Emigrant Company v. County of Adams
100 U.S. 61 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Emigrant Company v. County of Adams, 100 U.S. 61 (1879)

Emigrant Company v. County of Adams

100 U.S. 61

Syllabus

1. Though the grant by the Act of Congress of Sept. 28, 1850, 9 Stat. 519, of the swamp and overflowed lands to the states in which they lie is declared to be made for the exclusive purpose of enabling such states, with the proceeds thereof, to reclaim the lands by means of levees and drains, it is questionable whether the security for the due application of the proceeds does not wholly rest upon the good faith of the several states, and whether they may not exercise their discretion in this behalf without being liable to be called to account and without affecting the title to the lands; at all events, it seems that Congress alone has the power, in a clear case of violation of the trust, to enforce the conditions of the grant by revocation or otherwise, and since, by the act, the proceeds are to be applied to the designated purposes only "as far as necessary," each state has at least a large discretion as to the "necessity" of employing the proceeds to the reclamation of the lands.

2. A grant, subject to the conditions of that act, made by a state of its swamp

Page 100 U. S. 62

and overflowed lands to the several counties in which they are situated, to be disposed of for general county purposes, is valid, and the county which has disposed of them in pursuance of the state grant cannot rescind its contract on the ground of its being a violation of the act of Congress.

3. In Iowa, such a contract, if approved by a vote of the people of the county under the act of the legislature of that state passed in 1858, is valid though the lands be disposed of for less than one dollar and a quarter per acre; and, if it includes also a sale of the claim of the county against the United states for indemnity for swamp lands sold by the latter, the county cannot maintain a bill in equity to set it aside, though such sale be within the law prohibiting the assignment of claims against the government.

4. If the purchaser from the county under such a contract was bound thereby to do certain acts, such as to introduce a certain number of settlers within a certain period, or to reclaim the lands, his obligation, if not made a condition of the sale, lies in covenant merely, and, if unperformed, does not avoid the sale. It is only when covenants are mutual and dependent, or when their performance is made an express condition, that a breach of them involves an avoidance of the contract.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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