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MILLER'S EXECUTORS V. SWANN, 150 U. S. 132 (1893)

U.S. Supreme Court

Miller's Executors v. Swann, 150 U.S. 132 (1893)

Miller's Executors v. Swann

No. 362

Submitted October 23, 1893

Decided November 6, 1893

150 U.S. 132


In this case, the writ of error was dismissed because the judgment below rested upon a construction by the state court of a statute of the state, which was sufficiently broad to sustain the judgment.

This case comes to us on error from the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama. On the 3d of June, 1856, Congress made a grant of public lands to the State of Alabama

Page 150 U. S. 133

to aid in the construction of certain railroads. 11 Stat. 17, c. 24. This grant was renewed and extended by an Act of April 10, 1869. 16 Stat. 459, c. 24. By a joint resolution of the Legislature of the State of Alabama approved January 20, 1858, Acts 1857-1858, p. 430, certain railroad companies were made the beneficiaries of this grant. The Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad Company was formed by a consolidation, under the authority of the state, of two of these companies, and became thereby one of such beneficiaries. On February 11, 1870, an act was passed, Acts 1869-70, No. 101, pp. 89-92, loaning two millions of dollars of the bonds of the state to this company and providing for the execution of a mortgage by the company on all its property, including the land grant, to secure this loan. The bonds were delivered to the company, and on March 2, 1870, the mortgage called for by the last-named act was executed. Thereafter the railroad company, defaulting in the payment of its obligations to the state, was thrown into bankruptcy, and its property, including this land grant, was, on judicial sale, after proper proceedings in the district court of the United States, purchased by the state in satisfaction of such obligations. The title thus acquired the defendants in error hold under a conveyance from the state, made by virtue of what is called the "debt settlement" Act of the General Assembly, Acts 1875-76, No. 38, pp. 130, 149, and they were proceeding to enforce their right to the lands in controversy in this suit by an action of ejectment.

The title of the plaintiffs in error arose in this way: Joab Bagley claimed to have purchased the lands in controversy from the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad Company under two contracts of date, respectively, September 13, 1870, and January 24, 1871, with one Daniel J. Duffy, its agent. There was some dispute in the testimony as to whether Duffy was duly authorized to act as the agent of the company, and also whether the company ever in fact received the moneys paid by Bagley, but, for the purposes of this suit, it may be assumed that Duffy was authorized to sell, and that the company received the moneys. No conveyance, however, was made by

Page 150 U. S. 134

the company to Bagley. This suit was commenced in July, 1884, by D. B. Miller, who claims under sundry mesne conveyances from Bagley, in the Chancery Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, against John Swann and John A. Billups, trustees, and others, the object of which was to enforce the specific performance of the two contracts of September 13, 1870, and January 24, 1871, and to enjoin the further prosecution of the action of ejectment. On the 20th of June, 1885, the Chancellor entered a decree in favor of the complainant, which decree was reversed by the supreme court of the state. 82 Ala. 530. An amended bill having been filed, the case was again submitted to the chancellor, who, on November 12, 1888, entered a decree dismissing the complainant's bill, which decree was affirmed by the supreme court on the second of May, 1890. 89 Ala. 631. Subsequently to the commencement of the suit, Miler died, and the suit was revived in the names of his executor and heirs. The two original trustees have also died, and Frank Y. Anderson and W. J. Cameron have been substituted as their successors.

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