Imatges de pàgina

Upon this point we deem it proper to lay before your body the annexed letter of the present United States district attorney, addressed to one of the Committee on Public Lands, which fully presents the whole case:


San Francisco, October 16, 1854. Sir: I beg leave to submit to you the enclosed report of George Fisher, esq., secretary of the Board of the United States Land Commissioners, in reference to the situation of the public business therein referred to, that you may predicate thereupon an application to Congress for such legislation as may be deemed necessary.

Mr. Fisher's report presents an accurate statement of the business disposed of by the board, and of that which remains undisposed of, and also of the business now pending in the United States district court, on appeal from said board, together with conjectural estimates of the amount of labor to be performed in the 416 cases undisposed of by the board, and in those in which transcripts are yet to be made, in reference to which he sayz that “ten clerks and one draughtsman” will be required for one year in the transcript and record departments of his office.

Under the twelfth section of the act of August 31, 1952, entitled “An act making appropriations for the civil and diplomatic expenses of the government,” transcripts in every case finally decided by the board are to be filed with the clerk of the proper district court, the filing of which operates ipso facto as an appeal." Under the tenth section of the act of March 3, 1851, entitled "An act to ascertain and settle the private land claims in the State of California,” further evidence may be taken by order of the court; and, under the ninth section of the same act, it is necessary for the United States attorney to file a petition or answer in every case in which the appeal may be prosecuted.

In a letter to the Attorney General, of the date of July 15, 1854, I have adverted to the amount of labor which those acts of Congress have imposed upon the United States attorney, and 10 the fact that no provision whatever has been made for the employment of necessary clerical aid or for my compensation. It is impossible for me to perform this labor without the assistance of at least three efficient clerks, two of whom should be lawyers, whose compensation should be paid inonthly or quarterly; and I am unwilling to devote ihe larger portion of my own time to this business, unless adequate provision is made by law för my compensation.

Any provision for my compensation, of course, should relate back to the commencement of my official connexion with this business, on the 1st day of June, 1853, since which time it has required and received my attention. The pecuniary interests of the government involved in this litigation are of great magnitude, and I need not suggest to you how important it is, in this point of view, to make promptly the necessary appropriations to have those interests muintained and protected. You can form an idea of the amount of labor devolved upon the United States attorney in the district court from the following brief statement of facts. Within the next two or three months (I am informed by one of the commissioners,) about three hundred appeals will come into the district court, where ninety-five cases have been pending for some time past. The professional and mechanical labor to be performed in those cases upon an appeal is, on an average, greater than was required in their original preparation and trial before the land commission.

The force there, which consists of three commissioners, two law agents, and eight or ten regular clerks, has been found inadequate to a rapid disposition of the business before the commission. In the

preparation of the cases before the board, the law requires no pleading on the part of the United States law agents; but in the district court, the Uniied States attorney, in every case, is required to file a petition or answer, wbich can only be done properiy afier a thorough and minute examination of the voluminous records from the commission. But, in addition to this, the decision of the board always discloses the weak points of the case, which the appellants, of course, will seek to strengthen by new testimony in the district court, and which will give rise generally to a more thorough and searching examination of witnesses on the appeal, than was had before the commission. Indeed the first investigation of the cases is merely preliminary to the more important final contest upon the facts, which arises in the district court.

In the larger number of cases on appeal, the new testimony, taken in the district court, will completely change their aspect; and unless the rights and interests of the United States are maintained, in this litigation, with a vigor and ability equal to that employed by the counsel for the claimants, it would be as well for the government to abandon its clain to the public land in California.

Thus you will perceive that in the preparation and trial of these cases on appeal, the labor imposed upon the United States attorney alone, who is not allowed by law a single assistant or clerk, is actually greater than the amount of labor originally performed before the land commission, which has required the employment of three commissioners, two law agents, and eight or ten regular clerks. How is it possible for any one person, without assistance, to perform these duties in any reasonable time? And how can any man, in justice to himself, even if the requisite assistance were furnished, undertake the performance of such duties without compensation ? Appropriations for these purposes cannot be regarded as donations to California, or as inuring to ihe benefit of California alone or her citizens, but as wise and necessary expenditures for the augmentation of the revenue from public lands. I have no hesitation in saying, that the money thus appropriated would be returned to .the government with tenfold increase, through the land offices in California. The question presented to Congress is this: “Will you preserve the public lands in California, or will you abandon them, from a false« economy in refusing the small appropriations necessary for their preservation " I assure you that the refusal to make these appropriations, at the next session of Cingress, will be followed by irremediable loss and injury to the revenues of the government.

From the 1st of June, 1853, (the commencement of my official term,) up to the 1st of June, 1854, I have defrayed, from my own resources, the expenses of clerk-hire and other expenses incident to this and the

other business of my office; but since the last named period I have been compelled, in justice to myself, to discontinue those disbursements.

The clerks in this office, three in number, have continued since in the performance of their duties, upon the expectation that an appro• priation would be made for their payment at the ensuing session of Congress; and if Congress should adjourn without realizing this expectation, I shall be left without assistance, and the business of the government without that attention which is indispensably necessary to its successful management. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. I concur in the necessity of appropriations by Congress at its next session for the objects indicated in the foregoing letter.

