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CROXALL V. SHERERD, 72 U. S. 268 (1866)

U.S. Supreme Court

Croxall v. Shererd, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 268 268 (1866)

Croxall v. Shererd

72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 268


1. As a general thing, any legal conveyance will have the same effect upon an equitable estate that it would have upon the like estate at law, and whatever is true at law of the latter is true in equity of the former. The rule in Shelley's Case applies alike to equitable and to legal estates, and an equitable estate tail may be barred in the same manner as an estate tail at law.

2. A use limited upon a use is not affected by the statute of uses. The statute executes but the first use. In the conveyance by deed of bargain and

Page 72 U. S. 269

sale, the whole force of the statute is exhausted in transferring the legal title in fee simple to the bargainee, and the second use remains as a trust.

3. A private act of the Legislature of New Jersey (passed in 1818) by which an estate meant to be settled in apparently some sort of tail, but over the deed settling which (executed in 1793) doubts and difficulties of law hung, making the rights of the several parties uncertain, the object of which private act was to dock the entail, unfetter the estate, and divide it equally between children in fee, was held to be a proper exercise of the legislative power to effect an assurance of title through a private statute, and valid, all parties in interest in esse at the time having been before the legislature and having either asked for the act or consented that it should pass, and there being no ground for imputation on any of them of fraud, indirection, or concealment, the partition, moreover, having been made by disinterested commissioners, having been equal and fair, and all parties in esse in interest having confirmed it by conveyances and releases mutually made.

4. A purchaser bona fide holds adversely to all the world, and may disclaim the title under which he entered and set up, even as against his vendor, any title whatever.

5. A remainder is to be considered as vested when there is a person in being who would have an immediate right to the possession upon the ceasing of the intermediate particular estate. And it is never to be held contingent when, consistently with intention, it can be held vested.

6. Under the Act of the New Jersey Legislature of June 5, 1787 (§ 2), declaring that thirty years' actual possession, where such possession was obtained by a fair and bona fide purchase of any person supposed to have a legal right and title shall vest an absolute right and title in the possessor and occupier, no qualification is made as to issue in tail, and where a special verdict found that the defendant obtained possession by a bona fide purchase from a party in possession and supposed to have a valid title, and the court held that the estate in remainder of the party in possession and supposed to have the valid title was a vested remainder, not a contingent one, the case was considered to be brought within the meaning of the statute as within its letter.

Robert Morris Croxall, the plaintiff in error, in September, 1863 -- the year is important -- brought ejectment in that court to recover certain premises in New Jersey. The jury found a special verdict in substance thus:

On the 15th of November, 1793, Robert Morris, being seized in fee simple of certain lands in the state just named, an indenture tripartite was made between him, of the first part, Charles Croxall and Mary, his wife, of the second, and

Page 72 U. S. 270

Robert Morris, Jr., Adam Hoops, and Aaron Dickinson Woodruff, of the third. The deed set forth that for the better settling and assuring of the lands therein described and intended to be conveyed and settled upon the uses and subject to the trusts, and for the purposes thereinafter limited, and in consideration of ten shillings paid to the said Robert Morris by the said Robert, Jr., Adam, and Aaron, the said Robert Morris thereby conveyed to the parties of the third part, and to their heirs, the land situated &c. The habendum was thus:

"To have and to hold the said messuage, lands &c., to the said Robert, Jr., Adam, and Aaron, their heirs and assigns, to the uses, trusts, intents, and purposes hereinafter mentioned, limited, expressed, and declared of and concerning the same -- that is to say to the use and behoof of the said Charles Croxall and his assigns for and during the term of his natural life, and from and immediately after the decease of the said Charles to the use and behoof of the said Mary, his wife, and her assigns, for and during the term of her natural life, in case she shall happen to survive the said Charles, and from and after the determination of the said estates so limited to them, the said Charles and Mary, his wife, for their several and respective lives, to the use and behoof of the said Robert, Jr., Adam, and Aaron, and their heirs, for and during the lives of them, the said Charles and Mary, his wife, and the life of the longer liver of them, upon trust to preserve the contingent uses and remainders thereof, hereinafter limited, from being destroyed, and to and for that purpose to make entries as occasion shall require, but not to convert any of the profits of said premises to their own uses, but nevertheless in trust to permit and suffer the said Charles and his assigns, during his natural life, and after his death, the said Mary, his wife, and her assigns, during her natural life, to receive and take the rents, issues, and profits of all and singular the said premises, with the appurtenances, to and for their respective uses and benefits; and from and immediately after the death of the survivor of them, the said Charles and Mary, his wife, then to the use and behoof of the heirs of the body of the said Mary, by her present husband lawfully begotten, or to be begotten, and to the heirs of his, her, and their

Page 72 U. S. 271

bodies lawfully to be begotten, and in default of such issue then to the use and behoof of the said Robert Morris, party of the first part to these presents, and of his heirs and assigns forever, and to or for or upon no other use, trust, intent, or purpose whatsoever."

