United States v. Philadelphia and New Orleans
52 U.S. 609 (1850)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Philadelphia and New Orleans, 52 U.S. 11 How. 609 609 (1850)

United States v. Philadelphia and New Orleans

52 U.S. (11 How.) 609

Syllabus

The decision of this Court in the United States v. Reynes, 9 How. 127, again affirmed, to-wit, that under the Acts of Congress of May 26, 1824, 4 Stat. 52, and June 17, 1844, 5 Stat. 676, the courts of the United States have no power to decide upon complete or perfect titles to land.

The contract made between the Baron de Bastrop and the Spanish government did not vest a perfect title in Bastrop, and therefore this Court can exercise jurisdiction over the claim.

Page 52 U. S. 610

The grant of twelve leagues square, given to Bastrop by the Spanish governor, only pointed out the place where the families were to settle which Bastrop was to bring in. The land was destined and appropriated to this purpose. There were to be five hundred families, who were to grow wheat, and Bastrop's interest was intended to be in the monopoly of manufacturing flour and exporting it to Havana and other places under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Crown. With this view, he obtained separate grants for the bayous or mill seats, and was bound to erect at least one mill within two years from the date of the grant.

The families which were introduced took their titles from the Spanish government, and not from Bastrop.

This case stands upon the same ground as the case of United States v. King, 7 How. 833.

This was a petition filed by the corporate authorities of the Cities of Philadelphia and New Orleans claiming a large body of land under a grant alleged to have been made by the Baron de Carondelet, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana in 1796 and 1797, to the Baron de Bastrop.

All the title papers are set forth in the opinion of the Court, and it is unnecessary to repeat them. The derivation of title to the petitioners in this case is explained in their petition, which, being short, may be inserted.

"To the Honorable T. H. McCaleb, Judge of the District Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana."

"The petition of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia, and of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Inhabitants of the City of New Orleans, respectfully represents: "

"That in the year 1795 or 1796, in the now State of Louisiana, of which the Baron de Carondelet was governor-general and vice-patron, a grant was made to the Baron de Bastrop by the proper authorities of a certain tract of land, twelve leagues square lying on the Ouachita and Bayou Siard, to be located and surveyed, which was done in due and legal form, as by the annexed plot of survey marked A will more fully appear, which was afterwards approved and confirmed; your petitioners, for fuller information, refer to the documents published by authority of Congress in Vol. II State Papers, title Public Lands, page 772, No. 40, as also to the volume of land laws published by Matthew St. Clair Clarke, page 951 &c."

"Your petitioners further show that on or about 25 January, 1804, the said Baron de Bastrop conveyed to a certain Abraham Morehouse two-thirds of the said tract, which was afterwards, by a compromise between the said Bastrop, Morehouse, and a certain Charles Lynch, modified so that Morehouse became entitled to four-tenths and Lynch to

Page 52 U. S. 611

six-tenths of said grant, which said six-tenths were afterwards conveyed to Edward Livingston, on 18 September, 1807, as by documents marked B, C, D, E, and F, respectively, will appear."

"And they also show, that on or about 5 March, 1810, at a sale made by order of T. C. Lewis, Parish Judge of the Parish of Ouachita, 50,000 acres of the part assigned, and belonging to Abraham Morehouse, were seized and sold for taxes, when a certain Andrew Latting became the purchaser, and afterwards transferred to Andrew Morehouse and George Y. Morehouse, sons and lawful heirs of the said Abraham, and to Sophia L. Morehouse, Charles F. Morehouse, Ann M. Morehouse, and Eliza C. Morehouse, children also of the said Abraham, each the amount of 8,000 acres out of the 50,000 sold for taxes. That in 1813, the said Morehouse died, and thereby the remainder of the said property passed to his wife, Abigail Young, and her two sons, Andrew and George, and that on or about 13 January, 1824, Stephen Girard purchased the shares of said Sophia L., Charles F., Ann M., and Eliza C., and in May, 1825, he purchased of George the 8,000 so to him conveyed; that the 2,000 remaining were, by the said Latting, sold to Nathan Morse, in his own right and as attorney for R. Goelet, who conveyed the same to a certain Thomas Lovell, who sold them to Stephen Girard, as will more fully appear by the documents herewith filed, and marked G, H, I, J, K, KK, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R."

