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Counsel for Parties.

and the pretended entries, Savage, Leffingwell, Wells, Craigmyle, Schuman and Winsheimer, and each of them, executed and delivered to the company warranty deeds conveying to it each of said tracts; that the company immediately entered into possession, and has possessed and claimed the lands until the present time; that no one of the patentees had ever claimed or asserted any right or interest in them, or in any of them, by virtue of the above fraudulent and illegal entries; that the entries were in reality and effect a purchase of the lands by the company; and that the entries and purchases by the persons named were only a device to evade the laws of the United States and to procure for the defendant a greater amount of coal lands than it could legally purchase and hold.

The bill further alleged that these entries of coal lands were illegal for the additional reason that, prior to the fourth of June, 1883, Peter, being an officer and stockholder of the company, had, on the fifth day of August, 1881, entered and purchased under the laws of the United States one hundred and sixty acres of vacant coal land, and other officers and stockholders of the company, namely, Charles P. Teat, Joseph L. Prentiss, Orlando B. Wheeler and others whose names are unknown to the government, had purchased tracts of coal land of the United States, all of which, entered and purchased by T. J. Peter and by such other officers and stockholders of the company, were, on the fourth day of June, 1883, held and owned by the defendant, and were in the aggregate in excess of three hundred and twenty acres of coal land; that neither the company nor any member or officer of it, for its own benefit or in its behalf, could then legally enter or purchase additional coal lands from the government; and that when said tracts were conveyed to it by the several patentees it had full notice of the alleged fraudulent scheme, as well as of the fact that the lands were being entered and purchased for its benefit exclusively.

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Maury for appellant.

Mr. Charles E. Gast and Mr. A. B. Browne for appellee. Mr. George R. Peck and Mr. A. T. Britton were with them on the brief.

Opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

The patents in question were based upon entries made under sections 2347, 2348, 2350 and 2352 of the Revised Statutes, which embody substantially provisions in an act of Congress approved March 3, 1873, entitled “An act to provide for the Sale of the Lands of the United States containing Coal.17 Stat. 607–8, c. 279. These sections are as follows:

“SEC. 2347. Every person above the age of twenty-one years, who is a citizen of the United States, or who has declared his intention to become such, or any association of persons severally qualified as above, shall, upon application to the register of the proper land office, have the right to enter, by legal subdivisions, any quantity of vacant coal lands of the United States not otherwise appropriated or reserved by competent authority, not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres to such individual person, or three hundred and twenty acres to such association, upon payment to the receiver of not less than ten dollars per acre for such lands, where the same shall be situated more than fifteen miles from any completed railroad, and not less than twenty dollars per acre for such lands as shall be within fifteen miles of such road.

“SEC. 2348. Any person or association of persons severally qualified, as above provided, who have opened and improved, or shall hereafter open and improve, any coal mine or mines upon the public lands, and shall be in actual possession of the same, shall be entitled to a preference-right of entry, under the preceding section, of the mines so opened and improved : Provided, That when any association of not less than four persons, severally qualified as above provided, shall have expended not less than five thousand dollars in working and improving any such mine or mines, such association may enter not exceeding six hundred and forty acres, including such mining improvements."

“SEO. 2350. The three preceding sections shall be held to authorize only one entry by the same person or association of persons; and no association of persons any member of which shall have taken the benefit of such sections, either as an

Opinion of the Court.

individual or as a member of any other association, shall enter or hold any other lands under the provisions thereof; and no member of any association which shall have taken the benefit of such sections shall enter or hold any other lands under their provisions; and all persons claiming under section twentythree hundred and forty-eight shall be required to prove their respective rights, and pay for the lands filed upon within one year from the time prescribed for filing their respective claims; and upon failure to file the proper notice, or to pay for the land within the required period, the same shall be subject to entry by any other qualified applicant.”

“SEC. 2352. Nothing in the five preceding sections shall be construed to destroy or impair any rights which may have attached prior to the third day of March, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, or to authorize the sale of lands valuable for mines of gold, silver or copper.”

