Irvine v. Marshall
61 U.S. 558 (1857)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Irvine v. Marshall, 61 U.S. 20 How. 558 558 (1857)

Irvine v. Marshall

61 U.S. (20 How.) 558

Syllabus

At a sale of public lands in a territory, an agent who purchased for another must account, as trustee, to his employer, although the statutes of the territory have abolished all resulting trusts.

The United States, being the owner of the public lands within the states and territories, have the right to say to whom, in what mode, and by what title, they shall be conveyed.

It promotes the public sales that agents should be allowed to attend and purchase under the usual responsibility of agents or trustees.

The control, enjoyment, and disposal by the United States of their own property is independent of the locality of such property, whether it be situated in a state or territory; nor are the contracts of the government with respect to subjects within its constitutional competency, local, or confined in their effects and operation strictly to the sites of the subjects to which they relate.

Although a certificate may be the subject of bargain and sale, yet the United States can take care that the conveyance shall be made to him who is in good faith their vendee.

The jurisdiction of the courts of the United States as courts of equity is ample to enforce the performance of trusts under both the Constitution and laws.

The United States can declare by Congress what the law shall be with respect to the public lands, and enforce that law through the judiciary department.

Although the officers of the land department may in practice, and as a rule of convenience, have received the certificate of purchase as evidence of title, yet neither that practice nor the certificate itself can control the power either of the United States or of this Court to adjudge or to confirm the title to the land to the true owner.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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