United States v. Santa Fe,
165 U.S. 675 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Santa Fe, 165 U.S. 675 (1897)

United States v. Santa Fe

No. 298

Argued January 7-8, 1896

Decided March 1, 1897

165 U.S. 675


The Spanish law did not, proprio vigore, confer upon every Spanish villa or town a grant of four square leagues of land, to be measured from the center of the plaza of such town.

Although, under that law, all towns were not, on their organization, entitled by operation of law to four square leagues, yet, at a time subsequent to the organization of Santa Fe, Spanish officials adopted the theory that the normal quantity which might be designated as the limits of new pueblos to be thereafter created was four square leagues.

The rights of Santa Fe depend upon Spanish law as it existed prior to the adoption of that theory.

An inchoate claim, which could not have been asserted as an absolute right against the government of either Spain or Mexico and which was subject to the uncontrolled discretion of Congress, is clearly not within the purview of the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 539, creating the Court of Private Land Claims, but the duty of protecting such imperfect rights of property rests upon the political department of the government.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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