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rangements for securing that every colony shall have, from the first, a town population bearing due proportion to its agricultural, and that the cultivators of the soil shall not be so widely scattered as to be deprived by distance of the benefit of that town population as a market for their produce." When land was plenty and free immigrants scarce in New Holland, the government found it convenient to make liberal gifts of territory; and accordingly, tracts varying in size from 10,000 to 50,000 acres were granted to various individuals. I borrow from the North American Review a brief outline of the system.
Mr. Wakefield argued thus: — " The welfare of any community depends very much upon such a division of labor as shall fill every trade, profession, and employment with good men, and not overload any of them. If land in any country is so cheap that all are able to become landholders, there will be no laborers, no farm-hands, or mechanics; a semi-barbarism will follow; no growth in wealth or civilization will take place, and the country will be stationary or retrograde. If, therefore, you would have a colony progressive and civilized, you must put your lands so high as to keep a proper proportion of the inhabitants in the labor-market seeking employment, and yet not so high as to prevent as many from buying real estate as can use it to advantage with the help of such laborers. If, then, England wishes Australia to grow in riches and goodT ness, let her sell the lands at a fixed price, never taking less, and in fixed quantities, never selling less; and let her apply the revenue arising from these sales to the transportation of free, honest laborers to the points where they are needed.. In this way, the labor-market of New Holland will be supplied; the expense of supplying working hands will be paid by the lands of the colony; no more land will be taken up than can be worked to advantage; population will be concentrated, wealth will accumulate, and knowledge and virtue advance."
Mr. Wakefield's theory was good, but a practical difficulty obstructed its application. The government, adopting his views, put their lands up to a high price; and the immigrants> consequently, instead of purchasing them, or of remaining as laborers on the lands purchased by others, pushed farther into the interior, and "squatted" on the best land they could find, without paying anything. In those vast unsettled regions^ they knew very well that they were out of reach of the sheriff. Thus, the very measures adopted for concentrating them, and keeping them within the range of civilization and law, led to their wider dispersion and utter lawlessness.
It is curious that the United States system of disposing of the public lands, adopted in all its essential features as far back as 1800, has worked better than any other plan which has yet been devised. The land is carefully divided by the government surveys into townships six miles square, each of these being subdivided into thirty-six sections, of one square mile, or 640 acres, each. All is held at a minimum price of $ 1.25 an acre; and the sales are made at public auction, as rapidly as the progress of the population seems to require. Lands which will not bring $ 1.25 an acre at the public sale, are still held by the government subject to entry at any future time, at private sale and at the minimum price. Any person can select a quarter, or even an eighth section, —160 or 80 acres, — wherever he can find one surveyed and not yet sold, and, by making a record of his intention to occupy and settle it himself, he can secure what is called the "preemption right" ;— a right which, partly by the force of law and partly by custom, amounts to a privilege of purchasing that land at the minimum price of $> 1.25 an acre, whenever the government shall think proper to sell it, which it will do when the settlement is so far advanced as to render it probable that most of the land in the vicinity will bring that price. Thus the actual settler in truth obtains his land on credit, though all actual sales are for cash. He has credit till the actual sale is ordered; and some years may intervene, during which he may proceed to clear and cultivate his land, and actually obtain enough from it to make up its price, secure that no one will overbid him, and that he cannot be obliged to pay more than $ 1.25 an acre for it, however great may be his improvements. Five per cent is reserved from the proceeds of the sales, to be expended, three fifths for making roads to the newly settled territory, and two fifths for the support of seminaries of learning therein.
I say this system has worked well, the only evil experienced under it being, that speculators will sometimes buy up large tracts not subject to preemption right, at the minimum government price, and hold them for an indefinite period, hoping that, as the population gradually clpse up and concentrate around them, they may again be brought into market at a much advanced price. While thus held, they remain unoccupied, — broad patches of wilderness among the settlements, —obstructing communication between the surrounding lands, and barring out occupation and improvement. But there is a check to this evil in the fact, that such lands are subject to State taxation, though they are tax-free before they are sold by the United States; and the taxes being proportioned to the rise in value of the property, it is not for the interest of the speculators to retain the land a long time.
