MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the above statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.
The judges of the court below, while rejecting the claim of appellants, differed widely in regard to the grounds upon which such rejection should be placed. Mr. Justice Sluss, in an opinion that was concurred in by Mr. Justice Fuller, said that the case was to be decided under the Mexican colonization law of August 18, 1824, and the regulations of November 21, 1828, which in his judgment had not been totally repealed by the law of April 4, 1837, and the grant, being subject to the first named law and to the regulations above mentioned, could not be valid for a greater quantity than eleven square leagues, nor become a perfect title until the grant had been approved by the departmental assembly.
It appears that eleven square leagues would embrace about 50,000 acres of land, and hence a grant of 415,000 acres would, under the law and regulations, be far beyond the power of the officials to make to any one person.
Mr. Justice Murray, while concurring in the conclusion to reject the claim, was of opinion that the law of 1824 and the regulations of 1828 had been entirely repealed by the law of April 4, 1837, but he did not think that the governor had the power merely as representative of the supreme executive to make the grant, and there was no evidence of any special power having been delegated to him.
Mr. Chief Justice Reed also concurred in the conclusion to reject the claim but did not agree with all that was said in the opinion of Mr. Justice Sluss, being himself of opinion that, while the law of 1824 was repealed by that of 1837, the regulations of 1828 were not thereby wholly repealed. He thought that the grant in this case was made, not under the law of 1824, but under the regulations of 1828; that the law regulated the matter of the disposition of the public lands within the States, and conferred upon the executive the power to make all necessary
Mr. Justice Stone dissented from the decree rejecting the claim, and was of opinion that the making of the grant in question was within the competency of the supreme executive, and that Governor Armijo was his appropriate ministerial agent in its execution.
In reviewing questions arising out of Mexican laws relating to land titles we recognize what an exceedingly difficult matter it is to determine with anything like certainty what laws were in force in Mexico at any particular time prior to the occupation of the country by the American forces in 1846-1848. This difficulty exists because of the frequent political changes which took place in that country from the time the Spanish rule was first thrown off down to the American occupation. Revolutions and counter-revolutions, empires and republics, followed each other with great rapidity and in bewildering confusion, and emperors, presidents, generals and dictators, each for a short period, played the foremost part in a country where revolution seems during that time to have been the natural order of things. Among the first acts of each government was generally one repealing and nullifying all those of its predecessors.
If, however, the validity of this grant were to be decided under the provisions of the colonization law of 1824, and the regulations passed in 1828, it seems to us there would be little difficulty in determining that the appellants had failed to make out their case. The provisions of the act of 1824 were plainly violated in this grant, because it contained more than eleven square leagues. This was prohibited by that law. Reynolds'
And also, before the grant in question was made, there had been a previous one, dated November 28, 1845, conveying to Sandoval the land embraced in what was called the Bosque del Apache grant, which also exceeded eleven square leagues in extent, the grant being made by the same governor (Armijo), although juridical possession was not delivered until March 7, 1846. Having obtained a grant of more than eleven square leagues before he made his petition for the grant now in issue, he had acquired all that the law of 1824 permitted him to take, and the subsequent grant was not valid. United States v. Hartnell, 22 How. 286.
Another objection to the title is that there is no record of its existence in the archives of New Mexico. Although no question is made as to the genuineness of the papers set forth in the foregoing statement of fact, namely, the petition of Sandoval, its allowance by Governor Armijo, the certificate of the comptroller and acting treasurer, and the certificate of the delivery of juridical possession by the justice of the peace, yet none of these came from the archives of the country, and there is no record that the departmental assembly ever concurred in the grant, as is necessary under the law of 1824. Reynolds, p. 142, sec. 5. If the approval of that body could not be obtained, the governor was to report to the supreme government, forwarding the proceedings in the matter for its consideration. Sec. 6. Nothing of this kind appears in the archives or in the records of the assembly. Nor has there been produced even from the hands of the claimants any approval of the grant by the assembly. No matter how formal and complete the written documentary evidence of title may be, yet when coming from private hands it is insufficient to establish a Mexican grant if there is nothing in the public records to show that it ever existed. Peralta v. United States, 3 Wall. 434, 440. Mr. Justice Davis, in delivering the opinion of the court in that case, said:
"The Mexican nation attached a great deal of form to the disposition of its lands, and required many things to be done before the proceedings could ripen into a grant. But the important
The title here is incomplete because there is no evidence whatever of approval by the assembly, or, failing in that, any record of further proceedings to obtain the approval of the supreme government.
