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“ The opinions and decrees of the board are recorded, parily 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 cut 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 (ase, 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 L'nited 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 the record-books; to record the daily proceedings of the board on the journal, of which there are three volumes already written up, making 1,532 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 performed by the land commissioners.
In this connexion it is proper to staie 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 mineral lands; and 10,000,000 acres are claimed by Spanish grants.
It is stated by the land commissioners in their report to the Secretary of the Interior, that the above named 10,000,000 acres comprises the finest portion of the State. And they further state, that one claim alone pending before the board for adjudication is estimated to be worth thirty-five millions of dollars.
The following language is used by them in speaking of the “character and extent of the claims" submiited to them for confirmation:
“They involve the title to an area of country larger than that contained within the judirisdictional liinits 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 Mexican 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 homes 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 invetigations, are found only in a language foreign to us.
“From 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 Íaws 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 Commissioners 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 “confusion 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 novo 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 settlers 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.
Upon this point we deem it proper to lay before your bɔdy 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 :
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE,
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, 1852, 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 to 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 the 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 m intained 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, which can only be done properly after 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 claim 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 relusal to make these appropriations, at the next session of Cngress, will be followed by irremediable loss and injury to the revenues of the government.
From the 1st of June, 1953, (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