United States District Judge presiding in the

Northern District of California. We, the undersigned, commissioners to ascertain and settle private land claims in the State of California, concur in the necessity of an appropriation by Congress at the ensuing session to supply the wants of the public business arising from appeals to the United States district court from this commission in land cases, and recommend the same.


SAN FRANCISCO, October 21, 1954. S. W. Inge, esq., U. S. District Attorney,

To Andrew Glassell, Dr. To services in the office of the U.S. district attorney for

the northern district of California, as assistant attorney and clerk, from the 1st day of June, 1853, to the 1st day of June, 1954, at $300 a month

$3,600 00

Received payment in full, from S. W. Inge, esq.


8. W. Inge, esq., U. S. District Attorney,

To John A. Godfrey, Dr. To services in the office of the U. S. district attorney for the northern district of California, as assistant attorney and clerk, from the 1st of October, 1953, to 1st of June, 1854, at $300 per month.

$2,290 00 Received by cash from S. W. Inge, esq.

900 00

Balance due

1,390 00

Aggregate amount actually paid in cash by S. W. Inge, esq., U. S. district attorney for the northern district of California, for the above

services and during the said time: To Andrew Glassell.

$3,600 00 To John A. Godfrey

900 00

4,500 00


Personally appeared before me Andrew Glassell, who, being duly sworn, dleposes and says that the within amount of $3,600 was duly received by him, in full satisfaction of the account as therein rendered.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of October, A. D. 1854.


U. S. Commissioner.


Personally appeared before me John A. Godfrey, who, being duly sworn, deposes and says that the within amount of nine hundred dollars was duly received by him, and he relies upon the remainder, of $1,390, from the government, according to the account as therein rendered.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of October, A. D. 1854.


U.S. Commissioner.

In response to the objection that the California Board of Land Commissioners has occupied already too much time in discharging the duties imposed upon them, we give a compendious statement of the commissions created at previous times by Congress. This will establish, beyond cavil, that no board of commissioners have ever had such onerous labors imposed upon them, and the short time allowed the California board is without precedent in the history of our government.

The governmont of the United States had scarcely been fully organized before the necessity for the enactment of measures for ascertaining and settling private land claims became obvious to Congress.

In 1764 (nearly a century ago) the King of Great Britain caused an instrument to pass under the great seal, fixing the northern boundary of West Florida by a line drawn from the mouth of the river Yazoo, where it unites with the Mississippi, due east to the river Apalachicola. In that year he commissioned Governor Johnston to hold jurisdiction within said limits.

In 1777 the British superintendent of Indian affairs quieted the Indian title in what was called the Natchez district up to the northern

line, and such was the northern line of the province until May, 1781, when the province of West Florida was conquered by Spain.

From 1764, when the British governor was commissioned, until his successor, Governor Chester, in 1781, surrendered the province, locations of lands within the Mississippi limits, and patents for the same, were granted under the authority and protection of the British governor.

The commissioners of the United States, in 1793, made a representation to the court of Spain, that the southern boundary of Georgia was fixed, in 1763, by the King of Great Britain, at a time when no other power had any claim to any part of the country through which it run, beginning on the Mississippi in latitude 31° north, and running eastwardly to the Apalachicola.

The same representations were made in the negotiation with the Spanish court in 1795 ; and by the treaty concluded in that year between the United States and Spain, our southern boundary was recog. nised as it is described in the provisional articles of peace in November, 1762, between the United States and the King of Great Britain, and as confirmed in the definitive treaty between said governments, concluded on 3d September, 1783.

We have stated that during the British domination in the Mississippi Territory, to wit: from 1764 until 1751, they made grants of land in that region of country; and such also was the case with their successors—the Spanish authorities-who made numerous concessions of land in that Territory, and even subsequent to the Spanish treaty of relinquishment in 1795.

Congress, in the discharge of a necessary duty, passed an act in March, 1503, for the purpose of ascertaining and settling the British and Spanish grants, and other claims, down even to those resting not upon written title only, but also those founded on settlements merils, which existed at the evacuation of the territory by the Spanish troops. By the above law of 1803, they created a board of commissioners, with suitable compensation, to adjudicate them.

After this another law was passed on the 27th March, 1904, authorizing the Board of Commissioners to employ an agent, at a liberal salary, to appear before the board to investigate claims, and oppose fraudulent ones; also to employ an assistant clerk, and translator of the Spanish, stipulating for the various employés adequate compensation; and on the 21st April, 1806, another law in regard to the subject was enacted by Congress.

l'pon the acquisition by the United States, by virtue of the treaty of the 30th April, 1803, with the French republic, of the ancient province of Louisiana, Congress saw at once the importance of early legislation, and on the 26th March following erected Louisiana into two Territories; and in that first act of legislation, took care, in denouncing grants made by Spain without authority, to stipulate for the protection of bona fide legal grants and settlement claims; and in less than a year thereafter, viz: on the 2d March, 1805, passed “ An act for ascertaining and adjusting the titles and claims to lands within the Territory of Orleans, and the district of Louisiana.” By this law a Board of Commissioners, clothed with proper authority, was created; clerks were authorized,

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