[84 U.S. 253, 254] APPEAL from the Supreme Court of Missouri; the case being thus:
The constitution of Missouri ordains:
The code of the same State enacts:
This provision of the constitution and these provisions of the code being in force, one Magwire, on the 18th of September, 1862, filed his petition in the Court of Common Pleas of St. Louis, Missouri, against Tyler and forty-three other defendants, stating that on the 1st of June, 1794, Joseph Brazeau had a grant of 4 x 20 arpents of land along the bank of the Mississippi River, near the village of St. Louis; that on the 9th of May, 1798, he sold and conveyed 4 x 16 arpents, being, the northern part of the tract, to Louis Labaume, [84 U.S. 253, 256] reserving the 4 x 4 arpcnts at the southern end for himself; that he, Magwire, the plaintiff, by a chain of conveyances, became the owner of said 4 x 4 arpents; that Labaume, after purchasing the said 4 x 16 arpents, February 15th, 1799, procured an extension of his limits west to the aggregate quantity of 360 arpents, and the same was surveyed to him April 10th, 1799; that this survey was made contrary to the terms of the grant to Labaume, and so that, by mistake or design, Labaume included in the survey of his enlarged grant the Brazeau tract, which he did not own; that on the 22d of September, 1810, the board of commissioners for the adjustment of land titles in Missouri confirmed to Brazeau his 4 x 4 arpents, and to Labaume his land; that afterwards, and notwithstanding the said 4 x 4 arpents justly and honestly belonged to the plaintiff, the defendants and others, in combination and confederacy, procured a survey to be made under the authority of the United States in such manner as to include the whole Brazeau tract in the claim of Labaume, and procured under like authority a patent to be issued granting the land covered by said survey to the legal representatives of said Labaume; that the said survey and patent of the Labaume confirmation were issued and procured by said defendants by fraud, covin, and misrepresentation; that on the 20th of May, 1862, the Brazeau confirmation of 4 x 4 arpents was surveyed inside the exterior limits of the survey and patent of Labaume, and on the 10th of June, 1862, a patent was issued to Brazeau, or his legal representatives, therefor; that each of the defendants claimed an interest in the said Brazeau tract, and was in possession thereof, and had received the rents and profits of the same; that every one of them had notice of the rights of the plaintiff under Brazeau, and that all the defendants had confederated and combined to keep the plaintiff out of possession of the lands claimed, and the rents and profits; that the patent and survey to Labaume's representatives were older than the patent and survey to Brazeau's representatives; that defendants continually assert the validity of the Labaume title and the invalidity of the Brazeau title, and that the said patent and [84 U.S. 253, 257] survey for Labaume's representatives, so procured by fraud, covin, and misrepresentation, conflicted with the patent and survey for Brazeau's representatives, and constituted a cloud upon the plaintiff's title.
1. That the court would divest out of the defendants all right, title, and interest acquired or claimed by them and each of them under Labaume.
2. And would vest the same in the plaintiff.
3. And would put the plaintiff in possession.
4. And would cause an account to be taken of the rents and profits of the land, and give to the plaintiff judgment therefor.
5. And would give to him 'such other relief as might be proper in the case.'
The patent to Labaume's representatives granted all the land in its exterior limits, 'saving and reserving any valid adverse right that might exist to any part thereof.'
The patent to Brazeau's representatives granted all the land included in its exterior limits, 'saving and reserving any valid adverse right which might exist to any part thereof.'
The defendants answered on the merits of the case to the following effect:
1. That the 4 x 4 arpents confirmed to Brazeau were not properly located by the United States survey thereof inside of Labaume's survey.
2. That the confirmation to Brazeau was void.
3. That the survey for Brazeau's representatives was void for want of legal authority in the officers to make it.
4. That the patent to them was void for the same reason.
5. That the plaintiff, claiming under the confirmation and survey for Brazeau's representatives, was estopped to locate the land inside the Labaume patent, by matter in pais, long before their date. [84 U.S. 253, 258] 6. That the survey and patent for Labaume's representatives vested a title in them in fee simple.
7. That the defendants had no notice of Brazeau's claim, and were innocent purchasers of the Labaume title.
8. That the plaintiff, claiming under Brazeau, was barred by the statute of limitations.
The defendants denied that any part of the 4 x 4 of Brazeau was inside the Labaume patent; that the patent or survey for Labaume's representatives was procured by fraud, covin, or misrepresentation; that the plaintiff had the Brazeau title to the 4 x 4.
They set forth a former suit and judgment against the plaintiff prior in date to the plaintiff's survey and patent, in bar of this suit.
