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United States Supreme Court

62 U.S. 366

New York  v.  Dibble

THIS case was brought up from the Supreme Court of the State of New York by a writ of error issued under the 25th section of the judiciary act.

The case is stated in the opinion of the court, and is reported in the New York State courts, in 18 Barb., 412, and 2d vol. of Smith's Reports of the Court of Appeals, 203, being 16 New York Reports.

It was argued by Mr. Brown and Mr. Gillet for the plaintiffs in error, and by Mr. Martindale for the defendant.

The only question in this court was, whether the statute of 1821 was in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, or any treaty, or act of Congress, and whether the proceeding under it had deprived the relators of property or rights secured to them by any treaty or act of Congress.

The counsel for the plaintiffs in error contended that the Constitution of the United States had given to Congress power to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes; that this power had been exercised by the passage of the act of 1802, (2 Stat. at L., 139;) that the act of 1834 (4 Stat. at L., 729) repealed so much of this act as applied to the Indians west of the Mississippi, but left it operative upon the Indians east of the Mississippi; that the law of New York was repugnant to this act of Congress; that by the treaty of 1794 (7 Stat. at L., 45, art. 2) the President of the United States was made the exclusive judge of the force and measures necessary to remove intruders upon these very Indians; that both these enactments could not stand, and if so, the State law must give way; and that there were reservations in New York where no treaties were in force upon which the State law could properly operate. It was also contended, that even if the New York law of 1821 was not invalid at the time of its passage, it had been superseded and annulled by the treaties which the United States had made with the Indians in question in 1838 and 1842, so far at least that Ogden and Fellows could enjoy the rights which those treaties secured to them.

In support of the views first mentioned, the counsel referred to the well-known cases of Sturges v. Crowninshield, and Gibbons v. Ogden, and also to 5 Howard, 410; 14 Peters, 540; 3 Cowen, 714; 7 Howard, 283.

The counsel for the defendant in error contended that the act of Congress of 1802 had no application to the New York Indians; that, from the earliest history of the colony of New York, the Indians, and especially the Senecas, had been under the protection of her laws, and that such protection had been continued from the time of the Revolution; that the pre-emptive right to the Indian lands within the State of New York belonged to the State, and was never ceded to the United States; that, consequently, the power given to Congress to regulate commerce, did not apply to such tribes; that the United States by their measures had been the means of breaking up the tribe of Seneca Indians into small and detached bands or reservations, which were necessarily placed under the police regulations of the State, made to protect the public peace. With respect to the alleged treaties, the counsel contended that the Tonawandas had never executed them, but constantly and unanimously refused to be bound by them; that they have never received any portion of the consideration moneys provided in said deeds; that the land upon which they now lived had always been occupied by them, and that neither Congress nor the treaty-making power could arbitrarily take away their property.

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).