History of the Supreme Court
of the United States



With Marshall’s death, and with the appointment of his successor, an immediate transformation of the Supreme Court, in one constituent respect, was witnessed.  The functions, authorized or self-arrogated, of that tribunal remained the same ;  the ancient juridical authorities of legal maxims were subjected to no new interpretation ;  the fundamentals of law continued in force unaltered.  The transformation was not one of the character or power of the institution ;  it was purely one embodying the divergent views, on a particular question, of new members from those held by the old body.

From the organization of the Supreme Court, its incumbents were punctiliously and critically chosen, not primarily because of their knowledge of law, but with the certain anticipation that they would apply law in consonance with the creed and interests of the divisions of the class from which their appointments came.  Their selection was not, in the intrinsic sense, a judicial appointment ;  political considerations alone determined who was to go on the Supreme Court Bench.  But politics was not an idle formula, neither was it an inane pastime.  It was a definite, virile struggle between classes, or groups of classes, for power ;  behind the ceaseless reach for power lay the stimuli of mixed personal and class interests.  Superficially, those political conflicts were invested with an impressive show of principle or patriotism.  But analyzing them, in a large sense, they were nothing less than wars for the perpetuation of the interests of one class, and the suppression of those of another.  But while the propertied class, in its entirety, was warring to retain and extend its power, it, at the same time, had its own internal wars which resolved themselves into furious conflicts in the political arena.

Far from being an harmonious, compact whole, the capitalist class was sundered into various contending divisions.  Each of these fought, if not for political supremacy, at least for political advantage.  On the general issue of government representing the propertied classes, all of these divisions were agreed.  All believed in a government the personnel of which recognized, advocated and enforced the superiority of property rights and the preŰminent claims of property interests.  All were united in holding that government should encourage the development of capital, and all opposed the proposition that government should exercise any solicitude for those incapable of taking care of themselves — meaning the working class.

But united on this point, the capitalist class was in other respects torn by acute dissensions.  The native manufacturers arrayed themselves against the native importers, complaining of the privilege allowed to the importers of long-time credit in paying customs dues.  By what right, protested the manufacturers, were these “ overgrown capitalists ” permitted practically to use public funds as their private capital ?  The importers also profited from free trade or low tariff ;  the native manufacturers agitated for a high protective tariff.  Among the bankers a similar conflict developed.  The owners of the State banks fiercely denounced the monopoly of Government deposits held by the Bank of the United States.  In 1816, there were two hundred and forty-six of these State chartered banks ;  by 1837, fully eight hundred were in operation.

State Bank Interests Triumph.

Among the initiated, and even among a considerable section of the reading public, the prestige of the Supreme Court of the United States, at this time, was not high.  Its decisions validating land frauds of surprising magnitude had been freely and incisively criticised.  Its political character had been denounced, and its usurpations vehemently assailed.  President Jackson not only manifested his open contempt for two of its decisions, but by those self-same acts he proved that Supreme Court decisions affecting national interests were not binding and conclusive unless the Executive chose to consider them so.  In a case involving the title to certain lands in Georgia claimed by both the Cherokee tribe and the white settlers, Marshall, in 1832, decided against the white settlers.  “ John Marshall,” retorted Jackson, “ has delivered his opinion, now let us see him enforce it.”  Which assuredly Marshall could not, since the physical force necessary to support the Supreme Court’s edict could only be supplied by the Executive.  Jackson, in another case, demonstrated how Supreme Court decisions could be reduced to utter sterility.  When in vetoing a bill rechartering the Bank of the United States, his attention was called to the decision of the Supreme Court that the power of Congress to charter a national bank was constitutional, he announced that he would disregard that decision on the ground that the Supreme Court had no right to dictate to a co÷rdinate branch of government.  And he did disregard it.

But while ignoring those decisions Jackson was filling the Supreme Court, as fast as vacancies occurred, with men opposed to the Bank of the United States.  He had already appointed McLean and Baldwin ;  on January 9, 1835, he appointed James Moore Wayne to succeed Justice Johnson.  Wayne, who was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1790, had served in the Georgia Legislature, had been Mayor of Savannah, a State judge, and had been a member of Congress from 1829 to 1835.

The dictum that the Supreme Court of the United States is an institution superior to criticism was not accepted in that era.  Judges, lawyers and laymen frequently dissected and exposed its decisions, and attacked its arrogations of power.  Nor were they summoned for contempt.  Thus, of the numerous criticisms publicly made, it may be advisable to quote here remarks by Robert Rantoul, one of the most prominent, liberal and respected attorneys of the time.1  These are some extracts from his oration at Scituate, Massachusetts, July 4, 1836 :

“. . . Why is an ex post facto law, passed by the Legislature, unjust, unconstitutional and void, while Judge-made law, which, from its nature, must always be ex post facto, is not only to be obeyed, but applauded ?  Is it because Judge-made law is essentially aristocratical ? . . .

“ Judge-made law is ex post facto law, and therefore unjust.  An act is not forbidden by the Statute law, but it becomes, by judicial decision, a crime.  A contract is intended, and supposed to be, valid, but it becomes void by judicial construction.  The Legislature could not effect this, for the Constitution forbids it.  The judiciary shall not usurp legislative power, says the Bill of Rights ;  yet it not only usurps, but runs riot beyond the confines of legislative power.

“ Judge-made law is special legislation.  The judge is human, and feels the bias which the coloring of the particular case gives.  If he wishes to decide the next case differently, he has only to distinguish, and thereby make a new law. . . .”2

If this was revealing the secret springs of the judicial mechanism, it was only disclosing what the judges were themselves publishing by their own acts.

Roger B. Taney’s Career.

President Jackson appointed Roger B. Taney, of Maryland, as Chief Justice to succeed Marshall.  As an attorney and office holder, Taney had been associated with all three of the dominant divisions of the ruling class — the slave power, the State banks, and the cliques of land appropriators and speculators.  By interest as well as by bias his support of all three was assured.  But considerable religious prejudice was displayed against him, because of his Roman Catholic faith.

He was born in the year 1777.  “ My father, Michael Taney,” he wrote, “ owned a good landed estate, on which he always resided, and slaves.”  His father’s plantation was on the banks of the Patuxent River, in Maryland.  “My mother,” he went on, “ was the daughter of Roger Brooke, who owned a large landed estate on Battel Creek, directly opposite to that which belonged to my father.”3  Admitted to the bar in 1799, Taney was elected to the Maryland Legislature, in which he served a year.  His marriage, in 1806, to Anne Key, a sister of Francis Scott Key, enlarged his circle of influential connections ;  Taney and Key had been law students together at Annapolis, and Mrs. Key’s sister was the wife of Judge Nicholson, Chief Justice of the Baltimore Court, and one of the Judges of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.  In 1816, Taney was elected to the Maryland Senate, and in 1827 Attorney-General of Maryland.

