THIS case came before the court from the circuit court for the county of Washington, in the district of Columbia, on a case stated in that court.
The plaintiff, Thomas Spratt, instituted in the circuit court an action of replevin, the defendant, as the administratrix of James Spratt, having levied a distress on the property of the plaintiff, for rent claimed to be due for a house occupied by him in the city of Washington, and to which he claimed title in himself, and in the brothers and sisters of James Spratt, deceased. It was agreed, by the counsel, that the title to the house and lot of ground upon which the same is erected, should be determined upon the following stated facts:
Thomas Spratt, Andrew Spratt, Sarah Spratt and Catharine Spratt, are brothers and sisters of the whole blood of James Spratt the intestate, and are natives of Ireland, and subjects of the king of Great Britain, and were not, before the institution of this suit, naturalized as citizens of the United States; and but one of them, Thomas Spratt, and the deceased, James Spratt, ever came to the United States. James Spratt was also a native of Ireland, and came to the United States some time before the 18th of June 1812; from which time he continued to reside in the United States until March 1824, when he died without issue, leaving Sarah Spratt his widow, who became the administratrix to his estate.
James Spratt, on the 17th of May 1817, appeared in the circuit court of the district of Columbia for the county of Washington, and before the court made the declaration on oath required by the first condition of the first section of the act to establish an uniform system of naturalization, &c. passed the 14th of April 1802; which proceeding was recorded in the minutes of the court's proceedings, and a certificate thereof, under the hand of the clerk and the seal of the court, on the same day given to James Spratt; he having, on the 14th of April then next preceding, made report of himself to the clerk of the circuit court, as stated in the certificate; which report was recorded in the office the said clerk, and the certificate of such report and registry, and of the declaration on oath, having been granted by the clerk to him. On the 11th of October 1821, James Spratt made application to the said circuit court to be admitted a citizen of the United States; and was, on the same day, admitted by the court to become a citizen of the United States, as appears by the record of the proceedings of the court, upon the matter of the said application: a certificate whereof, under the hand of the clerk, and the seal of the court, was afterwards given by the clerk to him, and is part of the case.
Sarah Spratt was also a native of Ireland, and a native-born subject of the king of England; she emigrated to the United States before James Spratt, and has continually, from the time of her emigration, resided in the United States; and before his naturalization was lawfully married to him, and lived with him as his lawful wife, from their marriage till his death in March 1824, and was his wife at and before the time of his said naturalization; but has not been naturalized as a citizen of the United States pursuant to the act of congress, unless so naturalized by the naturalization of her husband.
On the 9th of June 1825, the plaintiff and his brothers and sisters, claiming as heirs at law of James Spratt, brought their action of ejectment in this court, against Sarah Spratt, to recover possession of sundry of the lands and tenements whereof James Spratt died seised in fee, not including the messuage and tenement in this suit: in which suit (the same having been duly prosecuted and put to issue) such proceedings were had, that the title of Thomas Spratt was duly submitted to the consideration and judgment of the court, upon a case agreed and stated between the parties, to be taken and considered as a special verdict; upon which the court gave judgment for Sarah Spratt; whereupon a writ of error was sued out to the supreme court of the United States, where the judgment was re-examined, as appears in 1 Peters, 343; which is part of the case.
In the matter of a suit in the circuit court of the county of Washington, by one of the creditors of Simon Meade, deceased, Joseph Forrest was appointed to make sale of certain real estate of Simon Meade, and after having set up the same for public sale, to return the sale to the court for confirmation; and having on the 21st day of May 1821, set up the estate on terms specified, by which the purchase money was to be paid in four instalments, at six, twelve, eighteen and twenty-four months, and that a conveyance of the property should be made to the purchaser on the ratification of the sale by the court. The house and lot in question, in this case, were purchased by James Spratt; and on the 21st October 1821, the trustee returned the sale to the court. On the 24th of December 1822, an interlocutory order was made for the ratification of the report of the sale; and in January 1824, a final ratification of the sale was passed by the court.
James Spratt, after his naturalization, and not before, paid the purchase money for the property by the instalments, with interest; but no deed of conveyance of the same was ever executed to him, and he died invested with no other title to the premises in controversy but what he acquired by the sale at auction, the written memorandum, report and ratification thereof, and the payment of the purchase money.
In the statement of the case thus agreed, there was inserted the following memorandum; which was signed by the counsel for the parties in the cause.
'It is understood, however, that the plaintiff does not admit, but denies, that the proceeding and evidence touching the naturalization of James Spratt, or any part of the same, do purport to be or to show a due and legal naturalization of James Spratt as a citizen of the United States; and maintains that the manner and process of such pretended naturalization appears from such proceedings and evidence to have been irregular and void; unless such proceedings and evidence, or any part of the same, be held by the court to be conclusive in this case, that he was duly and legally naturalized as such citizen. While the defendant and avowant on the other hand maintains, that no defect or irregularity appears in the manner and process of such naturalization; that the manner and process of the same in its preliminary stages are not examinable in this case; but that the admission of James Spratt to become a citizen of the United States, as it appears in the record and certificate thereof, is, either substantively or in connexion with the other evidence thereof, conclusive of his due naturalization as such citizen: all which matters are understood and agreed to be involved in the question of title, and to be accordingly reserved for the consideration and judgment of the court upon the premises.'
The declaration for naturalization made by James Spratt, was in the following terms:
'James Spratt, a native of Ireland, aged about twenty-six years, bearing allegiance to the king of Great Britain and Ireland, who emigrated from Ireland, and arrived in the United States on the 1st of June 1812, and intends to reside within the jurisdiction and under the government of the United States, makes report of himself for naturalization according to the acts of congress in that case made and provided, the 14th of April, anno domini 1817, in the clerk's office of the circuit court of the district of Columbia for the county of Washington: and on the 14th of May 1817, the said James Spratt personally appeared in open court, and declared on oath, that it is bona fide his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince,' &c.
The record of the proceedings of the circuit court on the naturalization of James Spratt is in the following terms:
'At a circuit court of the district of Columbia, begun and held in and for the county of Washington, at the city of Washington, on the first Monday of October, being the 1st day of the same month, in the year of our lord 1821, and of the independence of the United States the forty-sixth.
'James Spratt, a native of Ireland, aged about thirty years, having heretofore, to wit, on the 14th of May 1817, declared, on oath, in open court, that it was bona fide his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce for ever all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever, and particularly to the king of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
'And it now appearing to the satisfaction of the court by the testimony of two witnesses, citizens of the United States, to wit, Samuel N. Smallwood, and Jonathan Prout, that the said James Spratt hath resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for five years at least last past, and within the county of Washington one year at least last past, and that during the whole of that time he hath behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same–the said James Spratt is thereupon admitted a citizen of the United States; having taken the oath 'that he will support the constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever; and particularly to the king of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, to whom he was before a subject.' 11th of October 1821.'
A certificate in due form, corresponding with this record, was given to James Spratt.
For the appellant, it was contended,
1. That the admission of said James Spratt to citizenship, as stated in the record, was legal.
2. That whether regular or not, it is conclusive, as the judgment of a court upon a subject within its jurisdiction.
3. That whether so or not, the parties are concluded by the admission in the former case stated.
4. That no deed or conveyance having ever passed to James Spratt in his life, the appellees could not inherit under the act of Maryland.
5. That if the Maryland law would entitle the appellees to inherit any estate but one executed by an actual conveyance, and the time when he acquired a right to the estate should be thought material; then it will be contended that he acquired such a right, not at the time of bidding, but either on his paying the purchase money, or on the ratification of the sale; both which events occurred after his naturalization.
Mr Key and Mr Jones, for the appellant, argued; that the naturalization of Thomas Spratt had been regular, according to the ...