land described in his Application of February 26, 1937.
The defendant contends that the patent issued under the Act of March 3, 1851 and the proceedings which were held incident to the issuance of said patent carried with it title to the oil, gas and minerals and that the United States does not own any interest in the land described in plaintiff's application which could properly be the subject of a Federal oil and gas lease; that since the patent was issued the United States has made no attempt to claim any mineral interest in the land described and the area has been used and developed on the theory that the patentee obtained a full fee title; that this particular area is in the heart of one of California's richest producing oil fields and that this suit would gravely interfere with title claims which have been in existence for a long period of time; also, that as against the United States, or those claiming under it, a patent under the 1851 Act operates as a quit claim, and that one holding a patent under the 1851 Act has uniformly been held to have a conclusive title against the United States or anyone tracing his claim to the United States; that the legislative history of the 1851 Act confirms the conclusion that patens issued thereunder conveyed the minerals; and that while there have been no earlier Interior Department decisions on the precise subject, there seems to be no question that the defendant's predecessors in title have consistently concluded that the United States did not own the minerals and lands patented under the 1851 Act; that earlier Secretaries of the Interior at no time have suggested that action should be taken to assert a claim of title to these minerals and, therefore, this case is subject to the rule that courts should regard long continued and uniform practice of the officers charged with the duty of administering the law as persuasively determinative of its construction.
The question to be decided in this case is whether or not the patent dated December 18, 1858, to Manuel Dominguez et al., and issued pursuant to the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1851, conveyed title to the minerals beneath the soil in the land described in the patent.
It seems clear that, as plaintiff contends, under Spanish and Mexican law, no interest in the minerals passed by grant from the Mexican Government of the land in which they were contained, without express words designating them. The United States v. Andres Castillero, 2 Black 17, 17 L. Ed. 360; Moore v. Smaw, 17 Cal. 199. In view of this fact, it may be argued in support of the plaintiff's position that, since the claim of Dominguez et al. was a claim of title to agricultural land and did not constitute a claim to the minerals therein, the patent issued pursuant to the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1851, only confirmed the title of the claimants to the agricultural land and did not convey title to the mines or minerals below the surface.
However, such a ruling would run counter to a long line of authorities which either directly or indirectly support a contrary view and would do violence to the purpose of the Act of March 3, 1851, to settle private land claims in the State of California based on Mexican and Spanish grants and not to leave such titles in their former indefinite position.
The contentions made by the plaintiff in this suit were raised as long ago as 1861, and decided adversely to the position here taken by the plaintiff, in the case of Moore v. Smaw, 17 Cal. 199, written by Chief Justice Field of that Court, later Mr. Justice Field of the Supreme Court of the United States, in which the Court held that consistent with the purposes of the Act of March 3, 1851, the effect of a patent under said Act was to divest the United States of any and all interest in the land, including the minerals which it may have acquired from Mexico under the Treaty.
While the precise issue raised in this pending suit appears not to have been raised in any prior litigation in any Federal Court so as to be directly passed upon, the Moore decision has never been questioned and it has been cited with approval in other cases, although not with respect to the issue involved in this proceeding. Burke v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 234 U.S. 669, 689, 34 S. Ct. 907, 58 L. Ed. 1527; United States v. State of Texas, 339 U.S. 707, 709, 70 S. Ct. 918, 94 L. Ed. 1221.
The Dominguez claim was the subject of an elaborate opinion by the Supreme Court of the United States in Dominguez De Guyer v. Banning, 167 U.S. 723, 17 S. Ct. 937, 42 L. Ed. 340, written by Mr. Justice Harlan, in which the history of the claim is recited in detail and, while the Court in that case did not have before it the issue now under consideration, it did hold that the description in the patent controlled and from this holding it is reasonable to conclude that the patent issued on December 18, 1858, embraced all of the land, including the minerals under the surface, to the patentees therein named.
In the case of Beard v. Federy, 3 Wall. 478, 18 L. Ed. 88, the Supreme Court held that a patent issued pursuant to the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1851, is 'a conveyance of such interest as the United States possessed in the land, and it takes effect by relation at the time when proceedings were instituted by the filing of the petition before the Board of Land Commissioners.'
In Fremont v. United States, 17 How. 542, 15 L. Ed. 241, the Court also had the Act of March 3, 1851, under consideration and pointed out that the Eighth Section of the Act 'embraces not only inchoate or equitable titles, but legal titles also; and requires them all to undergo examination and to be passed upon by the Court. The object of this provision appears to be, to place the titles in land in California upon a stable foundation, and to give the parties who possess them an opportunity of placing them on the records of the country, in a manner and form that will prevent future controversy.'