And, finally, denied every averment in the plaintiff's petition in conflict with any part of their answer.
And, 'so having fully answered, the defendants asked for judgment and their costs.'
The cause 'having been submitted to the court for a decision on the plaintiff's petition, and the answers of all the defendants and the exhibits and other evidence in the cause,' the court found 'all the issues in the cause for the plaintiff;' that the survey for Labaume, in 1799, was made to include the Brazeau's land by mistake or design; that the land was situated inside of the Labaume survey and patent; and that the Labaume survey and patent were issued and procured by fraud and misrepresentation, and in combination and confederacy by the defendants to keep the plaintiff out of possession of his property, and its rents and profits.
The court then entered a decree extinguishing the claims of the defendants in these words:
As soon as this finding and decree was made, the defendants moved for a new trial, because the court had improperly received or rejected evidence; because of an alleged erroneous holding which it had made about the power of a Secretary of the Interior, and because the decision was against law and equity, and against the evidence and the weight of evidence. The motion for new trial was overruled, and the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri. That court reversed the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, and dismissed the plaintiff's petition. The grounds on which this reversal was made were not stated in the judgment as entered of record. 6 [84 U.S. 253, 260] The plaintiff claiming under a former patent from the United States then brought the case here,7 as within the 25th section of the Judiciary Act,8 under the assumption, of course, that the Supreme Court of Missouri had passed on his title set up under the United States, and had decided against it. It was here elaborately argued, and an opinion given by Mr. Justice Clifford in behalf of the court, in which it was decided 'that the legal title to the tract of 4 x 4 arpents remained in the United States till June 10th, 1862; and that on that day, by virtue of a survey referred to and a patent of that date, Brazeau 'acquired the legal title to the tract." The opinion went, however, largely besides into the merits of the case, any gave utterance upon every question at issue between the parties which it was necessary to decide to dispose of the case on their merits. These it declared were entirely with the plaintiff or complainant, who, it said, was justly and honestly owner of the land, and ended with an order of reversal of the decree of the Supreme Court of Missouri, 'with directions to affirm the decree of the St. Louis Court of Common Pleas.'
Immediately upon the announcement of this order, Mr. P. Phillips, for the defendants in error, remarking to the court that the mandate should be merely to reverse, and 'to proceed in conformity with the opinion of this court,' moved to reform the order; and the question whether the order to 'affirm' was a proper one, was directed by the court to be argued. It was afterwards argued at length, Mr. Phillips and Mr. B. R. Curtis contending that it was not; but, as already said, that the decree in this court should be simply an order of reversal with directions to the Supreme Court of Missouri to proceed in conformity to the opinion that had been given here. The position of the counsel was that the answer of the defendants set up special defences involving the statute of limitations, res adjudicata, bon a fide purchase, and similar matters of a local kind, purely, and over which the State court alone had jurisdiction; that the decree [84 U.S. 253, 261] of the Supreme Court of Missouri had been silent as to the grounds on which it dismissed the plaintiff's petition; that while if that court passed merely on the title derived from the United States (as in view of this court's taking jurisdiction of the case was now to be assumed), this court, under the twenty-fifth section, had authority to review and reverse it, yet that under no circumstances had this court authority to pass on those defences set forth in the record which were of a local nature only; and that no opinion of the judges of this court, separately or collectively, bound by authority the State court of Missouri on those points, or could deprive the defendants in error of the right to have that court pass upon them. Any mandate, therefore (the learned counsel argued), directing the Supreme Court of Missouri 'to affirm the decree of the St. Louis Court of Common Pleas' would be a judgment by this court upon questions upon which it had no authority to pass.
Mr. Justice CLIFFORD, delivering the opinion of the court on this new matter of the propriety of the form of order, as he had delivered that on the principal case, stated that the court, in the opinion delivered in that principal case, had 'decided the following propositions,' reciting numerous propositions pertinent to the merits; and reciting also, specifically, the decision as to the legal title's being in Brazeau. 'Based upon these conclusions of law,' the learned judge said, 'the court gave the directions recited in the order' objected to; but now, after the argument upon the question of its propriety, had 'come to the conclusion that a different direction would be more in accordance with the usual practice of the court.'
The order was accordingly reformed, and changed into an order such as the counsel for the defendants in error had asked for; that is to say, changed from an order 'to affirm the decree of the St. Louis Court of Common Pleas' into an order of reversal, with a remand 'for further proceedings in conformity with the opinion of the court.' The learned justice said, however:
The matter accordingly went back to the Supreme Court of Missouri on this mandate, upon which, as well as on the pleadings and proofs of record in the cause, it came on to be heard. Counsel for the defendant insisted that the Supreme Court of the United States having decided that the legal title was in the plaintiff, his only remedy was at law; that the whole scope and very prayer of the petition filed in the case was for equitable relief, and that the petition should therefore be dismissed.