But the inhabitants of the "Western States make a great mistake when they clamor for a reduction of the minimum price at which the public lands are now held, and even demand that they shall be offered, in limited quantities, as a free gift to actual settlers. Their object, of course, in making these demands, is to stimulate the spirit of emigration to the West, so that the population there may more speedily become dense, and the value of the lands already settled thus be enhanced. The object is a good one; but if there is any force in the considerations now adduced, the means adopted will tend rather to check than promote its attainment. It is surely not for the interest of sparsely settled States, like Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, that the great wave of emigration, though broadened and deepened, should only roll over them, to be arrested at last by the farthest limits of Iowa and Minnesota, or perhaps to pass much farther, and, dashing against the side of the Rocky Mountains, to throw its spray over their summits into Oregon and California. But we may see that any great reduction in the price of the public lands will surely have this effect. The most eligible land in the three States first mentioned has already been taken up by individuals, that portion which yet remains in the hands of government being either less fertile, or more distant from navigable streams and other means of communication, or situated in a less salubrious or convenient region, than the tracts first selected for purchase. They have long been in the market, and have not yet found a buyer. Even now, most of the emigrants pass by them, seeking public lands which are more remote from their former homes, but which, in every other respect, are superior to these longneglected spots, which a former generation of immigrants have avoided. Any general reduction of the government price could not affect this relative eligibility of the nearer and more distant lands. Reduce the price to nothing, — give away the lands altogether, — and the emigrant will still pass on, pushed forward by the emigrant's fond illusion, that the farther from home, the nearer to El Dorado.
Again, what is most needed for an increase of the prosperity of the "West — of that portion of it, at least, which lies on this side of the Mississippi — is, not that the lands yet in the possession of government should become private property, but that the population should be concentrated on the tracts already owned by individuals, though in great part still covered by the primeval forest. To enhance the value of these broad regions, the people must be massed together, towns and cities must be established, manufacturing and commercial industry must be added to agricultural, and the hut of the backwoodsman must give place to the well-furnished abode of civilized and enlightened man. It would be an ill mode of enhancing the value of the farms of individuals, to offer lands in their immediate vicinity at a nominal price, or at no price at all. The passion for owning land, which converts nearly all the new settlers in our Western States into farmers, however ill fitted for such occupation by their previous pursuits, is as injurious to agriculture as to the other great branches of industry. The land is held by those who, from defect of experience or want of capital, are unable to develop its resources, or even to remove the forest from a tithe of their domains. Corn, fuel, and meat are abundant, because prodigal nature affords so many facilities for the production of them, that the skill, enterprise, and knowledge of the cultivator are little needed, and are therefore imperfectly called forth. But man does not live by bread alone; and when this alone is supplied, almost without labor and without stint, he learns to do without many of the requisites even of a low stage of civilization, and allows the wants of his higher nature to remain unsatisfied. The want of a market, and the consequent surplus of agricultural produce, reduce its price so low, that many families find it needless to raise more than is wanted for their own consumption.
Again, the agriculturist has usually but one or two staple articles — perhaps wheat alone, or cotton alone, or hemp alone •—which he can send to a distance and sell to foreigners. These alone are capable of transportation to a distance. But his farm cannot usually be worked to advantage unless he has a market in his immediate neighborhood, at which he can dispose of his green crops, market vegetables, butcher's meat, and other articles, which must be sold on the spot, or not at all. He needs this neighboring market, also, in order that he may purchase conveniently, and at the lowest price, his ploughs, spades, carts, and other farming tools. How is he benefited, then, though we were to grant that he could exchange his wheat for cloth to better advantage by trading with foreigners than with his own countrymen, if he should thereby prevent a manufacturing market town from springing up within a few miles of his farm, and thus altogether lose the sale of many of his products, and be compelled to purchase his tools at a much higher price, or be put to great inconvenience in obtaining them on any terms?
The difficulty is felt, though its true cause is not ascertained; and a general call is made for improving the means of communication, so as to give access to distant markets, when the real want is that of a market near home. This want can be satisfied only by bringing the people together, and turning one half of them from agricultural to manufacturing and mechanic pursuits. The farmer would then find the number of his competitors diminished, the number of buyers of his produce increased, and the articles needed for his domestic comfort cheapened in price; because most of them would be manufactured in his immediate neighborhood, and the expense of transportation from a great distance would be subtracted from their cost. As it is, the State too often bankrupts itself in the gigantic enterprise of creating a system of railroads and canals, so as to gain access to a manufacturing and commercial population on the other side of the Alleghanies, instead of laboring to create such a population within its own territory. Indiana and Illinois, whose united territory measures about ninety thousand square miles, and whose inhabitants, in 1850, numbered nearly 1,840,000, had but one city, Chicago, which contained over twenty-five thousand inhabitants, and but one other, Indianapolis, having over eight thousand. Has it been