U.S. Supreme Court
Trenier v. Stewart, 101 U.S. 797 (1879)
Trenier v. Stewart
101 U.S. 797
The concession of certain lands now within the State of Alabama, confirmed to Nicholas Baudin Sept. 15, 1713, by "the then Governor of Louisiana" (infra, p. 101 U. S. 798), was a complete grant to the donee, and vested in him a perfect title to them.
This was an action of ejectment brought by the defendants in error in the Circuit Court of Mobile County, Alabama, for the recovery of a parcel of land on Mon Louis Island, a triangular tract of over 14,000 acres of land in the lower part of that county, bounded on the east by Mobile Bay, on the northwest by Fowl River, and on the south by the waters of the sound which separates the mainland, of which Mon Louis Island is a part, from Dauphin Island.
The plaintiffs in proof of their title put in evidence an entry in American State Papers, vol. iii. pp. 19-20, being a part of the report of William Crawford, commissioner under the act of Congress of 1812 and 1813.
"Register of claims to land in the district east of Pearl River in Louisiana, derived from either the French, British, or Spanish government, which, from the circumstances, require a special report:"
"No. 1. By whom claimed: Heirs of Nicholas Baudin."
"Original claimant: Nicholas Baudin."
"Nature of claim and from what authority: French concession."
"Date of claim: 15 Sept., 1713."
"Quantity claimed: Area in arpens, about 14,360."
"Where situated: Fowl River."
"By whom issued: La Mothe Cadillac."
"Surveyed: No survey."
"Cultivation and inhabitation: Proved from 1804 to 1813. "
"The claim of the heirs of Nicholas Baudin to an island in Fowl River, being ten or twelve miles in length and from two to three miles wide, is founded on the following documents:"
"[Translated from the French]"
"We, lieutenants of the King and commandant of Fort Louisiana, and Dartiquette, King's counselor, commissary ordinary of marine, sent by the order of the court into this colony, have agreed for the good of his Majesty's service in the advancement of this colony, to give contracts of cessions (des contrats des cessions) to several inhabitants, to-wit: "
"To Nicholas Baudin, the land of Grosse Pointe, to begin at and run along the source of Fowl River till it reaches the oysters (oyster pass) which separate Massacre Island from the mainland, in order to raise cattle thereon."
"Of the said land we have made to him for and in the name of his Majesty, the entire cession, and transfer with its circumstances and dependencies in order that he, his children, heirs, or assigns, may enjoy and use it from henceforward and forever without being troubled or disturbed in the peaceable possession thereof, not pretending, nevertheless, to derogate in any manner from the rights and pretensions which his Majesty might have thereto for the good of his service."
"Done at Fort Louis of Louisiana this 12th November, 1710."
Below is written:
"We, the governor of the Province of Louisiana, approve and ratify the said present concession."
"Done at Fort Louis this 15th September, 1713."
"LA MOTHE CADALLAC"
On the margin is sealed a writing, of which the following is a copy:
"This day, the 16th of July, in the morning, 1761, came to the office of the Superior Council of the Province of Louisiana Mrs. Francis Paille, widow of the deceased Nicholas Baudin, called Mingoin and inhabitant of this town, who requested us to receive in deposite, in order to be enrolled on our minutes, the above piece and the other parts, in order that recourse may be had thereto when necessary, and copies thereof delivered to whomsoever of
right may demand them, and declared that she did not know how to write nor sign this according to the ordinance. In presence of and assisted by Claude Boriteldet la Leine, her son-in-law."
"And we, the undersigned clerk, CHATAUCOU"
And joined to the original is a small paper attached thereto by a pin on which is written in English:
"Received from Mr. Moulouis two originals and two copies of land grants, 27 December, 1807."
"I certify that the present copy is conformable to the original among the archives of the government at Mobile. This 16 June, 1783."
"JAMES DE LA LOUSAGAE, N. Public"
"The original of this, which has been presented to me, exists in the archives of government under my care."
