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Opinion of the Court.
chasers from the latter, and in subsequent sections it made provision for the adjustment of such equities.
Section 4 of the same act, expressly referring to all other lands erroneously certified or patented to any railroad company, provides that citizens who had purchased such lands. in good faith should be entitled to the lands so purchased and to patents therefor issuing directly from the United States, and that the only remedy of the Government should be an action against the railroad company for the Government priceof similar lands. It will be observed that this protection is not granted to simply bona fide purchasers (using that term in the technical sense), but to those who have one of the elements declared to be essential to a bona fide purchaser, towit, good faith. It matters not what constructive notice may be chargeable to such a purchaser if, in actual ignorance of any defect in the railroad company's title and in reliance upon the action of the Government in the apparent transfer of title by certification or patent, he has made an honest purchase of the lands. The plain intent of this section is to secure him the lands, and to reinforce his defective title by a direct patent from the United States, and to leave to the Government a simple claim for money against the railroad company. It will be observed that the technical term "bona fide purchaser" is not found in this section, and while it is provided that a mortgage or pledge shall not be considered a sale so as to entitle the mortgagee or pledgee to the benefit of the act, it does secure to every one who in good faith has made an absolute purchase from a railroad company protection to his title irrespective of any errors or mistakes in the certification or patent.
Section 5 of the same act applies to cases in which no certification or patent has issued, and yet the lands sold by the railroad company are the numbered sections prescribed in its grant and coterminous with the constructed portions of its road, and it is there provided that where the lands so sold by the company "are for any reason excepted from the operation of the grant to said company," the purchaser may obtain title directly from the Government by paying to it the ordinary
Opinion of the Court.
Government price of such lands. It is true the term used here is "bona fide purchaser," but it is a bona fide purchaser from the company, and the description given of the lands, as not conveyed and "for any reason excepted from the operation of the grant," indicates that the fact of notice of defect of title was not to be considered fatal to the right. Congress attempted to protect an honest transaction between a purchaser and a railroad company, even in the absence of a certification or patent. These being the provisions of the act of 1887, the act of 1896, confirming the right and title of a bona fide purchaser, and providing that the patent to his lands should not be vacated or annulled, must be held to include one who, if not in the fullest sense a "bona fide purchaser," has nevertheless purchased in good faith from the railroad company.
We have been referred in the arguments of this and other cases to the debates in Congress, and to the reports of the committees of the two houses to whom the bills were referred as confirmatory of the conclusions we have reached, but it is unnecessary to consider any of the evidence derived from these sources, if, indeed, it is open to consideration, for the language of the two acts is clear, and fully discloses the intent of Congress. Our conclusion is that these acts operate to confirm the title to every purchaser from a railroad company of lands certified or patented to or for its benefit, notwithstanding any mere errors or irregularities in the proceedings of the land department, and notwithstanding the fact that the lands so certified or patented were, by the true construction of the land grants, although within the limits of the grants, excepted from their operation, providing that he purchased in good faith, paid value for the lands, and providing, also, that the lands were public lands in the statutory sense of the term, and free from individual or other claims.
If it be suggested that under the scope of these acts, though the suit must fail so far as it is one to set aside and cancel the certification, it may yet be maintained against the defendant · railroad company for the value of the lands so erroneously certified, and that the decree should be modified to this extent,
Opinion of the Court.
