Public Domain (land) - History


During the American Revolutionary War, Congress spent all of its money and was in debt. It promised soldiers land instead of money salaries. After the revolution, the new federal government owned all the land except the land in the 13 original colonies. The land owned by the government was called The Public Domain. The Land Act of 1785 gave land warrants to the soldiers to fulfill the promise. The Act also allowed the Treasury Department to sell land in auctions to the highest bidders. A new surveying system was created. The first auction was held in D.C., but the land sold was in Ohio. Soldiers could not afford to travel to Ohio to see the land, and then back to D.C. for the auction. Soldiers sold their warrants, often too cheaply. The government sold 640 acres at a time, minimum. Small farmers could not afford the prices. Speculators bought the warrants, purchased land, and sold the land in smaller lots to small farmers, at a huge profit.

Later, the government lowered the minimum acres, and sold land on credit, and offered some free land. The government made more money this way by copying the speculators' method. The government gained other land in time. States were then carved out of the public domain. The government has sold or given away over one billion acres of land. 5 million land patents were granted. The Bureau of Land Management grew from of the older General Land Office and now controls public domain land.

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