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CALIFORNIA LAND COMMISSION.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 547.]
DECEMBER 13, 1854.
Mr. LATHAM, from the Committee on Public Lands, made the following
. The Committee on Public Lands, to whom was referred a bill to continue in
furce, for a limited time, the provisions of the act of Congress of 3d March, 1851, and the 2d section of its supplement of 18th January, 1854, so as to enable the board of land commissioners in California to close their adjudications of private land titles in that State, and for other purposes, have had the same under consideration, and respectfully beg leave to present the following facts for the consideration of the House:
The above bill contains two provisions : First, to continue the California Land Commission for one year from the 4th March, 1855; and next, to allow the United States district attorney for the northern district an assistant counsel, at a salary of $3,600 per annum, and two clerks at a salary of $1,800 per annum each, for the period of one year from the time of their several appointments. The assistant counsel and said two clerks to co-operate with the United States attorney in guarding and protecting the government's interests in the prosecution of the land cases on appeal from the land commissioners to the United States district court.
To a proper understanding of this bill, we propose first to give a brief history of this California land commission, in order that the House may properly understand the difficulties with which it has had to contend, and how much time, since its organization, has been lost by the disability of its inembers from vacancies, resignations, sickness, &c.
The act organizing the California land commission, and which this bill proposes to extend by its first section, passed Congress March 3, 1851.
“On the 27th of May, in that year, President Fillmore appointed Harry I. Thornton, of Alabama, one of the commissioners, and Mr. T. took the oath of office on the 11th of September. James Wilson, of New Hampshire, was appointed a commissioner on the 16th of June, and took the oath of office on the 25th of October; and the remaining place was filled on the 5th of September, by the appointment of Hiland Hall, of Vermont, who took the oath of office on the 8th of the same month. On the 16th of September J. B. Carr was appointed secretary,
and on the 17th of October George W. Cooley, of Massachusetts, received his commission as law agent.
· The first meeting of the board was held in Washington, D. C., September 11, 1851. Present : Messrs. Hall and Thornton, (General Wilson being in California,) who gave notice that the President had ordered a session of the board to be held in San Francisco on the Sth day of December, 1851, and they then adjourned the board to that time and place.
On the sth of December the United States marshal, by proclamation, opened the board at San Francisco. At this meeting the only commissioner present was Mr. Wilson, neither of the others, nor the secretary, nor law agent, having arrived. So the board was adjourned until the 31st; at which time a quorum was present, and adjourned until the 5th of January, 1852. On the 5th of January the board being officially informed that J. B. Carr bad resigned the office of secretary to the board, appointed George Fisher, of Texas, to fill the vacancy.
“The United States Senate having refused to confirm the appointment of Commissioner Wilson, that gentleman retired from the board October 13, 1852, and the President on the 3d September commissioned Gustavus A. Henry, of Tennessee, in his place. Mr. Henry never entered upon
his duties, and the two commissioners acted until the 23d of April following, when Alpheus Felch, of Michigan, Thompson Campbell, of Illinois, and R. Augustus Thompson, of Virginia, who were appointed by President Pierce on the 16îh of March, took their
On the 7th June, 1854. Mr. Campbell resigned, and S. B. Farwell, cf California, was appointed to fill the vacancy.
“R. Greenhow, the first associate law agent, was appointed in August, 1852, and died in March, 1854. Lewis Blanding took his place in June last.
Volney E. Howard, of Texas, was appointed in March 1853, to fill the place of Mr. Cooley, the first law agent; and in January of the present year, John H. McKune, of California, was appointed, vice Mr. Howard. The commission as it now stands consists of
" Commissioners-Alpheus Felch, of Michigan; R. A. Thompson, of Virginia; S. B. Farwell, of California.
"Law Agent-John H. McKune, of California.
From the above complete abstract of the rise and progress of the commission, it will appear that the board never met for business until the 5th January, 1852, ten months after its creation; that from the 13th October, 1852, until the 23d April, 1853, the commission consisted of but two members; and for several months of its existence, the office of law agent and associate law agent have been vacant. It is
very safe to assert, and is apparent from the above facts, that the commission has really had but two and a half years in which to execute the business submitted to its action; and that business has been so onerous, that it would have been physically impossible for any three commissioners to have faithfully adjudicated the complex questions submitted to their tribunal
The following part of a report submitted to the board of the United States land commission by its secretary, presents a faithful epitome of the immense labor submitted to, and in part performed by, the board :
"The whole number of claims filed up to March 3, 1853, in accordance with the provisions of the act of Congress of March 3, 1851, is 812
“On the 17th September, 1854, by authority of the act of Congress of July 17, 1854, one claim was filed....
* Total number of claims filed..
....813 “Of the above $13 claims, the following disposition is made, to wit: “Adjudicated by the former board, up to the 18th April, 1853, 72 cases. "Adjudicated by the present board to the 10th October,1854, 325 cases. “ Total adjudicated....
397 cases. “Of the above 397 adjudicated cases, 294 claims were confirmed, containing 736 square leagues of land, and 103 rejected, containing 383 square leagues, equal to total adjudicated, 397. “ Cases to be yet adjudicated, 416; equal to total number filed, 813.
Transcript department. “Of the above 397 adjudicated cases, transcripts have been transmitted to the Attorney General of the United States at Washington in 295 cases.
“Duplicates of the same transcripts have been filed with the clerk of the United States district court for the northern district of California in 94 cases, and with the clerk of the United States district court for the southern district of California in 108 cases; making an aggregate of transcripts in the two district courts in 202 cases. “Of the
397 adjudicated cases, transcripts yet to be transmitted to the Attorney General of the United States in 102 cases.
"Duplicates of the transcripts in the 397 adjudicated cases yet to be filed with the clerk of the United States district courts for the northern and southern districts of California in 193 cases.
“ Recapitulation of the transcripts in the 397 adjudicated cases, viz: Transmitted to the Attorney General in..
..295 cases. “ To be transmitted to the same in.......
397 cases. “Filed with the clerks of the United States district courts in both districts in...
..195 cases. * To be filed in the said courts in.
Record department. “ The depositions of witnesses taken in the several cases up to the end of the month of June, 1854, are recorded in the Record of Evidence, being volumes I, II, III, and IV, each volume consisting of a book ranging from 625 to 750 pages, averaging about six folios to the page, making an aggregate of 2,800 pages, with about 16,800 folios.