of our country is considered it is plain that every obstacle to the free circulation of commerce between the States ought to be sternly guarded against by appropriate legislation within the limits of the Constitution.
The report of the Secretary of the Interior explains the condition of the public lands, the transactions of the Patent Office and the Pension Bureau, the management of our Indian affairs, the progress made in the construction of the Pacific Railroad, and furnishes information in reference to matters of local interest in the District of Columbia. It also presents evidence of the successful operation of the homestead act, under the provisions of which 1,160,533 acres of the public lands were entered during the last fiscal year - more than one-fourth of the whole number of acres sold or otherwise disposed of during that period. It is estimated that the receipts derived from this source are sufficient to cover the expenses incident to the survey and disposal of the lands entered under this act, and that payments in cash to the extent of from 40 or 50 per cent. will be made by settlers, who may thus at any time acquire title before the expiration of the period at which it would otherwise vest. The homestead policy was established only after long and earnest resistance. Experience proves its wisdom. The lands in the hands of industrious settlers, whose labor creates wealth and contributes to the public resources, are worth more to the United States than if they had been reserved as a solitude for future purchasers.
The lamentable events of the last four years and the sacrifices made by the gallant men of our Army and Navy have swelled the records of the Pension Bureau to an unprecedented extent. On the 30th day of June last the total number of pensioners was 85,986, requiring for their annual pay, exclusive of expenses, the sum of $ 8,023,445. The number of applications that have been allowed since that date will require a large increase of this amount for the next fiscal year. The means for the payment of the stipends due under existing laws to our disabled soldiers and sailors, and to the families of such as have perished in the service of the country, will no doubt be cheerfully and promptly granted. A grateful people will not hesitate to sanction any measures having for their object the relief of soldiers mutilated and families made fatherless in the efforts to preserve our national existence.
The report of the Postmaster-General presents an encouraging exhibit of the operations of the Post-Office Department during the year. The revenues of the past year, from the loyal States alone, exceeded the maximum annual receipts from all the States previous to the rebellion in the sum of $ 6,038,091; and the annual average increase of revenue during the last four years, compared with the revenues of the four years immediately preceding the rebellion, was $ 3,533,845. The revenues of the last fiscal year amounted to $ 14,556,158 and the expenditures to $ 13,694,728, leaving a surplus of receipts over expenditures of $ 861,430. Progress has been made in restoring the postal service in the Southern States. The views presented by the Postmaster- General against the policy of granting subsidies to ocean mail steamship lines upon established routes, and in favor of continuing the present system, which limits the compensation or ocean service to the postage earnings, are recommended to the careful consideration of Congress.
It appears from the report of the Secretary of the Navy that while at the commencement of the present year there were in commission