Christy v. Scott
55 U.S. 282 (1852)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Christy v. Scott, 55 U.S. 14 How. 282 282 (1852)

Christy v. Scott

55 U.S. (14 How.) 282

Syllabus

In Texas, the technical forms of pleading, fixed by the common law, are dispensed with, but the principles which regulate the merits of a trial by ejectment and the substance of a plea of title to such an action are preserved.

Therefore, where the plaintiff fled a petition alleging that he was seised in his demesne as of fee of land from which the defendant had ejected him, and the defendant pleaded, that if the plaintiff had any paper title, it was under a certain grant which was not valid, this plea was bad.

So also was a plea denying the right of the plaintiff to receive his title because be was not then a citizen of Texas. These pleas would have been appropriate objections to the plaintiff's title when produced upon the trial.

So also where, under a plea of the statute of limitations, the defendant claimed certain land by metes and bound and disclaimed all not included within them. There is nothing to show that the land so included, was part of the land claimed by the plaintiff.

So also where the plea was in substance that the plaintiff had no good title against Texas, no title in the defendant being shown. For the action may have been maintainable although the true title was not in the plaintiff.

These four cases all involved the same principles, and were covered by the decision in Scott's Case. It is necessary, therefore, to set out the pleadings in that case.

Christy filed his petition alleging that he was seised in his demesne as of fee in a certain tract or parcel of land, which he described by metes and bounds, from which Scott ejected him, and praying judgment for damages and for the recovery of the lands.

Scott filed the following answer:

"And now comes the said defendant, and answering the petition of the plaintiff, says that he denies all and singular the allegations in the said petition, and prays that the plaintiff be held to strict proof of the same."

"2. And as to the trespasses and ejectments, or either or any of them, complained of by [the] plaintiff in his petition, the defendant says he is not guilty, and puts himself upon the country &c."

"3. And the defendant further says that as to the pretended grant or title of the plaintiff to the land described in his petition, if any paper title he has the same bears date, to-wit, the twentieth day of September, A.D. 1835, and the land described

Page 55 U. S. 283

in said pretended grant or title and in said petition is and was at the date of said grant situated in the twenty frontier leagues bordering on the United [states] line, and said pretended grant was made without the approbation or assent of the executive of the national government of Mexico."

"4. And the said defendant further answers and says that if any such grant or title was made as by said plaintiff is pretended, the same was made, as by said plaintiff's pretended grant appears, on, to-wit, the twentieth day of September, A.D. 1835, and was not made by any public officer, commissioner, or authority, then, to-wit, at the date of said pretended grant or title, existing in the State of Coahuila and Texas, competent to make the same."

"5. And the said defendant further says that the plaintiff claims the land sued for under and through a pretended grant from the government of the State of Coahuila and Texas, made to one Miguel Arceniega, as a Mexican and purchaser, and purporting to have been procured for the said Arceniega by one William G. Logan as his agent. And the defendant says that the said pretended grant or title of the plaintiff to the land sued for is not valid in law, because the same was procured from the government of the State of Coahuila and Texas by fraud in this, that the said Miguel Arceniega and the said William G. Logan combined and confederated together for the purpose of evading the law then in force allowing the sale of lands to Mexicans and to them only, and falsely and fraudulently represented to the said government that the application by said Arceniega for the said grant of land was really and bona fide made for him by the said Logan, and that the said Arceniega was to be the real purchaser of said land, and to hold and enjoy the same as a Mexican citizen, while in truth the said Arceniega fraudulently permitted the said Logan to use his name and in his name procure the said grant solely for the use and benefit of him, the said Logan, who was not at the time of procuring said grant a Mexican citizen, and who, by the false and fraudulent practices aforesaid, procured the said grant and appropriated the land granted to his the said Logan's own use and benefit."

"6. And the said defendant says that the plaintiff claims the premises described in his petition by a pretended grant purporting to have been made by authority of the government of the State of Coahuila and Texas to Miguel Arceniega bearing date, to-wit, the twentieth day of September, A.D. 1835, and that the said pretended grant was made upon the conditions that the said Arceniega, or the person or persons to whom he might alienate the land in said grant described, should cultivate the same within six years from the acquisition thereof by said

Page 55 U. S. 284

pretended title and pay for said land the price established by law. And the defendant says that the said Arceniega, and those claiming said land under him, wholly failed to comply with said conditions."

