Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval "An Act to Submit to the Court of Private Land Claims, Established by an Act of Congress Approved March 3, 1891, the Title of William McGarrahan to the Rancho Panoche Grande, in the State of California, and for Other Purposes"
To the Senate:
I return herewith without my approval the bill (S. 1958) entitled "An act to submit to the Court of Private Land Claims, established by an act of Congress approved March 3, 1891, the title of William McGarrahan to the Rancho Panoche Grande, in the State of California, and for other purposes."
This bill came to me on the 20th instant, at a time when very many other bills were submitted for my consideration, and it has not been possible for me to make such an examination of the history of Mr. McGarrahan's claim as would be necessary to form an intelligent judgment as to its merits and just extent. It is quite possible that he has been wronged and that he has a claim for some reparation from the Government. I can not, however, think that this bill proceeds upon a just basis. It provides that Mr. McGarrahan shall file his claim as the assignee of Gomez in the Court of Private Land Claims for the lands described in the title, and that if the court establishes the grant to Gomez it shall be confirmed to McGarrahan. No evidence that he is the assignee of Gomez is, I think, required by the bill, which assumes that fact instead of submitting it to the court. If the claim is established, it is provided in substance that all lands part of said grant which have been conveyed by the Government or are in the occupancy of actual settlers, or "upon which there are any smelting or reduction works, or the lands claimed in connection with such reduction or smelting works," shall be excepted from the patent which the Secretary of the Interior is directed to issue to McGarrahan. By this provision the title of the New Idria Mining Company, which has long contested with McGarrahan the title to a large part of this property, is established and that company is relieved from any responsibility to account for the profits made in mining. On the other hand, the United States waives all benefit of judicial proceedings which have resulted in its favor and gives Mr. McGarrahan an opportunity de novo to try all such questions; and the decision, if in his favor, is not only to restore to him all the lands yet undisposed of, but the United States assumes to pay him the value of the lands appropriated by others and of their use for all these years and to account to him for all profits that have been made by the New Idria Mining Company or anyone else in quicksilver or other mining.
This seems to me to be wholly inadmissible. The amount involved must be enormously large, though at present incapable of any accurate estimate. If the title of the New Idria Company has been established by final decrees of court placing that title beyond question and that company beyond any call to respond for use and profits, why should the Government of the United States, waiving in its behalf these decrees, which would protect it also, assume a responsibility to account for the value of the lands and for their use and for the net value of minerals extracted by that company or others? It will be noticed in the quotation I have made from the act that this company is allowed to take all the land it may claim, but at the expense of the United States, not of Mr. McGarrahan.
The bill is so framed as to give full protection to the New Idria Mining Company to the full extent of its largest claim, while throwing upon the United States a responsibility which that company should bear if the title of Mr. McGarrahan is established.
The United States provided a proper tribunal for the trial of claims rounded upon Mexican grants. This claim was there tried, and if fraud affected the judgment it is not, I think, chargeable to the Government; the contest was chiefly between rival claimants. In this state of the case it would seem that if the United States consents to open the litigation and to wipe out all judicial findings and decrees a less exacting measure of damages than that proposed in the bill should be agreed on.
It is not my purpose, as I have intimated, to express the opinion that Mr. McGarrahan is entitled to no relief. It seems to me, however, clear that he is not entitled to the relief given by this bill, and that it does not adequately protect the interests of the United States.
APP Note: Title devised by Gerhard Peters
Benjamin Harrison, Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval "An Act to Submit to the Court of Private Land Claims, Established by an Act of Congress Approved March 3, 1891, the Title of William McGarrahan to the Rancho Panoche Grande, in the State of California, and for Other Purposes" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/206177