ELY'S ADM'R v. U. S.(1898)
On October 19, 1892, proceeding under section 8 of the act creating the court of private land claims (26 Stat. 854), the United States filed in that court a petition against Santiago Ainsa, administrator of the estate of Frank Ely, deceased, and others, alleging that said administrator claimed to be the owner, through mense conveyances, of a large tract of land in the territory of Arizona, known as the 'Rancho de San Jose de Sonoita'; that he had not voluntarily come into the court to seek a consideration of his title; that the title was open to question, and was in fact invalid and void; that the other defendants claimed some interests in the land,-and praying that they all might be brought into court, and be ruled to answer the petition, set up their titles, and have them settled and adjudicated.
In an amended answer, the administrator set forth the nature and extent of his title, and prayed that it be inquired into, and declared valid. Reply having been filed, the case came on for trial, which resulted in a decree on March 30, 1894, that the claim for confirmation of title be disallowed [171 U.S. 220, 221] and rejected. The opinion by Associate Justice Sluss contains this general statement of the facts:
The conclusion reached was that 'the entire proceedings set forth in the expediente of this title, and the final title issued thereon, were without warrant of law, and invalid.' Two of the justices dissented. Thereupon the administrator secured an order of severance, and took a separate appeal to this court.
Rochester Ford and James C. Carter, for appellant.
Matt. G. Reynolds, for the United States.
Mr. Justice BREWER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
The controversy in this case does not turn upon any defect in the form of the papers. The contentions of the government are that the officers who assumed to make the grant and to execute title papers had no authority to do so, and upon this ground it was held by the court of private land claims that the grant was, in its inception, invalid. Secondly, that, if a valid grant was made, it was one of quantity, and should be sustained for only that amount of land which was named in the granting papers, and paid for by the grantee.
It appears that the proceedings to acquire title were initi- [171 U.S. 220, 223] ated by a petition to the intendant, or 'intendente,' as he is called in the opinion of the court below, of the provinces of Sonora and Sinaloa, on May 29, 1821; that, so far as that officer was concerned, they were concluded and the sale completed on November 12, 1821. Nothing seems to have been done after this date until May 15, 1825, when the commissary general of the republic of Mexico for the state of the west, on application, issued a title in the usual form. So the question is as to the power of these officers to bind the government of Mexico.
Few cases presented to this court are more perplexing than those involving Mexican grants. The changes in the governing power, as well as in the form of government, were so frequent, there is so much indefiniteness and lack of precision in the language of the statutes and ordinances, and the modes of procedure were in so many respects essentially different from those to which we are accustomed, that it is often quite difficult to e termine whether an alleged grant was made by officers who at the time were authorized to act for the government, and was consummated according to the forms of procedure then recognized as essential. It was undoubtedly the duty of congress, as it was its purpose in the various statutory enactments it has made in respect to Mexican titles, to recognize and establish every title and right which, before the cession, Mexico recognized as good and valid. In other words, in harmony with the rules of international law, as well as with the terms of the treaties of cession, the change of sovereignty should work no change in respect to rights and titles. That which was good before should be good after. That which the law would enforce before, should be enforceable after, the cession. As a rule, congress has not specifically determined the validity of any right or title, but has committed to some judicial tribunal the duty of ascertaining what were good and valid before cession, and provided that, when so determined, they should be recognized and enforced.
Of course, in proceeding under any particular statute the limitations prescribed by that statute must control; and, what- [171 U.S. 220, 224] ever may be the obligations resting upon the nation by virtue of the rules of international law or the terms of a treaty, the courts cannot pass beyond such limitations. In the case of Hayes v. U. S. (just decided) 18 Sup. Ct. 735, we called attention to the fact that in the act creating the court of private land claims there was a prohibition upon the allowance of any claim 'that shall not appear to be upon a title lawfully and regularly derived from the government of Spain or Mexico, or from any of the states of the republic of Mexico having lawful authority to make grants of land,' and pointed out the difference between this statute and those construed in the Arredondo Case, 6 Pet. 691, and the act of March 3, 1851, considered in the Peralta Case, 19 How. 343. We held that under the act of 1891 the court must be satisfied, not merely of the regularity in the form of the proceedings, but also that the official body or person assuming to make the grant was vested with authority, or that the exercise of power, if unwarranted, was subsequently lawfully ratified. We are not to presume that, because certain officials made a grant, therefore it was the act of the Mexican government, and to be sustained. It must appear that the officials did have the power, and we are not justified in resting upon any legal presumption of the existence of power from the fact of its exercise.