Both Taney and his brother-in-law were personally interested in State banks, and were attorneys for them.  Key represented the Bank of Columbia, the Bank of the Metropolis of Washington, and other banks.4  Taney was one of the principal owners of the Frederick County Bank.  “He was, for years,” says Tyler, “ a director in the Frederick County Bank, and hardly ever missed a meeting of the board of directors.”5

Taney was also not only a considerable stockholder in the Union Bank of Maryland — one of the largest banks in the State — but also was attorney for the bank, and for its chief owners individually.  His interest in that bank caused a lively scandal later, when, as Secretary of the Treasury, Taney favored it by having Government funds deposited with it.  His appearing in court, as an attorney for the Union Bank of Maryland, was frequent.  Taney also was attorney for the Baltimore Equitable Society, and other corporations.6  His practice was wholly one of representing large banking and insurance corporations, powerful landholders such as Charles Carroll, and shippers and other capitalists of wide corporate interests.

The large landholders, slave owners and capitalists of Maryland had early associated together in lobbying bills through the Legislature incorporating them as owners of bank, insurance and other charters.  As early as 1795, Charles Carroll, Solomon Etting, Andrew Buchanan and others had obtained a charter for the Marine Insurance Company, with an allowed capital of $300,000.7  On January 12, 1805, Etting and associates had secured a charter for the Union Bank of Maryland, with an empowered capital of $3,000,000.  These men were indefatigable promoters of various schemes and corporations ;  among other enterprises they obtained charters for turnpike companies, and a charter, in 1816, for the Baltimore Improvement Company, with a capital of $500,000, to make public improvements of one kind or another in the city of Baltimore.8

Taney was Etting’s attorney in the higher courts.  In one case, where he appeared for Etting, in the Supreme Court of the United States, in 1826, the facts developed must have been of exceeding interest to the members of the Supreme Court.  In 1819, the very year in which they had declared the Bank of the United States a good and Constitutional institution, McCullough, the cashier of the Branch of that Bank at Baltimore, had, in collusion with other officials of the bank, stolen (the court records say “misapplied”) the modest sum of $3,497,700.  In the settlement with the directors of the Bank of the United States, a part of the security offered by McCullough were indorsements by sixteen merchants of Baltimore, who individually bound themselves for $12,500 each.  Among these merchants was Etting.  He refused to pay his bond on the ground that he had indorsed without knowledge of McCullough’s thefts.  The decision went against him.9

At the same time Taney was one of the attorneys arguing, in the Supreme Court, for the interests of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.  It was an action brought against Carroll by the administrator of Louisa Browning, a demented daughter of Lord Charles Baltimore.  The father of Charles Carroll had received, in 1711, from Lord Baltimore (great grandfather of Louisa Browning), a grant of a tract of ten thousand acres of land, in consideration of a yearly quit rent of ú100 sterling in silver and gold.  Louisa Browning’s administrator sued to recover the amount of these quit rents.  Justice Story decided the action in favor of Carroll, on the ground that, in 1780, the Legislature of Maryland had abolished quit rents.10  So too, it may be remarked, had the Legislature of Virginia confiscated alien estates, but that had not prevented John Marshall from getting the Fairfax estate, by force of Justice Story’s own decision in the noted case of Fairfax’s Devisee vs. Hunter.

His Defense of the Slave Trader, Gooding.

One of the most noteworthy of Taney’s cases was his successful defense in the indictment of the slave trader, John Gooding.

Baltimore, as we have said, was one of the most active ports in the business of fitting out ships for the slave traffic, and of those engaged in slave snatching, Gooding was one of the most conspicuous and avaricious.  For many years Gooding had been promoting various illegal undertakings.  He was, for instance, one of the leading spirits in the Baltimore Mexican Company, organized in 1816, to supply General Mina of Mexico with the means to fit out an expedition for the purpose of driving the Spanish from control of Mexico.  The financing of General Mina was, in itself, a good undertaking, but no high purpose animated Gooding and his associates ;  they were solely concerned with deriving an enormous percentage on their investment, if General Mina succeeded.  But the attempt against Spain was a failure, and Mina perished with it.  Although the acts of the Baltimore Mexican Company were admittedly a violation of the neutrality laws, yet after Mexico had achieved its independence the company made a claim for approximately $355,000, only a part of which they had actually advanced.  This was one of the fraudulent claims adjusted and paid by the Convention between Mexico and the United States in 1839, and validated by a Supreme Court decision in 1860.11

Gooding was indicted in 1824 at Baltimore, for having violated the Slave Trade Act, of 1818.  The indictment charged Gooding with having fitted out vessels called the General Winder and the Pocahontas as slavers to kidnap negroes in Africa, and sell them in Cuba.  The Government produced evidence proving that Gooding had hired Captain John Hill to take command of the General Winder, and that Hill “ ordered various fitments some of which were peculiarly adapted for the slave trade, and are never put on board any other vessels than those intended for such trade.”  These chains and other apparatus were taken on board at St. Thomas, West Indies.  The General Winder brought back two hundred and ninety negroes from Africa.

Taney and Mitchell, attorneys for Gooding, appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States to dismiss the indictment.  They made no serious effort to attack the complete chain of evidence.  Although they tried to have certain evidence excluded, yet their main arguments were entirely confined to advancing seven technical objections to the counts in the indictment.  That Gooding’s guilt was proved by the evidence was clear.  It was equally plain that on the merits of the case they could not get him free.  They, therefore, with specious arguments concentrated their assault on the technical wording of the indictment.

In delivering the court’s decision Justice Story opened with a significant warning.  “ We take this opportunity,” he said in his decision in 1827, “of expressing our anxiety lest by too great indulgence to the wishes of counsel, questions of this sort should be frequently brought before this court, and thus, in effect, an appeal in criminal cases become an ordinary proceeding, to the manifest obstruction of public justice, and against the plain intendment of the acts of Congress.”  This was a clear enough intimation.

Certain evidence that Taney and Mitchell sought to have excluded Justice Story declared admissible.  And, so far as an agent doing a thing was concerned, Story continued, “ It is the known and familiar principle of criminal jurisprudence that he who commands, or procures, a crime to be done, is guilty of the crime, and the act is his act.”  The owner did not have to be personally present.  Nor was it essential, as Taney had argued, that to constitute a fitting-out, every equipment necessary for a slave voyage should be taken on board.  Neither was it necessary, Story said further, to specify the particulars of the fitting out.

The Indictment “ Fatally Defective.”

But, Story decided, the indictment was “ fatally defective ” in not averring that the vessel was fitted out or sent front within the jurisdiction of the United States, and that the averment in the indictment, “ with the intent that the said vessel should be, employed in the slave trade,” was also “ fatally defective ” inasmuch as the Slave Trade Act of Congress read, “ with intent to employ ” etc.12

This decision was received with the profoundest disquietude by the opponents of slavery.  Deeply shocked by the revolting horrors of the slave traffic, they had long sought to implant fear in those engaged in it by having some of its leaders consigned to exemplary punishment.  And now they found themselves balked by quibbles and twistings and finedrawn technicalities ;  now they saw the highest court in the land, while admitting the guilt of one of the most notorious slave traders to be fully proved, yet at the same time granting immunity because the wording of the indictment did not suit fastidious judicial requirements.  They agitated bitterly that whatever were the professions of the Supreme Court, the practical effect of its decisions was not only to legalize chattel slavery, but to extend a full and authoritative license to the slave traders to continue their horrid traffic undeterred by prospect of personal punishment.

