Meriwether Clark, Executor and William Clark, George Clark, and Jefferson Kennerly Clark, An Infant Under the Age Ofyears, By His Guardian Ad Litem and Next Friend, the Said George Clark, Heirs At Law of William Clark Deceased, Appellants v. Andrew Smith, Appellee, TWENTY-ONE

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtCATRON
Citation13 Pet. 195,38 U.S. 195,10 L.Ed. 123
Decision Date01 January 1839
Docket NumberTWENTY-ONE
PartiesMERIWETHER L. CLARK, EXECUTOR, AND WILLIAM P. CLARK, GEORGE R. H. CLARK, AND JEFFERSON KENNERLY CLARK, AN INFANT UNDER THE AGE OFYEARS, BY HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM AND NEXT FRIEND, THE SAID GEORGE R. H. CLARK, HEIRS AT LAW OF WILLIAM CLARK DECEASED, APPELLANTS, v. ANDREW SMITH, APPELLEE

38 U.S. 195
13 Pet. 195
10 L.Ed. 123
MERIWETHER L. CLARK, EXECUTOR, AND WILLIAM P. CLARK,
GEORGE R. H. CLARK, AND JEFFERSON KENNERLY CLARK, AN
INFANT UNDER THE AGE OF TWENTY-ONE YEARS, BY HIS
GUARDIAN AD LITEM AND NEXT FRIEND, THE SAID GEORGE R.
H. CLARK, HEIRS AT LAW OF WILLIAM CLARK
DECEASED, APPELLANTS,
v.
ANDREW SMITH, APPELLEE.
January Term, 1839

ON appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Kentucky.

William Clark, the father of the appellants, filed a bill in the Circuit Court of the district of Kentucky, praying the Court to compel the defendant to release his pretended title to certain lands in the state of Kentucky, claimed by under certain patents obtained from the state of Kentucky, more than thirty years after the registration of the survey of the ancestor of the complainants, George Rogers Clark. The possession of the land had continued in the ancestor of the complainant, and in himself, up to the time of the filing of the bill. The conveyance asked by the bill was sought to be in conformity with the provisions of the act of the assembly of Kentucky giving jurisdiction to Courts of Equity in such cases.

The Circuit Court was unanimously of opinion that the complainants had established the legal title to the land mentioned in the bill, under a valid grant from the commonwealth of Kentucky, to George Rogers Clark, his ancestor, and that he was in possession of the same at the commencement of this suit; and that the defendant had not shown that he had any right or title, either in law or equity, to the land or any part of it: but the judges of the Circuit Court being divided in opinion on the question of the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court to compel the defendant to execute the conveyance prayed for in the bill, it was not the opinion of the Court (the defendant having set up and exhibited junior patents from the commonwealth of Kentucky for the land, to himself) that on any other ground apparent in the cause, the Circuit Court had jurisdiction, on the general principles which determine the equity jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, to grant to the complainants any other relief. The bill of the complainants was dismissed; and they prosecuted this appeal.

Page 196

A printed argument was submitted to the Court by Mr. Crittenden for the appellants. No counsel appeared for the defendant.

The argument of Mr. Crittenden stated:——

This is a suit in chancery, under the 29th section of the act of 1796, (Ken. Stat. Law, 293,) to compel the defendant to release his pretended claim to the land in question. The complainant derives title as follows, to wit: Patent to George Rogers Clark, dated 15th September, 1795, founded on an entry on treasury warrants, made 26th October, 1780, 'to begin on the Ohio, at the mouth of the Tennessee river, running down the Ohio,' &c. &c., surveyed June 7th, 1784, and registered June 4th, 1785; the survey and patent being for 36,962 acres. The patented George Rogers Clark, afterwards conveyed to William Clark, by deed dated 28th July, 1803, proved and recorded in the Court of Appeals in November, 1803.

At the suit of a creditor of he said patentee, the same tract of land, after the deed to William Clark, was subjected to sale, for satisfaction of the creditor's demand, and was then again purchased by George Woolfolk, to whom the commissioner of the Court

Page 197

(Samuel Dickinson) conveyed it by deed of the 14th June, 1827; and Woolfolk, by deed of the 13th October, 1827, conveyed to the said William Clark.

William Clark, thus doubly invested with assurance of title, and alleging possession of the land, filed his bill to compel a release of the defendant's pretended claims.

The defendant, by his answer, contests Clark's title on various grounds, and asserts his own claims, which are nothing more than ninepenny claims, originating within a few years past, by entries and purchases made with and of the public receiver, under the laws of Kentucky for the disposal of the lands of the state below the Tennessee river.

The documentary evidence establishes, beyond question, the legal title of the complainant. His possession is not denied by the answer, is fully proved by the depositions, and is incontestable.

The origin of the defendant's pretended claims was between thirty and forty years after the date of Clark's patent, and about half a century after Clark's survey was registered in the proper office of the state of Virginia, from whose laws his title originally emanated.

Here the case ends. It is necessary to look no further to embrace its whole merits as a legal controversy; and the conclusion is clear and obvious in favour of the complainant, both on general principles, and on the terms of the act of Assembly under which the bill is filed. In accordance with this are the cases of Starling, &c. vs. Hardin, 2 Bibb. 522; and Loftus vs. Cates, 1 Monroe, 98; in the first of which it is expressly said that, in a contest with those who have no title originating anterior to the patent, no other evidence of title than the patent need be produced.

But the defendant has gone altogether beyond those limits, and proposes to litigate questions that, in our opinion, do not belong to or arise in the case. He contends that the land was not subject to appropriation by Clark's warrants at the date of his entry, and that, therefore, his claim is null and void.