Counsel of the plaintiff answered, that the code of practice adopted by the State of Missouri would not countenance such an objection; that under it there was no 'bill in equity or other formal pleading;' that 'justice was now administered without forms;' that the defendants having denied the plaintiff's right and submitted themselves to the judgment of the court, waived the plea of 'remedy at law,' even supposing the forms of equity pleading still to prevail in Missouri; that as the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act gave the Supreme Court at Washington jurisdiction to pass on the questions involved in the construction of acts of Congress, that court had implied authority to pass also upon all incidental questions which were necessary to be determined in order to render a judgment in the case; that the said Supreme Court had done so, as would be seen by the report of the case in 8th Wallace, and that this concluded the Supreme Court of Missouri.
To this it was replied, that the Supreme Court of the United States had no more power to reverse a decision of the Supreme Court of the State on a local question, than the latter court had to reverse a decision of the former court on a Federal one; that while the court at Washington had assumed jurisdiction on a hypothesis that no other than a Federal question had caused the decree in the Supreme Court of Missouri, and could assume it on no other hypothesis, that hypothesis as matter of fact was not true; that [84 U.S. 253, 263] the decree in the said court, which was the mere legal conclusion of the opinion, was based upon several matters of purely local jurisdiction; that the mandate of the Supreme Court of the United States was entitled not to a blind submission, but to an intelligent acquiescence, and that its meaning was to be ascertained by a careful examination of the facts in the case, and the application of whatever opinion had been given to those facts. 9
The case having been fully argued before the Supreme Court of Missouri, Mr. Justice WAGNER delivered the unanimous opinion of that tribunal. 10 Having referred to the decision of the cause by that court here at Washington as reported in 8th Wallace, he said:
The decree itself, which as it was relied on here by the counsel of the plaintiff below, as 'the crucial test' of jurisdiction [84 U.S. 253, 266] in this court, it may be best to insert, was in these words:
PETITION BE DISMISSED WITH COSTS.'
From this decree Tyler now in turn appealed, and the case was here for the third time; having been already twice before the Common Pleas of Missouri, and twice before the Supreme Court of that State.
The new writ of error, following the language of the twenty-fifth section, recited, that in the proceedings before the State court there 'was drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under the United States, and the decision was against their validity; or was drawn in question, the validity of a statute of, or an authority exercised under any State, on the ground of their being repugnant to the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, and the decision was in favor of such their validity; or was drawn in question, the construction of a clause of the Constitution, or of a treaty, or statute of, or commission held under the United States, and the decision was against the title, right, privilege, or exemption, especially set up or claimed under said clause of the Constitution, treaty, statute, or commission.'
Mr. P. Phillips, with whom was Mr. B. A. Hill, now moved to dismiss the writ for want of jurisdiction:
This writ properly describes the terms of the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, and in order to maintain the writ, it must be shown, that the decree complained of draws in question the validity of a treaty, statute, or authority, exercised under the United States; or, that it draws in question, the construction of a clause of the Constitution, or of a treaty, or statute of, or commission held under the United [84 U.S. 253, 268] States. If this cannot be shown the writ must necessarily be dismissed. The act of 1789 in conferring this supervisory power carefully defines the cases in which it shall be exercised, and for greater emphasis and to mark the caution with which such a jurisdiction should be exercised, it commands that 'no other error shall be assigned or regarded as a ground of reversal, in any such case as aforesaid, than such as appears on the face of the record, and immediately respects the before-mentioned questions of validity, or construction of the said Constitution, treaties, statutes, commissions, or authorities, in dispute.'
The cases thus defined are brought within the jurisdiction of this court by means of a 'writ of error,' and the section then declares that this writ 'shall have the same effect as if the judgment or decree complained of had been rendered or passed in a Circuit Court.'
The 'effect' of the writ, relates to its function in removing the cause from the inferior court, and can have no influence upon the question of jurisdiction which had been previously defined.
The section then continues, 'the proceeding upon reversal shall also be the same.' This refers to the twenty-fourth section, which provides that this court, on reversal, should render such judgment or decree as the court below should have rendered or passed. But this was coupled with the limitation, that it should not issue execution, 'but should send a special mandate to the Circuit Court to award execution thereupon.'
