the blaze the 
letter R. is made, with the number of the range an- 
nexed; below this the letter T. with the number of 
the township; and under that the number of the 
section, without any letter to denote it. To the 
number of the township the letter N. or S. is added, 
according as the township lies north or south of the 
base-line; and to the number of the range, the 
letter E. or W. as the range may be east or west 
of the principal meridian. By proper attention to 
these num])ers and marks a purchaser is enabled to 
know the quarter and number of the section he 
wishes to enter, and the number of the to^vnship 
and range in which it lies. . . . 

" The quarter section corners are established in 
the same manner that the section corners are, but 
no marks are made for the numbers of the section, 
townsliip and range; '1-4 S. ' only, is marked on 
the post. 

" On the township and range lines, the section 
corners are established and marked only for the 
townships adjoining on the north and west of 


those lines respectively ; because in the subdivisions 
of the townships into sections, the lines are run 
out from the south and east, to the north and west 
boundaries of the townships, and the corners estab- 
lished thereon at the intersection, for those sections 
between which the lines are thus run. These lines 
generally intersect the north and west boundaries 
of the townships a few links distant from the cor- 
ners, thereon, of sections in the adjacent town- 
ships; in all which cases there are two corners 
adjacent to each other, and bearing trees and posts 
for each; and, without proper attention to the 
marks, and to the courses of the lines, it might be 
somewhat difficult for persons exploring the land, 
to distinguish them from each other. But where 
the section lines intersect the to^vnship boundaries 
at the corners thereon, such corners become com- 
mon to the sections in both townships; the proper 
marks and numbers being made for and within 

" The deputy surveyors are required to note par- 
ticularly, and to enter in their field books, the 
courses and distances of all lines which they may 
run ; the names and estimated diameters of all cor- 
ner or bearing trees, and all those trees which fall 
in the lines, called station or line trees, together 
with the courses or distances, of the bearing trees 
from their respective corners, with the proper let- 
ters and numbers marked on them; all rivers, 
creeks, springs and smaller streams of water, with 
their width, and the course they run in crossing the 


line, and whether navigable, rapid, or otherwise; 
also the face of the country, whether level, hilly or 
mountainous; the kinds of timber and undergrowth 
witli which the land may be covered, and the quality 
of the soil; all lakes, ponds, swamps, peat or turf 
grounds, coal beds, stone quarries; uncommon nat- 
ural or artificial ])roductions, such as remains of 
antient fortifications, mounds, precipices, caves, 
&c., all rapids, cascades or falls of water; min- 
erals, ores, fossils, &c. The true situation of all 
mines, salt licks, salt springs and mill seats which 
may come to their knowledge. From the returns 
of the surv'cys thus made, a complete knowledge 
of the country may be obtained, and maps thereof 
drawn with the greatest accuracy. The field notes 
of the surveyors, together with the plats and de- 
scriptions, made out therefrom, are filed in the 
office of the surveyor-general of the United States, 
or of the principal surveyors for the territories of 
INIississippi, Illinois and INIissouri." ^* 

This brief description gives a very good idea of 
the earlv sun^eying methods. Excellent as thev 
were at the time they have been much improved 
since. But it must not be supposed that all the 
lines were run according to the instructions. Errors 
in locating starting points, difficulties in running 
surveys through densely wooded countiy or over 

10 For information regarding the early surveys, see Niles' Regis- 
ter, 12:97-101. 406-8; 16:362-3. For field notes of a survey in 1812, 
see P. L. II., 735-7. For the general subject see Higgins, Sub- 
divisions of the Public Lands. For later surveys see Donaldson, 
The Public Domain (1884). 


rough ground, and at time needless carelessness, 
caused irregular surveys and much confusion. In 
1798, Rufus Putnam, the first Surveyor-General, 
urged that the lines be run by the magnetic merid- 
ians rather than by the true meridian, because of 
the necessity of taking frequent accurate obser- 
vations/^ Fortunately Congress refused to con- 
sider the change. It was early appreciated that 
the convergence of the meridians would distort the 
shape of the townships, so in 1800 it was provided 
that the excess or deficiency should be added to 
or deducted from the western or northern ranges 
of sections or half sections. ^^ All the other divi- 
sions were to be sold as containing the legal quan- 
tity, but those on the north and west sides should 
be sold as containing only the specific quantity ex- 
pressed on the plats. In Ai'kansas, especially, 
some very remarkable townships were laid out due 
to careless surveying. This provision of 1800 was 
enacted in another form in 1805,^^ when it was held 
that the tracts would be considered as containing 
the exact quantity contained in the surveyor's re- 
turns. Frequent attempts were made by land pur- 
chasers to secure indemnification for errors in the 
surveys. But without success. At times these 
errors were considerable, and a hardship was in- 
curred, but, on the other hand, it happened quite 
as frequently that the purchaser would profit. 
The execution of the first surveys was entrusted 

11 P. L. I., 83. 12 May 10, 1800. 

18 Feb. 11, 1805. 


to Thomas Hutcliins, the Geographer of the 
United States, and to the sun^eyors- elected by 
Congress, one for each State, They were to be 
paid $2.00 for each mile, including all expenses 
incurred. Under the Act of 1796 a Surveyor- 
General for the territory northwest of the Ohio 
was commissioned, Rufus Putnam holding the first 
appointment, from 1797-1803. He received a sal- 
ary of $2,000 a yiear and was authorized to select 
his assistant surveyors. The entire cost of the sur- 
veys was limited to $3.00 a mile. He was suc- 
ceeded by Jared Mansfield, who served until 1814, 
later serving as a professor at West Point. In 
1803 a surveyor south of Tennessee was appointed, 
whose powers were extended over Orleans Terri- 
tory in 1805, while those of the Surve^^or-General 
were extended to Louisiana Territory the next 
year. In 1816 a sun^eyor for Illinois and Missouri 
was appointed, the latter territory including Ar- 
kansas. The next year a sui^veyor for the lands in 
northern ]\Iississippi was appointed, and his pow- 
ers were confined to Alabama by Act of 1818. 
Such was the organization of the surveying forces 
in 1820. The Surveyor-General, whose district was 
now confined to Ohio, Indiana, and jNIichigan, and 
the three other surveyors, appointed their deputies 
and directed the surveys within their districts. 
This organization was not a perfect one. Delay 
and confusion resulted from having the surveyor 
south of Tennessee in charge of the surveys in 
Louisiana, but it was not until 1831 that a surveyor 


for the latter State was provided. So a later de- 
velopment was the providing of a sui-veyor-general 
for each State, as is the custom to-day. When the 
surv^eys within a State were completed, the office 
was closed and the records transferred to the State. 
The first State to possess these records was, natu- 
rally, the first public land State, Ohio receiving the 
records of the surveys within her limits on July 
29, 1846. 

After 1820 the surveys were gradually per- 
fected. New meridians and new base lines were 
used for the extension of the surveys until they 
reached the shores of the Pacific. Some changes 
were necessary when the mines of the West were 
being located upon the public lands, and doubt- 
less provision should have been made for a more 
equitable division of water rights in the arid re- 
gions. But these questions arose long after the pe- 
riod of the present study. In 1820, at all events, 
the surveys were being rapidly extended and were 
playing an important part in the orderly settle- 
ment of the rich lands of the Middle West. 



One of the most troublesome pro})lems affecting 
the public domain was the confirmation of foreign 
titles. As the United States from time to time 
took over foreign soil it was called upon to con- 
firm the existing property rights in the acquired 
territory. This would have been comparatively 
simple if, under the former rulers, the granting of 
land had been conducted under a uniform system 
and if the titles held by the claimants were subject 
to easy proof. But such was not the case. In the 
country northwest of the Ohio were settlers claim- 
ing under French and British grants, in the south- 
west were claimants under British and Spanish. 
In Louisiana there were French and Spanish, in 
Florida, British and Spanish, and in California and 
the far Southwest claims founded on Spanish and 
INIexican grants. Very few indeed of these grants 
had ever been perfected; many of them were 
merely permissions to settle. In legislating for 
them, Congress was dealing with land systems 
which it little understood, and in dealing with them 
in a legislative instead of a judicial way it had to 
devote to them more time than it could well spare 
and yet not as much time as the intricate subject 



demanded. In dealing with these foreign titles the 
object of Congress, as described by Gallatin, was 
*' to guard against unfounded or fraudulent claims, 
to confirm all bona fide claims derived from a legit- 
imate authority, even when the title had not been 
completed, and to secure in their possession all the 
actual settlers who were on the land when the 
United States took actual possession of the coun- 
try where it was situated, even though they had 
only a right of occupancy." ^ It is easy to realize 
that this was a most difficult undertaking. Where 
few of the settlers held perfected grants it was dif- 
ficult to legislate, for stringent rules framed 
against fraudulent claims would aff*ect old settlers 
whose titles were incomplete, while moderate re- 
quirements would off*er an opportunity to the land- 
grabbers. But until the foreign titles were con- 
firmed it would be unwise to survey and sell any 
land about the settled districts. So the confirma- 
tion of the claims held up the extension of the land 
system. In the meanwhile the American settlers, 
unable to buy land from the government, would 
purchase foreign land claims or would calmly set- 
tle on available vacant land. It was the presence 
of this new element which always complicated the 
process of confirmation. The land speculators 
would buy up claims and transfer them from hand 
to hand, and there were always those who would 
make false oaths and swear to suit the occasion. 
The " squatters " would petition for relief because 

1 Gallatin, writings. III, 220. 


the land sales were being delayed, and frequently 
a preemption was allowed such settlers long after 
the territory came under the American flag. In 
these ways, and in others to be mentioned, the for- 
eign titles affected the regular American system. 

A study of Congressional action on foreign land 
titles would make a considerable book in itself. 
Uniform legislation seemed impossible because of 
the different historical conditions in each case. In 
its desire to confirm the claims and open up the 
vacant land for settlement Congress would pass 
hasty and ill-considered laws which would require 
constant adaptation. Generally Congress would 
empower specially appointed commissioners or the 
Registers and Receivers of land offices to pass 
upon the claims and report. This would require 
the enactment of rules for the determination of the 
claims, and after the report was transmitted Con- 
gress would have to confirm or reject the claims. 
It was not until 1824 that land claims were allowed 
to be settled in court, and that only in JSIissouri 
and Arkansas. The policy developed slowly and 
not uniformly. If Congress could, at the very be- 
ginning, have erected a tribunal with extensive 
powers to settle decisively all land claims, it would 
doubtless have expedited the process and prevented 
many of the abuses that grew up under the system 
of Congressional control. 

At various times Congress had to to deal with 
five bodies of foreign land claims, those in the old 
Northwest, the old Southwest, the Louisiana coun- 


try, Florida, and the Mexican Southwest. It will 
serve the purpose of this study if only the first 
of these groups is examined, for in the Northwest 
were conditions similar to those found elsewhere, 
although the grants were not so extensive, and in 
meeting them Congress laid down precedents for 
later legislation. 

The Treaty of Paris, at the close of the Revolu- 
tion, made the United States mistress of a great 
amount of territory lying between the Alleghenies 
and the Mississippi, which, although claimed by 
various States, had never been under the adminis- 
tration of any of the original States.^ In this re- 
gion were settlers whose grants, if they possessed 
any, were derived from the preceding governments 
in the Northwest, from France or Britain, in the 
Southwest from Britain or Spain. The Treaty of 
Paris confirmed the property rights of these set- 
tlers, and in the case of the settlers in the North- 
west their interests were further safeguarded by 
the terms of the Virginia cession. In the unac- 
cepted offer of 1781 ^ Virginia had stipulated that 
the French and other inhabitants of the Northwest 
who professed themselves citizens of Virginia 
should have their possessions confirmed to them, 
and this clause was retained in the accepted offer 
of 1784. The attention of Congress was directed 
to the settlers there because this was the first region 
to become available for national land sales, and 

2 Except the Virginia occupation, 1779-1787. 
sHening, X., 564-7. 


until the foreign titles were roughly estimated or 
confirmed no safe land sales could take place. 

In 1788, wlien the great land sales to companies 
were under way, George INIorgan and his associates 
desired a large tract of land on the Mississippi. 
This led to a consideration of the claims of the 
French settlers in the Illinois country, and the fol- 
lowing report was adopted by the Congress of the 
Confederation on June 20, 1788.^ In the first 
place, the committee reported that there were only 
a few settlers to consider. At Kaskaskias there 
were "near eighty families "; at Prairie du Roch- 
er, twelve families; at Kahokia, near fifty fami- 
lies, and at Fort Chartres and St. Philip's, four or 
five families. It was the custom for the heads of 
families to have a certain quantity of arable land 
allotted to them and a share of the meadow, wood, 
and pasture land. The committee recommended 
that the claims for lands held at the beginning of 
the Revolution should be satisfied and that an ad- 
ditional reserve might be made to meet their future 
needs. It was agreed, therefore, that a general re- 
sei'V'e should be set apart for the claims of those 
who were citizens of the United States " or any 
one of them" before 1783, and in this reserve do- 
nations were to be laid out of 400 acres to each 
liead of a family. These donations were to be dis- 
tributed bv lot, and tliev could not be alienated 
until the grantee had lived three years in the dis- 
trict after the distribution. The Governor of the 

*J. IV., 833-4. 


Northwest Territory was to examine the titles and 
lay off the land at the expense of the claimants. 

This resolution is given in detail because it shows 
the apparent simplicity of the process of confirm- 
ing the claims on the Mississippi. About 150 fam- 
ilies were to be considered, and these possessed so 
little land that Congress was willing to offer 400 
acres as a donation to each head of a family. Un- 
fortunately Governor St. Clair found the matter 
far more complicated. ' 

In August similar resolutions were passed in 
favor of the settlers at Vincennes, on the Wabash.^ 
In this case, also, only the claims of those who had 
settled before 1783 and who had professed them- 
selves citizens of the United States were to be con- 
firmed, while a donation of 400 acres was to be made 
to each head of a famih\ On the preceding day the 
donation reserves on the Mississippi were ordered 
to be located outside and east of the general re- 
serve,^ a change which happened to throw them 
into very poor land. But all ancient improve- 
ments were to be considered reserved for their 

These resolutions of the old Congress only ap- 
plied to the settlers at Vincennes and on the Mis- 
sissippi about Kaskaskia. Nothing was done about 
the settlers in Michigan or in other parts of the 
Northwest, and, as a matter of fact, the American 
occupation of the latter regions did not commence 

6 Aug. 29, 1788. J. IV., 858. 6 Aug. 28, 1788. J. IV., 857. 


until June, 1796. Moreover, the Governor was 
given complete powers to determine claims and lay 
off donations; he was only required to report his 
proceedings to Congress. No date was set for the 
final presentation of claims. 

It was not until February, 1790, that Governor 
St. Clair could visit Kaskaskia and organize civil 
government there, while he was forced to send 
Winthrop Sargent, the Secretary, to attend to the 
affairs at Vincennes. It was the report of the 
latter, of July 31, which first came to the atten- 
tion of Congress and showed conclusively that fur- 
ther legislation was necessary. 

At Vincennes, Sargent found "^ that the records 
were very imperfect, that not one title in twenty 
was complete, and that oral testimony had to be 
accepted instead of written documents. The orig- 
inal concessions made by the French or British 
commandants were generally made on a scrap of 
paper, and although it was the custom to lodge 
them with the notary, that official kept no book of 
records, and the loose papers were frequently lost 
or abstracted. At one time the royal notary " ran 
off with all the public papers in his possession," 
while in the period between 1777 and 1788, " the 
records have been so falsified, and there is such 
gross fraud and forgery, as to invalidate all evi- 
dence and information " which might have been 
acquired from them. 

In June, 1779, a court of civil and criminal juris- 

T p. L. I., 9-16. 


diction had been established by Virginia, and this 
court, without any authorization, proceeded to 
grant lands. Between 1779 and 1783, 26,000 acres 
were apparently granted, and 22,000 more up to 
1787, when General Harmar put a stop to it, but 
many of these grants might have been forged in 
the notary's office. Sargent was unwilling to con- 
sider any of these grants "rightful claims," al- 
though in a few cases improvements had been 

Again, there had been some movement of settlers 
between the French settlements, which, under the 
law, would deprive them of grants at either place; 
there were 131 residents of Vincennes who had 
done militia service and who, in many cases, be- 
came heads of families shortly after 1783; there 
were 5,400 acres of land used as a common by the 
people of Vincennes for which no provision was 
made ; and there were a number of persons settled 
on a 150-acre tract originally granted to the Pian- 
kishaw Indians, but by them gradually sold to the 

After laying these deserving cases before Con- 
gress, Sargent further reported that he had in- 
structed the surveyor to lay off certain lands prop- 
erly claimed by the residents, that he had approved 
donations to 120 men and 23 women who were 
heads of families in 1783, and that he had laid out 
but withheld donations for fifteen heads of fami- 
lies who had removed. 

Governor St. Clair reported his proceedings at 


Kaskaskia in a letter of February 10, 1791.' The 
situation there was similar to that at Vincennes. 
In addition to the court grants were those of Todd 
and De Nunibrun, lieutenants of the County of 
Illinois, appointed by Virginia, and there were also 
lands claimed under the purchases from the Kas- 
kaskia Indians. St. Clair also reported that the 
residents were too poor to pay for the surveys of 
their confirmed claims. " The Illinois country, as 
well as that upon the Ouabash, has been involved 
in great distress ever since it fell under the Amer- 
ican dominion. With great cheerfulness the peo- 
ple furnished the troops under General Clarke, and 
the Illinois regiment, with everything they could 
spare, and often with much more than they could 
spare, with any convenience to themselves: most 
of the certificates for those supplies are still in their 
hands, unliquidated and unpaid; and in many in- 
stances, where application for payment has been 
made to the State of Virginia, imder whose author- 
ity the certificates were granted, it has been re- 
fused. The Illinois regiment being disbanded, a 
set of men, pretending the authority of Virginia, 
embodied themselves, and a scene of general depre- 
dation and plunder ensued. To this succeeded 
tliree successive and extraordinary inundations 
from the jMississippi, which either swept away their 
crops or prevented their being planted. The loss 
of the greatest part of their trade with the Indians, 
which was a great resource, came upon them at this 

8 p. L. I., 18-29. 



juncture, as well as the hostile incursions of some 
of the tribes which had ever before been in friend- 
ship with them; and to these was added the loss 
of their whole last crop of corn by an untimely 
frost. Extreme misery could not fail to be the 
consequence of such accumulated misfortunes." 

Acting upon these reports Congress passed its 
act of March 3, 1791, wliich gi-eatly increased the 
scope of the confirmations. It must be remem- 
bered that at this time no land in the Northwest 
was being sold by the United States. Persons de- 
siring to purchase lands would have to apply to 
the two companies on the Ohio, or to the holders 
of Virginia warrants. This act met all the points 
raised by Sargent. Donations were to be given to 
heads of famihes who had moved from one settle- 
ment to the other since 1783, and they could elect 
where the donation should be laid out. Heads of 
families who had left the settlements since 1783 
might secure the donations if they would return 
and occupy them within five years. Lands " ac- 
tually improved and cultivated" under any sup- 
posed grant of a court or a commandant were to 
be confirmed up to 400 acres; and those persons, 
not having received a donation, who were enrolled 
in the militia on August 1, 1790, and who had done 
service, were to receive 100 acres. The 150 acres 
purchased from Piankishaw Indians at Vincennes 
were confirmed to the occupiers, and the commons 
at Vincennes, Cahokia and Prairie du Pont were 
appropriated to the use of the respective villagers. 


Finally, on the Mississippi, the donation reserves 
were to be laid out according to the resolution of 
June 20, 1788, thus including a considerable 
amount of good land, while two private claims of 
a special nature were confirmed. This act, also, 
continued the power of the Governor to make the 
grants enumerated. But the donations and con- 
firmations proceeded very slowly. The disastrous 
Indian campaign of 1791, and then a lack of 
proper surveyors, delayed actions. St. Clair also 
hesitated about confirming the court grants be- 
cause of the discretionary powers involved. On 
account of the troubled nature of the countrj^ many 
deserving people had not been able to make exten- 
sive improvements, on which alone confirmations 
could be based, and in some cases the husband and 
father had been slain, leaving to the widow and 
fatherless only a claim to land. St. Clair, there- 
fore, believed that the intention of the grantee and 
not the improvement of the gi'ant should be con- 
sidered, that a person contemplating a bona fide 
settlement should be confirmed in his claim up to 
400 acres. In the meanwhile few confirmations 
had been made, and as the years passed it was be- 
coming more difficult to i)rove former improve- 
ments or to challenge false statements. A further 
difficulty arose from the fact that land was claimed 
under impix)vement in the tracts reserved for the 
location of the donations. In 1708 Winthrop 
Sargent, then Governor of Mississippi Territory, 
stated that he had approved, at Vincemies, claims 


for 22,572 acres and authorized donations of 103,- 
800 acres.^ He had, in 1797, added sixty names 
to the heads of families, and fifty-nine to the mili- 
tiamen, as the result of the investigations of a 
board of four commissioners appointed by hitn.^'' 

For several years the matter rested, the Gover- 
nor, William Henry Harrison, after 1802, acting 
on the claims from time to time. Jay's treaty," 
followed by the Indian cessions at Greeneville,^^ 
and the withdrawal of the British from the West- 
ern posts in June, 1796, had an immediate effect 
on the land system. The Indian treaty led to the 
general act of 1796 for the disposal of lands. Jay's 
treaty brought under the administration of the 
United States a number of settlers whose property 
rights were protected by that agreement. Yet 
eight years elapsed before Congress made any ef- 
fort to confirm the land claims in Michigan. 

In 1802 the attention of Congress was called to 
an amazing situation at Vincennes.^^ Governor 
Harrison reported that the members of the court 
established by Virginia had, before dissolution, di- 
vided among themselves the entire region to which 
the Indian title had been extinguished, " each mem- 
ber absenting himself from the court on the day 
that the order was to be made in his favor, so that 
it might appear to be the act of his fellows only." 
For years the grant was quiescent, but lately it 

9 p. L. II., 84-90. 10 p. L. I., 576. 

11 Concluded, Nov. 19, 1794. Ratified, June 24, 1795. 

12 Signed, Aug. 3, 1795. is P. L. I., 122. 


was discovered by some land speculators who be- 
gan to purchase large tracts under it and pro- 
ceeded to resell them in remote parts of the coun- 
try. Land was sold for a song, a thousand acres 
for a rifle or an indifferent horse. Harrison had 
no intention of confirming these claims, but feared 
that many settlers would arrive seeking lands 
under such grants. 

The first carefully-drawn act for the confirma- 
tion of foreign titles was that of 1803 respecting 
claims in the Southwest.*^ This set a definite pe- 
riod in which all claims must be recorded, it cre- 
ated two commissions to pass upon the claims, 
gave them power to administer oaths and examine 
Avitnesses, and made their decisions final. In this 
case the commissioners in each district were to be 
the Register of the land office therein, and two other 
persons appointed by the President. The method 
outlined in this act was a great improvement on 
the system in operation in the Northwest, and it 
was soon introduced in the latter region. 

The Indian agent at Detroit had been instructed 
to report on the claims to land in that region. Mr. 
Jouett proceeded to visit all the settlements, from 
Otter Creek, forty-two miles south^^'est of Detroit, 
to the St. Clair (Sinclair) River, and found there 
some fourteen settlements, aside from Detroit, with 
342 families located under all sorts of titles, from 
perfected French grants to mere occupancy.^' 
This report, dated July 25, 1803, was submitted to 

14 Mar. 3, 1803, ch. 27. » P. L. I., 190-193. 


Congress on February 17, of the next year, in time 
to be considered when the act for the sale of lands 
in Indiana Territory, which then included Michi- 
gan, was under discussion. 

This act ^® established land offices at Vincennes, 
Kaskaskia, and Detroit, and appointed the Register 
and Receiver of each office to act as commissioners 
for the determining of all claims to land witliin 
their respective districts. These commissioners 
could compel the attendance of ^vitnesses, admin- 
ister oaths, and examine witnesses, but after they 
had decided the claims they were to report their 
decisions to Congress for its further action. All 
persons claiming under " legal " French or British 
grants or under any resolution of Congress were 
to deliver to the Register a notice of their claims, 
as well as all evidence thereof, before January 1, 
1805, otherwise all right, based on any resolution 
of Congress, would become void. 

This act, therefore, while providing for the first 
time a method of confirmation for titles in Mich- 
igan, also subjected all the confirmations and dona- 
tions in Indiana and Illinois to a review, and that, 
too, after many of these tracts had changed hands. 
Moreover, no provision was made for incomplete 
foreign grants, nor would settlement alone be con- 
sidered. Under this act but very few titles could 
be confirmed in the Detroit district. 

Congress, however, did not insist u|X)n the terms 
of this severe act. At the next session the time 

I 18 Mar. 26, 1804, ch. 35. 


for submitting claims and evidence was extended 
to November 1, 1805, while evidence of possession 
and actual settlement might be advanced as a claim 
to land.'" 

The commissioners at Detroit submitted a par- 
tial report in December, 1805,^® in which they 
stated that lands in their district were claimed un- 
der seven different titles : First, grants in fee sim-: 
pie by Cadillac, commandant at Detroit early in 
the eighteenth century, which needed no confirma- 
tion by the cro\Mi — of these there were two ad- 
vanced. Second, grants by the governors and in- 
tendants of New France and Louisiana, which had 
been confirmed by the King of France — of these 
there were six. Third, similar grants, but uncon- 
firmed by the King. Fourth, grants by the c6m- 
mandants at Detroit. Fifth, claims derived from 
the British government — of which there were about 
one hundred. Sixth, Indian grants. Seventh, ac- 
tual settlement and occupation — about four hun- 
dred. Their final report, on JNIarch 6, 1806, recom- 
mended only six claims for confirmation and trans- 
mitted a great mass of rejected claims.^® 

The commissioners at Vincennes reported on 
JNIarch 25.'" They submitted three classes of 
claims, those decided on and confirmed by the gov- 
ernors, those not decided on by the governors, and 
those not embraced by any act of Congress. In 
the former class they found difficulty in determin- 

17 Mar. 3, 1805, ch. 43. is P. L. I., 2G3-284. lo P. L. I., 305. 
a« P. L. I., 988-303. P. L. VII., 675-7^7. P. L. I., 558-591. 


ing whether the confirmation was based on French 
or British grants or on improvements under a 
court deed ; in all, 354 had been made. They found 
that 243 grants of donation lands had been made, 
and 221 militia donations as well. Of the previ- 
ously undecided claims they recommended for con- 
firmation 19 based on ancient French and British 
grants, 16 based on improvements under court 
deeds, 13 militia donations, and 17 donations to 
heads of families. They also rejected a number of 
claims because of lack of evidence, and laid before 
Congress several claims based on unauthorized In- 
dian purchases and on the extensive fraudulent 
grants made by the court at Vincennes. In a sup- 
plementary report of November 26,^^ the commis- 
sioners transmitted a list of grants and confirma- 
tions by the governors which had not been pre- 
sented by the then claimants, and the question was 
raised as to whether their failure to comply with 
the law of 1804 could invalidate their titles. Two 
additional donation claims were favorably re- 

Before these reports were laid before Congress 
two acts were passed concerning these perplexing 
titles. One authorized the Governor and Judges 
of Michigan Territory to lay out a town to take 
the place of old Detroit, destroyed by fire on June 
11, 1805.^^ In the enlarged townsite lots were to 
be granted to American citizens who were resident 

21 p. L. I., 658-681. 22 p. L. I., 247. 


there at its destruction.-'' Tlie other authorized the 
laying out of tracts near Vincennes and Kaskaskia 
in which all grants were to be located. ^^ 

It was desirable that Congress take some action 
on the commissioners' reports. Until the claims 
were confirmed there could be no land sales in the 
Kaskaskia and Detroit districts, while the delay 
only served to render the records and the evidence 
more confusing. The commissioners at Kaskaskia 
had reported that they could not finish their labors 
in time for Congressional action in 1806.^^ The 
situation there was an interesting one because of 
the fraud which was evident in the land claims. 
Congress waited another j^ear, and then acted on 
the two reports before it. 

These acts of INIarch 3, 1807,^*' presented fur- 
ther proof of the sympathetic attitude of Congress 
toward the settlers during foreign rule. In INIich- 
igan the claims recommended by the commissioners 
were confirmed, and claims based on actual settle- 
ment prior to July 1, 1790, were to be confirmed 
up to 640 acres, but only one tract to each claim- 
ant, provided they had been submitted to the late 
conmiissioners. For deciding on the rights of the 
claimants the Secretary of the Territory was added 
to the Register and the Receiver of the Land Of- 
fice, and as commissioners they were to decide the 
cases "according to justice and equity." Their 

23 Apr. 21, 1806, ch. 43. =* Apr. 21, 180G, ch. 40. 

28 p. L. I., 285. 

2« Michigan, ch. 34. Indiana, ch. 47. 


decisions were to be final, and on their certificate ^^ 
a patent would eventually issue. At Vincennes, 
the claims reported favorably by the commissioners 
were confirmed, and all the confirmations by the 
governors as reported by the commissioners were 
also confirmed, except in the case of those actually 
rejected by the latter. The claimants of 244 acres 
under an Indian grant were likewise confirmed in 
their possessions. Finally, the commissioners at 
Kaskaskia were allowed until December 1, 1807, 
to complete their report. 

On that date, however, the commissioners at 
Kaskaskia reported that they had by no means fin- 
ished their inquiries. This delay was due to the 
extensive perjuries attempted in that district. In 
this report they stated that no less than seven hun- 
dred depositions given at St. Charles, Upper Loui- 
siana, bearing upon claims in Kaskaskia were per- 
jured, while two hundred depositions sworn before 
the board were acknowledged false.^^ In fact, they 
had confirmed nearly forty claims for four hun- 
dred acres each, to one man, on evidence of this 
nature, which they finally rejected. 

The Michigan commissioners, in turn, recom- 
mended that an extension of time be granted in 
their district for the presentation of claims, because 
the ignorant Canadian settlers had not known or 
realized the necessity of entering their claims in 
due time.^" INIoreover, some settlers claimed more 

2T Must be entered with the Register before Jan. 1, 1809, and hii 
certificate must be sent to the Secretary of the Treasury. 
38 p. L. I., 590. 29 Sept. 1, 1807. P. L. I., 592-3. 


than one farm and should be confirmed in them, 
although the act permitted only a single confirma- 
tion, while the old farms on the Detroit River 
should be extended for the " continuation " of 
eighty arpents,^*^ instead of forty arpents, as was 
the custom. Settlers between 1796 and the pres- 
ent time should also receive some land. 

This report shows how difficult it was for even 
a generous Congress to deal out absolute equity. 
It was promptly taken up, and the Act of April 
25, 1808, met each recommendation. I^and claims 
might be presented before January 1, 1809. Per- 
sons holding 40-arpent tracts might preempt the 
" continuation " before that date. Settlers between 
July 1, 1796, and INIarch 26, 1804, might obtain 
preemption for not over one section, and their 
claims must be presented in the same manner as 
the others for the commissioners' decision. Finally, 
more than one tract could be confirmed to settlers 
before 1796, but still not more than 640 acres. 

A very little consideration would show that this 
act would not be satisfactory in its treatment of 
the recent settlers. It must be remembered that 
no public land was on sale in this district at the 
time. The preemption to settlers between 1796 
and 1804 was based on the fact that as no land 
office was open they had been forced to enter va- 
cant land without purchase. But why make the 
final date 1804? It was selected because of the 
act of that date providing for the sale of lands in 

so Arpent=4/5 acre. 


this region, but as no sales had been made nor 
could be made until the surveys had been extended, 
it followed that unauthorized settlements contin- 
ued after 1804, and the latter settlers, in turn, ex- 
pected a preemption of their improvements. 

The next year^^ it became necessary to revive 
and continue the powers of the Kaskaskia commis- 
sioners until 1810 and to authorize them to con- 
sider the claims at Peoria, while a special agent 
was appointed to investigate claims and oppose 
fraudulent ones.^^ The long-delayed report was* 
finally finished on February 24, 1810, and trans- 
mitted to Washington.^^ The commissioners 
pointed out the difficulties under which they had 
labored; the wretched state of the ancient records, 
which rendered it practically impossible to trace 
titles from original concessions; the difficulty in 
determining the improvements made so long ago — 
in this case the commissioners insisted upon the 
actual raising of a crop or crops and not the mere 
barking or deadening of trees; the confusion re- 
sulting fi'om the emigration to Louisiana of resi- 
dents entitled to donations or militia rights; and, 
finally, the wholesale perjury which was practiced. 
Fifteen men were named whose depositions were 
pronounced false, some of them swearing to as 
many as twenty claims. A study of the rejected 
claims shows how frequently the decision was based 
on "perjury" or "forgery." 

31 Feb. 15, 1809. 32 June 15, 1809, ch. 3. 

33 p. L. II., 123-141. Transcripts dated Dec. 31, 1809. 


The commissioners did not report on any claims 
previously confirmed by the governors, but in addi- 
tion to these they recommended favorably 22 
claims founded on ancient grants, 89 based on im- 
provements, 254 donations to heads of families 
resident before 1788,^^ and 279 militia rights. They 
also reported on the claims to the common fields 
and town lots at Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Prairie du 
Rocher, Fort Chartres, and Prairie du Pont. 

By mistake only the transcript of the first three 
classes of claims was transmitted to Congress, so 
these alone were confirmed by the Act of May 1, 
1810. Now, for the first time, the holders of these 
lands could feel sure of their titles. But no action 
had been taken on the governors' confirmations or 
on the common fields and town lots. 

At this session ^^ the subject was opened again 
at Vincennes, when the land officers were in- 
structed to receive until November 1 the claims for 
donation lands of persons who were minors or 
were absent from the territory when the other 
claims were being presented. The commissioners 
reported on jNIay 27, 1812, and recommended 22 
donation and six militia claims.''*'' They also pre- 
sented a number of rejected claims and called at- 
tention to five claims for militia lands based upon 
residents who had been killed by the Indians be- 
fore August, 1790, as well as three valid claims 
which did not properly come before them because 

3« No legal authority for donations after 1783. 

35 Apr. 30, 1810, ch. 35. so p. L. II., 455-463. 


the claimants were not minors nor absentees when 
the claims were formerly filed. Congress, how- 
ever, confirmed the recommended claims, as well 
as the eight special ones.^^ 

This digression has broken the chronological se- 
quence of events in the Northwest. The uncon- 
firmed claims reported by the Kaskaslda commis- 
sioners were taken into consideration by Congress, 
and in 1811 two reports ^^ were made by Jeremiah 
Morrow, chairman of the House Committee on 
Public Lands, recommending that the claims to 
common fields and town lots in Illinois be con- 
firmed, but that the decisions of the governors 
should be reexamined. 

JNIorrow called attention to the remarkable dis- 
crepancy between the 150 families mentioned un- 
der the original resolution of 1788 and the great 
number of donation claims confirmed since, and he 
held that even at this late date Congress had the 
right to examine into the acts of the governors. If 
they exceeded their instructions and made confir- 
mations not authorized by law, or if they for any 
reason accepted fraudulent evidence, in such cases 
their acts should not stand. 

Although a measure of this kind was bound to 
arouse opposition, for during the past twenty 
years evidence in support of good titles might have 

37 Feb. 13, 1813, ch. 23. Locations in the reserved tract were to 
be made before Oct. 1, 1813, extended to July 1, 1815. (Dec. 26, 
1814, ch. 14,) then to Sept. 1, 1818 (Mar. 18, 1818, ch. 18). 

38 Feb. 15, 1811, F. L. II., 254; Dec. 17, 1811, P. L. II., 257. 


disappeared, yet Congress adopted the report and, 
in 1812,^*' confirmed the claims to common fields 
and town lots in Illinois and authorized the Regis- 
ter and Receiver at Kaskaskia and one other per- 
son to inquire into the validity of claims to land 
in their district derived from confirmations made 
hy the governors of the Northwest or Indiana 

The three commissioners under this act reported 
on January 4, 1813, as follows:^*' Of the claims 
confirmed by St. Clair and Harrison as founded 
on ancient grants they recommended 15, ques- 
tioned 9, and referred 3 for the special action of 
Congress; of the confirmations based on improve- 
ments they recommended 105, questioned 35, and 
referred 3; of the donations to heads of families 
they approved 154, questioned 36, and referred fa- 
vorably 17; of the militia donations they recom- 
mended 212, and questioned only 2. On January 
18 the Register forwarded 18 donation, 9 improve- 
ment, and 4 militia claims which had not been sub- 
mitted in time, but w^hich he recommended for con- 
firmation.^^ And he added: "A confirmation of 
these, and there will be an end to this perplexing 
business ; unless, indeed, the government should in- 
dulge the speculators with the privilege of a re- 
investigation of claims rejected by the former 
Board. On this subject I can only observe, that I 
am wearied with these painful duties, which, for 

39 Feb. -'0, ISH, ch. -22. «> P. L. II., 210-241. 

" P. L. II., 741-3. 


eight years past, it has fallen to my lot to dis- 
charge. Nor do I believe the government would 
be doing justice to itself, or its officers, by extend- 
ing this indulgence. When witnesses have been 
suborned, when the ancient records have been re- 
cently interpolated, and when the officers who 
dared to discharge their solemn duty have been 
attempted to be made the victims of this corrup- 
tion, it is time to close the doors against the admis- 
sion of new frauds." 

The next year Congress confirmed all the claims 
not actually rejected by the commissioners.^^ As 
many of these claims were not specially located, it 
was necessary to provide for them, so a large re- 
serve was set apart on the Mississippi. Persons 
actually resident there before February 5, 1813,^^ 
were to be entitled to the preemption of 640 acres 
or less, while the rest of the tract was subject to 
location by the possessors of confirmed claims. 
This right expired on May 1, 1815. 

It goes without saying that this action was not 
final. The following year the land officers at Kas- 
kaskia reported ^^ for confirmation 24 improve- 
ment claims which had previously been confirmed 
for less than 400 acres and of which the balance 
was desired; 17 donations for heads of families; 1 
militia donation, and 2 improvement claims which 
had not been submitted in time for the former 

42 Apr. 16, 1814, ch. 61. 

43 The date of the general preemption act for Illinois Territory. 

44 P. L. III., 1-5. 


report. Congress promptly confirmed these claims 
and extended the time for the registration of con- 
firmed claims until October 1, 1816.^^ The period 
of registration was later extended to November 1, 

These acts practically settled all the claims to 
lands in Illinois under ancient grants or donations 
of Congress. Later legislation was necessary to 
confirm the claims of settlers in Peoria before Jan- 
uary 1, 1813, but this affected only seventy claims 
and was easily attended to.^^ About the same time 
the inhabitants of Cahokia were authorized to lay 
out a town on their common and dispose of the 
lots."*^ But there were, of course, attempts to 
open up the question of the rejected claims. In 
1818 the Committee on the Public Lands of the 
House reported in condemnation of the conduct of 
the Kaskaskia commissioners in rejecting certain 
of the governors' confirmations,^® and recom- 
mended that such rejected claims as were based on 
parole testimony should be confirmed. This posi- 
tion was taken because of the many changes which 
had taken place in property holdings between 1790 
and 1813. The controversy was not, however, re- 
opened by Congress. A few special claims were 

*5 Apr. 27, 1816, ch. 101. (This Act confirmed the claims trans- 
mitted in the report of March 29, 1815, but as the report was 
really dated I^'ot'ember 29th, there was some question as to the 
legality of the confirmation.) 

"May 15, 1820, ch. 117. 

4TMay 15, 1820, ch. 125; P. L. III., 476-486; May 3, 1823, ch. 68. 

<8P. L. III., 432, May 1, 1820, ch. "P. L. III., 384. 


confirmed, from time to time, but no other general 
legislation was enacted. 

