Lessee of Binney v. Chesapeake * Ohio Canal Company
33 U.S. 214 (1834)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lessee of Binney v. Chesapeake * Ohio Canal Company, 33 U.S. 8 Pet. 214 214 (1834)

Lessee of Binney v. Chesapeake * Ohio Canal Company

33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 214

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR

THE COUNTY OF WASHINGTON IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

The declaration in ejectment was dated on 22 May, 1831, and the judgment was rendered on 14 January, 1832. The plaintiff in ejectment counted on a demise made by Arnos Binney on the 1st day of January, 1828. His title, as shown in the abstract, commenced on 17 May, 1828, which is subsequent to the demise on which the plaintiff counted. By the court: "Though, the demise is a fiction, the plaintiff must count on one which, if real, would support his action."

The counsel for the defendants insisted that if the cause could not be decided on its supposed real merits, it ought to be remanded to the circuit court for the purpose of receiving such modifications as will bring before this Court those questions of law on which the rights of the parties depend. By the Court:

"Where error exists in the proceedings of the circuit court which will justify a reversal of its judgment, this Court may send back the cause, with such instructions as the justice of the case may require. But if in point of law the judgment ought to be affirmed, it is the duty of this Court to affirm it. This Court cannot with propriety reverse a decision which conforms to laws and remand a cause for further proceedings."

An action of ejectment was commenced in the circuit court by agreement, on 14 January, 1832. The declaration counted on a demise from the lessor of the plaintiff dated 1 January, 1828, for the term of fifteen years. The declaration was afterwards amended by adding,

"a demise from John K. Smith and a demise from the heirs of Amos Cloud (their names to be left in blank or considered as properly instituted in the record) and another from John Way."

The following agreement, signed by the counsel for the plaintiff, was also filed in the circuit court.

"The plaintiff's title depends on the title papers herewith shown to the court, the due authentication of which is admitted, viz., the patents for Amsterdam and White Haven and the several mesne conveyances, decrees, &c., from the patentees down to the plaintiffs, and it is admitted that the plaintiff's lessor, J. K. Smith, was in possession in June, 1812, when the condemnation hereinafter mentioned was made of the

Page 33 U. S. 215

land comprised within said condemnation, and that it is a part of the said two tracts of land."

"It is admitted that the Potomac Company, in the year 1793, condemned certain lands, as appears by their said inquisition and condemnation and plot hereto annexed, for their canal and locks through the aforesaid tracts of land, and other adjacent tracts as noted on said plot."

"And it is admitted that on 23 June, 1812, an inquisition was held and condemnation had by said company, as appears by the papers hereto annexed, and it is admitted, that the location of the land so last condemned, and the new locks erected thereon, and the old locks erected on the land condemned as aforesaid, in 1793, is truly shown by a plot thereof made out by Thomas F. Percell and William Bussard, hereto annexed."

"And it is further admitted that the Potomac Company, after said respective condemnations, entered upon the lands so condemned and erected thereon the locks as shown in the said plot, and continued in possession until transferred to the defendants, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, which latter company has continued in possession ever since."

"Upon which case agreed it is submitted to the court to say 1st whether the plaintiff has shown title, and 2d, whether the condemnation of 1812, aforesaid, divested the plaintiff's title and gave a valid title to the Potomac Company."

"It is agreed that all the papers, plots, &c., mentioned and referred to in the aforegoing case agreed may be omitted in the record of this case and may be used in the Supreme Court as if contained in the record."

The circuit court gave judgment for the defendants, and the plaintiff prosecuted this writ of error.

Page 33 U. S. 216

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was an action of ejectment brought by the lessee of Amos Binney in the Court of the United States for the District of Columbia sitting in the County of Washington. It was agreed by the parties that the declaration should be amended by adding a demise from J. K. Smith, one from the heirs of Amos Cloud, and one from John Way. This amended declaration, however, does not appear in the record and was not filed in the circuit court.

