Moffat v. United States

Decision Date27 October 1884
Citation112 U.S. 24,5 S.Ct. 10,28 L.Ed. 623
PartiesMOFFAT, Jr., and another v. UNITED STATES. (Two Cases.)
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

These are suits to cancel two patents of the United States for land in Colorado, bearing date on the fourth of October, 1873, and purporting to be issued, one to a person by the name of Philip Quinlan, and the other to a person by the name of Eli Turner, upon proof of settlement and improvement by them under the pre-emption laws. Their cancellation is sought on the ground that the patentees named were fictitious parties; that no settlement or improvement on the lands was ever made; that the documents alleging settlement and improvement were fabricated by the register and the receiver of the land-office of the district, embracing the land covered by the patents, to defraud the government of the property.

The two suits present substantially the same facts, differing only as to the parties concerned in the proceedings, and the land patented, and were considered together by the court. The bill in the first case alleges substantially as follows: That the register and the receiver of public moneys of the land-office at Pueblo, in Colorado, conspiring to defraud the government of a patent for the land upon the pretext that the same was due to some person, who had performed the duties required of him by the acts of congrees in that behalf, had written out, in the form prescribed by law, a declaratory statement in the fictitious name of Philip Quinlan, representing that he had declared his intention to claim the land as a pre-emptioner; and also an affidavit, purporting to be signed by him and sworn to before the register, stating that he had made a settlement upon the land, and improved it in good faith, in order to appropriate it to his exclusive use and benefit, and not for the purpose of sale or speculation; that he had not, directly or indirectly, made an agreement with any person, or in any manner, whereby the title he might acquire would inure, in whole or in part, to the benefit of any one except himself; that they had also prepared an affidavit, purporting to be signed and sworn to before the register by two other fictitious persons, named Michael Quinlan and Orrin R. Peasley, in which it was stated, among other things, that the supposed Philip Quinlan was a single man, over the age of 21 years, a citizen of the United States, and an inhabitant of the land; that no other person resided thereon entitled to the right of pre-emption; that he had made a settlement thereon on the first of May, 1872, had built a house and made other improve- ments, and had lived in the house and made it his exclusive home from the fifteenth of May, 1872, to that date, May 8, 1873, and had plowed, fenced, and cultivated 18 acres of the same.

The bill also alleges that at this time the receiver was the owner of a certain amount of agricultural college scrip issued by the state of Florida; and, for the purpose of locating the land with it in the name of the said Quinlan, the register and the receiver had inserted in a black indorsement his fictitious name and residence, and in that name had located the scrip on the land; and also that they had done divers other acts to cause the plaintiff to believe that the supposed Philip Quinlan was a real person, who had actually appeared before them and made the statements and proof required by law and the regulations of the land-office to entitle him to the pre-emption of the land, and had sworn to such proof before the register; that they had prepared duplicate certificates in the form prescribed by law, setting forth that the said supposed person, represented by said fictitious name, had located the agricultural college scrip, and made due proof of his right to pre-empt said land and receive a patent therefor, and forward one of them to the general land-office at Washington, and requested a patent for the land to be issued in the name of the said supposed person; that in June, 1873, an agent of the defendant, David H. Moffat, Jr., appeared before the officers of the said general land-office and presented to them the other duplicate certificate, and also requested them to issue the patent desired, and transmit the same to him, (the agent,) and that said officers, confiding in the honesty and integrity of the receiver and the register, and believing the statements contained in the supposed proof forwarded to them, had issued the patent and transmitted it to said agent.

The bill further alleges that no person by the name of Quinlan had ever settled upon the land, or appeared and presented himself before the register and the receiver at any time, or made any declaratory statement or proof of pre-emption, either as a pre-emptor or witness, and charges that said papers were made by the register and the receiver for the purpose of fraudulently depriving the United States of their title to the land, and vesting the same in the defendant Moffat; that said Moffat now has the patent and claims to hold the legal title by virtue of certain mesne conveyances, namely, one executed on the twenty-third day of May, 1873, in the name of said supposed Philip Quinlan to a fictitious person by the name of Henry H. Perry, and a conveyance by said fictitious person, dated the twenty-third day of June, 1873, to himself, that the deeds from said supposed parties and the patent have been placed on record in the office of the recorder of the county in Colorado, where the land is situated, and constitute a cloud upon the title of complainant; that on the fifteenth of September, 1883, said Moffat executed a deed conveying an undivided half of the property covered by the patent to Robert E. Carr, as truste...

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    • United States
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    ...10, 17, 56 S.Ct. 23, 80 L.Ed. 9; Burke v. Southern Pacific R. R. Co., 234 U.S. 669, 34 S.Ct. 907, 58 L.Ed. 1527; Moffat v. United States, 112 U.S. 24, 5 S.Ct. 10, 28 L.Ed. 623; Kirwan v. Murphy, supra; Horne v. Smith, supra. 43 Mitchell v. Smale, supra, 140 U.S. pages 413, 414, 11 S.Ct. 819......
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    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • June 30, 1938
    ...where, had the truth been known, it would have had none. United States v. Throckmorton, 98 U.S. 61, 25 L.Ed. 93;Moffat v. United States, 112 U.S. 24, 5 S.Ct. 10, 28 L.Ed. 623;Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 16 S.Ct. 139, 40 L.Ed. 95. Equity administers equal justice founded on honesty, good ......
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1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 98 No. 2, December 2022
    • December 1, 2022
    ...of the government, who are charged with having been engaged in it." Id. at 297-98. (106) Id. at 284-85. (107) See Moffat v. United States, 112 U.S. 24 (1884) (setting aside a land patent because it had been obtained by fraud); United States v. Minor. 114 U.S. 233, 244 (1885) (setting aside ......

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