66 U.S. 358 (1862), Rice v. Minnesota & N.W. R. Co.

Citation:66 U.S. 358, 17 L.Ed. 147
Party Name:RICE v. RAILROAD COMPANY.
Case Date:March 03, 1862
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 358

66 U.S. 358 (1862)

17 L.Ed. 147

RICE

v.

RAILROAD COMPANY.

United States Supreme Court.

March 03, 1862

OPINION

Error to the District Court of the United States for the district of Minnesota.

Edmund Rice brought trespass in the county court of Dakota, Territory of Minnesota, against the Minnesota & Northwestern Railroad Company, for cutting timber on section 15 of township 114 north, of range 19 west. The defendants answered that the title to the section of land described in the plaintiff's complaint was in them, and set forth their title as follows:

The defendants were incorporated on the 4th of March, 1854, by the Legislative Assembly of Minnesota Territory, for the purpose of making a railroad from the northwest shore of Lake Superior to some point to be selected on the northern line of Iowa in the direction of Dubuque. This act of incorporation provided, among other things, that, 'for the purpose of aiding the said company in the construction and maintaining the said railroad, it is further enacted that any lands that may be granted to the said Territory to aid in the construction of the said railroad shall be, and the same are hereby, granted in fee simple, absolute, without any further act or deed; and the Governor of this Territory or future State of Minnesota is hereby authorized and directed, in the name and in behalf of said Territory or State, after the said grant of land shall have been made by the United States to said Territory, to execute and deliver to said

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company such further deed or assurance of the transfer of the said property as said company may require, to vest in them a perfect title to the same: provided, however, that such lands shall be taken upon such terms and conditions as may be prescribed by the act of Congress granting the same.' The books of subscription were opened at St. Paul and New York. Stock was subscribed to a large amount; the requisite proportion of it was paid in, and the company was organized agreeably to the terms of the charter. On the 29th of June, 1854, an act was passed by Congress granting to the Territory of Minnesota, for the purpose of aiding in the construction of a railroad along the route mentioned in the charter, every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers, for six sections in width on each side of said road within the Territory. The act of Congress making the grant was as follows:

'1. Be it enacted, &c., That there is hereby granted to the Territory of Minnesota, for the purpose of aiding in the construction of a railroad from the southern line of said Territory, commencing at a point between township ranges 9 and 17, thence by the way of St. Paul, by the most practicable route, to the eastern line of said Territory, in the direction of Lake Superior, every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers, for six sections in width on each side of said road within said Territory; but in case it shall appear that the United States have, when the line of said road is definitely fixed by the authority aforesaid, sold any section or any part thereof granted as aforesaid, or that the right of pre-emption has attached to the same, then it shall be lawful for any agent or agents to be appointed by the Governor of said Territory, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, to select from the lands of the United States, nearest to the tier of sections above specified, so much land in alternate sections or parts of sections as shall be equal to such lands as the United States have sold, or to which the right of pre-emption has attached as aforesaid, which land (thus selected in lieu of those sold, and to which pre-emption has attached as aforesaid, together with the sections or parts of sections designated by odd numbers as aforesaid, and appropriated as aforesaid) shall be held by the Territory

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of Minnesota for the use and purpose aforesaid: Provided, That the lands to be so located shall in no case be further than fifteen miles from the line of the road in each case, and selected for and on account of said road: Provided, further, That the lands hereby granted shall be exclusively applied in the construction of that road for which it was granted and selected, and shall be disposed of only as the work progresses; and the same shall be applied to no other purpose whatever: And provided, further, That any and all lands heretofore reserved to the United States by an act of Congress, or in any other manner by competent authority, for the purpose of aiding in any object of internal improvement, or for any other purpose whatever, be, and the same are hereby, reserved to the United States from the operation of this act, except so far as it may be found necessary to locate the route of said railroad through such reserved lands, in which case the right of way only shall be granted, subject to the approval of the President of the United States.

'SECTION 2. And be it further enacted, That the sections and parts of sections of land which by such grants shall remain to the United States, within six miles on each side of said road, shall not be sold for less than double the minimum price.

'SECTION 3. And be it further enacted, That the said lands hereby granted to the said Territory shall be subject to the disposal of any Legislature thereof for the purpose aforesaid, and no other; nor shall they inure to the benefit of any company heretofore constituted and organized; and the said railroad shall be and remain a public highway for the use of the United States, free from toll or other charge upon the transportation of any property or troops of the United States; nor shall any of the said lands become subject to private entry until the same shall have been first offered at public sale at the increased price.

'SECTION 4. And be it further enacted, That the lands hereby granted to said Territory shall be disposed of by said Territory only in the manner following--that is to say: no title shall vest in the said Territory of Minnesota, nor shall any patent issue for any part of the lands hereinbefore mentioned, until a continuous line of twenty miles of said road shall be completed

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through the lands hereby granted; and when the Secretary of the Interior shall be satisfied that any twenty miles of said road are completed, then a patent shall issue for a quantity of land not exceeding one hundred and twenty sections, and included within a continuous length of twenty miles of said road, until it shall be completed; and if said road is not completed within ten years, no further sale shall be made, and the land unsold shall revert to the United States.

'SECTION 5. And be it further enacted, That the United States mail shall be transported at all times on said railroad, under the direction of the Post Office Department, at such price as Congress may by law direct: Provided, That until such price is fixed by law, the Postmaster General shall have the power to determine the same.'

It was before the passage of this act that the books of subscription were opened, namely, on the 1st of May, 1854. On the 20th of the same month subscriptions were made upon the books at St. Paul. On the 30th of June, 1854, the day after the act of Congress making the grant was approved by the President, one million of dollars were subscribed to the stock on the books opened at New York, and ten per cent. thereupon duly paid to the commissioners. Directors were then elected and the company completely organized. Afterwards, on the 16th of February, 1855, the Territorial Legislature made some modifications and additions to the charter and re-enacted it. The defendants further averred, that on the 20th of October, 1855, they caused a survey to be made of their route for the railroad and located it agreeably to the act of incorporation and the act of Congress; that the route as located runs through the land claimed by the plaintiff and described in his complaint; that it was not until after this location, to wit, on the 1st of January, 1856, that the plaintiff purchased the land from the United States, and that the trespass complained of consisted in going on that part of the land where the track of the railroad was lawfully located and cutting such timber as was necessary to be removed for the purpose of constructing the work.

To this answer of the defendants the plaintiff replied, that

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after the officers and directors of the company were chosen by the stockholders, and entered upon the discharge of their duties, and before the trespasses complained of were committed, to wit, on the 24th day of August, 1854, Congress passed the following act repealing that by which the grant was made on the preceding 29th of June:

'Be it enacted, That the bill entitled 'An act to aid the Territory of Minnesota in the construction of a railroad therein,' which passed the House of Representatives on the twentieth day of June, eighteen hundred and fifty-four, and which was approved by the President of the United States on the twenty-ninth day of June, eighteen hundred and fifty-four, be, and the same is hereby repealed.'

The defendants demurred to the replication, and for cause of demurrer set forth that the repealing act of 24th August, 1854, was void and of non effect.

The court of original jurisdiction gave judgment on the demurrer in favor of the plaintiff. The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court of the Territory, where the judgment was reversed, but judgment was not entered for the defendants. By the law admitting Minnesota into the Union as a State the records of the Supreme Court of the Territory were transferred to the District Court of the United States. There an application was made to amend the record by entering a proper judgment, which was done, and this writ...

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