The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; ….” This clause is known as the “Property Clause.” The Congress has the right to make decisions about territories and property and to determine the disposition of same.
“As new territories were acquired by the United States, they were divided into appropriate regions and designated `territories.’ The federal government appointed the governor and also the judiciary of each territory, while the territorial legislature was elected by the people. This arrangement continued until the population had grown sufficiently large to justify an independent state, and the people demonstrated that they would provide an acceptable constitutional form of representative government.” (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 637-638.)
According to Thomas W. Merrill at The Heritage Foundation, “The federal government owns or controls about thirty percent of the land in the United States. These holdings include national parks, national forests, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, vast tracts of range and wasteland managed by the Bureau of Land Management, reservations held in trust for Native American tribes, military bases, and ordinary federal buildings and installations. Although federal property can be found in every state, the largest concentrations are in the west, where, for example, the federal government owns over eighty percent of the land within Nevada.
“The primary constitutional authority for the management and control of this vast real-estate empire is the Property Clause. The exact scope of this clause has long been a matter of debate….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 278.)