Brown v. Jackson
20 U.S. 218

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Jackson, 20 U.S. 7 Wheat. 218 218 (1822)

Brown v. Jackson

20 U.S. (7 Wheat.) 218

Syllabus

The decisions of the board of commissioners under the acts of Congress providing for the indemnification of claimants to public lands in the Mississippi Territory, (commonly called the Yazoo Lands) are conclusive between the parties in all cases within the jurisdiction of the commissioners.

This determination reconciled with that of the Court in Brown v. Gilman, 4 Wheat. 255, 4 Cond. 445.

This suit was brought in consequence of the decision of this Court in the case of Brown v. Gilman,

Page 20 U. S. 219

and for the general history of the facts, reference was made to that case.

The bill charged that on 13 January, 1795, the State of Georgia was seized in fee of a certain territory within the boundaries of said state, &c., estimated to contain 11,380,000 acres, and bounded, &c.; that on the same day, by force of an act of the legislature of said state passed on 7 January, 1795, George Matthews, the governor, by letters patent, conveyed said territory to Nicholas Long and others, and their associates, called the Georgia Mississippi Company, reserving 620,000 acres for the use of the citizens of Georgia; that afterwards, on 20 January, 1796, certain articles of agreement were made between the defendant Amasa Jackson and William Williamson, authorized by said Company, to sell, and George Blake and sundry persons, who became the New England Mississippi Land Company; that it was stipulated in the said articles that on or before 12 February then next, said Jackson and Williamson should fill up and complete to said B. and others a deed of conveyance (which had been executed by the G.M. Company in Georgia) of all the right and title of the G.M. Company, derived from the State of Georgia, that said Blake and others agreed by the articles to deliver their notes for the payment of two for each acre of land by them subscribed for, previous to the first of May then next, and for the further payment of one cent more for each acre, on or before 1 October then next, and a further payment of two and a half per acre within twelve months from said 1f May, and a further payment of two and a half, &c., on 1

Page 20 U. S. 220

May, 1798, and a further payment of two more on 1 May, 1799 -- in the whole, ten per acre, &c.

And thereby it was agreed that as soon as said deed should be prepared, &c., said deed should be delivered by said defendant Jackson to some person appointed by said parties, to be held as an escrow, on condition that if the notes or moneys due on 1 May should not be paid, the deed should be redelivered and the associates should not be liable for the failure of each other, but if the notes were paid, the deed should be delivered to said Blake, &c., who were then to be severally liable for their own notes. That on 11 February, 1796, said Blake and others entered into articles of association, by the name of the N.E.M.L. Company, by which it was agreed that Leonard Jarvis, Henry Newman, and William Wetmore, should be a committee to receive a deed from the defendant Jackson, and William Williamson, of the said lands, belonging to the G.M. Company, for the use of the N.E.M.L. Company, and should execute to the several subscribers thereto, deeds of their respective proportions, to hold as tenants in common, and also a deed of trust to trustees, &c., and a board of directors should be appointed, and it was agreed the trustees should give each proprietor a certificate in the form, &c., which should be complete evidence, &c., and transferable by endorsement. And to carry such articles of agreement into effect, a deed of indenture dated 13 February, 1796, purporting to be made by said Long and others, of one part, and Wetmore, Jarvis, and Newman, of the other, was executed whereby they conveyed said territory (excepting

Page 20 U. S. 221

said 620,000 acres) to said W., J., and N., and the survivor in fee, and was delivered to G. R. Minot as an escrow, with an endorsement. The first payment to be made on 1 May aforesaid was duly made by every member except, &c., and the defendant Jackson and Williamson personally delivered said deed to said grantees and endorsed thereon, &c., "free of conditions." That prior to said absolute delivery, to-wit, on 10 December, 1796, an agreement of two parts was entered into between the associates of the N.E.M.L. Company and the defendant, Jackson, wherein it was agreed that certain proceedings of certain scrip-holders of the G.M. Company, being also members of the N.E.M.L. Company, so far, &c., should be void, and that the associates of the N.E.M.L. Company should have no control over papers of the G.M. Company, but would deliver to the defendant, Jackson, so many of their certificates or scrip, as amount to 103,480 acres, computing the whole at 11,380,000, as an equivalent to the G.M. Company, for a loss by failure of Seth Wetmore, &c., subscriber for 100,000, who had not paid -- said defendant, Jackson, to be accountable to said associates for such portion of Wetmore's notes, if recovered, as was equivalent to the debt assumed to be paid, i.e. $10,348, and thereupon said defendant, Jackson, should deliver said deed of conveyance absolutely, and within, &c., procure from the G.M. Company a confirmation, and deliver the same to said associates, and the defendant, Jackson, covenanted not to negotiate the notes until the confirmation was procured. And on 17 February, 1797, said defendant, Jackson, delivered to Wetmore,