Among those opposed to the extension of chattel slavery, or favoring the emancipation of the slaves, Taney’s successful plea for Gooding13 was looked upon as a discreditable and disgraceful piece of pettifoggery.  But the view of the slave holders and slave traders was exactly the reverse.  They conceived the highest regard for Taney’s adroitness and sharp capacity.  His success in this case was one of the reasons that caused them to push him forward later for Attorney-General of the United States, Secretary of the Treasury, and then for the Chief Justiceship of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Case of the “ Warren.”

Another case defended by Taney and having its own peculiar aspects, was the action of James Sheppard and others against Lemuel Taylor, James A. Buchanan, John Hollins and others, nearly all of whom were incorporators and directors of the Union Bank of Maryland.  This fact explained Taney’s appearance as one of the attorneys for Taylor et al.

Compactly put, the facts of this case, as narrated in the court records, were as follows :

On September 12, 1806, the ship Warren, six hundred tons, armed with twenty-two guns, sailed from Baltimore with a crew of one hundred and twelve officers, seamen and apprentices, and a cargo valued at $300,000.  The ostensible voyage, as set forth in the shipping articles, was to the northwest coast of America, thence to Canton, and back to the United States.  Two sets of instructions were given by Taylor, Buchanan, Hollins and the other owners — one the nominal set to Captain Sterrett ;  the other private and confidential, to Supercargo Pollock, who was the only person aboard knowing the real purpose and destination of the voyage.

Upon arriving at a certain latitude, the real set of instructions was opened, and the Captain was thus informed that Supercargo Pollock was to have entire control of the voyage.  The account in the records of the Supreme Court of the United States goes on to say that from that time the ship “proceeded directly for the coast of Chili, to prosecute an illegal and smuggling trade with the Spanish provinces, on the western coast of South America ;  all trade within those provinces being notoriously forbidden, under heavy penalties, unless conducted under a license from the crown of Spain.

“ The officers and crew of the Warren protested against this deviation from the prescribed voyage ;  and Captain Sterrett, from disappointed and wounded feelings, disdaining to engage in an illicit trade, and unwilling to expose his officers and men to its perils and consequences, became partially deranged, and shot himself as the Warren was doubling Cape Horn.”14

Chief Mate Evans succeeded in nominal command, but Pollock kept control, and steered the ship for Conception Bay, Chili, where she arrived, after a voyage of one hundred and twenty days from Baltimore.  At Conception Bay, Pollock went on shore to arrange matters with the Spanish officials.  During his absence Captain Evans and the commanders of the Spanish men-of-war fell into a dispute ;  some shots were exchanged, but no lives were lost.  The crew remonstrated against the illegal traffic into which they were forced, and proposed to proceed with the ship on the voyage for which they had contracted, leaving Pollock ashore.  Captain Evans refused to enter the port without a written order ;  this was sent to him and the Warren sailed into the port of Talcahuana.

Pollock, meanwhile, had been acting in collusion with the Spanish officials.  Furious at the mutinous conduct of the crew he planned retaliation, which he accomplished in this wise :  As soon as Captain Evans went ashore, the seamen, twenty at a time, were taken on land under a pretense that their depositions were required relative to the death of Captain Sterrett.  The moment the seamen set foot on shore they were seized and put in prison.  The officers and apprentices proposed to rescue the Warren and informed Pollock of their purpose.  They did not know that Pollock and the Spanish officials were acting together.  As soon as Pollock heard of their intention he had his and Evans’ baggage conveyed ashore and Spanish officers took off the ship’s rudder and otherwise disabled her from sailing.  The officers and apprentices of the Warren were arrested ;  then officers and crew “ were ordered to Conception, and thence were marched to various prisons and dungeons, and suffered captivity from eight months to four years, being permitted to return to the United States at various periods.  The apprentices and some of the officers were the first to return ;  their absence from the United States was after an imprisonment of from six to eighteen months.”15

The officers and seamen in bringing, in 1810, an action for their wages, contended that by agreements between the Spanish Commandant and Pollock, the cargo was smuggled ashore, and that by order of the Spanish court, the vessel and cargo were sold and the proceeds were ordered deposited in the king’s treasury, subject to an appeal by Pollock.  The years dragged on, while the Spanish red tape unwound.  In 1819, all of the owners of the Warren curiously became insolvent, and presently assigned their claims, part going to Robert Oliver, part to the Branch of the Bank of the United States at Baltimore, and another part to the Union Bank of Maryland at Baltimore.  But, as a matter of fact, these assignments were held in trust for Taylor, Buchanan, Hollins and others of the original owners.

Powerful political influences were brought into action ;  and taking advantage of the Florida Treaty of 1819, the owners of the assignments pressed their claims against Spain for payment for the confiscated ship and cargo.  They finally received in 1824 a total of $184,011.90 in settlement.

But they refused to pay the wages due to the officers and seamen of the Warren.  Certainly the demands of the crew were extremely modest.  They did not ask redress, as they could have asked, for being wheedled into signing contracts under false pretenses.  They did not demand, as they were justly entitled to do, damages for their long imprisonment.  They simply claimed the wages due them from the time that they had left Baltimore to the time of their return, to the United States, deducting such advances as they had received.

Taney and Wirt, as the attorneys for the banks and others, contested their claim for years, arguing that the indemnity fund received by the assignees was not liable for wages claimed.  In the lower court, the assignees won the case.

Justice Story’s Severe Comments.

By an unanimous decision however, the Supreme Court of the United States in January, 1831, decided in favor of the officers and crew.  In delivering the court’s opinion, Justice Story said that “ the first question is whether in point of fact, the libellants have substantially sustained the allegations in the libels and petition in respect to the voyage ;  to their ignorance of the intended illicit trade ;  to the seizure of the ship and to their own imprisonment and separation from it :  which are necessary to maintain their claim for wages.  And we are of opinion that the evidence upon these points is conclusive.  Without going into the particulars, it may be said that few cases could be presented under circumstances of more aggravation, and in which the proofs were more clear, that the seamen were the victims of an illicit voyage, for which they never intended to contract, and in which they had no voluntary participation.”16  The Supreme Court reversed the lower court, and ordered the arrears of full wages paid, but without interest except from the time of the bringing of the suit against the assignees, in 1825.

Taney then moved that the court rescind and annul its decree.  He pleaded that the case be reargued, so as to allow proof of expenses incurred by the owners in prosecuting the claim against Spain and before the Florida Commissioners, and compensation to which the assignees held themselves entitled for their services, as general agents for those interested in the claim fund.  If these and others of Taney’s proposals had all been allowed, hardly anything of the fund would have remained to pay the wages due.  Most of them were impudent propositions, and the court so considered them.  The only two it allowed were those permitting a two-and-a-half per cent. for services, and expenses incurred in prosecuting the claim before the Florida Commissioners.  The proposal to allow expenses in pushing the claim against Spain was curtly refused.  Justice Baldwin dissented in the item of allowing any commission to the assignees.17

Taney Appointed U.S. Attorney-General.

