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Opinion of the Court.

and that said grant be confirmed to them; and, as in duty bound will ever pray," etc.

The surveyor general made report of the claim, stating

“The grant made to Juan de Dios Maese and others is not contested on the ground of any want of formality in the proceedings, but as far as the documentary evidence shows is made in strict conformity with the laws and usages of the country at the time.

Testimony is introduced to show that the heirs of Baca protested in 1837 against the occupancy of the land by the claimants under the latter grant, and that they went upon the land knowing the existence of a prior grant, but as these matters are not deemed to be pertinent to the case so far as this office is concerned, it is not necessary to comment upon them.

“It is firmly believed that the land embraced in either of the two grants is lawfully separated from the public domain and entirely beyond the disposal of the general government, and that in the absence of the one the other would be a good and valid grant; but as this office has no power to decide between conflicting parties, they are referred to the proper tribunals of the country for the adjudication of their respective claims, and the case is hereby respectfully referred to Congress through the proper channel for its action in the premises."

The claims and thirty-two others which the surveyor general had investigated were submitted to Congress with his report thereon. The claims were designated by numerals from one to thirty-eight, number twenty being the “town of Las Vegas and Thomas Baca et al.” H. Ex. Doc. 14, pp. 42, 45.

The claims were confirmed by the act of June 21, 1860. 12 Stat. 71-2. Section 6 of the act is as follows:

"And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the heirs of Luis Maria Baca, who make claim to the said tract of land as is claimed by the town of Las Vegas, to select instead of the land claimed by them, an equal quantity of vacant land, not mineral, in the Territory of New Mexico, to be located by them in square bodies, not exceeding five in number. And it shall be the duty of the surveyor general of New Mexico to make survey and location of the lands so selected by said heirs

Opinion of the Court.

of Baca when thereunto required by them: Provided, however, That the right hereby granted to said heirs of Baca shall continue in force during three years from the passage of this act, and no longer.” Approved, June 21, 1860. 12 Stat. 71-2.

Notice of the confirmation was sent by the Land Office to the surveyor general of New Mexico, and his attention was particularly directed to the sixth section of the act of Congress as follows:

“In this connection I have to draw your special attention to the sixth section of said act of June 21, 1860.

This law gives the land to the Vegas town claim, and allows the Baca heirs to take an equal quantity of vacant land, not mineral, in New Mexico, to be located by them in square bodies not exceeding five in number. To give this law timely effect you will give priority, in surveying private land claims, to this claim, particularly as it is in the vicinity-about four miles from the outside of the public surveys. You will proceed to have the exteriors of the Las Vegas town claim properly run and connected with the line of the public surveys. The exact area of the Las Vegas town tract having been thus ascertained, the right will accrue to the Baca claimant to locate a quantity equal to the area of the town tract elsewhere in New Mexico as vacant land, not mineral, in square bodies not exceeding five in number.”

The grant was surveyed and a plat was made showing its area to be 496,446.96 acres. A certificate was issued to the Baca heirs for a like quantity of land, which entitled them to locate, and they did afterwards locate that quantity, and the location was sustained by this court. Shaw v. Kellogg, 170 U. S. 317.

On May 4, 1861, the surveyor general reported his action to the General Land Office, and transmitted the survey, field notes and plat. The papers were received and filed in the Land Office and the grant was treated as confirmed for 496,446.96 acres. In the reports of the General Land Office, subsequently made, the tract was named “ town of Las Vegas," and the claimants the inhabitants of the town."

On March 3, 1869, Congress passed an act which provided for the issue of patents for private land claims in New Mexico

Opinion of the Court.

which had theretofore been confirmed by Congress. Section 2 of the act is as follows:

“And be it further enacted, That the Commissioner of the General Land Office shall, without unreasonable delay, cause the lands embraced in said several claims to be surveyed and platted, at the proper expense of the claimants thereof, and upon the filing of said surveys and plats in his office be shall issue patents for said land in said Territory which have hereto fore been confirmed by acts of Congress and surveyed, and plats of such survey filed in his office as aforesaid, but for which no patents have heretofore been issued.” 15 Stat. 342, c. 152.

