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Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, April 22, 1815, and died there, October 7, 1894. After obtaining an education at Milton Academy he studied law at Dickinson College, was admitted to the bar in 1839, and, beginning to practise in his native county, soon attained prominence in his profession. Engaging in politics as a Whig he was an active worker for Harrison in 1840 and canvassed the State for Henry Clay in 1844. Ten years later he was appointed sscretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and ex-officio superintendent of common schools. While acting in the latter capacity he did much to reform the school system of his State, and his report to the legislature in 1855 led to the establishment of normal schools. In 1860 he was elected governor of Pennsylvania by the Republicans and in his inaugural address he advocated the forcible suppression of secession. When the call for troops was made by the President in April, 1861, Curtin responded instantly, companies of soldiers sent by him reaching Washington April 18; these being the first volunteer troops to reach the national capital. By his direction ifteen thousand extra volunteers were held in readiness at Harrisburg. Their services were shortly after accepted by the government, and Governor Curtin continued this policy throughout the period of the Civil War. After serving as governor a second term he retired for a short time to private life, but from 1868 to 1872 was minister to Russia. After his return to the United States he supported Greeley as presidential candidate, and from that time he allied himself with the Democratic party. In 1881 he entered Congress as Democratic representative and was twice re-elected, retaining his seat until 1887.


[The House having under consideration the bill to repeal section 22 of the act to incorporate the Texas Pacific Railroad Company, approved March 3, 1878, and to declare the forfeiture of the land grant therein made, and for other purposes, Mr. Curtin said, June 26, 1884:]


R. SPEAKER,—No American citizen can be insen

sible to the great benefits conferred on the trade,

commerce, and advancement of all the material interests of this country by railroads. It would have been better for the railroads and those who invest money in them, infinitely better for the people who travel and transporti

goods over them, if they had been confined to the common and statute law as common carriers only. I cannot but believe that the immunities and powers given to our railroad system beyond the rights and powers of common carriers, by water and other means of transportation, would have been infinitely better for them and for the country. But the legislation of this country in the States and by the Congress of the United States in its wisdom has conferred upon railroad companies powers far beyond the purposes for which they may be equally useful to the people and at the same time not oppressive in their exactions.

Mr. Speaker, it was generous, nay it was patriotic, in the States owning vast domains in the West to give to this people lands to which they had a perfect title and which they generously surrendered for the national good. It was an inspiration of American statesmanship that led Jefferson to purchase Louisiana and the vast territories included in the purchase; and in the war with Mexico this great people conquered and gave to the public still more lands. For seventyfive years the lands given to this country were held in sacred trust for the people, to make homes for the homeless and to give lands to the landless.

Fifty-three millions of acres, sir, were given to the States for internal communications, for the advancement of trade and commerce, the settlement of the States, and for the purpose of education. Two hundred millions of acres have been voted to railroad corporations. In 1862 the Congress of the United States passed a law known as the Homestead Law. That, sir, was beneficent and generous legislation. It gave to the overflow of population in the Atlantic States a welcome to a home and a title to land where the American freeman could settle, turn the virgin soil to the light of the

sun, and build upon it a home for himself and his family, and in the fulness of time acquire by his residence a feesimple title.

From 1861 until 1874 these unprecedented and munificent gifts were made to railroad corporations. Since 1874, when the change occurred in the majority of the House, not one acre has been given away, and not one land grant has been revived or extended.

Corporations are almost a necessity, and vast benefits have arisen from such grants and the work accomplished through them, but of immeasurably more value are the lands to the people of this Republic. I repeat, sir, that from 1874 to this time not one acre of land has been given to a corporation and not one grant that has lapsed by reason of the failure on the part of the corporations to comply with its conditions has been revived or extended beyond the time of its limitations.

I must not be understood, sir, to intimate for an instant that this great government should not be held to its contracts, bad as they were in the beginning. “Keep thy covenant proclaimed upon the plains of Mesopotamia so long since in the dark past ” applies to individuals as well as to governments and people, and is a safe rule of conduct for all humanity; and where our government has made a contract let us fulfil it to the letter, but do not let the gift of this great government and people be revived into life by management or artifice.

There runs through this entire bill the clearest evidence of management by individuals to take a million of acres of land which should have been dedicated to the people as their homes when they acquire title under the Homestead Law.

This government can be strong and the Republic maintained in its strength only by the occupancy of land by the

holders of small property. History is philosophy teaching by example; and tell me in all the line of history where a government republican in form has existed where a few people owned the land and the masses were serfs or peons or small tenants. All the roads of the empire lead to Rome is the boast of history. Armies marched from Rome to conquer and pillage foreign countries. They brought to Rome wealth and power, producing centralization, and too much of the immorality they found in Asiatic countries. Such was the centralization in that great republic that at last a few people, rich and powerful, owned all the lands of the country.

A distinguished citizen of Rome returning from foreign service found upon the slopes of the Alps, in Tuscany and Lombardy, where the Roman law should have given the soldiers one fourth of the lands, one fourth reserved to the state to be sold and the money returned to its treasury, one half to be given to the Roman freemen for homes. Tiberius Gracchus found in all the provinces on the slopes of the Alps scarcely one Roman freeman who owned an acre of land. Returning to Rome, as the tribune of the people, he intro duced a law, and in it was generous to the rich patricians.

There were political rings at that time in Rome as there are unfortunately in this country at the present day. The rich and the powerful had their following of henchmen and servitors, and when the law was proposed by Gracchus he made it generous to the patricians, as it provided that they should be paid for the homes by the freemen who had been deprived of them. It was a just, a generous, and a liberal offer. It was just to the patricians; it was equally just to the people; but the rich and the powerful would not accept his generous offer. From the tribune they followed him

through the streets of Rome, clubbed and stoned him to death, and threw his body into the Tiber.

Then, sir, equality and liberty commenced to decay and darkness fell upon the civilized world; learning fled to the cloisters; in their ignorance rulers could not even sign their names to their decrees. There was anarchy and pillage and wrong and oppression throughout the civilized world.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that history teaches by example. We can look back and gather wisdom from the events of the past, but who will claim power to look forward and anticipate what is in the future? That condition of the Roman republic has not failed to interest friends of humanity from that time to this.

At the beginning of the French revolution, when France was entering upon revolution and the people struggling for the right to be relieved from oppression, when the exactions of tyrannical landlords had robbed them of all their just rights, reduced to poverty and frenzied by oppression the French people rose in their majesty, and in their struggle for their just rights convulsed the commerce and trade and civilization of the world for fifteen years. But in the end the domain was taken from the church and state and France was divided into small estates by purchase.

There are 10,000,000 property-owners in France to-day, with a population of 37,000,000. There are less than 4,500,000 in this land of liberty with its population of 55,000,000. At that fearful era in the history of the world, Mirabeau, who was a real friend of humanity, uttered from the tribune in the States-General words of wisdom and eloquence:

“ Thus,” said he,“ perished the last of the Gracchi by the hands of the patricians, who, having received the mortal

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