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township for educational uses, which was rejected, fifty-eight voting in the affirmative, and eighty in the negative.
In the acts establishing territorial governments for Oregon, in August, 1848, and for Minnesota, approved March 2, 1849, it was provided that sections numbered sixteen and thirty-six in each township should be reserved for the use of schools.
UNITED STATES LAND GRANTS FOR EDUCATION IN MINNESOTA.
As Minnesota was the first State in the valley of the Mississippi to receive twelve hundred and eighty acres in each township, to be employed in training her children for intelligent suffrage, the only safeguard for the perpetuity of a republican form of government, it is desirable to trace the steps she has taken in husbanding this precious gift from the nation, and the results of her supervision.
When, in 1857, a Convention assembled to form a constitution, preparatory to its admission into the Union, an interesting discussion arose as to the wisest course to be pursued in disposing and guarding the school lands.
The Committee on Education reported a provision that for the next ten years after the ratification of the constitution, the public school lands should “not be disposed of otherwise than by lease.”
The Hon. A. E. Ames said : I deem it proper to state what governed me as Chairman of the Committee having this subject under consideration, in inserting that clause. In my opinion, this gift of the General Government to the future State of Minnesota for the support of public schools is a sacred gift, which should be taken care of and husbanded in the best manner possible. Looking to the past, I saw how many of the western States having similar grants have disposed of them almost immediately after assuming the form of State gorernments, without realizing but a small portion of the amount which they might, with a little care, have realized as a perpetual fund for the support of schools hereafter.
I have said that it is a sacred gift, intrusted to us for our children and our children's children; · if we husband it well, they will rise up
and called us blessed.' If we squander it away, we shall receive only their curses.” Delegates as intelligent and public-spirited as the committee, advocated a different policy and opposed the incorporation of the clause as to leasing lands, into the constitution. Hon. H. H. Sibley, who became the first Governor under the State organization, advocated what he thought would be“ carrying out the great democratic idea of bringing down, as near as
possible, to the people, the disposal of these lands." He desired that " the people who live in a particular township should be able to say for themselves what disposition shall be made of the lands donated to them within their own limits." After considerable time had been passed in considering the report of the committee, a former Territorial Governor, Hon. Willis A. Gorman, moved to strike out the sentence that “the school lands for ten years should not be disposed of otherwise than by lease,” and insert, “ and not more than one-third of said lands
may be sold in two years, one-third in five years, and one-third in ten years,” which amendment was adopted as a compromise.
Article eight of the Constitution of Minnesota is as follows:
Sec. 1. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature to es. tablish a general and uniform system of public schools.
SEC. 2. The proceeds of such lands as are or hereafter may be granted by the United States for the use of schools within each township in this State, shall remain a perpetual school fund to the State, and not more than one-third of said lands may be sold in two years, one-third in five years, and one-third in ten years ; but the lands of the greatest valuation shall be sold first: Provided, That no portion of said lands shall be sold otherwise than at public sale.
The principal of all funds arising from sales or other disposition of lands or other property granted to this State in each township, for educational purposes, shall forever be preserved in violate and undiminished; and the income arising from the lease or sale of said school lands shall be distributed to the different townships throughout the State, in proportion to the number of scholars in each township between the ages of five and twenty-one years, and shall be faithfully applied to the specific objects of the original grants or appropriations.
SEC. 3. The legislature shall make such provisions, by taxation or otherwise, as with the income arising from the school fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools in each township of the State.
Sec. 4. The location of the University of Minnesota, as established by existing laws, is hereby confirmed, and said institution is hereby declared to be the University of the State of Minnesota.
All the rights, immunities, franchises, and endowments heretofore granted or conferred, are hereby perpetuated unto the said university, and all lands which may be granted hereafter by Congress, or other donations for said university pur. poses, shall vest in the institution referred to in this section."
An act of the Legislature, approved March 10, 1860, made the Chancellor of the State University ex officio Superintendent of Public Instruction, but failed to provide a salary for the performance of the duties of either office. Notwithstanding this inconvenience, the Chancellor immediately proceeded to attend to the interests of public schools. In his first report, dated January 14, 1861, under the head of school lands, he says:
During the month of June, 1860, the capital of Wisconsin was visited, and several days passed in interviews with the officers of the State in relation to their land system, its defects, and a better way of conducting the sale of lands. In order that a general idea might be obtained of the present value of our school lands, the foilowing questions were addressed to the Superintendent of Schools in each town.
Is there timber on the school sections ?
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 constitute a 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 iniplication 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 present 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 upon 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 eagerness of the pioneer to realize an immediate income therefrom, for the support 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 revenues 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 só 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. He 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 calculatiou 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 first settler, who has had the choice of the best locations; 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 ?
Nor has this policy, which would impoverish the future for the benefit of the present, any support in the sentiment of paternal solicitude. 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 furd. Such a 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 of 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 generuion? The school lands represent not an actual, but a latent and prospective value, depending 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 think 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 taxable 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. hood 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 that the lands should not be sold till their intrinsic value had become developed by the growth of population around them, public policy demands that they should not be retained to be an obstacle to neighborhood, or withheld from cultivation for speculative purposes, after all the lands around them are taken up.
These 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, would 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 already attained this average. Beyond this, it is doubtful if the increase 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 fifteen years than by the loose method of appraisal, with a minimum of $1 25, the system established in Iowa and Wisconsin, under which their splendid grants have become the prey of speculators. If our State advances the next decade as rapidly in population as Iowa, it is scarcely doubtful that some 300,000 acres of school lands will have attained the average value of $8 per acre, eqnal to $2,400,000 in all. This is, iudeed, greater than the fund derived from the school 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 lands 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 unitorinily 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, under 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-thiru have been sold in twenty years, with a resulting fund of $1,61:3, 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 attempting 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 security 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