Pollard v. Hagan

44 U.S. 212 (1845)

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Pollard v. Hagan

United States Supreme Court
44 U.S. 212 (1845)

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Facts

As the United States expanded after gaining independence from England, original states ceded, or granted, land through deeds of cession for new states admitted to the United States. Virginia and Georgia ceded territory to the United States that later comprised Alabama. In both deeds of cession from Virginia and Georgia, provisions stipulated that the cession, or relinquishment, of territory to the United States was conditioned on the territory being formed into new states to be admitted into the Union with the same rights as the original states. In other words, the grant of land to the United States was temporary, and the new states were to have equal power over such lands as the original states had. In 1809, William Pollard requested and was granted ownership of a parcel of land situated on the banks of the Mobile River in Alabama from a representative of Spain. In 1819, Alabama was admitted into the United States. In 1823, Curtis Lewis occupied the parcel for nine months before being ousted by parties who claimed title to the land derived from the Spanish grant of the land to Pollard. Later, Lewis brought an action in Alabama state court and regained possession of the parcel. In 1836, the United States Congress confirmed a land patent, or a right to title of a property, to the heirs of Pollard (plaintiffs) for the parcel. Pollard’s heirs brought an ejectment action against the successors of Lewis (defendants) in an Alabama court based on the 1836 land patent. Judgment was rendered for the successors of Lewis. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. Pollard’s heirs appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the United States government derived title to the parcel in question from the King of Spain and that Alabama had no rights to the land.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McKinley, J.)

Dissent (Catron, J.)

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