3 U.S. 425 (1799), Sims' Lessee v. Irvine

Citation:3 U.S. 425, 1 L.Ed. 665
Party Name:Sims Leffe v. Irvine.
Case Date:February 19, 1799
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 425

3 U.S. 425 (1799)

1 L.Ed. 665

Sims Leffe



United States Supreme Court.

February 19, 1799

Error from the Circuit Court for the Pennsylvania District. An ejectment being instituted in the inferior Court, by the Leffee of Sims vs. Irvine, the Jury found a special verdict, upon which judgment was rendered for the Plaintiff, by consent, and this writ of error was brought to settle the title. The parts of the special verdict material to the points in controversy were, in substance, as follows.


'The Jury find that the premises in dispute was called Montour's Island, situated in the river Ohio, on the south-east side, within the original limits of the Virginia charter, granted in 1609, and within the limits of the territorial district in dispute between Virginia and Pennsylvania, for several years prior to the 23rd. of Sept. 1780, when those states entered into the following compact relative to their boundaries, as it is inserted in the Journals of the general Assembly of Pennsylvania; and afterwards ratified by a law passed the 1st. of April, 1784.' 2 vol. p. 207, Dallas's Edit.

'Resolved, That although the conditions annexed by the legislature of Virginia, to the ratification of the boundary line agreed to by the commissioners of Pennsylvania and Virginia, on the thiry-first day of August, 1779, may tend to countenance some unwarrantable claims, which may be made under the state of Virginia, in consequence of pretended purchases, or settlements pending the controversy, yet this state, determining to give to the world the most unequivocal proof of their desire to promote peace and harmony with a sister state, so necessary during this great contest against the common enemy, do agree to the conditions proposed by the state of Virginia, in their resolves of the 23rd of June last; to wit,'

'That the agreement made on the thiry-first day of August, 1779, between Jam es Madison and Robert Andrews, Commissioners for the commonwealth of Virginia, and George Bryan, John Ewing, and David Rittenhouse, Commissioners for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, be ratified and finally confirmed; to wit, That the line commonly called Mason's and Dixon's line, be extended due west five degrees of longitude, to be computed from the river Delaware, for the southern boundary of Pennsylvania; and that a meridian line drawn from the western extremity thereof to the northern limits of the said states respectively, be the western boundary of Pennsylvania for ever. On condition, that the private property and rights of all persons acquired under, founded on, or recognized by the laws of either country, previous to the date hereof, be saved and confirmed to them, although they should be found to fall within the other, and that in the decision of disputes thereon, preference shall be given to the elder or prior right, which ever of the said states the same shall have been acquired under, such persons paying, to the state within whose boundary their lands shall be included, the same purchase or consideration money, which would have been due from them to the state under which they claimed the right; and where any such purchase or consideration money hath, since the declaration of American independence, been received by either state for lands, which, according to the before recited agreement, shall fall within the territory of the other, the same shall be reciprocally refunded and repaid; and that the inhabitants of the disputed territory, now ceded to the state of Pennsylvania, shall not, before the first day of December in the present year, be subject to the payment of any tax, nor at any time to the payment of arrears of taxes or impositions heretofore laid by either state.'

'And we do hereby accept and fully ratify the said recited condition, and the boundary line formed thereupon.'

'Resolved, That the president and council of this state be, and they are hereby empowered to appoint two commissioners on the part of this state, in conjunction with commissioners to be appointed by the state of Virginia, to extend the line commonly called Mason's and Dixon's line, five degrees of longitude from Delaware river, and from the western termination of the line so extended, to run and mark, as soon as may be, a meridian line to the Ohio river, the remainder of that line to be run as soon as the president and council, taking into their consideration the disposition of the Indians, shall think it prudent. And the president and council are hereby authorized to give to the said commissioners such instructions in the premises as they shall think fit.'

