Maguire v. Tyler
75 U.S. 650 (1869)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Maguire v. Tyler, 75 U.S. 8 Wall. 650 650 (1869)

Maguire v. Tyler

75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 650

Syllabus

1. When the documentary evidence of title produced by a claimant of an incomplete title to land in the territory ceded by France in 1803 contains no sufficient boundary lines marking, a definite parcel of land so as to sever it from the public domain, the concession, in such case, creates no right of private property which can be asserted in a court of justice without an antecedent survey and location.

2. Although there are cases in which it has been held that when there had been a confirmation of an incomplete title, and a subsequent confirmation of another claim to the same land, that the elder confirmation defeated

Page 75 U. S. 651

the younger, yet as between two claimants setting up distinct imperfect titles under the former government to the same parcel of land, the courts have no jurisdiction to determine the controversy. The political power alone is competent to determine to which the perfect title shall be made.

3. While Congress may confirm such claims without previously ascertaining the boundaries, they have not thought it proper to do so, but have organized boards of commissioners to adjudicate such claims, and provided for surveys.

4. When there is a specific tract of land confirmed according to ascertained boundaries, the legal effect of confirmation is to establish the right and locate the claim. But it is otherwise when the claim has no certain limits, and the confirmation is on the condition that the land is to be surveyed.

5. When a patent has issued to one who protests against the survey on which it is made, and the record shows that he never accepted it, the Secretary of the Interior may recall it.

6. When the decree of a state court sought to be reversed is silent as to the ground upon which it was rendered, jurisdiction under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act is maintainable if the case shows that federal questions were involved, though it also appears that there were other defenses not reexaminable in this Court if these defenses afford no legal answer to the suit. This Court will not presume that the court below decided these defenses erroneously in order to defeat their own jurisdiction.

7. Where a patent is issued on a claim which has no certain limits, reserving "all valid adverse rights," a second patent to another claimant for a portion of the same land is valid and operative to convey the title.

[See the opinion of CLIFFORD, J., on the motion to reform the entry judgment, infra, pp. <|75 U.S. 670|>670-671.]

The controversy involved a question of ancient French proceedings, and of boundary near St. Louis, a good deal of the testimony being of an early kind. Except to persons already acquainted with the topography of the place where the controversy lay and with the controversy itself, any attempt to state it would be unsuccessful without explanatory diagrams. The execution of these requires time and the reporter's personal supervision, and had the report been deferred till another volume, when his attention would not have been engaged in attending the Court, they would have been given. A request, however, from a source entitled to great

Page 75 U. S. 652

respect to present the opinion in this volume will account for their absence, a matter the less important since the case presents nothing which ministers to juridical science or that is interesting except to parties concerned in the controversy. To such diagrams are unnecessary.

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