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Opinion of the Court.
of the acquisition of the territory by the United States, the claimant would have had a lawful right to make perfect had the territory not been acquired by the United States, and that the United States are bound, upon the principles of public law or by the provisions of the treaty of cession, to respect and permit to become complete and perfect if the same was not at said date already complete and perfect.'
By section 7 of the act the court was also required, in reaching a conclusion as to the validity of the claim, to be guided by the laws of nations, the stipulations of the treaties concluded between the United States and the Republic of Mexico of February 2, 1848, and December 30, 1853.
Although section 6 of the act also authorized the adjudication by the Court of Private Land Claims, of all claims which the United States "are bound to recognize and confirm by the treaties of cession of said country by Mexico to the United States, which at the date of the passage of this act have not been confirmed by act of Congress or otherwise finally decided upon by lawful authority, and which are not already complete and perfect," the meaning of the words "complete and perfect" is to be derived by considering the context and not by segregating them from the previous part of the sentence exacting that the claim must be one which the United States was bound to recognize and confirm by virtue of the treaty. These words are moreover controlled by the mandatory requirements of section 13.
Indeed, the controlling nature of the provisions of section 13 of the act of 1891 was considered and settled by this court in Ainsa v. United States, 161 U. S. 208, 223, where, speaking. by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, it was said:
"Under the act of March 3, 1891, it must appear, in order to the confirmation of a grant by the Court of Private Land Claims, not only that the title was lawfully and regularly derived, but that, if the grant were not complete and perfect, the claimant could by right, and not by grace, have demanded that it should be made perfect by the former government, had the territory not been acquired by the United States."
Although the act of 1891, in section 11, authorized a town
Opinion of the Court.
presenting a claim for a grant to represent the claims of lotholders to lots within the town, this provision does not override the general requirements of the statute as to the nature of the claim to title which the court is authorized to confirm. The difference between the act of 1891 and the California act of 1851, hitherto referred to, accentuates the intention of Congress to confine the authority conferred by the later act to narrower limits than those fixed by the act of 1851. The act of 1851 authorized the adjudication of claims to land by virtue of any "right" or "title" derived from the Spanish government, and conferred the power in express language on the board and court to presume a grant in favor of a town. The act of 1891 not only entirely omits authority to invoke this presumption, but, as we have seen, excludes by express terms any claim, the completion of which depended upon the mere grace or favor of the government of Spain or Mexico, and of the United States as the successor to the rights of these governments.
Nor do certain expressions contained in the opinion in San Francisco v. Le Roy, 138 U. S. 656, and Knight v. United States Land Association, 142 U. S. 161, when properly understood, conflict with the foregoing conclusions. Those cases dealt with the rights of San Francisco after they were recognized by Congress, and to the extent only of that recognition. The language referred to, therefore, simply amounted to saying that as Congress had to a certain extent recognized the claim of San Francisco, to the limit of this recognition, and no further, the rights of that city would be treated as relating back and originating from the nature of the claim presented, and which in part through the grace of Congress had been allowed. In the case at bar we are not concerned with considering or determining to what period of time or source of right the claim would relate if it were found to be within the reach of the provisions of the act of 1891..
The petition is framed upon the theory merely of a right to four square leagues, vested in the city by operation of law, and as the record contains no proof whatever as to the possessory claims of lotholders in the city of Santa Fé, or as to the
Opinion of the Court.
actual possession enjoyed by that city of public places, these latter rights, if any, as well as the asserted title of the city to the swamp tract to which reference has been made in the course of this opinion are not to be controlled by the rejec tion now made of the pretensions of the city to a title to the four square leagues tract asserted to have been acquired by operation of Spanish laws.
The decree below is reversed, and the cause remanded with instructions to dismiss the petition.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER Concurs in the result.
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Error to the Supreme
No. 450. STALLCUP v. TACOMA.