Page 20 U. S. 222

Jarvis, and Newman a deed of confirmation from Long and others reciting, &c., and ratifying said deed of conveyance of said tract of land, excepting said 620,000 acres. That on 28 February, 1797, an indenture of two parts, between Oliver Phelps and others, of the one part, and Jarvis, Newman, and Hull, of the other, was made, wherein reciting said conveyances, said associates conveyed to J., N., and H., and survivor, to hold said land in trust, &c., according to articles of agreement, constituting the N.E.M.L. Company.

That William Wetmore, Jarvis, and Newman still retained their shares of said purchase as subscribed, viz., the said W. 900,000 acres, N. 2,000,000, and J. 500,000, who, to place their shares in the same condition, on the 28 February, 1797, by deed poll, released to John Peck their several proportions, being 3/11,400/330, 000/000 in trust, to convey the same to J., N., and H., and survivor, to be held by them in trust for same uses as expressed in deed of associates; and on same day, said Peck conveyed the same land to said J., N., and N., to be held accordingly, by which means J., N., and H. were seized of all said tract, and H. the survivor, continued so seized until his deed to the United States. Trustees delivered certificates to the members of the N.E.M.L. Company, expressing, &c., whereby each became entitled to an equitable interest in his share.

That on 31 March, 1814, the Congress of the United States passed an act for the indemnification of claimants of public land in the Mississippi Territory, &c., by which act $1,550,000 were appropriated

Page 20 U. S. 223

for persons claiming under the G.M. Company. That on 25 of January, 1815, Congress made a supplementary act appointing a board of commissioners, instead of the first, to meet on the 4th Monday of January, &c. That on 3 March, 1815, Congress passed another act, &c., providing that in certain cases the commissioners might allow further time, not over two months from the 3d Monday in March, and to adjust all such claims as should be or might have been released, &c., within the time limited, and empowering the President to issue certificates for decided claims. That on 18 January, 1814, the Members of the N.E.M.L. Company authorized their directors to release to the United States the whole claim of said company, under the act of Georgia, and required the trustees to execute deed, &c., and certificates to be received therefor from the United States, should be held by the treasurer, to be disposed of by order of the directors for the use of the claimants. And on 24 November, 1814, W. Hull, sole surviving trustee, made a deed poll to the U.S. releasing, &c., territory described, being the same conveyed by Georgia as aforesaid, and on 25 January took the oath. And that the directors, on 7 December, 1814, made their deed poll releasing all right of said company and the members thereof, to said land; also all claim to money, &c., to the United States in fee.

The said directors conformed in all things, &c., and became entitled to the whole indemnity, provided, &c., amounting to $1,550,000. Nevertheless said commissioners did decree that certain individuals

Page 20 U. S. 224

holding scrip under the N.E.M.L. Company, to the amount of 2,795,017 acres in all, who personally applied to said commissioners, among whom was said defendant, Jackson, who (said Jackson) held scrip to the amount of 691,677 acres, should receive their indemnity directly, without permitting the same to go through the hands of the directors, &c., and said individuals have received their several proportions accordingly, estimating the same at $13.62 per acre, deducting a certain sum for expenses. Whereas said commissioners did not estimate said expenses correctly, by a sum exceeding $7,000 dollars, and no provision was made to compel said individuals to contribute to future expenses, or any subsequent diminution of the remaining amount of indemnity, as hereafter stated, which reduces the amount to more than two per acre less than the amount received by said individuals. Commissioners did secondly decree that indemnity upon 957,600 acres, amounting, at the rate of $13.62, to $130,425.12, should be deducted from claims by the N.E.M.L. Company on account of certificates issued to its members who appeared to be in default in payment of purchase money to the G.M. Company, and determined said certificates to be bad, and the parties claiming under them not entitled to indemnity; and allowed said sum of $130,425.12, to be issued to the defendant, Jackson, for the benefit of himself and the other members of the Georgia Mississippi Company, or to him for his own benefit, or on pretense that he was entitled to it as being a creditor of said G.M. Company, whereby manifest

Page 20 U. S. 225

injustice was done to the N.E.M.L. Company, because:

(1) No deduction was made or allowed by the commissioners from the said sum of $130,425.12 for expenses incurred in managing the affairs of said company. (2) It appears among the notes exhibited by the said Jackson, as given for purchase money to the G.M. Company, on which indemnity was claimed as unpaid, there were certain notes of said Seth Wetmore, for $25,760, which, at the rate of ten, would have been the price of 257,600 acres, whereas in truth said Wetmore was purchaser for 100,000 acres, and no more, as appears by his original deed, so that the greatest part of said notes must have been given for other consideration. (3) It appears by the decrees, indemnity was allowed to Jackson for 957,600 acres, and by certificates filed by the commissioners, that there issued certificates to individuals for 2,795,017 acres; and by certificates issued to other original purchasers, and delivered by the plaintiffs to the commissioners, that there is still 7,734,983 acres entitled to indemnity under said acts. But these quantities amount to 11,487,600 acres, which is 107,600 acres more than the whole purchase of 11,380,000, so that 107,600 acres too much have been allowed to the said Jackson, even upon the principles of the commissioners, amounting at the rate of $13.62 per acre, to $14,655.12. (4) The commissioners were wrong in determining that persons claiming under certificates of purchasers who had not paid should lose their indemnity. One

Page 20 U. S. 226

Mary Gilman, holder of three scrip certificates under the N.E.M.L. Company for 20,000 acres each, the same having been issued to R. Williams and endorsed, he being assignee and grantee of William Wetmore, an original purchaser in default, whose unpaid notes were before the commissioners, as appears by the 3d decree, which notes entered into the reason of deducting from indemnity to said Jackson, exhibited to the Circuit Court of the U.S. for Massachusetts District, her bill in equity, and recovered for the whole amount of her claim against the plaintiff, without deducting on account of the proportion of indemnity she might be entitled to claim of individuals who received indemnity in person, which decree was affirmed in the Supreme Court. By reason of all which, the plaintiffs were entitled to recover of Jackson the whole $130,425; also, his proportion of the expenses of said Company, since said decrees were made, including said $7,000 as aforesaid, and also the costs recovered by M. Gilman and all future expenses. The bill further stated that the defendant, Jackson, ought to deliver all the stock or indemnity of said $1,550,000, excepting thereout so much as he is entitled to, as holder of scrip under the N.E.M.L. Company.

The defendant (Jackson) in his answer admitted the several conveyances set forth in the bill, and that the commissioners, by first decree, decreed to reserve indemnity upon 691,677 acres on account of scrip of the N.E.M.L. Company, then in the hands of the defendant, and did so reserve it, but avers the truth to be that neither he nor any other person in his stead or by his direction received any part of indemnity for

Page 20 U. S. 227

claimants under the G.M. Company. That the certificates of the N.E.M. Land Company came to his hands as follows: at the time of maturity of several of the notes, such notes being dishonored, or the parties being insolvent previous to maturity, they proposed to defendant (who agreed) to pay such notes by certificates of the N.E.M.L. Company; that accordingly, scrip to the amount of 691,677 acres was delivered to him, and notes to equal amount were given up by defendant, and that he never had any other certificates of the N.E.M.L. Company, and these have been given up to the commissioners and appropriated by them to account of the G.M. Company.

Admitted that commissioners deducted from indemnity awarded to the individuals a sum as their proportion of expenses of the N.E.M.L. Company, but avers that said N.E.M.L. Company produced statements, and litigated before the commissioners as to such expenses, and such sum as was allowed, was allowed after deliberation, but insisted that the decree as to expenses is conclusive as to the amount, and that any portion of any extra expenses could not be recovered of him, and that no deduction or provision for payment of future expenses of the N.E.M.L. Company ought to have been made. Commissioners awarded that indemnity upon 957,600 acres, amounting to $130,425 12, should be deducted from the whole amount claimed by said N.E.M.L. Company on account of certificates issued by the Company to purchasers who were in default of payment to the G.M. Company; that they determined such scrip void, and parties claiming under it

Page 20 U. S. 228

should lose indemnity, but avers he did not receive certificates for said $130,424.12 on behalf of the G.M. Company or himself as such member; on the contrary, he was not then a member thereof, and never received any part of indemnity or certificates therefor save for the amount found due him for the balance of his account with the G.M. Company as their agent; that as to said award there remained at the time it passed unpaid notes of members of the N.E.M.L. Company, given for purchase money to the amount of $95,760, and the indemnity of $130,421.25 was ordered on account of such unpaid notes; that he delivered up said unpaid notes, being required so to do; that the said Company contested the allowance, and are concluded by the decree. That after said decrees, deducting the amount of the unpaid notes and also the amount of scrip of said Company taken in payment of other notes and held by defendant as aforesaid, the members of the Company, separately and individually, according to their shares, did apply to the commissioners and received certificates entitling them to the indemnity.