Having thus provided for the proceeding on reversal, the twenty-fifth section declares, that if the cause has once been remanded before, the court, 'instead of remanding the cause for a final decision, may, at their discretion, proceed to a final decision of the same and award execution.'
The simple inquiry then is, does the decree of the Supreme Court of Missouri, which is now brought before the court, by this second writ, present any one of the Federal questions designated by the twenty-fifth section? If it does, then this court has jurisdiction. If it does not, then the court is [84 U.S. 253, 269] without the power of revision, however erroneous they may consider the decree. This is the crucial test.
Now, referring to the very words of the decree,14 it is plain that all the matters adjudged are relative to State jurisdiction and State practice.
The question adjudicated by this court in Magwire's favor was that he held the legal title to the premises in controversy. The State court was directed to proceed in conformity with that decision. There is noting in the decree which militates in the slightest degree with the adjudication. The jurisdiction under the twenty-fifth section was maintainable only on the ground that the title of Magwire to the land was derived from the United States. The court did not and could not have legally passed on the question as to the proper remedy for the assertion of the title. The action was begun by Magwire in the State courts, and he must be governed by the remedy which those courts are authorized to administer. If it has been instituted in the Circuit Court of the United States the State remedy would control. From the organization of the Federal judiciary to the present time Congress has regarded the adoption of the forms of proceeding established by the State, in common-law actions, as necessary for the preservation of harmony.
The cases of Neilson v. Lagow,15 and Carpenter v. Williams,16 are sufficient to illustrate the limitation affixed to the decision of Federal questions. In the latter case, Mr. Justice Miller says:
The only two cases that have come under our observation, in which a second writ of error has been issued to a State [84 U.S. 253, 270] court, are those of Martin v. Hunter's Lessee,17 Davis v. Packard. 18
In the former case, the Supreme Court of Virginia, on the receipt of the mandate, instead of obeying the same, entered up a judgment that the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional, and 'that the proceedings in the Supreme Court were coram non judice in relation to this court, and that obedience to its mandate be declined by the court.'
The court say:
Here there was no difficulty as to the jurisdiction; the case was plainly within the description of the twenty-fifth section, and if that section was constitutional, as the court decided it to be, there was nothing left but to enter up a judgment reversing the judgment rendered on the mandate.
The other case, Davis v. Packard, is so substantially like this as to justify a very particular reference. Packard recovered a judgment against Davis in the Supreme Court of New York. Davis appealed to the Court of Errors, where, for the first time by assignment of error there, he brought out the fact that he was a consul of a foreign government. The Court of Errors affirmed the judgment. On writ of error to this court this judgment was reversed and the cause remanded to said court, with 'directions to conform its judgment to the opinion of this court.' On the receipt of this mandate, the court adjudged, in conformity with the opinion of this court, that 'a consul is, by the Constitution and laws of the United States, exempt from being sued in a State court.' But they went further, in declaring that it had no [84 U.S. 253, 271] jurisdiction to reverse a judgment of the Supreme Court of the State for any error of fact, or for any other error than such as appears on the face of the record of that court. That it, therefore, could not notice the assignment made in their court, setting up the official character of the appellant. That the mode of redress for error in fact was by writ of error, coram vobis, returnable to said Supreme Court. That the defendant in error was, therefore, entitled to have a judgment of affirmance; 'but as, on filing the mandate of the Supreme Court of the United States, he has moved to dismiss the writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State, it is adjudged that the said writ be dismissed and that the plaintiff in error be amerced in costs.' From this proceeding a second writ of error was sued out from this court, and the allegation was, as in this case, that the mandate had not been complied with.
In the case now before the court the decision was that Magwire held the legal title. The Supreme Court of the State, in obedience to it, held the same. In the case cited, this court decided that a consul was not suable in a State court, and this was announced as the law by the Court of Errors.
In both cases the form of the mandate is the same, to proceed according to the opinion of the court.
In the case before the court the bill is dismissed, because by the laws of Missouri the remedy was at law, and not in equity. In the case cited, the writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State is dismissed, because there was nothing on the record of that court of which the Court of Errors, by the laws of New York, could take jurisdiction.
This last action was reviewed by this court on the second writ of error.
In both cases the State courts were controlled in their action by the State laws defining their jurisdiction.
Marshall, C. J., says:
These considerations and authorities demonstrate that this court is without jurisdiction, and that the writ of error should be dismissed.
It will be said, perhaps, that the question of jurisdiction in the State court was not made in the first instance, and could not, therefore, be raised for the first time in the Supreme Court of the State. The answer to this is, that when and how such a plea to the jurisdiction should be made depends on the practice regulating the courts of the State. It is purely a local question, and when decided by the Supreme Court of the State it is conclusively decided. Such a decision raises no Federal question, and is, therefore, beyond the revisory power of this court.
