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UNITED STATES v. CAMOU

March 17, 1902

UNITED STATES
v.
CAMOU



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF PRIVATE LAND CLAIMS

Fuller, Harlan, Gray, Brewer, Brown, Shiras, Jr., White, Peckham, McKenna

Author: Shiras

[ 184 U.S. Page 572]

 MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS delivered the opinion of the court.

When this cause was before us, in 171 U.S. 277, the validity of the claim was, upon full consideration, upheld. It was, however, held that the recovery should be restricted to the land

[ 184 U.S. Page 573]

     claimed in the petition and paid for, and as it was shown that the survey was in excess of the land granted and paid for, the cause was remanded to the Court of Private Land Claims for further proceedings which resulted, as shown by this record, in a final decree of confirmation, establishing the boundaries of the grant, and finding it to contain four sitios, or 17,474.93 acres.

The contention made on behalf of the Government, in this appeal, is that this grant of four sitios was a mere float within exterior boundaries containing a larger tract; that there were no means afforded of identifying where, within those exterior boundaries, such four sitios were located; that accordingly, as matter of law, prescribed in the sixth section of the Gadsden treaty, the tract cannot be said to have been located, and hence the grant must be held to be invalid.

It may well be doubted whether, even if this contention were well founded, it can be urged at this stage of the controversy.

When the case was originally tried in the Court of Private Land Claims, and subsequently was heard on appeal in this court, the principal contention on the part of the Government was that the State of Sonora had no power to make a grant of public lands, and hence that the grant in question, although made in the name and by the proper officers of that State, was invalid. The subject was fully considered by this court, and it was held that the several States of the Republic of Mexico, of which Sonora was one, had, at the time when the transaction in question took place, authority to make sales of vacant public lands within their limits.

The Government further contended that this and similar grants by the separate States had been annulled by certain decrees of Santa Anna, when acting as dictator of Mexico, and that, as the Government of the United States had recognized Santa Anna, in purchasing the territory covered by the Gadsden treaty, the courts of the United States must recognize, when dealing with personal rights existing in the ceded territory, his declarations or decrees in respect to titles, as authoritative. But this view of the legal effect of the decrees of Santa Anna

[ 184 U.S. Page 574]

     upon the private rights of residents within the ceded territory was not accepted by this court, and, for reasons given in the opinion of Mr. Justice Brewer, it was held that, as the grant made by the State of Sonora was valid when made, it was not destroyed by the arbitrary decree of a temporary dictator.

As, however, it appeared that the survey of the land claimed in the petition was in excess of the four sitios granted and paid for, the court applied the rule laid down in Ely's Administrator v. United States, 171 U.S. 220, that where there is a valid grant for a certain number of acres within the outboundaries of a larger tract, the Court of Private Land Claims may inquire, and, if it finds sufficient reasons for determining the ...


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