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U.S. Supreme Court

Blight's Lessee v. Rochester, 20 U.S. 7 Wheat. 535 535 (1822)

Blight's Lessee v. Rochester

20 U.S. (7 Wheat.) 535


British subjects born before the Revolution are equally incapable with those born after of inheriting, or transmitting the inheritance of lands in this country.

The treaties of 1783, and 1794 only provide for titles existing at the time those treaties were made, and not to titles subsequently acquired.

Actual possession is not necessary to give the party the benefit of the treaty, but the existence of title at the time is necessary.

Where J.D., an alien and British subject, came into the United States subsequent to the treaty of 1783 and, before the signature of the treaty of 1794, died seized of the lands in question, held that the title of his heirs was not protected by the treaties.

In what cases citizenship may be presumed so as to confirm a title to lands.

The doctrine of estoppel, or the principle of legal policy which forbids a party from denying the title under which he has received a conveyance, does not apply as between vendor and vendee, especially where the latter has not received possession from the former.

This was an ejectment in the court below, brought to recover the possession of lot No. 18, in the Town of

Page 20 U. S. 536

Danville in the State of Kentucky. It appeared, from the evidence in the cause that the plaintiffs are the heirs of John Dunlap, who was a citizen of Pennsylvania and claimed as the heir of his brother, James Dunlap, who died seized of the premises in question in the autumn of 1794. James Dunlap was an alien, and a subject of the King of Great Britain, who came to the United States subsequent to the treaty of peace of 1783, and died before the signature of the treaty of 1794. After his death, one Hunter, professing to have purchased of John Dunlap, entered into possession and conveyed to several persons, parcels of the lot, and to the defendant, Rochester, one parcel in 1795, who entered into possession thereof and has occupied the same ever since, having acknowledged the title of said Dunlap as that under which he held.

Upon this evidence, the counsel for the plaintiffs moved the court to instruct the jury

"1st. That if the jury find the defendant obtained possession under James G. Hunter, who obtained possession as the attorney of John Dunlap, or who claimed under an executory agreement with John Dunlap, and that said defendant has held and occupied under John Dunlap's title, claiming from said Hunter, as the attorney of said Dunlap, or under an executory agreement, or has, since he was in possession, acknowledged the title of said Dunlap as that under which he held, that then the defendant is not permitted to impeach or controvert the title of said John Dunlap by parol evidence that James Dunlap was an alien. "

Page 20 U. S. 537

"2d. That if the defendant Bochester acquired the possession and has continued to hold as above, the possession of the defendant was no such an adverse possession as would toll the right of entry of said John Dunlap, and the statute of limitations does not apply."

"3d. That if James Dunlap occupied the lot from the date of his deed till his death, and said James G. Hunter and the defendant have continued to hold it under the claim of John Dunlap, his brother, as heir to James, that from these facts, connected with the evidence in the cause and in the absence of any proof of an inquisition or office found as to the alienage of James Dunlap, and in the absence of any grant or other act of the commonwealth or its officers since the death of said James, in derogation of the title of said James or of said John, it should presume that said James was a citizen of the United States."

"4th. That if it believe the evidence, it should find for the plaintiff."

"5th. That the jury has a right to presume that James Dunlap was a citizen of the State of Virginia or of some one of the United States, and if so, John Dunlap was his heir, and capable of inheriting."

"6th. That if James Hunter entered under a parol agreement with John Dunlap, the possession of said Hunter was the possession of said Dunlap"

"7th. That the inheritance claimed by John Dunlap as heir to James is protected by and within the provisions of the treaty between the United States and Great Britain signed 19 November, 1794."

The court refused the 1st, 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and

Page 20 U. S. 538

7th instructions moved by the plaintiff and gave the second, with this qualification,

"that if John Dunlap had either title or the actual possession of the premises after the death of James Dunlap and before the entry of said Hunter or of the defendant, then the statute of limitations did not apply."

The defendant moved the instruction that if James Dunlap was an alien and died before 19 November, 1794, then the plaintiff has made out no title to the land in question which will authorize it to find for him, which was given by the court with this qualification, that if the jury found that John Dunlap had actual possession of the premises after the death of James Dunlap and prior to the time when Hunter took possession, in that event this instruction would not be given.

Page 20 U. S. 543

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