2 U.S. 304 (1795)

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U.S. Supreme Court


2 U.S. 304 (F.Cas.) 2 Dall. 304

Vanhorne's Lessee v. Dorrance Circuit Court, Pennsylvania District April Term, 1795

This was a cause of great expectation, involving several important questions of constitutional law, in relation to the territorial controversy between the States of Pennsylvania and Connecticut. After a trial, which continued for 15 days, the presiding Judge delivered the following charge to the Jury, comprising a full review of all the important facts and principles, that had occurred during the discussion.

Patterson, Justice.

Having arrived at the last stage of this long and interesting cause, it now becomes the duty of the Court to sum up the evidence, and to declare the law arising upon it. A mass of testimony has been brought forward in the course of the trial, the far greater part of which is altogether immaterial, and can be of no use in forming a decision. The great points, on which the cause turns, are of a legal nature; they are questions of law; and, therefore, for the sake of the parties, as well as for my own sake, they ought to be put in a train for ultimate adjudication by the Supreme Court. In the administration of justice it is a consolatory idea, that no opinion of a single judge can be final and decisive; but that the same may be removed before the highest tribunal for revision, where, if erroneous, it will be rectified. For the sake of clearness, I shall consider,

1st. The title of the plaintiff. 2nd. The title of the defendant. I. The Title of the Plaintiff. In deducing the title, the plaintiff exhibited: 1. The charter or grant from Ch. 2. to William Penn. The lands in question lie within the limits of this charter. 2. *A Deed from the Six Nations to Thomas and Richard Penn. To this deed a map is annexed and made part of it, by which the land conveyed is accurately delineated, or laid down. This mode of procedure is eminently just and laudable; it furnishes a precedent, which, as far as possible, ought to be observed in

* Nov. 5th 1768.

Page 2 U.S. 304, 305

every transfer of land made by the Indians, as it obviously tends to quiet the spirit of jealousy, to remove suspicion, and prevent imposition and fraud. 3. *A warrant to survey for the proprietors, certain tracts of land containing twenty thousand acres. 4. *Survey of the above lands. The land in controversy lies within the Indian deed to the Penns, and is covered by this survey. 5. *Lease from Thomas & Richard Penn to Thomas Van Horne, for the term of seven years, of lot No. 38, containing one hundred acres. 6. Instructions to lay out and sell the land. 7. *Allotment to Thomas Van Horne of lot No. 20, containing 190 acres and 90 perches. 8. *Warrant from Richard Penn, lieutenant governor, to make a separate return of lot No. 20, to Thomas Van Horne. A separate return was made accordingly, and marked on the general survey of March 1771. 9. *Patent from Thomas and John Penn to Thomas Van Horne for lot No. 20. The consideration money was paid agreeably to contract. 10. *Deed from Thomas Van Horne to Cornelius Van Horne, lessor of the plaintiff, for lot No. 20. It is in evidence, that this lot was built upon, fenced, tilled, and improved by Van Horne. It is also in evidence, that John Dorance, the defendant, is in possession of, and resides upon, the said lot. Such is the title upon which the plaintiff rests his cause. It is clearly deduced and legally correct; and, therefore, unless sufficient appears on the part of the defendant, will entitle the plaintiff to your verdict. To repel the plaintiff's right, and to establish his own, the defendant sets up a title.

1st. Under Connecticut. 2nd. Under the Indians. 3rd. Under Pennsylvania.

I. Under Connecticut.

The title under Connecticut is of no avail: Because the land in controversy is ex-territorial; it does not lie within the charter bounds of Connecticut, but within the charter-bounds of Pennsylvania. The charter of Connecticut does not cover or spread over the lands in question: Of course no title can be derived from Connecticut. Here then the defendant fails. [305-Continued]

II. Under the Indians.

The Indian deed, under which the defendant claims, bears date the 11th of July 1754. It has been observed, that this

* 29th Octob. 1768.

* 8th & 9th Dec. 1768.

* 1st March. 1769.

* Feb. & March 1771.

* 15th Jan. 1772.

* 17th Jan. 1772.

* 15th Nov. 1774. [2 U.S. 304, 306]

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