Florida v. Georgia,
58 U.S. 478 (1854)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Florida v. Georgia, 58 U.S. 17 How. 478 478 (1854)

Florida v. Georgia

58 U.S. (17 How.) 478


In cases in which this Court has original jurisdiction, the form of proceeding is not regulated by act of Congress, but by the rules and orders of the court.

These rules and orders are framed in analogy to the practice in the English Court of Chancery. But the court does not follow this practice, where it would embarrass the case by unnecessary technicality or defeat the purposes of justice.

There is no mode of proceeding by which the United States can bring into review the decision of this Court upon a question of boundary between two states. Justice therefore requires that the United States, which represent the rights and interests of the other twenty-nine states, should have an opportunity of being heard before the boundary is established.

The Attorney General having filed an information, stating that the interests of the United States are involved in the establishment of the boundary line between Florida and Georgia, he has a right to appear on behalf of the United States and adduce proofs in support of the boundary claimed by them to be the true one, and to be heard at the argument.

The United States will not, by this proceeding, become a party in the technical sense of the word, and no judgment will be entered for or against them. But the evidence and arguments offered, in their behalf, will be considered by the court in deciding the matter in controversy.

Each party is at liberty to cause surveys and maps to be made. But the court does not deem it advisable to appoint persons for this purpose.

In 11 How. 293 [memorandum opinion -- omitted], it is reported that the State of Florida filed a bill in this Court, in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, against the State of Georgia to establish a boundary between them. The State of Georgia answered, and other proceedings were had, but the case was not yet at issue, nor was all the testimony taken upon which the parties proposed to rely.

At the present term, the Attorney General appeared in Court and filed the following information, moving at the same time for leave to intervene on behalf of the United States for the reasons stated in the information.

"Now on this 15th day of December, 1854, Caleb Cushing Attorney General of the United States, in his proper person comes here into the Court, and for the said United States gives the Court to understand and be informed that a certain bill of complaint

Page 58 U. S. 479

is pending in said Court, by or in behalf of the State of Florida, complainant, against the State of Georgia, defendant, wherein is in controversy a certain portion of the boundary line between said states, and of the lands contiguous thereto."

"That by Mariano D. Papy, Attorney General of the State of Florida, formal notice in the name and behalf of said state has been given to the United States that the matter of said bill is of interest and concern to the said United States."

"That by inspection of said bill of complaint, it appears that the State of Florida alleges that the portion of boundary line in question should run, commencing at the junction of the Flint and Chattachoochee Rivers, and thence in a straight line to a point at or near a monument commonly called Ellicott's Mound, at the assumed head of the River St. Mary's, which line has been surveyed by the surveyors of the United States, and is known as McNeil's line, or howsoever otherwise the same may be described or designated."

"That in said bill of complaint the State of Florida further alleges that the State of Georgia pretends that, commencing at the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, as aforesaid, the said line should run to a point called Lake Spalding, or a point called Lake Randolph."

"It further appears that the said points of Lake Spalding and Lake Randolph are situated about thirty miles to the south of said Ellicott's Mound, and the effect will be, if the pretense of the State of Georgia be sustained, to transfer to said State of Georgia a tract of land in the shape of a triangle, having a base of some thirty miles, and equal sides each of the length of about one hundred and fifty miles, comprehending upwards of one million two hundred thousand acres of land, which have been considered and treated heretofore as public domain of the United States, and surveyed as such, and much of which has accordingly been sold and patented by the government as of the Territory of East Florida acquired from Spain."

"And for the information of the Court herein, the Attorney General files, annexed to this motion:"

"1. A certified copy of the cautionary traverse line so surveyed in 1825, by said McNeil."

"2. A certified copy of the filed-notes of said traverse line so surveyed."

"3. A certified copy of the map of the cautionary true line, plotted from traverse line, by said McNeil."

"4. An official copy of diagram of Surveyor General of the United States for Florida, of surveys of public lands of United States in said state, to September 30, 1853."

"Whereupon, and in consideration of the interest and concern

Page 58 U. S. 480

of the United States manifestly apparent in said bill of complaint, the said Attorney General of the United States prays the consideration of the Court here, and moves the Court that he be permitted to appear in said case, and be heard in behalf of the United States in such time and form as the Court shall order. "

Page 58 U. S. 490

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