United States v. Clamorgan,
101 U.S. 822 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Clamorgan, 101 U.S. 822 (1879)

United States v. Clamorgan

101 U.S. 822


1. The court reaffirms its rulings in Scull v. United States, 98 U. S. 410, as to the nature of the title whereon a suit can, under sec. 11 of the Act of June 30, 1860, 12 Stat. 85, be maintained against the United States for lands claimed under a grant from the French or the Spanish authorities in Louisiana.

2. The claim in this cause, founded upon an alleged grant made at St. Louis by Trudeau, Lieutenant Governor, March 3, 1797, examined and held not to be within the provisions of that section.

This was a suit for lands in Missouri brought against the United States by parties claiming under James Clamorgan, who presented his petition -- which they filed as an exhibit -- dated at St. Louis, March 1, 1797, to Don Zenon Trudeau, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana, praying there be granted to him on the western side of the River Mississippi, some leagues above the mouth of the Missouri, the tract of land bounded on one side by the little river called Lacharette, alias Dardenne, and on the other by the little river called Au Cuivre -- one on the south, the other on the north, will serve as boundaries to those two sides; also sixty arpens of land in front of the banks of the Mississippi immediately adjoining the mouth of the first above-named river, Lacharette, in descending the current of the Mississippi, and again sixty arpens in front, also, on the banks of the Mississippi, adjoining immediately to the upper side of the mouth of the second above-named river, Au Cuivre, and ascending the current of the Mississippi. The depth of the three different above-described tracts of land to be extended by two lines starting from the banks of the Mississippi, one from the most southern and the other from the most northern point (of the front) of the above-demanded tracts, which two lines shall be run parallel on each side in a westwardly direction until they reach the top of the high hills in the rear; and from there the side two lines to be continued and prolonged in the same westwardly direction until they reach a point at the distance of about two hundred

Page 101 U. S. 823

arpens from the foot of said hills, and then those two extreme points shall be connected together by a straight line which shall be run so as to form the fourth side of the said three tracts here above demanded, the said lines encompassing in their extent all the waters of the above-mentioned rivers, Lacharette, alias Dardenne, and Au Cuivre, in order that hereafter the petitioner may erect saw and grist mills thereon, also place there a number of cattle, have slaughterhouses, and send salt meat to the capital.

The plaintiffs also filed the following papers as exhibits:

"Don Zeon Trudeau, captain in the regiment of Louisiana, lieutenant-colonel by brevet, and lieutenant-governor of the western part of Illinois:"

"Cognizance being taken of the statement made by Don Santiago Clamorgan, and the governor-general, the Baron de Carondelet, having particularly recommended to me to facilitate and protect the discovery and commerce of Upper Missouri, in which the above-named Clamorgan has engaged at my entreaties, considering the losses which said enterprise has occasioned to him, and the new expenses to which he shall have to contribute on account of the same undertaking, and how important it is to favor and extend the discoveries herebefore mentioned, without prejudice to the royal treasury, and to the interest and welfare of these settlements, but, on the contrary, in contributing to their prosperity by drawing new inhabitants:"

"For these considerations, and on account of the said Clamorgan's having rendered himself worthy and deserving of the favors of the government, the surveyor of this jurisdiction (as soon as the occupations of his place will permit) shall survey in favor of the party interested the extent of land he solicits in the way and manner described in the foregoing document, which, together with the plat and certificate of survey, and of the boundaries which shall be set (to said land), will form the title of concession, which in due time he shall have to lay before the general government of the province, in order to get its approbation and record."


"ST. LOUIS, March 3, 1797"

"ST. LOUIS, July 3, 1797"

"Under date of April 5, of this current year, the governor-general, Baron de Carondelet, writes to me as follows: "

Page 101 U. S. 824

"I have read your official note, dated 11th of last March, in which you state the motives which have induced you to grant to Mr. Clamorgan the tract of land situated between the two rivers Charette and Cuivre, both emptying into the Mississippi; also sixty arpens to the south of said rivers, which serve to determine the situation of said land, having the Mississippi in front. Two parallel lines are to be drawn, running in the interior of the country until they reach at the distance of two hundred arpens beyond the foot of the first hills, conformably to the solicitation of the party interested."

"All which I do approve, Clamorgan having deserved this favor from the government."

"I transmit the same to you for your knowledge and government. May God have you in his keeping many years."



Clamorgan filed, at St. Louis, June 27, 1808, notice of his claim before the recorder of land titles. He filed therewith the above evidence of title, and presented it to the board of land commissioners, Nov. 14, 1811. Upon it he claimed five hundred thousand arpens of land, situate on the Rivers Mississippi, Dardenne, and Cuivre, District of St. Charles; sixty arpens front on Mississippi, Charette, and Dardenne, back to the hills about two hundred arpens, District of St. Charles; and sixty arpens of land front on the Mississippi, commencing above the mouth of the Cuivre, up the Mississippi and back to the hills. The board was of opinion that the claim ought not to be confirmed.

The claim was presented June 21, 1833, by the representatives of Clamorgan, to the board organized under the Act of July 9, 1832, for the final adjustment of private land claims in Missouri. 4 Stat. 565. Testimony was taken, and the concession of Trudeau and his letter to Clamorgan produced. The members of the board, Sept. 26, 1835, recorded their unanimous opinion that the claim ought not to be confirmed.

The United States filed an answer to the bill in this suit denying its material allegations and insisting as a bar to the relief claimed that the lands in question had not at the time of the cession of Louisiana been severed from the royal domain, the concession being only inchoate and the description of them

Page 101 U. S. 825

vague, and that the conditions of taking possession -- viz., building mills, slaughterhouses, &c. -- had never been performed by the claimant. It was admitted that the claimed lands had been sold or disposed of by the United States. The district court, upon a final hearing, decreed that the concession by Trudeau, of March 3, 1797, to Clamorgan, ratified and confirmed April 5, 1797, by Governor-General Carondelet, was a title binding on the United States, and that the complainants were entitled to recover certificates for 94,136 acres, to be located upon public land subject to private entry.

From the decree the United States and the complainants appealed, the former assigning for error that the court below erred in not dismissing the bill and the latter, that the decree should have been for 675,000 acres.

The remaining facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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