"7. And the said defendant says that the said plaintiff claims the land described in his petition under and through a pretended grant purporting to have been made to one Miguel Arceniega by authority of the government of the State of Coahuila and Texas, bearing date, to-wit, the twentieth day of September, A.D. 1835, and under and through a pretended claim of transfers from said Arceniega to plaintiff, and that within six years from the date of said pretended grant, and before the annexation of Texas to the United States, the said pretended transfers were made to said plaintiff, and that the plaintiff was not at the date of said pretended grant to him, and previous thereto had never been, a resident citizen of Texas or Mexico, but was then and thence hitherto continued to be a resident and citizen of the United States of America, owing and paying allegiance to the government thereof."

"8. And the said defendant, further answering, says that he is the owner of the following tracts or parcels of land, to-wit, [setting out a tract of land by metes and bounds, but without saying whether or not it was the land claimed by the plaintiff], and the defendant says that his possession of the said land is by virtue of the authority and title of the said John Graves and as claimant under said Graves, and the said defendant says that he and the said Graves, under whom he claims as to the said last-mentioned tract of land, and that he, in his own right and those under whom he claims, as to the several parcels of land above described, have had peaceable adverse possession of said several tracts of land, claiming the same by virtue of the certificates and files aforesaid and the surveys aforesaid, with chains of legal transfers from the government down to this defendant, and to those under whom he claims, for more than three years next before the commencement of this suit, and the defendant disclaims ownership and possession of any portion of the land described in plaintiff's petition not included in the metes and bounds of the several tracts and parcels above set forth."

"9. Said defendant further says that the land claimed by plaintiff in his petition is located within the territory designated as the twenty frontier leagues, bordering on the United States of the North, in the Act of the Congress of the Republic of Texas approved January 9, 1841, and entitled 'An act to quiet the land titles within the twenty frontier leagues bordering on the United States of the North,' and is claimed by plaintiff by virtue of said location made prior to the seventeenth day of

Page 55 U. S. 285

March, A.D. 1836, and that said plaintiff, and those under whom he claims said land, did not commence an action to try the validity of said claim within twelve months from the passage of the act aforesaid."

"And the defendant suggests to the court that he has had adverse possession in good faith of the said several tracts or parcels of land, for more than one year next before the commencement of this suit, and that during said possession he has made permanent and valuable improvements in the same consisting of, to-wit, one thousand acres, cleared and fenced, and divers good dwelling houses, gin-houses, barns, corn-cribs, orchards, outhouses &c., of great value, to-wit, of the value of ten thousand dollars."

The plaintiff then filed the following replications and demurrers:

"2. And the plaintiff, by attorney, comes, and as to the plea by the defendant, secondly by him in his answer pleaded, whereof said defendant puts himself upon the country, he, said plaintiff, doth the like."

"Demurrer [to 3d plea]"

"And the said plaintiff, by attorney, comes and says precludi non by reason of anything in the defendant's third plea in his said answer pleaded, because he says the said plea, and the matters and things therein contained, are not sufficient in law to bar and preclude him from having and maintaining his action aforesaid, and this he is ready to verify, wherefore, he prays judgment &c."

"And for cause of demurrer according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, the said plaintiff sets down and shows the following, to-wit: "

"1. The said plea in bar of plaintiff's action attempts to set up the want of the approbation or assent of the executive of the national government of Mexico, to the issuance of a grant within the twenty border leagues, when the national colonization law, under which is sought the benefit of this bar, contains no prohibition to the issuance of said grant; but if, at the time of the issuance of said grant, there was any such prohibition, it only extended to making settlements within said border leagues."

"2. The said plea in bar of plaintiff's action attempts to set up the issuance of a grant under which the plaintiff claims, dated 20 September, 1835, without the approbation of the supreme executive of Mexico, within the border leagues, but does not show the nature or kind of said grant, so as to enable the court to judge of its validity. "

Page 55 U. S. 286

"3. And the said plea is in other respects defective, informal, and insufficient &c."

"Replication [to 4th plea]"

"4. And for replication to the fourth plea by the said defendant in his said answer pleaded, the said plaintiff says precludi non because he says the grant under which the plaintiff claims was issued by an authority, at the time of the issuance of the same, in the State of Coahuila and Texas, existing and competent to issue the same, and this, he prays, may be inquired of by the country."

