Territory v. Persons, etc., in Delinquent Tax List of Bernalillo County for 1899

Decision Date03 March 1904
Citation76 P. 307,12 N.M. 139,1904 -NMSC- 008
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

1. The lands of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico are taxable.

Appeal from District Court, Bernalillo County; before Justice Crumpacker.

Action by the territory against the persons, real estate, land, and property described in the delinquent tax list of the county of Bernalillo for the first half of the year 1899. Judgment for defendants, and plaintiff appeals. Reversed.

T. A Finical, Dist, Atty., and E. L. Bartlett, Sol, Gen. (G. W Johnson, of counsel), for the Territory.

William H. Pope, for appellees.


On the 4th day of June, 1900, a suit for the collection of taxes which were delinquent for the first half of the year 1899 was begun under the provisions of law, and was a blanket suit covering all cases for delinquent taxes. Among other property on which taxes were delinquent were the land grants described in the transcript in this cause. These grants are the property of the Pueblo Indians. The attorney for the defendants filed answer to the complaint for each of the Indian pueblos. Plaintiff filed a general demurrer to the answer, alleging that they did not set forth facts sufficient to constitute a defense. The district court overruled the demurrer, and ordered the complaint dismissed as to said Indian defendants. Plaintiff appeals.

The single question presented by this record is as to whether the lands of the Pueblo Indians are taxable. It would be an inviting task to trace the history of these people since the advent of the Spanish conquerors; but, as this court has, in a very interesting opinion, dealt with this subject, we content ourselves with a reference thereto. U.S. v Lucero, 1 N. M. 422. They were found a peaceful industrious, and civilized people, living in towns (Pueblos) and following agricultural and pastoral pursuits. In 1689, and within a few years subsequent, the Spanish government granted them their lands. So long as they remained under the Spanish rule, certain restrictions were placed upon the alienation of their property. Hall's Mexican Law, §§ 160, 161. As late as March 13, 1811, they were exempted from taxation. Hall's Mexican Law, § 169. They seem to have been considered by the Spanish as wards of the government, and entitled to special privileges and protection. But a complete change took place in the statutes of these people when Mexico threw off the Spanish yoke. Among those engaged in that struggle for independence, this Aztec race far outnumbered the Mexicans, and its success was due in a large measure to their efforts. It was but natural and fitting that in the formation of the new government they should take a prominent, if not a leading, part, and that they should be placed upon an equal footing as to all civil and political rights. And so we find that the revolutionary government of Mexico, February 24, 1821, a short time before the subversion of Spanish power, adopted what is known as the "Plan of Iguala" (Iguala was the place of the revolutionary army headquarters), in which it is declared that "all the inhabitants of New Spain, without distinction, whether Europeans, Africans or Indians, are citizens of this monarchy, with the right to be employed in any post according to their merit and virtues," and that "the person and property of every citizen will be respected and protected by the government." 1 Ordenes y Decretos (by Galvan) p. 3; U.S. v. Ritchie, 27 How, 525, 538, 15 L.Ed. 236; U.S. v. Lucero, supra. The same principles were reaffirmed in the treaty of Cordova, of August 24, 1821 (1 Ordenes y Decretos [by Galvan] p. 6) and in the declaration of independence of October 6, 1821 (Id. P. 8). The Mexican Congress thereafter followed with at least four acts, in the each of which the "Plan of Iguala" was uniformly considered as a fixed principle of Mexican law. U.S. v. Ritchie, supra; 2 Ordenes y Decretos, pp. 1, 92; 3 Ordenes y Decretos, p. 65. This latter act was passed August 18, 1824, only 24 years before the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, whereby we acquired this territory and these people. How far-reaching in its consequences this policy and practice has been, may be made more apparent when we recall the fact that Maximilian's defeat by the Mexican troops was accomplished under the leadership of Gen. Juarez, a full-blooded Aztec Indian, and that the man who has so wisely governed Mexico for these last 20 and more years, as President of the republic, is none other than an illustrious specimen of this Aztec race. We had then, at the date of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, whereby we acquired this territory, a people possessed of all the powers, privileges, and immunities of any other citizens of Mexico, and they came to us so endowed as much as any other class of citizens. This necessarily, and independent of the provisions of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which so carefully guards the civil rights of all Mexican citizens within the ceded territory, carried with it the right to take, hold, and dispose of their property. Their right of alienation of their property has never been directly passed upon by the Supreme Court, of the United States. The court, in U.S. v. Ritchie, supra, declined to express an opinion on this point, it not being involved. This court, in U.S. v. Lucero, supra (page 448), stated that the pueblo of Cochiti had sold a portion of their land where the town of Pena Blanca stands, and that the sale was recognized as valid by the Mexican government; but we have been unable to verify the court's reference to the decrees of the Mexican Republic. But it seems clear that they have such right. No limitation on the power is to be found either in the laws of Mexico, the United States, or the territory. The right of alienation is one of the chief elements, of property values, and is possessed by all citizens alike. A contrary view has been expressed in California. Sunol v. Hepburn, 1 Cal. 255; Hicks v. Coleman, 25 Cal. 122, 85 Am. Dec. 103. But in view of the conclusion reached by this court in U.S. v. Lucero, supra, U.S. v. Santistevan, 1 N.M. 583, and U.S. v. Joseph, 1 N. M. 593, and the reasoning there employed, as well as the reasoning in U.S. v. Ritichie, supra, and U.S. v. Joseph, 94 U.S. 614, 24 L.Ed. 295, we have no doubt that the Pueblo Indians of this territory were citizens of Mexico at the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, possessed of all the rights of any other citizens, including the...

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