The grantees thereupon became seized of the premises, and Charles Croxall and his wife, and their assigns occupied and possessed them and received and enjoyed the profits until the premises were divided as hereinafter stated among the children of the said Charles and Mary, Charles Croxall, prior to 1817, having erected a mansion house upon that part of the premises now in dispute.

Mary, the wife of Charles Croxall, was the daughter of the grantor, Robert Morris, and was married to the said Charles long prior to the making the indenture, and had by him before, as well as after it was executed, several children, all of whom died unmarried and without issue in the lifetime of their parents except four, namely Thomas, Daniel, Ann Maria (who intermarried with Claudius Legrand), and Morris Croxall, who severally survived their parents, the said Charles and Mary -- the said Thomas being the eldest, and having been born prior to the execution of the said deed.

Mary Croxall died in July, 1824, and Charles Croxall in November, 1831. Thomas Croxall was married in the year 1813, and had nine children -- three of whom died without issue in the lifetime of their father. The remaining six, of whom one was Robert Morris Croxall, the plaintiff, survived the said Thomas, and were still living. This Robert Morris Croxall, the only surviving son, was born on the 19th of March, 1821.

Thomas Croxall died in October, 1861.

On the 26th June, 1798, Charles Croxall and Mary, his wife, for the consideration of five shillings, conveyed the land by deed of bargain and sale to J. and W. Gallagher, their heirs and assigns, for and during the life of the said Charles, and after his death during the life of the said Mary, if she should survive him, in trust out of the rents

Page 72 U. S. 272

and profits to pay certain debts of the said Charles, and to enable the said Mary to receive any sum, not exceeding four hundred dollars per annum, and after the debts were satisfied and the trustees reasonably compensated, to convey back the premises to the said Mary, her heirs and assigns.

On the 11th July, 1804, the Gallaghers conveyed the lands to Mary Croxall, to hold the same during life.

In December, 1807, the Court of Errors and Appeals of New Jersey, in a suit in chancery, wherein the Gallaghers were complainants and Charles and Mary Croxall were respondents, decreed that the appellants, upon certain terms and conditions set forth, should deliver possession of the entire estate to Charles and Mary Croxall, and that they should convey the same to the said Mary, her heirs and assigns, pursuant to their agreement of June 26, 1798. The conditions of the decree were complied with, and the Gallaghers conveyed to Mary Croxall accordingly.

On the 1st of July, 1814, Charles and Mary Croxall executed to their two sons, Thomas and Daniel, a deed of bargain and sale for one undivided half of the property, with a covenant that they had done nothing to encumber the estate, and that they would warrant and defend against all persons claiming under them, or either of them. There was also a covenant for further assurances.

On the 9th of May, 1808, all the interest of Charles Croxall in the premises was sold under execution to William McCullogh, and a sheriff's deed executed. On the 17th of May, 1808, McCullogh sold and conveyed to one Milner, who on the next day, conveyed the premises to A.D. Woodruff, Peter Gordon, and Jonathan Rhea, their heirs and assigns, to hold them during the natural lives of Charles and Mary Croxall in trust for the sole and separate use of Mary during life and also to preserve the same from waste, so that after her death the same might enure to the heirs of her body by the said Charles Croxall, to the uses declared by the deed tripartite of 15th November, 1793, for the same premises. Shortly after the execution of the deed last mentioned, and before the application to the Legislature of New Jersey,

Page 72 U. S. 273

by Thomas Croxall, hereafter mentioned, Woodruff and Rhea died, leaving Gordon the sole surviving trustee, under the deed executed by Milner. Before that application also, Thomas, Daniel, and Anna Maria Croxall had arrived at majority, and Anna Maria had married, as before stated. Morris Croxall arrived at majority in 1820. Prior to that time and to the application to the legislature, Gordon was his guardian.

In November, 1817, Thomas Croxall presented a petition to the legislature, asking for the partition of the premises. The petition stated that the title and right of possession for life had become vested in Mary Croxall, and that in the year 1814 she had, under the advice of counsel, conveyed to the memorialist all her right and title to the undivided part of the estate to which he, as an heir, laid claim. The aid of the legislature was invoked for the reason, as stated, that difficulties had arisen among the different branches of the family in relation to the property, that the estate was so situated as not to produce to its respective owners the income which it ought to yield, and that causes of litigation frequently occurred. Charles and Mary Croxall, Daniel Croxall, Legrand and wife, and Morris Croxall, by Peter Gordon, his guardian, submitted a remonstrance. The remonstrance was afterward withdrawn, and with the consent of all the parties, an act of the legislature was passed February 14, 1818, which appointed three commissioners, with power to divide the estate into four equal parts, and to set off and apart to each of the children of Charles and Mary Croxall, one equal fourth part by metes and bounds and in severalty. The was accordingly done. The premises in dispute in this case are a part of the share set off to Morris Croxall. The heirs afterwards mutually released and quitclaimed to each other according to the partition so made. Charles and Mary Croxall joined in the deeds. The deeds from Morris Croxall and the deed to him were executed after he arrived at the age of twenty-one years. Charles and Mary Croxall reserved for their use during their lives a part of his share. This was not embraced in their deed to him. The premises in dispute are a

