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have had ample time to proceed under its provisions, the probability is it will not be again revived.

Ever since the province of Louisiana was acquired from France by the treaty of 30th April, 1803, the United States have earnestly and patiently sought, by every proper expedient, to induce persons claiming property in lands by virtue of grant, concession, order of survey, permission to settle, or any other authority whatsoever, derived from former sovereigns, to make known their claims to the new government in order that their lands might be distinguished from the mass of the vacant domain which had vested in that new government by the treaty, and which policy and necessity demanded should be surveyed, brought into market, and speedily sold to re-imburse the price paid by the United States for the province. In practically carrying out this obvious and just design many acts were passed, beginning with that of March 2, 1805, and finally ending with the act now under consideration. They are very numerous, and for the most part have long since been repealed, have expired by limitation, or have become obsolete; some of them applied only to particular districts, others to the whole State; some were of short duration, others were more extended, while others still revived, re-enacted, explained or modified those preceding; some provided boards of commissioners with deputy commissioners, before whom the claims were to be presented, while others, and the larger number, made the registers and receivers for the established land-districts ex-officio commissioners for receiving and reporting on the claims; some conferred ample, others limited, powers upon the commissioners, and all denounced severe penalties from time to time against those who failed to present their claims. The old inhabitants, many of them ignorant of the laws, land system, and policy of the new sovereign, and often ignorant, too, of the very language in which it was sought to acquaint them with the changed condition of affairs, manifested reluctance in coming forward, exhibiting, recording, and proving titles they and their ancestors had held under immemorially, paying the recording and other fees, and in general complying with the unusual, yet necessary, requirements of the law. In the previous changes of sovereignty in the province, nothing of the kind had ever been required of them, and they had remained unmolested, and in peaceable possession of their estates by each succeeding sovereign.

They remembered, or knew the fact, that when, in 1762, the ancient province of Louisiana was dismembered and their portion was ceded by France to Spain, no requirements whatever were imposed upon them in reference to their lands or titles; but that, on the contrary, the only part of the secret proceedings by which they were handed from one master to another which was revealed to them, was the assurance, in the very words of their King, "that they may be confirmed in the ownership of their property according to the grants which may have been made to them by the governors and ordonateurs of the colony, and that the said grants be considered, reported, and confirmed by His Catholic Majesty, although they might not have been confirmed by me." (White's Recap., 2, 536.)

They remembered, too, the then very recent transfer of themselves and country from Spain to their former sovereign, the King of France, by the treaty of San Ildefonso of October 1, 1800, in which no duty or requirement had been imposed upon them in relation to their estates; but that, on the contrary, they had been publicly assured by De Casacalro and Salcedo, when, as commissioners of the King of Spain, they redelivered the province to France, "that the inhabitants should be maintained and protected in the peaceful possession of their property; that all grants and property of whatever description derived from the governors of these provinces should be confirmed to them, although not confirmed by His Majesty." (Ibid., p. 194.)

With such precedents and traditions, and with the plain obligations of the treaty of 30th April, 1803, protecting them, ignorant as they were of the necessity which required prompt obedience to the law, viz, that the new sovereign might reverse the policy of every other former sovereign, and sell the domain for profit, we cannot wonder that so many of the old inhabitants stood upon their ancient possessions, their complete titles which had never been questioned, their treaty guarantees which were too plain for doubt, and refused to undergo the expense and trouble of filing and recording their titles with the boards of commissioners. There was no remedy for the evil, and its results have embarrassed the General Land-Office in the survey and sale of the domain in this State, from their incipiency to this day. The Federal statutes have uniformly refused to give to private land-claims originating with previous sovereigns of the soil, any standing in the Federal courts or Executive Departments, and particularly in the Land Department, until they have been, in some of the modes provided by law, submitted to the United States and by them confirmed, relinquished, or in some mode recognized and established as legal titles.

The records of this office, and particularly the township maps, represent about 288 claims of various grades which prima facie are not thus recognized, and which are commonly known as "unconfirmed claims,” being usually distinguished on the maps from confirmed claims by words in red ink marked across their face, no confirmation found."

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These 283 claims cover an aggregate of about 80,000 acres. They have been surveyed and represented on the maps from the earliest surveying operations, not in recognition of their validity, but in order to show their areas and situation, in case of subsequent confirmation, and for the information of the Department.

They form links in the regular Spanish or French surveys, and show very clearly from their conformity with the uniform rules relative to the calls for either distances, front, depth, quantity, and other calls of the confirmed adjacent titles, that the original locations were by due authority.