In Interstate Land Co. v. Maxwell Land Co., 139 U.S. 569, 11 S. Ct. 656, 35 L. Ed. 278, the Supreme Court again had before it the question of the effect of a patent covering land acquired from Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Court said, 139 U.S. at page 580, 11 S. Ct. at page 660:
'The confirmation and patenting of the grant to Beaubien and Miranda operated to divest the United States of all their rights to the land embraced in the grant which this country acquired from Mexico by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. And the only way that that grant can be defeated now is to show that the lands embraced in it had been previously granted by the Mexican government to some other person.'
In United States v. O'Donnell, 303 U.S. 501, 512, 58 S. Ct. 708, 715, 82 L. Ed. 980, in which the history of the Act of March 3, 1851, is set out in detail, the Court said:
'The primary purpose of the Mexican Claims Act was the performance by the United States of its treaty obligations to quiet the titles of the claimants under Spanish and Mexican grants. But a necessary consequence of proceeding before the Commission, and one incidental to the determination of the validity of the titles of such claimants, was a determination whether, by the cession, the lands in question had become a part of the public domain of the United States. It is evident that the treaty obligations to quiet the title of claimants under Mexican grants would be defeated and the Mexican Claims Act would fail of its purpose if the finality of the Board's confirmation of claims under Mexican grants could be challenged by persons claiming under grants of public lands by the United States. For that reason it has been consistently held that claimants under the United States, by virtue of statutes disposing of its public lands in California, are not 'third persons' within the meaning of the Mexican Claims Act, and that confirmation under that act of claims under Mexican grants is conclusive upon all those claiming under the United States.'
In Adam v. Norris, 103 U.S. 591, 593, 26 L. Ed. 583, the Court said:
'But the United States, in dealing with parties claiming, under Mexican grants, lands within the territory ceded by the treaty of Mexico, never made pretense that it was the owner of them. When, therefore, guided by the action of the tribunals established to pass upon the validity of these alleged grants, the Government issued a patent it was in the nature of a quit claim, -- an admission that the rightful ownership had never been in the United States, but had passed at the time of the cession to the claimant, or to those under whom he claimed. This principle has been more than once clearly announced in this Court. (Citing cases.)'
The case of Ely Real Estate & Investment Company v. Watts, 9 Cir., 262 F. 721, 726, which related to the Gadsden Treaty with Mexico of December 30, 1853, 10 Stat. 1031, under which the United States acquired that portion of Arizona involved in the proceeding, required consideration of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Court discussed at length the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1851, particularly Sec. 15 thereof. In the opinion written by Circuit Judge Gilbert, after reviewing a number of authorities, the Court said:
'It has been held in numerous decisions that the patent issued upon a confirmed Mexican grant is to be regarded in two aspects: First, it is a quitclaim deed from the United States, which takes effect by relation at the time when proceedings were instituted by the filing of the petition with the commission or court created to adjudicate the claim; second, it is a record of the government, showing its judgment with respect to the title of the patentee at the date of the cession. (Citing cases.)'
Other authorities which, while not directly in point, lend support to the conclusions herein expressed, are Botiller v. Dominguez, 130 U.S. 238, 9 S. Ct. 525, 32 L. Ed. 926; United States v. San Jacinto Tin Co., 125 U.S. 273, 8 S. Ct. 850, 31 L. Ed. 747; United States v. Coronado Beach Co., 255 U.S. 472, 41 S. Ct. 378, 65 L. Ed. 736; Work v. Mason, 55 App.D.C. 349, 6 F.2d 474; Hogan v. United States, 9 Cir., 72 F.2d 799; Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Company v. United States, 9 Cir., 140 F.2d 436; Leese v. Clark, 20 Cal. 388, 423.
The claim filed by the heirs of Christobel Dominguez claimed 'in fee simple a certain tract of land situate in the County of Los Angeles, known by the name of 'San Pedro' containing ten square leagues, more or less', and went on to state that Christobel Dominguez 'died seized in fee thereof', and then the petitioners 'aver they claim in fee the said Rancho San Pedro as tenants in common * * *.' The patent issued gave and granted 'the tract of land embraced and described in the foregoing survey'.
In the light of the foregoing authorities, it is my conclusion that the patent herein described and issued pursuant to the provisions of the Act of March 3, 1851, did convey title to the minerals beneath the soil in the land described in the patent; that the patentees acquired a conclusive title against the United States or anyone tracing his claim to the United States; that the defendant correctly ruled that the United States does not own the minerals in the lands described in the lease application and, therefore, the plaintiff is not entitled to the relief demanded.
Counsel for the defendant will submit an appropriate order in conformity with the foregoing.
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