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American State Papers, Public Lands, 10 Vols
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American State Papers, Public Lands, 10 Volumes. United States Congress (Congressional Documents). Hardbound, (1832-1865), 2002, New, Index, 7,728 pp.
The Story of America’s land is the story of the American people; the hunger for land populated American shores and drove the settlers Westward. Land was the American dream: a piece for every man, every family - land each could fertilize with his or her own sweat and pass to their own Sons.
It was the abundance of land - for fanning, for hunting, for mining - that brought the British and the German to the Atlantic Seaboards; the French and Spanish to the Gulf; Canadians, British, French, and Poles to the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes. For land, they challenged the Native Americans wherever they found him. To keep their land, the Indian nations fought back, then bargained, before finally conceding defeat.
American State Papers, Public Lands Series documents the melding of these peoples on the first great frontiers of the new United States: the Old Southwest and the Old Northwest. ASP-PL is, beyond a doubt, the most neglected source - the most important neglected source - of data on ethnic settlement and migration within trans-Appalachian American. It also serves as a vital finding aid to rich stores of public land claim files within the National Archives. In overall importance, ASP-PL stands second to none but the Draper Papers.
Between 1832 and 1861, the United States Congress selected and published a series of 38 volumes, some 35,000 pages, of congressional documents, chosen for their importance to “the legislative and documentary history of the United States.” (ASP-Foreign Relations, Vol. V p. vii.) Those records chosen for inclusion in American State Papers: Documents Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States were grouped into ten classes (Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs, Finance, Commerce & Navigation, Military Affairs, Naval Affairs, Post Office, Public Lands, Claims, and Miscellaneous), with one to eight volumes per group.
ASP-PL represents the largest class of this now rare series, offering 1,570 documents spanning some 7,728 pages, within 8 volumes. The number of Americans discussed is mind-boggling - 80,000 would be a conservative estimate of the men and women included in this rich fund of biographical data. The scope of the material, which ASP-PL makes available to professional and family historians, is of both wide range and momentous import.
As a Sampling:
Thirteen states are directly, and abundantly, treated in ASP-PL: Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana.
At least nine others are less directly treated to an extent worth noting:
Historical studies of the Old Southwest suffer immensely from the under use of grassroots level resources - caused, in part, by haphazard record keeping, by courthouse fires, and by too little awareness of the value of such materials. American State Papers, Public Lands offer viable substitutes for destroyed or nonexistent records and -once they are reprinted - an extremely convenient source of biographical data and local-oriented documents, all available to the scholar without travel.
These volumes, number 28 through 36 in the congressional serial set, contain commissioner reports in which testimony and conclusion merge to weave a picture of lifestyles and personal history. Within these pages, our ancestors dance before us in the never- ending ritual of human behavior. Their petitions and reports give motion to sufferings and struggles, indiscretions and chicanery, acts of courage and commitment. Events and personalities are choreographed into remarkably keen portrayals of character and circumstance. The stories told supply ample evidence of settlement patterns, family relationships, and life events.
Elizabeth House, formerly of Montgomery County~ New York, endured incredible suffering while her husband was in the service of this country. Her 1822 petItion, seeking compensation during widowhood, tells of her capture by Indians in 1777, a forced march through 300 miles of wilderness with a babe in arms, and Elizabeth’s eventual reuse by her husband some four years later. [9:813]
Family relationships may be evident by reading and evaluating multiple claims. Submission by the Deckers of Vincennes, Indiana, links as brothers Moses,jr. Joseph, John, and probably Jacob, Their father, Moses, Sr., in the year 1786 took up a tract of land for the said John, his son, who was then but one year old, and laid the foundation of a cabin on the land. A second claim tells us in the same year another tract was taken ‘for son Moses, Jr., who was then seven years old.’[7:686]
Some cases were decided upon a family relationship. Elbert Herring petitioned the Office of Indian Affairs to add the name of the Choctaw girl, Amelia Trahern, to the register of orphaned children to be provided for by the treaty of 1830. Amelia was missed because she was assumed to be living with her mother, Peggy Trahern. But, as Herring explains, Peggy was Amelia’s stepmother. Amelia is actually the daughter of Wesley Trahern and his former wife. As both are now deceased, Amelia is a true orphan, thus qualifying for a quarter section of land. [7:32]
Entitlement to land depended on circumstances and witnesses, which often led to lmprobity. On 14 Feb. 1807,a now-sober Simon Toiton declares he gave a great number of false depositions the previous December. He attributes his wrongdoing to having ‘drank a quart of liquor before setting out (to give testimony); another quart upon his arrival and before beginning the certificates; and continuing this until midnight nearly.’ To give more authenticity to his February disclosure, Toiton has ‘sworn to the present on the Holy Evangelists.’ [2:137]
Not all appeals were from individuals. In 1836, the general assembly of the State of Indiana sought the passage of a law by Congress to donate one-quarter section of land to Margaret and each of her children. Margaret Nation is described as ‘a very aged women, who is encumbered with a large family of deaf and dumb children, whom she is unable to support, and who are unable, on account of the aforesaid affliction, to support themselves.’ The children are named: William, Christopher, Elias, Jane, Elizabeth, and Anna. [8:451]
Page after page of similar recital may be found within the Public Lands and Claims Series. The uniqueness of this set as a references work is its presentation of history from the inside out. Free from manipulation or interpretation by the minds of scholars, the history found here is the raw data itself.
As only 750 sets of the original Congressional series were printed, access to this valuable data has been restricted. Even with microcopy, these documents have been beyond the reach of many researchers. Now, thanks to our publisher, the reprinting of these critical volumes and of the companion index, P.W. McCullen’s Grassroots of America, makes it possible for even the remotest located of researchers to unravel the threads of the interaction of people, property, and policy.”