United States v. Reading
Annotate this Case
59 U.S. 1 (1855)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Reading, 59 U.S. 18 How. 1 1 (1855)
United States v. Reading
59 U.S. (18 How.) 1
Where there was a grant of land in California, subject to the condition that the grantee should build a house upon it and have it inhabited within a year from the date of the grant and also that he should obtain a judicial possession and measurement or survey of it, the evidence shows sufficient reasons for a noncompliance on the part of the grantee.
This Court again decides, as in Fremont v. United States, 17 How. 560, that a mere omission to comply with these conditions would not necessarily amount to a forfeiture unless there were circumstances which showed an intention to abandon the property.
Although the title did not become definitive until the grant was approved by the departmental assembly, yet an immediate interest passed by the grant from the governor, whose duty it was and not that of the grantee to submit the case to the departmental assembly, and, if they should reject it, then to lay the case before the supreme government of the republic.
If the governor failed to execute this duty, the title remained as it was after the grant was issued, and is sufficient for confirmation under the Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1851, 9 Stat. 631
The evidence in the present case shows that the grantee was a naturalized citizen of the Mexican Republic, and the fact that he joined the troops of the United States when war broke out with Mexico furnishes no evidence of his intention to abandon the property, nor any reason why the grant should be forfeited.
The claim was originally presented to the board of commissioners, who confirmed it in December, 1852, to the extent and quantity of six square leagues and no more, as described in the Mexican grant, if that quantity be contained within the boundaries called for in the grant, and if less, then they confirmed it for that smaller quantity.
The United States appealed to the district court, which affirmed the decision of the commissioners. An appeal brought the case up to this Court.
The title of Reading is set forth in the opinion of the court, except the conditions of the grant, which were as follows, namely.
"In the name of the Mexican nation I have granted to him said land, subject to the approval of the most excellent departmental assembly, and to the following conditions:"
"1. He shall not sell, alienate, or hypothecate it nor impose on it any tax, entail any other encumbrance, nor shall he donate it."
"2. He shall not hinder the cultivation or other profits which the natives of that region may derive from said land."
"3. He may enclose it without prejudice to the crossing roads and public uses; he may enjoy it freely, appropriating it to the cultivation which best suits him, but within a year he shall build a house and it shall be inhabited."
"4. The land which has been granted is of the extent of which mention has already been made. The judge who shall give the possession shall cause it to be measured according to ordinance, and the overplus which may result shall remain to the nation for convenient uses."
"5. If he contravene these conditions, he shall lose his right to the land, and it shall be denounced by any other person. "