HAUENSTEIN V. LYNHAM, 100 U. S. 483 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hauenstein v. Lynham, 100 U.S. 483 (1879)

Hauenstein v. Lynham

100 U.S. 483


1. In the absence of proof that an alien has become a citizen of the United States, his original status is presumed to continue.

2. A., a citizen of Switzerland, died in 1861 in Virginia, intestate and without issue. For want of an heir capable under the statutes of the state to inherit the lands there situate whereof he died seised in fee, they were sold by the escheator of the proper district. A.'s next of kin, B., a citizen of Switzerland, filed a petition to recover the proceeds of that sale. Upon consideration of the treaty between the United States and the Swiss Confederation of Nov. 25, 1850, 10 Stat. 587,


1. That the treaty is the supreme law of the land, and by its terms the incapacity of B. as an alien was so far removed as to entitle him to recover and sell the lands and "withdraw and export the proceeds thereof."

2. That his rights thus secured are not barred by the lapse of time, inasmuch as no statute of Virginia prescribes the term within which they must be asserted.

3. That where a treaty admits of two constructions, one restrictive as to the rights that may be claimed under it, and the other liberal, the latter is to be preferred.

4. That the treatymaking clause of the Constitution is retroactive as well as prospective.

5. That, in view of B.'s rights in the premises, the escheator is entitled only to the amount allowed by law for making sales of real estate in ordinary cases.

6. That counsel cannot be paid out of the fund in dispute.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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