Ryan v. United States

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHARLAN
Citation136 U.S. 68,34 L.Ed. 447,10 S.Ct. 913
PartiesRYAN v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date19 May 1890

136 U.S. 68
10 S.Ct. 913
34 L.Ed. 447
RYAN
v.
UNITED STATES.
May 19, 1890.

Page 69

This action of ejectment was brought to recover certain lands in the village of Sault Ste. Marie, Chippewa county, Mich., of which the United States claims to be the owner in fee, and the possession of which is alleged to be wrongfully withheld from the government by the defendant, Thomas Ryan. They are described in a deed from Ryan and wife to the United States, of date December 18, 1886, and recorded in the proper local office on the 25th of May, 1887. At the conclusion of the evidence the jury, under the direction of the court, returned a verdict for the government, and a judgment was entered against the defendant. The present writ of error brings that judgment here for review. The principal question to be determined is whether the title to the premises in dispute ever passed from the defendant to the government. It is claimed that the negotiations in reference to the sale of these premises never resulted in a binding contract between the United States and the defendant; that the deed of December 18, 1886, although signed and acknowledged by the defendant and his wife, was delivered to the officers of the government, pending such negotiations, only for examination,

Page 70

and was not placed upon record with the assent, express or implied, of the grantors; that the proposal made in Ryan's name for the sale of the property was withdrawn by him before it was accepted, and before the above deed was filed for record; and that, therefore, no title passed to the United States. Each of these propositions is controverted by the government.

The facts upon which these several propositions depend are very numerous, and are to be gathered principally from letters and telegrams between the parties and their agents. They are, substantially, as follows:

By the third section of an act of congress, approved July 8, 1886, (24 St. 128, c. 747,) the secretary of war was authorized to sell the military reservation known as 'Fort Brady,' in the village of Sault Ste. Marie, in the state of Michigan, except certain portions thereof. By the fourth section, he was authorized to purchase grounds, in or near the same village, suitable and sufficient for fortification and or garrison purposes, and to construct thereon the necessary buildings, with appurtenances, sufficient for a four company military post, to be known as 'Fort Brady,' in accordance with estimates to be prepared by the war department; and the sum of $120,000 was appropriated to enable the secretary to comply with the provisions of the act. That section contained the proviso 'that the title to lands authorized to be purchased under the fourth section of this act shall be apprv ed by the attorney general.' It was declared by the sixth section that section 3 should not take effect until the purchase of the new site provided for in section 4 should have been effected.

By direction of the secretary, and in execution of the above act, a board of officers of the army was constituted, to meet at Fort Brady, Mich., on the 7th of September, 1886, or as soon thereafter as was practicable, for the purpose, among others, of selecting for purchase suitable and sufficient grounds as indicated in the fourth section of the above act of congress. The board was directed to report by telegraph to the adjutant general, with its recommendation for the approval of the Sec-

Page 71

retary of war, as soon as a new site was selected. Shortly before the day fixed for its convening, Ryan and his attorney, Mr. Cady, met in Detroit; and, during their interview in that city, some conversation was had between them in relation to the meeting of this board, and the purposes for which it was to be convened. It appears that, for a number of years prior to that date, this property had been mentioned in military circles, and among citizens, as a possible site for a fort.

On the 7th of September, 1886, Cady telegraphed from Sault Ste. Marie to Ryan at Detroit, Mich.: 'Telegraph price to me of south-west quarter of south-west quarter of section 6, and south-east quarter of south-east quarter of section 1, for Fort Brady. Answer immediately.' To this telegram, Ryan responded on the same day, under his own signature: 'Twelve thousand dollars.' On the next day, Ryan, by Cady, telegraphed to the board convened by the secretary of war: 'I am instructed by Mr. Ryan to offer the S. W. 1/4 of S. W. 1/4 of sec. 6, and the S. E. 1/4 of the S. E. 1/4 of sec. 1, both in town 47 N., of ranges 1 E. and W., containing eighty (80) acres, more or less, if sold together, for the sum of twelve thousand dollars, ($12,000.) Although not authorized yet, I assume that Mr. Ryan would sell any portion of said lands at a price in ratio to the above, i. e., $150 per acre.' To this telegram was appended a postscript: 'P. S. The above offer is subject to the opening of Easterday avenue along the south line.' Under date of September 9, 1886, the president of the board of officers telegraphed to the adjutant general at Washington: 'The board recommends for purchase the two adjoining forty-acre tracts on the hill, half mile due south of west end of canal, divided through the center of length by meridian of Sault Ste. Marie, aggregating about seventy-five acres; price, twelve thousand dollars.' Gen. Drum, acting secretary of war, under date of September 11, 1886, made the following indorsement on this telegram: 'Under ordinary circumstances, action in this case would have been deferred until the return of the secretary of war or the lieutenant general. In view, however, of the importance of the selection of this site, and of the fact that inaction here would delay further action by the

