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MINNESOTA V. HITCHCOCK, 185 U. S. 373 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Minnesota v. Hitchcock, 185 U.S. 373 (1902)

Minnesota v. Hitchcock

No. 4, Original

Argued November 1, 4, 1901

Decided May 5, 1902

185 U.S. 373


The original jurisdiction, vested by the Constitution in this Court over controversies in which a state is a party, is not affected by the question whether the state is a party plaintiff or party defendant.

A dispute as to the title to real estate is a question of a justiciable nature, and can properly be determined in a judicial proceeding.

The United States are to be taken, for the purposes of this case, as the real party in interest adverse to the state.

This Court has jurisdiction of this controversy, and is called upon to determine the case on its merits.

Not only the technical rules of statutory construction, but also the general scope of the legislation in these matters and the policy of the United States in respect to public schools, and also to Indians, concur in sustaining the contention of the government that none of these ceded lands passed under the school grant to the state.

The Court is of opinion that the claim of Minnesota to these lands cannot be sustained, and that the bill should be dismissed.

This is a suit in equity commenced in this Court by the State of Minnesota to enjoin the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of the General Land Office from selling any sections 16 and 36 in what was on January 14, 1889, known as the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

By the bill, answer, and an agreed statement, the following facts appear: by section 18 of the act to establish the territorial government of Minnesota, approved March 3, 1849, 9 Stat. 403, it was enacted

"that, when the lands in the said territory shall be surveyed under the direction of the government of the United States preparatory to bringing the same into market, sections numbered 16 and 36 in each township in said territory shall be, and the same are hereby, reserved for the purpose of being applied to schools in said territory and in the states and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same."

On February 26, 1856, the Legislature of the Territory of Minnesota sent a memorial to Congress for the relief of settlers upon school lands, Laws, Minn. 1856, p. 368, which reads: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 185 U. S. 374

"To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled:"

"The memorial of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Minnesota respectfully represents:"

"That, under the provisions of the act of Congress extending the provisions of the preemption law of 1841 over the unsurveyed lands of Minnesota, many of our settlers have heavy investments, both of money and labor, in the opening of farms, erection of buildings, and the laying out and improving of town sites (lots in which said town sites were frequently transferred before the government survey at high prices, to the occupants thereof), who were found, when the government survey was made, to be upon the school sections, and that the said settler had no means of ascertaining previous to the survey where the school sections would come."

"That it is a great injustice and hardship to compel such persons to repurchase or lose entirely the improvements and homes made by themselves in good faith in the expectation of preempting or entering them according to the provisions of the statute. Therefore, your memorialists would respectfully request your honorable body to pass an act giving such persons in this territory as have, previously to the government survey, settled upon the school sections (and have otherwise the right of preemption) the right to preempt the same as other government lands are preempted. And also providing for the entry of the town sites in this territory which are on school sections and were occupied as such previous to the government survey, as other town sites upon unoffered government lands are entered."

"And also allowing the county commissioners of the county in which such lands may be situate to enter in lieu thereof, for the benefit of the school fund of the township in which such land so as aforesaid settled or occupied may be, and without charge, an equal amount of such surveyed lands, subject either to private entry or preemption, in the same land district as they may select."

"And as in duty bound your memorialists will ever pray."

In response to this memorial, Congress passed the following joint resolution March 3, 1857, 11 Stat. 254: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 185 U. S. 375

"That where any settlements, by the erection of a dwelling house or the cultivation of any portion of the land, shall have been or shall be made upon the sixteenth or thirty-sixth sections (which sections have been reserved by law for the purpose of being applied to the support of schools in the Territories of Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska, and in the states and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same) before the said sections shall have been or shall be surveyed; or when such sections have been or may be selected or occupied as town sites under and by virtue of the Act of Congress approved twenty-third of May, eighteen hundred and forty-four, or reserved for public uses before the survey, then other lands shall be selected by the proper authorities, in lieu thereof, agreeably to the provisions of the act of Congress approved twentieth May, eighteen hundred and twenty-six, entitled 'An act to Appropriate Lands for the Support of Schools in Certain Townships and Fractional Townships not Before Provided for.' And if such settler can bring himself or herself within the provisions of the act of fourth of September, eighteen hundred and forty-one, or the occupants of the town site be enabled to show a compliance with the provisions of the law of twenty-third of May, eighteen hundred and forty-four, then the right of preference granted by the said acts, in the purchase of such portion of the sixteenth or thirty-sixth sections so settled and occupied, shall be in them respectively, as if such sections had not been previously reserved for school purposes."

On February 26, 1857, Congress passed an act authorizing the formation of a state government. 11 Stat. 166. Section 5, so far as is applicable, is as follows:

"And be it further enacted that the following propositions be, and the same are hereby, offered to the said convention of the people of Minnesota for their free acceptance or rejection, which, it accepted by the convention, shall be obligatory on the United States and upon and said State of Minnesota, to-wit:"

"First, That sections numbered sixteen and thirty-six in every township of public lands in said state, and where either of said sections, or any part thereof, has been sold or otherwise been disposed of, other lands, equivalent thereto and as contiguous as may be, shall be granted to said state for the use of schools. "

Page 185 U. S. 376

On October 13, 1857, a Constitution was formed in which, by section 3 of article 2, the foregoing proposition was accepted in this language:

"The propositions contained in the act of Congress entitled"