When Taney was appointed Attorney-General of the United States in 1831, the foes of chattel slavery were perturbed to a point approaching consternation.  Here, they pointed out, was a man, the son of a slave owner ;  perhaps the foremost advocate of the interests of the slave traders ;  the defender of the notorious slaver Gooding ;  a man who would unhesitatingly pocket his fees from the profits of the kidnapping of blacks ;  a man who would plead the cause of smuggling decoyers of seamen — this was the man placed in charge of the civil and criminal machinery of the United States Government !

But if the opponents of chattel slavery were dismayed, the powerful, influential thousands of owners of the State banks were very well pleased at his appointment.  They could overlook his profiting from cases of a revolting nature ;  they could pass by such an implied stinging denunciation as even Justice Story felt impelled to give him in the Warren case.  These things did not affect them ;  it can be said without exaggeration (as the records so abundantly show), that virtually all of the State bankers were building up their fortunes by consecutive fraud, in one way or another.  To them Taney appeared solely in the capacity of a shrewd, wonderfully astute lawyer and politician, and as a consistent opponent of the Bank of the United States.

As Attorney-General of the United States, Taney became one of President Jackson’s most trusted counselors.  Taney prodded and encouraged Jackson to remove the Government funds from the Bank of the United States.  When William J. Duane, Secretary of the Treasury, refused to order those funds removed, President Jackson, in 1833, appointed Taney in Duane’s place.  Taney’s appointment was never confirmed by the Senate, but he proceeded energetically to deprive the Bank of the United States of Government deposits.  The Senate then passed a resolution inquiring of Taney whether he were not a stockholder in the Union Bank of Maryland, which was one of the banks chosen by him for the depository of public funds.  He admitted that he was, but asserted (and with truth) that he had obtained the stock before he had selected that bank as a depository of public funds.18

Taney as Secretary of the Treasury.

At that time, and for a considerable period later, the administration of the public lands was under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department.  Neither Secretary of the Treasury Taney, nor his successor, Levi S. Woodbury (who in 1845 became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States), interposed any serious obstacle to the great continuing frauds in the private acquisition of the public lands.  In fact, those frauds assumed greater proportions under their administration than had previously been known.  Personally honest, President Jackson was, however, pliable to the advice, and complaisant to the schemes, of those whom he considered his political and personal friends.  Surrounded by an adroit, avaricious and unscrupulous ring of politicians, both in and out of Congress and in his cabinet, he was used and deceived.

In his fight to abolish the Bank of the United States, Jackson knew precisely what his aims were, and suffered no one to cross or frustrate his plans.  But the very importance of that conflict subordinated other matters to a secondary place in his mind ;  his aggressiveness was concentrated upon that one object, so that it was easy for the schemers, knowing that fact, to proceed under shelter of it.  What Jackson considered as routine details of administrative functions he entrusted to the heads of departments.  Always having access to him, they could influence him by their ready explanations, their insinuating suggestions, or their importunities artfully guised under cover of official zeal.  When serious charges were made that great predatory schemes were being consummated, they could even produce documents and reports so skillfully put together as to make the case appear not only favorable to themselves but as a conspiracy of political opponents to discredit him and them.  And it was a characteristic of Jackson’s nature that no matter how true charges were, he would loyally stand by those who supported him, as much from disposition as from political expediency in not caring to give political capital to his enemies, and reflect upon his own administration by the reprimand or discharge of his foremost adherents.

The Activity of the Land Appropriators.

That members of his Cabinet were clandestinely in virtual or tacit collusion with the cliques of land speculators is clear from the documents.  Neither Taney nor Woodbury were suspected of sharing in the proceeds, or of the vulgar business of taking bribes.  Cass had benefited from land speculations,19 and, as we have seen, was not above accepting large sums of money for services not stated.  The connivance and collusion of high officials usually took subtle although often easily traceable forms.  For instance, Edward Livingston had been counsel for claimants of certain alleged Spanish grants ;  and he, himself, was pecuniarily interested, as we shall describe later, in the great fraudulent Bastrop claim, covering twelve leagues square or 1,016,264 arpents of land in Louisiana.  As Secretary of State of the United States, in 1832, Livingston made a long report (which appears on page 495, Vol. VI, “American State Papers :  Public Lands”) strongly urging the confirmation of those claims.

The personal friendships of eminent officials, as well as those of their families, were also delicately worked upon, and very often indelicately ;  it was not uncommon for lobbyists, contractors, and capitalists having some favor to seek, to give expensive presents to the wives of officials.  Social affiliations were ingeniously used, and even more dexterously political ambition and capitalist connections.  The capitalists promoting banking, land, trading and other schemes and needing special laws or official favor, were either in politics themselves, or their retainers were ;  these capitalists, too, were those who contributed heavily to the campaign funds of the political parties.  With their support one could go far in high office ;  lacking it, the prospect of advancement either to political or judicial office was negligible.  Not less an incentive was the sagacious desire on the part of the official for future security, if, or when, he returned to private life.

Most of the ranking officials were lawyers.  By serving the interests of corporations and individual capitalists, they were insuring for themselves the certainty of a large and lucrative practice after they had left office.  Had either Taney or Woodbury been opposed by the powerful land interests, filling every channel of influence at Washington, they would not have been members of the Cabinet ;  and had they antagonized those and other interests, they would have been excluded from confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States, which was called upon continuously to decide questions and cases affecting the ownership of many millions of acres of land.

Imaginative writers, it is too true, have sought to explain the appointments of Supreme Court Justices as inspired by various exalting motives such as reward for individual character, learning and patriotic services.  But this explanation is vague and fallacious.  Economic considerations were the ruling factor.

Of the reasons for the support of Taney by the slave-owning and State bank interests, sufficient details have been given.  It is necessary now to give an adequate account of the reasons for the favor of the third division of the capitalist class then controlling the Government — the land interests.  In the process of presenting these facts there will automatically be made clear three other factors indispensable to the full understanding of this narrative.  The great further development and aggrandizement of the newer landed class (as distinguished from the old feudal proprietary landed class) will be seen.  Second, it will be perceived that the section of the landed class now multiplying its ownership of land consisted largely of the Southern slave owners, and that the territory thus fraudulently acquired was precisely that in which the slavery of negroes was considered profitable, and in which it could be extended.  Third, the facile manner in which these huge areas of public domain were obtained under Taney as well as under his predecessors and successors and his subserviency to those speculators affords a direct and striking explanation of certain decisions later rendered by the Supreme Court under him as Chief Justice — decisions presenting a few spoliators with millions of acres more of the public domain.

Indian Tribes Dispossessed and Cheated.

