Son v. United States Eubank v. Same Mullen v. Same Mathews v. Same Hunsicker v. Same Norvell v. Same Palmer v. Same Arkansas Natural Gas Co v. Same v. 17 20, 1922, No. 117

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSUTHERLAND
Citation67 L.Ed. 396,260 U.S. 545,43 S.Ct. 200
PartiesM SON et al. v. UNITED STATES. EUBANK et al. v. SAME. McMULLEN et al. v. SAME. MATHEWS et al. v. SAME. HUNSICKER et al. v. SAME. NORVELL et al. v. SAME. PALMER et al. v. SAME. ARKANSAS NATURAL GAS CO. v. SAME. Argued Nov. 17-20, 1922
Docket NumberNo. 116,No. 104,No. 112,No. 115,No. 113,No. 117,No. 111,No. 114
Decision Date02 January 1923

260 U.S. 545
43 S.Ct. 200
67 L.Ed. 396
M SON et al.

v.

UNITED STATES. EUBANK et al. v. SAME. McMULLEN et al. v. SAME. MATHEWS et al. v. SAME. HUNSICKER et al. v. SAME. NORVELL et al. v. SAME. PALMER et al. v. SAME. ARKANSAS NATURAL GAS CO. v. SAME.

No. 117.
No. 115.
No. 116.
No. 114.
No. 104.
No. 113.
No. 111.
No. 112.
Argued Nov. 17-20, 1922.
Decided Jan. 2, 1923.

Page 546

Messrs. R. L. Batts, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and S. L. Herold and Hampden Story, both of Shreveport, La., for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from page 546 intentionally omitted]

Page 547

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Riter, and Mr. Solicitor General Beck were on the brief, for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 547-551 intentionally omitted]

Page 551

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases, involving the same questions, were consolidated for trial in the District Court, as well as for hearing

Page 552

on appeal in the Circuit Court of Appeals, and argued together here.

The United States, as plaintiff, brought separate suits in equity in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana against the several groups of appellants (defendants in the bills) to have its title to various parcels of land confirmed, possession thereof restored, and defendants enjoined from setting up claims thereto, extracting oil or other minerals therefrom, or going upon or in any manner using the same. There was in addition a prayer for an accounting in respect of the oil and gas removed from the lands by the defendants. The cases were referred to a master, and upon his report the District Court entered decrees in favor of the plaintiff in all the cases, from which appeals were taken by defendants and cross-appeals by plaintiff to the Circuit Court of Appeals. That court affirmed the decrees generally, but reversed the trial court in so far as it had allowed drilling and operating costs as a credit against the value of the oil extracted and converted by the defendants, respectively. 273 Fed. 135, 142. The cases come here by appeal.

The lands in question were public lands of the United States, and the only claim thereto asserted by the defendants was based upon locations purporting to have been made under the mining laws. The lands were withdrawn on December 15, 1908, by an executive order which reads:

'To secure the public interests, and, in aid of such legislation as may hereafter be proposed or recommended, the public lands in townships 15 to 23 north and ranges 10 to 16 west, Louisiana meridian, Natchitoches Land Office, Louisiana, are, subject to existing valid claims, withdrawn from settlement and entry, or other form of appropriation.'

After the promulgation of this order, at various times, mining locations were made upon the several parcels of

Page 553

land by the respective groups of defendants or persons in privity with them. These locations, it will be assumed for the purposes of the case, complied with the requirements of the laws relating to the acquisition of mining rights. Before the locations were made the question had been submitted by some of the defendants to counsel learned in the law, who advised that the President was without authority to make the withdrawal, and that the order, in any event, did not include appropriations of lands valuable for their deposits of mineral substances. All the locations, it is claimed, were made by the defendants in the honest belief that the order not only was made without authority, but that it did not purport to preclude appropriations under the mining laws.

Whatever legitimate doubts existed at the time of the locations respecting the validity of the executive order were resolved by the subsequent decision of this Court in United States v. Midwest Oil Co., 236 U. S. 459, 35 Sup. Ct. 309, 59 L. Ed. 673, where it was held that a similar order, issued in 1909, was within the power of the executive. Upon the authority of that case the order here in question must be held valid.

Passing this, it is insisted that the order do § not apply to the cases here presented. The point sought to be made rests upon the rule of statutory construction that words may be so associated as to qualify the meaning which they would have standing apart. Here, it is said, the general words of the order, 'or other form of appropriation,' must be read in connection with the specific words 'settlement and entry' immediately preceding, and that so read they must be restricted to appropriations of a similar kind with those specifically enumerated. The words 'settlement and entry,' it is said, apply only to the act of settling upon the soil and making entry at a land office, as, for example, under the homestead laws; that mining lands are acquired, not by settlement or entry, but by location and development; and that this

