« ПретходнаНастави »
Opinion of the Court.
must make such grant, but that he would provisionally allow the town to occupy the land prayed for. So, in Lewis v. San Antonio, 7 Texas, 288, it was shown that there had been an express grant, and that the boundaries had been duly marked and laid out covering six square leagues. But the concession that there was a power in the Spanish crown or its authorized officers to make grants of land, when considered by them to be proper, would not justify a holding that the authorities must have deemed it imperative to make a grant of a definite quantity to every town when established, no matter under what circumstances it was founded. To so conclude would amount to saying that it was the duty of the United States after the cession by Mexico, of the territory covered by the treaty, to presume, because the Spanish officials had the power to make grants, that they had actually exercised it in faror of every town and every individual within the territory ceded. If we were to make so preposterous an assumption the task would yet remain of determining how much land it would be presupposed had been given because the power to give existed in each case, a duty impossible of performance.
If, however, it were conceded, in plain violation of the letter of the Spanish law, that every town was entitled to a grant of land by operation of law, the quantity to which the town would be entitled would remain wholly undefined and undetermined, and would have, if allowed by inference, to be created by an arbitrary exercise of judicial power. Plainly, from the provisions of the Recopilacion, the quantity varied with the condition of the respective settlements, and to imply a grant of land to the extent of four square leagues in every case would be to suppose that every settlement was alike, whilst the law itself contemplated that they would be different and subject to different allowances. This consequence is shown by a statement in the treatise of Hall on Mexican Law, where it is said, sec. 117, p. 51:
“ Limits of Pueblos. — There never existed any general law fixing four square leagues as the extent of pueblos or towns. That extent of land was assigned to pueblos founded by contractors for Spaniards, by law 6, title 5, book 4, of the
Opinion of the Court.
laws of the Indies. Those formed by the government, independent of contractors, were only limited by the discretion of the governors of the provinces, and viceroys, subject to approval or disapproval of the King. There are numerous pueblos in Mexico which have less and many that have more than four square leagues.”
And in section 118, the same author declares that the jurists of Mexico are unacquainted with any such provision of Spanish jurisprudence as that four square leagues should be the superfice of pueblos.
These facts as to the condition of things in Mexico are in accord with the claims to land made against the United States under the law of Spain by villages and towns in Florida and Missouri, to which we shall hereafter take occasion to refer more particularly.
As the right which the city asserts is devoid of every element of proof tending to show a possession coupled with claim of title, but rests upon the mere assumption of a right asserted to have arisen by operation of law hundreds of years ago, of course there is no room for the application of a presumption of an actual grant, within the doctrine declared in United States v. Chaves, 159 U. S. 452. Even did the case present a claim of express grant, proof of the existence of which rested on presumptions arising from acts of possession, etc., there are many circumstances attending the history of Santa Fé and the nature of its establishment, which we have heretofore recited, which would strongly tend to rebut the presumption. The town was, it would seem, originally a colony of deserters from the Spanish army which was located in the midst of the native Indians; it became afterwards the capital seat of the province and a fortified town, and was presumably, in its permanent creation, the outcome and development of the success of the Spanish arms, rather than of the exercise of the power to induce settlements by contracts with individuals or otherwise. It is impossible, on the theory of the petitioner, to explain the petition presented by the city to the Spanish governor, in 1715, for a concession of a tract of swamp land situated within the four square leagues now claimed,
Opinion of the Court.
for if the right to the entire four square leagues then existeil it was complete. At the time of this petition, if the claim here advanced had any foundation or was deemed by any one to exist, such fact would of course have been then known and have rendered the petition for the grant of the swamp wholly unnecessary.
We now proceed to examine the next proposition advanced to support the claim of the city of Santa Fé, which is as follows:
Second. Whatever, as an original question, may be the correct interpretation of the Spanish law, the right of every town to four square leagues of land under that law is no longer a subject of controversy, but is concluded in favor of such right by the report of the board of land commissioners, which passed upon the claim of San Francisco, by the decision of the Cir. cuit Court of the United States on the same subject, by the persuasive force of certain decisions of the Supreme Court of California, referring to the title of San Francisco, and finally by the action of Congress on the subject.
