THIS was an appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana.
The attorney of the United States filed an information in the nature of a bill in chancery against David M. Hughes, who was the real defendant, and also against Sewall and Hudson, nominal defendants.
On the 12th of April, 1814, Congress passed an act (3 Stat. at Large, 122) for the final adjustment of land titles in the State of Louisiana and Territory of Missouri.
The fifth section was as follows:––
'Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That every person, and the legal representatives of every person, who has actually inhabited and cultivated a tract of land lying in that part of the State of Louisiana which composed the late Territory of Orleans, or in the Territory of Missouri, which tract is not rightfully claimed by any other person, and who shall not have removed from said State or Territory, shall be entitled to the right of pre emption in the purchase thereof, under the same restrictions, conditions, provisions, and regulations, in every respect, as is directed by the act entitled 'An Act giving the right of pre emption in the purchase of lands to certain settlers in the Illinois Territory,' passed February 5, 1813.' (See 2 Stat. at Large, 797.)
This act of 1813 prescribed the mode of proceeding; that the party should make known his claim to the register, &c., &o.
Prior to or on the 22d of February, 1822, one John Goodbee presented the following application to the register and receiver of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
'GENTLEMEN,–I apply to become the purchaser of a tract of land by virtue of settlement under the act of Congress of the 12th of April, 1814, situated as follows, in the parish of Iberville, principally on the north side of the Bayou Goula, designated as No. one by the surveyor, and is the same land which was inhabited and cultivated by Daniel Beedle, or Bidelle, in the year 1813, under whose settlement I claim by purchase. This land belongs to the United States, and is not rightfully claimed by any other person; neither has said Bidelle removed from the State. The land claimed has not been surveyed according to law, but I apply for the right of pre emption to one hundred and sixty superficial acres, at the price provided by law, and offer proofs of the facts set forth.
Whereupon the register and receiver issued the following certificate and receipt.
'The applicant having proved, to the satisfaction of the register and receiver for the Eastern District of Louisiana, that he has a pre emption right to the land claimed, I, in consequence, certify that he is entitled to one hundred and sixty superficial acres of land, as applied for; subject, however, to the sectional or divisional lines to be hereafter run under the authority of the United States.
'SAM. H. HARPER, Register.
'Receiver's Office, New Orleans,
'Received of John Goodbee two hundred dollars, being the purchase-money for one hundred and sixty superficial acres of land, in the parish of Iberville, designated as No. 1 by the surveyor, to which he has a pre emption right, according to the certificate of the register, No. 8, exhibited to me.
'J. J. MCLANAHAN, Receiver.
'160 acres a 1 25/100, $200. Original filed 9th Oct., 1845.
Subsequently proper returns of survey were made, on which the land was fully described and designated as lot No. 1, on the north side of Bayou Goula, or section 54 in township 10 (west of the Mississippi) of range 12 east.
On the 14th of May, 1836, David Michael Hughes entered this land as if it were a tract of public land, containing 175 46/100 acres; and on the 16th of April, 1841, obtained a patent from the United States.
On the 3d of April, 1846, the receiver gave a certificate to John Goodbee, that he had received from him the sum of $19.32, the price of 15 46/100 acres at $1.25 per acre, that being the excess of the land beyond the original estimate and payment.
On the 20th of January, 1848, Thomas J. Durant, Attorney of the United States for the District of Louisiana, filed in the Circuit Court an information and bill, commencing as follows:––
'To the Honorable the Judges of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Fifth Circuit and District of Louisiana, in Chancery sitting: Informing, showeth unto your honors, Thomas J. Durant,' &c., &c.
The bill then went on to narrate the facts of the case as above set forth.
It further states, that on or about the 14th of May, 1836, Hughes, who resided near the town of Alexandria, Louisiana, did make an application to the register of the land-office of New Orleans, to enter and purchase the said lot of land at private sale, falsely representing to the register that the said land was then subject to entry and sale, and that he was by the said register permitted to enter the said land, as if the same was liable to private entry; and that he, still falsely representing the said land as subject to private entry and sale, did, on the same day, pay the receiver the sum of $219.32, and that there was issued to him by the register the usual certificate given in such cases. That on the 16th of April, 1841, Hughes presented the said certificate to the Commissioner of the General Land-Office at Washington, still falsely representing the land as subject to private entry and sale, and that he had legally paid for the same, and did procure the commissioner to issue a patent to him. That all the acts and doings of the register and receiver in permitting Hughes to enter and pay for the land were done in error, and were at the time, and now, null and void; and that the acts and doings of the Commissioner of the General Land-Office were also, then and now, null and void, because the land had long before been sold by the United States to John Goodbee, and that Hughes is bound, in equity and good faith, to restore and give up the patent, and not to pretend or set up any title to the said land.
That Goodbee is dead, and that the land is in the joint occupation and settlement of Robert Sewall, who resides on it, and of Franklin Hudson, a minor, who is represented by his tutor; and that they pretend to possess said land as owners, under title derived from Goodbee; and that the said parties in possession ought to be made parties to the proceedings in the case.
It is further stated, that, so soon as the error in issuing a patent and the other acts preparatory thereto were discovered, Hughes was requested to give up and restore the patent, and receive back the money he had erroneously paid for the land, but refused to do so; on the contrary, he had commenced suit in one of the State courts against the possessors, who hold under Goodbee, to deprive them of the land by means of said patent, to the damage and injury of the United States, who are bound in equity and good faith to hold harmless all persons who have derived title from Goodbee from the consequences of errors and mistakes of their own, and their officers, and particularly from those of the error in issuing a patent to Hughes.
The bill then charges combination and confederacy, and that Hughes had refused to comply with the requests made to him, and sets forth his pretences for so doing; and the defendant Hughes is required to answer the following interrogatories: Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10; and the other defendants Nos. 9 and 11.
1st. Whether the said land was not entered by David Michael Hughes at the land-office of the United States in New Orleans, on the 14th day of May, 1836?
2d. Whether, in making said entry, he, the said David Michael Hughes, did not represent said land to the register of the land-office as land that was then subject to entry and private sale?
3d. Whether, at the time of making said entry, he, the said David Michael Hughes, did not know that the said land had previously been sold by the United States to John Goodbee?
4th. Whether he, the said David Michael Hughes, did, on the 16th day of April, in the year 1841, obtain or procure a patent for said land from the General Land-Office in Washington?
5th. Whether said David Michael Hughes has, since the patent was procured by him, and before the institution of these proceedings, been called upon to restore and give up said patent to the proper officer of the United States, on the ground that said patent was erroneously issued and delivered to him, and to ...