Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston R. Co. v. United States - 92 U.S. 733 (1875)


U.S. Supreme Court

Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston R. Co. v. United States, 92 U.S. 733 (1875)

Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company v. United States

92 U.S. 733

Syllabus

1. Where rights claimed under the United States are set up against it, they must be so clearly defined that there can be no question of the purpose of Congress to confer them.

2. The rule announced in the former decisions of this Court that a grant by the United states is strictly construed against the grantee applies as well to grants to a state to aid in building railroads as to one granting special privileges to a private corporation.

3. The doctrine in Wilcox v. Jackson, 13 Pet. 498, that a tract lawfully appropriated to any purpose becomes thereafter severed from the mass of public lands and that no subsequent law or proclamation will be construed to embrace it or to operate upon it, although no exception be made of it, reaffirmed and held to apply with more force to Indian, than to military, reservations, inasmuch as the latter are the absolute property of the government, whilst in the former other rights are vested.

4. Where Congress enacts "That there be and is hereby granted" to a state, to aid in the construction of a specified railroad, "every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers," within certain limits of each side of the road, the state takes an immediate interest in land so situate whereto the complete title is in the United States at the date of the act, although a survey of the land and a location of the road are necessary to give precision to the title and attach it to any particular tract. Such a grant is applicable only to public land owned absolutely by the United States. No other is subject to survey and division into such sections.

5. Where the right of an Indian tribe to the possession and use of certain lands as long as it may choose to occupy the same is assured by treaty, a grant of them, absolutely or cum onere, by Congress to aid in building a railroad violates an express stipulation, and a grant in general terms of "land" cannot be construed to embrace them.

6. A proviso that any and all lands heretofore reserved to the United States for any purpose whatever are reserved from the operation of the grant to which it is annexed applies to lands set apart for the use of an Indian tribe under a treaty. They are reserved to the United States for that specific use, and if so reserved at the date of the grant, are excluded

Page 92 U. S. 734

from its operation. It is immaterial whether they subsequently become a part of the public lands of the country.

7. The Act of March 3, 1863, 12 Stat. 772, to aid in the construction of certain railroads in Kansas embraces no part of the lands reserved to the Great and Little Osages by the Treaty of June 2, 1825, 7 Stat. 240, and the Treaty concluded Sept. 29, 1865, and proclaimed Jan. 21, 1867, 14 Stat. 687, neither makes nor recognizes a grant of such lands. The effect of the treaty is simply to provide that any rights of the companies designated by the state to build the roads should not he barred or impaired by reason of the general terms of the treaty, but not to declare that such rights existed.

8. The act of Congress of even date with said act, 12 Stat. 793, authorizing treaties for the removal of the several tribes of Indians from the State of Kansas and for the extinction of their title, and a subsequent act for relocating a portion of the road of the appellant, 17 Stat. 5, neither recognize nor confer a right to the lands within the Osage country.

This is a bill filed by the United States against the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company to establish its title to certain tracts of land lying within the Osage country in Kansas, which were certified to the Governor of Kansas as forming part of the grant made by Congress to that state, to aid in the construction of certain railroads. The court granted the prayer of the bill, and the company appealed.

The Treaty with the Great and Little Osage tribes of Indians of June 2, 1825, 7 Stat. 240, contains the following provision:

"ARTICLE II. Within the limits of the country above ceded and relinquished there shall be reserved to and for the Great and Little Osage tribe or nation aforesaid, so long as they may choose to occupy the same, the following described tract of land."

The land embraces, with other tracts, that mentioned in the first article of a treaty with those Indians which was concluded Sept. 29, 1865, 14 Stat. 687. That article is as follows:

"The tribe of the Great and Little Osage Indians, having now more lands than are necessary for their occupation, and all payments from the government to them under former treaties having ceased, leaving them greatly impoverished, and being desirous of

Page 92 U. S. 735

improving their condition by disposing of their surplus lands, do hereby grant and sell to the United States the lands contained within the following boundaries. . . . And, in consideration of the grant and sale to them of the above-described lands, the United States agree to pay the sum of three hundred thousand dollars, which sum shall be placed to the credit of said tribe of Indians in the Treasury of the United States, and interest thereon at the rate of five percentum per annum shall be paid to said tribe semiannually in money, clothing, provisions, or such articles of utility as the Secretary of the Interior may from time to time direct. Said lands shall be surveyed and sold under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior on the most advantageous terms, for cash, as public lands are surveyed and sold under existing laws [including any act granting lands to the State of Kansas, in aid of the construction of a railroad through said lands], but no preemption claim or homestead settlement shall be recognized, and after reimbursing the United States the cost of said survey and sale and the said sum of three hundred thousand dollars placed to the credit of said Indians, the remaining proceeds of sales shall be placed in the Treasury of the United States to the credit of the 'civilization fund,' to be used, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, for the education and civilization of Indian tribes residing within the limits of the United States."

The words in brackets are an amendment adopted by the Senate, 26th June, 1866, which the Indians accepted Sept. 21 of that year. The treaty was proclaimed Jan. 21, 1867.