While this is true, yet when the statutes and ordinances defining the powers and duties of an officer are somewhat indefinite and general in their terms, and that officer was in the habit of exercising the same power as was exercised in the case presented, and such exercise of power was not questioned by the authorities of Mexico, and grants purporting to have been made by him were never challenged, there is reason to believe that the true construction of the statutes or ordinances supports the existence of the power. Cases now before us disclose that, about the time the intendant acted in this case, similar action was taken by him in respect to other applications for the purchase of land; that through a series of years, from 1824 downward, the commissary general, the officer created by the act of September 21, 1824, recognized his acts [171 U.S. 220, 225] as creating equitable obligations on the part of the government, and attempted to consummate the sales by papers passing the legal title; that the title papers thus executed were duly placed of record in the proper office, and fail to show that subsequently thereto the Mexican government took any steps to question the title or disturb the possession. While this may not be conclusive as to the validity of the grants, and the existence of the power exercised by the intendant, it certainly is persuasive, and we should not be justified in lightly concluding that he did not possess the power wi ch he was in the habit of exercising.
What powers did the intendant possess at the time this sale is alleged to have taken place? It is conceded by the government that by the ordinance of December 4, 1786 (at which time Mexico was a province of Spain), the intendants had full authority in reference to the sale of lands. Article 81 of that ordinance (Reyn. Spanish & Mex. Land Laws, p. 60) is as follows:
It is, however, contended that prior to the transfer of title in this case this authority was taken away from the intendant. In support of this contention, four matters are referred to by counsel: (1) The adoption of the constitution of March 18, 1812, and the promulgation of the law of January 4, 1813. (2) The resolution of the council of the Indies, before a full board at Madrid, December 23, 1818. (3) The decrees of Ferdinand VII., re-establishing the constitution of 1812, and convoking the cortes, March 6, 7, 9, 1820. (4) The imperial colonization law of January 4, 1823.
Of these in their order, though it may be well here to note that the colonization law was not passed until after the sale in controversy had taken place.
On March 18, 1812, in the midst of troublous times in Spain, a constitution (Reyn. Spanish & Mex. Land Laws, p. 79) was adopted, and by it, and the law of the cortes of January 4, 1813 (Id. p. 83), it is insisted that a different mode of disposing of the public lands was created. As, however, this continued in force only until May 4, 1814, when the king, Ferdinand VII., returned to the throne, and issued a decree refusing to recognize the existing order of things, and declaring the constitution of 1812 revoked, it would seem that the powers theretofore vested in the intendants were re-established. Indeed, on December 28, 1814, the king issued a roval c edula or edict, the ninth article of which is as follows (2 White, New Rec. p. 168):
Clearly, thereafter the intendants had the powers given [171 U.S. 220, 227] them by the ordinance of 1786. Sabariego v. Maverick, 124 U.S. 261 , 8 Sup. Ct. 461.
On December 23, 1818, a resolution passed by the council of the Indies, at Madrid, and approved by the king, providd that all business pertaining to the alienation of lands in New Spain should belong to the department of the office of the treasury of the Indies at Madrid. Hall, Mex. Law, p. 76, 188. In March, 1820, Ferdinand VII., under pressure from the people, adopted the constitution of 1812, and took an oath to support it. Did this resolution of December, 1818, or this re- establishment of the constitution, or both together, put an end to the power of the intendants in respect to the sale of lands? Clearly, the resolution of December, 1818, would not have that effect. The mere placing of the control over land matters in a particular government department at Madrid would in no manner affect the powers of local officers until and unless such department should so order, and there is no suggestion that any orders to that effect were ever issued. The resolution would have no more effect on the powers of local officers than would a transfer of the land department of this government from the control of the secretary of the interior to that of the secretary of the treasury. The local officers would simply have to respond to new superiors, and that is all.
