« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
To what extent?
The answers returned, show that the school lands are among the most valuable in the State, and legislation in relation thereto cannot be too careful and deliberate. The constitution imposes a healthful check upon those, who for purposes of private speculation, would hurry a sale of the entire school lands.
Governor Ramsey seconded the friends of education, in preserving the school lands from hasty sale. In his message to the Legislature of 1861, he says:
The Constitution provides that the proceeds of the school lands shall constituto & perpetual school fund for the State, and that the principal arising from the sales of such lands shall forever be preserved inviolate and undiminished.
It is the necessary logical inıplication of the constitutional provision, that the school lands should be administered with a view to the permanent interests of the school fund. It is only by adhering to this as a fundamental principle of legislation, by regarding the school lands not as a temporary source of relief from pre#ut burdens, but as a provision for the permanent interests of education, that we can rightly discharge the sacred obligations to posterity which this trust imposes apon us, or fitly respond to the elevated and paternal policy of the general government.
There has always been a disposition in the new States to hurry the school lands prematurely into market, partly originating in the desire of interested parties to obtain possession of these lands at low prices, and partly from the impatient eager. Less of the pioneer to realize an immediate income therefrom, for the support of schools. There are, indeed, some plausible reasons why the pioneer should ask that the school lands should be used for his benefit. His are all the struggles and privations incident to the early colonization of the wilderness. By the sweat of his brow are laid the foundations of that wealth which is to yield the future revepues of the State. The expense and difficulty of maintaining schools in our present sparse and poor settlements, it is speciously alleged, renders local taxation more burdensome and legislative aid more welcome now than at any subsequent period.
It would, perhaps, be difficult to prove that the hardships and poverty of the first settlers in a new State are of such a peculiar character as to constitute a special claim to enjoy the benefit of the school grant to the prejudice of posterity, And it will not be overlooked, as against a pretension so greedy in its motive and 80 subversive in its consequences of the welfare of the State, that if the first settler endures some privations, he also enjoys great advantages which are denied to his successors. If he turns the first furrow, he also reaps the richest harvest. Ho does not accept the rugged lot of the pioneer as a personal sacrifice for the good of the State from which he therefore claims a special bounty, but from a shrewd calculation of its prospective benefits to himself. The rapid rise in the value of lands which attends the first stages of the growth of new settlements, turns principally to the advantage of the tirst settler, who has had the choice of the best lo. cations; and that which he is so apt to claim as the tardy fruit of his own toil, more often results, without his agency, from the increase of population and capital around him. With what justice then can the incoming thousands of men who shall complete the social superstructure about him, and swell the sources of his prosperity, be deprived of the benefits of the enhanced value which they will give the school lands i
Nor bas this policy, which would impoverish the future for the benefit of the present, any support in the sentiment of paternal solicitnde. Our childron we
may be sure would be anything but grateful for the benefits of an education procured at the selfish sacrifice of the noble heritage of which Providence has made us the trustees for their benefit, and the benefit of all those that come after them, and will scarcely build monuments to the memory of those men who, to enjoy an immunity from temporary taxation, entailed a treble burden on the education of their posterity for all time to come.
I am, however, very far from urging that the school lands shall only be disposed of with a view solely to realizing therefrom the largest ultimate fund. Such à principle would imply an indefinite postponement of the sale of the lands to the prejudice not only of education, but of all collateral public interests. It is to the general and permanent utility or the fund, and not its mere accumulation as a pecuniary investment, that you are to look, and it is for you to judge how far the public interests may be best subserved in the long run by encroaching on the school reserves for the means of education in the infancy of the State.
The constitution places no check upon legislative action in this matter, except in the provision that no more than one-third of the school lands shall be sold in two years, one-third in five years, and one-third in ten years; and that the most valuable shall be sold first, an obviously insufficient safeguard against improvident legislation.
Looking, then, at the ultimate fund to be derived from the school lands as a permanent resource of education for all time to come, it is for you to decide what this magnificent endowment is to be worth as an instrument of social development to the unborn millions of the future. The estimate now placed upon it will be the witness to posterity of the loftiness or the meanness of the views which actuate us. This estimate will be expressed first of all in the minimum price which you shall affix to the lands.
The question of a minimum, you will perceive, is in fact the cardinal point to be established.