"Replication [to 5th plea]"

"5. And for replication to the fifth plea by the said defendant in his said answer pleaded, the said plaintiff says precludi non because he says that the said grant, under which the said plaintiff claims, was not obtained or procured to be issued by fraudulent misrepresentations, as in the said plea alleged, and this, he prays, may be inquired of by the country."

"Demurrer [to 6th plea]"

"6. And as to the sixth plea by the said defendant in his said answer pleaded, the said plaintiff says precludi non because he says the said plea and the matters and things therein contained are not sufficient in law to bar and preclude said plaintiff from having and maintaining his action aforesaid, and this he is ready to verify, wherefore he prays judgment &c."

"And for cause of demurrer, according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, the said plaintiff sets down and shows the following, to-wit: "

"1. The conditions set forth in the said plea as those upon which said grant was issued, as is manifest by the said plea, were conditions subsequent, of which the defendant cannot take advantage upon a failure in their performance."

"2. A failure to perform the conditions in said plea set out might have been cause of the forfeiture of the estate passed by said grant in said plea, set out on a proceeding in behalf of the state, but this is no reason why the defendant, before forfeiture declared, should, against the plaintiff, retain possession of the estate in said grant mentioned."

"3. And the said plea is, in other respects, defective, informal, and insufficient &c."

"Demurrer [to 7th plea]"

"7. And as to the seventh plea by the said defendant in his said answer pleaded, the said plaintiff says precludi non because he says the said plea and the matters and things therein

Page 55 U. S. 287

contained are not sufficient in law to bar and preclude him from having and maintaining his action aforesaid, and this he is ready to verify; wherefore he prays judgment &c."

"And for cause of demurrer according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, the said plaintiff sets down and shows the following, to-wit: "

"1. The said plea in bar avers that the estate in the premises in the said petition mentioned was transferred to said plaintiff while and during the time he was a citizen of the United States of America and owing allegiance to the same and an alien to the Republic of Texas, yet shows no forfeiture declared on office found so as to divest the estate vested by said transfer."

"2. And the said plea is in other respects defective, informal, and insufficient &c."

"Replication [to 8th plea]"

"Withdrawn, and the following demurrer substituted: "

"And now, at this term, comes the plaintiff, by his attorney and, by leave of the court first had and obtained, withdraws his replication to the eighth plea by the defendant in this behalf pleaded and says precludi non by reason of anything in the said defendant's eighth plea in this behalf pleaded because he says the said plea, and the matters and things therein contained, are not sufficient in law to bar and preclude him from having and maintaining his action aforesaid, and this he is ready to verify, wherefore he prays judgment &c."

"And for causes of demurrer, according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, the said plaintiff sets down and shows the following, to-wit: "

"1. The said plea avers that the said defendant, and a certain John Graves, under whom he, the said defendant claims as to a part of the land in said plea mentioned, had and still held peaceable possession of the same for more than three years next before the commencement of this suit under color of title, when, to produce a bar within the statute in such case made and provided, a possession, under the circumstances, and within the time prescribed by said statutes, by said defendant alone, should have been set up."

"2. The said defendant by said plea avers that as to a part of the lands in said plea specified, the title is yet outstanding in a certain John Graves; yet the said defendant, by his said plea as to said land, attempts to set up in bar, by reason of possession of the same for three years, under color of title, next before the commencement of plaintiff's action."

"3. The said defendant, by his said plea, avers that a portion of the land in said plea specified, and of which he, said defendant,

Page 55 U. S. 288

claims to be the owner, by virtue of his, said defendant's, own head right certificate, has not been surveyed, as by law required, to vest title in the same in said defendant; yet said defendant, as to the same, by his said plea, attempts to set up in bar an adverse possession, for three years next before commencement of plaintiff's action, under color of title."

"4. The said defendant, by his said plea, does not aver that he, said defendant, was ever an actual settler upon the said land of which, by his said plea, he claims to be in adverse possession."

"5. Though the said defendant, by his said plea, attempts to set up in bar an adverse possession, under color of title, for three years next before commencement of plaintiff's action herein, yet he does not show that said color of title was duly proven and recorded."

"6. The said defendant, by his said plea, attempts to set up in bar of plaintiff's action adverse possession, under color of title, for three years next before the commencement of said plaintiff's said action, when, by the purview of the statutes in such case made and provided, there can be no such bar; but if any, the bar must be by such adverse possession, under such color of title, for three years next after cause of action accrued, and before commencement of action."

