National Geographic : 1897 Feb
THE UTILIZATION OF THE VACANT PUBLIC LANDS 57 mon fund for the use and benefit of all the states and should be disposed of for that purpose and for no other purpose whatever. During the existence of the Confederation and in the earlier dec ades of the Republic, it was clearly contemplated that the lands so acquired, as well as those acquired by purchase and treaties, could only be disposed of for the purpose of revenue for the re demption of the public debt, and that any other disposition of them would be a violation of the trust. But the policy has gradually changed from a system of sales for revenue only to that of free homes for the people. For the past twenty years the tendency of legislation has been to repeal all laws authorizing the purchase of the public lands by cash entry and to subject them to homestead entry only. In 1889 a law was passed withdrawing from private cash entry all the public lands, except in the state of Missouri, which was followed by the act of March 3, 1891, repealing the preemption law and declaring that no public lands of the United States, except aban doned military or other reservations or isolated and disconnected tracts and mineral and other lands of a special nature having local application, shall be sold at public sale. Since the passage of this law isolated tracts are not subject to public sale until they have been subject to homestead entry for three years after the surrounding land has been disposed of and abandoned. Mili tary reservations containing more than 5,000 acres are now sub ject to homestead entry only. The public lands are therefore no longer to be disposed of with a view to the revenue to be derived therefrom. Besides, less than thirty years ago a great part of the vast ter ritory west ot the Mississippi river was Indian country, to which the Indian title had not been extinguished, and was practically unorganized territory. Since then all of what was commonly known as the Indian country has been ceded to the United States and become a part of the public domain. The Indian title has been extinguished as to all the territory formerly occupied as hunting grounds, in consideration of which diminished reserva tions of a permanent character have been established. From time to time states have been admitted into the Union, until the entire country is now divided into separate sovereignties, with all the rights, powers, duties, and privileges of the original states, except the organized territories of Arizona and New Mexico, which are knocking at the door for admission to the sisterhood.