Indiana v. Kentucky
Annotate this Case
136 U.S. 479 (1890)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Indiana v. Kentucky, 136 U.S. 479 (1890)
Indiana v. Kentucky
No. 2, Original
Argued April 9-10, 1890
Decided May 19, 1890
136 U.S. 479
The waters of the Ohio River, when Kentucky became a state, flowed in a channel north of the tract known as Green River Island, and the jurisdiction of Kentucky at that time extended, and ever since has extended, to what was then low water mark on the north side of that channel, and the boundary between Kentucky and Indiana must run on that line, as nearly as it can now be ascertained after the channel has been filled.
The dominion and jurisdiction of a state bounded by a river continue as they existed at the time when it was admitted into the union, unaffected by the action of the forces of nature upon the course of the river.
Long acquiescence by one state in the possession of territory by another state, and in the exercise of sovereignty and dominion over it, is conclusive of the title and rightful authority of the latter state.
In equity to settle and determine the boundary line between the States of Indiana and Kentucky.
On the 20th day of December, 1783, the Legislature of Virginia by statute authorized and empowered the delegates of the state in the Congress of the United States
"for and on behalf of this state, by proper deeds or instrument in writing, under their hands and seals, to convey, transfer, assign, and make over unto the United States, in Congress assembled, for the benefit of the said states, all right, title and claim, as well of soil as jurisdiction, which this commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of the Virginia charter, situate, lying, and being to the northwest of the River Ohio."
On the 1st of March, 1784, the delegates from that state in Congress executed and delivered to "the United States in Congress assembled" a deed of
"all right, title and claim, as well of soil as of jurisdiction, which the said commonwealth hath to the territory or tract of country within the limits of the Virginia charter, situate, lying, and being to the northwest of the River Ohio."
This deed was on the same day accepted by Congress, and was spread at length upon its records.
On the 13th of July, 1787, Congress enacted an ordinance which was entitled "An ordinance for the government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio." There were no words of description in this ordinance except those contained in its title.
In 1788, the Legislature of Virginia, by an act which recited the passage of this ordinance, enacted:
"That the afore-recited article of compact between the original states and the people and states in the territory northwest of Ohio River be, and the same is hereby, ratified and confirmed, anything to the contrary in the deed of cession of the said territory by this Commonwealth to the United States notwithstanding."
The first Congress assembled under the Constitution enacted, on the 7th August, 1789, "An act to provide for the government of the territory northwest of the River Ohio." These words of description were repeated in the act, but there were no other words of description. 1 Stat. 50.
On the 18th December, 1789, the Legislature of Virginia passed an act consenting
"that the district of Kentucky, within the jurisdiction of said Commonwealth, and according to its actual boundaries at that time, should be formed into a new state."
By that act it was further provided that
"the use and navigation of the River Ohio, so far as the territory of the proposed state or the territory which shall remain within the limits of this commonwealth lies therein, shall be free and common to the citizens of the United States, and the respective jurisdictions of this Commonwealth and of the proposed state, on the river aforesaid, shall be concurrent only with the states which shall possess the opposite shores of the said river."
On the 26th May, 1790, Congress established a territorial government over "the territory of the United States south of the River Ohio," 1 Stat. 123, but on the 4th of February, 1791, 1 Stat. 189, it gave its consent to the admission of Kentucky into the union "according to its actual boundaries on the 18th day of December, 1789," the date of the passage of the act of the Legislature of Virginia.
On the 7th May, 1800, an act was passed "to divide the
territory of the United States northwest of the Ohio into two separate governments." 2 Stat. 58.
On the 30th April, 1803, the Enabling Act for the admission of Ohio was passed, the Ohio River being made the southern boundary. 2 Stat. 173. By this act, everything west of the present boundary of Ohio and east of the division line established by the act of 1800 was "made a part of the Indiana territory."
On the 3d February, 1809, the Territory of Illinois was separated from the Territory of Indiana, the Wabash River being the boundary. 2 Stat. 514. And on the 19th April, 1816, the enabling act for Indiana was passed, in which it was enacted that the state should be bounded "on the south by the River Ohio, from the mouth of the Great Miami River to the mouth of the River Wabash." 3 Stat. 259.
The controversy in this case related to the jurisdiction over the Green River Island, a formation in the river on the Indiana side opposite the mouth of the Green River, entering the Ohio from Kentucky, and the claims of Indiana in respect to it are fully stated in the brief and argument of its counsel. Some of the main issues were issues of fact, concerning which there was a large amount of proof. No good purpose can be served by further reference to it.
An act passed by the Legislature of Kentucky in 1873, and an Indiana statute following it in 1875, and the proceedings under the latter were relied upon by the State of Kentucky. These acts are printed in the margin. *