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Opinion of the Court.
and possession of the United States for a military post, known as Fort Marcy, for a building known as the “ Federal building," and for an establishment known as the Indian Industrial School, and that another portion was in possession of the territorial executive officers under the authority of the United States.
The persons holding conflicting grants, who were made defendants, also filed answers specially denying the making of the Spanish grant to La Villa de Santa Fé, or the right of that villa to a grant of four square leagues by operation of the Spanish law. It was moreover specially denied that the heads of families, residents or other persons who occupy or own house lots or lands in the city of Santa Fé, claim to hold the same under the alleged grant of the villa of Santa Fé, whether express or implied, and specially denied that the holders of lots in the city of Santa Fé were not adverse to the claim asserted by the city to the four square leagues. It was moreover alleged the various grants, eighteen in number, alleged to have been made by the Spanish authorities to the respective parties, averred their conflict with the asserted rights of the city, and prayed that as such claims had been filed and had been previously presented to the court, they be considered and approved, and that the claim of the city be rejected. The issues made up by these pleadings were tried. In the opening of the trial the counsel for the plaintiff made the following statement:
“After consultation with most of the counsel for the city, the disposition seems to be to respect the claims of the United States, either under its original disposition or under its purchases from private individuals. There is no disposition to deny the right of the United States to those properties which it has occupied since the change of sovereignty; we are willing to concede that to the United States attorney."
“I desire to make a statement to the court as to what our evidence is to be, and as to how we are claiming we are entitled to the grant under which we claim to represent here. Our claim is analogous to the claim made in the city of San Francisco case, and is analogous to the claim which is known as the Brownsville, Texas, claim. If the court please, we claim our grant on, not so much as to the existence of papers of title,
Opinion of the Court.
or documentary evidence, but through operation of law, as was claimed and held in the case of the town of Albuquerque, which this court has already decided, and as was held in San Francisco and town of Brownsville, Texas. The case of the city of San Francisco was decided by the Supreme Court of the United States after the city of San Francisco produced evidence sufficient to show that it was a corporation under the Mexican and Spanish governments; that as such corporation it possessed an ayuntamiento and other city officials which belonged to it; and on this evidence the court presumed and said it was entitled to four square leagues. It was so held in the town of Brownsville, and was so decided by this honorable court in the town of Albuquerque against the United States, case No. 8.
“In our case we expect to show that we had an existence in the year 1680, and that as far back, at least, as 1704, we had a corporate existence, and that as having such corporate existence, and having duly constituted officials, an ayuntamiento and alcalde of that corporation, that this court will presume that we are entitled to four square leagues of land, to be measured from the centre of the plaza of this town.
“In regard to these adverse claims presented here, I do not just now desire to call the attention of the court to what we think is the law fixing their rights. I will, however, say that we will combat the idea that the governors of this territory had any power to make grants within the exterior boundaries of the Santa Fé grant; whether they have been made I do not pretend to admit, and we will combat the idea that they were made through lawful authority by the persons granting them.”
The proof established the settlement and organization of the city of Santa Fé in accordance with the facts already stated. The various grants referred to in the answer of the several defendants were offered in evidence and testimony adduced tending to show that they covered territory embraced within the claim to the four leagues, and were, therefore, adverse to the claims of the city.
There was no evidence whatever introduced showing that
Opinion of the Court.
La Villa de Santa Fé, in any of its forms of organization under the Spanish government, or that the city of Santa Fé itself, had ever possessed the four square leagues to which it asserted title, or that any lotholder in the city claimed to own or hold by virtue of any title derived under the supposed right of the city. Indeed, there was an entire absence of any proof showing that any right by possession or otherwise within the area claimed was held under or by virtue of the implied grant of four square leagues, upon which the city relied. On the contrary, there was proof that in 1715 the city of Santa Fé petitioned for a grant of a tract of swamp land situated within the boundaries of the four square leagues, to which it now asserts title by operation of law, and that this prayer was granted.
The judgment of the court, which allowed the claim of the city, with the reservations and conditions stated in the opening of this opinion, rejected the claims of the defendants who appeared and asserted the various adverse Spanish grants, so far at least as they were in conflict with the claim of the city to which we have referred. As, however, the United States has alone appealed from the decree in favor of the city, we are concerned on this appeal only with the issues which arise between the United States and the city of Santa Fé.
