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President Taylor's Annual Message to Congress, December
I also recommend that commissions be organized by Congress to examine and decide upon the validity of the present subsisting land titles in California and New Mexico; and that provision be made for the establishment of offices of surveyor general in New Mexico, California, and Oregon, and for, the surveying and bringing into market the public lands in those territories. Those lands, remote in position and difficult of access, ought to be disposed of on terms liberal to all, but especially favorable to the early emigrants.
In order that the situation and character of the principal inineral deposites in California may be ascertained, I recommend that a geological and mineralogical exploration be connected with the linear surveys, and that the mineral lands be divided into small lots suitable for mining, and be disposed of, by sale or lease, so as to give our citizens an opportunity of procuring a permanent right of property in the soil. This would seem to be as important to the success of mining as of agricultural pursuits.
The great mineral wealth of Califorria, and the advantages which its ports and barbors, and those of Oregon afford to commerce, especially with the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans, and the populous regions of Eastern Asia, make it certain that there will arise in a few years large and prosperous communities on our western coast. It therefore becomes important that a line of communication, the best and most expeditious which the nature of the country will admit, should be opened within the territory of the United States, from the navigable waters of the Atlantic on the gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. Opinion, as elicited and expressed by two large and respectable conventions, lately assembled at St. Louis and Memphis, points to a railroad as that which, if practicable, will best meet the wishes and wants of the country. But while this,'if in successful operation, would be a work of great national importance, and of a value to the country which it wouldbe difficult to estimate, it ought also to be regarded as an undertaking of vast magni. tude and expense, and one which must, if it be indeed practicable encounter many difficulties in its construction and use. Therefore, to avoid failure and disappointment, to enable Congress to judge whether, in the condition of the country through which it must pass, the work be feasible ; and, if it be found so whether it should be undertaken as a national improvement or left to individual enterprise ; and, in the latter alternative, what aid, if any, ought to be extended to it by the government, I recommend, as a preliminary measure, a careful reconnoissance of the soveral proposed routes by a scientific
corps, and a report as to the practicability of making such a road, with an estimate of the cost of its construction and support. For further views on these and other matters connected with the duties of the Home Department, I refer you to the report of the secretary of the Interior.
From the Report of Hon. Thomas Ewing, Secretary of the
Interior, Dec. 3, 1849.
PUBLIC LANDS IN OREGON, CALIFORNIA, AND NEW MEXICO. No provision has yet been made to extend the laws for the disposition of the public lands into the territories of Oregon, California, and New Mexico. The public interest would seem to require that this should be done at an ear. ly day. To carry it into effect the negotiation of treaties with the Indian tribes who claim title to the lands, the creation of the office of surveyor general in each of those territories, and the establishment of land offices in convenient districts, will be necessary, accompanied with the usual appropriations for surveys.
In California such commission will be more especially necessary. Many of the older grants in that territory, of considerable extent, have been resumed by the sovereign authority, and are now held under new grants which require examination. Many important and commanding points are claimed under very recent grants of a questionable character; and but a part of the public records were, at the time of our last advices, in the possession or within the knowledge of the proper authorities. There is, however, a large amount of land in this territory, held by grants of unquestionable validity, and some of them, especially those granted for pasturage, are large, covering many square leagues in extent. A considerable amount also is held by inchoate titles, regular and fair in their inception, but which have not been perfected. These titles, where commenced in good faith, by concession from the Spanish or Mexican authorities, ought to be favorably regarded, especially if followed by possession. In no case should the occupant of the soil suffer injury by the transfer of the sovereignty to the United States. This consideration has induced Congress to confirm inceptive grants, even where the conditions were not fulfilled, in all cases where it could reasonably be sup. posed that the government which made the grant would have waived or allowed further time for their performance.
This liberal consideration ought not, however, to be extended to doubtful grants of positions on the bays, islands, and headlands, which, when acquired, were known to be necessary to the United States as sites for forts, light
houses, or other objects of a national character. It is understood that titles of some kind, generally not valid without the confirmation of Congress, have been procured, and are claimed, to some of those points, which, if confirmed to and made the property of individuals, must be purchased back at a very large price. The right of the United States to such sites, where valid, ought to be at once asserted; and every spot necessary to the use of the government should be selected and separated from the general mass of public lands, and reserved from sale, and from the operation of the pre-emption laws, as they shall be extended to that territory.
MINERAL LANDS IN CALIFORNIA. It is understood that a few of the larger grants cover, to some extent, the mines of gold and quicksilver.
By the laws of Spain these mines did not pass by a grant of the land, but remained in the crown, subject to be disposed of according to such ordinances and regulations as might be from time to time adopted. Any indi. vidual might enter upon the lands of another to search for ores of the precious metals ; and having discovered a mine, he might register and thus acquire the right to work it on paying to the owner the damage done to the surface, and to the crown whose property it was, a fifth or tenth, according to the quality of the mine. If the finder neglect to work, or worked it imperfectly, it might be denounced by any other person, whereby he would become entitled.
