Roland v. United States
74 U.S. 743 (1868)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Roland v. United States, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 743 743 (1868)

Roland v. United States

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 743

Syllabus

A grant of land in California, purporting to have been made by Governor Pio Pico on the 2d of May, 1846, and insufficient on the archive papers, decided not to be helped by papers produced by the claimant, these being found by the Court, upon the evidence in the case, not genuine, but an afterthought, and produced in court only because the growth of California had stimulated the cupidity of speculators to experiment with fragments of title papers left unfinished by Pico, and which were gathered up by our officers on the conquest of the country.

Appeal from the District Court for the Northern District of California respecting a land claim under the Act of March 3, 1851. The grant purported to have been made on the 2d of May, 1846, by Pio Pico, Moreno being secretary ad interim; this Court having decided that, after the 7th July, 1846, Pico had no powers as governor. The claim was for "eleven leagues of land in California, at the junction of the San Joaquin and Stanislaus Rivers." The expediente was obtained from the archives, and was among the papers of which Hartwell made an index. In consisted of a petition, marginal order that the title issue, decree of concession, and the borrador, or draft, of the title, to be given to the party interested. It differed from other expedientes in this, that there was no report, no diseno, no approval by the departmental assembly, and because the whole proceedings were begun and consummated on the same day. This document not being enough to establish the title, the claimant, in order to make it complete, produced from his own custody

Page 74 U. S. 744

the titulo which annexed conditions to the grant, a petition asking for further time to comply with these conditions, the order of the governor granting the request, and a certificate that the departmental assembly approved the grant.

In the borrador, the land was described "as eleven leagues, situated on the banks of the Rivers Stanislaus and San Joaquin," corresponding with the description given in the petition. The titulo, issued on the same day as the borrador, directed "that the measurement of the eleven leagues shall be on the banks of the Stanislaus, of the width of one league, commencing where the two rivers run."

The signature, "Pio Pico," to the grant in this case had a different aspect, in certain particulars, from other signatures to public documents of the same governor, especially in the letter P.

Pico and Moreno were examined as witnesses. Pico testified that he believed that the signature to the grant purporting to be his was his, and he thought that the one purporting to be Moreno's was Moreno's. As to the one purporting to be his own, and the difference between it and some signatures admitted, he said that he "was accustomed to sign his name sometimes in one way and sometimes in another." He could not tell whether he had signed any document at a date different from that which the document bore, but he believed that he had not; he had no recollection when he signed this document; he believed that he had made no grants after 1846, but did not remember when in 1846 he ceased making them. He might have made, elsewhere than in Los Angeles, grants dated as if there made, but he was positive that he signed none of the papers in this case in 1847 or 1848. He had no recollection of anything connected with this particular grant, and "none whatever" of Roland's application. He knew Roland, however, and had known him since 1840; thought that he was naturalized; he remembered, at all events, that he had married a Mexican woman; there was no particular reason, he testified, for granting so much as eleven leagues to Roland "except that he was an honest man, had a family and considerable property."

Page 74 U. S. 745

The law, as he considered, imposed no limits; but eleven leagues was his limit in fact.

Moreno testified that he believed the signature of Pico to be genuine. He remembered that Roland "petitioned for lands" during the short time that he, Moreno, was secretary, and that they were granted to him, but he did not recollect the time when or the circumstances under which the grant now set up was made; but he stated that in 1846, the country was generally in a state of agitation, and that great confusion prevailed in all the public offices. The record contained a certificate from Pio Pico that the departmental assembly met on the 4th day of May, 1846, and approved this grant. It appeared, however, from the journals of the departmental assembly that the earliest meeting in May was on the 8th of May, when minutes of the 29th of April were read and approved. Pico, in his testimony given, accounted or attempted to account for this by saying that at that time

"there was great informality in all public affairs, and that it might have been that the notes of the meeting of the 4th were lost or mislaid; that they might have been left on the table, and only the draft of the 29th April been delivered to the secretary, to be copied into the book."

He had no recollection that the grant was approved by the departmental assembly or of his giving a certificate that it had been, nor any reason whatever for believing that it had been except his seeing what he was positively sure was his own certificate that it was.

Some slight omissions and discrepancies were also pointed out in the journal.

It was admitted by an agreement of record as a fact that on the 22d day of July, 1845, Governor Pico granted to Roland and one Julius Horkman four leagues of land, and that the claim had been prosecuted and confirmed. And that on the 6th day of May, 1846, he granted to Roland and one Louis Avenas the sobrantes of certain ranchos to the extent of nine leagues. This grant had been presented for confirmation, and was now pending in the District Court of California.

Page 74 U. S. 746

The district court rejected the claim and the claimant now appealed here, the question at issue being whether the title here set up was a genuine title to land in California acquired under Mexican rule which this government was under obligations to protect.

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