In United States v. Teschmaker, 22 How. 392, Mr. Justice Nelson said, at page 405: "We do not say that the absence of the record evidence is of itself necessarily fatal to the proof of the title; but it should be produced, or its absence accounted for to the satisfaction of the court."
In Berreyesa v. United States, 154 U.S. 623, the court held that the case came within the principle of those cases in which it had decided adversely to claims made under alleged Mexican grants, all because it did not appear that a grant from the Mexican government had been "deposited and recorded in the proper public office among the public archives of the republic." See also United States v. Ortiz, 176 U.S. 422; United States v. Elder, 177 U.S. 104.
In this case, as we have said, there is no record or mention of the case in the archives in New Mexico. The papers came from private hands, the claimant Nolan presenting them to the surveyor general in 1855, when he applied to that officer for his recommendation to Congress for a confirmation of the grant. That they have remained in the surveyor general's office since that time does not make them a record or an archive of the government within the meaning of those cases above cited.
The certificate of Baca, the justice of the peace, certifying to his delivery of juridical possession to Sandoval on December 15, 1845, bears the indorsement that it was recorded in book letter B, pages 166, 167, and is certified to by the recorder Donaciano
It does appear from the evidence that there may have been some loss or destruction of papers which constituted a part of the records or archives of New Mexico in the possession of the territorial librarian in the year 1869 or 1870. The history of the transaction is stated by the witness Bond, and it would seem from his account that it was extremely doubtful whether any really important papers relating to grants of land had in fact been destroyed, although some of them may have been. Unless we should regard this possibility as a sufficient excuse in every case of a land grant in New Mexico for the failure to show any archive title or record of title of such
Taking all these objections to the title into consideration we think it clear that no case for confirmation under the colonization law of August, 1824, and the regulations of 1828 was made out.
In the early history of these Mexican land titles it had been supposed that the colonization law and the regulations above mentioned were all that were in force in Mexico after their dates. United States v. Cambuston, 20 How. 59, 63; United States v. Vallejo, 1 Black, 541, 552; United States v. Vigil, 13 Wall. 449, 450.
Subsequently, the claim was urged that that law and the regulations had been repealed by virtue of the law of April 4, 1837. Reynolds, p. 222. See also law of April 17, 1837, p. 224 of Reynolds' Compilation.
The claim was urged by way of argument by counsel, and referred to by Mr. Justice Lamar in his opinion in Interstate Land Grant Company v. Maxwell Land Grant Company, 139 U.S. 569, 578. Again, in United States v. Coe, 170 U.S. 681, 696, Mr. Justice McKenna, in speaking of the colonization law of August 18, 1824, said that "by a law passed April 4, 1837, all colonization laws were certainly modified and may be repealed."
The weight of the argument of counsel for appellants rests upon the assumption and assertion that this grant was not made under the law of 1824 or the regulations of 1828, nor under the law of 1837 above mentioned, but that it was made by the supreme executive of Mexico through his trusted minister and agent, Governor and Commandant-General Manuel Armijo,
Treating Armijo as the alter ego in New Mexico of the supreme executive of Mexico, and claiming for the latter full and absolute power to dispose of the public lands in accordance with the views held by that officer, counsel ask that the same presumption of the validity of grants made by Governor Armijo should be indulged, which was accorded to the grants of certain officials in the Louisiana and Florida cases, herein referred to. We think no such presumption ought to obtain in this case.