That the commissioners made no allowance on said $130,425.12, on account of expenses incurred by plaintiffs in managing the affairs of the Company, and insists they did right, and their decree is conclusive. That it appeared from the schedule to the articles of agreement between him, Williamson, and Blake 26 January, 1796, that Seth Wetmore subscribed for only 100,000 acres. That between the date of said agreement and the complete delivery of said notes to him many changes were made in the amounts and purchasers from those in the schedule;

Page 20 U. S. 229

that it appears by an account of said notes and scrip, kept by the defendant (a true copy of part whereof was annexed), that defendant received from Seth and Samuel Wetmore, notes to the amount of $25,760 together with scrip of Company, to amount of $11,740 making $37,500, which is the purchase money of 375,000 acres, and therefore Seth and Samuel were interested in the purchase to that amount.

Whether notes were made jointly by them or as principal and endorser could not answer, but believes jointly because, in said amount in other instances he distinguished whether drawers or endorsers. That he took an oath before commissioners that said notes were not taken on any other account than purchase money of said land, and avers the same in answer, and therefore whether Seth or Samuel were joint drawers, or one drew and the other endorsed, or were reciprocally drawers and endorsers for each's part, or whether Seth was really interested to the amount of the notes, cannot answer, but insists that being in his hands, and given for no other consideration, whether given for his own interest or that of another, was immaterial, and the decree was right. That after passing the first decree, defendant was summoned as witness before the Board and required to deliver up all vouchers, papers, notes, scrip, and accounts touching purchase by the N.E.M.L. Company; he complied, and the commissioners stated an account between him and the G.M. Company, leaving a balance of $24,631.90, in his favor.

In stating the account, the G. M. commissioners credited the N.E.M.L. Company with the total amount of sales to the Company, deducting

Page 20 U. S. 230

a number of acres of W. Williamson, and debited the Company thus: (1) for 292 full scrip of said Company, which scrip was received by defendant, in payment for part of the purchase money, engaged to be paid by members of the N.E.M.L. Company, and it having depreciated in consequence of the repeal of the act of Georgia, and purchased by the members of the N.E.M.L. Company at a low price, was received in payment as aforesaid, by defendant, at their original value; (2) for amount of unpaid notes, as delivered to commissioners; (3) for said Company's proportion of loss on notes of members of the N.E.M.L. Company, consequent to compromise, to which he was compelled by said repeal, nine-tenths of which loss only was charged to said Company, the other upon defendant's commissions; (4) for amount of scrip of N.E.M.L. Company, delivered up to commissioners; (5) for commissions at 10 percent on sales to the N.E.M.L. Company, and that the commissioners by decree (copy exhibited) awarded said balance to defendant, and issued to him a certificate for so much indemnity, which sum was the whole amount of the indemnity received by defendant or any other person for him on his own account or the account of any persons or company whatever. Insisted that said decree is wholly irreversible, and defendant having received the amount of indemnity as agent of the G.M. Company, could not be called upon to account to complainants. Admits that indemnity was reserved upon 957,600 acres on account of notes unpaid but never allowed to defendant, as stated in bill.

Avers the same was the true amount of unpaid notes. That according to the

Page 20 U. S. 231

schedule annexed to bill of certificates surrendered by individuals, it is certified that the total amount so surrendered was upon 2,795,017 acres, but whether said schedule is a true list or whether the amount stated is the true amount defendant is ignorant. As to the amount of certificates by members represented by complainants, defendant is ignorant, but avers there was no allowance to him, nor was there a reservation of indemnity for 107,600 acres too much, but the excess (if any) between the total amount of acres reserved for individuals, or for unpaid notes, together with the amount represented by plaintiffs, and the original purchase, is owing to error in amount surrendered by individuals, or the amount represented by plaintiffs.

Edward Stow, a witness examined on the part of the plaintiff, testified that the agent of the Georgia Mississippi Company and the members of the N.E.M.L. Company agreed that the deed of the land purchased of the former should remain for certain purposes an escrow, and on the failure of Seth Wetmore to pay his notes of $10,000 for his 100,000 acres of land, the defendant, Jackson, as agent of the G.M. Company, declined delivering said deed to the N.E.M.L. Company unless they would agree to deliver him or some other agent of the G.M. Company certificates for 103,480 acres, in the stock of the N.E.M.L. Company, and in consequence thereof they entered into a contract with the defendant, Jackson, on 10 December, 1796, to deliver to him or some other such agent said certificates, but, as they have never been demanded, the certificates have never been issued. In said contract

Page 20 U. S. 232

the defendant Jackson stipulated to account with the N.E.M.L. Company for such sums as he might recover from the notes.

