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United States Supreme Court

64 U.S. 45

Middleton  v.  McCrew

This action was instituted for the recovery of land in the colony of Power and Hewetson, in Texas, in the possession of the defendant, and claimed by the plaintiff through a conveyance by the brothers of Joshua Davis, deceased, a colonist, who died in June, 1835, intestate, and without issue. These brothers were citizens of the United States, and assumed to be the heirs-at-law of the decedent. The only question prosented for the examination of this court is, whether the brothers were capable of taking by inheritance real property within the limits of Mexico, or were they disabled by their condition as aliens? The solution of this question must be found in the jurisprudence of Mexico, as it is understood and applied to cases at they have arisen within the State of Texas. If there is found in the decisions of the Supreme Court of that State clear and consistent testimony to the existence of a rule of descent, under such circumstances, the duty of this court will be performed in ascertaining and enforcing that rule in this case.

The defendant has referred the court to a series of decisions as containing such testimony.

The case of Hollomon v. Peebles, 1 Texas R., 673, was that of heirs claiming the land of a colonist in the settlement of Austin, who after his location had returned to the United States and died, leaving heirs who were citizens of them. The court intimate, that by the laws of Spain, as adopted in Mexico, these teirs had no heritable blood, and proceed to say: 'Whatever may be the true construction of the laws of Spain or of colonization on the subject matter, there can be no doubt that the capacity of aliens to hold lands in the Republic of Mexico, if it ever existed under the laws of Spain, was extinguished by the decree of the 12th March, 1828.' (4 vol. Ordenes y Decretos, p. 155.) The sixth article of this decree is expressed in the following terms, viz:

'Foreigners introduced and established in conformity with the regulations now prescribed, or which shall be hereafter prescribed, are under the protection of the laws, and enjoy the civil rights conferred by them upon Mexicans, with the exception of acquiring landed rural property, which, by the existing laws, those not naturalized cannot obtain. * * * This provision covers all acquisitions of real property, whether by purchase or inheritance, and is so understood by the Mexican editor of Murillos de Testamentos.'

The case of Yates v. Iams, 10 Tex. R., 168, was that of a citizen of the United States claiming through an ancestor who had died in 1827 in Texas, holding land by a head-right acquired in 1824. The court announce their conclusion, 'that, upon general principles pervading the law of 1823, under which this grant was made, and upon the general policy of the Government in relation to the right of property in lands (granted for the purpose of colonization) at the time of the death of the intestate, an heir domiciliated out of the Republic of Mexico could acquire no right by inheritance to lands of persons dying in the province of Texas.'

The case of Hornsby v. Bacon, 20 Texas R., 556, was that of citizens of the United States claiming to share as heirs in real property of a citizen of Texas, who died in 1835, with other relations of the same degree, who were citizens of Texas. The court say: 'The right of the plaintiff's vendors (the alien heirs) to claim this land by inheritance must be tested by laws anterior to the Constitution of the Republic; and by them, as appears from our previous decisions, such right cannot be sustained. The plaintiff can claim nothing through them by his conveyance.'

The case of Blythe v. Easterling, 20 Texas R., 565, is that of heirs claiming the landed estate of an immigrant to Texas, who died in November, 1833, they being aliens and non-residents. The court decide, 'that it is too well settled by repeated decisions of this court to be longer regarded as an open question, that at the period of the death of the decedent, his heirs, being aliens, could not inherit his estate.'

We understand these decisions to declare a law of descent applicable to the landed property of Texas generally, and not to lands in a particular colony, or settled under a particular act of colonization. The case before the court falls within the control of these decisions.

The judgment of the District Court is affirmed.


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).