it is sufficient to say that, first, the Government has not asked any such decree; second, that it may be doubtful whether for the mere purpose of recovering money an action at law must not be the remedy pursued; but lastly, and chiefly, that it does not appear from this record either that the railroad company received an excess of lands or has even received (these lands included) the full quantity of lands promised in the grant; and further, that it does not appear that there were not within the granted or indemnity limits lands which the company might have rightfully received but for this erroneous certification. It will hardly be contended that, if, simply through a mistake of the land department, these lands were certified when at the time other lands were open to certification which could rightfully have been certified and which have since been disposed of by the Government to other parties, so that there is now no way of filling the grant, the Government can nevertheless recover the value of the lands so erroneously certified. In other words, the mistake of the officers of the Government cannot be both potent to prevent the railroad company obtaining its full quota of lands, and at the same time potent to enable the Government to recover from the company the value of lands erroneously certified. Our conclusion, therefore, is that upon the record as it is presented, the decree of the Court of Appeals was right, and it is
UNITED STATES v. UNION PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 319, argued December 1, 2, 1896. UNITED STATES V. ST. PAUL AND SIOUX CITY RAILROAD COMPANY, No. 322, argued with No. 321, November 30 and December 1, 1896.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER. The facts in these cases are different from the facts in the case just decided. But the principles announced in the foregoing opinion are conclusive of the rights of the parties herein, and so, without any statement in detail of the facts, and for the reasons given in that opinion, the decrees in these cases will be
Statement of the Case.
Mr. Solicitor General for appellants in both cases.
Mr. John F. Dillon (with whom were Mr. Harry Hubbard, Mr. John M. Dillon and Mr. T. F. Garver on his brief), for appellees in No. 319.
Mr. Thomas Wilson for appellees in No. 322.
WINONA AND ST. PETER RAILROAD COMPANY v. UNITED STATES.
APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.
No. 602. Submitted December 1, 1896. - Decided February 15, 1997.
Anterior to any claim of right under its grant by the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company, by virtue either of filling its map of definite location or of surveying and staking its line upon the ground, a preëmption filing was placed upon the land. This filing was never cancelled. The claimant entered into possession and continued so either personally or through a tenant until after the construction of the railroad, and until after the railroad company had conveyed the land to a land company, and until an action of ejectment was brought by the land company. The court below was of opinion, in which this court concurs, that the land company could not be considered a purchaser in good faith from the railroad company; that it took its conveyance with notice, from possession, of all the rights and the claims of the party so in possession; that it therefore did not bring itself within the protecting clauses of the act of March 3, 1887, c. 376, 24 Stat. 556; and that there was nothing to stay the right of the Government to have the certification, so erroneously issued, cancelled. This case distinguished from United States v. Winona & St. Peter Railroad Company, ante, 463.
THIS was a bill filed by the United States in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota against the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company, the Winona and St. Peter Land Company, and Thomas Marshall, Jr. The suit was one to set aside the certification of a patent made to the State of Minnesota for the benefit of the defendant railroad company of the northeast quarter of section 35,
Statement of the Case.
township 106 north, range 18 west, which certification was of date December 1, 1862. After answers, proof and an agreed statement as to certain facts, a decree was entered by the Circuit Court, August 29, 1894, dismissing the bill. On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit this decree was, on May 6, 1895, reversed, 32 U. S. App. 306, and the case remanded with instructions to enter a decree granting the relief prayed for.
It appears from the agreed statement that on July 3, 1857, Thomas Marshall, Jr., one of the defendants, made a preëmption filing at the proper local land office of the land in controversy, which filing was prima facie regular and valid, and was never cancelled on the records of the land office; the construction of the railroad of the defendant railroad company was conceded; and it was agreed that on the 1st of March, 1877, defendant Marshall, being still in possession and claiming to be the owner thereof, the defendant land company, which had a conveyance from the railroad company, commenced an action of ejectment against him in the District Court of Dodge County, Minnesota, that court having jurisdiction of the subject-matter; that Marshall appeared in such action, and such proceedings were had that on the 9th day of December, 1878, the court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff for the possession of the land; that no appeal was taken from such judgment, and that the same now remains in full force and effect; and that in pursuance thereof said Marshall surrendered possession to the defendant land company, and since that time the defendant land company has remained in possession and paid the taxes; that Marshall, on November 15, 1887, filed with the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and now has pending before the land department, an application for reinstatement of his rights to said land, which application has not been acted upon, as it is held by the said department that it has no jurisdiction to pass thereon. Other facts are agreed to, such as are stated in the opinion in the case No. 321 of the United States against the same railroad company and others just decided. Ante, 463.