Messenger v. Mason
Annotate this Case
77 U.S. 507 (1870)
U.S. Supreme Court
Messenger v. Mason, 77 U.S. 10 Wall. 507 507 (1870)
Messenger v. Mason
77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 507
1. A certificate from the Supreme Court of Iowa (lately a territory) that in a case brought here from its final judgment, the validity of the Partition Law of Iowa Territory, approved January 4, 1839, was drawn in question on the ground that the same was in conflict with the Ordinance of 1787, the Constitution of the United States, the treaties and laws thereof, the objections thereto overruled, and the statute held to be valid against the rights and interests of the defendant, as claimed by them, presents the constitutional objection in too general a form to give this Court jurisdiction under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act.
2. That section does not apply to the case where is drawn in question the validity of a statute of a territory.
3. Where an ordinance of the United States, then existing, has been incorporated as organic law into the system of laws of a new territory, with a provision, however, that the ordinance should be subject to be altered, modified, or repealed by its governor and legislature, the decision of the supreme court of the state (lately the territory) cannot be brought here under the 25th section on the ground that in a suit before it there was drawn in question the validity of a statute of the territory as being repugnant to a law of the United States.
Mason sued Messenger in one of the county courts of Iowa to recover the possession of certain land in that state. He relied upon a judgment in partition of the tract rendered in the District Court of the Territory of Iowa in April, 1841, in pursuance of a law of that territory.
The defendant objected to the admission of the record of judgment on the ground that the law under which the proceedings were had was unconstitutional and void.
The objection was overruled, the record admitted, and a verdict and judgment rendered for the plaintiff. On an appeal to the supreme court of the territory by the defendant, the judgment was affirmed and the case was brought here as within the 25th section of the Judiciary Act.
The certificate from the Supreme Court of Iowa certified:
"That on the final hearing, the validity of the partition law of Iowa Territory, approved January 4, 1839, was drawn in question on the ground that the same was in conflict with the Ordinance of 1787, the Constitution of the United States, the treaties and laws thereof, that the objections thereto were overruled, and the statute held to be valid."
The Territory of Iowa, it should be stated, was not a part of that to which the Ordinance of 1787 originally applied, but was a part of the Louisiana purchase. Prior to June 12, 1838, it was part of the Territory of Wisconsin. [Footnote 1] The act, however, of the date just mentioned, which set it off and
made its organic law, incorporated into its laws indirectly many of the provisions of the ordinance by extending to its inhabitants the rights and privileges theretofore secured to the Territory of Wisconsin by its organic law, among which were those found in the ordinance. [Footnote 2] But the section that conferred these rights and privileges upon the new Territory of Iowa provided that they should be subject "to be altered, modified, or repealed" by its governor and legislative assembly.