They are found, too, situated like most of the private claims in the State, fronting the streams, lakes, and bayous, and occupying the most valuable lands. At the time the confirmed grants were made, and these were supposed to have been made, no one would petition for or receive any but the best lands, usually situated on navigable streams or lakes, or near the towns and villages. Thus it happens that these unconfirmed claims are as valuable, in point of soil and other natural advantages, as those confirmed, and upon examination, are found to be as commonly the cultivated and highly-prized homes of bona-fide owners as any other land in the State. It is cruel folly to try to alarm such people about such land, and teach them the stern necessity of expensive and tedious proceedings in the United States courts or before United States land-commissioners, in order to have their titles to their homes secured against the entry of the speculator or the homestead-settlement of the emigrant. They point you to their often unbroken chains of title extending back to the days of the Spanish, and even the French dominion, or appeal to their ancestors and their own quiet and undisputed possession extending back perhaps a century, and they cannot be persuaded that a just and free government, which is giving away its lands by millions annually, will rob them of their homes to give them to others. It may be said the law has been very liberal; that every title of any merit brought to the notice of the Government has been confirmed; that, finally, the courts themselves have been thrown open by the act of 1860, and equitable powers given in order that titles possessing the slightest merit might be protected; that it is time now to take action by the surveying and land department, and bring this long-pending and vexatious subject to a close, and that it is fair to presume, after so great a lapse of time, and so many opportunities neglected, that the claimants really have no titles, and never had any, or else they would have exhibited them, and secured their confirmation by the Government. But there are a great many answers to these reflections.

The Supreme Court of the United States in Soulard rs. The United States, (4 Pet., 511;) Delassus rs. United States, (9 Pet., 117;) Choteau's Heirs vs. The United States, (9 Pet., 137,) and in other cases, early decided that all property of whatever nature was protected by the treaty of 1803, and that no principle was better settled than that inchoate titles to land were property. The court went so far as to say, such titles and such property would have been equally sacred in a republican form of Government under the laws of nations, without any treaty stipulations.

With this language addressed to them by the highest tribunal known to the law, on the one side, and the legislature on the other, denouncing the penalties of nullity and exclusion from the courts, as the consequence of failure to file and record the same titles, can it be surprising that many hesitated, procrastinated, and finally as time wore on with its mortality, loss of papers, transfers of ownership, and other mutations, that they finally failed to take any action? The later acts have provided mainly for suits in the United States district court for confirmation of these titles, but claimants had to come, with their attorneys and witnesses, from every part of the State to this city, where alone the sessions of the district court are held, and this at much expense, and in instituting suit bad to prepare for conducting it also before the Supreme Court at Washington, as the act requires every case to go there for final decision, if the court below decides for the claimant. And even in the event of final success before the Supreme Court, the law did not allow costs. The claimant must pay them and his attorney's fees, whether successful or not. The poverty, too, of many of the claimants and their indisposition to sustain outlays for lands yearly becoming less valuable, have doubtless frequently rendered them lukewarm. But the leading and principal cause is to be found in the fact that many of the occupants of the unconfirmed claims are not aware of the law under which they might proceed, now so rapidly drawing to its close, or else, and which is far more universally true, they are in total ignorance of the fact that their lands are shown upon our records as unconfirmed claims. Their ignorance on the latter head can prodace no wonder.

The question of confirmation in particular cases is one of the nicest legal nature, requiring close examination of the records of this and the land-offices by persons possessing skillful and technical knowledge in land law aided by the judgment of landlawyers in construing the various statutes bearing on the subject. Some claims which had always been treated by this office, the land-offices, and the Department as unconfirmed, and so shown upon the township maps, have by such examinations been found to be confirmed, and patents have issued; and the inference is just, that similar researches might reveal a few other confirmations not now supposed to exist. That

these claims are regarded as unconfirmed by the United States is a fact that very few land-owners have ever become acquainted with. It is known to this office that many of the most intelligent and wealthy of our citizens are totally iguorant of the fact that their plantations and homes are on lands marked on our records "no confirmation found."

These claims have always held an anomalous attitude on our records and before the Executive Department, and even in the courts their status has been unfixed aud varying-the State courts at times deciding, in local contests, that the treaty protects them, and presuming a grant from ancient, undisturbed possession; and the Federal courts, on the other hand, holding that before they are cognizable some confirmation or acknowledgment by the new sovereign must be shown. They have neither consistently and strictly been treated by this office or the local land-offices as public land, and subdivided and sold as such, nor have they been, on the other hand, treated as private property and respected as such.

Before the war the occupants of them were permitted in many cases to cover them with State internal-improvement or school warrants, thus securing through the State the Federal title. Never having been offered as public land, strictly, they could not employ cash or military land-warrants for this purpose. Since the war, and in consequence of the homestead-act abolishing the old modes of entry and location of the public land, this expensive and tedious mode of protecting themselves has been denied the owners of these claims, and they are now left to the inadequate relief provided by that law alone.

In the mean time they are a prey on which designing men seek to operate by making homestead applications, frequently taking in their most valuable improvements.