During this time the commissioners in the De- 
troit district had been engaged in the examination 
and confirmation of claims. Under the Act of 
1807 their decision was to be final. From the 29th 
of June, 1807, until the 22d of February, 1811, 
they met almost daily, although frequently ad- 
journing for want of business.^'' Favorable deci- 
sions were generally recorded as follows : " And 
therefore it doth appear to the commissioners that 
the claimant is entitled to the aforesaid tract of 
land, and that he have a certificate thereof, which 
certificate shall be 'No. . . ; and that he cause the 
same to be surveyed, and a plot of the survey, with 
the quantity of land therein contained, to be re- 
turned to the Register of the Land Office at De- 
troit." In that period some 738 claims for confir- 
mation or preemption were passed upon. By act 
of 1812 ^^ Congress provided that patents should 
issue for these confirmed claims in conformity with 
the general plat of the surveys returned to the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, even though the surveys 
might not, in every respect, correspond with the 
description of the tracts confirmed. By this act, 
also, the preemption of the " continuation " of the 
farms on the Detroit River was changed into a do- 
nation and the commissioners were authorized to 
grant certificates to the proper claimants, provided 

00 p. L. I., 305-557. si Apr. 23, 1812, ch. 62. 


they gave notice before December 1. This date 
was later extended to December 1, 1818.'^ 

It was soon evident that a number of claims had 
not been presented to the commissioners within the 
time designated by the acts of 1807 and 1808. At 
Green Bay and Prairie du Chien (now in Wiscon- 
sin) were settlers who had been quite ignorant of 
the steps necessary for the confirmation of titles. 
To meet these, and similar cases, Congress revived 
the powers of the commissioners in the Detroit dis- 
trict and instructed them to pass upon the claims 
for donations of back lands along the Detroit 
River and upon all claims filed with the Register 
but not as yet decided,^^ A special agent was to 
visit the settlements at Green Bay and Prairie du 
Chien for the purpose of examining their claims. 
But in all these cases, except as to the donations, 
the commissioners were to report their decisions to 
the Secretary of the Treasury before October 1, 
1821, for the action of Congress. Previously the 
actions of the commissioners had been practically 
final, no confirmation by Congress being necessary. 

This act was further extended three years later.'^^ 
The powers of the commissioners were continued 
until November 1, 1823, and the claims they had 
recommended were confirmed. In addition, it was 
provided that persons resident at Green Bay, Prai- 
rie du Chien or in the County of Michilimackinaw, 
on July 1, 1812, who continued to submit to the 

52 Mar. 3, 1817, ch. 99. 's May 11, 1820, ch. 85. 

64 Feb. 21, 1823, ch. 10. 


authority of the United States, would be confirmed 
in their holdings up to 640 acres.^^ On the Detroit 
side such a confirmation had only been made in the 
case of settlers before 1796, but in the case of these 
outposts the period was lengthened because of the 
delay in extending the authority of the United 
States to their region. But according to the act it 
was not sufficient to prove settlement alone, the 
settler must prove that he was loyal to the United 
States during the War of 1812. 

The Commissioners submitted three reports un- 
der the Act of 1820 and six under the Act of 
1823.^*^ All of these were laid before Congress in 
1824 because of certain irregularities in the con- 
firmations which would need Congressional action. 
For over three years no action was taken, although 
the necessity of settling the titles was realized. 
The delay was in the main due to the fact that the 
commissioners had not investigated the question of 
the loyalty of the persons claiming lands as resi- 
dents in 1812. There were other minor objections 
which finally were waived when the Act of 1828 '^^ 
confirmed all the recommended claims save those 

B5 File notice of claims before Oct. 1, 1823. It was doubtful 
whether a confirmation of the decisions by Congress was necessary. 
(P. L. v., 48.) 

56 p. L. v., 47-328. 

BT Apr. 17, 1828, ch. 28. These claimants at Sault Ste. Marie, 
together with all persons resident there on Jan. 1, 1849, were per- 
mitted to place their claims before the officers of the local land 
office, who would pass on their validity and who would determine 
what would be a fair amount for them to pay Government for their 
lands when the townsite was laid out. Sept. 26, 1850, ch. 71. 


at Sault Ste. INIarie, which were protested as being 
in favor of supporters of the British in 1812. 

By 1828, therefore, the general legislation af- 
fecting foreign titles in the Northwest ended ; from 
that date only special claims were laid before Con- 
gress. Forty years had passed since the Congress 
of the Confederation had provided for the original 
confirmations. To tliem it had seemed an easy task 
to secure in their possessions the simple French 
settlers whom the fortunes of war had placed un- 
der their protection. But when the actual confir- 
mations were in process the problem was compli- 
cated by the presence of masterful Americans, land 
speculators and squatters, until it was necessary 
for the agents of government to wade through " a 
sea of corruption " in order to carry out their 

Yet the experience in the Northwest was simple 
indeed compared with that in the Southwest, Loui- 
siana, Florida, and California. Fundamentally the 
problem was tlie same, the endeavor to protect 
bona fide grants which emanated under a loose and 
careless system. If France and Spain and INIexico 
had granted lands in such a way that complete 
titles could easily be secured, if transfers of lands 
had been carefully recorded, it would have been a 
fairly sim])le matter to confirm the titles held under 
such grants. But in the Northwest it was found 
that few titles were complete, that lands had been 
taken u]) under mere permission to settle, and that 
recorded transfers were rare. Then when the 


simple French settlers came into contact with the 
shrewder Americans it was easy to predict what 
would happen. In Louisiana, and especially in the 
far Southwest and California, where large tracts 
were granted away for a nominal consideration, 
where grants were imperfect and the rewards for 
successful fraud were great, the problem was more 
acute. In the Northwest the grants rarely cov- 
ered more than fifty or sixty acres, so it was easy 
to defeat the fraudulent claims for large areas. 
But across the Mississippi lands had attained spec- 
ulative values before the American purchase and 
large tracts had been granted and larger ones were 

There was bound to be fraud in the confirmation 
of foreign titles. That was because it was essential 
that the matter be settled as soon as possible — a 
judicial determination would take too long. All 
territory acquired since 1783 passed into the public 
domain, with the exception of the State of Texas. 
It was necessary that the settlers be con- 
firmed in their titles as soon as possible in order 
that the unclaimed land might be surveyed and 
opened for settlement. Even before the surveyors 
could begin their tasks the squatters were in pos- 
session, and every month's delay complicated the 
question of the confirmations. Squatters would 
swear against old residents, or more often swear to 
a long residence of their own. 

Haste was essential, and as the foreign settle- 
ments were generally small and scattered, it 


seemed better to make use of commissioners to 
pass upon titles than to wait for the establislmient 
of proper courts. The delay in securing a judicial 
determination of so many claims, in most cases of 
small amount, would have caused more harm than 
good. It was not until large grants were involved, 
based upon intricate questions of law, and higher 
courts were established, that Congress was willing 
to permit claimed areas to be withheld from settle- 
ment pending a long judicial controversy. 

Congress generally insisted upon passing upon 
the decisions of the commissioners, and generally 
it was more lenient than the commissioners them- 
selves. Entirely too much time was given up to 
the consideration of these private land claims. 
JNIuch of the legislation was concerned with details 
rather than with general rules. As a general thing, 
the laws dealing with these private land claims 
would commence fairly severely, then would grow 
more and more moderate, would apply to more and 
more classes of persons never contemplated by the 
original act, until finally they would turn into do- 
nation rather than confirmation acts. And far too 
many acts were passed merely extending the pe- 
riods for registering claims or returning surveys. 
A few general acts could have prevented many 
special ones. 

The effect of these ])rivate land claims upon the 
general land system were many and important. 
First of all, they held up the surveys and caused 
an unauthorized settlement of the region involved. 


This made donation and preemption laws seem 
reasonable, for respectable settlers had been forced 
to become squatters because no public land was 
open to sale. Secondly, in the days of the two- 
dollar minimum, and to a less extent after that 
time, the presence of great quantities of private 
land affected the later land sales. People could 
buy these land claims for a nominal consideration, 
and considerable speculation in them arose. Fi- 
nally, the delays in confirming the titles caused 
conservative purchasers to be warj% and interfered 
with settlement of the more substantial sort.^^ 

From every point of view the settlement of these 
claims arising from foreign grants was a trouble- 
some one. In its endeavor to secure every honest 
settler in his just claims. Congress passed legisla- 
tion which played into the hands of the speculators 
and the false-swearers, for it erred more often 
on the side of leniency than on the side of strict 

58 In the general period covered by this study the United States 
was engaged in settling private land claims in the old Southwest, 
Louisiana, and Florida. Some of these claims are still undecided. 
It would be undesirable in a work of this nature to go into the 
processes of confirmation with the same detail as that given to the 
preceding study. 



The custom of granting land as a remuneration 
or a reward for military serv'ices was so ancient 
and honorable a one that its adoption in the earli- 
est period of our national life can be easily under- 
stood. It was not necessary to hark back to the 
birth of feudalism to find precedents for these 
grants. The individual colonies had been accus- 
tomed to reward services in Indian or intercolonial 
wars by. means of land grants, and a precedent 
better known and of more general application was 
that set forth in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, 
which provided that grants of land should be made 
in America for officers and men who had serv^ed in 
the land forces there during the French and Indian 
War, while reduced officers of the navy would re- 
ceive proportionate grants. The extent of these 
grants is of some interest. For a field officer five 
thousand acres would be granted, for a captain 
three thousand, a subaltern or staff officer would 
receive two thousand, a non-commissioned officer 
two hundred, and a private fifty acres. These 
grants carried with them ten years' freedom from 
quit rents. Under the terms of this proclamation 
great tracts were laid off in the royal provinces 



New York, Virginia, the Carolinas and West 
Florida containing many of these bounty grants.^ 
But it should be noted that the Proclamation of 
1763 granted land after the services had been per- 
formed. The warrants could be located upon any 
unappropriated crown lands, no reserves being set 
apart, and the grants were especially favorable to 
the officers, a general receiving one hundred times 
the share of a private.- 

The members of the Second Continental Con- 
gress, therefore, realized the value of land boun- 
ties, yet the first offer was not made to volunteers 
in the cause of freedom, but to foreign deserters 
from the royal standards. The resolution of Au- 
gust 14, 1776, was based upon a recent Act of Par- 
fiament inviting patriot troops to desert their 
standards. Congress, in turn, urged the Hessians 
and other foreigners to leave the service of the 
crown, promising them citizenship in the States 
and a grant of fifty acres of land " in some of these 
States."^ The resolves were translated into Ger- 
man and some were printed on tobacco wrappers 
so that they might easily fall into the hands of the 
soldiers.* This first offer was not considered sat- 
isfactory, because no distinction was made between 
officers and privates, and as soon as Congress real- 
ized this it passed another resolve, on August 27, 

1 Donaldson, 473, contains a survey of one of these grants. 

2 Attempts were made to have some of these grants satisfied by 
the United States, but Congress refused to do so. P. L. I., 70, 165, 
583; P. L. II., 103, 121. 

3 J. v., 654. * J. v., 705n. 


which corrected the error. To such foreign officers 
as would desert, suitable land grants would be 
given, with additional grants in proportion to the 
number of soldiers they might bring over with 
them."^ The amount of land offered ranged from 
one thousand acres in the case of a colonel to one 
hundred acres for a non-commissioned officer. No 
statement was made in the resolution as to where 
this land was to be obtained. The Continental 
Congress owned no land, unless it succeeded to the 
crown lands of His ISIajesty. Fortunately there 
was no rush of Hessian deserters, so Congress was 
spared any embarrassment. Only one grant, ap- 
parenth% was ever made under these resolutions, 
and that not until 1792." ; 

In Se2)tember, 1776, Congress made an offer 
which was bound to require fulfillment."^ At that 
time provision was made for enlisting eighty-eight 
battalions for the war. To such of the officers and 
men as continued in service until the close of the 
Revolution, or until discharged by Congress, and 
to the representatives of such as were slain by the 
enemy, certain lands were to be granted. This 
offer was relatively smaller than that to the de- 
serters. Under it a colonel would receive five hun- 
dred acres, a lieutenant-colonel four hundred and 
fifty, a major four hundred, a captain three hun- 
dred, lieutenant two hundred, ensign one hundred 

B J. v., 707. 

6 100 acres granted by act of March 27, 1792. 

7 Sept. 16, 1776, J. V., 761. 


and fifty, and non-commissioned officers and pri- 
vates one hundred acres. The offer was guaran- 
teed in the following words : " Such lands to be 
provided by the United States, and whatever ex- 
pense shall be necessary to procure such lands, the 
said expense to be paid and borne by the States 
in the same proportion as the other expenses of 
the war." 

Yet this provision could hardly have caused 
Congress much uneasiness. If the Revolution 
failed, there would be no demand for lands, while 
if it were successful, surely they could be provided. 
And there were some who believed that the States 
which had quantities of vacant lands would gladly 
make good the Continental warrants in order to 
place trained veterans upon their frontiers. At 
any rate. Congress had no occasion to worry about 
land bounties until the war came to an end in 

In the meanwhile it had extended its grants 
to soldiers who had enlisted before the resolution 
of 1776;® it had declared assignments of bounty 
lands to be invalid;^ it had increased the offers to 
foreign deserters ; ^" it had extended the grants to 
general officers, a major-general becoming entitled 
to eleven hundred, and a brigadier-general to eight 
hundred and fifty acres; ^^ and, finally, it had in- 
cluded the hospital department among those eligi- 

8 Sept. 18, 1776. J. V., 763. lo Apr. 29, 1778. J. X., 405. 

9 Sept. 20, 1776. J. V., 788. " Aug. 12, 1780. J. III., 508. 


ble to receive bounty lands. ^^ No land was offered 
to chaplains. ^^ 

These offers of land to troops enlisting in the 
Continental Line for the war were not unani- 
mously endorsed by the States. The irritating dis- 
pute between the landed and the landless States 
developed out of this very question. Congress had 
no land at its disposal, and if the pretensions of 
the States claiming the Western lands prevailed, 
then the bounty lands would have to be secured 
from them. These States would therefore secure 
inhabitants and money in return for waste land, 
while the landless States would have to pay their 
share of the purchase price and lose their soldier- 
settlers as well. Maryland, for example, proposed 
to substitute an offer of ten dollars instead of one 
hundred acres of land.^* Congress warmly op- 
posed this, because it might lead to a general de- 
mand for ten dollars from all the other recruits, 
and it was much easier to offer one hundred acres 
at the close of the war than to pay ten dollars in 
cash at the time. INIaryland was assured that the 
land bounties would be satisfied by Congress and 
not by the individual States. The matter was set- 
tled as Congress desired, but JNIaryland turned her 
attention to the general question of the ownership 
of the Western lands. 

At this time, also, Virginia, New York, Penn- 

12 Sept. 30, 1780. J. III., 531. 

13 Note application of a chaplain who had served eight years. 
J. IV., 807. " J. VI., 912. Oct. 30, 1776. 


sylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia offered 
land bounties to soldiers enlisting in the Conti- 
nental or State " Lines." The State bounties were 
much larger than those offered by Congress. In 
New York privates were offered six hundred acres 
and officers a larger amount. These lands were 
later laid off in the northwestern part of the State. 
Pennsj^lvania offered a private two hundred acres 
and the officers an additional amount up to two 
thousand acres for a major-general, these lands 
being laid off in the northwest corner of the State. 
The Virginia bounties ranged from one hundred 
to fifteen thousand acres, those of North Carolina 
from six hundred and forty acres to twelve thou- 
sand. These offers were generally made only in 
the case of those enlisting for three years or for the 

With the creation of the public domain came the 
ability to satisfy the land bounties. An early pro- 
posal was the so-called "financier's plan," intro- 
duced on June 5, 1783, by Theodorick Bland, and 
seconded by Alexander Hamilton. This motion 
provided for a large reserve in the proposed Vir- 
ginia cession, which should be laid off into districts 
and divided into townships, and in which the land 
bounties were to be satisfied and all moneys due 
to the soldiers, in lieu of the commutation for the 
half pay and all other arrearages, were to be paid 
in land at the rate of thirty dollars for every dollar 
due. But as the Virginia cession had not been 
completed at this time, nothing came of this at- 


tempt to quiet the demands of the soldiers for their 
land and money. 

It was in the same month that the officers at 
Newburgh petitioned that their land bounties be 
laid off in a district corresponding closely to the 
later State of Ohio, and Washington warmly 
urged their request. But Congress, still waiting 
for the Virginia cession to clear up the title to the 
Northwest, announced that it could not at that 
time make any appropriations of land for the 
army, no matter how desirous it might be to accom- 
modate the officers and soldiers. Yet when Con- 
gress had a free hand it did not hasten to afford 
relief to the veterans. The proposed land ordi- 
nance of 1784 would have permitted the receipt 
of military warrants for any surv^eyed land, and it 
contained a section concerning the evidence neces- 
sary to secure a military grant. As amended and 
passed, in 1785, it provided that before any of the 
surveyed land was drawn for sale in the States, 
one-seventh of the amount was to be drawn by lot 
for the benefit of the Continental Army, and these 
drawings were to continue as the survevs were ex- 
tended, until the bounty claims were satisfied. Al- 
though these terms gave the soldiers a slight advan- 
tage over the ordinary purchasers, they could 
hardly have been considered satisfactory. The 
soldiers must now wait until seven ranges north- 
west of the Ohio had been surs-eyed, whereas they 
had been accustomed to a system which gave the 
claimant a warrant and permitted him to locate it 


wherever unappropriated land might be found. In 
Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and North 
Carolina certain military reserves had already 
been set off,^^ in which the State warrants were 
to be satisfied and where the veteran could enter 
upon his lands almost at once. It was not until 
1787 that any surveys were returned to Congress. 
In April, the Secretary of War was again author- 
ized to draw the portion for the army,^*' but in Oc- 
tober, on his recommendation, a military reserve 
was set apart in the Northwest.^^ This reservation 
called for one million acres in what is now the 
State of Ohio, and an additional tract in southern 
Illinois. But the worst feature of the resolution, 
from the point of view of the soldier, was the fact 
that it put off still further the day when the war- 
rants would be made good. Some military war- 
rants, however, were received in payment of the 
tracts purchased by the Ohio Company and by 
John Cleve Sj^mmes ; in these cases each acre called 
for by the warrants was received for one and one- 
half acres of land.^^ 

The establishment of the military reserves was 
doubtless based upon the action of New York, 
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, which 
had designated military tracts when they had of- 
fered the bounties. As long as the warrants were 

IB The Pennsylvania reserve was opened in 1786; the New York 
reserve in 1789. 

18 J. IV., 739. The lands drawn were placed on sale in 1796. 

17 J. IV., 801. 

18 Ohio Company, 142,900 acres ; Symmes, 95,250 acres. 


not transferable, such a system would place upon 
the frontier a body of veterans — for the State and 
national resers-es were all located on lands to which 
the Indian title had not at the time been extin- 
guished. But in 1788 the national bounty war- 
rants were rendered transferable,^® and with that 
enactment all reason for a military reserve van- 
ished. The amendment further provided that the 
warrants could be located in the two reserves, but 
only in combinations amounting to six miles 
square. The hostile attitude of the Indians north- 
west of the Ohio prevented the location of any of 
these warrants during the last years of the Con- 

With the exception of the warrants received 
from the Ohio Company and Symmes, none of the 
bounties pledged the Continental soldiers had been 
satisfied when the Constitution went into opera- 
tion.-" Bv 1790 the Virginia reserve in Kentucky 
had been entirely appropriated and Congress threw 
open the Virginia reserve in Ohio, but it was not 
until 1796 that effective provision was made for 
the national bounties — almost twenty years after 
the promises were made and about thirteen years 
after the time when they could have been fulfilled. 

The Act of June 1, 1796,^"^ set apart a tract in 

19 July 9, 1788. J. IV., 833. 

20 A special act of Apr. 18, 1794, gave Ephraim Kimberly per- 
mission to locate his warrant for 300 acres on the tract which he 
was occupying on the west bank of the Ohio. Ebenezar Zane was 
permitted to turn in military warrants for the three sections granted 
him in 1796. => June 1, 1796, ch. 46. 


the Northwest Territory corresponding in the 
main with the Ohio reserve of 1788, although call- 
ing for twice as much land, which became known 
as the " United States Military District." Within 
this district the land was to be laid off into town- 
ships of five miles square, and quarter-township 
corners were to be marked. No school sections 
were reserved, although the salt springs were set 
iapart. The land was to be granted only in quar- 
ter-township tracts, and for nine months after pub- 
he notice in the several States and territories the 
Secretary of the Treasury was to register warrants 
to the amount of one or more tracts for any person 
or persons. At the expiration of that time the pri- 
ority of the registered warrants was to be deter- 
mined by lot and the persons holding the same 
were to make their locations before a specified date. 
A failure to locate within the given time caused 
one to lose any advantage in choice of locations. 
The lands in the reserve were to be released on 
January 1, 1800, "and all warrants or claims for 
lands on account of military services, which shall 
not, before the day aforesaid, be registered and lo- 
cated, shall be forever barred." 

As the first effective act regulating the satisfac- 
tion of the military bounties this measure deserves 
some little consideration. It called for a military 
reserve rather than for the receipt of bounty war- 
rants for any land open to sale. This, again, was 
due to the State precedents as well as to the re- 
serves designated by the old Congress. There was 


no good reason why the soldier should be forced 
to locate within certain limits, especially as the 
warrants were transferable. Within the reserve 
the rectangular surveys were to be made, but a 
change in the size of the townships was deemed 
necessary. The warrants called for tracts gener- 
ally of a hundred acres or of a multiple of a hun- 
dred. A township of five miles square would con- 
tain sixteen thousand acres, or four thousand acres 
to each quarter. These divisions were better suited 
to satisfying the warrants than were those of a six- 
mile square township. Under the act of 1796 per- 
sons holding warrants for less than four thousand 
acres would have to combine their claims, for no 
tracts smaller than a quarter township were to be 
granted. Adjoining the United States reserve lay 
the Virginia reserv'^e, and in the latter the Virginia 
system of indiscriminate locations was in force. 
The litigation which arose there over erroneous 
surveys and conflicting claims showed conclusively 
the value of the rectangular system in operation on 
every side. 

One provision in the Act of 1796 soon proved 
futile. It was expected that all the warrants would 
be located by January 1, 1800, and that the un- 
appropriated tracts could then be restored to the 
public domain. But it was absurd to think that 
every person entitled to a bounty warrant would 
secure it and locate it in so short a period. In 1799 
the time limit was extended to January 1, 1802. 

It was not until 1800 that the priority of location 


was determined by lot and when this was decided 
another drawing took place to select fifty quarter 
townships for the satisfaction of outstanding war- 
rants." These tracts and the unlocated fractional 
townships w^ere to be divided into hundred acre 
lots, and warrants could be located upon them up 
to January 1, 1802. But these hundred acre lots 
could only be located by the original holders of the 
bounty warrants, all assignees would still have to 
combine to secure a quarter township.^^ This act 
also made provision for the careless surveys run in 
the military tract by granting certificates when 
lots proved to be at least fifty acres smaller than 
estimated, and by insisting upon a payment in war- 
rants or money for any excess. 

After provision was made for satisfying the mili- 
tary warrants the next difficulty arose as to how to 
expedite the process. Congress had delayed long 
in providing the land for the warrants, should it 
act hastily in satisfjdng them? From every point of 
view the warrants should be redeemed as soon as 
possible. Government should not retain great tracts 
of unoccupied land in the new State of Ohio nor 
should persons be allowed to delay their locations 
until others had settled and improved the surround- 
ing region. The War Office was destroyed in 1801 
and the loss of the records caused considerable 
trouble to the officials and to the warrant seekers. 

22 Mar. 1, 1800, ch. 13. The unreserved lands were attached to 
the Chillicothe and Zanesvllle districts in 1803. 

23 This restriction was removed in 1802. 


By the end of that year it was reported ^* that war- 
rants had issued to the estimated amount of 1,612,- 
605 acres, of which 552,605 remained unlocated. 
From that time Congress continued to extend the 
period for ohtaining warrants and perfecting loca- 
tions. Twenty-six acts were passed between 1799 
and 1864 of this nature, finally the issue of war- 
rants ceased on June 25, 1858, and these could be 
located at any time according to the Act of July 
2, 1864. 

Each year several hundred claims were presented 
and a small proportion were approved and war- 
rants were issued. From 1803 to November, 1824, 
some 1070 warrants for 156,500 acres were issued.^'^ 
In 1825 it was reported that there were fifty-nine 
warrants in the war office which had been issued 
under Generals Knox and Dearborn, as Secretary 
of War, and which had not been called for.^^ In 
order to expedite the issue of warrants the Judi- 
ciary Committee of the Senate recommended in 
1828 that a list of the officers and soldiers who had 
not ap])lied for their warrant be printed.^^ This 
was done, and the list may be found in the State 
Pa])ers'. as well as the list of unclaimed warrants. 
A similar resolution in the House was defeated on 
tlie ground that such a publication would incite 
speculation in bounty lands. 

It was not until 1830 that the military reserve in 
Ohio was finally given up. In INIarch of that year 

2* p. L. I., 114. ' =« P. L. IV., 428. 

25 P. L. IV., 30. 27 p. L. v., 360. 


it appeared that only 35,627 acres remained un- 
located among the fifty quarter townships, while it 
was evident that unlocated warrants would more 
than equal that amount.^^ An act was passed 
appropriating scrip, receivable for lands in Ohio, 
Indiana and Illinois, for the satisfaction of both the 
United States and the Virginia military warrants.^^ 
In 1832 the unlocated lots in the United States 
reserve in Ohio, some 31,900 acres, were ordered to 
be sold.^" The next year the certificates were made 
receivable for any public land open to private 
entry ,^^ and on September 1, 1835, the exchange of 
warrants for scrip ceased.^^ The issue of warrants 
continued until January 1, 1840, so that between 
1835 and 1840 it was possible to secure a warrant 
without the right to satisfy it. Between 1840 and 
1842 no warrants could be issued — as had also been 
the case between 1830 and 1832 — but on July 27, 
1842, an act was passed which continued the issue 
of warrants for five years and permitted all out- 
standing warrants to be located on any land open 
to private entry, but the certificates of location 
were not assignable and the patents were to issue 
to the person originally entitled to the bounty or 
to his heirs or legal representatives. As has been 
pointed out the issue of revolutionary warrants was 
again twice extended and the right to locate them 
was granted without limit of time. 

28 F. L. VI., 167. 30 July 3, 1832, ch. 163. 

iz» May 30, 1830, ch. 215. si Mar. 2, 1833, ch. 94-. 

82 Mar. 3, 1835, ch. 30. Certificates for 97,T50 acres issued up to 
Nov. 15, 1834.. P. L. VII., 327. 


Until 1855 Congress was concerned with the 
satisfaction of the pledges of the Continental Con- 
gress, but in that year and in 1856 it passed acts 
which rewarded services in the Revolution hitherto 
unrecognized. This increase in the Revolutionary- 
bounties can best be discussed in connection with 
the later bounty legislation. 

In satisfaction of the original Revolutionary 
bounty pledges the United States issued land war- 
rants for 2,666,080 acres prior to July 1, 1907. Tn 
addition to this was a small amount issued under 
the acts of 1855 and 1856 as well as certain war- 
rants issued under special acts of Congress. In any 
case the total was somewhat more than half as 
much as Congress had been called upon to appro- 
priate for the troops of Virginia, in addition to the 
lands granted them in Kentucky. Land grants 
arising out of Revolutionary services were also 
made to General Lafayette and to certain Cana- 
dian refugees, but as these were special grants they 
have been discussed in another chapter. 

It might be an interesting study to determine 
how many of these warrants were located by the 
original holders and to study, if possible, the in- 
fluence of these veterans on the frontier. A great 
proportion of the warrants, however, were assigned 
and many of them fell into the hands of speculators, 
and even to-day it is possible to take up land under 
a Revolutionary warrant issued before 1858 or to 
secure a warrant for Revolutionary services, under 
the Act of 1855. During the existence of the mili- 


tary reserve the presence of so much cheap land in 
Ohio affected the sales of public lands at the neigh- 
boring land offices. In that district the bounty- 
lands did not receive the exemption from taxation 
for a term of years which applied to lands sold by 
the United States or to lands in the later military 
reserves. The lack of this provision caused many 
patented tracts to be sold for taxes and made per- 
sons delay their location until they were ready 
either to occupy or dispose of their land. 

The experience of Congress with the Revolution- 
ary bounty lands should have taught it the weak- 
ness of most of the arguments in favor of land 
grants for military service. The soldiers, in general, 
returned to their own homes and accustomed habits 
and few of them took any interest in lands in the 
wilderness except to assign their warrant, for a 
nominal consideration, to some restless settler or 
visionary speculator. The military reserve, there- 
fore, instead of being peopled with hardy veterans 
contained large unoccupied tracts, while its cheap 
lands impaired the sales of the public domain. The 
only effective argument in favor of granting land 
was that it was a cheap way to pay bounties, yet 
this argument was economically untenable. The 
nation would have been the gainer could it have 
paid cash for its bounties and then have permitted 
the public lands to be uniformly disposed of. The 
valuable pioneer would have crossed the mountains 
without the incentive of a land grant, and each sol- 
dier would have received the entire value of his 


bounty, which did not follow when he assigned his 
land warrant. 

Before these ideas could receive general recogni- 
tion the prospect of a second war with Great 
Britain caused a renewal of the system of land 
bounties. In 1798, when trouble with France 
caused a considerable increase in the standing army, 
no land bounties were offered, but in 1811 the 
influence of the West was more keenly felt in Con- 
gress and western members uniformly supported 
any measure which even indirectly tended to the 
peopling of their section. The Act of December 
24, 1811, was designed to complete the existing 
military establishment, and it offered a bounty of 
sixteen dollars on enlistment for a term of five 
years while on an honorable discharge the soldier 
was entitled to three months' pay and a quarter- 
section of land. Should he die or be killed in serv- 
ice his heirs or legal representatives would receive 
the bounty in cash and land. Similar terms were 
inserted in the Act of January 11, 1812, raising an 
additional force, while the Act of February 6, only 
made provision for the heirs, as the service of the 
volunteers under this act was only for twelve 
months. In 1813 and 1814 similar bounties were 
offered troops who might enlist for five years or 
for the war,^*^ and in December, 1814,^^ the bounty 
was doubled for all enlistments after that act, but 
state troops and volunteers accepted under the later 

83 July 5, 1813, ch. 4; Jan. 28, 1814, ch. 9; Feb. 10, 1814, ch. 10; 
Feb. 24, 1814, ch. 16. a* Dec. 10, 1814, ch. 10. 


act of January 27, 1815, were to receive only a 
quarter section. 

Some general provisions of these bounty offers 
should be noted. The bounty lands were only 
offered to " effective able-bodied men " between the 
ages of eighteen and forty-five, and only privates 
and non-commissioned officers could receive them. 
If the Revolutionary bounties were more democra- 
tic than those offered by the Proclamation of 1763 
and in proportion granted far more land to pri- 
vates than to officers, then these bounties for the 
Second War registered the further development of 
American democrac^^ No officer could receive 
bounty lands. If a private should receive a com- 
mission for meritorious service he must give up 
all thought of a quarter section in the distant west. 
The theory, of course, was that the officers received 
ample remuneration in pay and incidentals and that 
they would not need a tract of land in which to 
start life anew, nor would a land offer be necessary 
to secure a complement of officers. Another fea- 
ture, open to even more criticism but fully as 
proper, was the restriction of the bounty to troops 
serving under national authority, yet immediate 
demands were made that the militia and irregular 
volunteers should receive bounties. Of course the 
doubling of the bounty in the last months of the 
war was manifestly unjust to the veteran troops, 
although it was doubtless necessary in order to 
secure recruits. 

When Congress made provision for satisfying 


these bounty warrants it retained tlie system of 
military districts. In 1812 the President was 
authorized " to have surveyed a quantity of public 
land "fit for cultivation, not otherwise appropri- 
ated, and to which the Indian title is extinguished." 
Six million acres were to be set apart in equal por- 
tions in the territories of Michigan, Illinois, and 
Louisiana. These lands were to be divided into 
quarter sections, and salt springs, lead mines, and 
school sections were to be reserved. The war- 
rants must be applied for within five years after a 
person became entitled to one,^* then he must des- 
ignate the territory in which he preferred to locate 
and the quarter section would be drawn by lot. 
This act contained strict provisions intended to 
protect the soldiers in their lands. Warrants were 
not assignable and the land could not be transferred 
in any manner until the patent issued. " All sales, 
mortgages, contracts, or agreements, of any nature 
whatever, made prior thereto, for the purpose, or 
with intent of alienating, pledging or mortgaging 
any such claim, are hereby declared and shall be 
held null and void; nor shall any tract of land, 
granted as aforesaid, be liable to be taken in execu- 
tion or sold on account of any such sale, mortgage, 
contract or agreement, or on account of any debt 
contracted prior to the date of the patent, either 
by the person originally entitled to the land or by 

SB May 6, 1812, ch. 77. 

80 This time limit was extended by ten acts until the terms were 
similar to those for Revolutionary warrants. 


his heirs or legal representatives, or by virtue of 
any process, or suit at law, or judgment of court 
against a person entitled to receive his patent as 

This act carried with it no appropriation to pay 
for the surveys of the military districts.^^ It was 
not until 1815 that money was voted for that pur- 
pose and the next j^ear President Madison reported 
to Congress that the lands set apart in Michigan 
were covered with lakes and swamps and were un- 
fit for cultivation, and he recommended that other 
reserves be made.^^ At the same time the Adjutant- 
General estimated that 68,500 men were entitled to 
bounty, which at 160 acres each, would amount to 
10,960,000 acres. Congress acted on the sugges- 
tion of the President and in lieu of the Michigan 
lands set apart an additional 1,500,000 acres in 
Illinois and 500,000 acres in Missouri Territory 
north of the Missouri River.^^ The lands reserved 
in Louisiana Territory by the act of 1812 lay be- 
tween the St. Francis and the Arkansas rivers and 
were in the later state of Arkansas. 

The war was scarcely over than attempts were 
made to widen the scope of the bounty laws. In 
1815 a proposition was discussed in favor of grant- 

«T Annals, 1814^15. 1153, 1172. 

38 Governor Cass, of Michigan Territory, protested against this 
erroneous report of the surveyors. A. C. McLaughlin, in Papers of 
the American Historical Association, III, 67-83. 

39 April 29, 1816, ch. 184. By the act of April 16, 1816, ch. 55, 
an additional two million acres were set apart, but this reserve was 
never made. 


ing bounties to militia/'^ while a warm debate arose 
over a resolution proposing grants to deserters 
from the British armies.^ ^ The next year Congress 
passed one of those ill considered acts which con- 
tinually crept into the statutes. This act was for 
the benefit of certain Canadian volunteers who, 
although citizens of the United States, had been 
residents of Canada at the outbreak of the war and 
had volunteered in the American forces. As a 
result of this patriotic action they had, of course, 
lost their possessions in Canada and it was held 
that the nation should make some compensation for 
such sacrifices — the compensation to be in land be- 
cause there was more land than money available. 
The bill as introduced proposed to make the grant 
in proportion to the loss suffered, but this called forth 
amendments to include all our own residents who 
had lost property during the two wars with Great 
Britain. Then the bill was amended to offer grants 
in proportion to the rank held in the army, and 
an unsuccessful attempt was made to include all 
the inhabitants of Canada who took up arms for 
the United States. It was at once pointed out that 
this amendment meant the giving of land to Cana- 
dian officers when we denied it to our own, and 
others showed that the bill, instead of making com- 
pensation for property losses, simply rewarded mili- 
tary service, and a private might have lost more 
property than a colonel. 

As finally passed the act offered land grants to 

♦oArinals, 1814-5, p. 1189. *i P. 3J6-333. 


citizens of the United States who, though being 
inhabitants of Canada, joined our armies as volun- 
teers.^^ The grants were graded as follows, to a 
colonel, 960 acres; major, 800 acres; captain, 640; 
subaltern, 480; non-commissioned officer, musician, 
or private, 320 acres. These lands were to be located 
in Indiana Territory. The act contained no restric- 
tion as to the nature or length of service, nor was 
the assignment of warrants prohibited. It was at 
the next session that Congress realized its error. 
Then a select committee of the House reported that 
the Act of 1816 was vague and defective, no speci- 
fic terms of service were required and frauds had 
been attempted.^^ " In referring to the muster roll 
of the corps called Canadian volunteers, it appears 
to have consisted of nearly the full number of field 
and staff officers for a regiment, with a very small 
number of privates — not at any time exceeding 
thirty-eight mustered as present — and that very 
little service could have been rendered by them to 
the government." Congress at once tried to cor- 
rect its error.^^ It required six months service in 
some corps of the United States army, it cut the 
bounties in half, and required that in the future 
they should be located on land that had been 
offered for sale. These acts remained in force but 
one year, and under them some 76,592 acres of 
land were gr anted. ^^ 

42 March 5, 1816, ch. 25. « Annals, 1816-7, p. 463. 

"March 3, 1817, ch. 106. 

45 Donaldson, 236. In 1836, Abraham Forbes, a spy, received 320 
acres as a Canadian volunteer. P. L. VIII., 342. 


At the very session in which the first of these acts 
was passed Congress twice refused to grant land to 
our own officers. The bill making further provision 
for military services during the late war contained 
grants for disbanded officers of the regular army, 
but after a long debate in the Plouse this provision 
was rejected by a vote of seventy-four to sixty.^® 
Another bill designed to grant land to disbanded 
officers of the regular army who had been wounded 
in battle and to officers and privates of the militia 
and volunteers who had been wounded, was also 
rejected. In such cases a grant of money would 
doubtless have been more acceptable. Year after 
year petitions were presented to Congress on behalf 
of the commissioned officers of the War of 1812, 
but not until 1850 did they receive any land boun- 

The first extension of the terms of the bounty 
acts for the War of 1812 was based in large meas- 
ure upon a very striking petition. Abigail O'Flyng 
presented the following facts to the consideration 
of Congress: that her husband had served in the 
late war, but as he was over forty-five years of age 
he could receive no bounty lands; her youngest son 
had served, but he had been under eighteen; two 
other sons had died in the service, but one had been 
promoted to a lieutenantcy and the other had been 
promoted to the rank of ensign.^^ Altogether this 

48 Annals, 1815-6, 979-996. 

4T Petitions were presented in 1815, 1817, 18i?6, 1827, 1858, 1830, 
1831, etc. P. L. VI., 303-6. 48 Annals, 1815-6, p. 846. 


family, with so notable a record for patriotism, had 
received no part of the land bounty of the nation. 
Congress made amends, however, by granting Abi- 
gail and her husband four hundred and eighty acres 
of land and half pay for five years for each of their 
deceased sons, while one hundred and sixty acres 
were granted to the youngest son/® 

The general act wliich was passed at this session 
covered the points raised in Abigail O'FIjTig's 
petition.^** Hereafter soldiers under eighteen and 
over forty-five years of age and those who might 
have been promoted to be commissioned officers 
were to receive the land bounty, moreover children 
under sixteen, heirs of persons entitled to warrants, 
might surrender them for five years half pay.^^ 

This bill was reported on January 16th and Mrs. 
O'Flyng's petition was presented on February 1st, 
but the bill was not passed for several months and 
it is not unreasonable to suppose that the petition, 
which pointed out so convincingly the very defects 
in the former legislation, must have had consider- 
able influence. 

From this time until 1842 no changes were made 
in the laws governing bounty lands for services in 
the second war with Great Britain although many 
attempts were made to extend the bounty to com- 
missioned officers, to the various bodies of volun- 
teers, militia, and rangers which served in the states 
or on the frontiers, and even to the masters of 

*« April 24, 1816. so April 16, 1816, ch. 55. 

w Two other acts continued this privilege to March 3, 1822. 


slaves who had enlisted.'^^ After 1826 several acts 
permitted persons who had drawn land unfit for 
cultivation to select lieu land,'^'' and during the 
period two measures w^ere discussed which would 
have favored the ex-soldiers. In 1818 a bill for the 
commutation of land warrants at one dollar an acre 
came within two votes of passing in the House.'^ 
This measure was advocated because it would free 
the soldiers from the speculators and also protect 
the general land system, but the expense involved 
ajjparently defeated the proposal. Two years later 
an effort was made to have scrip issue instead of 
warrants. Cook, of Illinois, presented the resolu- 
tion.^^ He maintained that the reserves were in- 
expedient, that they were so remote that the sol- 
diers would not move to them and in their poverty 
were forced to sell their lands to speculators. He 
believed a soldier would prefer eighty acres in scrip, 
locatable anywhere in the public domain, to one 
hundred and sixty acres in the reserves. ^Moreover 
the reserves were turning a large part of Illinois 
into a wilderness, and he held that "the bounty of 
the government, owing to the manner of conferring 
it, has thus done but little good to the soldier and 
established a nuisance in that flourishing state." 
The House refused to consider the resolution. At 
the next session a House committee favored the 
proposal to give scrip for half the amount of the 
bounty, for the reasons Cook had urged.'^® It was 

82 p. L. VI., fi44. 969. p. L. VII., 57;?. 

B3 Acts of 18-^fi, 1830, 1840, 1853. 55 Annal.s, 1819-20, p. 1489. 

5* Annals, 1817-B, p. 816. 58 P. L. III., 493. 


not, however, until 1842, that warrants could be 
located upon any of the public lands subject to 
private entry .®^ 

After the military districts were abandoned it 
was still advantageous for the soldier to locate in 
Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas or Michigan because 
by the compacts entered into between these states 
and the nation they agreed to exempt bounty lands 
from all taxation for three years after the date of 
the patents. This exemption only applied to the 
patentees and their heirs. / 

With the breaking out of the war with Mexico 
in 1846 Congress once more offered land as a 
bounty for services in our forces. But the experi- 
ence of the past years had been of some value and 
the new offer ^^ differed materially from the old 
ones. It applied to non-commissioned officers, 
musicians and privates: those who served twelve 
months or more were to receive one hundred and 
sixty acres and those serving a shorter period were 
to receive forty acres. The principle of commuta- 
tion was also introduced, for the soldiers might ex- 
change their warrants for six per cent, scrip re- 
ceiving one hundred or twenty-five dollars in either 
of the above cases. No military districts were set 
apart, for this method had been abandoned. The 
warrants were unassignable and were only to issue, 
in the case of volunteers, to such as were actually 
marched to the seat of war. A second act was 

57 July 27, 1843. b8 Feb. 11, 1847, ch. 8. 


required to provide bounties for privates and non- 
commissioned officers who might later obtain com- 
missions.^" Congress wisely refrained from setting 
any time limit upon securing warrants and making 
locations, for it had been forced repeatedly in the 
past to extend these periods. 

From this time bounty land legislation was not 
concerned with the separate wars but tended 
toward inclusiveness, each great act covering sev- 
eral wars. The first of these acts, that of 1850, 
was of wide application.®^ It offered land bounties 
to officers and privates, in the service of the United 
States, whether of the regulars, volunteers, 
rangers, or militia, who served in the War of 1812, 
or in any of the Indian wars since 1790; to com- 
missoned officers in the war with Mexico; and to 
the widow or minor children of the above. To those 
who engaged to serve twelve months or for the war, 
and actually served nine months, one hundred and 
sixty acres were granted; those engaged for six 
months who served four months, were to receive 
forty acres. No grants were to be made to deserters, 
or to those who had already received bounty lands, 
and the warrants were not assignable. 

This act met most of the demands of the past 
fiftv years, vet its terms were still further en- 
larged.®^ In 1852 all bounty land warrants issued 
or to be issued were made assignable, and soldiers 
of the state militia or volunteers serving since the 

89 May 27, 1848, ch. 49. eo Sept. 28, 1850, ch. 85. 

81 March 33, 1852, ch. 19. 


commencement of the War of 1812, whose services 
have been paid for by the United States, were 
offered bounty lands as under the Act of 1850. In 
computing the length of service an allowance of 
one day was made for every twenty miles marched 
to the place of muster or from the place of dis- 
charge, provided such march was under proper 

More extensive in its operations than the Act of 
1850 was that of 1855.^^ This act apparently 
covered every possible phase of military service 
under the national government. It applied to all 
classes of officers and men in the army and navy in 
any war since 1790 — militia, volunteers and the 
troops of any state or territory called into service 
and paid for by the United States, wagon-masters, 
teamsters and chaplains. Officers and men of the 
Revolutionary army were included, as were the vol- 
unteers at King's Mountain (1780), at Nickojack 
" against the confederated savages of the South " 
(1794) , at Plattsburg and at Lewistown, Delaware, 
in the War of 1812. To secure this bounty of one 
hundred and sixty acres, a service of fourteen 
days or participation in a battle was necessary. 
Widows and minor children of deceased claimants 
w^ere entitled to the bounty lands and Indians 
might share the benefits of the act.^^ The next year 
this act was further extended to include the officers 
and men of the Revolutionary navy and volunteers 

62 March 3, 1855, ch. 207. 

63 These warrants were made Msignable in 1858. 



who had served fourteen days in any of the speci- 
fied wars whether regularly mustered into the serv- 
ice of the United States or not.''^ Where a war- 
rant had already issued for less than one hundred 
and sixtv acres the balance miofht now be obtained. 
Where no written evidence of service existed parol 
evidence might be accepted, although even if a war- 
rant had formerly been granted the Commissioner 
of Pensions might demand further evidence of the 
services in question. 

In 1857 provision was made for the officers and 
soldiers of INIaior David Bailey's battalion of Cook 
County, Illinois, volunteers, who served in Black 
Hawk's War. 

A study of the bounty land legislation since 1850 
leads one to believe either that Congress had be- 
come wonderfully appreciative of military service 
or else had become magnificently lavish in its grants 
of the public domain. One hundred and sixty 
acres of land for fourteen days' service — surely that 
showed appreciation of militant patriotism. And 
j'-et the act was but the culmination of a series of 
boimty grants. It placed every possible service in 
the past upon a common footing, and left the way 
open for new legislation in the future. These acts 
wiped out many of the inequalities of the old laws. 
Officers now received lands, although not in the 
large quantities granted to those of the Revolu- 
tion. The navy was placed upon the same terms 

o*May 14, 1856, ch. 28. 


as the land forces, although in the case of the 
Revolutionary officers they failed to fare as well as 
their comrades ashore. And then the various bodies 
of mihtia, volunteers, and rangers, which performed 
feats of varying importance, were uniformly re- 

As to the short term of service required for a 
grant, it is difficult to see how Congress could have 
drawn the line. The volunteers who flocked to the 
support of Jackson at New Orleans accomplished 
more than did many of the troops who served for 
years along the northern border,^ ^ and the fron- 
tiersmen who crossed a wilderness to crush the raid- 
ers at King's Mountain were of invaluable assist- 
ance to the young republic. The whole theory of 
land bounties had gradually changed. When first 
used by our government they were designed to 
secure enlistment for the entire war in order to 
build up a permanent force, but gradually the idea 
developed that they were more of a reward for serv- 
ices rendered and in that case the men who picked 
up their muskets for a few days of critical fighting 
were more deserving than the standing forces which 
lay in garrison during much of their period of en- 
listment. So if the acts favored many who deserved 
little of the nation, they were also of service to the 
men who, fighting the daily battles of the frontier, 
were unable to enlist with regular troops for the 
terms prescribed by the earlier bounty laws. 

65 Petition of Beale's Rifle Company, at New Orleans, Dec. 23, 
to Jan. 8, 1814. P. L. VIII., 328. 


Under the Act of 1856, which authorized the 
issue of warrants to satisfy any deficiency in pre- 
vious grants, new sizes of warrants were issued. An 
ensign in the Revolution had received one hundred 
and fifty acres, he now was entitled to a warrant 
for ten acres. A Revolutionary private had received 
one hundred acres, sixty acres were now his due. 
Certain soldiers of the Mexican War had received 
forty acres, now one hundred and twenty in addi- 
tion were forthcoming. Almost as much land was 
granted under the Act of 1855 as under all other 
national bounty acts. 

Military services since JMarch 3, 1855, have not 
been rewarded with bounty lands. At the com- 
mencement of the Civil War the rush of volunteers 
made land bounties unnecessary and in 1862 the 
Homestead Law gave to anyone a home who might 
seek one and so rendered that argument valueless. 
When troops were really needed a system of cash 
bounties was used, better in almost every way than 
the land bounties of the earlier period. 

The total amount of land granted for military 
services has already reached about seventy million 
acres. The extent of the grants has been due to 
the great wealth of land of which Congress has 
been the trustee. And yet the giving of land was 
more expensive than it appeared. These millions 
of acres were surveyed at the expense of the nation 
and the land revenue suffered for every warrant 
issued. It would have been better to have given 
bounties in cash rather than in lands, the soldier 



would have been freed from the speculator and the 
general system of land sales would not have come 
into competition with bounty lands which generally 
sold below the minimum price. Neither the soldier 
nor the nation received the maximum of benefit 
from the system. 


TO JUNE 30, 1907 


Number Acres Number Acres 
War of the Revolution, acts 

prior to 1800 16,663 2,666,080 

War of 1813, acts prior to 


160 acres 28,085 4,493,600 2T,979 4,476,740 

320 acres 1,101 352,320 1,034 330,880 

29,186 4,845,920 29,013 4,807,520 

Act of 1847: 

160 acres 80,689 12,910,240 79,202 12,672,320 

40 acres 7,585 303,400 7,105 284,200 

88,274 13,213,640 86,307 12,956,520 

Act of 1850: 

160 acres 27,450 4,392,000 26,913 4,306,080 

80 acres 57,717 4,617,360 56,476 4,518,080 

40 acres 103,978 4,159,120 101,001 4,040,040 

189,145 13,168,480 184,390 12,864,200 

Act of 1852: 

160 acres 1,223 195,680 1,196 191,360 

80 acres 1,699 135,920 1,668 133,440 

40 acres 9,070 362,800 8,895 355,800 

11,992 694,400 11,759 680,600 


Act of 



acres 115,616 18,498,560 111,019 

acres 97,088 11,650,560 91,275 

acres 49,490 3,959,200 48,414 

acres 359 21,540 317 

acres 542 21,680 470 

acres 5 50 3 







Summary : 
War of the Revolution, 

acts prior to 1800 16,663 

War of 1812, acts prior to 

1850 29,186 

Act of 1847 88,274 

Act of 1850 189,14.5 

Act of 1852 11,992 

Act of 1855 263,100 

34,151,590 251,498 32,627,010 














am 5 1,590 



598,360 68,740,110 



Any study of the system of Federal land grants 
for education which only covers the period from 
1785 to 1820 must be considered a study of origins, 
for although the system had been well established 
by the latter date it was many years before it 
reached its highest development. In the chapter 
dealing with military bounty lands it seemed desir- 
able to carry the discussion to the present time, for 
practically no important changes in the bounty 
laws have taken place in the past fifty years. But 
in the case of the land grants for education the 
system developed largely in the period after 1820, 
the school grants being doubled after 1848 and the 
grants for higher education increased and extended 
in 1862. A study of this development involves an 
understanding of the development of the general 
land legislation of the period and as such a discus- 
sion is quite beyond the scope of this work it will 
be necessary to limit the treatment of this special 
topic to the period embraced in the general study. ^ 

1 For colonial precedents see Schafer, The Origin of the System 
of Land Grants for Education, Bulletin of the University of Wis- 
consin, No. 63, 1902. For a study of the management of the land 
grants in the Northwest Territory, see Knight, History and Man- 
agement of Federal Land Grants for Education in the Northwest 
Territory, Papers of the American Historical Association, Vol. I., 
1886. For the operation of the system in other states see the cir- 
culars of information, Bureau of Education, 1890 and 1891. 



It is hardly necessary to dwell upon the colonial 
precedents for land grants for educational pur- 
poses. They were important features of the New 
England land system, and New England men early 
suggested that these grants he carried over into the 
Federal system. The officers at Newburgh who 
petitioned for land in 1783 desired that reserves 
be made for education and for the ministry, and of 
the two hundred and eighty-five petitioners all 
but fifty were from New England. Bland's pro- 
posal of the same year indicated seminaries of 
learning as a proper object of expenditure for the 
land revenue. Knowing the liberal ideas of Jeffer- 
son on all questions of education it is surprising 
that no provision for land grants was made in the 
proposed land ordinance of 1784, which he so 
largely drew up. Gerry and Howell, who repre- 
sented Massachusetts and Rhode Island on the 
committee, must have suggested the New England 
custom of granting land for education and religion, 
but whether the three southern members objected 
to supporting a system new to them, or whether the 
members generally questioned the right of Con- 
gress to devote any portion of the public domain 
to such purposes, wall probably never be known. At 
any rate the proposed Ordinance was criticized in 
New England because of its omission of reserves 
for schools and religious purposes. ' 

The history of the Ordinance of 1785 has already 
been given. As adopted, only the reserve of section 
sixteen in each township for schools was retained, 


the reserve of an additional section for religious 
purposes being struck out by a close vote. And 
there is reason to believe that the grant for educa- 
tion was not wholly disinterested upon the part of 
Congress. It was not made so much to encourage 
education as to stimulate the land sales, if the 
statement of the man most influential in drafting 
the Ordinance is to be accepted. The New England 
members doubtless voted for it because of their 
knowledge of the value of the system of state aid, 
but the southern members just as probably accepted 
Grayson's opinion, "that the idea of a township, 
with the temptation of a support for religion and 
education, holds forth an inducement for neighbor- 
hoods of the same religious sentiments to confed- 
erate for the purpose of purchasing and settling 
together." ^ If there had been a larger representa- 
tion in Congress the reserves for " religion " would 
undoubtedly have been made. Congress had de- 
cided that the modified system of township-plant- 
ing was best adapted for the sale of the public 
domain, and reserves for " religion " were features 
of that system in New England. No question was 
raised as to the right of Congress to make the 
educational reserves. Years afterwards such grants 
were criticized as violations of the Virginia deed of 
cession, but in 1785 Virginians seemed to consider 
them a "bona fide" disposition. They were a 
" temptation," an " inducement," to settlement, 
and they were offered by the Federal government 

2 See p. 31. 


much as any other great land owner might make 
such concessions. 

In 1787 three acts tended to confirm the system 
of national land grants for education. First came 
the general provision in the Ordinance of 1787 that 
" religion, morality, and knowledge, being nec- 
essary to good government and the happiness of 
mankind, schools and the means of education shall 
forever be encouraged." Then came the instruc- 
tions of Congress to the Board of Treasury con- 
cerning the proposed sales to com])anie« of land in 
the Northwest.^ These authorized the grant, in the 
tract under discussion, of every section sixteen for 
education and every section twenty-nine for the 
purposes of religion, as well as the grant of two 
townships for a university. And finally came the 
incorporation in the constitution of the clause giv- 
ing Congress unlimited power over the public 

Congress was, however, by no means committed 
to the policy of land grants for education. The 
Ordinance of 1785 only applied to the Seven 
Ranges which were surveyed under it. In the pur- 
chases of the Ohio Company and of John Cleve 
Symmes there were school reserves and a university 
grant w^as reserved in the former,"' but for the rest 
of the Northwest no provision was made, and with 
the establishment of the new government it seemed 

3 J. IV., app. 17. * Art. IV., section 3, paragraph 2. 

8 A township for a university was granted in the Symmes pur- 
chase in 1792. 


as if Congress was bent on rejecting the liberal 
precedents of the old Congress. This is evident 
from a study of the legislation of the first few Con- 
gresses. Hamilton failed to recommend school re- 
serves in his report of 1790 and no provision was 
made for them in the bill which passed the House 
in 1791. When the Virginia military tract was set 
apart in 1790 no part of it was reserved for schools 
nor were they provided for in the United States 
military district. The inhabitants of these regions 
would need schools as much as any of the Western 
people, but as' the lands there were not to be sold 
a grant of school lands could not acclerate the sale. 
Possibly under these circumstances a grant of lands 
for schools was not considered a "bona fide" dis- 
position of the public domain. 

In 1796 and 1800 Congress passed acts for the 
sale of lands in the Northwest. Every reason for 
the educational grants which could be presented in 
178.5 still held — but one. In these acts Congress 
abandoned the system of township-planting, and 
apparently it abandoned the educational grants 
which were a part of that system. No effort seems 
to have been made to incorporate land grants in 
these acts, although Congress was well aware of the 
grants under the old Congress. In fact it extended 
one of those grants, for in the case of the Symmes 
purchase it reserved the sixteenth section not only 
in the tract which he eventually purchased, but in 
the entire tracts which he first bargained for. This, 
however, was really a small concession, and it 


looked as if the central government had finally 
decided to offer no further aid to education.^ 

But such was not to be the case, and within two 
years from the negative Act of 1800 Congress had 
taken steps toward placing the land grants for 
education upon the surest of foundations. It was 
the " act to enable the people of the eastern division 
of the territory northwest of the river Ohio to form 
a constitution and State government, and for the 
admission of such State into the Union on an equal 
footing with the original States, and for other pur- 
poses," which restored the educational land grants 
to the Federal land system.^ The Ohio Enabling 
Act and its modification are discussed in other con- 
nections. Here it is simply of importance to note 
that the grant of the school sections, the salt 
springs, and the five per cent, fund were all offered 
to Ohio on condition of her agreeing to exempt 
from all taxes the lands sold by the United States 

8 The attention of Congress was called to this question through 
the following petitions, etc. In 1799 the inhabitants of Mississippi 
Territory prayed for an appropriation for schools and religion 
similar to those in the Northwest. A committee of the House con- 
sidered it inexpedient to grant this request. Annals, 1799-1801, 153. 
On December 18, 1800, a committee of the House was appointed to 
report on the lands reserved for schools and religion in the North- 
west, id. 836. On January 24, 1800, a petition of settlers between 
the Scioto and Little Miami rivers for land for an academy, was 
presented, id. 4i?5. On January 2, 1801, a petition came up from 
Wayne County, Northwest Territory, for school lands and a town- 
ship for the support of the Gospel, id. 875. In 1802, Wayne County 
desired land for a college, Vincennes wanted a grant for Jefferson 
academy, and Fairfield County wanted two sections in each town- 
ship for seminaries. Annals, 1801-i?, 949, 497, 508. 

7 April 30, 1802, ch. 40. 


for five years after the date of sale. On no other 
ground could the grants be explained. Some mem- 
bers of Congress held that the grants would en- 
hance the value of the remaining public lands but 
that would not account for the grant of school 
lands for the Connecticut Reserve and the two 
military districts in which no lands were being sold 
by the United States. The House Committee in 
1803, based the grant of school lands upon the pre- 
cedent in the Ordinance of 1785, but as even that 
could not cover a grant of school lands in a district 
not subject to Federal sale, the Committee dwelt 
upon the desirability " of acceding to a proposition, 
the tendency of which is to cherish and confirm our 
present happy political institutions and habits." ® 

{As a matter of fact Congress could have granted 
the school lands to Ohio without any condition at 
all, under its unlimited power over the public lands, 
but it is doubtful if at the time a majority in Con- 
gress would have consented to override the terms 
of the Virginia cession and the pledge of the pro- 
ceeds of the land sales to the public debt. It is a 
pity, therefore, that Congress had to clothe so 
promising a grant in the form of a bargain. It 
would have been a far nobler act if the preamble 
had quoted the appropriate sentence of the Ordi- 
nance of 1787, that " religion, morality, and knowl- 
edge, being necessary to good government and the 
happiness of mankind, schools and the means of 
education shall forever be encouraged," and had 

8 Misc. I., 340. 


made the grants in fulfillment of that promise. If 
some quid pro quo was necessary for the tax 
exemption it could have been arranged in some 
other way. But this was not done, the school lands 
were made one of the items in the compact, and a 
troublesome precedent was created which caused 
the tax exemption feature to be retained even after 
the system of credit sales, which caused its intro- 
duction, was abolished. 

The first enabling act stated "that the section, 
nimiber sixteen, in every township, and where such 
section has been sold, granted or disposed of, other 
lands equivalent thereto, and most contiguous to 
the same, shall be granted to the inhabitants of such 
township for the use of schools." The Ohio con- 
vention questioned the general nature of this clause 
and insisted upon a more definite grant. This was 
really necessary because of the great tracts in Ohio 
which had already been disposed of. So in the 
modifying act of 1803 Congress specified certain 
quarter townships in the military tract " being the 
one thirty-sixth part of the estimated whole amount 
of lands within that tract," which were reserved 
for the schools in that district; in the same tract 
other quarter townships were reserved for the use 
of schools in the Connecticut Reserve; for the Vir- 
ginia military reserve the school lands were to be 
selected by the state from the unlocated lands, but 
the total was not to exceed one thirty-sixth of the 
area nor to exceed the residue of the unlocated 
lands even if they fell short of the requisite amount; 


and finally the state was granted one thirty-sixth 
of all lands to be purchased from the Indians, the 
same to be the sixteenth section in every township 
six miles square, and shall " if the lands be surveyed 
in a different manner," be designated by lots. This 
act also permitted the Secretary of the Treasury 
to select lieu lands from the nearest unappro- 
priated reserved sections for any section sixteen 
which might have been disposed of, and it granted 
to the State a township of land to take the place of 
the one granted to Symmes but never located. 

This act was considered satisfactory at the time, 
although it failed to provide land for some of the 
townships. The western half of the Connecticut 
Reserve was not ceded by the Indians until 1805, 
and it was not until 1834 that Congress permitted 
the selection of the school lands for this region in 
the State at large.^ Under the act no lands were to 
be selected for schools in the Virginia military re- 
sen^e until after all the bounty warrants had been 
located. As Congress kept extending the time for 
the location of the warrants and as the issue of war- 
rants kept increasing it began to be very doubtful if 
there would be any land left for the schools. Con- 
gress therefore, in 1807, authorized the grant of 
eighteen quarter townships and three sections in 
the lands ceded by the Indians in 1805. ^"^ Again, 
in 1826, Congress granted eight hundred acres for 
the schools within the Gallipolis grant of 1795.^^ 

» June 19, 1834, ch. 56. lo March 2, 1807, ch. 21. 

"May 20, 1826, ch. 83. 


With these acts the Federal grants for schools in 
Ohio were completed. 

The Ohio enabling act established the necessary 
precedent for future educational grants. After 
this time Congress would reserve school and sem- 
inary lands during the territorial period and then 
vest them in the State on its admission into the 
Union in consideration of the tax exemption 
alreadv noted. The first act reserving these lands 
was that for the region south of Tennessee, in 
1803, where a townshi]) and certain lots near 
Natchez were also reserved for Jefferson College. 
The next year provision was made for the sale of 
lands in Indiana Territory, and the school sections 
and three to^^Tlships for seminaries were re- 
served. These townships were located in the three 
land districts which later became the States of In- 
diana, Illinois, and IVIichigan. From that time there 
has been a long series of acts reserving the lands 
for education as new land districts were erected or 
Indian cessions were ordered to be surveyed. 

Of a different nature was the first grant of lands 
for education in Tennessee. The conditions in that 
State were exceptional so the normal course of de- 
velopments could not be followed.^" In theory Ten- 
nessee was a public land State, but in 1806 the 
United States had not granted an acre of land, 
although practically all the good land outside the 
Indian boundaries had been appropriated under 

12 See chap. 13. 


North Carolina warrants. Tennessee, moreover, 
was a sovereign State, having been admitted in 
1796. At that time the school grants had not been 
accepted as a part of the enabling acts of public 
land states, and as the Ordinance of 1787 had been 
extended to the region which became the State of 
Tennessee its compact was believed sufficient to 
protect the right of the United States to the lands 
in that State. So, after the admission of Tennessee, 
North Carolina continued to perfect her former 
grants within that State, while the United States 
did not deem it advisable to commence disposing 
of the public lands until the North Carolina claims 
were all satisfied. JNIoreover Tennessee believed 
that she had certain rights in the lands within her 
limits. The question was settled for the time by 
the Act of 1806 by which the United States ceded 
to Tennessee the eastern two-thirds of the State on 
condition of her giving up all claims to the remain- 
ing lands and of agreeing to exempt the latter from 
all taxes for five years after sale. But the United 
States made further conditions to the effect that 
Tennessee should perfect all outstanding North 
Carolina titles, and appropriate certain lands for 
schools, academies, and colleges. Being based on a 
tax exemption these land grants were like those of 
the enabling acts, but they were made to a state 
already in the union, they rose out of exceptional 
conditions, they were uncertain in amount, and 
actually amounted to very little. 

Another deviation from the regular system of 


land grants for schools was made in the case of 
Louisiana. The presence there of so much land 
held under foreign titles or claims interfered with 
the existing system of reser^'ing the school sections 
before the land was placed on sale. In 1805 a 
memorial came up from the Legislature of the 
Territory of Orleans praying for educational 
grants, and a committee of the House reported in 
favor of a grant of one thirty-sixth of "the lands 
of the United States " within the territory for the 
use of schools. On this report Congress proceeded 
to resen^e section sixteen in every towTiship sur- 
veyed for sale, as well as a township for a seminary 
of learning.^'' But when the enabling act for Or- 
leans Territory was passed, no educational grants 
were provided. ^^ The act contained certain pro- 
visions which must be incorporated in the State 
Constitution, among them the tax exemption of 
lands sold bv the United States for five years. No 
consideration was offered for this concession. No 
school or college land grants were made. The five 
per cent, fund was granted, but as a free gift 
rather than as a " quid pro quo." In other words, 
the country beyond the ^lississippi had never come 
under the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787, and 
so it was not necessary to secure the voluntary con- 
sent of the inhabitants of that region to the tax 
exemption measure. ^^ Therefore, Congress im- 

13 p. L. I., 258. April 21, 1806. " Feb. 20, 1811. 

15 The "articles of compact" of the Ordinance of 1787 could 
only be altered by common consent of the Original States and the 
people of the states to which it applied. 


posed the condition and did not need to offer the 
customary land grants. However, Louisiana se- 
cured some school lands and a township for a uni- 
versity, but no provision was made for the regions 
which were held under private claims. The school 
sections reserved in the public lands were turned 
over to the State in 1843, when the Legislature was 
empowered to sell them, with the consent of the 
inhabitants of the townships concerned. ^^ 

In the case of Missouri, the second State to be 
admitted west of the Mississippi, the enabling act 
was a combination of the two existing types. ^^ 
Certain conditions contained in the Ordinance of 
1787 were imposed, and then the land grants were 
offered on condition of the tax exemption. This 
was a perfect example of the " quid pro quo " idea. 
In the case of Missouri, Congress could have in- 
sisted upon the tax exemption just as it did in the 
case of Louisiana, and then it could have gra- 
ciously offered the various land grants and the five 
per cent. fund. In any case, Missouri received one 
section for schools in every township of the State, 
and the form of the act was followed in the case 
of Arkansas, the next State beyond the JNIissis- 
sippi to be admitted.^^ 

18 The Mississippi enabling act of 1817 was modeled on the Or- 
leans act. 17 March 6, 1820. 

18 June 23, 1836. A study of the enabling acts of this period 
discloses the following variations in addition to those mentioned in 
the text. A comparison of the acts for Mississippi and for Ala- 
bama is of interest. The Ordinance of 1*87 was never formally 
extended to the entire region covered by those states, although it 
was applied to the cessions of North and South Carolina and the 


During the territorial period Congress provided 
in various ways for the protection and improve- 
ment of the school reserves, but the only act passed 
before 1820 was that providing for the appoint- 
ment of a number of agents by the county courts 

southern half of what later became the Georgia cessions. In the 
articles of agreement and cession between the United States and 
Georgia, of 1802, it was stipulated that the terms of the Ordinance 
of 1787 should be extended to the Georgia cession, except the pro- 
liibition of slavery. Yet when Mississippi was admitted it was coti- 
sidered necessary to secure an irrevocable ordinance on the part 
of the state to the effect that the people of the territory disclaim 
all right or title to the waste land within the territory, that no taxes 
shall be placed on lands sold by the United States for five years 
from the date of sale, that lands of non-resident citizens shall not 
be taxed higher than those of residents, that no taxes shall be im- 
posed on lands the property of the United States, and that the 
Mississippi and other navigable streams shall be common highways 
free from all state taxes or tolls. These conditions were a combi- 
nation of the articles of compact of the Ordinance of 1787 and the 
tax exemption bargain of the Ohio enabling act. But Mississippi 
was required to accept them without any choice in the matter and 
no compensation was offered, although a free gift of the five per 
cent, fund was made. In 1819, when the Alabama enabling act 
was passed, the school and college lands, the salt springs and the 
five per cent, fund, were offered to the convention " for their free 
acceptance or rejection" provided that the irrevocable ordinance 
similar to that prescribed for Mississi])pi be enacted. An infer- 
ence from this act is that Alabama might have rejected the offer 
and then asserted her title to the lands within her limits. But if 
the convention had done so Congress certainly would not have ad- 
mitted her into the Union, and the claims of a territory to the 
public lands within its limits would have been untenable. After 
1820 the right of the Federal government to retain possession of 
the public lands within a sovereign state was frequently questioned, 
but no satisfactory constitutional objection could be raised. The 
question became such a troublesome one at times that many mem- 
bers of Congress believed it would be expedient to cede the public 
lands to the states in which they lay, but fortunately this opinion 
was never widely held. 
Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and Arkansas agreed, in their com- 


in Mississippi for the purpose of leasing the school 
lands and for protecting them from waste. ^'^ But 
the vesting of the educational reserves in the State 
on its admission did not bring to an end the con- 
trol of Congress over them. The State merely 
acted as a trustee and Congress retained the right 
to insist upon the proper execution of the trust, 
although the right was never used. The leasing 
of the school sections was not considered profitable 
by the States, and after 1820 first Ohio, and then 
the other States, in turn, were given the right to 
sell the lands and use the proceeds for the support 
of the schools.^*' The principle upon which Con- 
gress acted was that the States should not dispose 
of their school lands until they could be sold for a 
substantial price, and that in the meanwhile they 
should be leased under the direction of the State 

The most important development in the school 
grants after 1820 was the reservation of the thirty- 
sixth section in addition to the sixteenth in each 

pacts, not to tax military bounty lands for three years after the 
date of the patent, so long as they were retained by the patentee 
of his heirs. 

Although the credit system, which made the five year tax ex- 
emption desirable, was abandoned in 1820 it was not until 1836 
that a public land state secured the right to tax public lands as 
soon as sold. The enabling acts of Michigan and Arkansas omitted 
the former restriction on the taxing power, except in the case of 
bounty lands. In 1847 the states admitted before 1820, regained 
the right, and Missouri finally secured the assent of Congress in 

19 Jan. 9, 1815, ch. 20. 

20 Ohio, 1826, Alabama, 1827, Indiana, 1828, etc. 


townsliip in Oregon Territory by the Act of Au- 
gust 14, 1848, and all States admitted since that 
time have enjoyed the increased grants. 

The custom of granting lands to the States for 
the purpose of higher education originated not in 
the Ordinance of 1785 but in the land sales of 
1787. The United States granted two townshijjs 
in the Ohio Company's purchase for the use of 
universities', and offered similar donations to pur- 
chasers of equal amounts of land. John Cleve 
Symmes desired a township in his tract, but his 
purchase did not warrant such a donation; how- 
ever, in 1792 Congress decided to make the desired 
grant for a university in his tract. The first 
university grant, therefore, was simply a feature 
of the private bargain between the old Congress 
and the representatives of the Ohio Company. 
The university grants formed no part of the bar- 
gain with Ohio in 1803, although the act pix)vided 
for securing the township appropriated in 1792, 
but never located by Symmes. Congress consid- 
ered the principle a good one and extended its 
operation south of Tennessee, when a township 
and certain lots were reserved there for Jefferson 
College, in 1803. The next year three townships 
were reserved in what became the States of In- 
diana, Illinois, and INIichigan, and two years later 
the principle was further extended beyond the 
Mississippi and a township was reserved in the 
western district of the Territory of Orleans. In 
1811 a second township was reserved in Orleans 


and one in Louisiana Territory, but, as has been 
pointed out, the Orleans enabling act contained no 
educational grants. 

A second township for a university in JNIissis- 
sippi Territory was reserved in 1815. Indiana was 
admitted in 1816, and two townsliips for a semi- 
nary were granted as a part of the tax exemption 
compact. But the next year Mississippi was ad- 
mitted and no educational grants were made, al- 
though the tax exemption was insisted upon. The 
State did not lose the educational grants, however, 
for the school lands and two townships for a uni- 
versity had already been reserved. In 1818 Illinois 
received two townships for a seminary, and the 
three per cent, fund in that State was to be applied 
to the encouragement of learning, " of which one- 
sixth part shall be exclusively bestowed on a col- 
lege or university." The Alabama act of the next 
year was modeled on the Illinois act, rather than 
on the enabling act of Mississippi, her sister State. 
The grant of two townships for a university was 
made one of the offers. Missouri also was offered 
two townships in 1820. 

Aside from these uniform donations of two 
townships to a State, except in the case of Ohio, 
which received three, there were a few minor 
grants in favor of universities or seminaries, as 
they were at times called. Certain town and out- 
lots near Natchez, Mississippi, were granted to 
Jefferson College in 1803. Tennessee was in- 
structed to appropriate one hundred thousand 


acres to each of two universities out of an indefi- 
nite amount of land granted by the government. 
The common at Vincennes was ordered to be di- 
vided and sold and the proceeds were to be used 
for draining a pond near by, the balance going to 
the Vincennes University.^ ^ But dowTi to 1862 the 
grants of this kind were small and rare. In that 
year came the great grants for agricultural and 
mechanical colleges, which reached almost nine 
times the amount of land previously granted to 

In addition to these purely educational grants 
there were two which were more in the nature of 
aid to a deserving chai'ity, although the charity had 
an educational aspect. These were the grants for 
the aid of asylums for the education and instruc- 
tion of deaf and dumb persons. In 1819 a town- 
ship of land was granted to the Connecticut Asy- 
lum. This was a distinct departure from all for- 
mer grants, for it was for the benefit of a private 
institution in one of the old States. Xo one could 
question the merit of the institution which was 
benefited, but the grant was simply an act of grace 
on the part of Congress. With the passage of the 
measure Congressmen believed a new opening had 
been found for onslaughts on the public domain. 
The next year a bill was presented to the House 
in favor of the New York Asylum, and the oppo- 
sition attacked it on grounds of expediency, as a 
violation of the compacts of cession, and as a vio- 

«i April 20, 1818, ch. 1;28. 


lation of the Constitution, the latter of which could 
not be maintained,^^ The House rejected the bill 
by a large majorit^^ In 1826, a grant similar to 
that to the Connecticut Asylum was made in the 
case of the Kentucky Asylum, and after that, al- 
though many other petitions were presented in 
favor of asylums in New York, New Jersey, Penn- 
sylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana, Con- 
gress refused to extend the grants. It realized 
that it had apparently established a bad precedent, 
and after it had balanced the grant for the North- 
east with one for the Southwest it refused to op- 
propriate more of the public domain in aid of pri- 
vate charitable or educational institutions in the old 

Only a word need be said in reference to grants 
for religious purposes. In the Ohio Company and 
the Symmes' purchases one section in each town- 
ship was reserved for religious purposes. Congress 
was only willing to carry out the letter of the law 
in these grants and refused to appropriate lieu 
lands in cases where section 29 was not available.^^ 
Applications for lands for the support of religion 
came up to Congress from Mississippi Territory 
in 1799 and from the Northwest in 1801, but Con- 
gress refused to incorporate the grants in the gen- 
eral system. In 1811 a special grant of this kind 
was sanctioned by Congress in the case of the Bap- 
tist Church at Salem, Mississippi, but President 
Monroe vetoed the bill because it comprised "a 

22 Annals, 1819-20, p. 882. 23 p. L. II., 253-4. 


principle and precedent for the appropriation of 
funds of the United States for the use and sup- 
port of religious societies, contrary to the article 
of the Constitution which declares that Congress- 
shall make no law respecting a religious estahlish- 
ment." JNIonroe's action was endorsed hy Con- 
gress, and no other appropriation of land for re- 
ligious purposes was considered during the period 
under discussion. 

In 1828 Ohio petitioned for permission to sell 
the lands resented for religious purposes, and in 
1833 this was granted.-^ The proceeds of the sales 
were to be invested and used for the support of 
religion, under the direction of the Legislature, 
within the townships in which the reserv^es were 

The land grants for education in the period fix)m 
1785 to 1820 followed a well-defined system, as 
has been shown. The grants to the States were 
not entirely uniform in amount and the method of 
actually granting the land varied from time to 
time, but aside from the grants to the asylums for 
the deaf and dumb there was little deviation from 
the regular system. That this was the case is due 
to the fact that during this formative period the 
public land committees in Senate and House were 
led by level-headed men wlio refused to recom- 
mend favorably tlie petitions for lands submitted 
by institutions in the new States and the old. Con- 
gress could have made a grant of land to Stephens- 

2* p. L. v., 391. Feb. 20, 1833, ch. 42. 


burg Academy in Virginia '^^ just as lawfully as 
to the Connecticut Asylum for the Deaf and 
Dumb, but it was evident to those who knew most 
about the land question that if the system of grants 
for private institutions once became engrafted on 
the land system there would be a vicious circle of 
demands from institutions in every State in the 
Union. With unlimited control over the public 
lands, Congress could have become a munificent 
patron of learning — but there would have been a 
general scramble for its bounty. It was expedi- 
ency, rather than any lack of power, which caused 
the denial of the many requests of the needy in- 
stitutions.^^ Great credit must be accorded the 
men who defended the regular system of educa- 
tional grants against the demands for special fa- 

At the very end of the period now under dis- 
cussion the whole question of national land grants 
for education was taken up in a new way. It was 
then that the idea of a general system of grants 
for education in all the States, old and new, was 
earnestly advocated. In 1819 the proposition 
called for a grant of one hundred thousand acres 
to each State for a university.^^ This resolution 
was unfavorably reported by a House committee 
on the ground of expediency — to invest these cor- 
porations with Western lands would impede settle- 

25 p. L. II., II. 

2« For many of these petitions see State Papers, Public Lands. 

fi" Annals, 1818-19, 346. 


ment and lower the value of the public land near 
the unoccupied tracts.^** The committee preferred 
a money grant to one of land. From that time 
until the distribution bill of 1841 some sort of a 
proposal was before Congress for educational 
grants to all the States of land or of money from 
the land revenue. These measures were generally 
involved in the broader question of the distribution 
of the land or of the whole surplus revenue, so they 
must be considered in that connection and not in 
a study of this nature. It was not until 1862 that 
land grants for higher education in all the States 
were made. 

A study of the development of land grants for 
education leads to the opinion that on the whole 
Congress acted wisely in the matter. The grants 
followed a fairly well-defined system. Ever\^ one 
of the ])ubHc land States received school lands and 
lands for the aid of higher education, although the 
grants were not equal in amount. These appro- 
priations were founded upon the grants of the Or- 
dinance of 1785, they were revived as part of the 
bargain with Ohio, and they were continued be- 
cause of their inherent worth and the equity of 
treating each of the new States alike. Frequently 
when members of Congress attempted to explain 
or defend the grants they fell into curious consti- 
tutional misinterpretations, but it took Congress a 
long while to realize that its power over the public 
lands was limited only by its good judgment. Its 

«8 R L. III., 410. 


sound common sense was manifested in the rejec- 
tion of the many attempts to change the regular 
system of grants into a hurried scramble between 
local institutions. No matter how deserving they 
might have been, Congress was wise in denying 
them special grants of land. It would have been 
more expedient, although less constitutional, to 
have given them aid in money. 