The fundamental question in the case is, did the Spanish law, proprio vigore, confer upon every Spanish villa or town a grant of four square leagues of land to be measured from the centre of the plaza of such town. The claim that the law of Spain conferred such right is based on certain provisions of that law applicable to the possessions of that government on this continent, and which are to be found in a compilation promulgated in 1680, and known as the “Recopilacion de las Indias."
The compilation itself is thus described by Schmidt in his treatise on the Civil Laws of Spain and Mexico, who says (p. 94):
" The method adopted in this code is the same as that pursued in the Nueva Recopilacion of the Laws of Spain. It is divided into nine books, comprising two hundred and eighteen
Opinion of the Court.
titles, which contain six thousand four hundred and fortyseven different legal enactments, all of which, derived from the orders, decrees and regulations of different sovereigns, and often temporary in their character, are dignified with the title of laws. Hence, there is found united in this compilation many laws on the same subject, in which the preceding law is only repeated, others in which it is modified, and still others in which it is abrogated, either in whole or in part. The veneration of the compilers for laws which once had received the royal sanction seems to have been so great, that they did not consider themselves at liberty to omit them. This mode of proceeding has swelled this code to its present dimensions, when, if a more rational method had been adopted, it could readily have been compressed into one third of the space it actually occupies.”
The reliance of the city of Santa Fé is — first, on the text of the Spanish law; second, on the contention that if there be ambiguity in the text, the right of the city to the four square leagues results from a construction given to the Spanish la w in proceedings with reference to the claim of the city of San Francisco to a grant of land and from acts of Congress in relation to such claim; and, third, upon the contention that the interpretation of the Spanish law upon which the city bases its right is sanctioned by previous adjudications of this court. We will examine these propositions in the order stated.
First. The Spanish law relied upon.
The only provisions of the Recopilacion, to which we are referred as sustaining the claim of the city, are laws 6, 7 and 10, of title 5, book 4, which are found in 2 White, New Recopilacion, pp. 44 and 45. They read as follows:
Law 6. “If the situation of the land be adapted to the founding of any town to be peopled by Spaniards, with a council of ordinary alcaldes and regidores; and, if there be persons who will contract for their settlement, the agreement shall be made upon the following conditions: That, within the prescribed time, it shall comprise at least thirty heads of families, each of whom to possess a house, ten breeding cows, four
steers, or two steers and two young bullocks, a breeding mare, a breeding sow, twenty breeding ewes from Castile, and six hens and a cock; he shall, moreover, appoint a priest to administer the sacraments, who the first time shall be of his choice, and, afterwards, according to our royal patronage: he shall provide the church with ornaments and articles necessary for Divine worship; and he shall give bond to perform the same within said period of time; and if he fail in fulfilling his agreement, he will lose all that he may have built, worked or repaired, which shall be applied to our royal patrimony, and incur the forfeiture of one thousand ounces of gold to our chamber [camera]; and if he should fulfil his obligations, there shall be granted to him four square leagues of territory, either in a square or lengthwise, according to the quality of the land, in such a manner, that, when located and surveyed, the four leagues shall be in a quadrangle, and so that the boundaries of said territory be at least five leagues distant from any city, town or village, inhabited by Spaniards, and previously settled, and that it cause no prejudice to any Indian tribe, nor to any private individual."
Law 7. “If any one should propose to contract for a settlement, in the prescribed form, to consist of more or less than thirty heads of families, provided it be not below ten, he shall receive a grant of a proportionate quantity of land, and upon the same conditions."
Law 10. “Whenever particular individuals shall unite for the purpose of forming new settlements, and among them there shall be a sufficient number of married men for that purpose, license may be granted to them, provided there be not less than ten married men, together with an extent of territory proportioned to what is stipulated; and we empower them to elect, annually, from among themselves, ordinary alcaldes and officers of the council."
Law 6 as we have quoted it from White's work varies from the translation of Reynolds in his work on Mexican Law, the latter version, instead of saying that the land “shall be granted,” being, that it “may be given.” No importance, however, is to be attached to this difference, since it is evi