\lˈandz], \lˈandz], \l_ˈa_n_d_z]\
Definitions of LANDS, PUBLIC
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After the Revolution the Federal Government found great difficulty in regulating the enormous tracts of public lands, which had been acquired through purchase and conquest from the Indians and by the cessions of the various States of their outlying territories. In 1787 the price of public land was 66â…” cents per acre, and large tracts north of the Ohio were disposed of. Unauthorized entries were frequently made, however, and force had to be used for dislodgment. In 1790 Hamilton proposed that the public lands should be set apart in townships ten miles square, and disposed of to suit different classes of purchasers on a credit basis. The rectangular system was in fact adopted in 1796. Up to the year 1800 all sales had been made from the territory now included in Ohio and amounted to 1,484,047 acres. In 1800 local registers were established. The credit basis of sale caused numerous purchases, but payment was slow and in discouragingly small amounts, while the debtors constantly cried for relief. The States, too, claimed a share in the profits. Upon the question of ceding public lands to new States, Henry Clay prepared for the land committee a report reviewing the history of the public lands and concluding that it was inexpedient either to reduce the price of the lands or to cede them to the new States. In 1835 speculation in public lands became popular, owing to the inflated condition of the currency, which proved injurious to the public interests. In 1836 Jackson issued his "specie circular." (See art.) It was not until in 1840 that the right of pre-emption was accorded to settlers. By 1850 it became common to make grants of lands to States, corporations and individuals for public improvements, such as railroads and canals. In 1862 the homestead laws, granting free settlement on public lands, tended greatly to simplify matters and to promote real settlement.
By John Franklin Jameson