On the 3d of March, 1863, Congress passed "An Act for a grant of lands to the State of Kansas, in alternate sections, to aid in the construction of certain railroads and telegraphs in said state," 12 Stat. 772, the first section of which is as follows:

"That there be and is hereby granted to the State of Kansas for the purpose of aiding in the construction first of a railroad and telegraph from the City of Leavenworth, by way of the Town of Lawrence, and via the Ohio City crossing of the Osage River, to the southern line of the state in the direction of Galveston Bay, in Texas, with a branch from Lawrence by the valley of the Wakarusa River, to the point on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad where said road intersects the Neosho River; second of a railroad from the City of Atchison, via Topeka, the capital of

Page 92 U. S. 736

said state, to the western line of the state, in the direction of Fort Union and Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a branch from where this last-named road crosses the Neosho, down said Neosho Valley to the point where the said first-named road enters the said Neosho Valley, every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers, for ten sections in width on each side of said road and each of its branches. But in case it shall appear that the United States have, when the lines or routes of said road and branches are definitely fixed, sold any section or any part thereof granted as aforesaid, or that the right of preemption or homestead settlement has attached to the same, or that the same has been reserved by the United States for any purpose whatever, then it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to cause to be selected, for the purpose aforesaid, from the public lands of the United States nearest to tiers of sections above specified, so much land, in alternate sections or parts of sections, designated by odd numbers, as shall be equal to such lands as the United States have sold, reserved, or otherwise appropriated, or to which the right of preemption or homestead settlements have attached as aforesaid, which lands, thus indicated by odd numbers and selected by the direction of the Secretary of the Interior as aforesaid, shall be held by the State of Kansas for the use and purpose aforesaid, provided that the land to be so selected shall in no case be located further than twenty miles from the lines of said road and branches; provided further that the lands hereby granted for and on account of said road and branches severally shall be exclusively applied in the construction of the same and for no other purpose whatever, and shall be disposed of only as the work progresses through the same, as in this act hereinafter provided, provided also that no part of the land granted by this act shall be applied to aid in the construction of any railroad or part thereof, for the construction of which any previous grant of land or bonds may have been made by Congress, and provided further that any and all lands heretofore reserved to the United States, by any act of Congress or in any other manner by competent authority, for the purpose of aiding in any object of internal improvement or for any other purpose whatsoever be and the same are hereby reserved to the United States from the operation of this act, except so far as it may be found necessary to locate the routes of said road and branches through such reserved lands, in which case the right of way only shall be granted, subject to the approval of the President of the United States. "

Page 92 U. S. 737

The Legislature of Kansas, on the 9th of February, 1864, passed an act accepting the grant and designated the appellant to build the road from Leavenworth to the southern line of the state and to receive the grant of land upon the prescribed terms and conditions. Its authorized route passed through the Osage lands whereof mention is made in the first article of the treaty of 1865, and a map of the definite location of the road was filed in the General Land Office Jan. 2, 1868.

The Commissioner of the General Land Office, by letter bearing date Jan. 21, 1868, directed the register and receiver of the proper office to withdraw from sale the odd-numbered sections within ten miles of the line of the road.

The fourth section of the law making appropriations for the Indian Department, approved March 3, 1863, 12 Stat. 793, is as follows:

"That the President of the United States be and is hereby authorized to enter into treaties with the several tribes of Indians respectively now residing in the State of Kansas for the extinction of their titles to lands held in common within said state and for the removal of such Indians of said tribes as hold their lands in common to suitable localities elsewhere within the territorial limits of the United States and outside the limits of any state."

On the 10th of April, 1869, Congress passed the following joint resolution, 16 Stat. 55:

"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that any bona fide settler residing upon any portion of the lands sold to the United States by virtue of the first and second articles of the treaty concluded between the United States and the Great and Little Osage tribe of Indians, September twenty-ninth, eighteen hundred and sixty-five, and proclaimed January twenty-first, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven, who is a citizen of the United States or shall have declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States shall be and hereby is entitled to purchase the same in quantity not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres at the price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acres within two years from the passage of this act under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior, provided however that both the odd and even numbered sections of said lands shall

Page 92 U. S. 738

be subject to settlement and sale as above provided, and provided further that the sixteenth and thirty-sixth sections in each township of said lands shall be reserved for state school purposes in accordance with the provisions of the Act of admission of the State of Kansas, provided, however, that nothing in this act shall be construed in any manner affecting any legal rights heretofore vested in any other party or parties."

Settlers made entries lying within the odd-numbered sections, which were set aside and vacated, Jan. 16, 1872, by the Secretary of the Interior, who decided that the appellant had a grant within those lands.

The appellant having constructed its road from its initial point to Thayer, within the ceded territory, and about twenty miles south of its northern boundary, and, desiring to charge its previously located route south of that town, the Legislature of Kansas, in January, 1871, asked Congress to allow a relocation of the road.

Congress passed an Act, approved April 19, 1871, as follows (17 Stat. 5):

"An Act to enable the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company to relocate a portion of its road."

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company, for the purpose of improving its route and accommodating the country, may relocate any portion of its road south of the Town of Thayer within the limits of its grant as prescribed by the act of Congress entitled 'An Act for a grant of lands to the State of Kansas, in alternate sections, to aid in the construction of certain railroads and telegraphs in said state,' approved March third, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, but not thereby to charge, enlarge, or diminish said land grant."

Sept. 21, 1871, the Governor of Kansas certified to the Secretary of the Interior that the road of the appellant had been constructed and equipped as required by the Act of Congress of March 3, 1863, and that a map of the road had been duly filed whereupon certified lists of the odd-numbered sections of lands within the railroad limits were made by the proper authority at Washington, and the governor, April 8, 1872, and March 21,

Page 92 U. S. 739

1873, issued to the appellant patents for the lands mentioned in the bill of complaint.



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