Hall v. Papin
Annotate this Case
65 U.S. 132 (1860)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Hall v. Papin, 65 U.S. 24 How. 132 132 (1860)
Hall v. Papin
65 U.S. (24 How.) 132
An Act of Congress passed on the 15th of May, 1829, 3 Stat. 605, authorizes persons who claim lots in the Village of Peoria, in Illinois, to notify the register of the land office, who was directed to report to the Secretary of the Treasury, to be laid by him before Congress.
An Act of March 3, 1823, 3 Stat. 786, grants to each one of the settlers who had settled on a lot prior to the 1st of January, 1813, the lot so settled on and improved, where the same shall not exceed two acres, and where the same shall exceed two acres, every such claimant shall be confirmed in a quantity not exceeding ten acres, provided the right of any other person derived from the United States, or any other source whatever &c., shall not be affected.
These two statutes were drawn into question in the case of Bryan v. Forsyth, 19 How. 334, where it was ruled that
"in the interval between 1823 and the survey a patent was taken out, which was issued subject to all the rights of persons claiming under the act of 1823. This patent was controlled by the subsequent survey."
In the present case the patent is not controlled by the subsequent survey, for the following reasons:
The old Village of Peoria was settled very early in the history of the country, but abandoned before the years 1796, 1797, and the new Village of Peoria built up at the distance of a mile and a half.
The Act of March, 1823, applies only to the new town, and the land in question is an out-lot or field of ten acres near the old Village of Peoria.
Papin, the plaintiff below, claimed under a plat of the village made in May, 1837, approved September, 1841, and a deed to himself from the confirmee made in 1854.
Hall, the defendant below, claimed under a preemption certificate of 1833, a patent from the United States in 1837 to Seth and Josiah Fulton, and a deed to himself from the patentees in 1838.
Supposing that no out-lot was meant to be confirmed, the inchoate right of the claimant under the act was subject to a survey and designation before it could be matured into a title.
An instruction given by the court below to the jury, viz., that the persons taking under the patent of March 18, 1837, and under the entry of July 11, 1833, must be considered as taking their grant subject to the contingency of the better title which might thereafter be perfected under the acts of 1820 and
1823; and when a party brought himself within those acts, his title was the paramount title, notwithstanding the patent to the Fultons was erroneous.
So also it was error in the court below to refuse to instruct the jury that if they believed from the evidence that by the plaintiff's recovering in this case the legal representatives of Willette would be confirmed in more than ten acres of Peoria French claims, they were to find for the defendant.
The true construction of the act is that a claimant was to have one confirmation of "a lot so settled and improved," which had been claimed and entered in the report of the register of the land office at Edwardsville, in pursuance of the Act of May 15, 1820; that no claimant, though he shall appear in the register's report as having made several claims, could, after having had one of them confirmed, transfer any right of property in the others to any person whatever.
The dispute arose under the two acts of Congress passed in 1820 and 1823, confirming the claims of settlers in the Village of Peoria, which are particularly mentioned in the opinion of the court, and which were also examined in a case reported in 60 U. S. 19 How. 334. The instructions of the court below are also set forth in the present opinion, which renders it unnecessary to state them in this place.
It will be observed that the principal point upon which the decision of this Court turned was that the lots in question were outside of the Village of Peoria. Mr. Browning brought this point before the court in the following manner:
The plaintiff in error defendant below asked the court to instruct the jury
"That if they believed, from the evidence, that the original French settlement or improvement, upon which the plaintiff's claim in this suit is based, was not upon or within the northwest quarter of section three, in township eight north, in range eight east, of the fourth principal meridian, nor located upon that quarter section by the United States surveyor until after that quarter section was sold to
the Fultons by the United States, they, the jury, are to find for the defendant."
Which instruction the court refused to give; but, on the contrary, instructed the jury that the acts of Congress of 1820 and 1823, taken in connection with the report of the register of the land office and the survey under the authority of the law, vested in the party entitled under the acts of Congress an absolute right of property in the lot so surveyed, and that the surveys, for the purposes of this action, made the title of the claimant, under the acts of Congress, complete, and that the persons taking under the patent of March 18, 1837, as well as of the entry of July 11, 1833, being the same grant, took their grant subject to the contingency of the better title which might thereafter be perfected under the acts of 1820 and 1822, and that when a party brought himself within these acts, his title was the paramount title, notwithstanding the patent to the Fultons.
