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NEILSON V. LAGOW, 53 U. S. 98 (1851)

U.S. Supreme Court

Neilson v. Lagow, 53 U.S. 12 How. 98 98 (1851)

Neilson v. Lagow

53 U.S. (12 How.) 98


The act of Congress, passed 1 May, 1820, 3 Stat. 568, enacts, "That no land shall be purchased on account of the United States, except under a law authorizing such purchase."

Where land was conveyed to trustees for the purpose of paying a debt due to the United States, and the highest court of a state decided against a title set up under that deed upon the ground that the deed was in violation of the act of Congress, this Court has jurisdiction, under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act to review that decision.

The deed to the trustees being an authority to sell so much of the land as might be necessary to pay the debt, this was not such a purchase as is forbidden by the statute. Nor does the act of Congress prohibit the acquisition directly by the United States of the legal title to land when it is taken by way of security for a debt.

Where the trustees purchased, and paid for out of money belonging to the United States, the equitable title, where the legal title to the land had been previously conveyed to them, the acquisition of this equitable title was nothing more than relieving the land of an encumbrance, and was not such a purchase as was forbidden by the statute.

Where the grounds of the decision of the supreme court of the state are not stated in the record, this Court will look into the bill of exceptions taken in the court of original jurisdiction to see what points were carried up to the supreme court, and whether they were necessarily involved in the judgment of the supreme court.

A deed to trustees and their successors in trust to sell and convey a fee simple absolute vested such an estate in them without the insertion of the word "heirs" in the deed.

This case originally stood in the name of Wilson Lagow, the ancestor of the present defendants in error.

The point involved was the construction of the Act of Congress passed on 1 May, 1820, 3 Stat. 568, which forbids land from being purchased on account of the United States except under a law authorizing such purchase.

At a preceding term of this Court, a motion was made to dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction, which is reported in 48 U. S. 7 How. 772. A brief history of the case is there given, and a more particular one is given in the present opinion of the Court, which renders any further statement by the reporter unnecessary.

Page 53 U. S. 102

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