Delauriere v. Emison
56 U.S. 525 (1853)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Delauriere v. Emison, 56 U.S. 15 How. 525 525 (1853)

Delauriere v. Emison

56 U.S. (15 How.) 525

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI

Syllabus

The several acts of Congress passed in relation to claims to land in Missouri under Spanish concessions reserved such lands from sale from time to time. But there was an intermission of such legislation from the 29th of May, 1829, to the 9th of July, 1832, and during this interval, lands so claimed were upon the footing of other public lands as to sale, entry, and so forth.

By an Act of 6 March, 1820, 3 Stat. 545, Congress gave a certain amount of land to the State of Missouri, to be selected by the legislature thereof, on or before the 1st of January, 1825, and by another act, passed on the 3d of March, 1831, 4 Stat. 492, the legislature were authorized to sell this land.

Before the 1st of January, 1825, the legislature selected certain lands, which were then claimed under Spanish concessions, and reserved from sale under the acts of Congress first mentioned.

In November, 1831, the land so selected was sold by the legislature, in conformity with the act of Congress of the preceding March.

This sale having been made in the interval between May, 1829, and July, 1832, conveyed a valid title, although the claimant to the same land was subsequently confirmed in his title by Congress in 1836.

This was an action of ejectment brought by the plaintiff in error, Delauriere, against Emison. Both parties claimed titles under acts of Congress. The case was carried to the Supreme Court of Missouri, where the decision was against Delauriere, and he sued out a writ of error to bring the question before this Court.

Delauriere claimed under a Spanish concession, granted by Delassus and subsequently confirmed by Congress, and Emison under an act of Congress granting certain land to Missouri and sold by that state. The history of the laws relating to the adjustment of land titles in Missouri is given with great particularity in the report of the case of Stoddard v. Chambers, 2 How. 285. The following is the history of the two titles in this case, as exhibited in the court below:

Plaintiff's Title

The plaintiff claimed title by virtue of a concession from Carlos Dehault Delassus, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Louisiana,

Page 56 U. S. 526

to Louis Labeaume and Charles Fremon Delauriere, for 10,000 arpens of land, at a place called La Saline Ensanglantee (The Bloody Saline). The tract was surveyed by James Rankin, Deputy Surveyor, and certified by Antonio Soulard, Surveyor General. Fremon Delauriere and his family resided upon the land, and made salt upon it in 1800, and for several years afterwards. The claim was filed with the Recorder of Land Titles, before the 1st July, 1808, and was reserved from sale by the Acts of 3 March, 1811, and 17 February, 1818. It was confirmed to the claimants, or their legal representatives, by the Act of 4 July, 1836. Louis Labeaume conveyed his interest in the land to Fremon Delauriere, by a deed dated 15 July, 1806, and the present plaintiff purchased the entire interest of Fremon Delauriere at sheriff's sale.

Defendant's Title

The defendant set up a title derived from the United States as follows:

By the 6th section of an Act of Congress approved March 6, 1820, entitled "An act to authorize the people of Missouri territory to form a Constitution," &c., it was enacted that certain propositions be, and the same thereby were offered to the convention of said Territory of Missouri, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection, which, if accepted by the convention, should be obligatory upon the United States.

Among said propositions was one, as follows, viz.:

"That all salt springs, not exceeding twelve in number, with six sections of land adjoining to each, shall be granted to said state, for the use of said state, the same to be selected by the legislature of said state, on or before the 1st day of January, in the year 1825, and the same, when so selected, to be used under such terms, conditions, and regulations as the legislature of said state shall direct, provided that no salt spring, the right whereof now is, or hereafter shall be, confirmed or adjudged to any individual or individuals, shall by this section be granted to said state."

And provided also "That the legislature shall never sell or lease the same, at anyone time, for a longer period than ten years, without the consent of Congress." Story's Laws, vol. 3, 1762, 3 Stat. 3, p. 545. This, with all the other propositions, was duly accepted by said convention of Missouri, by an ordinance adopted July 19, 1820. Laws of Mo., by Edwards, vol. 1, p. 632. Six of said salt springs, with the sections of land adjoining, were selected by the Legislature of Missouri on or before the 12th day of January, 1822. The seventh, with the land adjoining, six sections, was selected December 14, 1822, by said legislature, as appears by an act approved

Page 56 U. S. 527

that day. Laws of Missouri of 1822, p. 59; Edwards' edition, vol. 1, p. 83.