In United States v. Cambuston, supra, Mr. Justice Nelson, in speaking of the difference between the cases involving Spanish titles in the Territories of Louisiana and Florida, such as United States v. Arredondo, 6 Pet. 691, 729; Delassus v. United States, 9 Pet. 117, 134; United States v. Peralta, 19 How. 343, 347, and those which involved Mexican titles, said:
"But no such presumptions are necessary or admissible in respect to Mexican titles granted since the act of the 18th of August, 1824, and the regulations of the 21st of November, 1828. Authority to make the grants is there expressly conferred on the governors, as well as the terms and conditions prescribed, upon which they shall be made. The court must look to these laws for both the power to make the grant, and for the mode and manner of its exercise; and they are to be substantially complied with, except so far as modified by the usages and customs of the government under which the titles are derived, the principles of equity, and the decisions of this court. 17 How. 542."
The case was decided under the act of Congress of the 3d of March, 1851, to adjudicate private land claims arising under our treaty with Mexico, and the decision, as is seen from the above extract, proceeds upon the assumption that the law of 1824 and the regulations of 1828 furnished the rule of decision. Their existence is denied by counsel for the appellants, and it is upon the assumption of their non-existence that his argument rests. Assuming, however, that the law and regulations were
And in Hays v. United States, 170 U.S. 637, 647, 648, this difference is also pointed out by Mr. Justice White. Speaking of the act of 1891, he said:
"But in the act of 1891 the court is required to be satisfied not simply as to the regularity in form, but it is made essential before a grant can be held legally valid that it must appear that the title was `lawfully and regularly derived,' which imports that the court must be satisfied, from all the evidence, that the official body or person assuming to grant was vested with authority, or that the exercise of power, if unwarranted, was subsequently lawfully ratified." Page 648.
We are not satisfied that there was a general power on the part of the governor of a territory at any time to make a valid grant of lands in all cases and simply as the agent of the supreme executive, such as is contended for by counsel for the appellants. No evidence that the governors legally had that power has been given other than the fact that they sometimes exercised it. It appears, however, that for some years prior to 1845 grants of land were made not only by governors, but even by alcaldes, prefects, justices of the peace, and by judges of first instance, so that, in the language of one of the judges of the
Counsel also urges that such power is to be found in the "Bases of 1835," the "constitution of 1836," and the "Bases of 1843," not to speak of the "Plan of Tacubaya," and the attending laws or decrees, in which it is contended there are specific provisions plainly expressive of the intimate representative and ministerial relations which the governor and commandant general bore the supreme executive. It might be assumed that the relations between the supreme executive or Dictator and his governors and commandants general were intimate and confidential, but such relations of intimacy and confidence do not take the place of an actual delegation of power to the governors to make grants of this description; nor do we find any such delegation in the various provisions contained in the Bases of 1835 or of 1843 and the constitution above referred to. The governor does not assume to make the grant by virtue of any special or general delegation of authority to him by the supreme executive, but he asserts in his grant above quoted that he makes it "in virtue of the power in me vested by the laws," etc.
Section 10 of the "Bases for the New Constitution," law of October 23, 1835, Reynolds, p. 201, simply provides that the executive power of the departments shall reside in the governors
In fine, looking through the provisions to which our attention has been called by counsel, and without specific reference to each one of them, we may say in regard to all of them that we find therein nothing providing in terms or by inference for the general delegation of power by the supreme executive (assuming that he himself had it) to the various governors to make a grant like this. The appellants are, therefore, compelled to show some specific delegation of authority from the supreme executive for making such a grant. If that were shown, we might say, following the case of United States v. Castillero, 23 How. 464, the other conditions therein mentioned being fulfilled, that the grant was a valid one and ought to have been confirmed by the court below, and within the case of United States v. Osio, 23 How. 273, if there had been a special delegation of power it would follow that the conditions contained in such special delegation must be fulfilled before title passed. The necessity for showing what the special power was becomes evident from these cases.
What we have already said as to the absence of all record in
Looked at from any point of view we do not think the appellants have borne the burden of showing the validity of their grant, either directly or by facts from which its validity could be properly inferred within the cases already decided by this court. The judgment of the court below must, therefore, be