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board, which is now in Michigan awaiting reply, the recommendation of the board as contained in the within telegram is approved. The board will be advised by telegraph of such approval.' On the same day, Gen. Kelton, acting adjutant general, telegraphed to Lieut. Col. Abbot, president of the board: 'Dispatches nine (9) and eleven (11) instant received. The secretary of war approves the recommendation of board for purchase of two (2) tracts designated at the price of twelve thousand dollars, ($12,000.) Acknowledge receipt. No further instructions.' This telegram was received; for, on the 11th of September, 1886, Lieut. Col. Abbot, the president of the board of officers, wrote from Fort Brady to Ryan, at Sault Ste. Marie: 'You are hereby notified that the acting secretary of war has approved the recommendation of the board of officers now in session at this post, that your proposal, dated September 8, 1886, be accepted, viz., for the sale of certain tracts of land described in your proposal as follows: 'The S. W. 1/4 of the S. W. 1/4 of sec. 6, and the S. E. / 4 of the S. E. 1/4 of sec. 1, subject to the opening of Easterday avenue along the south line, for twelve thousand dollars." This letter was first delivered to Mr. Cady, and was by him delivered to Ryan within three or four days after it came to his hands. The receipt of it by Ryan is not disputed.

On the 30th of September, 1886, the acting secretary of war wrote to Col. Poe, one of the board: 'The recommendation of the board, approved by the department, selects a tract of about 75 acres of land at Sault Ste. Marie, owned by Thomas Ryan, as the new site for Fort Brady, at the proposed price of $12,000. Papers on file show Mr. Ryan's address to be Michigan Exchange Hotel, Detroit. Please take the proper steps, without delay, to collect and forward to this department the necessary deeds and other title papers for the conveyance of this land to the United States, for examination by the attorney general as required by law. General orders 47, H'dq'rs of Army, A. G. O., of 1881, publishes regulations of the department of justice concerning such title papers, a copy of which will be forwarded to you by mail.' Under

Page 73

date of October 4, 1886, Mr. Cady wrote to the adjustant general of the army at Washington: 'On the 11th ulto., Mr. Thomas Ryan, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., was notified by Henry L. Abbot, lieutenant colonel of engineers, president of board, that his offer of certain lands as a site for Fort Brady had been accepted. I have the honor of acting for Mr. Ryan in preparing his title for the attorney general. Will you please furnish me with a copy of the printed directions for preparing abstracts for the use of the government? Any communication relative to the matter should be addressed to W. B. Cady, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.' Two days thereafter, October 6, 1886, Col. Poe wrote to Ryan: 'I have received from the war department the following letter of instructions, viz.: [Letter above of September 30, 1886.] I have, therefore, to request that you will proceed as repidly as possible with the preparation of the requisite papers; and, to aid you in this, I inclose herewith a copy of general orders No. 47, headquarters of the army, adjutant general's office, May 13, 1881, above referred to. Please acknowledge receipt of this communication, and inform me as to how soon you can begin the preparation of the papers in question.' The general order referred to in this letter was one issued from the headquarters of the army, by direction of the secretary of war, and embodying certain regulations established by the department of justice for the guidance of those drawing conveyances, making abstracts or collecting evidences of title to land in cases in which it is the duty of the attorney general to pass upon the validity of such title. Among other requirements was one to the effect that a deed to the United States should be acknowledged according to the laws of the state where the land lies, and one (XX) directing that, before any papers relating to title were sent to the department of justice for examination, they should be submitted to the proper district attorney of the United States....

