THIS was an appeal from the Superior Court of East Florida, and a sequel to the case reported in 10 Peters, 308.
The appellants filed in the court below the following petition:
'To the Honorable Isaac H. Bronson, judge of the Superior Court in and for the eastern district of Florida.
'The petition of Joseph Chaires, of the said territory, executor of the last will and testament of Benjamin Chaires, late of the same territory, but now deceased, Peter Miranda, and Gad Humphreys, respectfully showeth:
'That the said Benjamin Chaires, Peter Miranda, and Gad Humphreys, heretofore, to wit, on the 11th day of May, which was in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine, filed their petition in the office of the clerk of this honorable court in terms of an act of Congress of the United States, entitled an act supplementary to the several acts providing for the settlement and confirmation of private land claims in Florida, approved on the 23d of May, in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, praying for the confirmation of certain claims to lands therein specified, and founded on a title made and granted by his excellency Don Jos e Coppinger, lieutenant-colonel of the royal armies of Spain, eivil and military governor of the territory of Florida, then subject and belonging to his Catholic Majesty, the King of Spain, and chief of the royal exchequer of the city of St. Augustine, Florida, to Jos e de la Maza Arredondo.
'That the attorney of the United States in and for said district, duly appeared, and answered the said petition; and thereupon such proceedings were had in the said court, that afterwards, on the 24th day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four, a decree was rendered therein in favor of the petitioners; and the said court did thereupon order, adjudge, and decree, that the claim of the said petitioner was valid, and that, in accordance with the laws and customs of Spain, and under and by virtue of the treaty of amity, settlement, and limits, between the United States and Spain, ratified by the President of the United States on the 22d day of February, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one, and under and by virtue of the laws of nations and of the United States, the said claim was thereby confirmed, adjudged, and decreed, unto the said claimant, to the extent, for the number of acres, and at the place specified in the grant for the said land, to Jos e de la Maza Arredondo; and as in the certificate and plat of the same, made by Andres Burgevin, dated the 14th of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and nineteen, and fully in the said cause is set forth, that is to say –
'A piece of land, which contains twenty thousand acres, situated on both margins of a creek, known as Alligator creek, said land commencing a little above the head of said creek, and embracing an Indian town, distant about eighty miles from the port of Buena Vista, and about forty miles to the north-west of Payne's Town–its first line running north twenty degrees west, three hundred and fifty-seven chains, begins at a pine marked X, and ends at another marked A; the second line running south seventy degrees west, five hundred and sixty chains, and ending at a stake; the third line running south twenty degrees east, three hundred and fifty-seven chains, and ending at a pine marked II; and the fourth line running north seventy degrees east, five hundred and sixty chains.
'That an appeal was taken from the decree, so rendered in this honorable court, to the Supreme Court of the United States, by the attorney of the said United States, in and for the said territory, and such proceedings were thereupon had in the said Supreme Court, that afterwards, on the ___ day of _____, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, the decree of this honorable court was affirmed; and thereupon the mandate of the said Supreme Court was awarded, directing the same to be carried into effect.
'And your petitioner further shows to your honor, that upon application to the proper officer of the United States, to carry the said decree into effect, by admeasuring to your petitioner the lands specified in the grant, it appears that there is error in rendering the said decree, and that the same requires to be reformed, in this
'That in and by the decree of this honorable court, hereinbefore alleged and affirmed, in manner hereinbefore set forth by the Supreme Court, your petitioner's claim was confirmed, adjudged, and decreed to be valid 'to the extent, for the number of acres, and at the place as in the grant to the said land to Jos e de la Maza Arredondo,' but it is added in the said decree, 'and as in the certificate and plat of survey of the same, made by Don Andres Burgevin, and dated the 14th September, one thousand eight hundred and nineteen, and filed herein, is set forth, to wit,' &c., &c.; and the said decree thereafter proceeds to recite the metes and bounds as specified and set forth in the survey made by the said Don Andres Burgevin.
'That the land granted to Jos e de la Maza Arredondo, and, in the decree before referred to, confirmed and adjudged to your petitioner, is described in the royal grant or title to property, also before herein referred to, consist of 'twenty thousand acres of land, with title of absolute property, of those known as Alachua, about eighty miles distant from this city (of St. Augustine) at a place known as 'Big Hammock,' about twenty miles from the river Lawanee westward, about sixty miles from St. Johns.' While the land specified in the survey of Don Andres Burgevin is described as follows: 'twenty thousand acres of land, situated on both margins of a creek known as Alligator creek. Said land commences a little above the head of said creek, and embraces an Indian town, distant about eighty miles from the post at Buena Vista, and about forty to the north-west of Payne's Town,' &c., &c.
'That the land specified in the said survey does not conform to, or correspond with, the land described in the said grant, and that the surveyor-general of the United States has therefore been unable to execute the decree of this honorable court, affirmed as aforesaid by the Supreme Court of the United States, and to admeasure to your petitioner the land adjudged to him by the said decree.
'That forasmuch as the land specified in the said grant to Jos e de la Maza Arredondo is, by the decree aforesaid, adjudged to your petitioner, 'to the extent, for the number of acres, and at the place, as in the grant for said land,' your petitioner is entitled to have the same admeasured to him according to the terms of the said grant, and the description therein contained; and that if the said survey of Don Andres Burgevin conflicts with the said grant, the said survey must yield to, and be controlled by, the terms of the grant.
'Your petitioner further shows to your honor, that the said land was duly surveyed and admeasured, and a plat thereof made and returned to this honorable court, and given in evidence in said cause, by Joshua A. Coffee, a competent and qualified surveyor, but that the same was omitted in the transcript of the record sent to the Supreme Court of the United States, although the fact of its having been given in evidence appears in the said transcript, a copy of which said survey is hereunto annexed.
'Your petitioner further shows to your honor, that the surveyor-general of the United States hath refused to execute the said decree by admeasuring for your petitioner the land thereby confirmed and adjudged to him, and that, upon application to the commissioner of the General Land-office, he hath in like manner refused so to do, until the said decree shall have been reformed by the competent authority.
'Wherefore, your petitioner prays this honorable court, the premises aforesaid being considered, and due proof thereof being made, that the said decree may be reformed, and to that end, that a rehearing of the said cause in this behalf may be granted; that the title of your petitioner to the twenty thousand acres of land, specified in the grant to Jos e de la Maza Arredondo may be adjudged to your petitioner according to the terms and specifications of the said grant, and the survey of the said Joshua A. Coffee, a copy whereof is hereunto filed; or according to a survey to be made under the order of this court, by the surveyor-general of the territory of Florida, in comformity to the description of the said land in the said grant specified and set forth, to be returned into the registry of this honorable court; and that he may have such other and further relief, as in the wisdom of this honorable court shall seem meet and right in the premises; and your petitioner, &c., &c., &c.'
In June, 1844, the court, after hearing an argument, decided that the petition for rehearing could not be entertained, and ordered it to be dismissed.
From this decree the petitioners appealed to this court.
Berrien, for the appellants.
Nelson, (attorney-general,) for the United States.
Berrien, after stating the case, said: This petition was dismissed by the District Court, on the ground that it had not been filed in time.
The relief sought by the petitioner is therefore resisted solely on the ground that too much time has elapsed since the decree was rendered, to entitle them to it.
They have the decree of this court affirming their title to twenty thousand acres of land, specified in their grant, and at the place therein specified.
The ministerial officer of the government refuses to admeasure the land so awarded to them, according to the terms of the grant, because the decree also refers to an inconsistent description contained in the survey of Burgevin.
And an application to have the decree reformed, according to the clear and manifest intent of the court, is resisted on the ground of time.
This objection is sustained by a reference to the rules established in the English courts of chancery, and recognised here in cases to which they apply, in relation to ...