Cunningham v. Ashley - 55 U.S. 377 (1852)
U.S. Supreme Court
Cunningham v. Ashley, 55 U.S. 14 How. 377 377 (1852)
Cunningham v. Ashley
55 U.S. (14 How.) 377
On the 25th of December, 1824, Cunningham applied to the land office at Batesville, in Arkansas, to become the purchaser of a quarter section of land under a Cherokee certificate which had become vested in him.
This application was refused upon the ground that two New Madrid certificates had been laid upon the land in 1820. The right under these certificates was claimed by Ashley.
In 1830, Cunningham said that Brumbach had an improvement on the same quarter section, which Brumbach assigned to Ashley. The law sanctioned the division of a quarter section under such circumstances.
In 1831, Cunningham claimed a preemption right under the Act of 29 May, 1830. The claims under this act and under the Cherokee float were not inconsistent with each other.
In 1838, two floats were entered upon the same quarter section, viz., one by Plummer, for the east half of it, under the act of 1830, and the supplemental act of 1832; the other for the west half by Jenbeau, under the act of 1834 and the circular of the General Land Office of 1837. Patents were issued, and the title became vested in Ashley.
The title of Cunningham is better than that derived from these floats. The title under the New Madrid certificates is not decided in this case or affected in any way by the decision. Cunningham is therefore entitled to the half of the quarter section which he claimed separately from Brumbach.
The patent obtained by Ashley and Beche, being founded upon entries which were void, are void also so far as they interfere with the preemptive right of Cunninghim.
The facts in the case were numerous and complicated, and a statement of the principal ones is given in the opinion of the Court. It would not throw light upon any general principle if the reporter were to give a more particular account of the long series of acts which the respective parties considered to be the foundation of their respective titles. Nor would it be possible to explain the arguments of counsel, commenting on contradictory testimony, without a previous and detailed history of the transactions of twenty years. One of the briefs filed in the cause was upwards of seventy printed pages. The opinion of the Court has given a selection of the leading facts in the case, so that its merits upon both sides can be clearly understood.