Under this last act, and another approved the day next previous, commissioners were appointed for the purpose of selecting the remaining, with the six sections of land adjoining to each, to which the state was entitled under said act of Congress. Laws of Mo. by Edwards, vol. 1, p. 981.

These acts made it the duty of the commissioners to select five springs and adjoining lands, and make their report to the legislature at the next session, to commence the third Monday of November, 1824. They also made it the duty of the commissioners to file with the register of the land office of the district, where any salt spring might be selected, a notice of the same, and of the land adjoining each spring, describing as precisely as practicable the locality of the same. See § 4, Act December 13, 1822.

The commissioners were required to meet in the Town of Franklin on the first Monday in September, 1823, or as soon thereafter as might be, and from thence proceed to select the five salt springs and land adjoining. Laws of Missouri, 1822, p. 57, Edwards' ed. vol. 1, p. 983.

Said commissioners made the selections and reported to the next session of the legislature, as required, after which, but during that session, by an Act approved January 14, 1825, it was enacted as follows:

"That the following salt springs, with the lands adjoining to each, as hereinafter mentioned, the hereby declared to be selected and accepted for the use of this state; under the provisions of an act of the Congress of the United States, entitled 'An act to authorize the people of the Territory of Missouri to form a Constitution' (giving the full title of the act), approved the 6th day of March, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty, that is to say, 'First Section.'"

Then follows in regular order an enumeration and description of the entire twelve springs and the lands adjoining each, which had been selected at various times, as before stated.

The land in controversy in this suit, is a part of that selected through the commissioners appointed under said acts of 1822.

By an Act of the Legislature of Missouri approved January 15, 1831, entitled "An act to provide for the sale of the saline lands," it was enacted, so soon as Congress should raise the restriction thereon, and assent to the sale for the benefit of the state, the twelve salt springs, together with six sections of land attached thereto, obtained from the United States for the benefit of the state, the whole of the said lands should be offered for sale in a manner particularly described in said act. Laws of Missouri, by Edwards, vol. 2, p. 179.

Page 56 U. S. 528

By the 8th section of an Act of Congress, approved March 3, 1831, entitled "An act to create the office of surveyor of public lands for the State of Louisiana," it was enacted that

"The Legislature of said State of Missouri shall be, and is hereby, authorized to sell and convey in fee simple all or any part of the salt springs, not exceeding twelve in number, and six sections of land adjoining to each, granted to said state, by the United States, for the use thereof, and selected by the legislature of said state on or before the 1st day of January, 1825."

Story Laws, vol. 4, p. 2259; 4 Stat. 493, 494.

On the 29th day of November, 1831, the land in controversy was, in the mode prescribed by said act of the legislature of January 15, 1831, sold to James Emison, under whom the defendant holds, and patents therefor, from the State of Missouri, dated April 26, 1832, were duly executed to said Emison. The plaintiff asked for the following instructions, which the court refused to give, and to which refusal the plaintiff excepted:

"1st. That if the land in controversy had been, before the 20th day of December, 1803, conceded by the Spanish government to Fremon Delauriere and Louis Labeaume, and that said land had been surveyed before the 10th day of March, 1804, and that said Delauriere and Labeaume, or their legal representatives, had filed with the Recorder of Land Titles, prior to 1st of July, 1808, notice of said claims; then said claim was reserved, and could not be lawfully selected by the State of Missouri, under provisions of the Act of Congress of the 6th March, 1820, provided said claim of Fremon Delauriere and Louis Labeaume has since been confirmed."

"2d. That, by the Act of Congress of the 6th of March, 1820, the Legislature of Missouri could not lawfully select any land which had been, or was thereafter, confirmed or adjudged to any individual or individuals."

"3d. That, unless the Legislature of the State of Missouri made its selection of the land in question, on or before the 1st of January, 1825, it was illegal, and is not a valid title against a confirmation under the act of the 4th of July, 1836."

"4th. That the Act of Congress of the 3d March, 1831, conveys no title in any lands to the State of Missouri; said act only authorizes said states to sell, absolutely, lands already granted by the act of the 6th of March, 1820."

