MCCORMICK V. SULLIVANT, 23 U. S. 192 (1825)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCormick v. Sullivant, 23 U.S. 10 Wheat. 192 192 (1825)

McCormick v. Sullivant

23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 192


The courts of the United States are courts of limited, but not of inferior, jurisdiction. If the jurisdiction be not alleged in the proceedings, their judgments and decrees may be reversed for that cause on a writ of error and appeal, but until reversed, they are conclusive evidence between parties and privies.

The title and disposition of real property is governed by the lex loci rei sitae.

The title to lands can only pass by devise according to the laws of the state or country where the lands lie. The probate in one state or country is of no validity as affecting the title to lands in another.

The appellants filed their bill in equity in the court below setting forth that William Crawford,

Page 23 U. S. 193

deceased, the father of the female appellants, being in his lifetime a Colonel in the Virginia Line on continental establishment, and as such entitled to the quantity of 6,666 and 2/3 acres of land, to be laid off between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers, on the northwest side of the River Ohio, departed this life, having first duly made and published his last will and testament bearing date 16 June, 1782, whereby he devised all his estate not otherwise disposed of by said will to be equally divided between his three children, John Crawford, and the female complainants, and their heirs forever. That this will was proved and recorded in Westmoreland county, in the State of Pennsylvania, on 10 September in the same year. That a warrant for the above quantity of land was afterwards issued in the name of the said John Crawford, as heir at law of his father, under which the following entries were made -- one for 800 acres, which was surveyed and patented to Lucas Sullivant, of which quantity 400 acres are claimed by Bernard Thompson; another for 955 2/3 acres, which was surveyed and patented to John Armat, but then claimed by William Winship; another for 956 acres, patented to some person unknown, but claimed by Samuel Finley; another for 955 acres, patented to some person unknown, but believed to be claimed and possessed by Lucas Sullivant.

The bill then proceeds to interrogate the above parties, who are made defendants, severally, as to their knowledge of the above will, and of the

Page 23 U. S. 194

title of the female complainants, and requires of them to set forth and describe the lands severally claimed by them, from whom they purchased, at what time, and for what price the same were purchased, and when the purchase money was paid. The prayer is for a conveyance by each defendant of two-thirds of the land claimed by them respectively, and for possession.

The answer of the heirs of Winship states that the land to which they claim title was purchased, for a valuable consideration, of Thomas Armat, by their father, to whom a conveyance was made in the year 1807. That a bill was filed by the present complainants, against the said Thomas Armat, in the District Court of Ohio, exercising the powers and jurisdiction of a circuit court, for the land now in controversy, to which the said Armat filed his answer, asserting himself to be a bona fide purchaser of the land, for a valuable consideration, and without notice, and that, the cause coming on to be heard, the bill was dismissed without costs, after which decree, the purchase was made of Armat by the defendant's father. They insist upon and pray to be protected by the said decree.

Finley answers and alleges himself to be a bona fide purchaser for a valuable consideration of 500 acres, part of the 956 acres mentioned in the bill, from one Beauchamp, who claimed as assignee of Dyal, who was assignee of John Crawford, for which he paid, and received a patent, before notice of the claim of the plaintiffs, or of the will of William Crawford.

Page 23 U. S. 195

The heirs of Thompson filed a plea in bar alleging that the complainants, in the year 1804, filed their bill in the District Court of Ohio, exercising the powers and jurisdiction of a circuit court, against B. Thompson, their ancestor, under whom they claim, setting forth the same title, and substantially the same matters as in their present bill, to which the said Thompson answered, and the complainants replied, and upon a hearing of the cause the bill was dismissed with costs, which decree is in full force, &c.

Sullivant filed a similar plea, and the bill was dismissed as to him by agreement.

A general replication was put in to the answers of Finley and Winship's heirs, and a special replication to the plea in bar setting forth the record in the former suit, and alleging, that the proceedings in that suit were coram non judice, the record not showing that the complainants and defendant in that suit were citizens of different states.

Upon the hearing, the bill was dismissed, and an appeal taken to this Court.

Page 23 U. S. 198

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