Converting Land from Rural to Urban Uses

Converting Land from Rural to Urban Uses

Converting Land from Rural to Urban Uses

Converting Land from Rural to Urban Uses

Excerpt

Urbanization is perhaps the dominant social, economic, and political movement in the contemporary American scene. Large numbers of people are moving to cities, and within cities to new locations; considerable acreages of land are converted from rural to urban uses; large capital investments have been made; substantial fortunes have been made through land speculation and development, and some have been lost. Fraud and bribery in public zoning and other actions have occurred or are widely believed to have occurred, especially in growing suburban areas. All in all, suburbanization is lively, exciting, and even engrossing -- but not necessarily wholly desirable in all its ramifications. To one familiar with American land history all of this is strangely reminiscent of what took place during the nineteenth century. Not the least of these similarities is a general lack of understanding of the true nature of the processes involved, and a spate of poorly devised public measures to deal with the undesirable aspects of each.

During the nineteenth century westward expansion dominated U.S. politics, economics, and social structure. In 1800, the United States was a small group of thinly settled states along the Atlantic seaboard; the new nation had sovereignty over nearly all the territory westward to the Mississippi (except Florida) but did not really occupy much of it. The Louisiana Purchase, the purchase of Florida, the annexation of Texas, the accession of territory in the Southwest as a result of the war with Mexico, the treaty with Britain that established our claim to the Pacific Northwest, and the purchase of Alaska from Russia were the major steps in expansion of the nation to its present boundaries. The acquired lands were surveyed, property lines established, a system of land records put into operation, and a vast land disposal system inaugurated. More than 6 million patents conveyed more than a billion acres of land from public to private ownership . . .

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