Page 554

process is not covered by the words 'other form of appropriation,' limited, as they must be, by the associated specific words, to those forms of appropriation which are akin to a settlement and entry. The rule is one well established and frequently invoked, but it is, after all, a rule of construction, to be resorted to only as an aid to the ascertainment of the meaning of doubtful words and phrases, and not to control or limit their meaning contrary to the true intent. It cannot be employed to render general words meaningless, since that would be to disregard the primary rules, that effect should be given to every part of a statute, if legitimately possible, and that the words of a statute or other document are to be taken according to their natural meaning. Here the supposed specific words are sufficiently comprehensive to exhaust the genus and leave nothing essentially similar upon which the general words may operate. See United States v. Mescall, 215 U. S. 26, 30 Sup. Ct. 19, 54 L. Ed. 77; Danciger v. Cooley, 248 U. S. 319, 326, 39 Sup. Ct. 119, 63 L. Ed. 266; Higler v. People, 44 Mich. 299, 6 N. W. 664, 38 Am. Rep. 267; United States v. First National Bank (D. C.) 190 Fed. 336, 344. If the appropriation of mineral lands by location and development be not skin to settlement and entry, what other form of appropriation can be so characterized? None has been suggested and we can think of none. A purchase of land or an appropriation for railroad uses or rights of way, if not actually involving settlement and entry, is no more akin to that method than an appropriation for mining purposes. Reasons which, under the rule, would justify the exclusion of one from the operation of the general words would equally justify the exclusion of all. It would therefore result, there being nothing ejusdem generis, that the application of the rule contended for would nullify the general words altogether. Moreover, the circumstances leading up to and accompanying the issuance of the order demonstrate conclusively that its main, if not its only, purpose was to preserve from private appropriation

Page 555

the oil and gas which the lands were thought to contain pending investigation and congressional action, and this purpose would have been subverted by appropriations of the nature here involved quite as much as by other forms. We conclude, therefore, that the mining locations here relied upon fell clearly within the withdrawal order and consequently were prohibited by it.

The trial court so decided, but, following the report of the master, held that these locations were made in moral good...

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108 practice notes
  • United States v. Consolidated Mines & Smelting Co., Ltd., No. 25164
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 12, 1971
    ...operative. This follows from the terms of the order itself and accords with the usual effect given such orders. Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S.Ct. 200, 67 L.Ed. 396 (1923); United States v. Midway Northern Oil Co., 232 F. 619 (S.D. Some of Consolidated's claims were located afte......
  • Russell v. Todd, No. 329
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 26, 1940
    ...adopt and apply local statutes of limitations which are applied to like causes of action by the state courts. Cf. Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S.Ct. 200, 67 L.Ed. 396; Jackson County v. United States, 308 U.S. 343, 60 S.Ct. 285, 84 L.Ed. 313, this term. In thus giving effect to ......
  • State ex Inf. Huffman v. Show-Me Power Co-Op., No. 38883.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • January 14, 1946
    ...of Commerce v. Estate of Ripley, 161 Mo. 126, 61 S.W. 587; United States v. Mescall, 215 U.S. 26, 54 L. Ed. 77; Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 67 L. Ed. 396; Mid-Northern Oil Co. v. Walker, 268 U.S. 45, 69 L. Ed. 841; Ruckert v. Grand Avenue Ry. Co., 163 Mo. 260, 63 S.W. 814; State v......
  • United States v. Standard Oil Co. of California, No. E-5.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 4, 1937
    ...from the value in place of the oil and gas converted, the cost of its drilling and operating expenses. See Mason v. United States, 1923, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S.Ct. 200, 67 L.Ed. 396; Lightner Mining Co. v. Lane, 1912, 161 Cal. 689, 120 P. 771, Ann.Cas. 1913C, 1093; Drumm-Flato Commission Co. v.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
108 cases
  • United States v. Consolidated Mines & Smelting Co., Ltd., No. 25164
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 12, 1971
    ...operative. This follows from the terms of the order itself and accords with the usual effect given such orders. Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S.Ct. 200, 67 L.Ed. 396 (1923); United States v. Midway Northern Oil Co., 232 F. 619 (S.D. Some of Consolidated's claims were located afte......
  • Russell v. Todd, No. 329
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 26, 1940
    ...adopt and apply local statutes of limitations which are applied to like causes of action by the state courts. Cf. Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S.Ct. 200, 67 L.Ed. 396; Jackson County v. United States, 308 U.S. 343, 60 S.Ct. 285, 84 L.Ed. 313, this term. In thus giving effect to ......
  • State ex Inf. Huffman v. Show-Me Power Co-Op., No. 38883.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • January 14, 1946
    ...of Commerce v. Estate of Ripley, 161 Mo. 126, 61 S.W. 587; United States v. Mescall, 215 U.S. 26, 54 L. Ed. 77; Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545, 67 L. Ed. 396; Mid-Northern Oil Co. v. Walker, 268 U.S. 45, 69 L. Ed. 841; Ruckert v. Grand Avenue Ry. Co., 163 Mo. 260, 63 S.W. 814; State v......
  • United States v. Standard Oil Co. of California, No. E-5.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 4, 1937
    ...from the value in place of the oil and gas converted, the cost of its drilling and operating expenses. See Mason v. United States, 1923, 260 U.S. 545, 43 S.Ct. 200, 67 L.Ed. 396; Lightner Mining Co. v. Lane, 1912, 161 Cal. 689, 120 P. 771, Ann.Cas. 1913C, 1093; Drumm-Flato Commission Co. v.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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