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The Atlantic to the Pacific: What to See and How to See it (1873), by John Erastus Lester


THE YO-SEMITE DECLARED A NATIONAL PARK.

In 1864 Congress enacted, that the ‘cleft, or gorge,’ in the Granite Peak of the Sierras—estimated in length fifteen miles, with its various spurs and caņons, and one mile back from the edge of the precipice on all sides—be granted to the State of California; ‘that the said State shall accept this grant upon express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation; shall be inalienable for all time; but leases not exceeding ten years may be granted for portions of said premises.’ Under this act, and that of California confirming and accepting the trust, commissioners were appointed, who took possession of the valley.

Mr. J. M. Hutchings has resisted their right to take possession, and resorted to the law courts, as well as to legislature and Congress. Upon a final hearing of this cause before the Supreme Court of the United States, and after full consideration, the Court has made its decision, confirming the grant to California, and declaring the title of Hutchings void. They lay down the following law, which, applied to the facts relative to all the settlements now made there, settles the matter beyond all question, and thus makes this Valley a national park.

SUPREME COURT, U.S.

No. 435.December Term, 1872.
J. M. HUTCHINGS, Plaintiff in Error
v.
F. F. Low and others, Commissioners, &c.
}

In Error to the Supreme
Court of the State of
California.

1. A party, by settlement upon lands of the United States with a declared intention to obtain a title to the same under the pre-emption laws, does not thereby acquire such a vested interest in the premises as to deprive Congress of the power to divest it, by a grant, to another party.

2. The power of regulation and disposition over the lands of the United States, conferred upon Congress by the Constitution, only ceases, under the pre-emption laws, when all the preliminary acts prescribed by those laws for the acquisition of the title, including the payment of the price of the land, have been performed by the settler. When these prerequisites have been complied with, the settler, for the first time, acquires a vested interest in the premises occupied by him, of which he cannot be subsequently deprived. He then is entitled to a certificate of entry from the local land-officers, and ultimately to a patent for the land from the United States. Until such payment and entry, the pre-emption laws give to the settler only a privilege of pre-emption in case the lands are offered for sale in the usual manner; that is, the privilege to purchase them, in that event, in preference to others..

3. The United States, by the pre-emption laws, do not enter into any contract with the settler, or incur any obligations, that the land occupied by him shall ever be put up for sale.

They simply declare by those laws, that, in case any of their lands are thrown open for sale, the privilege to purchase them in limited quantities, at fixed prices, shall be first given to parties who have settled upon and improved them. The legislation thus adopted for the benefit of settlers was not intended to deprive Congress of the power to make any other disposition of the lands before they are offered for sale, or to appropriate them to any public uses.

.         .         .         .         .         .         .         .

6. The act of Congress of June 30, 1864, granting the Yo-Semite Valley and the Mariposa Big-Tree Grove to the State of California, passed the title of these premises to the State, subject to the trust specified therein, that they should be held for public use, resort, and recreation, and be inalienable for all time.



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