With the vesting of the educational grants in 
the States, on their admission, the responsibility^ of 
Congress ceased, except in certain instances, when 
it later authorized the sale of school and seminary 
lands. If the school lands were carefully preser\'-ed 
and improved they should furnish a steadily in- 
creasing aid toward the support of the local schools. 
But this has not always been the case,^^ and the 
student of State and local history must determine 
why these liberal grants were not more generally 

29 Professor Knight, who has given a careful account of the actual 
operation of the land grants in his " History and Management of 
Land Grants for Education in the Northwest Territory " summarizes 
the causes of the small amount of some of the state educational 
funds as folIoT\'S: an undue haste in selling the lands; careless legis- 
lation and lack of restrictions on the Legislature; failure to guard 
and invest properly the moneys received from the land sales; the 
general indifference of the people to the whole subject; special legis- 
lation; the attempt to divert educational funds from their proper 
object, or so to dispose of the lands as to accomplish other State 
purposes to the injury of the cause of education. Pp. 162-166. 



Aside from the general systems for the disposal 
of the public domain, which included sales, boun- 
ties, gi'ants for education and internal improve- 
ments, preem])tions and donations to settlers, there 
were a number of special acts which granted land 
to individuals, companies, or administrative bodies 
according to no definite policy save that of the 
good will of Congress. In theory it is surprising 
that any of these grants should have been made: 
in practice it is remarkable that each example was 
not multiplied tenfold. In making each grant 
Congress showed that it refused to be bound by 
any iron-clad system, and in turn it refused to 
consider the individual grants as precedents for 
future action. Grants were given and were again 
denied with no uniformity of treatment. In place 
of a system there was set up influence and expedi- 
ency. It is no little tribute to the good sense of 
Congress as a whole that, although it was an easy 
matter to grant away a little land, so few of the 
demands for special favors were successfully pre- 
sented. Because of the lack of definite plan in' 
the making of the grants it will be best to take up 
each one in order rather than to attempt a general 



Under the Old Congress three special grants 
were made, to the Canadian and Nova Scotian vol- 
unteers and refugees, to the Christian Indians in 
Ohio, and to Arnold Henry Dohrman. 

Canadian Volunteers and Refugees 

With the outbreak of the Revolution a few of 
the residents of Canada espoused the cause of the 
colonists to the southward. Some of these joined 
the expedition of Montgomery and Arnold against 
Quebec, and with the failure of that expedition 
were forced to withdraw with the American troops. 
Others retired voluntarily or were forced from 
their homes because of their sj'^mpathy with the 
Americans. Some of these refugees joined Gen- 
eral Hazen's brigade of the Continental forces, 
others took no active part in the Revolution. 
When the treaty of peace was signed, although an 
effort was made to protect the Loyalists in the 
States, no provision was made for these refugees. 
At this juncture they turned to Congress for 
relief, and in 1783 the Congress of the Con- 
federation promised that as soon as it could make 
grants of land it would reward them for "their 
virtuous sufferings in the cause of liberty." ^ In 
the meantime the men, women, and children were 
to receive rations, while New York was urged to 
receive the officers and men as citizens. Two years 
later a similar pledge was made to certain refugees 
from Nova Scotia,^ and the first step toward its 

1 April 23, 1793. J. IV., 193. 2 April 13, 1785. J. IV., 498. 


redemption was taken when, in the land ordinance 
of 1785, three townships adjacent to Lake Erie 
were reserved for these refugees. 

But a reservation did not mean a passing of 
title, especially as the Indian claims to the region 
in question had not been extinguished. In 1784 
New York very generously offered to provide land 
for the Canadians,^ and grants of 500 or 1,000 acres 
on Lake Champlain were made in a number of in- 
stances. The L^nited States transported them to 
their lands and furnished them with rations for 
fifteen months, and, in the case of the aged and 
infirm, for another year.^ In 1787 one hundred 
and seventy rations per day M^ere issued, and the 
next year forty-five for the aged.' 

With the establishment of the new government 
and the settlement of Ohio came the demand for 
the fulfillment of the pledge of the old Congress. 
But the reserved tract could not be granted be- 
cause of the Indian title, and the promises had 
been indefinite in amount. Petitions in 1793 and 
1794 were favorably reported by House commit- 
tees, but no legislation was passed until 1798.^ 
And this act merely provided for the presentation 
of claims and the examination of them by the Sec- 
retary of War and the Secretary and Comptroller 
of the Treasury, The donation of land was not to 
be given for military service alone, but for "serv- 

« N. Y. Act of May 11, 1784, 205 were entitled to land. P. L. I., 
28. Bid. 878. 

*J. IV., 660. "April 7, 1798, ch. 96. 


ices, sacrifices and sufferings, in consequence of 
their attachment to the cause of the United States." 
Two years were allowed for the presentation of 
the claims, and those not submitted would be 

On May 8, 1800, the officials reported that they 
had examined 73 claims, and recommended that 
33,850 acres be granted to 49 individuals.^ In 
these cases they had deducted any land received 
from New York, and 12 of the rejected claims 
were considered already compensated by that State. 
The donations suggested by them ranged from 
2,000 to 100 acres. 

Gallatin, chairman of the House committee, re- 
ported that, as the proposed grants were consid- 
erably less than had been expected, and as the 
claimants had waited almost twenty years for the 
promised compensation, it would be well to in- 
crease the grants. This was done by the Act of 
1801, which named 49 grantees as the recipient of 
from 2,240 to 160 acres.^ The reserve was to be 
set apart on the southern boundary of the military 
tract. So at last the ancient promise was to be 

In 1803 an attempt was made to include the 
refugees from West Florida in the provisions of 
the grant, but without effect.^ In that year Sam- 
uel Rogers, whose claim had been postponed for 
lack of evidence, was granted 2,240 acres. It now 

7 p. L. I., 106-7. 9 Annals, 1802-3, 592. 

8 Feb. 18, 1801, ch. 5. 43,040 acres in all. 


became evident that a number of deserving claim- 
ants had failed to present their evidence within the 
two years provided by the Act of 1798. To afford 
justice to them the act was revived for two years, 
in 1804, and another two-year period was granted 
in 1810.'*^ 

Under these acts 12,720 acres were granted to 
17 people in 1812.^^ Four years later the unap- 
propriated lands were restored to the public do- 
main and attached to the Chillicothe land office/^ 
The sufferings of the Canadian refugees had been 
in part recompensed by 58,000 acres, granted 
twenty-five or thirty years after their original serv^- 
ice or sacrifice. Once again the terms of the acts 
were extended, and in 1834 the heirs of Lieutenant- 
Colonel Richard Livingston received six hundred 
and forty acres. ^^ 

Christian Indians in Ohio 
The second special grant of the Old Congress 
was, however, the first to be carried out.*^ It was 
made in favor of the Christian Indians in Ohio 
who had been under the instruction of the Mora- 
vian missionaries since the establishment of their 
settlements on the INIuskingum in 1772. When 
Congress was petitioned to make a grant in their 
favor tliey were the objects of general pity, for in 
1782, during the fierce border warfare, a number 

10 March 16, 1801, ch. 23. Feb. 24, 1810, ch. 12. 

11 April 23, 1812, ch. 63. "June 27, 1834. 

12 April 29, 1816, ch. 153. i* King, Ohio, 119-160. 


of these harmless Christian Indians had been bru- 
tally massacred by some frontier levies, and the 
settlements broken up. With the approaching sale 
of Western lands it was necessary that the im- 
provements at the three villages be secured in some 
way, and as a partial compensation for the wrongs 
inflicted by the American forces it was provided 
in the Ordinance of 1785 that the land about the 
villages should be reserved for the sole use of the 
Christian Indians. This indefinite reservation of 
1785 was made more definite in 1787, when the 
Ohio Company's purchase was under considera- 
tion. At that time 10,000 acres adjoining the three 
towns of Gnadenhutten, Schoenbrun, and Salem 
were to be reserved. ^^ The next year it was agreed 
to estimate each of the townsites at 666§ acres and 
the adjacent reserves at 3,333 J acres, in tliis way 
making each tract equal 4,000 acres. ^^ The sur- 
veys were to have been made under this resolution, 
but another act in 1796 was necessary. The patent 
for the land was granted on February 24, 1798." 
All went well with the Moravian settlements for 
a few years. The three reservations fell within the 
military district, and after 1800 this region was 
rapidly peopled. The contact with the white set- 
tlers had a deplorable eff'ect upon the Indians, 
until finally the missionaries felt that it was neces- 
sary to remove their wards fix)m temptation. By 
1823 about 150 of the Indians had removed to 

15 J. IV., app. 18. 16 J. IV., 863. 

17 P. L. III., 531. 


Fairfield, Canada, and only 20 or so remained in 
Ohio.^* At that time the Moravians petitioned to 
be relieved of their trust by a retrocession of the 
reserves to the United States. An act of that 
year ^" authorized the President to undertake meas- 
ures for purchasing the rights of the Indians, and 
under it Governor Lewis Cass, of ^Michigan Ter- 
ritory, was appointed to negotiate. He entered 
into an agreement with the agent of the INIoravians 
and with the descendants and representatives of 
the Christian Indians which was ratified by Con- 
gress in 1824.2° This provided that the 12,000 
acres be retix)ceded to the United States, with the 
exception of the church lots, graveyards, and par- 
sonages. In consideration of the expenses incurred 
by the society it was agreed to pay it $6,654.25 out 
of the proceeds of the first land sales. Preemption 
was granted the lessees of land, and provision was 
made for purchasing certain impix)vements made 
under lease. As for the Indians, they were to re- 
ceive an annuity of $400 as soon as the land sales 
amounted to enough to produce that sum at six 
per cent. This annuity was to be paid as long as 
the Indians remained in Canada; should they de- 
sire to remove to the United States, a reservation 
of 24,000 acres would be set apart for them, and 
with the removal to the resei-vation the annuity 
would cease. 

Under the Act of 1824 the tracts were surveyed 

i« p. L. III., 615. 10 March 3, 1823. 

w P. L. III., 714-6. May 26, 1824, ch. 174. 


and valued. One thirty-sixth part of each tract 
was set apart for schools. The remaining land, 
after the preemptions had been claimed, was placed 
on sale at auction at New Philadelphia and the 
residue attached to the Zanesville land office. 

The Dohrman Grant 

The last special grant under the old Congress 
contained several interesting features. Of all the 
debts incurred during the Revolutionary struggle 
this was the only one to be directly paid in land, 
and it is indeed remarkable that, at a time when 
the government was practically penniless, yet in 
possession of a vast amount of fertile land, more 
of the outstanding obhgations were not met in this 

Arnold Henry Dohrman had been agent of the 
United States at Lisbon during the Revolution, 
and during his service there he had advanced 
money liberally for the relief of American seamen 
and prisoners in that port.^^ At the close of the 
war he memorialized Congress for a reimburse- 
ment of these expenditures, and in 1787 it was re- 
solved to make a payment of $5,806 72/90 for spe- 
cific disbursements.^^ But in addition he claimed 
$20,277 40/90, the vouchers for which were too 
general to be admitted, although the fact was not 
disputed. In consideration of his " faithful and 
generous services " it was agreed to pay him $1,600 
per annum from the commencement of his public 

21 See Annals, 1816-7, pp. 1227-42. 22 Oct. 1, 1787. J. IV., 783. 


expenditures to the date of the resolution, and in 
addition to grant him one township of land in the 
"three last ranges surveyed," suhject to the usual 
resei'vations. Deducting the five reserv^ed sections, 
the township would net 19,840 acres, which at the 
existing price of $1.00 an acre would almost meet 
the princij^al of the debt due him. But, as a mat- 
ter of fact, it was not possible at that time to sell 
the township) for anything like $20,000 in specie. 

Dohrman sent an agent to select a township for 
him, and acting on his advice he applied for the 
thirteenth township in the seventh range. A pat- 
ent for this issued in 1801. The whole question 
of the services of Dohrman and his remuneration 
came up in 1816, when his widow petitioned Con- 
gress for aid. She showed that her husband had 
been very unfortunate in the choice of his grant. 
As one person described it : " The whole of the 
township is hilly, broken with gullies, remote from 
settlement or improvement, and would not now 
command $10,000 at a public sale." "^ Dohrman 
died in 1813, leaving a widow and eleven minor 
children. Congress listened to the w'idow's appeal 
and granted her a pension of $300.00 per annum, 
and $100 for each child until it reached 21 years."^ 

Aside from the fact that the Dohrman grant 
was a payment in land of an existing obligation, 

23 Annals, 1816-7, 12+0. 

^* Twenty years later the heirs petitioned for a grant of the four 
reserved sections in the township, on the ground that their father 
did not understand that any such reserves were to be held there. 
Congress waived its right in 1833. 


it is of interest to note that Congress believed a 
land payment could be made wliile a money pay- 
ment would be improper. This belief has always 
persisted in Congress, and the Dohrman grant was 
its first expression. It is a constant source of won- 
der that more grants of this nature were not made, 
when land was plentiful and demands were urgent. 

Special Grants, 1789-1820 
The first special gi-ant under the new Congress 
was made in 1795 in favor of the French settlers 
at Gallipolis, a discussion of which may be found 
in chapter three. This was followed in the next 
year by a grant of preemption to Ebenezer Zane, 
builder of " Zane's trace " from Wheeling to Lime- 
stone. Some of the early endeavors to secure lands 
on special terms have been considered. At this time 
Congress insisted upon maintaining the general 
system. The next special grant, therefore, was of 
an exceptional nature. 

Isaac Zane had been captured by the Wyandot 
Indians when a boy of nine years; he had grown 
up with them and had married an Indian woman.^^ 
His Indian friends had given him a tract four miles 
square at the Big Bottom, on Mad River, in Ohio, 
and it was not thought that his lands would fall 
on the American side of the Greeneville treaty line, 
as had turned out to be the case. In 1799 some of 
the chiefs told Governor St. Clair that they desired 
the tract might be set apart for Zane. In view of 

25 p. L. I., 93, 121. 


these facts Congress granted him three sections of 
land in fee-simple which he might locate on any 
of the puhlic lands in the Northwest, but two of 
the sections were to be held in trust for his cliil- 
dren.'^® This grant was based largely upon the 
services rendered by Zane to American prisoners 
and in furnishing information of the movements 
of the Indians. 

At the same time a very similar case was under 
consideration, although it was not determined until 
1807. This was the request of George Ash that he 
be allowed to accept a grant from the Indians of 
land still remaining within their boundaries. He, 
too, had been captured by the Indians and had re- 
mained with them until 1795. In this time he had 
won their good will, and certain chiefs of the Del- 
aware and Shawnee tribes were wilHng to grant 
him a tract of land on the Ohio opposite the mouth 
of the Kentucky River.^" In 1802 a committee of 
the House reported in favor of allowing him to ac- 
cept a mile square from the Indians, although the 
general principle of grants from the Indians to 
individuals was not a])proved. No action was 
taken on this report, whereupon Ash proceeded to 
settle on the land and continued to request a con- 
firmation of the grant. In 180G his memorial was 
rejected, but in 1807 it was decided to grant him 
a ])reem])tion to 640 acres, including his improve- 
ments. This was the last Indian grant to receive 
any favorable treatment from Congress. It was a 

26 April 3, 1802. P. L. I., 256. 27 p. L. T., 125, 257, 584. 


well-established principle that all grants or pur- 
chases of land from the Indians must be executed 
under the authority of the United States. When 
George Rogers Clark, in 1805, asked for the con- 
firmation of a grant of two and a half leagues from 
the Piankishaw Indians in 1779 his petition was 

Before the Ash preemption was finally allowed. 
Congress had for the first time favorably recog- 
nized a special industry. This was the Act 
of 1802 for the encouragement of the culture of 
the vine to the extent of allowing four sections of 
land to be purchased on eleven and a half years' 
credit, without interest. These terms, allowed 
John James Dufour and his associates, were so 
much more favorable than the ones on which the 
other public lands were sold that other applica- 
tions were soon presented. Some of these have a 
special interest, notably the request for townships 
on special terms where the New England system 
of " township-planting " might be carried out. In 
1804 and 1805 applications of this sort were pre- 
sented by citizens of Vermont, but no action was 
taken.'^^ The next year Francis Menissier, who 
had been experimenting with grape growing near 
Cincinnati for six years past, requested a section 
of land on an extended credit. In reporting his 
petition unfavorably the House committee took the 
stand that a grant of this kind would in reality be 
a bounty, and that the fact that land instead of 

28 p. L. I., 24T. 20 Annals, 1803-4, 1053, id. 1804-5, 700, 872. 


money was desired did not alter the case, " if we 
would not give the former, we ought to withhold 
the latter." ^'^ If this view of the case had prevailed 
in 1802 the grant to Dufour would never have 
been made. 

The whole question of making special terms was 
fought out at the same session when the Senate 
passed a bill allowing a twelve year credit for a 
township of land to the Harmony Society of Penn- 
sylvania.^^ This society proposed to settle about 
3000 Wiu'temburg Lutherans, fleeing from oppres- 
sion, in Indiana Territory where they would culti- 
vate the vine. In the House the grant was ques- 
tioned and a warm debate ensued. In its favor the 
following arguments were urged: the settlement 
would be for the good of the community; a prece- 
dent had been established in the Dufour grant; 
it was better to give land away than to allow it to 
remain idle ; the colony would increase the value of 
the surrounding lands; the land was not worth the 
asked price anyhow; no township had yet been sold 
for $46,000; and finally it would be a humane act. 
In reply it was urged: why oblige foreigners in- 
stead of our ovMi countrymen ? Why deviate from 
the established system of selling lands? All Eu- 
rope is full of oppressed people, will not this be a 
bad precedent ? It will be bad to have a large body 
of foreigners compactly settled ; why not allow our 
soldiers of the Revolution to buy lands on these 
terms, which amount to only .97 an acre? Finally, 

30 p. L. I., 256-7. 31 Annals, 1805-6, 463-6. 


it is not for the common benefit, and it violates, 
therefore, the compact with Virginia. 

Various amendments to the measure were made 
but the bill was finally defeated by the casting vote 
of the Speaker. The discussion is worthy of note 
because it contained most of the arguments used 
for or against these grants. The defeat of the 
measure sensed as a precedent for the next eleven 
years. At the next session the request of inhab- 
itants of Ovid, New York, for a township on spe- 
cial terms was denied,^^ and in 1810 a similar re- 
quest by the Society of La Trappe, in Illinois, 
failed.^^ , 

In the meanwhile Dufour and his associates had 
located 2500 acres in the Cincinnati district and 
proceeded to raise grapes and make wine with vary- 
ing success.^"* The pajnnent of $5000 without in- 
terst was not due until January 1st, 1814, but in 
1806 Dufour realized the hopelessness of making a 
payment at that time and petitioned for an ex- 
tension of the credit. Congress saw no reason for 
acting so prematurely, but in 1813 the associates 
stated that unless their credit was extended they 
would have to forfeit the land. This petition was 
favorably considered at a time when relief acts 
were in order so an additional credit of five years 
was allowed, until January 1st, 1819. By that time 
it was hoped the vines would be productive and the 
wine industry well established. 

32 Dec, 1806. P. L. I., 288. 33 Annals, 1809-10, 612. 

34 p. L. II., 744. 


In order to follow out the histon^ of the first 
vine-growers' grant and the contemporary petitions 
that failed, the order of events has been broken. 
BetAveen 1802 and 1815 only four special grants 
were made and in each case they were but develop- 
ments of existing laws. This statement alone would 
show how carefully the public lands were managed 
during the period. One of these acts, the preemp- 
tion to George Ash, granted in 1807, has already 
been discussed. Another, the grant of 11,520 acres 
to General Lafayette in 1803 might be considered 
a Revolutionary bounty, were it not for the size of 
the grant. Under the bounty resolutions a INIajor- 
General was entitled to 1100 acres, but as Lafay- 
ette had never been attached to any particular 
" lAne " he had failed to receive any land. When 
it was pro])osed to remedy this omission it was 
suggested that he be considered as on the Virginia 
Line, as he had served most in that state, and as 
Virginia had allowed her Major-Generals 15,000 
acres it would be pro])er for Congress to now do 
the same. Such a bill passed the House, but the 
Senate reduced the grant to 11,520 acres, over 
10,000 acres more than any other INIaj or- General 
had received from Congress. It is on this account 
that the grant must be considered a special one, 
based on the exceptional services of General La- 
fayette, rather than a military bounty .^^ Under 
the act the lands were to be located northwest of 
the Ohio, but later legislation permitted their loca- 

85 Annals, 1802-3, 569, 582-4. March 3, 1803, ch. 30. 


tion west of the Mississippi, where some of the 
lands were located on older grants, necessitating 
their removal, under an Act of 1845. At the time 
of his visit to the United States in 1824 a further 
grant of $200,000 and a township of land was made 
in consideration of his "services and sacrifices" 
during the Revolution.^^ 

Another special grant, easily understood, was 
that in favor of the members of the Lewis and 
Clarke exploring expedition to the Pacific north- 
west in 1803-6. This act of March 3rd, 1807, 
granted 1600 acres to Meriwether Lewis and Wil- 
liam Clarke respectively, and 320 acres to each of 
their thirty-one men. In addition they received 
double pay during their service. It is of interest 
to note that this was the only exploring expedition 
to be rewarded in terms of land. 

The last grant in this sub-period was made in 
1811 to John Eugene Leitensdorfer.^^ For his 
services as Inspector-General and Chief Engineer 
in the war with Tripoli 320 acres were granted. 
This was the only land grant made for services in 
this war until the general bounty act of 1855. 

At this session of Congress President Monroe 
sent down a very important veto message dealing 
with a special grant.'^® It seemed that the Baptist 
Society at Salem, Mississippi, had built their meet- 
ing-house on government land because of its con- 
venient location. The only way they could secure 

36 Dec, 28, 1824. st Feb. IS, 1811, ch. 12. 

88 Misc. II., 11, 154. 


the land was at open sale, when the minimum tract 
— at that time three hundred and twenty acres — 
would have to be purchased, and it was possible 
that the society mip^ht be out-bid by others. It 
seems as if these difficulties could have been pro- 
vided for, especially as they were understood at the 
time the church was built, but tlie simplest solution 
was to ask Congress for a donation.^^ Jeremiah 
IMorrow, the zealous p^uardian of the public lands, 
objected to a grant of land but favored the reser- 
vation from sale of five acres for the use of the 
society. Such a provision was incorporated in a 
relief bill covering several claims which passed both 
Houses, but President ISIonroe vetoed it on ^larch 
2, 1811, on the ground that it "comprises a prin- 
ciple and precedent for the appropriation of funds 
of the United States for the use and support of 
religious societies, contrary to the article of the 
Constitution which declares that Congress shall 
make no law respecting a religious establishment.^" 
The bill could not be passed over his veto, so the 
church clause was stricken out. The importance 
of this veto can hardly be over-estimated. If the 
bill had become a precedent it would have resulted 
in constant ap])lications for public lands for the use 
of churches, mission houses, and other religious 
l)urposes, and if the Baptists in Mississippi had 
secured their grant it would have been difficult to 
deny an equal privilege to the representatives of 
other churches throughout the West. 

39 p. L. I., 104. *o Annals, 1810-11, 366. 



Of all the special grants made by a generous 
Congress one of the most unique was undoubtedly 
that which allowed persons whose lands had been 
damaged by the great earthquakes in Missouri of 
1811 and 1812 to exchange their holdings for 
others in the public domain. And the operation of 
this act shows plainly how the generosity was 
abused until it became a crying scandal. 

The earthquakes had caused considerable dam- 
age in southern Missouri, and the villages of New 
Madrid and Little Prairie had been seriously in- 
jured. In some places the land surface had been 
altered, great fissures were reported, and lakes had 
appeared, but on the whole the actual damage to 
the soil then under cultivation was very slight.^ ^ It 
Avas easy, however, to magnify the size of the 
" chasms " and to urge Congress to come to the 
relief of the unfortunate settlers. While the bill 
was under consideration in the House an endeavor 
was made to kill it with ridicule by moving an 
amendment to the effect that land should be 
granted to persons who had sustained damage 
through the great wind storm in Washington in 
August, 1814, but in spite of argument and sar- 
casm the measure passed.^^ This Act of 1815 was* 
an excellent example of a carelessly drawn statute, 

<i For the exaggerated contempory accounts, see a compilation 
by G. C. Broadhead, "The American Geologist" v. 30:76-87. For 
the conditions in 1846 see Sir Charles Lyell, " Second Visit to the 
United States," II., 172-182. 42 Annals, 1814-5, 1073. 


and it is difficult to understand how it ever passed 
without comment/^ It provided that residents in 
New Madrid County, ^lissouri, whose lands had 
been "materially injured by earthquakes," might 
locate the like quantity on any of the public lands 
in the territory " the sale of which is authorized by 

And in this proviso dwelt the "joker": "Pro- 
vided, that no person shall be permitted to locate a 
greater quantity of land under this act than the 
quantity confirmed to him, (as a foreign grant) 
except the owners of lots of ground or tracts of 
land of less quantity than one hundred and sixty 
acres, who are hereby authorized to locate and 
obtain an}'^ quantity of land not exceeding one hun- 
dred and sixty acres, nor shall any person be en- 
tided to locate more than six hundred and forty 
acres, nor shall any such location include any lead 
mine or salt spring." When a new location was 
made the damaged land vested in the United States. 
The Recorder of Land Titles for Missouri was to 
pass upon the claims and issue certificates; these 
certificates entitled the holder to a survey of his 
location and eventually to a patent if they were 
filed with the Recorder within twelve months. 

Under this act, therefore, it would be possible 
for an earthquake sufferer to exchange a town lot 
of one or two acres for one hundred and sixty acres, 
while if he held over six hundred and forty acres it 
would be unwise to change, imless he could turn in 

" Feb. 17, 1815, ch. 45. 


waste land and locate excellent lieu land. The pro- 
vision regarding surveys also created the impres- 
sion that the claims could be located on any public 
land even before it was surveyed although the sale 
of such land was not authorized. This belief was 
strengthened because for claims between one hun- 
dred and sixty and six hundred and forty acres 
only the exact amount of the damaged land could 
be relocated, but the land system did not admit 
of sales of less than one hundred and sixty acres. 
Would a person entitled to two hundred acres re- 
ceive one hundred and sixty acres or three hundred 
and twenty acres — for no intermediate divisions 
were recognized, save in the case of fractional sec- 
tions ? Finally, were the relocations designed only 
for the original sufferers or could persons holding 
under them claim certificates? 

With such questions of interpretation raised it 
was then a question of administration. The Re- 
corder at St. Louis took the most favorable view 
possible. Some five hundred and sixteen certificates 
w^re issued and three hundred and eighty-two were 
eventually allowed. Of these one hundred and 
forty-nine called for more land than was relin- 
quished, and in almost every one of these cases a lot 
of a few acres was exchanged for a full one hun- 
dred and sixty acre tract.'*'' In one hundred and 
forty-two cases it is said, relinquishment was not 
valid, and persons owning no land received certi- 

4* p. L. IV., 39-47. One person ceded four small lots and secured 
four 160 acre tracts. 


ficates/'* And in most cases the holders of certi- 
ficates proceeded to locate them on unsurveyed 
land. When the recrular siin^eys w^re made it was 
found that the locations did not meet the new lines, 
so that numerous fractional sections were created. 
In 1820 William Wirt, the Attorney-General, ffave 
an oi)inion to the effect that the locations on un- 
surveyed lands were void and that patents should 
not issue.''^ These "floating claims" had been 
causinfT considerable trouble, for they were being 
located on land claimed by preemption and on land 
held under unconfirmed private claims.'*^ Congress 
was unwilling to nullify the existing locations, so in 
1822 they were ratified, although future New Ma- 
drid locations were to conform to the sectional 
lines. Moreover the warrants were to be located 
within a year after that date."*^ 

The next year Mr. Sloo, the special examiner of 
the land offices, reported that a tribunal should be 
established for the immediate and final adjustment 
of these claims. "I will venture to say that the 
New IVIadrid law, as it is termed, has given rise to 
more fraud and more downright villainy than any 
law ever passed by the Congress of the United 
States. ... In many instances, T am informed, 
fraudulent relinquishments have been made, and 
certificate obtained, by persons who had not the 
shadow of a claim to the land surrendered and the 

<5 0nljr 20 were located by original claimants. One person held 
S3 certificatps. Carr, Missouri, 111. *- Annals, 1816-7, 771. 

40 P. L. III., 494-6. 48 April 26, 1822, ch. 40. 


tract thus surrendered has sometimes been covered 
by another jNIadrid certificate, while the real owner 
continued in quiet possession of his property, with- 
out the least idea of relinquishing it. . . . And to 
close the scene, a great many of the persons who 
really did relinquish have claimed and intend to 
claim the right of preemption on the tracts relin- 

Six acts were necessary to carry out the benevo- 
lence of Congress toward the earthquake sufferers. 
The last one, in 1866, ratified locations made after 
the final date set by the acts of 1822 and 1831. It 
goes without saying that the original act was un- 
wise in principle, and carelessly drawn. The frauds 
arising during its operation should have given 
furthej" proof of the unwisdom of granting land as 
a benevolence or a bounty. 



The last special grant made before 1820 origi- 
nated in a most romantic manner, and ended in a 
succession of misfortunes. It was designed to aid 
a considerable number of Napoleonic refugees, who 
had fled to America after the " hundred davs," bv 
establishing them as cultivators of the vine and 
olive on the Tombigbee River, in Alabama. It is 
doubtful if a grant of this nature could have been 
obtained were it not for the pity excited by these 

"P. L. IV., 47. 


distinguished fugitives.^" A Marshal of France, 
four Generals and nine Colonels were among the 
first shareholders in this association. But in 1815 
the application of the New England Emigration 
Association*^^ to purchase twenty-five townships on 
twelve years' credit, and to settle 2000 persons on 
the land in that period, was denied, and the next 
year, when the Kentucky Abolition Association 
prayed for 'donations of land for emancipated 
negroes it was told that " we do not give lands to 
whites, why to negroes? " ^^ Again, after 1817 Con- 
gress denied the request for special terms presented 
by certain Swiss and Irish emigrants, and by the 
" Coif ee Land Association." These facts are noted 
for the purpose of showing how unusual was the 
grant for the French refugees and how incon- 

In the latter part of 1816 and throughout the 
next year the refugees were arriving at our ports, 
first in importance being Jose^^h Bonaparte, late 
King of Spain. Toward the end of 1816 it was 
j)roposed to form an association for placing some 
of these exiles upon the land as cultivators of 
the vine and olive. A suitable tract was decided 
upon in the recent Creek Cession in Alabama, and 
favorable terms were asked from Congress. The 
grant was obtained after some discussion. 

The act of ISIarch 3, 1817, was another ex- 

80 Reeves, The Napoleonic Exiles in America. J. H. U. Studies, 
XXIII., numbers 9-10. 

61 P. L. II., 898. 62 Annals, 1815-6, 691. 


ample of a badly framed statute. It provided for 
the sale of four townships in Alabama to the agents 
of the French emigrants at $2.00 per acre, payable 
in fourteen years. There must be at least one emi- 
grant of full age for each half section in the grant, 
and no patent would issue until the whole tract was 
finally paid for, nor would more than 640 acres be 
granted to any one person. Some of the associates 
protested against the clause withholding the patent 
until all the land was paid for, preferring individ- 
ual patents, but the provision was inserted in order 
to encourage the general development and to pre- 
vent the relinquishment of any poor land.^^ 

It was not until November, 1817, that a list of 
emigrants was presented to the Secretary of the 
Treasury, and as 350 names were enrolled he gave 
instructions that the surveys be made.^^ In Decem- 
ber about 150 emigrants sailed from Philadelphia 
and a larger number followed in April. Their 
first townsite, Demopolis, was later found to be 
on the public lands so it became necessary to lay 
out the new town of Aigleville. This was but the 
first of many misfortunes. The conditions of life 
on the frontier were hard and few were trained to 
manual labor.^'^ At first there were no vines, and 
after some were procured from France they were 
not entirely successful. The frosts killed the olive 
trees to the roots. Most of the shareholders re- 

63 p. L. III., 435. 84 p. L. III., 387. 

55 They paid $4 to $5 a bushel for corn. A cow and calf cost $40 
lo $50. P. L. v., 14. 




fused to adventure into the wilderness, and many 
of the actual settlers were forced to sell their lands 
to a few who had capital, while squatters trespassed 
on the vacant acres. The settlement was hardlv 
founded before it was forced to call upon Congress 
for relief. 

The actual contract for the sale of the land was 
not signed until Januaiy 8, 1819. It was signed 
on the part of three hundred and forty-seven share- 
holders, each entitled to from forty to four hun- 
dred and eighty acres, with a proportion of the 
town and out lots, the amount depending upon the 
capital invested.^" The terms of the contract called 
for the payment of $184,320 on or before January 
8, 1833. This was a rather heavy payment to expect 
from a body of refugees engaged in introducing 
new cultures in a wilderness. The contract further 
called for a settlement on each of the allotted tracts 
within three years, and for the cultivation of ten 
acres in each one hundred and sixty in the aggre- 
gate within fourteen years. As to the vine, there 
must be one acre in each one hundred and sixty, 
taken aggregately, under cultivation within seven 
years, and within the same time there must be at 
least five hundred olive trees planted within the 
whole tract, unless it was shown that the olive tree 
could not be grown there. 

It goes without saying that such a contract could 
not be carried out under the circumstances, and 

"« p. L. v., 23. No school sections were reserved. The land act of 
1890 rendered these terms most unfavorable. 


yet, should one shareholder fail to comply with the 
conditions it would jeopardize the interests of all 
the others. 

Within a year after the contract was signed some 
of the settlers prayed that the terms might be 
altered so that individuals compljnng with the 
conditions might obtain titles, but Secretary Craw- 
ford was opposed.^^ He was willing to waive the 
condition of a settlement on each allotment and 
thought that if the whole number of settlements 
equaled the number of half sections it would suffice, 
but an act of Congress was necessary to change the 

In 1822, it was shown that eighty-one settlers 
had under direct cultivation or on lease 2600 acres, 
but that it would be impossible to ever carry out the 
terms of the original act and contract.^^ Congress, 
therefore, permitted those settlers who had individ- 
ually complied with the contract and had paid their 
share of the purchase money, to secure patents for 
their holdings.'^® 

This act afforded some relief, but it did not go 
far enough. It applied to the original grantees or 
their heirs or devisees, but did not include their 
assigns. Under the act an agent of the Treasury 
Department was sent in 1826 to report on the 
actual situation on the Tombigbee. His report 
shows how miserably the settlement had failed.^" 
Of the three hundred and forty-seven shareholders 

" p. L. III., 435. 60 April 26, 1822, ch. 33. 

68 P. L. III., 536. «o P. L. v., 14-28. 


only seventeen had complied with the terms of the 
contract and in one hundred and eight cases no per- 
formance at all had taken place. Forty-four other 
tracts had been settled by the grantees or their 
agents but some of these had since been sold and iji 
others the conditions as to the vines were not car- 
ried out. In one hundred and thirty-three cases 
the tracts had been sold before any settlement was 
attempted and eighteen other tracts were sold after 
settlement. And the story was the same in the 
reserved and forfeited lots which had been divided 
among new shareholders: in only two cases was 
there complete performance, in forty-four none was 
attempted, thirteen had been sold and in the remain- 
ing seven the terms were not complied with. In the 
entire tract he found 7414 acres under cultivation, 
but the most extensive and profitable farms were 
occupied by Americans. Only two hundred and 
seventy acres had been planted in vines, and only 
one-tenth of these in vineyards, the rest being cul- 
tivated along with the cotton. Some three hundred 
olive trees had been set out but they could not stand 
the frost. 

This report led to the Act of 1831 which vir- 
tually gave a preemption right, at one dollar and 
a quarter an acre, to those who had complied with 
the conditions and to those who, failing to comply 
with them were in cultivation of the land at that 
time.*'* The payments were to be made before 
March 3rd, 1833. Further relief was granted two 

ei Feb. 19, 1831, ch. 30. 


years later ®^ when cultivation before October 31, 
1832, under a grant or purchase, would entitle one 
to a preemption, while other actual settlers at that 
date, who up to this time had been trespassers, 
might no\V preempt their holdings. The time of 
payment was further extended to May 15, 1834. 
Further legislation was necessary to quiet the titles 
to four sections reserved for small allotments, while 
any unclaimed land therein was to revert to the 
Demopolis Female Academy.®^ 

In this way another attempt to relieve distress 
worked out in a very different manner from the 
one intended. The whole vine and olive scheme was 
romantic and impractical and the leaders were 
more in their element in their wild schemes against 
JNIexico than in the strenuous cultivation of waste 
lands. Yet even if the refugees had sought to de- 
velop their grant the terms of the contract made 
success impossible. So, eventually, a few French 
exiles gained title to a little land in Alabama while 
the more resourceful Americans secured the most 
and the best of the acres. The operation of this 
measure should have warned Congress against giv- 
ing aid to refugees in terms of an extended credit. 

While the vine and olive grant was in operation 
Congress refused several other petitions for land 
on special terms. In 1818 the request of Edmund 
Dana was denied.®^ He represented several hun- 
dred purchasers who desired 207,500 acres of land, 

82 Feb. 19, 1833, ch. 30. 63 March 2, 1837, "ch. 25. 

84 p. L. III., 301. 



the first payment to be due on February 1, 1819, 
and 95,300 acres, with a first payment on Decem- 
ber 1, 1820. This was a very small concession, 
compared with the extended credit allowed the 
French refugees, but Congress saw no reason to 
alter the general system, and feared to establish 
a precedent. At the same time a body of Swiss 
emigrants sought twelve townships on terms simi- 
lar to those granted only the year before to the 
French.^^ They were told that they could scarcely 
expect peculiar favors and indulgences, and as the 
request of several hundred citizens had been denied 
surely no concession could be made to them. A 
few weeks later an application for one township 
in Indiana for the use of fifty Swiss emigrants, on 
ten years credit, was denied.^^ It was at this session 
that several of the Irish societies sought land on 
twelve years' credit for the use of their emigrants.®^ 
The question was warmly discussed in the House 
and an adverse report agreed to by a vote of 
83-71."^ This debate showed that the concession 
made to the French refugees was not to be taken 
as a precedent. A further attempt to secure ex- 
tended credit in favor of Swiss emigrants was made 
in 1820, and the House Committee on the Public 
Lands reported that if any relaxation should be 
made it should be in favor of American citizens."** 
At that session the cash system at $1.25 an acre 

OOP. L. III., 303. 
•0 p. L. III., 382. 

07 Missc. II., 489. 

08 Annnls, 1817-8, p. 1053. 
00 p. L. III., 427. 


was introduced which served to quiet requests for 
extended credit, while the terms were so reasonable 
that Congress did not hesitate to insist upon the 
maintenance of the general system. 

If conclusions can be drawn from these erratic 
grants of Congress they would doubtless be, first, 
that in almost every case the special grant was 
made without good reason and was void of all con- 
sistency, and secondly, that Congress denied far 
more applications than it granted and therefore 
preserved the public domain from direct private 
exploitation or misguided benevolence. 


From time to time Congress made grants of 
land, or of monej'^s received from land, for public 
purposes in the western States. These grants were 
quite as inconsistent as the private ones, although 
rarely was an application for land denied if the use 
was a good one. As the subject is of little im- 
portance a mere summary of the legislation will 
give some idea of this form of disposition. 

