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Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval an Act to Authorize Oklahoma City, in Oklahoma Territory, to Issue Bonds to Provide a Right of Way for the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company

January 26, 1891

To the House of Representatives:

I return herewith without my approval the bill (H. R. 12365) entitled "An act to authorize Oklahoma City, in Oklahoma Territory, to issue bonds to provide a right of way for the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company through said city." This bill authorizes the corporation of Oklahoma City to issue corporate bonds to the amount of $40,000 for the purpose of providing the right of way for a railroad company through the city, if the proposition shall receive the assent of a majority of the legal voters at an election to be called for that purpose.

It is attempted to distinguish this case from the ordinary ease of a municipal grant to a railway company by the fact that this railway company had located its line through the lands afterwards settled upon under the town-site law before such settlement, and that the route thus located cuts the plat of the city diagonally and in a way to be very injurious to property interests.

Upon an examination of the facts it appears to me to be clear that no legal location was made by the railway company prior to the acquisition of the lands by the occupying settlers. Some preliminary surveys had been made, but no map of location had been filed with the Secretary of the Interior. If the rights of this company at this point of its road as to right of way are derived from the general statute of the United States upon that subject (U. S. Revised Statutes, Supplement, p. 87), then section 4 distinctly saves the right of any settler who had located prior to the filing of a profile of the road and the approval by the Secretary of the Interior thereof. And if, on the other hand, the rights of the company at the point indicated are derived from the act of Congress of February 18, 1888, "to authorize the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company to construct and operate a railway through the Indian Territory, and for other purposes," section 6 of that act also plainly protects the right of any occupying claimant. The latter statute, it seems to me, was intended to grant a right of way only through Indian lands, and if these lands were not such the general statute to which I have referred would apply; but in either event the conclusion is the same.

It appears from the report of the committee that its favorable action, and, I must assume, the favorable action of Congress, proceeded upon the theory that there was a real controversy, doubtful as to its issue, as to the right of the railroad company to hold the line of its survey through the city.

Stripped, then, of this claim the proposition is nakedly one to authorize Oklahoma City to donate $40,000 to the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company. The general statute of the United States prohibits such grants, and this must stand until repealed as a continuing expression of legislative opinion. If a departure from this rule is to be allowed at all, certainly it should only be where the circumstances are exceptional. Such circumstances, in my opinion, do not exist in this case. Already I have received from other cities in the Territory protests against special legislation of this sort, accompanied by the suggestion that if this policy is admitted other cities shall also be allowed to encourage the building of roads by donation.

Oklahoma City, according to the report of the Census Office, has a Population of about 4,100, and this donation would be equivalent to nearly $10 per capita. Very little real estate, whether town-site or country property, in this Territory is yet subject to assessment for taxation. The people have not yet had time to accumulate, and Congress has received appeals for aid to relieve a prevailing distress which the Territorial authorities have found themselves unable to deal with. It does not seem to me, in view of all these facts, that the wholesome rule prescribed by the general statute should be departed from.


APP Note: Title devised by Gerhard Peters

Benjamin Harrison, Message to the House of Representatives Returning Without Approval an Act to Authorize Oklahoma City, in Oklahoma Territory, to Issue Bonds to Provide a Right of Way for the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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