Andrew Johnson

Veto Message

July 28, 1866

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith return, without my approval, the bill entitled "An act erecting the Territory of Montana into a surveying district, and for other purposes."

The bill contains four sections, the first of which erects the Territory into a surveying district and authorizes the appointment of a surveyor-general; the second constitutes the Territory a land district; the third authorizes the appointment of a register and receiver for said district; and the fourth requires the surveyor-general to--

select and survey eighteen alternate odd sections of nonmineral timber lands within said district for the New York and Montana Iron Mining and Manufacturing Company, incorporated under the laws of the State of New York, which lands the said company shall have immediate possession of on the payment of $1.25 per acre, and shall have a patent for the same whenever, within two years after their selection, they shall have furnished evidence satisfactory. to the Secretary of the Interior that they have erected and have in operation on the said lands iron works with a capacity for manufacturing 1,500 tons of iron per annum: Provided , That the said lands shall revert to the United States in case the above-mentioned iron works be not erected within the specified time: And provided , That until the title to the said lands shall have been perfected the timber shall not be cut off from more than one section of the said lands.

To confer the special privileges specified in this fourth section appears to be the chief object of the bill, the provisions of which are subject to some of the most important objections that induced me to return to the Senate with my disapproval the bill entitled "An act to enable the New York and Montana Iron Mining and Manufacturing Company to purchase a certain amount of the public lands not now in market." That bill authorized the same corporation to select and survey in the Territory of Montana, in square form, twenty-one sections of land, three of which might contain coal and iron ore, for which the minimum rate of $1.25 per acre was to be paid. The present bill omits these sections of mineral lands, and directs the surveyor-general to select and survey the timber lands; but it contains the objectionable feature of granting to a private mining and manufacturing corporation exclusive rights and privileges in the public domain which are by law denied to individuals. The first choice of timber land in the Territory is bestowed upon a corporation foreign to the Territory and over which Congress has no control. The surveyor-general of the district, a public officer who should have no connection with any purchase of public land, is made the agent of the corporation to select the land, the selections to be made in the absence of all competition; and over 11.000 acres are bestowed at the lowest price of public lands. It is by no means certain that the substitution of alternate sections for the compact body of lands contemplated by the other bill is any less injurious to the public interest, for alternate sections stripped of timber are not likely to enhance the value of those reserved by the Government. Be this as it may, this bill bestows a large monopoly of public lands without adequate consideration; confers a right and privilege in quantity equivalent to seventy-two preemption rights; introduces a dangerous system of privileges to private trading corporations; and is an unjust discrimination in favor of traders and speculators against individual settlers and pioneers who are seeking homes and improving our Western Territories. Such a departure from the long-established, wise, and just policy which has heretofore governed the disposition of the public funds (lands) can not receive my sanction. The objections enumerated apply to the fourth section of the bill. The first, second, and third sections, providing for the appointment of a surveyor-general, register, and receiver, are unobjectionable if any necessity requires the creation of these offices and the additional expenses of a new surveying land district. But they appear in this instance to be only needed as a part of the machinery to enable the "New York and Montana Iron Mining and Manufacturing Company" to secure these privileges; for I am informed by the proper Department, in a communication hereto annexed, that there is no public necessity for a surveyor-general, register, or receiver in Montana Territory, since it forms part of an existing surveying and land district, wherein the public business is, under present laws, transacted with adequate facility, so that the provisions of the first, second, and third sections would occasion needless expense to the General Government.


Andrew Johnson, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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