By the year 1828, the Government still owned, it was estimated, about 801,000,000 acres in all.20  Of this, a considerable area lay in the Southern States.  The land most strongly attracting the attention of the Southern slave owners and politicians as well as Northern capitalists was that owned by the Indian tribes, the Creeks, Choctaws and Cherokees.  The land occupied by these tribes in Mississippi, Arkansas and adjacent regions was known to be the finest and most valuable soil for cotton raising in the United States.  In its original state, without any improvements, it could command at once at least $10 an acre, heavily stocked as much of it was with timber.

Every effort was now made to dispossess the Indian tribes.  Combinations of capitalists were formed to push action at Washington.  The tribes were beguiled into making treaties ceding those lands ;  for insignificant sums paid in merchandise or money or both, the lands were ceded to the Government.  Nominally, the tribes were fairly provided for ;  quite true, they received only a few cents an acre, but in exchange for their collective cession, each head of an Indian family was to get a section of land and each child a certain amount.  We shall see later how the speculative combinations fraudulently induced the Indians to sign away these claims.  The Government announced its intention of auctioning all of these ceded lands at the minimum rate of $1.25 an acre.  This, too, looked fair ;  apparently the poor settler, with his slight resources, could get his farm.

But what actually happened was very different.  Nearly all of the Registers and Receivers of the various land offices were not only in collusion with the speculative combinations, but were secretly interested in the profits.  An astonishingly large number of the Receivers embezzled public funds which they or their capitalist associates used in the land operations.21  At the different local land offices fraudulent auctioning was carried on unblushingly.  Sections of land were entered on the books as sold, when such was not the case ;  the object was to prevent actual settlers from buying choice lands from the Government, and to allow the speculators to monopolize them, so that the settlers would have to buy at exorbitant prices from the speculators.  Often the very Registers and Receivers making the most public professions of opposition to the combinations were the very officials, it turned out, interested in their schemes and profits.

Capitalist Combinations in Operation.

Of one of such combinations the Register and Receiver of the land office at St. Stephens, Alabama, reported in 1827, to the Commissioner of the General Land Office :  “. . . Its extent, in point of numbers, influence and capital, puts it beyond the ordinary control of the superintendents [Government officers at sales]. . . . By the exertion of a few speculating gentlemen, a coalition was formed with all men of tolerable capital, and who were disposed to purchase land.  Each deposited a given sum, and became pledged to act in concert.  And, in this manner, competition was, in a considerable degree, silenced. . . .”22

With a fine display of virtue, Colonel George W. Martin, Government locating agent in the Choctaw lands, wrote to Cass, Secretary of War, December 6, 1833, that many groundless claims “ were presented at my office with much address, and urged on me with great earnestness, by a gentleman (much honored by the citizens of this State) and who ever took occasion to admonish me that, should his claims be rejected, they would be presented to a higher tribunal ;  leaving me to infer that he would bring all such before Congress, or perhaps first the war department :  should they fail at the department, thence to Congress, etc.  Should this effort at fraud be persevered in, it is possible that it may be effectual at Washington, procuring there what could not be allowed here.  Should it be so, I have one consolation — my skirts are clear.”23

Always it was the same recurring note in these communications — the speculators boasting that were they baffled on the spot, they would succeed at Washington.

But Martin’s boasts of his being clear of misconduct did not correspond with what U.S. Commissioner G.C. Woolridge reported of him, that he had been guilty of “ outrageous acts ” in allowing the speculators to monopolize the sale.24  Nor was his statement sustained by a U.S. Senate Committee, in the investigations of which numerous witnesses testified that lands had been located for Indians, as heads of families, when in fact those particular Indians had no families ;  and that the number of fraudulent locations in the Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw reservations was enormous.  The witnesses averred that the proceedings of the locating agents were thoroughly corrupt.25

Thus the process of the capitalist combinations in acquiring the land was twofold and co÷rdinated.  The land ceded by the Indians was fraudulently bought in great areas at auction, and the land located for Indians in exchange for that ceded by them, was even more flagrantly secured.

The principal and largest of the combinations was the Chochuma Land Company, headed by such potent Southern politicians and capitalists as Robert J. Walker, Thomas G. Ellis, Wiley Davis, Malcolm Gilchrist, William Gwin, General P.C. Chambliss and associates .26  The ramifications of this company extended into Congress, the Cabinet, and the courts.  Demanding from four to five dollars an acre from actual intending settlers, the land officials sold to this company, or to its dummies, whatever tracts it wanted for a trifle more than $1.25 an acre.  It was testified that Samuel Gwin, Register of the land office at Mount Salus, Mississippi, boasted when a certain purchase was made by agents of the company, “ That land will bring its ten dollars an acre.”27  Urged to join the company, Colonel Greenwood Laflore spurned the offer — at least, so he testified.  “ I refused to do so, and on the same day Gilchrist (I think) , . . . ran some of the land I wanted to nine dollars an acre.  When the overture was made to me in the course of conversation I said I considered them, the speculators, as no better than swindlers.”28

Complaining to Congress that the local land office officials favored the speculators, various citizens of Mississippi memorialized “. . . Thus were your petitioners thrown into the lion jaws of the aristocratic moneyed speculators . . . and compelled to compete with those lordly mercenaries who invest the land offices. . . . Some of your petitioners, and many other settlers on the public lands, were prevented by the known decision of the officers [land register and receiver] which was posted on the door of the land office, from proving up their claims. . . .”  The petitioners further remonstrated that by various false promises and inducements, other settlers had been prevented by the company from proving their claims.  Thus, “ the settlers were deprived of their labor, and their families turned out of doors,” without any remuneration, or were compelled to take what the company chose to give.  “ Your petitioners are unwilling to incur the expense of a long, expensive and tedious lawsuit by resorting to the judicial tribunals of the country for a redress of their grievances,” etc.,— and therefore looked to Congress for relief.29

Methods of Despoiling the Indians.

Systematically debauched with whisky and swindled, the Indians soon found their lands gone.  “ Many of them,” wrote Colonel John Milton to the War Department from Columbus, Mississippi, on July 15, 1833, referring to the Indians, “ are almost starved and suffer immensely for the things necessary to the support of life and are sinking in moral degradation.  They have been much corrupted by white men who live among them, who induce them to sell to as many different individuals as they can and then cheat them out of the proceeds. . . .”30  Luther Blake wrote to the War Department, from Fort Mitchell, Alabama, on September 11, 1833, “. . . Many, from motives of speculation, have bought Indian reserves fraudulently in this way — take their bonds for trifles, pay them ten or twenty dollars in something they do not want, and take their receipts for five times the amount. . . .”31  By special request of President Jackson, J.H. Howard of Pole-Cat Springs, Creek Nation, sent a report, February 1, 1834, to Jackson.  “. . . From my own observation,” he wrote, “ I am induced to believe that a number of reservations have been paid for at some nominal price and the principal consideration has been whisky and homespun. . . .”32

That these reports did not exaggerate, and at the same time were ineffectual, is evident from a memorial, signed by several hundred citizens of Mississippi and adjacent States, and sent to Congress in 1836.  After recounting the terms of the Choctaw Treaty, that each Choctaw proving himself the head of a family was entitled to one section of land, and Choctaw children to one-half and one-quarter sections, according to their ages, the petition read on :

“ A few active, enterprising and intelligent speculators, discovering the opening which was thus presented for the acquisition of large fortunes, have, by agents beyond the Mississippi, and at home, produced documents purporting to be powers of attorney from Indians to select lands, and transfer their rights to lands selected and supported by ex parte testimony on the above-named points, suggested in the President’s order and the instructions from the Department of the Treasury and of War, and by those papers have caused to be set apart for them the choicest lands in the country ;  sweeping over large districts inhabited and cultivated by persons who settled the public lands on the faith of the policy of the Government . . . that their homes would be given them at a reasonable price, unexposed to the heartless grasp of the voracious speculator.