The defendant asked, and the court gave, the following instructions to the jury, to the giving of which the plaintiff excepted. The defendant, by his counsel, first moves the court to instruct the jury.

"1st. That if they believe, from the evidence in this cause, that the State of Missouri selected the land, on or before the 1st day

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of January, 1825, under the 2d clause of the 6th section of an Act of the Congress of the United States entitled 'An act to authorize the people of the Missouri territory to form a Constitution &c., approved the 6th of March, 1820,' and that said State of Missouri sold and patented the said land in controversy in fee simple to the said defendant, after the 3d day of March, 1831, and before the 9th day of July, 1832, they should find for the defendant."

"2d. That if they shall believe from the evidence, that said land was selected by the State of Missouri, under said act, on or before the 1st of January, 1825, and that said state afterwards, and between the 3d of March, 1831, and the 9th of July, 1832, sold and patented the said land to the defendant, they ought to find for the defendant, although they may believe the said land was confirmed to the plaintiff's landlord by the Act of July 4, 1836."

The jury found a verdict for the defendant, which the court refused to set aside, to which refusal the plaintiff excepted. The judgment of the circuit court was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, and the case was removed thence to this Court by writ of error.

Page 56 U. S. 535

MR. JUSTICE McLEAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff claims title by a Spanish concession to Lewis Labeaume and Charles Fremon Delauriere, for ten thousand arpens of land, at a place called La Saline Ensanglantee. The tract was surveyed and regularly certified by the Surveyor General. The plaintiff resided upon the land in 1800, and for several years afterwards.

The claim was filed with the Recorder of Land Titles before the 1st of July, 1808, and was reserved from sale by the acts of 3d March, 1811, and the 17th February, 1818. It was confirmed to the claimants, or their legal representatives, by the act of the 4th of July, 1836. Louis Labeaume conveyed his interest in the land, to Fremon Delauriere, by a deed dated 15th July, 1806; and the present plaintiff purchased the entire tract of Fremon Delauriere at sheriff's sale.

The defendant claims under an adverse title, derived from the State of Missouri. By an Act of Congress, approved the 6th of March, 1820, entitled "An act to authorize the people of Missouri Territory to form a state government, and for its admission into the Union," it was among other things provided -- that all salt springs not exceeding twelve in number, with six sections of land adjoining to each, shall be granted to the said state, the same to be selected by the legislature of the state, on or before the first day of January, 1825, and the same so selected, to be used under such terms, conditions, and regulations, as the legislature of such state shall direct &c.

By another act of Congress, approved 3 March, 1831, the Legislature of the State of Missouri were authorized to sell, in fee simple, the lands granted by the above act. Under this act the state sold the land in controversy to the defendant.

The questions arise under instructions prayed for by the

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plaintiff, and refused by the court, and also the instruction given on the prayer of the defendant.

"1. That if the land in controversy had been, before the 20th day of December, 1803, conceded by the Spanish government to Fremon Delauriere and Louis Labeaume, and that said land had been surveyed before the 10th March, 1804, and that said Delauriere and Labeaume, or their legal representatives, had filed with the Recorder of Land Titles, prior to the 1st July, 1808, notice of said claim, then said claim was reserved, and could not lawfully be selected by the State of Missouri under the provisions of the Act of Congress of 6 March, 1820, provided said claim of Fremon and Labeaume has since been confirmed."

"2. That by the Act of Congress of 6 March, 1820, the Legislature of Missouri could not lawfully select any land which had been, or was thereafter, confirmed or adjudged to any individual or individuals."

"3. That unless the Legislature of the State of Missouri made its selection of the land in question on or before the 1st of January, 1825, it was illegal, and is not a valid title against a confirmation under the Act of 4 July, 1836."

"4. The Act of Congress of 3 March, 1831, conveys no title to any lands to the State of Missouri. Said act only authorizes the state to sell, absolutely, lands already granted by the Act of 6 of March, 1820."

