From i800 to 182o little change was made in the method of settling the public domain. Some further reduction was made in the minimum size of lots but most interest centered around the problems of credit. The government, always inclined. to be len ient towards the settlers, passed a number of acts extending the time allowed for payment, but in spite of these relief acts an enormous amount of money was due to the United States. In 182o the credit system was finally abolished.
(3) 182o-1841.—The act of 182o permitted land to be bought in tracts as small as 8o acres and the minimum price was reduced to $1.25 an acre but no credit was allowed. During this period of cash sales the feeling grew that the land should be disposed of to the best advantage of the settler and not mainly for the purpose of deriving revenue. This feeling culminated in the pre emption law of 1841.
(4) 1841-1891.—The pre-emption law legalized the vested in terests of the squatters on the public domain. Hitherto special pre-emption laws had been passed to meet certain situations. Gen eral pre-emption gave the squatter the first opportunity to buy his claim up to a quarter-section, which meant private sales instead of public auctions, and sales at minimum prices or the double mini mum if the land lay beside a railroad. The pre-emption law was not repealed until 1891.
In 1854, after 20 years' discussion, another act, known as the graduation law, was passed, in the interest of the settlers who supported it. To hasten the disposal of public land which re mained unsold after being put on the market because settlers pre ferred squatting on land farther west, the act authorized gradual reduction of the price of such land to 124 cents an acre after being in the market for 3o years. This was in line with the policy of transferring the public domain to individual owners as rapidly as possible. Moreover, it was hoped that the new settlers at tracted by these more liberal provisions would make more valu able the land already taken up. During the eight years this law was in effect 25,696,00o acres of land were sold at $1 per acre or less. However, much of this land passed into the hands of speculators instead of settlers as had been hoped.
(5) 1841-1871.—From 1841 to 1871 is often called the land. grants period in connection with the disposal of the public domain.
Grants were made both before and after this period but not on so extensive a scale. Educational and religious grants were made in colonial times and the early grants of the Federal government for education followed the policy of the colonies. In 1827 canal and wagon road grants were first made.
During the land-grants period large grants were made to the states both for internal improvements and for education. In all approximately 99,000,000 ac. were given to the states for educa tion. The early grants were for common schools but later grants were given for higher education also. Especially large grants were given by the government for agricultural and mechanic arts colleges. Sixty-four million acres of swamp land also were given to the states for drainage, some of it being a subsidy to education. The states made some attempts to lease the school lands at first but found it impracticable, the cost of collecting the rent often exceeding the proceeds. The states then turned to selling the land for the most part although there is still some school land which is leased. The city of Chicago, for example, has very valuable property belonging to the school fund. The states generally have disposed of their land in much the same way as the national government, often competing with the Federal government for settlers and underselling it.
The railroads were other important recipients of land (about 129,000,000 ac.) from the federal government during this period Not only did these gifts include the right of way but also every other section along the right of way, the government retaining in tervening sections. Mineral rights except for coal and iron were retained by the government, the railroad being given the right to select land elsewhere if minerals were found. The railroads were interested in selling their land as rapidly as possible ; in fact, in some instances selling to settlers was stipulated in the grant. However, there are still large amounts of land in the hands of some of the railroads. In general the railroads sold land in small tracts although it is true that there are some large holdings which probably would not be in existence had the land not passed through the hands of the railroads.