This right to the mines of precious metals, which by the laws of Spain, remained in the crown, is believed to huve been also retained by Mexico while she was sovereign of the Territory, and to have passed by her transfer to the United States. It is a right of the sovereign in the soil as perfect as if it had been expressly reserved in the body of the grant; and it will rest with Congress to determine whether, in those cases where lands duly granted contain gold, this right shall be asserted or relinquished. If relinquished, it will require an express law to effect the object; and if retained, legislation will be necessary to provide a mode by which it shall be exercised. For it is to be observed that the regulation permitting the acquisition of a right in the mines by registry or by denouncement was simply a mode of exercising by the sovereign the proprietary right which he had in the treasure as it lay in and was connected with the soil. Consequently, whenever that right was transferred by the transfer of the eminent domain, the mode adopted for its exercise ceased to be legal, for the same reason that the Spanish mode of disposing of the public lands in the first instance ceased to be legal after the transfer of the sovereignty.
Thus it appears that the deposites of gold, wherever found in the Territory, are the property of the United States. Those, however, which are known to exist upon the lands of individuals are of small comparative importance, by far
the larger part being upon unclaimed public lands. Still, our information respecting them is yet extremely limited; what we know in general is, that they are of great extent and extraordinary productiveness, even though rudely wrought. The gold is found sometimes in masses, the largest of which brought to the mint, weighed 89 ounces. They are generally equal to the standard of our coin in purity, and their appearance that of metal forced into the fissures and cavities of the rocks, in a state of fusion. Some, however, are flattened, apparently by pressure, and scratched as if by attrition on a rough surface. One small mass which was exhibited had about five parts in weight of gold to one of quartz, intimately blended, and both together bouldered, so as to form a handsome rounded pebble, with a surface of about equal parts quartz and gold. A very large proportion of the gold, however, is obtained in small scales by washing the earth, which is dug up in the beds of the streams, or near their margin. A mass of the crude earth, as taken at random from a placer, was tested by the director of the United States mint at Philadelphia, and found to contain 2611 grains of gold (being, in value, a fraction over $10) to 100 lbs. of earth. It cannot, however, be reasonably supposed that the average alluvial earth in the placers is so highly auriferous.
No existing law puts it in the power of the Executive to regulate these mines, or protect them from intrusion. Hence, in addition to our own citizens, thousands of persons, of all nations and languages, filock in and gather gold, which they carry away to enrich themselves, leaving the lands the less in value by what they have abstracted; and they render for it no remuneration, direct or indirect, to the government or people of the United States. Our laws, so strict in the preservation of public property that they punish our own citizens for cutting timber upon the public lands, ought not to permit stran: gers, who are not, and who never intend to become citizens, to enter at pleasure on these lands, and take from them the gold, which constitutes nearly all their value.
Some legal provision is necessary for the protection and disposition of these mines, and it is a matter worthy of much consideration how they should be disposed of so as best to promote the public interest and encourage individual enterprise. In the division of these lands regard should be had to the convenience of working every part of them containing gold, whether in the alluvion merely or in the fixed rocks. And, that such division may be made in the best manner practicable to promote the general interest and increase the value of the whole, a geological and mineralogical exploration should be connected with the linear surveys which should be made with the the assistance and under the supervision of a skilful engineer of mines.
The mining ordinances of Spain provide a mode of laying out the mines, which applies only to districts where veins of ore occur in the rocks, and where it is to be mined by following the metaliferous dike or stratum in the direction of its dip, and along its line of strike. But the gold which is found in the alluvion in California is continuous over a great extent of country, and it may be wrought upon any lot having surface earth and access to water. This district may be, therefore, divided into small lots, with a narrow front on the margin of the streams, and extending back in the form of a parallelogram. Where gold is found in the rocks in situ, the lots to embrace it should be larger, and laid off according to the Spanish method with regard to dip and strike. But so various are the conditions under which the precious metals may be found by a careful geological exploration, that the mode of laying off the ground cannot be safely anticipated, but must be left to the direction, on the spot, of a skilful engineer, whose services will be indispen. sable.
The division, disposition, and management of these mines will require much detail ; but if placed on a proper footing, they may be made a source of considerable revenue. It is due to the nation at large that this rich deposite of mineral wealth should be made productive, so as to meet, in process of time, the heavy expense incurred in its acquisition. It is also due to those who become the lessees or purchasers of the mines that they should be furnished by the government with such scientific aid and directions as may enable them to conduct their operations not only to the advantage of the treasury, but also with convenience and profit to themselves. This scientific aid cannot be procured by individuals, as our people have little experience in mining, and there is not in the United States a school of mines, or any in which mining is taught as a separate science.
If the United States sell the mineral lands for cash, and transfer at once all title to the gold which they contain, but a very small part of their value will probably be realized. It would be better, in my opinion, to transfer them by sale or lease, reserving a part of the gold collected as rent or seignorage.
After mature reflection, I am satisfied that a mint at some convenient point will be advantageous to the miner, and the best medium for the col. lection and transmission of the gold reserved. Gamboa, a Spanish author of much science and practical observation, and at one time president of the Royal Academy of Mexico, strongly recommended the establishment of a mint in their principal mining district, as a means of collecting and transmiting the rents reserved by the crown, and especially to give a legitimate currency to the miners, that they might not be compelled, from necessity to barter their bullion, in violation of law. The same reasons would apply here with equal force.
When the land is properly divided, it will, in my opinion, be best to dispose of it, whether by lease or sale, so as to create an estate to be held only on condition that the gold collected from the mine shall be delivered into the custody of an officer of the branch mint. Out of the gold so deposited, there should be retained, for rent and assay, or coinage, a fixed per cent., such as