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THE GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO.
This subject will necessarily occupy the most important place in any report, until the titles are settled.
In my last report I spoke of the great satisfaction with which the passage of the "land-court act" was hailed in this Territory. This was increased when the president appointed the members of the court, and the admirable character of the selection of judges became generally known.
The court was organized at Denver July 1, 1891, and its first session for the transaction of business in this Territory was opened at Santa Fe, December 1, 1891. Subsequent sessions have been held, commencing March 1, 1892, and August 15, 1892.
The members of the court are as follows: Hon. Joseph R. Reed, chief justice, Iowa. Associate justices: Hon. Thomas C. Fuller, North Carolina; Hon. Wilbur S. Stone, Colorado; Hon. William W. Murray, Tennessee; Hon. Henry C. Sluss, Kansas; and its officers as follows: Matt. G. Reynolds, United States attorney; James H. Reeder, clerk; Thos. B. Baldwin, deputy clerk for Colorado; Ireneo L. Chavez, deputy clerk for New Mexico; Eusebio Chacon, interpreter; Luman F. Parker, stenographer; A. H. Jones, marshal; Colorado, Trinidad Romero, marshal, New Mexico.
The following is a list of claims that have been presented to September 1, 1892.
1. Cubero land grant, Valencia County, 16,000 acres.
2. Plaza Colorado land grant, Rio Arriba County, 15,000 acres.
3. San Rafael del Valle grant, Arizona, 20,034.62 acres.
4. San ntonio del Rio Colorado grant, 18,955.22 acres.
5. Arroyo Hondo grant, 23,040 acres.
6. Sebastian de Vargas grant, Santa Fe County, 24,000 acres. 7. Bernabé M. Montaño graut, Bernalillo County, 34,000 acres. 8. City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, 12,000 acres.
9. Lucero de Godoi grant, 67,480.02 acres.
10. Rancho del Rio Grande, Taos County, 109,000 acres.
17. Pueblo de Santa Clara grant, Rio Arriba County (claimants, Indians of Santa Clara), 90,000 acres.
18. Matias Dominguez Pacheco Dominguez grant, 500 acres.
23. The Santa Teresa de Jesus and the Bosque Grande grant; area of latter 3,253.09 acres; of former unsurveyed.
24. Donna Ana Bend Colony grant, Donna Ana County, 16,640 acres.
25. San Miguel del Bado grant, San Miguel County, 315,300.80 acres.
26. Santisima Trinidad or Rancho de Galvan, Bernalillo County, 30,000 acres.
27. San Antonito grant, Bernalillo County, 32,000 acres.
28. Nuestra Señora del Rosario, San Fernando y Santiago grant, Rio Arriba County, area undetermined.
29. Santiago Anisa grant, Arizona.
30. Piedra Lumbre grant, Rio Arriba County, 48,336.12 acres.
31. Agua Salada grant, 18,046.50 acres.
32. Plaza Blanca grant.
33. City of Isleta, Texas and New Mexico.
34. Ignacio Chavez grant, 243,036.43 acres.
The following have been confirmed by decrees of the court:
1. Cubero grant, Valencia County, 16,000 acres.
2. Bernabé Montaño grant, Bernalillo County, 34,000 acres.
3. City of Albuquerque grant, Bernalillo County, 12,000 acres.
THE LAND-COURT ACT.
This law, which is such a boon to our people, requires some amendments, which should be made very promptly at the opening of the next session of Congress in December.