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110 practice notes
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 8, 2020
    ...officers. To be sure, in the two Supreme Court cases cited in In re Grand Jury Investigation, both from 1890—Ryan v. United States, 136 U.S. 68, 81 (1890), and Keyser v. Hitz, 133 U.S. 138, 145-46 (1890)—the Court observed that acting officials may exercise all the powers of the office in w......
  • In re Grand Jury Investigation, No. 18-3052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • February 26, 2019
    ...an acting officer is vested with the same authority that could be exercised by the officer for whom he acts, Ryan v. UnitedStates , 136 U.S. 68, 81, 10 S.Ct. 913, 34 L.Ed. 447 (1890) ; Keyser v. Hitz , 133 U.S. 138, 145–46, 10 S.Ct. 290, 33 L.Ed. 531 (1890) ; see also Acting Officers , 6 Op......
  • Nw. Immigrant Rights Project v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., Civil Action No. 19-3283 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 9, 2020
    ...officers. To be sure, in the two Supreme Court cases cited in In re Grand Jury Investigation , both from 1890— Ryan v. United States , 136 U.S. 68, 81, 10 S.Ct. 913, 34 L.Ed. 447 (1890), and Keyser v. Hitz , 133 U.S. 138, 145–46, 10 S.Ct. 290, 33 L.Ed. 531 (1890) —the Court observed that ac......
  • Weston v. John L. Roper Lumber Co
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • March 12, 1913
    ...v. Castor, 53 Neb. 495, 73 N. W. 932; French v. Spencer, 21 How. 240, 16 L. Ed. 97; 11 Am. & Eng. Enc. (2d Ed.) p. 403; Ryan v. U. S., 136 U. S. 68, 10 Sup. Ct. 913, 34 L. Ed. 447; Cuth-rell v. Hawkins, 98 N. C. 203, 3 S. E. 672; Johnson v. Farlow, 35 N. C. 84; Eddleman v. Carpenter, 52......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
110 cases
  • Nw. Immigrant Rights Project v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., Civil Action No. 19-3283 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 8, 2020
    ...officers. To be sure, in the two Supreme Court cases cited in In re Grand Jury Investigation, both from 1890—Ryan v. United States, 136 U.S. 68, 81 (1890), and Keyser v. Hitz, 133 U.S. 138, 145-46 (1890)—the Court observed that acting officials may exercise all the powers of the office in w......
  • In re Grand Jury Investigation, No. 18-3052
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • February 26, 2019
    ...an acting officer is vested with the same authority that could be exercised by the officer for whom he acts, Ryan v. UnitedStates , 136 U.S. 68, 81, 10 S.Ct. 913, 34 L.Ed. 447 (1890) ; Keyser v. Hitz , 133 U.S. 138, 145–46, 10 S.Ct. 290, 33 L.Ed. 531 (1890) ; see also Acting Officers , 6 Op......
  • Nw. Immigrant Rights Project v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., Civil Action No. 19-3283 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • October 9, 2020
    ...officers. To be sure, in the two Supreme Court cases cited in In re Grand Jury Investigation , both from 1890— Ryan v. United States , 136 U.S. 68, 81, 10 S.Ct. 913, 34 L.Ed. 447 (1890), and Keyser v. Hitz , 133 U.S. 138, 145–46, 10 S.Ct. 290, 33 L.Ed. 531 (1890) —the Court observed that ac......
  • Weston v. John L. Roper Lumber Co
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • March 12, 1913
    ...v. Castor, 53 Neb. 495, 73 N. W. 932; French v. Spencer, 21 How. 240, 16 L. Ed. 97; 11 Am. & Eng. Enc. (2d Ed.) p. 403; Ryan v. U. S., 136 U. S. 68, 10 Sup. Ct. 913, 34 L. Ed. 447; Cuth-rell v. Hawkins, 98 N. C. 203, 3 S. E. 672; Johnson v. Farlow, 35 N. C. 84; Eddleman v. Carpenter, 52 N. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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