Nor do we think that the re-establishment of the constitution, even if the re-establishment of that instrument carried with it the re- enactment of the law of the cortes of January 4, 1813, put an end to the office of intendant, or wholly abrogated his powers. So far as the act of January 4, 1813, is concerned, while it did authorize the distribution of part of the lands on account of military service, it still provided that half of the public and crown lands should be reserved to serve as a mortgage for the payment of the national debt, and recognized the disposition of such lands by the 'provincial deputation,' as it was called. Turning to the constitution, we find the following provisions in chapter 2, art. 324: 'The political government of the provinces shall reside in the superior chief appointed by the king in each one of them.' [171 U.S. 220, 228] Article 325: 'In each province there shall be a deputation called provincial, to promote its prosperity, presided over by the superior chief.' Article 326: 'This deputation shall be composed of the president, the intendant and seven members, elected in the manner that shall be stated.' While it may be that, under the terms of these and subsequent articles, the general control over the affairs of a province was vested in the provincial deputation, of which deputation the intendant was to be one member, we find nothing in them that either put an end to the office of intendant, or had any other effect than to subject his actions to the control of the provincial deputation. The question is not what the provincial deputation, when organized, would do, but whether the mere re- establishment of the constitution, which provided for a provincial deputation, operated, before any action taken under it, to put an end to the powers theretofore vested in the intendants. It may well be that in thus arranging for a new system of control, without abolishing the office of intendant, but, on the contrary, in terms recognizing its continuance, the purpose was not to create an interim in which no person should have power to act for the government in the alienation of its lands, but that the intendant should continue to exercise the powers he had theretofore exercised until the king should appoint a superior chief, and the other members of the deputation be elected.
The very next year witnessed the separation of Mexico from the kingdom of Spain. On February 24, 1821, a declaration of independence was made, in the form known as the 'Plan of Iguala,' and this delaration of independence was made good by the surrender of the City of Mexico on September 27, 1821. The fifteenth section of this plan provided that 'the junta will take care that all the revenues of departments of the state remain without any alteration whatever, and all the employees, political, ecclesiastical, civil and military, will remain in the same state in whic they exist to-day.' Prior to that time, and on August 24, 1821, what is known as the 'Treaty of Cordoba' was signed at that village by Gen. Iturbide, for Mexico, and Viceroy O'Donoju, for Spain, the latter, how- [171 U.S. 220, 229] ever, having no previous authority from Spain; and this treaty was by Spain afterwards repudiated. This treaty provided that 'the provisional junta was to govern for the time being in conformity with existing laws in everything not opposed to the plan of Iguala, and until the cortes shall form the constitution of the state.' Immediately after the surrender of the City of Mexico a provisional council or junta, consisting of 36 members, was created under the plan of Iguala, which assumed the control of the government, and on October 5, 1821, this provisional council promulgated the following order (Reyn. Spanish & Mex. Land Laws, p. 95):
That the office of intendant was one of those continued in existence by this order is clearly shown by the decree of September 21, 1824, creating the office of commissary general. Spanish & Mex. Land Laws, p. 123. Its first two articles are:
Art. 2. From the intendants and other discontinued officers the government shall appoint, in each state where it appears necessary, a commissary-general for the different branches of the exchequer, public credit, and war.'
Prior thereto, and on October 24, 1821, the provisional council passed an order declaring that the office of superintendent general of the treasury was not necessary, and added, 'and in consequence, has decided that the duties of the superintendency be performed, as your excellency proposed in your said report, by the directories-general of the revenues, the officers of the treasury and intendants, in the [171 U.S. 220, 230] cases and matters that severally belong to them, in conformity with their ordinances, without any variation in them.' Spanish & Mex. Land Laws, p. 96. On January 16, 1822, it ordered that, 'until the next august national congress fixes the system of public revenues, the intendants should remain as they are, except those who are reappointed and have, in thir former offices, had a higher salary than that the intendants of Sonora and Pueblo now have.' Id. p. 98. And on February 2, 1822, it directed that 'a report of the receipts of the treasuries since independence was sworn to be forwarded by the intendancies of the empire; and a statement of the receipts and disbursements of the last fifteen days since the 24th of December.' Id. p. 99.
So that long after the sale here in question was made the government of Mexico recognized the office of intendant as continuing, and no statute or ordinance appears which in terms at least took away from that officer all control over the sales of public lands.
It is contended that the mere change of sovereignty revoked all authority to make sales of the public lands; and U. S. v. Vallejo, 1 Black, 541, is cited, in which it was held that the decree of the Spanish cortes of 1813, in relation to the disposition of the crown lands, were inapplicable to the state of things which existed in Mexico after the revolution of 1820, and could not have been continued in force there unless expressly recognized by the Mexican congress.