The amount of the expenses incurred by the Company, when the directors' accounts were exhibited to the commissioners in 1815, was, in Mississippi stock, $153,030.90, and in specie, $20,744.36, but $1,500 was by them deducted from the last sum, which had been charged to support the future expenses of the Company. In part of such expenses, in Mississippi stock, the Company received from their agents, on account of the proportionate part thereof, due from the proprietors who surrendered individually their certificate to the commissioners, $36,355 22/100, 10/100, in certificates of that stock, and for the debt incurred in specie, $4,688.26, in specie. Seth Wetmore, in and by the contract of 26 January, 1896, between the defendant, Jackson and Williamson, agents of the G.M. Company, of the one part, and the N.E.M.L. Company, of the other part, signed and executed the same, as proprietor of 100,000 acres of land, in said Company, and no more, and a deed was executed to him by the Committee of the commissioners for that number of acres, and he appeared by the records and books thereof to be a proprietor of that number, and no more.

The number of certificates on which the indemnity was received from the commissioners by individual proprietors of the Company was 262, and the number of acres, 2,795,017. The whole number of acres of land, in the N.E.M.L. Company, was 11,380,000; the indemnity on 957,600 acres of which was awarded to Jackson and others, being $130,445.12. The indemnity on

Page 20 U. S. 233

2,795,017 acres was awarded to certain proprietors of the Company, who surrendered their certificates individually, being 380,681 31/100 54/100. The indemnity on the remaining 7,627,383 acres was awarded to the N.E.M.L. Company, being 1,038,849, 56/100 46/100; which was on 107,600 acres less than it was entitled to, as the number of acres held by the proprietors represented by the directors, was at the time said awards were made, and now is, 7,734,983 acres, and there could be no error in the number, as the books have been regularly kept. The witness being interrogated whether among the notes surrendered to the commissioners by defendant, there were any notes of Seth Wetmore, answers that at the request of the directors, the secretary of the commissioners at Washington had transmitted to them copies of ten notes, amounting together to $25,760, signed by Seth and Samuel Wetmore, and it was understood from him that they made a part of the notes presented by the defendant, Jackson, to the commissioners, and represented by him to have been unpaid by the signers of them, but whether the notes were received by any members of the N.E.M. Land Company, in payment of the land they purchased of the G.M. Company, the deponent could not answer.

The expenses of the N.E.M.L. Company, since its accounts were exhibited to the commissioners, exceed $4,000, and are daily accumulating. Besides, the members of the Company represented by the directors, have been obliged to pay upwards of $80,000 in Mississippi stock out of their own indemnity to the holders of the certificates

Page 20 U. S. 234

in the Company which were considered bad by the commissioners.

Being cross-examined, the witness stated that S. Dexter and B. Joy appeared before the commissioners as agents of the N.E.M.L. Company, and exhibited the accounts of the Company, showing the amount of the expenses incurred in the pursuit of its claims, and endeavored to obtain a full proportion of the said expenses from the individual proprietors who had surrendered their scrip, but did not succeed in this endeavor, as in the apportionment of the expense a manifest error was committed, it being apportioned on 11,380,000 acres when it ought to have been apportioned on 11,380,00 minus 957,609 acres, viz., on 10,422,400 acres, the commissioners exempting the indemnity awarded to the defendant, Jackson, and others, on account of the said 957,600 acres, from the payment of any part of the expenses incurred by the Company. The witness repeated the same statement respecting the proprietary interest of Seth Wetmore as is contained in his direct examination, with this addition, that Wetmore signed the deed of trust to the trustees of the Company, as a proprietor therein, of 100,000 acres only, and does not appear to have been a proprietor in the Company at any time, in his own name nor jointly with Samuel Wetmore or any other person, for more than said 100,000 acres of land therein, which was in his own name only. Nor does it appear by the records of the Company that Samuel Wetmore in his own name or jointly with any other person, was ever

Page 20 U. S. 235

a proprietor, directly or indirectly, of the Company for any land therein.

A decree was entered in the court below dismissing the plaintiff's bill, pro forma, by consent, and the cause was brought by appeal to this Court.

Page 20 U. S. 237

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