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SULLIVAN V. KIDD, 254 U. S. 433 (1921)

U.S. Supreme Court

Sullivan v. Kidd, 254 U.S. 433 (1921)

Sullivan v. Kidd

No. 5

Argued April 27, 1920

Restored to docket for oral argument May 17, 1920

Reargued December 10, 1920

Decided January 3, 1921

254 U.S. 433


1. In the absence of a controlling treaty, the capacity of an alien to inherit land within a the Union depends upon the law of that state. P. 254 U. S. 435.

2. Treaties are to be interpreted upon the same principles as written contracts between individuals, all parts being considered with a view to giving a fair operation to the whole, and they are to be executed in the utmost good faith to effectuate the purposes of the high contracting parties. P. 254 U. S. 439.

3. The Treaty of March 2, 1899, between Great Britain and the United States grants the subject of each party certain right of inheritance respecting real property within the territories of the other, but declares (Art. IV) that it stipulations shall not be applicable to any of the colonies or foreign possessions of the British

Page 254 U. S. 434

Crown unless a notice to that effect shall have been given by Great Britain to the United States on behalf of such colony or possession, and that its provisions shall extend and apply to any territory pertaining to or occupied by the United States beyond the seas, only upon notice to that effect being given by the United States to Great Britain. Held that the giving of such notice conditions the applicability of the treaty to a foreign possession not merely in respect of the property there situate, but also in respect of the subjects and citizens there residing, so that, no notice having been given on behalf of Canada, a subject of Great Britain who was a citizen and resident of that Dominion acquired no right under the treaty to inherit land in the United States. P. 254 U. S. 436.

4. The fact that Canada, as a self-governing dependency, in the exercise of her legislative power, has granted aliens the right to inherit cannot affect the construction of the treaty. P. 254 U. S. 440.

5. In the practice of this country, the "most favored nation" clause is held not to extend the rights acquired by treaties containing it because of reciprocal benefit expressly conferred in treaties with other nations in exchange for right or privileges given to our government. P. 254 U. S. 441.

6. The "most favored nation" clause in the above-cited treaty does not control its specific condition upon the right of citizens of a foreign possession to participate in its benefits. Id.

7. In construing the treaty, little weight can be attached to a different construction placed by Great Britain on an earlier treaty with Japan, but which was not made known to the representative who negotiated the treaty in question for this country. P. 254 U. S. 442.

8. A construction placed upon a treaty and consistently adhered to by the Executive Department should be given much weight by the court. Id.


The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 254 U. S. 435

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