Christy v. Pridgeon
71 U.S. 196 (1866)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Christy v. Pridgeon, 71 U.S. 4 Wall. 196 196 (1866)

Christy v. Pridgeon

71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 196

Syllabus

1. The Mexican colonization law of August 18, 1824, though general to the Republic of Mexico, was, so far as it affected lands within the limits of Texas after the independence of that country, a local law of the new state, as much so as if it had originated in her legislation. The interpretation, therefore, placed on it by the highest court of the state must be accepted as the true interpretation, so far as it applies to titles to lands in that state, whatever may be the opinion of this Court of its original soundness. If in courts of other states carved out of territory since acquired from Mexico a different interpretation has been adopted, the courts of the United States will follow the different ruling, so far as it affects titles in those states.

2. The interpretation within the jurisdiction of a state of a local law becomes a part of that law, as much so as if incorporated in the body of

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it by the legislature. If different interpretations are given in different states to a similar law, that law in effect becomes, by the interpretations, so far as it is a rule for action by this Court, a different law in one state from what it is in the other.

By the Mexican colonization law of August 18, 1824, and the legislation of Coahuila and Texas authorized by it, the governor of the state just mentioned had power to grant lands for colonization, but it was declared that the territory comprised within twenty leagues of the boundaries of a foreign nation or within ten leagues of the seacoast could not be colonized without the previous approval of the supreme executive power.

In this state of the law, one Miguel Arceniga, a resident of Bexar, made his petition for concession of eleven leagues of land. The petition was dated March 31, 1831, and the concession of the Governor granting the quantity asked for was made on the 6th of April of the same year, accompanied with a direction to the proper local officers to give possession of the land to the grantee and to issue to him the proper title. Neither document designated the land. A petition to the alcalde for survey, possession, and title of the eleven leagues in the vicinity of the "Red River of the Nachitoches" was followed by the appropriate action of the officer for that purpose, and on the 22d of September, 1835, by the issue to the grantee of a formal certificate of possession and title of the land thus situated. This was before the annexation of Texas to the United States, and the land thus granted laid within twenty leagues of what was then the northern boundary between Texas and the United States. Texas having become part of the Union, one Christy, claiming under the grantee, brought trespass to try title for these eleven leagues, now situated in Harrison County, Texas.

The court ruled that the grant being issued without the previous assent or approval of the supreme executive power of Mexico was illegal and void, and excluded it from the jury. Thereupon, the jury found for the defendant. The

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alleged error in this ruling was the only question before this Court.

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