McCool v. Smith,
66 U.S. 459 (1861)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCool v. Smith, 66 U.S. 1 Black 459 459 (1861)

McCool v. Smith

66 U.S. (1 Black) 459


1. A statute of Virginia, passed after the 1st of March, 1784, when Virginia ceded to the United States her territory north and west of the Ohio, has not and never had any force within the limits of Illinois.

2. In ascertaining who is meant by "next of kin" in a statute of Illinois regulating descents or a distribution, the computation must be made according to the rules of the common law.

3. It is a sound rule that whenever a legislature in this country uses a term, without defining it, which is well known in the English law, it must be understood in the sense of the English law.

4. By the rules of the common law, terms of kindred, when used in a statute, include only those who are legitimate unless a different intention is clearly manifested.

5. In Illinois, a plaintiff in ejectment cannot recover upon a title which he acquired after the commencement of the suit. Such a recovery would be against an inflexible rule of the common law and an express statute of that state.

6. One statute is not to be construed as a repeal of another if it be possible to reconcile the two together.

Page 66 U. S. 460

Hamilton McCool brought ejectment in the circuit court against Spencer Smith for the northeast quarter of section eleven, in township 10 north, of range 1 west, of the fourth principal meridian. The defendant pleaded not guilty, and, a jury being called, found the following special verdict:

"That the land mentioned in the said declaration was, on the 7th day of June, 1818, duly granted by the United States to Alonzo Redman for his military services in the late war between the United States and Great Britain; that said Redman was the illegitimate son of Polly Norris; that said Polly Norris had three other illegitimate children, named Eleanor Fogg, Joseph Melcher, and Sophia Norton; that Eleanor Fogg died without issue in the year 1824; that Joseph Melcher died without issue in the year 1814; that Alonzo Redman died without issue in the year 1825; that Polly Norris died without any other issue than as above stated, in the year 1837; that Sophia Norton married Reuben Rand in the year 1816; that Reuben Rand died in June, 1853; that Sophia Rand, on the 23d day of June, 1854, by her quitclaim deed of that date duly executed, conveyed said land to one Levi F. Stevens; that said Stevens, on the 21st day of April, 1855, by his quitclaim deed of that date, duly conveyed said land to Spencer Smith, the plaintiff."

"That the General Assembly of the State of Illinois passed an act entitled 'An act to amend an act concerning the descent of real property in this state, approved February 12, 1853,' which act was approved by the governor on the 16th day of February, 1857, which act is in the words and figures following, viz.:"

"SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the general assembly, that in all cases where any person shall have died leaving any real property before the passage of the act to which this is an amendment which, by the provisions of the act to which this is an amendment, would have descended to any illegitimate child or children, such child or children shall be deemed and adjudged to be the owner of such real property the same as if such act had been in force at the time of such death unless such property shall have been proceeded against and the title thereto vested in the

Page 66 U. S. 461

state or other persons under the law of this state concerning escheats."

"SECTION 2. In all such cases hereinbefore specified where any such illegitimate child or children shall have sold and conveyed such real property by deed duly executed or where the same would have descended by the provisions of the act to which this is an amendment, and shall have been conveyed by deed by the person to whom the same would have descended, then such conveyances shall vest the same title thereto in the grantee as by this act is vested in such illegitimate child, from the date of such deed, and in all actions and courts such grantee shall be deemed to be the owner of such real property from the time of the date of the conveyance."

"SECTION 3. This act shall be in force from and after its passage."

"That said lands have never been proceeded against, and the title thereto vested in the state, or other persons, under the law of this state concerning escheats."

"We further find that John Brown, Collector of Taxes in and for the County of Warren and State of Illinois, did, on the 25th day of May, 1840, sell said land to Isaac Murphy, for the taxes due to the state and county aforesaid, upon said land, for the year 1839, and that he did, on the 9th day of September, 1843, in pursuance of said sale by deed of that date, convey said land to the said Murphy; that said collector, in making such sale and conveyance, did not comply with the law authorizing the sale of lands for taxes, and that said deed was for that reason invalid as a conveyance of the legal title. That said Murphy claiming said land in good faith under said deed, improved, occupied, and cultivated the same, and paid all the taxes assessed thereon, for and during the years 1843, 1844, 1845, and 1846. That said Murphy, on the 7th day of April, 1847, by his deed of that date, conveyed the said land to Hamilton J. McCool, the defendant, who immediately thereafter took possession thereof, and has been in the actual possession thereof ever since, claiming the same in good faith, under said conveyances, and that he has paid all the taxes assessed upon said land for and during the years 1847, 1848, 1849, 1850,

Page 66 U. S. 462

1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, and 1856. That the taxes so paid to the said state and county, by the said Murphy and McCool, amount to the sum of one hundred and nine dollars. If from these facts the court is of the opinion that the plaintiff is entitled to recover &c., then we find for the plaintiff, and that said plaintiff is the owner of the land, in fee simple, and assess his damages at one cent; otherwise, we find for the defendant."

Upon this verdict the circuit court gave judgment for the plaintiff, and the defendant took his writ of error.

Page 66 U. S. 465

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