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LATIMER V. POTEET, 39 U. S. 4 (1840)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Latimer v. Poteet, 39 U.S. 14 Pet. 4 4 (1840)

Latimer v. Poteet

39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 4


Ejectment for forty-nine thousand acres of land in the State of North Carolina, claimed by the plaintiffs under a grant from the state dated 20 July, 1796, to William Cathcart, founded on entries made in the office of the entry taker in the County of Buncombe in the State of North Carolina, made after 3 February, 1795, within the limits of the county. The land lay wholly within the limits of the territory specially described and set forth in the fifth section of the act of 1783, entitled an act for opening the land office of the State of North Carolina. The claim of the plaintiffs in the ejectment was resisted on the ground that the grant under which the plaintiffs claimed was, at the time of its emanation, wholly within the territory allotted to the Cherokee Indians, and was null and void, as such entries and grants were prohibited by the sixth section of the act. It was held that the title under which the plaintiffs claim was invalid.

Construction of the treaties with the Cherokee Indians relative to lands within the boundary and of the acts of the Legislature of the State of North Carolina relative to the occupation and entry of lands within the Indian boundary.

It will not be denied that the parties to a treaty are competent to determine any dispute respecting its limits. In no mode can a controversy of this nature be as satisfactorily determined as by the contracting parties. If their language in the treaty shall be wholly indefinite or the natural objects called for are uncertain or contradictory, there is no power but that which formed the treaty which can remedy such defects.

It is a sound principle of law, and applies to the treatymaking power of the government of the United States, whether exercised with a foreign nation or an Indian tribe, that all questions of boundary may he settled by the parties to the treaty, and to the exercise of that high function of the government within its constitutional powers neither the rights of a state or of an individual can be interposed.

The Indian title being a right of occupancy, the State of North Carolina had the power to grant the fee in those lands subject to this right.

The case is fully states in the opinion of the Court.

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