De Montault v. United States/Opinion of the Court
The appeal in this case was taken from the decision of the District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.
The appellants filed a petition in that court to establish their title to a tract of land situated south of the 31st degree of north latitude, and between the Rivers Mississippi and Perdido, in the state of Alabama, the boundaries of which are set out in the petition. They state that the land in question was granted to the Chevalier Montault de Monterault on the 11th of March, 1763, by Louis Kerlerac, then Governor of the Colony of Louisiana, and Louis Nicholas Faucault, performing the functions of commissary ordonnateur, both of them holding their appointments under the King of France, and the petitioners claim title as the descendants and legal heirs of the grantor.
The only question which arises on this record is upon the validity of this grant. It is objected to on account of the vagueness and uncertainty of the boundaries as set forth in the petition. But it is not necessary to express our opinion upon this point, because the other objection taken on behalf of the United States is conclusive, and it is very clear that the French authorities had no right to make this grant, and that it conveyed no title to the ancestor of the petitioners. For the definitive treaty of peace between Great Britain, France, and Spain, by which the territory in which this land is situated was ceded to Great Britain, was signed on the 10th of February, 1763, and consequently the French authorities could not, after that day, grant a title to lands lying in the ceded territory. This point was decided in the cases of the United States v. Reynes, 9 How., 127; The Police Jury of Concordia v. Davis, Id., 280; and the United States v. Dauterieve, 10 Id., 609. And as the grant in question was not made until the 11th of March next following the date of the treaty, it was at that time the exercise of a power by the French authorities which they no longer possessed, and could convey no title to the grantee.
The decree of the District Court dismissing the petition was therefore correct, and must be affirmed.
This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of Alabama, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered and decreed by this court, that the decree of the said District Court in this cause be, and the same is hereby, affirmed.