Williams v. Conger
125 U.S. 397 (1888)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Conger, 125 U.S. 397 (1888)

Williams v. Conger

No. 105

Argued December 16, 19-20, 1887

Decided April 2, 1888

125 U.S. 397

Syllabus

If the removal of a public record from its place of deposit is not prohibited by reason of public policy, it constitutes, when legitimately removed, the best evidence of its contents and of its authenticity.

An original muniment of title produced from the public archives in which it is required by law to be deposited, certified by the public officer who has custody of it, and identified by him as a witness, is sufficiently authenticated to authorize it to be offered in evidence.

A charge in an action to try title to real estate which instructed the jury that if they believe that a paper offered in evidence containing a signature of a party under whom both parties' claim was as old as its date imported, and that it had been preserved in the public archives as the initial paper in the grant, they might give to these circumstances the weight of direct testimony to the genuineness of the signature, and if the other proof did not in their judgment overbear its weight, might find the signature to be proved, neither takes from the jury the determination of the weight of evidence nor submits to it a question that should be decided by the court.

Papers not otherwise competent cannot be introduced in evidence for the mere purpose of enabling a jury to institute a comparison of handwriting; but where other writings, admitted or proved to be genuine, are properly in evidence for other purposes, the handwriting of such instruments may be compared by the jury with that of the instrument or signature in question, and its genuineness inferred from such comparison.

When the plaintiff and the defendant both claim title under the same original application, and one introduces it in evidence and establishes its identity, the other is estopped from denying the genuineness of the signature to it of the party under whom both claim.

One claiming under a deed forty years old through several mesne conveyances may offer the deed in evidence as an ancient deed, though never seen by any but the first grantee to whom it was given.

A power of attorney authorized the donee to take possession of real estate by himself or by a person in his confidence, to cultivate it, to sell it, to exchange it or to alienate it. He endorsed it to A by a writing stating "I transfer all my powers in favor of A, in order that in my name and as my attorney he may take possession," &c. Held that the endorsement only gave A power to take possession, but no power to sell.

A cause was tried before a jury in a state court, and being taken to the highest court of the state, that court ordered a new trial, deciding that a

Page 125 U. S. 398

certain document was admissible in evidence as an ancient deed. After the cause was remanded to the trial court, it was removed to the circuit court of the United States. Held that its decision on that question was binding on the courts of the United States.

In the courts of the United States, it is competent for the court to give to the jury its opinion upon the weight of evidence, leaving the jury to determine upon the testimony.

In Texas in the year 1833, a power of attorney to take possession of and convey real estate which was not acknowledged, witnessed, certified to, written on sealed paper, nor proved before a notary was nevertheless a valid instrument, those formalities merely affecting the mode of authenticating it.

The English rule as to the requisites of a power to execute sealed instruments was not in force in Texas when the transactions here in controversy took place.

A copy made in 1837 of a lost certified copy of a power of attorney is admissible in evidence to show that the original power, found and produced in court, was an ancient instrument.

A recital in an ancient power of attorney that the donor is a citizen raises a presumption of the truth of that fact which can be overthrown only by positive proof.

Trespass to try title. Judgment for defendants and judgment on the verdict. Plaintiff sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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