Mackall v. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Co.,
94 U.S. 308 (1876)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mackall v. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Co., 94 U.S. 308 (1876)

Mackall v. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Co.

94 U.S. 308


1. The canal and other works of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company situate in the District of Columbia having, by an Act of Congress of March 3, 1826, 4 Stat. 101, been exempted from taxation, a sale in 1864 of any part thereof on account of taxes alleged to be due thereon was void.

2. The question of the company's forfeiture of their right to hold, free from taxation, property after they ceased to use it for canal purposes can be judicially determined only in a direct proceeding by the public authorities. It cannot be made an issue for the first time in the trial of a question of private right between other parties.

This was an action of ejectment for a part of Square No. 3, in the City of Washington. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, plaintiff below, proved a complete paper title to the land and a continuous occupation of it for thirty years prior to 1867. The defendant entered that year.

Proof was made of an Act of the legislature of Virginia, approved Jan. 27, 1824, entitled "An Act incorporating the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company," the ninth section of which provides

"That for and in consideration of the expenses, the said stockholders will be at . . . the said canal and all other works aforesaid, &c., shall be vested, &c., and be forever exempt from the payment of any tax, imposition, or assessment whatsoever,"

and also of an Act of Congress approved March 3, 1825, 4 Stat. 101.

It appeared from the proof that the land in dispute had not been used for canal purposes since the year 1830, but had been leased or rented to various parties. The defendant below thereupon offered to show that it had been regularly listed and entered for taxation and sold in 1864 for the nonpayment of taxes assessed against it, and that he was in possession, claiming under a deed from the authorities of the District pursuant to such sale. The court excluded the evidence.

The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff, and a judgment was rendered thereon. The defendant then sued out this writ, and assigns for error the action of the court below in excluding the evidence offered by him.

Page 94 U. S. 309

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