Now, this instruction virtually admits that the land in controversy never had been settled upon or improved by any of the French or Canadian inhabitants of the Village of Peoria, and that it was no part of the village, but quite and altogether outside of and beyond its limits; for the defendant below had proven this state of fact, or given evidence strongly tending to prove it, and the court told the jury substantially that it was wholly immaterial whether it had ever been settled upon and improved or not, or whether it had ever been a part of the Village of Peoria or not, for that the title of the plaintiff, by virtue of the laws of 1820 and 1823, and by virtue of the survey made, not upon the land of the United States, but upon the land of the Fultons, was made absolute, and paramount to the title of the Fultons, notwithstanding the Fultons had the first grant from the government. Or, to put it in another form, the instruction amounted simply to this:
That on the 11th July, 1833, and the 18th March, 1837, when the land was sold and patented to the Fultons, said land belonged, absolutely and exclusively, to the United States, and that the French settlers at Peoria had no right to or interest in it, inasmuch as they had never had any settlement or improvement upon it,
and it had never been any part of their village; that the government owning it, had a right to do with it as it pleased, and that in the exercise of that right it had sold and granted it to the Fultons, thereby parting with all its right, title, and interest in it, and all power and control over it; but that, notwithstanding this, it could authorize a survey of it under a law which had no reference whatever to this land, but to land upon which the French had settled and improved; and by virtue of such survey, take Fultons' land and appropriate it to the satisfaction of a French claim, which, in reference to this land, had never had an existence.
Now let it be conceded, as it is by the instruction of the court, that there was never any French settlement or improvement on this land, and that it was no part of the Village of Peoria -- then, I ask, by what right, or upon what principle, it can be taken for the satisfaction of a claim in the Village of Peoria, after it has ceased to be the property of the United States and has become the property of a private citizen? I freely concede that whilst it remained the property of the United States, they could authorize any part, or the whole of it, to be given in satisfaction of French claims, although the French settlements and improvements had never been on or near it. But I do not comprehend how, after the government had parted with its interest, had sold and conveyed to the Fultons, it could authorize it to be taken for the satisfaction of a French claim, or for any other purpose. Its power over it was gone, and it could no more take this than it could take land situated anywhere else, which it had previously sold and granted away.
It is admitted that the surveyor might go outside of the original French settlement and locate a claim upon any land belonging to the government, for the government had a right to do as it pleased with its own, and to authorize the location of a claim where no settlement had previously been, and to confirm such location after it was so made; but it is emphatically denied that he could go outside of the original settlement and locate upon the land of an individual, in which the government had no interest. If he could go off the settlement,
outside of the village at all, where was he to stop? what limit was there to his discretion or power? If he could go a half mile, could he not go a mile? and if one, could he not go ten? Could he not, in fact, go to the uttermost bounds of the land district? Mere contiguity of Fultons' land to the old French Village of Peoria gave the French claimants no more right to it than they had to land situated ten miles distant, and which had been sold by the United States after the passage of the laws of 1820 and 1823. Yet the court told the jury that although no part of the original French settlement or improvement, upon which the claim is based, was upon the land sued for, nor located upon it by the United States surveyor until after it had been sold to the Fultons by the United States, still the Fultons took the land subject to the contingency of its being thereafter taken from them to satisfy this French claim. How did the Fultons take their land subject to such a contingency, any more than other purchasers from the government? There had originally been no French settlement upon it, and when they bought, no claim had been surveyed or located upon it. When the United States sold, its title was perfect and the land unencumbered, and they sold and granted absolutely, unconditionally, and without reservation of any kind or character. It was no part of the contract between the Fultons and the United States that they should take the land subject to the contingency of its being afterwards retaken and disposed of to another. If they took their land subject to such a contingency, did not every other person in that land district who purchased land from the United States, after the passage of the laws of 1820 and 1823, take it subject to the same contingency? There was nothing in the character or quality of the land purchased by the Fultons, nor in the nature of their contract with the United States, to distinguish them from other purchasers from the government. They took upon the same terms, and they held by the same tenure, with all others who purchased land to which the government had title; and I ask again what was there in this transaction to distinguish it from any other case of an absolute and unconditional sale of land by the United
States, to which they had title, or to subject the Fultons to the contingency of having it taken from them, after they had fairly bought it, paid for it, and received a patent therefor? If they are to be made an exception to all the general rules of law and property, they ought, at least, to be informed why. It is not because there had been a French settlement and improvement upon their land, for this is disproved. Not because it had been surveyed, and a French claim located thereon before they bought, for no such thing had been done. Not because they made a conditional purchase, for the United States conveyed to them absolutely, and without condition or reservation. No reason whatever is perceived for making an exception of this case.
If the instructions given by the court to the jury are right, it must be because they contain a general principle of law, applicable to all cases in the same land district with Peoria, for there is nothing in this case to distinguish it from any other; and that general principle, as declared by the court, is that all persons who purchased from the United States in that land district, after the passage of the laws of 1820 and 1823, took their land subject to the contingency of having it retaken, to satisfy French claims. This certainly cannot be so.