The counsel of the other side, in bringing the writ here, are in fact asking this court 'to affirm the decree of the St. Louis Court of Common Pleas;' the exact thing which this court has once declared, after argument, that it was not right for it to do.
Mr. S. T. Glover, with whom were Messrs. J. M. Carlisle and J. D. McPherson, contra.
Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.
Power to re-examine, in a certain class of cases, final judgments and decrees in the highest court of law or equity of a [84 U.S. 253, 273] State, and to reverse or affirm the same upon a writ of error, was conferred upon the Supreme Court by the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, and the same section provides that the writ of error shall have the same effect as if the judgment or decree had been rendered or passed in the Circuit Court, and that the proceeding upon the reversal shall also be the same, except that the Supreme Court, instead of remanding the cause for a final decision, may, at their discretion, if the cause shall have been once before remanded, proceed to a final decision of the same, and award execution. 19 Where the reversal is in favor of the original plaintiff, and the damages to be assessed or matters to be decreed are uncertain, the Supreme Court will remand the cause for a final decision, unless the same shall have been once before remanded, in which case the court may, at their discretion, proceed to a final decision of the cause. Execution in that event may be awarded here, but the court, in all other appellate cases, will send a special mandate to the subordinate court for all further necessary proceedings.
Such were the directions of the Judiciary Act, but the Congress, on the 5th of February, 1867, amended that section in several particulars, and provided that the writ of error, in such a case, shall have the same effect as if the judgment or decree had been rendered or passed in a Federal court, and that the proceeding upon the reversal shall also be the same, except that the Supreme Court may, at their discretion, proceed to a final decision of the same and award execution or remand the same to the inferior court. 20
Titles to lands claimed by individuals in Louisiana, at the time the province was ceded to the United States, were, in many cases, incomplete, as the governor of the province never possessed the power to issue a patent. All he could do was to issue to a donee an instrument called a concession or order of survey, and as the claimants had never obtained patents from the supreme government it became necessary for a plaintiff, in a suit to recover the land, to prove that his [84 U.S. 253, 274] claim had been confirmed under some act of Congress. Complete titles, of which there were a few at the date of the cession, required no such confirmation, as they were protected by the third article of the treaty of cession. 21 It was stipulated by the treaty that the inhabitants of the ceded territory should be admitted into the Union as soon as possible, and that in the meantime they should be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their property. Congress accordingly passed the act of the 2d of March, 1805, to ascertain and adjust the titles and claims to land in the ceded territory. 22 Prior to the passage of that act, however, the province ceded by the treaty had been organized by Congress into two Territories, and the fifth section of the act to ascertain and adjust such titles and claims made provision for the appointment of commissioners in each of those Territories to ascertain and adjudicate the rights of persons presenting such claims. Such commissioners were required by that act to lay their decisions before Congress, but a subsequent act provided that the decision of the commissioners when in favor of the claimant should be final against the United States. 23
Both parties in this case claim under the same concession, which was issued by the governor to Joseph Brazeau. On the 1st of June, 1794, he presented his petition to the governor, asking for a tract of land situate in the western part of the town of St. Louis, beyond the foot of the mound called La Grange de Terre, of four arpents in width, to extend from the bank of the Mississippi in the west quarter, southwest, by about twenty arpents in depth, beginning at the foot of the hill on which stands the mound and ascending in a northwest course to the environs of Rocky Branch, so that the tract shall be bounded on the east side by the bank of the river, and on the other sides in part by the public domain, and in part by the lands reunited to that domain. [84 U.S. 253, 275] Ten days later the governor executed an instrument in which he declared that the tract belonged to the public domain, and certified that he had put the petitioner in possession of the same, specifying in a general way the boundaries of the tract, and describing it as four arpents front by twenty arpents in depth. On the 25th of June, in the same year, the governor issued a concession to the petitioner, in which he formally granted to the donee in fee simple, for him, his heirs or assigns, or whosoever may represent his rights, a tract of land . . . of four arpents front by twenty arpents in depth, situate north of the town; . . . to begin beyond the mound, extending north-northwest to the environs of Rocky Branch; bounded on one side by the bank of the river, and on the opposite by lands reunited to the public domain through which the concession passes, of which one end is to be bounded by the concession to one Esther, a free mulatto woman. Five years before the treaty of cession, on the 9th of May, the donee, by a deed of that date, duly executed before the governor, sold, ceded, relinquished, and transferred to Louis Labeaume, 'a concession of land to him given,' as aforesaid, consisting of four arpents of land, to be taken