"The defendant, by his counsel, moves the court to instruct the jury that if they believe from the evidence in this cause that the State of Missouri selected the land in controversy on or before the first day of January, 1825, under the second clause of the 6th section of an Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled 'An act to authorize the people of the Missouri Territory to form a Constitution,' &c., approved 6 March, 1820, and that said State of Missouri sold and patented the said land in controversy, in fee simple, to the said defendant, after the 3d day of March, 1831, and before the 9th day of July, 1832, they should find for the defendant. That it they shall believe, from the evidence, that said land was selected by the state under said act on or before the first day of January, 1825, and that said state afterwards, and between the 3d of March, 1831, and the 9th of July, 1832, sold and patented the said land to the defendant, although they may believe the said land was confirmed to the plaintiffs' landlord by the Act of 4 July, 1836."

And this instruction was given by the court.

We think the court did not err in refusing the instructions prayed by the plaintiff, nor in giving that which was asked by the defendant.

Page 56 U. S. 537

Notice of the plaintiff's claim was, on the 30th of June, 1808, given to the Recorder of Land Titles for the Territory of Louisiana, and the grant, survey, and title papers, were filed with the recorder and duly recorded.

On the 27th of December, 1811, the claim was taken up for consideration by the board of commissioners for the adjustment of land titles under the Act of March 2, 1805, and rejected.

The claim was again presented to the board of commissioners, organized in pursuance of the Act of Congress of July 9, 1832, and afterwards, on the 13th of November, 1833, the board were unanimously of the opinion, that the claim ought to be confirmed to the said Charles F. Delauriere and L. Labeaume, or their legal representatives, according to the concession.

This proceeding of the commissioners was reported to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and on the 18th of January, 1834, it was communicated to Congress, and the decision was confirmed by the Act of Congress of July 4, 1836.

By the Act of 2 March, 1805, all persons claiming land under the French or Spanish government, were required to file their claim in the land office -- and by the Act of 3 March, 1807, the time was extended to 1 July, 1808. By the Act of 15 February, 1811, the President was authorized to have the lands which had been surveyed in Louisiana, offered for sale -- reserving those tracts for which claims had been filed in the land office, as above required, till after the decision of Congress thereon. The same reservation was contained in the Act of 17 February, 1818.

The Act of 26 May, 1824, authorized claimants, under French or Spanish grants, concessions, warrants, or orders of survey in Missouri, issued before the 10th of March, 1804, to file their petitions in the district courts of the United States, for the confirmation of their claims. And every claimant was declared by the same act to be barred, who did not file his petition in two years. By the Act of 24 May, 1828, the time for filing petitions was extended to 26 May, 1829. On the 9 of July, 1832, an act was passed, "for the final adjustment of land titles in Missouri" which provided that the Recorder of Land Titles, with two commissioners, to be appointed, should examine all the unconfirmed claims to land in Missouri, which had heretofore been filed in the office of the said recorder, according to law, prior to 10 March, 1804.

On the 29th of November, 1831, the land in controversy was, in the mode prescribed by Act of the Legislature of Missouri of the 15th January, 1831, sold to Emison, under whom the defendant holds, and a patent was duly issued by the state.

The reservation under the act of 1811, was extended by the

Page 56 U. S. 538

act of 17 February, 1818, to the Act of 26 of May, 1824, which authorized claimants to file a petition in the district court -- and this right was limited to two years; it was afterwards extended to the 26th of May, 1829. The reservation then expired, or in other words, the bar to the right was interposed. On the 9th of July, 1832, a further provision was made for the adjustment of such claims. But after the interposition of the bar, and before the passage of the act of 1832, the land in controversy was purchased from the State of Missouri, and a patent obtained. During this period there was no protection to the inchoate right of the original claimants. When the State of Missouri selected the land it was reserved from sale, but that impediment was removed, when the limitation expired in 1829.

The confirmation of the claim by Congress, in 1836, had relation back to the origin of the title; but it could not impair rights which had accrued, when the land was unprotected by a reservation from sale, and when in fact the right of the claimant was barred. This point was settled in the cases of Stoddard v. Chambers, 2 How. 285; and of Mills v. Stoddard, 8 How. 345.

As the instructions prayed by the plaintiff in the state court, were in conflict with the law as above stated, they were properly overruled, and as the instruction given at the instance of the defendant was substantially in accordance with the above views, it was correct. The adjustment of the state court is therefore

Affirmed with costs.

Order

This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered and adjudged by this Court, that the judgment of the said supreme court in this cause be, and the same is hereby, affirmed, with costs.

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