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MAXWELL LAND GRANT CASE, 122 U. S. 365 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Maxwell Land Grant Case, 122 U.S. 365 (1887)

Maxwell Land Grant Case

Submitted May 12, 1887

Decided May 27, 1887

122 U.S. 365


The court rested its judgment in this case, 121 U. S. 121 U.S. 325, not upon the fact of the grant to Beaubien and Miranda being an empresario grant, but upon the fact that Congress, having confirmed it as made to Beaubien and Miranda, and as reported for confirmation by the Surveyor General of New Mexico to Congress, without qualification as to its extent, acted in that respect entirely within its power, and that its action was conclusive upon the Court.

The Court stated in its former opinion, and repeats now, its conviction that the grant by Armijo to Beaubien and Miranda described the boundaries in such a manner that Congress must have known that the grant so largely exceeded twenty-two leagues that there could be no question upon that subject, and it must have decided that the grant should not be limited by the eleven leagues of the Mexican law.

The Court repeats the conviction expressed in its former opinion, with further reasons in support of it, that Beaubien, in the petition which he presented against the intrusion of Martinez, did not refer to his own grant as being only fifteen or eighteen leagues, but to the grant under which Martinez was claiming.

The Court assumes that references in the petition to newly discovered and material evidence touching the fraudulent character of the grant are addressed to the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General, as the rehearing in this Court can be had only on the record before the court as it came from the circuit court.

The Court remains entirely satisfied that the grant, as confirmed by Congress, is a valid grant; that the survey and the patent issued upon it, as well as the original grant by Armijo, are free from fraud on the part of the grantees or those claiming under them, and that the decision could be no other than that made in the circuit court and affirmed by this Court. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 122 U. S. 366

This was a petition for a rehearing of the case, the decision of which was announced April 18, 1887, and is reported at 121 U. S. 121 U.S. 325. The petition and brief in support of it were as follows:




"vs. No. 974"



"And now comes the United States, appellant, and moves the Court to allow a rehearing of the cause above entitled upon the grounds stated in a brief herewith filed."


"The urgency of the occasion makes it hardly practicable to do more than submit the motion to rehear this cause upon the grounds presented in a letter from the Acting Commissioner of the Land Office to the Secretary of the Interior, which letter is approved by the Secretary of the Interior and referred by him to the Attorney General for action thereon. A copy of that letter is made a part of this brief. (Vide 122 U. S. )"

"In connection with so much of that letter as relates to empresario grants, it is perhaps proper to refer the Court again to the elements of that class of grants as given in the third article of the Mexican colonization law of the 4th January, 1823, which is in these words:"

"ART. 3. The empresarios, by whom is understood those who introduce at least two hundred families, shall previously contract with the executive, and inform it what branch of industry they propose to follow, the property or resources they intend to introduce for that purpose, and any other particulars they may deem necessary, in order that with this

Page 122 U. S. 367

necessary information, the executive may designate the province to which they must direct themselves, the lands which they can occupy with the right of property, and the other circumstances which may be considered necessary. (Vide Hall's Mexican Law, p. 103.)"

"It is to be regretted that the urgency of the matter has prevented the Secretary of the Interior from furnishing some representation of the character of the newly discovered evidence referred to in the letter from the Acting Commissioner of the Land Office. It is possible, however, that the Court, looking at the magnitude of the public interests involved and the fact that this motion has the sanction of the head of a great department of the government and is made by his request, will allow the United States an opportunity not only to make a satisfactory statement of the evidence which, it is claimed, has been newly discovered, if it appear possible that any such evidence could be taken into consideration on this appeal, but also to present such additional matters of law as may tend to support the said motion."


"Assistant Attorney General"

|122 U.S. 365app|




"Washington D.C. May __, 1887"

"Hon. L. Q. C. LAMAR"

"Secretary of the Interior"

"SIR: I respectfully recommend that the honorable Attorney General be requested to file a motion in the Supreme Court for reargument of the Maxwell Land Grant Case, in which the decree of the Circuit Court for the District of Colorado was affirmed April 18th last."

"The grounds upon which I think rehearing should be had are that the Court was fundamentally in error in treating the grant as an empresario grant, since, 1st, that no contract was

Page 122 U. S. 368

entered into, as provided by the Mexican laws, for the introduction of persons of the class, or upon the terms prescribed in such cases; 2d, that an analysis of the grant to Beaubien and Miranda will disclose that no empresario feature entered into said grant; 3d, that said grant was specifically a private settlement grant, made to two persons for eleven leagues, and that eleven leagues only was applied for by, or granted to, said Beaubien and Miranda, to be equally divided between them, and that the foregoing propositions can be shown and demonstrated upon rehearing."

"The decision of the Court turned upon the error above alleged, and the proposition that Congress intended to give these persons a body of land vastly in excess of the quantity which the Mexican governor had authority to grant, or which the United States was bound by the law of nations or the Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo to confirm, rests primarily upon said error."

"The Court was also mistaken in conceiving that Beaubien's statement to the Departmental Assembly that the grant claimed did not exceed fifteen or eighteen leagues, referred to a grant made to Martinez."

"It wasAssembly that the grant claimed did not exceed fifteen or eighteen leagues, referred to a grant made to Martinez."

"It wasAssembly that the grant claimed did not exceed fifteen or eighteen leagues, referred to a grant made to Martinez."

"It was error further to assume that the Surveyor General reported to Congress upon the extent of the grant, or that Congress knew or considered the question of quantity, since no survey has been made and no statement of area, other than that made by Beaubien to the Departmental Assembly, appears in the papers in the case. The report of the Surveyor General was upon the question of title only, and the confirmation by Congress should be held to carry only what was granted under the laws of Mexico. The Surveyor General's report was itself an imposition upon Congress, since it declared that all proceedings had been regular and in accordance with law and that the grant had been confirmed by the Departmental Assembly, which declarations do not appear to be sustained by the evidence."

"I am also advised that new and material evidence touching the fraudulent character of this grant, and the alleged juridical possession, has been discovered which may be indicated to

Page 122 U. S. 369

yourself and the Honorable Attorney General and made part of a basis for a new trial in the lower court, or produced in the suit which I have recommended should be brought in New Mexico. I respectfully urge that the New Mexico suit be brought and pressed, since the record now before the Supreme Court fails to disclose the full case of the government. But in any event, I deem it essential to the interests of the government to urge reargument in the present case, as even with the imperfect record it is my opinion that weighty and sufficient reasons can be brought to the notice of the Court to justify a review of its decision or a remand for rehearing upon the merits of the case."

"I am also assured that, if agreeable to yourself and the Honorable Attorney General, the Hon. Benjamin F. Butler, with whom Commissioner Sparks has conferred upon the legal points involved in the case, can be engaged, upon terms satisfactory to the Department of Justice, to file a brief in support of the motion for reargument, and I respectfully suggest that General Butler's services be availed of. If you so desire, General Butler will wait upon you at any time you may indicate to consult you in the matter, and will lay before you the newly discovered evidences referred to, which are in his possession."

"In view of the importance of the case and the short time remaining in which motions for rehearings may be filed (the last day expiring, as I am informed, on the 12th instant, or, in view of the public ceremonies on that day, possibly tomorrow), I would ask your immediate consideration of the subject."

"The foregoing recommendations are made in accordance with my understanding of the views and wishes of Commissioner Sparks as communicated to me by him prior to his leaving the city."

"Very respectfully,"


"Acting Commissioner"


"L. Q. C. LAMAR"



Page 122 U. S. 370

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