The first of these acts date from 1806. In that 
year the proceeds of land sales in the new Detroit 
town site were to be applied to the building of a 
court-house and a jail there. This assistance seemed 
reasonable as the city had been burned down in 
1805. At that session, also, some land along the 
Mississippi was granted to Natchez as a common, 
and two years later an additional gift of two town 
lots was made. In 1807, and again in 1811, the 


claim of New Orleans to a common was confirmed, 
and in 1812 she was given the site of a pmnping 

When Indiana Territory asked for a donation 
of four quarter sections for the site of a capital 
Congress took the position that such a grant would 
be a violation of the Virginia deed of cession, for 
it would benefit a particular territon^'- and not the 
Union as a whole, so instead it allowed only a 
preemptions*^ The same act authorized a committee 
to purchase 640 acres as a townsite for Giles 
County, Tennessee. Indiana, however, did not 
have to buy the site of her capital. It was granted 
to her as one of the articles of compact in her en- 
abling act of 1816, and in this way any objection 
based on the Virginia cession was quieted. Ohio and 
Louisiana had obtained no such grant ^n their 
enabling acts. However in that year Oliio was per- 
mitted to sell 640 acres of the Scioto Salt Spring 
reserve and use the proceeds for a court house at 
Jackson County. Two years later Xew Orleans rC' 
ceived the site of Fort Charles as a public square. 

In the case of Alabama, first one section was 
resented for a seat of government, in 1818, and this 
was increased to 1620 acres in the enabling act of 
the next year. But this was a direct grant, it was 
not made one of the articles of compact. At the 
same session jMississippi received two sections 
for a capital — no grant having been made in her 
enabling act of 1817. A few days later Illinois re- 

70 p. L. IL, 252. Feb. 25, 1811. 


ceived four sections for the same purpose. These 
grants of 1819 were in contradiction to the theory 
which prevailed in 1811. 

When the claims at Vincennes were finally 
settled some unclaimed lots remained. These were, 
in 1818, to be sold and the proceeds devoted to 
public purposes. The common also might be sold 
and the proceeds devoted to draining a pond near 
the town, with the remainder to the University of 
Vincennes. In 1820, Ohio was allowed the pre- 
emption of a quarter section near the center of 
each of twelve counties for seats of justice. This 
was occasioned by the recent Indian cession. 

These grants before 1820 are fairly typical of the 
later developments. Lands were frequently granted 
to towns for parks, streets, commons and such uses. 
Some of these requests were denied outright and 
in other cases one House or the other would fail to 
act. In 1824 a general act gave the right of pre- 
emption to one quarter section to all counties and 
parishes in the public land states for the location of 
county seats."^^ Such an act saved considerable 
special legislation. A later development was the 
grant of land for the erection of courthouses and 
jails, while Arkansas received ten sections for the 
building of a capitol. Another development of the 
Thirties was the appropriation of funds derived 
from sales of townsites to the erection of public 
buildings and construction of wharfs. That it was 
possible to overdo these applications was evident 

71 May 26, 1824. 


when in 1831 the Legislative Council of the Terri- 
tory of Michigan prayed for four towTiships of 
land (92,160 acres) to promote the cultivation of 
the mulberry tree and the production of silkJ^ Con- 
gress was reminded of its encouragement of special 
industries in Indiana and Alabama but precedents 
were really considered unnecessary for such a 
grant. "Like donations for like purposes to the 
different new communities would more closely con- 
nect their interests with the interests of the Atlantic 
States, and bind, as with silken cords, the extrem- 
ities of the Union to the main body." It is a pity 
the Michigan sericulturists could not have demon- 
strated their claims before the Civil War broke 
out. 1 

72 p. L. VI., 268-9. 


DEEDS OF CESSION, 1784-1802 


The title of the United States to the public 
domain east of the Mississippi was based on the 
cessions of seven of the thirteen original states. 
But of those seven cessions four contained con- 
ditions which proved far more exacting than either 
of the parties had at the time imagined. To the 
credit of the central government it should be 
added that in every case Congress tried to live up 
not only to the letter but to the spirit of the condi- 
tions as it understood them. And over one 
hundred years elapsed before the last Congres- 
sional legislation, arising from the deeds of cession, 
was enacted. 


A question which was easily settled, but which 
might have caused considerable trouble, was that 
arising out of the Connecticut cession. Connecti- 
cut maintained that her charter claims extended to 
the Mississippi.^ Before the Revolution she had 
been engaged in a struggle with Pennsylvania over 
the Wyoming country and her contentions had 
been favorably considered by certain of the crown 

1 Charter of April 23, 1662. 


officers in England.' In 1780, after the New York 
cession and the recommendation of Congress that 
all the States cede their claims to western lands, 
Connecticut offered to cede her lands but would 
retain the iurisdiction. This offer was refused bv 
Congress. Two years later Connecticut and Penn- 
sylvania took their boundary dispute before a Fed- 
eral Court, organized under the terms of the 
Articles of Confederation, and there, in a decision 
which gave no reasons, the claim of Connecticut 
was over-ruled and Pennsylvania secured undis- 
puted possession of the land within her chartered 
limits. In 1782 the New York cession was 
accepted and in 1784 the cession of Virginia was 
completed. Both these cessions covered the land 
claimed by Massachusetts and Connecticut. The 
latter state was not satisfied with the decision of the 
Federal Court. Even if the right of Pennsylvania 
to the land within her charter bounds were con- 
ceded, this, in itself, was no reason why Connecticut 
should not still own the land further west. So Con- 
necticut asserted her claim to the land between the 
forty-first and forty-second parallels to the west of 
Pennsylvania. Naturally she desired to have her 
earlier pretensions vindicated, but it must also be 
remembered that of all the states claiming western 
lands Connecticut was the only one which did 
not have waste lands within her undisputed limits. 
In 1786 Connecticut again offered to cede her 
western lands, reserving for herself a strip between 

2 Hinsdale (1899), 114. 


the forty-first parallel and Lake Erie extending 
for one hundred and twenty miles from the Penn- 
sylvania boundary. On May 4, Congress took up 
the proposal^ and William Samuel Johnson ex- 
plained the Connecticut claim while William Gray- 
son opposed it on the ground that the Quebec Act 
had restored the lands to England and " Virginia 
had a right to what she conquered with her own 
arms, and the United States had a right to all the 
rest of that country by conquest." On May 26, 
Congress voted to accept the proposed cession when 
properly made. 

Because of their insight into the political situ- 
ation of the time two quotations deserve to be given 
in full. On May 28, Grayson ^vrote to 'Madison as 
follows: "The delegation of our state was very 
much embarrassed with the Connecticut business, 
as it was said it was but neighbor's fare that Con- 
necticut should be treated as we had been before 
with respect to our cession; and that cessions of 
claims conveyed no right by implication to the terri- 
tory not ceded. We, however, after some consider- 
ation, took a hostile position toward her, and voted 
against the acceptance in every stage of it; it 
appeared to the delegation that the only proper 
claim had already been vested in congress by the 
cession of our state; and that their cession was 
nothing but a state juggle contrived by old Roger 
Sherman to get a side-wind confirmation of a thing 

3 Thomas Rodney's Report of Debates in Congress. Bancroft, I., 


they had no right to. Some of the states, particu- 
larly Pennsylvania, voted for them on the same 
principle that the powers of Europe give money to 
the Algerines. The advocates for the acceptance 
have, however, some plausihle reasons for their 
opinions, such as the tranquillity of the union; the 
procuring a clear title to the residue of the conti- 
nental lands; the forming a barrier against the 
British as well as the Indians; the appreciating the 
value of the adjacent territory, and facilitating the 
settlement thereof. 

" The assembly of Connecticut now sitting mean 
immediately to open a land office for the one hun- 
dred and twenty miles westward of the Connecti- 
cut line, which they have reserved; and I don't see 
what is to prevent them from keeping it always, as 
the federal constitution does not give a court in this 
instance; and a war with them would cost more 
than the six millions of acres are worth." ^ 

On June 16, INIonroe wrote to Jefferson: "We 
have had generally not more than seven states pres- 
ent; the only time that nine were, their time was 
employed upon the subject of the Connecticut ces- 
sion, which ultimately was accepted, whereby she 
ceded all the land Iving westward of a line to be 
drawn westward of the Pennsylvania line parallel 
witli the same. Our state voted against it but were 
in sentiment for it. It is hoped it will terminate the 
variance respecting the Wyoming settlement by 
enabling Connecticut to give the claimants other 

* Quoted in Bancroft, I., 505. 


land in lieu, and thereby establishing the govern- 
ment of Pennsylvania in the benefit of the decree 
of Trenton. Other reasons there are which apply 
to the geographic position of the land, and the in- 
fluence that consideration may have in the councils 
of Connecticut. We voted against it, under the 
sentiment upon which our state hath acted of her 
right to the northwest line from the northern 
extremity of her charter limits, which we sup- 
pose should be regarded even after the right 
was given to the United States by the delega- 
tion." ' 

These letters shed enough light upon the rea- 
sons which influenced Congress in accepting the 
Connecticut cession. That State could indeed feel 
that she had won a substantial victory. She had 
secured a ratification of her charter claims — so far 
as the acceptance could be considered a ratification 
— and she had retained some three and a third mil- 
lion acres in a region already covered by the ces- 
sions of New York and Virginia. 

Connecticut proceeded to dispose of the lands in 
her " reserve." Five hundred thousand acres were 
donated for the use of her citizens who lost their 
property when the British burned the towns of 
Danbury, Fairfield, Norwalk and New London. 
These were known as " The Sufl*erers' Lands " or 
" The Fire Lands." Although the grant was made 
in 1792, the Indian title was not extinguished by 
the Federal government until 1805, the surveys 

5 Bancroft I., 510. 



were then made and the first " drawings " took 
place in 1808. 

Although the state placed on sale the eastern 
part of the resen^e in 1786 conditions on the fron- 
tier were too unsettled to warrant many purchases. 
The balance, estimated at four million, but actually 
less than three million acres, were sold on Septem- 
ber 9, 1795, to a company for twelve hundred thou- 
sand dollars, which was set aside as the basis of the 
Connecticut school fund.® 

Connecticut had retained the jurisdiction over 
her reserve, and in 1796, when settlement advanced 
into that region, this began to cause trouble. Con- 
necticut failed to erect a local government there, 
nor did she think it desirable to govern a tract of 
land at least three hundred and fifty miles from her 
borders. Governor St. Clair, of the Northwest 
Territory, considered that his jurisdiction ex- 
tended over the region. Some government was 
necessary, and as Connecticut did not care to pro- 
vide it, now that she had disposed of the soil, she 
turned to the Federal government and in October, 
1797, tendered the jurisdiction over the reserve to 
the United States. At that session the Senate dis- 
cussed the question, and at the next session passed 
a bill of acceptance, but the House postponed 
action. On April 28, 1800, an act was finally 
passed after a considerable debate, which unfortu- 
nately is not recorded. But the objections must 

« The Land System of the Western Reserve. 
Magazine, v. 2. 

New England 


have been much the same as those in 1786. John 
Marshall, chairman of the House Committee, 
advised acceptance.^ In the Senate an amendment 
was offered for the purpose of deciding the title of 
Connecticut to the Western Reserve in the 
Supreme Court, but it was defeated by a vote of 
fifteen to ten. The reasons which led to the accept- 
ance of the cession in 1786 held when Connecticut 
offered the jurisdiction of her reserve in 1797. 

Under the Act of 1800 Connecticut had to re- 
nounce all claim to lands west of her present limits, 
except to lands in the Western Reserve, and ex- 
pressly cede the jurisdiction over the latter to the 
United States'. In return the President was author- 
ized to issue to the Governor of Connecticut a 
patent for the lands in the reserve. In this way the 
United States gained jurisdiction over the Western 
Reserve and the holders of land there under Con- 
necticut deeds secured a confirmation of their hold- 
ings from the United States. 

The Virginia Military Reserve 
Virginia based her claim to Western lands upon 
two grounds, her ancient charter and the conquest 
of a portion of the Northwest by George Rogers 
Clark. According to her second charter, that of 
1609, her territory extended two hundred miles 
north and south of Point Comfort and included 
the back country from sea to sea, " west and north- 
west." It was the determination of these "west 

7 p. L. I., 94. 


and northwest " lines which caused trouble later.^ 
If the west line was extended from the northern 
point on the coast, and the northwest hne from 
the southern, then Virginia would be shaped hke a 
triangle; but if the lines were reversed, then she 
would be a great trapezoid in shape, with an ex- 
tensive coastline on the Pacific, interfering with 
the later sea-to-sea claims of JMassachusetts and 
Connecticut. The Virginians accepted the latter 
view at the time when claims to the Western lands 
were being pressed, and if they had their way they 
would be entitled to almost all of the Northwest. 
But there were those who held that all the claims 
to that region were nullified by the Quebec Act of 
1774. If that was the case, then Virginia claimed 
the country northwest of the Ohio by reason of 
the expedition of George Rogers Clark and his 
frontiersmen in 1779. But this claim only applied 
to the territory south of Michigan. 

It may have sounded valid enough in 1781, but 
at this day it seems most extraordinary that one of 
the United States should set up a claim to terri- 
tory acquired by her troops during the Revolution. 
To be sure, Clark was commissioned by Grovernor 
Henry and the expenses of his expedition were 
largely met by the State of Virginia, but the con- 
quest of Vincennes and Kaskaskia was a part of 
the great struggle and its ultimate success de- 
pended upon the general result. If ^Massachusetts 
and South Carolina and the other coast States had 

8 Hinsdale (1899), 73. 


failed in their endeavors, Virginia would have had 
no opportunity to lay claim to the Northwest by 
conquest. As an exploit, the expedition of Clark 
deserves the highest praise, but it is difficult to 
really believe that through .it the State of Vir- 
ginia came into possession of any territory to which 
she did not already have a valid title. The wisdom 
of Congress in accepting the cession of all claims 
without passing upon their validity has already 
been pointed out. 

When the Virginia cession was finally completed 
in 1784 certain conditions were incorporated in the 
deed. The United States was to pay the expenses 
of Clark's expedition and occupation; the French 
settlers who had professed themselves to be citizens 
of Virgina were to be protected in their rights ; the 
land promised by Virginia to Clark and his men, 
at least one hundred and fifty thousand acres, was 
to be located in the ceded territory; and any defi- 
ciency in the lands granted in Kentucky for mili- 
tary bounties should be made up in the region be- 
tween the Scioto and Little Miami rivers. Then 
followed the well-known condition as to the dis- 
posal of the rest of the cession.^ 

8 Another condition provided that the territory ceded should be 
laid out into states of not less than one hundred nor more than one 
hundred and fifty miles square. These areas were much smaller than 
seemed desirable to Congress, so in 1786 Virginia was asked to as- 
sent to the formation of from three to five states instead. Virginia 
passed the desired act on December 30, 1788, in the form of a rati- 
fication of the compact in the Ordinance of 1787 in so far as it 
established boundaries for the new states. 


All of these specific conditions were eventually 
complied with. The tract for Clark's men was 
located near the falls of the Ohio, in the present 
State of Indiana/" The possessions of the French 
settlers were respected and their land claims were 
generously confirmed.*^ But the questions arising 
out of the Virginia military reserve caused an un- 
expected amount of trouble. 

In the first place, the clause was carelessly 
drawn. In the Virginia offer of January 2, 1781, 
the clause provided for Virginia troops upon the 
Continental establishment and upon the State es- 
tablishment.'^ But the provision for the troops of 
the State line was omitted from the resolutions 
w^hich were presented to Congress, and this omis- 
sion was carried over into the formal deed of 

Then again, the reservation was indefinite in 
amount. The land bounties offered by Virginia 
to her Revolutionary soldiers M'ere indeed gener- 
ous. In 1776, 1777, and 1778, the State found 

10 English, Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio. 
II., 825-860. 

11 See ch. 9. 

12 Hening, X., 564. 

IS During the Revolution each State supplied troops for the Conti- 
nental forces, and also maintained regular State troops — the State 
line— militia, and irregular forces. The national bounty lands were 
originally oflFered only to soldiers of the Continental line. Virginia 
had sixteen regiments on the Continental establishment, three regi- 
ments of State line, two Western regiments, and a navy of twenty 
or twenty-five vessels. P. L. VIII., 583. Confusion frequently 
arises because the Continental troops were raised by States. 


that a money bounty, in addition to the Congres- 
sional bounties, was sufficient. But in 1779 and 
1780 money, land and, finally, slaves were offered. 
In the latter year, for example, a private enlisting 
in the Continental line for the war was to receive 
twelve thousand dollars (in depreciated paper), 
and, at the end of the war, a sound negro between 
ten and thirty years of age or sixty pounds in 
gold or silver, and three hundred acres of land. 
Doubtless a few lukewarm patriots were enlisted 
under such circumstances. At first the bounties 
were offered to men enlisting in the Continental 
forces, in addition to the Congressional bounty, 
but finally all troops. State and Continental, army 
and navy, were placed upon the same footing. The 
land bounties finally stood as follows: Major- 
general, fifteen thousand acres; brigadier-general, 
ten thousand acres; colonel, six thousand six hun- 
dred and sixty-six acres; lieutenant-colonel, six 
thousand acres; major, five thousand three hun- 
dred and thirty-three acres ; captain, four thousand 
acres; subaltern, two thousand six hundred and 
sixty-six acres; non-commissioned officer (enlisting 
for the war) , four hundred acres, (for three years) 
two hundred acres; private (for the war), three 
hundred acres, (for three years) one hundred 
acres. And an increase of one-sixth for each year's 
service over six. Baron Steuben, who did not be- 
long to any State line, was granted fifteen thou- 
sand acres. He also received two thousand from 
Pennsylvania and eleven hundred from Congress. 


And other special or " resolution " grants were 
made for distinguished service.^* 

In December, 1778, a military reserve was set 
apart in Kentucky, between the Greenbrier River, 
the Carolina line, the Tennessee River and the 
Ohio,^^ but as some of this reserve was found to 
lie in North Carolina's western lands the bounds 
were extended to the westward as far as the JNIis- 
sissippi. In 1783 the surveyors were authorized to 
locate warrants in the Ohio country, between the 
Scioto and Little INIiami rivers, after the good land 
in Kentucky was exhausted, and the deed of ces- 
sion of 1784 contained the same stipulation. Only 
when no more " good lands " could be found south 
of the Ohio were warrants to be located in the 
Ohio country. But as the surveys were irregular 
in shape and designed to cover as much good land 
as possible without a proportionate amount of the 
bad, and as the larger warrants could be divided 
and located on different tracts, it was evident that 
there would not be enough "good land" in the 
Kentucky resen'-e to satisfy the splendid bounties 
of Virginia.^*^ And the matter was further com- 
plicated by the Indian titles in Kentucky.^^ It 

1* The Act of 1780 which increased the bounty of soldiers serving 
for the war to three hundred acres was overlooked and not acted 
upon until it was noticed in IS22 by Hcning. The warrants issued 
before that date read two hundred acres. See Hening, X., 331 n. 

15 Hening, X., 50. 

10 Tlie act of 1783 allowed six surveys to a general, five to a field 
officer, and four to a captain or subaltern. Hening, XI., 309. 

17 In order to prevent trouble with the Indians the Governor of 
"Virginia ordered the suspension of surveys on Jan. 6, 1785. 


was npt until 1818 that the rights of the Chick- 
asaws to the lands between the Tennessee and the 
Mississippi were extinguished, and at that date the 
State of Kentucky had prohibited the location of 
Virginia warrants within her limits. 

The Congress of the Confederation early took 
measures to protect the rights of Virginia to the 
reserve in Ohio. The proposed land ordinance of 
1784 contained a clause to the effect that Virginia 
laws should govern the granting of bounty lands 
there. When this ordinance came up in amended 
form in 1785 it simply confirmed the Virginia 
troops in their rights under the deed of cession. A 
general debate arose over the construction of the 
Virginia deed of cession, and an effort was made 
to bring the reserve under the general land system, 
so that the rectangular surveys would be used 
there, but this did not come to a vote.^^ It was 
finally decided to reserve all the land between the 
two rivers until the Virginia claims were settled. ^^ 
It would have been a great blessing for the Vir- 
ginia veterans and for the State of Ohio if the 
system of rectangular prior surveys had been in- 

But until a deficiency was proven in the bounty 
lands in Kentucky no warrants could be located 
north of the Ohio. Congress took occasion to point 
this out in 1788, when it stated that all locations 
and surveys would be considered void until the 

18 Bancroft, I., 435. Grayson to Madison, May 1, 1785. 
18 J. IV., 510. 


deficiency south of the Ohio had been ascertained, 
and it requested the Governor of Virginia to find 
out the amount of land needed, so that Congress 
could lay out the proper amount and dispose of 
the balance.^*^ 

That was a rather difficult problem for the Gov- 
ernor of Virginia to meet, for even to-day it is not 
possible to determine how much land was required 
for the satisfaction of Virginia's Revolutionary 
bounties. Instead of waiting for the Governor to 
indulge in estimates Congress accepted the state- 
ment of the agents of the soldiers and proceeded 
to open the Virginia resen^e to locations. This 
Act of August 10, 1790, was the first act of the 
new Congress relating to the disposal of the public 
lands. It was not until 1796 that the United 
States' military bounty lands were set apart, and 
the first locations were allowed in 1800. And it 
was in 1796 that the first act for a general sale of 
lands was passed. These facts show how carefully 
Congress tried to live up to the terms of the Vir- 
ginia cession. 

The Act of 1790 looked toward a rapid settle- 
ment of the claims. The Secretary of War was 
to report to the Governor of Virginia the names 
of all men entitled to bounty lands. Then the 
agents of these troops were to select enough land 
north of the Ohio to satisfy, with the lands in 
Kentucky, all the claims of the Virginia troops on 
the Continental establishment. The agents were 

20 July 17, 1788. J. IV., 836. 


to locate the warrants and file the entries with the 
Secretary of State. The President then caused 
the patents to be made out, but they were to be 
delivered by the Governor of Virginia. 

Tliis act was not considered satisfactory by cer- 
tain of the Virginia soldiers, and on their protests 
the State Legislature memorialized Congress.^ ^ 
The act was therefore amended, in 1794, so that 
patents might issue to the assigns of officers and 
soldiers, and the method of securing that document 
was changed.^^ After that date a person produc- 
ing a warrant, a certificate from the proper State 
officer that the warrant remained unsatisfied, and 
a survey according to the laws of Virginia, would 
receive a patent from the President. This meant 
that the troops or their agents crossed the Ohio to 
the Virginia military district and located their war- 
rants wherever they found land which was appar- 
ently unappropriated. Certain surveyors in the 
Virginia military districts became great landhold- 
ers through their services, for land was about the 
only means some of the warrant holders had of 
paying for their surveys. It took but a short time 
for the evils of the Virginian system of locations 
to appear in her reserve in Ohio. As early as 1800 
Congress provided that when patents conflicted the 
loser might withdraw that much of his warrant and 
locate elsewhere in the reserve. The constant liti- 
gation in the Virginia military reserve in Ohio was 

21 p. L. I., 17. 22 June 9, 1794. 


enough to impress people with the value of the na- 
tional land system. 

The Virginia warrants were being located so 
rapidly in Ohio that in 1804 Congress felt called 
upon to define the western bounds of the reserve. 
The Scioto River proved to be much longer than 
the Little IMiami, and its source was found to be 
actually west of the latter stream. In 1802 a line 
was run by William Tiudlow from the source of 
the Little IMiami toward the Scioto as far as the 
Indian boundary line.^^ This survey was accepted 
by Congress in 1804; the lands west of the line 
were then siu'veyed and sold under the regular sys- 
tem.^^ Rut Virginia was allowed two ^^ars in 
which to accept the boundary line, and as she failed 
to act the question rested until 1812, when Con- 
gress authorized the appointment of commissioners 
to meet with those of Virginia for the determina- 
tion of the proper line, but until they could come 
to some agreement the line of 1804 was to be ac- 
cepted as proper.^'' The commissioners could not 
agree, those from Virginia holding that the line 
should run from the source of the Scioto to the 
month of the Little IMiami, which would be en- 
tirely to the west of the latter stream. The Fed- 
eral commissioners, therefore, instructed Charles 
Roberts to nm a new line between the sources of 

28 p. L. IV., 785. If continued it would not have struck the 
source of the Scioto. 25 June 2Q, 1812, ch. 109. 

a* March 23, 1804, ch. 33. 


the two streams.^" This line was fifty-three miles 
long and would include in the reserve about fifty- 
jfive thousand acres of land left out by Ludlow. 
As Virginia did not agree, the Ludlow line re- 
mained in effect according to the Act of 1812, but 
in 1818 Congress established a new boundary, 
namely, the Ludlow line to the old Indian bound- 
ary line, and the Roberts line from the Indian 
boundary to the source of the Scioto.^^ The In- 
dian title to the land beyond the old Greeneville 
line was extinguished in 1817. 

In the meanwhile Virginia warrants had been 
located on lands sold by the United States be- 
tween the two lines, so in 1824 an agreed case was 
decided by the Supreme Court which was held to 
establish the Roberts line.^^ The court had to 
determine whether a patent based on purchase 
from the United States or one based on a Virginia 
warrant should be recognized between the two 
Hnes. As the patent in question was secured be- 
fore the Act of 1812 it very naturally decided in 
favor of the Virginian claimant, but later this de- 
cision was advanced as a ruling in favor of the 
Roberts line, although that general question was 
not before the court. 

For a number of years this question was before 
Congress, and finally, in 1830, an appropriation of 
$62,515,25, with interest from 1825, was made to 
quiet the claims of persons who had located Vir- 

26 p. L. II., 735. 27 April 11, 1818, ch. 47. 

28 Doddridge's lessee v. Thompson and Wright. Wheat, 469. 


ginia warrants between the two lines south of tlie 
Indian boundary line, and to this amount $1,765.68 
was added the next year.^^ 

While the question of the proper western bound- 
ary of the Virf^inia reserve was under discussion, 
another question was presented to the considera- 
tion of Cono^ress. That was the request that Con- 
gress ])ermit holders of warrants for services in 
the Virginia State troops to make locations in 
Ohio. This was based on the original offer of 
Virginia, although it had not been inserted in the 
deed of cession. A favorable report on this re- 
quest was made to the House in 1812, and from 
that time until 1830 there were reports and de- 
bates on the subject.'^'' The United States could 
not be held to satisfy these claims, but as the omis- 
sion was apparently an oversight, and as there had 
been difficulty in securing land in Kentucky, Con- 
gress finally decided to grant the long-desired per- 
mission. This was done in 1830 by an act wliich 
permitted all liolders of unsatisfied military war- 
rants, whether from the United States or from 
Virginia, for services either in the Continental 
forces or in her State line or navy, to exchange 
them for scrip certificates of eiglity acres each, re- 
ceivable for land o])en to private entry in Ohio, 
Indiana, and Illinois.'^' This act appropriated two 
hundred and sixty thousand acres in scrip for the 

20 p. L. IV., 66. Negotiations commenced in 1834. May 26, \S2i, 
ch. 188. May 26, 1830, ch. 105. Feb. 13, 1831, ch. 19. 

30 P. L. II., 446. 31 May 30, 1830, ch. 215, 


Virginia line, and fifty thousand acres for the Vir- 
ginia troops on Continental establishment. In 1832 
three hundred thousand acres were added, two 
hundred thousand in 1833, and six hundred and 
fifty thousand acres in 1835, for the two establish- 
ments. The Act of 1833 made this scrip receiv- 
able for any land open to private entry. 

The various appropriations of scrip for the 
tix)ops of the State line were not sufficient to meet 
the demand. In 1832 a great mass of Revolution- 
ary documents was found in the attic of the Cap- 
itol at Richmond, and on this evidence were based 
many of the new claims.^- Although the holders 
of warrants for services in the Continental line 
could still locate them in the Virginia reserve, no 
provision of scrip was made for the State line be- 
tween 1835 and 1852. At that time Congress 
agreed to exchange scrip for all Virginia warrants 
issued before March 1, 1852.^^ This was accepted 
by Virginia as a full adjustment of her bounty 
claims, and she accordingly relinquished all claim 
to the balance of the Virginia militaiy reserve. 
The unappropriated lands in this district, amount- 
ing to 76,735.44 acres, were ceded to Ohio by the 
Act of February 18, 1871, and Ohio turned the 
lands over to the Ohio Agricultural and Mechan- 
ical College.^* 

32 p. L. VIIT., 582. 33 Aug. 21, 1852, ch. 114. 

34 Donaldson, 233. See House Miss. Doc. No. 10., 47 Cong. Sess. 


It required thirty-four acts of Congress to pro- 
vide for the bounty claims of Virginia, aside from 
special legislation. Many of these acts were un- 
necessary. The Act of 1804 endeavored to expe- 
dite the location of warrants by stipulating that 
all locations must be completed ^\ithin three years 
after the passage of the act, and the surveys and 
warrants returned to the Department of War 
within five years. All lands which were not lo- 
cated upon in that time were to be thrown open 
to public sale. But if such action was highly de- 
sirable, it was of doubtful legality. Virginia had 
not agreed to have her warrants satisfied within a 
fixed time and the right of Congress to insert such 
a time limitation was questioned. But Congress 
did not insist upon its own terms. It repeatedly 
extended the time for securing warrants, making 
locations, and returning the sun-eys, generally for 
two or three years. At various times it was not 
possible to locate warrants within the district until 
an act of Congress would permit the location for a 
limited period. From 1841 to 1850, for instance, 
the time extension only applied to warrants which 
had been issued before August 10, 1840, but be- 
tween 1850 and 1852 any warrant might be lo- 
cated. From the latter date the right was limited 
to warrants which had been entered within the dis- 
trict before January 1, 1852, and persons holding 
such were finally allowed until May 27, 1883, to re- 
turn the survevs, certificates and warrants, and to 


receive their patents, for it was found that lands in 
the Virginia reserve had been occupied for years 
without the completion of title. In 1882 persons 
who had occupied lands for twenty years under a 
Virginia warrant which had at any time been en- 
tered at the land office were confirmed in their 
titles. It is still possible to offer the scrip issued 
for the Virginia bounty warrants, under the Act of 
1852, in payment for public lands, but the right to 
exchange outstanding warrants for scrip ceased on 
March 3, 1900, by an act of 1899.'' 

It has been shown that Congress more than car- 
ried out the terms of the Virginia deed of cession. 
Virginia received, north of the Ohio, the one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand acre tract which she had 
promised to George Rogers Clark and his men.'^ 
She received the lands in the reserve, some 3,770,- 
000 acres — and the reserve tract proved to be 
larger than was anticipated in 1784. Under the 
early scrip acts some 1,460,000 acres were appro- 
priated, and under the Act of 1852 scrip amount- 
ing to 1,068,753 acres has been issued to the pres- 
ent time. A minimum estimate would place the 
amount of land granted by the United States on 
account of the Virginia bounties at 6,300,000 acres, 
and only about half of this was located within the 
stipulated reserve in Ohio. Whether her claim to 
the Northwest was better than that of the other 

35 March 3, 1899, ch. 424. 

89 In 1858, 6666§ acres were granted to the heirs of Col. Archibald 
Loughry, who was killed by the Indians on his way to join Clark. 


States or no, Virginia received more direct ben- 
efit from the cession than any other State.^ 


The North Carolina Cession 
In terms of dollars and cents the North Caro- 
lina cession, when finally comj^leted, was the least 
advantageous of all, for the Federal government 
derived scarcely a penny of land revenue from the 
ceded territory. But in many ways the cession 
was the most interesting of all, from an historical 
point of view. 

The Carolinas claimed the land west of their 
present limits by virtue of the charters of 1663 and 

37 An act of grace on the part of Congress which did not come 
under the terms of the Virginia cession, was the relief extended to 
the heirs of Col. Charles Porterfield. He had served with distinc- 
tion during the Revolution and had been slain in the latter part of 
the war. His son, Robert, received a warrant for six thousand 
acres in 178i?, and one for -2,606 as assignee for niouias Quarles, 
another veteran. These were located in 1784 in Kentucky, in five 
entries. The land was then in possession of the Chickasaw Indians 
and was not available until 1818. Kentucky issued patents to Robert 
Porterfield in 18;34, but the lands were also claimed under Virginia 
treasury warrants located by George Rogers Clark in 1780 and 1781. 
Porterfield sued Meriwether Clark in 1836-1841, but lost the action 
in the I'nitcd States Circuit Court and the Supreme Court. Some 
6133 acres were involved, and in 1860 Congress authorized the issue 
of scrip to the heirs of Robert Porterfield for that amount. This 
was done on the ground that Virginia would have made good the 
loss resulting from these conflicting locations if Virginia had any 
land available at the time, but Virginia had ceded her western lands 
to the United States, therefore the United States should act as 
Virginia would have done. It is well that this action was not 
taken fifty years earlier or the I'nited States would have been called 
upon to satisfy many warrants whose locations were nullified by 
conflicting claims in Kentucky. One hundred and fifty-three war- 
rants for forty acres each were issued to the heirs of Robert Porter- 
field and twenty-one of them were unlocated in 1900. 


1665. No other State claimed these lands, in con- 
trast to the tangle of claims in the Northwest, al- 
though the terms of the Proclamation of 1763 
might be cited in opposition. Before the Revolu- 
tion, and during that struggle, settlement extended 
beyond the mountains, so that at the time the land 
cessions were under discussion North Carolina 
could support her claim by actual occupation. In 
1777 she had opened a land office whidi dealt prin- 
cipally in lands in Tennessee, and in 1780 she set 
aside there a tract for the satisfaction of her mili- 
tary bounties. With the close of the war the set- 
tlements beyond the mountains began to grow 

On March 1, 1784, the Virginia cession was com- 
pleted, and on the 2d of June the North Caix)lina 
Legislature passed an act of cession of her west- 
ern lands.^*^ This act contained some general con- 
ditions and gave Congress twelve months in which 
to accept the ofFer.^^ At the same time the land 
office was closed pending the action of Congress. 
It was the news of this cession that caused the set- 
tlers of the western counties to set up the inde- 
pendent state of Franklin, which sought admission 
into the Union between 1784 and 1787.^*^ 

38j. IV., 523. K. C. Recs. 24: 561. 

39 Most accounts, following Ramsey, 283, state two years, but com- 
pare the Act and the statement in J. IV., 523. 

40 For this section see Roosevelt, Winning of the West, vols. 1-3; 
G. H. Alden, "The State of Franklin" in A. H. Rev. 8: 271-289; 
Turner, " Western State Making in the Revolutionary Era," A. H. 
Rev. 1:70-87; G. H. Alden, "New Governments West of the Alle- 
ghanies before 1780." Bulletin of Univ. of Wise, vol. 2, No. 1, 


This independent action of licr western settlers 
apparently caused the Legislature at the next ses- 
sion, in November of the same year, to repeal the 
act of cession, althou/>h tliat was not the reason 
assigned in the repealing measiu-e. It really is 
worth quoting in full, because of the light it sheds 
upon the inter-State relations of the times. 
*' Whereas, the cession so intended was made in 
full confidence that the whole expence of the In- 
dian expeditions and militia aids to the State of 
South Carolina and Georgia should pass to ac- 
count in our quota of the continental expences in- 
curred by the late war: and also that the other 
states holding Western territory would make sim- 
ilar cessions, and that all the states would unani- 
mously grant imposts of five per cent, as a com- 
mon fund for the discharge of the federal debt: 
and, whereas, the States of ^Massachusetts and 
Connecticut after accepting the cession of New 
York and Virginia have since put in claims for 
the whole or a large part of that territory, and all 
the above measures for constituting a substantial 
common fund, have been either frustrated or de- 
layed," therefore the act of cession is repealed.^ ^ 
If the other States had acted in the same "liberal " 
manner there would have been anarchy in the 
Northwest, for the New York and Virginia cessions 
liad been completed and those of Connecticut and 
Massachusetts were pending. Fortunately, the 
conduct of North Carolina was not taken as a 
desirable example. Congress, however, took cog- 

41 N. C. Recs. 24:679. 


nizance of the two acts of North Carolina. A com- 
mittee appointed to examine them reported that 
the State had no right to repeal the first offer 
and that, therefore, Congress could accej^t the ces- 
sion M^ithin the twelve months specified.^- But this 
report could not be adopted, although all the dele- 
gates from the States north of ^Maryland voted for 
it. A resolution did pass, however, requesting 
North Carolina to repeal her second act and to 
direct her delegates in Congress to execute a deed 
of cession. 

North Carolina failed to accept the recommen- 
dation, and thus the matter rested until after the 
new government under the Constitution had been 
established. In that period North Carolina had 
been granting lands in Tennessee, and 35,691 per- 
sons were resident there in 1790. The failure of 
North Carolina and Georgia to cede their lands 
must have occasioned no little ill feeling on the 
part of the five States which had made cessions 
under the Confederation. But toward the close 
of 1789 North Carolina acted,^^ and on April 2 
of the next year Congress passed an act of accep- 
tance. At the same session the ceded region, with 
the South Carolina strip, was organized as the 
Territory South of the River Ohio. 

The North Carolina cession was based upon cer- 
tain conditions, principally to the effect that the 
State military bounties should be satisfied and all 

*2J. IV., 523-24. 43 Dec. 23, 1789. N. C. Recs., 25:4-6. 


rights and entries to land under North Carolina 
laws should be preserved/^ As the Indian title 
had been extinguished over but a small portion of 
the state there was reason to believe that North 
Carolina had ceded to the Union the preemption of 
a considerable quantity of very good land. The 
(juestion, therefore, was to determine how much 
land had been sold or given away by North Car- 
olina prior to the cession. , 

A study of the North Carolina bounty laws 
showed that she liad been most generous in her 
treatment of her troops on the continental estaljlish- 
ment. Beginning in 1780 with a bounty of $500 a 
year, 200 acres of land and a prime slave for those 
who would serve for three j^ears or the war, she had 
been forced to increase the money and land boun- 
ties until in 1782 she made a substantial recogni- 
tion of the services of the troo])s w^ho might con- 
tinue to the close of the war.^'' These bounties rose 
from 610 acres for a private to 12,000 acres for a 
brigadier; a captain, for exam])le, receiving 3850 
acres. INIajor-General Nathanael Greene was given 
25,000 acres in consideration of his distinguished 
services in defense of the state. Such grants would 
ai)propriate a great amount of land, and the sur- 
veys under these warrants were bound to cause 
trouble. General Greene's tract was surveyed in 
INIarch, 1783, and by the act of the next year it was 

4 4 North Carolina reserved the right to complete all grants and 
imperfect titles. Conflicting entries could be relocated. 
46 N. C. Recs., 24?«9-429. 


confirmed to him.^^ The boundaries are typical: 
" Beginning on the south bank of Duck River, on 
a sycamore, cherry tree and ash, at the mouth of 
a small branch, running thence along a line of 
marked trees south seven miles and forty-eight 
poles to two Spanish oaks, a hicory (sic) and sugar 
'sapling, thence east three miles and ninety poles 
to a Spanish oak and hackberry tree, north three 
miles and three hundred poles to a sugar tree 
sapling and two white oak saplings, under a clift 
of Duck River whence it comes from the northeast, 
thence down Duck River, according to its several 
meanders to the beginning." 

