Fletcher v. Peck

CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation10 U.S. 87,3 L.Ed. 162,6 Cranch 87
PartiesFLETCHER v. PECK
Decision Date01 February 1810

10 U.S. 87
6 Cranch 87
3 L.Ed. 162
FLETCHER
v.
PECK.
February Term, 1810

ERROR to the circuit court for the district of Massachusetts, in an action of covenant brought by Flecher against Peck.

The first count of the declaration states that Peck, by his deed of bargain and sale dated the 14th of May, 1803, in consideration of 3,000 dollars, sold and conveyed to Fletcher, 15,000 acres of land lying in common and undivided in a tract described as follows: beginning on the river Mississippi, where the latitude 32 deg. 40 min. north of the equator intersects the same, running thence along the same parallel of latitude a due east course to the Tombigby river, thence up the said Tombigby river to where the latitude of 32 deg. 43 min. 52 sec. intersects the same, thence along the same parallel of latitude a due west course to the Mississippi; thence down the said river, to the place of beginning; the said described tract containing 500,000 acres, and is the same which was conveyed by Nathaniel Prime to Oliver Phelps, by deed dated the 27th of February, 1796, and of which the said Phelps conveyed four fifths to Benjamin Hichborn, and the said Peck by deed dated the 8th of December, 1800; the said tract of 500,000 acres, being part of a tract which James Greenleaf conveyed to the said N. Prime, by deed dated the 23d of September, 1795, and is parcel of that tract which James Gunn, Mathew M'Allister, George Walker, Zachariah Cox, Jacob Walburger, William Longstreet and Wade Hampton, by deed dated 22d of August, 1795, conveyed to the said James Greenleaf; the same being part of that tract which was granted by letters patent under the great seal of the state of Georgia, and the signature of George Matthews, Esq. governor of that state, dated the 13th of January, 1795, to the said James Gunn and others, under the name of James Gunn, Mathew M'Allister, and George

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Walker and their associates, and their heirs and assigns in fee-simple, under the name of the Georgia company; which patent was issued by virtue of an act of the legislature of Georgia, passed the 7th of January, 1795, entitled 'An act supplementary to an act for appropriating part of the unlocated territory of this state for the payment of the late state troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned, and declaring the right of this state to the unappropriated territory thereof, for the protection and support of the frontiers of this state, and for other purposes.'

That Peck, in his deed to Fletcher, covenanted 'that the state of Georgia aforesaid was, at the time of the passing of the act of the legislature thereof, (entitled as aforesaid,) legally seised in fee of the soil thereof, subject only to the extinguishment of part of the Indian title thereon. And that the legislature of the said state at the time of passing the act of sale aforesaid, had good right to sell and dispose of the same in manner pointed out by the said act. And that the governor of the said state had lawful authority to issue his grant aforesaid, by virtue of the said act. And further, that all the title which the said state of Georgia ever had in the aforegranted premises has been legally conveyed to the said John Peck by force of the conveyances aforesaid. And further, that the title to the premises so conveyed by the state of Georgia, and finally vested in the said Peck, has been in no way constitutionally or legally impaired by virtue of any subsequent act of any subsequent legislature of the said state of Georgia.'

The breach assigned in the first count was, that at the time the said act of 7th of January, 1795, was passed, 'the said legislature had no authority to sell and dispose of the tenements aforesaid, or of any part thereof, in the manner pointed out in the said act.'

The 2d count, after stating the covenants in the deed as stated in the first count, averred, that at Augusta, in the said state of Georgia, on the 7th day of January, 1795, the said James Gunn, Mathew M'Allister

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and George Walker, promised and assured divers members of the legislature of the said state then duly and legally sitting in general assembly of the said state, that if the said members would assent to and vote for the passing of the act of the said general assembly, entitled as aforesaid, the same then being before the said general assembly in the form of a bill, and if the said bill should pass into a law, that such members should have a share of, and be interested in, all the lands, which they the said Gunn, M'Allister and Walker, and their associates, should purchase of the said state by virtue of and under authority of the same law: and that divers of the said members to whom the said promise and assurance was so made as aforesaid, were unduly influenced thereby, and under such influence did then and there vote for the passing the said bill into a law; by reason whereof the said law was a nullity, and from the time of passing the same as aforesaid was, ever since has been, and now is, absolutely void and of no effect whatever; and that the title which the said state of Georgia had in the aforegranted premises at any time whatever was never legally conveyed to the said Peck, by force of the conveyances aforesaid.'

The third count, after repeating all the averments and recitals contained in the second, further averred, that after the passing of the said act, and of the execution of the patent aforesaid, the general assembly of the state of Georgia, being a legislature of that state subsequent to that which passed the said act, at a session thereof, duly and legally holden at Augusta, in the said state, did, on the 13th of February, 1796, because of the undue influence used as aforesaid, in procuring the said act to be passed, and for other causes, pass another certain act in the words following, that is to say, 'An act declaring null and void a certain usurped act passed by the last legislature of this state at Augusta, the 7th day of January, 1795, under the pretended title of 'An act supplementary to an act entitled an act for appropriating a part of the unlocated

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territory of the state for the payment of the late state troops, and for other purposes therein mentioned, declaring the right of this state to the unappropriated territory thereof for the protection of the frontiers, and for other purposes' and for expunging from the public records the said usurped act, and declaring the right of this state to all lands lying within the boundaries therein mentioned.'

