The United States, Appellants v. the Heirs of Boisdor Same, Appellants v. the Heirs of Powers Same, Appellants v. the Heirs of Turner

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtTANEY
Citation49 U.S. 113,12 L.Ed. 1009,8 How. 113
Decision Date01 January 1850

49 U.S. 113
8 How. 113
12 L.Ed. 1009
January Term, 1850

THE first two of these cases were appeals from the District Court of Mississippi. One of them, viz., The United States v. The Heirs of Boisdor e, was the same case in which a motion to dismiss was made at the preceding term, as reported in 7 Howard, 658.

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The third was an appeal from the District Court of Louisiana.

A motion was now made to dismiss the whole three, upon a ground which was common to them all, viz., that the act of 1844, reviving and re enacting the act of 1824, continued it in force for the term of five years, and no longer; and that, as the act was passed on the 17th of June, 1844, it expired upon the 17th of June, 1849. By reason of which expiration, it was alleged, this court had no longer any jurisdiction over the case.

By an act of June 17th, 1844, (5 Stat. at L., 676,) entitled 'An act to provide for the adjustment of land claims within the states of Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and in those parts of the states of Mississippi and Alabama south of the thirty-first degree of north latitude, and between the Mississippi and Perdido Rivers,' it is enacted, 'That so much of the expired act of the 26th of May, 1824, entitled 'An act to enable claimants to land within the state of Missouri and territory of Arkansas to institute proceedings to try the validity of their claims,' as related to the state of Missouri, * * * be and is hereby revived and re enacted, and continued in force for the term of five years, and no longer; and the provisions of that part of the aforesaid act, hereby revived and re enacted, shall be and hereby are extended,' to the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, &c., 'in the same way, and with the same rights, powers, and jurisdictions, to every extent they can be rendered applicable, as if these states had been enumerated in the original act hereby revived, and the enactments expressly applied to them, as to the state of Missouri; and the District Court and the judges thereof, in each of these states, shall have and exercise the like jurisdiction over the land claims in their respective states and districts, originating with either the Spanish, French, or British authorities, as by said act was given to the court and the judge thereof in the state of Missouri.'

The act of the 26th of May, 1824, thus revived and re enacted, (4 Stat. at L., 52,) after describing the classes of cases embraced within its provisions, prescribes, that the claimants shall present a petition to the District Court, setting forth their claims; that proper parties, including the district attorney, shall be made; that the proceedings shall be conducted according to the rules of a court of equity; and that the said court shall have power to hear and determine the questions arising in the cause, and to make a decree. It then, in the latter part of the second section, enacts:—'And in all cases, the party against whom the judgment or decree of the said District Court may be finally given shall be entitled to an appeal, within one

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year from the time of its rendition, to the Supreme Court of the United States, the decision of which court shall be final and conclusive between the parties; and should no appeal be taken, the judgment or decree of the said District Court shall, in like manner, be final and conclusive.'

By the fifth section it is enacted 'that any claim to lands, tenements, or hereditaments, within the purview of this act, which shall not be brought by petition before the said courts within two years from the passing of this act, or which, after being brought before the said courts, shall, on account of the neglect or delay of the claimant, not be prosecuted to a final decision within three years, shall be forever barred, both at law and in equity; and no other action at common law, or proceeding in equity, shall ever thereafter be sustained, in any court whatever, in relation to said claims.'

In the three cases above mentioned, petitions had been filed in the respective courts, and the district judge confirmed the claims to the several petitioners. The United States appealed to this court.

The motion to dismiss was sustained by Mr. Volney Howard and Mr. Henderson, and opposed by Mr. Gillet and Mr. Johnson (Attorney-General).

The motion and brief, as filed by Mr. Henderson, were as follows:

The appellees have presented their respective motions to dismiss these cases, in form, as follows:——

'And now at this term come the appellees, by attorney, and move the court to dismiss this case, because the court has no jurisdiction thereof, in this, to wit:—That the court from which this case is brought here by appeal had but a limited and special jurisdiction of the case in virtue of two acts of Congress, the one of date 17th June, 1844, entitled 'An act to provide for the adjustment of land claims within the states of Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and those parts of the states of Mississippi and Alabama south of the 31st degree of north latitude, and between the Mississippi and Perdido rivers,' and which said act revived a certain other expired act therein recited of date 26th May, 1824, for five years and no longer, and during the operative existence of which two acts, the decree in this case was pronounced. And because by virtue of which said act of 1824, so revived as aforesaid, and by no other law or authority whatever, this court was assigned to have a like special jurisdiction of this case by appeal; but which act, so revived as aforesaid, ceased and expired on the 17th of June,

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1849, by express legislative limitation, without any saving clause for the adjudication of cases then pending.'

Assuming the facts to be as set forth in this motion, we contend that there is now no low in force giving to this court jurisdiction of these cases, or of supplying any rule by which it can review them; and the same must therefore be dismissed.

It is well settled, that this court has no general jurisdiction in matters of appeal. That unless Congress authorize an appeal by statute, none can be entertained. 11 Pet., 165, 166; 3 How., 104; 6 Pet., 495; 1 Cranch, 212; 3 Id., 159; 6 Id., 307; 3 Dall., 321, 327; 1 How., 268; 3 Id., 317; 7 Wheat., 38; 3 Pet., 193; 7 Id., 568.

It is equally well settled, that the United States have no greater claim to assert the right of appeal, or any other legal right as a litigant, than a citizen has; and have no right of appeal unless expressly accorded to them by act of Congress. 6 Pet., 494; 11 Id., 165, 166.

If, therefore, it be shown that the appeal given by the statute of 1824 was special, and had its origin with that statute, and that the statute conferred a special and peculiar jurisdiction, appellate as well as original, and that said statute has expired or is repealed, we suppose the legal conclusion of such showing to be demonstrative in favor of our motion to dismiss, unless some other law be shown to sustain the appeal.

A mere glance at the records and decrees in these cases, show them to have been adjudicated in pursuance of the authority conferred by these two statutes. And the reading of the statute of 1824 will certify the speciality of the jurisdiction it confers in every section.

It is special as to the states to which it applies, being but five in number. Special as to the classes of cases it submits for trial; and even excepts one case of the classes submitted.

It is special in designating the court to have cognizance of the cases, and directing the mode of procedure. Selecting the District Courts of the United States, which have no general chancery jurisdiction, and directing them to adjudicate the cases in accordance with equity practice.

It is peculiarly special, also, in enlarging the field of equity power in the latitude given for the decision of these cases. Submitting them to be adjudged in 'conformity with the principles of justice,' and 'according to the law of nations; the stipulations of any treaty, and proceedings under the same; the several acts of Congress in relation thereto; the laws and ordinances of the government from which it (the title) is alleged to have been derived; and all other questions properly arising between the claimant and the United States.'

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It is strikingly special in permitting the citizen to implead and litigate with the government.

The rules of evidence are special; the common law rules being relaxed in these cases.

The statute submitted, also, legal and complete titles to be tried under equitable rules.

The decree to be pronounced was special in its recitals and requirements.

The powers of the...

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