“ To the alarm of your memoralists, these claims have now amounted, as they are informed, to upward of three thousand, which, at an average of 1,280 acres each, amount to the enormous aggregate of three millions eight hundred and forty thousand acres ;  and the said speculators, availing themselves of the panic which these operations have produced, are now selling out, receiving a portion of the price in ready money, which they refuse to become bound to refund, in the event that the title is not confirmed, thus securing to themselves large fortunes, without having advanced to the Indians one cent so far as your memorialists are informed and believe.

“ Your memorialists are persuaded that not more than one out of twenty claims are founded in justice and equity, and if scrutinized by a tribunal sitting in the vicinity of the land offices, with competent powers to reject or confirm, and to compel the attendance of witnesses, those honestly claiming would be secure in their rights, and a most stupendous system of fraud on the Government would be exposed and defeated ;  the settlers relieved from the embarrassments thus brought on them ;  and Congress saved from the teasing and vexatious applications of false claims for a series of years to come.”33

Such remonstrances brought neither redress to the Indians, nor relief to the settlers ;  they were pigeonholed in the archives of Congress, and no further attention was given them.

The Harvest of Fraud.

Conditions in Arkansas and Louisiana were, it seems, fully as scandalous.  A treaty made in May, 1828, with the Cherokee Indians in Arkansas, provided that the members of this tribe were to get allotments of land in other regions in exchange for the domain ceded by them, and that white settlers whose lands were in the new reservation were to receive lands in other parts for lands relinquished by them.

Writing to the land office registers and receivers at Batesville and Little Rock, Arkansas, on September 26, and October 17, 1828, Commissioner Graham of the General Land Office enclosed several communications he had received from “ respectable gentlemen ” in Arkansas.  One correspondent complained that “ pieces of paper, with twenty-one years marked on them, are placed in the shoes of children, and witnesses innumerable can be found who will swear that the said persons are over the age of twenty-one years, and entitled to a donation.”  The speculators, he wrote, were reaping a rich harvest.

The other correspondent detailed how whites who had never relinquished any land, and had never had any to relinquish, thronged forward to make claims.  Not more than three hundred claims, he said, could have originated under the law, yet not less than 1,5oo, and probably 2,000, claims would be put forward for confirmation.  “ The Government, then, by its vigilance must save itself from being swindled out of many hundred sections of choice lands. . . . It has been the practice to take the evidence in the country before justices of the peace.  A written statement is drawn, ‘ covering the case’ and the willing witness gulps it down.  Minors, Indians, transient persons, have had their claims most substantially made out on paper.  It is sickening to think of the perjuries that have disgraced the country,” etc., etc.34

V.M. Garesche, appointed as Treasury agent to investigate the local land offices in Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere, made investigations extending through several years of arduous work and traveling.  Public “ clamor ” over the land frauds was great and incessant ;  and it was not expected of Garesche that he would add to the political difficulties of the Jackson administration by developing too many damaging facts.  Although, indeed, he softened matters as much as possible, yet, on the whole, he seems to have been as conscientious as could be looked for under the circumstances.  He reported on September 19, 1833, that the fraudulent New Madrid claims had all been located, and as for the claims in Lovely county, “ these last, indeed, have been a great curse to the country, and have fraudulently wrested from the United States vast tracts of land. . . .”35

Leading the band of Arkansas looters was the notorious John J. Bowie ;  these particular frauds were consummated during the period when Taney was Attorney-General of the United States, and at the time he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury.  On August 14, 1835, John K. Taylor sent an explicit account from Little Rock to President Jackson :  evidently he had no faith in anyone but Jackson, for he wrote :

“ I have again sat down to trouble you with some accounts from Arkansas, and would not do so, but know no other source to apply to for redress of wrongs done to the government under which we live.  The Superior Court of the Territory adjourned its July session on the 10th instant.  The grand jury adjourned on the 8th instant, nine o’clock P.M., which body brought to light some of the most glaring frauds ever practised upon this government, the Bowie and Yazoo claims not excepted.

“ Sir, it was clear to the mind of every juror, that men had gone to the different land offices, and proven up Lovely donation claims, and for which patents have in many instances issued, when, in fact, such individuals never saw the country ceded to the Indians.  The jury above alluded to have, from proof in their deliberations, found some twenty-five or thirty bills of indictment against persons for perjury or subornation of perjury, one of which individuals we caught and had upon trial, and his only means of acquittal was to claim the statute of limitations . . . and many others will get off on the same grounds.  The next grand jury, I have no doubt, will have evidence sufficient before them to find bills against many persons who have gone to the different land offices, and changed their names and proven up claims.

“ It has also been lately discovered, that some of the speculators have had influence enough over some of the land officers to have the plats marked as if entries had been made, then let them have time to go and examine before the land was certainly entered ;  which course of conduct is calculated to deceive those who might wish to enter.  To give some knowledge of the extent of the frauds committed, at the cession of Lovely and Miller counties to the Indians, I have been informed, that at the extent, not more than five hundred persons were entitled to claims, and also understand that eight or nine hundred have proven up.  I do not know what course government will take (if any), but if there should be a board of three or five vigilant persons, sent with authority to the border of each of these counties with power sufficient to compel persons and papers to come before them, every man could be identified who lived there at the cession.”36

As to the extent of the land frauds in Louisiana, there seems to have been a conflict of statements.  Benjamin F. Linton, United States Attorney for western Louisiana, reported to Jackson, August 27, 1835, that “ the most shameful frauds, impositions and perjuries have been committed in Louisiana”;  in an elaborate report he detailed them.37  But Garesche contended that Linton greatly exaggerated, intimating that he did this to divert attention from his own speculations.  Nevertheless, Garesche’s own report was a significant enough picture ;  in his investigations, it was difficult, Garesche complained, to get anyone to testify.  “ Is it surprising,” he wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury, “ when you consider that those engaged in this business belong to every class of society from the member of the Legislature (if I am informed correctly) down to the quarter-quarter-section settler ! ”

Garesche further reported that a large company was formed in New York for the purpose of getting hold of great areas of Government land, “ and have an agent who is continually scouring the country.  A second agent from the same quarter has lately arrived, with power to draw any amount.  The constant conversation everywhere is about the large fortunes that have been realized by land speculations.”38

These great and uninterrupted frauds produced an ugly impression among both the middle and the working classes.  In 1833, a memorial of a “ Portion of the Laboring Classes ” of New York City, demanded that, among other measures, a settled policy should be put in force that the whole of the remaining public lands should forever continue to be the public property of the nation.39  This petition, of course, passed unheeded.  To allay and wear out public feeling, the customary device of an investigating committee was decided upon, particularly by the Senate, the anti-Jackson element in which thus saw an opportunity of doing damage to his administration.  But so long as they were allowed to hold the fruits of their frauds, and no criminal proceedings were brought, the speculators did not seriously mind ineffective exposures, however true and however strong.

