Gaines v. Hennen
65 U.S. 553

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gaines v. Hennen, 65 U.S. 553 (1860)

Gaines v. Hennen

65 U.S. 553

Syllabus

Since the case of Mrs. Gaines was before this Court, as reported in 53 U. S. 12 How. 537, the olographic will made by Daniel Clark in 1813 was ordered by the Supreme Court of Louisiana to be admitted to probate notwithstanding its loss.

The judgment of the supreme court of that state is coincident with the conclusions of this Court upon the testimony which related to the execution by Mr. Clark of his olographic will of 1813 and of the concealment or destruction of it after his death.

This will declared Mrs. Gaines to be his legitimate and only daughter, and universal legatee.

In the bill filed by Mrs. Gaines to recover the property sold by the executors appointed by a former will of 1811, it was not necessary to make these executors parties. The reasons stated.

It was not necessary formally to set aside the will of 1811 before proceeding under that of 1813. Anyone who desired to contest this latter will in a direct action was not concluded from doing so.

The title of Mrs. Gaines is not barred by prescription, as defined by the law of Louisiana. The reasons explained.

The decision of this Court in 53 U. S. 12 How. 473, did not overrule the decision in 47 U. S. 6 How. 550. The two cases explained.

The case in 12 Howard cannot be set up as a defense in the present case as

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being res judicata. They are dissimilar as to parties and things sued for, or what is called the object of the judgment.

The paper misnamed the ecclesiastical record, purporting to be an acquittal of Des Grange of bigamy, is not admissible evidence in this case. But if it was so, it would neither of itself, nor in connection with all that is evidence in the record, serve to prove the adulterous bastardy of the complainant, as the rule of evidence requires that to be done, in opposition to the testamentary declaration of her father, in his own handwriting, that she was his legitimate and only daughter, and, as such, by him constituted his universal legatee.

The charge of adulterous bastardy, as made by the defendant, is not in response to the complainant's bill, but is an affirmative allegation of a fact by them, and the burthen of proof is upon them to establish it in contradiction to the declaration of her father, in his written will, that she was his legitimate child.

The paper or record, as called, is not that of a legally constituted tribunal, according to either the ecclesiastical usages or the laws of Spain, as they prevailed in Louisiana at any time when that province was a part of the dominion of Spain. And neither the Canon Hasset, the alcalde Caisergues, nor the Notary Franco Bermudez, had either individual or conjoined authority to take cognizance of a charge of bigamy in the way it was done.

The difference explained between the case now before the court and that which was heretofore presented. If it had been proved, which it never was that Mrs. Gaines was the offspring of an illicit intercourse, still she could take as universal legatee, from her father's testamentary declaration of her legitimacy.

The Code of Louisiana makes a distinction between acknowledged natural children and adulterine children; allowing the former to take as legatees, but not allowing the latter to do so, except to a small amount.

But the legal relations of adulterous bastardy do not arise in this case. The law examined relative to putative marriages, which are where, in cases of bigamy, both parents, or either of them, contracted the second marriage in good faith. The issue of such a marriage is legitimate.

The Louisiana cases, the Spanish law, and the Code Napoleon, examined as bearing upon this point, and the principles established by them applied to the present case.

Clark, the father, was capable of contracting marriage; the consequence examined of his testamentary recognition of his child's legitimacy.

The evidence examined which is supposed to sustain the position that the connection between Clark and Zulime Carriere was adulterous, so as to bar the offspring from taking as a legatee under her father's will. The evidence declared to be sufficient in a civil suit to establish the fact that Des Grange committed bigamy when he married Zulime.

The difference explained between the evidence which is sufficient to establish the charge of bigamy in a civil suit and that necessary to establish it in a criminal prosecution.

The evidence of Coxe and Bellechasse examined, and also that relating to the parentage of Caroline Barnes.

Page 65 U. S. 555

The effect examined of the record from the County court of New Orleans, in which Zulime prayed for a divorce from Des Grange, and also of the testimony to prove her marriage with Clark.

Whether she married in good faith or not, the weight of testimony is that Clark did so, and therefore Mrs. Gaines is entitled to inherit her father's estate under the olographic will of 1813.

The case had been frequently before this Court in various aspects; first, in 38 U. S. 13 Pet. 404, then in 40 U. S. 15 Pet. 9, 43 U. S. 2 How. 619, 47 U. S. 6 How. 552. In some of these reports large extracts are made from the record, illustrating the points of law and fact then under consideration, and also the evidence in support of them. All of this past history was brought again to the notice of the Court in the argument of the present case, which cannot be again recited in the present report. The reader who wishes to understand all the points which are discussed in the opinion of the Court must turn back to the preceding volumes above cited, and follow the case through its successive developments. He will then be able to appreciate the concluding remark in the opinion of the Court, which is as follows:

"When hereafter some distinguished American lawyer shall retire from his practice to write the history of his country's jurisprudence, this case will be registered by him as the most remarkable in the records of its courts. "

Page 65 U. S. 556

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