The restrictions imposed upon the entry and purchase of the vacant coal lands of the United States have been so clearly expressed that no doubt can exist as to the intention of Congress in enacting the above sections. The statute authorizes an association of persons to enter not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres, and provides that only one entry can be made by the same person or association, and that "no association of persons, any member of which shall have taken the benefit of such sections, either as an individual or as a member of any other association, shall enter or hold any other lands under the provisions thereof."

It is contended that the case made by the bill is not within the prohibitions of the statute, although the demurrer admits that the Trinidad Coal and Coking Company acquired the lands in dispute pursuant to a scheme whereby the several tracts were to be entered for its benefit, in the name of certain persons, its officers, stockholders and employés — the title, when thus obtained, to be conveyed to the company, which should, and did, bear all the expenses attending the entries and purchases from the government. This contention cannot be sustained unless the court lends its aid to make successful a mere device to evade the statute. The policy

Opinion of the Court.

adopted for disposing of the vacant coal lands of the United States should not be frustrated ia this way. It was for Congress to prescribe the conditions under which individuals and associations of individuals might acquire these lands, and its intention should not be defeated by a narrow construction of the statute. If the scheme described in the bill be upheld as consistent with the statute, it is easy to see that the prohibition upon an association entering more than three hundred and twenty acres, or entering or holding additional coal lands, where one of its members has taken the benefit of its provisions, would be of no value whatever. It is true, in the present case, that some of the persons who made the entries in question, were noi, strictly speaking, members of the corporation, but only its employés. But as they were parties to the alleged scheme, and were, in fact, agents of the defendant in obtaining from the government coal lands that could not rightfully have been entered in its own name, that circumstance is not controlling. Besides, it appears from the bill that when that scheme was formed and executed, Peter and other officers and stockholders of the association had taken the benefit of the statute, and that the lands originally entered and purchased by them were then held and owned by the.company, and were in excess of three hundred and twenty acres. There is, consequently, in view of all the allegations of the bill, no escape from the conclusion that the lands in question were fraudulently obtained from the United States. We say fraudulently obtained, because if the facts admitted by the demurrer had been set out in the papers filed in the land office, the patent sought to be cancelled could not have been issued without violating the statute. The defendant would not have been permitted to do indirectly that which it could not do directly. If the patents could not have been rightfully issued upon papers disclosing the fact that Savage, Leffingwell, Wells, Craigmyle, Schuman and Winsheimer were really acting in behalf of and as the agents of an association which was to meet all the expenses attending the applications, and which already held and cwned coal lands formerly belonging to the United States, and under conveyances from some

Opinion of the Court.

of its members who had previously taken the benefit of the statute, it is difficult to perceive why the bill does not make a case entitling the government to the relief asked. These views are in accordance with the practice in the Department of the Interior. Adolph Petersen et al., 6 Land Dec. 371; Northern Pac. Coal Co., 7 Land Dec. 422.

It is confiden:ly asserted by the company that the individuals making entries who were citizens of the United States, and not members of an association of persons, had a right, under the statute, and upon their own responsibility, to enter, each, the quantity of coal lands for which they respectively received patents, and that, having obtained patents, they were at liberty to dispose of the lands as they saw proper, even to an association of persons which, or some member of which, had already taken the full benefit of the statute. Whether this be so or not, nothing else appearing than is just stated, we need not now decide. The case before us is not of that class. It is the case of an association 'seeking to evade an act of Congress by using, for its own benefit, the names of both its members and employés to obtain from the government vacant coal lands, which it could not legally obtain upon entries made in its own name, and which it was expressly forbidden to enter by reason of some of its members having previously taken the benefit of the statute.

In McKinley y. Wheeler, 130 U. S. 630, 636, it was decided that section 2319 of the Revised Statutes, declaring valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States to be free and open to exploration and purchase, and the lands in which they were found to occupation and purchase by citizens of the United States and those who have declared their intention to become such, did not preclude a private corporation, formed under the laws of a State, whose members were citizens of the United States, from locating a mining claiin on the public lands of the United States. Thus far it has been assumed that the defendant, although an incorporated company, is an “association of persons ” within the meaning of the statute relating exclusively to the vacant coal lands of the government, and, as such, is subject to the restriction as to the num

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