Imatges de pÓgina

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 8th 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 had 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 167h of March, took their seats. 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, rice Mr. Howard. The commission as it now stands consists of

" CommissionersAlpheus Felch, of Michigan; R. A. Thompson, of Virginia; S. B. Farwell, of California.

Law AgentJohn H. McKune, of California.
" Associate Law Agent-Lewis Blanding, of Texas.
Secretary-George Fisher, of Texas."

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 $12

“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.....

..102 cases.

397 cases. “Filed with the clerks of the United States district courts in both dis

.202 cases. tricts in.....

..195 cases. “ To be filed in the said courts in.

397 cases.

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.

“ The opinions and decrees of the board are recorded, partly in the second volume of the journals, and partly in the first and second volumes of the Record of Decisions,' in 2 13 cases, making an aggregate of about 1,342 pages, with about 8,100 folios.

“The original Spanish documentary evidence is recorded in 40 cases out of the 813 filed; making 300 pages, with about 2,250 folios.

• The translations of the Spanish documentary evidence are recorded in 20 cases, making 175 pages, with about 1,100 folios.

• The original documentary evidence, originally framed in the English language, consisting in mesne conveyances, proceedings of courts, last wills and testaments, mortgages, powers of attorney, &c., is recorded in 275 cases, making 300 pages, with about 2,250 folios.

“ The maps in the 813 claims filed are not yet recorded in any one case, for want of a draughtsman in this office for that purpose.

“ The quantity of writing to be done in the 416 unadjudicated cases cannot be specified, because there is no guide to be governed by in regard to the number of the depositions of witnesses and other documentary testimony to be introduced; but taking the 397 adjudicated cases as an average standard, the same quantity of work may be assumed in the yet unadjudicated cases; thus making the quantity of labor to be done in this office, with the addition of the papers to be recorded, and the transcripts for duplicate to be made out and transmitted to the Attorney General of the United States, and filed with the clerks of the United States district court, for both districts, in the cases already adjudicated, sufficient to employ at least ten clerks and one draughtsman for the transcript and record departments of this office for one year.

“Besides the above specified writing, there is a large quantity of such labor to be done as cannot be particularly specified, and which depends upon many contingencies, to wit: To make several indexes to ihe record-books; to record the daily proceedings of the board on the journal, of which there are three volumes already written up, making 1,832 pages, with about 10,992 folios; to make entries on the several dockets of the disposition of the cases by the board; to keep up the official correspondence with the Department of the Interior, the Attorney General of the United States, the clerks of the United States district courts for both districts of California; with the surveyor general of the United States for California, and sundry other official correspondence; to make maps for the transcripts, and various other incidental writings in connexion with the labors of the board and the United States law agents, in behalf of the United States as defendant; to examine and correct the translations of the Spanish documentary evidence filed by the claimants, and make translations of similar documents in cases where the claimants omitted bling the same, as also in behalf of the United States as defendant, offered by the United States law agent; to collate all the records of this office with the original papers for the purpose of ascertaining whether they are correctly recorded."

From the above extract an idea may be formed of the amount of labor which has been perfermed by the land commissioners.

In this connexion it is proper to state that the surveyor of the State of California has estimated that there are 93,622,400 acres of

land in the State, 2,629,000 acres of which are swamp lands, 20,000,000 acres capable of being irrigated, and therefore fit for cultivation ; 19,000,000 acres which cannot be irrigated, and 52,000,000 acres of minerallands; and 10,000,000 acres are claimed by Spanish grants.

It is siated by the land commissioners in their report to the Secretary of the Interior, that the above named 10,000,000 acres comprises thie finest portion of the State. And they further state, that one claim alone pending before the board for adjudication is estimated to be worth ihirty-five millions of dollars.

