United States v. King
Annotate this Case
48 U.S. 833 (1849)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. King, 48 U.S. 7 How. 833 833 (1849)
United States v. King
48 U.S. (7 How.) 833
The case of the United States v. King and Coxe, 3 How. 773, reviewed.
According to the practice of Louisiana, where cases are carried to an appellate tribunal in which the court below has decided questions of fact as well as of law, the appellate tribunal also reviews and decides both classes of questions.
But this practice is not applicable to the courts of the United States. A writ of error in them brings up only questions of law, and questions of fact remain as unexaminable as if they had been decided by a jury below.
Where the court below decides both law and fact, no bill of exceptions need be taken. The case then becomes like one at common law, where a special verdict is found or a case is stated, in neither of which is there any necessity for a bill of exceptions.
Where the court below decides the facts, a statement of them should appear upon the record; but if such a statement be filed after judgment is entered and a writ of error sued out, it cannot be considered a part of the record, which is closed against it.
Leaving this statement out, there is still enough in the record to enable the court to take cognizance of this case, because the defendants below asserted a legal title to be is themselves by virtue of a grant which severed the land claimed from the royal domain.
The construction of this grant, issued in 1797, by the Baron de Carondelet, to the Marquis de Maison Rouge, is a question of law. Upon which this Court must review the decision of the circuit court.
The two grants or contracts of 1797 and 1795 must be construed together. That of 1797 refers to the one of 1795, and cannot be understood without it.
The contract of 1795 was for the benefit of the emigrants, and must have been intended to be shown by Maison Rouge to those persons whom he was inviting to settle upon the land. No personal benefit or compensation to himself individually is provided in it. The object was to promote the policy of the Spanish government, as whose agent Maison Rouge acted, and not as the proprietor of the land.
The contract of 1797 was intended to supply two omissions in that of 1795, namely to designate with more particularity the place where the settlement was to be made, and to provide for a larger number of families than was mentioned in the original contract.
For both these purposes, a certain tract of land was marked out, and "destined and appropriated" for the uses of the settlement.
The grant of 1797 does not contain the words usually employed in Spanish colonial grants, when there was an intention to sever land from the royal domain and convey it as individual property.
This case was formerly before this Court, and is reported in 44 U. S. 3 How. 773.
Being sent down to the circuit court under a mandate from this Court, it came up for trial before the circuit court in May, 1845, when sundry proceedings took place before that court, which it is not necessary to specify. The result was, a judgment in favor of the United States, from which King and Coxe sued out a writ of error, and brought the case again before this Court.
Whilst so pending, this Court, on 16 February, 1848, passed the following order, which was announced by MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY.
"KING AND COXE"
"Supreme Court of the United States, December Term 1847"
"Upon examining the record now before the court, and referring to the points originally in controversy and still remaining undecided, the court is of opinion, that the matters in dispute can be more conveniently and speedily heard, and finally determined, by reinstating the case in this Court in the condition in which it stood at December term, 1844, previous to the judgment rendered at that term, and the counsel for the respective parties having, upon the recommendation of the court, consented to reinstate the case in the manner proposed:"
"It is thereupon, with the consent of counsel, as aforesaid, ordered that the judgment rendered in this Court at December term, 1844, and all the proceedings thereon, and subsequent thereto, be, and the same are hereby, set aside and vacated, and the case as it stood at the term aforesaid, previous to the said judgment, reinstated. And it is further ordered, that it be placed on the docket of December term, 1848, to be argued at that term on such day as the court may assign -- the United States being, as before, the plaintiffs in error, and King and Coxe the defendants."
The case was therefore before the Court just as it stood prior to the argument of it, as reported in 44 U. S. 3 How. 773.
The history of the case is there given, and all the documents upon which the claim of King and Coxe was founded are set forth at large. It is unnecessary, therefore, to repeat them here.
The United States being plaintiffs in error, the argument was opened and concluded by Mr. Toucey (Attorney General), who was replied to by Mr. Coxe and Mr. Gilpin on behalf of the defendants in error.
All the parts of their arguments are omitted, except those which bear upon the points decided by the Court.
The Reporter has his own notes of Mr. Coxe's argument, but prefers to print the argument of Mr. Gilpin as that gentleman has been kind enough to revise the notes of his argument.