PRESIDENT MILLARD FILLMORE - AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED 12/18/1837 - HFSID 41012
Sale Price $1,530.00
The Congressman opposes the preemptive laws that help Western squatters but he "will hear patiently and decide afterwards".
ALS: "Millard Fillmore" as Congressman, 1p, 8x9¼. House of Rep., 1837 December 18. To Philip Viele, Esq. In full: "Yours of the 4th inst has this moment come to hand and I enclose you by this mail a copy of the Rules of our House as desired. It will give a great pleasure to do anything in my power, not inconsistent with my official duty, to aid the hardy settlers of our Western Territory, but without expressing a definite opinion, candor compels me to declare that the inclination of my mind is against these preemptive laws, as having a direct tendency to encourage trespassing upon the public domain, that often results in disgraceful conflicts between the government and its citizens. But I will hear patiently and decide afterwards. Our triumph in N.York is indeed glorious. We are in high Spirits." An orderly settlement of new territories with a continuous source of income for the U.S. Treasury was the principal motive behind the early land policies of the United States government. By law, settlement was restricted to surveyed land but the demand for land was great and pioneers frequently settled in unsurveyed territories. When forcibly removed by federal troops, the settlers would simply return and rebuild their homes. After the lands were surveyed by the government, they were put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder. The settlers, called "squatters", did not have the cash to buy their now improved land. They were easily outbid by land speculators. The squatters pressured Congress for laws that would allow them to gain title to their land without an auction. Congress, increasingly responsive to the demands of the West, granted preemption rights to 16 special groups between 1820 and 1830. Between 1830 and 1840, it gave preemption rights on five occasions to all squatters living on the surveyed lands. Many Easterners generally opposed the preemptive laws because (1) poor families in the labor force would be moving west seeking a new life and (2) Easterners were involved in land speculation with the sale of public land increasing from 4.7 million acres in 1834 to 20 million acres in 1836. On December 28, 1837, just ten days after Fillmore wrote this letter, the bill H.R. 235 was reported out of committee to the floor of the House: "That every actual settler on the public lands who was in possession on or before the first day of December, eighteen hundred and thirty-seven, and cultivated any part thereof in said year, shall be entitled to all the benefits and privileges of an act entitled 'An act to grant pre-emption rights to settlers on the public lands'." President Jackson had signed the Specie Circular of 1836 that forced land speculators to pay for public land in gold or silver. The Circular helped the settlers by diminishing land speculation and forcing many large land companies out of business. Unfortunately, it hurt state banks by preventing them from making payments in specie. As a result, banks began to restrict credit. Businesses failed and unemployment increased, creating the Panic of 1837. One month before this letter, on November 7, 1837, Alderman Aaron Clark was elected New York City's first Whig Mayor, which greatly pleased Whig Congressman Millard Fillmore. Lightly creased. Vertical folds touch the "d" and the beginning of the "F". Overall, fine condition. Framed in the Gallery of History style: 32¼x25¾.
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