The following language is used by them in speaking of the “character and extent of the claims" submited to them for confirmation:

“They involve the title to an area of country larger than that contained within the judirisdictional linits of almost any one of the older States of the Union. The quantity covered by the 397 cases already adjudicated exceeds the entire area of any one (with a single exception) of the New England States. They embrace the choice portions of California, the delightful valleys which attracted the early settlers by their beauty and fertility, and which are, and will continue to be, the garden of our possessions on the Pacific coast. They cover the sites of the cities and villages of the State with their thousands and tens ot thousands of inhabitants; the ancient missionary establishments, long the pride of the Spanish and Mexicon nations, with their churches, their vineyards, and their cultivated fields; and they embrace the homesteads of the entire population of the country, who had their home3 here under the dominion of another power. Lands which, when these grants were made, were to be had without price, now required for the thousand purposes of an American population, are estimated at high value. The uncertain boundaries of mountain ranges, and swamps and

hills, are giving place to the lines of the surveyor, carefully run by compass and chain, and the careless reckoning by square leagues of immense tracts for cattle ranches, with ill-defined boundaries and uncertain limits, is being superseded by accurate subdivisions, scrupulously measured into farms, reckoned by acres and roods, and city, town, and village lots designated by their number of square feet and inches."

In calling the attention of the Secretary of the Interior to the complex questious submitted for their decision, they say:

“And the variety and difficulty of the questions presented in the investigations of these claims are commensurate with their importance to the claimants and the country. They had their origin among a people whose habits, pursuits in life, notions of property, and of the evidence by which it was sustained and perpetuated, were as wide apart from our own as these, her former American dependencies, are from Peninsular Spain. Every original grant, and every document pertaining to the title, the record of every official act, the history of every public transaction, the laws of the nation, and the pages of their political annals, all of which are involved in these inveligations, are found only in a language foreign to us.

"Froin almost every source knowledge is required for the proper understanding of these cases. In these investigations questions arise under the national and civil law, expressly made a guide by the act of 3d March, 1951, under the Spanish law, which adopts generally the

principles of the civil law, while it repudiates its authority; under the laws and decrees of independent Mexico, after the dominion of Old Spain was cast off; under the acts of the territorial and departmental authorities of California, sometimes the legitimate representatives of the Mexican government, and at others in a state of uneasy rebellion against them; under the military rule which succeeded the conquest in July, 1846; under the anomalous authority, half civil, half military, which succeeded the close of hostilities, and continued until the State organization of California ; under the common law, after its adoption here in 1850; and under the statute laws of the State, which are applicable to all questions regarding the more recent conveyances of the premises claimed. A greater variety of subjects, or a wider field of investigation, was rarely, if ever, open to any tribunal, and the faith of the nation under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, justice to a conquered people, and a due regard to the provisions of the act of Congress organizing this commission, impose the duty of a careful investigation of the many questions presented in these cases. The difficulty of obtaining access to the highest sources of information bearing on these subjects, has occasioned much embarrassment to the commission."

The foregoing presents, in as brief a manner as possible, the history, progress, and condition of the Board of Land Cominissioners of the State of California. The policy and reasons for continuing the board one year longer are at once manifest. If it is not done, the commission expires on the fourth of March, 1855, by the limitation of the present law; and the 416 cases yet to be adjudicated fail from a delinquency of neither the claimants nor commissioners, but from the general government's failing to give sufficient time and opportunity for their consideration. The loss which will ensue to the claimants and to the government, and the severe shock to the permanent prosperity of the State, cannot be estimated by dollars and cents. The result would be "contusion worse confounded” to the entire land policy of California, by a failure to give the commission another year in which to complete their labors.

By virtue of a clause in the law of the United States regulating the appeal of these land cases to the United States district court, they are all tried de noro by that tribunal. New testimony is taken, and the same work is to be gone over, in order to thoroughly sift the claims and lave no ground for complaint on the part of claimants, or the setilers whose interests are identified with the government.

When these causes get to the United States district court, the United States district attorney is compelled to represent the government in resisting the confirmation of the claims filed. This imposes other duties than ordinarily fail within the line of his duty as a district attorney. The legitimate business before the United States district court, in which the district attorney is engaged, keeps him constantly employed during the year, and the United States district court for the northern district of California is in session during the entire year. The second section of the bill reported by your committee provides for an assistant counsel and clerical aid. Without it, the government's interests cannot be properly protected.

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