Soon after the cession was completed Congress 
asked the President to prepare an estimate of the- 
unclaimed lands in the North Carolina cession and 
in the Northwest Territory .^^ Jefferson, the Secre- 
tary of State, prepared the report which showed 
that all the habitable lands free of the Indian title 
had been apj^ropriated, while on the lands acquired 
since the cession, at the treaty of Holston, in 1791, 
some three hundred families had already located 
without permission. And the matter was further 
complicated by the fact that the treaties of Hope- 
well, 1785, and Holston, 1791, had confirmed to 
the Cherokees certain lands on which North Car- 
olina warrants had been located, the holders of 
which desired relief.^ ^ It was a matter of some 
importance that these claims in Tennessee be 

46 N. C. Recs., 24^570. 

*^ P. L. I., 22. <8 p. L. I., 30, 33, 78, 102, 108, 123, etc. 


settled in some way lest the settlers or squatters 
come to blows with the Indians. With the admis- 
sion of Tennessee in 1796 a new factor was added 
for there were those who held that the new state 
acquired the right of soil as well as the right of 

In the meanwhile Xorth Carolina continued to 
perfect outstanding grants by extending the time 
in which they could be surveyed, registered, or paid 
for, and in the case of military warrants the time 
for the survey was also extended. Laws were also 
passed to meet the frauds which were being com- 
mitted in the "issuing, procuring, receiving, or 
transferring land warrants." ^^ In 1803, Tennessee 
ap2)ointed five commissioners who, with those to 
be appointed by the United States, would have 
full power to determine all interfering claims of 
the United States and Tennessee to vacant lands 
within the latter state.^^ And in 1805 Congress 
was asked to assent to an Act of North Carolina 
which would permit Tennessee to issue grants and 
perfect titles under the land laws of the former 
state. The situation in Tennessee was becoming 
very interesting. The first of the " public land 
states " she found her mother state engaged in dis- 
posing of her lands — under the form of earlier 
grants to be sure — while the Federal Government 
would have possession of any land which might 

48 p. L. I., 109. 

00 For summary of N. C. laws see P. L. I., 211-13. 

"P. L. I., 162. 


escape the North Carolina grantees. To the north 
Kentucky had for some time been disposing of her 
own lands. 

It was under these circumstances that the 
unique act of 1806 was passed by Congress."'^ This 
offered to cede to Tennessee the title of the United 
States to all lands in the eastern two-thirds of the 
State if the State would agree to relinquish its title 
to the other lands and to exempt the lands of the 
United States there from all taxation before and 
for five years after sale. This clause gives the 
impression that the State might^had some " right, 
title, and claim " to the lands in question. The 
same clause gives the assent of Congress to the 
North Carolina act of 1803. 

But this cession of the United States was based 
upon certain conditions. In the first place all un- 
satisfied entries, rights, and warrants of North 
Carolina which were not actually located in the 
tract reserved for the United States before Feb- 
ruary 25, 1790, must be satisfied in the tract ceded 
to Tennessee. That state also was to appropriate 
100,00 acres of land for two colleges, one in East 
and one in West Tennessee, and 100,000 acres for 
the use of academies, one for each county of the 
State. These lands were to be set apart in the 
region resented for the Cherokee Indians by North 

52 April 18, ch. 31. The line began where the eastern branch of 
Elk River intersected the southern boundary of Tennessee, then due 
north to the northern branch of Duck River, thence down Duck 
River to the North Carolina military reserve, thence west to the 
Tennessee find down that river to the Kentucky line. 





Carolina and therefore it was not believed the land 
could be claimed by individuals. And in addition 
the State was to locate six hundred and forty acres 
for every six miles square of territory for the use 
of schools. 

In this way Congress tried to provide for 
Tennessee the grant of one section in each town- 
ship for education, but as the rectangular surveys 
were never extended over Tennessee it was an 
easy matter to neglect this requirement. Finally 
Congress provided that if there were not enough 
good land in the Tennessee portion for perfecting 
all legal claims then they might be satisfied in 
the tract reserved for the United States. 

This act surely deserves to be called unique. 
In it the United States transferred to Tennessee 
most of the obligations it had assumed under the 
North Carolina cession, but it did so with the 
assent of the latter State. In some respects the act 
was like the Ohio Enabling Act, for lands were 
granted for schools, seminaries, and colleges, and 
the State agreed not to tax Federal lands until five 
years after sale. But the form of the act, provid- 
ing for an instrument to be signed by the com- 
missioners of the State of Tennessee gave color to 
the idea that it was a more formal bargain and that 
the State really had some right to all the lands 
within its boundaries.^"^ It should be noted that 
Tennessee was to receive more lands for colleges 
than Ohio, while the latter State had not been given 

53 Agreement signed Jan. 23, 1807. P. L. I., 584. 


seminary lands. As a matter of fact these grants 
were mostly on paper.''^ 

It would be too much to expect that the Act of 
1806 could settle definitely the tangled land claims 
in Tennessee. Here was an excellent example of 
the confusion resulting from the old southern 
system. Warrants, entries, location, and surveys 
were frequently in conflict. And the system lent 
itself to fraud. What w^as needed was the extension 
of the national land system over as much of Ten- 
nessee as possible, and this seemed feasible because 
the Indian title had not been extinguished in the 
Congressional reserve.''' 

Eut with the extinguishment of the Indian title 
Congress could not act, because it had promised to 
perfect all legal claims to land within its reserve in 
case sufficient land should be wanting in Tennes- 

54 For a discussion of these grants for education see L. S. Mer- 
riam, Higher Education in Tennessee, Bureau of Education, Cir- 
cular of Information, No. 5, 1893. The college grants were divided 
between the Cumberland College (later the University of Nash- 
ville) and the East Tennessee College (later the University of Ten- 
nessee). When an attempt was made to locate the lands it was 
found that squatters claimed preemption on practically the entire 
available area. They were allowed to purchase their lands at $1 
an acre in ten equal annual payments, and later the time of payment 
was frequently extended, so that little was secured for the colleges. 
In 1838, the Universities accepted from the state a half-township 
of land, 11,520 acres, each, in lieu of their claims under the Con- 
gressional grant. Apparently the only seminary to receive aid 
under the seminary grant was the Hampden Sidney Academy at 
Knoxville. No lands were set apart for schools. 

86 Title to the country between the Tennessee and the Duck riv- 
ers acquired from the Cherokees in 1806. and from the Chickasaws 
in 1810, west of the Tennessee River from the Chickasaws in 1818. 


see's reserve. It, therefore, had to wait until all 
existing claims had been satisfied, or it was evident 
that they could not be satisfied by Tennessee. But 
now the matter was complicated by the position 
taken by North Carolina. She objected to the 
provision in the Act of 1806 which would allow 
incomplete entries and interfering locations to be 
perfected only on the Tennessee reserve, and under 
her act of 1811 she commenced the next year to 
make surveys and issue grants in the Congressional 
reserve.^® Tennessee protested against this action 
of North Carolina and forbade further survej^s by 
an act of 1812 and asked that she be given the 
power to perfect the grants in the region in ques- 

To meet this three-cornered controversy Con- 
gress, in 1818, gave Tennessee permission to com- 
plete grants west of the dividing line, but tried to 
reserve lands ^^ithin the Indian boundary line.^* 
Tennessee was also permitted to perfect the grants 
obtained from North Carolina in 1812, provided 
they were valid. About the same time a decision 
of the Supreme Court held against the right of 
North Carolina to make further grants in Ten- 

Under the Act of 1806 Tennessee was bound to 
sell the land in her reserve at a price equal to the 
prevailing price of public lands, although a pre- 
emption at $1.00 an acre was allowed in certain 

56 p. L. TIT., 274. 57 p. L. TIT., 287. 

88 April 4, 1818, ch. 35. The Chickasaw treaty was Oct. 19. 

88 Burton's Lessee v. Williams, et al. 3 Wheaton, 528. 


parts. With the reduction of the minimum in 1820 
Tennessee could reduce her price. In 1823 this 
limit was removed and Tennessee could charge 
whatever she desired. ]Much of her land was then 
offered at as little as 12i cents an acre.^" 

For twenty-five years more the question of the 
Tennessee lands was before Congress. The North 
Carolina grants were extensive and the good land 
was rapidly being taken up. In 1829 it was re- 
ported that although 2,353,824 acres remained un- 
appropriated in the Congressional reserve it was 
principally "refuse land," which had been picked 
over for years and was probably worth from 12 J 
to one cent an acre.®^ The expense of bringing 
these vacant lands into the national system would 
be great because the region was so cut up by the 
surveys under the North Carolina warrants. Ten- 
nessee had laid off the tract in to^^Tlships five miles 
square, like those in the Ohio Military reserve.®^ 

60 Feb. 28, 1823, ch. 19. oi P. L. VI., 32. 

«3"The claimant or holders of warrants were -not required to 
take up the land by sections, quarter sections, or in any other 
repiilar form of surveying, adjoining section or range lines, and so 
as to include a portion of the poor with the rich land; but each 
claimant explored the country for himself, or by his agent, and 
made his own location, selecting, of course, the best land within 
his knowledge, and so making his survey to exclude, as far as 
practicable, the sterile and to include the fertile lands. The North 
Carolina claimants were promised land fit for cultivation, and to 
enable them to obtain it, a division of warrants was authorized by 
law; the consequence of which has been that locations and entries 
upon warrants of all sizes, from one to 5,000 acres, have been made 
upon the land in question, and in surveys of every imaginable 
shape— surveys even of small tracts of land having, in many in- 
stances, a dozen or more offsets and corners." P. L. VI., 356. See 
map of a typical township. 


After several reports had been submitted on the 
vacant lands in Tennessee, Congress apparently 
decided that it was not worth while to bring them 
under the national system, but it delayed making 
any other provision for them. Finally, in 1841, it 
made the State of Tennessee its agent for the dis- 
posal of the unappropriated land.^^ In the first 
place, Tennessee was to perfect the outstanding 
North Carolina warrants, but in order to expedite 
the process these must be located within one 3'^ear, 
or else during the next two years they could be 
redeemed at 12j cents an acre. Persons entitled 
to a preemption under the laws of Tennessee were 
confirmed in that privilege for not more than 200 
acres at 12 J cents an acre. Finally, the unappro- 
priated lands were to be offered for sale for three 
years at 12 J cents an acre, and for the next three 
years at any price. But Tennessee was to pay 
over to the United States all sums above the 
amount required to satisfy the North Carolina 

This act provided for the sale of lands in the 
Congressional Reserve, but it was not to be ex- 
pected that the other details of the act would be 
carried out. It was not customary for terms such 
as these to be insisted upon by the Federal Gov- 
ernment. So in 1846 the United States turned 
over to Tennessee all the unappropriated lands in 
its former reserve as well as the amount due for 

e»Feb. 18, 1841, ch. 7. 

8* I can find no record of any payments being made. 


lands sold there,^"^ in full satisfaction of the ex« 
penses incurred by the state in managing the said 
public lands as the agent of the United States. Ten- 
nessee, in turn, was to appropriate $40,000 of the 
proceeds for a college at Jackson, or as much as 
the lands miglit bring less than that sum, and out- 
standing North Carolina claims were to be pro- 
vided for."*' 

In this way, fifty-six years after the deed of 
cession, the United States finally turned its obliffa- 
tions over to the State of Tennessee, for by that 
time Tennessee surely had gained considerable ex- 
perience in dealing with Xorth Carolina warrants. 

The North Carolina cession, therefore, had 
vested in the United States a jurisdiction which it, 
in turn, had in 1796 transferred to the State of 
Tennessee. The ceded lands never came under the 
national land system and only 640 acres were ever 
sold directly by the United States."' And the grants 
for education, which tlie Federal government tried 
to make, failed because the State would not protect 
them from private exploitation. Tennessee, how- 
ever, did not fare any too well in this matter. To 
be sure the Federal Government finally turned 
over to her all the vacant lands within her limits, 
a treatment accorded no other public land State, 
but the best of these lands were claimed under the 
warrants of Xorth Carolina. And for years she 

85 Aufr. 7, 1846, ch. 92. 

08 In the debate in the House it was held that these claims were 
barred under the Art of 1841. Globe, 1.5: 1199. 

67 Townsite of Pulaski, 1811. Feb. 25, 1811, ch. 24. 


had to maintain land offices principally for the 
satisfaction of such grants. In its origin and its 
later history the North Carolina session is one of 
the most interesting of the seven which formed the 
National Domain. 

The Yazoo Land Claims 

Of all the state cessions that of Georgia 
occasioned the most controversy, and that because 
of the long delay in turning the region over to the 
Federal Government. In the meantime the State 
had made and rescinded vast grants which laid the 
foundation of later controversy. 

The bounds of Georgia were not well established 
at the close of the Revolution. The youngest of 
the colonies, she had been carved out of the South 
Carolina territories and the older State insisted on 
a strict interpretation of Georgia's charter claims. 
In fact the dispute was finally laid before the old 
Congress and a Federal Court was authorized, but 
the States decided to settle the matter between 
themselves and South Carolina finally yielded her 
claims to the region back of the southern part of 
the existing Georgia settlements.*^^ On the day 
that this convention was laid before Congress the 
delegates of South Carolina executed the deed of 
cession to the United States of her western lands, 
a strip twelve miles wide stretching along the 

88 West of the headwaters of the St. Mary's and Altamaha. Con- 
vention of April 28, 1787. 


southern boundary of the present State of Ten- 
nessee to the INIississippi River.^^ 

On several occasions the Congress of the Con- 
federation urged Georgia and the other backward 
States to cede their western lands. In 1785 Georgia 
organized Bourbon County on the INIississippi, 
south of the Yazoo/*^ Finally on February 1, 
1788, an act authorizing the cession passed the 
State legislature. But this act ceded only the lower 
half of the western lands and insisted upon a guar- 
antee by Congress of the remainder. The offer 
was therefore refused and the Confederation 
passed out of existence with the Georgia and North 
Carolina cessions unfinished.^ ^ 

Georgia determined to take advantage of the 
increasing interest in land speculation and by act 
of December 21, 1789, granted 25,400,000 acres of 
land to the South Carolina Yazoo Company, the 
Virginia Yazoo Company and the Tennessee Com- 
pany, the total payments to be $207,580.'- The 
purchasers were to quiet the Indian claims and 
make final payments ^^^thin two years, when 
patents in fee sim])le would pass. In each case par- 
tial payments w^ere made in depreciated paper but 
final payments of the same kind were refused by 

69 Aug. 9, 1787. J. IV., 771. 

70 Haskins, 64. 

71 July 13, 1788. J. IV., 83+. 

7-'S. C, 10,000,000 acres, $66,964; Va., 11400,000 acres, $93,741; 
Tenn., 4,000,000 acres, $46,875. It is quite impossible to discuss 
the Yaioo Land Companies without following very closely the ex- 
cellent treatment of this subject in Prof. Charles H. Haskins' "The 
Yazoo Land Companies," Papers of the A. H. A. vol. 5: 61-103. 


the State authorities, after the Act of June, 1790, 
which directed the receipt of nothing but specie in 
the discharge of debts due the State. The South 
Carolina Company instituted a suit in equity 
against Georgia only to have it dropped after the 
ratification of the eleventh amendment of the Con- 

Such was the first Yazoo sale. The preemption 
of the companies had lapsed and the State could 
again dispose of its western lands. In 1795 the 
second and more notorious sale was efFected."^^ This 
covered the greater part of the present states of 
Alabama and Mississippi, some 35,000,000 acres, 
and the price was $500,000. Four companies were 
to divide this magnificent region, the Georgia, 
Georgia-Mississippi, Tennessee, and Upper Mis- 
sissippi, companies, and their respective shares of 
the purchase money were $250,000, $155,000, 
$60,000, and $35,000. At the time this price was 
estimated at two and one-third cents the acre, but 
as a matter of fact it would have been nearer one 
and one-half cents. A total reserve of 2,000,000 
acres was to be set apart in the tracts for the bene- 
fit of citizens of Georgia who might care to sub- 
scribe for the lands on the same terms as the com- 

The act had no sooner been passed than a gen- 
eral protest arose. Whether it had been passed 
by corrupt means or not the general opinion was 
that the action was ill advised, and when it was 

T3 p. L. I., 132-6. 


known that with one exception every member who 
voted for the grant was interested in some one of 
the companies the popular resentment was further 
aroused.^^ At the first meeting of the new Legis- 
lature the Act of 1795 was rescinded as having 
been a violation of die Constitution,'^ and in 1798 
the Constitutional Convention incorporated the 
provisions of the rescinding act in the new Consti- 

It was verj^ natural that the sale of 1795 should 
have aroused considerable interest in the other 
States. Even if Georgia were acting well within 
her legal rights in the matter it was certainly un- 
reasonable that she should be disposing of her west- 
ern lands wliile six other States had ceded their 
claims to the Federal Government. And the opin- 
ion was advanced that Georgia really had no title 
to the lands in question. This was based on the 
Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the belief that the 
Province of West Florida had been extended over 
that region. If this opinion were correct then this 
part of the West at least must have been won by the 
whole nation as a result of the Revolution. Against 
this contention was cited the commission of Gover- 
nor Wright, of Georgia, in 1764, which distinctly 
added the back lands to his government, wliile the 
actual extension of West Florida was denied.'® 
Congress determined to investigate the various 
claims and in INIarch, 1795, instructed Cliarles, 

74 Haskins, 84. 75 Feb. 13, 1796. 

70 r. L. I., 66. 


the Attorney- General, to collect, digest, and report 
all charters or other documents relative to the title 
to the land in the southwest. His report of April 
26, 1796, contained thirty-five documents bearing- 
on the controversy/^ 

In accordance with the policy adopted in the 
Northwest, Congress did not desire to search the 
title to these western lands too carefully. If 
Georgia would quit-claim her rights that would 
settle the whole controversy. So in 1796 and 1797 
committees of the Senate recommended that com- 
missioners from the United States and Georgia 
meet to settle the claims in question.^^ The second 
report was distinctly hostile to Georgia's claim, 
although it favored an amicable settlement. Con- 
gress acted on these reports and in 1798 authorized 
the President to appoint three commissioners to 
meet with commissioners of Georgia and settle the 
dispute."^ ^ The act also established in the dis- 
puted region a territorial government similar to 
that north of the Ohio, although it stated that the 
right of Georgia to the jurisdiction or lands would 
not be impaired thereby. So when Georgia, in her 
constitution signed on JVIay 30th of that year, 
solemnly asserted her right to the western lands, 
there was apparently going to be a clash of juris- 

President Adams nominated Timothy Pickering, 
Secretary of State, Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of 

77 p. L. I., 34-67. 78 p. L. I., 71, 79. 

78 Apr. 7, 1798, ch. 28. 


the Treasury, and Samuel Sitgreaves, as commis- 
sioners on the part of the United States, and in 
1800 their powers were extended to cover an in- 
quiry into private claims in the region.®'^ This act 
also preserved the jurisdiction and rights of Geor- 
gia. The next year Jefferson appointed three mem- 
bers of his cabinet in the place of the former com- 
missioners and the articles of agreement and ces- 
sion of April 24, 1802, were signed by INIadison, 
Gallatin and Lincoln, for the United States and 
by James Jackson, Abrah Baldwin and John ISIill- 
edge, for Georgia.^ ^ 

Georgia ceded her right to the jurisdiction and 
soil of the lands west of her present limits to the 
IMississippi River. But she laid down several con- 
ditions. A payment of $1,250,000 was to be made 
to her out of the first net proceeds ^" of the land 
sales there, " as a consideration for the expenses in- 
curred by the said state, in relation to the said 
territory," and in order that this sum might be 
paid as soon as possible a land office was to be 
opened within twelve months of the ratification of 
the agreement by the State. Legal grants from the 
governments of West Florida or of Spain as well 
as claims under the Georgia Act of 1785 were to be 
confirmed. All the other lands were, after tlie pay- 
ment of the milHon and a quarter to Georgia, to be 
considered as a common fund, to be faithfull}'^ dis- 

80 May .10, 1900. ch. 50. 

81 P. L. I., 125-6. Donaldson, 80. 

82 Gross proceeds less expenses of surveys and sale. 


posed of by the United States, with this exception 
that Congress might, within one year, appropriate 
5,000,000 acres for the satisfaction of other claims 
to land than those already specified. Other con- 
ditions required the United States to extinguish, 
as soon as possible, the Indian titles in Georgia, 
and provided for the operation of the provisions 
of the Ordinance of 1787 without the anti-slavery 

The United States, in turn, ceded to Georgia a 
narrow strip along the northern line of that state. 
This was a part of the South Carolina cession.^^ 
It was the second instance of a portion of land 
ceded by one old State being turned over by the 
Federal Government to another.^^ 

The Georgia Legislature ratified the cession on 
June 16, 1802, while no action was necessary on 
the part of Congress. The next year Congress 
provided for the sale of lands in the newly acquired 
region, according to the agreement in the cession.®^ 

On the surface the terms of the cession were not 
onerous. The payment of a million and a quarter 
dollars to Georgia would not take very long, the 
claims of settlers under British and Spanish grants 
would have been confirmed in any case, but the dis- 
tribution of 5,000,000 acres among the unspecified 
claimants was bound to cause difficulties. And, in- 
cidentally, Georgia was much dissatisfied later over 

83 The inhabitants of this strip had in 1800 asked that the terri- 
tory be turned back again to South Carolina, as they were then 
wholly destitute of government. P. L. I., 103. 

8* Pennsylvania triangle. 86 Mar. 3, 1803, ch. 27 


the conduct of the government in the promised ex- 
tinguishment of the Indian title within the State 
limits. ^ 

No sooner was it evident that the United States 
was to take over the western lands of Georgia 
than the Yazoo claimants turned to Congress for 
relief, and for the next fifty years their petitions 
were hefore that hody. In most cases relief came 
in 1814, but for others the hope was long deferred 
and never realized. 

The Federal commissioners reported on the pri- 
vate claims in 1803 and after deciding against the 
claims of the companies under the sale in 1789 and 
expressing the opinion that the claimants under 
the sale of 1795 would not be able to support their 
title, reported that it was expedient to compromise 
with the latter parties.^" They were willing to 
accept twenty-five cents an acre for their grants, a 
total of some eight and a half million dollars. The 
commissioners rejected this offer and recom- 
mended either tliat the balance of the 5,000,000 
acres set aside in the cession, after settlers' rights 
had been satisfied, should be divided equitably 
among the companies, or tliat they should receive 
certificates, $2,500,000 with interest, or $5,000,000 
without interest, to be paid out of land sales after 
the payment to Georgia was completed. 

In the Act of 1803 Congress set aside the 5,000,- 
000 acres for the satisfaction of proper claims but 
no claim would be considered unless it was recorded 

8« p. L. I., 132-158. 


with the Secretary of State before January 1, 

Early in 1805 the Secretary of State reported a 
list of titles filed with him.*^ Congress apparently 
had intended to satisfy these claims in some meas- 
ure, but it was impossible to secure the necessary 
legislation. This was due to the struggle between 
the Northern and Southern Democrats, the latter 
led by John Randolph, the bitter enemy of the 
Yazoo claims. Year after year the claimants would 
memoralize Congress, and year after year Ran- 
dolph would succeed in preventing remedial legis- 
lation. The Act of 1807 preventing unauthorized 
settlements on the public lands was aimed at the 
Yazoo claimants who sought to test their titles.^* 
Any person settling without permission would for- 
feit whatever title he might possess, while the 
United States INIarshal was instructed to remove 

Finally, however, the controversy was brought 
before the Supreme Court in the case of Fletcher 
V. Peck, in 1809.^^ Fletcher sued Peck for $3000, 
being the price paid for 15,000 acres of land in 
Georgia originally a part of the Georgia Com- 
pany's grant. Fletcher claimed that the title of 
this land sold by Peck had been rendered faulty 
by the Georgia rescinding act of 1796. After the 
case was twice argued the court decided, in an opin- 
ion by ^larshall, that the rescinding act was uncon- 

8T p. L. I., 219-246. 88 Mar. 3, ch. 46. 

89 6 Cranch, 87. 


stitutional inasmuch as it impaired the obligation 
of a contract. Therefore the sales of 1795 were 
valid and the claimants had good reason to expect 
Congressional relief. 

Still Randolph was able to prevent favorable 
action. In 1813 the Senate passed a compromise 
measure, and in 1814, a bill passed both Houses, 
for Randolph had been defeated at the last elec- 

This act of INIarch 31, 1814, constituted a board 
of commissioners to determine all controversies 
arising under the various claims and then provided 
that $5,000,000 should be divided among the claim- 
ants after they had released to the United States 
all claim to the lands. This amount was appor- 
tioned among the companies, the Georgia Com- 
pany was to receive $2,250,000, the Georgia-Missis- 
si])])i, $1,500,000, the Tennessee Company $600,000 
and the Upper Mississippi Company $350,000, 
while $250,000 was set aside for claimants under 
citizen rights. These payments were to be made in 
non-interest bearing stock payable out of the first 
moneys received for lands in the Mississippi Terri- 
tory after the payment to Georgia was completed, 
but receivable in payment for public land sold with- 
in the territory in the proportion of $95.00 in scrip 
and $5.00 in cash for every $100.00. 

The latter pro^^sion at once caused trouble for 
it conflicted with the pledge in the Georgia articles 
of cession that the $1,250,000 due to her would be 
paid as soon as possible. Early in 1816 the Missis- 


sippi Stock began to be received at the land offices 
and $52,000 were received that year. President 
Monroe therefore recommended that the United 
States pay to Georgia the equivalent in cash of the 
Mississippi Stock received.^" Such an act passed 
in 1817, and at that time $447,000 were still due to 

In 1818 a final report on the settlement of the 
Yazoo claims was made and it was found that 
$4,282,151 had been paid in stock.^' This flood of 
paper, receivable for land only in the Mississippi 
Territory increased the speculation in lands there. 
Before this stock could be redeemed in cash by the 
Government the payment of $1,250,000 to Georgia 
had to be completed. This took place in 1817. In 
addition to the net proceeds of the land sales in 
the Georgia cession there was credited toward the 
sum due from the United States some $184,516 of 
the original purchase money of the Yazoo Com- 
panies remaining in the Treasury of Georgia. The 
land sales in Mississippi and Alabama were increas- 
ing so rapidly that enough land was sold in 1816-17 
to meet the entire payment due to Georgia. It was 
not, however, until May 15, 1820, that the United 
States Treasury began to redeem the INIississippi 
stock in cash, pajing sixty-six per cent, of the 
value immediately and the balance the next year. 
From that date only a few thousand dollars were 
paid in for land, the recent hard times rendering 

90 p. L. III.,279. i>i March 3, 1817, ch. 36. 

»2 Fin. III., 981. 


currency more desirable. The total amount of 
stock received for lands in the Georgia cession was 

It was hardly to be expected that the decision 
of the commissioners in the Yazoo cases would 
give universal satisfaction, considering the length 
of time the lands had been subject to transfer be- 
fore the relief was afforded. Some eighty claims 
were rejected entirely by the commissioners and 
the claim of the New England-lNIississippi Com- 
pany was reduced because it had not paid the entire 
amount due the Georgia Company.®^ The former 
company undertook a campaign for Congressional 
relief. At first the Senate reports were unfavor- 
able but later Congress was advised to grant the 
$132,425 desired. Congress failed to act, how- 
ever, and in 1864 the case was decided against the 
Company in the Court of Claims.®" 

In addition to the Yazoo claims there were other 
land claims for the Federal Government to satisfy. 
One of those was the claim of " The Commission- 
ers appointed by Georgia to examine certain la?uls 
on the Tennessee River." Seven commissioners 
were appointed by Georo-ia in Februar^% 1784, to 
examine and report on the quantity, quality and 
circumstances of the lands lying in the Big Bend 
of the Tennessee Biver, and to grant warrants of 
survey there.®^ Five of the original commissioners, 
with a sixth, serving in the place of one of the first 

83 P. T.. VT., 489. I"' 1 Court of Claims, 135. 

04 P. I.. III., 548. »« P. L. III., 370, 416, 421, 515. 


appointees, made the investigat;ions, granted some 
warrants, and reported to the Legislature on De- 
cember 22, 1785. The next year the state granted 
five thousand acres to each of the commissioners 
who had performed their duty, but the lands were 
not located at the time. The matter rested until 
1795, when in the Yazoo Act it was provided that 
out of the lands sold to the Tennessee Company 
fifty thousand acres should be reserved for the 
commissioners, to be held by them as tenants in 
common and not as joint tenants. No action was 
taken under this grant because of the prompt re- 
peal of the act of sale, nor were the claims recorded 
wnth the Secretary of State in 1803 in order to take 
advantage of the 5,000,000 acres set apart for out- 
standing claims. In 1816 the claims were laid be- 
fore Congress bj^ Thomas Carr, the only surviving 
commissioner, and by the heirs of Colonel Donel- 
son, and of John Sevier. Andrew Jackson, who 
had married the daughter of Colonel Donelson, 
represented the latter's heirs. Congress had to de- 
termine whether the claims were valid against the 
United States, and if so, to what extent. It would 
have been an easy matter to reject the claims be- 
cause they were not presented within the period 
named in the Act of 1803 or, possibly, on their 
merits, as the House Committee on Private Land 
Claims advised in 1820.^^ But after seven years 
Congress agreed to make good the grant of five 
thousand acres to each commissioner, offered by 

" p. L. III., 421. 


Georgia in 1785, the acceptance of which was to 
serve as a release of any other claim, such as that 
under the Act of 1795.^^ These lands were at first 
to be located within INIississippi or Alabama and 
within two years, but three other acts extended the 
time limit to 1837 and permitted locations in 
Louisiana and Arkansas. ' 

Six years later Congress satisfied another out- 
standing obligation of very doubtful validity. This 
Avas in the case of John Reily who, in 1786, had 
purchased from Abraham Lefavour a land warrant 
for one thousand acres, issued under the Georgia 
act of February 25, 1784.^^ These warrants of 
surveys were sold at the rate of three shillings per 
annum in gold or silver for every thousand acres. 
In this case the warrant was never located, the 
reasons being the hostile attitude of the Indians 
followed by the cession of the western lands to the 
United States. Actual settlers under any Georgia 
grant were protected by the articles of cession, but 
all other grants were supposed to be covered by 
the appropriation of five million acres and the 
claims were to be recorded before January 1, 1804. 
In 1830 Congress was more liberal in its control 
of the public lands. In this case it held that John 
Reily had paid a valuable consideration for his 
warrant of survey, that it had not been satisfied 
by Georgia, and that as Congress had succeeded 
to Georgia's control of the western lands it was 
incumbent on Congress to satisfy the claim. This 

98 May 24, 1824. »o P. L. VL, 160. 


was done by the act of May 31, 1830, Mr. Reily 
being authorized to locate one thousand acres of 
land within the Georgia cession. 

After the obligations assumed in the deed of 
cession had been fulfilled, so far as they concerned 
land titles, there was another article to cause dis- 
cussion between the United States and Georgia. 
The promise of the former to proceed to the rapid 
extinguishment of the Indian title in Georgia can- 
not be discussed here.^^° 

100 See Phillips, Georgia and State Rights, A. H. A. Reports, 
1901, V. 2. 




The most striking development in the study of 
American history within recent years has been the 
recognition of the economic and social forces which 
have worked toward the making of the American 
nation.^ Political history, which formerly was 
emphasized to the exclusion of almost everj'thing 
else, has yielded to humbler and yet more impor- 
tant themes. The economic aspects of slavery have 
found a place along with the political phases of 
that system. The life and development of the 
people is considered of more importance than a 
record of battles or an analysis of Congressional 
debates. And the one great and comprehensive 
movement in our history is found in the westward 
expansion of our people from the coast to\Mis of 
Colonial days across the Appalachian ^fountains to 
the ^lississippi Valley, then to the plains of the 
farther West and again over mountains and across 
deserts to the rich valleys of the Pacific Coast. 
Because of this present and increasing interest 
it seems fitting that this study of an economic fac- 
tor in our development should close with a restate- 
ment of the various ways in which the early 

1 Turner, The Rise of the New West, xvii. 


national land system affected the westward move- 
ment of our peoples. This must be a restatement, 
for every chapter has been concerned with the 
westward movement in so far as it has described 
how the public lands passed into private ownership, 
but the details, necessary in tracing the develop- 
ment of the land system, may have served to con- 
fuse the general statements which deserve the more 

The movement of settlement beyond the Appala- 
chian Mountains was well under way before the 
public domain was formed. At the close of the 
Revolution pioneer settlements were found in the 
back counties of Pennsylvania and in the western 
lands of Virginia and North Carolina, correspond- 
ing to the eastern portions of the present States of 
West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. For the 
next twenty years the westward movement, as 
generally understood, was confined largely to these 
regions, although in many parts of the original 
States frontier conditions existed, notably in Maine, 
Vermont, Western New York and Central 
Georgia. It was not until after 1800 that any 
great movement began toward the public lands in 
the northwest. This fact is sometimes overlooked, 
but the early westward movement was made into 
state lands and not into the public domain. In 
theory after 1790 Tennessee was a part of the 
public domain, but, as has been shown, the lands 
there were being taken up under North Carolina 


In the period from 1800 to 1820, although emi- 
gration was moving into the public domain north 
and south of the Ohio and west of the ]\Iississippi, 
it must be remembered that only a portion of the 
western people were holding lands purchased at 
the land offices. Of the settlers west of the Appa- 
lachians in 1820 fully one-half had taken up lands 
in regions which never had come under the land 
system, notably in Kentucky and Tennessee. And 
of the settlers in the public land States and terri- 
tories the greater part were located on land which 
had not been surveyed and sold under the general 
system. Most of these settlers held lands claimed 
under foreign titles, the investigation and confir- 
mation of which had delayed the surveys and sales 
in the regions where they were to be found. Others 
had taken up military bounty lands, either in the 
Revolutionary bounty land district in Ohio, or in 
the districts in Illinois, INIissouri and Arkansas set 
apart for the bounties of the War of 1812. These 
lands could generally be had for less than the mini- 
mum price of the public lands. In Ohio were the 
reserves of Connecticut and Virginia and the tracts 
sold to the Ohio Company and to John Cleve 
Symmes, in all of which cheap lands were to be 
had. And in each state and territorj'^ one thirty- 
sixth of the sun'^eyed lands were reserved for 
schools and other lands for universities. These 
reserves were later to be turned over to the States 
to be disposed of by them, but in 1820 no part of 
these reserv'cs had been sold. Some of the States 


had tried to lease them, but in most cases the lands 
were being located upon by squatters.^ And this 
serves to introduce a most interesting character 
whose position was gradually changing throughout 
these years. The squatter took up land in spite 
of the sj^stem and in order to bring him under it 
some sort of preemption was considered necessary. 
Enough has been said,, therefore, to indicate that 
before 1820 the regulations for the sale of public 
lands affected only a portion, not more than a 
fourth at most, of the men who were engaged in 
the westward movement.^ 

2 The term " squatter " first appears in the Congressional debates 
on February 14, 1806, when Mr. Morrow, speaking of conditions in 
Indiana, said: "There are some small tracts of land on which what 
are called squatters are settled, and where already improvements 
have been made, which would sell for four or six dollars per acre." 
—Annals, 1805-6, 409. 

3 The census of 1820 showed the following population in the pub- 
lic land states and territories: 

Ohio 581,295 

Indiana 147,178 

lUinois 55,162 

Michigan Territory 8,765 

Mississippi 75,448 

Alabama 127,901 

Louisiana 152,923 

Missouri Territory 66,557 

Arkansas 14,255 

Western states not subject to the public land system: 

Kentucky 422,771 

Tennessee 564,1 35 

The " Westward Movement " was also in operation in western New 
York, western Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, etc. 


With these facts in mind it is easier to follow the 
development of the land laws and to note their 
relation to the Westward movement. When the 
land ordinance of 1785 was enacted the only legiti- 
mate settlement in the Northwest was to be found 
around the French villages at Vincennes, Kaskas- 
kia, Cahokia, and a few smaller posts — the settle- 
ments at Detroit, Green Bay and jNIackinac did 
not come under American control until 1796. Some 
settlers had crossed the Ohio from Pennsylvania 
and Virginia at the close of the Revolution, a few 
settling along that stream and others taking up 
land near the French establishments. Congress 
took a high stand regarding these unauthorized 
settlements. It looked upon the western lands as 
a great source of revenue and for that reason re- 
fused to allow them to be taken up by land-hungry 
settlers. Troops were sent along the Ohio in 1787 
to drive off the intruders and destroy their cabins. 
More efficacious than the troops were the Indians, 
and their hostile attitude toward all settlement in 
the Northwest kept back the pioneers until a 
stronger Federal goverimient was able to admin- 
ister the public lands. 

There can be little doubt but that, had the Indian 

By June 30, \S20, only some 17,600,000 acres of public land had 
been sold at the land offices, while a rough estimate would show 
that fully two-thirds as much had been reserved for private land 
claims, military bounties, and education. No land had been sold 
in Louisiana, save a few thousand acres placed on sale by mistake at 
Opelousas. None had been sold in Arkansas Territory, less than 
50,000 acres in Michigan, and although about 1,500,000 acres had 
been sold in Missouri almost half that amount was later relinquished. 


relations been more settled in the Northwest, the 
national land system would have developed along 
entirely different lines. The settlers from Ken- 
tucky would have crossed the Ohio in such numbers 
that the weak government of the Confederation 
could not have dispossessed them and it would have 
had difficulty in extending the rectangular surveys 
over lands held by any considerable number of 
settlers under " tomahawk rights." A system of 
warrants and surveys, to which these settlers were 
accustomed, would probably then have been intro- 
duced. And with the land taken up in this way 
it is doubtful if the land sales to companies could 
have been effected. It was well for the national 
land system that the early westward movement 
was directed toward state lands. 

The Ordinance of 1785 applied only to land 
northwest of the Ohio. Its terms entirely ignored 
the men who were then moving toward that region 
and who had the greatest interest in the lands. For 
they wanted cheap lands and without delay, where- 
as the system called for expensive surveys which 
took time for execution. And pending the surveys 
they wanted preemption, the right to locate where 
they pleased and then secure the tract for a nom- 
inal price when the lands were placed on sale. In- 
stead of prior rectangular surveys the western 
pioneer at that time was in favor of a land system 
based on low-priced warrants and indiscriminate 
surveys so run that the first comer could secure 
the river-bottoms and other good land. The 


Ordinance of 1785 favored settlers accustomed to 
the methods of New England. The surveys, the 
land grants for education, the sale of half the land 
in entire townships, showed that township-planting 
was in the mind of Congress. The smallest tract 
a man could buy was a lot of six hundred and forty 
acres at one dollar an acre in depreciated paper, 
and only half the townships were oifered in this 
way. It is not difficult to understand why the land 
sales under the Ordinance were so small. The In- 
dian hostilities kept back all but the hardiest 
pioneers. Settlers demanded land along the Ohio, 
but the Seven Ranges (of which only four were 
placed on sale in 1787) extended forty-two miles 
from the river at one point. Less than 73,000 acres 
of land were actually sold in 1787, a petty figure 
compared with the great tracts being taken up in 
Kentucky and Tennessee under military bounty 
and treasury warrants. And not one entire town- 
ship was sold, which showed that for the time being 
township-planting was not in favor in the west. 
Some settlement was at once made on the lands 
purchased in 1787 and the census of 1790 showed 
other settlements at INIarietta, where the Ohio Com- 
pany had founded a settlement in 1788, and in the 
Symmes purchase, while squatters had located on 
unsurveyed lands along the river. 

