The End of the Old Property Regime

Paul Sabin

in Crude Politics

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2004 | ISBN: 9780520241985
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931145 | DOI:
The End of the Old Property Regime

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The California oil sector started the twentieth century being governed by nineteenth-century land laws that emphasized individual, private ownership of land and mineral resources. The battle over California petroleum lands took place in the courts, in Congress, and in the executive branch. A lot of effort was expanded to regain former railroad land grants, President Woodrow Wilson's attorney general, Thomas Gregory, A. Mitchell Palmer's predecessor, was suing to recover oil lands elsewhere in California's San Joaquin Valley. The course of the litigation illustrates how difficult it was for the federal government to recover public rights once given away. The story also reveals the intimate relationship between courtroom conflict and political struggles occurring outside the courtroom. The federal courts in California set a high bar for the Department of Justice in the Taft land withdrawal cases. Politics structured property rights, which in turn shaped competitive relations among oil producers.

Keywords: California petroleum lands; land laws; federal courts; Congress; executive branch; federal government; property rights; Taft land withdrawal

Chapter.  6247 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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