By which, after a long preamble, it is enacted, 'That the said usurped act passed on the 7th of January, 1795, entitled, &c. be, and the same is hereby declared, null and void, and the grant or grants right or rights, claim or claims, issued, deduced, or derived therefrom, or from any clause, letter or spirit of the same, or any part of the same, is hereby also anulled, rendered void, and of no effect; and as the same was made without constitutional authority, and fraudulently obtained, it is hereby declared of no binding force or effect on this state, or the people thereof, but is and are to be considered, both law and grant, as they ought to be, ipso facto, of themselves, void, and the territory therein mentioned is also hereby declared to be the sole property of the state, subject only to the right of treaty of the United States to enable the state to purchase under its pre-emption right, the Indian title to the same.'

The 2d section directs the enrolled law, the grant, and all deeds, contracts, &c. relative to the purchase, to be expunged from the records of the state, &c.

The 3d section declares that neither the law nor the grant, nor any other conveyance, or agreement relative thereto, shall be received in evidence in any court of law or equity in the state so far as to establish a right to the territory or any part thereof, but they may be received in evidence in private actions between individuals for the recovery of money paid upon pretended sales, &c.

The 4th section provides for the repayment of money, funded stock, &c. which may have been paid into the treasury, provided it was then remaining

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therein, and provided the repayment should be demanded within eight months from that time.

The 5th section prohibits any application to congress, or the general government of the United States for the extinguishment of the Indian claim; and

The 6th section provides for the promulgation of the act.

The count then assigns a breach of the covenant in the following words, viz. 'And by reason of the passing of the said last-mentioned act, and by virtue thereof, the title which the said Peck had, as aforesaid, in and to the tenements aforesaid, and in and to any part thereof, was constitutionally and legally impaired, and rendered null and void.'

The 4th count, after reciting the covenants as in the first, assigned as a breach, 'that at the time of passing of the act of the 7th of January, 1795, the United States of America were seised in fee-simple of all the tenements aforesaid, and of all the soil thereof, and that at that time the State of Georgia was not seised in fee-simple of the tenements aforesaid, or of any part thereof, nor of any part of the soil thereof, subject only to the extinguishment of part of the Indian title thereon.'

The defendant pleaded four pleas, viz.

1st plea. As to the breach assigned in the first count, he says,

That on the 6th of May, 1789, at Augusta, in the State of Georgia, the people of that state by their delegates, duly authorized and empowered to form, declare, ratify, and confirm a constitution for the government of the said state, did form, declare, ratify, and confirm such constitution, in the words following:

Here was inserted the whole constitution, the 16th section of which declares, that the general assembly hall have power to make all laws and ordinances

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which they shall deem necessary and proper for the...

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683 practice notes
  • Steiner v. Superior Court, Nos. G019753
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 26, 1996
    ...very early in American jurisprudence. The California Supreme Court [citation] [has] called Fletcher v. Peck (1810) 10 U.S. (6 Cranch) 87, 3 L.Ed. 162 'the classic statement of the policies behind the rule.' Even when a legislature [50 Cal.App.4th 1784] stood accused of corruption in its law......
  • Planned Parenthood Kansas v. Moser, Nos. 11–3235
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • March 25, 2014
    ...like Bogan, was a legislative-immunity case. But Tenney gave as the ultimate source for the proposition the early case of Fletcher v. Peck, 10 U.S. 87, 130, 6 Cranch 87, 3 L.Ed. 162 (1810), which considered a challenge to legislation predicated on the improper motives of the enactors. And b......
  • Chi., St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co. v. Douglas Cnty.
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 8, 1908
    ...10, Laws 1882; Chapter 29, p. 19, Laws 1883; Strother v. Lucas, 12 Pet. (U. S.) 454, 9 L. Ed. 1137;Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch (U. S.) 128, 3 L. Ed. 162;Deseret Salt Co. v. Tarpey, 142 U. S. 241, 12 Sup. Ct. 158, 35 L. Ed. 999;Schulenberg v. Harriman, 21 Wall. (U. S.) 44, 22 L. Ed. 551;Calho......
  • Flemming v. Nestor, No. 54
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 20, 1960
    ...that the legislature is to be pronounced to have transcended its powers, and its acts to be considered as void.' Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 128, 3 L.Ed. 162. Page 618 Section 202(n) was enacted as a small part of an extensive revision of the Social Security program. The provision origin......
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    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • September 18, 1998
    ...the clause has long been interpreted to apply to public contracts as well. See, e.g., Fletcher v. Peck, 10 U.S. (6 Cranch) 87, 137-39, 3 L.Ed. 162 The same two-part test applies in both public and private contexts. See Parker v. Wakelin, 123 F.3d 1, 4-5 (1st Cir.1997); McGrath v. Rhode Isla......
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    ...1112, 117 L.Ed.2d 328 (1992) (" [R]etroactive legislation . . . can deprive citizens of legitimate expectations''); Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 143, 3 L.Ed. 162 (1810) (Johnson, J., concurring) (suggesting that retroactive legislation is invalid because it offends principles of natural l......
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