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UNITED STATES V. BURLINGTON & M. R. R. CO., 98 U. S. 334 (1878)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Burlington & M. R. R. Co., 98 U.S. 334 (1878)

United States v. Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company

98 U.S. 334


1. The grant of lands made to the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company by the Act of July 2, 1864, 13 Stat. 356, embraced ten odd-numbered sections per mile, to be taken on the line of the road and in equal quantities on each side thereof which had not been sold, reserved, or otherwise disposed of by the United States, and to which, at the time of the definite location of such line, a preemption or a homestead claim had not attached.

2. Lands are, within the meaning of the act, taken on such line when they are selected along its general direction or course within lines perpendicular to it at each end.

3. The grant was made to aid in the construction of the entire road, but the company, on completing each section of twenty miles, had the privilege to receive a patent for lands opposite thereto.

4. The grant having no lateral limits, and the Land Department having for years neglected to withdraw from market lands situate beyond twenty miles from the road, and the lands opposite to certain portions of it having been patented to other parties, it was held that the grant to the company could be satisfied by lands elsewhere situate on the line of the road.

5. By the Act of July 1, 1862, 12 Stat. 489, and by said act of 1864, which was an amendment thereof, Congress intended to place the Union Pacific Railroad Company, and all its branch companies, upon the same footing as to lands, privileges, and duties, except where special provision was otherwise made, and the grant having been enlarged as to the sections and the distance from the road within which they should be selected, by striking out the numbers in the first act and substituting larger numbers, the first act must thenceforth be read as against the government and the parties

Page 98 U. S. 335

claiming under concurrent or subsequent grants, as though the larger numbers had been originally inserted in it. The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company claiming under the act which declared that that of 1802, making the grant to the union Pacific Railroad Company, should be thus read, must take its right to the lands subject to the claim of the latter company.

6. The Land Department, in executing the act, was not authorized to enlarge the quantity of lands on either side of the road to make up a deficiency on the other. But at the suit of the United States, patents embracing any alleged excess on one side cannot be adjudged invalid as to any lands which are not identified, so as to be separated from the remainder; nor can any decree be rendered against the company for their value.

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