Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

Mr. Joseph H. Call, special assistant to the Attorney General, for the United States,

MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after making the foregoing statement, «lelivered the opinion of the court.

The single question is whether these lands were between the dates of the two surveys sub judice, and therefore not passing under the grant to the railroad company. The map of definite location was filed and approved in 1874, and at that time, which was between the dates of the two surveys, the grant took effect. The description of the lands in the grant and in the decree of confirmation was not in the language of the United States land legislation by section, township and range, nor was it such that without a survey the exact boundaries could be determined. No one could say from reading this description whether the true north boundary was shown by the first or the second survey. The regular land surveys made by the Government establishing section, township and range lines would not locate the boundaries of the grant nor would they identify either of those lines with any particular boundary. There was that generality of description which required a special survey to locate the grant. It is said that the patentee never claimed the land north of the boundary line established by the second survey, and therefore that it was in no just sense sub judice. But the boundaries being uncertain he applied to the department authorized by Congress to determine them. It acted upon his application and by its survey located the boundaries. He made no challenge of its action, but so far as the record shows was content therewith. While a new survey was subsequently ordered, it was not at his instance. So, at least until the first survey was set aside, it was the measure of his claim, and the lands within the boundaries established by it were sub judice. No affirmative declaration that he insisted

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

upon his right to them was essential to make them a part of his claim.

But the special contention of the appellants is that the first survey was without any authority of law, because the statute provides that upon final confirmation of the claim a survey may be ordered, and it is insisted that there was no final confirmation until the order made by this court in 1875; that although the confirmation by the District Court was in 1861, yet an appeal was allowed which transferred the case to this court and held the question of confirmation in abeyance until the order here made in 1875. The statute (sec. 13) provides:

And for all claims finally confirmed by the said commissioners, or by the said District or Supreme Court, a patent shall issue to the claimant upon his presenting to the General Land Office an authentic certificate of such confirmation, and a plat or survey of the said land, duly certified and approved by the surveyor general of California, whose duty it shall be to cause all private claims which shall be finally confirmed to be accurately surveyed, and to furnish plats of the same.

Hence it is contended that the entire proceedings under the first survey were void and may be put out of consideration in determining whether the lands were sub judice. But this ignores the fact that anterior to the first survey the United States had practically abandoned its appeal from the order of the District Court. It had for ten years failed to file any transcript in this court and the petitioner had been entitled to the formal entry of docket and dismissal which he obtained in 1875, an entry implying an abandoned appeal and made to place that fact upon record. The Government, which was the party interested against the petitioner, and the party taking the appeal, did not, when the application was made in 1869 to the surveyor general of California, question the right to a survey. It did not suggest that there had been no final order of confirmation nor has it at any time raised any question of the right to that survey, and the Land Department ordered

[blocks in formation]

the second only upon a doubt of the accuracy of the first. It does not lie within the mouth of a third party to say that the Government had a right to appeal, could have insisted on that right, and could have objected to the first survey on the ground of a failure to obtain a final order of confirmation. It is enough that the Government recognized that it had abandoned its appeal, and was willing that proceedings should be taken looking to survey and patent. Nor were the proceedings so absolutely void that it can be said that no claim was pending. The surveyor general was the official of the Government placed in charge of surveys, who on application was to determine whether the conditions had arisen which justified him in acting. If he decided erroneously his action could be set aside on review, but it was not a nullity. Even between individuals, if one brings a suit in a Federal court to 'quiet his title to a tract of land and obtains a decree in accordance with his bill, and on appeal this court sets aside the decree and orders the suit to be dismissed for lack of proper allegations in respect to diverse. citizenship, while it may be that the proceedings are ineffectual to determine the title, yet can it be said that no suit was pending, no claim was made? Put the question in another aspect; suppose no challenge of the first survey had been made and the Land Department, acting on that survey, had caused a patent to be issued, could the Government obtain a decree setting it aside upon that showing alone and without a disclosure of equities? In Williams

In W’illiams v. United States, 138 U. S. 514, and Germania Iron Company v. United States, 165 V. S. 379, something more than premature action in certificate and patent was shown--something which presented an equity entitling the United States to maintain its suit for cancellation.

