Easton v. Salisbury
THIS case was brought up from the Supreme Court of Mis souri by a writ of error issued under the 25th section of the judiciary act.
It was a petition in the nature of an ejectment brought by Easton against Salisbury in the St. Louis Court of Common Pleas, to recover the lots described in the opinion of the court. The Court of Common Pleas gave judgment for the defendant, and this judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
The plaintiff claimed under a New Madrid patent issued in 1827, and the defendant under a Spanish concession which was confirmed in 1836. The Supreme Court of Missouri were of opinion that the New Madrid patent was absolutely void when issued, and that it did not become operative in the interval between May, 1829, and July, 1832.
The case was argued in this court by Mr. Gibson and Mr. Gamble for the plaintiff in error, and by Mr. Ewing for the defendant.
The counsel for the plaintiff in error contended that the question involved in this case was not ruled or raised in Mills v. Stoddard, or Stoddard v. Chambers, and that Easton had a right to perfect his title in the interval between 1829 and 1832.
The two points were thus stated:
I. The title under which the plaintiff claims was good against the United States. (Les Bois v. Brammell, 4 How., 449; Stoddard v. Chambers, 2 How., 284; Mills v. Stoddard, 8 How., 364; Menard's Heirs v. Massy, 8 How., 310; Delauriere v. Emerson, 15 How., 525; Hoofnagle v. Anderson, 7 Wheaton.)
The survey made by the surveyor general, its return by him to the recorder of land titles, the issuing of a patent certificate by that officer, and of a patent by the President of the United States, were all acts done by the proper officers of the United States; and the question is now for the first time raised in this court, as to the effect of these acts as against the United States.
This question was not only not decided in Mills v. Stoddard, or Stoddard v. Chambers, but the point was not involved in those cases, nor raised by the counsel. On the contrary, in Chambers v. Stoddard, (2 How., 295,) the plaintiff's counsel, Messrs. Lawlers and Ewing, say: 'If the question were now between the United States and locator, there might, perhaps, be some grounds for a liberal construction. It might be contended, that the surveyor general, who filed the location and surveyed it, being an officer and agent of the United States, his act as against his principal ought, if possible, to be binding,'
And the inquiry in that case was, as stated by this court, 'whether the defendant (Chambers) had any title, as against the plaintiffs.'II. The land was subject to be disposed of by the Government during the existence of the bar, from 1829 to 1832, to any person, or in any manner, and was then open to entry or location.
And the plaintiff had the right, during this time, to perfect his title. But had the plaintiff applied for a patent during the bar, (and this court say a patent issued then would have incontestably passed the title,) he would have been properly answered by the officers of the Government, that two patents could never issue by the Government for the same land under the same title, and to the same person; and that, as his patent passed any title the Government might have, a second patent could add no strength to his claim.
Suppose the plaintiff, relying on his patent, had purchased Bell's claim in 1827, and, having then both titles, had failed or neglected to have it confirmed under the act of 1836; would it not have been a sheer outrage to permit the United States to deprive him of this land, and at the same time to continue to claim the land in New Madrid, in lieu of which this was granted? And yet, such is the legitimate result of the principle which the defendant seeks to establish.
The counsel for the defendant contended that the Supreme Court of Missouri had taken the proper view of the point, that the patent of 1827 was absolutely void; and that, by the act of Congress of April 26, 1822, this warrant was void, being unlocated on the 26th of April, 1823.
Mr. Justice McLEAN delivered the opinion of the court.