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central Government the ownership of the power sites with all the improvements thereon, and that these conditions may be promptly enforced and the land and plants forfeited to the general Government by suit of the United States against the State, which is permissible under the Constitution (applause ). And that by such a provision, in terroren, the edict of States and of the legislatures in respect to these lands might be enforced through the general Government. I do not express an opinion upon the controversy thus made or a preference as to the two methods of treating water-power sites. I shall submit the matter to Congress with all the arguments, and urge that one or the other of the two plans be promptly adopted.
At the risk of wearying my audience I have attempted to state as succinctly as may be the questions of Conservation as they apply to the public domain of the Government, the conditions to which they apply, and the proposed solution of them.
In the outset I alluded to the fact that Conservation had been made to include a great deal more than what I have discussed here. Of course, as I have referred only to the public domain of the Federal Government, I have left untouched the wide field of Conservation with respect to which a heavy responsibility rests upon the States and individuals as well. But I think it of the utmost importance that after the public attention has been roused to the necessity of a change in our general policy to prevent waste and a selfish appropriation to private and corporate purposes of what should be controlled for the public benefit, those who urge Conservation shall feel the necessity of making clear how Conservation can be practically carried out (applause), and shall propose specific methods and legal provisions and regulations to remedy actual adverse conditions (applause). I am bound to say that the time has come for a halt in general rhapsodies over Conservation, making the word mean every known good in the world (applause), for, after the public attention has been roused, such appeals are of doubtful utility and do not direct the public to the specific course that the people should take, or have their legislators take, in order to promote the cause of Conservation. The rousing of emotions on a subject like this, which has only dim outlines in the minds of the people affected, after a while ceases to be useful, and the whole movement will, if promoted on these lines, die for want of practical direction and of demonstration to the people that practical reforms are intended. (Applause)
I have referred to the course of the last Administration and of the present one in making withdrawals of Government lands from entry under homestead and other laws, and of Congress in removing all doubt as to the validity of these withdrawals as a great step in the direction of practical Conservation (applause). But this is only one of two necessary steps to effect what should be our purpose. It has produced a status quo and prevented waste and irrevocable
34 Proceedings ScCond Conservation Congress
disposition of the lands until the method for their proper disposition can be formulated, but it is of the utmost importance that such withdrawals should not be regarded as the final step in the course of Conservation, and that the idea should not be allowed to spread that Conservation is the tying up of the natural resources of the Government for indefinite withholding from use, and the remission to remote generations to decide what ought to be done with these means of promoting present general human comfort and progress (great applause). For, if so, it is certain to arouse the greatest opposition to Conservation as a cause, and if it were a correct expression of the purpose of conservationists it ought to arouse such opposition. (Applause)
Real Conservation involves wise, non-wasteful use in the present generation, with every possible means of preservation for succeeding generations; and though the problem to secure this end may be difficult, the burden is on the present generation promptly to solve it and not to run away from it as cowards, lest in the attempt to meet it we may make some mistakes (applause). As I have said elsewhere, the problem is how to save and how to utilize, how to conserve and still develop; for no sane person can contend that it is for the common good that Nature's blessings should be stored only for unborn generations. (Applause)
I beg of you, therefore, in your deliberations and in your informal discussions, when men come forward to suggest evils that the promotion of Conservation is to remedy, that you invite them to point out the specific evils and the specific remedies; that you invite them to come down to details in order that their discussions may flow into channels that shall be useful rather than into periods that shall be eloquent and entertaining without shedding real light on the subject (prolonged applause and cheers). The people should be shown exactly what is needed in order that they may make their representatives in Congress and the State legislatures do their intelligent bidding. (Great and prolonged applause)
President BAKER—The Congress is now adjourned to reassemble at 2 oclock this afternoon.
The Congress was called to order by President Baker at 3 Oclock p.m.