And also More v. Steinbach, 127 U.S. 70, 81 , 8 S. Sup. Ct. 1070, in which it was observed that:
Again, the original ordinance of intendants provided for an examination of the proceedings by 'an attorney of my royal treasury.' The proceedings had in this case were referred to the promoter fiscal (such being the name of the legal adviser of the treasury department) who approved them. So we have presented the case of a sale made by an officer who at one time undoubtedly had power to make a sale, who was directed by the original ordinance creating his office and establishing his powers to refer his proceedings to the legal adviser, a reference of the proceedings had by him to such legal adviser, and a decision of such adviser that the proceedings were regular, and that the sale ought to be consummated. Under those circumstances, it is not inappropriate to refer to what was said in Mitchel v. U. S., 9 Pet. 711, 742, in reference to the validity of a grant in Florida:
Again, it must be noticed that, according to the report of the proceedings, the money received for this land was paid into the public treasury, the entry on the account book being in these words: [171 U.S. 220, 232] 'Charged one hundred and sixteen dollars, two reales, and five grains paid by Don Jose Maria Serrano in the name of, and as attorney for, Don Leon Herreros, resident of the company of Pimas, at Tubac, in the following manner: One hundred and five dollars as the principal value, for which was auctioned by this intendencia one sitio and three-quarters of another of lands for raising cattle, contained in the place of San Jose de Sonoita, situated in the jurisdiction of said company; six dollars, one real, and seven grains for the said half annual charge, and eighteen per cent. for transfer to Spain; two dollars, ten grains, for the two per cent. as a general charge; and the three dollars as dues for the extinguished account, as is explained by the order of the intendencia marked No. 32. $ 116. 2r. 5g. Escalante. Fuente. Jose Maria Serrano.'
It would seem not unwarranted and unreasonable to refer to the familiar rule that where an agent, even without express authority, makes a sale of the property of his principal, and the latter, with full knowledge, receives the money paid on account thereof, his retention of the purchase price is equivalent to a ratification of the sale. We do not mean, however, to state this as a general proposition controlling all municipal and governmental transactions, but only one of the circumstances tending to strengthen the conclusion that these acts of the intendant were not mere usurpations of authority, but were in the discharge of duties and the exercise of powers conceded to belong to his office.
Passing beyond the action of the intendant, we find that in 1825 the commissary general executed title papers, thereby ratifying the sale made by the intendant four years before. We have heretofore quoted articles 1 and 2 of the act of September 21, 1824, creating such office. We now quote articles 3, 4 and 5:
Obviously, these articles gave to this newly-created officer the fullest powers in respect to the national revenues. When an office is created with such large powers as these, and the incumbent thereof, reviewing proceedings theretofore had by prior representatives of the government, and finding that a sale made by one of such prior officers has resulted in the payment of the cash proceeds thereof into the public treasury, confirms firms his action, ratifies his proceedings, and issues appropriate title papers therefor, it would seem that any doubts which might hang over the power of the prior officer were put at rest, and that thereafter no question could be raised as to the validity of the sale.
And, indeed, such seems to have been the assumption on the part of the government of Mexico; for there is no suggestion that from the time of the execution of these title papers, in 1825, up to the date of the cession, 1853, the government ever raised any question as to the validity of the sale, or sought to disturb the possession of the grantee. While, of course, time does lnot run against the government, and no prescription, perhaps, may be affirmed in favor of the validity of this grant, yet the inaction of the government during these many years is very persuasive, not merely that it considered [171 U.S. 220, 234] that the intendant had the power to make the sale, but that in fact he did have such power. These considerations lead us to the conclusion that this grant was one which at the time of the cession, in 1853, was recoguized by the government of Mexico as valid, and therefore one which it was the duty of this government to respect and enforce.
We pass, therefore, to a consideration of the second question; and that is, the extent of the grant. It is claimed by the appellant that the grant should be sustained to the extent of the outboundaries named in the survey. He insists that the accepted rule of the common law is that metes and bounds control area; that a survey was in fact made, and possession given according to such survey; and that, although it now turns out that the area within the survey is largely in excess of the amount applied and paid for, the grant must be held effective for the area within the survey.