from the foot of the hill called La Grange de Terre, by twenty arpents in depth; bounded by the Rocky Branch at the extremity opposite the hillock, east by the river, and west by the land belonging to the royal domain, the said Brazeau reserving to himself four arpents of land to be taken at the foot of the hillock in the southern part of said land , . . . selling only sixteen arpents in depth to said Labeaume, who accepts the sale on those terms and conditions; and the record shows that the instrument was signed by both parties. Four by sixteen arpents were vested in the purchaser by that deed, but he desired to enlarge his possession and he asked the governor to grant him an additional tract of three hundred and sixty arpents, including the tract he acquired by that conveyance, and the governor, on the 15th of February following, made the concession and directed in the same instrument that the surveyor should make out the survey in continuation of his antecedent purchase, [84 U.S. 253, 276] and that he should put the interested party in possession of the described premises. Pursuant to those directions the surveyor made the requisite survey, but he included the whole of the former concession in the certificate, overlooking the undisputed fact that the grantor of the deed reserved to himself 4 x 4 arpents of the same, 'to be taken at the foot of the hillock in the southern part of said land,' which shows the origin of this long-protracted controversy. Special consideration was given to that survey in the first opinion delivered in this case, in which the court decided that such a survey, however the error may have arisen, cannot have the effect to enlarge the rights of the purchaser or to diminish or impair the rights of the donee of the concession, to the 4 x 4 arpents reserved in the said deed, and which were never conveyed to the grantee of the residue of the tract.
Enough has been remarked to show that the premises in controversy are the 4 x 4 arpents reserved in the deed from Joseph Brazeau to Louis Labeaume, and that the plaintiff claims title under the former and that the defendants claim under the latter. Conflicting claims to the premises existing, the plaintiff, on the 18th of September, 1862, commenced the present suit in the land court of the county, but the suit was subsequently transferred by a change of venue to the Court of Common Pleas of the same county, the claim of the plaintiff being for 4 x 4 arpents of land, as described in the petition, and which, as alleged in the petition, was confirmed to the plaintiff by the land commissioners. Full description of the premises as confirmed to the donee is given in the petition, as follows: 'Beginning at a point on the right bank of the Mississippi River, the northeast corner of survey No. 3342, in the name of Esther, a free mulatress woman, or her legal representatives, and the southeast corner of Louis Labeaume, survey No. 3333; thence south 74 30' west with the southern boundary of the Louis Labeaume survey and the northern boundary of the Esther survey, to the northwest corner of the Esther survey; thence north 23 west 776 feet 8 inches, to a stone; thence 74 30' north 776 feet 8 inches, to a point on the right bank of the [84 U.S. 253, 277] Mississippi River; thence down and along the right bank of said river, to the beginning corner.'
Having described the premises the plaintiff then proceeded to allege that the tract of land so meted and bounded justly and honestly belongs to him as the claimant under the original donee, and charges that the defendants, on the 26th of February, 1852, procured a survey of the same to be made, under the authority of the United States, for the other claimant, which embraces the described tract, and caused the same to be set apart for such other claimant, and that they afterwards, on the 25th of March, 1852, procured a patent to be issued to that same party upon the said survey; that the said 4 x 4 arpents, as reserved in the deed of the original donee, was, on the 8th of May, 1862, again surveyed by the proper authorities and that the same was laid off in the southeast corner of the survey, with its southern boundary coincident with the northern boundary of the Esther tract, and that said survey was duly approved and that a patent was duly issued for the said 4 x 4 arpents of land to the original donee or his legal representatives; that the survey and patent to the other claimant, so far as they conflict with the survey and patent to the original donee, are a cloud upon the title of the plaintiff, as they are older than the latter, and that the defendants continually assert the validity of the former and the invalidity of the latter; that they have combined and confederated to keep the plaintiff out of the possession of the premises, and that they have received the rents and profits thereof to an amount not less than $25,000; and he prays that he may be protected and established in his just rights, and that the court, by its judgment and decree, will divest out of the defendants all the right, title, and interest acquired or claimed by them from the other claimant, or any one claiming under him, and invest the same in the plaintiff and put him in possession thereof, and that an account may be taken of the rents and profits which have accrued while the defendants were in possession of said premises and that the plaintiff may have judgment therefor; and he also prays for such other relief as may be proper in [84 U.S. 253, 278] the case. Service was made and the defendants appeared and filed an answer, denying pretty nearly every material allegation of the petition. They admitted, however, that the governor made the concession of the 4 x 20 arpents to Joseph Brazeau, and they set up as the source of their title the deed of the 4 x 16 arpents, deducting the reservation from the original donee to the other claimant.