It will not be denied that the land in question was within the territorial limits of the state of Virginia, until the separation of Kentucky placed it under the jurisdiction of the latter state. Virginia had, then, the right to dispose of it according to her policy or pleasure.

By the act of 1779 (1 Litt. 408) her whole unappropriated territory was thrown open for individual appropriation by treasury warrants, with these only exceptions: that 'no entry or location shall be admitted within the country and limits of the Cherokee Indians, or on the north-west side of the Ohio river, or on the lands reserved by act of Assembly for any particular nation or tribe of Indians, or on the lands granted by law to Richard Henderson and Co., or in that tract of country reserved by resolution of the General Assembly for the benefit of the troops serving in the present war, and bounded by the Green river, and south-east coast, from the head

Page 198

thereof to the Cumberland mountains, with said mountains to the Carolina line, with the Carolina line to the Cherokee or Tennessee river, with the said river to the Ohio river, and with the Ohio to the said Green river, until the further order of the General Assembly.'

This was the only restriction upon Clark's right to locate his warrants anywhere within the territorial limits of Virginia. His entries were made below the Tennessee river, and in the year 1780. They did not include any part of the excepted territories. Most clearly they did not interfere with the military reserve. It is true, that after Clark's entries at the November session, 1781, (1 Litt. 432,) the Virginia Legislature enlarged the military reserve, by adding to it the country below the Tennessee, including the land now in suit. But it will scarcely be contended that this act could affect, or was intended to affect, the previously acquired and vested rights of Clark; while it clearly shows that the legislature considered itself as having full power to dispose of this additional reserve; and that without this reservation the land would have been, and before it was, subject to individual appropriation. The only purpose of the reservation was to exempt it from such appropriation, to which it was then liable.

The decision in the case of the Superintending Officers vs. Clark, Hughes's Repts. 39, is a direct adjudication that the land was subject to appropriation by Clark's entries.

Neither in 1779, nor at any time since, has either the government of the United States, or Virginia, or 'Kentucky, ever recognised the land now in suit as embraced either by the limits of the Cherokee Indians, or within the limits of any reservation made by any act of Assembly, for any nation or tribe of Indians. At least, we know of no such recognition. Let the defendant show it. The treaties with the Cherokee Indians show that they were never considered as owning the country where this and lies. (See those treaties, 1 vol. Laws of the United States, 322, et seq.) On the contrary, the...

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119 practice notes
  • Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Sun Oil Co., No. 13312.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 20, 1951
    ...or interests claimed by others. This was the character of the proofs establishing the title of the complainant in Clark v. Smith, supra 13 Pet. 195, 10 L.Ed. 123. But should proofs of a different character be produced, the controversy would still be one upon which a court of law could not a......
  • Elliott v. Federal Home Loan Bank Board, No. 63-1072
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • September 22, 1964
    ...al. (1958) 158 Cal. App.2d 425, at 444, 322 P.2d 968, and cases cited therein. The principle announced in 1839 in Clark et al. v. Smith, 13 Pet. 195, 38 U.S. 195, 10 L.Ed. 123, has never been modified or overruled, and has been reaffirmed and applied many times. The court there said (p. 202......
  • Bannercraft Clothing Company v. Renegotiation Board, No. 24685
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 6, 1972
    ...`there is inherent in the Courts of Equity a jurisdiction to * * * give effect to the policy of the legislature.\' Clark v. Smith, 13 Pet. 195, 203 10 L.Ed. 123. * * Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 291-292, 80 S.Ct. 332, 335, 4 L.Ed.2d 323 (1960). See also Hecht Co. ......
  • Official Committee ex rel. Cybergenics v. Chinery, No. 01-3805.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 29, 2003
    ...Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 292, 80 S.Ct. 332, 4 L.Ed.2d 323 (1960) (quoting Clark v. Smith, 13 Pet. (38 U.S.) 195, 203, 10 L.Ed. 123 The policy concern evident in § 544(b) is the need to channel avoidance actions through the trustee, who acts as a gatekeeper and prevents in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
119 cases
  • Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Sun Oil Co., No. 13312.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 20, 1951
    ...or interests claimed by others. This was the character of the proofs establishing the title of the complainant in Clark v. Smith, supra 13 Pet. 195, 10 L.Ed. 123. But should proofs of a different character be produced, the controversy would still be one upon which a court of law could not a......
  • Elliott v. Federal Home Loan Bank Board, No. 63-1072
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • September 22, 1964
    ...al. (1958) 158 Cal. App.2d 425, at 444, 322 P.2d 968, and cases cited therein. The principle announced in 1839 in Clark et al. v. Smith, 13 Pet. 195, 38 U.S. 195, 10 L.Ed. 123, has never been modified or overruled, and has been reaffirmed and applied many times. The court there said (p. 202......
  • Bannercraft Clothing Company v. Renegotiation Board, No. 24685
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 6, 1972
    ...`there is inherent in the Courts of Equity a jurisdiction to * * * give effect to the policy of the legislature.\' Clark v. Smith, 13 Pet. 195, 203 10 L.Ed. 123. * * Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 291-292, 80 S.Ct. 332, 335, 4 L.Ed.2d 323 (1960). See also Hecht Co. ......
  • Official Committee ex rel. Cybergenics v. Chinery, No. 01-3805.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • May 29, 2003
    ...Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 292, 80 S.Ct. 332, 4 L.Ed.2d 323 (1960) (quoting Clark v. Smith, 13 Pet. (38 U.S.) 195, 203, 10 L.Ed. 123 The policy concern evident in § 544(b) is the need to channel avoidance actions through the trustee, who acts as a gatekeeper and prevents in......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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