President BAKER—It gives me a great deal of pleasure to announce that Governor W. R. Stubbs, of Kansas, has kindly consented to preside at this session. Ladies and Gentlemen, Governor Stubbs. (Applause)
Governor STUBBs—Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am very grateful for your liberal recognition. And I present to you a man who knows much about the laws pertaining to land in the United States, one better fitted to speak on this subject than any other, Senator Knute Nelson, of Minnesota. I take great pleasure in introducing him. (Applause) Senator NELSON.—Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I could not help thinking this forenoon as I looked at the magnificent audience how every delegate and visitor from abroad must conclude that in one respect Conservation in Minnesota has been a success—Conservation of our prosperous and growing humanity. I am here to speak briefly of our public-land system, past and present, in the hope that we may derive some lessons from the mistakes of the past and have something to guide us in the future. I shall say little of Conservation in general. My aim will be to draw attention to what I deem of importance for the legislative branch of the Government to do in the future, and I shall do so only in general terms, seeking—on account of my position as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Lands—to avoid all matters that will lead to controversy. As those know who have had experience in public affairs, particularly in legislation, all reforms are matters of compromise. Legislation is largely experimental and those who are most progressive and advanced in seeking reforms for the future often find themselves handicapped by those who would make no change; and the result is oftentimes a compromise in which the reformers get only half a loaf. The natural resources of our country should be conserved by the individual, by the State, and by the Federal Government. For each there is an appropriate field. The farmer must conserve the resources of his farm ; the State the resources of its lands, its forests and its waters; and the Federal Government the resources of its mines, its forests, and its lands with all their appurtenances. When the several forces act in harmony, beneficial results of a far-reaching and permanent value will be attained for the preservation and utilization of our resources. Practical and beneficial Conservation of natural resources on the part of the Federal Government and the State should include and provide for due and efficient utilization of the same for the benefit of the masses of the people. The mere conservation and retention of ownership, the mere securing of a larger price for the resource, may prove burdensome rather than a benefit to the public. The ultimate question is not so much how to hold and conserve as how to properly utilize our resources. The mere holding, or the mere securing of a higher price seems to me to be entirely futile (applause). The aim should not be so much to secure a higher price for the Government as to secure lower price for the consumer and to prevent monopoly (applause). Hence, in the disposal of a resource, care should be taken to prevent combination and monopoly in restraint of trade in respect to the same ; and the right, as in the case of railway rates, to regulate the price to the consumer should be retained ; in other words, care should be taken and provision should be made that the consumer can obtain the product of the resource at a fair and reasonable rate. To merely conserve and hold at a high price retards development and enables those who have already secured a large share of a resource to monopolize the market and to secure an exorbitant price for the product of the resource. (Applause ) The ultimate object of the conservation of a resource should be to utilize it for the best advantage of the consumer. True Conservation means beneficial use—means utilization.
The close of the Revolutionary War found our country with an empty treasury and a large public debt, but possessed of a large quantity of valuable public lands northwest of the Ohio river and elsewhere, ceded by Great Britain, supplemented by a cession from Virginia and some of the older States, from which were afterward carved great States, though the public domain was at that time regarded chiefly as an asset from which the Government could obtain revenues for its wants and needs. The first general land law of a public nature for the disposal of our public lands was passed in 1790. This law, after prescribing a system of surveying the public lands, substantially the same as has been since adhered to, provided for the sale of the lands at public auction to the highest bidder, partly for cash and partly on credit. By the Act of 1800 the minimum price was fixed at $2 an acre, and land not sold at public auction could be bought at private sale at that price. The Act of 1820 abolished sales on credit and fixed the minimum price at $1.25 per acre, at which rate it has since remained. Lands offered at public sale became known as “offered land,” and if not sold at public sale could be obtained at private sale or entry at the minimum price. . The result of this system was that, owing to the great scarcity of money in the country at that time among the masses of the people, large blocks of land were purchased by speculators and held by them indefinitely for an excessive profit, and the masses of the people—the settlers, the real home-builders—had to purchase the land from these speculators instead of securing it from the Government. The Government got but scant return for its valuable public land. The chief profit was made by the middlemen, those speculators who bought it up in large blocks; they reaped a rich harvest. But in the midst of this system the settlers pressed on to the frontier. They were without money, but they settled on the public lands, squatted there without authority of law; and finally the Government, to help these settlers, to relieve them and give them a little breathing time, in 1841 passed what was known as the general Preemption Law. Under this law the head of a family, a widow, or a single person over twentyone years of age who was a citizen or had declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, could secure 160 acres of public land by settling upon, improving and cultivating it, and by paying for and entering the same within from one to three years after settlement, the time of payment in each case depending on whether the land was offered, unoffered, or unsurveyed. This law (the Preemption Act of 1841) was clearly intended to help the pioneers and the settlers, and it proved of great advantage to them; but owing to the lax procedure that prevailed (under which a man could go on a preemption claim, make a few limited and pro forma improvements, and at the end of six months appear in the land office and prove tip and have his final entry made and ultimately get a patent), the Preemption Law itself became a great instrument in the hands of speculators and land grabbers, and in consequence Congress concluded to repeal the law. The law allowing lands to be secured at private entry was repealed in 1889; the law allowing public sales was repealed in 1891, and the Preemption Law was also repealed the same year. These laws were repealed none too soon, because by that time they had got to be the instruments by which those who were seeking valuable coal lands, timber lands, and other lands would hire a lot of people to go and make preemption claims, and then, as soon as they obtained title, secure the title, whereby thousands and thousands of acres of the most valuable timber and mineral lands, coal lands, and other lands passed into the hands of speculators for little more than a dollar and a quarter an acre, and sometimes even less, for there were various kinds of scrip issued—agricultural college scrip and other scrip to which I will call attention later —put on the market and sold. That scrip would be used instead of money in paying for and entering land; and through it much valuable land passed into the hands of speculators at a cost of even less than one dollar an acre. You who have lived here have all observed that the low price at which the lumbermen secured timber in those early days under the Preemption Law, by cash entry, and under agricultural and other scrip, did not help much to get cheaper lumber. The result was to enable owners of large bodies of pine land to hold them indefinitely for the purpose of securing a higher price for their stumpage.