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ents, or any timber, cut or uncut, on such | Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and lands. their successors in interest, were not entitled to any lands by virtue of said act of Congress approved July 2d, 1864, and said joint resolution, approved May 31st, 1870, granting lands to said Northern Pacific Railroad Company, east of that point on the line of said Northern Pacific Railroad where the same crosses the line of the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad, known as Thompson Junction."
The questions propounded to this court by the circuit court of appeals are these: "Is the act of July 1st, 1898, applicable to the determination of the rights of the parties to the 3,400 acres of land which were patented to the appellees or their predecessors in interest prior to the adoption of the act of July 1st, 1898?
"Has the circuit court of the United States for the district of Minnesota, or any court, jurisdiction as respects the lands in controversy entered subsequent to January 1st, 1898, and for which the settlers hold final receipts or certificates, to adjudicate the rights of the parties to this action in respect to said lands in advance of the issuance of patents therefor by the executive branch of the government, or should the courts decline jurisdiction until the government has devested itself of the legal title to the lands by the issuance and delivery of patents?"
Obviously, the first inquiry should be as to the object and scope of the act of 1898. Upon that point we do not think any doubt can be entertained, if the words of the act be interpreted in the light of the situation as it actually was at the date of its passage, Here were vast bodies of land, the right and title to which was in dispute between a railroad company holding a grant of public lands, and occupants and purchasers,— both sides claiming under the United States. The disputes had arisen out of conflicting orders or rulings of the Land DeIt is appropriate at the outset to refer to partment, and it became the duty of the certain allegations of the bill, which bring government to remove the difficulties which the determination of the case within a very had come upon the parties in consequence narrow compass, and make it unnecessary of such orders. The settlement of those to consider some matters referred to by disputes was therefore, as the circuit court counsel. After setting out in detail the va- said, a matter of public concern. If the rious steps taken by the railroad company disputes were not accommodated, the litigato acquire a right to the lands in dispute, tion in relation to the lands would become the bill alleges that "but for the vested vexatious, extending over many years and rights" of the Northern Pacific Railroad causing great embarrassment. In the light Company and its grantees the several tracts of that situation Congress passed the act of land in question would have been unap- of 1898, which opened up a way for an adpropriated public lands open to the sev-justment upon principles that it deemed eral kinds of entries or location made with just and consistent with the rights of all respect to them, severally; also, that "the concerned,-the government, the railroad several applications and proceedings with grantee, and individual claimants. The respect to the said several entries were in railroad company evinced its approval of due form, and regularly conducted, as re- this action of the legislative department by quired by law, and, in the absence of the a prompt acceptance of the act in its envested rights of the said Northern Pa- tirety. By such unqualified acceptance the cific Railroad Company and its grantees railroad company agreed that, so far as it in the said premises, would have been had any claim to the lands in dispute, whatoperative and effectual to invest the sev-ever the act of Congress required to be done eral entrymen of said lands with complete equitable title thereto, each of such entries and locations having been finally receipted for, allowed, and approved by the proper land officers of the United States; the only act remaining for the United States or its officers to perform with respect to such entries being the issuance of the patent in cases where the patent has not already issued;" and that all of the said entries and locations of lands referred to in the exhibit filed with the bill were allowed, and the final certificates (and, so far as issued, the patents) issued therefor, "uneration of the act. The plaintiffs rest this der a mistake of law founded upon a cer- claim upon that part of the act providing tain erroneous ruling by the Secretary of that the railroad grantee or its successor the Interior, to the effect that the said 'in interest "shall not be bound to relinquish
might be done.
Promptly after the passage of that act the Land Department set about to administer its provisions, and to that end, as we have said, issued regulations for the guidance of all concerned.
