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as required by the Land Laws, and on March 12, 1883, he made his final proof to the register and receiver of the Local Land Office, together with his payment, all of which was duly approved by the local officials in accordance with law. The defendant came into the controversy at this stage; on August 7, 1883, he filed in the office of the Commissioner of the General Land Office his corroborated affidavit, in which he alleged that the plaintiff had at no time taken up residence upon the land, so that all his entry was void ; the Land Bureau, upon due proceedings had upon the merits of this contested case, gave decision for the defendant. Thereupon the plaintiff brought this ejectment in the state courts upon the ground that his right had vested by the decision of the local officers at the outset; and that therefore it was beyond the power of the department.
Mr. Justice BREWER delivered an able opinion: All powers of the local officers ceased to be final when the general power of review and supervision of all executive duty concerning the survey and sales of lands was vested in the higher officials of the Land Department at Washington. Stress is laid upon the words "executive duties” as though the approval of the evidence of settlement and improvement was not an executive duty but a purely judicial act. This is a mistake. True, it involves the weighing of testimony and the exercise of judgment, but equally so do many administrative acts. The approval of the evidence offered in respect to settlement and improvement is only quasi judicial. It is as much an administrative as a judicial act. It is only one step in the procedure by which through an executive department the title to public land is obtained by an individual. Great inequalities in the administration of the Land Department of the United States would inevitably ensue if the final determination of matters connected with the sale and disposal of the public lands were left to a multitude of local land officers. Obviously, in order that equal justice might be administered, it was necessary that there should be a superintendence of all the actions of the local land officers and all the proceedings in the local land offices.
The most perspicuous thing that is said in this last opinion is that unless the supremacy of the head is admitted in all matters of administration there will not be uniform administration. The further down in administration one goes, the more obvious it is that this must be. The case of Hull v. Commissioner, 2 MacArthur, 90 (1875), was a motion for mandamus commanding the Commissioner of Patents to issue a patent to the relator. Hull. In the Patent Office there are three grades: the Primary Examiners, the Examinersin-Chief, and the Commissioner. The application of Hull was rejected by the primary examiner but allowed by the Examiners-in-Chief. At the issue of the patent the Commissioner interfered. Hull claimed that it was the ministerial duty of the Commissioner to issue the patent.
The court was to the contrary: A favorable decision of the Board of Examiners in Chief in the Patent Office upon an application is not conclusive upon the Commissioner of Patents, and it does not follow that thereupon he has only the ministerial duty to perform of countersigning and sealing the patent; the interpretation contended for would turn the head of the office into the tail. I think all rights of appeal are omitted because it was unnecessary to confer it; for the Commissioner's supervisory powers over all acts of all subordinates in his office is such as to preclude any heed for such specification. The essential fact is that the grant of the patent is at last the act of the Commissioner, and he may refuse to grant it.
The perspicacity of these cases is to be remarked again. In each of these cases a duty is assigned by law to an inferior in a department, but it is assigned to him as an inferior in a department. Whatever power is given to an inferior under a superior is given as to an inferior under a superior. No action of an inferior in a centralized administration can be independent of a superior. Still less can any action of an inferior create a duty which a superior must perform. These things are contrary to centralized administration.
A consistent account of centralized administration can be made if it is said that every act of every officer is done under some other officer and every act of that oft.cer under some other officer and so up from the many officers at the bottom to the one officer at the top. This is the hierarchy in a centralized administration which results from the systematic organization. And this is the process of administration in a centralized administration. At the top the powers of the chief should be regarded as all discretionary; at the bottom the duties of the officers should be regarded as all ministerial; in the grades between these the officer will have ministerial duties in his relations to his superior and discretionary powers in his relations to his inferiors.
It is by the interaction of these powers and duties that administration goes on.51
$67. Decentralized administration.
In centralized administration things run all one way, in decentralized administration things run all the other way. Decentralized administration is an inversion of centralized administration. As an abstract statement, in centralized administration no officer in the administration has independent powers, in decentralized administration every officer in the administration has independent powers; in centralized administration every officer is subordinate to some other officer, in decentralized administration no officer is subordinate to any other. These statements in themselves are enough to show that such a thing as an absolute decentralized administration would be unworkable. And in fact it does not anywhere exist in such an absolute form.
When it is said in the governments of the American states the administration is decentralized, it is meant that the characteristic thing in those administrations is decentralism. And so it is.
And so it is. In the state governments themselves, there is a governor, and there are the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, and the others. These are separately elected by the people; the heads of departments do not owe their position to the Governor in any way, therefore. The result is in the state administration that the powers of the heads of the departments are their own, subject to the direction of no one else; the duties of the heads of the departments are their own subject to the direction of no one else. It is an inaccuracy to speak of the Governor of the state as the Chief of the Administration; the administration of the states has many heads.
51 INFERIOR.—Knight v. Land Ass'n, 142 U. S. 161; Orchard v. Alexander, 157 U. S. 372; Hull v. Commissioner, 2 MacArthur 90; Mississippi v. Durham, 4 Mackey 238; Relation of President to Executive Dept., 7 Opin. 453; In re Day, 3 Pen. Dec. 76; Advance Decisions, 5 Comp. Dec. 49; Power of Officers, Treas. Dec. No. 8,741; Mott of Coffman. 19 Land Dec. 106; In re Jones, 1874 Pat. Dec. 53.
There is no administrative relation between the Gov. ernor and the heads of the departments, therefore. If the Governor commands, the head of the department is under no obligation to obey whatever. Not only is this so in theory, it often is shown true in fact. There is, however, a legal relation between the Governor and the heads of the departments. Every officer in the state has by law certain rights and certain duties. That is true of the Governor; that is true of the head of the department. And this further is true: that there may be some legal interrelation between these rights and these duties. It may be that the exercise of some power by the Governor may, when the act is done, furnish the occasion for the performance of some duty by the head of the department. If that is so, that is a legal relation which the judicial courts may deal with.
It comes to this in a court of law: was the action of the Governor discretionary, and is the action required of the head thereby ministerial? If such be the case the propriety of the issue of mandamus by the courts appears in a most clear manner. State v. Wrotnowski, 17. La. Ann. 156 (1865). This was an application for a mandate ordering Wrotnowski, Secretary of State, to affix his official signature and the seal of his office to a commission signed by Wells, Governor of the State.