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UNITED STATES V. LEBLANC, 53 U. S. 435 (1851)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. LeBlanc, 53 U.S. 12 How. 435 435 (1851)

United States v. LeBlanc

53 U.S. (12 How.) 435




A paper offered as a grant from the Spanish authorities for some land in Louisiana decided to be incomplete, and nothing more than the preamble to Spanish grants.

Moreover, there is no evidence that the claimants are the heirs of the grantee, nor that anyone claiming under him ever took possession or exercised any act of ownership from 1777 to 1846.

The claimants presented in the district court a paper of which the following is a translation:

"Don Bernardo de Galvez, Colonel &c. Having seen the

Page 53 U. S. 436

foregoing proceedings performed by the commandant of Attacapas, Don Alexander Declobet, respecting the possession which he had given to Peter LeBlanc of ten arpens of front on the great prairie, with the depth of forty-two, bounded on one side by the lands of Louis Roque and on the other by vacant lands, and recognizing these proceedings as regular, and that the concession of these lands can be made without injury to others, not having been claimed, but the proceedings acquiesced in on the part of those assisting in them; approving as we do approve, and using &c. New Orleans, 5th of January, 1777. Don Bernardo de Galvez, by order of his Lordship, Don Joseph Foucher."

"Register's Office, New Orleans, La."

"I, Louis St. Martin Register of the Land Office at New Orleans, Louisiana, do hereby certify the foregoing document to be a true copy, taken from one of the records of my office, entitled 'Libro 1 of French and Spanish Concessions.'"

"In faith whereof I hereunto subscribe my name, this 18th day of May, 1849."

"[Signed] L. ST. MARTIN, Register"

Upon this document the district court confirmed the claim, and the United States appealed.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This claim appears to be a groundless one. The paper produced is a copy, certified by the Register of the Land Office at New Orleans to have been taken from one of the records of his office entitled "Libro 1 of French and Spanish Concessions." The paper as certified is nothing more than the preamble usually inserted in Spanish grants where a perfect and absolute title is intended to be given, as contradistinguished from the order of survey or first concession. And at the end of this preamble is an "&c.," without any words of concession or grant, and this &c. is followed by the date, New Orleans, 5 January, 1777, and the names of Don Bernardo de Galvez, by order of his Lordship, Don Joseph Foucher.

It is not suggested that there has been any mutilation of the record, and the paper certified manifestly contains all of the instrument that was ever written in the record book, and upon the face of it, from the manner in which it terminates with an "&c." at the place where the granting clause usually begins, and from chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 53 U. S. 437

the unusual manner, also, in which the names of Galvez and Foucher are arranged in the certified copy it looks much more like a formula written in a record book for the direction of clerks in making out for signature an absolute and perfect grant than like a paper intended to convey the title to land. And, moreover, there is no evidence that the petitioners are the heirs of Pierre LeBlanc named in the paper which is claimed to have been a grant to him, no evidence that he or those claiming under him ever took possession or exercised any act of ownership over it, and no evidence that any right or title was ever claimed to it by Pierre LeBlanc or anyone claiming under him from the year 1777, when the paper bears date, down to June 16, 1846, when this petition was filed, being a period of sixty-nine years.

The decree of the district court must be

Reversed and a mandate issued directing the petition to be dismissed.


This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered, adjudged and decreed by this Court that the decree of the said district court in this cause be and the same is hereby reversed and annulled, and that this cause be and the same is hereby remanded to the said district court with directions to dismiss the petition of the claimants.

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