RICHARDSON v. LOUISVILLE & N. R. CO.(1898)
Gregory & Smith, for defendants in error.
Mr. Chief Justice FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.
This was an action of ejectment brought by plaintiff in error in the circuit court of Escambia county, Fla.
On the trial, plaintiff offered in evidence an alleged Spanish grant of several tracts from Don Alexander Ramirez, intendant of the army and superintendent general of Cuba and the two Floridas, to Don Vicente Sebastian Pintado, with proof of [169 U.S. 128, 130] execution; and also deraignment of paper title from Pintado's heirs to himself. No evidence was offered of actual prior occupation. The property sued for was included in one of the tracts, described as follows:
The trial court sustained defendants' objections, and excluded the grant, and plaintiff excepted.
Thereupon a verdict was returned for defendants, and judgment entered thereon, from which an appeal was taken to the supreme court of the state. In that court the plaintiff in error assigned but one error, to wit, 'the refusal of the court to admit in evidence the grant from Alexander Ramirez to Vicente S. Pintado.'
The supreme court of Florida affirmed the judgment, and held that the purpose of the grant 'as to the water front therein described was not to grant the land and water as such within the described limits, but the right to use the same, within such limits and to the depth stated below the surface of the soil, for the purpose of constructing wharves and houses for bathing, such right of use being to the exclusion of any similar right of use in any other individuals, and subordinate to the right of the king and the public to construct wharves with municipal or common funds within such limits; also, that while the king of Spain could have made such a grant to Pintado, it would have been contrary to his laws then in [169 U.S. 128, 132] force in West Florida, and a case of special exception from their effect; and that Ramirez had no authority to make the grant, and it was void, and vested no title in the grantee.' Richardson v. Sullivan's Ex'rs, 20 South. 815. And see Sullivan v. Richardson, 33 Fla. 1, 14 South. 692, where the case is fully considered on a prior appeal.
On affirming the judgment, the supreme court entered an order to the effect that, in holding the grant void, a claim by plaintiff of a right, title, or privilege under the treaty between the United States and Spain of February 22, 1819, had been disposed of adversely to him; and a writ of error from this court was allowed.
As before stated, defendants objected to the admission of the grant in evidence, on the grounds that, so far as it related to the locus in quo, it 'was a mere license to Pintado to use the property in a particular way, and vested in him no sufficient title on which to recover in ejectment'; and also that the grant 'was not within the delegated authority of the officer who attempted to grant the same.' Thus, the construction of the grant and its validity were presented for consideration as distinct inquiries; and, while the trial court assigned no reasons for its action, the supreme court passed on both questions, and in its first opinion elaborately discussed them.
But, in sustaining the ruling of the trial court in excluding the alleged grant, the supreme court rested its decision on the want of authority to make such a grant as it held this to be. Therefore the contention on behalf of plaintiff in error is that this court necessarily has jurisdiction. As, however, we entirely concur with the state court in the view that the grant was not a grant of title, but of a mere license, easement, or right of use, and no evidence of prior possession was offered, we need not consider whether the grant, as thus correctly construed, was valid or not, for even if valid, the ruling on this record could not have been other than it was. That ruling was so obviously correct that we do not feel constrained to retain the case for further argument. Chanute City v. Trader, 132 U.S. 210 , 10 Sup. Ct. 67.