Page 427

'The Jury find that William Douglas was a field officer in the service of the king of Great Britain, in a regiment raised in the colony of New Jersey, who continued in service during the war between France and Great Britain, which terminated in 1763; and that the said king gave to him, his heirs and assigns by proclamation, a right to 5000 acres of waste and unappropriated lands in America; the part of the proclamation relating to the gift being expressed in these words:

'And whereas we are desirous upon all occasions, to restify our royal sense and approbation of the conduct and bravery of the officers and soldiers of our armies, and to reward the same, we do hereby command and empower our governors of our said three new colonies, and other our governors of our several provinces on the continent of North America, to grant, without fee, or reward to such reduced officers as having served in North America, during the late war, and are actually residing there, and shall personally apply for the same, the following quantities of land, subject, at the expiration of ten years, to the same quit-rents as other lands are subject to in the province within which they are granted, as also subject to the same conditions of cultivation and improvement:' viz.

'To every person having the rank of a field officer, 5000 acres.'

'To every captain, 3000 acres.'

'To every subaltern of staff officer, 2000 acres.'

'To every non-commission officer, 200 acres.'

'To every private, 50 acres.'

'We do, likewise, authorize and require the governors and commanders in chief of all our said colonies upon the continent of North America, to grant the like quantities of land, and upon the same conditions, to such reduced officers of our navy of like rank, as served on board our ships of war in North America, at the times of the reduction of Louisoung, and Quebec in the late war, who shall personally apply to our respective governors, for such grants. ' [*]

'The Jury find that the said W. Douglas, for a valuable consideration assigned on the 17th. of January 1779, to Charles Sims, and his heirs, all his right and title to the said bounty of 5000 acres of land; that C. Sims was born in Virginia, before the year 1760; that he was an inhabitant thereof since his birth; that he is the lessor of the Plaintiff and a citizen of Virginia; that William Irvine, the Defendant below, is a citizen and inhabitant of Pennsylvania; and that the lands mentioned in the declaration exceed the value of 2000 dollars.'

Page 428

The Jury find, in bac verba, a law of Virginia enacted in May 1779, entitled 'An Act, for adjusting and settling the titles of claimers to unpatented lands, under the present, and former government, previous to the establishment of the Commonwealth's Land-Office;' the material parts of which law are expressed in the following terms:

'An Act for adjusting and settling the titles of claimers, to unpatented lands under the present and former Government, previous to the establishment of the Commonwealth's Land-Office.'

'I. WHEREAS the various and vague claims to unpatented lands under the former and present Government, previous to the establishment of the Commonwealth's Land-Office, may produce tedious and infinite litigation and disputes, and in the mean time purchasers would be discourraged from taking up lands upon the terms lately prescribed by law, whereby the fund to be raised in aid of the taxes for discharging the public debt, would be in a great measure frustrated; and it is just and necessary, as well for the peace of individuals as for the public weal, that some certain rules should be established for settling and determining the rights to such lands, and fixing the principles upon which legal and just claimers shall be entitled to sue out grants; to the end that subsequent purchasers and adventurers may be enabled to proceed with greater certainty and safety; Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that all surveys of waste and unappropriated land made upon any of the western waters before the first day of January, in the year 1778, and upon any of the eastern waters at any time before the end of this present session of Assembly, by any county surveyor commissioned by the masters of William and Mary college, acting in conformity to the laws and rules of government then in force, and founded either upon charter, importation rights duly proved and certified according to the ancient usage, as far as relates to indented servants, and other persons not being convicts, upon treasury rights for money paid the Receiver General duly authenticated upon entries on the western waters, regularly made before the 26th day of October, in the year 1703, or on the eastern waters at any time before the end of this present session of the Assembly, with the surveyor of the county for tracts of land not exceeding four hundred acres, according to act of Assembly upon any order of Council, or entry in the Council books, and made during the time in which it shall appear either from the original or any subsequent order, entry, or proceedings in the Council books, that such order or entry remained in force, the...

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