"That in the autumn of the year 1815, Andrew, the elder son, died, unmarried and without issue, whereby his estate passed to his mother, Abigail, and his surviving brother, George."

"That the said George, as well in his own right as in virtue of a power of attorney, duly executed by his mother, Abigail, constituted and appointed a certain William Griffith, of Burlington, in the State of New Jersey, their agent and trustee, for the purpose of selling and disposing of their interest in the said lands, which he accordingly did, on or about 29 January, 1822, to the said Stephen Girard, James Lyle, and Robert E. Griffith; as also of 10,000 acres of the same parcel, held by the said Wm. Griffith and Richard S. Coxe, of Georgetown, District of Columbia, about 23 January, 1824; that afterwards, viz., at the October term, 1827, of the Seventh Judicial District Court, in the Parish of Ouachita, a partition was decreed between the said Girard, Lyle, and Griffith, whereby the portion of Girard was separated and set apart, as by said decree and the documents marked Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, and X, herewith filed, will more fully appear. And your

Page 52 U. S. 612

petitioners further show that the portion assigned, as above stated, to Edward Livingston, an amount of 12,500 acres, was, by the said Girard, purchased, as per act herewith filed, and marked AA, about 6 November, 1819, from a certain John Carrier, of Baltimore, who purchased it from Samuel McKean of said city, being part of a larger parcel conveyed by the said Edward Livingston to Stephen Wante, by act marked CC."

"And they further show that on or about 22 November, 1824, the said Stephen Girard purchased from John Hughes, of the Parish of Ouachita, 4,300 acres of the same land, which said Hughes had purchased at sheriff's sale, being a part of that assigned to Andrew Morehouse, as appears by the document marked DD, herewith filed."

"And they further show that on or about 9 February, 1824, the said Stephen Girard purchased at sheriff's sale, in the case of Brooks, Syndic v. G. Hamilton, 23,694 acres, which the said Hamilton purchased from Andrew Y. Morehouse, as by document EE, herewith filed, more fully appears."

"That on or about 11 February, 1825, the said Stephen Girard purchased from Cesar McGlaughlin 4,000 acres of the same parcel, which the said McGlaughlin had purchased at the sheriff's sale in the said suit of Brooks, Syndic v. Hamilton, which land the said Hamilton had acquired from the said Andrew Morehouse, in proof whereof he files the document FF."

"That on or about 29 September, 1807, the said Edward Livingston transferred to John Adair a portion of said lands amounting to 75,000 acres."

"That on or about 17 October, 1807, the said John Adair conveyed to T. B. Franklin, of Ouachita, 2,340 acres of said land, and by act bearing date 11 February, 1828, the said T. B. Franklin conveyed the same to Stephen Girard, as per acts marked GG, HH, II, herewith filed, will more fully appear."

"That by act bearing date 23 February, 1808, the said Adair sold the Curry 10,000 acres of this part, which Curry conveyed to the said Girard on or about 9 March, 1829; and, lastly, that on or about 10 July, 1827, the said John Adair conveyed his remaining interest, amounting to 36,549 arpents, to the said Stephen Girard, whereby the latter became possessed of all the portion conveyed by the said Edward Livingston to the said John Adair, all which will more fully appear by documents LL, MM, and NN. "

Page 52 U. S. 613

"Your petitioners further show that the said Stephen Girard, having first made his will, departed this life on or about the ___ day of _____."

"That by his said will, which has been duly proved, and a copy of which is herewith filed, and marked OO, he bequeathed to your petitioners the whole of his above-described property; from all which acts and deeds it results that your petitioners are the true and lawful owners of the said above-described portions of the Bastrop grant; they allege that there is no other person or persons claiming the same, or any part thereof, by a different title from that of your petitioners; nor are there any person or persons holding possession of any part thereof otherwise than by the lease or permission of your petitioners. But that the United States denies their title thereto, and claims the whole of the lands contained within the said Bastrop grant as part of the public domain."