The next sale of public lands took place in 1796, 
under the act of that year, but it, too, was confined 
to lands in the Seven Ranges. In 1800 Ohio had a 
population of 45,000 but orly a small part of this 


was settled on lands secured under the acts of 
1785 and 1796. After Wayne's decisive defeat of 
the Indians in 1794 and the Green eville treaty of 
the next year the first considerable migrations be- 
gan to Ohio. But no new " Congress lands " were 
open to selection, so these pioneers turned to the 
private holdings then in the market. Some located 
on the lands of the Ohio Company, but more pre- 
ferred the fine lands in Symmes' purchase, between 
the Great and the Little INIiami. And from Ken- 
tucky and Virginia came the holders of Virginia 
Revolutionary bounty warrants to locate them in 
the Virginia Reserve. Congress had thrown this 
region open to the location of these warrants in 
1790 but settlement did not take place to any. 
extent until after 1795, and in the following year 
Chillicothe, for a time the principal town, was 
founded. The population of Ohio was also swelled 
by the emigrants who were locating in the Con- 
necticut Reserve, which, of course, was never a 
part of the public lands. In the last decade the 
population of Indiana Territory had increased, 
but the new settlers were locating on lands pur- 
chased from the French inhabitants or else were 
squatting near their villages. No provision what- 
soever had been made for the survey or sale of any 
land in the present states of Indiana and Illinois 
because of the Indian title."* 

The Act of 1796 was of importance mainly as a 

* A narrow strip in southeastern Indiana and a tract including 
Vincennes, had been ceded by the Greeneville treaty. 


statement of principles, for but little land was sold 
under it. And its terms again ignored the desires 
of the western men, although a slight concession 
was made. The most important feature of the 
act was the endorsement of the sj^stem of surveys 
which had been under attack ever since the Seven 
Ranges were laid off. From this time no attempt 
was made to change the system although it was 
occasionally criticised. The accuracy of the sur- 
veys and the sure title conveyed by the deed served 
to minimize the delays caused by the system, and 
the inconvenient divisions occasionally created by 
the rectangular lines. These surveys were not pop- 
ular in the West at this time because the bulk of 
the settlers came from the Southern States, where 
a different system was in vogue. The two dollars 
an acre minimum was not well thought of when 
coupled with only a year's credit, for in all the 
other western regions land was much cheaper and 
the credit longer. And, finally, the minimum tract 
was still six hundred and forty acres. It was absurd 
to suppose a tyjjical pioneer able to pay $1280.00 
within a year, yet the Senate had refused to permit 
the sale of quarter sections. The one-year credit 
was the only concession, although slight indeed. 

Under this act less than 50,000 acres were sold 
in 1796 in the Seven Ranges. The next sales took 
place in 1800, under the act of that year, but these 
were also in the same tract. It was not until 1801 
that other land in Ohio was offered for sale. 

Under the Act of 1800 the land system became a 


real factor in the westward movement, and it was 
the five-year credit period which rendered the act 
effective. Without the credit little land could be 
sold for two dollars an acre, but with it a man 
could pay fifty cents an acre and the balance within 
five years. The minimum lot was now reduced to 
three hundred and twenty acres, so that a payment 
of one hundred and sixty dollars entitled a settler 
to the use of a half section pending the payment of 
the balance — even if he were forced to forfeit the 
land he had had five years' occupation for that 
amount. And the land offices were brought nearer 
to the people — four being established in southern 
Ohio. ' ]' 

For twenty years the Act of 1800 regulated the 
sales of public lands, being only modified as to the 
computation of interest charges and by the intro- 
duction of quarter section tracts in 1804 and a 
limited number of eighty acre tracts in 1817. 

]During this period the public lands were admin- 
istered as a source of revenue. For this and for 
other reasons the representatives of the Eastern 
States supported the existing land system and re- 
sisted all change. The two dollar minimum and 
the credit system were early denounced by men 
who best knew the conditions in the West, but east- 
ern men were un^villing to reduce the minimum 
further — the price still was considered cheap and 
land values had fallen in the East because of thd 
abundant lands available beyond the mountains. 
It was believed that high land values in the West 


would stop the drain of population and prevent the 
rise of wages in the industrial states of the East. 
JSIoreover even AVestern Congressmen supported 
the two dollar minimum l^ecause they realized that 
a reduction in price would be accompanied by an 
abolition of credit, and they felt that their con- 
stituents favored the credit system. The revenue 
theory of management clashed with the needs of 
the actual settler. It prevented a reduction in 
price, a granting of donations to pioneers, and even 
a general preemption. But at this period Congress 
felt that there were other interests to be considered 
aside from those of the advance guard of the west- 
ward movement. 

This was the period of the credit system, when 
men were tempted to invest their entire capital in 
a first payment in the hope that good times or a 
generous Congress would easilj'^ provide for the 
balance. Although the extended credit was 
designed to help the settler it frequently served to 
imperil his solvency. As early as 1804 Gallatin 
l)ointed out that cash sales, based on a reduced 
])ricc and a smaller minimum lot, should be intro- 
duced, but it took sixteen years of increasing finan- 
cial difficulties to finally arouse Congress against 
the evils of the well-intended system. As a matter 
of fact, the credit system did not have a fair oppor- 
tunity to prove its worth. The passing of relief 
acts extending the period of forfeiture sensed to 
weaken the ])enalties of the system. Settlers began 
to believe that Congress would soon come to their 


rescue by reducing the outstanding debt, and the 
relief acts after 1820 justified this confidence. If 
Congress intended to insist upon using the lands as 
a source of revenue it should have insisted upon a 
strict enforcement of the terms of its land system. 
If penalties had been rigorously enforced there 
would have been less land speculation. The system 
in operation really discriminated against the faith- 
ful purchaser, for those who owed money in 1820 
received later a substantial reduction in their in- 

So much for the system — what, on the other 
hand, did the actual settlers desire during this pe- 
riod? First of all, they desired a wide choice of 
land. They wanted the land system extended 
rapidly and over a large territory. At times they 
could not wait for the Indian title to be extin- 
guished, but must push on to the choice lands re- 
tained by the Red Men. At all times they urged 
the opening up of the Indian lands, and Govern- 
ment never could move fast enough along these 
lines. But this was not the fault of the land sys- 
tem, for until Government had acquired the lands 
the system could not be extended to them. So, 
when the lands were finally secured, the pioneers 
demanded that the tracts be at once opened for 
settlement. This meant the extension of the sur- 
veys, and once more Government could not keep 
pace with the settlers. The surveys took time and 
required money, and they were extended over 
good and bad land alike. The first comers natu- 


rally desired the choicest lands. They would push 
a few miles further into the wilderness in order 
to secure a choicer location. Soon the reports of 
the Surv^eyor-General showed that millions of 
acres of surveyed lands remained unsold, while 
settlers were complaining that the surveys were 
not being extended rapidly enough. This was one 
reason for the squatting evil. INIany men took up 
land in that way, not because they could not afford 
to pay for their location, but because they could 
settle upon better land than was then open for 
sale at the nearest land office. These were the men 
who sought preemption. 

Another complaint of the settlers was that the 
land offices were too widely scattered. Figures 
were prepared showing that inter^-als of from 
twenty-five to over one hundred and fifty miles 
existed between the neighlioring land offices. This 
was a real hardship in those days of difficult trans- 
portation, and yet it was but a condition of the 
frontier life. New land offices were established as 
business warranted. After an office was once 
opened it was not easy to close it. The five offices 
in Ohio transacted less business in 1819 than was 
handled at eight separate offices nearer the fron- 
tier. The late comers could secure their lands with 
less annoyance, but the choice lands had been taken 
in the meantime. 

The greatest desire of the frontiersmen, so far 
as the land system was concerned, was for preemp- 
tion. This was advocated as a merited right be- 


cause of the delay in opening the land for sale. 
This delay was due in part to the execution of the 
surveys, but more troublesome were the delays 
occasioned by the private land claims arising from 
foreign titles. Until these claims were confirmed 
or rejected no public land sales could safely be 
made. But while the commissioners were strug- 
gling with the claims in Indiana, Illinois, Michi- 
gan, Alabama, Mississippi, and in the Louisiana 
country, the pioneers pushed into the newly ac- 
quired region and took up land, either under a 
foreign claim or else by calmly squatting on the 
public land or on the claim of some ancient resi- 
dent. These settlers took the position that they 
would gladly have purchased the land if it had 
been on sale, but as the government was dilatory, 
surely they should not be penalized by having their 
improvements bought in over their heads by some 
less adventurous settler. On the other hand, Con- 
gress as early as 1807 passed strict laws against 
unauthorized settlement, so that the men who de- 
manded preemption were really violators of the 
law of the land. 

But in this case, as in many others, the bark of 
Congress was much worse than its bite. Grad- 
ually it began to adopt the point of view of the 
pioneers, until by 1820 it had become the custom 
to grant preemption for a limited period in every 
region where, for special reasons, the land sales 
were delayed. 

A rapid summary of this legislation shows how 


the preemjDtion idea gained strength in Congress 
until it was finally recognized in the general pre- 
emption act of 1841. 

Preemption for settlers was urged in the first 
debates on the land system in 1789, and it was 
accej^ted as a legitimate measure when, in 1700, 
Congress agreed, as a condition of the North Caro- 
lina cession, to confirm the preemption rights of 
settlers in Tennessee. In 1799 the first preemp- 
tion act was passed, granting the privilege to those 
settlers in Ohio who had purchased lands from 
Symmes to which he had no title.^ This was an 
act of grace on the part of Congress. 

The first act of a more general nature was in 

1803, which offered preemption to persons resi- 
dent in the Georgia cession at that date. But in 
this case no land was placed on sale for three 
years after the act, so settlers coming in during 
this inten-al had to become squatters or else pur- 
chase private land claims, but to many of these a 
preem])tion was granted in 1808. The early acts 
for Louisiana offered no concessions to settlers 
after the date of the American occupation, al- 
though the opening of the land offices was bound 
to be long delayed by private claims. 

At this time the surveys in ISIichigan were being 
delayed for the same reason, so in 1808 a preemp- 
tion was granted to settlers who were there before 

1804, which was the date of the act authorizing 

5 Special precmpticm acts were passed in 1794, for Ephraim Kim- 
berly; in 1796, for Ebenezar Zanc; and in 1798, for Elie Williams. 


the sale of lands in Michigan. But, although the 
sale was authorized at that time, it did not actually 
commence until 1818, so the preemption was not a 
liberal one, and much squatting resulted. In Illi- 
nois the sales were also delayed, but there the act 
of 1813 granted a preemption of one hundred and 
sixty acres up to two weeks before the commence- 
ment of the public sale, and was therefore more 
satisfactory than any of the preceding measures. 
No land could be claimed under any of these acts 
until it had been surveyed. The next year a sim- 
ilar act was finally passed for Louisiana and Mis- 
souri. The last preemption act within the period 
was that applying to the "district east of the 
Island of New Orleans." This region, claimed by 
Spain, had been occupied by force, partly in 1810 
and the rest in 1812. The Act of 1819 granted a 
donation to settlers there before April 15, 1813, 
and a preemption to settlers before April 12, 1814. 
By 1820, therefore. Congress had recognized 
squatting to the extent of granting some measure 
of preemption to every one of the public land 
States and territories save Indiana. With these 
precedents in mind, a determined effort was made 
in 1820, at the time of the great alteration of the 
land laws, to enact a general preemption law cov- 
ering one hundred and sixty acres up to two weeks 
before the commencement of land sales in any dis- 
trict. But although the Western Senators sup- 
ported the measure, it was carefully laid on the 
table, for the revenue idea of administration was 


too strong to permit the sale of the choicest land 
at the minimum price to the law-breaking pioneers. 

From 1820 to 1841 the representatives of the 
public land States urged the desirabihty of a gen- 
eral preemption act. Beginning in 1830, tempo- 
rary preemption laws, covering a limited period 
but of a general nature, were passed. Finally, in 
1841, a general preemption law was enacted and 
the long struggle of the pioneer for recognition 
and for the right to reap the reward of his enter- 
prise was won. 

The growth of the sentiment in favor of pre- 
emption, therefore, was parallel to the changing 
conception of the ultimate object of land legisla- 
tion. So long as revenue was the end to be sought, 
preemption was undeniably bad. But if the fur- 
therance of settlement was to be the desire of Con- 
gress, then preemption was but a step toward the 
ultimate goal — the granting of homesteads to set- 
tlers. So during the half century of land legis- 
lation the squatter developed from a trespasser, a 
violator of the laws of the Union, to a public bene- 
factor, a man whose braveiy and whose sacrifices 
had opened great areas to peaceful settlement and 
who merited well of the nation. The " actual set- 
tler " always received a certain sjTnpathy in Con- 
gress. The land laws were stringent enough to 
punish intrusions upon the public domain, but re- 
membering how frequently squatters hold lands 
even within our cities, it is easy to understand how 
difficult it was to enforce the laws prohibiting un- 


lawful settlement along the thousands of miles of 
the public land frontier. So it became the custom 
not to enforce these stringent laws. And after the 
pioneer had once crossed the line and made his 
improvements, it became more and more difficult 
for Congress to refrain from securing him in the 
rewards of his hardihood. Except where there 
were confirmed foreign claims, the frontier of set- 
tlement should legally have been along the frontier 
of surveys. But no Western Congressman ex- 
pected that the more restless of his constituents 
would march in procession with rod-men and 
chain-carriers. The laws for the disposition of the 
public lands assumed that when a group of town- 
ships were cried at public auction the land would 
be virgin, untamed and unencumbered. But too 
often the surveyors' lines had run beside log cabins 
and half-faced camps, and the best tracts had been 
cleared and fenced. The land system demanded 
that these quarter-sections be sold to the highest 
bidder, and it frequently happened that these set- 
tlers who had pushed out from more developed 
regions had placed almost their whole capital in 
their little clearing. Without preemption, one of 
three things generally happened — the squatter, un- 
able to pay anjrthing at all for his land, would 
sell his improvements to the purchaser of the tract 
and would then move further out into the wilder- 1 . . 
ness, or he would bid the minimum price for his pa^^^,- 
land and public sentiment would protect him from 
competition, or his land would be purchased by 


someone who would refuse to pay for his improve- 
ments and yet who would be strong enough to pro- 
cure his eviction. The theory of the land system 
was best met by the latter case. The land should 
be sold to the highest bidder — and there should be 
no sentiment about it. 

It was not a pleasant role for Congi-essmen to 
denounce the squatters. They were law-breakers, 
to be sure, and yet in many cases they were very 
estimable criminals. And when the land revenue 
was no longer needed to help support the govern- 
ment, it became easy, even for Congressmen from 
the East and South, to favor more liberal treat- 
ment for the actual settler. 

After 1820 the relation of the land system to 
the westward movement became more intimate. 
The reduction in price and the abolition of credit 
made it easier for the actual settler to secure a 
small tract of land. One hundred dollars would 
purchase outright eighty acres, whereas formerly 
eighty dollars would be but a first payment on a 
quarter-section. As the suneys were extended 
further away from the older settlements they were 
less hampered by the private land claims and so 
could better serve the rapidly advancing people. 
And then, in the 'twenties, began the system of 
land grants for internal improvements, which en- 
couraged roads, canals, and railways, causing mil- 
lions of acres of land to pass into private owner- 
ship through the agency of the State or the cor- 
porations rather than through the land offices, and 


opening up for settlement great regions away 
from the rivers, for the earlier settlements had 
clung closely to those avenues of transportation. 
Finally, in 1821, the pubhc land States could mus- 
ter fourteen votes in the Senate, and if the West 
might differ within itself on other policies, it stood 
as a unit on the great questions of land adminis- 
tration. Each new State increased this political 
strength. Preemption came in 1841, Benton's 
graduation act in 1854, and Homesteads in 1862. 
And during these j^ears the railwaj^ land grants 
were becoming more lavish, culminating in the 
great grants to the Pacific railways, while the 
bounty land legislation of the 'fifties caused the 
issue of warrants for millions of acres which were 
sold for less than the existing minimum price. 
But this story cannot be narrated here. 

Down to 1820, therefore, the land system paid 
more attention to revenue than to the settler, but 
the emphasis was slowly being shifted toward the 
more desirable side. And, in spite of errors both 
of commission and of omission, the system was, on 
the whole, commendable. Its surv^eys alone would 
have made it notable. They rendered the settle- 
ment orderly and afforded sound titles for all time. 
And, finally, it was a national land system. It is 
not difficult to imagine what would have happened 
if the old claimant States had held control of their 
Western lands, or if the new States had been 
entrusted with them on admission to the Union. 
The national land system was subject to no little 


criticism, yet what ^ould have been the case under 
a dozen or more systems? And as to the west- 
ward movement — the old land system encouraged 
it in many ways. The average settler welcomed 
the accurate surveys, the relatively cheap lands, 
and the credit sj^stem; the speculator saw in the 
extended credit an opportunity to make a fortune, 
and his class undoubtedly directed many real set- 
tlers toward the West; and the restless pioneer, 
whose only capital was an ax and a gun, was not 
troubled by the system. He moved in advance of 
the surveyors and settled for a while as a squatter. 
And when his land was placed on the market, he 
could generally choose between buying his land 
and becoming a settler or moving on again in 
advance of the civilization he could not endure. 



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American State Papers. Public Lands, 8 vols.; Finance, 3 vols.; 
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Barrett, J. A. Evolution of the Ordinance of 1787, etc. University 

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Benton, T. H. Thirty Years' View: or a History of the Working 

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Broadhead, G. C. The New Madrid Earthquake. The American 

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Carr, Lucien. Missouri, A Bone of Contention. (American Common- 
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Chaddock, R. E. Ohio before 1850. Columbia University Studies, 
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Northwest of the Ohio River. Square miles 

Ohio 39,964 

Indiana 33,809 

Illinois 55,414 

Michigan 56,451 

Wisconsin 53,924 

Minnesota, east of the Mississippi River 26,000 


265,562 or 169,959,680 
Virginia claimed this entire region. 
New York claimed an indefinite amount. 
(Connecticut claimed about 25,600,000 acres and ceded all but 

Massachusetts claimed about 34,560,000 acres. 
South of Kentucky. 

South Carolina ceded about 3,136,000 acres. 
North Carolina ceded (nominally) 29,184,000 acres. 
Georgia ceded 56,689,920 acres. 



J. IV., 520-2. 

Passed May 20, 1785. 

" Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that 
the territory ceded by individual states to the United States, which 
has been purchased of the Indian inhabitants, shall be disposed of 
in the following manner: 



" A surveyor from each state shall be appointed by Congress or a 
commitee of the states, who shall take an oath for the faithful dis- 
charge of his duty, before the geographer of the United States, who 
is hereby empowered and directed to administer the same; and the 
like oath shall be administered to each chain carrier, by the sur- 
veyor under whom he acts. 

" The geographer, under whose directiooi the surveyors shall act, 
shall occasionally form, such regulations for their conduct, as he 
shall deem necessary; and shall have authority to suspend them for 
misconduct in office, and shall make report of the same to Congress, 
or to the committee of the states; and he shall make report in case 
of sickness, death, or resignation of any surveyor. 

" The surveyors, as they are respectively qualified, shall proceed 
to divide the said territory into to^vnships of 6 miles square, by 
lines running due north and south, and others crossing these at 
right angles, as near as may be, unless where the boundaries of the 
late Indian purchases may render the same impracticable, and then 
they shall depart from this rule no farther than such particular cir- 
cumstance may require. And each surveyor shall be allowed and 
paid at the rate of two dollars for every mile, in length, he shall 
run, including the wages of chain carriers, markers, and every other 
expense attending the same. 

" The first line, running due north and south as aforesaid, shall 
begin on the river Ohio, at a point that shall be found to be due 
north from the western termination of a line, which has been run 
as the southern boundary of the state of Pennsylvania; and the 
first line, running east and west, shall begin at the same point, and 
shall extend throughout the whole territory; provided, that nothing 
herein shall be construed, as fixing the western boundary of the 
state of Pennsylvania. The geographer shall designate the town- 
ships, or fractional parts of townships, by numbers progressively 
from south to north; always beginning each range with No. 1; and 
the ranges shall l>e distinguished by their progressive numbers to 
the westward. The first range, extending from the Ohio to the lake 
Erie, being marked No. 1. The geographer shall personally attend 
to the running of the first east and west line; and shall take the 
latitude of the extremes of the first north tmd south line, and of the 
mouths of the principal rivers. 

" The lines shall be measured with a chain ; shall be plainly marked 
by chaps on the trees, and exactly described on a plat; whereon 
shall be noted by the surveyor, as their proper distances, nil mines, 
salt-springs, salt-licks, and mill-seats, that shall come to his knowl- 
edge; and all water-courses, mountains and other remarkable and 


permanent things, over and near which such lines shall pass, and 
also the quality of the lands. 

" The plats of the townships respectively, shall be marked by sub- 
divisions into lots of one mile square, or 640 acres, in the same 
direction as the external lines, and numbered from 1 to 36; always 
beginning the succeeding range of the lots with the number next 
to that with which the preceding one concluded. And where, from 
the causes before-mentioned, only a fractional part of a township 
shall be surveyed, the lots, protracted thereon, shall bear the same 
numbers as if the to'wnship had been entire. And the surveyors, 
in running the external lines of the townships, shall, at the interval 
of every mile, mark corners for the lots which are adjacent, always 
designating the same in a different manner from those of the town- 

" The geographer and surveyors shall pay the utmost attention to 
the variation of the magnetic needle; and shall run and note all 
lines by the true meridian, certifying, with every plat, what was the 
variation at the times of running the lines thereon noted. 

" As soon as 7 ranges of townships, and fractional parts of town- 
ships, in the direction from south to north, shall have been sur- 
veyed, the geographer shall transmit plats thereof to the board of 
treasury, who shall record the same, with the report, in well bound 
books to be kept for that purpose. And the geographer shall make 
similar returns, from time to time, of every 7 ranges as they may 
be surveyed. The secretary at war shall have recourse thereto, and 
shall take by lot therefrom, a number of townships, and fractional 
parts of townships, as well frofm those to be sold entire, as from 
those to be sold in lots, as will be equal to one-seventh part of the 
whole of such 7 ranges, as nearly as may be, for the use of the 
late continental army; and he shall make a similar draught, from 
time to time, until a sufficient quantity is drawn to satisfy the same, 
to be applied in manner hereinafter directed. The board of treasury 
shall, from time to time, cause the remaining numbers, as well those 
to be sold entire, as those to be sold in lots, to be drawn for, in 
the name of the thirteen states respectively, according to the quotas 
in the last preceding requisition on all the states; provided, that in 
case more land than its proportion is allotted for sale in any state, 
at any distribution, a deduction be made therefor at the next. 

" The board of treasury shall transmit a copy of the original plats, 
previously noting thereon, the townships, and fractional parts of 
townships, which shall have fallen to the several states, by the dis- 
tribution aforesaid, to the commissioners of the loan-oflBce of the 
several states, who, after giving notice of not less than two nor 


more than six months, by causing advertisements to be posted up 
at the court-houses, or other noted places in every county, and to be 
inserted in one newspaper, published in the states of their residence 
respectively, shall proceed to sell the townships, or fractional parts 
of townships, at public vendue; in the following manner, viz: The 
township, or fractioTial part of a township. No. 1, in the first range, 
shall be sold entire; and No. 2, in the same range, by lots; and 
thus in alternate order through the whole of the first range. The 
townships, or fractional part of a township. No. 1, in the second 
range, shall be sold by lots; and No. 2, in the same range, entire; 
and so in alternate order through the whole of the second range; 
and the third range shall be sold in the same manner as the first, 
and the fourth in the same manner as the second, and thus alter- 
nately throughout all the ranges; provided, that none of the lands, 
within the said territory, be sold under the price of one dollar the 
acre, to be paid in specie, or loan-office certificates, reduced to specie 
value, by the scale of depreciation, or certificates of liquidated debts 
of the United States, including interest, besides the expense of the 
survey and other charges thereon, which are hereby rated at 36 dol- 
lars the township, in specie, or certificates as aforesaid, and so in 
the same proportion for a fractional part of a township, or of a 
lot, to be paid at the time of sales; on failure of which payment, 
the said lands shall again be off^ered for sale. 

" There shall be reserved for the United States out of every town- 
ship the four lots, being numbered 8, 11, 26, 29, and out of every 
fractional part of a township, so many lots of the same numbers 
as shall be found thereon, for future sale. There shall be reserved 
the lot No. 16, of every township, for the maintenance of public 
schools, within the said township; also one-third part of all gold, 
silver, lead and copper mines, to be sold, or otherwise disposed of 
as Congress shall hereafter direct. 

(Here follow the terms of the deed to be given when a township 
or a lot is sold.) 

" Which deeds shall be recorded in proper books, by the commis- 
sioner of the loan office, and shall be certified to have been recorded, 
previously to their being delivered to the purchaser, and shall be 
good and valid to convey the lands in the same described. 

" The commissioners of the loan-offices respectively, shall trans- 
mit to the board of treasury every three months, an account of the 
townships, fractional parts of townships, and lots committed to their 
charge; specifying therein the names of the persons to whom sold, 
and the sums of money or certificates received for the same; and 
shall cause all certificates by them received, to be struck through 


with a circular punch; and shall be duly charged in the books of 
the treasury, with the amount of the money or certificates, distin- 
guishing the same, by them received as aforesaid. 

" If any township, or fractional part of a township or lot, re- 
mains uusold for 18 months after the plat shall have been received, 
by the commissioners of the loan-oflBce, the same shall be returned 
to the board of treasury, and shall be sold in such manner as Con- 
gress may hereafter direct. 

" And whereas Congress, by their resolutions of September 16th 
and 18th, in the year 1776, and the 12th of August, 1780, stipulated 
grants of land to certain oflBcers and soldiers of the late continental 
army, and by the resolution of the 22nd September, 1780, stipulated 
grants of land to certain oflBcers in the hospital department of the 
late continental army; for complying therefore with such engage- 
meats. Be it ordained. That the secretary at war, from the returns 
in his oflBce, or such other suflBcient evidence' as the nature of the 
case may admit, determine who are objects of the above resolutions 
and engagements, and the quantity of land to which such persons or 
their representatives are respectively entitled, and cause the town- 
ships, or fractional parts of townships, hereinbefore reserved for 
the use of the late continental army, to be drawn for in such manner 
as he shall deem expedient, to answer the purpose of an impartial 
distribution. He shall, from time to time, transmit certificates to 
the commissioners of the loan-oflRces of the different states, to the 
lines of which the military claimants have respectively belonged, 
specifying the name and rank of the party, the terms of his en- 
gagement and time of his service, and the division, brigade, regiment 
or company to which he belonged, the quantity of land he is entitled 
to, and the township, or fractional part of a township, and range 
out of which his portion is to be taken. 

" The commissioners of the loan-oflfices shall execute deeds for such 
undivided proportions in manner and form herein before-mentioned, 
varying only in such a degree as to make the same conformable to 
the certificate from the secretary at war. 

" Where any mihtary claimants of bounty in lands shall not have 
belonged to the line of any particular state, similar certificates shall 
be sent to the board of treasury, who shall execute deeds to the 
parties for the same. 

" The secretary at war, from the proper returns, shall transmit to 
the board of treasury, a certificate, specifying the name and rank 
of the several claimants of the hospital department of the late con- 
tinental army, together with the quantity of land each claimant is 
entitled to, and the township, or fractional part of a township, and 


range out of which his portion is to be taken; and thereupon the 
board of treasury shall proceed to execute deeds to such claimants. 

" The board of treasury, and the commissioners of the loan-oflBces 
in the states, shall, within 18 months, return receipts to the secre- 
tary at war, for all deeds which have been delivered, as also all 
the original deeds which remain in their hands for want of appli- 
cants, having been first recorded; which deeds so returned, shall be 
preserved in the office, until the parties or their representatives re- 
quire the same. 

"And be it further ordained. That three townships adjacent to 
lake Erie be reserved, to be hereafter disposed of in Congress, for 
the use of the officers, men, and others, refugees from Canada, and 
the refugees from Nova Scotia, who are or may be entitled to grants 
of land under resolutions of Congress now existing or which may 
hereafter be made respecting them, and for such other purposes as 
Congress may hereafter direct. 

" And he it further ordained, That the towns of Gnadeiihutten, 
Schoeiibrun and Salem, on the Muskingum, and so much of the 
lands adjoining to the said towns, with the buildings and improve- 
ments thereon, shall be reserved for the sole use of the Christian 
Indians, who were formerly settled there, or the remains of that 
society, as may, in the judgment of the geographer, be sufficient for 
them to cultivate. 

" Saving and reserving always, to all officers and soldiers entitled 
to lands on the northwest side of the Ohio, liy donation or bounty 
from the commonwealth of Virginia, and to all persons claiming 
under them, all rights to which they are so entitled, under the deed 
of cession executed by the delegates for the state of Virginia on the 
first day of March, 1784, and the act of Congress accepting the 
same: and to the end, that the said rights may be fully and effec- 
tually secured, according to the true intent and meaning of the said 
deed of cession and act aforesaid, Be it ordained, that no part of 
the land included l>otween the rivers called Little Miami and Scioto, 
on the northwest side of the river Ohio, be sold, or in any manner 
alienated, until there shall first have been laid off and appropriated 
for the said officers and soldiers, and persons claiming imder them, 
the lands they are entitled to, agreeably to the said deed of cession 
and act of Congress accepting the same. 

" Done by the United States in Congress assembled, the 20th day 

of May, in the year of our Lord, 1785, and of our sovereignty and 

independence the ninth. 

^ " Richard H. Lee, President, 

i ) " Chaeles Thompson j Secretary." 

L. . .a 









OCTOBER 1ST, 1821. P. L. III., 533. 

Total Private Amofunt 

Acres. Surveyed, Claims. Sold. Unsold. 

Marietta 576,000 Whole 16,000 179,511 473,289 

Ohio Co 1,344,160 Wliole 

ZanesviUe 2,367^60 Whole 697,760 913,915 755,685 

Steubenville... 1,935,360 Whole 53,760 1,571,691 309,909 

Chillicothe 3,109,760 Whole 945,172 1,032,102 1,122,486 

Cincinnati 3,709,440 Whole 103,640 2,755,059 850,741 

Wooster 1,244,160 Whole 34,560 908,579 301,021 

Piqua 2,983,800 Whole 243,533 6,125 2,734,142 

Delaware 2,321,280 1,971,840 279,371 75,724 1,966,185 


Vincennes 5,450,400 Whole 151,400 1,436,497 3,852,503 

JeflFersonville.. 2,856,960 Whole 79,360 1,287,732 1,489,868 

Brookville.... 3,768,960 1,751,040 ' 104,693 256,754 3,407,513 

Terre Haute.. 3,600,000 1,290,240 100,000 30,977 3,469,023 


Shawneetown. . 3,018,240 Whole 83,840 592,464 2,401,936 

Kaskaskia 2,188,800 Whole 152,960 419,898 1,615,942 

Edwardsville.. (Indef.) 3,271,680 136,960 437,993 2,696,727» 

Palestine (Indef.) 2,693,760 82,326 714 2,880,720* 

Vandalia (Indef.) 2,626,560 72,960 7,923 2,545,677* 


Detroit 10,399,360 2,396,160 378,250 71,975 9,949,135 


St. Louis 8,893,440 4,331,520 316,160 546,254 8,031,026 

Franklin 15,298,560 5,091,840 983,400 759,946 13,544,215 

Cape Girar- 
deau 15,022,080 4,124,160 463,360 28,534 14,530,186 


Lawrence Co. 17,395,200 2,488,320 1,506,880 None 

Arkansas.... 13,547,520 2,741,760 1,026,560 2,411 12,518,549 













No. Dist 





S. W. Dist.. 





New Orleans.. 

St. Helena 



■ ••••••• 


W. of Pearl 







Jackson, Ct. 



No surveys 


E. of Pearl R 

. 6,904,320 





Huntsville. . . . 























The reservations include private claims, school lands, Indian res- 
ervations, etc. * Boundaries not defined. 




P. L. III., 534. 


From Zanesville to Chillicothe 66 

" Zanesville to Marietta 48 

" Zanesville to Steubenville 67 

" Zanesville to Wooster 56 

" Zanesville to Delaware 65 

" Chillicothe to Marietta 82 

" Marietta to Steul>enville IS 

" Steubenville to Wooster 67 

" Wooster to Delaware 70 

" Delaware to Detroit 148 

" Delaware to Piqua 53 

" Piqua to Cliillicothe 85 

" Chillicothe to Cincinnati 80 

" Cincinnati to Piqua 70 



From Cincinnati to Brookville 27 

Cincinnati to JeflFersonville 73 

Jeffersanville to Vincennes 100 

Vincennes to Palestine 23 

Palestine to Terre Haiite 32 

Terre Haute to Vandalia 85 

Vandalia to Shawneetown 95 

ShawTieetown to Vincennes 65 

Vincennes to Vandalia 74 

Vandalia to Edwardsville 38 

Edwardsville to St. Louis 26 

St. Louis to Kaskaskia 50 

St. Louis to Franklin 144 

Kaskaskia to Cape Girardeau i 54 

Cape Girardeau to Napoleon 2 164 

Napoleon to Little Rock s 95 

Little Rock to Arkansas (Post)* 80 

Arkansas (Post) to Monroe 105 

Monroe 5 to Washington 86 

Washington « to Opelousas 83 

Washington to St. Helena 62 

St. Helena to Opelousas 7 78 

St. Helena to New Orleans 50 

New Orleans to St. Stephens 8 157 

St. Stephens to Cahawba 60 

Cahawba to Tuscaloosa 73 

Tuscaloosa to Huntsville 100 

1 Jackson, Cape Girardeau County. 

2 Land office was at Polk Bayou in 1821. 

8 Little Rock was the seat of the " Arkansas " Land Office. 

< There was no land office at Arkansas Post. 

6 Monroe, i. e. Northern District of Louisiana. 

6 Washington, i. e. West of Pearl River, Mississippi. 

^ Opelousas, i. e. Southwestern District of Louisiana, 

8 St. Stephens, i. e. East of Pearl River. 




1820. P. L. III., 461. 

1795, Greeneville — Wyandots, etc. 



1805, Ft. Industry— Wyandots, etc... 1,030,400 

1807, Detroit— Wyandots, etc 7,862,400 

1803, Ft. Wayne— Delawares, etc... 2,038,400 

1803, Vincennes — Kaskaskias 8,911,850 

1804, Vincennes — Delawares and Pi- 

ankeshaws 1,921,280 

1805, Grouseland— Delawares, etc. . . 1,572,480 

1805, Vincennes— Piankeshaws 2,076,160 

1809, Ft. Wayne— Delawares, etc... 3,257,600 

1809, Vincennes — Kickapoos 138,240 

1816, St. Louis— Ottaways, etc. . . . 1,274,880 


1804, St. Louis— Sac and Fox 9,803,520 

1806, Washington— Cherokees 1,209,600 

1816, Turkeytown— Cherokees 1,395,200 

1805, Chickasaw Co.— Chickasaws .. 345,600 

1801, Ft. Adams— Choctaws 2,641,920 

1802, Ft. Con fed.— Choctaws 853,760 

1805, Mt Dexter— Choctaws 4,142,720 

1814, Ft. Jackson— Creeks 14^4,800 

1808, Ft. Clark— Gt. and Little Os- 

ages 50,269,440 

1817, Rapids— Wyandots 4,377,600 

1817, Rapids— Pottawatamies, etc. . 430,060 

1818, St. Mary's — Pottawatamies, 

etc 1,109,760 

1818, St. Mary's— Miamis 5,867,520 

1818, Edwardsville— Peorias 6,865,280 

1818, St. Louis— Quapaws 30,690,560 

1818, St. Louis— Gt. and Little Os- 

ages 7,392,000 

1819, Washington— Cherokees 566,400 

Exclusive of 
mil. lands. 



in Ten- 

Balance in Tenn. 

Residue in Ga. 

Residue in Tenn. 
and Ga. 



1819, Saginaw— Chippewas 4,321,280 

1819, Ft. Harrison— Kickapoos of 

Vermilion 3,173,120 


202,187 Penn. Triangle. 




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LAND SALES, 1815-1820. 

Steuben ville 112,260 



? 67^76 

Chillicothe 57,678 


Cincinnati 251,012 


Zanesville 126,124 


Vincennes 53,236 


West of P 2,833 

f 6,666 

East af P 5,155 

f 10^10 















257,472 86,064 

$514,600 405,261 

125,903 261,143 

$261,805 622,886 

(Jan. 1-Dec. 31), 1820 
1818-19 1819 To July 1 

14,741 13,637 2,847 

82,668 28,879 6,969 








Madison Co., Ala. 19,266 2,649 

$38,632 6,298 


. 51,735 67,D84 
$129,017 1S4J98 



Hunts ville 
































90,756 6,640 
181^11 1S;290 


APPENDIX (Continued). 

LAND SALES, 1815-1820. 

(Jan. 1-Dec. 31), 1820 

1814-15 1816-17 1818-19 1819 To JiUj 1 

Kaskaskia 31,005 78,508 124,303 60,355 5,609 

$ 62,010 157,015 Z48,607 120,711 11^17 

Edwardsville 104,074 97,398 

$208,417 200,596 


MilledgeviUe 174,010 1,0^6,564 782,747 239,979 

$753,849 3,764,431 2,681,585 894,185 

Detroit 32,756 

f 67 AU 

To Aug. 1 

Franklin, Mo 662,434 


St. Louis 470,990 



















)s Sold 




1800 and 




For Purchase 
Money 1 

On Sale Unpaid 
of by 
forfeitures Purchaser 

1801 . . . . 


























































































. 1,092,980 







. 1,131,956 







. 1,414,952 






To Jan. 









To Sept. 



. 1,245,107 






To Sept. 



. 2,064,178 






12,239,816 $26,482,262 649,058 16,679,406 $306,682 



APPENDIX (Continued) 


Lakds Sold Receipts Balances 

On Sale Unpaid 

Lands For Purchase of by 

Quantity Price Reverted Money Forfeitures Purchaser 

74,833 $149,663 $37,750 $111,913 

17,893 35,786 8,946 138,753 

87,636 194,872 60,142 $113 273,483 

77,036 158,126 41,413 372 390,195 

81,913 164,822 80,476 305 474,541 

144.873 299,904 5,530 121,377 541 653,068 
30,261 60,659 1,608 83,452 144 630,273 
41,272 82,545 2,476 123,811 758 589,009 
27,254 54,508 2,616 111,784 537 531,733 

490.874 1,102,481 95,143 364,116 44,007 1,270,098 











To Sept. 30 


To Dec. 31 


To Sept. 30 


To Sept. 30 

617,090 1,677,903 
127,330 253,638 
695,849 3,715,753 

23,613 546,494 6,748 2,401,507 
17,815 133,774 7,039 2,526,410 

53»787 1,087,799 16,624 5470,989 

2,278,046 9,705,889 137,179 2,773,723 29,207 12,132,362 

4,792,157 $17,656,549 339,766 $5,577,058 106,396 


1819 1,133,425 3,036,246 74,533 833,541 17,166 2,219,872 

* Included in statement of sales northwest of the Ohio, 
F, L. III., 420. 


Adams, John, 56, 183, 359. Bailey, David, 258. 
Agricultural and mechanical Baldwin, Abrah, 360. 

colleges, land grants for, Barlow, Joel, 58. 

280. Base lines, described, 188, 189. 

Aigleville, Ala., 309. Beale's Rifle Company, 259n. 

Alabama, debtors in, 157; ef- Benton, T. H., senatot from 

feet of relief acts in, 158; Missouri. 389. 

enabling act, 276n, 279; grant Black Hawk's War, 258. 

to, 316; land offices in, 171, Bland, Theodorick, proposes 

173, 176, 177; lands for edu- jand system, 19, 235, 264. 

cation in, 279; Indian ces- Board of Treasury, 44, 52, 66, 

sions in, 167, 168, 171, 172, rj^ ggg 

173; memorials of Legis. of, Bonaparte, Joseph, 308. 

153, 157; speculation in, 107, Boudinot, Elias, rep. from New 

157, 365; surveys in, 190; Jersey, 69, 75. 

Vine and Olive grant in, 307- Bounties, for military services, 

313. see chapter X; statistics, 261; 

Allen, Robert, rep. from Ten- pjans for satisfaction of, 19, 

nessee, 150. 20; in Ordinance of 1785, 37; 

Arkansas, bounty lands in, 249, lands drawn in 1787, 44; re- 

255, 372; grant to, 317; lands serves authorized, 47; warrants 

for education in, 275; surveys paid by Ohio Company, 51, 

in, 189, 195. 57. y^y Symmes, 54, 60; for 

Armand, General, 22. state bounties see each state. 