The requirements of your instructions to the land-offices of August 5, 1870, the necessity of deposits and surveys at their own expense before entries can be allowed in most cases, and particularly the general impression that the act of 22d June, 1860, protects these claims until its expiration, have almost entirely suspended this class of homestead applications. But with the final expiration of the act on the 10th of June next, there will probably be a revival of them, and then the duties which may devolve on this office will be onerous in the extreme.

Under the act of May 30, 1862, section 10, and amendments, this office will be required to send deputies to subdivide these claims upon the application of every person making the required deposit, and intending to make settlement and claim the same under the homestead-act. If this were done in many cases it would produce great ill-feeling, and might result in opposition to the deputies, enforcing them while on duty in the field to seek the protection of the United States authorities, as is in such cases specially provided by law.

In the annual report of the Bureau for 1872, p. 69, it is contemplated, after the expiration of the act of 1860, to treat as public land all these claims not then sued on, or filed for confirmation before the commissioners, and this may foreshadow some prompt and practical measure. Compared with the large number of located unconfirmed claims in the State, so few have been sued on, or filed, that they amount to little, as an element of calculation.

The United States district attorney states that only ten claims have been put in suit, and the register and receiver of the consolidated land-office here (commissioners under the act before whom the claims may be filed, if not sued on in the district court) say that only eleven claims have been filed before them. Reference is here made only to the unconfirmed claims located and held in possession by the claimants.

It may thus be seen how few claims will be taken out of the category of public lands by the time the act finally expires, or in other words, how many the Department will have to deal with as public lands. With proper respect for the opinions of my predecessors, and all who have tried to solve this perplexing problem, with a regard for the rights and dignity of the Government, as well as the feelings and peculiar interests of my fellow-citizens, I submit that there is but one simple, complete, and practicable remedy for the evil. A short, simple act should be passed by Congress, whose preamble should recite the anomalous necessity demanding it, at once and forever relinquishing all title of the United States in the particular tracts, to be specially enumerated in the act by their township and sectional designations, in favor of such persons as would, under the laws of Louisiana, be the true, legal, and equitable owners of such lands in the absence of any claim or title in the United States, enabling all persons who, under the laws of Louisiana, might maintain a prescriptive title to the la ds in question, to plead such prescription against the United States, and all persons claiming under or through them. This act would procure good feeling and confidence, and cure defects in titles which have long embarrassed the land department of the Government.

There are only about 80,000 acres covered by these claims. If the United States, therefore, now sold their public lands for profit, as they formerly did, the value would be trifling as compared with the good to be attained. But when we see that the Government is giving her lands away to every foreign emigrant, or other person who will

ask for them, or to corporations, the proposed relinquishment commends itself to every just mind. And it becomes always a matter unworthy of argument, when we consider the past history of the Department with relation to these claims, and observe that public opinion, political or personal influence, or the appeals of natural justice have always separately or conjointly interfered with its action in carrying to its logical conclusion the legal hypothesis that they are public lands, and liable to disposition as snch. It may be safely said that the Government cannot, in practice, make any disposition of these lands. The influences above stated have never yet allowed sales of them. And the disposal of them now or in the future, under the homestead-acts, would meet with the same influences, and the homestead applicants in nearly every instance of actual settlement would be violently opposed. No act of Congress requiring action by the owners of these claims will reach the evil or advance the remedy. The reasons for this have already been given as stated. Such laws have been extant, with a few short intermissions, since 1805. It is therefore again earnestly recommended as an effective, permanent, and just settlement of this whole perplexity, that Congress pass an act allowing all persons who might, under the laws of Louisiana, plead prescription in support of their titles to any of these lands, (specifying them in the act, by section, township, and range,) when called in question in any tribunal, State or Federal, to plead such prescription, with equal force and effect, against the paramount title of the United States.

In submitting this my first report, I can only offer the excuse, if any be necessary, of my brief tenure of office; but in it every effort has been exerted to exemplify its condition and requirements, that was consistent with its over-taxed current work. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Hon. S. S. BURDETT,

O. H. BREWSTER, Surveyor-General, Louisiana.

Commissioner of the General Land-Office, Washington, D. C.

A.-Surveying contracts and instructions by the surveyor-general of Louisiana, on account of appropriations for the fiscal years ending June 30, 1872, and June 30, 1873, not reported completed in the statement of previous years.

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OFFICE OF SURVEYOR-GENERAL, DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA,

New Orleans, September 1, 1874.

1,015 28 T. 6 S., R. 2 E., completed, maps and notes
transmitted; T. 6 S., R. 3 E., and T. 5 S.,
R. 2 E. returned and examined ready for
transmission; T. 7 S., Rs. 4, 5, and 6 W. re-
issued to J. P. Parsons, dep'y surveyor.
T. 12 S., R. 1 W., completed and paid for;
surveyor in field.

[graphic]

O. H. BREWSTER, Surveyor-General, Louisiana.

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