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Opinion of the Court.
mere failure to build the road within the period prescribed by Congress, and that to effect a forfeiture some act on the part of the government evincing an intention to take advantage of such failure was essential; and, on error, that ruling was affirmed by this court, and the following statement of the law was made by Mr. Justice Field in giving the opinion of the court:
"In what manner the reserved right of the grantor for breach of the condition must be asserted so as to restore the estate, depends upon the character of the grant. If it be a private grant, that right must be asserted by entry or its equivalent. If the grant be a public one, it must be asserted by judicial proceedings authorized by law, the equivalent of an inquest of office at common law, finding the fact of forfeiture, and adjudging the restoration of the estate on that ground, or there must be some legislative assertion of ownership of the property for breach of condition, such as an act directing the possession and appropriation of the property, or that it be offered for sale or settlement. At common law the sovereign could not make an entry in person, and, therefore, an office found was necessary to determine the estate; but, as said by this court in a late case, (United States v. Repentigny, 5 Wall. 286,) 'the mode of asserting or of resuming the forfeited grant is subject to the legislative authority of the Government. It may be after judicial investigation, or by taking possession directly under the authority of the government without these preliminary proceedings.'
"In the present case no action has been taken either by legis lative or judicial proceedings to enforce a forfeiture of the estate granted by the act of Congress. The title remains, therefore, in the State as completely as it existed on the day when the title by location of the route of the railroad acquired precision and became attached to the adjoining alternate sections."
In July, 1866, Congress granted unto the California and Oregon Railroad Company a right of way over the public lands. In a subsequent suit between the railroad company and one Bybee, a holder of a mining claim, it was claimed that the railroad company had forfeited and lost its right under the
Opinion of the Court.
grant by its failure to complete its road within the time limited in the act; that such failure operated ipso facto as a termination of all right to acquire any further interest in any lands not then patented. But it was held by this court, in the words of Mr. Justice Brown: "That in all cases in which the question has been passed upon by this court, the failure to complete the road within the time limited is treated as a condition subsequent, not operating ipso facto as a revocation of the grant, but as authorizing the Government itself to take advantage of it, and forfeit the grant by judicial proceedings, or by an act of Congress, resuming title to the land." Schulenberg v. Harriman, 21 Wall. 44; Van Wyck v. Knevals, 106 U.S. 360, are then cited, and likewise St. Louis, &c., Railroad Co. v. McGee, 115 U. S. 743, where it was said by Chief Justice Waite to have been often decided "that lands granted by Congress to aid in the construction of railroads do not revert after condition broken until a forfeiture has been asserted by the United States, either through judicial proceedings instituted under authority of law for that purpose, or through some legislative action legally equivalent to judgment of office found at common law." "Legislation to be sufficient must manifest an intention by Congress to reassert title and to resume possession. As it is to take the place of a suit by the United States to enforce a forfeiture, and judgment therein establishing the right, it should be direct, positive and free from all doubt or ambiguity."
As the bill in this case does not allege that it is brought under authority of Congress for the purpose of enforcing a forfeiture, and does not allege any other legislative act whatever looking to such an intention, it is plain, under the authorities cited, that this suit must be regarded as only intended to have the point of the eastern terminus judicially ascertained. This being so, and that terminus having been found to be at Ashland, it follows that the courts below committed no error in dismissing the bill of complaint.
This view of the case renders it unnecessary for us to consider whether the United States could be estopped by the acts of the executive department, in recognizing the rights of the railroad company as continuing in full force after the expira
tion of the time named in the statute; or to consider whether the ordinary doctrines of courts of equity, which relieve a contracting party from forfeiture by reason of a failure to complete the contract within a time fixed, when the work is subsequently completed and accepted, would apply to a case like the present. Undoubtedly there would seem to be room for a fair presumption that Congress was aware of the action of the President and of the functionaries of the land department in the particulars before mentioned, and approved of the same. It is not, as put by the counsel of the Government in his able brief, the case of a waiver presumed from mere non-action, but from non-action in the special circumstances disclosed.
As the evidence and conceded facts failed to show any mistake, fraud or error, in fact or in law, in the action of the land department in accepting the location of the eastern terminus made by the company, and in issuing the patent in question, the bill was properly dismissed, and the decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals is
Mr. Justice MCKENNA did not take part in the decision of the case.
