53 U.S. 209 (1852), U.s. v. Moore

Citation:53 U.S. 209, 13 L.Ed. 958
Case Date:January 15, 1852
Court:United States Supreme Court

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53 U.S. 209 (1852)

13 L.Ed. 958




United States Supreme Court.

January 15, 1852

THIS was an appeal from the District Court of the United States, for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The act, approved 17th June, 1844, [4 Stat. at L., p. 676], revived and continued for five years, and extended to the state of Louisiana the expired act of 26th May, 1824, entitled 'An act enabling the claimants to lands within the limits of the state

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of Missouri and Territory of Arkansas to institute proceedings to try the validity of their claims.' 4 Stat. at L., p. 52.

Under this act, Michael Moore presented his petition to the District Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana, on the 17th June, 1846, claiming sixty thousand arpents of land situated in the District of the Atchafalaya, in the sharp end of land or angle where the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers join, or the point formed between the said rivers at the place the Atchafalaya leaves the Mississippi.

The title presented by the petitioner was the following:

No. 2.--Sale of Royal Lands; page 31.

Don Juan Ventura Morales and Don Gilberto Leonard, intendant and comptroller,pro tempore of the Province of Louisiana.

We have received from Don Antonio Iriarte twenty-four thousand bits (12 1/2 cts. each), for the value of sixty thousand superficial arpents of land, at the rate of five cents per arpent, which land has been sold to him for amount of the royal treasurer in the district of country of Chafalaya and the Mississippi, on the point where the two unite; which payment is entered in folio 31 of the journal of this treasury department, and seven hundred and eight bits (12 1/2 cents each), the amount due for the two and a half per cent. for the duty of half-yearly tribute, and eighteen per cent. for the transportation of said half-yearly tribute to Spain, have also been paid, as shown by the amount below, namely:

Bits. Bits. For the value of said land, 24,000 The half-yearly tribute, and eighteen per cent. for its transportation to Spain, 708 ------ 24,708

New Orleans, 11th September, 1797.

(Signed) MORALES.



On the 8th of January, 1835, Don Roque Moreno, then residing in Madrid, purchased the claim from Don Antonio Iriarte for fifty thousand bits (12 1/2 cents each); and in order to obtain a formal transfer of the title, he presented a petition on the 17th of February, 1835, to the Lieutenant Mayor of Madrid, requesting that the acknowledgment of Iriarte to the transfer might be made in due form. Accordingly, Iriarte appeared before the Lieutenant Mayor, and acknowledged the deed in the presence of three notaries.

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In 1838, Roque Moreno wrote several letters to the house of Rosendo Fernandez & Co., at Havana, requesting them to sell the claim, and in May indorsed the document to them for this purpose by the following order:

'Pay to the order of Messrs. Don Rosendo Fernandez & Co., the value of the document hereto annexed, for value in account with said gentlemen.


'Madrid, 27th May, 1838.'

On the 15th of September, 1838, Fernandez & Co. assigned the documents to Cuesta, who transferred them to Moore, the petitioner, as appears by the following transfers:

'Agreeably to a letter from Don Roque Moreno, of 28th of July last, we transfer the above documents to Don Antonio Garcia Cuesta, or order, without any recourse whatsoever against us.


'Havana, 15th September, 1838.'

'I hereby assign, transfer, and convey to Michael Moore, all my right, title, and interest, and the interest of Roque Moreno and R. Fernandez & Co., to the foregoing title, and to the sixty thousand arpents of land herein mentioned.


The petitioner, Moore, also, presented in evidence the following letter from Leopold O'Donnell, Governor and Captain-General of the Island of Cuba, verified by Robert B. Campbell, Esq., consul of the United States at Havana. The letter was addressed to the Spanish consul at New Orleans.

'In my official letter of the 22d of February, I communicated to your Excellency what follows:

'His Excellency, the Intendant of the Army, Sub-Intendant-General, and Delegate of the Royal Treasury of this city, in his official letter of the 18th of this month, communicates to me what follows:

'ESTEEMED SIR,--In order to be able to answer your official letter of the 8th inst., in which you inclosed me a letter from the consul of her Majesty in New Orleans, asking certain information, I sent said letter to the general archives of the royal treasury, and have obtained the following information. At folio 31 of the book (journal) of the Comptroller for the Army and Department of the Royal Treasury for the Province of Louisiana, for the year 1797, is an entry, of which what follows is an exact copy:

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'September 11th. We have received from Don Antonio Iriarte twenty-four thousand bits, for the value of sixty thousand superficial arpents of land, at the rate of five cents per arpent, which land has been sold to him for amount of the royal treasury, in the district of country of Chafalaya and the Mississippi, on the point where the two unite; and the seven hundred and eight bits, for the balance due for the duty of 2 1/2 per cent. for half-yearly tribute on the value of the land, and eighteen per cent. for the transportation of said half-yearly tribute to Spain, have also been paid, as appears by the account below:

For the value of said lands, .......... 24,000 bits. The half-yearly tribute, and 18 per cent. for its transportation to Spain, 708 ------ 24,708 bits.


Antonio Iriarte, 24,708 bits.

'This is all that appears in relation to the transfer which the Spanish government made in Louisiana Don Antonio Iriarte, of the 60,000 arpents of land of which mention is made in the official letter of his Excellency the Captain-General, and also in the letter of the consul of her Majesty at New Orleans, inclosed therein; whether it be in consequence of the documents appertaining to the subject-matter not having been transferred to this office, now under my charge, or whether they were among those which have been lost on the way to this island, or of those which were destroyed by the moths and humidity in the place where they had been deposited since they were received here; neither can be found the decree or copy issued by the tribunal of this intendancy, ordering to be made out the calculations of the amount to be paid by the purchaser for said land; and consequently this office cannot give any thing more than what has already been stated in relation to the boundaries, dimensions of the land, or furnish any thing by which the parties interested may do so. The above is in answer to your letter above mentioned, and I transmit this information to you for your knowledge, and in answer to your letter of the 25th of last month having reference to this subject.

'I transmit to you the above information, in case the first communication of a similar nature should have been mislaid or lost.

'May God preserve you many years.


'Havana, 11th April, 1845.'

Several witnesses were examined on behalf of the petitioner

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who verified the signatures of Rosendo Fernandez & Co., of Roque Moreno, of Morales, Leonard, and Valdes. One of the witnesses, Charles Louis Blacke, being shown the original document, said, 'Cannot explain why the document A is cut, as it appears to be; believes that it must have been done in wantonness. States that documents in the intendancy department were never cut in that way.'

Jose Martinez del Campo, witness for plaintiff, being recalled, states, that the discolored appearance of the paper, the document A, in his opinion, arises from certain things, which he states as follows: That the officers of quarantine in Spain, in order to prevent the spreading of infectious diseases, immerse documents in vinegar, and cut them in the manner of the document A in question, in order to make the vinegar penetrate more easily. This, he thinks, has been the case with the document A, and therefore, its discolored and cut appearance.

States, that all the documents from Spain are cut in like manner; that he has often seen them; he has in his possession letters cut in the same way.

The petitioner also offered evidence to prove the genuineness of the letters from Roque Moreno, above mentioned.

The District Attorney put in a general denial, on the part of the United States, and offered sundry original documents in evidence to show Morales's habitual mode of signing officially, and also Leonard's mode of signature.

At May term, 1848, the cause came on for trial before the District Court; the petitioner having entered a disclaimer as to the lands claimed by Butler and Black, confining his claim, as to them, to a float from the United States. The following is the decree of the District Court:

'It is hereby ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the petitioner, Michael Moore, is the true and lawful...

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