It is stated by counsel for appellants that prior to the act of March 3, 1869, the General Land Office was without authority to issue a patent for the lands in controversy., See also Shaw v. Kellogg, 170 U. S. 342. That act therefore is the sole authority to the General Land Office to issue the patent, and it would seem not to admit of controversy that the patent must issue to the confirmee of Congress. We think that the town of Las Vegas was that confirmee, and this conclusion relieves us from considering some of the interesting questions discussed by counsel.

The grant originally was as much to a community as to individuals, and a town was contemplated. The decree of the governor directed the selection of “a site for a town to be built by the inhabitants,” and the constitutional justice, in executing the decree, informed those to whom he made “the distribution” of the land “that the water and pasture were free to all, and that the joint labor should be done by themselves without any dispute, and that the wall surrounding the town marked out should be made by them all, which, being done, that they notify the justice, in order that he may mark out to each one equally the portion he is entitled to.” A town was started and grew and had attained substantial proportions at the time the confirmatory act was passed.

The petition of the surveyor general of New Mexico describes the petitioners as “residents of the town of Las Vegas and its vicinity,” and he manifestly regarded it a claim on behalf of the town, stated it from that standpoint and reported it to Congress

Opinion of the Court.

as a claim by the town of Las Vegas. The claim was confirmed by reference to the report, and the town was especially desig. nated the claimant in section 6 of the confirmatory act. That it received confirmation at all may be because it was a claim by a town. Its legality might have been questioned. The claimants in their petition stated that their claim was disputed by Thomas Cabeza de Baca, and reporting on that dispute the surveyor general said that testimony was introduced to show that the heirs of Baca protested in 1837 against the occupancy of the land by the claimants under the grant to Juan de Dios Maese, and that the claimants “ went upon the land, knowing the existence of a prior grant" ---the Baca grant. The surveyor general, however, did not assume to decide the dispute between the parties, but referred it to the proper tribunals of the country” and to Congress. Congress accommodated the dispute by a magnificent donation of lands to the heirs of Baca, and confirmed the original land to the town; and we can easily see that Congress might have exercised its bounty to adjust a controversy to which a town was a party, yhen, if the contestants were individuals, they would have been remitted to the courts to litigate their rights and priorities. But however this may be, we cannot assume that Congress approved the report of the surveyor general unadvisedly, used the name of the town unadvisedly, or intended primarily some other confirmee.

This interpretation of the act of Congress cannot be changed even if Las Vegas had or has “no legal or corporate existence.” If the designated confirmee cannot take, another cannot be substituted in its stead. Nor do we think the capacity of the town to take a patent is open to dispute in the Land Office. Of that capacity. Congress was satisfied, and it is not for the Land Department to conceive and urge doubts about it raised upon disputable legal propositions. The town and its inhabitants were certainly substantial entities in fact, and were recognized by Congress as having rights, and directed such rights to be authenticated by a patent of the United States. It is the duty of the Land Office to issue that patent, to give the town and its inhabitants the benefit of that authentication, and to remit ali controversies about it to other tribunals and proceedings. It

Opinion of the Court.

will be observed from this view that the question in the case is narrower than appellants conceive it. It is not what rights they had before confirmation of the grant nor what rights they may assert under or against the patent, but what Congress has done and what it has directed the Land Department to do. It is strictly this and nothing more, and on this only we express an opinion.

Decree affirmed.




No. 58. Argued October 25, 1901.-Decided January 6, 1902.

Section 3 of the Compiled Laws of Nebraska of 1889, c. 72, providing for

the incorporation of railroad companies, is as follows: “Every railroad company, as aforesaid, shall be liable for all damages inflicted upon the person of passengers while being transported over its road, except in cases where the injury done arises from the criminal negligence of the person injured, or when the injury complained of shall be the violation of some express rule or regulation of said road actually brought to his or her notice.” Held that the plaintiff in error, being a domestic corporation of Nebraska, accepted with its incorporation the liability so imposed by the laws of that State, and cannot now complain of it.

The case is stated in the opinion of the court.

Mr. M. A. Low

Mr. W. F. Evans for plaintiff in error. was on his brief.

Mr. Thomas C. Munger for defendant in error. Mr. John M. Stewart and Mr. A. E. Harvey were on his brief.

MR. JUSTICE MCKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

This action was brought in the district court of Lancaster

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