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United States Supreme Court

63 U.S. 436

Dalton  v.  United States

THIS was an appeal from the District Court of the United States for the southern district of California.

The title of Dalton to the land which he claimed is set forth in the opinion of the court.

The board of commissioners confirmed the title, but the District Court reversed the decree, apparently upon the ground stated in the following exception:

Upon the trial of this cause, the United States district attorney offered to prove, by Daniel Sexton and J. S. Mallard, witnesses called on the part of the United States, that Henry Dalton, the appellee in this case, was not, at the time of the grant of the land to him in this case, a citizen of Mexico, but was an alien and a subject of Great Britain, which proof was objected to by J. R. Scott, counsel for appellee; but his honor the judge overruled the objection, and permitted the evidence to be given; to which the appellee, by his counsel, excepted, and prays the court to sign this his bill of exceptions, and make the same part of the record in the case, which is accordingly done.

The evidence of these two persons upon this subject was as follows:

Daniel Sexton sworn, and says:

1. Question. What is your name, age, place of residence, and occupation?

Answer. My name is Daniel Sexton; my age, about 37; I reside in San Gabriel; I am a farmer.

2. Q. How long have you lived in California?

A. I have lived in this part of California, county of Los Angeles, since the fall of 1841.

3. Q. Do you know or not Henry Dalton, the appellee in this case?

A. I do.

4. Q. How long have you known him?

A. I have known him since the latter part of 1844, or beginning of 1845.

5. Q. Do you know how long he has resided in California?

A. Yes; since the latter part of 1844 or beginning of 1845.

6. Q. Do you know the country of his birth?

A. He has frequently told me he was an Englishman.

7. Q. Do you recollect the last time he told you so?

A. Yes-in May, I think it was, in 1847; I was coming, in company with Mr. Dalton, from Azusa to Santanita; he told me that he was an Englishman; that he never was a Mexican citizen, and never intended to be an American citizen.

J. S. Mallard:

My name is J. S. Mallard; residence, San Gabriel; my age is 39, and a merchant by occupation; I have resided in California five years, and in Los Angeles county the same length of time, with the exception of four months. I know Henry Dalton, and have known him since January, 1850, as a resident of Los Angeles city.

Question. Do you know the rancho of San Francisquito?

Answer. I don't know that I do, only from report.

Q. Do you know the country of Mr. Dalton's birth?

A. I do not.

Q. Do you know whether or not Mr. Dalton, the appellee in this case, is a native of Mexico? And if not, state generally how you know the fact.

A. Some time in the year 1853, I heard Mr. Dalton say that he claimed not to be a citizen of the United States, nor of Mexico. I know it was in a court of justice, and think he was called as a juror; (the court reserved their decision.) I think he was under oath, but am not certain. I think it was in the Court of Sessions, whilst I was sitting as an associate justice; but I am not certain if it was in that court, or in a justice's court, whilst I was a judge of both courts. I think he was excused on that ground.

Q. Did you ever hear Mr. Dalton say, on any other occasion, that he was not a naturalized citizen of Mexico?

A. I do not recollect that I ever did. Cross-examined by Claimant's Counsel.

Question. Did he say anything more than that he claimed not to be a citizen?

Answer. My answer is, that he did. My recollection is, that he stated, that while in Mexico, he had either applied to become a citizen, or had some papers made out; and that, from some reason, which I do not recollect, the business of his naturalization was not completed.

Q. Did he not say this, that the papers had been made out in Mazatlan, but that they had not reached him?

A. It might have been so; but my recollection was, that the action on his application had not been completed, and that, for that reason, he (Dalton) said he did not consider himself a Mexican citizen.

It was argued in this court by Mr. Brent for the appellant, and by Mr. Black (Attorney General) for the United States.

The arguments upon the point whether or not Dalton, if a foreigner, could hold lands in California, are omitted. Upon the question of the evidence bearing upon this fact, Mr. Brent remarked as follows:

II. It is submitted that there is no sufficient evidence in the record to show that he was an alien to Mexico.

All the evidence in the record upon the subject of alienage is in the deposition of J. S. Mallard, and answers in the deposition of Sexton.

The substance of the deposition of Mallard, on the point of alienage, is simply this-that the appellant, with the object of avoiding jury service, made loose declarations that he did not claim or consider himself to have been a citizen of Mexico. The witness, Mallard, nowhere says that Dalton admitted that he was born in England, but only that he did not claim to be an American or Mexican citizen. He may very well have been a Mexican citizen, and not have claimed to be one; but would that destroy his citizenship? The testimony of the other witness, Sexton, shows that, in 1847, Dalton declared he was not a Mexican citizen, and that he never intended to be an American citizen. The court will recollect that, in 1847, we were at war with Mexico that our forces were overrunning California in every direction, and that, even supposing Mr. Dalton to have been a naturalized Mexican citizen, it may not have been suitable for his interest to avow that fact, in the midst of the clamor of the war; or there may have existed a hundred motives why he would not have proclaimed the fact to the American, Sexton.

None of these declarations of Dalton are in a positive form. They were made to third parties, under circumstances not affecting this litigation, and they are not sufficient to rebut the presumptions that he was a Mexican citizen. If the court deem that a material presumption to sustain this grant against these loose declarations of his, we have the positive patent of the Mexican authorities, not issued improvidently by the Governor, but after near two months' consideration, and after due report from the municipal authorities that there was no impropriety in the grant. It seems to be a conclusive presumption from a genuine grant, that the grantee was naturalized, or otherwise competent to take.

3 Pick., 224.

United States v. Reading, 18 How., 8, 9.

The Attorney General contended that the alienage of Dalton was clearly and satisfactorily proved.

Mr. Justice GRIER delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).