Such an instrument granted only an incomplete title, as the governor never possessed the power to issue a patent. Consequently the legal title to the land vested, under the treaty of cession, in the United States, as the successor of the former sovereign, and the court decided, in the prior opinion in this case,24 that a donee of an incomplete title, in the territory ceded by the treaty, could not convert such a title, as derived from the former sovereign, into a complete title under the United States in any other mode than that prescribed by an act of Congress. Such being the law it became necessary for the respective parties to prove that their respective claims had been confirmed, and they accordingly introduced in evidence the proceedings in respect to the concession in controversy before the board of commissioners for the adjudication of such claims. Most or all of those documents are material in this investigation, but inasmuch as they will all be found in the former opinion of the court in this case, they will not be reproduced. All of those documents were examined by the court in the prior opinion given in the case, and the court decided that the effect of the proceedings was to correct the error committed by the surveyor of the former government and place the rights of the litigants upon their true basis. Proceedings of various kinds in respect to the tract also took place, under the direction of officers in the land department, subsequent to the treaty of cession, but it will be sufficient to remark upon that subject that the history of those proceedings is fully given in the former opinion, and that the proceedings resulted in the survey and the patent to the original donee [84 U.S. 253, 279] or his legal representatives, under which the plaintiff now claims. None of the proceedings are referred to with any other view than to enable the parties to understand the propositions of law and fact which were decided by the court in the former opinion, as it is not proposed to re-examine any of those questions.
Apart from the matters already mentioned the court also decided that the incomplete title to the whole tract of 4 x 20 arpents was granted by the governor to the claimant mentioned in the concession evidencing the grant; that the deed from the donee of the tract to the other claimant did not convey the 4 x 4 arpents now in controversy, but that the title to the same, as acquired by the concession, still remained in the donee of the tract, by virtue of the reservation contained in the deed; that the survey made by the surveyor under the former sovereign did not have the effect to impair the incomplete title of the donee nor to convey, assign, or transfer any interest whatever in the tract of 4 x 4 arpents to the grantee in that deed; that the tract of 4 x 4 arpents was confirmed to the original donee by the decree of the commissioners, of September 22d, 1810, and that the same was never confirmed to the other claimant; that the other claimant did not acquire the legal title to the tract of 4 x 4 arpents under the patent granted to him, as the saving clause in the same reserved any valid adverse right which existed to any part of the tract; that the patent granted to the original donee at the same time never became operative, as he refused to accept the same, and it was returned to the land department; that the subsequent action of the secretary in cancelling the same and in ordering a new survey was authorized by law; that the original donee, by virtue of that survey and the patent granted to him, acquired the legal title to the tract of 4 x 4 arpents, as he was the rightful owner of the incomplete title; that the land reserved is bounded on the south by the concession to the mulatto woman and north by the south line of the 'sixteen arpents in depth' conveyed by the deed, and lies north of the ditch; that the legal title to the tract of 4 x 4 arpents remained in [84 U.S. 253, 280] the United States until the 10th of June, 1862, when the patent was granted to the donee of the incomplete title under the former sovereign; that the title of the donee before he obtained the patent was incomplete and attached to no particular parcel of land, and consequently the respective defences of the statute of limitations and of a former recovery were inapplicable to the case, as the legal title was in the United States as derived by the treaty of cession. 25
Lastly, the answer set up the defence of innocent purchasers, but the court decided that the record furnished no evidence to support the defence, or to show that the decision of the State court turned upon any such ground, and that the conclusion, in view of those facts, must be, that no such question was decided, as this court will not presume that the court below decided erroneously in order to defeat their own jurisdiction. 26
Having overruled all of those special defences the court proceeded to say, in the first opinion, that the incomplete title to the tract remained unextinguished in the original donee or his assigns throughout the whole period of the litigation; that he never sold the 4 x 4 arpents to the other claimant, nor did he ever request that it should be surveyed or located in any other place than the one where it was, by the first survey, ascertained to be; that the other claimant never had any concession of the tract, that he never purchased it and never had any title of any kind to any part of the concession, except the sixteen arpents as described in his deed from the rightful owner of the residue of the tract.
Viewed in the light of these several suggestions, as the case must be, it is plain and undeniable that this court, in the former opinions delivered in the case, disposed of every material question at issue in the record between the parties, and decided 'that the said tract of land so meted and [84 U.S. 253, 281] bounded justly and honestly belongs to the plaintiff,' as alleged in the petition.
