Gonzales v. Ross
120 U.S. 605 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gonzales v. Ross, 120 U.S. 605 (1887)

Gonzales v. Ross

Submitted November 2, 1888

Decided March 14, 1887

120 U.S. 605

Syllabus

The Congress of Coahuila and Texas on the 28th April, 1832, passed a law respecting the grant of public lands. One Gonzales applied for a grant under this law, and, on the 16th October, 1832, the governor made the grant of the land in dispute under which the plaintiffs claim in the customary form for such grants. A commissioner was appointed to give possessory title to the tract, and on the 18th April, 1834, he delivered to the grantee at Dolores formal possession of the tract, and executed and

Page 120 U. S. 606

delivered a formal "testimonio" thereof. On the 26th March, 1834, the Congress of Coahuila and Texas at Monclova repealed the Act of April 28, 1832. The laws of the Mexican states did not then take effect in any pert of the country until promulgated there. There was no evidence of the promulgation of the repealing act at Dolores, but there was presumptive evidence tending to show that on the 3d of May, 1834, it had not been promulgated there. Held that under all the circumstances, and in view of the distances of Dolores from Monclova, the presumption was that the repealing act had not been promulgated when the commissioner extended the title to Gonzales.

The Act of the Congress of Coahuila and Texas of March 26, 1834, creating a new system of disposing of the public lands, did not abrogate the grants and sales which had been made under the Act of April 28, 1832, nor abolish the office and function of commissioners necessary for extending such grants.

From the notorious public history of the colony of Beales and Grant, and from other notorious facts which are stated in the opinion of the Court, it is held that the governor, in the grant to Gonzales which is the subject matter of this suit, intended to designate and did designate the commissioner of the neighboring enterprise as the officer to locate the grant and deliver possession to the grantee, and that his official acts therein, having been accepted and acquiesced in by the government, must be considered as valid even if done by him only as commissioner de facto.

The public officer who extended the lands in dispute must be presumed to have extended them in the proper department, and this presumptive conclusion of law is made certain in fact by examining the laws referred to in the opinion of the Court.

In 1834, the State of Coahuila and the Department of Monclova extended eastwardly at least as far as the River Nueces.

As all favorable presumptions will be made against the forfeiture of a grant, and as it will be presumed, unless the contrary be shown, that a public officer acted in accordance with law and his instructions, and as the government acquiesced in the commissioner's acts in extending the grant in dispute and no attempt had been made to revoke them or to assert a forfeiture, held that he had authority to extend the title, and his acts must be considered valid.

The testimonio in this case sufficiently connects itself with the original grant and subsequent steps taken under it; it is not necessary that it should be attached to it by a physical connection.

The grant in this case gave power and authority to the commissioner to extend it, and no further order was necessary.

The extension of the title of the grantee by the commissioner in a Mexican grant completed the title, without patent or other act of the government and notwithstanding the imposition of conditions subsequent, and the nonperformance of such conditions subsequent constituted no objection to the admission of plaintiff's evidence to show such extension.

If a forfeiture of a Mexican land grant from nonpayment or condition subsequent

Page 120 U. S. 607

can be availed of by a private person at all, it can only be after he has shown some right to the land in himself by virtue of a subsequent purchase or grant from the sovereignty of the soil.

Prior to the adoption of the Constitution of 1876, the laws of Texas did not require that a title under a Mexican grant should be registered in the county or deposited among the archives of the Land Office, in order to give it vitality, and it was only void as against third persons acquiring title from the sovereignty of the soil not having notice of it.

Defenses against Spanish and Mexican titles in Texas under Art. XIII of the Constitution of Texas of 1876 constitute no objection to the admission of evidence in support of such titles. Quaere as to the effect of the provisions in that article prohibiting the future registration of titles or the depositing of them in the Land Office.

Trespass. Plea, not guilty. Judgment for defendants. Plaintiffs sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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