We had occasion to examine this question in Ainsa v. U. S., 161 U.S. 208, 229 , 16 S. Sup. Ct. 552, and there said:
We think this case comes within the rule thus stated. The defendant, in his answer, alleges that the grant comprises 12,147.69 acres, while counsel for the government say that the measurements given by the surveyor make the area 22,925.87 acres. The amount of land appraised, advertised, sold, and auctioned off was 1 3/4 sitios (7,591.61 acres). While, of course, any slight discrepancy between the area of the survey and that ostensibly sold might be ignored, yet the difference between the amount which was understood to have been sold and the amount now found to be within the limits of the survey is so great as to suggest the propriety of the application of the rule laid down in Ainsa v. U. S., supra. There can be no doubt, from the record of the proceedings, that 1 3/4 sitios was all that the purchaser supposed he had purchased, all [171 U.S. 220, 235] that the intendant supposed he had sold, and all that was advertised or paid for. The original petition, after stating that there was a place known as 'San Jose de Sonoita,' declared that the petitioner registered 'in the aforesaid place two sitios of land,' which he desired to have surveyed, and to pay therefor the just price at which it might be valued. The petition, therefore, was not for any tract known by a given name, but for a certain amount of land in such place. The report of the survey is very suggestive. We quote from it as follows:
The appraisers reported as follows:
The direction for the almoneda or offer of sale was of the lands 'composed of one sitio and three-fourths of another.' The first almoneda was of lands 'comprising one sitio and three-fourths of another, ... and appraised in the sum of one hundred and five dollars, at the rate of sixty dollars per sitio.' The property put up for sale was lands 'comprising one sitio and three-fourths of another, ... appraised at one hundred and five dollars, at the rate of sixty dollars each sitio.' The report of the promoter fiscal opens with this statement:
Subsequently to this report the direction was made for three public auctions, which were made, and the record of the first auction (the others being similar) is in these words:
The payment was, as appears from the entry in the treasury office, heretofore quoted, of 'one hundred and five dollars, as the principal value for which was auctioned by this intendencia one sitio and three- quarters of another of lands for raising cattle, contained in the place of San Jose de Sonoita.' So, notwithstanding the fact that, as shown by the report of the surveyors, a survey was made, all the proceedings from the commencement to the close contemplated, not the purchase of a given tract of land, but a certain amount of land in the place San Jose de Sonoita. Every consideration of equity, [171 U.S. 220, 238] therefore, demands that the title of the purchaser should be confined to the 1 3/4 sitios for which he paid.
As indicated in Ainsa v. U. S., supra, too much stress cannot be laid on the technical rules of the common law in reference to the dominance of courses and distances over area. It is a matter of common knowledge that in this part of the country large areas beyond the immediate reach of water courses or springs were arid; that purchases were of lands so watered, or so susceptible of watering, that crops could be expected therefrom or pasturage furnished for stock. The land beyond the reach of these water supplies was deemed of little value, and hence slight attention was paid to it. Every purchase, therefore, must be considered as dominated by this important and single fact. Rude methods of measurement were resorted to. As shown in the report of the survey in this case, mere estimates were relied upon. Doubtless this carelessness was partly owing to the fact disclosed in Ainsa v. U. S., any overplus above the actual amount paid for still remained the property of the government, payment for which could be compelled of the locator, or, on his failure to make such payment, could be appropriated by any third party desiring to purchase. The fact that during these years no challenge was made of the overplus is not important. The government was indifferent. Its rights could be enforced at its leisure, and no individual cared to purchase any surplus of arid lands. The presumption which might obtain in other places from the inaction of the government, and the failure of any individual to assert a claim to the overplus, is, in respect to the lands in this territory, of no significance. Who there would care to question the right of a locator along a waterway to any overplus of arid lands? Such overplus was of no value, and no third party would ever care to challenge the locator's right to this overplus; and the government, like the individual, was also indifferent. So the silence and inaction of the government and third parties are not strange, and create no presumption in favor of the validity of the grant to the extent of the survey.
