United States v. Lawton,
110 U.S. 146 (1884)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Lawton, 110 U.S. 146 (1884)


Land subject to direct tax was sold for its nonpayment, and was bought in for the United States for the sum of $1,100 under section 7 of the Act of June 7, 1862, c. 98, as amended by the Act of February 6th, 1863, c. 21, 12 Stat. 640, the tax, penalty, interest, and costs being $170.50. No money was paid. The United States took possession of the land and leased it, and afterwards sold all but 50 acres for $130 under the Act of June 8. 1872, c. 387, 17 Stat. 330. The land was not redeemed. Application by its owner was made to the Secretary of the Treasury for the $929.50 surplus,

Page 110 U. S. 147

and, no action being taken thereon, he sued in the Court of Claims to recover that sum. Held that he was entitled to recover it.

Whether § 12 of the Act of June 7th, 1862, c. 98, 12 Stat. 422, in regard to the disposition of one-half of the proceeds of the subsequent leases and sales of land struck off to the United States at a sale for the nonpayment of the tax applies to the land in this case -- quaere.

No question as to the disposition of such proceeds can affect the right of the claimant in this case to the $929.50.

The rulings in United States v. Taylor, 104 U. S. 216, applied to this case.

The appellee recovered a judgment in the Court of Claims against the United States for $929.50. Lawton's Case, 18 Ct.Cl.R. 595. That court found the following facts:

In 1827, James Stoney, of South Carolina, died leaving a will, which was duly proved, and contained the following provision:

"The other equal part or share of my personal property, charged and chargeable with the payment of half of the said annuity to my beloved wife, Elizabeth, together with all the lands I possess on the south side of Broad Creek on the Island of Hilton Head, I give and devise unto such person or persons as I shall hereafter appoint my executor or executors, to and to the use of them or him, my executor or executors, their heirs, executors, and assigns, upon the trust nevertheless, and to and for the intent and purpose hereinafter expressed and declared of and concerning the same -- that is to say, upon trust for the sole benefit of my beloved daughter, Martha S. Barksdale, for and during her natural life, free from the debts, contracts, and engagements of any husband to whom she may be allied, or the claims of his creditors, and upon the death of my said daughter, Martha S. Barksdale, it is my will, intention, and desire that the trusteeship above created in my executor or executors over the said part of my real estate and personal property shall immediately dissolve and expire; and, if my said daughter, Martha S. Barksdale, shall have any lawful issue living at the time of her death, then I give and devise the said part of my real and personal property to such issue, him, her, or them and their heirs forever."

A tract of land known as the Hill Place, in St. Luke's Parish, South Carolina, was a part of the estate so devised. Martha S. Barksdale, named in the will, entered into possession

Page 110 U. S. 148

of the Hill Place, under the devise, and continued in possession until dispossessed in consequence of the tax sale hereinafter mentioned. After the making of the will, she became the lawful wife of Joseph A. Lawton. The appellee is her lawful and only living issue. In November, 1862, the direct tax commissioners of the United States assessed a direct tax on the Hill Place, amounting to $88, and in December, 1873 (a mistake, probably, for 1863), it was sold for nonpayment of the tax. The amount of the tax, penalty, interest, and costs, was $170.50. The property was "struck off for the United States by the tax commissioners" for the sum of $1, 100, and a tax certificate, which is now on file in the office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, was issued therefor, but no money was paid, "the tax commissioners having bid in the property for the United States." The board of tax commissioners took possession of the land in the name of the United States, and from time to time leased the same. The amount realized from the leasing does not appear. The United States are still in possession of 50 acres. The remainder was sold at public sale in December, 1875, for $130, under the provisions of the Act of June 8, 1872, c. 337, 17 Stat. 330. No application under that act and the acts supplementary thereto for redemption of the property, was ever made. It does not appear that the appellee ever parted with his interest in the remainder of the tract, except as dispossessed by the tax sale, or that he ever assigned his right to receive the surplus remaining from the purchase money. Mrs. Lawton died in April, 1880. It does not appear that during her lifetime any demand was made upon the Treasury for the surplus. In May, 1882, the appellee applied to the Secretary of Treasury for any surplus proceeds of the sale which might be in the Treasury. No action was taken thereon, and nothing has been paid to the appellee on such application.

Page 110 U. S. 149

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