There is one general principle in the adjustment of a minimum which, I doubt not, will meet with general concurrence. It should not be so high as to exclude the present generation from the benefits of the resulting revenue, nor so low as to impoverish the permanent fund. How, then, shall the permanent interests of the school fund be reconciled with the just claims of the present generation? The school lands represent not an actual, but a latent and prospective value, depend. ing upon the general growth of the State for its development. Lands that might be sold this year for half a million dollars, would probably be sold in ten years for three millions. The former sum at seven per cent. interest, would yield an annual revenue of $35,000, the latter, of $210,000. Will the benefits that will accrue to education during the interval between the lower and higher valuation compensate you and your children for a sacrifice of five-sixths of the prospective value of the lands? I tbink not. And surely, looking solely to the interests of the present generation of children, and regarding the period of fifteen years over which our laws assume that the education of youth extends, it would not be a wise economy to provide for the first five years at such an expense to the last ten.
But as the fixing of the minimum attainable in the present generation implies some sacrifice of prospective values, where shall the line be drawn? Such a line must, of course, be arbitrary, but I think we are not entirely without data for approximation to a standard which will reconcile the interests of the present and future on the common ground of the public weal.
It is proper to observe that the value of the school lands bears a distinct relation to the density of population. Lands rapidly rise in value under the pressure of immigration, from the first settlement up to the point of their general occupation, and up to this point the school reserves ought not to be sold. But after the lands become mostly occupied in a given township, experience warrants the assumption that the included reserves have reached a standard of value beyond which the yearly increase will commonly be slow; and it may then become a matter of public policy that they should be settled upon and improved, and enter into the taxablo basis of the State, and thus contribute in another form more to the immediate revenue of the schools and other collateral public interests than if retained for an advanced price. It is also worth considering that the compactness of neighbor.
boed which would give a fair value to the school lands, is essential to an efficient and economical expenditure of the school revenues.
While, therefore, the permanent interest of the school fund, and its useful ex penditure, seem to require tbat the lands should not be sold till their intrinsic Falue had become developed by the growth of population around them, public policy demands that they should not be retained to be an obstacle to neighborbood, or withheld from cultivation for speculative purposes, after all the lands around them are taken up.
Toese principles, it seems, should regulate the establishment of a minimum price for the school lands.
A density of between 25 or 30 persons to the square mile in any given township, Foull probably imply an average valuation of the included school lands of about eight dollars an acre. In our more thickly settled counties, some of the reserved sections have aiready attained this average. Beyond this, it is doubtful if the jacrease in value would compensate for the public loss occasioned by their exclusion from settlement.
It is possible, too, that by adopting, at least for the highest grade of lands, a minimum of $8 per acre-the old standard in Michigan-a larger fund would be realized in ten or fitteen years than by the loose method of appraisal, with a miniman of $1 25, the system established in Iowa and Wisconsin, under wbich iter splendid grants have become the prey of speculators. If our State advances tbt next decade as rapidly in population as Iowa, it is scarcely doubtful that some 30) #0 acres of school lands will have attained the average value of $5 per acre, equal to $2,400,000 in all. This is, indeed, greater than the fund derived from the sbool lands in a similar period in Iowa or Wisconsin, where the lands have been sold at very low rates. But two things should be borne in mind in relation to the results of sales in those States: First, that we have twice the amount of these Isnus in proportion to our area, and three or four times the aggregate amourt; second, that under the appraisal method of those States the interests of the fund have been unitormily sacrificed to the interests of local combinations. While, therefore, they bave managed to get rid of a large amount of lands in a short space of time-- which has seemed to be the main object-they have realized only a small proportion of their true value to the State. The minimum of $1 25, which the legislatures of those States adopted, shows at how low a rate they prized the national boon.
The results of their short-sighted policy ought to be a sufficient warning against the errors of their example. Considerably more than half of the school lands have been sold in these States within the last ten years, and the fund realized in each case has been less than two million dollars. It would be mere repetition to say that, uzder a proper system, nearly the same results might have been obtained from a third of the land sold. In Michigan-where a minimum of $8 originally obtained, afterwards reduced to $5—out of only a million acres of school lands, one-third have been sold in twenty years, with a resulting fund of $1,613,434. It is worthy of remark, that over $100,000 of this was produced by the sales of the first five years, at an average of $7 per acre.
You will not understand me as aitempting to fix a precise valuation for the school lands, but as simply indicating the principles upon which, in my view, the minimum should be adjusted. But while adhering to a high valuation, it will be desirable to facilitate sales by the most liberal conditions consistent with the ecurity of the principal and the prompt payment of the interest. A quarter of the purchase money paid down, with interest on the remainder at seven per cent. for thirty or more years, would probably be considered a better bargain to the purchaser than a much lower price, accompanied with those higher rates of interest and restricted time usual in private conveyances.
