US v. INGRAM

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United States Supreme Court

U S v. INGRAM, (1889)

No. 82

Argued:     Decided: March 25, 1889

Other rulings of the land department were cited, in to one of which was there any denial of the right to enter lands along a railroad under the desert land law. It was after these citations that the language referred to by counsel was used. [172 U.S. 327, 332]   That language must be interpreted in view of the fact that the only contention was as to the price. It means simply that the court did not consider the desert land act applicable as a whole, and solidly, to the reserved sections along a railroad, so as to subject them to all its provisions. In other words, the desert land act did not supersede and destroy the proviso of section 2357 in reference to a double price for such reserved sections. We closed the discussion in reference to this matter in these words:

    'Giving effect to these rules of interpretation, we hold that Secretaries Lamar and Noble properly decided that the act of 1877 did not supersede the proviso of section 2357 of the Revised Statutes, and, therefore, did not embrace alternate sections reserved to the United States by a railroad land grant.
    'It results that, prior to the passage of the act of 1891, lands such as those here in suit, although within the general description of desert lands, could not properly be disposed of at less than $2.50 per acre. Was a different rule prescribed by that act in relation to entries made previously to its passage?' 160 U.S. 147 , 16 Sup. Ct. 252.

The first of these paragraphs is one of the sentences referred to by counsel and quoted in their brief. In it we do say 'that Secretaries Lamar and Noble properly decided that the act of 1877 ... did not embrace alternate sections reserved to the United States by a railroad land grant'; but the full meaning of that language is disclosed only when we replace the omitted words, 'did not supersede the proviso of section 2357 of the Revised Statutes, and, therefore.' And, when we turn to what Secretaries Lamar and Noble decided, we find that they ruled, not that lands within the place limits of a railroad land grant could not be entered under the desert land law, but simply that they could not be entered for the price named in that law, $1.25 per acre, but were subject to the general provision of double price. The other sentence referred to by counsel is similar, and while taken literally and disconnectedly may give some countenance to their contentions, yet, when read in the light of the entire opinion, manifestly was intended [172 U.S. 327, 333]   to mean no more than that the desert land act was not applicable in the matter of price to the reserved sections within a railroad land grant. This conclusion appears also in the last paragraph above quoted, where we say that 'lands such as those here in suit, although within the general description of desert lands, could not properly be disposed of at less than $2.50 per acre.' Not that they could not be disposed of at all under the desert land law, but only not at the price fixed by that law.

The same conclusion appears subsequently, when, reviewing the act of 1891, it was held that it had no effect upon the price of lands entered before its date, our language being:

    'We are of opinion that cases initiated under the original act of 1877, but not completed by final proof until after the passage of the act of 1891, were left by the latter act-at least, as to the price to be paid for the lands entered-to be governed by the law in force at the time the entry was made. So far as the price of the public lands was concerned, the act of 1891 did not change, but expressly declined to change, the terms and conditions that were applicable to entires made before its passage. Such terms and conditions were expressly preserved in respect of all entries initiated before the passage of that act.' 160 U.S. 149 , 16 Sup. Ct. 252.

We may remark in passing that the entry in this case was before the act of 1891, and, therefore, under the language just quoted, it is unnecessary for us to notice any of its provisions.

It follows from these considerations that if the petitioner, Ingram, had fully complied with the terms of the desert land act, he could, by the payment of $2.50 an acre, have acquired title to the lands he sought to enter. Voluntarily abandoning his entry, he has no cause of action for the sum which he paid to initiate it. There is nothing in Frost v. Wenie, 157 U.S. 46 , 15 Sup. Ct. 532, which conflicts with this conclusion; for there the decision simply was that lands which congress held under a trust to sell for the benefit of Indians could not be given away under the homestead law, and, hence, that such law must be limited, [172 U.S. 327, 334]   in its application to the Ft. Dodge reservation, to such lands as were not covered by the trust.

The judgment of the court of claims is reversed, and the case remanded to that court, with directions to enter a judgment for the defendant.

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