"7. The said plea, though in bar, does not make any case by which the plaintiff is barred of his action by reason of any possession adverse within the terms of the statute in such case made and provided."

"8. And the said plea is, in other respects, defective, informal, and insufficient &c."

"Demurrer [to 9th plea]"

"9. And as to the ninth plea, by the said defendant in his said answer pleaded, the said plaintiff says precludi non because he says the said plea, and the matters and things therein contained are not sufficient in law to bar and preclude him, said plaintiff, from having and maintaining his action aforesaid, and this he is ready to verify; wherefore he prays judgment &c."

"And for cause of demurrer, according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, the said plaintiff sets out and shows the following, to-wit: "

"1. The act of Congress, referred to in said plea, at the time of the approval thereof, since and now was not and is not the law of the land."

"2. The said act of Congress was made and intended to impair the obligation of contracts."

"3. And the said plea is in other respects defective, informal, and insufficient &c. "

Page 55 U. S. 289

In this state of the pleadings, the cause was called for trial, when the following judgment was rendered:

"This day came the parties aforesaid by their attorneys, and the questions of law arising upon the demurrers of the plaintiff to the third, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth pleas by the defendant in his answer pleaded having been argued and submitted, because it seems to the court that the law is for the defendant, it is therefore considered by the court that the said demurrers be overruled, and the plaintiff stating that he intended to abide by his demurrers, it is further considered by the court that the defendant go hence without day, and that he recover of the plaintiff his costs by him about his defense in this behalf expended, to be taxed by the clerk"

&c.

The counsel for the plaintiff then filed the following argument of errors:

"1. The defendant's third plea, by him in his answer pleaded, attempts to set up, in bar of plaintiff's action, the issuance of the grant under which the plaintiff claims, without the approbation of the executive of the Republic of Mexico, when, by the law of the State of Coahuila and Texas, under which said grant was issued, there was no prohibition to the issuance of said grant without such approbation, and the said fact pleaded is no bar; yet the said court overruled the plaintiff's demurrer to said plea, and gave judgment for defendant when said demurrer, according to the rules of law, should have been sustained."

"2. The said defendant, by his sixth plea in his said answer pleaded, attempts to set up, in bar of the plaintiff's action aforesaid, the nonperformance of conditions subsequent, without showing re entry, or other mode of enforcing a forfeiture of the estate granted; yet the court overruled the plaintiff's demurrer to said plea, when, according to the rules of law, the same should have been sustained."

"3. The said defendant, by his seventh plea in his answer pleaded, attempts to set up in bar of plaintiff's action the fact, that the lands claimed and sued for by the plaintiff in his petition described were sold and transferred to the said plaintiff while and during the time he was a citizen of the United States of America, owing allegiance to the same and an alien to the Republic of Texas, without showing any office found or forfeiture declared in any manner whatever; yet the court overruled the plaintiff's demurrer to said plea when, according to the rules of law, the same should have been sustained."

"4. The said defendant, by his eighth plea in his said answer pleaded, insists upon a bar, by and under the fifteenth section of an Act of Congress of the Republic of Texas, entitled 'An act of limitations,' approved February 5, 1841, but by said

Page 55 U. S. 290

plea does not show or allege that he was a settler on the land in question, having had and held continuous adverse possession of the same, under title duly proven and recorded or under color of title for three years next after cause of action accrued, and before action brought, as by the rules of law he should have done, yet the said court overruled the plaintiff's demurrer to said plea when, according to the rules of law, it should have been sustained."

"5. The said defendant, by his ninth plea in his answer pleaded, attempts to set up in bar of plaintiff's action the failure to commence action within twelve months after the passage of an Act by the Congress of the Republic of Texas, entitled 'An act to quiet land titles within the twenty frontier leagues bordering on the United States of the North,' to try the validity of the grant under which plaintiff claims, when it is apparent that said grant, under which plaintiff claims, was a perfect, and not an imperfect or inchoate, title, and as to which the government of the Republic of Texas had no legitimate power or authority to require or prescribe the commencement of any suit in the form or manner the same was prescribed, to try the validity of the title vested by said grant, or create a bar in consequence of a failure to commence said suit; yet the demurrer to said plea was overruled by said court, when the same, according to the rules of law, should have been sustained."

The plaintiff then sued out a writ of error, and brought the case up to this Court.

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