In accordance with the suggestions of the Governor, a State Land Office was established, the minimum price of school lands was fixed at five dollars per acre, and sales were required to be in the counties where the lands were situated. The present terms of payment on school lands are, " for pine timber lands the whole amount; for other timber lands, which are chiefly valuable for the timber thereon, seventy-five per cent., to be paid at the time of sale, and all other lands fifteen per cent., to be paid at the time of sale, and the balance of the purchase-money at any time thereafter, from time to time, within twenty years, at the option of the purchaser, with interest annually in advance, at the rate of seven per cent. per annum on the unpaid balance, payable on the first day of June, or within six days thereafter, in each and every year.” The purchase-money received "may be invested in Minnesota bonds (railroad bonds always excepted) or in United States bonds bearing not less than six per cent. interest."
The first sales of school lands occurred in the autumn of 1862, at a most unpropitious period, many able-bodied citizens having volunteered as soldiers in defence of the nation's honor, and hundreds having abandoned their farms in the frontier counties to escape the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the savage Sioux, while those who expected to settle in the State halted in regions supposed to be more secure. The results of the sales in the face of all these discouragements surprised the most sanguine, and created a fresh interest in popular education. More than thirty-eight thousand acres were disposed of, at a little more than 6f dollars per acre, as will be seen by examining the following
Statement of annual sales of school lands.
Acres of school land unsold June 1, 1867, 2,775,898.
The total permanent school fund of the State, arising from the land grant, on November 30, 1866, was $1,333,161 60.
The current school fund distributed in 1866 amounted to $78,519 60, and the number of persons between five and twenty-one, 87,244, making an apportionment of ninety cents for each person.
The interest on school fund for the year 1867, acco ng to estimate of the Hon. Mark H. Dunnell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, will amount to $117,435.
LAND GRANT FOR TERRITORIAL UNIVERSITY.
In February, 1851, the Territorial legislature memorialized for a grant of lands for a Territorial University. On the 19th of February of the same year it was enacted by Congress, says a report of the Regents
"That the Secretary of the Interior be, and he hereby is, authorized and direeted to set apart and reserve from sale out of the public lands within the Territory of Minnesota, to which the Indian title has been or may be extinguished, and Dot otherwise appropriated, a quantity of land not exceeding two entire townships, for the use and support of a University in said Territory, and for no other use and purpose whatever, to be located in legal subdivisions not less than one entire section."
Shortly after this congressional enactment the Regents of the Territorial University organized, obtained a site, erected a building thereon, and commenced in. struction therein-the first instance on record of a Territorial University going into operation at so early a period in the history of a Territory.
The Regents also, with the approbation of the Secretary of the Interior, proCeeded to select a large portion of the lands granted for the Territorial institution. Subsequently they erected a costly edifice and mortgaged it, by virtue of a power granted by the Territorial Legislature of 1856, for $15,000, to secure the payment of certain bonds, and by another act passed in 1858, on the eighth day of March, before the admission of Minnesota into the Union, mortgaged lands that had been selected by the Regents, to secure the payment of a further sum of $40,000 borrowed by the Regents for the Territorial institution.
The whole number of acres obtained by act of 1851 is 46,080, of which there has been sold 10,750 for the sum of $52,412. Acres unsold of the Territorial grant are 35,530.
STATE UNIVERSITY LAND GRANT.
Governor Marshall, in his last message to the Legislature, alludes to a claim of the State for a land grant for a State University not yet perfected. This claim was first made by the Regents to the Governor, April 5, 1860, in this language :
Heretofore Congress has made grants to Territories not having organized any Universities, and the lands being free from all prospective incumbrances, the Enabling Acts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa have used the following similar phraseology:
"Seventy-two sections of land set apart and reserved for the use and support of a university, by an act of Congress approved on
day of bereby granted and conveyed to the State, to be appropriated solely to the use and support of such university in such manner as the legislature may prescribe.”
The condition of Minnesota being different, so far as a territorial university was concerned, we expect and find different language in the enabling act. There is no reference, as in acts alluded to, to previous reserves, but it is prospective. It says, if certain provisions are accepted :
“That seventy-two sections of land shall be set apart and reserved for the use and support of a State University to be selected by the governor of said State, subject to the approval of the Commissioner of the General Land Office.”
Although a territorial university had been in existence for years, and the regents had selected lands, there is no reference thereto, but the language prescribes selections for a future State university.