The history of the San Francisco claim, however, does not justify the contention thus urged. The pueblo of San Francisco, in the first place, was not a Spanish but a Mexican town, and its claimed rights were asserted to have been obtained from the supreme government of Mexico. Thus, -as stated in the report of the board of land commissioners, the petition alleged (Dwinelle, Colonial History of San Francisco, App. p. 121) “that in pursuance of the laws, usages and customs of the government of Mexico, and an act of the departmental legislature of California of the ninth of November, 1833, (183+) and proceedings in pursuance thereof, the pueblo of San Francisco was duly created and constituted a municipal corporation, with a municipal government, and with all the rights, properties and privileges of pueblos under the then existing laws, during the said year 1833, (1834); and that there was then and there, by the supreme government of Mexico, in the manner by law prescribed, ceded and granted to the said pueblo for town lands and for common lands, all and singular the premises described in their said petition."
Opinion of the Court.
It may be conceded arguendo that there was in force at the time the pueblo of San Francisco was established laws of the government of Mexico and regulations based thereon expanding the law of Spain so as to entitle a newly established pueblo to have measured off and assigned to it by officers of the government four square leagues of land, without in any way implying that such right existed under early Spanish laws. The necessity for action by Congress in the case of San Francisco was produced by various causes, such as grants made by the officials of the pueblo while San Francisco was part of the territory of Mexico, and grants which purported to have been made after the occupation of the town by the forces of the United States by persons claiming to be the lawful successors of such Mexican officials. For these reasons, there was great confusion and uncertainty in the titles to land in the city. By the act of March 3, 1851, c. 41, 9 Stat. 631, Congress created a board of land commissioners to determine claims to land in California asserted " by virtue of any “right' or 'title' derived from the Spanish or Mexican government. Section 14 of that act permitted the claims of lotholders in a city to be presented in the name of such city, and authorized the presumption of a grant to a city which was shown to have been in existence on a date named. The section is found in full in the margin.
1 Sec. 14. And be it further enacted, That the provisions of this act shall not extend to any town lot, farm lot or pasture lot, held under a grant from any corporation or town to which lands may have been granted for the establishment of a town by the Spanish or Mexican government, or the lawful authorities thereof, nor to any city, or town, or village lot, which city, town or village existed on the seventh day of July, eighteen hundred and forty-six; but the claim for the same shall be presented by the corporate authorities of the said town, or where the land on which the said city, town or village was originally granted to an individual, the claim shall be presented by or in the name of such individual, and the fact of the existence of the said city, town or village on the said seventh July, eighteen hundred and forty-six, being duly proved, shall be prima facie evidence of a grant to such corporation, or to the individual under whom the said lotholders claim; and where any city, town or village shall be in existence at the time of passing this act, the claim for the land embraced within the limits of the same may be made by the corporate authority of the said city, town or village.
Opinion of the Court.
The city of San Francisco was incorporated in 1850, with municipal boundaries of less extent than four square leagues. It, however, presented to the board a claim for confirmation of title to a four square league tract. In December, 1854, the claim of the city was confirmed by the board to only a certain portion of the four square leagues claimed. The opinion of the majority of the commissioners is contained in the appendix to Dwinelle's History, pp. 121-147. The opinion makes clear the fact that the decree of confirmation was based upon the following conclusions, to wit:
“1st. That a pueblo or town was established under the authority of the Mexican government in California, on the site of the present city of San Francisco, and embracing the greater portion of the present corporate limits of said city.
"2d. That the town so established continued and was in existence as a municipal corporation on the 7th day of July, 1846.
“3d. That at or about the time of its establishment, certain lands were assigned and laid off in accordance with the laws, usages and customs of the Mexican nation, for the use of the town and its inhabitants, and the boundaries of said lands determined and fixed by the proper officers appointed for that purpose by the territorial government.
“ 4th. That the boundaries so established are those described in the communication from Governor Figueroa to M. G. Vallejo, dated November 4, 1834, a copy of which is filed in the case, marked Ex. No. 18, to the deposition of said Vallejo.” (Dwinelle, App. 147.)
After the foregoing finding of facts, the board summed up the law in the following language:
“These conclusions bring the case, in our opinion, clearly within the operation of the presumption raised in favor of a grant to the town by the fourteenth section of the act of the 3d of March, 1851, and entitle the petitioner to a confirmation of the land contained within the boundaries described in the document above mentioned.”
Whilst the ultimate finding of the board was thus rested upon the authority to presume a grant conferred by Congress