U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Fitzgerald, 40 U.S. 15 Pet. 407 407 (1841)
United States v. Fitzgerald
40 U.S. (15 Pet.) 407
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR
THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
The United States, by petitory action in the circuit of Louisiana, claimed a tract of land, situated in the Parish of Plaquemine, on the River Mississippi, below the port of New Orleans. This land, 160 acres, had been entered by the defendants in error under a preemption right alleged to be founded on the possession and cultivation of the tract commencing in 1833. The entry had been regularly made in the Office of the Register of Public Lands, in Louisiana, under the Act of Congress of 1834, on 19 June, 1836, and the purchase money paid to the United States.
John Fitzgerald on 6 May, 1833, had been appointed an inspector of the customs for the port of New Orleans, and was dispatched by the collector of that port to the southwest pass of the Mississippi River, in order to discharge the duties of boarding officer. He was stationed at a proper point on the river, and himself and his wife took possession of a house which had been occupied by a former boarding officer, on the public lands of the United States. The government had provided no place for the residence of the boarding officer. The land was cultivated and improved by John Fitzgerald and Hipolite Fitzgerald, his wife, in the manner which, by the laws of the United States, gave them a preemption right to the same, unless there had been a previous appropriation, by the United States, of the tract for public purposes. Some months after the entry of the land and the payment of the purchase money, the Secretary of the Treasury, through the acting commissioner of public lands, directed the tract to be reserved from sale for the use of the United States.