Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: May 15, 1899.



Author: Mckenna

[ 174 U.S. Page 545]

 MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

1. This case was submitted with No. 106, which was between the same parties, and on the authority of the opinion in that case the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Territory was affirmed. 172 U.S. 171, 186.

The cases were argued together, and it was supposed involved identically the same questions dependent upon a statement of facts which were stipulated. No distinction between the cases

[ 174 U.S. Page 546]

     was indicated in the oral argument, and a reference of a few lines in a brief of thirty-five pages was overlooked.

In the petition for rehearing our attention was called to the fact that there is a substantial difference between the matters involved in this cause and those arising in No. 106.The difference is this: In 106 the right of way was in Bernalillo County through land which was public domain, whilst in this case the right of way is in Valencia County across the public domain for 33 miles only, and for 66.7 miles over land which was held in private ownership at the time of the grant to the railroad by the act of 1866. In other words, the railroad company derived its right of way for 33 miles in Valencia County under section 2 of the act of July 27, 1866, and to 66.7 miles under the power conferred by section 7 of said act. This difference was not adverted to in No. 106, and we will now consider the effect of it. In the opinion in 106 we said:

"The right of way is granted to the extent of two hundred feet on each side of the railroad, including necessary grounds for station buildings, workshops, etc. What, then, is meant by the phrase, 'the right of way'? A mere right of passage, says appellant. Per contra, appellee contends that the fee was granted, or, if not granted, that such a tangible and corporeal property was granted, that all that was attached to it became part of it and partook of its exemption from taxation.

"To support its contention appellant urges the technical meaning of the phrase, 'right of way,' and claims that the primary presumption is that it was used in its technical sense. Undoubtedly that is the presumption, but such presumption must yield to an opposing context, and the intention of the legislature otherwise indicated. Examining the statute we find that whatever is granted is exactly measured as a physical thing, not as an abstract right.It is to be two hundred feet wide and to be carefully broadened, so as to include grounds for the superstructures indispensable to the railroad."

After further consideration of what was granted, we also said: "The interest granted by the statute to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company therefore is real estate of corporeal quality, and the principles of such apply. One of these, and

[ 174 U.S. Page 547]

     an elemental one, is that whatever is erected upon it becomes part of it." And we concluded that not only the right of way was exempt, but all its superstructures were exempt. But our conclusion was expressly based on the terms of the statute, and we took care to affirm the rule of construction which had been announced many times and in many ways, that the taxing power of the State is never presumed to be relinquished unless the intention be expressed in terms too clear to be mistaken. If a doubt arise as to the intention of the legislature, that doubt must be solved against exemption from taxation.

Applying this rule to the act of July 27, 1866, c. 278, the exemption from taxation must be confined to the right of way granted by the United States by section 2 of the act, and to the superstructures which become a part of it, and not to the right of way which the railroad company may have acquired under section 7, or independently of that section. Section 1 creates the corporation and authorizes it to construct and maintain a continuous railroad and telegraph line from and to certain points, and invests the company with the powers, privileges and immunities necessary to effect that purpose. Section 2 provides: "That the right of way through the public lands be, and the same is hereby granted, to the said Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company . . . for the construction of a railroad and telegraph line as proposed. . . . Said way is granted to said railroad to the extent of one hundred feet in width on each side of said railroad where it may pass through the public domain, . . . and the right of way shall be exempt from taxation within the Territories of the United States." 14 Stat. 292.

The right of way which is granted and the right of way which is exempt from taxation is precisely identified by the natural and first meaning of the words used and their relations. It would require an exercise of construction to extend the exemption, and even if there are reasons for it, there are certainly reasons against it, and in such conflict the rule requires that the latter shall prevail.

2. It is contended by the appellee that the assessment was invalid because the laws of the Territory required the assessment

[ 174 U.S. Page 548]

     of the right of way and its superstructures to be made as an entirety.

The contention is technical. It is not complained that the valuation of the superstructures was excessive, but that they were assessed as personal property, and hence invalidity assessed, because by the laws of the Territory the term "real estate" includes lands to which title has been acquired and improvements, and the term "improvements" includes all buildings, structures, fixtures and fences erected upon or fixed to land, whether title has been acquired or not.

The record does not afford the means of judging of the contention as clearly as might be wished, but ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.