"That the said title of the Baron de Bastrop has been partially submitted to the board of land commissioners, and by them reported on unfavorably."

"Wherefore your petitioners pray that the validity of their title may be inquired into and decided upon, to which purpose the United States may be cited by its representative, the district attorney, and that it may be confirmed in its said title, with all other and further relief."

"GEO. STRAWBRIDGE"

"P. SOULE"

"Of counsel for the Cities of Philadelphia and N. Orleans"

There were ninety-six pages of exhibits filed with the petition. It is not necessary to give the substance either of them or of the testimony which was afterwards collected by the petitioners and the United States, because the question was decided entirely upon the construction of the grant.

In the progress of the case, an order was made on the motion of the claimants for a jury to try certain disputed facts, the court reserving to itself

"the decision upon the question of the validity or sufficiency of said grant under the colonial laws and regulations of Spain in force in Louisiana at the date of the grant."

On 8 December, 1847, the following proceedings took place.

"The trial of this cause was today resumed. The argument for the plaintiffs was opened by H. Strawbridge, Esq., and closed by P. Soule, Esq.; for the defendants, by Thomas J. Durant, United States district Attorney. The argument being closed, the court charged the jury; Silvain Peyroux being appointed foreman, they retired to consider of their verdict. "

Page 52 U. S. 614

"After consultation, they returned into court with a verdict in the words and figures following, to-wit:"

"From and according to the evidence adduced in this case, we, the jury, find the following verdict:"

"1. That, in the year 1796 and 1797, a grant of twelve leagues square of land, on the waters of the Bayou Liard or Siar and its vicinity, has been made by the Baron de Carondelet, as Governor General of Louisiana, in favor of the Baron de Bastrop according to the copies and plans thereof produced by the plaintiffs in evidence."

"2. That the location of said grant was, in pursuance of the orders of said governor, designated by Don Juan Filhiol, Commandant of Ouachita, or by Don Carlos Laveau Trudeau, Surveyor General of the Province of Louisiana, and that said Baron de Bastrop did, with the consent and approbation of the grantors, take possession of the land so granted and proceed in carrying out the objects of said grant."

"3. That the conditions annexed to said grant, particularly that of introducing a given number of families and settling them on said grant, were fulfilled as far as the government could allow the said Bastrop, and that if said conditions were not fulfilled in whole, the nonfulfillment thereof was owing to the act and order of the grantors."

"4. That a plan of survey of said grant was made by Carlos Laveau Trudeau, Surveyor General of the Province of Louisiana, and was confirmed in the year 1797 by the Baron de Carondelet, governor general of said Province."

"SILV. PEYROUX Foreman of the jury"

"New Orleans, 8 December, 1847"

The cause was then taken up by the court. The attorney for the United States filed a supplemental answer denying the right of the petitioners, to which a general replication was put in.

On 23 March, 1848, the trial of the cause was commenced before the court; the testimony was submitted to the court, and the argument of counsel on the part of the plaintiffs and defendants was concluded.

On 31 May, 1848, the following judgment was rendered and entered of record:

"This cause came on to be heard at the December term of the court and was argued by counsel, and thereupon, upon an attentive consideration of the law and evidence, and the court being satisfied that the concession of twelve leagues square of land, situated on the waters of the River Ouachita and the

Page 52 U. S. 615

Bayous Bartholomew and Siard in the Province of Louisiana, made in the years 1796 and 1797 by the Baron de Carondelet, then governor general of said province, to the Baron de Bastrop, and commonly known as the 'Bastrop grant,' was a good, valid, and lawful grant to the said Baron de Bastrop by a legal title in form made by the Spanish authorities, and was protected and secured to him as his private property by the Treaty between the United States and the French republic of 30 April, 1803."

"That the mayor, aldermen, and inhabitants of the Cities of Philadelphia and New Orleans have proved a good title in themselves to those portions of said 'Bastrop grant' claimed in their petition, derived by various mesne conveyances from the original grantee and owner, the Baron de Bastrop."

