Bowman v. Wathen,
42 U.S. 189 (1843)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowman v. Wathen, 42 U.S. 1 How. 189 189 (1843)

Bowman v. Wathen

42 U.S. (1 How.) 189


The doctrine laid down by Lord Camden in the case of Smith v. Clay, 3 Brown's Ch. in note, examined and confirmed, viz.,

"That a court of equity, which never is active in relief against conscience or public convenience, has always refused its aid to stale demands where the party has slept upon his rights for a great length of time. Nothing can call forth this Court into activity but conscience, good faith, and reasonable diligence. Where these are wanting, the court is passive and does nothing; laches and neglect are always discountenanced, and therefore, from the beginning of this jurisdiction, there was always a limitation of suit in this Court."

Also the doctrine laid down by Lord Redesdale in Hovenden v. Lord Annesley, 2 Sch. & Lef. 636, "that every new right of action in equity that accrues to a party, whatever it may be, must be acted upon at the utmost within twenty years."

And though the claimant may have been embarrassed by the frauds of others or distressed, it is not sufficient to take the case out of the rule.

The doctrine has also been ruled by this Court, and should now be regarded as the settled law.

In this case, the complainants have so long slept upon their rights that this Court must remain passive and can do nothing, and this is equally true whether they knew of an adverse possession, or through negligence and a failure to look after their interests permitted the title of another to grow into full maturity.

The facts are fully stated in the opinion of the Court and also the authorities referred to in the argument. It is unnecessary to repeat either.

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