The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 30, July 1926 - April, 1927

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

THE MINERAL LAND QUESTION IN CALIFORNIA,
1848-1866
JOSEPH ELLISON
I. Plans for the Control and Disposition of the California Mines
Mineral Land Policy Prior lo 1848. Previous to the discovery
of gold in California the United States government had experience
with mining regulations of lands containing only the base metals.
The early policy of the government was to reserve the mineral
lands, subject to lease by miners. For a few years the miners
paid the rent with some regularity, but after 1834 the expense of
collecting the rent exceeded the amount collected. HIence in his
message to Congress of December 2, 1845, President Polk recom-
mended to abolish the leasing system, and to offer the mineral
lands for sale. I-Ie pointed out that the leasing system had not
only proved a burden upon the national treasury, but had led
to a wasteful manner of working the mines, and had given rise
to much "friction between the United States and individual citi-
zens."' By the acts of Congress of July 11, 1846, March 1, 3, 1847,
the mineral lands for lead, copper, and other base metals were put
on the market for sale.2
Attempts to Legislate for the California Mines. When gold
was discovered in California3 the government found itself at a
Acknowledgment is due Professor Herbert E. Bolton for advice and
suggestions.
'Richardson, Messages, IV, 410, 454, 504. According to the official
records the rent received for the years 1841, 1842, 1843 and 1844 amounted
to $6354.74, while the expenses of the system during this period amounted
to $26,111.11.
"United States Statutes at Large, IX, 37, 146-147, 179.
'Marshall's discovery of gold in Sacramento valley was on January 24,
1848. But long before 1848 gold had been found in California near the
Colorado River, near present San Diego County, around Los Angeles, and
Monterey. The mineralogist, James D. Dana, of the Wilkes expedition
in 1841, mentioned in his book on mineralogy that gold had been found in
Sacramento valley. In his letter to Secretary Buchanan, Thomas O.
Larkin wrote on May 4, 1846, that there was no doubt that gold, silver,
and other minerals would be found in California. Report of Browone upon
the Mineral Resources of the States and Territories West of the Rocky
Mountains, November 24, 1866, in II. Ew. Doe. 29, 39 Cong., 2 Sess., 13-
14 (1289).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 30, July 1926 - April, 1927. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117142/. Accessed July 30, 2014.