"It is ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the mayor, aldermen, and inhabitants of the Cities of Philadelphia and New Orleans, in their several corporate capacities as cities, be declared the true and lawful owners of, and entitled to recover from the United States, the following-described tracts of land situated within the limits of the said grant, and be forever quieted and confirmed as against the United States in the ownership and possession of the same, to-wit:"

"Thirty-two thousand arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard from Charles F. Morehouse, Ann M. Morehouse, Lucretia C. Morehouse, Eliza C. Sterling, and the heirs of Sophia L. Morehouse, by Act of 13 January, 1824, before Oliver J. Morgan, Parish Judge and ex officio Notary Public for the Parish of Ouachita."

"Two thousand arpents of land, more or less, acquired by Stephen Girard from Thomas Lovell by Act of 9 March, 1825, acknowledged before C. Pollock, Notary Public in and for the City of New Orleans and ratified by said Lovell by Act of 3 October, 1826, before Samuel G. Raymond, Notary Public in and for the State of New York."

"Eight thousand arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard from George Y. Morehouse and Martha, his wife, by act of 28 April, 1825, before Thomas Adams, Notary Public in and for the State of New Jersey at Burlington in said state."

"Seventy-four thousand one hundred and sixty-seven arpents of land, more or less, acquired by the said Stephen Girard by a decree of partition between said Girard, James Lyle, and Robert E. Griffith, rendered in the year 1827 at the October term of the Seventh Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, by the Honorable J. H. Overton, judge, in the suit entitled Stephen Girard v. Robert E. Griffith and the Representatives of James Lyle. The whole, according to the judgment and figurative plans of partition, filed in the aforesaid suit. "

Page 52 U. S. 616

"All the share of Stephen Girard (ten twenty-first parts) in that part of four hundred and twenty-six thousand arpents of land, more or less, which has not been comprised in the aforesaid decree of partition rendered in October, 1827, and which was acquired by Stephen Girard, James Lyle, and Robert E. Griffith, as tenants in common, from George Y. Morehouse and Abigail Morehouse, and their trustee William Griffith, by conveyance of 29 January, 1822, acknowledged on the same day before Thomas Adams, Notary Public in and for the State of New Jersey at Burlington in said state."

"Twelve thousand five hundred arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard from John Carriere and Mary, his wife, by act of 6 November, 1819, before John Gill, Notary Public at Baltimore, in the State of Maryland."

"Four thousand three hundred arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard by virtue of an act made before Oliver J. Morgan, Parish Judge and ex officio Notary Public for the Parish of Ouachita on 22 November, 1824."

"Twenty-three thousand nine hundred and sixty-four arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard from George Hamilton by virtue of a judicial sale thereof made by Jonathan Morgan, Sheriff of the Parish of Ouachita, on 9 February, 1825, by virtue of a writ of execution issued at the suit of the syndics of Edward Brooks."

"Four thousand arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard from Caesar McLauchlin by act of the 11 February, 1825, before Oliver J. Morgan, Parish Judge and ex officio Notary Public for the Parish of Ouachita."

"Two thousand three hundred and forty arpents of land acquired by Stephen Girard from Thomas B. Franklin, by private act of 11 February, 1828, recognized on or about 14 March, 1828, before Oliver J. Morgan, Parish Judge and ex officio Notary Public for the Parish of Ouachita."

"Thirty-six thousand five hundred and forty-nine arpents of land, more or less, acquired by Stephen Girard from John Adair, by act of 10 July, 1822, before Oliver J. Morgan, Parish Judge and ex officio Notary Public for the Parish of Ouachita."

"Ten thousand acres of land acquired by Stephen Girard from John Casey by act of 9 March, 1829, before Oliver J. Morgan, Parish Judge and ex officio Notary Public for the Parish of Ouachita. Judgment signed June 12, 1848."

"THEO. H. McCALEB, U.S. Judge"

From this decree the United States appealed to this Court.

Page 52 U. S. 640

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