811.5294/411a supp.: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Japan ( Caffery )

255. Department’s number 251 November 17, 6 p.m. On November 19, Supreme Court handed down decisions in two further cases.

In the case of Webb vs. O’Brien,11 suit was brought by O’Brien and Inouye to enjoin Attorney General of California, et al from instituting proceedings to enforce California Alien Land Law against them. Injunction was granted and Attorney General appealed. Opinion of Supreme Court reversing order granting injunction reads in part as follows:

“By the proposed cropping contract, Inouye is given the right for a term of four years to plant, cultivate and harvest crops—berries and vegetables—on the land and to be free from interference by the owner, who undertakes to protect him during the term against interference by any other person. He is entitled to housing for himself, and is granted the right to employ others to work on the land, and to give to them free ingress and egress and the right to live on the land. He is entitled to one-half of all crops grown on the land during the term, to be divided after they are harvested and before removal from the land, and is given a reasonable time after the expiration of the term to remove his share of the crops. He is required to accept his share of the crops as reimbursement for expenditures made to carry on the farming operations, and as his only return from the undertaking. Assuming that the proposed arrangement does not amount to a leasing or to a transfer of an interest in real property, and that it includes the elements of a contract of employment, we are of opinion that it is more than a contract of employment; and that, if executed, it will give to Inouye a right to use and to have or share in the benefit of the land for agricultural purposes. And this is so, notwithstanding other clauses of the contract to the effect that the general possession of the land is reserved to the owner, that the cropper shall have no interest or estate whatever [Page 460] in the land, that he is given one-half of all crops grown as compensation for his services and labor, and that division of the crops is to be made after they are harvested and before their removal from the land.”

In Frick v. Webb,12 Frick citizen of the United States owned 28 shares capital stock of Merced Farm Company, owning 2,200 acres farm land in California, and desired to sell shares to Satow, Japanese subject, who desired to buy them. Suit for injunction denied by lower court and decision affirmed by Supreme Court which stated:

“The State has power, and the act evidences its purpose to deny to ineligible aliens permission to own, lease, use or have the benefit of lands within its borders for agricultural purposes. Webb v. O’Brien, supra. ‘As the State has the power …13 to prohibit, it may adopt such measures as are reasonably appropriate or needful to render exercise of that power effective.’ It may forbid indirect as well as direct ownership and control of agricultural land by ineligible aliens. The right ‘to carry on trade’ given by the treaty14 does not give the privilege to acquire the stock above described. To read the treaty to permit ineligible aliens to acquire such stock would be inconsistent with the intention and purpose of the parties. We hold that the provision of section 3 of the Alien Land Law does not conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment or with the treaty.”

  1. 263 U. S. 313.
  2. 263 U. S. 326.
  3. The omission is indicated on the original.
  4. Treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and Japan, signed Feb. 21, 1911, Foreign Relations, 1911, p. 315.