Missouri v. Iowa
Annotate this Case
48 U.S. 660 (1849)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Missouri v. Iowa, 48 U.S. 7 How. 660 660 (1849)
Missouri v. Iowa
48 U.S. (7 How.) 660
The western and northern boundary lines of the State of Missouri, as described in the first article of the constitution of that state, were as follows: from a point in the middle of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River, running due north along a meridian line to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the River Des Moines, making said line correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid along the said parallel to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said River Des Moines, thence &c.
The Constitution of the State of Missouri was adopted in 1820. But in 1816, an Indian boundary line had been run by the authority of the United States, which in its north course did not terminate at its intersection with the parallel of latitude which passed through the rapids of the River Des Moines, and in its east course did not coincide with that parallel, or any parallel of latitude at all.
Missouri claimed that this north line should be continued until it intersected a parallel of latitude which passed through certain rapids in the River Des Moines, and from the point of intersection be run eastwardly along the parallel to these rapids.
Iowa claimed that this Indian boundary line was protracted too far to the north; that by the term "rapids of the River Des Moines" were meant certain rapids in the Mississippi River, known by that name, and that the parallel of latitude must pass through these rapids; the effect of which would be to stop the Indian boundary line in its progress north, before it arrived at the spot which had been marked by the United States surveyor.
There being a bill and a cross-bill, each state is a defendant, and this Court can pass such a decree as the case requires.
The southern boundary line of Iowa is coincident with, and dependent upon, the northern boundary line of Missouri.
Iowa is bound by the acts of its predecessor, the government of the United States, which had plenary jurisdiction over the subject as long as Iowa remained a territory, and the United States recognized the Indian boundary line, 1st, by treaties made with the Indians; 2d, by the acts of the General Land Office; 3d, by congressional legislation.
On the other hand, there are no rapids in the River Des Moines so conspicuous as to justify the claim of Missouri.
This Court therefore adopts the old Indian boundary line as the dividing line between the two states, and decrees that it shall be run and marked by commissioners.
The State of Missouri filed a bill against the State of Iowa, in the Supreme Court of the United States, with the consent of the State of Iowa, in order to settle a controversy which had arisen respecting the true location of the boundary line which divided the two states.
The origin of the controversy is so fully stated by MR. JUSTICE
CATRON, in delivering the opinion of the court, that it is only necessary for the Reporter to explain the pretensions of the respective parties according to the map, without which they cannot be understood. This map or diagram is only intended to be illustrative of these claims, without pretending to be geographically accurate.
In July, 1820, the people living in the then Territory of Missouri, in pursuance of an act of Congress, adopted a constitution in which are described the following boundaries:
"Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi River, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude, thence west along the said parallel of latitude to the St. Francois River;
thence up and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence west along the same to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River; thence, from the point aforesaid, north along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the River Des Moines, making said line correspond with the Indian boundary line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said River Des Moines; thence down along the middle of the main channel of the said River Des Moines to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi River; thence due east to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River; thence down and following the course of the Mississippi River, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning."
In 1821, Missouri was admitted into the Union with these boundaries.
By an Act of Congress approved August 4, 1820, the southern boundary of Iowa was made identical with the northern boundary of Missouri.
In 1816, prior to the passage of these laws, commissioners were appointed on the part of the United States to settle with the Osage chiefs the boundary of the cession which the Osage tribe had just made to the United States, and John C. Sullivan was appointed surveyor to run the line which should be thus agreed upon.
Beginning on the bank of the Missouri, opposite the mouth of the Kansas, at A in the diagram, he ran north just 100 miles to the point C, and thence pursued what he thought was a due east course (but which was in fact to the north of east) until he struck the River Des Moines at the point F. This line is marked No. 1, and runs from C to F; the true parallel of latitude being afterwards ascertained to be from C to G.
The State of Missouri alleged, that, at the point E in the River Des Moines, there existed rapids which answered the call in the constitution, and that the parallel of latitude spoken of in that instrument must consequently be a line running from E to D, and that the north line, which commenced at A, must therefore be protracted to D, where it intersected the parallel of latitude called for; that the phraseology used required the "rapids of the River Des Moines" to be in that river, and not in the Mississippi.
On the other hand, it was alleged by the State of Iowa, that in the Mississippi River, at the place marked H, there were rapids which were commonly called and known by the name of "the rapids of the River Des Moines," long anterior to the formation of the Constitution of Missouri; that the parallel of latitude must run through the head or center of these rapids, and that the line H B would therefore be the true boundary, the point B being the spot where this parallel of latitude would intersect the line running north from A.
These were the claims of the respective parties. To sustain them, a great mass of evidence was taken on both sides.