Hickie v. Starke,
26 U.S. 94 (1828)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hickie v. Starke, 26 U.S. 1 Pet. 94 94 (1828)

Hickie v. Starke

26 U.S. (1 Pet.) 94


In the construction of the 25th section of the Judicial act, passed 24 September, 1789, this Court has never required that the treaty or act of Congress under which the party claims who brings the final judgment of a state court into review before this Court, should have been spread upon the record. It has always deemed it essential to the exercise of jurisdiction in such a case that the record should show a complete title under the treaty or act of Congress and that the judgment of the court is in violation of that treaty or act.

In order to bring himself within the protection of the act of cession by Georgia to the United States for the land, the party must show that he was "actually settled" on the land on 27 October, 1795, the period mentioned in the said act of cession.

It seems that a settlement made on the land by another person who cultivated it for the proprietor would be sufficient to constitute "an actual settlement" within the meaning of the law, though the proprietor should not reside in person on the estate or within the territory.

In the Supreme Court of the County of Adams in the State of Mississippi, the appellees filed a bill in chancery against the appellants which, according to the laws of the state, was transferred to the supreme court, where judgment was given for the complainants.

The purpose of the bill was to obtain a conveyance of a tract of land, containing 2,000 acres, for which Robert Starke, in 1791, under whom the complainants claimed, obtained an order of survey from the Governor General of Louisiana, which order was executed by the deputy surveyor, and of which land he afterwards took possession and cultivated for years. Subsequently, Robert Starke being willing to exchange this body of lands for another, proposed the same to the Governor of Louisiana. The bill alleged that from some personal hostility towards him, an offer of the land so held by him was made to James Mather, the ancestor of the appellants, the defendants in the bill, and a grant of the land was made in 1794 to James Mather by the Governor of Louisiana, who thereupon entered and cultivated part of the tract.

It was admitted that all the forms required by the established laws and customs of Louisiana, while under the Spanish government, by which a full and complete title to land was acquired had not been conformed to by Robert Starke or his heirs, the appellees, and that the title of James Mather was

Page 26 U. S. 95

in all respects full and complete as a legal title under those laws. The appellees, in their bill, claimed to have the land conveyed to them, as the title of the appellants had been acquired by collusion with the Governor of Louisiana, and the Robert Starke had been forcibly and against his will dispossessed of the land. Under the authority of the Supreme Court of Mississippi, a feigned issue was tried to determine

"whether the ancestor of the complainants ever made a voluntary abandonment of his right to the premises in question, free from any undue influence on the part of the Spanish government or its officers."

This issue was found by the verdict of a jury in favor of the complainants, and the same having been certified to the supreme court, a decree was made in favor of the complainants, the appellees. The appellants then filed their petition for a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States, suggesting that the title of James Mather arose "under the articles of agreement and cession" between the United States and the State of Georgia, and that by the decree of the supreme court that title has been overruled. The argument before the court was principally confined to two questions upon the determination of which the jurisdiction of the court in the case depended:

1. Whether the construction and effect of the articles of agreement and cession between the United States and the State of Georgia were presented for the consideration of the Supreme Court of Louisiana in the investigation of this case, so that by the decree of the court the title claimed by the appellants under the articles of agreement was brought into question.

2. Whether the appellants' title, being a full and complete Spanish grant, was confirmed by "the articles of agreement and cession" and was in itself a valid and indefeasible grant of the land.

The only facts connected with the discussion of the case before this Court were those which related to the actual possession of the land by James Mather and the period of the same.

They are sufficiently noticed in the decision of the


Page 26 U. S. 97

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