Title: Amos T. Akerman to L. P. Poland, 29 March 1871
Date: March 29, 1871
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: National Archives and Records Administration
Whitman Archive ID: nar.02987
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Joshua Ware, John Schwaninger, and Nima Najafi Kianfar
March 29, 1871.
Hon. L. P. Poland,
House of Representatives.
I have considered the application of George Howe, Esq. Solicitor for John Grant, who desires leave to institute proceedings in the name of the United States, at the relation of his client, John Grant, to annul sundry patents for land issues by the United States, on the ground that the patents were wrongfully obtained. His client is alleged to be the heir of John Tench, who was the assignee and owner of a Virginia military land warrant for six thousand acres. It is further alleged that about the year 1794, Tench delivered this warrant to R. L. Anderson, the principal surveyor in the District of Ohio, between the Little Miami and Scioto rivers, who located it upon lands in that District and surveys were made in the name of Tench—and after this location and survey Tench disappeared, and is supposed to have died; that in the year 1823, a patent was issued for a portion of this land to one T. J. McArthur, a Deputy Surveyor under the United States; that between the years 1823 and 1847, patents for the whole Six thousand acres were issued to McArthur, Wallace, and Anderson, all principal or Deputy Surveyors of the United States; and that at that time persons employed in the Land office were prohibited from purchasing lands.
The principal objection according to Mr. Howe the desired permission is impropriety of the Government appearing as a party in suits between private individuals where no Governmental interest is involved. Why should the Government appear as a party, either actual or nominal, in a law suit between Mr. Grant and Messrs. Anderson and others? If the Government, by its supposed exemption from the operation of the statute of limitations, could litigate with Messrs. Anderson and others more advantageously than Mr. Grant, no consideration occurs to me to justify the transfer of its immunity to Mr. Grant, for his benefit.
Under the opinion of Mr. Legaré (4 Opinions of Attorney General,) the preëmptioner can sue in his own name—and I recommend that course to Mr. Grant. The authorities cited in your ample brief go rather to establish the legality of Mr. Grant's claim than the propriety of an assertion of it through the name of the United States.
A. T. Akerman,
land patent case of John Grant, Ohio.
official participation declined.