Games v. Stiles
Annotate this Case
39 U.S. 322 (1840)
U.S. Supreme Court
Games v. Stiles, 39 U.S. 14 Pet. 322 322 (1840)
Games v. Stiles
39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 322
A deed was executed in Glasgow, Scotland, by which land in Ohio, which had been patented to David Buchanan by the United States, was conveyed to Walter Sterling. The deed recited that it was made in pursuance of a decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Virginia. No exemplification of the decree was offered in evidence in support of the deed. The court held that as Buchanan was the patentee of the land, although he made the deed in pursuance of the decree of the Circuit Court of Virginia, the decree could add nothing to the validity of the conveyance, and therefore it was wholly unnecessary to prove the decree. The deed was good without the decree.
The possession of a deed, regularly executed, is prima facie evidence of its delivery. Under ordinary circumstances, no other evidence of the delivery of a deed than the possession of it by the person claiming under it is required.
The grantor in the deed was David Carrick Buchanan, and he declares in it that he is the same person who was formerly David Buchanan. The circuit court was required to charge the jury that it was necessary to convince the jury by proofs in court that David Carrick Buchanan is the same person as the grantor named in the patent, David Buchanan, and that the statement by the grantor was no proof to establish the fact. The circuit court instructed the jury that they must be satisfied from the deed and other documents and the circumstances of the case that the grantor in the deed is the same person to whom the patent was issued, and they declared their opinion that such was the fact. By the Court: The principle is well established that a court may give its opinion on the evidence to the jury, being careful to distinguish between matters of law and matters of opinion, in regard to the fact. When a matter of law is given by the court to the jury, it should be considered by the court as conclusive, but a mere matter of opinion as to the facts will only have such influence on the jury as it may think it entitled to.
The law knows of but one Christian name, and the omission or insertion of the middle name or of the initial letter of that name is immaterial, and it is competent for the party to show that he is known as well without as with the middle name.
A deed of lands sold for taxes cannot be read in evidence without proof that the requisites of the law which subjected the land to taxes had been complied with. There can be no class of laws more strictly local in their character, and which more directly concern real property, than laws imposing taxes on lands, and subjecting the lands to sale for unpaid taxes. They not only constitute a rule of property, but their construction by the courts of the state should be followed by the courts of the United States with equal if not with greater strictness than any other class of laws.
The Supreme Court of Ohio has required a claimant under a tax title to show, before his title can be available, a substantial compliance with the requisites of the law.
In an action of ejectment, the defendants having entered into the consent rule, the plaintiff in Ohio is not to be called upon to prove the calls of the patent under which he claims on the ground of establishing the different corners. The defendants are bound to admit, after they have entered into the consent rule, that they are in possession of the premises claimed by the lessor of the plaintiff.
In 1836, the lessee of the defendants in error instituted an action of ejectment against the plaintiffs in error in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Ohio for a tract of land lying between the Little Miami and Sciota rivers in that part of the State of Ohio known as the Virginia Military District, being on a survey
under a part of a military land warrant for one thousand acres. The cause was tried at July term, 1838, and a verdict and judgment were entered for the plaintiffs in the action, the defendant in error.
On the trial of the cause, the defendant tendered a bill of exceptions. The bill of exceptions states that the plaintiff offered in evidence in support of his action:
First, a certified copy of a deed from David Carrick Buchanan to Walter Sterling, dated June 27, 1825. The patent from the United States, dated 22 May, 1802, for the land in controversy, was granted to David Buchanan by the President of the United States, and the deed was executed by David Carrick Buchanan, stating that he had formerly been David Buchanan. The defendants asked the court to instruct the jury that the statement in the deed by the grantor that he had formerly been David Buchanan is no proof that he was David Carrick Buchanan. This instruction the court refused. The deed from David Carrick Buchanan recited that the deed was executed in conformity with a decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Fifth Circuit, in the Virginia District, to convey the land described in it to Walter Sterling in fee simple. The defendants excepted further to the introduction of the deed in evidence because the proceedings of the Circuit Court of the United States in Virginia recited in the deed were not produced with it. But the court overruled the objection.
Second, the defendants in their defense offered in evidence a certified copy of a paper, purporting to be a deed from William Middleton, Auditor of Brown County, to John S. Wills, bearing date April 22, 1824, for two hundred acres of land, and insisted it was duly acknowledged as such deed, and such copy was duly certified by the recorder of Brown County. The deed from William Middleton, the Auditor of Brown County, recited that a sale had been made of two hundred acres of land by William Middleton, county auditor, to John S. Wills on 29 December, 1823, for arrearages of taxes due to the State of Ohio for 1821, 1822, 1823, for the lands conveyed, the land being part of the land patented to Buchanan. The deed particularly described, by metes and bounds the tract conveyed, and granted the same to John S. Wills in fee simple. It was duly acknowledged according to the laws of Ohio and recorded in the proper office.
The plaintiff objected to this deed as not competent to go to the jury without evidence of the proceedings and acts of the public officers prior and at the sale of said land for the tax, and insisted it ought to be admitted, and the court sustained the objection and overruled the evidence, and declared its opinion that the same evidence should not be admitted, and the same was rejected accordingly.
The defendants then offered the same deed or copy of deed, accompanied by a duly certified copy of the record of the proceedings at and before the sale of said land for taxes, bearing date 9 May, 1838, certified by Hezekiah Lindsey, County Auditor of said County
of Brown, which copies or papers and certificates thereon are referred to as a part of the bill of exceptions, whereupon the plaintiffs, by counsel, objected to the admission of the same on the ground that the same did not contain all the legal requisites to justify and authorize said sale and conveyance of said land for taxes, and of this opinion was the court, and declared its opinion to be that the same ought not to be admitted in evidence in this case, and the same were rejected accordingly.
The defendants below gave in evidence a transcript of the record of the proceedings and decree of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio in a case wherein White's heirs and J. S. Wills' heirs and H. Brush were complainants, and David Buchanan, in his lifetime, was defendant, and his unknown heirs, after his decease, were, by bill of revivor, made defendants, wherein the title to the premises in question was decreed to the complainants in that suit.
The defendants asked the court to instruct the jury that the record of the proceedings and decree given in evidence by defendants may be considered by the jury as conveying the title to the land in controversy in that suit to the complainants therein, and will and ought to affect parties and privies who had knowledge of the same to prevent their taking title from the defendant therein from the time such knowledge existed. In place of this instruction, the court instructed the jury that to prevent Buchanan from making a good deed to those lands, it was necessary he should have notice, actual or constructive, prior to the making such deed, and of the commencement of the suit, the service of the process or the order of publication, giving such notice to appear and answer, and such publication made, to be proved; if the jury should find the deed from Buchanan to Sterling was dated June 27, 1825, and was at that time delivered, and the order of the court for the publication not made until August following, as appears in the record aforesaid, it was competent for Buchanan to make such deed to Sterling, and the court declared their opinions accordingly.
The defendant prosecuted this writ of error.