During the progress of this work of administration, the railroad company, by conveyances to the present plaintiffs, assumed to pass such interest as it had in the lands here in question, with the effect-it is now claimed by the plaintiffs-to withdraw or exempt all the lands so sold from the op
lands sold or contracted by it, or lands | might legally make under that act. It which it uses or needs for railroad purposes, or lands valuable for stone, iron, or coal." See above, par. 3.
could not, by any sale or contract made after the acceptance of the act, interfere with the full execution of its provisions. And the plaintiffs, who claim to have purchased from the successor in interest of the railroad grantee, can occupy no better position than the company from which they purchased. They were in a sense purchasers pendente lite; for the Secretary of the Interior was, at the time, as he is now, engaged in administering the act of Congress. By him or under his direction must be ascertained the facts upon which depend the inquiry whether the lands in question are within the indemnity limits of the land grant to the railroad company, and so situated that a right to them attached by reason of the definite location of the road. He must also inquire whether such lands were purchased, by the respective defendants, directly from the United States, or were settled upon or claimed in good faith by
We have seen that the act (par. 1 above) made it the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to ascertain from time to time, and cause to be prepared and delivered to the railroad grantee or its successor in interest, a list or lists of the several tracts purchased, settled upon, or occupied, and claimed, at the date of the act, by such settlers, purchasers, or occupants, their heirs and assigns, according to the smallest government subdivisions. And the act provided that the railroad grantee or its successor should accept said list or lists "as conclusive, with respect to the particular lands to be relinquished by it." The contention of the plaintiffs, stated more fully, is, in effect, that it was competent for the company, notwithstanding its acceptance of the act, to take out of its operation any lands embraced by its terms, by simply sell-qualified settlers under color of title or ing or contracting to sell them before the delivery to it, or to its successor in interest, of the lists above mentioned. In other words, for the contention comes to that, the railroad company, so far as the act of 1898 was concerned, could, notwithstand- | ing the acceptance of its provisions, and on the day after such acceptance, have sold or contracted to sell its right, title, and interest in and to all the lands embraced by those provisions. This would have left no lands whatever to which the act could apply. Such a result would have left unsettled all the disputes relating to any lands which the company chose, in its own interest, to sell while the Land Department was proceeding under the statute. We do not believe that Congress intended that it should be in the power of the railroad company in any such mode to defeat the operation of the act. Congress, manifestly, had reference to the situation as it was when the act of 1898 was passed.
If any rights had become vested in the Northern Pacific Railroad Company which could not, against or without its consent, be affected by an enactment like that of 1898, then the objection to legislation on the ground that it interfered with vested rights, was waived by the acceptance of the act by its successor in interest; for it was entirely competent for the latter company, if it succeeded to all the rights of the railroad grantee, to agree to such a settlement as that devised by Congress. The rights acquired by the definite location of the road, and any selection of lands based thereon, became, upon the acceptance of the act, and so far as that company was concerned, subject to such settlement as the Land Department 25 S. C.-9.
claim of right under a law of the United States or ruling of the Interior Department, and whether the purchaser, settler, or claimant refuses to transfer his entry. Upon these facts also depends the right of the railroad grantee or its successor in interest (its rights being relinquished as provided in the act) to select, in lieu of the lands relinquished, an equal quantity of surveyed or unsurveyed public lands, not mineral or reserved, and not valuable for stone, iron, or coal, and free from any adverse claim, or not occupied by settlers at the time of such selection, situated within any state or territory into which the railroad grant extends.
