This was a suit to enjoin a proposed sale for taxes of 150 acres of land in Idaho acquired under the Carey Act of August 18, 1894, § 4, c. 301, 28 Stat. 422, and the amendatory
The tract was part of upwards of 50,000 acres of arid lands which were segregated from the public domain in July, 1899, pursuant to an agreement, sanctioned by the Carey Act, whereby the State engaged to have the lands irrigated, reclaimed and brought under cultivation, and to dispose of them only to actual settlers in tracts of not exceeding 160 acres. Originally the act required that the reclamation be accomplished within ten years after the date of the act, but the amendment of 1901 directed that the ten years be computed from the approval of the State's application for the segregation and empowered the Secretary of the Interior, in his discretion, to prolong the period five years.
In the original act there was a provision that "as fast as any State may furnish satisfactory proof, according to such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior, that any of said lands are irrigated, reclaimed and occupied by actual settlers, patents shall be issued to the State or its assigns for said lands so reclaimed and settled," and the amendment of 1896 brought into the act a further provision that "when an ample supply of water is actually furnished in a substantial ditch or canal, or by artesian wells or reservoirs, to reclaim a particular tract or tracts of such lands, then patents shall issue for the same to such State without regard to settlement or cultivation."
Following the segregation in 1899 the State took appropriate steps to provide canals and a supply of water
While the canal system was in process of completion and after water was provided for some of the lands, the plaintiff, who possessed the necessary qualification, and had acquired the requisite perpetual water right, applied to the State to make entry of the tract in question and made the prescribed preliminary payments. See Idaho Rev. Codes, 1908, § 1626. The entry was allowed and the plaintiff settled upon the tract, made it his place of residence, irrigated and reclaimed it, and brought it under actual cultivation. Thereafter, on June 25, 1909, he submitted to the State due proof of what he had done, paid the balance of the purchase price, and received from the State a certificate of final entry. See Rev. Codes, § 1628. Nothing more was required of him by the Carey Act, by the law of Idaho, or by any regulation made under either. He received a patent from the State February 11, 1911, about a month after it received one from the United States.
January 9, 1911, the day the State received a patent from the United States, was the date as of which property was required by the law of Idaho to be assessed for taxation for the ensuing year. Rev. Codes, § 1653. This tract was so assessed and the tax in question was based upon that assessment. The assessment, the tax and the intended sale were all free from objection, if the tract was
At that time the United States no longer had any beneficial interest in the tract. Every condition upon which the ownership was to be transferred to the plaintiff had been fully performed. Thus the equitable title had passed to him and he had a present right to the legal title. The State received the latter as a trustee for him and was in duty bound to give him a patent — a duty which it promptly discharged, although not until after the time for the assessment.
Neither the Carey Act nor the agreement thereunder with the State purported to exempt the land from taxation or to take it out of the settled rule respecting the taxing of lands acquired under the public land laws. According to that rule, as this court frequently has said, when the proceedings for the acquisition of the title have reached the point where nothing more remains to be done by the entryman, and the Government no longer has any beneficial interest in the land and does not exclude the entryman from the use of it, he is regarded as the beneficial owner and the land as subject to taxation, even though the duty of passing the legal title to him has not been discharged — the principle underlying the rule being that one who has acquired the beneficial ownership of the land, and is not excluded from its enjoyment, cannot be permitted to use the fact that the naked legal title remains in the Government to avoid his just share of state taxation. Carroll v. Safford, 3 How. 441; Witherspoon v. Duncan, 4 Wall. 210; Wisconsin Railroad Co. v. Price County, 133 U.S. 496, 505; Winona & St. Peter Land Co. v. Minnesota, 159 U.S. 526, 530; Hussman v. Durham, 165 U.S. 144, 147; Sargent v. Herrick, 221 U.S. 404, 406.
That the title was being passed through the State to the entryman or purchaser rather than by a direct conveyance is immaterial, the determinative fact being the