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HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. No. 163.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY FOR THE TERRITORY OF
AUGUST 21, 1911.-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of
the Union and ordered to be printed.
Mr. FLOOD of Virginia, from the Committee on the Territories, sub
mitted the following
[To accompany H. R. 13987.]
The Committee on the Territories, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 38) to create a legislative assembly in the Territory of Alaska, to confer legislative power thereon, and for other purposes, having had the same under consideration, reports it back with a substitute and with the recommendation that the substitute do pass.
The committee has held several hearings on this bill, given much careful study to the conditions in Alaska, and, believing that the general interest which is taken in legislation for that Territory demands it, makes this brief statement of the facts which have been shown to us by the hearings:
Alaska was acquired from Russia by the treaty of cession of March 30, 1867, the United States paying therefor the sum of $7,200,000. The laws relating to customs, commerce, and navigation were extended there in 1868, and United States troops were stationed at Sitka for about a decade. No local government of any kind was instituted there until March 17, 1884, when Congress passed an organic act entitled "An act providing a civil government for Alaska.” (23 Stat. L., 24.)
That act provided for a governor, the establishment of a district court of general jurisdiction, and the appointment of a judge and of the court officials. The act provided that the officers should be appointed by the President, as in all of the Territories. From time to time the various United States Statutes have been extended to Alaska, and many special laws passed by Congress applicable to Alaska only.
In 1899 Congress passed a commercial code and in 1900 a civil code for Alaska, both drawn largely from and very similar to the codes of Oregon and the Western States and Territories.
Congress has never created a legislative assembly in Alaska, and has itself acted all these years as the legislature for that Territory.
The third article of the treaty of cession contains a clause quite similar to those found in the treaties of cession by which the l'nited States acquired Florida, the Louisiana Purchase, and the MexicanCalifornia cessions. The Alaska treaty provision is as follows:
The inhabitants of the ceded territory, according to their choice, reserving their natural allegiance, may return to Russia within three years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they, with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be subject to such laws and regulations at the United States may from time to time adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country. (Act 111.)
In his first message to the last Congress President Taft clearly pointed out the inadequacy of the present system of government in Alaska, and recommended that Congress provide for an appointive legislative commission, and in his message to the last session of the Sixty-first Congress he reiterated his former recommendation and added:
It is far better for the development of the Territory that it be committed to a commission, to be appointed by the Executive, with limited legislative powers sufficiently broad to meet the local needs, than to continue the present insufficient government, where there is not proper foundation upon which to rest it.
The last Congress, with both Houses in political accord with the President, refused to accept his view of the character of the legislative body to be provided, and the Senate did not pass (though it was reported and debated) a bill in accord with the President's recommendation.
This committee quite agrees with the President that the present form of government in Alaska is entirely inadequate to enable that Territory to be properly developed and settled by our people, and we have reached a conclusion that an elective Territorial legislature, such as all other Territories in the West have had, is more in harmony with the wishes of the people of the West and of Congress than an appointive legislature would be. In view of this conclusion we deemed it proper to briefly state the facts which we think justified that action.
AREA AND POPULATION OF ALASKA.
Alaska has a land area of 590,884 square miles, with a population of 64,356; the continental United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, has an area of 3,025,600 square miles. While Alaska is thus nearly one-fifth as large as the United States, that alone is not sufficient to justify Congress in refusing to grant its people an elective Territorial legislature. The following tables show the relative sizes of several of the earlier Territories and States and the relative density of their populations when given an elective legislative assembly, and some in the later instances a constitutional form of government:
The area and population of Alaska compared with other Territories.'
Nor is Alaska's population too small when compared with that of several States when they were admitted into the Union, permitted to adopt a constitution and organize a State legislature, and to elect two United States Senators and a Representative in Congress. Compare Alaska's population with that of the following States:
Alaska now has a larger population than 14 Territories had when they were given an elective Territorial legislature and a larger population than 9 States when they were organized and given sovereign constitutional control over legislation within their borders. Notice too, that as early as 1790 and as late as 1890 States in the Union had less population than Alaska now has.
Attention is also called to the great area of the Canadian Provinces in comparison with some of our earlier Territories, Missouri, Oregon, and Dakota, for instance, to show that the area of Alaska is not extraordinary.
The lieutenant governors of the several Provinces are appointed by the Federal Government for a term of five years. The legislatures are elected by the people of each Province.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE POPULATION OF ALASKA.
The following table is taken from the official report of the Bureau of the Census, 1910, and shows how nearly evenly the population is divided between the four judicial districts into which Congress has divided Alaska:
1 The population of Alaska in 1900 was 63,592, and in 1890, 32,052; from 1900 to 1910 the increase was 754, or 1.2 per cent, and from 1890 to 1900 it was 31,540, or 98.4 per cent.
These figures show quite clearly that the population of Alaska has not decreased during the last 10 years, while facts have been presented to the committee which lead us to conclude that one of the reasons why there has been no greater increase is the want of a proper local government.
PERMANENOE AND TRADE. The permanence of population may be shown by trade as well as census enumeration, and the following is from a statement prepared by the customs officers for Alaska and dated February 1, 1910: Comparative statement showing value of merchandise shipped from the United States to
the different divisions of Alaska.
The four acres covered by this trade statement are substantially the same as the four judicial divisions covered in the foregoing census report on population, and the customs statement shows how nearly equally divided and how permanent from year to year the trade with those four divisions is.
The customs reports show the following total trade (not including a large amount of gold carried out without reporting to customs) with Alaska:
This trade also shows permanence of both trade and population.
The steady increase in the output of Alaska's gold and fish will convince anyone that the Territory is steadily developing and not retrogressing. What State or Territory in the United States can make a better showing than this ?