Removed here, as the cause then was, by writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State, it becomes necessary to advert briefly to the proceedings in the State courts.
By the bill of exceptions it appears that the issues of law and fact were heard by the judge of the Court of Common Pleas, trying the cause without a jury, and the bill of exceptions states, at its commencement, that 'the following are all the proceedings, evidence, and testimony offered, given, and had before the court.' Then follows what purports to be all the proceedings, evidence, and testimony; and the bill of exceptions also states, at its conclusion, that the foregoing is all the evidence, testimony, and proceedings in the cause on the trial thereof before the court, and all, every, and each of said deeds, documents, papers, plats, and depositions, testimony, evidence, records, patents, and all other instruments of writing set forth and copied in the foregoing bill of exceptions, and that the same were duly read in evidence on the trial of this cause, and that the said cause was thereupon submitted to the court for decision and decree. It also appears by the decree that the cause was submitted for decision upon the petition and answers of all the defendants, and the exhibits and other evidence in the cause, and that 'the court finds that, out of the claim presented to the board of commissioners by Labeaume, the tract of 4 x 4 arpents claimed by the plaintiffs was confirmed to Joseph Brazeau, or his legal representatives; and that the court also found the issues in this cause in favor of the plaintiff, and therefore it was ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the tract of land, meted and bounded as follows,' describing it as before stated, 'be and the same is hereby decreed to the plaintiff, and that all the right, title, and interest of each and every one of said defendants in and to said tract of land, is hereby divested out of them and vested in and passed to the plaintiff, to have and to hold to the plaintiff, his heirs and assigns, the said tract of land so passed to the plaintiff, his heirs and assigns forever, the same being the tract covered by the [84 U.S. 253, 282] survey No. 3343, approved May 8th, 1862, and patented to Joseph Brazeau or his legal representative, the 10th of June in the same year.' Rents and profits were also decreed to the plaintiff, and the cause was sent to a master to report the amount. Two motions for new trial were filed by the defendants, but they were both denied, and the court having amended and confirmed the report of the master, entered a final decree for the plaintiff, and the defendants having filed a bill of exceptions, as before explained, appealed to the Supreme Court of the State. Hearing was had in the Supreme Court upon the exhibits, proofs, evidence, and testimony set forth in the bills of exceptions, and the Supreme Court reversed the decree of the Court of Common Pleas and dismissed the petition. Whereupon the plaintiff sued out a writ of error and removed the cause into this court, and this court reversed the decree of the Supreme Court of the State, and by the order, as amended, remanded the cause for further proceedings in conformity to the opinion of the court. 27 Pursuant to the mandate of this court remanding the cause, the Supreme Court of the State reversed their former decree reversing the judgment and decree of the Court of Common Pleas and dismissing the petition, but they did not proceed and dispose of the case in conformity to the opinion of this court, as directed in the mandate.
By the directions of the mandate they were as much bound to proceed and dispose of the case in conformity to the opinion of this court as to reverse their former decree, but instead of that they entered a new decree dismissing the petition, which in effect evades the directions given by this court, and practically reverses the judgment and decree which the mandate directed them to execute. Argument to show that a subordinate court is bound to proceed in such an event and dispose of the case as directed, and that they have no power either to evade or reverse the judgment of this court, is unnecessary, as any other rule would operate [84 U.S. 253, 283] as a repeal of the Constitution and the laws of Congress passed to carry the judicial power conferred by the Constitution into effect.
Beyond all question this court decided every question at issue between the parties which it was necessary to decide to dispose of the case upon the merits, and it is clear that it is not competent even for this court, after the term expired, to review and reverse such a decree. Repeated decisions of this court have established the rule that a final judgment or decree of this court is conclusive upon the parties, and that it cannot be re-examined at a subsequent term, except in cases of fraud, as there is no act of Congress which confers any such authority. Second appeals or writs of error are allowed, but the rule is universal that they bring up only the proceedings subsequent to the mandate, and do not authorize an inquiry into the merits of the original judgment or decree. Rehearings are never granted where a final decree has been entered and the mandate sent down, unless the application is made at the same term, except in cases of fraud. Appellate power is exercised over the proceedings of subordinate courts, and not over the judgments or decrees of the appellate court, and the express decision of this court in several cases is that 'the court has no power to review its decisions, whether in a case at law or in equity, and that a final decree in equity is as conclusive as a judgment at law,' which is all that need be said upon the subject. 28 On receipt of the mandate it is the duty of the subordinate court to carry it into execution even though the jurisdiction do not appear in the pleadings.