Now it is sought, in advance of final action by the Land Department in execution of the act, to have it adjudged, as between the parties to this suit, that the lands in dispute, claimed by the defendants, cannot properly be placed on the lists which the Secretary may deliver to the railroad grantee or its successor in interest. But that is a question the solution of which depends, in part at least, on facts within the province, primarily, of the Secretary of the Interior to find. In short, he, and he alone, must ascertain the facts which enter into the question as to what lands are to go on the lists to be delivered the lists to be delivered to the railroad grantee or its successor in interest. The court should not, by any decree, as between parties who have no contract relations with each other, attempt indirectly to control the authority and discretion of that officer to determine what lands shall and what lands shall not be included in the lists to be prepared under his direction. The plaintiffs cannot invoke the aid of the court to have
these questions concluded, even as between | lands, the party holding that title should them and the defendants, by an admission, hold absolutely as his own, or as trustee made in their bill for the purposes of this for another." So, in Marquez v. Frisbie, case, that the final certificates and final 101 U. S. 473, 475, 25 L. ed. 800, 801: "We receipts held by the respective defendants have repeatedly held that the courts will will entitle them to the lands they claim not interfere with the officers of the govbut for the "vested" rights acquired by the ernment while in the discharge of their durailroad company in virtue of the definite ties in disposing of the public lands, either location of its road. The court should not by injunction or mandamus. ... After assume that they are embraced by the act, the United States has parted with its title in order simply that it may have an oppor- and the individual has become vested with tunity, as between the present parties, to it, the equities subject to which he holds it decide a question of law which cannot ap- may be enforced, but not before. propriately arise until at least all the facts We did not deny the right of the courts to are ascertained by the Land Department, deal with the possession of the land prior and final action is taken under the statute to the issue of the patent, or to enforce conof 1898. Although it may be true, as al- tracts between the parties concerning the leged in the bill, that the defendants, not land. But it is impossible thus to transfer holding patents, have received and hold a title which is yet in the United States." final certificates or final receipts, and that, What was said in the case just cited, as to so far as they are concerned, nothing more the power of the court to interfere, in cerremains to be done in the Department ex-tain cases, in advance of the issuing of the cept to issue patents, yet it is in the power of the Department, even after decree here, in this suit, to reopen the case as to each defendant of that class, and, sufficient grounds existing therefor, recall or cancel such certificates or receipts. The whole matter, in respect of the lands in dispute, is yet in the hands of the Department, undisposed of finally under the act of 1898. Congress intended that the Department should, within the limit and according to the rules prescribed by the act of 1898, settle the disputes that had arisen between the railroad grantee and settlers, although, after the matter has passed beyond the jurisdiction of the Department, such settlements may become the subject of judicial inquiry for the protection of the rights of parties against any error of law committed by the Department.
Those views are in entire accord with the former decisions of this court. In Johnson v. Towsley, 13 Wall. 72, 87, 20 L. ed. 485, 488, it was said: "This court has at all times been careful to guard itself against an invasion of the functions confided by law to other departments of the government, and in reference to the proceedings before the officers intrusted with the charge of selling the public lands it has frequently and firmly refused to interfere with them in the discharge of their duties, either by mandamus or injunction, so long as the title remained in the United States and the matter was rightfully before those officers for decision. On the other hand, it has constantly asserted the right of the proper courts to inquire, after the title had passed from the government, and the question became one of private right, whether, according to the established rules of equity and the acts of Congress concerning the public
patent, was no doubt in the mind of the circuit court when, in its opinion in this case, it said: "It is unnecessary to decide whether a case may not arise, when, even while the disputed question as to the rights of contesting parties to a tract of public land is pending or cognizable before the Land Department, a court of equity may properly interfere by injunction, at the suit of one of the claimants, to prevent the other claimant from despoiling the land by waste, and appropriating its substantial value, by denuding it of all its merchantable timber, before any final decision upon the disputed claims by the Land Department, which is only rendered by issuing the patent."
So, again, in United States v. Schurz, 102 U. S. 378, 395, 26 L. ed. 167, 171: "The Constitution of the United States declares that Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory and other property belonging to the United States. Under this provision the sale of the public lands was placed by statute under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. To aid him in the performance of this duty a bureau was created, at the head of which is the Commissioner of the General Land Office, with many subordinates. To them, as a special tribunal, Congress confided the execution of the laws which regulate the surveying, the selling, and the general care of these lands. Congress has also enacted a system of laws, by which rights to these lands may be acquired and the title of the government conveyed to the citizen. This court has with a strong hand upheld the doctrine that so long as the legal title to these lands remained in the United States, and the proceedings for acquiring it were as yet in fieri, the courts would not inter
fere to control the exercise of the power in good faith by any qualified settler under thus vested in that tribunal. To that doc- color of title or claim of right under any trine we still adhere." As late as Bock-law of the United States or any ruling of finger v. Foster, 190 U. S. 116, 126, 47 L. the Interior Department." The duty of a ed. 975, 979, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 836, 840, we court of equity not to interfere with parties reaffirmed the principle "that the courts in the prosecution of their rights under the will not interfere with the Land Depart-act, whereby the execution of its provisions ment in its control and disposal of the pub-in advance of final action by the Departlic lands, under the legislation of Congress, so long as the title in any essential sense remains in the United States."
These principles are applicable to the particular scheme devised by the act of 1898 in reference to the lands in dispute. When the Land Department shall have done all that it can do in execution of the act of Congress, as to any particular lands in dispute, it will be time enough for interested private parties claiming an interest in them to invoke the aid of the courts for the determination of such questions of law as may arise out of the action of the Department. It is true that no order is asked here that will, directly or in terms, operate upon the Land Department. But a decree is asked, as between the parties now before the court, which must necessarily control or affect the action of the Department in respect of matters committed to it by Congress. Such interference by the court, although between private claimants only, would be inappropriate, especially as to lands covered by the act of 1898.
What has been said is peculiarly applicable to the unpatented lands in dispute. It is equally applicable to lands patented both before and after the passage of the act, if such lands are in dispute and belong to either of the classes described in the act of 1898. We agree with the circuit court that the act “gives the option to keep or relinquish the disputed land, to the individual claimant in every instance. If he elects to retain that land, it is to be listed by the Secretary in lists to be furnished to the railroad claimant, who must relinquish, and whose consent to this was given by its acceptance of the act." In case of such relinquishment by the railroad company, it acquires a right to select other lands in place of those retained by the individual claimant. If the individual claimant, having a patent, elects to surrender his right, then he must reconvey to the United States, and will then be entitled to select other lands in lieu of those surrendered. So that the statute embraces both patented and unpatented lands, in respect of which the railroad company or its successor in nterest claims that a right thereto attached by the definite location of its road or by selection, provided they are also such lands as were originally "purchased directly from the United States, or settled upon or claimed
ment would be embarrassed by judicial decision, is quite as imperative in cases of the patented lands in dispute as in the cases of unpatented lands. This view is not at all in conflict with those cases in which it has been held that after a patent issued for public lands the only remedy for one who claims the land as against the patentee is to bring a suit against the person holding the patent, and obtain a decree declaring the patentee a trustee for the party suing. This general principle does not apply to cases embraced by the act of 1898. That act is peculiar in its provisions, and contemplates that the individual claimant of one of the classes described in it may hold the land patented to him, if he elects to retain it, and that the railroad grantee or its successor in interest can be made whole by taking lieu lands in place of those claimed in virtue of definite location or selection.
For the reasons stated, neither the claim of vested rights in behalf of the railroad grantee, nor the contention that the lands in dispute, having been sold to the plaintiffs, were not for that reason embraced by the act of 1898, furnishes any ground for interference by a court of equity, or for the granting of the relief asked.
This conclusion is fortified, if not absolutely demanded, by another consideration, namely, that no title to indemnity lands is vested until a selection be made by which they are definitely ascertained, and the selection made approved by the Secretary of the Interior. This principle is firmly established. A full statement of it is found in Wisconsin C. R. Co. v. Price County, 133 U. S. 496, 511, 33 L. ed. 687, 694, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 341, 347. The court there said: "He [the Secretary] was required to determine, in the first place, whether there were any deficiencies in the land granted to the company, which were to be supplied from indemnity lands; and, in the second place, whether the particular indemnity lands selected could be properly taken for those deficiencies. In order to reach a proper conclusion on these two questions he had also to inquire and determine whether any lands in the place limits had been previously disposed of by the government, or whether any pre-emption or homestead rights had attached before the line of the road was definitely fixed. Until the selections were approved there were no
selections in fact, only preliminary proceed- | But, as adjudged in the above cases, that ings taken for that purpose; and the in- promise passed no title. The promise will demnity lands remained unaffected in their no doubt be fulfilled by the government in title. Until then the lands which might be due time and in its own way. The selectaken as indemnity were incapable of iden- tions not having been approved by the Sectification; the proposed selections remained retary, the title remains in the government. the property of the United States. The So that the plaintiffs, having no greater government was, indeed, under a promise to rights than those of the railroad grantee or give the company indemnity lands in lieu its successor, have no such interest in the of what might be lost by the causes men- particular lands specified in the railroad tioned. But such promise passed no title, company's lists of unapproved selection as and, until it was executed, created no legal entitles it, while the title remains in the interest which could be enforced in the United States, and while these lands are courts." In New Orleans P. R. Co. v. Par- being administered by the Land Departker, 143 U. S. 42, 57, 36 L. ed. 66, 70, 12 ment, to ask a court of equity to decide, as Sup. Ct. Rep. 364, 369, it was said: "As to between them and the defendants, that the lands within the indemnity limits, it has latter could not by any entry or purchase always been held that no title is acquired acquire an interest after the acceptance by until the specific parcels have been selected the Secretary of the railroad's map of defiby the grantee and approved by the Secre- nite location. tary of the Interior." And in Michigan Land & Lumber Co. v. Rust, 168 U. S. 589, 592, 593, 42 L. ed. 591-593, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 208, 209, the court said: "Generally speaking, while the legal title remains in the United States, the grant is in process of administration and the land is subject to the jurisdiction of the Land Department of the government." To the same effect are Sioux City & St. P. R. Co. v. Chicago, M. & St. P. R. Co. 117 U. S. 406, 408, 29 L. ed. 928, 929, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 790; United States v. Missouri, K. & T. R. Co. 141 U. S. 358, 374, 35 L. ed. 766, 771, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 13; Brown v. Hitchcock, 173 U. S. 473, 479, 43 L. ed. 772, 775, 19 Sup. Ct. Rep. 485; Kansas P. R. Co. v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. 112 U. S. 414, 421, 28 L. ed. 794, 797, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 208; Barney v. Winona & St. P. R. Co. 117 U. S. 228, 232, 29 L. ed. 858, 860, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 654; Grinnell v. Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co. 103 U. S. 739, 26 L. ed. 456; St. Paul & S. C. R. Co. v. Winona & St. P. R. Co. 112 U. S. 720, 731, 28 L. ed. 872, 876, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 334; Cedar Rapids & M. River R. Co. v. Herring, 110 U. S. 27, 28 L. ed. 56, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 485.
But it is suggested that the final action of the Department may be indefinitely postponed, to the great injury of the railroad grantee and those claiming under it. Delay in such matters was a contingency which the alleged successor in interest of the railroad grantee must have taken into account when accepting the act and assenting to the plan of settlement embodied in it.
The Land Department was not required to complete its administration of the statute within any designated time. The act, upon its face, directs that the required lists be prepared and delivered to the railroad company "as soon as conveniently may be done." It cannot be assumed upon this record that the Department has not progressed with the work of administration as rapidly as all the circumstances and its convenience permitted. Even if the fact be otherwise, it is not for a court of equity by its decree to decide, in the first instance, that the selections made by the railroad company of lieu lands shall be approved by the Secretary, or to decide what lands should be on the lists required to be furnished to the railroad, granted under the act of 1898, or to control directly or indirectly the work which Congress, with the assent of the railroad grantee, has committed to one of the Departments of the government, or by an order interfere with the prosecution by the defendants of their claims under the act of 1898.
Now, the lands here in dispute and claimed by the plaintiffs as grantees of the Northern Pacific Railway Company (the alleged successor in interest of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company) are lands admittedly within indemnity, as distinguished from granted or place, limits. The We are of opinion that the bill should mere filing of lists of selections, after the have been dismissed upon the ground that a acceptance of the map of definite location court of equity should not, in advance of of the railroad line between Duluth and the final action by the Secretary of the InAshland, gave the company no such title as terior in respect of lands embraced by the could be enforced by the courts in a suit act of 1898, interfere with the regular and between private parties. It is true the orderly administration of its provisions by government was under a promise to give means of a decree directed against claimthe railroad company lands in the indem-ants under that act. And without now exnity limits to supply losses in place limits. pressing any opinion as to what questions