Davis v. Police Jury of Concordia,
50 U.S. 280 (1850)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Davis v. Police Jury of Concordia, 50 U.S. 9 How. 280 280 (1850)

Davis v. Police Jury of Concordia

50 U.S. (9 How.) 280


The Treaty of St. Ildefonso, by which Spain ceded Louisiana to France, became operative to transfer the sovereignty upon the day of its date, viz., 1 October, 1800.

The executive and legislative branches of the government of the United States have always maintained this position, and this Court concurs with them in its correctness.

The preceding case, p. 50 U. S. 127, of United States v. Reynes referred to.

By the laws of nations, all treaties, as well those for cessions of territory as for other purposes, are binding upon the contracting parties, unless when otherwise provided in them, from the day they are signed. The ratification of them relates back to the time of signing.

Where territory is ceded, the national character continues for commercial purposes until actual delivery, but between the time of signing the treaty and the actual delivery of the territory, the sovereignty of the ceding power ceases except for strictly municipal purposes or such an exercise of it as is necessary to preserve and enforce the sanctions of its social condition.

The power to grant land or franchises is one of those attributes of sovereignty which ceases.

The Spanish Governor of Louisiana had, therefore, no right to grant a perpetual ferry franchise on 19 February, 1801, and consequently it is not property which was protected by the treaty between France and the United States.

As the decision of the court turned upon the single point when the Treaty of St. Ildefonso became operative, so far as to extinguish the right of the Spanish governor to grant a perpetual franchise, it is not necessary to give a detailed statement of the facts in this case, nor of the arguments of counsel upon the points which were not included in the decision of the court.

The following summary will sufficiently explain the case.

Davis, the plaintiff in error, filed his petition in the Ninth district court of the State of Louisiana, in and for the Parish of Concordia, on 7 February, 1840, in which he sets forth, that the Marquis de Casa Calva, then Governor General of the Province of Louisiana, on 19 February, 1801, granted to one Thomas Thompson, then of said parish, the privilege of a ferry at the post of Concordia, in said parish, opposite to the then Town, now City, of Natchez, as a privilege to be attached to the plantation of said Thompson, which he then possessed, in order that from that place he might have and enjoy the exclusive privilege &c., for reasonable and customary toll, as it might be established; and on condition that he, the said Thompson, would clear a certain public road or highway from the said post of Concordia to the Bayou Cocadelle Cocodrillo,

Page 50 U. S. 281

in said parish. That Thompson fully performed the said condition, as appears by the certificate of Joseph Vidal, the commandant at said post of Concordia. That Thompson entered upon the privilege aforesaid, and performed the duties, and enjoyed the profits of said ferry, until 16 October, 1803, when he conveyed to Joseph Vidal all his right, title, and interest in and to said ferry and said tract of land. That the tract of land to which the privilege was attached was sold by Thompson to Vidal for the sum of four thousand dollars when the land without the ferry would not at the time had been worth more than eight hundred dollars. That said Vidal entered into possession of said ferry and plantation, and continued to keep and enjoy the same until the year 1817, when he sold and delivered the same to petitioner. That petitioner thus became the owner of the said tract of land and the lawful proprietor of the exclusive privilege of keeping said ferry. That by the laws, usages, and customs of the Spanish government at the date of said grant, said grant operates to the exclusion of any other ferry for the distance of one league above and one league below. That the title of petitioner, acquired from the Spanish government, has also a prescriptive right founded on the possession and enjoyment thereof by himself and vendors since 1801.

The petitioner then set forth that the police jury of the Parish of Concordia, in April, 1839, established a ferry across the Mississippi from the town of Vidalia in the Parish of Concordia to the City of Natchez which conflicted with his right.

The answer admitted the establishment of the ferry by the police jury, averred their right to do so, and contested the plaintiff's claim upon grounds which it is not necessary here to mention. Evidence was taken on both sides.

On 14 June, 1841, the Ninth District Court gave judgment for the defendants.

The case was carried to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which, at October term, 1841, reversed the judgment of the district court upon matters of evidence. It is reported in 19 La. 533.

Upon the second hearing before the Ninth District Court, judgment was rendered for the petitioner Davis, which, upon being again carried to the supreme court was again reversed and judgment rendered for the defendants. This last case is reported in 1 La.Ann. 288.

The petitioner, Davis, sued out a writ of error, and brought the case up to this Court.

Page 50 U. S. 285

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