Title: Amos T. Akerman to Columbus Delano, 9 May 1871
Date: May 9, 1871
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: National Archives and Records Administration
Whitman Archive ID: nar.03060
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, John Schwaninger, Anthony Dreesen, and Nima Najafi Kianfar
May 9, 1871.
Hon. Columbus Delano,
Secretary of the Interior.
In answer to your letter of the 8th instant, I have the honor to state that my recollection of what passed at the informal conference between us, in regard to the case of the Oregon and California Railroad, entirely agrees with your own. I did not, it is true, examine the case with the care and deliberation which I should have exercised if an opinion had been formally called for. But my impressions were, and still are, (subject, of course, to be reversed, if they appear incorrect, after deliberate consideration,) that the case of the Oregon and California Railroad had been properly adjudicated by Mr. Cox, your predecessor, and that a reversal of his decision by you should not be made, unless you should be most clearly satisfied that he was in error—inasmuch as the embarrassments growing out of contrary decisions, under such circumstances, would be most serious.
The opinion of Mr. Smith, Assistant Attorney General, appears to me, from cursory examination, to be in correct exposition of the law of the case.
My opinion against the validity of the transfer of the rights of the Oregon Center Railroad Company, to the Willamette Valley Company, dated February 20, 1871, had relation exclusively to a case where the Act of Congress signified no intention of dealing with any company but the one named in the Act as grantee.
The letter of the counsel for certain parties in interest, Mr. Chandler, to the President, complaining of your refusal to require the opinion of the Attorney General in the case of the Oregon and California Railroad, seems to me to have been written under an erroneous conception of the relation between the Attorney General and the Heads of other Departments. I think that the Attorney General should be called on for an opinion only when the Head of the Department in which the question arises, sees a good reason for the call, and not whenever a litigant before a Department desires the opinion.
Very respectfully, &c.
A. T. Akerman,
case of Oregon & California Railroad
See 13 up 352/I