"MOBILE, 18th June, 1783 HENRIQUE GRIMAREST"
"Inhabitation and cultivation -- Thomas Powell, being sworn, saith that he knows of his own knowledge that land claimed by the representatives of Nicholas Baudin, on Fowl River, called the Island, has been inhabited and cultivated since the year 1804, and that he believes it was inhabited and cultivated before that period; that four or five acres have been cultivated."
Also the following from the fifth volume of the American State Papers, page 130, to-wit:
"Special Report, No. 2"
"Claim of the heirs of Nicholas Baudin to an island in Fowl River, called 'Grosse Pointe' or 'L'isle Mon Louis,' estimated to contain about 14,360 arpens."
"This claim is founded on a French concession given at Fort St. Louis, on the 12th of November, 1710, by Bienville, lieutenant of the King and commandant of Fort Louis, and by Dartiguette, commissary ordinary of the marine."
"These officers in their deed of concession state their power as emanating from the court to make grants of cession (des contrats de cessions) in the Province of Louisiana, and under this authority it appears they conceded to Nicholas Baudin, the ancestor of the
present claimants, the island or tract of land called the Grosse Pointe."
"Beneath the concession is an approval and ratification of it by La Mothe Cadallac, the Governor of Louisiana, signed on the 15th of September, 1713."
"It also appears from a document appended to the writing above referred to, signed by Boutru and certificate by Chantalon, clerk, that Madame Paille, widow of N. Baudin, the original grantee, presented at the office of the Superior Council of the Province of Louisiana the aforesaid deed of concession, together with its approval and ratification, with the request that they would receive the said documents 'in deposite, in order that they might be enrolled on the minutes of the superior council, that recourse might be had there when necessary.'"
"Thus far, the steps taken in this concession were, as far as this board have an opportunity of ascertaining in accordance with the usage of the French government in granting lands in its provinces, nor are we aware of any regulation which restricted the authorities of that government in the quantity they might grant. Two certificates were also presented to the board, signed, first, by James de la Sampaye, notary public, dated 16th June, 1783, and, secondly, by Grimarest, Spanish commandant at Mobile, stating that the originals, the subjects of which have been recited, existed at that time in the archives of the government at Mobile. Several witnesses prove that the tract claimed has been inhabited and cultivated from a period prior to 1761 to the present time. The occupancy being uninterrupted for so long a period as is proven, first, under the French grant by which the tract was granted, and successively under the English and Spanish governments, is deemed strongly corroborative of the original grant. The claim is not encumbered by mesne conveyances, but is still in the possession of the descendants of the original grantor."
"This claim is not encumbered with mesne conveyances, but is still in the possession of the descendants of the original grantor."
"From the facts here submitted, the undersigned are of opinion that the foregoing claim is entitled to the favorable consideration of Congress."
"All which is respectfully submitted."
"JNO. B. HAZARD"
"JNO. HENRY OWEN"
"Board of Com. for the Adjustment of Land"
"Claims in the State of Alabama"
"ST. STEPHEN'S, Feb. 20, 1828 "
The report was made by said commissioners under the authority conferred by the second section of the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1827, 4 Stat. 239, and was confirmed by the Act approved March 2, 1829, id., 358, the fourth section of which is as follows:
"That the confirmation of all the claims provided for by this act shall amount only to a relinquishment for ever, on the part of the United States, of any claim whatever to the tracts of land and town lots so confirmed, and that nothing herein contained shall be construed to affect the claim or claims of any individual, or body politic or corporate, if any such there be."
The plaintiffs also introduced evidence tending to show that the land in the concession mentioned constitutes what is now known as Mon Louis Island; that they derived title to the land in controversy from said Nicholas Baudin, and that the defendants were in possession of it at the commencement of this suit and now.
The defendants denied this, and claimed the land under the heirs of one Henry Francois, to whom, they assert, it was granted by operation of the third section of the Act of Congress of May 8, 1822, by reason of said Henry's inhabitation and cultivation of it before 1813, and by a patent from the United States issued May 5, 1870, which was founded on a land office certificate dated in 1869.
There was a verdict for the plaintiffs, and the judgment entered thereon having been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Alabama, the defendants sued out this writ of error.
The remaining facts, and the instructions given by the court of original jurisdiction to the jury, are stated in the opinion of the Court.