Page 72 U. S. 274

part of what was reserved. Thomas and Daniel Croxall, with Legrand and wife, in 1819, upon the execution of the deeds to them respectively, took possession in severalty of their respective shares and held and enjoyed the same until they severally sold and conveyed to Garrett D. Wall, as hereafter stated. Morris Croxall did the same with respect to his share, except as to the part reserved for the use of his father and mother, which they occupied -- he living with them. Their occupancy continued until the death of Mary, in 1824. Charles continued his occupancy after her death, until he also sold and conveyed to Wall. The deeds of the several parties to Wall were all executed in the year 1825. The deed of Morris includes the land in dispute in this case. At the time of the conveyance by Thomas Croxall, Wall held three mortgages upon the premises constituting his share, and had also bought the same at a sale upon execution and received a deed from the sheriff. When Daniel conveyed, Wall held a mortgage upon his share, and had also bought in the property at a sale under execution, and received the sheriff's deed accordingly. Wall had also taken up a mortgage executed by Morris Croxall before Morris conveyed to him. Wall is dead. The mortgages are held by his family as muniments of title. On the 13th of September, 1825, Charles Croxall, his wife being then dead, released and quitclaimed to Wall all his interest in the entire premises so conveyed to Wall, whether that interest was in his own right or in right of his deceased wife. Wall paid the full value of the several parcels of the property at the times when the same were respectively conveyed. The lands have since been greatly increased in value by improvements put upon them by Wall and those who purchased from him. A large portion of the Town of Belvidere now stood upon them.

On the 25th January, 1827, Wall conveyed to Shererd, the defendant in the case, by deed of bargain and sale, for the consideration of $2,200, the full value of the property at the time, a portion of the premises. They now made part of the Town of Belvidere. Upon the making of the several deeds to Wall he immediately entered into possession under the conveyances,

Page 72 U. S. 275

and Shererd, upon the making of the deed of conveyance to him by Wall, immediately entered into possession as the owner, and has ever since been in possession, and for one year prior to the making of the deed he had been in possession as the tenant of Wall. Possession was obtained by the defendant by a fair bona fide purchase of the property in question, of a party in possession, and supposed to have a legal right and title thereto.

Upon this special verdict, the court below gave judgment for the defendant. The case was now on error in this Court.

To understand the case fully, it is necessary to state that in New Jersey the legislature, by a statute of August 25, 1784 [Footnote 1] (explained by one of March 3, 1786, and repealed apparently by one in 1820), had enacted that:

"All devises heretofore made in tail as aforesaid, which have not already passed through one descent since the death of the testator, and also all such devises which shall hereafter be made in tail of any kind, shall be deemed, taken, and adjudged to vest in and entitle the person to whom the same may descend, agreeably to the devise or entailment, after the decease of the first devisee, to all the estate in the devised premises which the testator was entitled to and might or could have devised; and that no entailment of any lands or other real estate shall continue to entail the same in any case whatever longer than the life of the person to whom the same hath been or shall be first given or devised by such entailment."

Also that an act to abolish fines and recoveries was passed June 12, 1799, [Footnote 2] as on the following day an act [Footnote 3] declaring that from that day "no statute of the Parliament of England or Great Britain should have force within the State of New Jersey."

Also that (by Act of June 5, 1787, section 2d), [Footnote 4]

"Thirty years' actual possession of any lands, tenements, or other real estate, uninterruptedly continued as aforesaid, . . . wherever such possession was obtained by a fair bona fide purchase of such lands, tenements, or other real estate, of any

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person or persons whatever in possession, and supposed to have a legal right and title thereto, or of the agent or agents of such person or persons, shall be a good and sufficient bar to all prior locations, rights, titles, conveyances, or claims whatever not followed by actual possession as aforesaid, and shall vest an absolute right and title in the actual possessor and occupier of all such lands, tenements, or other real estate."

The act had the usual exceptions in favor of infants, feme coverts &c., but not others.

The case was argued at much length, and most interestingly, on the whole learning of estates tail, contingent remainders, the rule in Shelley's Case, and how far affected by the statutes of New Jersey of 1786, 1799, and 1820, the different qualities of legal and equitable estates in connection with the particular subject, the effects of the different sorts of assurances at common law and under the statute of uses, as also on the more usual learning of the private statute of 1818 and the statute of limitations of 1787. The fact that the court apparently deemed it proper to rest its judgment on these last grounds chiefly and "not to go beyond them" will be a sufficient excuse for a very slight or no report of so able and learned a discussion at the bar.

Page 72 U. S. 280

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