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Special Message

April 30, 1874

To the House of Representatives:

In pursuance of the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 15th instant, requesting to be informed "what geographical and geological surveys under different Departments and branches of the Government are operating in the same and contiguous areas of territory west of the Mississippi River, and whether it be not practicable to consolidate them under one Department or to define the geographical limits to be embraced by each," I have the honor to transmit herewith the views of the officers of the War and Interior Departments on the subjects named in the said resolution, and invite attention thereto.

Where surveys are made with the view of sectionizing the public lands, preparatory to opening them for settlement or entry, there is no question but such surveys and all work connected therewith should be under the direct control of the Interior Department or the Commissioner of the General Land Office, subject to the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. But where the object is to complete the map of the country; to determine the geographical, astronomical, geodetic, topographic, hydrographic, meteorological, geological, and mineralogical features of the country--in other words, to collect full information of the unexplored or but partially known portions of the country--it seems to me a matter of no importance as to which Department of the Government should have control of the work. The conditions which should control this subject are, in my judgment, first, which Department is prepared to do the work best; second, which can do it the most expeditiously and economically.

As the country to be explored is occupied in great part by uncivilized Indians, all parties engaged in the work at hand must be supplied with escorts from the Army, thus placing a large portion of the expense upon the War Department; and as the Engineer Corps of the Army is composed of scientific gentlemen, educated and practiced for just the kind of work to be done, and as they are under pay whether employed in this work or not, it would seem that the second condition named would be more fully complied with by employing them to do the work. There is but little doubt that they will accomplish it as promptly and as well, and much more economically.


Ulysses S. Grant, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203896

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