Millions of Acres of Cotton Lands to a Few.

How rapidly the public lands were being alienated into the hands of a few was shown by the report, on June 15, 1836, of a Select Senate Committee.  It is estimated that during the single year the sales had totalled nearly 13,000,000 acres, of which 8,000,000 acres “ have probably been made for speculation, and not for settlement.”

The report continued to say that “ companies are forming in all directions to monopolize the ownership of the public domain,” and that “ a total and complete monopoly of the public lands by speculators is now contemplated.”  The report went on :

“ The authentic records of the land office demonstrate that the speculator is the monopolist of nearly all the profit of this immoral, unjust, and oppressive system ;  a system which is a stain upon the honor of a great nation.  The poor but industrious occupant generally attends the land sales, having no more money than a sum sufficient to buy the land he occupies at the minimum price ;  a speculator bids a few cents over him, and becomes the purchaser of the land and the owner of an improved farm, paying not one cent for the value of the improvements.  In other cases, where the settler has collected something more than the money sufficient to pay for the land he occupies, at the minimum price, and bids that sum, the speculator, by some secret agent employed by him, overbids the settler, the land is struck off to this agent, and the settler leaves the sale in disgust, to mourn over the injustice of the government of the Union, and to prepare for the removal of himself and family from the little farm which he has improved and expected to have purchased from a paternal government.  After the departure of the settler, the tract is forfeited for non-payment, and the speculator purchases in his own name the forfeited tract, probably at the minimum price per acre.

“ The scenes ensuing at many of our land sales are scenes of the deepest distress and misery.  They are scenes in which many families are driven forth from their homes to seek some other spot in the wilderness, where keen-eyed avarice and sordid monopoly may not overtake them.  But another land sale comes on, the same scene is repeated, till all hope is extinguished, and nothing is left to the settler but despair and ruin.  Yet these scenes of fraud and cruelty are of constant occurrence, permitted and encouraged by the present system of the sales of the public lands at public auction.  Your committee have said that the speculator, and not the government, reaps nearly all the profits of these inglorious transactions, and this is proved by the records of the Land Office.  By the documents of the Land Office it appears, that taking all the sales of the public lands, from the adoption of the cash system, in July, 1820, down to the present period, the average price received by the government upon these sales, has been less than six cents an acre over the minimum price. . . .”40

The committee proposed the sale and entry of all of the public lands in forty-acre lots — a whimsical suggestion to make to a Congress a large number of the members of which were interested in the land companies.  As Garesche, in detailing the frauds, alleged or real, in Louisiana, wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Levi Woodbury, from Opelousas, Louisiana, on June 9, 1836 :  ”. . . It is folly to talk of the poor squatter — the laws have never been made for him ;  he gets but a very small fraction of the whole ;  all the benefits of the speculation fall into the hands of the intriguer ;  it is for him that the bill is introduced ;  it is for him alone that the voice of our orators is heard on the floor of Congress. . . .”41

A Senate Investigating Committee aptly reported, in 1835, that “ many of the speculators are persons filling high offices in the States in which the public lands purchased by them are situated, and others possessing wealth and influence, all of whom naturally unite to render this investigation odious among the people. . . .”

The committee stated that in some instances the commissioners were threatened with personal violence.  An attempt, it reported, was actually made upon the life of one Con1missioner, but the assailant was killed.  It said that all who testified were denounced and put in fear by the powerful combinations of speculators.  The committee further reported that “ the first step necessary to the success of every scheme of speculation in the public lands, is to corrupt the land officers, by a secret understanding between the parties, that they are to receive a certain proportion of the profits.”  Great enormities, within three or four years, had occurred, the Committee stated, yet “ no officer has been removed for these causes ;  but the most guilty among them have been reappointed from time to time, until they have become bold and fearless in their course, well knowing how to retain their places, and speculate on the public property. . . .”42

In this report, true as the facts were, an attempt was made to create partisan feeling against Jackson.  But the really responsible were the men surrounding Jackson — Taney, Woodbury, Cass and others, who, after all, only represented the interests of the class supporting them.

The Long List of Defaulting Officials.

One of the most striking results of the various successive investigations was the revelation of the astonishingly large number of defaulting Receivers of public money at the different land offices.  These investigations revealed that far from being a solitary practice, it was common on the part of Registers and Receivers to be corrupt accomplices and partners of the land syndicates, and corrupt in the embezzlement of public funds.  These funds were used for the private and fraudulent purchase of public lands, which lands were then transferred and conveyed over and over again to “ safe, innocent purchasers.”  All of these Registers and Receivers were seasoned politicians themselves, and procured and held their offices by indorsement of Governors, and members of Congress and of the Cabinet.  A House document, of January 13, 1835, covering a period of eight years, gives a long list of these defaulters.

General Israel T. Canby, Receiver at Crawfordsville, Indiana, defaulted in the sum of $46,433.53.  General John Brahan, Receiver at Huntsville, Alabama, defaulted to the amount of $74,823.33.  As to Brahan’s defalcation, the House Committee on Public Lands handed in a strange report, saying that he had used the money to buy lands in order “to ward off speculators.”  Benjamin Stephenson, Receiver of the Land Office at Edwardsville, Ill., embezzled $255,354.07.  William L.E. Ewing, Register at Vandalia, Ill., could not account for the lack of $17,542, and George F. Strother, Receiver at St. Louis, was called upon to explain the disappearance of $32,830.55.  William Garrard, Receiver at Opelousas, Louisiana, defaulted in the sum of $27,230.57, and Luke Lecassier, at the same land office, was short $12,893.95 in his accounts.  Samuel Smith, Receiver at St. Stephens, Alabama, had to face an exposure of having embezzled $74,188.11.  John Taylor, Receiver at Cahawba, Alabama, embezzled $17,463.24, and William Taylor, at the same place, $40,570.75.  In the account of Andrew T. Perry, Receiver at Sparta, Alabama, a shortage of $29,755.57, was found.  Appointed Receiver, at Columbus, Miss., in 1836, in the place of W.P. Harris, a defaulter for $109,178.08, Gordon D. Boyd himself defaulted in the sum of $59,622.60 in a single year.  Among his assets was “ a principality,” that only a short time before had been a part of the public domain.43  These are a few examples of the whole number.44

A House Committee majority report, submitted on February 27, 1839, itemized a list of sixty-six defaulting Receivers, prior to 1837, and nine in 1838-39.  This Committee was a select one of nine members ;  its chairman was James Harlan, of Kentucky.  From the schedule reported by this committee, it appears that the whole amount due from land receivers who were on the list of defaulters was (up to 1839) $1,073,837.41, of which the sum of $825,678.28 had been defaulted since the year 1829.45  And it also appears from the official correspondence incorporated in this report that both Taney and Woodbury, although formally warning the receivers, took no punitive action.  For example, Nathaniel West, Jr., appointed by Secretary Woodbury, on June 26, 1836, to examine the land office at Fort Wayne, Indiana, reported in detail that Colonel John Spencer, Receiver at that place, had been defrauding the Government.  William Hendricks, a powerful Democratic leader, in Indiana, wrote to Woodbury, on August 31, 1836, urging him to retain Spencer in office.  Woodbury responded, September 7, 1836, by saying that, “ I am happy to inform you that Mr. Spencer’s explanations have been such that he will probably continue in office.”