Another matter; at the time the map of definite location was filed and approved, this first survey had been made and approved by the surveyor general of California, and by that survey the lands in dispute were included within the Mexican grant. The railroad company, therefore, took title to its land grant with this fact apparent on the records of the Land De

[blocks in formation]

partment. In an early case in this court, Kansas Pacific Railway Company v. Dunmeyer, 113 U. S. 629, in which the question of the relative rights of railroads to granted lands and individuals claiming rights to separate tracts within the place limits, was presented, we said (p. 641):

“It is not conceivable that Congress intended to place these parties as contestants for the land, with the right in each to require proof from the other of complete performance of its obligation. Least of all is it to be supposed that it was intended to raise up, in antagonism to all the actual settlers on the soil, whom it had invited to its occupation, this great corporation, with an interest to defeat their claims, and to come between them and the Government as to the performance of their obligations.

“The reasonable purpose of the Government undoubtedly is that which is expressed, namely, while we are giving liberally to the railroad company, we do not give any lands we have already sold, or to which, according to our laws, we have permitted a preëmption or homestead right to attach. No right to such land passes by this grant.

And this proposition has been repeatedly reaffirmed in later cases. Hastings & Dakota Railroad Campany v. Whitney, 132 U. S. 357; Sioux City &c. Land Company v. Griffey, 143 U. S. 32; Whitney v. Taylor, 158 U. S. 85.

One thing more: it appears from a stipulation of counsel that within the indemnity limits of the grant to the Southern Pacific Railroad there remain more than fifty thousand acres of surveyed public lands for which there has been no selection or application to select by the company. · So that there is no such equity in favor of the company as was suggested in the case of United States v. Winona &c. Railroad Company, 165 U. S. 463, 482. The decree of the Court of Appeals is

Affirmed.

[blocks in formation]

NEW YORK, NEW HAVEN AND HARTFORD RAILROAD COMPANY v. INTERSTATE COMMERCE

COMMISSION.

INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION v. CHESA

PEAKE AND OHIO RAILWAY COMPANY.

APPEALS FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR

THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA.

Nos, 24, 27. Argued October 25, 26, 1905.-Decided February 19, 1906.

A carrier, not expressly authorized so to do by charter obtained prior to

the Interstate Commerce Act, cannot contract to sell, and to transport in completion of the contract the commodity sold, when the stipulated price does not pay the cost of purchase, the cost of delivery, and the

published freight rates. The Interstate Commerce Act was enacted to secure equality of rates and

to destroy favoritism, and for those purposes is a remedial statute, to be interpreted so as to reasonably accomplish them; its prohibitions against directly or indirectly charging less than published rates are all embracing and applicable to every method by which the forbidden results could be

brought about. Where a contract of a carrier for sale and transportation is illegal under

the Interstate Commerce Act because the amount charged for transportation is less than the published rates, the contract is not made legal because the carrier is also released by the same shipper from a claim, admitted by the carrier and amounting to more than the difference between the published rate and the amount charged, for breach of a prior contract, where it appears that such prior contract was also illegal for

the same reason. Whatever powers a carrier may possess as to its commerce not interstate,

it is subject as to its interstate commerce to the Interstate Commerce Act, the application of whose prohibitions depends not upon whether the

carrier intends to violate them but upon whether it actually does so. Congress has undoubted power to subject to regulations adopted by it

every carrier engaged in interstate commerce, and although the Interstate Commerce Act may not contain an express prohibition against a carrier becoming a dealer in commodities transported by it the court will enforce the general provisions of the act although in so doing it may

render it impossible for a carrier to deal in such commodities. While the construction of a statute by a body charged with its enforcement

which has long obtained, and which has been impliedly sanctioned by the reënactment of the statute without alteration, must be treated, when not

« ForrigeFortsett »