Army, bounties for, see chapter Bouquet's expedition of 1764, 41. 

X; certain officers propose to Bourbon C<yunty, Georgia, 356. 

found a new state, 19, 21, 236, Bribery, of members of Con- 

^^*- gress attempted, 77. 

Articles of Confederation, British posts, relinquished by 

Franklin's draft, 2; Dickinson Jay's treaty, 80. 

draft, 2; amendments pro- Brookville, land office, 177. 

posed, 5; convention to re- Buck, Daniel, rep. from Ver- 

vise, 49; protect state lands, mont, 78. 

4; no power to receive or gov- Bull, John, on land committee 

em lands, 12. of 1795^ 30 „. 

Ash, George, 296. Burton's Lessee v. Williams, et 

Auctions, in New England, 23; al. 351 

in Ordinance of 1785, 31, 37; 

rejected by Hamilton, 72; in Cadillac, commandant at De- 

1796, 80, 82, 85; in 1820, 145. troit, 212. 




Cahawba, land office at, 173; Clark, Gen. George Rogers, ex- 
speculations at, 176. pedition of, 205, 325; grant 

Cahokia, 202, 218, 222. for, 9, 169, 188, 327, 339; In- 

California, land grants in, 198, dian grant to, 297. 
227. Clarke, William, grant to, 301. 

Canadian and Nova Scotian ref- Colonial land claims, see chap- 

ugees, grant to, 286-290; res- ter I. 

ervation for, 38, 176, 244. 

Canadian Volunteers (1813), 

Canton, land office, 170. 

Carr, Thomas, 367. 

Cass, Lewis, gov. of Mich. Terri- 
tory, on botmtr lands, 250 n; 
negotiations with Christian 
Indians, 292. 

Caveats, 24, 27, 32. 

Certificates of further credit, 

Commissioners, Court of, to de- 
termine disputed state boun- 
daries, 4; for Mass.-N. Y. dis- 
pute, 10 n; for Ga.-S. C, 355; 
decide Conn.-Pa. dispute, lOn, 
319, 323. 

Commissioners, for confirmation 
of foreign claims, 200, 210, 
383; in Northwest, 120; south 
of Tenn., 167; Vincennes, Kas- 
kaskia, Detroit, see chapter 

Certificates of public debt, re- Commissioners, for Georgia ces- 

ceivable for lands in North- sion, 359-362. 

west, 37, 51, 95; not receivable Commissioners of Georgia, to 

in Southwest, 112; not receiv- examine lands, 366. 

able after 1806, 131. Committee on Public Lands, 

Cessions, of western lands by standing, 126. 

the states, see chapters I, Companies, land, see Land Com- 

XIII; area of, appendix I. panics. 

Cherokee Indians, 167, 168, 171, Conecuh Court House, land of- 

345, 350n. Ace, 177. 

Chickasaw Indians, 167, 168, 171, Confederation, Articles of, see 

331, 350 n. Articles of Confederation. 

Chickasaw meridian, 190. Congress of Confederation, ac- 

Chillicothe, founded, 377; land <^epts cessions, 7; assumes 

office, 95, 105, 176, 290. power over lands, 12; unable 

Chippewa Indians, 45, 1615, 

Choctaw Indians, 167, 171. 
Choctaw meridian, 190. 
Christian Indians, grant to, 290- 

Cincinnati land office, 85, 95, 


to satisfy bounties, 32; and 
foreign titles, 202; and grants 
for education, 264; specie^ 
grants of, 287-295; and the 
Conn, cession, 320-323; and 
the Va. Reserve, 330; and the 
N. C. cession, 343. 
Congress, Continental, should 

Civil War, no land bounties for, have power to limit states, 2; 

260. maintains state claims, 4; of- 

Claiborne, W. C. C, rep. from fers bounty lands, 231-234. 

Tennessee, 94; gov. of Miss. Congress, Federal, and the land 

Territory, 122. debtors, see chapter VI; and 

INDEX 415 

Congress, Federal — Continued. Credit — Continued 

the credit system, 146; and tension, 1809, 132; reports and 

foreign titles, 198-200, 228; acts, 1810-1820, 134-141; sum- 

and grants for education, 266, mary of acts, 143; abolished, 

276, 284; and special grants, 141; further credit under re- 

286, 315; and the Georgia Hef acts, 151-161; to Dufour, 

cession, 359; and pre-emption, 108, 297; to Vine and Olive 

383-388. Ass'n., 307-313. 

Connecticut, claims western Creek Indians, 167, 172, 308. 

lands, 2, 319, 342; first oflFer, Currency, see Paper Money. 

7, 320; dispute with Pennsyl- Cutler, Rev. Manasseh, in Ohio 

vania, lOn, 320; cedes western Company, 48, 49, 50, 55. 

lands, 10, 321; school fund, ^ana, Edmund, desired land, 

10, 324; proposes township ^^^• 

system. 18, 24; cedes jurisdic- ^^^^ ^nd Dumb, grants for asy- 

tion of Reserve, 324. ' ^"^ ^o'*' ^80. 

Connecticut Asylum, land grant Dearborn, ' General, Sec'y of 

for, 280. ^ar, 242. 

Connecticut Reserve, 6, 7, 10, 64, pg^^, national, funding the, 73, 

102, 165, 183, 269, 270, 271, ^g 6 » ' 

319-32.J, 37-, 377. Deeds, of cession, see chapters 

Constitution, ratification of, 55; j XIII. 

as to power of Congress over Delaware, opposes state claims, 

lands. 12, 266; on relijrimis 4 

establiRhment<?, 282, 302; XI Delaware, Ohio, land office, 177. 

amend, of, 357. Delaware Indians, 45, 165, 169, 

" Continental I,ine," bounties qqq^ 

for, 232-244. 328n. Demopolis, Ala., 309; Female 

"Continuntion " lands, 216, 294. Academy, 313. 

Cook, D. P., rep. from Illinois, De Numbrun, Lieut. Gov. of 

254. Illinois County, 206. 

Crawford, W. H., sec'y of the Deputy Surveyors, 85, 119. 

Treasury, 311. Deserters, from British army of- 

Credit, abolition of, see chapter fered bounty lands, 231, 250. 

V: balances unpaid, appendix Detroit, land claims at, see 

VTT; introduced in 1787, 44; chapter IX; destroyed by fire, 

extended for purchases from 213, 315; land office, 168; 

Svmmes, 62; opposed, 1790, sales at, 177; grant to, 315. 

69; Hamilton's plan, 72; ex- Dickinson, John, draft of Art. 

tended in 1796, 86, 90; exten- of Confederation, 2, 4. 

sion urged, 92; act of 1800, Dobbyn, H. W., seeks lands, 68. 

95, 98, 103. 380; modified, 1801, Doddridge's lessee v. Thompson 

107; Gallatin opposes, 116; and Wright, 335. 

extension opposed, 126; first Dohrman, A. H., grant to, 293- 

extension, 129; system criti- 295. 

cised, 129; Morrow's report Donaldson, Thomas, opinion of 

against, 132; first general ex Hamilton's report, 72. 

416 INDEX 

Donations of land, by Ohio Co., " Financier's Plan," 20, 235. 

56; by Congress, 57; proposed, Findley, William, rep. from 

1789, 68; in Miss. Territory, Pennsylvania, 82. 

Ill; desired, 114; proposed. Fire Lands, in Conn. Reserve, 

1804, 115; not offered in 323. 

Louisiana; 125; in Northwest, Five per cent. Fund, origin of, 

205, 203, 207, 214, 223; to 109, 268. 

Canadian refugees, 286-290; to Fletcher v. Peck, 363. 

Isaac Zanc, 95; to Lafayette, Flint, Royal, seeks lands, 52, 

300; to Lewis and clarke, 53n; in Scioto Company, 58. 

301 ; to earthquake sufferers, " Floating claims," New Madrid, 

303-307. 306. 

Donclson, Colonel, 367. Florida, land claims in, 198, 

Dowse, Edward, surveyor, 42n. 229n. 

Duer, Col. William, 49^ 58, 59. Forbes, Abraham, granted 
Dufour, J. J., grant to, 108, bounty lands, 251n. 

297-299. Foreign titles, confirmation of, 

see chapter IX, 106; in Miss- 
Earthquake sufferers, grant for, jssippi, ill, 166, 360; in 

303-307. Northwest, 120; delay surveys 

Eaton, J. H., senator from Ten- ^^^ ^^j^^^ jg^^ jgg^ .^g 

nessec, 149. Forfeitures, in 1787, 45; repaid. 

Education, land grants for, see ^^^, .^^ ^^^ ^f j^gg^ gg. jn 

chapter XI; 19, 20, 31, 38, ^^^ '^^^ ^^q^ 95. j^ 1906, 127, 

372; in Ohio Co., 51; in Sym- ^^Sn; postponed. 1801, 129; 

mes purchase, 54; proposed in jgQp^ jgj. i8i0-1820, 134-141; 

1796, 82, 86, 90; Ohio enabling ^.^jj^'^ measures, 1821-1832, 

act, 109; in Mississippi, 111; 14.I-I6I. 

in Tenn., 347, 349, 354; none p^^^^ Chartres, 202, 218. 

in Ohio military district, 239; p^^^.^ pmnklin, 46. 

in reserves for war of 1812, p^^^. Harmar, 46; treaty of, 79, 

2W- 165. 

Edwards, Nmian, senator from Yort Mcintosh, 46; treaty of, 

Illinois, 140, 147, 148. 45^ ^-g^ 155. 

Edwardsville, land office, 173. Fort Pitt, 46. 

Eel River Indians, 169. p^^ft g^ phiUip, 202. 

Embargo, 131. p^^t Stanwix, treaty of, 45, 

Enabling Acts, Ohio, 108-110, jg5 

268-271, 349; Louisiana, 274; p^^^^ Steuben, 46. 

Missouri, 275; Mississippi, pmctional sections, sold individ- 

Miohigan, Arkansas, 276n; ^j^j^^.^ j|3^ |oo. 

Alabama, 276n, 316; Indiana prancc, threatened war with, 

31 fl. 246. 

Fairfield. Canada, 292. Franklin, Benjamin, 2, 182. 

Fees, act of 1796, 86n; act of Franklin, state of, 341. 

1800, 96, 96n; petition for Franklin, Missouri, land office, 

abolition, 113; abolished, 121. 177. 

INDEX 417 

Frauds, in Louisiana country, Graduation Act, 389. 

122, 124; in sale of relin- Grayson, William, chairman of 

quished land, lo6; at Vincen- Committee, 1785, 30; letter to 

nes, 204, 209; at Kaskaskia, Washington, 30; to Madison, 

215, 217, 220; at Xew Madrid, 43; on education, 265; opposes 

306. Conn, cession, 321-323. 

French and Indian War, bounty Green Bay, land claims at, 224. 

lands, 230. Greene, Gen. Nathaniel, bounty 

French emigrants, grant to, 307- lands for, 344. 

313. Greene ville treaty, 79, 93, 165, 

French settlers, at Gallipolis, 187, 209, 295, 335, 377. 

58, 59, 62; in Xorthwest, Guide meridians, 189. 

claims confirmed, see chapter 

IX. Hamilton, Alexander, on ces- 
sions, 7; seconds Bland's 

Gallatin, Albert, rep. from motion, 19n, 236; report on 

Pennsylvania, 81-83, 91; Sec'y public lands, 70-73, 267; com- 

of tile Treasury, 101, 110; re- pared with Gallatin's report, 

port on land system, 115-119, 115; first report on public 

380; letter, 1806, 128; on for- credit, 70. 

eipn titles, 199; on Canadian Harmar, General, expedition of 

refugees, 299. 1790, 79, 205. 

Galhpohs, founded, 59, 295; Harmony Society, desires land, 

school lands, 271. 298. 

Gardner, Joseph, on land ccwn- Harrison, W. H., 94, 209, 220. 

mittee of 1785, 30n. Havens, J. N., rep. from New 

General Land Office, established, York, 81. 

_'^^- Hazard's western colony, 24. 

Geographer of the United Hazen, General, 287. 

Mates, 41. Henry, John, on land commit- 

Georgia, claims western lands, 2; tee of 1785, 30n. 

cession, 13, 166, .355-361; of- Henrv, Patrick, governor of 

fers bounty lands, 235; dls- Virginia, 326. 

pute with S. C, 355; Yazoo Hessians, offered bounty lands, 

grants, 356-358; other grants 231, 233. 

of, 366-.369. Holston, treaty of, 345. 

„7/'^ P^"-^' ^^^' ^^^' 3^*' Homestead Law, 260, 289. 

„ •. Hopewell, treaty of, 345. 

Ueorgia Mississippi Company, Houston, John, on land com- 

357, 3frk ^j^^gg jjf J7g5^ 30n 

Gerry, Ell)ridge, mi land com- Howard County, Missouri, land 

mittee of 1781, 22, 264. office, 177. 

Giles, W. B., rep, from Vlr- Howell, David, on land commit- 

?'"'«' 'S- tee of 1784, 22, 264; and 1785, 

Giles County, Tenn., townsite 30n. 

for, 316. " Hundreds," proposed in 1784, 

Gnadenhutton, 291. 26. 

418 INDEX 

Huntsville, land oflBce, 176; "Indiscriminate location," 95, 

speculations at, 107, 157, 176. 31, 34, 44, 375; modified sys- 
Huntsville meridian, 190. tern proposed by Hamilton, 71, 

Hutchins, Thomas, Geographer, 73; defended, 74; effects of, 

41, 196; surveys, 41-43, 183. 75, 18O; in Virginia Reserve, 

Illinois, bounty lands in, 243, 187, 240, 333. 

248, 249, 254, 255, 372; grant Interest charges, in 1800, 95, 

to, 316; Indian cessions in, 102; modified, 1801, 107; 1803, 

169, 172, 173; land claims in m? 18^4, 119; remitted, 151. 

confirmed, see chapter IX; Internal improvements, land 

lands for education in, 272, grants for, 131, 388. 

278, 279; land offices in, 168, Irish emigrants, 308, 314. 

173; preemption in, 385; sur- Iroquois Indians, lands claimed 

veys in, 188. by New York, 2; cede lands, 

Improvement of lands, con- ^^■ 

ditions for, 24, 207. 
Indiana, act for sale of lands in, Jackson, Gen. Andrew, 367; de- 

119-121, 168; bounty lands in, feats the Creeks, 172. 

243, 251; credit extended in, Jackson, James, 360. 

129, 135; debt in, 157; grants Jackson, Missouri, land office, 

to, 316; Indian cessions in, l''"''» 

169, 172; land claims con- Jackson County, Ohio, grant for, 

firmed, see chapter IX; land 316. 

offices in, 168, 170, 177; land Jay's treaty, with England, 80, 

sales, 168; lands far education -09. 

in, 272, 278; surveys in, 188. Jefferson, Thomas, chairman 
Indians, see each tribe, interfere committee of 1784, 22; did 
with surveys, 42, 43; affect not "invent" the land system, 
sales in 1787, 45; embarrass 27, 182; President, 122, 360; 
land companies, 56, 59; treat- embargo, 131; and education, 
ies in Northwest, 45, 165; 264; report on land claims, 
wars in Northwest, 79; ces- 346. 

sions, 106; wars affect sales, Jefferson College, land for, 272, 
106, credit system, UW, pre- 278, 279. 

vent location of bounty war- Jeffersonville, land office, 170. 
rants, 238; prevent settlement, Johnson, Henry, senator from 
374; granted bounty lands, T,ouisiana, 140. 
257; grants to individuals by, Johnson, R. M., senator from 
295, 296; area of cessions, Kentucky, 147, 160. 
appendix V. Johnson, Robert, surveyor, 42n. 

Indian title, must be extin- Johnson, Robert, governor of S. 
guished before sales, 53, 79, C, 23. 

106, 149, 381 ; extinguishment Johnson, W. S., on land commit- 
of, see chapter VII., in Con- tee of 1785, 30n; on Conn, 
necticut Reserve, 271, 323; in cession, 321. 
Tennessee, 345, 350; in Jouett, C, Indian agent at De- 
Georgia, 361, 369. troit, 210. 

INDEX 419 

Kaskaskia, land claims at, see Land Sales — Continued. 
chapter IX; land oflSce, 120, states, 88; at Pittsburg and 

168. Phila., 92, 100; private sales 

Kaskaskia Indians, 169, 206. authorized, 95; 1800-1, 105; 

Kennedy's western colony, 23. affected by bounty lands, 245, 

Kentucky, reserved by Virginia, 372; amount, by offices, appen- 

6, 8; not in public domain, dix, VI, VII. 

105, 347; Virginia military re- Land system, national, origin 

serve in, 330; Indian cessions of, see chapter II; develop- 
in, 331. ment of, 1789-1800, see chap- 
Kentucky Abolition Association, ter IV; under act of 1800, 

308. 101-104; extended south of 

Kentucky Asylum, land grant Ohio, 111; extension of, see 

for, 281. chapter VII, appendix III; 

Kimberly, Ephraim, 238n, 384n. and Westward Movement, see 
King, Rufus, on land committee chapter XIV. 

of 1785, 30n; letter to Gerry, Land system. New England, 17, 

34n. 23, 25, 29, 35, 182; advocated 

King's Mountain, battle of, 257, by Sherman, 68; grants for 

259. education, 264. See surveys. 

Knight, Prof. G. W., on grants Land system, Southern, 24-25; 

for education, 285n. see surveys. 

Knox, General, sec'y of War, Lands, western, cession of, see 

242. I chapter I. 

La Trappe, Society of, desires 
Lafayette, General, land grant, lands, 299. 

244, 300. Laussat, M., French Commis- 

Land Companies, Indiana, Van- sioner, 122. 

dalia, Illinois, Wabash, 16; Lawrence (bounty, Missouri, 

Ohio, see Ohio Company; land office, 177. 

Symmes, see Symmes; Scioto, Leake, Walter, senator from 

see Scioto; Yazoo, see Yazoo. Mississippi, 139. 
Land debtors. Congress and the, Lee, Charles, Attorney-General, 

see chapter VI. 358. 

Land office, • proposed, 67; bill Lee, R. H., President of Con- 

for establishing, 68; proposed gress, 29. 

by Hamilton, 71; General es- Lefavour, Abraham, 368. 

tabUshed, 136; widely scat- Leitensdorfer, J. E., grant to, 

tered, 382; distances between, 301. 

appendix IV; see each office Lewis, Meriwether, grant to, 

in index. 301. 

Land Ordinance of 1784 (pro- Lewistown, battle of, 257. 

posed), 26, 180, 236, 264, 331. Limit to sales, attempt to set. 
Land Ordinance of 1785, see 81. 

Ordinance of 1785. Lincohi, Levi, Attorney-General, 

Land sales, under the Confeder- 360. 

ation, see chapter III; by the Little Prairie, 303. 



Livingston, Lieut.-Col. Richard, 
grant to, 290. 

Livingston, R. R., on land com- 
mittee of 1785, 30n. 

Loan-office certificates, 26, 37. 

Long, Pierre, on land committee 
of 1785, 30n. 

Louphry, Col., grant to, 339n. 

Louisiana, settlers invited by 
Spanish gov't, of, 67; first 
land act for, 123-125, 170, 
384; district of, 170; Indian 
cessions in, 172; land offices 
in, 170, 172; bounty lands in, 
248; lands for education in, 
274, 275, 278; preemption in, 

Ludlow, William, surveys line of 
Va. Reserve, 334. 

Lutherans, desire land, 298. 

Lyman, Mr., rep. from Massa- 
chusetts, 78. 

Madison, James, rep. from 
Virginia, 78; Sec'y. of State, 
360; President, 249. 

Madison County, Ala., lanff 
office, 171, 176. 

Mansfield, Jared, Surveyor-Gen- 
eral, 138, 187, 196. 

Marietta, Ohio, founded, 55; 
land office, 95, 176. 

Marshall, John, rep. from Vir- 
ginia, 325; Chief Justice, 363. 

Martin, Absalom, surveyor, 42n. 

Maryland, attacks state claims, 
4, 5; ratifies Arts, of Confed- 
eration, 6; influence on land 
cessions, 6; objects to bounty 
lands, 234. 

Massachusetts, claims western 
lands, 2, 342; cedes western 
lands, 9; retains unoccupied 
lands, 3, 8n, 11; dispute with 
New York, lOn. 

Meigs, jQsiah, Commissioner G. 
L. O., 138. 

Menissier, Francis, desires land, 

Meridians, principal, 188-190; 
guide, 189; convergence of, 
39, 195. 

Mexican War, bounties for, 255. 

Miami Indians, 169, 177. 

Michigan, speculators desire 
grant of, 77; land office in, 
120; Indian cessions in, 171; 
surveys in, 189; boiinty lands 
in, 248, 249, 255; lands for 
education in, 272, 278; pre- 
emption in, 384; desires land, 
318, land claims in, see chap- 
ter IX. 

Michilimackinaw, land claims at, 

Military District, Ohio, 93, 102, 
184, 239-242, 267, 270, 372. 

Militia, bounties for, 250, 252, 

Milledge, John, 360. 

Milledgeville, land office, 173; 
moved to Cahawba, 173, 

Mines, reserves in Ord. of 1785, 
38; reserved in bounty lands, 

Minnesota, surveys in, 188. 

Mississippi, population of, 105; 
act of 1803, Ul; credit ex- 
tended in, 137; surveys in, 
189; lands for education in, 
272, 278, 279; enablmg act, 
276n; grant to," 316; specula- 
tion in. 365. 

" >rississippi Stock," 365. 

Missouri, debt in, 158; Indian 
cessions in, 171; land offices 
in. 170, 177; sales in, 177; 
boimty lands in, 249, 255; 
372; lands for education in, 
275, 279; grant for earthquake 
sufferers, 303-307; preemption 
in. 385. 

Monroe, James, President, 140; 
vetoes grant for church, 281, 

INDEX 421 

Monroe, James — Continued. Nicholson, J. H., rep. from 

302; on Connecticut cession, Maryland, 118. 

322; on payment to Georgia, Nickojack, battle at, 257. 

365. Niles' Register, account of sur- 

Moravian Indians, see Christian veys in, 190-194. 

Indians. Noble, James, senator from In- 

Morgan, George, seeks lands, diana, 148. 

53, 202. North Carolina, claims western 
Morris, William, surveyor, 42n. lands, 2, 340; cession, 8n, 13, 
Morrow, Jeremiah, rep. from 343, 384; bounty lands, 231, 
Ohio, report against credit 235, 238, 344; grants in Ten- 
system, 1809, 132; 1812, 135; nessee, 106, 273, 344-351; mili- 
senator, report against credit- tary reserve in Tennessee, 341. 
system, 1819, 139; on claims Northwest, state claims in, see 
at Kaskaskia, 219; on church chapter 'I., Indian wars in, 
grant, 302; On squatters, 373n. 79; foreign titles in, see chap- 
Murray, W. v., rep. from ter IX. 

Maryland, 78. Nova Scotia, see Canadian ref- 

Natchez, school lands at, 272, O'Flyng, Abigail, petition of, 

279; grant to, 315. 252. 
Natchez Colony, 24. Ohio, population, 105, 373n; en- 
National Debt, see Debt, na- abling act, 108-110, 268-271, 

tional. 349; credit extended in, 129, 

New England, land system, see 135; memorial on credit sys- 

land system, New England. tem, 134; debt in, 158; Indian 

New England Emigration As- cessions in, 165, 169, 171; land 

sociation, 308. offices in, 166, 170, 177, 382; 

New England Mississippi Com- surveys in, 184-187; military 

pany, 366. district in, 237, 239, 242; lands 

New Jersey, opposes state for education in, 268-271, 277, 

claims, 4; land suits in, 75. 278; to sell salt reserves, 316; 

New Madrid, grants for earth- land for county seats, 317; 

quake sufferers at, 303-307. Virginia reserve in, 330-339. 

New Orleans, battle of, 259; Ohio Company, 47-52, 54-57, 102, 

grant to, 316. 183, 237, 266, 278, 281, 291, 

New Orleans, Island of, dis- 372. 

trict east of, 385. Oliver, Robert, 55. 

New Philadelphia, 293. Opelousas, land office, 172. 

New Ycfrk, claims western lands. Ordinance of 1785, text in Ap- 

2; offers them, 6; cession, 8; pendix II, passed, 36-38, 375; 

influence on cessions, 6; dis- surveys and sales under, 41-45, 

pute with Massachusetts, lOn; 163, 179, 183, 376; first alter- 

land law of 1785, 34; bounty ation, 42; proposed changes, 

lands in, 235, 237; grants 43; other alterations, 44-47; 

lands to Canadian refugees, ignored by Hamilton, 70; and 

288, 289. Act of 1796, 86, 90; and Act 



Ordinance — Continued. 

of 1800, 97; and Act of 1820, 
141; bounty lands, 236; grants 
for education, 264, 269, 284; 
lands for Canadian refugees, 
288; land for Christian In- 
dians, 291 ; and Virginia boun- 
ties, 331. 

Ordinance of 1787, 49, 66, 109, 
266, 269, 274, 361, 

Oregon, school lands in, 278. 

Orleans, Territory of, 172, 196, 
274, 278. 

Ottawa Indians, 45, 171. 

Ovid, New York, inhabitants de- 
sire land, 299. 

Palestine, land oflSce, 177. 

Paper money, causes specula- 
tion, 107, 137, 157; effect on 
credit system, 130, 136. 

Parker, Alexander, surveyor, 

Parker, Joseph, seeks land, 53. 

Parsons, Gen. S. H., in Ohio 
Company, 48, 49. 

Pearl River, land offices East 
and West of, 167. 

Pennsylvania, retains unoccu- 
pied lands, 8n; dispute with 
Connecticut, lOn, 320; pur- 
chases "triangle," 64; offers 
bounty lands, 235, 237. 

Peoria, land claims at, 217, 222. 

Piankishaw Indians, 169, 205, 

Pickering, Timothy, influence on 
Ordinance of 1785, 38-39; 
Sec'y. of State, 359. 

Piqua, land office, 177. 

Pittsburg, 42; land sales at, 85, 
92, 97, 100. 

Plattsburg, battle of, 257. 

Porterfield, Col. Charles, bounty 
lands for, 340n. 

Post Vincennes, 47; see Vin- 

Potawatomi Indians, 165, 171. 

Prairie du Chien, land claims 
at, 224. 

Prairie du Pont, 207, 218. 

Prairie du Rocher, 202, 218. 

Preemption, of Scioto Co., 59; 
of purchasers from Symmes, 
62, 99, 107, 120, 384; proposed 
for squatters, 67; bill, 1789, 
68; 1791, 76, 90; sought in 
1785, 375; in 1800, 94, 97; 
granted builders of mills, 97, 
98, 120; sought in Mississippi, 
111; opposed by Gallatin, 117; 
not offered in Louisiana, 125; 
proposed in 1820, 140; of for- 
feited and relinquished land, 
155-159; in Michigan, 216, 384; 
in Illinois, 221, 385; in lands 
of Christian Indians, 293; to 
Ebcnezar Zane, 295; in Vine 
and Olive grant, 312; of 
county seats, 317; develop- 
ment of, 384-386. 

Price of lands, in 1785, 37, 376; 
Ohio Company, 51 ; Symmes, 
54; Hamilton suggests .30 an 
acre, 72; debate on, 1791, 75; 
House fixes .25 an acre, 1791, 
76; Act of 1796, 82, 85, 88, 
92, 378; considered high, 92 1 
Act of 1800, 95, 102-104; cash 
price reduced, 1801, 107; Gal- 
latin urges reduction, 116; in 
1804, 121; $1.00 an acre pro- 
posed, 135; $1.25, 137; $1.50, 
139; reduced to $1.25, 141. 

Principal meridans, described, 

Private land claims, see foreign 

Private sales, act of 1800, 98. 

Proclamation of 1763, cited 
against state claims, 3, 8n, 
341, 358; bounty land grants, 
230, 247. 

Public domain, origin of, see 
chapter I. 

INDEX 428 

Putnam, Rufus, urges army Revenue, lands considered a 
plan, 21; founds Ohio Co., 48, source of, 13, 22, 32, 70, 74, 
64, 55; surveyor-general, 187, 80, 89, 126, 141, 144, 160, 379. 
196; urges use of magnetic Revolutionary War, bounties, 
meridian, 195. 231-244, 257. 

Rhea, John, rep. from Tennes- 
Quebec Act, cited against state see, 123, 124. 
claims, 3, 321, 326. ^^^ode Island, opposes state 

claims, 4. 
„ , „ , ^ Roberts, Charles, surveys line of 

Randall, Mr., 77. y^ Reserve 334 

Randolph John, rep. from Vir- ^ g^^^;,^ ^^^^ 

gmia, 126, 363, 364. Ruggles, Benjamin, senator 

Ranges, origm, 37; see Seven ^^^^ ^^^^ j^g 

Ranges. Rutherford, Robert, rep. from 

Read, Jacob, on land committee Vireinia 82 89 

Ox XTO^y ^^« 

Receiver of Moneys, act of 1796, 

86; act of 1800, 95; additional Sac and Fox Indians, 169. 

commission, 120. St. Clair, Gen. Arthur, 50; gov- 

Recorder of Land Titles, 170, ernor of N. W. Terr., 60, 295; 

304. expedition of, 79; and foreign 

Register, of land offices, act of titles, 203, 208; and Conn. 

1800, 95; additional commis- Reserve, 324. 

sion, 120. St. Helena, meridian, 190. 

Reily, John, grant to, 368. St. Ildefonso, treaty of, 123, 

Relief, for forfeitures in 1787, 125. 

45n; first act, 1806, 129; acts St. Louis, land office, 177. 

from 1809-1820, 134-141, 380; St. Stephen's, Ala., land office, 

for debtors, 1821-1832, 144- 167. (East of Pearl River.) 

161; summary of acts, 143, St. Stephen's meridian, 190. 

161. Salem, Miss., proposed grant 

Religious purposes, land grants for church at, 281, 302. 

for, 24, 30, 31, 51, 264, 266, Salem, Ohio, 291. 

281, 302. Sales, see land sales. 

Relinquishment of land, sug- Salt springs, to be reserved, 17, 

gested by Ohio lesislature, 85; granted Ohio, 109; Ohio 

134; proposed in 1820, 139; may sell, 316; reserved in 

act of 1821, 147-152; act of bounty lands, 239^248. 

1824, 154. Sargent, Winthrop, in Ohio Co., 

Reserves, Congressional, in Ord. 50; secretary of N. W. Terr,, 

of 1785, 38; in Ohio Co's 204, 205, 208. 

grant, 51 ; in Symmes pur- Sauk Indians, 165. 

chase, 54; in 1796, 85; in 1800, Sault Ste. Marie, land claims at, 

97; sale urged, 113, 118; to 225n. 

be sold, 120; in Indian ces- Scale of depreciation, 26, 37. 

sions, 176; military' — see Schoenbrun, Ohio, 291. 

bounty lands. Scioto Company, 50, 52, 58-59. 



Scott, Thomas, rep. from Penn- 
sylvania, 67, 68, 69, 74, 75. 

Scrip, for forfeited lands, 155, 
157; for bounty warrants 
243, 254, 255; for Va. bounty 
warrants, 336-339. 

Section, in debates of 1785, 37n; 
act of 1796, 85; difficult to 
locate, 92. 

Sedgwick, Theodore, rep. from 
Massachusetts, 69, 75. 

Settlement, conditions of, to be 
affixed to grants, proposed in 
1796, 82, 90. 

Seven Ranges, origin, 37; sur- 
veys, 41-43, 183, 376; to be 
sold, 75, 76; sales, 44, 92, 100, 

Sevier, John, 367. 

Shawnee Indians, 46, 296. 

Shawneetown, 111., land office, 

Sherman, Isaac, surveyor, 42n, 

Sherman, Roger, rep. from Con- 
necticut, 68, 321. 

Simpson, James, surveyor, 42n 

Sinking fund, land proceeds ap- 
plied to, 74. 

Sitgreaves, Samuel, 360. 

"Six Nations," 45. 

Size of tracts, plan of 1784, 26; 
Ordinance of 1785, 35, 37; 
small tracts pro^tosed, 1789, 
67; Hamilton's plan, 71; Act 
of 1796, 81, 84, 85, 88, 378; 
reduction urged, 94; Act of 
1800, 95, 98, 379; in South- 
west, 1803, 111; petition for 
reduction, 1803, 113; Gallatin 
urges reduction, 117; quarter 
sections, 119, 121 ; 80 acres 
proposed, 135, 137, 139; some 
80 acres offere<l, 138; 80 acre 
tracts, 141. 

Sloo, Thomas, on New Madrid 
frauds, 307. 

Smith, William, rep. from South 
Carolina, 78, 80. 

South Carolina claims western 
land, 2, 8n; cession, 12, 356; 
dispute with Georgia, 356. 

South Carolina Yazoo Com- 
pany, 356. 

Spanish government offers fav- 
orable terms to settlers in 
La., 68; grants, 122. 

Special grants, see chapter XII. 

Speculators, 31, 72, 77, 83, 87, 
107, 113, 129, 134, 138, 141, 
149, 150 157, 199, 220, 226, 
229, 244, 245, 254. 

Squatters, 163, 199, 226, 227, 
373n, 386; in Northwest, 28, 
67, 77, 376; driven out, 46, 
374; severe act for Louisiana, 
against, 123; preemption pro- 
posed for, 140, 384-386. 

"Stay laws," 132. 

Stephensburg Academy, seeks 
land, 282. 

Steul)en, Baron, bounty lands, 

Steubenville, land office, 95, 102, 

Stewart, Archibald, on land 
committee of 1785, 30n. 

" Sufferers' Lands," in Connec- 
ticut Reserve, 323. 

Supreme Court, on power of 
Congress over lands, 12; on 
title in Va. Reserve, 335; on 
N. C. grants in Tenn., 351; 
on Yazoo claims, 363, 

Surveys, see chapter VIII; sta- 
tistics in Appendix III; in 
New England, 23, 25; in 
South, 24, 26, 352n; 1784, 26; 
in 1785, 30, 31, 37; 1785-7, 
41-43, 165, 183; Ohio Com- 
pany, 51; cost criticized, 67; 
defended, 68; Hamilton's 
plan, 71; Act of 1796, 80, 85, 
88; firmly established, 90,378; 
apropriations for, 91, 106; in 
1798, 93; must precede sales, 
106, 162; extended over Louis- 

INDEX 425 

Surveys— Continued. "Township planting," 23, 29, 

iana, 125, 170; quarter sections 30, 33, 35, 40, 68, 87, 89, 265, 

not surveyed, 138; of military 267, 297, 376. 

districts, 239, 248; of Va. Townships, proposed by Pelatiah 

bounty warrants, 330, 333; of Webster, 16; by Congress,16n; 

Va. Reserve, 334-335 ; and the by Connecticut, 18 ; by a com- 

settlers, 375, 378, 381, 387. mittee, 18; by Mr. Bland, 20; 

Surveyor, south of Tennessee, by soldiers, 51; New England 

125, 167, 196; for Illinois and system, 23-24; in 1785, 30; ar- 

Missouri, Northern Mississ- guments for, 31; Washing- 

ippi, Alabama, Louisiana, 196. ton's opinion of, 33; in Ord. 
Surveyor General, proposed, 76; of 1785, 37; proposed by Pick- 
Act of 1796, 85; powers ex- ering, 38; Act of 1796, 80, 85; 

tended, 118, 170, 196. in military district, 239. 

Swiss emigrants, 308, 314. Treasury, Board of, 44, 47, 52, 

Symmes, John Cleve, purchases 53, 66. 

land, 52, 54, 60-62, 102, 107, Treaty of Paris, 201. 

186, 237, 266, 267, 271, 278, Tripoli, War with, 301. 

281, 372, 384. Tupper, Benjamin, surveyor, 

42n; founder of Ohio Co., 48. 
Turner, F. J., quoted, 37n, 104. 

Taxation, public lands exempt Tuscaloosa, land office, 177. 

from, 109, 110, 268, 270, 273; 

bounty lands in Ohio not ex- United States v. Gratiot, 12. 

empt from, 245. Universities, land for, in Ohio 

Tenants at will, settlers can Co., 51 ; desired by Symmes, 

obtain permission, 131. 54; granted, 60; proposed in 

Tennessee, 105; lands for edu- 1796, 82, 86; for grants see 

cation in, 272-3, 347, 354; chapter XI. 

public .lands in, 345-354, 371, Upper Mississippi Co., 357, 364. 

384; admission of, 346; Indian 

title in, 350n; sells lands, 353. Vandalia, land office, 177. 

Tennessee Company, 356, 357, Vincennes, 9; land claims at, 

364, 367. see chapter IX; land office, 

Terre Haute, land office, 177. 120, 168; Indian cession at. 

Territories, see Northwest, 169, 187; land attached to. 

Southwest, Mississippi, In- 169. 

diana, Illinois, Orleans, Louis- Vincennes University, land 

iana, Missouri, Arkansas, Ala- revenue for, 280, 317. 

bama, Michigan, Florida. Vine and Olive, Society for the 

Territory South of the Ohio, Cultivation of, grant to, 307- 

343. 313. 

Texas, never part of public do- Virginia, claims western lands, 

main, 227. 2, 325; retains unoccupied 

Thomas, Jesse B., senator from lands, 3, 8n, 11; urged to 

Illinois, 148, 152. cease grants, 6; first offer, 6; 

Todd, John, 206. reserves Kentucky, 6; cession, 

"Tomahawk right," 46, 375. 8, 265, 327; land system of 

426 INDEX 

Virginia — Continued. Western posts, British withdraw 

1779, 24, 29; protects rights from, 80, 209. 

of French settlers, 201, 327; West Florida, bounty lands in, 

court in Northwest, 206, 209; 231; refugees, 289; province, 

bounty lands in, 209; offers 358, 360. 

bounty lands, 235, 328; mili- Westward movement, see cbap- 

tary warrants, 242; military ter XIV; 36, 105-107. 

reserve in Kentucky, 238, Whitney, Mr., attempts to bribe 

330; lands granted on Va. Congressmen, 77. 

warrants, 339. Wilkinson, General, 122. 

Virginia Military Reserve, 9, Williams, Elie, 384n. 

102, 184, 237, 240, 267, 270, Williams, John, rep. from New 

32^339, 372. York, 82. 

Virginia Yazoo Company, 356. Williamson, Hugh, on land com- 
mittees of 1784 and 1785, 22, 
30n; rep. from North Caro- 

Walker, J. W., senator from ijna, 75. 

Alabama, 139, 148, 150. wirt, William, Attorney-Gen- 
War of 1812, 131, 136, 137; eral, 306. 

bminty lands, 188, 246-253. Wisconsin, surveys in, 188. 

War Office, destroyed in 1801, Wolcott, Oliver, Secy, of the 

241. Treasury, 91, 359. 

Washington, George, urges army Worthington, Thomas, senator 

plan, 21 ; describes conditions from Ohio, 112, 135. 

in West, 28; criticizes land Wright, Governor, of Georgia, 

ordinance, 33, 358. 

Washington, Miss., land office, Wyandot Indians, 45, 165, 171, 

(west of Pearl River) 167. 095. 

Washington meridian, 189. Wyoming county, Pennsylvania, 

Water courses, surveys of, 81, 10, 318; township system in, 

87; should have been divided 24. 

in West, 88, 197. 

Wayne, "Mad" Anthony, de- Yazoo land claims, 13, 112, 167, 

feats Indians, 79, 165, 377. 356-366. 
Wea Indians, 169. 

Webster, Pelatiah, proposes Zane, Ebenezer, preemption, 

land system, 16-17. 238n, 295, 384n. 

Western lands, claimed by Zane, Isaac, grant to, 295. 

states, see chapter I. Zanesville, land office, 166, 293. 






333T71N C003