Only a fraction of the defaulted sums was recovered by the Government.

These vast fraudulent land operations not only produced tens of millions of dollars in profit to the syndicates, but out of those acquisitions were created great estates.  The cotton regions were extended, the slave owning power was enlarged, and the wealth and dominance of the Southern plantation owners, bankers and of other capitalists were tremendously augmented.  This was the state of affairs when Taney took his seat as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in 1836.

1 At the instigation of the boot and shoe manufacturers, the officials of Boston brought an action against the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society, on the ground that it was a conspiracy.  The lower court ruled against the union, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty.  But on appeal in the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, Rantoul, by an able argument, had that verdict reversed.  He successfully argued that the old English law of the time of Queen Elizabeth, making it a criminal offense to refuse to work for certain wages had not been specifically adopted as common law in the United States after the Revolution.—See, Metcalf’s Reports (Supreme Court of Mass.), Vol. IV: III.

2 “ American Jurist,” Vol. XVI : 229-230.

3 So Taney wrote in a biography of himself for use as a prefatory memoir in Tyler’s “Memoir of Taney” (Edition of 1872), pp. 21-22.  Tyler, for many years up to Chief Justice Taney’s death, was Taney’s confidential man, and was selected by Taney to write his biography.

4 See, I Harris and Gill’s Reports, 236-242 ;  I Peters, 459, etc.

5 “ Memoir of Taney ” 102.

6 See, I Harris and Gill’s Reports, 191, 295, etc.

7 “ Laws of Maryland,” Vol. II, Chapter 59.

8 Ibid., 1816-1818 : p. 215, etc. (Chap. 260.)

9 Wheaton’s Reports, Supreme Court of the United States, Vol. XI: 59.

10 XI Wheaton, 134-171.  It was in this case (as heretofore noted) that Justice Duvall did not sit, because, as he indited on the records, he was a landowner in Maryland.

11 Howard’s Reports (Supreme Court of the United States), Vol. XXIV : 319.

12 Case of U.S. vs. Gooding, XII Wheaton, 46o-468.

13 Gooding (for some reason not now discoverable) went insolvent in 1829.  But his creditors, by virtue of a decision, in 1860, of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Taney, secured that court’s approval of the legality of the Baltimore Mexican Company’s claim, notwithstanding it was made in admitted violation of the neutrality laws.  Gooding’s creditors received the sum of $39,381.82, that being the one-ninth share arising from Gooding’s interest in the company.

14 V Peters, 676-677.

15 V Peters, 678.

16 Ibid., 710.

17 V Peters, 717.

18 See, Senate Docs., First Session, Twenty-Third Congress, Vol. III, Doc. No. 238.

19 It appears by Cass’ letter, of November 13, 1818, to the Register of the Land Office at Detroit, that he, by means of sundry conveyances, had become possessed, at about the time he was Governor of Michigan Territory, of several valuable tracts of land in, and near, Detroit.  One of them was derived from an old French claim.  In another case, a claim was confirmed to Cass, although but a slight part of the purchase price had been paid to the U.S. Government—“American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. V: 107. (Doc. No. 598.)

20 “ American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. V : 447. (Doc. No. 639.)

21 See detailed list later in this chapter.

22 “American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. V: 376. (“ Plan to Prevent Fraudulent Combinations,” etc.)

23 Ibid., Vol VII : 5 (Doc. No. 1230.)

24 Ibid., Doc. No. 1264.

25 See, Ibid., 735-746, etc. (Doc. No. 1335.)

26 See, Docs. No. 1254, No. 1263, and No. 1264, “ American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. VII.

27 “ Am. State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. VII: 284.

28 Ibid., 474.

29 Ibid., 609. (Doc. No. 1306.)

30 Senate Docs., First Session, etc., 1835, Vol. VI, Doc. No. 425: 81.

31 Ibid., 86.

32 Ibid., 104.  The above are merely a few extracts from this voluminous document.

33 “ American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. VIII: 431. (Doc. No. 1414.)

34 “ Am. State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. V : 628.

35 Ibid., Vol. VII: 183. (Doc. No. 1252.)

36 Ibid., Vol. VIII: 404. (Doc. No. 1401.)  See, also, communication from Grand Jury, July Term, 1835, to the Secretary of the Treasury, stating that “ a large proportion, if not a majority of the claims, have been proved by the basest fraud and perjury.” Ibid., 405.

37 Ibid., Doc. No. 1421.  Of one notorious land grabber Linton pointedly wrote :  “He could be seen followed to and from the land office by crowds of free negroes, Indians, and Spaniards, and the very lowest dregs of society, in the counties of Opelousas and Rapides, with their affidavits already prepared by himself, and sworn to by them, before some justice of the peace in some remote part of the country.  These claims, to an immense extent, are presented and allowed, and upon what evidence ?  Simply upon the evidence of the parties themselves who desire to make the entry.  And would it be believed, that the lands where these quarter sections purported to be located, from the affidavit of the applicants, had never been surveyed by the government ;  nor any competent officer thereof, nor approved nor returned surveyed ?  I further state that there was not even a private survey made.  These facts I know ;  I have been in the office when the entries were made, and have examined the evidence, which was precisely what I have stated above.”

38 Doc. No. 168, Twenty-fourth Congress, Second Session, Vol. III 425. Also, Doc. No. 213, Ibid.

39 Ex. Docs., First Session, Twenty-Third Congress, 1834, Doc. No. 104.

40 “American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. VIII, Doc. No. 1541.

41 Ibid., 965. (Doc. No. 1585.)

42 “American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. VII: 732-734. (Doc. No. 1335.)

43 Garesche pleaded that leniency be shown Boyd.  In his report to the Secretary of the Treasury, June 14, 1837, Garesche recommended his being retained, cynically saying that “ another Receiver would probably follow in the footsteps of the two.”

44 See, “American State Papers :  Public Lands,” Vol. VII: 559-564. (Doc. No. 1289.)  Report of U.S. Comptroller Joseph Anderson. See, also, Ibid., Doc. No. 1252, showing the speculations and the connections of the land officers.  Also, U.S. vs. Boyd et al., XV Peters, 187.

45 House Report No. 313, Part IV, Twenty-fifth Congress, Third Session.