The following statement is made as forming a case agreed:

"The plaintiff's title depends on the title papers herewith shown to the court, the due authentication of which is admitted,

Page 33 U. S. 217

viz. the patents for Amsterdam and White Haven, and the several mesne conveyances, decrees, &c., from the patentees down to the plaintiffs, and it is admitted that the plaintiff's lessor, J. K. Smith, was in possession in June, 1812, when the condemnation hereinafter mentioned was made of the land comprised within said condemnation, and that it is a part of the said two tracts of land."

"It is admitted that the Potomac Company, in the year 1793, condemned certain lands, as appears by their said inquisition and condemnation and plot hereto annexed, for their canal and locks through the aforesaid tracts of land, and other adjacent tracts, as noted on said plot."

"And it is admitted that on 23 June, 1812, an inquisition was held and condemnation had by said company, as appears by the papers hereto annexed, and it is admitted that the location of the land so last condemned, and the new locks erected thereon and the old locks erected on the land condemned as aforesaid in 1793 is truly shown by a plot thereof made out by Thomas F. Percell and William Bussard hereto annexed."

"And it is further admitted that the Potomac Company, after said respective condemnation, entered upon the lands so condemned and erected thereon the locks as shown in the said plot, and continued in possession until transferred to this defendant, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, which said company has continued in possession ever since."

"Upon which case agreed, it is submitted to the court to say first whether the plaintiff has shown title, and second whether the condemnation of 1812 aforesaid divested the plaintiff's title and gave a valid title to the Potomac Company."

"It is agreed that all the papers mentioned and referred to in the aforegoing case agreed may be omitted in the record of this case and may be used in the Supreme Court as if contained in the record."

The circuit court decided both points in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiffs have brought the cause before this Court by writ of error.

The abstract laid before the Court by consent of parties does not show a regular title in the plaintiff, and the case does not, we think, find a possession of twenty years anterior to the

Page 33 U. S. 218

inquisition, which would constitute a title in ejectment. It presents evidence from which a jury might be justified in finding possession -- evidence from which possession may be inferred, but the Court cannot infer it.

The counsel for the plaintiffs in error contend that the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company, who claim their title under the inquest, has admitted it, and is not now at liberty to controvert it. On the influence of the inquest in this cause, some contrariety of opinion prevails among the judges, but the defendants in error have made a preliminary question which, if decided in their favor, will terminate the present suit.

The declaration in ejectment is dated on 22 May 1831, and the judgment was rendered on 14 January, 1832. The plaintiff in ejectment counts on a demise made by Amos Binney on 1 January, 1828. His title, as shown in the abstract, commenced on 17 May, 1828, which is subsequent to the demise on which the plaintiff counts. Though the demise is a fiction, the plaintiff must count on one which, if real, would support his action.

We find in the record an entry that the declaration is amended by adding a demise from J. K. Smith, one from the heirs of Amos Cloud and another from John Way. These counts, however, do not appear, and the Court would feel great difficulty in framing them.

If this difficulty could be overcome, the abstract shows that J. K. Smith conveyed all his title on 17 May, 1828, before this action was commenced.

It also shows that the title of Amos Cloud's heirs was conveyed from them by deeds bearing date in 1846 and 1819.

John Way, the remaining lessor of the plaintiff, conveyed his title by deed dated 6 October, 1815.

Had these additional counts been filed, neither of the lessors possessed any title when this ejectment was brought or when it was tried. The case therefore could not have been aided by counts on demises from them.

The counsel for the defendants have insisted that if the cause cannot be decided on its supposed real merits, it ought to be remanded to the circuit court for the purpose of receiving such modifications as will bring before this Court those

Page 33 U. S. 219

questions of law on which the rights of the parties depend. Where error exists in the proceedings of the circuit court which will justify a reversal of its judgment, this Court may send back the cause with such instructions as the justice of the case may require. But if, in point of law, the judgment ought to be affirmed, it is the duty of this Court to affirm it. 10 U. S. 6 Cranch 268. We cannot with propriety reverse a decision which conforms to law and remand a cause for further proceedings.

The judgment of the circuit court is

Affirmed with costs.

This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Columbia holden in and for the County of Washington and was argued by counsel, on consideration whereof it is ordered and adjudged by this Court that the judgment of the said circuit court be and the same is hereby affirmed with costs.

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