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Crude PoliticsThe California Oil Market, 1900-1940$
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Paul Sabin and Philip Rousseau

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241985

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241985.001.0001

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The End of the Old Property Regime

The End of the Old Property Regime

Chapter:
(p.14) (p.15) CHAPTER 1 The End of the Old Property Regime
Source:
Crude Politics
Author(s):

Paul Sabin

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520241985.003.0002

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

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