Title: Benjamin Helm Bristow to William W. Belknap, 23 October 1871
Date: October 23, 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.03414
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, John Schwaninger, Anthony Dreesen, and Nima Najafi Kianfar
Oct. 23, 1871.
Hon. W. W. Belknap,
Secretary of War.
Referring to your letter to the Attorney General of the 5th instant, covering a communication from the Quartermaster General to yourself, and requesting the opinion of the Attorney General upon the following question, to wit—"To what extent a Railroad, to aid in the construction of which Congress has donated portions of the public domain, can be considered a public highway for the free use of the Government of the United States in the transportation of its troops and property?—whether the whole road should be so considered—or only that portion along which the Company have actually selected lands?" I have the honor to say that I find much inconvenience and difficulty in answering the question presented, without further information.
From the communication of the Quartermaster General, it seems that this question relates to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which extends over parts of four States. From the papers before me I am unable to ascertain the precise character of the corporation or corporations by which this road is owned. Indeed it is impossible to tell whether the road is owned and operated by a single corporation, or by different corporations controling it to the extent of the road in each of the States through which it runs, having the same name.
I will therefore thank you to direct the Quartermaster General, at whose instance the question seems to have been presented to this Department, to advise me whether or not the Mobile and Ohio Railroad is owned by a single corporation chartered by one—and if one, which of the States—through which the line of the road extends—and who, and by what means, the road was constructed through the different States.
B. H. Bristow, Solicitor General
& Acting Attorney General.
certain question from War Dep't.
see 14 op 590/592