United States v. Auguisola - 68 U.S. 352 (1863)


U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Auguisola, 68 U.S. 1 Wall. 352 352 (1863)

United States v. Auguisola

68 U.S. (1 Wall.) 352

Syllabus

Where no suspicion, from the absence of the usual preliminary documentary evidence in the archives of the former government arises as to the genuineness of a Mexican grant produced, the general rule is that objections to the sufficiency of proof of its execution must be taken in the court below. They cannot be taken in this Court for the first time.

The tribunals of the United States, in passing upon the rights of the inhabitants of California to the property they claim under grants from the Spanish and Mexican governments, must be governed by the stipulations of the treaty, the law of nations, the laws, usages, and customs of the former government, the principles of equity, and the decisions of the Supreme Court, so far as they are applicable. They are not required to exact a strict compliance with every legal formality.

United States v. Johnson, ante, p. <|68 U.S. 326|>326, approved.

After the cession of California to the United States, Auguisola, who deraigned title from two persons (Lopez and Arrellanes) exhibiting a grant that purported to be from the Mexican governor Micheltorena, laid his claim before the board of commissioners, which the Act of Congress of March 3, 1851, appointed to examine and decide on all claims to lands in California purporting to be derived from Mexican grants. He here produced from the archives of the Surveyor General of California a petition from the grantees, the petition being accompanied by a map of the land desired,

Page 68 U. S. 353

the reports of the different officers to whom the matter was referred for examination, and the concession of Governor Micheltorena, dated March 17, 1843, in which this governor declares that the petitioner is "proprietad del terreno blanado," or "owner of the land" in question. He produced, moreover, a formal grant of the governor, dated contemporaneously with the order of concession, and a record of possession delivered by the proper alcade in 1847. None of the parties, however, whose names appeared as grantors or actors in the various evidences of title, was called in the court below as witnesses, proof of all the fundamental documents having been made by a witness who swore to the genuineness of the various signatures. Neither was the work known as "Jimeno's Index" -- a list of Mexican grants between the years 1829 and 1845 -- introduced as part of the plaintiff's evidence of title, though the present grant purported, by memorandum at its foot, "to be registered in the proper book." The grant was produced from his private possession. Supposing the papers, however, to be all genuine -- a matter about which no question was raised before the commissioners -- the case was properly enough made out in respect of occupancy, improvement, cultivation, stocking with cattle, and other matters which were required by the Mexican laws, the only difficulty being that the boundaries of the land, as set forth in the papers and on the map, were so undefined that they could not be ascertained nor surveyed, and that the piece of land claimed had never been segregated from the national domain. Auguisola's claim was accordingly rejected by the commissioners. From this decision he appealed to the district court, and having shown by new evidence more definite boundaries than he had shown before, the decree of the commissioners was reversed and his claim established. To this judgment of the district court the United States filed thirteen exceptions, being reasons, all of them, to show why the claim of Auguisola was a bad one. They were based on an alleged invalidity of the grant, on an asserted illegality of the juridical possession; on the situation of the land as respected the seacoast; on the fact that it had

Page 68 U. S. 354

been occupied by missions and could not be colonized; that it was incapable of identification; that one deed was on unstamped paper; that the departmental assembly had not approved the grant; that the land had not been properly occupied and improved, and some other reasons of a similar kind. Not one of the reasons, however, assigned fraud of any kind, of which, indeed, so far as the record showed, there was no suggestion anywhere below.

Page 68 U. S. 355



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