Those which affect the most individuals are relative to the "small holdings," or little farms of the husbandman and peasantry of the Territory. In both my reports for 1890 and 1891, I endeavored to explain the peculiar shape of these small tracts, which makes it impossible to apply to them the ordinary United States laws as to square "legal subdivisions." As a foundation for what I wish to say now, it will perhaps be well to quote the following from last year's report:
In an irrigated country the cultivated land lies between the acequia or irrigating ditch and the river. Our valleys are usually narrow, giving ordinarily a width of 1,000 to 3,000 feet to this cultivated land. This is cut up into small farms. When first settled the original occupants usually had a plot from 50 to 300 varas wide (a vara is a short yard, 33 inches), running from the river to the foothills back of the acequia. As generations succeeded each other these tracts were divided among heirs until the strips became very narrow. The land is of great fertility, and hence a small farm will support a family. To illustrate by a part of the Rio Grande Valley, with which I am familiar, the series of "small holdings" runs as follows as to width in varas: 20, 40, 18, 22, 51, 13, 5, 40. 10, 10, 30, 40, 35, 26. Here are fourteen small farms, each about 1,500 feet long from the hills to the river, and having an aggregate width of 360 varas, or about 1,000 feet. Altogether they contain about 35 acres, or an average of 2 acres each. They have been owned and occupied and worked through many generations, and the title to them is as perfect as any that can be conceived, except that they are menaced by the power of the United States, in direct violation of the treaty. Now, the "land-court bill" provides, in section 17, that any one of the owners of the above fourteen tracts, upon making proof of the fact of his residence, etc., may "enter such legal subdivision, not exceeding 160 acres, as shall include his said possession." The smallest "legal subdivision" known to Land Office law is 40 acres, and yet within a less area than that we have fourteen owners in this case. From this it will be seen how utterly inapplicable this provision is to a country which was settled before either Jamestown or Plymouth was thought of, and where land is held in an entirely different manner from that which was suitable to our public domain on the prairies of the Northwest.
These facts were laid before the Committee on Private Land Claims of the Senate, together with others, showing that the requirement of residence on each strip of land was wrong, because by descent or by purchase one person might own several of these strips and yet his whole property not exceed 10 or 15 acres, and especially because the system of colonization of the Spaniards looked to the establishment of a central plaza or town, where all should live together for purposes of mutual protection, while their lands were situated up and down the river and were not resided upon at all. These two points were urged on the committee by the commission which visited Washington in May, 1890, and they immediately agreed that the bill should be amended so as to make it just and applicable to the circumstances of the land and the people.
In the pressure of Congressional business, while the necessary alterations as to the shape of the tracts was made in section 16, it was overlooked in section 17; and in neither section was the provision as to residence corrected; and the bill finally passed in that form. In the present Congress a bill was introduced in the House amendatory of the act, and correcting these errors, and this was reported favorably by the Committee on the Judiciary, accompanied by an explanatory report embodying a letter from Commissioner Carter. This amendatory act contains the most necessary corrections, although in rather an awkward form, and it is to be hoped that it may speedily become a law. There are thousands of these small holdings in the Territory, and under the law as at present worded, not one in a hundred can be confirmed. As long as the United States insists on interfering with these titles, it ought to provide a simple, expeditious, and equitable method of making them secure. I am still of the opinion, however, that the whole course of our legislation on these subjects is wrong; that the United States never owned an acre of these lands which were in the legal possession of individuals under the Mexican Government, and that in the determination of the boundaries of the public domain, the Government should have been treated like any other landowner, and not have been allowed, by its general claim of ownership, to menace and throw a cloud on individual titles.
Another portion of the law which is unjust is that which is known as "the eleven-league clause" in section 13. The Mexican regulations limiting certain classes of grants to 11 square leagues became operative in 1828. Of course it could have no application to grants made before its enactment. And yet this clause in our law would apply the limitation to grants made by Spanish authority more than a century before the Republic of Mexico had an existence. Nothing could be more absurd as a legal proposition or more unjust as an equitable one. To say to a man who owns 100 acres of land that hereafter he can hold title to only 50 is practical confiscation of the remainder; and to say to the owner of a tract containing 20 square leagues that he can only have 11 confirmed to him is the same.
The land court is fortunately composed of judges not only of great ability but of absolute fairness. They have found, in their administration of the law that in a number of cases a strict compliance with its provisions would work great injustice and hardship, depriving good citizens of lands which they and their ancestors had occupied for generations. They recommend certain amendments to cover such cases, and I earnestly hope that their recommendations may be enacted into law. A great nation like the United States does not wish to deprive its poorer citizens of the little homes which their ancestors with much