Sustaining the validity of the grant to the extent of the [171 U.S. 220, 239] land paid for is but carrying out the spirit of the treaty, the obligations of international justice, and the duties imposed by the act creating the court of private land claims. Article 8 of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided, in reference to the ceded territory, that 'Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican republic, retaining the property which they possess in the said territories, or disposing thereof, and removing the proceeds wherever they please, without their being subjected, on this account, to any contribution, tax, or charge whatever,' and that 'in the said territories, property of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably respected.' 9 Stat. 929. And these stipulations were reaffirmed in article 5 of the Gadsden treaty. 10 Stat. 1035. Article 6 of that treaty, which placed a limitation, provided 'that no grants of land within the territory ceded ... will be considered valid or be recognized by the United States, or will any grants made previously be respected or be considered as obligatory, which have not been located and duly recorded in the archives of Mexico.' But this limitation is not to be understood as denying the obligations imposed by the rules of international law in the case of cession of territory, but simply as defining specifically the evidences of title which are to be recognized. The spirit of the treaty is fully carried out when the amount of land petitioned and paid for is secured to the grantee or his successors in interest. This government promised to inviolably respect the property of Mexicans. That means the property as it then was, and does not imply any addition to it. The cession did not increase rights. That which was beyond challenge before remained so after. That which was subject to challenge before did not become a vested right after. No duty rests on this government to recognize the validity of a grant to any area of greater extent than was recognized by the government of Mexico. If that government had a right, as we have seen, in Ais a v. U. S., [171 U.S. 220, 240] it had, to compel payment for an overplus, or resell such overplus to a third party, then this government is under no moral or legal obligations to consider such overplus as granted, but may justly and equitably treat the grant as limited to the area purchased and paid for.
It may be said that to consider the tract granted as one not extending to the limits of the outboundaries of the survey is to hold that the tract granted was not located, and therefore, within the terms of the Gadsden treaty, not to be recognized by this government, as suggested in Ainsa v. U. S. In that case it appeared that while the outboundaries of the survey extended into the territory ceded by Mexico to the United States, the grantee had taken, and was in possession of, land still remaining within the limits of Mexico, to the full extent which he had purchased and paid for, and therefore no legal or equitable claim existed against the United States in reference to land within the ceded territory.
It is also undoubtedly true, as disclosed in that case, that, where there is a mere grant of a certain number of acres within specified outboundaries, there may be such indefiniteness as to prevent a court from declaring the true location of the granted lands. And yet it is also true that there may be disclosed by the survey or other proceedings that which will enable a court of equity to determine with reasonable certainty what lands were intended to be granted, and the title to which should be established. It must be remembered, in this connnection, that, by section 7 of the act creating the court of private land claims, it is provided 'that all proceedings subsequent to the filing of said petition shall be conducted as near as may be according to the practice of the courts of equity of the United States.' Therefore in an investigation of this kind that court is not limited to the dry, technical rules of a court of law, but may inquire and establish that which equitably was the land granted by the government of Mexico. It was doubtless the purpose of congress, by this enactment, to provide a tribunal which should examine all claims and titles, and that should, so far as was practicable in conformance with equitable rules, finally settle and determine the rights of all claim- [171 U.S. 220, 241] ants. It will be unnecessarily limiting its powers to hold that it can act only when the grant to the full outboundaries of the survey is valid, and is powerless when a tract within those outboundaries was granted. Many things may exist by which the real tract granted can be established. In the case before us, if it be possible to locate the central point from which, according to the report, the survey was made (and we judge from the testimony that it is possible), the actual grant can be established by reducing each measurement therefrom to such an extent as to make the area that of the tract purchased and paid for. If the outboundaries disclose a square, or any rectangular figure, the excess of area suggests simply a carelessness of measurement, and can be corrected by a proportionate reduction in each direction. In other cases, the location of the water way, or the configuration of the ground, may be such as to enable a court of equity, by its commissioner or master, to determine exactly what was intended to pass under the grant. We do not mean to anticipate all the questions that may arise. We simply hold that the mere fact that the grant is narrower than the limits of the outboundaries does not prevent the court of private land claims from determining, through the aid of a commissioner, surveyor, or master, exactly what equitably did pass under the grant. It is enough for this case to hold that the powers of the court of private land claims are not narrow and restricted, and that, when it finds that there is a valid grant for a certain number of acres within the outboundaries of a larger tract, it may inquire, and, if it finds sufficient reasons for determining the true boundaries of the tract that was granted, it can so prescribe them, and sustain the claim to that extent, referring to the land department the final and absolute surveys thereof. In view of these considerations, we are of opinion that this grant should be sustained to the amount of 1 3/4 sitios; and the judgment of the court of private land claims is reversed, and the case remanded to that tribunal, with directions to examine and decide whether there be sufficient facts to enable it to determine the true boundaries of the 1 3/4 sitios.