Message of Governor O. B. Colquitt to the thirty-second legislature of Texas. Page: 17 of 24
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Of all the laws complained of, heretofore enacted, involving a
general policy of the state, none have done more to retard its development
and growth than our land laws. Under these laws practically
all lands of much value have been disposed of, with the
result that large tracts have been accumulated in the hands of individuals.
Whether this has been done in strict conformity with the law,
as doubtless has been done in very many cases, or whether it has
been the result of collusion, the policy has permitted it, and the result
has been to the state's disadvantage, and has kept back its settlement
and development. Had a wise land policy obtained, in line with
that of the federal government, there would be today, I sincerely
believe, ten millions of people in Texas, whereas the census gives us
less than four million.
The difference in the effect of the two policies is illustrated by
Greer county, Oklahoma, which formerly was under the jurisdiction
of Texas. When the Texas land laws applied there were but few
people in that county, and very little production of wealth from the
cultivation of the soil. As soon as it was transferred to the Federal
jurisdiction the lands of Greer county came into demand for settlement,
were put into cultivation and that county now is one of the most
densely populated counties in our neighboring state, a family residing,
it is said, on nearly every quarter section of land. Just across
Red river to the south, where our land policy is applied and with
really better lands, there are but few people and the land is in large
tracts, and, as a rule, not in cultivation. The population is sparce
and the lands non-producing. But, as the Land Commissioner says
in his last annual report, it is probably a waste of time to now discuss
what the land policy of the state should have been. Out of 145000,000
acres he shows that approximately 45,000,000 acres were set
apart to the public school fund, less than nine per cent of which now
remains unsold, or 3,955,788 acres. According to his statement more
than three million acres of this land is producing no revenue to the
school fund. Most of this land lies in the hills and mountains west
of the Pecos river, and he says is "inaccessible for human residence."
Your careful attention is invited to what the Land Commissioner
says about it in his report.
Especially is your earnest consideration invited to the state of the
present law relating to mineral rights and mineral lands, which is
discussed also by the Land Commissioner in his report. .An enlightened
policy, as shown by the development of the mineral wealth of
other states, is necessary to produce like results in Texas. There is
no doubt but that, with proper amendments to our law, which would
encourage investments in prospecting and dev.elopment, it would
soon be shown that Texas, in the barren section, or portion of it,
mentioned by the Land Commissioner, is as rich in mineral as are
the hills and mountains of the Republic across the Rio Grande to
Under the law, the Commissioner of the General Land Office is
vested with large discretionary powers. In the past, as now, if he
had reason to believe there was fraud or collusion he could refuse
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Colquitt, O. B. Message of Governor O. B. Colquitt to the thirty-second legislature of Texas., book, 1911; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5834/m1/17/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .