UNITED STATES V. BOLTON, 64 U. S. 341 (1859)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Bolton, 64 U.S. 23 How. 341 341 (1859)

United States v. Bolton

64 U.S. (23 How.) 341


Where a claimant of land in California produced as evidence of his title a grant, dated on the 10th February, 1846, made by Pio Pico, "first member of the Assembly of the Department of the Californias, and charged with the administration of the law in the same," the claimant had neither a legal nor an equitable title.

He had no legal title, because --

1. He had not complied with the mode of acquiring a legal title which is found in the regulations of 1828. These require a petition to the governor, an inquiry by him into certain circumstances, which being satisfactory, a formal grant was to be executed. The petition, grant, and map, were to be recorded.

Page 64 U. S. 342

This record was the evidence of grant, and the government is entitled to require the production of that official record.

The degree of record evidence required was adjudged in the case of Cambuston, 20 How. and of Fuentes, 22 How.

2. The claimant was bound to prove that records showing a substantial compliance with the laws of colonization did exist when the copy he produces was given to the grantee before he could be heard to prove their loss and their contents.

3. That the grantee had presented a petition is stated incidentally but indistinctly by a single witness, and this unsatisfactory statement is disproved by the absence of the record and the evidence of his successor.

And that the grant was confirmed by the departmental assembly early in 1816 is not credible, not being sustained by the journal and no such confirmation being found in a list of grants which were confirmed.

4. It is not probable from all the historical circumstances of the case that the archives have been lost.

He had no equitable title, because --

1. He was a secular priest, and a grant of mission lands to a priest for his own benefit was not heard of in any other case.

2. He was in necessitous circumstances, and subsisted on alms.

3. A condition was that he should pay the debts of the mission, and there is no evidence of the amount of this debt, to whom it was owing, or how it was to be paid.

4. Until the spring of 1860, none of the large community then building up a city on the land had any suspicion that he claimed to be the owner of ten thousand acres of land, with an outer boundary including three other grants, and embracing nearly thirty thousand acres.

5. He had made some claim for the church, as a priest and administrator of the mission, and when no title was found to justify this, then, for the first time, he made this claim on his own account.

6. In November, 1849, he went to Santa Barbara, and on his return made use of expressions indicating that the acquisition of the deed was newly made. The testimony does not disclose what was the depository of this grant in Santa Barbara, nor when nor under what circumstances it was placed there, nor under what circumstances withdrawn. Neither the priest nor his agent was examined as witness, nor was Pio Pico interrogated in reference to the authenticity of the grant.

The circumstances of the case are fully stated in the opinion of the court.

Page 64 U. S. 343

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