Doe v. Wilson - 64 U.S. 457 (1859)

U.S. Supreme Court

Doe v. Wilson, 64 U.S. 23 How. 457 457 (1859)

Doe v. Wilson

64 U.S. (23 How.) 457


In a treaty made with the Pottawatomie Indians in 1832, there were reservations to individual Indians, which should be selected under the direction of the President of the United States, "after the land shall have been surveyed, and the boundaries shall correspond with the public surveys."

Before this was done, one of these reservees made a conveyance by a deed in fee simple, with a clause of general warranty. In 1837, patents were issued for the reservations.

This deed vested the title of the reservee in the grantee. The former was a tenant in common with the United States, and could sell his reserved interest,

Page 64 U. S. 458

and when the United States selected the lands reserved to him, and made partition, of which the patent is conclusive evidence, his grantee took the interest which the reservee would have taken if living.

A prayer to the court that the land patented was not the same as that reserved was properly refused because the recital in the patent was conclusive evidence to the contrary.

This was an ejectment brought by Mann, a citizen of New York, and Hannah, a citizen of Iowa, against Wilson, to recover sections nine and ten, in township 35, range 4 west, in the County of Laporte in Indiana.

The important question involved in the case may perhaps be more distinctly presented to the reader by a chronological order of events than by a recital of the titles offered upon the trial by the plaintiffs and defendant, respectively.

In October, 1832, treaties were made with the Pottawatomie Indians by which the Indians ceded to the United States certain tracts of land therein described, except certain reservations to the Indians, amongst which was one to Pet-chi-co, of two sections. The language of the reservation was:

"The United States agree to grant to each of the following persons the quantity of land annexed to their names, which lands shall be conveyed to them by patent."

To Pet-chi-co two sections &c.

Then followed this sentence:

"The foregoing reservations shall be selected under the direction of the President of the United States after the lands shall have been surveyed, and the boundaries to correspond with the public surveys."

7 Stat. 394, 395.

In February, 1833, Pet-chi-co made a deed to Coquillard and Colerick, with a general warranty, conveying "all of those two sections of land lying and being in the state aforesaid" &c.

Before the lands were selected or located by the President, and before any patent issued, Pet-chi-co died.

In January, 1837, patents were issued to Pet-chi-co and his heirs for the two sections mentioned in the treaty. They recited

Page 64 U. S. 459

that "whereas, by the third article of the treaty made in October, 1832, the United States agreed to grant to Pet-chi-co two sections, therefore" &c.

In 1854, certain persons obtained a deed from the heirs of Pet-chi-co, and under this deed the plaintiffs below, who were also plaintiffs in error, claimed upon the ground that the deed from Pet-chi-co in 1833 was invalid. Wilson claimed under the latter deed. The leading question in the case was therefore whether Pet-chi-co had a right to make the deed when it was made.

In the course of the trial below, many exceptions were taken respecting matters of evidence, and many prayers to the court made, in so much that the counsel for the plaintiffs in error, after many other points, enumerated twenty-six distinct causes of error. It is not necessary to mention these. The rulings of the circuit court upon the two following points are sufficient for the purpose of the present report:

4. If Pet-chi-co, between the ratification of the treaty and the issuing of the patents, sold and conveyed the land in controversy by a sufficient deed of conveyance, with covenants of warranty, to Coquillard and Colerick, and their assigns, then the patents when issued, as to the assignees, related back to and took effect from the ratification of the treaty.

5. If, before the issuing of the patents to Pet-chi-co, he had, by a legal and valid instrument, assigned to Coquillard and Colerick his interest in the lands which were to be granted to him under the treaty of October, 1832, and if Colerick had in like manner assigned his interest to Coquillard, and if Coquillard had in like manner assigned to Wilson, then, by virtue of the Act of Congress of May 20, 1836, the patents when issued inured to the benefit of Wilson and vested the legal title to the land in him, although Pet-chi-co may have died before its date.

The verdict being for the defendant, the plaintiffs brought the case up to this Court.

Page 64 U. S. 461

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