Foster v. Neilson
United States Supreme Court
27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 253 (1829)
Foster (plaintiff) brought suit in federal district court against Neilson (defendant) to recover a tract of land in Louisiana. Foster claimed he owned the land based on a grant from the Spanish governor. Neilson, the possessor of the land, claimed that the grant made by the Spanish governor to Foster was invalid because it was made after the territory on which the land was situated had already been transferred to France and the United States. The district court accepted Neilson’s argument and held the grant to Foster to be void. Foster appealed and the United States Supreme Court considered the case on a writ of error. The executive and legislative branches of the United States Government previously made pronouncements that the territory in question had been a part of the United States at the time of the Spanish governor’s grant to Foster. Thus, the Supreme Court held it was required to conform its own decision to the decisions made by its fellow branches. However, Foster also based his argument on Article 8 of the Treaty of Amity, Settlements and Limits, which was concluded between the United States and Spain in 1819. This treaty provided that “all the grants of land made before the 24th of January 1818” by the King of Spain or his authorities, in the territories ceded by Spain to the United States, would be ratified and confirmed to the people in possession of the lands, to the same extent as if those possessors received a direct grant of land from the King of Spain himself. Foster argued that the tract of land in Louisiana was among the territory ceded by Spain to the United States, and thus that his possession of the land was ratified or confirmed by the 1819 treaty between Spain and the United States. The Supreme Court considered the issue of whether the words of the 1819 treaty themselves ratified and confirmed the grant of land to the possessors, or whether they merely stated the intent of the United States Government to pass additional legislation ratifying and confirming the land to the possessors.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, C.J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 176,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.