United States v. Ritchie - 58 U.S. 525 (1854)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Ritchie, 58 U.S. 17 How. 525 525 (1854)
United States v. Ritchie
58 U.S. (17 How.) 525
By an act of Congress passed on the 3d of March, 1851, 9 Stats. 631, provision was made for the appointment of a board of commissioners to settle private land claims in California, and for the transfer of a case decided by them to the District Court of the United States for California, by way of appeal.
This law was constitutional. The board of commissioners was not a court, under the Constitution, invested with judicial powers; but the commencement of the suit in the district court, when transferred there, must be regarded as an original proceeding. The district court could hear additional evidence to that which was before the board of commissioners.
The 9th section of the act directed that the United States or the claimant might file a petition, praying an appeal to the district court, and other sections pointed out the mode of proceeding. But this was all changed by an Act passed on the 31st of August, 1852, l0 Stats. 99, which directed that the filing of a transcript with the clerk of the district court should, ipso facto, operate as an appeal.
This amounts, also, to a notice to the opposite party.
The title of Francisco Solano, an Indian, to a tract of land in California, particularly set forth.
Although Solano was an Indian, yet he was competent, according to the laws of Mexico at the time of the grant, to take and hold real property.
The plan of Iguala, adopted by the revolutionary government of Mexico, in 1821, and all the successive public documents and decrees of that country, recognized an equality amongst all the inhabitants, whether Europeans, Africans, or Indians, and the decree of 1824, providing for colonization, recognized the citizenship of the Indians, and their right to hold land.
In 1833 and 1834, the government of Mexico passed laws for secularizing the missions, under which the public authorities granted the lands belonging to them in the same manner as other public lands.
In respect to those lands called Pueblo lands, no opinion is expressed.
The act of Congress respecting the claimants to land in California, and the title of Solano, under whom Ritchie claimed, are so particularly set forth in the opinion of the court, that the reporter has nothing to add upon those topics.