The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 30, July 1926 - April, 1927 Page: 35
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The Mineral Land Question in California, 1848-1866 35
loss for knowledge as to how to act. The plans suggested by the
government's agents in California differed greatly. Colonel Mason
recommended either to grant licenses to work small tracts of land,
of about one hundred yards square, at a rent ranging from one
hundred to one thousand dollars per annum; or to sell the lands
in tracts of twenty or forty acres, at public auction, to the
highest bidder.4 On the other hand, Thomas Butler King, in
his report to the President, strongly opposed the policy of sell-
ing the mineral lands. I-Ie believed that capitalists, by means
of paid secret prospectors, would find out the best lands, over-
bid the poor miners, and thus monopolize the best mineral lands.
The inequality in the distribution of wealth would produce dis-
content among the poor miners, and it would be doubtful whether
any law opposed to the interests of the great masses could be
enforced. Even the employment of troops would be ineffectual,
for the soldiers would desert, and anarchy would result. His
plan was to regard the mineral lands as the common treasure
of the American people, and any American citizen, by paying to
the commissioner of mines an ounce of gold, or sixteen dollars,
should be entitled to receive a license to dig anywhere in Cali-
fornia for one year. The money collected from these gold mines
was to be devoted to educational purposes and to the construction
of roads and bridges in the mineral districts; and to the discharge
of the indemnity to Mexico.'
Shortly after Mason's report was received in Washington, Presi-
dent Polk recommended to Congress either to preserve the mineral
lands of the Pacific coast for the use of the United States govern-
ment; or to sell them in small quantities, at a fixed minimum
price which should secure a large return of money to the national
treasury, and at the same time "lead to the development of their
wealth by individual proprietors and purchasers."6 In accordance
with these recommendations, the Senate Committee on Public
Lands reported a bill to divide the mineral lands into lots of
about two acres each, to be offered for sale at public auction, at
a price not less than $1.25 an acre. Senator Benton was opposed
to any plan which aimed to secure revenue from the mineral lands,
4H. Ex. Doe., 17, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., 532-533 (573).
"B. Ex. Doe., 59, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., (577).
ORichardson, Messages, IV, 643.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 30, July 1926 - April, 1927, periodical, 1926; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117142/m1/43/: accessed April 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.