McCarthy v. Mann
86 U.S. 20

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCarthy v. Mann, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 20 20 (1873)

McCarthy v. Mann

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 20

Syllabus

A., on the 13th of February, 1850, made an entry and location, which proved to be wholly void, of a land warrant on public land, and then conveyed to B. by deed with full covenants. B. conveyed to C. by a similar sort of deed, and C. conveyed to D., not by deed like the two just mentioned, but by a mere quitclaim; quitclaiming, however, all his right, title &c, "both in law and equity and as well in possession as in expectancy." The Commissioner of the General Land Office cancelled the entry &c., and set it aside as void, and A. took back his money. C. conveyed to D., and he to E. &c. Congress now passed an act enacting

"That the entry of A. &c. be and the same is hereby allowed and reinstated as of the date of said entry, so that the title to said lands may enure to the benefit of his grantees as far as he may have conveyed the same, provided that the money . . . shall be again paid at said land office and that thereupon a patent shall issue in the name of said A. for said lands."

A. paid the money again, and got a patent reciting the Act of Congress conveying the lands to him in fee.

C., after the passage of this act of Congress, conceiving that the two deeds with full covenants had by the process of estoppel vested him with a good title, but that his own deed of mere quitclaim had not vested his grantee, D., with any title through that means, or in any way, conveyed de novo to F. Held that the Act of Congress did vest him, through

Page 86 U. S. 21

the process of estoppel, with a full title, and that this title had passed by his conveyance, though but a quitclaim, to D., and of course that this subsequent deed (the one to F.) passed nothing.

McCarthy filed a bill in the court below against Mann (under a statute of Minnesota which enables any person claiming title to unoccupied land the title of which is claimed adversely to proceed in that way) to have the question of title to a piece of unoccupied land settled by the said court.

Both parties claimed under one French, in different ways, now to be mentioned.

The act establishing, in 1849, the Territory of Minnesota reserved certain sections of the public lands to be surveyed to the use of the public schools.

In 1850, one Peter Poncin, owning a warrant, caused the same, with the consent of the proper officers, to be located on a tract of the land thus reserved, and soon afterwards conveyed it by deed to one Pepin, his heirs and assigns, the deed being a deed of warranty, with the usual covenants "with the said Pepin, his heirs and assigns," and, among them, covenants that he, the said Poncin, was well seized in fee of the premises and had good right to sell and convey the same in manner and form aforesaid, and that he, the said Poncin, his heirs and assigns, would forever warrant and defend the said Pepin, his heirs and assigns, in the peaceable and quiet possession and enjoyment of all the said lands against any and all persons claiming, or who might claim, the same.

Pepin not long afterwards conveyed the land in fee to one French by deed of the same full, formal, and technical character as that just above described, by which Poncin had conveyed it to him, Pepin.

Soon after this, again, French made a deed of the land to one Elfelt. But the deed was not a deed like the preceding deeds, a deed with covenants such as above-mentioned, but

Page 86 U. S. 22

was a deed by which French "remised, released, and forever quitclaimed," and by the same did "remise, release, and forever quitclaim" to Elfelt, and "to his heirs and assigns forever," all his "right, title, interest, estate, claim, and demand, both in law and equity, and as well in possession as in expectancy," to the land now in suit. The deed was therefore a deed commonly known as a "quitclaim," with, however, the special clause above italicized.

The warrant of Pepin under which all these conveyances had been made having been located on land reserved by the organic act of the territory for schools, was of course void, and on the 10th of March, 1852, the Commissioner of the General Land Office set it aside.

Notwithstanding this, however -- and after the commissioner had set the location aside -- Elfelt, the grantee last above-mentioned, conveyed to one Van Etten. this deed, like French's deed to Elfelt himself, being a deed of quitclaim.

Whatever title, or other thing capable of being made into a title -- if anything of either -- was thus vested in Van Etten became afterwards vested by sufficient deeds in Mann.

In this state of things -- these different deeds of different sorts having been made, and the location on which they all rested having been void and been set aside -- Congress came in, and in July, 1854, by "An act authorizing a patent to be issued to Peter Poncin for certain lands therein described," enacted:

"That the entry by Peter Poncin of . . . [the land now in question, describing it], cancelled by the Commissioner of the General Land Office, be, and the same is hereby, allowed and reinstated as of the date of said entry, so that the title to said lands may enure to the benefit of his grantees as far as he may have conveyed the same."

The act contained a proviso that the money paid for said lands should not have been withdrawn, or, if withdrawn, should be again paid at the land office; and enacted that

Page 86 U. S. 23

thereupon a patent should issue in the name of said Pater Poncin for said lands.

After the passage of this act, Elfelt executed to Van Etten a further deed, the same being a deed of quitclaim.

And subsequently to this again, Poncin having paid into the land office the price of the lands which he had attempted to locate in 1850 with his warrant already mentioned, the United States (March 24, 1855) issued to him a patent. The patent, reciting the Act of Congress, proceeded thus:

"Now know ye, that the United States of America, in consideration of the premises and in conformity with the several acts of Congress in such case made and provided, have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant unto the said Peter Poncin, and to his heirs, the said tract above described, to have and to hold the same, together with all the rights, privileges, immunities, and appurtenances of whatsoever nature thereunto belonging, unto the said Peter Poncin, and to his heirs and assigns forever."

In this state of things, French, who, it will be remembered, had received a deed with full covenants from Pepin -- the said Pepin having himself previously received a similar deed from Peter Poncin -- and which said French, thus, of course -- if he had never made any conveyance of the land, would, on the issue of the above-mentioned patent, have been invested with all Poncin's title, on the well known common law principle of estoppel -- conceived that there was such a difference in the nature of the two deeds, with full covenants, just mentioned, which brought the title to him and the deed of simple quitclaim, which he had given to Elfelt, and which was the only deed that he had executed to pass any title out from him, that while the said doctrine of estoppel would apply to the former and vest him with the title given to Poncin, by the Act of Congress and the patent, it would not apply to the latter, and therefore would not vest Elfelt or

Page 86 U. S. 24

anybody claiming under him with the title of Poncin, or, in other words, with the title of him, French.

He thereupon executed a second deed of quitclaim to an entirely distinct person, one Furber.

Under Furber, and through this last-mentioned deed of French, the complainant McCarthy claimed.

Under the previous one, to Elfelt, claimed, as already said, the defendant Mann.

The court below dismissed the bill and the complainant took this appeal.

Page 86 U. S. 30

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