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HAWLEY V. DILLER, 178 U. S. 476 (1900)

U.S. Supreme Court

Hawley v. Diller, 178 U.S. 476 (1900)

Hawley v. Diller

No. 116

Submitted February 2, 1900

Decided May 28, 1900

178 U.S. 476


An applicant for public land under the act of Congress of June 3, 1878, 29 Stat. 89, c. 161, known as the Timber and Stone Act, must support his application by an affidavit stating that

"he does not apply to purchase the same on speculation, but in good faith to appropriate it to his own exclusive use and benefit, and that he has not, directly or indirectly, made any agreement or contract, in any way or manner, with any person or persons whatsoever, by which the title which he might acquire from the government of the United States should inure, in whole or in part, to the benefit of any person except himself, which statement must be verified by the oath of the applicant before the register or receiver of the land office within the district where the land is situated."

The same act provides:

"If any.person taking such oath shall swear falsely in the premises, he shall be subject to all the pains and penalties of perjury, and shall forfeit the money which he may have paid for said lands, and

Page 178 U. S. 477

all right and title to the same, and any grant or conveyance which he may have made, except in the hands of bona fide purchasers, shall be null and void."

An entryman under this act acquires only an equity, and a purchaser from him cannot be regarded as a bona fide purchaser within the meaning of the act of Congress unless he become such after the government, by issuing a patent, has parted with the legal title.

A construction of the above act long recognized and acted upon by the Interior Department should not be overthrown unless a different one is plainly required by the words of the act.

The result of the decisions of this Court in relation to the jurisdiction of the Land Department when dealing with the public lands is as follows: (1) that the Land Department of the government has the power and authority to cancel and annul an entry of public land when its officers are convinced, upon a proper showing, that the same was fraudulently made; (2) that an entryman upon the public lands only secures a vested interest in the land when he has lawfully entered upon and applied for the same, and in all respects complied with the requirements of the law; (3) that the Land Department has control over the disposition of the public lands until a patent has been issued therefor and accepted by the patentee, and (4) that redress can always be had in the courts where the officers of the Land Department have withheld from a preemptioner his rights, where they have misconstrued the law, or where any fraud or deception has been practiced which affected their judgment and decision.

The principle reaffirmed that, where the matters determined by the Land Office

"are not properly before the Department, or its conclusions have been reached from a misconstruction by its officers of the law applicable to the cases before it, and it has thus denied to parties rights which, upon a correct construction, would have been conceded to them, or where misrepresentations and fraud have been practiced, necessarily affecting its judgment, then the courts can, in a proper proceeding, interfere and control its determination so as to secure the just rights of parties injuriously affected."

Sections 2450 to 2457 inclusive of the Revised Statutes, relating to suspended entries of public lands and to suspended land claims, and which sections require certain matters to be passed upon by a board consisting of the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney .General, construed and held to apply only to decisions of the Land Office sustaining irregular entries, and not to decisions rejecting and cancelling such entries under the general authority conferred upon the Land Department in respect to the public lands.

The case is stated in the opinion of the court.

Page 178 U. S. 478

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