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Translating PropertyThe Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict over Land in the American West, 1840-1900$
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Maria Montoya

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780520227446

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520227446.001.0001

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From Hacienda To Colony

From Hacienda To Colony

(p.78) 3 From Hacienda To Colony
Translating Property

MaríA E. Montoya

University of California Press

This chapter describes how the new concept of property rested on ideas—myths, actually—about the American West. In particular, it examines the mythic belief that the West was an expanse of unsettled, unsocialized, natural wilderness waiting to be converted to the use of national capital markets. This myth underlayed U.S. territorial policy, the promotional literature of bonds salesman, and the politics of little surveys in the American West. But this concept of land came into direct conflict with the land regimes that had thrived under the patronage of Lucien B. Maxwell: informal and personal relations between the patrón and different sets of clients in which each party owed the patrón an ill-defined, but workable, set of services and payments in return for informally defined rights to use the land. The Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company therefore ignored the reciprocal obligations and property relationships between Maxwell and his clients that had defined Maxwell's tenure on the land grant.

Keywords:   myths, American West, patrón, Railway Company, territorial policy

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