CARTER v. TEXAS.
ERROR TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF THE STATE OF TEXAS.
No. 193. Submitted March 16, 1900.- Decided April 16, 1900.
Whenever by any action of a State, whether through its legislature, through its courts, or through its executive or administrative officers, all persons of the African race are excluded, solely because of their race or color, from serving as grand jurors in the criminal prosecution of a person of the African race, the equal protection of the laws is denied to him, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. And when a defendant has had no opportunity to challenge the grand jury which found the indictment against him, the objection to the
Opinion of the Court.
constitution of the grand jury upon this ground may be taken, either by plea in abatement, or by motion to quash the indictment, before pleading in bar.
The question whether a right or privilege, claimed under the Constitution or laws of the United States, was distinctly and sufficiently pleaded and brought to the notice of a state court, is itself a Federal question, in the decision of which this court, on writ of error, is not concluded by the view taken by the highest court of the State.
A person of the African race was indicted, in an inferior court of a State, for a murder committed since the impanelling of the grand jury; and, before pleading in bar, presented and read to the court a motion to quash, duly and distinctly alleging that all persons of the African race were excluded, because of their race and color, from the grand jury which found the indictment; and, as was stated in his bill of exceptions allowed by the judge, thereupon offered to introduce witnesses to prove that allegation, but the court refused to hear any evidence upon the subject, and, without investigating whether the allegation was true or false, overruled the motion, and the defendant excepted. After conviction and sentence, he appealed to the highest court of the State in which a decision in the case could be had. That court affirmed the judgment, upon the assumption that the defendant had introduced no evidence in support of the motion to quash. Held, that this assumption was plainly disproved by the statements in the bill of exceptions; and that the judgment of affirmance denied to the defendant a right duly set up and claimed by him under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must therefore be reversed by this court on writ of error.
THE case is stated in the opinion of the court.
Mr. Wilford H. Smith and Mr. E. M. Hewlett for plaintiff in error.
Mr. T. S. Smith for defendant in error.
MR. JUSTICE GRAY delivered the opinion of the court.
At November term, 1897, of the criminal district court, held at the city of Galveston for the county of Galveston and State of Texas, the grand jury, on November 26, 1897, returned an indictment against Seth Carter for the murder on November 24, 1897, of Bertha Brantley, both being of the negro race.
The record states that at March term, 1898, when the case was called for trial, the defendant, in open court, and before he
Opinion of the Court.
had been arraigned, or had pleaded to the indictment, presented and read to the court a motion to quash the indictment.
The motion to quash was signed and sworn to by the defendant, and was in these words: "And now comes the said defendant, in his own proper person, and moves the court to set aside and quash the indictment herein against him, because the jury commissioners, appointed to select the grand jury which found and presented said indictment, selected no person or persons of color or of African descent, known as negroes, to serve on said grand jury; but, on the contrary, did exclude from the list of persons to serve as such grand jurors all colored persons or persons of African descent, known as negroes, because of their race and color; and that said grand jury were composed exclusively of persons of the white race, while all persons of the colored race or persons of African descent, known as negroes, although consisting of and constituting about one fourth of the population and of the registered voters in said city and county of Galveston, and although otherwise qualified to serve as such grand jurors, were excluded therefrom on the ground of their race and color, and have been so excluded from serving on any jury in said criminal district court for a great many years, which is a discrimination against the defendant, since he is a person of color and of African descent, known as a negro; and that such discrimination is a denial to him of the equal protection of the laws, and of his civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. All of which the defendant is ready to verify."
The record further shows that the court overruled the motion, and to that ruling the defendant excepted in open court; that the defendant was then arraigned and pleaded not guilty, and was tried and convicted by a jury, and adjudged guilty by the court, of murder in the first degree; and that a bill of exceptions was tendered by him, and was by the presiding judge approved, allowed and ordered to be made part of the record, which stated that, "after reading the said motion, the defendant asked leave of the court to introduce witnesses, and offered to introduce witnesses, to prove and sustain the allegations therein made; but the court refused to hear any evidence in