The work that is to be done, other than the planning, should be done by the soldier himself. The dam or the irrigation project should be built by him, the canals, the ditches, the breaking of the land, and the building of the houses, should, under proper direction, be his occupation. He should be allowed to make his own home, cared for while he is doing it, and given an interest in the land for which he can pay through a long period of years, perhaps thirty or forty years. This same policy can be carried out as to the other classes of lands. So that the soldier on his return would have an opportunity to make a home for himself, to build a home with money which we would advance and which he would repay, and for the repayment we would have an abundant security. The farms should not be turned over as the prairies were—unbroken, unfenced, without accommodations for men and animals. There should be prepared homes, all of which can be constructed by the men themselves, and paid for by them, under a system of simple devising by which modern methods of finance will be applied to their needs.
As I have indicated, this is not a mere Utopian vision. It is, with slight variations, a policy which other countries are pursuing successfully. The plan is simple. I will undertake to present to the Congress definite projects for the development of this country through the use of the returned soldier, by which the United States, lending its credit, may increase its resources and its population and the happiness of its people, with a cost to itself of no more than the few hundred thousand dollars that it will take to study this problem through competent men. This work should not be postponed. Cordially and faithfully yours,
FRANKLIN K. LANE
The bill, incorporating this plan, was rejected by a Congress unwilling to accept any solution of any part of the after-war problem, if the plan came from the Wilson Administration.
In 1918, Colonel Mears, who had been Chief Engineer and later Chairman of the Alaskan Commission, in charge of the construction of the Alaskan railroad, went, with many others, to the front, and Lane was obliged to find new men to carry on the Alaskan work.
To Allan Pollok
Washington, July 17, 1918
You certainly can have more time, because I want you, and it is not on my own account altogether, because I feel sure you will delight in the kind of creative job that it is. I found that Scotchmen had made Hawaii, and I would like to see some of that same stuff go into Alaska. You see we have a fine bunch of men there, practical fellows of experience, but not one of them looms large as a business man or as a creator. I would personally like to spend a few years of my life just dreaming dreams about what could be done in that huge territory, and if I only got by with one out of five hundred, I would leave a real dent in the history of the territory.